In the group…out of the group

*If you’re squeamish or in denial about how women’s bodies actually work during pregnancy, miscarriage, etc. (spoiler…there’s blood and stuff), you may want to skip this post and maybe the next few.*

There’s a show called Flummox and Friends I like to watch with my kids at school who have ASD (autism spectrum disorders). In the first episode, “The Party,” the characters learn all about how to be a part of a group–using your eyes to see what the group is doing, your ears to listen to what they’re saying, and your brain to connect your ideas to their ideas.  There’s a catchy song sung by Dex Brickerson, a charming if arrogant “adventure pilot.”  The chorus repeats the main point  “In the group, out of the group” over and over again…which is helpful for kids with ASD who don’t get subtlety, but it’s an earworm for sure.

When we found out we were pregnant, I was almost a little hesitant to be joining the “parent” group.  Friends instantly changed their language as they lamented about rowdy children in public places, adding on a disclaimer or two about how not all kids were rowdy or annoying and surely ours wouldn’t be.  And I wanted to assure them that it was ok, that I still find tantruming children lying on the floor of Target annoying, full well knowing I’d probably be that mom at some point.

And I started to settle into a new identity.  A close girlfriend and I talked strollers and car seats and what accoutrements you actually need to raise a child.  She let me sit in her glider and we debated the gliding motion versus a rocking motion and when I got home I asked Elisha if he thought that was even a rational debate or if I was going to a little overboard wanting to have everything exactly perfect (I was, he said).

And so when we went to my doctor’s appointment last week, pregnant, and left the hospital decidedly not pregnant, it was a bit of a shock. The pregnant to not pregnant transition had taken less than 8 hours total, a sort of emotional whiplash I wasn’t prepared for.

At some point, the Flummox song popped into my head.  In the group, out of the group…we’d been in the group, if only for 10 weeks.  I’d adjusted to being a pregnant woman.  I’d searched out and bought a BOB on Craigslist for a steal, we’d acquired onesies (only 2…but enough to make it plural), we’d thrown around names (mostly ridiculously made up and silly…like Brijisha or Ellidgjit), I’d talked shop with other moms.  And suddenly, I wasn’t…we weren’t.  We weren’t pregnant, I wasn’t a mom, I hadn’t been through labor, delivery, the sleepless nights…When the dentist or pharmacist or anyone else asks if you are or could be pregnant…nope, not anymore.

As we shared and people became aware of the miscarriage, another community, another group emerged…the women and couples who had been through it before.  And for that I was immensely grateful.  As I wrote in my last post, these people were so compassionate and empathetic and reassuring.  They understand the turmoil, the conflict, the emotions.  I’d love to say being part of this group made it all better, but it didn’t.  It’s like choosing teams in PE, a demeaning exercise I endured countless times in elementary school (and probably longer though I’ve blocked it out).  The miscarriage group is the last kid picked…when you’re that kid, you try to shrug it off, act like it’s not a big deal.  You’re glad there are other people, you feel their love and support, but you wouldn’t choose it, no one in their right mind would.  Some days it’s not a big deal and it’s easy to think about the future and the possibilities of a happy healthy pregnancy.  But there are other days, other reminders…the week 11 email about what size fruit your (now dead) baby is now, the stroller as you walk into the baby’s room, the tiny newborn in the airport in the carrier you wanted.  You, at least for the time being, are out of the group.

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Look for the Helpers

As I’ve been processing everything that’s happened in the last week, the compassion and empathy of others who have experienced miscarriage has been remarkable.  And it reminded me of something I’d heard–I think it’s something Mr. Rogers said his mom told him as a child…when something is scary, look for the helpers.

And there have been so many helpers.  After the first ultrasound with no heartbeat, we waited in an exam room to see my midwife.  The nurse was cheery and clearly didn’t know what we had seen, but at that point we’d been waiting a while, and the reality was beginning to sink in.  When my midwife, whom I’ve come to really trust over the years, walked into the room, the ugly cry came.  The face contorted, holding your breath sob.  She hugged me…patted Elisha’s knee, and talked us through what was going on. She was calm, hopeful even, but realistic.  She gave me the facts and next steps, which I needed.  She was a helper.

