Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Memories of Christmas 2011

Special memories of Christmas 2011 in no particular order:

Seeing two of my sons pass the Sacrament.

Hearing my eight-year-old on Christmas morning exclaim how well Santa knows her.

Christmas breakfast made by my eighteen-year-old daughter.

Sharing baby's first Christmas Eve hot tub experience.

Watching my husband build the 1870 detailed replica of a kitchen for our daughter.

Seeing the kids playing games together.

Watching my eight-year-old read her letter from Santa.

Finding just the right presents for my adult children that I knew they'd not only love but use.

Seeing my twenty-one-year-old son loving the cool jacket I picked out for him.

Receiving a pair of brown suede, high top, classic roller skates so I can float around the rink like I used to as a child. And so I can go to the track and skate while pushing my baby in her stroller.

Eating dinner and enjoying holiday traditions with all of my seven children together for the first time in two years (Well, actually, the first time ever since baby Lisbon was born the end of this past August, but it was the first time in two years that the other six were all here.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Santa Present Mix-up

My eight-year-old wrote the following letter to Santa. While she waited for a response, she quite accidentally discovered a present with her name on it from Santa, the day BEFORE Christmas. Oops! Thankfully, Santa (who had brought her a camera) explained the mix-up.

Dear Santa,

How are you? Can you please answer the questions below?

1. How old are you?
2. Do you love Christmas?
3. Was I good or bad?

I think that's all and here are some things I want to tell you. I'm learning a song about you. And I don't know if we are going to set up Christmas decorations and I want to ask you some more questions.

4. What time will you come?
5. How many presents will you give me?
6. Are you going to look into my room because if you do, do you like my bird’s nest?
7. How much candy will you give me?
8. Are you giving my friend Avi coal in her stocking because she doesn’t believe in you?
9. It is true that even if people don’t believe in you that you give them gum because you still want them to believe?
10. Is it true that if children have been naughty that you give them presents?

Well, I think that's it. I hope you don't get really tired by reading this letter, and writing back. I believe in you and also I know that on Christmas Eve you deliver letters and I wish that you would come sooner.


from Liana


December 24, 2011

Dear Liana,

Sorry I didn’t get this letter to you sooner. It has been very busy at the North Pole so I barely had a chance to write back before I took off to deliver presents. Usually, my elves help me write my letters, but I wanted to answer your letter personally this year to explain about the present I dropped off at your house a couple days before Christmas. I put it somewhere your parents would be sure to see it so they could peek inside and maybe let you use it for your Christmas Eve celebration. (Hopefully they weren’t too busy to see it. :-)

Here are the answers to the questions you asked:
1. I am 166 years old, but because of the magic that exists at the North Pole, I have the health of someone who is 50. My wife keeps me exercising during the year but for some reason I still have a big stomach. I eat a lot of cookies. My hands shake a bit, but I am doing really well besides that, especially for being this old.

2. Yes, I LOVE Christmas. I am so grateful to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and that’s why I give presents to all the good children in the world. The wonderful presents He gave them of His life and atonement are far more important than what I could ever give, but I like to do my part.

3. Well, no one can be good every minute, but for the most part you were a good, helpful, and honest child. Being honest is very important to me and I always give extra points to children who tell the truth. I am so glad you were good and honest this year. Not all children are, you know. I can tell you have been trying very hard to be a good help to your mother. You are a lucky girl to have a little sister, and I know you are so happy about her coming into your family. I also know it’s a little hard sometimes, but you are very kind and loving toward her. I am proud of you for that (and that’s the real reason I delivered one of your presents early).

4. I visit houses only when the children are asleep. Usually I plan to come about three or four in the morning, but some houses I can visit earlier because I know the children are already asleep. So somewhere between midnight and four, I will come to your house.

5. I usually give good boys and girls one or two presents plus what is in their stockings.

6. I’m sorry. I probably won’t get a chance to look in your room because I have so many houses to visit. But I bet it looks a lot like the bird’s nest Rudolf found in the attic of the reindeer house. I like that one a lot.

7. Ho, ho, ho. By the time you receive this letter, you will already see how much candy!

8. Avi only pretends not to believe in me. She tries to make you and her brothers think she is cool by not believing, but inside she still believes. She has mostly been a good girl this year so I will bring her some candy for her stocking.

9. Sometimes I do put gum in unbelieving children's stockings. But not always. It depends if they are good, kind, and honest. Sometimes when kids don’t believe, I will try for a few years to help the understand the true meaning of Christmas and what it means to be Santa Clause. So I’ll give them presents and candy. But only if they have done good things.

10. If children are mostly bad and misbehaving and rude, I don’t bring them presents. But often their parents will still buy them presents.

Well, that was the end of your questions. That’s cool about the song that you learned about me. I hope you liked it. And no, I did not get tired reading your letter. I love your letters. I always read all the letters from children and I write back (or I tell my elves what to say because sometimes my hands get shaky). I am glad you believe in me, but mostly I am glad that you are helping your mother and saying your prayers and going to church to learn about Jesus, who is the most important thing about Christmas and all year long.

I love you. Merry Christmas!

Love, Santa Clause

Letter from

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tell Me No Lies Available Now!

I've been working really hard to get this book up on the Kindle for my readers before Christmas, and I made it in the nick of time! This is actually NOT the final cover, as the real one isn't quite finished, but the book has been ready for some time. Since I promised readers the book before Christmas, here it is! This is a fun, romantic suspense novel. Click here to buy it on Amazon. Enjoy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Blowout at the Tabernacle

Okay, I want to be clear from the outset that this post is going to obtain grossness. If you are a mom, you will completely understand and sympathize, but if you’re a teenager and possibly a dad, you might, well, not want to finish reading this. No worries, this is a G-rated blog but when you’re talking babies, it doesn’t get too much grosser than this.

It all started at Macey’s grocery store, where I’d gone to get my seventh-grader a birthday treat for his class. I had just enough time to dash into the store to choose a treat and maybe some little drinks to go along with it.

My newborn had other plans.

Lisbon’s an amazing baby, as I tell her dozens of times every day, and this day was no exception. She decided that it was time to make a mess, so she did. Very thoroughly, clear up her back and through all her clothes. Just as I got her out of her car seat.

I hadn’t brought a change of clothing.

