Monday, January 30, 2012


October 2008
What is family? Family, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is defined in many ways. Most commonly, family is known as a group of persons of common ancestry. I choose to define it using another of Mirriam-Webster's definitions: "a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation: fellowship." My family consists of my husband, my mom, and my five incredible sisters.
June 2011

Friendship is more difficult to define, as it means so many things to so many people. What makes a friend? What makes a best friend? Is there a difference? For me, friendship extends far beyond simple kindness. Friendship is an action. It's unconditional and it's forgiving. Friendship is bumpy. It's binding and, in the best of circumstances, it's forever.
December 2011

Halloween 2000
I met my sisters in 1990, 1993, summer 1999, fall 1999, and 2000. That equates to 79 years of friendship with five incredible women. (Did I mention I'm 31?) This is the story of my five sisters and how they have inspired me. Don't get me wrong, the last "79" years haven't always been easy. We've had our share of struggles. From petty fights to going years without talking, we've been through it all. What makes our story so special, at least to me, is how we always seemed to find our way back into each other's lives.

June 2010
I initially started this blog with the intention of telling my story with each of my sisters. How did we meet? Do we fight? What memories have we shared? How do we interact? Why has our friendship lasted so long? In writing the first of those stories, I changed my mind; it's just too difficult to document our history in a meaningful enough way. To put our extraordinary history into words wouldn't be fair. I have story upon story to tell but I prefer to keep those private and close to my heart. They are the stories that have shaped me, inspired me, frustrated me, annoyed me, and taught me about unconditional love.

We've seen each other through many good times (marriages, babies, promotions, graduations, loves) and supported each other through many struggles (losing parents and grandparents, battling cancer, family turmoil, losing babies and loved ones, heartbreaks). I have lost touch, at one point or another, with each of my sisters. Some for far too long and some for short periods of time where we just needed a break. It was never ugly. It was never hateful. It just was and that's the beauty of sisterhood. Ours is a journey traveled together and we ALWAYS find our way back. We are each other's compass.
Summer 2011

I met my sisters at different stages of my life. Some of us live pretty close to each other and others live too far away. This family stretches from Minnesota, to Florida and up to New Jersey and Philadelphia. Sometimes I get sad because there are times I want to be there for my friends but distance and money just don't allow it. Sometimes growing up just plain sucks but we make do. We know that we're never more than a phone call away (when our phones are charged and working) and that's comforting. These 5 women are always there when I need them, regardless of distance, and I hope they say the same about me. Like I said, initially this blog began as a way for me to tell the stories of these 5 friends. Instead, it'll just be my small tribute to the 5 women I'm lucky enough to call my sisters.
Summer 2009
Winter 2009

TG: I have known you for what seems like forever. From egg drop soup at 13 to lemon drops at 30, we've experienced it together. It feels like we've been to hell and back but we always manage to come through stronger. THANK YOU for giving me my beautiful godson; I treasure him. Regardless of what life throws our way, I know we'll get through it together. It is an absolute honor to call you my friend and I am thankful every day that I have you in my life.

November 2010
MC: I love you; it's as simple as that. We have so many memories and I cherish every one; it's difficult to pick one or two about which to write. From our first year together at camp to becoming co-founders of the ABBIEs, we grew a friendship that will undoubtedly last a lifetime. Thank you for being patient with me and for loving me in spite of myself. I am honored to call you my sister, and my sister wife, and cannot wait for the next 30 years!

Halloween 2009

Summer 2010

Summer 2010

AH: You inspire me. Thank you for always believing in me. There was a time when I wondered if we'd be friends again and just the thought made me sad. Forgiveness is an important part of friendship and I'm glad we learned that lesson together. Thank you for always being just as excited about my accomplishments as I am. I am lucky to have you in my corner

October 2011
LKW: I miss you every day and cannot wait for the day when we're rich enough to fly to see other whenever we want. We don't talk every day, or even ever month, but I know you're always there. I love that we can sit in a room and have a conversation without talking. I love that we are in sync enough to know what the other is thinking with just a a smile. You are one of the strongest women I know and I am inspired by you. LUMU

 VLS: I could write this entire note in "code" and you'd know exactly what I was saying. Be right back, I have to pee Ms. N. Okay, so where do I start? I love that I played country music at a pool hall before everyone told you you'd hate me. I love that my fish survived. I am happy that we didn't get arrested for stealing cars. I love that whenever I need you I just have to call 888-WDR-LOTS and I know I'll get you. Okay, in all seriousness, I love you. THANK YOU for giving me the honor of being Sara's godmother. Whenever I get sad that you're so far away, I look back at the pictures and think back to all of our memories. It gets me through. I value you and cannot wait to call you and ask if you're sitting down. PIZZA PIZZA

"The men in your life may leave you, children grow up, parents pass away. The only ones who are there for you, from cradle to grave, are your sisters." 

