Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sunrise at the Grand Canyon

We arrived at the Grand Canyon right after the sun had set, we knew the canyon would be too dark to see and we had plans to catch the sunrise the next morning anyways. So we headed to our hotel room and enjoyed an evening of bouncing on the bed and watching Chopped.

Sunrise the next morning would be at 6:40am, an easy wake up for the parents of a child named Max. We looked at the map and suggestions from the park newspaper and decided to watch it at Lipan Point, it would be about a 30 minute drive so we would have to get a bit earlier, but we figured the view would be worth it.

We woke up, got dressed, Kyle had to run back in to grab an extra blanket just in case and then we were off. Following a map in an area we had never driven in, in the dark.

We missed our first turn but realized it about 20 seconds later. Once we got our bearings we were off. Slowly the sky was already starting to turn from darkness to light and with each minute my anxiety grew and grew. We were following a tour van that pulled off at Grandview Point and for a moment we considered doing the same but decided that we would surely make it in time, we still had 20 minutes until sunrise and were about 12 minutes from our destination point.

But sunrises can try to trick you. The sky gets lighter and lighter as the earth turns to greet the sun but the actual point where the sun breaks the horizon is what you are really waiting for. I just didn't want to miss it. I chattered away at Kyle about stopping and agonized over the map and clock constantly afraid we would miss the sunrise.

"We are going to miss it..." I would say anxiously every time a minute passed away.
"We still have time, but if you want to stop when is the next viewpoint?"

My nervousness and anxiety was infecting the entire car and soon Kyle was getting nervous even though at the beginning he reassured me that 6:40am was still plenty far away for us to reach it in time.

But we were surrounded by unknowns. We had never been here, didn't know where we were going and although the road was fairly empty, it was curvy and signs constantly warned us to look for animals. It was nerve-wracking all around.

We were getting close to a viewpoint that was halfway between Grandview and Lipan, Moran. I rationalized that surely any viewpoint of the Grand Canyon would be a good one and so with anxiety at its peak, we saw the sign for the Moran and I urged us to take it, to not take the risk of missing the Grand Canyon at sunrise.

It was a beautiful viewpoint, we studied the canyon for the first time in it's early morning purple hued haze. The immensity of the canyon makes it hard to be crisp and detailed from far away. We sat there, bundled up looking down into the canyon and taking turns cuddling Max and taking pictures of it all. We sat there for a good ten minutes before sunrise occurred and when it finally did we watched as streams of light walked down lower and lower into the canyon. As it descended we saw new colors, purples and blues turned red and yellow and we felt grateful for getting to witness it all.

The drive back to get breakfast in our hotel room was curious though. We wondered what Lipan Point would have been like? At Moran there was a portion of the canyon that blocked the majority of the actual sun rising aspect, we saw the effects on the canyon, but missed the actually sun, we were in too shallow of a point. But we couldn't change the choice we had made and we were happy with our experience overall, but still we wondered.

The rest of the morning was spent on a short hike to (I kid you not) Ooh-Ahh Point. The hike descends about a mile and a half into the canyon and the view does in fact inspire oohs and ahhs. After our hike, we packed up once again to finish our road trip back home to Washington. This required us taking that same drive towards Lipan Point and as we drove in broad daylight, the area now familiar, we decided to stop at Lipan point. To see what we had missed.

I am both glad and sad that we did.

We got to Lipan Point and realized immediately that the sunrise would have been incredible there. It was an unavoidable fact. The viewpoint has more panoramic views and we would have been able to actually see the the sun crest over the horizon. We also realized we could have easily made it to Lipan Point had our anxiety not caused us to turn off earlier. It was about 7 minutes away from Moran Point.

I have mulled over this event in my mind many times, I have analyzed and thought about the various aspects and the bigger picture. This story isn't really about seeing the Grand Canyon at sunrise but rather it is about fear causing us to miss out on some of the best of life's experiences.

In my last post, I wrote about learning to trust my body and the experience and process of pregnancy again and my desire to do so is in large part because of this experience at the Grand Canyon. I let fear and anxiety get the best of me and although my viewing of the sunrise was still beautiful, I know that it could have been that much more incredible and affirming. I needed to trust that the sun would rise at 6:40 am. Although the sky was getting bright, the sun wasn't there yet. The experience was still beautiful but making a choice influenced by so much anxiety can leave doubt as part of your memory.

