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

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How Did That Happen?: Human

This week’s How Did That Happen? should have been posted, well, last week.stethoscopes1

I have had some busy days including journal club prepping, trying to spend time with friends, go to Patrick’s work party, volunteering, keeping a clean house and getting a cold (I blame Patrick’s grubby kids). I actually had a long weekend thanks to an in-lieu day left over from Easter weekend call, so I have had the chance to do some movie watching and all around procrastination.

For any number of reasons both work and personally related, I have been feeling drained and down and all around kind of blah. It happens. I have a high baseline, so it weirds me out, but I must confess that it has been a recurring theme.

My How Did That Happen? is that I am human despite what medical institution says. I have known it all along, but just for the rest of the world, I will point it out.

People in medicine still get tired and sick and depressed.

We still have relationships.

We struggle with things like loss, fear and anxiety.

We have big joys and big sorrows.

We have regrets and make mistakes.

People in medicine still often have financial struggles. Just because we are there doesn’t mean we still aren’t paying off loans.

People in medicine are still learning. No matter where they are in their career. If they aren’t, there is a bigger issue.

People in medicine sometimes struggle with things we have to do in our jobs. Sometimes decisions we make haunt us.

We sometimes face our biggest fears in the eyes of others.

We don’t always have time to face those fears in ourselves.

Knowing that I am human is one of the best things I can know. Because it stops me from trying to be invincible all the time. Even when the world I am in sometimes acts as if that is not the case.

There is no fix for being human.

And for that I am glad (although, a cure for the common cold would be nice).

But, being human in medicine is a tightrope to walk with some of the pressures we all face.

Brian Goldman, an ER physician in Toronto and very talented speaker had this piece featured in the Globe and Mail today about physician burnout. I thought he voiced some of the common concerns about physician burnout today very well.

More accurately, the medical culture that fosters us is the problem. It’s a culture that implies you should strive to be perfect even though you’re human – one that encourages you to run from your feelings even though you can’t hide from them.

I don’t know how to fix burnout or how to fix our system. But, I think at least pointing out that I am human and treating the other humans I work with as human is a start.

During our first-year medicine exams, a classmate sent out this song to remind us that we are, in fact, not robots.

I still sing it to myself on days where I start being a bit too robot-like. It helps.

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).

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 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.

Heartbreaking loss

One of my seemingly large number of people in my age bracket with cancer that I knew through the medical school world died this weekend.

He was the boyfriend (basically, spouse) of one of my closer classmates.   And he was a Dad.  And a friend of many.

They were two of the lovelies we saw Coldplay with in Europe.  He was the one that I had a running joke with for a year that I clearly didn’t like him because I (in my old lady ways) would always be leaving a party when he would get there after work.  He sometimes brought us food, coffee (or alcohol, depending on the indication) and laughs.

They are back in the place I went to med school.  I can’t go to the funeral.  I can’t give her a hug.

His cancer was one of the ones I, as an oncology person, would say is a good one to have.  One that has a high rate of cure.  Unfortunately, someone has to be in the subset that doesn’t do well.

I just wish it wasn’t him.

And then, I go to medical oncology clinic.  I give good news and I give bad news, mostly to people twice his age.  I quote statistics and review treatments.  But, they are just numbers, just data.

And all I can think about is him.  And her.  And the soul crushing loss that must be losing your life partner.  And at such a young age.

I see people posting heartfelt statuses, blog posts and such about how great he was, how sad they are.  But, nothing can compare to what she feels.   At least, that is what I imagine.  I can’t really know.  Nobody except she and God can.

I don’t even have words.

I can’t even imagine.  I can’t do the sentiment justice.

My heart is broken.

All I can do is pray.

Running and Dying

This weekend was finally the Run Or Dye I have been training for.

Problem being that I, of course, in true Trisha fashion, somehow injured my left ankle and right knee a week and a half pre-race.  I think the ankle came first, but the I ran again the next day and then both hurt.

To top it all off, we went to Montreal for a few days where we walked EVERYWHERE.

My ankle swelled and bruised and was all around beautiful.

So, running really did kind of feel like death.

