My new favourite vaccine mock PSA

Anyone who has followed this blog has had to put up with my intermittent vaccine rants.

Here we go again.

Jimmy Kimmel had a little rant on his show this week about vaccines complete with “real doctors” saying why vaccines are important.  I don’t often like Jimmy Kimmel’s humour.  He is sometimes a bit too much for me.  But, this was perfection.

Perfection.

Check it out.  Show your friends.

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A long New Years themed questionnaire

It is a few days after 2015 has started, but I have never been one to celebrate festivities conventionally (Okay, actually I did stay up until after midnight, saw fireworks as the clock struck twelve, toasted the new year (with sparkling apple juice) and kissed my husband… That is pretty darn stereotypical, I must say). I saw this 2014 in review questionnaire (one of many) done by a few of the lovely bloggers I follow and I decided to play along. Warning: it is long-winded and reflective.

YOUR 2014

What one event, big or small, are you going to tell your grandchildren about?

Tough one… Seeing Wicked on Broadway. Getting to see/hear “The Creature” for the first times.

If you had to describe your 2014 in 3 words, what would they be?

Emotional, blessed and nauseated.

What new things did you discover about yourself?

I learned that I am capable of depths of emotion on both ends of the spectrum (joy and sorrow) at levels that I previously was unsure were possible. I also learned that taking time to do the things I enjoy or spend time with the people I love is something that I too often put off, so I am gratefuly that I am now starting to do that more.

What single achievement are you most proud of?

Does being in the middle of growing a human count? I’m mostly serious. But, if we are going with tangible obvious things, it would be having completed my research project and presenting it at a national conference (although we are still editing it for publication… Ugh.).

What was the best news you received?

That “The Creature” continues to be growing and healthy. After a long wait for a baby and especially after losing Elim and knowing how many others wait and pray for well little ones, I can’t help but be so grateful.

What was your favourite place that you visited in 2014?

New York. Hands down. Best early 5th anniversary and partly free trip ever! I got to see musicals, Body World and eat a lot.

Which of your personal qualities turned out to be the most helpful this year?

My high-baseline optimism.

Who was your number one go-to person that you could always rely on?

Patrick, obviously.

Which new skills did you learn?

I apparently got pretty good at microscopy according to my Pathology evaluation.

My countouring skills are getting better. Bring on the head and neck cases!

I am getting better at transrectal ultrasound (I know, valuable life skills here, boys and girls) and inserting needles for prostate brachytherapy. Cervical brachytherapy seems to be a bit of a slower go for me, but it seems like whenever I’m on, the cases wind up being super complicated, so I get stuck not doing much.

Today, I have realized I have also become pretty stealthy at putting on Jeter’s harness.

What, or who, are you most thankful for?

I am most thankful for the many friends and family, particularly our extended church family God has stuck in our lives. They have loved us through a lot this year and keep putting my focus back on what really matters (sometimes with some laughs and healthy distraction on the way).

If someone wrote a book about your life in 2014, what kind of genre would it be? A comedy, love story, drama, film noir or something else?

A dramedy? I think that might be a genre.

What was the most important lesson you learnt in 2014?

It is not my story, it is God’s story.

Which mental block(s) did you overcome?

The perception or belief that I’m not “good enough.” Its an ongoing struggle, but grace is the gift that keeps on giving.

14.What 5 people did you most enjoy spending time with?

This is challenging, there are many people with whom I enjoy spending time. I’m going to say C&C, A&P, K and M from our old small group (I know, that is 6). We got to have some special quality time with them for the first time in a few years and it was really enjoyable, meaningful quality time, even if it was brief. That doesn’t downplay the time we spent with many other very important people in our lives, it was just some of the most special time.

What was your biggest break-through moment career-wise?

When I started realizing that I could answer questions intelligently in teaching sessions and during my treatment planning exams and that I totally couldn’t have done that last year. I didn’t notice at first, but looking back, I can see how much I am learning.

How did your relationship to your family evolve?

I find myself more attached and concerned for my family and extended family as I get older. Probably because I keep learning how fragile life is and how important those people are.

What book or movie affected your life in a profound way?

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. I don’t know if profound is the exact word I would use, but it made me think about my relationships with family, with patients and how I share my love of reading with certain people. It made me want to check out more books and to actually discuss them (instead of reading being a solitary activity).