Later that day, as I figured out what the next steps might be, I called insurance to find out if the D&C I might need was covered. As I explained to the lady on the phone our situation, she said “Oh honey, I’ve been in your shoes.  I know what you’re going through and it’s not easy,” and right then and there, the ugly cry came again. She listened, but mostly told me her story.  Her compassion and empathy broke me.  She was a helper.

Right before I’d left for the first ultrasound, I’d posted asking advice for cloth diapers, and a couple of old friends sent messages.  One asked how we were doing, how the baby was, etc, and it felt insincere to not tell her what was going on.  And it turns out she’d also had a miscarriage with her first pregnancy.  She told me about her experience, which echoed ours.  She was a helper.

The hospital was a whirlwind.  We had our second ultrasound, and immediately we knew…the white blur that was supposed to be the baby was smaller than the previous week, still no heartbeat, and even more blur like and less baby like.  And since we had plans to fly out the next day to MA, everything that happened next happened fast.  Within a few minutes plans the office staff were making plans for a same day D&C surgery, and there were so many compassionate helpers.  We talked with a lot of people-a midwife, the nurse who worked for the surgeon, the geneticist who talked us through testing options, the surgeon herself, the pre-op nurse and the recovery nurse…There were helpers all over. At least three of them told us they had been in our shoes.

That’s just one of the things about miscarriage…it’s mysterious and dark until you’re in it…no one explains (and you never ask) what’s involved and what happens after and what your options are until you are there.  And no one shouts from the rooftops that they’ve been there, but in the dark moments when you share what you’re facing, people appear.  They share their experiences, and just that helps…someone else has been in that ultrasound room and seen the white blur, someone else has had to walk out through the waiting room with all the pregnant women knowing that the baby you dreamed about is gone, someone else has had to learn what a D&C is and what happens after and when you can try again.  And it helps.  When you are in it, there are helpers who have done it before you.  You and your partner are not alone, and somehow that makes all the difference.

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Another “And” Thing

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while.  It’s been a very long time since I’ve written, and for what I think is a very good reason–everything has changed.  Shortly after my last post, I met this guy, minus the silly glasses and overbite.

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And as much of an over-sharer as I can be, writing about a new relationship on the internets for all the world to see just didn’t seem wise.

Fast forward to today, a year and a half later, and everything has changed, or is about to change.  We met, fell in love, got engaged, sold my house, bought a new house, and in just a little over a month will be committing our lives to each other.  For-ev-er.

If you sense a little trepidation, you’d be right.  Because all of the change is one of those “and” things.  I am madly in love, and terrified when I think about the divorce rate.  I am so excited to move into our new house, and some days incredibly sad to be leaving mine.  I cannot wait to wake up next to the man I love everyday, and I’m a little nervous about no longer making all my own decisions.  It’s all “and” stuff for sure.

As I think about our relationship and the future, I’m tempted to focus on the fear.  I don’t know about others, but for me change is hard, and sometimes bogs me down.  I’ve googled divorce statistics and how to avoid divorce, and all kinds of not-so-really-helpful things.

But this is also an “and” thing.  And the other side of this one is gratitude.  For having met Elisha, the most caring, kind, smart, funny, hard-working, loyal people I know. For getting to spend the rest of my life with him.  For knowing that neither of us planned this, but yet somehow every step of the way it has worked out.  Beautifully.

Which makes me think of Barbara Brown Taylor.  I’ve started reading her lately after hearing a little about her in church.  In Altars in the World she says this about seeing God in the world:

Or I can set a little altar, in the world or in my heart. I can stop what I am doing long enough to see where I am, who I am there with, and how awesome the place is. I can flag one more gate to heaven-one more patch of ordinary earth with ladder marks on it-where the divine traffic is heavy when I notice it and even when I do not. I can see it for once, instead of walking right past it, maybe even setting a stone or saying a blessing before I move on to wherever I am due next.