What? You say? Is she crazy not bringing a change? Okay, it’s been a lot of years, and I’d forgotten babies did this. Or maybe I hoped that in the past eight years diapers had gotten better. They haven’t.

I had a choice. Go home without a birthday treat, change the baby and pick up my children, and have to repeat the trip to the store another day (we were already one day late because I’d forgotten, which is understandable seeing as I was busy having a baby). The second option was to change the baby’s diaper, wrap her in her tiny receiving blanket, and run inside.
I chose to go inside because I didn’t know if I’d make it to the store again that week (or out of the house for that matter, and I didn’t want to disappoint my son. I couldn’t just carry Lisbon in the car seat and cover her because she hates her car seat and would cry and fuss and kick that blanket off faster than she can soil a diaper. And though it was warm, I didn’t think people would look too kindly on me taking a nearly naked newborn into the store. (Nearly naked newborn—try saying that five times as fast as you can.)

I chose to go into the store. Using a ton of wipes, I cleaned her up (and up and up) and went into the store. Having only one free hand, I stuck a large box of Oreos in my diaper bag, and carried another one in my hand. The baby struggled, not pleased with being so tightly wrapped, but I managed to keep the blanket on. I paid for the boxes and ran to the car.

Crises averted. I made it home in time to dress her quickly and get to the school. Lisbon was none the worse for wear. She screamed most of the way to the school (did I mention she really hates her car seat?), but we made it in one piece and I was able to soothe her quickly when we arrived.

Fast forward to when Lisbon was six weeks old. I was on a field trip with my daughter’s third grade class to Temple Square. (Yes, I’m one of those paranoid mothers who won’t let her rambunctious eight-year-old go on field trips without her supervision.) They had the great opportunity to talk to the organist there about Bach and to eat lunch before attending a short concert. My husband came along to help me look after the children in our care in case I had to duck out to feed our baby.

Everything went smoothly until the middle of the concert. I sat way in the back all alone so I could nurse the baby with my nifty nursing cover, and as I finished, Lisbon had another incident. She’d soaked her undershirt, her top, and the blanket.

Fortunately, I’d learned from the Macey’s incident, and I had a change of clothing. But I hadn’t seen a bathroom and I had no idea where to go. Plus, I had to help with the children sitting rows in front of me, and I didn’t want to become separated from them or my husband who was sitting with them.

So I did what any experienced mother would do. Forgetting I had a changing pad to lay her on (I never used one with my other six), I set her on her burp cloth and stripped her. Fortunately, it wasn’t cold in the tabernacle, but I can’t say that for the wipes—and I had to use a lot of them to get her clean. My amazing baby didn’t so much as let out one peep as I washed her entire back and changed every stitch of clothing. Rather disconcerting to see a completely naked baby on a bench in the tabernacle, but I since that was the way she was born, I knew it wouldn’t offend anyone looking down on us from heaven.

Using my finely honed mothering skills (actually, I felt like I was all thumbs), I swiftly redressed the baby, leaving off the undershirt as the last song was finishing and Lisbon had a look on her face that told me even she’d had enough.

I finished just as the children came up the aisles. Whew!

Lisbon is now three months old. Needless to say, we have several of these experiences every week, sometimes twice in a day, and once three times, though usually it’s at home. With each adventure, my husband and I just laugh. Hindsight with our six older children (ages 8 to 21) tells us that we are the luckiest two people in the entire world to have the chance to raise one more amazing baby.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Lisbon's Birth

Well, by now most everyone already knows I had my daughter. Lisbon Makayla Nunes was born on Tuesday August 30 at 2:41 PM. She weighed 6 lbs and 13 oz and was 18 1/2 inches long. Her parents, five of her six siblings, her maternal grandmother, and her Aunt Mary were all there to welcome her into the world. She was greatly anticipated and celebrated by all, but especially by me, her mother, as it was a long and difficult pregnancy.

I actually began labor in the early morning the Thursday before with pain as real as any I'd ever experienced with my six other children. I told the children Lisbon was coming that day, and one of my daughters didn't go into work. We were all excited. Then things stalled, and I slowed to two contractions an hour, some of which were painful and some of which were not. I was only dilated to a two. I chalked it up to false or pre-labor, though I'd never experienced painful false labor before.

The entire weekend proceeded without change. By Sunday I was only three dilated, and I was frustrated. After all the ONLY reason I was going to the hospital to have Lisbon was so I could have an epidural and Pitocin, and what was the point if I was going to have to experience so many painful contractions before I even got there? But school was beginning for my two youngest children on Monday, so I didn't push the issue. I did worry about poor Lisbon getting squished for so long. If she didn't move for a bit, I would drink juice and wake her up. I was terrified that horrible would happen to her, and after all that I'd been through, that almost pushed me over the edge.

The contractions continued all Monday, two or three an hour. We had scheduled Tuesday for induction, so that was my light at the end of the tunnel. Early Tuesday morning the contractions had increased to five or six in an hour. Most were so painful I had to breathe through them. When the hospital called to tell me to come in, I was more than ready. I hurried through last-minute arrangements for my other children.

At seven-thirty we arrived at the hospital. I was dilated to a four and was 70% effaced. Definitely in labor, but again the contractions had slowed to two every hour. I was convinced that my age was working against me and that my uterus was simply too tired to finish the job. The midwife suggested doing the labor without Pitocin but even when I was younger I would have taken another 24 hours to give birth, and I was already exhausted.

It took until nine to get the epidural and pitocin going. The contractions were still stalled though. A check three hours later at noon showed I wasn't even dilated to a five! I was 80% effaced, but that gave me little comfort. My mother arrived, and so did three of my older children. My sister showed up a bit later with the two youngest, whom she'd checked out of school. The waiting began in earnest. One of my daughters had to work later, and she was afraid she'd miss the birth. She was already missing a college class to be there.

At two I was still a five, but 90% effaced. The midwife was confused at the slowness and asked the nurse about the level of the Pitocin. They upped it a bit. After about fifteen minutes, I could actually feel the contractions (which still hurt less than the false labor I'd been having so I didn't feel the need to boost the epidural). I'd felt all along that I was too numb because if you can't feel anything, how can you tell when you feel ready to push?

