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November 15, 2014

This time last year, I could only think about this time the year before. As November 14, 15, and 16 approached (the day that Garrett was injured, the day he was declared brain dead, and the day that we said good-bye to him before he was taken into organ donation surgery) all I could think about was what I had been doing at that moment a year before. The days leading up to Garrett’s death, I thought bitterly about how I had no idea how things were about to change. The danger he was in. The pain he was suffering. The way he’d be stolen from us. I replayed my regret over and over again.

I still hate the fact that there is no saving my baby. I’m still angry at myself and the woman who murdered Garrett. And sometimes I’m angry at God. Amazingly, though, this weekend snuck up on me a bit because I’ve been very busy living my life – being a wife and a mom and a person with normal life-type-things going on, like buying Christmas presents and stressing about work projects and playing games on my phone in bed when I should be asleep already.

On the one hand, I feel like I should feel guilty for not spending weeks obsessing about today.

On the other hand, I am very grateful. I am breathing a sigh of relief.

Because those three terrible days in November of 2012, I honestly wondered how I was going to live, and I am grateful to find myself alive now, two years later. Alive and happy, surviving and thriving.

In the months following Garrett’s death, I had no idea how I was going to go on. I just knew that I had to. We had to – my husband and I and our family, everyone who said good-bye to someone incredibly special when Garrett went to heaven. I believed that we’d find a way forward.

And somehow, we did.

It helps, this year, that I’m preparing for the birth of Garrett’s baby brother, who is due in less than three weeks. I have something very specific to look forward to, and something very specific to occupy my time. (You know, like complain about how fat I am while I am eating ice cream. Or complain about how tired I am after getting up from a nap. Or cry because I’m offended for no reason or go back to Target again for the 36th essential item that I just remembered I must have before going into labor.)

But aside from being busy or distracted, I feel that a lot of healing has happened in the past year, because I am able to recall Garrett’s last days and not be swallowed with regret. Instead I marvel that we all, some way, some how, lived through it. I had no idea how we possibly could survive such dark days, but I believed we could, and we did.

A lot of people, every day, have to face the thing they fear the most, or something they never imagined could happen to their family. A few of my friends have entered those dark days recently, and my heart breaks for them. But my heart also has hope for them, that they will find that joy lives on the other side. I have no idea how, I cannot draw them a map, because I’m not 100 percent sure how I found my way through.

All I know – all I can say – is that someday you will wake up and will have a thought about something besides your loss. You’ll think a dozen things, in fact, and maybe even laugh a bit and feel pretty good about life, before you remember the hole in your heart. If you are tempted to feel guilty for that, don’t spend a second giving into that guilt.

Instead, be glad. Be healed, a little, and expect more. You’re still wounded, you’re still grieving, but you are doing grief right by finding your way, slowly, through the darkness back to joy.


I miss you every day, sweet boy. We all do. Thanks for being so awesome.
Thanks for living in our hearts forever.

The Kid that is Missing

June 18, 2014

Today is Garrett’s 4th birthday.

In the past few weeks, I’ve dreaded this day. I’ve wondered if I should take it off from work so I could be alone. If I should plan something special, like dinner and a cake and ice cream, or if I should just pretend it’s any other day. I wondered if I should post anything on Facebook, or here on the blog, and if so, what should I say? What can I say? There’s really not much to say on a day like today, a day when a little kid should be opening presents and eating cake but he’s not.

The worst thing about today, for me, is not (just) that it’s Garrett’s birthday and that he’s not here. It’s that enough time has passed that the kid that I miss is no longer the kid that is missing.

When Garrett died, he was two years, four months, and 28 days old. I always round it up to two and a half, but he wasn’t even quite there yet. I suppose child development experts would call his age/stage “preschooler,” but to me he was still very much my baby. He still occasionally woke up in the middle of the night and needed his mommy. He still took a pacifier at nap time and bed time. He was still in diapers. Yes, he was walking and talking and turning into the coolest little kid, and every single day was so much fun for me and his dad because he was having so much fun learning and growing up, but… he was still so little.

So that’s who I miss – that little guy. I’ll tell you a secret: when Caitlin was very small, I wanted to hurry her right through the newborn and infant stage toward toddler, because I missed Garrett so much. I missed his size and shape. And now Caitlin weighs about the same as Garrett did when he died (because he was a skinny little guy!) and she’s starting to get that “little kid” look to her. She is her own person, and I appreciate her as Caitlin, not as “Garrett’s replacement” – believe me, no one could replace him, and I have never expected her to! But it’s tremendously comforting to me, in a way, to have a toddler again.