Choosing faith and trust, even when circumstance are beyond your control allows for your memory to be enveloped in peace and comfort. That is what I am striving for in this process of healing. To choose faith and trust, especially when it hard and even when fear exists.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Body Betrayal

I have come to the conclusion that most everyone experiences body betrayal at some point in their life. It may be early for a girl whose body does not fit the standard for beauty that the media flashes all over, it may be sickness, cancer, allergies, or perhaps you are lucky and your body waits to betray you until you are old and gray and deterioration sets in.

Growing up, my mother made it a point to not have a scale in our home, she made it a point to get us to go outside, to exercise and move our body in whatever way felt best. In fact, my mother went to graduate school during my tween years and came across a program called Go Girls. It's aim was to create healthy body images  and self-esteem with young girls. To help them be conscious and aware of how the world tells us how we should look, think and act. She led classes for my classmates and I and for a long time I took for granted that I had a mother who was actively trying to make sure that I knew that I should love my body.

I became aware of my gratefulness for it when I started to hear friends, classmates, or coworkers talk negatively about themselves. I recognized that I had been given a body that was easy for me to love. I fit most of society's standard for beauty, and the parts that didn't fit (curly hair, late puberty, crooked smile) were easy for me to accept.


I struggled for awhile after having Maxwell and realizing that weight gained while pregnant was not so easily removed, but I focused on exercising with the focus not primarily on weight loss but to have a healthy body. A body that could run and play and have the energy to make a difference in the lives of my families and others.

These days, there is a lot of inner self-hatred for my body.

When James died and there was no clear cause, what am I to blame except my body? I have been consumed lately with the thought that my body betrayed me.

My body was supposed to nourish, protect and create a safe home for James and in short, it failed. I don't know how but because we do not know the cause of his death I have nothing to blame but this space where my spirit resides.

This create conflicting feelings for pregnancy after loss.

I no longer have that inherent trust in my body that was created while carrying Max. I know it is possible for my body to carry a baby healthy, to term. But I cannot help but wonder if it will betray me again.

After James died, it was physically difficult to look at myself in the mirror. I would get ready for the day, never really making eye contact busying myself with the routine of gel in my hair scrunch, scrunch, scrunch, mascara to the lashes, concealer to cover the dark circles under my eyes bruised from crying. I would dress in the same manner, trying to focus on the outfit rather than the empty arms.

It has gotten easier to look at myself in the eyes, it took a conscious effort at first and now I am starting to accept the things that I love about myself again.

In an effort to love my body, I am actively trying to trust it. Many in the pregnancy after loss community get induced at 37 weeks, especially when there was no known cause before. I understand this, completely. But I also cannot accept that for myself. I realized that to learn to trust my body again, I had to learn to trust God again. They are intertwined, for He created this body for me and only because of the Fall of Adam and Eve is my body subject to betrayal.

Gratefully, my current doctor is supportive of my effort to trust in this process and in my body again. I know that emergencies happen and my main objective is to get this baby here alive, but this journey of pregnancy after loss is messy and dark and gruesome and finding light in the trust I am building within myself and with God provides peace and relief.

I hope that as you read this, that you will look within your own lives and the own distrust or betrayal you may have felt with your body, as you do I pray that you will find ways to love the unique body you have been given. Its unique traits and difficulties can be opportunities to deepen your understanding of the human experiences. As I have dealt with this I have come to understand feelings of self-loathing and jealousy over perspectives of other's experiences. I have come to learn empathy and compassion and a deep desire for us all to truly love ourselves.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Life Lately

Thank you all so much for the well wishes for this next pregnancy, it is such a comfort to receive kind words and thoughts while wading through fear and anxiety.

We were still in Arizona when I last wrote and between now and then we have been on the road a lot. First we stopped at the Grand Canyon.

More on this later .

Then we drove up to Washington for almost two weeks to visit family and friends who we totally missed. Plus I got another prenatal appointment with the Dr. who I saw throughout Max's pregnancy. The visit with him went very well and I got to see baby once again. He offered a lot of reassurance which feels desperately necessary this time around. I was informed that I am technically high risk this time around (though on the low end of high risk) simply because of a previous stillbirth. This means that once we reach the end stage of pregnancy I will have weekly non-stress tests to ease anxiety and make sure they aren't missing anything. Surprisingly, I was glad to hear this.

Our days in Yakima were spend contracting norovirus (me) and applying/interviewing for jobs (Kyle) and running around with cousins (Max). Oh Kyle also saved the neighborhood by coming home after an interview to find that the men who had been working on the gas line earlier that day right by our house had failed to tighten a nut which was sending 55 lbs per square inch of gas into the air surrounding my mother's home. Major crisis adverted.

We finally drove the destination of Kyle's final clinical rotation here in Twin Falls, Idaho. This is the last leg of his schooling and in June he graduates. So far I am having trouble imagining the reality of a real income. 

