Gray Days

August 19, 2009

Last week marked the one-year anniversary of my father-in-law's tragic death. I had planned to write a post in honor of his memory, but alas! I failed.

Today marks week 19 in my pregnancy. I was planning on writing about that, too, but I don't think I will.

I'm trapped within a series of gray days. I'm not sad or wandering around in the dark, but I feel...what's the modern term?..."meh." I haven't touched my Japanese language program in days. Kitchen floors in mud huts are cleaner than mine is right now. Laundry is piling up in the closet. And I still have yet to work on finishing my novel.

My OB asked me two weeks ago to get a blood test to check my thyroid; I finally had it done yesterday.

This morning, I lay in bed and thought about why I might be feeling this way. I concluded that I feel like I have no control over anything. Right now, I'm waiting to hear whether or not I'll be tutoring again this fall. (The college where I work is having budgeting problems.) My schedule upon return--if I return--will determine whether I will be able to go to TN in September to visit my parents. I'm also waiting to hear whether we'll be moving in October or staying in SC until January, as well as waiting to hear where we will be moving when the time comes.

In the meantime, I'm still battling through this pregnancy. Last week, I came down with a 36-hour stomach virus. I puked so much that I nearly ended up going to the ER. Thankfully, the baby is ok. I feel the little one moving and kicking away every day now. (The six-inch bugger is strong!) However, I'm still struggling to gain weight. At almost halfway through my pregnancy, I have gained less than 10 pounds. I stepped on the scale this morning and discovered that I've actually lost two pounds in the past couple of weeks.

At the same time, I've been experiencing fairly strong heart palpitations. I stopped by my OB's office yesterday to ask if I should be concerned about them, and she wrote me a referral to see a cardiologist. I'm currently waiting by the phone to find out when my appointment is. (I'm also thanking God right now that I have amazing health insurance through the Navy.)

In short, I'm waiting to receive information on how...or when, or life is going to change. Until then, I'm just stuck in the endless gray fog of uncertainty, unable to move. Today I am a ship without a rudder, blown to and fro by the fickle winds of life, without a say in where I'm going. If it weren't for my doctors' appointments, I might not even know what day it is.

Stress sucks.

Week 18

August 13, 2009

In the past week, I have concluded that pregnancy is a miracle. It has to be, because there's simply no other way to describe it. At five and a half inches long, my baby has developed senses. He (or she) can hear my voice. The bones are beginning to harden, and the nerves are making their final inroads and connections throughout the body. It's literally the human form in perfect miniature. The remainder of the pregnancy is mostly for growth.

I also felt my baby move for the first time a couple of days ago. The experience was truly special...and a little sad. My husband will never feel another life moving and growing inside of him. I am in my own world.

I have also concluded this week that not all miracles are necessarily pleasant. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, at 18 weeks I'm STILL PUKING. Not everyday like I was a couple of weeks ago, but close enough. (I puked this morning, in fact. And yesterday. And the day before...) The congestion I've been fighting is also hanging on with a vise grip. I thought it was getting better until two nights ago, when a sudden coughing fit nearly caused my lungs to close up on me. I had to dig my inhaler out of mothballs to find relief.

While first-trimester woes continue to plague me, I'm now entertaining all the lovely ailments of the second trimester--mainly itchy skin and insomnia. I'm also convinced that the baby is nestled right on top of my pea-sized bladder. I'm making at least two trips per night to the bathroom, and I'm quickly working my way up to three. This could get ugly.

The good news? The baby is alive and well despite my barrage of meds, and I will find out its gender in about three weeks. My husband is coming with me to the big ultrasound, and we can't wait!

A Brother in the Band

August 10, 2009

Writing about my dad made me think more about about my family, which inevitably lead me to write about my brother, Andrew. I'm quite proud of him these days because he recently joined a band--not some silly garage band either, but one that actually has a manager and plays paid gigs around the country. He learned how to play bass at age 12 (without any sort of formal training!) and has since then dreamed of becoming a professional musician. After two years of waiting tables at a restaurant with his wife, he decided he'd had enough of watching his bass (and his dream) collect dust. So he put an ad on Craigslist expressing his desire to join a real band.

He received an email the next day requesting him to audition. He went, did his thing, and was made a member of the band on the spot. Now, at 20 years old, he's on the road doing what he loves most and having a blast.

In a way, I'm jealous. I think the kid has a magic wand up his sleeve. He's got a way of winning over people that would make Dr. Phil green with envy. He's insanely talented to boot, and he just barely graduated high school!