September 2008

Saturday, January 21, 2012

WE ARE....duped

I didn't go to Penn State but I spent an awful lot of time there. I went to Lock Haven and spent many weekends with friends at Penn State. After college, my husband (then boyfriend) and I moved to State College and spent 4+ years immersed in the passionate familial culture that is Happy Valley. Needless to say, I was devestated to learn the details of the Penn State scandal. Not only was I disgusted at the allegations made against Jerry Sandusky, but I was equally disgusted at how the scandal was handled, both by Penn State's board and the national media. I won't go into too much detail about why I disagree with Paterno's firing, nor will I put anyone on blast. Instead, I just want to reiterate how important it is to make sure you trust the right sources for your information. If tonight's gross negligence doesn't put doubt into your mind about the information you think you know about the scandal, you're probably someone that just can't admit when he's wrong.

Tonight, Onward State mistakenly reported that JoePa had lost his battle with lung cancer. The story was picked up by media outlets from Huffington Post to People magazine to CBSSports. Everyone was reporting that he had passed. Facebook exploded with tributes to JoePa as his Penn State family began mourning this extraordinary loss. Within about twenty minutes, people started disputing the "fact" that he had died. It wasn't until I switched to a 2nd social media site, Twitter, that I saw a confirmed report, from a reliable source, that JoePa had not died. His son Jay tweeted that his dad was continuing his fight. WHAT? How could a "confirmed" story be false? Oh, maybe it wasn't confirmed! Onward State claimed to have documents to confirm the report that JoePa had passed. Onward State was cited as the confirmed source for People, Huffington Post and CBSSports.

Minutes ago the managing editor of Ownard State stepped down with a formal letter to the public. People are saying it's too dramatic and that he should not step down. Are you serious? This person is responsible for this report going viral based on unconfirmed rumors that were reported to be confirmed. That is an inexcusable breach of ethics in reporting and stepping down is the only right thing to do. You get kudos for doing the right thing, not sympathy for stepping down.

Hopefully this teaches our media outlets a lesson: Getting it first should NEVER trump getting it right. Sadly, I bet it won't.

Thank you, Jay for letting your dad's fans know what was really going on. On behalf of every media source reporting half truths and unconfirmed "truths" throughout this entire tragedy, I apologize to you and your family. Your family, and specifically your dad, continue to be in our thoughts and prayers. WE ARE...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Can't Escape It

It's like you just can't escape it. It's in your head. It's in your community. It's on bumper stickers on cars that almost always wind up in front of you. It's on friends' political Facebook status messages. It's on your television.

Thursday, September 22, 2011. I was feeling quite anxious about returning to work the following day. We received our devastating diagnosis on September 2nd. From that day forward I kept myself pretty secluded from the outside world. The husband had to work that night so I asked my mom to come over; I was pretty nervous about returning to some sense of "normalcy" and wanted company. Last season I got my mom hooked on Grey's Anatomy and I was excited that the new season was starting. I had completely forgotten how season 7 ended and was looking forward to the new season....until I remembered Cristina was pregnant and wanted an abortion.

The show was pretty uneventful. It was difficult to watch Cristina and her husband Owen argue over whether or not to keep the baby. (Yes, I know it's just a show but this situation was all too real. And all too raw.) Owen tried to convince Cristina she'd be a great mom and should keep the baby. She wasn't having it. She didn't want the baby. WHAT? How could you? Don't you know how lucky you are? I would give anything in the world to be pregnant right now and you're just getting ready to throw it away. And then she did...she had an choice. I absolutely LOST it and was so happy to have my mom holding me. It was too new. I had been forced to make the decision and it was the most difficult decision I had ever (and hopefully will ever) make. (Note: I was not forced by a medical professional or my family. I felt forced by the diagnosis. It was 100% my husband's and my decision alone.) I just cried and cried and cried as I watched this TV character throw away the dream I had lost.

Tonight I watched last night's episode. Mistake. They haven't really revisited the abortion storyline since the opening episode. Tonight, Owen blew up at Cristina and the episode ended with him yelling "You killed our baby." Again, the tears flowed. I was taken back to September 2nd, the day my husband and I were forced to have to have a discussion about terminating our pregnancy. Instead of planning paint colors, room decor and picking out names, we were discussing our options and deciding which path to take toward the inevitable....losing our baby. Thank you Grey's for bringing this subject to prime-time TV. It's about time people start having real discussions about it. While my situation was very different than the one portrayed on TV, my situation has reinforced my belief that every woman has the RIGHT to choose. I just hope that every woman remembers that with this right comes a great responsibility and abortion is not and never will be an appropriate method of birth control.

