Wednesday, October 19, 2016

God Loves Him More

It's crazy to think how much can change in a month. Almost one month ago on September 22, I went through a full day of work with no breaks other than lunch due to my prep-less Thursday schedule. I drove home immediately after dismissal so I could have some time to myself before heading back for a school event at night. Then I returned to work and spent another two hours at work in the evening for Back to School Night speaking to parents about the plans for the upcoming year for math, English, and science.

Just less than month later, I am on my 23rd or so day of bed rest and trying to mentally prepare for the early arrival of our baby boy.

The reason for all of the changes is because of what happened that next Friday morning on September 23 at 3AM. It was by far the most terrifying and most traumatic experience I have ever lived through in my entire life. I was sleeping on the couch in the baby's room because I have found that it helped with my back when literally out of nowhere, I was woken up from my dream because I felt liquid of some sort moving through my system at an incredibly fast rate. I thought that maybe I had to use the bathroom, but it was completely out of my control.

I immediately rolled off the couch to the floor, and I still had absolutely no control. One of the more unfortunate symptoms of pregnancy is loss of complete bladder control, but I distinctly remember thinking, "It can't be this bad, can it?" Then I started thinking that maybe my water had broken. I had also read that it doesn't typically come out so quickly the way that it's portrayed on TV and in movies, but I wasn't 100% sure. With the flashlight on my phone, I tried to figure out what it was, but I couldn't tell. I stood up and rushed to the bathroom. However, when I sat down, I was in for a huge shock.

There was blood everywhere. I had had an incident with bleeding just 5 weeks earlier, but it was nothing like this. I called for Howard and banged on the shower door to wake him up. The worst part of this was that it wasn't stopping. Without being too graphic, the baby's room and the bathroom basically looked like a murder scene. Saying that I was bleeding would have been an understatement; the only words that could be used to describe what was happening was "gushing" and "pouring."

Howard called my doctor's answering service knowing that we'd have to go to the emergency room but wanting them to be prepared for our arrival. I was about to break down and cry hysterically, but somehow he remained calm and kept me calm too. Later on, he told me that he was visibly shaking, but I just didn't notice because all I could do was look down. As Howard got me new clothes, I called my parents' house, which I knew would probably scare them because the only time that typically happens is for emergency purposes. My mom said they could pick us up, but I wanted to get to the hospital as soon as possible, and we're less than 15 minutes away.

When we went downstairs to grab my bag and a hoodie for me as well as put on our shoes, I was praying out loud and saying, "God, protect the baby. Keep him safe. We know You love him more than we do." And as scared and worried as I was that I was going to lose the baby after carrying him for 8 months, I started feeling a bit more at peace that God was in control.

Since it was about 3:15AM at that point, it was fairly chilly outside. The windshield on the car kept fogging up, so we were being cautious about that. One good thing was that they finally paved Forest Avenue! It was so bumpy for weeks after they tore it up, and it was such a relief that the drive could at least be a smooth one. I had the directions on my phone even though we've been there before a few times in the past, but it also gave us something to focus on instead of worry. I was texting my mom to keep her updated because she and my dad were going to go to the hospital too. I also texted the director of my school and the headmaster to let them know we were going to the hospital so that they would be prepared for the fact that I was going to miss work. It's also a comfort knowing that they would be praying for me too.

Because we were there a little over a month ago, Howard knew to drive the car to the back of the hospital and drop me off at the emergency room. He walked me in and I told the nurse there that they were expecting me upstairs. She called to confirm and then asked if I wanted a wheelchair. I took her up on that offer because I wasn't sure if constantly moving was hurting the situation. Plus, I didn't think I could maintain my composure and stand much longer. While the nurse took me upstairs, Howard went to park the car.

I filled out the forms that I had already filled out not too long ago after the first very minor bleeding incident. It was surreal being there again. A nurse came in and brought me to triage where she gave me a gown. I asked if I could use the bathroom first before being hooked up to monitors, and thank God when I went, I could tell that the bleeding was coming to a stop at that point.

Howard arrived around that time so he was able to help me change into the robe. The nurse put two different monitors on belts around my belly. One was to monitor baby's heartbeat and the other was to monitor any potential contractions. We immediately saw that baby's heart rate was exactly where it should be, and we both breathed a sigh of relief. I felt that as long as he was okay that everything would be fine.