If you ever met my brother, you wouldn't believe we were related. He's about three inches taller and at least 50 pounds heavier than I am, with thick reddish-brown hair and a very pale complexion. Our personalities are just as different. I'm fairly cautious and reserved; Andrew acts on impulse and chatters almost non-stop. Growing up with him was...well, interesting to say the least.

Imagine this scenario: my parents--a meek father and a domineering mother--involved in ministry and constantly worrying about how others perceive them, and I--a quiet, obedient individual with near-OCD tendancies--welcoming into our family a fiery, ADHD redhead of perpetual noise and motion. Needless to say, our mother was soon beside herself.

We quickly dubbed my brother "Hurricane Andrew." One trip through the house, and Andrew left a path of destruction in his wake. Once he reached the age of two, my friends stopped coming over to my house to play with me. Andrew demanded constant attention. If I tried to lock him out of my room for a bit of privacy, he laid down in the hallway, put his mouth up to the bottom of the door, and loudly demanded that I either come out or let him in. When he became older, he discovered he had become strong enough to push (or kick) the door open in spite of locks. I clearly remember him bursting through my bedroom door early one Saturday morning, while I was in a dead sleep, to tell me about some cartoon that was on TV. The force of his entry splintered the door frame and sent a large chunk of it flying toward my head. Waking up to eye-poking projectiles in my own room is not my idea of fun.

That's really just the tip of the iceberg. Andrew always seemed to be getting into something as a child: urinating off of the front porch, punching his best friend between the eyes at school, cutting the corners off of MY school certificates of achievement, shooting his BB gun off of the roof, repeatedly flushing his underwear down the toilet, nearly setting our parents' bedroom on fire--the list is practically endless. I'd need a book to accurately paint the whole picture.

At the same time, my brother taught my family to laugh in ways we had never laughed before. I don't mean a chuckle here and there, either. I mean the kind of laughter that causes people to cry, and gasp, and beg for mercy. This happened most often around the dinner table when Andrew cracked a joke--he was brilliant at situational humor--or when I used my unique vocabulary to creatively recount his latest antic. I laughed so hard because of him once that I shot sweet iced tea out of my nose and into my dinner plate (thankfully, I had just emptied it). And to this day, my dad still laughingly recalls my description of Andrew's front-porch bathroom break: "...and suddenly, I heard this rustling in the grass..." I was only nine years old at the time, and gravely disturbed by my three-year-old brother's lack of propriety.

I'd like to say that I started out loving my brother when he first appeared on the scene, but that's not exactly true. OCD and ADHD rarely make good bedfellows. Yet over the years of having few people to depend on aside from each other, we developed a very special bond that I treasure. He's now out living his own life, successfully married, raising a beautiful daughter, and pursuing his dreams in his own special way. I have no doubt that when he leaves this world, he'll have crowds of people lined up around the block just to attend his funeral. That's just the way he is, and I'm proud to call him family. Way to go, Bro.

Family Therapy

August 7, 2009

It's amazing to me how the past can come back to haunt a person 5, 10, or even 15 years into the future. That's the situation I found myself in a couple of weeks ago, thinking about an incident from my childhood involving a man named Joe.

Joe was a missionary from Mexico, a rather rotund man in his late fifties with a large, graying mustache that curled up on the ends. As you may have remembered, my father pastored small churches for many years, so my family often hosted missionaries and evangelists in our home. Since Joe had received support from my hometown church long before my dad took over as pastor, he continued to make the annual trek across the U.S. in his tiny, battered camper to collect food and clothes for some of Mexico's poorest families. While in town, he stayed in the church's missionary quarters but came over nearly every evening to have dinner with my family.

One evening after dinner while watching TV, my mom and dad both stepped outside for a few minutes, leaving me and Joe alone. While they were gone, Joe called me over to where he was sitting. He then wrapped me in a tight hug that pressed me against him. While holding me like this, he fondled my chest and asked if I had missed him since his last visit. I don't remember my answer, but I was certainly freaked out. I was only around 11 at the time.