A few days after I returned to work I wound up behind a mini van TWICE in one day while driving around my neighborhood. The bumper sticker staring back at me at every red light was "Smile: your mom chose life." More tears. (I wind up behind this mini van at least once a month. Awesome, huh?) This is in addition to the ones that now jump out at me from cars in parking lots every where I go. These include but are not limited to:
  • Abortion? If it's not a baby you're not pregnant. 
  • It's a child, not a choice.
  • Abortion stops a beating heart.
It sucks. Every time I see one, I am immediately taken back to the day we heard the news about our baby. Abortion is everywhere but no one is having "real" conversations about it. Everyone wants to think they have an opinion. I thought I had one too; I was pro-life (for me) and pro-choice for women everywhere. And then I was faced with the fact that my baby was going to die, either in utero or at birth or immediately thereafter. I was forced to face the fact that if our baby died in utero after a certain time in the pregnancy, risks to my health (and fertility) increased tremendously. I was forced to face the fact that I would bring a baby into this world who would never experience life. I was forced to face the fact that my first baby, the one my husband and I hoped for, would not ever live, regardless of if I terminated or not. Suddenly, I was pro-choice for me AND for everyone else.

What makes it so tough is that many of the people that think they're pro-life are only pro-life when people are aborting for birth control. I have friends that are pro-life that have told me that they support my decision to terminate. I just don't understand how you can pick and choose when to be pro-choice and when to be pro-life. I try not to get into it, because it's everyone's right to believe what they want, and I truly do appreciate their support, but it's tough to feel like their support is genuine when they post on Facebook about pro-life this and pro-life that. It's tough to not say to them, as they're telling me they support my decision: "But don't you think I'm a murderer? My baby's heart was beating before I went into the operating room and was not beating when I left it." I wonder what they'd say if I put it out there like that.

Whether I like to admit it, whether I use the "softer" vocabulary words, or whether I justify my decision until the day that I die, the fact is... I chose abortion. My choice to terminate my pregnancy was, and always will be, a medically induced abortion. It took  me a really long time to come to terms with that but I'm there and it feels good.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Babies-R-Us Trip

I love Babies-R-Us. Buying baby shower gifts, and gifts for kids, has always been so much for me. I'm a "theme" gift giver. I enjoy going all bath stuff, all meal time, all whatever. I hate giving one big gift and prefer instead to buy a bathtub and fill it with lotions, towels, washcloths, etc. Ask anyone, when they saw a bunch of items from the same "category" come off the registry, they knew I had shopped. I love giving gifts and there is just something extra exciting about buying baby stuff. Since we lost the baby, I've been scared to go to Babies-R-Us.

My husband and I went to Babies-R-Us today to buy gifts for my boss. Sadly, the trip wasn't as fun as it would've been in the past. This isn't the first time I've been there since we lost the baby. I went on Black Friday, looking for gifts for my boss, but couldn't stay. I did a quick sweep of the store, was overwhelmed by emotion, and walked out. Today, I had my husband with me. In him I find strength and I know I wouldn't have been able to get through the trip without him.

We printed the registry and started trying to decide what we were going to by. Usually, this is the most exciting part for me. She didn't have a bathtub on there, maybe that's why I couldn't get into it. (The bath theme is my trademark.) We decided on what to get and started going through aisles. Usually, we take our time and go through all of the aisles, picking things out for which we'll want to register. We usually play with a few strollers, talking about which one would be best for us. There's usually a disagreement over which car-seat pattern we like. We usually go through the play pen aisle picking out which pattern we like. There is usually a stop at the bedding aisle and the furniture department. We always pick out a bedding set and complain about how expensive cribs are. Not today. We passed through the bedding department quickly and without taking a look. We only stopped so my husband could enjoy two rockers, complaining about their $500 price tag. Under normal emotions, I would sit with him, smiling and imagining that rocker in our nursery. Not today, I just said "let's go."

It wasn't fun today. I didn't want to look at car-seats or swings or play pens. I didn't want to sit in any rockers or look at any bedding. We should have had our shower by now...or it should be coming very soon. We should have been there today to buy the things we didn't get at our own shower. We should already know which swing we want and should already have the crib set up. Babies-R-Us visits should now be out of need for our own "coming soon" instead of for someone else. Though I am genuinely happy for my boss, it's still tough to go through the motions. As of now, I'm going to her shower. I don't know if by the time the shower comes I will be able to celebrate with everyone without breaking down. I don't want to cry and make it about me. I'll decide, that day, how much I can handle and will go or not go. either decision will be okay.

I've learned that it's okay to feel sad or angry or confused or whatever other emotion wants to come to the surface. I'm allowed to be scared to go to Babies-R-Us and I'm allowed to resent the women parking in the "Stork Parking." I'm allowed to be hesitant to walk down the swing aisle.  I'm allowed to be proud after I make it through the aisle without crying. I'm allowed to feel strong for having made it through the trip without a single tear. All of the emotions that came with, and are still coming for that matter, are okay, whatever they are. Today was a good day and I'm glad we went. I'm happy to have faced a fear and come out on top.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Baby Blues- The Surgery