The craziness of the night wasn't just for me though. There was another couple in the section next to us that was dealing with the woman's fairly intense labor. My mom had arrived at that point, but since only one person was allowed in triage, she had to stay in the waiting room right next to it. She heard that woman in pain and wondered if it was me and if the baby was coming incredibly early, but then she picked up on the constant swearing and knew it wasn't me! That woman was soon transferred to labor and delivery. But then the night continued to be an eventful one as another woman was brought in sitting in a wheelchair clearly in incredible pain, and she had to be taken directly to a room because she was literally going to have the baby right where she was!

It actually took some time before I was fully examined. I went to the bathroom a few times while waiting because of the fact that I was hooked up to an IV. Since I knew the bleeding wasn't heavy at this point and that baby's heartbeat was strong, I was starting to calm down. There were two different residents that came to ask me questions. The first one did the ultrasound and then the second one did the full exam. My mom was allowed to come back and stay with us as well since there was no one else in triage at that point, but my dad stayed in the car. Even my doctor showed up at one point; she actually got angry at some of the staff because she had requested that they not examine me because it was so late and I wasn't cared for right away due to the two women who had their babies so quickly. I think the message might've gotten lost in the hustle and bustle of the staff change. 

Someone from antepartum ended up coming to see me and just casually mentioned how I was staying in the hospital for at least a night. What now? I have to stay at the hospital? Apparently no one told me about that either, so that was news. In all honesty, she was the one person who I wasn't that happy with because she just had a very direct and somewhat blunt way of delivering news or answering questions. For example, I had an IV in my arm already, but they needed another tube of blood for testing because one was left out in the initial testing. She was looking on the back of my hands and my wrists and my other arm to see if she could draw blood, but there was nothing available. She questioned why I hadn't had any water to drink, and I explained to her that since arriving at the hospital, I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything. She asked why I didn't drink any water beforehand, and I had to explain to her that we arrived at 3:30AM, and that I was woken up from my sleep and didn't think as I was changing and getting ready to leave to go to the hospital that I should get a drink of water. When she finally poked me in the back of my left hand, it was one of the most painful pricks I have ever had in my lifetime, and I've experienced plenty! It also continued to bleed for quite some time thereafter. Howard said he could tell it was bad because of the look on my face when I usually never cringe from blood draws. 

Howard and my mom were then led to my bed in the antepartum room. I was taken by a technician to a separate location for an internal ultrasound. She told me that the baby was measuring just a little over 4 pounds at that point. Then she also commented that my placenta was low. I feel that I was asked many times during my pregnancy if I was ever told I had placenta previa, but I never was. This was the first time I heard about a low-lying placenta. After that test, I was brought to the antepartum room to settle down for observation for the remainder of the day and that night.

Thankfully, I wasn't required to be hooked up to the IV bag any longer, which meant going to the bathroom would be a little easier. It was still rather painful though because of the angle of the needle. I really hope the veins on the back of my hand are visible when I have the baby because I don't want to deal with it in my arm again!

Plus, it also meant that I could eat and drink! Lunch was soon, but we weren't sure when it would be delivered, so Howard and my mom went to the cafeteria to get some food. I was really wanting something like a salad and soup from Panera, which my dad was willing to get, but it was just easier to do some from the cafeteria so that my dad wouldn't have to drive far to get it and return with it.

I thoroughly enjoyed that soup since I was so hungry at that point. My mom actually had to help me in the beginning because it hurt so much to bend my right arm due to the IV. I then switched over to using my left hand. It wasn't the most spectacular soup in the world, but it tasted homemade and I liked that they got me a ton of noodles to slurp when I was done with the broth. I was eventually brought a sandwich for lunch, but I didn't eat it at that time though I did enjoy the chips!

My mom left in the afternoon because it was actually my grandfather's birthday dinner celebration. It was just Howard and me for the duration of our stay along with the two other women who were already in antepartum. Most of the time for me was spent like this:

I was hot because of the chux that you sit on, so I didn't even want the socks that they gave me or the blanket that was on the bed. I don't even know what else we did to pass the time, but I was amazingly grateful that Howard stayed with me the entire time. Since we're only about 15 minutes away from the hospital, I told him that he could take a break and go home if he wanted to, but he stuck by my side. Since there were no nurses really stationed in antepartum, he also didn't want to leave me without the ability to get help if I needed it. 

