Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Pathway Forward

found on Pinterest here

No matter what stage in life I'm in, I typically find myself trying to rush through it all. I want to hurry and move on to the next thing. I spent most of my childhood impatiently waiting to be an adult. Most of high school spent wishing I was in college already and most of college longing to be married and start a family already.

These past 4 years dealing with loss and infertility and marital stress from it all have been a huge challenge. I often found myself begging Heavenly Father to change it all. I wanted to get through it and be beyond it already. I can't count how many nights I cried myself to sleep convinced I just must not be good enough because I wasn't getting the good things in life I wanted.

I often felt overwhelmed by the challenges I had to face in that difficult time period in life. I would cry out in despair and feel like God had forsaken me because it didn't magically change. I didn't get pregnant when I wanted to. I lost so many babies that were desperately wanted when I finally did conceive. My marriage was in a shambles from all the stress and loss and lack of partnership. Life was really, really hard.

But there was a turning point. After we lost Lydia, things began to turn around. It wasn't that things instantly got better. Life was still incredibly difficult, but I began to think about my life in the here & now. I stopped longing for things to be different or for time to magically move faster to get through the yucky stuff. I dealt with the issues. I mourned the loss of my babies and my marriage and the life I thought I wanted and deserved. And I began to pick up the pieces and start new. With the grace of the Father & the Atonement of our Savior, I was given another chance to be who They wanted me to be. And I was blessed. My family was blessed. My marriage was saved. I found a new peace and foundation that helps me get through the rough spots and navigate my pathway forward.

And there have been many rough spots still! I think sometimes we assume when we have blessings all the hard stuff is a thing of the past. But I have never found that to be the case. Blessings often come with the hard stuff intermingled throughout. But as we look to our Creator and practice faith in His plan for us, the hard stuff becomes easier to bear and the pathway becomes clearer.

"There may be times when we have been hurt, when we are tired, and when our lives seem dark and cold. There may be times when we cannot see any light on the horizon, and we may feel like giving up. If we are willing to believe, if we desire to believe, if we choose to believe, then the Savior’s teachings and example will show us the pathway forward."
(Elder Whitney L. Clayton, Choose To Believe)

I'm grateful that Heavenly Father has a plan for me and my family. I'm grateful that His plan included the trials I've experienced. It has changed me in ways I never thought possible. My life is so much better than what I could've done myself. And for the first time probably ever in my life I feel content in who I am becoming. I see the pathway I'm on and I like where it is heading. And that's a pretty awesome place to be.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lydia's Happy Angel Birthday

**I realized today I never posted this. The original publish date was to be March 19, 2014**

After we lost Lydia, my girls had a really hard time coping the first few weeks. Just as we all did. I was really struggling to figure out what to do to help them cope. The genetics counselor suggested reading children's books as a family about pregnancy loss to help them understand on a level that they could. I found and subsequently ordered the book Something Happened by Cathy Blanford. We loved that it was very informative and validated the feelings of loss children would experience.

Yet, being LDS, we also wanted some way to help the girls remember that families are forever. We talked a lot about it, but my youngest kept asking if families are forever why can't she be here with us now? My oldest daughter repeated to her little sister the simple words of faith that she told me the day we learned Lydia had died. She said, "Jesus is holding our baby now. He's taking care of her." My youngest seemed satisfied with that answer. After hearing about that conversation, a friend directed me to this lovely sketch of Jesus holding an infant. I ordered it immediately and it has been proudly displayed on my mantle ever since.

My girls get so much comfort seeing Jesus holding "our" baby.  They concluded if Jesus is holding her, she must be an angel now. As such, March 13 is the anniversary of Lydia's birth/death.  My girls refer to that day as her "Angel Birthday" and so the name stuck. We celebrated Lydia's Angel Birthday this year much like we would have any other birthday. With a few awesome tweaks. We had a great day! It was a day that could've been sad, but it wasn't. It was a beautiful day to remember Lydia and our Forever Family.

The girls colored a lovely birthday banner.