Friday (September 9th) morning came quickly. We left for the hospital. The hardest part of Friday was knowing that I was entering the hospital pregnant and would be leaving not pregnant. How strange. We expected to have a long wait time so I packed a large lunch for Dave, brought games, cards and our laptop. We were mid-way through an intense game of W-A-R when our buzzer went off. (Yes, our hospital uses restaurantesque buzzers. Kinda cool.) We were ushered up to pre-op where the nurse put me into a gown and took my vitals. As soon as the gown was on, I lost it. And again, with the pint-sized hospital tissues, I ran through an entire box very quickly. The nurse was going to wait to take my vitals but I just wouldn’t calm down. Instead of “following procedure,” she sat with me and explained how the entire day would work. She helped calm my fears and told me that my husband would be allowed to sit in pre-op with me. (The day before we had been told he would not be allowed in pre-op.) I was beyond grateful as I wasn’t sure I could face this alone. Through shortened breath and heavy tears, she took my vitals and complimented my blood pressure. It made me giggle and I was thankful for her ability to face me without judgment.

After about ½ hour, I was wheeled up to pre-op. This was my first surgery (ever) so I knew nothing of what to expect. I can only describe it as a horse stable like room. Rows and rows of beds with numbers above them; I was number 7. Mu surgery was scheduled for 2pm, which is about when I went up to pre-op. Each time a nurse came over to see if I was okay, I had to answer what felt like a million painful questions. And each time I answered the questions, the tears flowed uncontrollably. Pint-sized tissues? Yes, please!!! I had (and needed) an endless supply. With each answer, my emotions intensified and my tears grew stronger. Here are the questions I answered about 200 times:

· What is your name and why are you here?
· Who is your doctor?
· How far along are you?
· Is this your first pregnancy?

I hated everything about it. Not only was this my first surgery, but it was also a really painfully emotional surgery. Most of my fear stemmed from being put under. I did not anticipate a breathing tube and absolutely lost it when I saw that on the waiver. Call it na├»ve. Call it what you want. I was scared; I went in blind. Dave and I made small talk during the waiting, but I think we were both just masking our fear. He was also fielding texts from my friends and mom about what was taking so long. He didn’t share their impatience with me as I’m sure he knows he would have upset me more. Like I said before, he was (and is) my rock. Even without much small talk, I was comforted just by his being in that big scary horse stable with me.

My tears and emotions hit their peak when the anesthesiologist came over to introduce himself and his team and have me sign the waiver. They never weighed me so I was also concerned he’d give me too much or too little of the drug. I must have asked 1,000 times if he would make sure I woke up. (My husband told me after the fact that it annoyed him.) He was a kind man and held my hand as he said he’d make sure I woke up and guaranteed he put the breathing tube in after I was fully asleep and would remove it before I was awake. I thanked him, of course, through heavy tears. My second worst moment was when the nurse came over to ask about burial of the baby’s remains. We decided to have the baby cremated and buried in Ivy Land Cemetery, with other angel babies who can’t be with their families. Of course this would only happen after the baby’s tissues were tested to determine the exact cause of the fatal diagnosis.

Finally a nurse came over to put my IV in, just fluids to keep me hydrated because I had not eaten in over 12 hours (did I mention yet that they brought me to pre-op at 2pm and didn’t take me back for surgery until 20 minutes to 6:00pm? Talk about waiting impatiently!) I had never had an IV in my hand so she was really gentle and talked me through what she was doing. It was painless and I was proud of myself for getting through it. The surgeon and his team came over to introduce themselves and let me know that I would be going back shortly. They explained what I could expect in the room and told me not to let the cold, the light or the machines freak me out. They explained that not everything was in there for me and that they wouldn’t put the lights on until I was under. About a half hour later the surgical anesthesiologist came over to give me my “cocktail.” The cocktail was designed, I was told, to calm me down before the procedure, so that I wasn’t anxious when they sedated me. I got the cocktail and within minutes was being wheeled to the operating room. By the time we got to the front of the pre-op, I was loopy and everything was fuzzy. I remember saying goodbye to my husband but do not remember kissing him goodbye. Luckily, he remembers. I went to the OR and he went to the 9th floor to track my progress on the hospital’s board. The surgical nurse also assured him that she’d call when the surgery was done and that the surgeon would call once I was set up in recovery (though he couldn’t join me until I was in post-op.) The last thing I remember is someone saying, “I have a dog” to which I replied, “I have a dog, too.” They asked what kind of dog and I said, “A miniature Australian Shepherd.” The next thing I remember I was in recovery.