I do remember that during that time, I wrote an email to my boss about having to begin my maternity leave much earlier. The last time I spoke to him about it, I had said I was trying to make it to the end of October, but clearly God had different plans. I had to just stop thinking about my responsibilities at work and accept the fact that my priority was to make sure baby stayed put until my due date. I also didn't have much of a choice because of the bed rest, but for once, I didn't feel as guilty as I thought I might. I was actually pushing myself at work for the past week or so, and Howard and my parents wanted me to start my leave earlier than what I had planned. I was returning home with swollen feet and just falling asleep on the couch with no energy to do anything. I had also had the flu shot and the Tdap, which knocked the wind out of me for a little bit as well. But in the past 8 years or so of teaching, I kept going to work work regardless of how I felt. However, this was one time in my life where work just could NOT be on my list of concerns any longer.

For dinner that night, I was given beef stew. From what I remember, the other women weren't allowed to eat, so I was happy that I could.

I took a few bites of it and wasn't enjoying the beefy flavor, so Howard actually ate it (along with the sticky rice my mom made the day before that my dad brought for him when he picked up my mom). I had half of the chicken and roasted red pepper sandwich from lunch. I look back at these pictures and know that although it was a stressful time during the pregnancy, we also were able to have some laughs. Howard thought the little styrofoam container was a delicious soup of some sort, but in reality, it was just hot water for tea. He was smelling the beef stew in the large container!

That night, I was grateful that we were both able to sleep. Howard was upright in a chair when the night nurse came by and got him a reclining chair and a blanket that was definitely more comfortable for him. During the nighttime hours, one of the women had an emergency situation with the baby's heart rate or something like that as the alarms went off. Then since the other woman who was next to us was discharged, another girl and her husband was brought in in the middle of the night too. I woke up from all the sounds but was able to fall back asleep. It wasn't a deep sleep by any means, but it was still needed.  

Our favorite nurse of the stay was named Rachel, and she did have to come to me in the morning hours because the monitor wasn't picking up baby's heartbeat. He was clearly so done with having that thing on him because any time a nurse would move it around, he would kick it! Not only could I feel it, it was audible on the monitor as well because it would suddenly be a loud thump. Howard and I laughed at his behavior because he was actually more well-behaved with the nicer nurses as if he knew to be cooperative.

I was grateful that after spending so much time in the hospital that I wasn't actively bleeding. I definitely still had some old blood and some spotting, but it was much easier to deal with than what had happened at home. I was hoping and praying that I'd be discharged, but I also knew not to expect it to happen so quickly. Instead, I looked forward to breakfast. Unfortunately, the breakfast I was given was French toast, which is one of my least favorite things to eat in the entire world. I figured I'd be hungry enough to eat whatever was given to me, but this was like a shingle. A dry, whole wheat shingle, haha. Even Howard didn't think it was very edible, and he doesn't mind whole wheat bread or French toast!

Howard went downstairs to the cafeteria to grab us some more edible food for breakfast. We split a cheese omelette that I actually thought was pretty good especially compared to the French toast and some corned beef hash. We also split pancakes, and Howard indulged in some bacon since it's something we never actually buy ourselves. 

We finished our breakfast around 9AM. Then we were visited by nurses and finally the resident who said that we were going to be discharged! They were waiting on the blood test that the nurse Rachel had taken to check that I wasn't anemic from the blood loss. She had to prick me in the right wrist, but she did it so gently that it was such a relief compared to the horrid experience with the back of the left hand. I signed the papers after being told that I had to stay on bed rest, and we walked downstairs (after the difficulty of trying to find someone let us out of the unit because the doors are always locked). I sat in the lobby area as Howard go the car, and I took this picture at 10:36AM. 

I was beyond grateful that I was leaving and going home. I prayed for the one woman who was still in the hospital who would have to stay until her baby was actually born. Personally, I couldn't wait to be home to use my own bathroom and to take a shower and be comfortable sleeping once again. Since then, the pregnancy hasn't exactly gone the way I imagined it would what with the bed rest and the planned early c-section, but that's going to have to be another story for another day. All I know is that this adventure is one that is going to require a lot of trust in Him! I just have to keep remembering that God loves my baby more than I ever can, and He also loves me too more than I can ever imagine.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mother of Twins

Just 5 days after we got that first positive pregnancy test, I called a new doctor to set up my first appointment. My current gynecologist no longer delivers babies, so I had to find someone new. I didn't know how I could ask those around me for recommendations since I hadn't told anyone else about our news other than my immediate family. We hadn't even told Howard's family yet because we were waiting for my father-in-law's birthday dinner so everyone would be together. In my search online, I decided to look at a former doctor who left my current doctor's office to start her own practice. I discovered that she closed her practice fairly recently, but she recommended a doctor that even delivered her own babies. Well, an obstetrician who delivers other doctors' babies? Sounds good to me!