Happy Angel Birthday!

We ate yummy cupcakes. Everyone got to pick what kind they wanted. We sang and blew out the candles. But instead of singing Happy Birthday, we sang Families Can Be Together Forever

We laughed and talked about how much we love each other & Lydia and the new baby. It was a great day to remember that families are indeed together forever. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

He's Here and He's 6 weeks Old! (Emmett's Birth Story)

The last few weeks of the pregnancy were so difficult. Difficult on my body, yes.  But the most difficult part was the strain on my heart and my spirit. I knew this little boy was supposed to be part of our family. And yet my mind and feelings betrayed me everyday. I was so anxious; feeling like his birth would never happen (Of course it would! You can't be pregnant forever!) Or that I'd end up with another loss. Every time I went to the Perinatologist (Dr M.) and another high risk complication arose, my heart would grow more weary. I was beginning to doubt God and His infinite goodness. I cried so many nights just wanting it all to be over so the baby could be safely in my arms already. I prayed to be physically strong. I prayed for emotional stability. I prayed that if something happened, my little family could once again rise from the ashes. It was all such a terrible mind game for me.

On the day I went into labor, I didn't believe it was actually happening since I'd had false labor several times in the days leading up to it. I was skeptical when at my doctors appointment that morning it was declared I was 4-5 cm dilated and 97.5% effaced. Dr. M said my water bag was bulging and he was afraid it would rupture at any moment. He sent me down the hall to have my second non-stress test for the week. But before leaving I was instructed to go walk around at the mall for a few hours and head over to Labor and Delivery after the NST. He also gave me his personal cell phone number and I was instructed to let him know how labor and delivery turned out. He was leaving on vacation (out of the country) immediately after my appointment.  I was so sad - after everything we'd been through during my pregnancy and previous 4 pregnancies - he was not going to deliver our baby. I had some anxiety knowing it would be whomever was on call at the hospital. I prayed I would have someone competent I could trust.

I wandered down the hall to the antepartum testing center. The sweet nurses there hooked me up to the contraction monitors and declared I was contracting every 3-5 minutes. They wondered if I could feel them? Um, yes. But seeing as I had contractions 5-6 minutes apart literally for weeks, I just rolled my eyes. These were just like the others. The nurses thought it was the real deal though. They even went so far as to call Labor and Delivery and give them a heads up I'd be over in a few hours (after the mall walking of course). They sent me on my way. Everyone thought for sure my water would break at the mall and we'd have a Friday the 13th baby. I called my babysitter and my husband and gave them a heads up - just in case.

My friend and I went to the mall and walked. We walked and walked and walked. We had what I hoped was my last meal before labor. Finally we headed over to L&D (with my water bags still intact!) and it was declared that I was NOT in labor. My friend overheard the nurse telling the doctor on call that she thought since I was only 37 weeks (that day!) that I was just tired and needed to go home and rest. Because, in her opinion, surely I was not in labor that early (I guess she missed the part about ALL my babies arriving early). I was contracting every 3 minutes, yes. But no "significant progress" had been made since the appointment and so I was sent home. I was so annoyed, but not surprised.

I called my husband and the babysitter back and plans were rearranged. Jorge picked up the kids and I headed home. We decided to go for a walk hoping maybe more walking would stir up more contractions. It worked! After the walk, we went home and put the kids to bed. Jorge had rented a movie, but at that point I was too uncomfortable to sit still. I felt like I needed to clean something.

I have never had the typical "nesting" urge before labor. And I still don't know if my intense need to clean was a nesting urge or just a distraction technique. But it worked to calm my nerves and allow labor to progress! By the time the movie was over, the dishes had been washed, floors had been swept and mopped, laundry was folded and put away. All 3 bathrooms had been cleaned, swept and mopped and my hospital bag had been packed. I was ready.

The contractions were really intense, but I was scared they'd send me home again if we went to the hospital, so I told Jorge we'd just go to bed and I'd wake him if they got worse. He was asleep for about an hour (I never fell asleep) before I woke him up and said we needed to go. We called our friends to come watch the kids and headed to the hospital.