I remember waking up and being really happy that I was awake but not being able to show my excitement. My body felt very heavy and I just couldn’t bring myself to be excited. I remember asking where my husband was and the recovery nurse telling me “he left.” I remember thinking that he meant he left the hospital and I began to cry. The tears stopped when the pain of him taking the EKG stickers off of my chest began. One had inched its way to my nipple and OUCH did that hurt when he removed it. I’m convinced this nurse was a recovery nurse because the hospital is hoping patients won’t remember his bedside manner, or lack thereof in this case. Once I was “fully” awake, I was wheeled down to post-op. Before I was even in the room I remember hearing my husband say, “I’m here hunny. I beat you.” I remember smiling a huge grin. He helped me into bed and I remember smiling at him, a lot. (He has since told me that I was very happy when I got to post-op. I’m convinced it’s because he was there. He thinks it was the drugs.) The nurse offered me disposable underwear and I remember being really really excited to get them. How cool, right? We spent about 20 minutes (I think) in post-op and then my husband went to get the car and I was wheeled out. I was still groggy but was totally coherent and could function. We drove home and my husband, the wonderful man that he is, helped me in and catered to my every need, which that night was to just sleep. The day after surgery we went to see my godson play his first soccer game. I probably shouldn’t have, as I was in a lot of pain by the time we got home but I wanted to. I think subconsciously I needed to see children living life and having fun. It was emotionally good for me and I’m glad I did it.

I spent the next two weeks recovering at home. The physical recovery was easy. I had no cramping and minimal bleeding. It was the emotions that were tough. I went through slight post-partum (as we were told to expect) and on top of that I was dealing with the enormous burden of having to deal with the entire situation in the first place. It was, I hope, the hardest thing we will ever face.

We received the results of the pathology tests early in November. What a tough two months! It was confirmed that our baby had full triploidy.The doctor told us that the chance this would occur in a future pregnancy was less than 1% and that it was not genetic. What a relief. We both felt tremendous relief and felt like we could finally move forward with the healing process. We had our answer and it confirmed that we had made the right decision for us. While we had (and have) no regrets, and as strange as it is to say, it was nice to hear a definitive, "yes, your baby would not have survived."

My physical recovery is 100% over and I’ve been given the okay to try again, when we’re ready. The emotional healing continues and I’m not sure it’ll be ever be 100% over. In fact, I think my husband has just now started dealing with the emotions of what we faced.

We will forever have lost and will forever love our first baby, our angel baby.

*We never found out the sex of the baby but I refuse to refer to my angel baby as an it.

Baby Blues- The Discovery

We found out we were pregnant on July 1st and the doctor confirmed it not too long after. I had an ultrasound and was told I was six weeks 1 day. (I took my at home test at 4 weeks 5 days.) My due date was originally set for March 6, 2012 and then was reset for March 11, 2012.

We heard the baby's heartbeat (179) on July 18th. What a beautiful sound. We heard it again on August 8th and decided to start telling our parents. Our moms were SO excited. My mom didn't cry cause she said she kind of had an idea. She was THRILLED and couldn’t wait to start telling people she was going to be a Bubby. My mother-in-law teared up at the idea and immediately started calling us mommy and daddy. After the parents knew, we told my husband's best friend and his wife. We were due only one week after their son's first birthday and they were thrilled for us. Next I told my best friend in Florida. She and I had bounced around the idea of a trip over the winter so I said “Maybe you should come in April. By then the baby will be a month old.” She got silent for a second and then just started screaming. It was awesome. We continued to tell our closest friends and everyone was so excited. I told two of my best friend’s (local) at the same time. I gave my friend Meredith a sign that said she was going to be an aunt and gave my godson a sign to show his mom that said “I’m going to be a big cousin.” They already knew but it was still fun to officially tell them. My girlfriend already had her maternity pants packed up ready for me to take home. She also gave me a “Baby on Board” sign and gave us the Flyers outfit in which her son came home from the hospital. I shared the ultra sound of my yolk sac and we all beamed with excitement. I told my other best friend (yes, I have four best girlfriends) giving her a sign that said she’d be an aunt. She was ecstatic at the news. My boss is pregnant and is due in April. We were so excited because we always joked about being pregnant together and going out on maternity leave at the same time. She hadn’t told many people so it was exciting to be able to share our pregnancies as we were only 4 weeks apart. Our baby’s family extends well beyond the two of us and our extended families. Our baby has so many loving aunts, uncles and cousins. How lucky, right?

September 2nd was our first appointment for the sequential screen. The sequential screen screens for Down Syndrome so naturally I was nervous. My husband made me feel better by taking me to Destination Maternity before the appointment. I got lots of great clothes and a phenomenal bra. (My boobs were already HUGE!) I even found a "We are Flyers Fans" tee-shit that looked uber-adorable. We went over to the appointment and aside from the 30 ounces of water sitting in my bladder, we were thrilled to be there. Today marked 12 weeks 5 days and today would be the day we would share our news with the "general public." We saw the baby moving around, the eye sockets and two arms and two legs. I'm pretty sure he* waved to us too, but the technician pretty much told me I was crazy. :) The baby wouldn't turn so the technician was having a hard time measuring the neck (part of the sequential screen.) She had me empty my bladder and had me lay on my side. Nothing was working so she called in the doctor. While the technician was out of the room I told Dave the baby's head looked really big. He told me I was nuts and that at that stage the baby's head should be 3/4 of it's length. Awwww, he was reading. :) The doctor came in and crossed her arms and then touched my leg and said the worst words we've ever heard, "There is something wrong and I think we should talk. I can't let you continue to be this excited without telling you something is wrong with the baby's brain organization." She asked the technician to “clean me up” and bring me into her office. My world stopped. My husband called my mom and told her not to tell anyone as we had told her just 10 minutes prior it was safe to share the news at work.

