Friday, December 10, 2010

a snapshot of a growing wonder

A good friend and I exchanged emails recently and I wanted to share some of my correspondence so you can see a glimpse of all the wonderful new things Eva is doing this week. Could you imagine an adult doing this much changing and growing in just a few days? Babies are really remarkable!

Eva: wow, what a growing, changing, human being. How do I even begin? She is just changing every moment. I am SO glad I get to see it all happen; I can't imagine not being at home full time to see it all unfold! She is starting solid foods and really likes the food of the week: pears. Food falls out of her mouth and sometimes she doesn't use her tongue right and the whole mouthful of food goes out instead of in :) She is getting up on her hands and toes and really getting around. Eva can't get her knees up yet though so it's more scooting than crawling. She loves finding computer cords and chomping on them whenever we have our heads turned. She loves slapping things with her hand, like her own thigh and the tile flooring. Also, she has a knack for finding "wet" sound areas and talking and hearing her own echo. She loves pushing her feet up against the person holding her and she cranes her neck around to see everything. She is so curious! It makes breastfeeding in public difficult at times. Oh, I love seeing how mellow she gets on a full belly. She had bad acid reflux as a baby and I think it's subsided. So just starting recently she will let me hold her flat on her back (like a traditional baby cradle hold) and after a good meal she will relax and gaze at me. It's unbelieveable, Lou. It really is.

Gotta go, she's talking and waking up from her nap. The other day she was making her first escape attempt, eek!

....and later...

Oh, there is so much more Eva is starting to do... I just have to share:

Eva runs into her own image when she is crawling towards the mirror. I often wonder if she thinks that it's her or if she thinks it's another baby. She also crawls right into furniture so we moved our coffee table out of the living room.

She's not sitting up yet but she is SO close.

She laughs when we give her kisses now and understands tickling (last month she just kinda sat there).

She loves to see her dad at the end of the day. When she's left alone with him she doesn't act up or miss me, she's really secure when he's there.

She can spot something from about 5-10 feet away and scoot to that spot in about 30 seconds!

Her belly is the softest and sweetest thing I've ever felt. Same goes for her tongue. I'm in such awe that it is so pink and perfect.

Her grasp is getting better but at times it takes her a few attempts (and a scoot closer often) to actually grab something... she's working on depth perception. She has been spotting food on the kitchen floor lately too, just specks, and will try to grab them. It's so funny! Her hand moves the speck of dirt and then she looks where it used to be (*confused look*) before she finally finds it again.

Today I saw her on her hands and toes with her butt in the air and she grabbed for a toy (balancing on three limbs!) and put it in her mouth. It was great!

I think she really likes the feeling of a q-tip in her ear and is really still and patient when I'm cleaning them. If only diaper changing was so interesting and fun!

She doesn't mind the rain at all. We go out in it and she tries to lap it up like a puppy :) !

...Well, off to more adventures with the little one!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Teething is a journey. There are bad days and good days. This morning there were crazy bursts of tears and moments of sweet carefree laughter. Teething pain sneaks up on us and steals us of naps and of the small order we have in our house. You won't get to hear more about teething or other things because... Eva's crying again because of teething. Ironic?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


It's Election Day and Eva got to go to the polls with me. We had a cuteness factor of over 100% because our neighbor brought his 8 week old black lab too. I bumped into the woman who lives in the apartment below us, Pat, and cast my vote! That makes it sound simple, but here in CA it means casting tens of votes with all these measures they have. I did some last minute researching this morning during Eva's nap. So to my American friends, don't forget to vote!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Being hot is like my winter. I want to stay inside and hide from the heat. Yesterday and today Eva and I have spent our first days inside all day since... the hospital (and maybe the few days after that too). It's meant being more creative with our time since we can't rely on the natural entertainment of trees, bushes, and friendly strangers.

Sometimes Eva watches me cook and I explain it to her. I keep telling her that she's going to grow up to be an amazing cook. This is what I think they call brainwashing because both Donovan and I hate cooking and secretly hope that Eva wants to take over, say, in three or four years? :) Sometimes we also Skype family and chat which is always fun.

What do you do on long days inside?

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I was needing to get out with Eva the other day so we walked to our local coffee shop and she fell asleep in the carrier, bonus! So I read some local news and enjoyed the "ooooh, look at that baaaaby!" comments from friendly folks. Then a great coincidence happened. A brand new mommy (5 day old baby in tow) and another new mommy walked around the corner together. They both said hi to me too and we all started chatting. Turns out new mommy, Sierra, was out for the first time and her dad was in town. And semi-new mommy, Heather, and her two and a half month old baby were on their way to an appointment, only 1.5 hours late! Being a mommy is hard sometimes. But they had just met each other moments before and then they bumped into me. Coincidence? I think not.

We exchanged emails and phone numbers and off Heather went. We decided we would meet another time to talk more. Then last week I emailed them all. We are getting together this morning at my favorite neighborhood coffee shop (yes!) and chatting about babies and such (double yes!). We even are considering doing a babysitting swap so we can all have free babysitting sometime. Score!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Have you ever sat with a colicky baby and felt powerless to help them? They cry uncontrollably and there is nothing you can do. Oh, it is so sad for all! Have you ever been stuck in traffic and wished and hoped the light would turn green? Me too!

Eva HATES the car.

I know, I know. You have visions of infants being lulled to sleep by the motor and parents gaily driving around town with a baby knocked out in the backseat. That is not so. I guess Eva is a social person. So the idea of riding in the backseat without a friendly face is her worst nightmare. And she will go on and on for 30 minutes at full scream power to let you know it.

Today this came to a head because I was stuck in construction traffic so the short jaunt from Berkeley to home took about 30 minutes. 30 minutes from my worst nightmare! Eva screamed the whole way.

At first things were quite calm and collected. I said things like, oh, I know, baby! I leaned back and touched her forehead. I tried rolling down the window for entertainment. Then I turned on some music to soothe her (or drown her out, I'm not sure). Then things got a bit more intense...

After 20 minutes of screaming I usually start sweating. The hormones that rush through your body when your infant is screaming in sadness/pain make you sweat and your heart race. People tell me it's a good thing to have these hormones, but my body says, EEEEKK, stop the screaming, now! I resorted to running orange lights, attempting to put something in her mouth to chew on (she's teething), tapping loudly on my steering wheeling, begging in a loud/mad voice for her to stop, and eventually plugging my ears and humming loudly.

So if you see a crazy mom in a minivan running lights, be kind. Or if you stop at a light and from the rearview mirror you can see the parent in the car behind you is going crazy, remember this blog post. It's a crazy, crazy experience.

Eva's now sleeping off the screaming tantrum. It feels all perfect and peaceful now. But in those moments, wow, I feel pretty crazy!

Hee Jung

Our friend Hee Jung came for a visit last weekend. It was SO fun. We went to an AMAZING Korean restaurant. I'm a bit scared because it was so good and so close to our house. I want to go there daily! It is such satisfying food. And the courses are so well planned out. I love it! When can we go again?!

We did some local things with Hee Jung nuna (a term I recently learned, meaning older sister). We went to Lake Merritt and took a stroll. We went to my favorite coffee shop and talked espresso. I love that Hee Jung knows about shot times and the effects of different brewing on overall taste. We had two rounds, I won't lie :) We also toured the Cal campus and walked around Tildon Regional Park, my favorite! It's so beautiful there! It sounds busy but it was somehow soul filling and relaxing just to be together and to talk and to really be heard. I have a special place in my heart for my colleagues from Fuller. Especially my soul friend, Hee Jung! Thanks for coming to visit me, I know it's a long drive!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

i think i'm falling in love...

Oakland has this amazing coastal air. The mornings are cool and the afternoons are bright and beautiful. Little old men, hipsters, and mommies alike gather in one of seven coffee shops within walking distance of our place to converse each morning, and yes, you can often get a pretty amazing breakfast at these places as well which is not as gross as it sounds to a Portlander. There are several hidden "sanctuary" spots although I will not name for both the person who reads my blog and is not in Oakland and to keep the local secret a ... secret! People are super friendly, especially when we go to the Rose Garden and see families in our neighborhood meeting and chatting. Plus we one of our neighbors is this great little home for the disabled and there is always plenty of activity there throughout the day with people saying HI or BYE as we stroll along. There are magical trees in our neighborhood. I don't know what they're called nor have I ever seen them in the Northwest, but they are stunning, and when the light comes through them it's a spiritual experience. And when I am really seeking quietness and a holy place I go to the Mountain View Cemetery for a stroll (it's like a giant park) and listen to the silence. I really needed some of this space to think when I was in grad school and ended up seeking therapy for a while only to find out that my brain was really overstimulated while living in LA and space was exactly what I needed to cure it. The space to just be. And imagine. And when I'm in that place I naturally pray. Which is funny because I wouldn't say that's always the easiest thing for me. I do miss my family so much. But I went to one of these quiet spots today. And when I came home I skyped with my parents-in-law. I think I might be falling in love. With Oakland!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

new eats

I heard from some research that I did on the internet that babies who are breastfed can have sensitivities to the same foods as mom and dad. I was curious about this and talked to some of my friends with breastfed babies who had food sensitivities. I also talked to my pediatrician who basically said there's no research on it but he's only heard antidotes (with a look on his face like, "you're crazy"). I guess he didn't read this article. I still like him though, I just feel bad for US doctors who get no background in natural health. It could really help them and their patients! Anyway, I digress.