Twenty more minutes passed. Finally I was having regular contractions. I continued to pay close attention to my daughter's heartbeat, making sure she was all right. Then with one contraction, the heartbeat disappeared. I found it seconds later by moving the little monitor on my stomach lower. It happened twice more and, worried, we sent my sister for the midwife. She came back in and reassured us that everything was all right. My mother, a lay midwife, recommended that she check me because something had obviously changed. I agreed.

Minutes later the midwife's face showed surprise. I was fully dilated and ready to go! She hurried out to get the nurse. She also called the nursery for the breathing specialists because she had decided the amniotic fluid was a little dark. I was so upset at this because if they are called to a birth, they get the baby first instead of the mom. Grrr. I KNEW my baby was fine and I wanted her first. And I'd fight them for her! They were not going to stick an unnecessary tube down her nose.

The midwife and nurse hurried in, and I told them them the baby was coming NOW. "Can't you wait a minute?" the midwife asked. Uh, no. I absolutely couldn't. I wasn't pushing, it was the Pitocin, which, they should have turned off by that point if they wanted to slow things down. I could feel that my daughter was already coming out.

Sure enough, my husband pulled back the sheet and there was a bit of our daughter's head. The nurse shoved on her gloves and hurried over to help the baby out while the midwife dived for her gloves. In the next minute, my baby was on my stomach, but the cord was short so I couldn't bring her up to my chest. She was screaming. I calmed her, but the nurse said to let her cry a bit in case anything was in her lungs. I talked to my daughter and told her everything was fine, that she was fine.

My husband cut the cord and finally I could hold my daughter. She had calmed and her color looked great. The nurse rubbed her down with warm receiving blankets while I cuddled her. The breathing specialist showed up but left almost immediately when the learned the baby was already there and (of course) breathing perfectly on her own. Minutes later, Lisbon was nursing vigorously, content but alert.

I worried a little that in the end it had all happened too fast—going from five dilated to giving birth in 41 minutes, but Lisbon seemed fine. She had all her parts, was alert, her vitals were perfect, and as the doctor from Fetal Maternal Medicine predicted, you couldn't tell by looking at Lisbon's back that she has a hemivertebra. While that's definitely something we will have to check into later, it's is NOT something requiring immediate attention or something that will delay her physical progress. No sign, either, of any of the 100 syndromes that are usually attached to an extra half vertebra, something the FMM doctor worried our daughter might have even though she could pick up no signs of one on the many ultrasounds. If I'd never had an ultrasound, as I didn't with my first four natural births, I would never have known about the hemivertibra until it caused Lisbon pain in later life, if it ever caused pain.

The minute Lisbon was out, I began wondering how fast I could get out of the hospital. I wanted my own bed and to be left alone with my precious baby. I'd already told everyone I wanted to leave ASAP, and my midwife had set the wheels in motion. We had to wait for my regular family doctor to come and do a baby check (rolling my eyes—he was in the room two minutes) before we could go home. At 7:09 PM we were driving away from the hospital. My right leg was still a little numb from the epidural, and I wouldn't be able to walk around with the baby in my arms for a bit, but I knew that would pass.

We stopped off for my favorite strawberry-Oreo shake on the way home. It was really good, and I felt great. Of course I was under the influence of over-the-counter Ibruprofen, but still I felt MUCH better than I'd felt in most of the past eight months.

Two days later, we had a rather terrifying fever scare with Lisbon, which had me back to wondering if I'd endured these past eight horrible months only to lose her to some unnamed syndrome or complication after all. But an internal temperature check showed she was within a proper range. I nixed my plans to go to church that Sunday. Lisbon needs to be a little older before she is around a crowd and even then people outside the family aren't supposed to hold her until she's a month old.

I'd stopped taking the Ibruprofen after a few days, but when my milk came in, I had to take it again because the afterbirth contractions picked up again. I'd also developed a bit of a sore throat and a hoarse voice. With this and the huge cysts of milk that have formed in my breasts and under my arms, it looks like I'd better keep taking it for a while. As long as I remind myself to take it easy, I might as well FEEL halfway good. I also have to be very careful of mastitis, since I'm prone to the infection. I'll know in a few days if I've been successful enough to avoid antibiotics, which is my goal. That and making sure Lisbon doesn't get my cold. So far so good. Lisbon is much more content now that she has plenty of milk. She nursed for about eighteen hours out of every twenty-four the first few days—apparently that's what it took for her to feel satisfied with only the colostrum. Now she's content between nursings for two to three hours. She even lets her siblings hold her a minute or two without crying for me. :-) I actually slept last night between and through nursing, an old skill I'm picking back up quickly.

It's over—the long months of waiting and the complications and pains of pregnancy at forty-five. It was ALL worth it. I have my precious reward, and I am enjoying every second of being with her. I can sit and stare at her for hours. In fact, that's pretty much all any of us do around her (you should see how her father dotes on her already). She is a miracle. My miracle. And I'm so grateful to enter this new phase with her.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Picture for Posterity

After multiple requests, I finally succumbed and had my husband take this picture of me for posterity’s sake. I don’t know if Lisbon will care to see what I looked like carrying her (my other six children don’t seem to care all that much), but this picture will be available if she wants to see it. People who know me will barely recognize me with my puffy face and arms and . . . everything. Ugh. Not my best, but here it is.

Incidentally, my newest book, Before I Say Goodbye, is due out September 3rd, so I will have a new baby and a new book all within a week. I know I’m going to enjoy my baby, and I hope you all enjoy the book!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Update #2 on Baby Lisbon

Well, I’ve had four non-stress tests (NSTs) since I last wrote, which means a month has passed since my first update. We are now very close to holding our baby in our arms. If Lisbon does not make an appearance by herself this coming weekend (26-28th), we will induce labor on August 30th. I’d really rather her come on her own, despite how miserable I am, but they worry about me going later because of my age and possible placenta problems.

My last NST on Thursday was during Lisbon’s sleepy time. They had me drink two cups of juice and used a vibrator to wake her up. After that, she was bouncing off the uterus walls. Poor thing. She has been constantly active most of the time, so I wasn’t really concerned about her sleeping, but my AFI (amniotic fluid index) had gone down by half in only one week—it’s now 8, down from 16. Though 8 is not terrible, the midwife would rather see it at least between 10 and 12 at this stage. A too-low AFT can indicate fetal stress, and the drop means I have to go in earlier this week for the NST. If it sinks to a 5 they will likely recommend induction. So I’m drinking lots of fluids and resting, which is the only thing I can do to increase the AFI. Since amniotic fluid levels can change hour to hour, depending on how much fluid is in the baby’s bladder or stomach, the picture could be quite different when I go in on Wednesday.