We walked into the doctor’s private office and it was disgustingly hot. We sat down and I was just numb. The doctor told us that there was something wrong with the baby’s brain organization and told us she did not expect that the baby would survive the pregnancy. She also said that if the baby survived the pregnancy, there was little chance at life. If the baby survived after birth, he would have little to no chance to ever see, speak, hear or walk. Essentially she told us our baby would be a vegetable. I just kept telling her I didn’t understand so she drew a picture of what the brain should look like at 12 weeks 5 days and then a picture of what our baby’s brain looked like. Our baby had Semilobar holoprosencephaly. She thought that maybe the baby had trisomy 13 and/or trisomy 18. My head was spinning and I began to dry heave. Nurses came flooding in, one with a bed pan in which I could vomit and another with a tall glass of water for me to drink and another with a cold compress for my neck. The doctor came out from behind her desk and sat on the floor in front of me. I just sat with my head in my hands and my elbows on my knees. I couldn’t hold my head up.

The doctor went back behind her desk and said that she wanted to talk to us about options. She told us that they could perform an amniocentesis to determine what was causing the lack of organization in the brain but that the test wouldn’t “fix” the baby. She said that we could continue the pregnancy and wait to “naturally” miscarry, as she expected that this would be the outcome. The third option was to terminate the pregnancy. My immediate reaction was, and I said it out loud, “we can’t do that; we’re good people.” She gave me a warm smile and told me that she has seen “some of the best people have to make the toughest decisions.” I kept asking what chance our baby had to “catch up” and be “normal” and she said none. I asked about the termination and told her I was too far along. I learned that you can have an abortion in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania up through your 24th week of pregnancy. Shocking, isn’t it? I had always been pro choice for America but pro life for myself. I never in a million years expected to be faced with a decision like this.

The doctor told us to take the weekend (Labor Day weekend) to think about it and not to rush the decision. I asked about the termination option and she told me she would refer me to a clinic or hospital. I got very defensive and told her that if we terminated the pregnancy I would not go to a clinic. I was stern. Don’t get me wrong, Planned Parenthood helped me for many years, performing my annual gynecological exams and providing birth control, but there was no way at 30 years old that I was walking into “some clinic” to terminate my pregnancy. That was for people having abortions; this would be different. She said that they could not perform the procedure (a Dilation and Evacuation) due to its nature as they were a Catholic Hospital. That just made me feel worse and made my tears stronger. Looking back, I know that I had already made up my mind sitting in that office, though we committed to nothing. There is a lot more that was said during the appointment but I cannot remember it all. We were with the doctor for nearly an hour as she explained risks, options, diagnosis probabilities and procedures. My husband and I left the doctor’s office, in tears, called my mom to meet us at our house and drove silently back home. We were numb.

My mom met us at our house and I ran to her to give her a hug…tears falling from both our eyes. We explained everything the doctor said, and my husband and I agreed we would terminate both for our baby’s sake and for our own. I asked my husband to call the doctor immediately and schedule the appointment. I mentally checked out from being pregnant, I think as a way to eliminate the potential for greater hurt. While my hubby called the doctor, my mom and I just sat in the house. She offered to call my four best friends and I told her I was going to e-mail everyone else. I couldn’t bring myself to say the words out loud, not yet and wouldn’t be ready for a long time. I spent that weekend in another world, completely unaware of anything around me. Tuesday rolled around and I got up and got ready for work. I walked about two houses away and realized I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t face the world. My husband called everyone he needed to (his mom, dad and sister) and set up the surgery for the following Friday, September 9, 2011. He arranged for my mom to return the brand new maternity clothes I had bought THAT DAY from Destination Maternity, just one hour prior to our appointment. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t speak. I just was.

I worked from home that week and sheltered myself from the outside world. My dog stayed by my side, lying next to me and right across my stomach, as if to comfort both me and the baby. I know she knew something was going on and committed to being my partner through the lonely days while my husband had to be at work. I had no idea what was going on until Wednesday, when my husband shared with me that Thursday we’d be going to Penn Medicine for pre-admission testing and then heading to New Jersey to meet the surgeon. I knew nothing and he took care of everything. He was A-MAZ-ING during this. Talk about a man being strong for his woman….my husband is someone who doesn’t even like calling to order dinner and here he was setting up appointments, gathering insurance information and organizing what was to be the most devastating day in both our lives. He was (and is) my rock.