After spending the time talking to these people and reading up on my own as well as watching Eva's spitting up and eating habits I came to the conclusion: Eva is sensitive to tree nuts and dairy. I know this sounds crazy, but Donovan had nothing but an almond butter sandwich the other day and he heaved like no one's business until it was all expelled from his stomach. We don't usually have almond butter (this was at a friend's) so this had never happened before. But he does try to talk after eating nuts and often chokes on his words. So it's slight. But we just figured that out this month too. And of course I'm allergic to dairy... sigh. I hate it but it's true. And it's even more true now then before unfortunately. So the whole theory on what we're allergic to, she is having a hard time digesting early in her life makes sense. Sorry Eva, our genes are crap. No ice cream or trail mix for you (Note: this is just a joke. Eva is very likely only "sensitive" and not allergic, which means she will very likely be able to have those foods when she is on solids and it is appropriate for her to be eating them, ie. later in childhood).

So this all started when I was in Portland I ate a handful of almonds on an empty stomach before a big breastfeeding meal for Eva one evening and she had the most explosive and painful throw up I had ever seen. That was the day that I started to realize something was really wrong and started asking questions.

Unfortunately there is some ambiguity whether or not coconut falls into the tree nut allergy realm. The FDA has recently switched opinions on it, saying it is a part of the tree nut allergen foods, but there are only about 10 total documented cases of coconut allergies. This is only the beginning of the madness to finding foods I can eat. Last night I went to the restaurant 30 minutes early before meeting friends to read the menu and talk to a nice waitress who helped me find something dairy (butter, milk, cheese, milk derivatives) free AND nut free. Boy, I felt crazy! Even in Berkeley oddly enough.

My one sad thing in this all is that the US has really poor regulations on milk in foods and you have to basically completely change your lifestyle, like always cook from scratch and never eat a processed grocery food item and never eat out. Well, I'm not that extreme. The alternative is memorizing or always having with you a long list of words that don't always look like "milk" but basically mean... milk. Why can't we just have some kind of marker on our foods/drinks at the store, like "L" for lactose free. And really mean it! Because I recently found out that "dairy free" powder (the kind used in coffee at church and as a base for bubble milk teas) actually has a milk derivative in it, and yes, it makes Eva and me very, very sick. So PLEASE at the least, don't do fake "milk free" advertising! But in the UK and many other developed countries they are much better at this than the States. Makes me think the milk companies have something they're hiding!

In addition to this there is a long list of foods that are just generally not recommended for breastfeeding moms. Coffee being the most notable on the list. And broccoli. I really love broccoli.

But if you could just see her face when she is eating and it is good milk, you would know why I think that this is totally worth it!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Skype has been so great! Eva met Grandma Terri for the first time on Skype and we have had several talks with her since then as well. Tonight we talked with Donovan's parents and grandparents (Oma and Opa) and they got to see Eva again, I think this is our third time talking with the four of them. While we are sad we can't be with family in Oregon (especially during these beautiful sunny days in the NW) we are so glad for Skype. We have talked with several others as well: Aunt Amy, Aunt Melissa and Uncle Scott, Eva's Great Grandma Ramona and Eva's Great Great Aunt and Uncle Bailey. I loved the reaction we got out of the eldest generation about Skype! Molly thought that it was too expensive and didn't want to say anything as to not be a burden. You should have seen how excited she was when she heard it was free and could see Eva! This is one of those times that you get the feeling that your child is growing up in a world much different than yours!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

what a social baby!

Eva loves her mornings in her chair. Recently I've put her little hanging animals above her and she loves it. It looks like she's having a conversation with these little creatures. This is great for me because she actually entertains herself. She is so social, she usually can't stand being in a quiet room alone. So this creates little friends for her to talk to. Yesterday she screamed after 5 mins or so and the look on her face was so priceless. It was as if she was saying, these people won't talk back to me! I'm done!

This was further established when our friends Ryan and Jon came to stay with us. I came out to the living room after hearing Eva wake up from her nap to find the two of them chatting together and having a good old time! During their stay Eva did very little fussing because Jon was so new and interesting and loved talking to her. Want to stay with us for a few more months Jon?

So in no time Eva will be talking to strangers, although she kinda already is because everyone and their mom (and grandma) want to talk to this pretty blue eyed baby. And she talks back of course.

Oh, Lord, please give us patience for those teenage years!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

our birth story: part two

Just before Sadie came I was chatting with Donovan and a nurse about who knows what and I was sitting on a chair trying to get a new position. The nurse was saying something very wise and I was nodding and listening as a good therapist accidently does even when their not on the job and then... what was that?! Um I'm sorry to interrupt, but, I think I just peed my pants! She replied that it was okay, that it was my water breaking and that more would come. (At that point about 8 oz of amniotic fluid had come out.) In confusion and embarrassment I stood up thinking I could make it to the bathroom from there. WHOOPS. It all rushed from my body.... maybe a gallon?! It felt like it at least. I laughed. I didn't know what else to do! Donovan stood and watched from about 4 inches away, as the nurse did as well. I laughed and the fluid went shoooosh, shooooosh, shooosh! I was early enough along in my contracting that I had the awareness to be embarrassed. I think just after that was when I crossed the threshold (I have to be honest, I've never quite returned to my former level of modesty since then). Something about being in a room with 10 physicians, your husband, and your doula begging God for the pain to end with every body part showing and everyone staring at your most intimate places and putting in instruments and asking others to look makes you a different kind of person. Perhaps it's like walking the PCT in that way :)
Sadie did arrive. Thank God. She said peaceful, soothing things to me and told me the most encouraging words. Somehow in that animal like place, where you think you might die, somehow a woman who has survived childbirth is like an angel. She can tell you that it will be over soon and you believe her. She can tell you that you are taking the contractions fabulously and you know it's true. She can tell you that you're managing the pain more peacefully and meditatively than she did... than anyone she's ever seen... and you believe her. Now, I'm not sure whether or not these things are true, but she said them. And as much as I am faithful to my husband and love him so very deeply, this was somehow something that he could not do. Like I said, thank God Sadie arrived.
Sadie said that I was at 5cm when she got there. Several times after the birth when we talked she said I went from 5cm to 10cm "like that (SNAP)!" This was also very foggy because my images of pushing are so burned into my brain that the prior hours melted away. I think this is medically proven; some chemical is released when you're in childbirth or shortly after that inhibits your brain from putting short term events into long term memory. Don't quote me on that one though. I think it's a great device if it's true though. God knows I would only have one child otherwise.
One small memory I have of that time is demanding that I have a shower. It only lasted a minute or two but I wanted them to pluck me from the shower when it was time to go. I was enjoying the warm feeling of the water and it made the contractions so much more bearable. There was a small older asian woman helping me at that time and telling me crazy things about how to push and I didn't hear anything she said but I do remember saying something to the extent of that's not helpful, please stop talking.
The reason why the shower was so short was because the baby's heart was not doing well as I was contracting. They had all the monitors on me still (going on 24 hours at this point!) and they were still slip sliding/itching/plugged into the wall/making me crazy! When a woman is in labor and has to pee the last thing someone wants in the 45 short seconds between contractions is the nuisance of unplugging monitors and carrying cords around.

I remember such a feeling of relief when they measured me and found I was near 10 cm. I had asked them a couple times to check and you could tell by their faces that they would do it as a favor to me but they knew I wasn't anywhere close. Before I knew what was happening I felt something well up in me and for the first time I let out a big loud noise, UGGGGH! I was pushing, and there was no one telling me anything different! Now I remember some books saying to imagine yourself sitting on the front of a train going very very fast (to be able to acknowledge the power of the pushing and contractions without having a fear of them). Of course I forgot all of that in that crazy moment.