What was your favourite compliment that you received this year?

It wasn’t a compliment. It was the most heartfelt hug and simply “thank you” from a patient’s husband.

What little things did you most enjoy during your day-to-day life?

I love coming home to Jeter who immediately “flops” and expects me to give him a good rub as soon as I walk in the door. I also love the time Patrick and I have when we do our individual Bible reading, pray and just cuddle and talk about our days before I go to sleep at night.

What cool things did you create this year?

I’m not that creative. Probably a knitted mug cozie (and then I lost the mug it fit on).

What was your most common mental state this year (e.g. excited, curious, stressed)?

I’m a resident, so stressed.

Was there anything you did for the very first time in your life this year?

I ran for 20 minutes straight. Brachytherapy insertions. I played Munchkin, Gloom, Love Letter, and several other games. I saw Wicked.

What was your favourite moment spent with your friends?

I’m torn between kayaking with L, C, Child and D in the summer or playing games and having a BBQ with C&C, A&P and K this summer.

What major goal did you lay the foundations for?

I’m continuing to be a resident, so a suppose that is working towards my major goal of one day having a real job as a staff physician.

I would one day like to run 5k straight. I know for many people that does not seem like a big deal, but I am NOT an athlete by any means. Before I got pregnant and super sick, I was up to somewhere between 1.5 and 2km without a walk break and didn’t need too crazy long for a break. But now, I went for my first run again last week and I can barely run for 3 minutes without starting to get hot and out of breath (it has been about 12 weeks). I know that I can’t push myself excessively now, but I want to at least maintain (or improve) my fitness, so that after baby gets here, I can keep moving in that direction.

Which worries turned out to be completely unnecessary?

Patrick always tells me worrying won’t make me taller. And he is always right. So, all of them.

What experience would you love to do all over again?

New York. The time we spent with our old small group friends. Our cabin adventure with most of the BIFFs.

What was the best gift you received?

I’m going materialistic on this one. Mr. Holland’s Opus, which was a surprise from Patrick who remembered me mentioning it was one of my all-time favourite movies, so when he stumbled upon it, he bought it and watched it with me.

How did your overall outlook on life evolve?

That is a deep question. I think I’m getting better at seeing how grace really plays out in our world and in our lives in all kinds of ways that are sometimes more challenging to see.

What was the biggest problem you solved?

I fixed our broken drawer. I know it sounds trivial, but Jeter broke that bloody drawer trying to get to the treats a couple years ago and I finally fixed it! Maybe not the biggest “problem” but definitely the best fix.

What was the funniest moment of your year, one that still makes it hard not to burst out laughing when you think about it?

When we were in New York, there was a voice on one of the subway trains that said “Please stand clear of the closing doors” who just sounded so happy while saying it (and also like a CBC sports personality). Patrick thought it was hilarious and would mock it and get even more excited if it was the voice on the train we were on. After getting back, we would still periodically announce “please stand clear of the closing doors” in that voice and crack up. Then, we noticed the elevator they are replacing in our building has a small automated sign that says that exact phrase. We lost our minds laughing at that.

What idea turned out to be the best decision ever?

Choosing to work Christmas Eve, so that we would have Christmas day to ourselves and more time to spend with family/friends at home over the New Years half of the break. We got to rest and relax, enjoy our alone time and our time with people (and even saw almost everyone we wanted to) and it was the best break we’ve had in some time.

What one thing would you do differently and why?

I would have accepted more help from people. I’m often reluctant to admit that I need help, but there were points this year where I was so sad or so sick that I probably should have taken people up on offers of breaks or a hand with things around the house or at work than I should have. I realize now that the past few months would have been a bit better had I maybe taken another couple of sick days or evenings to myself.

What do you deserve a pat on the back for?

I finished my off-service rotations in one piece and made it through the first difficult 6 months of core Rad Onc in one piece (half of which I spent drowsy and barfy) with people somehow thinking I am keen and have a good attitude.

What activities made you lose track of time?

Board games with our lovely gamey friends. I can lose hours playing good games with good people. Also, as always, reading. And I will admit, because I am a big dork, clinic prep and contouring are huge time sucks for me and often lead to me losing track of time.