But I know that if Garrett was here, he wouldn’t be a toddler any more. He’d be a big kid. He’d seem even bigger compared to his sister. I look at my nephew, who turned four in April, and my neighbor’s little boy, whose birthday was back in October, and I wonder what sorts of things that they do would Garrett be doing right now? Would he be riding a bike? Learning to swim? Saying his ABCs? Singing songs he heard on the radio? Collecting fireflies on summer nights? Telling me jokes? Playing pranks?

Would he ask for a special kind of cake for his birthday? Would he like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… or Batman… or Thomas the Train… or some other cartoon I’ve never even heard of? What kinds of things would he want to talk about when his Nana or Auntie called on FaceTime? What presents would he ask for? What size clothes would he be wearing?

These are things I’ll never know.

So that’s what hurts, right now, today… that I have no idea what I’m missing. I have no idea who my boy would be at four years old. I only know who he was at (not quite) two and a half.


Eating leftover birthday cake, July 2012.

Last year on this day, I told the very dramatic, very funny, and only slightly embarrassing story of Garrett’s birth. I highly recommend reading it as a chaser to this downer of a post.

Seven Quick Takes

May 23, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday - Hosted at

1. You know you might be old and boring – or just a suburban mom who has to buy a million things in bulk every month on a budget – when you get REALLY excited about finally having a Costco membership. Actually, it all started one day when my boss said she was going to the “senior buffet” (Friday lunchtime samples at Costco) and I asked if I could tag along to see what the prices looked like compared to Sam’s. Used to be I wasn’t a fan of the warehouse stores because I felt like it was impossible to go to one without spending a billionty* dollars (true) and most of the items they sell aren’t that cheaper than buying at Walmart or Target (which I have since concluded to be FALSE). I was won over by the massive discount in price on frozen fruit (I have a smoothie obsession) and Venus breeze shave cartridges (my skin is stupid sensitive and I am very lazy) and the fifty-pound box of Huggies Natural Care Wipes.

Oh, and the samples.

Oh, and the wine prices are pretty much the awesomest ever, but that means little to me right now since I am incubating a parasite. But don’t worry, I won’t leave that section of the store neglected forever.

OH OH OH! And then there’s the Land-o-Lakes half-and-half for $2 a quart AND the Newman’s Own Organic K-cups for less than 50 cents apiece. I think the membership will pay for itself in my coffee obsession alone, since I drink about 17 cups a day.

And yes, I realize that I really do sound like a big old nerd for being so excited about cheap coffee creamer. DON’T JUDGE ME I LOVE COFFEE OKAY.

2. This afternoon is our consult with the maternal-fetal medicine specialist and genetic counselor, plus an ultrasound, all of which I’m super excited about. This is the first pregnancy where I am officially old and at first I kind of thought the advanced maternal age BS was all about squeezing extra money out of women who are scared of Down Syndrome (which is a whole other post unto itself but we won’t go there now) but I’ve come around to the other side. It’ll be nice to get a head’s up if this child has any special needs, and if not, we get to have extra baby pictures which is cool. And the new prenatal diagnostic tests are REALLY precise without being super invasive, so that’s a plus. When my mom was pregnant with my younger brother 30 years ago, she had a very difficult high-risk pregnancy at 34 years old (and was super traumatized by the AMA label), and pretty much the only option she had for diagnostic testing for amnio, which she refused for a couple of reasons (not the least of which is the miscarriage risk). I just think it’s super cool that women have all these options available to them now.


3. But enough about me. Let’s talk for a second about Hallie Lord‘s new book, Spice Up Your Marriage: A 28-Day Adventure. Hallie is a writer and mom of six kids so she totally understands the challenges that come from keeping your intimate relationship fresh and exciting when you and your spouse are busy and tired. I just bought the book myself and can’t wait to read it. I’m pretty sure my husband, if he knew I was going to read it, would be excited too, LOL.

4. Speaking of my husband, he’s been thinking of starting a blog AND I SO WANT HIM TO DO IT. He gets a charge out of arguing with people on Twitter and has been itching to break out of the 140-character box. (Warning: if salty language offends you, don’t read my man’s tweets. Because he is a BIG fan of the F-bomb and other colorful words.) But he’s all like, “Blah blah blah who the heck is going to read my blog?” and I’m like, “Blah blah blah welcome to my world.” Seriously, though, I think he would really enjoy blogging, so I’m lobbying pretty hard. Plus then I get to design his site (which I have tons of ideas for)!