Dr Anika checked my dilation and said I was at 10 but there was a lip still and I couldn't push yet. Mid sentence another one came and out came the animal sounds and on I went pushing. STOP she said, but I couldn't. I wasn't trying to be disobedient but my body was doing it, my mind was gone or on a different planet, I wasn't sure. I definitely wasn't listening though. They physically manipulated the last lip of the cervix to full dilation (not sure how that all works) and said okay to pushing. What a relief! I only lasted one contraction where I actually held it in like they told me and it felt like, I don't know, a monster was trying to escape from under my skin! Now, on to the good stuff, pushing this baby out!

Some snippets from my "pushing time": Lisa the nurse sitting with her back to us, faithfully putting information into the computer all the while not having the time to really do any client care. Poor thing. Donovan was on my right side, Sadie on my left, each holding a foot. Each saying amazing things like, you are strong, use this next contraction, you're doing so well!, keep going! Later and sort of embarrassed Donovan told me that I defecated during this time, but added that it didn't matter as much as he thought it would because there were more important things going on.

I was on my back, against all my natural birthing books advised me. At that point we were doing whatever it took to keep the baby's heart monitor beeping. And on my back was the only good position. Several times they asked me to flip on my right side. NO! Too slow of a heart beat, FLIP OVER FAST! TO YOUR LEFT SIDE! TO YOUR HANDS AND KNEES. And I would flip. Or flop. It was pretty ugly. I was so tired. And again the whole medical team would freak out because the heartbeat would go quiet. They put a screw in Eva's head to monitor her heart and took off the external monitors, thank goodness! But the internal monitor kind of scared me and Sadie had a look on her face that told me it was kind of scary what they were doing. I guess in my fog I could only say yes. At some point the nurses changed shifts. The next nurse did not realize what we had been through to determine that the normal positions (that they try when a labor isn't progressing) wouldn't work. So we did the whole flipping routine again. At one point they asked and I said, I can't. But I will, if someone picks me up and flips me for me. I think everyone laughed and said I would have to do it and I was so tired, so sad. I flipped on my left side like they asked and then again to my hands and knees (on the bed) which felt so nice when I got there but they said no and asked me to lie on my back again.

This is my favorite part. We were back to Sadie holding one foot and Donovan holding the other and me pushing with all my might. I remembered something: I am an athlete! And I pushed with all my might like I would at the end of a hard race or game. During one of these last-minute-of-the-Iron-Man pushes, Dr Anika said, wow, I saw the head on that one. There was commotion in the room and she asked if Donovan wanted to see. He was unsure. Then he was curious. Then I pushed and she pointed to the head. And he said there? And she said Yes! Lots of black hair! And I was curious and excited and invigorated. And Donovan was confused looking and kind of grossed out looking, but I think he was excited too. The first day Eva was alive I kept thinking, maybe she's not ours if she has all that black hair! The pushing went on for what felt like an hour. It was 4.5 hours. Somewhere during this time Dr Anika said my pushes were strong and I was looking good. Then we had "a talk."

The doctor explained that the baby wasn't coming down. They weren't quite sure why because they said my pushes were very strong. Something must be wrong: her position or something but they weren't sure. She was at 0, which meant pelvic bone level, and in order to come out she had to come down to +4 (4 cm further down the canal). In order for them to do an assisted vaginal birth (vacuum, forceps, etc) she would have to be at +2. I pushed a few more times, nothing. At that point Anika said, let's do a C section, what do you think of that? And I said I don't know. I don't want to, what are the options. And things like "pressure on the baby" were said but I can't remember any sentence formation by that point. I felt like it was the option between both me and the baby dying right there on the table or a cesarean section. I felt resigned to this new way of meeting our baby. I felt a little renewed energy. We get to meet OUR BABY!

The big doctor lady came in to see what exactly was going on. She was very nice. She asked politely if she could see me do a contraction before we resigned to surgery. I said, no, thank you. Give me the pain medication for the surgery and let's get this over with. They asked me several times if I was sure I wanted to do the c section. I said, yes, as long as you can get me there fast. These contractions that were doing nothing were killing me! At that point I felt like it was communicated to me very clearly: your contractions aren't worth crap. They aren't going to push out this baby no matter what. So as each one came my clock ticked and ticked. Now I was looking at that clock by gosh! We signed loads of paperwork (the baby could be cut, okay? sign here. you could lose bowel control for life, okay? sign here. you may have nerve damage and can't sue us, okay? sign here! all on the labor table! my signature was crazy looking and I was only barely with it enough to realize that but not be able to fix it.) They said it would take 30 minutes to prep the surgery room, they all disappeared and started washing their hands and using new gloves and running about. I think it was 4:30am Sunday by then. It took 45 minutes, and you better believe I was counting it. I just remember looking at the clock and thinking, what on earth could they be doing?! For a lady totally against pain meds I was pretty funny in that moment. Well, if a c section is imminent and pain meds are on their way then why don't they start pumping them into me? NOW!

In time I was wheeled to the surgery room. Donovan waited for me in the labor room with Sadie. She said her goodbye, as she had been there over 12 hours, as long as her contract allowed. She said she would see me later that day after she had napped. I was very serious. The room was SO BRIGHT, there were a million florescent lights. They picked me up as a team and put me on a different table. It was skinny and long, about 10 inches wide. They asked, could I sit cross legged? NO! Are you sure? YES! At that point all I could think was, are you crazy to ask a woman in labor something like that? So we compromised at me sitting with my legs dangling on either side. They explained how it would feel to get the pain meds and what they would do to me. There was a short bee sting, then they laid me down. And slowly I returned to the human race.

The pain meds set in and there was nothing to do but wait until they were fully done anesthetizing me. So we talked about moving and Don's new job. About Portland and the weather and my family and how we didn't know what sex the baby was. We talked about my days in college and how I dissected a cadaver and how Donovan was a theology major turned software developer and yes he was very squeamish. So don't make him look. I was funny and I felt so good and I made some jokes, but now that I think about it, that might be the pain meds talking.

Donovan arrived and I greeted him so cheerfully. My head was next to him and a big blue sheet was up so we couldn't see anything past my chest. Several doctors worked on the other side of the sheet. One doctor (the pain med doctor) stood with Donovan and me on the other side and explained how things were going. Do you feel anything? Nope! And away they went. Donovan and I chattered nervously. It was hard to imagine we would be parents soon! I think we said this a few times. We must have been so delirious by then! They asked how we would like to do things. We decided they could show us the baby and announce the sex when we saw it, but not before! The several doctors in the room were all women and they were all so excited! What would the baby be?! They shouted a few times so all could hear, no ruining the surprise! We are all going to be quiet and wait!

At one point someone said something and I realized the baby was out! There was a freakish quiet in the room and I was so scared. Was the baby alive?! Seconds passed and still no noise. Then a squeal! Yippee! Such a petite little sound. And then nurse arrived on our side. I saw a little gray alien and a big umbilical cord clamp (which I thought was a penis at first) and they said IT'S A GIRL! And I looked and thought, no way! And they said it again, and I was so overwhelmed with love and joy, I was so glad to see our beautiful little girl!


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

birth story

A friend of mine started writing her birth story and asked me to blog about mine too. It feels very raw still and difficult to do, but those are the best stories! So I will make my slow attempt, but it might take a few entries.

As many of you know, I went to the hospital two weeks before Eva was born and was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. They kept me in triage for 7 hours and sent me to a recovery room overnight to keep an eye on me. How annoying! Only now I can see how childish it was of me to stress so much about such a small thing. In comparison to our birthing journey, this seems so uneventful. Something helpful that came out of that time was hearing the many women come through triage and some of them being sent unexpectedly to Labor and Delivery. Only two weeks later I would be one of those ladies.

I walked from our apartment to my OB appointment, this was around 1pm. It was the Friday before Memorial Day. Donovan was working from home and we ate a sandwich at home together for lunch around noon. Then I headed out, waddling through our steep (downhill) streets, saying hello to the friendly golden retriever, and walking into the dreaded Kaiser building. I poke fun at Kaiser and sometimes I feel bad about it. But the layout is so dreadful and I often was sent to 3-4 different offices on their campus in one visit (non stress testing.. in the basement, OB office, OB check in on a different floor, L&D.. across the street, or the lab). Did anyone ever think, oh, maybe new moms and very pregnant women, with high blood pressure to boot!, shouldn't be doing all of this stressing out and walking around? And then did anyone ever think, hmmm, maybe taking their blood pressure right when they walk in the door is a bad idea? Just sayin. I only later realized how unique it is that Eva and I can say I walked to the hospital on the day of our birth. It almost sounds like one of those fake stories (I walked uphill in the snow for two days!).