The funny thing is that when I found her Facebook page, I saw that a few of my friends actually liked her page. What made it even better is that I saw a review from my colleague's wife who raved about her. She was actually the one I wanted to ask since she had 3 babies already, and there you go! Thanks to the internet, I was able to find her without even asking! Thankfully, I was able to get an appointment with them after telling them it was somewhat through a personal recommendation. 

That first appointment was scheduled for Monday, March 21. Although we were excited to be having a baby, it still didn't feel real just yet. Sure, we did tell some more family members and my closest colleagues at that point, but I didn't feel any different. There was a part of me that was kind of like, "Well, I still have to get through my daily work days and plan lessons and pretend that everything's the same." I think I just needed that confirmation from the doctor herself, as if there was any possibility that the 5 positive pregnancy tests I had sitting on the toilet tank were incorrect.

I didn't know what to expect during that first appointment. I'm the type of person who prefers to be prepared as much as possible, so before any medical procedure, I look up anything I can online just so I'm not surprised. However, since there were so many different things that could happen during a first appointment depending on doctors, I wasn't sure. I just knew that I'd probably have to get used to peeing in a cup, haha, which is something I have always hated to do. In fact, I'd prefer to get blood drawn than pee in a cup, but now that I do it at every appointment, I've gotten rather used to it, thankfully! 

With no definite expectations other than that, I was a little nervous. Howard and I sat in the waiting room for quite a bit of time. When we were called in, the nurse asked if we were there because I was pregnant, and I said yes. She replied, "Yeah, the husbands don't usually come to the pap smears!" After the routine questions were asked and my blood pressure and weight were recorded, the doctor came in to ask a few questions of her own and run through her own tests. I was then led into another room for an internal ultrasound. It's funny how the things that you have always dreaded in the past are just things you have to do and can handle when it means it's for your baby! 

The room was set up so that instead of my having to turn to look at the technician's screen, I could just look up at the one mounted on the wall in front of me as I was lying down. When the image popped up, I noticed something unusual, but at the same time, I didn't really think too much of it since it was my first time really looking at an ultrasound carefully. But the technician then said something we both were NOT expecting at all. She said, "As you can see, it's twins ..."

WHAT?! TWINS?! She said she saw it right away, but she wanted to make sure she could see a heartbeat on both babies before she said anything. Howard and I looked at each other with wide eyes. We were shocked. We have joked for years that if we ever had twins, we would name the babies Luke and Leia if it was a boy and girl. Many people have heard the story of how I promised him that those would be their names since he loves Star Wars so much (even though it was kind of a joke, I think, haha). We had also only recently discovered that twins do actually run in his family. I think it was just something that he had forgotten since his extended family lives around the world.

In that brief moment, I had a million thoughts run through my head. I thought about how it would be so much more difficult on us to handle two babies at the same time at the same age and how it would cost twice as much to feed, clothe, and diaper our little ones! 

But as quickly as those worries sped through, they came to a complete halt. The technician actually couldn't find the heartbeat for the second baby. We heard the beautiful sound of Baby A's heart, but there was nothing for Baby B. And suddenly, the fears I had just a minute ago turned into bewilderment. What? How was there no heartbeat? As the news sank in, I began to cry.

The doctor came into the room at that time, and the technician explained to her what had happened. They gave me tissues and explained that it was probably Vanishing Twin Syndrome. Because ultrasounds are done so early nowadays, it's possible to see that there are twins before a miscarriage occurs and one is absorbed by the other twin. In the past, it wouldn't have been as easily detected because by the time they could see the baby in an external ultrasound, the other twin would have disappeared already. She said that instead of having me return in a month for my next appointment, she wanted to check me out again in two weeks to make sure that everything was okay. If I had any bleeding/spotting or any other miscarriage symptoms, I was to call the office.

Howard and I spoke to her a little more and got more information about pregnancy in general. We left the office rather quietly, but when we got to the car, the tears just started flowing again. I know that medically speaking, these things happen, but I was afraid that it was something I did or didn't do that caused it to happen. I'm sure plenty of other women have had the same thoughts I had, but I just felt guilty because I was the one carrying both babies. I also felt guilt about the immediate thoughts I had in the office regarding how I was scared about having to handle two babies at once. 