5. Okay I gotta power thru the rest of this post because I need to get showered and out the door soon. But let’s be honest, I don’t have much else interesting to say. So I’ll link you to this article about the old “as long as it’s healthy” adage you hear from expecting parents all the time.

That phrase has haunted me, ever since we found out that our child would be born with a birth defect. As long as it’s healthy! People chirp at you, when you talk about finding out the gender. Boy? Doesn’t matter! Girl? Who gives a sh*t! Nothing else matters but perfect health! And once you discover that your kid isn’t healthy, it almost feels like a threat.

Because what if it’s not healthy?

What then?

6. And then I’ll leave you with Garfunkel and Oates’ “Pregnant Women are Smug,” which is all I can think of when I hear, “As long as it’s healthy.” Kind of salty language in this one, too, but IS HILARIOUS:

And true. So true.

7. And lastly, to complete the annoying pregnancy cliche trifecta, we have “Sh*t Pregnant Girls Say:”

I kinda LOLed. A lot.

WAIT WAIT WAIT bonus quick take: “Sh*t CRUNCHY Pregnant Mamas Say:”

So true. Also, quite smug.

All righty, I gots to get out of here! Go see Jen for more quick takes.

*billionty – new word coined by my friend Bunnika when describing a centipede she kilt with a cat litter scoop

What Pregnant Women Want

May 20, 2014

So my my post on Friday drew the highest number of visitors this website has ever seen. I mean, my biggest day is still pathetic compared to some bloggers’ slowest days, but still: most blog traffic OF ALL TIME.

Kanye "Of. All. Time."

Say it with Kanye: “Of. All. Time.”

I mean, I even got tweeted from Dr. Amy! (In spite of the fact that I said she was sort of mean. She’s very forgiving like that, I guess.) I am adding this to my list of brushes-with-blogging-celebrities, which right now is populated mostly by Catholic mommy bloggers who occasionally respond to my stalker missives email correspondence.

And it got retweeted FOUR TIMES! Look out, y’all, I am taking over the internet with my blogaliciousness.

Anyway, whenever I get a spike in traffic, I always feel like I should write something halfway interesting within the next day or two so that all the people who randomly found me won’t think that I’m someone who only updates her blog every couple of months with totally inane content… um, which I am. But then I am seized with performance anxiety, as per the usual, and I can’t think of anything interesting to write about and I started seventeen different drafts of really stupid posts and then I just give up and listen to the mean voices inside my head that say I suck at writing and ought to just eat some ice cream to make it all better.

But then! Last night my sister sent me this awesome infographic about what pregnant women in different countries Google about:

Googling While Expecting -

I assume she sent it because I am pregnant and have a degree from Google University. The related article, “What Do Pregnant Women Want?” is slightly dry dissection of the cultural differences in pregnancy worries across the world (with the bonus, slightly disturbing revelation that lactation kink is a big deal in India). It got me thinking about the different things I’ve Googled while expecting (biggest concerns: sushi, Paxil, and scooping the cat’s litter box).

But let’s be honest – what pregnant women want is a kind of different from what they’re worried about when they’re pregnant – i.e., what they’re going to look for on the net and in the expert’s books.

So, in case you’re wondering, here is my totally unscientific but maybe-probably-not-helpful list of things that pregnant women want, based on my experience and the things I’ve heard knocked up friends ask for and complain about. If your heartful desires are not represented on this list, I apologize. Leave a comment with a suggestion and our editorial team (i.e., the voices in my head and a half-gallon of ice cream) will consider adding it to the list.

What Pregnant Women Want

  1. We want ALL THE FOOD. We want some Chinese take-out, and pizza, and chips and salsa, and maybe some ice cream and thirteen Twinkies for good measure. And Coca-cola and a peanut butter smoothie. And cookies and a tuna fish sandwich.
  2. We want NO FOOD. We never want to eat again because everything is disgusting. Also, don’t eat in front of us. Ever. Especially Chinese take-out or a tuna fish sandwich.
  3. Please excuse us while we go barf.
  4. And while we pee. Again.
  5. Please don’t touch us. Actually, strike the “please.” JUST DON’T TOUCH US. At all. I don’t care how well you know a pregnant woman, it’s not appropriate to rub her belly unless she specifically says, “Hey, the baby’s moving! Want to feel?”

    And if you’re the kind of person who touches a pregnant stranger’s belly? Then you have serious boundary issues. (This has never happened to me, but apparently it’s much more common than people NOT raised by wolves would imagine.)
  6. We want to sleep. Ever hour of the day is an appropriate time for a nap. Even the middle of the work day, while we’re sitting on a toilet, leaning against the bathroom wall.