At any rate, this is my last week for appointments! The little contractions I’ve been feeling for the past two months have stepped up, and several times since last Tuesday I suspected I was going into labor—only to have them fizzle out. Frustrating. I’ve never had false labor contractions that actually felt like real labor before. Now I understand why many women confuse the two. I worry that after six full-term babies, my body has forgotten how to do real contractions. Or maybe I simply don’t have enough muscles left in working order to do the job spontaneously. At any rate, I know I’ll need Pitocin because my four natural labors were between 25 and 29 hours, something I’m not willing to repeat. I have a friend whose longest labor was 4 hours. Four hours! I could do that naturally. Or even 7. But 29? Well, let’s just say you don’t even know which way is up by that time. That means Pitocin and an epidural are definitely in my birth plan.

That’s the news. I am swollen and pretty miserable. I sleep much of the day and am in bed or on the couch for the rest. I try to force myself out to the pool a few times a week because I can actually swim a bit and all the leg and abdomen pain disappears, but going out there requires a motivation I sometimes can’t find. Getting two kids ready to leave for college and three others for school has also been a challenge. I’m so grateful for the Internet and online purchasing. I also discovered that if I use a motorized cart in the store (how embarrassing!), I can go shopping without having to sit down in the aisle to rest or coming home in tears. As long as I bring a child to help me put things in and out of the cart, that is.

I had a couple meltdowns last week because, well, it seems like it’s never, ever going to end. Each day stretches out before me like a month (even with all the sleeping). But I’ve had a lot of support from family and friends. Last week my ward brought dinner in twice, and they plan to do it again this week. I’d declined several offers to hold a baby shower (I’m just too old and besides, I feel rather unsocial right now), but one day last week some people in my ward did a diaper drop at my house. First, three packages arrived mysteriously on the doorstep, and then two more. After that my eight-year-old would go outside to check the front door every so often and come running upstairs to my bedroom with yet another package of diapers. By that night we had 14 packs of diapers, and a few more trickled in later. I ended the week with 20 packs of diapers, 4 packs of wipes, 4 burp cloths, two rattle-type toys, two pacifiers, two outfits, three sleep ’n plays, and some onesies. Finding all those diapers and having them arrive so steadily was a lot of fun and certainly took my mind off my torture. It was an unanticipated kindness that I am very grateful for.

Meanwhile, I keep forging on. Nothing else I can do but to take one day or even one hour at a time. This last week is going to be tough, but I know it will be worth it. As I’ve said time and time again in my books: Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but it is so worth it in the end.

Related Posts:
Part 1: The Secret is Out
Part 2: The Decision
Part 3: A Troubling Diagnosis
Part 4: Preparing for Lisbon
Update on Baby Lisbon

Friday, July 22, 2011

Update on Baby Lisbon

I've been feeling physically a lot better this week, but the three L's have set with in a vengeance. I'm lethargic, listless, and, well, lazy. I just want to sleep all day, which totally goes against all my instincts. I'm not really sure what to do about it, though. I've decided to take baby steps. A few paragraphs on my novel here, a load of laundry there, answering an e-mail between naps. It's slow going.

Yesterday I went to my appointment with the nurse midwives. Just a routine visit, but the midwife told me Lisbon was transverse, which was odd, since she's been head down for months. I'd felt that she was in a slightly different position because she wasn't kicking as much when I try to lie on my right side but to have turned completely sideways? That would be unusual for me.

So when I arrived home, I looked up what I could do about her being transverse and began worrying (that seems to be the primary pastime of expectant mothers). I'd been told once before (baby number 4) that my unborn child was breech a few days before delivery, and they'd been absolutely wrong, so my husband told me they were wrong again. He's good about not worrying before it's time to really worry. (Then again, he's not the one with the pregnancy hormones coursing through his body.)

After reading on the Internet, I forced myself to go outside in the pool and stand in the water on my head (well, hands, really). Just a few times. Nothing very long. I didn't feel Lisbon react at all. I think she was taking a nice nap (which is what I wanted to be doing).

Needless to say, today when I went to my appointment at the hospital with Maternal Fetal Medicine for my regular ultrasound, I was interested in what they would say about Lisbon's position. I also told them about the little Hispanic man who'd come up to me in Walmart where my husband and I had gone last Friday night to buy our eight-year-old a birthday present. He asked me what my baby was and when I told him, he said that, no, the baby was a boy and he was never, ever wrong, so I should prepare myself for a boy.

Okay. Never mind that four different women (three ultrasound technicians and a doctor who is a fetal specialist) had told me she was a girl in four separate ultrasound appointments, I was supposed to believe him. My husband laughed, but I didn't find it amusing. (I think pregnancy stole some of my sense of humor.) It was just weird having a total stranger come up and address me so familiarly.

Anyway, the ultrasound (with a technician I hadn't seen before) showed me a healthy 5.1 pound baby girl (emphatically a girl) with her head down, way down. The technician doubted she had ever moved but the doctor said with the ample fluid I had and after having so many children that it was possible. She couldn't say one way or another, but she did say that it was no big deal. If Lisbon did turn the wrong way, she'd turn her back. I guess it's something she does a lot in her profession.

The doctor took a lot of pictures of my daughter's spine. We could see the extra vertebrae, but even she admitted that it no longer seemed to make any difference in the curvature of Lisbon's spine. At every ultrasound, the curve we'd seen originally seemed to be less and less to me and this was confirmation. (Could it be all the extra folic acid I'm taking? You never know.) The doctor said it would be interesting if Lisbon's pediatrician could detect anything odd in her spine after her birth, and she made me promise to come back and tell her because this is the first time she's ever seen an isolated hemivertebrae (usually the condition is NOT isolate and accompanied with multiple birth defects).

Lisbon was doing so well that the doctor skipped the stress test today, and she said we didn't need anymore ultrasounds at all. The spine will definitely not be an issue for the birth or the after care. All we need to worry about now is my age and the weekly stress tests will show if there is any reason to induce labor early. Good news all the way around!