My OB appointment lasted about 5 minutes. I took my time and asked the lady to delay my BP test because I had just arrived. My doctor did a quick exam and noticed I was not dilated at all and my cervix was too high to feel the baby's head. We did a quick ultrasound (which wasn't covered by insurance and cost $290!) and found out the baby's head was down. I'm not sure why this was necessary, as I had been feeling insane kicking in my ribs for the last several weeks including that day. My OB sent me off to non stress testing and then to the lab just to do some "precautionary" blood testing. I went to the lab and got the tests done. Waddle waddle down the hall, down the elevator, out the door, across the street and down the stairs. Then to non stress testing (laying down and being monitored for an hour)... waddle waddle back to the same building, finding the mystery elevator, down to the basement. No cell reception there. I got a call on the landline as soon as I laid down and got comfy. "We need you in L&D right now!" Okay, this is getting silly. Waddle waddle, back to the lab building, into another secret elevator, up to the 4th floor. That's when things went from silly to serious.

When I got there I recognized the sweet triage nurse, Emma. She didn't settle me in as she did two weeks ago. I pulled out my book and heard whispers "so, do you want me to tell her, or you?" Ut oh. Then I see a familiar face, Anika! She tells me the shocking news, "we got your results back from the lab... high numbers across the board... you're having a baby today!... call your husband" What?! I protested for a while but she didn't care. I wondered if there was any way we could hold off. I wondered if my cervix being rock hard made me disqualified, it didn't. I wondered if bed rest would help, it wouldn't. Shoot. I'm totally stuck now and all my hopes of having a beautiful natural birth at Walnut Creek hospital were slipping away. It took a great deal of acceptance to walk out of triage and into a L&D room, call my husband and say, "we're having a baby." (Actually I was so shocked and sad at first that I texted him, then called and said I wasn't kidding.)

Just one day before we had been at Kaiser Walnut Creek looking at the birthing tub (not in Oakland), dreaming of our natural birth, and imagining arriving at the hospital after I had spent a good deal at time at home dilating. We even had a cute little thing for our car that said Stork Parking! and allowed us to park in places that were special so that we could get into their delivery rooms faster. Now I was in Oakland being asked 100 questions by an intern named Will, lying in L&D, waiting for my doula and husband to arrive, in a hospital gown, at 0cm! This is not how I imagined it. Over the next two days I had to have a lot of acceptance of that, of things not being how I imagined. My doula says that I took the dramatic change of events very gracefully. I like that. I like that she sees something beautiful in those moments. Inside I was feeling crazy. And the crazy would only get worse after they put me on my first medication, magnesium.

Magnesium is to assist people with HELP syndrome (which I had, which basically means I had a whole bunch of scary and escalating pregnancy symptoms that could only be cured by having the baby... high BP, protein in my urine, etc, etc). Dr Anika told me magnesium is nothing to be scared of, and is "natural", it's on the table of elements! It was mandatory (as far as what I could tell) so that I didn't have a seizure during labor. Whew! Like I said, things were getting more and more serious. This is what it really is: a depressant of your nervous system that makes everything slower, including lowering my tone of voice and just generally making me feel like all the gross parts of being drunk but none of the happy-peaceful-drug induced feelings. Also, it meant that I could not eat or drink anything. Only later during a serious contraction did someone mention that this would not be for days (all of the labor and then 24 hours afterwards). I think the medical community seriously needs to revisit the use of anything during labor that doesn't allow food to be consumed with it. That's like asking a marathoner to fast a week before the run. What... why?! Somehow when you're in labor you can think all sorts of crazy things like this, and I did, but none come out. I was determined to be in a zen like state. I'm sure my eyes bugged out of my head on that one though!

The doctors really really wanted to hook me up to that magnesium right away but I said I need my husband and doula here to help me before I make any decisions like that. So Donovan arrived about a year later. Or maybe it was an hour later, but it felt like a year. I was so relieved when he got there. I think it was about 4pm at this time. It took my doula a little longer but eventually she came and I got hooked up and I could tell by her face that this wasn't ideal and she knew I knew it wasn't ideal but we had to roll with it. I took two little oral pills to get the dilating happening, not sure what they were even, and off we were, on a slooooow labor journey.

Between 4pm and later that night lots of staff came in and introduced themselves even though it was a three day weekend and they would be off soon. Then the next round of staff came by. The head of L&D, the anesthesiologist, the nurses. "Do you have any questions? Any questions?" Really, I just wanted to sit with Donovan and Sadie and get really peaceful. There was little time for this until the middle of the night.

What I do remember about that first phase is that Donovan was relieved and went to get a burrito for Sadie (doula), me and himself. When he came back with my burrito it sat there for hours and got cold, the nurse said I could have it 5 hours after the beginning of my magnesium. So at 9:45pm sharp I whipped out that burrito like I was going to eat it alive but the mag made me so sick that I ate half of it and then set it down. It was there for hours before Don and I had the heart to throw it out, knowing it was my only food for the weekend. In the meantime I was having contractions and not realizing it. Then having contractions and realizing it a bit. Then having crazy contractions and being irritable. Irritable about the burrito, about the lights, about the hospital policies and "pain management scales", about the silly blond haired anesthesiologist, about the ten things I was plugged into that made going pee so hard, about the mag and saline drip that made me have to go pee so bad and often, about my tiny room, about my tub that was gone. Sadie had to go home then. She would sleep and get rested for the day tomorrow. We were to call her in the morning and update her. She could work for 12 hours of active labor before she had to call in her sub. She left and optimistically said "I am hoping the contractions start coming quickly and the baby comes tomorrow evening!" By then and only then did I realize it could take more than just the next day to get through this. I was so sad when Sadie left. It must have been 10:30pm Friday or so.

Fortunately we had an awesome nurse, Jen. She helped me onto the birth ball and talked to me like a human. She let me take off all my cords and pee for a few minutes. Later I had to hook it all back together again... two attachments to the contraction monitor, one giant belt to hold everything on my belly, a whole bunch of slippery goo on my belly, two monitors slipping around on that belly, and finally a plug for the IV. Peeing with the IV in the bathroom kinda made me laugh. I thought of my dad and the many days he spent in the hospital for cancer and how tolerant he must have been to make it through all of those silly hoops, the lists of "do's" and "don'ts." And for such a sadder reason than we had to be in the hospital! That made me realize things are really not so bad. Sometime in the middle of the night Jen left. We didn't realize that Jen was leaving before our baby came (of course, how could one nurse stay on forever?) and we were sad to say bye. Nurse Lisa came to our room and introduced herself.

Sadie had set up a focal point for me with a picture of a baby and candles. There were pictures of Donovan and me and a tiny little onesie. I remember looking at that onesie and thinking about how a little baby would be in it soon! It seems so theoretical. Now she's napping in the bedroom and when I peek in on her she is doing all of her classic behaviors... looking a little pouty face and grouchy, sleeping with her arms above her head, slouched down in her bouncy. I love her. I absolutely could not believe this at that time. I think I conceptualized birth as the end of pregnancy, a painful crescendo to the swelling-sleepless-unflattering-sushi fasting-period of my life, a torture simply for torture. Things get really primal in labor. I think you could tell a laboring woman that this is not true but somehow rationalization doesn't exist in that place. I remember Donovan putting the onesie on the back of the labor bed when they had me on my hands and knees and I was so delusional. I could barely even keep my eyes focused and my head straight.

Those next several hours were contracting and resting, contracting and resting. We listened to music... then we listened to silence because I got irritated. We turned the lights down. Donovan helped me pee. I peed alone. The clock didn't exist. Really, once I had fully dialated that was so eventful that this period of dilation and early active labor are somewhat of a cloud to me. Nurses kept promising that they would move me out of the tiny room we had been placed in. At some point we were moved and we were on another floor.

Around 5pm Saturday I recall having a crazy conversation with Donovan. "Tell Sadie to come!" "Are you sure?!" "Yes! Tell her to come now!" "Now, are you sure?" "YES, NOW!" I was irritated to waste my precious breath on convincing him and because Sadie couldn't arrive instantaneously. The pain became so intense! Maybe it wouldn't feel so bad if she was here! be continued...

Friday, July 2, 2010


I love her little nose. Sometimes it flares, those teeny tiny nostrils getting as big as they can and I call her my hippopotamus.
She has these lovely little coos. Everytime she does it my heart melts. "ooooh!"
Her little eyebrows have such character. They twist in wonder and curiosity, just like adults!
I love looking in her big eyes and seeing the reflections in them. There is plenty of time for this when we're breastfeeding or burping.
She loves gazing at the trees and the bright sky. She loves being in her stroller and going for walks.
I love stroking her soft baby hair.
I love looking at every inch of her... seeing every part of her skin and just observing her.