The next day, I told my parents what happened. A couple of days later, Joe was gone. He returned to town a year later, but he never stayed at our house and I never saw him again. However, my parents never told me what happened after that incident. Did they confront him? Did they tell others in the church? I never knew, and not knowing always bothered me.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided I had endured the silence long enough, so I called my dad and asked him what happened. Turns out my dad did confront Joe (albeit in his general roundabout fashion). Of course, time is the enemy of memory--he couldn't recall much about the conversation or what Joe's response had been. But what he did tell me was this: By the time Joe returned the next year, my dad was no longer pastoring the church, so Joe contacted the man who originally hosted him at the church--the church's previous pastor and my dad's good friend. The man had no room in his house for Joe, so he called my dad and asked if Joe could stay with us. My father flatly refused. When his friend asked why, my dad told him what Joe had done. A heated argument ensued. The man felt sure that some type of misunderstanding had occurred...and how dare my dad say such terrible things about a man he had known personally for so many years, let alone a missionary!

But my dad wouldn't budge, not even to save one of his only friendships. My dad told me that the conversation upset him so badly that he didn't sleep that night. But my dad was willing to do anything to keep Joe away from me. The sadness in my dad's voice as he told this story--sadness for what I had experienced--was heartbreaking.

I never knew.

Then my dad said something I had never heard him say before. He said I had endured so many terrible things, and he was proud of the way I had risen above them all and made something of myself. At that moment, a new love for my dad flooded my heart, and a great darkness caused by years of doubt and anger was lifted from my mind. It was the best therapy I had ever received.

Some people might criticize my dad for what he did--namely, letting Joe go. Some parents would have called the police or thrown punches or had Joe run out of town. But they don't know what it was like for my father, being such a meek individual, pastoring a small-town church where his extended family comprised half the congregation. My dad handled the situation in the only way he knew how, and--knowing my dad the way I do--that's good enough for me. Thanks, Dad.


August 4, 2009

As of today, I've been married for two years. Not a long time, I know. But I love to reflect on my life with my husband at special times like this. You see, we may have only been married for two years, but we've known each other for nearly nine. I met my husband when he was only 15; I was 17. And our story--I think--is rather unique.

We met at church and was quickly thrown together by a very cliquish youth group. The guys ran around showing off their tans and football prowess, while the girls talked non-stop about getting manicures and shopping at American Eagle. Being the fashion pariah of the bookworm world that I was--let alone of the preppy beachcomber-wannabe set--I was bored out of my mind at every youth service. And since my husband cared neither for tans nor football, we eventually gravitated toward each other. (He was also wickedly intelligent, which I found incredibly attractive. At 15, he ran the sound equipment for the church's adult services and youth services. He was more skilled at it than adults twice his age.)

We started a friendship that lasted for three years. I soon fell in love with him, but my husband proved to be a tougher nut to crack. At any mention of my feelings, he would avoid me--sometimes for weeks. The turning point came when an old boyfriend (whom I liked) came back into my life with marriage on his mind. Although I ended up telling my ex that I couldn't be with him because I was in love with somebody else, the incident proved to be just the wake-up call my husband needed. Two months later, we officially became a couple.

We dated for over three years, and in that time our relationship went though the fire. Eight months after finally snagging the man of my dreams, I said goodbye to him and boarded a plane to Japan to spend a year in a study abroad program. About a month after I returned, his father suffered a brain aneurysm that rendered him disabled for three years. (A man who had worked for years as a computer programmer now could not drive his own car.) Right as we began planning our wedding, our church split. We had to ask a minister from another denomination to perform the ceremony almost at the last minute. In order to help pay for the wedding, my husband worked two retail jobs for a while--one during the day, the other at night. He survived on caffeine pills and soda. I also took a retail job, despite just having earned my college degree, because I couldn't find any other work. By the time we were finally wed, we were both physically and emotionally drained. Our ages at the time of marriage: 21 and 24.

The fun didn't stop there. We had no money, so we took up residence with his parents. Two months after our wedding, my husband joined the Navy. Four months later, he left for boot camp. After graduating, he flew home, packed up our stuff, and we moved 800 miles away from our families. The week before the move, I came down with a severe upper respiratory infection. I was terribly sick for over a month. But the toughest ordeal was yet to come: a year ago this August, a major stroke took my father-in-law's life. Thankfully, we were able to spend his last two days with him and attend his funeral.

This is not what I intended to write. Last night, I bought my husband an anniversary card talking about how I remember our first kiss, the first time we held hands, etc. I do amazing detail. That's what I set out to write, because when I think about all the hardships we have endured together, that's what I recall--the joys of our life together. However, I suppose it's never too late to recount some joys.

First time we held hands: We were watching the first Lord of the Rings movie in theaters. The big flaming Eye of Sauron freaked me out.