When we arrived 4 women walked in behind me. Apparently it was the night of a full moon. We waited for a bit until a room was available. I was checked and the nurse declared me the SAME. I was in a lot of pain and not in the mood anymore. I told her if they sent me home again there would be a lot of yelling. She checked me again and "miraculously" I was 1/2 cm more dilated. The doctor on call came back in shortly after and said I was being admitted and since I was already half way dilated would I like my epidural now? Yes! PLEASE!

Dr. V was the doctor on call that night (early morning actually!). He was actually the doctor who admitted me in December for Hyperemesis Gravidarum. He remembered me and my case and said he was happy to see us and was honored he'd get to deliver our baby. It was nice to see a familiar face and to know I could trust the doctor who would be delivering our baby. My prayer had been answered!

It was a few more hours before I got the epidural. I was on blood thinners during the pregnancy for a clotting disorder and they had to check my platelets and prothrombin time. Everything came back perfect. Finally I got the epidural and I could relax.

As I said, L&D was super busy that night and so Dr. V came several hours later to check my progress. The epidural had stalled labor and I had not changed since they admitted me. Ugh. It was decided we'd wait a few hours and see if things picked up on their own. 2 hours later I was still the same. I had only 2 options. They could break my water, which was STILL intact or they could give me pitocin. I let them break my water. Dr. V again said he's come back in a few hours and see my progress.

Within about 20 minutes I started to have intense pain. I was sure my epidural had stopped working. I called the nurse and she gave me the little button to push to get more of the medicine. It didn't help. So she called anaesthesia again and about an hour later they came and upped my epidural. BIG MISTAKE. My legs were now dead weights, but I still felt extreme pain. It was then that they thought to check and see if any progress had been made.

The nurse checked me and without saying a word, she calmly walked over to the phone. This is the conversation I heard, "Hello Dr. V. This is so-and-so with Mrs. Hernandez. She is now 10 cm and the baby's head is already halfway out. You should probably come right now." And then she calmly hung up the phone. About 30 seconds later the doctor comes flying into the room followed closely by 3 nurses. Nothing in the room had been set up. It was a frenzy! And all the while the doctor is yelling at me not to push. But I wasn't pushing! I couldn't feel anything! My body was delivering the baby on its own! Instead of feeling the pressure and urge to push, all I felt was pain. Finally Dr. V was ready and told me to push with the next contraction. I asked in all seriousness, "Am I having any?" I couldn't feel anything. The nurse had to tell me when to push. After one push Emmet was born.

This was it.  Our journey had finally come full circle. Angels were once again surrounding my little family and our beautiful, fresh from heaven little boy was here.  It was truly an honor to once again join hands with God in bringing one of His children into the world.

"Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come." 

                                - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Emmett 5 weeks old (Photo courtesy of Lisa Allen)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Shop Closing & Available Inventory Sale List

As many of you already know, I'm closing my Etsy shop in preparation for our new adventure in life- a baby boy due July 4th!  I will continue to have my blog and have planned some new & exciting things in the future. So make sure to keep reading!

All items on Etsy are 65% off with the coupon code 65OFF.  The shop has been updated with available items, but I also wanted to post a list of inventory that is available for purchase directly through me as well. This list is comprehensive, so if it is available on Etsy, there will be a notation SEE ETSY next to the item. You can click the link to see descriptions, photos, etc. I will update the list as items are sold, so please check back often. If you are local, please contact me before buying so you don't have to pay shipping on Etsy or to arrange to pay another way. Feel free to comment if you have questions!

Thanks for all your support!!