Currently I am focusing on managing fear and anxiety by focusing on finding joy in spending time with my family and in a recent project I stumbled upon. While still in Yakima, I was listening to the radio and during a commercial break it was announced that the March of Dime was holding a March for Babies walk in Yakima during the next weekend I would be back for my next prenatal appointment. It seemed fate and once I got home I looked up the information, queried on facebook to see if anyone would donate/walk with me and decided to go for it. So late at night I created a team and made a personal page to walk in memory of James. 

So here is the deal. I haven't done any fundraising since high school when I joined a relay for life team with friends and in general I don't like asking people for money. This was largely my hesitancy in creating a team and setting a goal. But my desire to contribute to the research, education, and prevention that March of Dimes has established for babies and their families in honor of James urged me to take a risk and ask people to donate. 

So I will end my soapbox there and I hope that you decide to donate. Truly. It doesn't have to be $100, it can be $5, $10, $25! I have seen other fundraisers and seen how those small donations add up, and I know that this money makes a difference, their website alone was a great resource to me in the wake of James' death. When James died,and I started writing about the effects of his death on my life, I found many of you reaching out to me and saying that he impacted your life too. I am doing this to lengthen the reach of the effect of James' life, I want to help other families, other babies have access to a different outcome. So I hope you will join me in this effort, I am anxious about my goal and failing miserably and I pray that instead of that morning Starbucks or buying that new top you will consider donating in memory of James. 

I thank you in advance. 

You can find my team and personal page in the links above but if you aren't super computer savvy, here it is again:

p.s. Let me know if you have any questions!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Time for Hope

I am pregnant again, today marks 13 weeks.

For us the decision to have another child after losing James came easily. A new baby does not replace him but we know that we want our family to grow and I do believe that this baby will provide healing to our hearts. Being pregnant I must learn to believe and trust in my body again, to trust the process of pregnancy, to trust in my Heavenly Father. Ultimately I believe this will bring healing and healing will bring joy.

If you are curious, I am extremely joyful but enter into this with complete trepidation. I am scared out of my mind all the time and the only relief is to just trust in power that is beyond me.

Prenatal care is also tricky because of our current living situation. If you are unaware, we are currently hopping around for Kyle's physical therapy internships that were decided long before we lost James. So we are in AZ for ten weeks (wrapping up week #9) and soon we head to Twin Falls, ID. In June, Kyle will graduate and we will move to wherever work takes us (ideally Washington state).

My dream prenatal care this time around would be to return to the midwife who helped in my delivery of James. I feel bonded to her in indescribable ways but alas, it is not possible to fly to Spokane that often to see her. So instead I am bouncing around to different doctors in different states but luckily in June I will be able to settle and develop a relationship with a consistent care provider. I imagine this will help to reduce my anxiety considerably.

To help you understand my mindset let me share with you some insight that pinpointed exactly what this journey is like fr me. In October I was reading an article of a fellow stillbirth mother who is pregnant and she wrote something profound that her husband had said. She wrote,
We will continue to take these baby steps forward in learning how to embrace the possibility of excitement in a new pregnancy after the loss of a previous one.  As Nick likes to say, “While all other pregnant couples are expecting, we are hoping.” 
That last thought finalized the reality that I live with an entirely different perspective of pregnancy now. I do not expect a baby in my arms in the end. I only hope for it, I pray for this life inside me to continue growing healthy and strong and ultimately I pray that this life will arrive safely and living into my arms.

We do not take the miracle of new life for granted and are so incredibly grateful to add on to our family.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Foundation

Today I gave a talk at church and was assigned the topic of the plan of salvation. For those of you unfamiliar with the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints let me paraphrase what the plan of salvation is to give clarity to the talk that I will post below. The plan of salvation is the knowledge that we know that before we came to earth we lived with Heavenly Father and to gain knowledge and experience He created a world for us to come to truly exercise our freedom to choose. Part of the plan is also knowing where we are going and that we are here to learn and grow and return to our Father in Heaven.

Now with that knowledge I hope you enjoy some of the words that I shared today, this is not an exact account of what I said because in public speaking one tends to elaborate in certain spots and shorten others.

Here is where my talk begins:

I want to start out by reading a scripture that bears significant importance in all of our lives,

“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).

I feel it is important to share my testimony with you of how I have built my foundation upon Christ, and how that foundation has stood its test and blessed my life greatly.