    Not that I’ve ever done that. *ahem*
  7. Except we CAN’T sleep. Because we have reflux and our back hurts and we have to pee every thirteen seconds. And everything is annoying – including the streetlights shining in through our bedroom window and how loudly the fat cat snores.
  8. Excuse me while I Google “okay to take sleep aids when pregnant?”
  9. We want to learn everything there is to know about pregnancy and babies! Until it gets too science-y or gross or scary or boring or all seven. Then we just want to look at nursery ideas on Pinterest.
  10. We want at least one edgy outfit for our kid to prove that we’re still hip and cool even though we’ve decided to procreate:


  11. Also, just stop already with your clever commentary on our reproductive choices. Like, “Don’t you know what causes that?” or “Don’t you have a TV?” or “It’s about time!” or “Isn’t it amazing how I can keep talking with my foot in my mouth?” or “Can you believe I say these things out loud and in public? Clearly my parents raised an idiot!”
  12. Related: The following things are never appropriate to say to a pregnant woman:
    “Wow, you’re only ____ months along? Are you sure you’re not having twins?” or “Haven’t you had that baby yet?” I mean, you COULD say them, but you could also fill your pockets with chicken necks and go swimming in the Louisiana swap. Either way: you’re not very smart.
  13. For the love of Shirley Temple, please refrain from giving a pregnant woman medical advice unless you actually ha
    ve a degree in medicine.
    And no, it doesn’t matter how many hours you’ve spent on WebMD, a fact which sorely disappointed me.
  14. Pregnant women want clothes. Not in a vain, I’m such a fashionista I’m obsessed with the latest styles and colors kind of way. No, in a totally essential I can’t leave the house naked but all of a sudden out of nowhere nothing freaking fits kind of way. We’d like shirts that are neither tents nor navel-baring crop tops. We want maternity jeans that are flattering to more than one body type (and that one body type being Heidi Klum). And we want things to be reasonably priced so that we don’t feel bad paying retail for something we’re realistically only going to wear for three months. And is it possible that they could be well-made because we’re probably going to wear certain items every other day and wash them twice a week and we’d like for them not to fall apart in the three month timeframe that we need them.
  15. We would like a hug. And to be taken seriously when we’re crying over something stupid. Because yeah, we’re hormonal and unreasonable and we know that but we hate being reminded by everyone else who doesn’t have a parasite that’s turned them into a whining drama queen that can’t stop sweating.
  16. We would like for the evening news to stop airing stories about child abuse and random school shootings because we’re not allowed to take the good anti-anxiety drugs while we’re knocked up, and we are prone to very vivid nightmares at this particular point in our lives.
  17. We’d also like it if everyone stopped sharing their horrific birth stories or talking about how their second cousin’s sister-in-law who did ____ that we are doing RIGHT NOW and then had a miscarriage.
  18. We’d also like for everyone to stop telling us to get rid of our beloved pet because of some old wive’s tale about cats stealing a baby’s breath. That’s honestly *so* 1936 that I’m kind of embarrassed for you.
  19. And lastly, we would like for you to be happy for us and encourage us. We might be feeling totally freaked out about becoming a mom for the first (or fifth) time. We might be worried about finances or the baby’s health or where on earth we’re going to get the money for daycare or how we’ll fit another person into our cramped house. We may not think we’re doing a very good job being mom to the kids we already have, or we might think we’re too young or too old or too crabby or too spacey to be a decent parent. So please, have faith in us. Encourage us. Tell us we’re going to do great, and that you’ll be there to help however you can, because then we’ll start believing in ourselves, and we’ll know we’re not as alone as we feel sometimes.

The Confessional: I Was Wrong.

May 16, 2014

I am a prideful person, and I don’t like to admit it when I’m wrong. (I understand that I have this trait in common with about 95% of the human race, but it’s still a point of embarrassment for me.) But sometimes, when I am wrong about something very important, I know I have to own up to it, and in this case, I feel like I need to own up to it publicly.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years reading natural childbirth books and blogs. I spent SO MUCH time doing this that it made me a little crazy. I planned to give birth to Garrett at home but ended up transferring to the hospital, and the only reason I chose to have Caitlin at a hospital was because we had a different insurance policy and couldn’t afford the out-of-pocket cost of a homebirth. I never made this blog into a soapbox for my views, but my real life friends can vouch for the fact that I can be pretty self-righteously outspoken on the matter of natural childbirth. I mean, I’ve toned it down quite a bit over the past couple of years, but around the time that I was pregnant with Garrett, I was insufferable – mostly because I felt that I had to defend my decision to have a homebirth from all the people who said, “But but but… it’s so dangerous!”