I went home, and we both called our parents and then texted our siblings to let them know. It was a very confusing time emotionally. I did a lot of reading online in an attempt to have a better understanding of it. Some articles definitely made me cry many times. For example, there was one woman in an article who mentioned it felt like going to a birthday party and a funeral at the same time. We were sad about Baby B, but we were also happy about Baby A. But at the same time, we felt guilty for being happy about Baby A. My emotions would flip flop on an hourly basis. Was I even "allowed" to be sad? Some women are only pregnant with one baby and have a miscarriage. At least we still had one with us, right? There are some women who have infertility issues and can't even get pregnant and stay pregnant with one baby. I should be thankful, right? We also knew that Baby B was already in heaven having the best time. I didn't know what I should or could feel.

We didn't share this information with many people at the time or since then. Other than our immediate family, I only told two of my colleagues at work the next day because I knew I needed their prayer and support. After some time, we also told our small group, but that was much later on when it was easier to talk about it. I just couldn't handle my own emotions and then deal with what other people might say too. My mentor teacher told me that even though we still had one baby, I had every right to be sad about the other baby and that we should give ourselves time to mourn that loss. I mean, even though I was still pregnant, I did lose a baby. One person I told attempted to comfort me by saying that at least we didn't hear both heartbeats during one appointment and then not hear them the next. Sure, I agree that would've been more devastating, but this was still taking an emotional toll nonetheless. When we told our small group, our leader said that sometimes when he has to comfort others due to his pastoral role within ministry, the only thing that can be said is, "That sucks." I couldn't agree more.

During those two weeks of waiting for the next appointment, I was incredibly sick from morning sickness, but it was made worse by the worries. There was a slight chance that the second heartbeat just wasn't audible because the baby was too small. I didn't know what to think. I admit I didn't even know how to pray. The doctor had explained that having multiples increases the risks in pregnancy and that I would have to stop working by a certain week and take it easy to prevent preterm labor. I knew it would've been a strain on my body if that was the case, but I couldn't help but ask God why there had to be another baby in the first place if it wasn't going to survive. It sounds silly, but I even wondered if Baby A knew that something was wrong and missed Baby B.

At the next doctor's visit, we could physically see that the second sac was shrinking. For those of you who saw Howard's Facebook post on our 4th anniversary in May, you already saw this picture. You can see that the second baby didn't grow the way the first baby did. I also had some bleeding in the uterus. As sad as it was, I actually started feeling a little better physically thereafter. Weeks 6-9 of my pregnancy were the worst in terms of morning sickness and stress, but once we had more of a final answer about our twins, we could move on to being happy that Baby A was healthy and growing right on schedule with a heartbeat at 185 beats per minute. We could look forward to being parents!

Writing this entry definitely brought up a lot of the emotions that I thought were long gone. I guess there's no way to truly make the sadness about our other baby go away forever. Even though I will be giving birth to one baby in November, I am and always will be the mother of twins, and we both look forward to meeting our other baby in heaven!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Sharing the Big News: My Family

When we found out that we were pregnant on Wednesday, March 2, we were still a little skeptical. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I took another test the next day in the morning for a confirmation. We didn't tell anyone right away because we wanted to let the news sink in and enjoy it when it was just the two of us. It definitely is different once people know. It felt odd keeping such a secret though because that Friday was my school's annual Pajama Movie Night, and I had to order a well-done burger when a few of my colleagues and I went out to eat before the event. Everything I did made me wonder if I would do or say something that would give it away.

I always thought I'd tell my mom immediately, but it happened to be that my dad's birthday celebration was that Saturday. He always tries to tell me things, and I'll reply, "Mommy already told me." If there's anything new going on with me, he typically hears it through my mom because we talk so often and about everything. I thought it would be extra special to make the announcement specifically to my dad so that he would also see just how important he is to me.

Just to be on the safe side because Howard and I were still doubtful, I took another test on Saturday morning. This was just two days after the last test, and that line could not be any darker! There was no waiting for it to appear; it automatically appeared! It was amazing to see how clear it was; there was absolutely no denying it at that point! I also kept thinking about how great it was that my colleague told me to get the Dollar Tree tests. I mean, I took so many just to confirm!