Items for sale

**all cards come with envelopes unless otherwise noted**

1. "Thanks You’re Sweet” hand embossed cards – rainbow colors; 6 cards in a pack – 4 packs available (blank inside) SEE ETSY
2. Thank you cards hand embossed – rainbow colors; 6 cards in a pack – 3 packs available (blank inside) SEE ETSY
3. Fancy Black & white scroll thank you cards; 5 cards in a pack – 2 packs available (blank inside) SEE ETSY
4. Baby Feet Congratulations card; 2 cards available (blank inside) SEE ETSY
5. Wedding Bells Congratulations; 3 cards available (blank inside) SEE ETSY
6. Washi Tape Red Heart Mother’s Day cards; 6 cards available (blank inside) SEE ETSY
7. Washi Tape Blue Tie Father’s Day cards; 9 available (blank inside) SEE ETSY
8. Christmas cards SEE ETSY
9. Halloween cards SEE ETSY
10. Hyacinth Thank you postcards 5 x 7; 5 cards in a pack – 4 packs available SEE ETSY
11. Hyacinth Thank you postcards 4 x 5.5; 5 cards in a pack – 4 packs available SEE ETSY
12. Favor boxes; 1.75 inch x 1.75 inch x 1.75 inch (set of 12) SEE ETSY
a. White – 5 packs available
b. Black – 2 packs available
c. Kraft – 1 pack available
13. Cupcake toppers – all packs are 1 dozen
a. Blue & teal roses – 3 packs available $2 each
b. Bee, ladybug & heart (red & pink) – 1 pack available SEE ETSY
c. Pinwheel DIY packs – variety of colors – 13 packs available SEE ETSY
14. Cupcake wrappers – all packs are 1 dozen; variety of colors & patterns; 14 packs available $5 each
15. Temporary Tattoos – bugs and spiders (all colors) - $.15 per tattoo
16. Confetti – hearts & flowers; variety of colors & patterns; approx. 250 pieces each pack – 17 packs available - $2 each
17. Christmas tags – variety – 4 packs  $2 each
18. Thank you tags – 20 tags each pack
a. Red Heart Thank you – 4 packs available SEE ETSY
b. Purple Heart thank you – 3 packs available SEE ETSY
c. Skeleton key thank you – 1 pack available (15 tags in this pack) SEE ETSY
d. Cherry blossom thank you – 2 packs available SEE ETSY
e. Lotus Blossom thank you  - 3 packs available $2 each
19. Blank Cards
a. Autumn Triangles (5 cards in pack) -1 pack available (blank inside) SEE ETSY
b. Brown & pink polkadots (5 cards in pack) – 1 pack available (blank inside) SEE ETSY
c. Spring cards (2 butterfly, 2 orange, 2 green) – 2 packs available (blank inside) SEE ETSY
d. Brown & pink polkadot 2 x 2 inch cards (no envelopes!)  set of 6 – 2 packs available
20. Tags & confetti multi pack – 1 pack each available
a. Butterfly - $2
b. Autumn -$2
c. Green spring -$2
d. Orange spring -$2

Thursday, March 13, 2014

One Year Anniversary of the Loss of Our Little Lydia

The front of the sympathy card the hospital staff gave us

The day I delivered Lydia, I remember lying in the hospital bed waiting for the contractions to start. Terrified, the only thing I could think to do was pray. I prayed for comfort and peace.  I prayed for my husband-who had put on a brave face but was surely suffering inside. I prayed for Lydia, that God would accept her little spirit and keep her safe for us until we could be with her again. I prayed for my girls that they would be comforted. That they would somehow find a peaceful connection with this little sister that they would never really know in their earthly lifetime. I prayed that angels could be with me to help me do the most difficult thing I had yet to face in life.

I refused an epidural even though it was offered repeatedly.  I labored for 9 hours without pain medication because I felt somehow like I owed it to her to feel all the pain that came with her birth. I just kept praying that I could handle the pain and that I could be strong for her. In the moments leading up to her birth, the pain was intense. Yet, the room was so calm. It was so peaceful and beautiful.

I have never felt closer to God than when I am delivering my children and Lydia’s birth was no different. I felt so much joy at having been able to be her mother – even for a short while. And holding her tiny, perfect body in the palm of my hands, I knew that she will be part of our family forever. I was sad, but I left the hospital feeling so much peace and hope for the future of my little family.