Related Posts:
Part 1: The Secret is Out
Part 2: The Decision
Part 3: A Troubling Diagnosis
Part 4: Preparing for Lisbon
Update #2 on Baby Lisbon

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Part 4: Preparing for Lisbon

One day sometime after the ultrasound, I had a horrible thought. I had absolutely no preparations in place for a baby. We’d given everything babywise away long ago. Where we now stood, my little girl would be coming home from the hospital completely nude! Provided they let me leave with her since I didn’t have a car seat.

I rested up for days and finally dragged myself and my seventeen-year-old daughter to the store to pick out a few sleepers. I only had to sit on the floor once or twice to make it through the shopping experience, but I came home with three sleep and play outfits, a dress, socks, a receiving blanket, and a baby blanket. Later my husband grabbed some newborn diapers from Macy’s when he went to buy food. I still need to pick up some white tights, and a long sleeved white shirt for under the dress, but come what may, our daughter will leave the hospital clothed! I should also order a car seat online, but we need a swing, a stroller, and a high chair as well so I want to do it all at once. It’s a little overwhelming.

May and June brought relief from the nausea, and I cracked down, finally able to finish my novel. I was still spending most of the day working from my bed on my laptop. If I did get up, I had to wear support nylons for the varicose and other vein problems in my legs. Exhaustion was a constant battle, and sometimes I'd fall asleep in the middle of a paragraph. But I eventually finished writing Final Call, the third novel third in the Autumn Rain series. First book I ever wrote completely from my bed. Age really does make a huge difference, even for a normally healthy, active person like me.

The end of June finally brought warm weather—a mixed blessing. The heat made my legs swell even more, and I began retaining water as though storing a year supply. I couldn't wear rings, my face was bloated, and I couldn’t be on my feet for more than ten minutes without serious discomfort. Only a big nightgown was comfortable to wear. At the same time, my pool was ready for swimming and in it I found absolute relief! There is nothing for sore legs like floating in water. No pain, and I can barely feel the extra forty pounds. And with all the extra fat and water, I don't have to do anything to stay afloat. I just have to make sure I don't fall asleep while floating. :-)

Now it’s July and more of the same. Except now we’re on a serious countdown for Lisbon to make her appearance, and WE CAN’T WAIT! My eight-year-old kisses my stomach so many times a day, it makes me laugh. The lovely Braxton Hicks contractions have kicked in big time, so my body is also getting ready for Lisbon's debut.

I’m doing okay. Really. You can find me either in bed or on the couch writing or sleeping, making food for my children (I'm so grateful for my microwave!), or floating in the pool. If I get desperate, and no one else can go, I may hobble to the store for milk and something to throw into the oven. More likely I’ll send my husband or daughter. For now, everything else is on hold. And that's okay with me.

Part 1: The Secret is Out
Part 2: The Decision
Part 3: A Troubling Diagnosis
Part 4: Preparing for Lisbon

More related posts:
Update on Baby Lisbon
Update #2 on Baby Lisbon

Monday, July 11, 2011

Part 3: A Troubling Diagnosis

Less than a week after learning I was expecting, I came down with chronic bronchitis and sinusitis. I spent all of January and February sick and unable to really take anything to alleviate the symptoms because of the pregnancy. No way was I going to risk my baby, not after what I'd been through last year. I kept a close eye on my fever and only took the approved medicine if I absolutely had to.

I rarely left my bed except to use the bathroom. I had to cancel or refuse any speaking engagements. The only good thing about being so ill was that the sickness overshadowed the normal pregnancy nausea, and on the few days I felt a bit better, I was able to finish the remaining two chapters of the novel I had to turn in at the end of January. Only four of my six children lived at home then, and my seventeen-year-old and my fourteen-year-old suspected something, so in February I told them what was going on, and they helped out a lot.

After three months I went in to the midwives and heard the heartbeat. Only then did I tell the younger kids about the baby. I didn’t tell anyone else, and I asked my family to keep the baby a secret until the ultrasound said everything was all right. I didn't want to make an announcement and then have to later report bad new. I did only one speaking engagement for the YW in my own ward, and fortunately I was blessed to make it through. One week I felt well enough to clean my office, a little at a time. Took me three days and my office is really tiny, so you can imagine how that went. I would actually never write there during my pregnancy as I was too ill to actually sit in the chair.

March and April I also spent mostly in bed. I was still fighting the cough, and the nausea became so terrible I only got up to pick up kids from school or to get them food. The couple times I went to the store, I ended up in bed suffering for the next two days. I rarely made it to church and then only part of the meetings. Sometime in April, I learned if I ate breakfast, got the kids off to school, went back to sleep until eleven, and then ate again, I sometimes had a hour or two where I wasn’t feeling like I was going to die. I started writing another book. It was horribly slow going, but it was something to distract me and make me feel like I was contributing at least something to the world.

I told my sister Mary and my mother about the baby shortly before the ultrasound but again asked them not to say anything until we had the results. Unfortunately, the ultrasound dropped a huge bomb: our daughter had a extra vertebra on one side in her lower back. Though there seemed to be no sign of anything else wrong and it wasn't severe, we would need more testing at the hospital (Maternal Fetal Medicine) to determine what that meant.

As we waited for the appointment, I learned that in nearly 89% of babies who have this condition also have some other severe spinal, cranial, or skeletal problem. Many die before the end of the pregnancy. All my fears seemed to be coming true. How could this happen after so much turmoil and stress when we were deciding whether or not to have another child? (See Part 2: The Decision)

My husband gave me a blessing, which promised a healthy baby. I kept repeating to myself the words I’d heard before the pregnancy: “Go forward in faith not in fear.”

Thankfully, after more tests, the specialist said my baby’s hemivertebra was isolated and that she didn’t seem to have any of the hundred syndromes that are usually present. This isolated hemivertebra happens in only 1 out of 4,000 babies. The hemivertebra wouldn’t affect her quality of life, though our daughter may or may not need minor surgery later. What relief!

I had to go back monthly to Maternal Fetal Medicine for additional ultrasounds to keep an eye on the vertebra and because of my age. Every time, it seemed her spine was more and more normal, but that might be just my perception. I have to confess that it has been nice having that wonder female doctor reassure me each time that nothing new has cropped up. Now I have to go weekly to the hospital for fetal stress tests (because of my age, not the vertebra) to make sure Lisbon is still getting what she needs.