Nonetheless, I still did manage to run a bit of the race.  Just a bit though.  And, as it turns out, the course was so horrendously muddy and hilly, most people weren’t running too much more than me.  And others from our group apparently still managed to do the thing in under 20 minutes.

The place where the race was had only one way to it from the city.  Traffic was horrendous.  So, despite leaving for what is normally a 45 minute drive, it took us over 2 hours.  And then we wound up parking in a field and taking a shuttle bus to the race site.IMG_0922

The problem was that almost the rest of our group ended up in a different lot and left without us in a different heat as a result of a big communication fail.

So, the Child and I wandered looking for the others and never found them.  There were so many people.  So. Many.  And the starting point was like a corral.  Like we were cattle being led to be milked or something.  Nobody brought phones (except us) and it isn’t like we knew anyone’s number anyway.  But, we did find another team member who was also misplaced (and stuck in traffic), so we did the course together.IMG_0927

The whole being left behind affair really did not help my insecurities and struggle to blend in with the church people outside of church.  It just made me feel more left out when I had hoped that actually finally doing something with the women would help me feel more involved.  Everyone was super apologetic that night at a bonfire and the next day at church.  It really was just one of those circumstances that sometimes happen and two of the other forgotten people had been a part of the church and this group of friends for ages.  It still felt like it was pointing out yet again that we aren’t fully “one of the gang.”  And part of that is that we are both very aware of the fact that we don’t have as many close friends here while others all know each other well.  And that when people are so “together,” even when they are being welcoming, you still feel a bit outside.  Sadly, even as grown ups, we are still getting it together.  So, sometimes, it feels like high school all over again.  Nobody is perfect, that is why we need grace.

It would have been nice to at least start the race with everyone else in our group (because heaven knows I wasn’t keeping up with the 20 minute 5k people).  But, as it turns out, people watching while corralled with a bunch of strangers is also entertaining.  My favourite was a guy in a bunny suit.  Yes… Full on rabbit.  Totally made the loudness and masses of people better in my books.IMG_0929

Despite that, I still had fun.  And made a new friend (the girl who was also left behind).  We laughed about how out of shape we still are, despite trying to train for this.  We tried not to break our necks going down muddy hills and cringed at the rare crazies who tried to run some of them.  We became super colourful while rocking our cool team t-shirts without most of the team.IMG_0937

We pulled off the 5k in somewhere between 45 and 50 minutes.  Nowhere near record breaking, but given the ski hillishness of the course, the mud and my aching ankle, I feel like that is okay.

What was cute was that our husbands came to cheer us on at our first “race.”  Despite the fact it wasn’t really a race.  The funny part was that they were scared of getting dyed and stayed really far away from the finish and missed us completely.

The boys were scared of these giant dye clouds.

The boys were scared of these giant dye clouds.

I still have some bright pink undertones under my right armpit.  When I got home, I had an orange foot, a part green foot, and a bright pink chest and back.  So charming.

I would do it again.  It was as fun as the internet world suggests.  But next time, if it at the same place, the life lesson is leave super early and plan where to meet better than “the parking lot.”IMG_0935

Finding joy in the sadness of loss

Long time no speak.

It has been over a week since I last blogged.  That is my longest blogging hiatus since I started blogging.  I must argue that I have a rather legitimate excuse.

Last week, my grandfather died.

Worst. Vacation.  Ever.

I contemplated whether or not I would write about it.  The experience leading up to it and all that good stuff.  I couldn’t last week.  I barely had time to bathe myself, let alone write a blog post.  Plus, my family is kind of private and not always big on talking about that kind of stuff.  I didn’t want people’s pity or sympathy.  But, today I finally have time to sit.  And think.  And I feel like it is something I want to share.  If nothing else, just for me.

This will probably be several days in a series of posts over the next week or so.  I had all kinds of thoughts and ideas of things to share…  The experience of being away when someone is terribly sick, the experience of caring for a loved one in hospital as someone who works in a hospital, grief, stupid things people say at funeral homes, life lessons brought to us by my grandfather… I can go on.  If I had time to write last week, it would have been deep.  Hopefully, I will get to some of those.  But, as it turns out, this week is pretty crummy including me having to submit my research manuscript for the post-grad research day and a physics exam later this week (*whines*), so it may be super interspersed with other randomness.  Sorry to drag it out.