Garrett Just Borned

Any excuse to share a cute baby picture. Garrett on June 20, 2010. I think. That weekend was kind of a blur.

I told people that my “research” had shown me homebirth WASN’T more dangerous than giving birth in the hospital. In fact, for a low-risk mom, it was actually SAFER! I preached it to anyone who would listen, and I may have converted a few people to my rah-rah birth goddess club. (Although, honestly, most people just tuned me out once they recognized the gleam of crazy in my eye.)

The problem with the “research” I did is that I only looked to sources that would confirm what I wanted to believe. I wanted to be counter-cultural and hip and cool and strong. I didn’t want anyone to harsh my birth goddess buzz, so I didn’t look into the dark side of homebirth, the things that could go wrong. I didn’t want to believe that anything COULD go wrong. I let myself be swayed by bad statistics and passionate arguments instead of looking at the facts from every angle and truly considering the risks AND benefits of ALL my options. I was afraid that I’d end up having an “unnecessarean” if I was pressured into inducing by a doctor with malpractice blinders on. I had come to believe that doctors were the enemy and that the only way to win against their scissor-happy assault on natural birth was to stay far, far away from the hospital. I let my problems with authority warp my view of the medical establishment, and I feared losing control more than I feared losing my child.

I do believe that my midwives truly had my and Garrett’s best interests at heart, and that is why they advised that we transfer to a hospital at the very first sign of distress. However, my home is less than five miles away from the hospital where Garrett was delivered, and the transfer still took over an hour. What if Garrett’s heart rate dropping had been a sign that something was SERIOUSLY wrong? What if I had needed an emergency C-section? That’s not what happened, and honestly, the odds of something like that happening are extremely slim. But if there had been a true emergency, I could have lost my son. I could have cheated myself out of the two and a half years that we had together.

In spite of my poor decision making, Garrett was born healthy and whole. And I might not be writing this post right not if it weren’t for the fact that we lost him less than two and a half years later. He was abused by a woman we considered a friend, a woman we trusted to have his best interests at heart. Instead, she violently murdered him, and justified her actions at her sentencing by saying, “I was only trying to get his attention.”


Garrett at his second birthday party, July 1, 2012.

I cannot help but see chilling similarities between our trusted caregiver, whose actions were grossly inappropriate and deadly, and the stories I’ve heard of trusted midwives whose actions were also inappropriate and deadly. The children they killed didn’t get two and a half years to be held and adored and loved. They didn’t even get to take a breath.

The three stories that have touched me most deeply are Gavin’s, Aminah’s, and Wren’s. I won’t rehash the details of each child’s death because their parents deserve the honor of having their story relayed in their own words. What I will say is that Wren’s story filled me with horror and anger (at myself!) because he died of pneumonia caused by group B strep (GBS). GBS disease is a very rare risk/complication that is usually anticipated and mitigated through prenatal testing and the treatment with antibiotics during labor. When I was preparing for Garrett’s birth, I signed a waiver saying that I understood my midwives would not test me for GBS and could not provide me with IV antibiotics even if I wanted/needed them. I had been so brainwashed by the natural childbirth dogma that I truly believed that receiving antibiotics during labor and upsetting the balance of my child’s “gut flora” was worse than watching my baby die hours after he was born. In effect, by refusing the GBS testing, I was rolling the dice with my child’s life. The odds were in my favor, and everything turned out fine. But I still took a gamble with Garrett’s life, just as Wren’s parents took a gamble with his. I won and they lost, for no other reason than dumb luck.


Brand new baby Caitlin, no worse for wear in spite of being born in Teh Eebil Hops-spital

Thankfully, I had a chance to do things differently with Caitlin, and even though I didn’t do it for the right reasons, I reaped the benefits. We had a natural hospital birth, and although there were a couple of minor concerns – Caitlin’s cord was wrapped around her neck, and she didn’t really make much noise after she was born – everything was managed quickly, efficiently and with minimal fuss. I’m pregnant with our next child and you had better believe I’ll be happily cooperating with every prenatal test and labor intervention my OB thinks is necessary instead of suspiciously folding my arms and narrowing my eyes, silently accusing my doctor of trying to bully me into a scheduled C-section so she can make more money and get out of the hospital in time for cocktail hour. In the crunchy mama world, there’s a popular catchphrase that says, “When you know better, you do better.” I know better now. And I intend to do better.