What did you think about more than anything else?

Having children and not having children. I know it is so cliché for someone in my age and stage, but this was a seriously consuming issue for me this year in both the good and bad.

What topics did you most enjoy learning about?

I love my job and my field, so I enjoy learning most about oncology and everything that goes with it from how people (on both sides of the desk) cope with cancer and live with it, to how it works to the technical side of treatments. I have also been really excited to be learning more about God this past year.

What new habits did you cultivate?

I was doing decently at going to the gym before the morning sickness took me out. Hopefully, I can get back to that. Patrick and I have been doing better with prayer together. I have also been trying to be more intentional with being “social.” I’m not saying I am a social butterfly, but I am trying to have meaningful (or at least some) conversation with people more often in situations where I would otherwise have tried to hide out.

What advice would you give your early-2014 self if you could)?

I don’t know. I’m not always a good advice heeder. I would probably remind myself to be patient and know that tough stuff is good for growing and learning and that worry isn’t going to make me taller (even though Patrick did tell me that).

Did any parts of your self or your life do a complete 180 this year?

Not especially. My caffeine intake is probably a quarter of what it was previously, but that is the fault of mind-numbing nausea.

What or who had the biggest positive impact on your life this year?

Getting back to some important things. Like playing music again. Seeing and staying in touch with people who have been important in my life. Most importantly, seeing the thread of grace that God has woven in our lives.

YOUR 2015

What do you want the overarching theme for your 2015 to be?

Growing.

What do you want to see, discover, explore?

I’m excited to do my Med Ed elective and improve/develop my teaching skills. I can’t wait to meet “The Creature” and figure out all that good stuff that comes with parenting. I am always happy to go on adventures anywhere, even if it is just close to home for the next while.

Who do you want to spend more time with in 2015?

Our families/extended family. We see them more now than we did our first few years of marriage, and I want to keep that up. Plus, their presence is going to be super important as “the Creature” grows up.

What skills do you want to learn, improve or master?

I need to learn how to be a parent at some point. As I said before, I want to work on my teaching and I just plain want to keep working on my clinical knowledge and skills. I always can improve on how well I love my husband and others. Plus, I want to be more fit, you know, the whole running thing, as I mentioned. If I could finally learn to play guitar, that would be great, but probably kind of a lofty goal given everything else.

Which personal quality do you want to develop or strengthen?

I’m not sure exactly how to word it, but I want to continue to work on my time spent with others. I want to be more open to people and more loving towards them and less afraid of interactions.

What do you want your everyday life to be like?

I just want to find joy in the mundane. Because that is what life is made up of, those ordinary moments that add together to make up our days.

Which habits do you want to change, cultivate or get rid of?

I want to keep working on our prayer time and devotions as a couple. I also want to get back to/get better at being more active.

What do you want to achieve career-wise?

I really want to pass physics and radiobiology this year (lofty dreams), so that I can just sit in on them when I come back from mat leave without feeling the pressure to have to write the exams and pass them with a toddler in the house. Doing adequately well on my other in-training exams would be great too. I also want to finish all of my rotations up to the start of maternity leave, so that I only have one 4 week block left of third year when I get back.

How do you want to remember the year 2015 when you look back on it 10/20/50 years from now?

I hope I remember it as a good year, but really, it is just a drop in the bucket.

What is your number one goal for 2015?

Read 67 books. Just kidding. That is a goal, though. I guess it is just to love and serve well.

The Cat’s Out of the Bag

So, I have an excuse and an announcement.

I haven’t been posting very often because my life has been consumed with trying to do my job adequately, sleeping and trying not to throw up.

Jeter has helped me out with the announcement part with his new choice reading material…IMG_0463 IMG_0469There is a tiny human growing inside me and in June, the M family will contain 3 humans (and a giant cat).  Really, it has 3 humans now, but one of them can’t live not inside of me.

Because of past events, my healthcare background (aka my insane ability to worst case scenario any possible health event because I have either seen it or have heard of it) and social norms (I know, I’m not always big on social norms, but fear was a big driver in this once) we decided to keep this whole thing on the down low until I hit the “magical” 12 week mark (which I don’t actually think is that magical).  So, now that we have released the gag orders on our parents and best friends and told our friends from our old small group, my “other mothers” and our church family, I get to tell the blogesphere (because not only am I now the kind of person who announces their pregnancy with annoying cat photos, I am the person who tells the internet).