So, I was surviving day to day, but I could do that. We were having a baby!

Stay tuned for Part 4 coming soon.

Part 1: The Secret is Out
Part 2: The Decision
Part 3: A Troubling Diagnosis
Part 4: Preparing for Lisbon

More related posts:
Update on Baby Lisbon
Update #2 on Baby Lisbon

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Part 2: The Decision

Having a baby is always a big decision, but when you already have six children, three of whom are living away from home or will be by the time the baby is born (I have one married daughter, and two children at BYU), and your youngest will be eight before the birth, it is a significantly larger decision. From health to emotional issues, there’s no end of debate.

Early in 2010, we had the surprise of finding out we were expecting. Unplanned. We stepped up to the plate, though, and started changing all our plans for the future. I was so ill I didn’t know how I was going to make it through. I spent all day every day in bed. The entire burden of family fell to my poor husband, who was the epitome of support. I dragged myself from bed only to pick up my children from school (every other week). I couldn’t work on my novels at all. All this only to lose the baby right after reaching three months. I spent nearly another month in bed with the recovery. That was enough to teach anyone a lesson that having a child at my age (no, I’m not confessing exactly what that is) was not wise.

Time wore on and I couldn’t stop thinking about the baby and that perhaps this was God’s way of sending me a message. Life was easy now that I wasn’t ill, but these thoughts persisted. I felt torn between what I had wanted before the pregnancy and what I wanted after (for the baby to have lived). It’s one thing to lose a child you planned for and wanted, and something quite different to lose a child you hadn’t planned on and even to some extent resented. The guilt is far larger and all-encompassing. I talked briefly to my husband, who’d taken the loss of the baby quite hard, but he didn’t think we should try again. He didn’t want A baby, he’d wanted THAT baby. He also never wanted to see me so sick again.

Weeks passed and still I was in limbo. After confessing my turmoil to a friend Anita Stansfield, she advised me to make a decision about whether or not to have a baby and own it as though it was my final decision. Then to wait some weeks as I adjusted to the plan. If I found it wasn’t right after all and I was still in turmoil, I could change my mind. So I decided to have a baby. I’d always wanted five or seven children and had ended up with six, so another baby would give me that odd number I’d wanted. Not to mention fill the loss I was experiencing.

In the weeks that followed, I researched older mothers and babies in an effort to own my decision. Since we were heading to Portugal for a month, I decided to wait until we returned to act on my decision. But the more time passed and the more I read, I realized I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t risk that something would be wrong with my baby because I was older. I wasn’t so worried about risks to myself—though in hindsight and with what I’ve gone through, that should have been more important to me—but I didn’t want to condemn a child to living with a severe birth defect because I couldn’t control my grief.

I eventually decided that my first decision had been in error. So I made the other choice. Before that last pregnancy, I hadn’t planned on another child, and I’d been happy and content. I could be that way again. It was the wise and responsible thing to do. All my old plans could fall back into place.

Months passed. I finished deadlines, regained all my health. Physically I was doing great. Mentally I was still troubled. The thought of that child, who I imagined was a little girl, never left me. I did more research, and all along I kept taking prenatal vitamins just in case. Eventually, I realized I wouldn’t find peace unless I at least tried to have that child. Still I was afraid of birth defects and of losing another baby. Then one day I was driving in the car and in my head I heard the words, “Go forward in faith not in fear.” Those words pierced me because by this time the only reason I didn’t want to become pregnant was because I was afraid.

More time passed, and though I wasn’t doing much to prevent pregnancy, I still wasn’t expecting. I continued in turmoil, my fear of becoming pregnant and the possible outcome as great as my fear of not getting pregnant. Only when I remembered the words did the fear leave and I felt peace.

So why wasn’t I expecting? In our family we joke that to become pregnant, all we needed to do was to wash our clothes together. Then one day I had a prompting: Talk to your husband. I thought What? What did he have to do with this? Oh, that’s right. He’s the father. I’d started several times over the months to tell him my feelings, but with the trip to Europe followed by a daughter’s wedding, time had always escaped me. So I went to him and recounted everything I’d been thinking and doing.

He looked at me and said, “So, it looks like we're having another baby.”

I reminded him that he’d said he didn’t want another child the last time I’d brought it up. He shrugged and said, “I didn’t know everything you’ve been going through. If you think we should have a baby, let’s do it.”

Oh. Hmm. Okay. I had the sense that he was far more worried about me physically than whether or not to have a child. He’s like that.

Oddly enough, after a week, the desire, the push, the insane turmoil abruptly vanished. I went to my husband and said, “You know. I think I’m okay. I don’t think I need to have a baby after all.”

He laughed and said if that was how I was feeling, that was okay by him.

Yes, you guessed it. I was already expecting. I took a test the day before Christmas 2010 and it was positive. Now we only had to wait to see how it would turn out. Every time the fear returns, I remember the words about fear versus faith, and I push forward. At this point, I am completely living on faith.

Click on Part 3 to read more.

Part 1: The Secret is Out
Part 2: The Decision
Part 3: A Troubling Diagnosis
Part 4: Preparing for Lisbon

More related posts:
Update on Baby Lisbon
Update #2 on Baby Lisbon

Friday, July 8, 2011

Part 1: The Secret is Out

I’m not going to make you read a whole page before I blurt it out—I’m going to have a baby next month in August. That’s the secret.

I’m not sure how it became a secret at all. Well, first I wanted to make sure it was really going to happen because last year we had a huge disappointment. I didn’t want the kids upset again, and I didn't want to go through any more "public" mourning. So my husband and I decided to wait three months to see if there was still a strong heartbeat before telling them. Because I was so ill, I did end up having to confide a bit earlier in my middle children (17 & 14), but even that I delayed as long as possible. We waited until the four-month ultrasound before we told the extended family. After that, the secret seemed to take on a life of its own.

It was cold into June, so I wore a jacket whenever I had to drag myself from my bed. No one noticed my growing stomach. It “helped” that I seemed to contract every sickness available to mankind, so I was (still am) in bed most of the day, even after the nausea finally left right before six months (or mostly left). When I reached the mark that the midwife told me my baby really could survive if she had to be born, I realized I could finally tell people.