Baby 2014. Or perhaps a bunny. Someone on Facebook said it looked like a bunny.

The following websites were instrumental in opening my eyes to the dangers of homebirth:
What Ifs and Fears Are Welcome
(Especially her series comparing data on neonatal mortality rates.)

The Skeptical OB
I told myself years ago that I would NEVER read anything written by Dr. Amy Tuteur, an outspoken critic of the natural childbirth movement. Honestly, I still think she’s kind of mean. But I also understand that she feels driven to expose the dangers of homebirth so that babies’ lives can be saved. My favorite post on her blog basically tears apart every one of the homebirth movement’s talking points.

Something Other Than God

April 30, 2014

So my friend Jennifer wrote a book!

I’ve been following Jen’s blog at Conversion Diary for about five years now, since shortly after she converted to Catholicism, and I have always loved her self-deprecating humor, her spiritual insights, her love of monastic literature and gangsta rap. (No, REALLY.) She’s been working on this book for about as long as I have been reading her blog, and it has been nothing short of an epic undertaking (with a side of humiliation and despair.) Anyway, last year as she was getting FINALLY moving forward to publication, she shared that the title of the book was based on the following C.S. Lewis quote:

“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery — the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

And I thought to myself, “Oh dear Lord, did she really call her book A Long Terrible Story? I mean, kudos for originality but…”

No. No, she did not.

Announcing the release of Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It:

It’s pretty much awesome. No, really, it is. If you know nothing about Jen’s story, here it is quick and dirty: she grew up with no religion, no belief in even a non-specific, somewhere-out-there watchmaker-type deity. She thought Christians were (at best) quaintly deluded and (at worst) self-righteous crazies bent on pushing human progress back a millennia or two. Then she got married and had a kid and saw her priorities re-align a bit (as happens to a lot of us when we become parents) so she started looking into finding a life philosophy that allowed for the existence of God, and then found herself converting to orthodox Catholicism.

When I first heard of this atheist-to-Catholic convert, I was like, “NO WAY. Like really? Who DOES that? How does someone even make that kind of leap?” And you may very likely be wondering the exact same thing. Read Something Other Than God. You’ll likely find Jen’s journey fascinating – whether you can relate to her search or not! As a cradle non-Christian, she doesn’t speak in church-ese. She wasn’t primed to look for coincidences to confirm what she hoped to be true. She was very much a seeker who was stunned and excited (and sometimes kind of frightened) by what she found.

As I said, I’ve been reading Jen’s blog for a long time, so I knew the basics of her conversion. Her book is much, MUCH more than just a re-hashing of topics she’s already covered online. I felt like I got to know her and her family so well because she shared so intimately about the challenges she faced. This isn’t just another spiritual memoir. Jennifer’s not patting you on the head for being a good little Christian or patting herself on the back for finding The Truth of the Universe. She’s struggling with realizations about the world that confuse and upset her. She’s feeling pulled in a thousand different directions and frustrated by her inability to explain away difficult questions. She’s looking for happiness, yes, but she’s not sure she likes where she’s finding it.

In the interest of full disclosure, the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links – which means that if you buy Jen’s book I might get a teeny tiny kickback.

AND YOU SHOULD TOTALLY BUY THIS BOOK BECAUSE IT IS AWESOME. <—main point of this post just in case you were skimming

And I’m writing this post not just out of the goodness of my heart (though I am so excited about this day finally getting here I could just POP) but also to enter Jen’s epic virtual book release party and contest. Because I am motivated by competition and prizes like a dog is motivated by liver snacks and tummy rubs.

Anyway – I gotta wrap this up because I have to go to work today and I need copious amounts of coffee before THAT’s gonna happen…

But first I want to say, Jennifer, I am so proud of you, and so happy for you. Thanks for not giving up when you were discouraged. I hope you spend the next few months walking on sunshine and rainbows and that your face hurts from smiling. And then I hope you sit down and start on your next book, because I can’t wait to read it. God bless you.

Oh, oh, oh – edited to add: If you want to be a little bit blown away, go here and read the list of endorsements that Jen got for her book. Dean Koontz, Gretchen Rubin, Mark Shea, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and… Tucker Max? What the what? Once again: AWESOMESAUCE.

Happy First Birthday, Dear Little Princess

March 5, 2014


Hello, world. March 2013


Selfie with mom, February 2014.

All I can say to Caitlin at the end of her first year is thank you.