When I am holding her and feeding her I can't imagine anyone ever wanting to hurt a child. It makes me shiver just to think of crimes against children. I can never imagine what a parent would feel if something bad happened to their child.

I love showing her things and realizing they are brand new to her. A human being who has never seen grass! Never heard a certain word... "car"! Never smelled a flower, never listened to jazz, never watched someone cook, never seen someone brush their teeth. I love realizing this is her first time doing something. Her first time eating, her first poop, her first time outside, her first time in a car. Her first walk, night at home, month of life, time at the beach. My time flies quickly!

I love this little girl!

I worry with Donovan about the future. Will she learn compassion and empathy? Will she have a beautiful nose? Will she be something smart and great? Will she love us or reject us? Will she know and love God? I guess it's a parent's work to wonder about a child and pray for their protection and to at times feel lost in the smallness of our parenting and the largeness of the unknown.

Monday, June 7, 2010

we had a baby!

We had a baby girl! She is sweet smelling and has little legs that fold up like she's still in the womb. We are enamored and couldn't be more thrilled. Yes, it is very hard to wake up in the middle of the night and feed and diaper when I am tired.... usually once around 1:30am and 4:30am, those are the hardest times. But when I look in her eyes when she is breastfeeding it is so precious and it's all worth it. She is a sleepy little girl... she had jaundice but as of today it is under control, I was so glad to hear the good news when the doctor called!

Right now we are reformatting my computer so I don't have all of my pictures uploaded to a place where they can be accessed, but I will put them up somewhere soon and I'll let you know.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

pregnancy in a nutshell

In the last days of pregnancy I thought I would write some thoughts on this journey, as it is soon to come to an end (enter sigh of relief).

Early in pregnancy:
I was so excited to tell Donovan! I found out at work one day via email from Kaiser. I called him and I think he thought it was a joke :) He had to ask "really?!" a few times.

I kept the pregnancy a secret at work for a while (I wanted to at least wait 12 weeks) but eventually the whole staff knew. They liked to tease me about being out of breath when I walked up the two big flights of stairs. I was a little frustrated that my coworker had the great idea of walking personal notes up to the 2nd and 3rd floors at the end of every work day as a "plan B" to our daily email reminders for the same information. Somehow even though the baby was so small my breathing was so seriously labored, even by week 10 or so. Sometimes I had to sit down in their offices and just laugh at myself.

One day at work I ate a big plate of pineapple and a box of mushrooms for lunch. I definitely got some stares. My coworkers didn't know yet.

During the first difficult weeks I spent a lot of time in our filing cabinet room taking quick naps while other clinicians were in session. I could hardly stay awake enough hours of the day to drive myself to work, work, and come home and crash on the couch. Apparently baby making is quite the chore, even when it's the size of your fingernail!

Donovan did a lot of cooking and ordering pizzas for us when I was in my first trimester. The kitchen made me sick and the thought of walking around and cooking sounded so exhausting. I would be hungry but I would rather starve at that point than make myself something to eat. Poor baby, it didn't get the best of nutrition then. I did take my vitamins though!

We had a little habit of going to Five Guys during that time. I couldn't help but feel really compelled to eat fatty and protein rich foods. (Yuck! This sounds so gross to me now!)

I felt the baby move for the first time just before Christmas. So sweet! At that time it was like a little belly gas moving around... just the faintest jitter and if you tried to feel it from the outside you couldn't.

My first thoughts of the baby are... who is this person going to be? How do we want to parent? What are some values that we want to stick with in parenting?

Mid Pregnancy:
We took a trip to Oakland, Don found new work, I put in my termination notice, we moved, I lived alone for five weeks, we Skyped... what did we not do?!

I found out my sister was pregnant too, and only 7 weeks behind me. It's so cool that I'm going to be an auntie! I'm really excited.

I think I felt pretty normal during this time. I was growing, yes, but no more food aversion or nausea and I had my energy back. It was like someone flipped a switch and I was myself again.

I looked into birthing centers and doulas only to learn that my research was not applicable since we would be in the Bay area, but it was an interesting journey. I did more reading and learned even more about myself, babies, development, birth, breast feeding and nutrition.

I really let some things go with my work situation. Where I had otherwise felt frustrated and trapped I started to learn to laugh at it and let go, knowing I am only one small piece to a big agency and it takes more than just me to change things. I got a lot of interesting comments from clients and families about my growing belly, some were very anxious about what was going to happen when I left and when I would be back.

I made a creepy movie of the baby moving in my belly in sent it to Don. You could see an extremity (foot?) move from one side of my belly to another. Aliens are taking over!!

I think my thoughts of the baby during this time were somewhat distant. Labor did come to mind once in a while but it still seemed too far off to think about. I think God provided some clarity for me during this time to worry about other stuff (work, packing, moving, etc) which was really good.

Late pregnancy:
People are so funny. East Bayers are much more talkative with strangers than Portlanders and will say the craziest things to me. Last week a homeless man just kept shouting "BEAUTIFUL!" at me. Of course I'm feeling more like a boat or an elephant so I just have to laugh and be grateful. One guy in Portland during my 4th or 5th month was not as nice and said "Pop, pop, pop, looks like you're going to pop at any time!" Of course I was thinking, no "Mr, I'm not, I have another 20 weeks to go."

My back is in pain. I will leave it at that. This kind of pain cannot be described and I can only say Donovan has been a great support with this and has put in a lot of hours to help me.

The baby is so heavy and so strong! I used to feel the baby kick and try to get others to feel it. Sometimes I felt a little crazy... yes, there really is a baby in here! But now it is so big and so strong that you can visibly see my belly move around, there's no guessing. Today I was reading with a book propped on my belly and the book was doing the roller coaster movements. How strange how it all happens without me trying or moving!

My feet are enormous. Most of the time it's funny. Like last night at the party we went to and how long it took me to put my shoes on at the door before we left. Sometimes it really hurts though. Think diabetic feet. When I wake up in the morning it's the worst and I have to get my blood moving. It's like I have a leather boot on all the time and it's strapped on really tight. I can't wait for the swelling to go down. Any new moms know when this happened after birth? I hope it's instant. It's been 7 weeks now of this swollen craziness. That makes the constant urination, limb numbness, lack of sleep, and indigestion all seem like a piece of cake in comparison (note: back pain does not make this list :))

We got a doula. It's relieving to have a plan and a team. We will work in the coming week or two to solidify my "plan" and to work on positions and other education that is helpful to have before labor. Yea!

My thoughts about the baby now... it seems so big and so real. I can't believe it's still in there and content. Lately I've been cheering for the baby, "come out and meet us," "come visit us," "when are you going to come see us?" It seems incredibly human and responsive, unlike the way it did when we first got pregnant and saw that little jellybean shape on the ultrasound. For example, last night it came right next to Donovan's belly and kicked him when we were lying down in bed belly to belly. Then Donovan started talking to it with his face next to my belly and it moved around and kicked by his voice. This reality makes labor all the more real and daunting. It's on my mind daily. In so many ways the pain of late pregnancy makes me want to go in labor soon, yet in other ways when it is mentioned that it could come at any time I am always thinking, "Not right now! One more day!" All in all I consider the pain a gift, without it I would have no motivation to go through the crazy pain of labor.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

its okay that death never feels "okay"

The final part to my letter...

I also think experiencing grief has allowed me a greater joy for what I do still have. At a certain point after he died life returned somewhat to normal again. And now my new normal is knowing that sometimes I am sad that my father died, sometimes telling people about him, sometimes being angry at him or selfishly want to talk to him and have a wise mind to bounce things off of. Normal also just means doing regular things too and not thinking about him at all, like working or talking with friends or going to church. I feel that the majority of that first year I waded through death, through the dark places, through questions and injustice, and through the feeling of things being “cut short.” But there is something different now, like I can experience moments of joy and really embrace them in a way I couldn’t before. It isn’t just that ticking clock that is gone, although that does change things for sure, and mostly it’s a relief not to hear it all the time. It’s like, when my husband and I really connect or I get really excited about the baby that is ready to come in June or something really amazing happens with my church body or my friends I can really praise God for those moments because I know that they are fleeting but they are those same things that are little pieces of me (and them) that are impressed on each other for this short time we have on earth that no one else can share. Those are the same things I hold dear even now with my father... the days we could fit side by side in a big arm chair and watched TV, how I used to try to lace up his work boots for him in the morning as a young child, the first time he taught me to make coffee, our frustrating adventures of me learning to drive, our recent trip to the Gorge with the dogs.