First "I love you": December 31, 2003. He gave me a romantic greeting card at a New Year's party I was hosting for my friends. Inside the card he had written "This card pretty much says it all, except 'I love you.'" The gesture was extra special because he never wrote notes. Ever.

First kiss: January 4, 2004. We were standing in his driveway at night in the rain. That was the night we officially started dating.

First time he made me feel proud: I received one of two highly competitive scholarships at the start of my senior year in college. We attended a banquet where the winners were to be announced. He told me not to get my hopes up. After my name was called, he said he wouldn't doubt my abilities again.

Wedding day: August 4, 2007. My husband forgot to bring the marriage license to the ceremony. It was eventually located in his bedroom at the bottom of his laundry basket. (Don't ask.) A good time was had by all.

Last photograph: You're looking at it. (Yes, the skinny chic with the non-existent butt is me. That handsome fellow I'm hugging is my husband. Now you know what I look like.) The picture was taken two weeks ago when we visited Middleton Place Plantation in Charleston, SC. If you've never been, it's a gorgeous place. If you go, take bug repellent.

Thanks for reading.

Pregnancy Rules for Men

August 3, 2009

I thought this would be fun and entertaining to write.

Rule 1: Personal hygiene is now more important than when we were dating. Snogging me with your dragon breath is all fun and games until somebody (i.e. me) ends up making obeisance before the porcelain throne. Same goes for hugging me after sweating at work for 12 hours.

Rule 2: Due to constant fluctuations in hormone levels, my body may have trouble responding in bed. Frantically "priming the pump" is not the answer. Doing so will only make me sore in one of the few places that so far doesn't ache when I sit down. If it's not happening, it's not happening. Just carry on as usual.

Rule 3: I reserve the right to call upon your services as an exterminator at any time. Pregnancy has increased my squeamishness toward creepy-crawlies. With a quarter of my body weight now jutting out in front of me, my center of balance has changed, making me slow and clumsy. Michael Moore could probably outrun me at this point. So what chance do I stand against something with six or more legs? None. Chances are that it will get away, leaving me to wonder when and where it will surprise me next. Telling me to kill it myself in order to "toughen me up" is not amusing. I'm already dealing with the trials and tribulations of bearing your love child. That alone makes me tougher than a coffin nail.

Rule 4: Please flush the toilet regularly. You never know when I'll have to stick my face in it.

Rule 5: Household responsibilities may be added to your list of chores with little or no advance notice. Sorry, but with my bloodhound nose and weak stomach, simple tasks like loading the dishwasher or handling dirty clothes could be considered hazardous to my equilibrium.

Rule 6: Making cute comments about the baby increases your sexiness exponentially. It reminds me that I made the right decision by marrying you, which helps when I'm feeling monstrous.

Rule 7: I need your love and understanding now more than ever. For an explanation, see rules 1 through 5.

Rule 8: Always remember that I love you more than anything or anyone else on this planet. Otherwise, I wouldn't be having your baby.

Week 16

August 1, 2009

I'm starting to look voluptuous. Really, really voluptuous. I walked past a reflective surface last night and gasped. My belly has drawn nearly even with my boobs, and I have the kind of cleavage I only dreamed about having when I was 13 and still painfully flat-chested. The only thing that has yet to make an appearance is my butt, which stubbornly refuses to grow with the rest of me. Keeping my pants up is often a challenge as my waistline expands to dimensions hitherto unknown.

At least my underwear still fit. (I know. TMI, right?)

In spite of everything, though, I think I look pretty good--once I'm cleaned up and have my earrings in, of course.

Oh, yeah. Last week when I became ungodly sick, it seems I contracted some sort of sinus-related viral infection. Five steps out of bed, and I'm coughing like an old man. (So much for being voluptuous.) Thankfully, I'm feeling better now in spite of everything. Still sleeping quite a bit, but I'm getting to where I can function again. I actually managed to cook dinner last night. Practically a miracle!

Now I'm just waiting for my next OB appointment on Monday. I haven't seen (or heard) my baby for a whole month, and I'm anxious to see if it is OK after all the meds I have taken to keep me from drowning in my own mucus. Also, my doctor is going to submit the paperwork for the BIG ultrasound that will be done at the end of the month to determine the baby's gender. For the past three weeks, my husband has asked every other day when we will go "look for penises." Too cute! I told him it would be a little disturbing if we found more than one penis on the same baby. A friend suggested that a boy might be happy to have more than one. Maybe so, but they would make changing his diapers twice as dangerous!