Just this past July we were celebrating the birthday of our two-year old Max while expectantly awaiting the arrival of his sibling, I was 39 weeks along and realized I hadn't felt a kick in awhile, the worst of our fears were met when arriving to the hospital to hear no heartbeat. We were faced with the task of rearranging our lives, hopes, and future after the world split open and we entered a whole new dimension of loss. James was born perfect and whole, not a problem to be seen, but he was still stillborn. But a midst all of the ever pressing darkness was the beam of light that I had learned and studied for so many years, it was the glorious plan of salvation, the plan of mercy, of happiness which centers around and balances upon the redemption of our Savior, Jesus Christ. There was so much sadness but also so much peace. As I labored and James was placed in my arms, we were encircle but what can only be described as a heavenly cloud of peace. We knew where he had come from and where he was now. There was so much comfort in that knowledge and we felt his spirit in that room though it did not inhabit the body we held.

I look back on those moments and realize how incredibly blessed I was to have such a foundation to rely upon during such a sudden crisis.

I did not always posses such knowledge of the plan of salvation and the true gift of our Savior. I was baptized Catholic as an infant, attended mass sporadically and when I met my husband as a 16 going on 17 young girl, I saw within him a happiness and a reassurance that while life was hard (and his had been much harder than mine) it was a time to be happy. I was intrigued and after dating for a year, he left on a mission, only then did I take the lessons. The running joke is that I couldn't let him know he was right, but in actuality I wanted to make sure that I wasn't just intrigued because of some handsome boy. I remember first learning about the Plan of Salvation, it was like hearing an old family story. One that hadn't been told to me in a long time, but it felt familiar and made sense to me. The Plan of Salvation teaches us that we once lived with God and in Hebrews 12:9 we learn He is the Father of our Spirits, I accepted that truth readily. I was glad to know that a Heavenly Father was and is aware of me, loves me, and wants what is best for me.

After joining the Church I immersed myself in a game of “catch-up” and soaked myself in institute classes taught by two men who I now consider family. I was soaking in as much as I could and my foundation was being built as I was constantly reminded of where I came from, why I was here, and where I was going. In one particular lesson, my teacher Brother Knowles asked us what the three basic reasons we came to earth were; like a wonderful teacher he led me to discover the plan of salvation in a simple but profound manner.

We are here
1) to gain bodies, this is necessary for us to be able to truly feel and experience what life has to offer, we bleed, we ache, our minds race, and we also experience elation and joy! Our bodies are a gift, one to be treasure and reflected upon for their unique abilities and perspectives
2) we are here to create, we create in so many capacities, we create art and music, novel and experiments, we build things with our hands and minds exploring the great capacities we have been given. But one of the greatest abilities is to create life where there was none before. Many, but not all, of us are given the opportunity to have children and that is something that we should hold deep respect and gratitude for. I loved what my husband told me as I was writing this talk, that to create is to also make something better, to create good where there wasn't and that leads me into the third reason we are here
3) we are here to develop divine attributes, to become as our Father in Heaven is. We do this through fighting for compassion, for striving for diligence, for mastering obedience, for seeking humility. Some things come easy and some things we struggle with. Each of our experiences is unique to us.

Through this all we can develop faith, trust in our Savior and in his power to provide grace, or divine help when we fall short. We strive to do our best and he fills in where we lack. Often trials come our way and threaten to cut us down completely. To leave us bitter and filled with hate towards God, towards others. I can tell you by personal experience after James passed  and I was comforted in that cloud of peace that Satan was very quick to rush in and tell me that it is just not worth it anymore to strive for those divine attributes. They are too hard, and there is never any real recognition. He said, "Gina you have tried so hard to be obedient and good, He must not love you very much if this is what He gives you in return..." He has tried to convince me that I would be better of “free” from so much hardship that comes through trying to stay true. I am glad that I didn't listen to him.

I am glad because the “ending” of the plan of salvation is that if we stay true, true to the knowledge that we know, true the covenants we have made, that we can return and live with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and that through the power of being sealed in the temple our family is together forever. How grateful I am for the reassurance of those covenants I have made. There is no doubt that James is sealed to us because of our being sealed in the temple. There is no doubt that I will see him again and that he is mine.

I choose to focus upon the foundation that was built, for to me the reassurance of being able to see my child again is worth how hard it can be to endure to the end, to strive to return to our Heavenly Father.

I want to return to the scripture that I started with and read it one more time and I hope this time you will look for “why we need that foundation and what it can do for us”:

“And now, my sons [and daughters], remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).

The plan of salvation offered comfort and peace to me when the devil sent a personal storm my way and because of foundation that I had built upon that plan, upon that knowledge, I can testify to you that this scripture is true. It had no power over me and my family, I shook and trembled but I did not fall. I am grateful for this gospel, for the reassurance it has given me and the great blessings it has led me to and helps me see everyday. I know that the plan of salvation is true and that as we strive to fulfill the measure of our creation, our own unique and divine purpose, that we “might have joy”.