Thursday morning (September 8th) came and we left for Penn Medicine. My surgery would be outpatient but they needed to do the blood work the day before and would also need to determine my blood type, in case there was a need for a transfusion. Waiting, waiting and waiting was awful. We just sat there thinking about why we were there trying not to cry in the middle of the waiting room. Once we were in the back, all bets were off. I was a fountain and could barely speak. (Side note, to whomever decided hospital tissues would be the size of a toilet paper square, you’re an idiot. I went through an entire box in a 20 minute appointment.) We made our way to NJ to meet the surgeon, at his practice. Here I was sitting in a waiting room surrounded by happy couples with women who were pregnant and loving it. FML My breaking point came when I saw a young woman who looked a hot mess walk up to the counter and proceed to tell the receptionist this was her 7th pregnancy and she’s had 6 live births. Seven?!?! Are you kidding me?!?!? I just wanted this ONE! I stormed up to the desk and interrupted the receptionist and said “I’m Amanda Champagne and I think we’re just here to meet the doctor. I’m hungry because I haven’t eaten so can you please ask him to come out here.” The nurse calmly replied the doctor would be right out. A few minutes later a large man came to the desk to introduce himself. He told me we could go get lunch because he wanted to do an ultra sound. I cut him off and told him “No, I don’t want one” as tears poured from my eyes. I wasn’t prepared for that. I was about to terminate my pregnancy and the last thing I wanted to see that day was my baby. “Why are you punishing me?” is what I wanted to scream. He told me that in good conscience he couldn’t take me into the operating room without confirming that what the referring doctor saw was accurate. Looking back I’m grateful for his insistence but at the time, I wasn’t having it.

We ate at McDonald’s and I barely ate. I was sick to my stomach and it was taking all of my energy not to sit there crying. How COULD I eat? We went back to the office and were immediately taken into the patient room for the ultrasound. I told the technician I didn’t want to see anything and she told Dave to stand by my head if he didn’t want to see either. He did. She began looking at the baby and then I heard it….the wooshing. We were about to hear the heartbeat. I screamed “turn it off turn it off. I don’t want to hear it, turn it off.” She apologized and muted the machine. We never did hear anything other than the wooshing. Thank G-d for small favors. Then, with a tone that implied she wasn’t seeing anything peculiar, the technician said, “What did the last doctor say she saw?” My tears stopped immediately and I said, “Why, don’t you see anything? She said there was something wrong with the brain. Don’t you see it?” She was silent. (Note to technicians, this is why you’re supposed to be silent.). A million thoughts ran through my mind in a matter of seconds. I don’t want this baby. I don’t want to be pregnant. I’m done. How will I tell people I was wrong? I can’t do this. What do you see? I STILL hate that woman for those few minutes when she made me question the entire last week of emotions. The doctor came in and when she didn’t question the prior diagnosis, I knew our first doctor was correct in her fatal diagnosis. We went into the doctor’s office and he ran through the explanation of what was wrong, again. He pretty much said everything the first doctor said, I think. Again, I was sort of zoned out and numb. I just wanted to be done and at home, safe from the outside world. He made me sign a zillion forms and explained the procedure to me. He also told me that I had the option of inducing labor and “naturally” having the baby or to be sedated and have the D&E. I opted for the D&E based on emotional toll and physical toll the labor would have on both me and my baby. Dave let this decision be up to me, though he agreed the D&E was right for us as a family. I had to sign a form saying no one had persuaded me into the abortion. This appointment was really the first time I was faced with the word. Everyone used “termination of pregnancy” with us but the insurance companies and the state still consider it an abortion. That adds an entirely different emotional dimension to having to make a decision about a fatal prenatal diagnosis. Ugh, abortion…..everything I never believed was right. I also had to decline to see an “album of baby pictures.” It’s a tool doctors use to sway the decisions of mother’s who may be making this decision for the wrong reasons (ie- as a method of birth control.) We signed all of the forms and he gave us a book to read, Precious Lives Painful Choices: A Prenatal Decision-Making Guide. What a phenomenal resource; I recommend it to all families facing this tough decision or one similar. I have read it twice and learn new things each time. It does a really good job validating your feelings of anger, confusion, disorder, chaos, lack of control and fear. We went home and again, I just was. I tried to eat knowing that I had to fast for my surgery. I had a small dinner around 8pm and a light snack around 12am when I took my pill for the procedure. It made me vomit so everything I had eaten was out of my stomach anyway. Now, all that's left is surgery. Oy vey.

*We never found out the sex of the baby but I refuse to refer to my angel baby as an it.

Below are pictures that I have not yet shared with many people. These were taken on Thursday, September 1, 2011, the night before we found out something was wrong. The baby was the size of a plum. At almost 13 weeks, my boobs were already an 'E,' for EEK!

A Year in Review

I'm sure you've heard the saying "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end," right? Well ain't that the truth. I don't know that there was anyone more excited than me for 2011 to come to an end. The year started out wonderfully and ended with sadness and loss. I'm really hoping 2012 is a better year for my family. I don't have to hope too hard though, cause it can't be much worse!

Here is my year in review, broken down in quarters.