Stuff got so much more real over the weekend (and strangely, will be a bit more real when I hit “publish”).

Funny how other people being in on your little gift from God can do that.

The cat is out of the bag, so they say.

So, yay new life who we celebrate every day because I get such frequent reminders of what a gift it really is.  I know I am so fortunate I am to get to be sick and tired and slowly expansile.  Sometimes waiting for something is hard, but the lessons in that wait are huge.  I keep seeing that piece more and more every day (more on that later too).

To Elim, On Your Estimated Due Date

Dear Elim,

I thought I would write to you on this, your estimated due date, to say a few things that have been on my heart. Had we not lived in this fallen world, you would be in my arms by now or I would be just itching to have you the heck out of me so we could cuddle and do all that newborn-mommy stuff. But alas, that was not how it was to be.

I want you to know first of all that I love you. And I always will. Even though I barely knew you, I know God made you and I will cherish our short time together before you went to heaven to be with Jesus. A lot of other people loved you and mourned your short life too.

I miss you. I miss what could have been. But, I am so happy you are in heaven now. That you are safe and protected and loved. One day, I’ll actually get to meet you and that will be awesome.

You are a gift. You are an answer to prayers and longings. And you were used by God to teach me big lessons about redemption, real love and how to celebrate well and suffer well.

Because of you, I appreciate new lives more. I appreciate the miracle that it is to see a pregnancy progress and babies be born and children who grow. I want to celebrate new lives instead of hiding them with secrets and fear. I will be honest and say, I also know how fragile life can be and it scares me a little and that is okay. I empathize better with other Moms and Dads who have to miss their kids until they see them again for all kinds of reasons.

Because of you, your Dad and I got to learn to lean on God and each other a whole lot more. We got to grow up more (which I’m sure sounds crazy because we are theoretically grown ups, but even grown ups have more growing to do).  We got to see God do amazing things with what seemed like a terrible situation.  That is what He does, but I suppose you had that figured out already.

I been counting down to this day for many months. Not because of some sick fascination or because I wanted to feel sad or bad. Just out of instinct. I like numbers and it is simple math to know where I would have been with you at any given point. Plus, today’s date has been etched in my mind. And to be honest, I wanted to remember when you would have hypothetically come into this world. Just like I will remember when I knew you went out. Because I care. These are important moments, even though others may not see them as such.

You will have brothers or sisters, maybe both someday. I will be grateful for each of them and know them as individuals. I pray every day that they get the chance to grow up and that it will hopefully be a long time before you meet them (no offense). I also pray that they will all one day meet you in heaven. Know that in my heart you will always have a special place and when they are ready and old enough to understand, I will tell them about you.

You count in my kid count in my heart. So, happy “birthday.”

Love you always and forever,

Mom

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.

What is one thing?

What is one thing you can’t live without? That thing that would send you into a downward spiral if you lost it? That thing you need for your life to feel fulfilled?

Think about it for a minute.

That was a question we’ve been discussing in church and D-group the last couple of weeks. It makes my head hurt and yet has opened my eyes to how I perceive my reality.

My first instinct was Patrick. I can’t live without my husband.

But, I can live without my husband.

My second instinct was children. I want children. Living children.

But, I can live without children.

The list goes on… My family, my friends, my career, my home, my health.

Losing any of those things could send me on a downward spiral.

What does that say about me? What does that say about my faith?

Life goes on despite monumentous loss. We survive these things that we often can’t even fathom. I see people dealing with these things every day. How do we do it? How do I do it?

I know some people say strength and fortitude and a positive attitude.

I am talking about deeper purpose and something bigger than just getting through.

I know some people will disagree, but that something is Jesus. And maybe I am hum drum, but I don’t feel like I can find meaning in all of life and things without Him.

The passage we were looking at is John 6. It is a long sucker, but the cool part is that John is really intentional in his writing. He doesn’t include irrelevant details and generally stuff goes together to kind of show some bigger point about Jesus. He wrote the book, so that people would believe, so that makes sense.

This is the loaves and fishes chapter. It is also the walking on water and calming the seas passage.