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Gilbert Blythe

Gilbert Blythe is the often overshadowed dreamboat of the literary world (I blame Mr. Darcy), but after making my way through the Anne of Green Gables series (still need to finish Anne's House of Dreams and Ingleside), I came to realize that Gilbert and Anne's love story is so incredibly realistic and NEEDED in this idealistic world of love we live in.

Hopefully we are all familiar with Gilbert's "carrot" introduction, insulting Anne's hair and making the worst sort of first impressions but through the rest of the series Gilbert is nothing but loyal, patient, down-to-earth, humble, and supportive of Anne. He waits and waits for her, even after she turns down his proposal! It takes Anne forever to realize that while she was swept up in all of the romantic notions put in her head by all the novels she read, she never realized that love actually looked quite different and was there with her all the while. He loved her even when she was ridiculous and moody. He loved her for pursuing her dreams and made sacrifices for her (often without her realizing or noticing). He loved Anne because of her dreams, because of her silliness, because of her depth. He gave her the space she needed when she needed it, he understood her and ultimately when Anne realizes her love for him you cannot help but jump up and down on the couch because of course you are rooting for Gilbert and you realize all of his qualities that compliment Anne's far before she does and you root for them not because he is the most romantic, charismatic, sparkling catch but because he can make her happy and she can make him happy.

All of this is to say that I am blessed with my very own Gilbert Blythe. I completely adore the man that I married. He is loyal, honest, compassionate, and loving. He is supportive and understanding and in the hardest of times these past months his love has reminded me again and again of how blessed I am. Our love story reminds me so much of Anne and Gilbert's and then some because our love story will have far more pages and chapters and books.

How grateful I am for a loving partner who never ceases to try to make me laugh, who supports me in my all of my thoughts, ideas, and dreams, and who challenges me to consider five more sides to a story when we are already discussing ten. I love his consistency, his faith, his lack of fashion sense. I love that he is willing to learn, to explore, to do what is hard. I love that he can never sit still but compromises when I constantly crave to snuggle up and watch a movie (or three). He is inspiring to watch as a husband and father, he breaks so many of the unnecessary gender stereotypes and I am so proud of how our relationship has evolved from a summer camp romance to where we are today. We are a team, continuing communication as we grow and change individually and as a family, our strength lies in our ability to hear each other and to seek forgiveness when we don't and try again.

He is my Gilbert Blythe and I discover over and over again each day how much I truly love him.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Let's Be Honest

I have sunk into my burrow for a little while, sorry for my absence. January 20th was the 6th month anniversary of James' stillbirth and I saw it approaching and my mind started racing and starting filling with darkness all over again and it didn't help that I was in a new place with few people who knew my circumstance and I was literally sick and I felt overwhelmed with moving and overwhelmed with a complete climate shift.

While many of you were suffering climate inversions, mentally I was with you. It was beautiful and sunny outside and there I was, lying on the couch trying to keep my toddler entertained enough to let me lie down. I felt cold and dark and I entered into a whole new form of bitterness. Slowly I crawled and grasped and fought my way back up that mountain to where I knew my internal sunshine was. So no worries, I am feeling better now.

I am learning to be honest with myself. To recognize my needs and to make sure that I am not putting undue pressure on myself. Usually this involves social or familial situations. At my best I talk it over with Kyle and we make a game plan for the events of the next day and I make sure that if it will cause unnecessary stress then I figure out another option that leaves me feeling like I have an escape.

 I am being honest with my needs, when I need rest, when I need pampering, when I need space, when I need takeout. It has felt good and I have felt a sort of euphoric freedom from just saying, Nope actually that doesn't work for me.

The flip side of course is that honesty also involves not knowing when you are taking advantage of the need to self-serve. I mean of course I pretty much always prefer to eat out rather than cook and you cannot always avoid what is hard simply because it doesn't work for you. So included in this honesty vow to myself (completely informal and making it up as a I go), I make sure that I am honest about when I actually do need to stretch myself and when I do need to suck it up. Basically it requires taking in where I am at mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually for every unique situation. Sometimes I opt out and sometimes I put one foot in front of the other and promise myself ice cream as a reward (incentives!).

So in this path to healing, I am being honest and focusing on what my body needs to grow. Sometimes it is burrowing and sometimes it is saying yes to go to the park or to join a preschool group when I know ONE person there. It is recognizing selfishness for what it is and leaning away from it while still taking care of myself.