I can’t say grieving is all over. Just this morning I was thinking of him when I was making breakfast and wishing he would have eaten healthier to perhaps lower his likelihood of getting cancer or increase the quality of his last years of life. Things pop up at church a lot too, like last week when we talked about the healing that Jesus did of the man at the well and how my father and our whole family prayed for years for healing and it never happened. I cried like a baby and in my heart I wondered why some are healed and some live a crippling painful death that lasts for years. I guess in some sense I resolve that by being grateful that God allowed for us to have more time with him on earth to enjoy before he died. But I still miss him. Sometimes Donovan says something about my behavior (like stubbornness or impatience, traits that many women in my family have not just me) and says something about empathizing with my dad for dealing with us all for so many years and I am somehow softened and warmed by my dad showing up in our day.

Grief has been quite the journey. It is messy and so not easily categorized as some clinicians may explain it to be. I was all over the board in those five years. And in the aftermath in the last 14 months I have experienced new feelings I never new I had in me and old feelings that have been there in this whole process too. At first I made long lists of why he got cancer, I worried about getting it myself and about my children getting cancer one day. I blamed his work, I blamed him, and I blamed God. I tried being normal and moving forward with life as if nothing was wrong, I tried processing how it had taken a toll on me and even saw a therapist for a long period of time specifically about how this was changing our family system, and I tried being intentional with him. The truth is, we can do all we can do to prepare ourselves for death but we can never really accept it, we can never really feel okay with it. My pastor at the time of my father’s death shared with me a scripture that comforted me saying essentially that... that on this earth there is pain and death and injustice but in heaven it is different because God brings completion and wholeness. So our humanity has us right on target, it feels bad, it feels undone, and that’s okay. So maybe I will always feel that... I’ll feel sad my child doesn’t get to meet it’s maternal grandfather, I’ll feel sad that my father’s life was mostly work and no retirement, I’ll feel sad we never grew into a good adult parent/child relationship, but the good news is that with God there is wholeness and completion and all the things we long for because God longs for those things too.

I hope this helps piece a few things together as far as how I have traveled this road of grief thus far and gives you some real life material to use for class.

Peace to you in your own journey, as I know it is a difficult road.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

then we all cried, and somehow that soothed me

My father had a hard time with his mother. He was always in contact with his parents and they all lived in the Portland area their whole lives. I think he wanted to be a good parent because he knew he didn’t get the kind of emotional support that he needed from his parents. But something about being raised the way he was made him unsure at the same time, not confident that he was doing parenting right, not fully able to let go and be honest with me and my siblings, never able to say “I’m sorry” or show weakness. Death opened up this big door for me and I feel like in a few ways, I know my father more fully and cohesively now than I did when he was alive. The pieces of how his childhood affected our parent/child relationship became clearer. I started to see how complicated it was to be raising adult children while he was managing a very difficult adult child/parent relationship himself. As a family therapist I feel enriched by learning more about our family dynamics and history in this last year in a way that people are not open to talking about unless someone has died. But no one in the profession really wants to know personally even if there is benefit in being able to empathize with others, because it means you have to walk that hard road yourself. In addition to the family piece, I heard many stories at his funeral and in the week before the funeral as visitors came to my mom’s house from his friends, coworkers, old high school buddies, etc. I was starting to see that there were things that everyone knew: he loved people and hearing people’s stories, he never complained about his cancer or aches and pains and almost to a fault did not let others be burdened by his pain, he loved his family and loved telling others about family events, and he was a very ethical man and worker. There was so much freedom for me in knowing that others knew this too.

The day that he died we were called at 3 or 4am. We were asked to meet my mom at the house... the worst request ever. That meant there was an emergency that couldn’t wait until morning, and that meant that he wasn’t being rushed to the hospital. I had stayed up the night before researching furniture on the internet and I nervously told Donovan about all the strange Craigslist discoveries I had made, trying to put out of my mind the urgency, the car ride, the possibilities. We were both in our pajamas. I could tell Donovan was really concerned by the look on his face and by a few things he said to try to snap me out of my chatter, but I couldn’t imagine what it could be and I didn’t want to until I really knew. I remember having this urge to yell at Donovan once we got within a mile or so, JUST GO FASTER. But I didn’t say anything, I knew it was crazy and that nothing could make it better. I ran from the car when we got there and my brother in laws were both outside looking sad and saying I should go inside. From there I can’t remember anything. I think my mother told me he died and I yelled some questions back at her very harshly and she held me while I cried. At one point the funeral home was called and we were given a chance to say our goodbyes to his body before they came. I hated to see him dead but I sat there for a long time. I thought, in my denial and fear, that I saw him breathing and that there was something we could do. I tried to tell others but they told me I was imagining it. I remember after that sitting there and thinking how very strange it was that he was not looking back at me. I had never sat with my father before and tried to make eye contact and gotten back a distant stare. In the following days I asked questions about everything, and I was stuck on what could have been done to avoid his death that night. Although when I thought about it I knew that if he had lived it would eventually happen anyway.

That first day I saw his clothes folded up from the day before with his change in his pocket. I saw all the food he liked in the fridge and felt strange when I sat down in his favorite chair as a few guests arrived at the house. I think I went into a frozen mode. I called everyone in the phone book on my mom’s behalf and told them the news and how to contact us about funeral information. The first call was hard but after that I became fine at it. I was surprised at how childish some of these big parental figures were when I spoke to them on the phone. I was surprised that they needed me to say he is in a better place without pain; they needed to be sad and told that it was okay. Somehow this was easier than seeing someone a year later who had not heard the news (an acquaintance of ours from my elementary school days). She simply asked “how are your mother and father?” and I cried, not knowing what to say. I eventually got out that my dad had died a year earlier but I felt embarrassed that it made me cry right there in public. It was fresh all over again.

The numbness and dark cold feeling lasted that whole week after he died. I saw my most favorite sight in Portland and the only thing I could think was that my father loved and served this whole city (as a PGE worker) for his whole life and because of that I wanted to leave. I remember feeling so sad for a few days and then the first time I laughed I was in the car with my sister and I felt bad for laughing. How could I laugh again? My emotions were all over the place, and I was not myself. My mother tried to reach out to me once at the funeral home saying “you never got to grow old having a father” and I shut her down with no remorse; I didn’t even ask my husband how he was doing until days later; I broke down uncontrollably at a family dinner and didn’t stop crying for over a half hour. I lived in this weird week where time was not real and where I wanted to change it and go back one week so badly. I didn’t want the funeral to come because I wanted to process it all. I wanted the space to think. But eventually it did come. And the funeral ended up to be so very comforting. I saw others pain and loss which was so unique from mine and I realized I was not the only one hurting. It was a celebration for me to laugh and cry and to remember with a big room of other people who all had their own stories and experiences with him. I especially wondered how his mother felt being there or his older cousins and aunts and uncles, those who remembered him being born and a young child only to die at 53.

For months I was stuck on what he didn’t get in life by dying young. He was such a hard worker and wanted to enjoy retirement and never got there. I was stuck on the injustice of death. It added fuel to the fire that in the company that he was so devoted to, several other men in his line of work (working on high powered electricity lines) also got cancer but the company did not take responsibility for the cancer or deaths. I did think about eternity in the early days after he died, but having some distance from the grief I can see that his experience in heaven is far greater than any unfinished or unfair thing that happened on earth. I thought those things then but I couldn't really understand it like I do now with some distance.

When I think about what all this experience has given me I think it has made the circle of life more clear to me. I can see how family patterns can be passed down from generation to generation and how fragile the human spirit is. I can also see that there is so much to still want from life here on earth, that nothing is perfect, and in knowing that, it’s pretty freeing because we can hope in God and not this world and can look forward to our time with God, our communion, after we die. I think my dad really loved his family although he couldn’t always show it, and I think, praise God, because when we get to heaven all of those inadequacies and worries and fears and self doubt and unfinished parts of our inner person will be complete in God. How very beautiful. I am so glad my father has that and can be free.