Human beings may separate things into as many piles as we wish-separating spirit from flesh, sacred from secular, church from world. But we should not be surprised when God does not recognize the distinctions we make between the two. Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars.

 

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Wrestling

At my church small group tonight, we talked about trust.  Trusting that God is good, mainly.  And that he wants to give us good gifts, and really living like we believe that. And it made me think about Shane Hipps’ sermon The Scorpion and The Egg.  I heard it quite a while ago now, and found it really, really helpful.  Like most of the time, I often can’t quite say what I mean face to face…I need to write it.  Revise, edit, until I find the words that really capture what I mean.  Precisely.

So I said something like “I’m okay with the gray.  I don’t always understand what God’s doing, and why I don’t get things I want, but I’ve learned to say ‘I don’t get it’ and leave it at that.”  Which isn’t exactly right.  That makes it sound very calm and resigned.  Which isn’t how I feel about it at all.  It’s more of an “I’m angry because I want this thing so. badly. and it just doesn’t ever happen but yet I know you are good” argument with God.

Just a few nights ago something happened, and I found myself saying something like “God…I know you only give good gifts and I know there is an egg somewhere in this, but it really, really feels like a scorpion right now.  Show me how this is an egg.  Show me.  I need to see it.”

And that’s really what I’m more okay with–the wrestling.  Because it’s the pushing through, the knowing hope is there even when I don’t see it right now.  And knowing, even, and maybe especially when there is doubt, that God is good.  All the time.

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Sacred

Calvarycathedral

 

Walking into a church like this is the same feeling I get walking into a museum.  It’s a long time coming deep breath. A profound silence.  A deep sense of peace.  I read somewhere that it’s an introvert thing.  I have no idea.  But what I do know is that it’s sacred.  Something like a take your shoes off for you are standing on holy ground moment, even when it’s not a church. A connection to the Almighty.

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Plan to Eat

One of my goals for 2013 is to meal plan weekly.  Without it, it’s woefully easy to just decide to go out to eat, or equally probable, eat a bag of chips or a bowl of popcorn for dinner.  Neither of which are awesome for the budget or healthy living.

I had made a really pretty menu board, which I thought would help.

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It’s cute, and I love the way it looks, but it just wasn’t working for me.  I joked with someone that it was more aspirational than anything.  I tried to use it a few times, but actually finding recipes and deciding what to cook meant hauling out all my cookbooks, paging through, finding recipes, etc.  It was a lot of clutter and enough work that I didn’t really end up doing it very often.

And then over Christmas, as I was wading through days of my google reader feed, I came across Plan to Eat.  To be honest, it was the font that caught my eye at first.  It looks nice.  I hate websites that are functional but ugly, they totally turn me off. And, bonus, it had a free trial.

And a few days later, I am in love.  I’m sure I don’t know all the fun tips and tricks yet, but from what I’ve seen it’s perfect for my digital life.  The main part of PTE (Plan to Eat) is the planner.  It shows you a week or a month, and you can drag and drop recipes from your recipe box on to the calendar.  If you want to, you can plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Personally breakfast is pretty predictable (oatmeal, a smoothie, or a breakfast bar), and lunch is almost always leftovers, so I’m really only using it for dinner as you can see from this screenshot.

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One of the coolest things about PTE is that you can (pretty seamlessly) import recipes from websites with a widget (a lot like the Pinterest “pin it”).  PTE will categorize the recipe, list the ingredients and directions, all pretty much without you having to do anything.  Once you’ve imported it, you can add it to your planner.  Once you’re ready to cook, you can click it on the planner and the entire recipe pops up.

In my opinion, this is the coolest part.  Instead of hauling out my cookbooks, I can cruise my favorite food sites (Everyday Food!) and import recipes directly.  I can see where this would be amazing for Pinterest users as well.  Even if you’re not planning to cook something right away you could import it and have it ready when you do want to plan it for a meal.