Okay, now that we had that confirmation, I had to figure out how to reveal the news. I just knew it would be the perfect opportunity because my entire immediate family doesn't get together that often, and I really didn't want to just text it. This was a rare occasion with the best timing! I decided to make a card because I've done that once in a while in the past so it wouldn't be too out of the blue. My dad isn't really someone who likes getting gifts; he'll worry that we spent too much money on him! Anyway, I didn't have the time to make anything fancy with my Cricut or Silhouette, so I used the internet to get a simple black and white picture of a slice of cake and copied and pasted it so that there would be 9 slices on the front since the addition of our baby would make us a party of 9!

When we go to the house, I knew we would have to wait a bit. I wanted to make sure my brother, sister-in-law, and niece were there too. I kept waiting for the best moment because I did want Howard to film their reaction or take pictures if possible. When we went upstairs to the living room, I was thinking it would be the right time because we were all taking pictures of Ava, but my mom wasn't sitting anywhere near my dad. I wanted to make sure that they were together so that she could read it too when he opened the card. Okay, I'd have to wait a little longer.

Later that night, we were in the kitchen for dinner. We had ordered in so it was fairly relaxed, but I thought it was hilarious that my mom had brought up a Seagrams Escape Fuzzy Navel, which is what we used to get in Florida and is the only drink that I ever have that's considered alcoholic. I had to pass on it as I claimed I wanted Martinelli's instead and that I'd have the Seagrams later. I ate a little but not too much because I was feeling a little nervous! 

Finally when we were getting ready to have some dessert, I gave my dad the card. He took it, thanked me, and then put it aside. I told him to open it, and while he was doing that, my mom realized she had miscounted plates, but I didn't want her to miss out on reading it too! I had to tell her to look. My younger brother was on the other side of my dad, so he leaned over to take a look too. 

As I said before, the front of the card just had 9 slices of cake on it with the beginning of the happy birthday song, but instead of finishing the lyrics, I wrote, "Happy birthday dear ..." with the continuation on the inside of the card. On the inside, I wrote "Goong-goong!" because that means maternal grandfather in Cantonese. Even though my parents are already grandparents, they have different titles in Chinese because my brother had a baby. My parents can only be Goong-goong and Por-por because of me because I'm their only daughter. Anyway, I inserted a picture of the pregnancy test and then wrote the following: "We're going to have to split the cake into 9 pieces! Love, Howard and Rae (plus one)."

Soon to be Goong-goong!
We took this at the end of the night. I actually wanted Howard to get a quick shot of the card, but when I picked it up, my dad wanted to be in the picture too, which I thought was adorable.
The reaction was priceless. My dad laughed, but I don't think he realized what it meant or what the picture was until he saw the "plus one" portion. My mom and younger brother both looked up at the SAME EXACT TIME and said "Really?" at the SAME EXACT TIME! And then they both did a little celebratory dance IN THE SAME EXACT WAY. Here's just a snippet of the video:

It made me laugh so much, and even now as I watch the video, I'm reminded of what a great moment it was. I'm really glad that it worked out that my entire family was there. We were saying to my baby niece that she was going to be an older cousin! Now when we get together for dinners and celebrations, we're going to need an even larger table as our family continues to grow!

Friday, July 1, 2016

God's Impeccable Timing

After months and months of trying to get pregnant, there was a part of me in the back of my head that was convinced that maybe we would be one of those couples dealing with infertility. There were articles I read that stated that 6 months to a year was the typical amount of time it took, but at the same time, I knew of people that got pregnant rather quickly or without even trying. I told myself that it would happen at the right time, but I kept thinking that with the health problems I've had since college, I'd come across some issues preventing it from ever occurring. 

At the same time, Howard and I had also been searching for a new place to live. Initially, we started apartment hunting and found an apartment we LOVED in a great location with a ton of space and a reputable landlord only to realize that there were no hookups for a washer/dryer and it wasn't possible to add them up because it was above a dental practice. Another apartment was actually a newly renovated townhouse, and the two of us seemed to really get along with the family and daughter that were renting it. We told them of our interest, and it came down to two parties, but the owner ended up not choosing us and apologized because of how much he knew we loved it. 

We then switched to looking at houses after our parents advised us that it made more sense to pay a mortgage than pay rent, but the houses we liked sold quickly. I didn't think we'd be able to handle a down payment on a house, so we then began poring over the online listings for townhouses. There was one we absolutely adored and even put an offer on it, but the owners insisted that they wanted $5000 less than full price. It wasn't worth it in our opinion, and even our realtor said that their counter offer was ridiculous. 