Thank you for being patient with your mommy, who is still grieving and heartbroken. Thank you for being such an easygoing, friendly baby, who has never met a stranger. Thank you for being so delightful. Thank you for wanting to be held so much – even though sometimes I grumble about it because I want to get something else done – because I need those cuddles as much as you do. Thank you for your smile and your sassy attitude.

Thank you, dear little princess, for all the joy you brought into our lives, for being an answered prayer and a light in our darkness.


On the evening of March 4th last year, my mother and I took a brisk walk around the block in the warm spring darkness. Then she went home, and I sat up for a couple of hours watching television while Jon snoozed on the couch next to me. I’d been having irregular contractions for the past week or so, and after the walk they settled into a regular, increasingly painful rhythm.

This had happened before, but each time I’d panicked a little bit when I thought I was actually in labor, and the contractions subsided. So when I finally laid down in bed, I prayed. I said, “I’m ready, God. I’m not afraid. I’m ready to have this baby.” I expected the contractions to keep ramping up in intensity, and if I slept at all I’d wake up in the middle of the night ready to go to the hospital.

But I was wrong. I slept soundly all night long and woke up to the sun shining brightly.

So I got some coffee and sat down at the computer to play several fruitless games of Solitare before getting ready for work. I had spent a lot of time playing video games in the months since Garrett’s death, as a sort of mind-numbing comfort mechanism. But this morning I had a different reason for parking my butt in the computer chair: I’d noticed that whenever I assumed this posture, with my back straight and angled forward over the desk, my contractions would really get going. And so they did. After about half an hour, I got cleaned up and dressed and went to the office.

I tried to focus on work, but my mind definitely kept coming back to “is this it?” After so many “false starts,” I hesitated to actually say I was in labor, but this was the longest the contractions had lasted so far. I texted my mom. I texted my husband. I checked the time over and over. I got another cup of coffee. I tried to be productive. Finally I told my boss I was going home. “But it’s probably nothing,” I said, trying to be cool.

Back at home, I played a few more rounds of solitare and timed contractions. It seemed as if they were getting longer and stronger, and had been for several hours. My husband texted to say he’d leave work at lunchtime. “I’m so excited,” I texted back. “We might get to meet our baby today!”

My mom came over, bubbling with excitement. “It may still be nothing,” I said, STILL trying to be cool. I didn’t want to be the woman who went to the hospital and got sent home. I didn’t want to get everybody worked up and have a stampede of friends and family appear at my doorstep. I was feeling a bit fragile emotionally and a little scared and I didn’t want to frighten my labor away again.

Jon came home and sat down to relax a bit. My mom to ran to Hardee’s to get lunch for all of us. We watched TV and ate our burgers and fries, and finally I told Jon, “You may want to go ahead and shower.” I got my already-packed bags ready to go out the door, and put the dogs in their crates. Then I laid on our bed to re-assess the labor situation. Nothing too painful going on…oh wait. Yeah, maybe it was time to go.

My mom left to do some shopping to distract herself. Jon and I loaded up in the car and headed to the hospital. We checked in and were escorted to a small examination room, where the nurse left us so I could change out of my clothes and into a gown. For some reason, it seemed phenomenally difficult to change clothes, and I think it took me about forty-five minutes. Or maybe it just took five minutes, but in any case, by the time I sat on the bed-slash-exam table next to Jon, I was getting a little anxious and testy.

“You know,” said Jon thoughtfully. “It seems a shame to waste this semi-private room.”

I literally laughed out loud. “That’s the first time we’ve been able to use that line in its proper context.”

A few minutes later the nurse came in and checked me. I was six centimeters dilated, which meant that I was officially in labor and could move to a legitimate (and much more comfortable) birthing room.


Although I was most definitely still in labor and therefore still in pain for the next hour or so, the flurry of excitement of getting checked in distracted me, and I was able to breathe through contractions easily. They strapped me to a monitor and got a hep-lock set up, and my labor nurse (I think her name was Jennifer but I’m not 100% sure of that) went over my medical history and got everything entered into the computer.

“What’s your pain management plan?” she asked at one point.


“None like you don’t have a plan or none like you don’t want any pain at all?”

I laughed. “None like I’m going to do it naturally.”

She laughed. “Now, see, if I had said none I would have meant no pain at all.”

After all the intake drama was done, Jon and I were left alone in the room together. I put on some music – a playlist I’d put together specifically for this day – and did my best to relax during each contraction. I remembered from my labor with Garrett that as the pain had increased I’d felt this urge to get away from it, which had made me anxious and tense, which in turn made the pain worse. So this time I reminded myself over and over that I couldn’t get away from the pain, and I wouldn’t want to if I could. I had to surrender to get through it. I even talked to Caitlin, inside my head. I told her we were going to do this together, that she knew how to get out and my body knew how to help her and we were rock stars and we were going to be totally awesome today.