Monday, May 24, 2010

i cried, for a very unique person was gone (Ch 2)

I will say, being a newlywed has been a hard dynamic in the midst of this grief. I love my husband. He is open and honest with me like no one else has been and in many ways I feel has been God’s gift to me to show me that a man can be open and loving since I didn’t always see that in my father. But there were nights when I cried myself to sleep after my father died. I felt guilty sometimes when I did it, like I wanted to just stop and let Donovan be enough for me. But my heart was so torn, so sad, so very bruised. And it didn’t feel like that would ever go away. My father was my friend. There was something about our friendship that no one else in the world could give me, and for that I cried. I grieved the loss because it could never be given back to me, it could never grow and continue, and I feared it would eventually even be erased from my own memory. My dad and I laughed together in a way that my husband doesn’t truly see as funny, I guess in a cynical way, in a so-sad-you-have-to-laugh kind of way. There is something about our person that is similar, something that is alike, something that through being socialized by him or being born from his blood makes me like him. I can’t help but have his sense of humor, and I can’t make Donovan have it when he doesn’t. I grieved that being gone. I grieved all the little tiny things I remembered us doing together as a child and I guess I was happy to have those moments and sad that the person who they were created with was gone forever. I was so sad that no more memories could be made.

There was a hope in me for a while that things would go on as normal. For so long we got used to “things being really serious” that we didn’t get phased by it as much anymore. My dad would go through a long and hard surgery and we would all pray for him and call him and check up on him when we could, but we knew that as it had been in the last few years that he would be fine and life would still limp along. Eventually he would do less but still participate. He drove us to the mountain as a family once a year, but he would ski a half day instead of a whole day. He would work until the end of his work day (3pm) but not work any overtime. He would come to family events but sit in a chair. I think towards the end of his life I got even less sentimental because one just gets tired of worrying themselves silly for over five years. It wasn’t conscious, but I thought he would always be there. Although when it came to big decisions I always remembered him and worried about his cancer and if he would be around. I moved back to Portland after graduate school was done and even rushed the process by a few months saying it was because I couldn’t find a job in Portland as a therapist and wanted to get the ball rolling. Really, I was afraid that time was running out. Several people in my church community didn’t understand why I left LA and did so quickly. I think that was one of the smartest things I did for myself in this whole process. Just four months after my move up my father died. Those four months were such a precious and fun time. I worked odd hours and had the time to come to see him at least once a week. He would take me out to eat because he doesn’t cook and I didn’t have the money to treat myself out. We would talk about very basic stuff, but it was just good to be together. I imagined (after he died) that if we had more time we would go on growing as adults in this more “equal” type of relationship, co-adults, although me always knowing that he was my father. This is more than a friend because he knew me at my birth and through every single step until the moment he died. A kind of friend that knows you like that I guess can really say what they think and you have to listen because they have such a deep context for relating to you. That’s the piece that I’m talking about when I say that Donovan didn’t really perfectly fill that grief, because although he has known me in a different way and known me for several years, there is something he can never know completely and that many cannot know, and that died and was buried the day that my father died.

So moving forward after his death is very painful. He was so interested in my decision-making as a young adult. He wouldn’t impose but he would share his concerns. He worried at times that we were too young to be married, that we didn’t have enough money to make it, and that whatever challenge we went through might break us instead of make us stronger. So the first time I moved apartments after he died I cried, knowing that he had helped me hang some practical things on the walls and helped put the pieces of our bed frame together. Once I undid them I knew I could never again say “my dad helped me do that.” The first time I got a job after he died I knew that he would love to talk to me about how it was going, and although some people in my life did that it didn’t replace his curiosity and the conversation that only he and I could have had about it. And by far the hardest thing was finding out I was pregnant almost exactly six months after his death. I was surprised at the news and so happy. But a part of me was so sad to know that my father would never become a grandfather. Moving on meant that I had to learn to make decisions and changes without him there to catch me in case something went terribly wrong. It felt venerable but it also felt good, it felt adult, it felt right for Donovan and I to stand as our own family even though it was kind of forced.

Friday, May 21, 2010

life with grief, Ch 1: faith, death and our family

I recently wrote a letter to my dear friend Louis. He had asked for some thoughts on death, dying, grief, life and the family system. Over the next few days I will post a series which makes up my long letter to him. I'm doing this because I'm at this place where I really value cancer awareness but am not sure how I can contribute to the community. Maybe this can be the beginning.

It’s been a year and two months since my father died, and only now can I bring myself to say something solid about what death is, how I have grieved, or who my father is to me. I found out in August 2003 that he was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer and that in only 5% of the cases similar to his would he live longer than five years. It was more than likely that he would live less than that time, and since then there was a terrible ticking clock at every holiday, every birthday, every graduation, every Monday morning, every turn of a chapter that this could be the last time he was with us.

It is hard to live in transition in your teens and early twenties with so much changing to feel so grounded by something like your father’s impending death. My family did not really want me to move to LA for graduate school, but on the outside they were excited for me. I think everyone including myself wondered how I would cope if he died while I was away at school. One time I was deep in my spring term school work and my father was scheduled for a spur of the moment and very serious surgery. I struggled for a week to figure out what to do and then bought a plane ticket even though we had so little money and flew to Portland not knowing if he would even be alive when I got there. The odd thing was he was happy to have me there as a distraction and pretended that I wasn’t there because of the surgery. We went out to dinner. I have a picture of us there. In all of his pictures there is so much underneath the surface. If I look back at our family photos in the last five years I see his pain, his excitement to be with us, our fear that this can’t last forever, our joy that we have at least that moment, and all of us wanting it just to be normal.

When I worked as a therapist in graduate school all of this was going on... the ticking clock, the fear that I would miss something, the rest of life that was exciting and moving at a fast pace, the love that I had for my father, the anger that I had at him for not being honest with me about how he was doing physically, the sadness for the things I wanted from him as a child that I knew I would never get if he died now. By a strange set of circumstances I was offered a position working with cancer patients and their families. Some of them during the last stages of life, others in the early parts of grieving a death. I was very honest that I was sorting through those things myself and told my colleagues of my father, some of my own challenges in my family because of it, and how it affected my work. At that point I had been living with and processing my father’s illness for nearly four years, learning how to talk to people about how he was doing and how they could pray when I wasn’t even really sure what was going on with him. At times I felt like ignoring my parents and moving on with life, at other times I was more sensitive and worried and tried to reach out and help. Over those years I felt like my father wanted to keep things a secret and live life without us worrying but I felt pushed away. I remember one of the concepts in our counseling work at that agency sticking with me during the last years of my dad’s life “a new normal.” They said that families dealing with cancer have such a different perspective, but they find their new normal and live in that and often can thrive.

Our new normal was so... us. My father lost his entire retirement in the Enron scandal in 2001 and for a short time was very angry and unapproachable about the topic. He was a Christian but was not the type to sort things out externally or talk to others... especially to family and especially about his faith dilemmas. At some point we all realized that his cancer made it impossible to ever earn back money enough to live into retirement. And I’m sure he realized that he wouldn’t live that long either. There wasn’t a big event that happened but eventually we got to laughing about Enron, about how it all went down, about how blind all of the employees felt, and how in the end, it doesn’t really matter. My dad talked to me one day about God’s judgment, about what I thought happened to people like Kenneth Lay, and about living in this world when we don’t actually see justice pull through. In this sense my father is a great pillar of faith to me that I can draw on even now, even though we couldn’t talk about faith together most of the time. I can put my tiny life trials into perspective when I know that he lived through great injustice and is now with God enjoying eternity without any of that bitterness on his radar. So I guess our new normal was a humor that only we could understand, an acceptance that life is life and that our narrative with God is so much greater, and that pain will be here (like cancer, like financial ruin, like wanting more from our families and knowing we can never have it).

to be continued...

Monday, May 17, 2010


This is a pic of the proud soon to be daddy the day before his MAOL graduation (and moments after his final paper defense). We are both so glad that he is finished and ready to start this new chapter. He got to celebrate graduation with some APU colleagues and they were all so nice and excited to see me and my belly. LA was so nice and an amazing time to visit old friends and go to Palm Springs. We enjoyed our last pre baby vacation.

So far the baby room is on it's way. It's at least walk-around-able and the basics are set up. Which makes me feel great. And we have a stroller and car seat in the car. So the hospital will let us take the baby home. Yea. Donovan has had several funny moments of "oh my gosh we're really going to be parents" lately. One was when he was assembling the crib and using a clean diaper to wipe down the crib wood. Oh my, how we never imagined our Saturday nights would be so exciting! :) And earlier today he tried to fit his laptop in the backseat and realized there was no room (car seat takes priority!) only to do the same thing a moment later in the trunk (oops, the stroller is there!). Life is changing. Or in his words, life has already changed.