As you can see, there were many internal struggles and even faith struggles throughout this time because I felt that we were ready to move on to the next stage of our lives. We both cried many times when the pregnancy tests came back negative despite symptoms suggesting otherwise and also when housing situations fell through. 

Of course, now that I have hindsight, I see just how BEAUTIFUL all that time was. Howard and I not only grew stronger as a couple, we really grew stronger in our individual faith in Him. When I was upset, he wasn't. When he was upset, I wasn't. We learned how to support each other and remind each other of God's perfect timing. And suddenly, things seemed clearer to us. We were ready to give up the pen and stop fighting the Creator and Author of our lives. And doesn't it just make sense that things then fell into place? 

On Monday, February 22 of this year, I was on the schedule to share a devotional with the staff at my school during the morning meeting. This is what I wrote and read to my colleagues: 

If you know anything about me or if you've ever sat in on one of my classes, you know just how much I love everything Disney. My husband and I love it so much that we even chose to go to Disney World for our honeymoon. One of my all-time favorite movies is actually the recent 2010 animated film Tangled, which is the story of Rapunzel. I find myself singing or humming the songs without even realizing it. One in particular is called "When Will My Life Begin?" The beginning goes as follows: 

7 AM, the usual morning lineup:
Start on the chores and sweep 'til the floor's all clean,
Polish and wax, do laundry, and mop and shine up
Sweep again and by then it's like 7:15.
After listing some more activities that she partakes in while being locked in her tower, she sings, "Stuck in the same place I've always been" and "When will my life begin?"
Now in no way am I comparing my life with the plight of a young, long-haired girl confined to a secret location, but as I think back on my own inner monologue, I find myself asking myself something to that same effect - when will my life begin?
I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I spent my middle school and high school years waiting for the day I could finally have a guy call me his girlfriend. It was as if my life would surely have more meaning and purpose once someone else determined that I was worthy. I eagerly waited for high school graduation when I could stop worrying about the competition for being ranked first and second. Once I began college, I would be able to study what I wanted to study and leave behind the world of classes like economics and history (sorry, Jess). Then after receiving my Bachelor's degree, I was anticipating the moment when I would finally have my MRS degree. Knowing that I would undoubtedly have my spouse by my side for the rest of our lives gave me feelings of comfort and peace. And now that I have been happily married for almost 4 years, there are two things that I look forward to hopefully happening sooner rather than later. Much of what Howard and I have thought about is how things would be easier if we were as financially "set" as my brother or his sister.
Some of you already know that Howard and I have been looking to move. We initially thought we were going to rent a 2-bedroom apartment, which would be an unbelievably amazing upgrade considering we live in a studio right now. After many prayers and seeing God close many doors and giving us the clear "no's" that we ask for, we have been house hunting instead. I feel that once we find the right place and we can move, we'll have more closets to get organized, better kitchen appliances and space to prepare healthier meals, and more room to finally be able to repay our families and host dinners. And don't get me started on just how thrilled we will be when we finally have access to our own washer/dryer!
The other stage of my life that I am looking forward to is having a baby. I have always felt that being called a mom is such a prestigious title. I think fondly about the way my mom parented my older brother and me and feel that it is such a high calling. I thoroughly enjoy my nephew and nieces, but there's part of me that wonders when it will happen for my husband and me. 
During all these instances, it's as if I'm somehow always thinking that at the next phase, I will be set and my life will surely begin. Since the start of the school year, however, I have been learning how to be patient with all the things that I think will mean some sort of completion in my life. I have been reminded time and time again that God is the one whose plans will far surpass any plans I attempt to make. I have worried about many things, but I see over and over again that He orchestrates all these phases. For once, it is as if I am finally learning to fully submit the desires of my heart to the One who knows it all.
Yesterday in church, I was especially touched. There was a new song included in worship called "Death Was Arrested." Part of the lyrics are as follows:

Our savior displayed on a criminal's cross
Darkness rejoiced as though heaven had lost
But then Jesus arose with our freedom in hand
That's when death was arrested and my life began 