You can also add your own recipes the old school way–type everything in.  I love having this feature for some of my tried and true paper recipes for sure.

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Another cool feature I like is integration with Google Calendar.  I keep everything on my Google Calendar, so it’s nice to see my dinners along with everything else, especially if plans change.  The one annoyance with that is it takes a while for Google Calendar to sync if you make changes in PTE.  But, it’s minor, and something I think I can live with.

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There are a couple of other pros and cons I noticed as I’ve been using the site the last few days.  First, you can add notes like “out to eat” or “going to a friend’s house.”  But, as far as I can tell, these don’t sync to Google Calendar, so it looks like a blank space which isn’t super helpful for me.  To get around it, I’ve actually created a recipe called “Leftovers,” and one called “Out to Eat” so that they’ll show up.

There’s also a grocery list feature.  Cool, yes, but again not super useful for me.  Most of the stuff on the list (salt, chicken breasts, onions) I keep stocked so that’s annoying to have all these extra things on it to remove.  Also, I adore my to-do list, Wunderlist, and definitely want to keep my grocery list on there.  So instead of using the PTE grocery list, I’ve just transferred the ingredients to Wunderlist and used it that way.

I’m still in my free trial (and no, they’re not paying me or anything, I just think it’s cool), but the service is $4.95/month or $39 per year.  In my opinion, well worth it.

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Goals

I’ve never been a New Year’s resolutions person.  They seem a little silly and dramatic.  As if making a resolution is going to suddenly change your whole life in one fell swoop.  But if I’m really honest and vulnerable (I’m trying), I don’t generally make resolutions because I hate to fail.  Especially publicly.  So I’ve always felt like if I posted my resolutions publicly, like on a blog, and failed, I was done for.

But with the confluence of a whole bunch of things, I’m thinking differently lately.  First, Daring Greatly has taught me (and it’s not the first time I’ve tried to learn) that who I am is not dependent on what I can do.  I so often connect my worth to my accomplishments, and I’m trying to make that separation.  Recognizing that failing at resolutions does not mean I am a failure seems like a worthy step.

I also recently read Switch.  My friend Jason recommended it, and I read it on Christmas vacation.  It’s interesting–I didn’t get excited about it in the way I get about some books, but it did really influence how I think.  I always say I’m not a perfectionist.  And in a lot of ways I’m not–I don’t want to be perfect, I just want to be better than everyone else.  Perfectionist is just the best way to label it.  And generally, I  do things very all or nothing.  I’m learning, and shifting that a bit (mainly because it doesn’t really work).  Shift really cemented that change for me–mainly because it pointed out that small changes can really add up to big results.  And it gave some really good evidence for why that is…I was converted by the logic.

In the appendix of Switch I found a gamechanger (for me)–Mindless Eating.  It helped me refine my personal goals around eating healthier, while still shrinking the change and making some things into habits instead of an overwhelming all at once change.

It’s hard to summarize Switch, but a few things really stuck with me–goals being one of them.  Oh, yes, I was also harped on about goals throughout undergrad and both grad programs I was in since they are huge in education.  But Switch has me thinking about them differently.  Clearing the path is also huge, which is just a fancy way of saying change the environment to make change easier.  Shrinking the change is also a phrase that is stuck in my head.

So I’ve written some 2013 goals.  Or really, more like habits.  That will change.  And I will hopefully update long before 2013 comes to a close. How’s that for solid goal setting?

Financial
Budget every month (YNAB)
Save a cash emergency fund

Personal
Read every She Reads Truth reading plan (no catching up, yes to jumping back in)
Read 50 books

Health
Exercise 4 days a week
Practice intuitive eating (practice, not perfect)
Meal plan every week (plantoeat.com)
Create “mindless” margins–always eat off a plate/bowl (no bags/boxes), always eat at the table/counter, use smaller plates/glasses
2 vegetables a day

Home
Follow FlyLady’s 30 days
Empty dishwasher immediately after work

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