First Quarter (Homeless to Homeowner)
2011 started wonderfully. My husband threw me a wonderful 30th birthday with my closets friends and family. It was originally scheduled for December 2010 but mother nature had other plans. We rescheduled and celebrated in January. I drank too much, ate too much and drank a little more. Joyful! We continued our hunt for our first home. In February we celebrated my favorite holiday with a trip to Atlantic City. I love Valentines' Day. I don't care about the commercialism of the holiday, but I think it's a really nice reminder to just stop, even if for one day, and really show those you love that you appreciate them. Life gets busy and we don't always take the time to let those around us know we love them. February also gives  us the chance to build a tradition with our godson. Every February we take him to the circus for his birthday (his birthday is in March). The first time we took him (2010) he was only 2 (going on 3). This year, he was 3 (going on 4) and what a difference a year makes! Last year, he fell asleep. This year, he couldn't get enough. It was awesome! We also found the house we wanted to buy. It was February 28th. March always begins nicely. Our puppy's 5th birthday is on the 4th and our dear friends welcome their first born son on the same day. So exciting! We also put the bid in on the house and it was accepted with a 28-day schedule for closing! We closed on the house on March 28th and were (and are) so proud.

Second Quarter (Home Work and work and work and...)
April, as usual was uneventful. Rain rain rain and work work work. Our house was built in 1968 and only had one set of owners. The lovely couple that nurtured our house from its inception had an obsession with wallpaper. Our entire house, floor to ceiling (ceiling included!) was covered in wallpaper. April and May were spent wiping, sanding, cleaning, peeling and painting. Ugh.  May gave us the opportunity to have friends and family over for our first official "party." It was a great time and made us that much more excited about our home. June 1st we officially moved in to our new home. Our baby girl (the dog) needed a little time to get used to everything, but we loved it. It was nice to have our own space again but I have to admit....I missed seeing my mom every day. She's only about 1.5 miles away and I quickly got over my separation anxiety. (Yes, at 30 I'm not ashamed to say I need my mommy.) The house still wasn't homey so we continued working on it EVERY day and night. Sleep? Whatever

Third Quarter (Happiness to Heartache)
July brought some unexpected news. I was feeling really tired and my boobs were KILLING me. After dinner with my mom one night (July 1st) I looked at my husband and said, "Okay, let's go to Target; I think I'm pregnant and I need a test." I took an at home pregnancy test and that little blue line confirmed it...we were pregnant. Though we weren't not trying we weren't trying either. We were pretty shocked so I took another test. Yep, still pregnant. This would be the first of only two times I would throw up through my entire pregnancy. My cycle has always been irregular so we had no idea how far along I might be. My doctor couldn't get me in right away so I spent about two weeks just freaking out, both with fear and excitement. We decided not to tell anyone until it was confirmed. At the end of those 2 weeks, an ultra sound confirmed I was six weeks and 1 day. Ahhhhhhhhh! August continued with us telling our friends and family about our exciting news. Though not public, we were sharing with our loved ones. Our mom's were the best. My mom didn't cry becasuse she suspected it. She was beyond thrilled and was already itching to tell everyone she was going to be a Bubby. My mother-in-law cried. She and I haven't always had the best relationship so it was nice to see her excitement at our news. September was the hardest month as we were sadly forced to terminate our pregnancy. (See Baby Blues for details.) Two weeks after my surgery I joined Weight Watchers to help gain some control back in my life. I felt like I had lost total control and WW gave me something else to think about. Aside from WW, I really only thought about getting the results of the tests performed on the baby's tissue. Was this genetic and could I ever have babies of my own?

Fourth Quarter (The End is Near)
December was unseasonably warm and we decorated for our first Christmakkuh season in our new home. So fun! My husband and I both have December birthdays so I surprised him by planning a 3 day trip to Atlantic City. I also planned (and pulled off) a surprise 30th birthday party with his family and friends. He was shocked and had a blast. My birthday was not as exciting. I received word that my uncle (and godfather) was ill and in the hospital. We went to visit him December 26th and I'm happy I did. He died December 27th. My new year's eve day was spent at his funeral, saying goodbye to a man that will never know what  he really meant to me. His funeral was December 31st and I cried, a lot. I spent New Year's Eve afternoon and evening cuddled up on my couch with my puppy. We watched a few Hallmark channel movies and watched New Year's Rockin' Eve a little. It was perfect. My husband came home around 11pm and we watched the ball drop together, kissing goodbye to a craptastic year and kissing hello to a new year with new possibilities. We began a new tradition on 1/1/12 of having a traditional Thanksgiving dinner on New Year's Day. What a delicious way to bring in every new year from here on out....

Saturday, January 7, 2012

An Introduction

Hi there and thanks for stopping by! I decided to begin this blog because well, I wanted to. It's as simple as that.

I've always enjoyed writing and have been looking for an outlet in which to dump my thoughts, feelings, reactions and emotions. This is it! This blog is really about me and how I see the world. It's not meant to solve anything nor is it meant as gospel. Too often in life we let others dictate how we view the world....not me.

2011 was a hellish year and I need somewhere to make sense of it all. I look forward to the journey of documenting My World According to Me and am glad you're along for the ride.