Oh your grace so free
Washes over me
You have made me new
Now life begins with you
It's your endless love
Pouring down on us
You have made us new
Now life begins with you
Those lyrics just seem to directly address Rapunzel's and sometimes my thoughts of "When will my life begin?" I admit that I sometimes lose sight of God's plan for my life when I try to take things into my own hands and plan and organize it the way we all plan our lessons and organize our classrooms. 
I hope that over the past 31 years, I have gained wisdom and not just head knowledge and looking to His Word is definitely the best way to get plugged into the true source of wisdom. Some of the many verses that have reminded me of God's wonder can be found in Psalm 139:1-6, 13-16.
1 You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
When I am reminded of how great He is and how small I am and how much He knows and how little I know, it kind of puts me back in my place to realize that I can hope and plan all I want, but ultimately, He is the one who is in control since "all the days ordained for me were written" even "before one of them came to be."

Just a few hours after sharing that with everyone, Howard texted me to tell me that after adjusting our initial offer, the new offer we had made on a house the day before was accepted! And then as you all read in my previous post, it was just a little over a week when we saw those two lines indicating that we were going to be having a baby! It's funny looking back on everything that happened and seeing how God was in charge the entire time even though we kept trying to control our steps and do things according to our own timing. It was clear that He was wanting us to surrender and trust, and I can truthfully say that I'm glad He waited for us to get to that point. Because in the end, what do I know? Nothing. What does He know? Everything.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

When Those Two Lines Appeared

"Can you stop at the store and get like, steak? Or tofu? Some kind of protein?" That was a slightly odd text for me to send Howard back at the beginning of March.

Anyone who knows me is aware that I would much rather enjoy plentiful helpings of stuffing, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole at Thanksgiving instead of the turkey or beef. I've been known to choose an entree at the restaurant based on what comes with it on the side. My mom used to remind me when ordering that I had to choose something with protein in it because, in my opinion, that's just not the best part of the meal so I would avoid it if I could. So when I had this sudden craving for protein, I had a feeling something might be different.

Howard came home from work and stopped at our local store for two small steaks. I was excited to have some beef, which is somewhat rare in our household. But because it was an out of the blue craving, I decided that maybe I should take a pregnancy test in case there was a need for my steak to be cooked all the way through. In all honesty, this was probably the first time I didn't really have high hopes for what the test would reveal. This was the second batch of pregnancy tests that we had purchased, which meant I had gone through some months of feeling hopeful and then ultimately feeling disappointed when the test came out negative. I had come to the point in my walk with God when I realized that if He wanted us to be parents, it would happen in His time instead of our own. Taking the test this time was done just out of precaution.

Even so, there's something somewhat nerve-wracking about waiting even if it's for just a short interval. I set the test on the top of the toilet tank and sat down on the bathroom rug with the timer on my phone set for 3 minutes. When the buzzer indicated that it was time to look, I stood up and peered over and saw ... nothing. Nothing had happened. There wasn't even one line for the control. I was wondering what happened because it didn't look as if liquid had even moved at all, so I picked it up and for some strange reason, looked underneath the test to see if I could visually detect any issues with the test. Then because I tipped it one direction, the liquid moved down the testing strip and two lines automatically appeared. The testing line wasn't as strong as the control line, but it was undoubtedly there.

I froze. The test had to be faulty, right? But then again, any line even if it's faint means that there's HCG present. I called Howard to the bathroom and told him what happened. Maybe I put it on a spot of the toilet tank that wasn't level. But I had done that before in the past. We decided we would just try again with another test. Thankfully, my colleague at work told me to just grab the ones from Dollar Tree because that's what she had successfully used for her two kids, so I didn't have to feel bad about spending so much money on pregnancy tests! But since I had just used the bathroom, I had to keep drinking water and wait a bit at first! We were in denial at that point because of all the times I've read about tests that were faulty.

About 20 minutes later, I took the second test. We both waited in the bathroom and when the 3 minutes was up, we turned to read the results. There it was again! That second line! We just stood there staring at each other as we were not quite sure what to believe. In the past, I wondered if I or both of us would cry especially after wanting a baby for a while, but we were just in shock and kind of laughing at what was before our eyes.

The rest of the night, I kept saying, "Am I pregnant?" but it was closer to a statement than an actual question. We kept looking at each other and then bursting out in laughter. I know that any line means there's HCG in the urine, but I just couldn't fully believe it. We decided I'd take another test in the morning when the HCG is supposedly the strongest, and that third test confirmed it! What?! So now we know we're definitely having a baby?! We're going to be parents?!

And yes, Howard did cook my steak all the way through.