And even though the subsequent months were devastatingly difficult, we are happy again. I am so glad that I didn't leave my family when I thought I should. I'm so glad for my Bishop's inspiration to direct me to therapy. I am so grateful for the way the Atonement has healed our hearts. I have come to realize over the past year that the help I so desperately pleaded for, and received, that night was far more reaching than the delivery room. Angels have surrounded me and my family and helped us through the darkest times we have ever faced. Heavenly Father did not take away our pains, but instead has given us the strength and grace to take our tragedies, learn from them, come closer to Him and each other and build a new life.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks has taught: “Healing blessings come in many ways, each suited to our individual needs, as known to Him who loves us best. Sometimes a ‘healing’ cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are ‘healed’ by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us.” All that will come may be “clasped in the arms of Jesus.” All souls can be healed by His power. All pain can be soothed. In Him, we can “find rest unto [our] souls.” Our mortal circumstances may not immediately change, but our pain, worry, suffering, and fear can be swallowed up in His peace and healing balm." (excerpt from The Atonement Covers All Pain by Kent F. Richards)

My happiness today is a product of His healing balm. It is what gives me hope. It keeps me going on the rough days. It helps me to have faith that all of life's experiences are not wasted or even coincidental. We are given all we need in life to be the person that God knows we can be.

I sit here today on what could be a depressing reminder of a tragic circumstance in my life, but its not. Because I choose joy. I choose hope and I choose to allow the Atonement to take this experience to cleanse my soul and purify my life. And for this, I look back on Lydia's existence as a precious gift. Today is a beautiful day!

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Miracles In My Life

photo credit: Kevin Tuck

When I was 10 years old, I was diagnosed with a serious and life-threatening disease. I was only the 2nd person in the world who had this particular disease present in this particular manner. I was given an experimental drug cocktail of anti-fungal meds and chemotherapy meds and luckily, it saved my life. However, I was told not to expect to be able to bear any children as the major side effect they expected was damage to my reproductive system.  It was something I just always knew, so it was never a big deal. I never hid the fact that I would never be able to have children from my husband.

When we were first married I had very vivid dreams of our life together. One dream in particular has always stuck with me. In the dream,  I was holding a little baby boy. He was a brand new, fresh from Heaven, little boy with olive skin and the smallest fluff of dark auburn hair. I was holding him so close to me and I was overwhelmed with this feeling that this was MY son. He was supposed to be part of our family.  He had a special purpose and it was my responsibility to take care of him and to help him be the man he needed to be. He was a special son of God. I assumed he was going to be adopted.

A few months after that dream, to our utter shock, I found out I was expecting our first child!! We didn't find out the gender before birth, because I was so sure the baby I was carrying was our little boy.  I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum, several bouts of pre-term labor which required extensive hospitalizations and finally delivered a near-term premie.  The baby was whisked away immediately and taken to the NICU to be assessed. It was a good 5 minutes or so before my husband and I realized we didn't know if the baby was a boy or girl. We were told it was a girl, and I remember feeling shocked, but not at all disappointed. She was our little girl that never should have been, that we fought so hard to get into this world. She was our first miracle.

When Charlotte was only 8 months old, I found I was expecting again! Sadly, that pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 12 weeks. I was devastated, but determined not to give up. A few months later I was pregnant again with our second beautiful daughter. Again, I had complications. Several hospitalizations for Hyperemesis Gravidarum and pre-term labor and I developed gestational diabetes. We were told at 22 weeks we wouldn't make it through the night - we'd for sure deliver a baby who was not yet viable. Miraculously, I delivered her at 38 weeks. Amelia was full term and healthy. The entire staff was in shock. In fact, the doctor who cared for us that terrible night was on call the day we delivered. When she heard I was there giving birth full term, she came to congratulate us and asked to hold our second little miracle.