So that is what I did for a couple of hours – breathe, listen to music, repeat rah-rah birth goddess mantras to myself, lather rinse repeat. Jon pretty much kept to himself, playing Angry Birds or something like it, only speaking when spoken to or doing something if/when I asked him to. (And I don’t wish to imply that he was shirking his responsibilities by doing so; this is the sort of labor support I prefer.) I was doing pretty good if I do say so myself, until transition kicked in and then I lost my everloving mind, as I have been known to do in the past. Jon says that at one point my eyes opened wider than he’d ever seen before and I think it scared him a little bit. I remember clinging to the bed rails as if I were dangling from a rain gutter on the side of a ten-story building. I no longer felt like a birth goddess rock star. I felt like my body was a runaway freight train, and Britney Spears (circa shaved-head-attacking-paparazzo-with-umbrella) was at the controls.

I paged the nurse to say that I thought we were getting close and could she please come and check me? When she did not appear IMMEDIATELY, I sent Jon out to the nurse’s station to chase her down. Then things start to get a little fuzzy because I got a little crazy. I started to hyperventilate and levitate off the bed. I thought I was going to barf. I thought I was going to lose control of all my bodily functions. I thought this was complete and total bullshit. I asked Jon to rub my back. That made me nauseous. I told him to stop touching me. I started moaning and crying and swearing. I decided I did not want to have a baby today after all and maybe I would just go home. I wondered aloud where the hell the nurse was and why no one else thought that having a baby was a big damn deal.

Finally, FINALLY Jennifer returned to check my progress, then she paged the doctor and asked for nursely backup. My doctor strolled in a few minutes later, smiling sweetly, rubbing sanitizer onto her hands and speaking in soothing tones, which just pissed me off of course. She checked me, too, as if the nurse’s assessment of the situation wasn’t enough, and said something to the effect of, “Well, let’s get ready to have this baby.”


(Although I was still kind of thinking that I might just go home.)

So the nurses (Jennifer and a friend of mine who works at the hospital and had just finished helping another mama give birth) broke the bed down and spread paper sheets all over everything and got all the implements of destruction out, while my husband tried to stay out of their way and not freak me out by running around in circles screaming like a girl.


You know how it’s done.

My doctor broke my water, and turned the big scary vagina spotlight and the nurses each grabbed ahold of one of my knees and suddenly everyone was looking at me expectantly and… I didn’t have to push any more.

My contractions had slowed down and I was just lying there panting and wishing someone else could do this for me. I felt bad for a sec about being all EVERYBODY HURRY UP GET IN HERE GET IN HERE GETINHEEEERE. I also felt pretty silly because I was talking to Jesus out loud, whereas a few minutes before I’d been inventing clever and highly offensive new combinations of swear words. But eventually I got down to business and started pushing.

After an hour and a half (okay, more like three pushes) the doctor was like, “Yay! She’s almost crowning,” and I was like are you freaking kidding me shouldn’t we be done by now? Then she says, “Aw, she has a full head of soft blond hair,” and I was like I don’t freaking care lady this shit hurts. After another four hours (or whatever), I delivered the head and the nurses were like, “You’re doing great” and Jon was like, “You’re doing great,” but because no one is ever satisfied, they wanted me to push AGAIN and get the rest of the baby out. The doctor cut the umbilical cord, which was wrapped around Caitlin’s neck, and as I pushed again I think her shoulders kind of got stuck because the nurses had me put my knees up over my head and I pushed a little bit more and then I had a baby. They doctor laid Caitlin on my chest and probably said congratulations but I don’t really remember because I was exhausted and I was so in love and Jon hugged and kissed me and I told Caitlin how proud I was of her, because we were a team, we were rock stars, and we got it done. I was feeling high as a kite, and stayed pretty buoyant while getting my nether regions stitched up and clothes put back on so the grandparents could come and see the baby.

That’s the end of the interesting stuff – the rest is all blah blah blah bathtime for baby and shower for mommy, naps for everyone, phone calls to far-flung family members and photos posted on Facebook.

Speaking of pictures…


In the hospital with Daddy, less than a day old.


Snoozing with Daddy, eleven months and three weeks old.


I die a little every time I look at this picture.
I think she was just around a month old when this was taken.


And she still sleeps like that.


Halloween 2013.


At the library, summer 2013. Nerd indoctrination begins early.


Birthday party last weekend.


This morning. So precious.


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