I have seriously heard those stories a thousand times, so what is the big deal?

Well, check this out…

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone wholooks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” –John 6:25-40 ESV

It is kind of a ridiculous conversation. Jesus kind of talks in riddles (Is that blasphemous of me to say? I mean he really does kind of say stuff that comes off as bizarre and people don’t get him…) and the people He is teaching struggle with getting the point. Heck, even the disciples get kind of weirded out.

But this is what it is getting at (I am not that clever, this is what others say it is getting at and it makes sense to me)…

Jesus is enough.

Love the giver and not the gifts. You aren’t sustained (really) by things and relationships and all that stuff. In the end, even the thing you most want to cling to and think will make you complete won’t.

In essence, you can’t take it with you when you go. But when you go, you’re going to want Him on your side.

I like concrete things, so this is tough to process. How do I make Jesus enough. How do I stop being satisfied in stuff and people and start being satisfied in Him? How do I stop trying to fix and control things, but know that it is all completed through Him for His glory?

That isn’t something I just do.

In our conversations over the last little bit, our group has discussed that it is a tough thing to put into practice. It starts with having the desire (just like kicking or starting any habit, you need to want to start).

I’ve got that.

Action starts with awareness.

I have come to realize what I prioritize. What I think will fill me up and keep me content.

I am trying to remember that that satisfaction, although very real, is short lived and not complete. And that there is much more out there than having a happy marriage (although it is super important for a bunch of reasons).

Having real purpose and deep seated peace and joy is bigger than stuff. It is bigger than comfort. Sometimes we have to suffer well and know we aren’t alone in this.

Being sustained by Christ alone isn’t simple. It isn’t intuitive. And it is definitely by standards of our culture weird. But that’s okay (and I need to remember that).

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.

The Church, The Childless and The Challenge

Someone I know from back home posted this article from the Gospel Coalition on Facebook.

How the Church Makes the Trial of Infertility Better (or Worse).

I suggest if you are in the church, or even if you are a part of society co-existing with childbearing age women, you should read it.  It offers some good food for thought.

The church we go to is FULL of young families.  Full.  So much so that almost every week or two there is a birth announcement or yet another couple announcing yet another pregnancy.  It is actually kind of a game — the trying to predict when and who the next announcement is coming from.  And it is awesome.  I mean, so great to see people having kids and sharing in that joy and having babies and kids to hang with all the time.

But, when you really want kids, that can also be sad and frustrating.

I like that the article addressed the struggles and hurt that many people go through and normalized them.

It made me know that we aren’t alone in not having kids and existing in the church in our mid to late twenties because sometimes, where we are now, it feels like the exception rather than a piece of the norm.

This is a good reminder that not everybody can have children or wants to have children or some combination of the two and that these people, like those with families, need love and support too.

My Feelings about FYI (if you’re a teenage ___) as a non-parent and former teenager

FYI (if you’re a teenage girl) by Mrs. Hall at Given Breath has been getting a ton of social media attention.  Basically, it is a letter to teenage girls regarding posting what I would agree to be inappropriate photos of themselves on the internet and the consequences of this and saying that she doesn’t feel it appropriate for her teenage son to see.

I saw this response that was Freshly Pressed (yay!) the other day called FYI (if you’re a teenage boy) by Iron Daisy.  Again, this post is basically the same message, but to teenage boys who also post selfies all over the internet and regarding the fact that she doesn’t want her teenage daughter seeing all of that.

First of all, I agree wholeheartedly with the concept of these posts.  Not the content entirely, but the concept.

And yes, I love the irony.

Don’t hate.

To start off, you have to look at the perspective of the (first) mom.  If they are raising their children in the Christian faith, then if you don’t share their beliefs, you may or may not share their perspective on how bodies should be portrayed or concepts of sin (particularly lust) and such.

I share that faith, so that piece makes sense to me.

But, this is really not simply a faith issue.

People don’t think about the messages that they send when they post pictures of themselves on the internet.  I know, I have some gosh-awful pictures of me (in the “oh goodness, why that angle” or “why am I wearing that/doing that” spectrum of awful.  Nonetheless, everything has some sort of purpose or some sort of message.  There is a reason behind why you intentionally post self-photos. I mean sometimes it is to show where you are or what you are doing.