About a year after I had Amelia, I noticed I was having weird symptoms. My cycle hadn't returned, I was having hot flashes, I was losing my hair and I just didn't feel right. My husband and I had been talking about whether we wanted any more children, and I decided I would go see my OB. He had devastating news. I have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and I wasn't ovulating at all. The doctor encouraged me to meet with an endocrinologist and the infertility group if we ever planned on having any more children. The endocrinologist told me I should just adopt. The infertility group told me just to take Clomid and I'd for sure be pregnant soon.

In the back of my mind, I kept thinking about the dream about MY little boy. I was determined to keep trying. We decided to try Clomid. A few cycles later I was pregnant! I had a miscarriage at 10 weeks - it was another baby girl. A few more cycles of Clomid and I was pregnant again! I miscarried twins - 2 more little girls. Another few rounds of Clomid and another failed pregnancy with a little girl and I was beyond devastated.

I thought Clomid would be the miracle drug and that we would get to take home a baby. I gave up. A few months later I found out I was pregnant naturally (!!!) This for sure this was our miracle and surely it had to be our boy! But about 11 weeks into the pregnancy I was told our baby probably had Down Syndrome. We were encouraged to do an amniocentesis which we refused due to the risks of miscarriage. We didn't care if this baby was disabled. It was our baby whom, for years we had been praying for. We lost Lydia during my 18th week of pregnancy. (You can read her story here and here and here and here)

After we lost Lydia, I was broken. Our family was broken. We finally decided to get healthy emotionally and spiritually. I went to counseling and my husband went to counseling. We re-evaluated our priorities and allowed Lydia's loss to motivate us to become a better family, to have a better marriage, and to become more devoted to God.

One day, after several months in therapy, I told my therapist about the dream about our little boy I'd had so many years ago. She told me to just explore the idea of thinking about having another and see where it would take me emotionally. By the time I went to my next session a week later, my husband and I had already decided we wanted to try one last time. We thought and prayed really hard and long about the decision and we just knew we needed to. The next month I began fertility treatments again. This time the doctors decided a better approach would be to do injectable drugs. After several failed cycles and two very large and painful cysts, I finally became pregnant!!!

I knew immediately something was different. I started vomiting a few days before I even took a pregnancy test. I just assumed it was multiples, knowing I had released 3 eggs. Our first appointment revealed, in fact, it was twins! We were cautiously optimistic. Our second appointment revealed the 2nd sac was not growing, and by 8 weeks, that little sac had all but disappeared. Baby # 2 was what they call a vanishing twin. Baby #1 was doing amazingly well! Measuring perfectly for dates and even had a heartbeat at 5 weeks and 3 days. The doctor assured us he thought this one was a keeper!

But I was so, so, so, so sick again with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I thought since the pregnancy was no longer twins the Hyperemesis would disappear. Not so much. I was hospitalized in December right before Christmas for 4 days. I was miserable! I was vomiting dozens of times a day, losing tons of weight and severely dehydrated.  I begged not to have a PICC line put in for daily I.V. hydration. I begged them not to feed me via a feeding tube. My doctors had mercy on me and decided to try one last treatment. Amazingly, despite still feel completely and utterly nauseated all day long, I have not vomited in over 3 weeks!

And guess what? I'm now 20 weeks along (today!). A few weeks ago we found out another amazing miracle -  the baby is our little BOY! :) Words cannot describe the joy this pregnancy has brought into our lives despite the struggle it has been. Although my therapist pretty much nailed it all on the head when she said, "That's him. You already know him. And he was waiting to come until you guys could make some emotional and spiritual room for him. Look back on this experience in the future when you don't know how or why things are going the way they are / why timing is the way it is."

All of our babies have been miracles. And yet, I think the biggest miracle of all is that Heavenly Father has given us, through our trials, an assurance and a hope that one day perhaps, we will see Him as He is. One day, hopefully, we will be like Him. And one day we will be with Lydia and all of our babies again.

So on this Valentine's Day, please remember the loved ones in your life, but also now and forever please remember the one who first loved you for He has brought many miracles into each of our lives.