But after that, well, I was kind of embarrassed. How do you announce to your friends and neighbors that, by the way, you’re going to have a baby next month? Besides, these days many couples my age and younger don’t have more than four children and while some of my peers still have children at home, they are all in high school. My youngest right now is eight and this baby makes number seven, so I kind of feel like the odd-ball out (and maybe even a little greedy). Last year when I was expecting, one man in my neighborhood told us to “keep it on your side of the street.” (I'm sure it was a joke, but is pregnancy a disease?)

I’ve gained forty pounds, some of it water in my legs that makes it difficult to walk, and I also did something to my knee that makes every step torture. I don’t even want to get into the support nylons and the veins problems that prevent me from being on my feet for more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time. Any of you who’ve had more than five or six children might have some inkling as to what I’m talking about.

Last week I was feeling well enough to go to church for part of the time (yay!). It was hot and I didn't wear a coat. Two women noticed my stomach and said something. A few just stared. Surprise! Everyone who has talked to me so far has been really sweet and supportive.

So, yes, I’m having a baby. A little girl. Her name is Lisbon. She never lets me sleep at night, especially if I try to lie on my right side. She hates fireworks, but she likes being rocked—most of the time.

If you’re curious what brought about this momentous decision at this time in my life, continue to Part 2. I have divided this series into four parts:

Part 1: The Secret is Out
Part 2: The Decision
Part 3: A Troubling Diagnosis
Part 4: Preparing for Lisbon

More related posts:
Update on Baby Lisbon
Update #2 on Baby Lisbon

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Toughest Job in the World

For all the women who do so much for their families without a lot of recognition. So many times you've given up what you want to do in order to help your children. So many times you've cried because of their choices. So many times you've nursed hurt feelings because of their careless comments or actions. So many times you've felt all alone and unable to go on. Yet somehow you do. Yes, in the end it's very worth it, and you wouldn't trade them for all the riches in the world, but it's still not easy. Never easy. It's still the toughest job in the world.

I wish you all a Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Finally, Some Sense!

On Valentine's Day, my son was hauled into the office at school and lectured on having created an inappropriate Valentine's Day envelope. I went to the school yesterday to talk to the lady administrator involved and to get the envelope. This morning I wrote an e-mail to the principal telling him we were appalled at the idea of our son being punished for so innocuous an enevelop (to see the envelope, click on my previous post). Thankfully after sending that e-mail some sense came to light in this issue, but before I tell you about that, I want to post part of the letter I also wrote this morning to the female administrator responsible for punishing my son. (I snipped a few entire paragraph and used . . . to show where I removed text for length purposes.)


After seeing Jared’s artwork and discussing it with my husband, I want to go on official record and say that we do not feel Jared’s Valentine envelope is inappropriate in any way. You mentioned that Jared put a shepherd on a horse, and I guess you see that as a problem, though we fail to understand why. In actuality, Jared, cut off the staff and put it in the church so it would NOT be a shepherd, just a guy, a comedian, on a horse, but he did ask me last night, “Mom, would there be something wrong with a shepherd on a horse?”

No, absolutely not. A guy who owns sheep might just have a horse, too. I’m not sure if you are seeing something sacrilegious in his putting a figure who once was a shepherd on a horse, but we don’t see the connection. Nor does our son. It is because it’s a rocking horse? He just thinks of it as a horse.

Your main concern seems to be that the boys were excited about candy and that their projects had no relation to Valentine’s Day. This should not be a problem. In fact, we compliment the art teacher for inspiring such creativity! My husband and I believe that this should have been a fun day for the children and should be continued in the future. They didn’t make fun of their classmates, disrupt class, or endanger their salvation in any way. Valentine’s Day is not a sacred holiday. It is not related to scripture and really doesn’t need to be. It is about friendship and fun, and that’s okay. There will be enough hard and serious things in life—let the children have some clean fun! (And if we need any proof that God has a sense of humor, just look at the giraffe.)


My family has been at [this school] for thirteen years . . . For the most part we’ve had wonderful experiences, and we enjoy the conservatism . . . However, my son’s trust (and ours) has been damaged by what we see as unnecessary discipline and subsequent neglect. Instead of inspiring trust and respect, there is only fear on Jared’s part and incredulity and some defensive anger on ours.

I know you are sorry about how Jared has taken this . . . but we are concerned about how it was handled. In fact, we believe it shouldn’t have been addressed at all. One serious concern we have is that if my son had really been so terrible as to need to stay in the office for over an hour, we should have been notified. Certainly in this case, he needed an advocate who knows him and cares about him.


Okay, back to the regular blog again. Most of this I also wrote in the e-mail I wrote to the prinicipal this morning. Almost immediately he called me back and told me he was so sorry this happened, that he felt terrible, and that there was absolutely nothing wrong with Jared's envelope. Whew! Finally some sense. He asked me what he could do. I told him jokingly that she should have to miss lunch completely like she made him do and write an essay on why she shouldn't have punished the children for having fun. More seriously, I told him that it was enough to know that he would talk to her and that something like this would not happen in the future.

I also requested that if my children need direction in the future and if she is involved, that I be notified immediately, and that she talk to my son about this issue only in my presence. Quite frankly, he's afraid of her, and I can't blame him. There's no excuse for having my son sitting in the office for more than an hour without calling me. Over the years, I have mostly enjoyed everything at this school, but this was a real concern. I mean, a bad teacher might crop up now and again, but they are always let go rather quickly--being a private school, there is no union to protect rotten teachers. But this was something else altogether. I had to know if this was the direction the school was heading (fanatical), or a mistake by one woman. Thankfully, it turned out to be the latter.

I still haven't decided if I'm going to let her apologize for making my son miss lunch and class for so long (which later caused a good deal of homework to make up and more frustration on his part). I mean, what's the point if she doesn't admit she was wrong in the first place? She remains convinced that the boys have committed some grave error.