But yes, my grandfather died.  And it sucks.

Not that I didn’t see it coming.  I have for as long as I remember.

He had bypass and valve replacement surgery when I was just a few months old.  He thought he would die.  Then, he was told that this stuff would only last for so long.  My entire life, I was reminded that he thought he wouldn’t make it to milestone x.  But, he did.  Consistenly.  Nonetheless, over 26 years later, he was still around.  Growing more and more frail.  But ever present.

If you want to know the truth, I expected he would drop dead doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing.  I was wrong.  It was more of a slow congestive heart failure death.

I happened to be on vacation.  I got to be there.

It was the worst vacation ever, but for the best reason I could think of.  Had it not been for my vacation, I would have really missed out.  I am bitter because I am tired and have a ton of work for school to do and have a messy house and have to go back to work without a real break.  But, I am glad because I got so much time, even though it does not feel that way right now.

I think in some ways I wish he just dropped like I always expected.  Like he always expected.  Because nobody wants to see someone in a hospital bed feeling like crap.   But, then we wouldn’t have had the time we did.

It is bittersweet.  It still sucks.

I was not only an only child, but an only grandchild for almost 16 years.  That is most of my life.  I got to spend a lot of time with him.  Pretty awesome.  But, I think that makes it tough.  Especially when I see my little cousins who got so much less time.

The piece that is the worst for me, as a selfish grandkid is that he was my last grandparent who knew who I was.  Actually, I have Patrick’s grandfather.  So, I still have one, kind of.  And I have my “other grandparents” (like my “other” parents).   Everyone else has Alzheimer’s.  It is like that last bit of my childhood is gone.  My grandmothers barely know who they are, let alone who I am.  Not that it matters, but it does in my head.  At least I grew up with grandparents.  But, now it is kind of like they are all gone.  Some to death, one to bad parental choices  and two to the disease that ate their memory.

It isn’t like I think I don’t have grandmothers.  I do.  And they are still my grandmothers no matter how lost they become, at least to me.  But, it does make it different.  When we bring home great-grandchildren, they will love the babies and such, but it won’t be the same as someone knowing who they are and where they came from.  I lost that bit this week.

I felt guilty for not jumping on the reproduction bandwagon sooner.  It is silly, I know.  But this is the stuff that goes through your head.  Or at least mine.

I feel guilty about not being home more.  About not being home now while my parents try to take care of my grandmother and deal with all the other stuff that comes from losing a loved one.

I know this guilt is not of God.  I know that things will work out.  That we all do the best we can.  And that I can rejoice for all the good things.

Feeling sad about this stuff makes me feel bad about those who did not get to have grandparents.  Really, I am the luckiest girl in the world.  And I know it.  But, the more you have, the more you can lose.

I don’t think I expected to feel this sad.

I am cool with death.

I know he is with Jesus now.  And he is way better off health wise and stress wise up there.

But, I am sad for what I lost.  What my grandmother can’t remember she lost.  And what my parents lost.

The good thing is that death has been conquered.  I take great solace in that.  I will see him again one day.  We will play music and dance and laugh and it will be a great time.   So, I am joyful in my sadness (if that makes sense).

Black and white… The contrast in my world today.

I was reminded this weekend that there is so much goodness in this world.  That people care about one another and harbour love and empathy that we don’t always notice.  I watched complete strangers listen to one another’s stories about the cancer journey and love each other well.

Today, though, I was reminded of how much hurt and violence there is in the world.

  • I watched as parents were told their son has cancer and even with all of the aggressive treatment, he has only a 60% chance of cure (in the kid world, that isn’t that great).
  • The hospital I work in went into lockdown because of some sort of altercation.
  • Some person or people set bombs off at the Boston Marathon.

It blows my mind the contrast between my weekend and my Monday.  It feels very black and white.  Good and evil.

I know that is life in the fallen world we live in.

But today, it feels disheartening.

Today, I am grateful for so much and yet I seem to want for even more.

It makes me want to ask “why?”

But all I can do is hope and pray and hold on to the things that are good and right in the world.