That is fine.

The issue is when you are posting them to flaunt yourself and particularly your body at other people.  Sure, some people out there are saying that you just like to see what you look like.  But really, are you looking for the attention of people who may be attracted to you?  Are you fishing for compliments?  Would you be embarrassed if your boss found the pictures when you are in your 20s or 30s?

These are things to think about.  And I think that is part of the issue the Moms were getting at.

But, then there is the whole concept of lust and that it really isn’t appropriate to flaunt your body like that.  I mean, your body is yours, but I would also like to think that if you show it off that much you are at risk of it not just being yours but that of a million people who see that photo.  Not just those that you want to, but the creepers that are, well, creepy.

The Moms in these posts are helping to protect their kids.  Really, no teenager (or human) should have to look at someone’s “sexy” selfies (unless they are your spouse).  The Bible equates lust with adultery and if you see it, and you want it, you probably lust after it.  And putting it out there is just as bad as looking at it.

This being said, I get that it is normal teenage behaviour.  Showing off oneself.

Kind of like mating rituals.

Sure.

There are other facets of normal teenage behaviour.  This is when you learn more about appropriate body image.  This is when you grow to respect oneself.

I feel like posting scandalous photos or looking at them is not necessarily fostering these things.

Teenagers do all kinds of stupid things.  I am sure most people can agree on that.  The goal is to teach them to minimize the stupidity.  Even if it is normal.

So yes, I confess that when I am a Mom I will hold this stance.

I know, a non-mom making mom claims.

But, for what it is worth, I really do think that.  I won’t want my kids to be exposed to that.  And I would have a zero tolerance policy if I caught one of my kids posting those kinds of pictures.

Yes, I get that my kids will probably do that and see that stuff.  I am not a head in the clouds oblivious person.

A bigger piece of all of this is this is teaching self-respect and appropriate body image and sexuality.  Boundaries are huge these days.  Social and otherwise.

I don’t really know how to do this.  But, I guess I will figure it out.  As much as I don’t want my kids to be ashamed of themselves, I also don’t want them to harm themselves with a lack of shame.  Middle ground is good.

Now, don’t go calling me a slut shamer.

Well, I guess you can if you want.  That is not what I am going for, though.

I agree that taking sexy selfies is normal teenage behaviour.  As is having sex, underage drinking and experimenting with drugs.  Varying degrees of risk.  And things that different parents try to prevent their kids from doing for their own safety.  I, in my head, already know that I will one day want to bubble my kids.  Just saying.

Anyway, slut shaming is degrading or mocking women (or men) for their sexual behaviour/tendencies.  It is wrong.  Point blank.

I get that the posts do mock these kids who are choosing to take these photos.  Because really, the overarching concept of posting such photos on Facebook is, at least to me, a little silly.  And I don’t quite support mocking these girls or boys to the point where they feel badly about themselves.  Offering good counsel is one thing, but there is a fine line for some people.

I think these girls and boys are potentially fine members of society (well, I don’t know, but odds are).  And I can’t say or know anything really to judge them except for reported bad taste in picture taking.

It is unfair to treat anyone poorly for their choices.  Degrading or bashing young men or women is not good at any point.

That being said, I think the spirit behind the posts is that these kids need to learn that their choices have consequences.  That other people may see the images and, yes, judge them because that is unfortunately how the world works.  And some of the people that judge them may just make a semi-humorous advice post, but others may be more predatory.    Slut shaming is real.  And so is sexual assault.

So, sure it is just an innocent picture.  But, sometimes a picture is a sign of bigger issues or can bring on bigger issues.

Kids (and adults alike) need to learn there are consequences to things that may seem harmless.   They need to learn that their bodies are not something to be sold or flaunted, but loved.  And teenagers aren’t quite at the point where they can always make those decisions for themselves. There is a learning curve.

So, in summary, I think sexy selfies are stupid, just like a ton of other teen rituals.  I don’t want my kids to do it, but I get that others will do it and that is fine because it is their perogative.  Nonetheless, I wish people would start to grasp that nothing is in isolation and there are consequences often beyond what is initially perceived.

Lastly, all teens and kids these days need prayers.  All of them.  There is a lot of bad stuff out there an a lot of tough decisions to make.