Oh, and BTW, I also e-mailed the art teacher commending her for encouraging such creativity as I saw in the other boys' Valentine envelopes. Yes, one or two might be considered a little much for this conservative private school, but you know what? I thought they were extremely creative. How can you punish that? Especially when it wasn't hurtful to anyone. In the future the school should definitely refer to parents for such matters. It really isn't in their job. Thankfully, I think that's the direction they're headed.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ta-Dum! The Terribly Offensive Valentine Envelope

Okay, here it is, the horribly offensive artwork my son created for his Valentine's Day envelope. In the end, it wasn't a drawing at all but glued on figures provided by the art teacher. He says it's a it's a comedian on a horse. For the full story of what happened to him because of this creation, please see the previous post. The second picture is the essay he had to write as a punishment.

As an update, I went to the school today to retrieve the artwork and to confront this woman. To give her credit, she did feel bad upon learning she'd prevented my son from having lunch. I told her not to talk to my son again unless I was present and explained to her that he is scared to death of her and that trust has been completely lost. He feels singled out and no better than scum on her shoe.

Admittedly, some of the boys' artwork really could be considered inappropriate (like the frog shot through the heart with guts hanging out), but even that could have been handled on a different note. When she asked me what I would have done, I told her she should have talked to the parents and let them decide whether or not their child's artwork was appropriate. This envelope absolutely will not endanger my child's salvation. It is not a saving ordinance, it's not disrepectful to anyone, it didn't cause any disruption in class. If they want the children to only glue on hearts, then only hearts should have been made available. This also could have easily been handled on a teacher level, with the art teacher simply saying, "Sorry guys, just do them again." (Instead, she told a boy in my carpool, who was also later reprimanded, that his was very nice.) They didn't need to be singled out. Incidentally, I did learn that the other boys also wrote brief essays when she sent Jared to her office for laughing, but none of them missed out on their lunch. Only my son was kept that long. (And it's strange because Jared has never been one to mock or disobey any teacher.)

My kids have attended this school for thirteen years and this woman has worked there the entire time. This makes the whole situation worse. When she sad she felt bad about the lunch and that she didn't know, I said, "You should have known. You should have asked." Yes, she should have cared enough. She should have taken the time.

She eventually mentioned that maybe they should do away with the Valentine's Day celebration in the sixth grade altogether (like they have sadly done in the older grades). That's what I was afraid of. Let the children have a little fun, for crying out loud! Life is difficult enough as it is.

I was driving carpool today and didn't have a lot of time to stay and discuss the matter with her further, though I feel I clearly made my displeasure and anger known. Nothing like this should happen again without my being called before it goes this far. She does want to apologize for making Jared miss lunch and asked to talk to Jared when I can be there. I'm grateful for that much, though I look at this envelope and I still don't understand why she felt she needed to punish him in the first place. Definitely not her place. As two of the boys in my carpool told their mother, this was definitely the worst Valentine's Day ever.

What Kind of Fanaticism is This?

Yesterday, my tender-hearted eleven-year-old son and several other boys were called out of class at American Heritage School in American Fork because of what they chose to draw on their Valentine envelopes. Though their art teacher had given them free rein to draw whatever they wanted (a great way to inspire boys), a woman in the administration took offense at their designs. My son drew a guy on a horse, a church, and wrote the word candy. Another boy wrote, "Give me candy or give me death!" a phrase actually suggested by the art teacher.

Apparently, these expressions were not acceptable by this woman from the administration (the art teacher had no objections). The boys were told to make new envelopes and that Valentine's Day was about love (as opposed to candy, I assume).

Love? Is she kidding? These boys are eleven-years-old! Like it or not, for children Valentine's Day is about giving and receiving Valentines (and, yes, preferably with candy). The day is only truly about love, if you’re talking about your family or your spouse. I don't know about you, but in the sixth grade, I absolutely do not want my son to consider giving Valentines to classmates as an expression of romantic love, which is what it means to them when presented in this manner. Exchanging Valentines is something fun to do with classmates. End of story. They had fulfilled the art teacher's request, but this woman felt it her duty to teach our children the real meaning of Valentine's Day--without requesting any parental input.

But the story isn't over yet. It gets worse.

When she said Valentine's Day was about love, one of the boys said "Looove," and my son had the misfortune to laugh. Now Jared is not a trouble-maker, but he was having a difficult time understanding what was wrong. He didn't laugh to mock this woman but because how the boy spoke was amusing. Though they are curious about it, love is icky to them. Girls are icky. No way is Valentine's Day about love for them.

What happened next goes beyond belief. Instead of a simple, kind discussion, which is always effective with my little boy (and with most children), this woman dismissed the other boys to go to lunch and kept my son all during lunch period writing paragraphs on what Valentine's Day was all about and why he shouldn't follow the crowd. His paragraphs were never good enough, so he ended up staying there all of lunch and all of the next period's grammar class.

By the time he was released, all lunch periods had ended, and he didn't receive the pizza lunch we paid in advance for that day (non-refundable). He had a fruit and a cookie with him, and that's what he ate for lunch. At no time was was I called or informed that my son missed lunch so we could provide what we had trusted the school to provide in the first place. Nor did they deign to tell me he'd committed such a grievous sin. I learned only when he came home in tears.

Now, the fact that my son laughed was rude and inconsiderate (and I explained this to him), but the fact that this woman singled him out and prevented him from eating lunch was also inconsiderate, as well as neglectful, which is a far worse crime seeing as she's the adult. Who, may I ask, is going to pay him back for the pizza and make her write paragraphs for being neglectful (and disrespectful) of someone else's child? She wasn't even around when he finally made it to the closed lunch room, nor did she check up to see if he'd eaten.

That all this stemmed from what I see as an overly strict, even fanatical view of what was appropriate for Valentine's Day, which is up to parents, not teachers or administration, compounds this gross negligence. None of the boys should have been singled out. If the administration wanted the boys to draw hearts or something else, they should have told them in advance. (Which would have definitely stifled any sign of creativity.)

Instead of this woman inspiring honor, respect, and trust, she instilled fear, disrepect, and mistrust. She has created a negativy that may stay with him all of his life. She was supposed to be trustworthy. Last night I e-mailed the principal, this woman, and my son's teachers about this because I feel her response was over the top, even for a conservative private school. I plan to officially request that this administrator not be allowed to discipline my children unless I am present, or even to talk to my children alone. My son's trust in her is gone--and frankly so is mine. At what point does the lesson lose its value? Well, yesterday it was long lost. I’m still unsure how something so benign could have had this result.