Don is busy developing at Beezwax and trying to get in as many hours as he can. With our recent trip to LA for graduation and our hospital visit last Friday it's been hard to get in the office and clocking the hours. On top of that he's wrapping up some interesting thoughts he was developing while working on his Master's degree and hoping to read more of several texts that he started before baby comes. And last night he was working on making his own database to track student loan repayments. I think he loves order and development and learning! It's interesting to watch. Developing would be like torture to me but he really loves it. I'm curious to see how being a parent and loving the above mentioned will all work out practically. We will see.

As for me, I'm on a daily battle versus the man... Kaiser. I'm trying to stay positive about my interactions with them but every time I have new hope I am met with staff who change my frame of mind. One example is that a tech said a gendered pronoun when talking to me after an ultrasound after I had just said we are keeping the baby's sex a secret. I hope she was just being an idiot and not spoiling the surprise accidently. Another is the following story....

I did a 24 hour urine test last week because I had a bit too much protein showing in my urine samples at the OB. I dropped it off at the requested place and they said, oh, you should bring it downstairs to another floor and they'll take it. The woman down there was so confused but took it anyway. This was at 9:30am. Then at 5pm or so they called and scolded me for not bringing in my urine. This was concerning for two reasons: customer service quality and ... I just did a lot of work to collect that urine sample and they lost it?! I think this is some kind of weird test they do to see how psychologically stable you are before you give birth :) I'm not sure if they ever found it but several hours later they called and said the urine sample still showed an increased protein count and that I needed to come in the following day. So I really am seeing them now 1-2 times a week and having strange interactions with them. The good news is, just one quality person on staff can really change the experience.

I think being new to the area just makes it that much harder too... the Kaiser parking gets me confused and I was shocked to learn that it is a paid lot ($1/half hour!), the buildings are all spread out over 3 blocks and I get lost often, and the elevators are super slow but now I have to wait for them because everyone checks my BP constantly and if I climb stairs it's just bad news. So when I rant a little on Facebook about how homebirthing is really the only option for my next birth this is some of the context to my comments... I just don't know if I can handle the big Kaiser system with all of it's mishaps for another 9 months of my life. Today I had a "non stress test" done and I listened to some really chill tunes ("Making Whoopie", Coldplay and some others) to help me out... turns out my BP was "excellent" according to the tech, great news! My saving grace has been an amazing doula, Elizabeth, who has been incredibly supportive and kind. More on her awesomeness to come.

Today I am making another big mom commitment... I'm washing my first set of newborn things so they are ready when baby arrives. I love looking at the tiny arm and leg holes and thinking about it's little body fitting in there. I can't wait to meet this little person!

I miss family and friends and wonder how life will unfold here. We're getting connected with a few couples that we've met (through Don's work, Craiglist (HA!) and church) which makes me excited. And I am hopeful that Le Leche League and church can provide some more structure and support for me as a stay at home mom. It feels vulnerable and new to start a family in a new city. It also feels exciting and invigorating to be close to SF (20 minutes) and think about exploring this new world as a family.

Well, that's life where we are right now. Update us on what's new in your life too!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


We got the internet connected in our new place! It is so great. Donovan and I haven't had it in our apartment since early 2009, wow, life is a little bit different... always looking for coffee shops with wifi and doing stuff through our phones.

Right now Donovan is surfing the internet looking up research stuff to finish off his capstone paper for his Master's degree. And I've been updating my baby registry and catching up on things.

Yea! This is a great day!

Friday, April 23, 2010


Oakland is nice's sunny
...the people are so friendly
...the view from our apartment is so pretty... trees and a view of the bay in the far distance. And we have lots of space. Don did a good job picking it out!
...the people at Beezwax (Don's work) are so cool. They are all so sweet. They helped us move in and ask curious questions, and are generally helpful and so kind. One family wants to give us some of their baby stuff that they are done with, nice! We shared a ride to Cupertino with another guy yesterday and he told us all about moving to the States from Guam and falling in love. So special!

I do miss friends and family. I miss good espresso. I miss my family's puppies and their mischief. I kinda miss the pleasure of working hard and getting a paycheck, even though I struggled every day at work and resented a lot of the structure of the work environment and the restriction it put on my work as a therapist. The vast difference between that and the unstructured life I live now is so strange. It reminds me of the summer after grad school when I went from full speed to relatively nothing to do.

I do have things to do though. We need to tie up several loose ends that we haven't finished up in Portland... taxes, selling our car, switching insurance, paying off some bills, changing our addresses on everything, etc, etc. But my brain seems to be easily distracted and overwhelmed and I feel like there are long moments where nothing at all gets done. For some reason when you're on the clock at work that's ok, that unproductive, spin your wheels feeling. But at home it can just be so ... I don't know... sad.

Seven more weeks til baby comes. The baby room is a mess and we haven't taken one course for parenting or birthing prep. In addition Kaiser hasn't called back with appointment info and my doula is going to be out of town around mid June unexpectedly. I do think that resolving these things and getting a few major items (ie diapers, a stroller, and a mattress) will make me feel more settled and ready. I feel like such a bad first time mom for even saying how unprepared I am. But it's true, we still live the lives of transient 20 somethings and I think it will take the baby being out of the womb for us to truly change and be somewhere.

In the last week I have attempted to reorganize my life so I at least know what I'm not getting done yet. I've moved in the majority of our stuff into it's place in our new apartment. I've met a few people from Beezwax and given my hubby some TLC after a long break apart from each other. If you think of me this week, pray that there is hope in my heart, that my efforts are fruitful, that my life finds some rhythm, and that God is in our midst. In addition Don needs a ton of prayer, for finishing up his Master's degree work in the next two weeks, for settling into his work and finding a way to schedule things so he gets compensated fully for his time, and for his stress in general. Good sleep is a big part of this for him, as many of you know.

Eventually when we come home from our celebrations in LA for his graduation we want to explore Oakland and San Francisco for the few weeks we will have before baby comes. There are some shops and a few places in the city that we would like to see... there is so much of this area that we need to explore, really. We will have to post more as we find fun new things! And then have you each down and show you them in person.

Well, here's to life in Oakland!

Monday, April 5, 2010


I took a video of my belly tonight. The baby was doing some crazy things in there. I thought I would send it to Donovan so he could see it. Since our internet is very slow here it is not yet sent to him, but I hope by the morning it's finished going through. It kinds looks like an alien lives in there. Or it's some kind of weird joke I'm playing on the camera, although I don't really know how I would make that happen. There's a rolling look across my belly a few times. And then there's a crazy shake. I'm glad I finally caught it all on tape, it will be nice to look back on it. And no, I'm not posting it for the world to see. It's a little too weird to show my bare belly to all on the internet, and I'd like to keep this blog public so it isn't a hassle to view it. You'll have to use your imagination. Or come see me :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

spring brings changes

As many of you may know, we are in the midst of transition these days. Don has moved to Oakland and started work. I am back in Oregon working and wrapping some things up. We're planning on moving our stuff down mid April. So for right now Donovan is staying with a nice coworker named Vince and his family and I'm in our apartment. Eventually we will have a couple of weeks in late April to settle into our new place. And then I will need to fly back for one of my baby showers in May. In addition, Don is graduating with his Master's degree and we will be in LA for the ceremonies the second weekend in May. I'm so excited to visit our friends in LA! We will be all around the west coast on our adventures but hopefully by late May we will be settled in our new apartment in Oakland and ready for baby Chandler to arrive.

I will miss Portland. I love the spring; Romney's mom says we have the Disneyland of springs in the northwest. I like that phrase. The people have their quirks and although it's not always perfect I think just understanding and knowing Portlanders fairly well helps me empathize with them. We will never be a part of the Voo Doo Doughnut punk crowd, we will probably never wear sandwhich boards or lay down on the bridges and block traffic for a cause, and the fact that we saw our gay mayor and his new boyfriend at our favorite cafe is still a culture shock for us. But I love this place, the weird people, and the sometimes frustrating weather. I remember going to OMSI with my parents when it was first built and when I drive to work in the morning and see Mt Hood I have 1,000 memories to draw from about our adventures there as a family. So many men around Portland have bald heads and big bellies and wear IZOD and work boots, and I can't help but think it's my dad sometimes; it's sad but it's also a comfort in some way. My sister and brother in law live close by, I'll miss driving over to their place to play games and hang out.

The good news is we hear great things about Oakland. Oakland has a soul. Oakland has some deep history. It seems the people in Oakland are as obsessed and connected to the heart of the city as I am to Portland. I am hoping to learn about Oakland and be open to finding out what it is that makes people so in love with this place. Because to be honest, if you look at the exterior, Oakland doesn't seem too magical, if you know what I mean.

We will keep you updated as we continue the new adventure!