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Friday, May 2, 2014

Different: A Birth Story (Part 1)

To set the scene a bit:

It was maybe six weeks after my mother passed away. More grief. More sadness.

More baby?

Yes. Pregnant.

Ready or not, we were going to have a new baby. I wondered if my mother was laughing somewhere about it all. She seemed to have hinted at it more than once when she was sick. Perhaps she knew the future better than I did. And yet, it was hard to accept. Another child borne through grief? I guess that's what we do around here. Looking forward to new life forces you to make steps ahead, too. No waiting around. No stagnating.

Then I realized when this new little bundle would be due. Early April, maybe mid-April if the babe made us savor pregnancy like its siblings. Great. April. The month we lost our son. The month we lost an uncle. And, most recently, the month we found out we'd probably lose my mother too. 3 out of 4 years made me, well, a bit superstitious. I started to assign more significance than I probably ought to a month that generally symbolizes rebirth, resurrection and regeneration. A good month, right?

My pregnancy was fairly standard for me. I have been incredibly blessed to have had healthy pregnancies. Incredibly blessed. This time was a struggle. Life seemed in tumult. Things that I have had before in pregnancy were gone. The floor felt like it had been pulled out from under me and I had to find a way to gain some stability on my own and with the help of my little family. Without too much detail, it was hard, but I am grateful for those wonderful souls who stepped in to support us.

This time was different indeed.

I contacted C. She had assisted with both of our boys and now she was my primary midwife. The familiar face was comforting and I enjoyed some great chats with her.

Still, there were moments that gave me pause. More than one thing happened in a similar manner to what had happened in my pregnancy with Phineas. There were moments that I felt like I was treading ground that was all too familiar. For whatever reason, I felt more nervous, less self assured and less trusting than I had during my previous pregnancy with Freddie. I thought that it would be the other way around. Still, I prayed everyday. I prayed for the health and safety of my baby, that I would bond, that I would be ready for whatever happened and that the baby would arrive safely. I felt reassured that these things would be granted to us.

The day we had the ultrasound was a turning point. My midwife wanted to check the position of the baby because he had chosen to be in an unusual one, not unlike his siblings! Though, I didn't know he was a "he"! I was 36 weeks and I had convinced myself that this baby was a girl. I think I wanted a daughter to name after my mother. It would be poetic, right? I had guessed correctly with 4 out of four of my other babies, how could my intuition go awry? Very quickly, though, we discovered that I was completely wrong! Nope, another son! There was something exhilarating about having a complete surprise. It isn't that I really cared about the sex, but I could not wipe the smile off my silly "but I'm always right!" face. On the drive home, Freddie held the ultrasound pictures tightly and Nate and I named his little brother.

The final weeks went smoothly and while I was still nervous (hey, I know what unmedicated birth is like!), I finally accepted the pregnancy and could prepare to meet my third (third!!!) son.


Monday, April 21, 2014


Long time, no blog. But....

This is Raphael Joseph.

He is now 11 days old and is perfect and cuddly. He had a pretty wild entrance into the world (which I do plan to write about), but he's doing great.

I spent a good deal of my pregnancy with the notion that we'd have another girl. (Hey, I've been right 4 times before!) Now that he's here, I couldn't imagine anyone other than my new little redhead.

As for our name choice (we had a name picked out for a girl, but not a boy!), the conversation went about like this-

Him: So, what do we like?
Me: Well, my favorites haven't really changed. Abraham?
Him: I'd prefer Gabe to Abe. Gabriel?
Me: Well, I've always liked a different angel's name. Raphael?
Him: Yes, that's it. That's his name.

This is only a slight exaggeration, believe it or not. We decided over about a 10 minute conversation.

Raphael means "Healed by God" and we definitely could use a bit of healing in our lives. Joseph is Nate's middle name as well. It means "God shall add (another son)" and it felt quite appropriate for our third son.

Birth story soon, but for now, I am just soaking it in.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

What to say when you don't have the words.

Today, I was talking to my sister. She has been writing songs. They are beautiful. She is speaking about our mother's death. Yes, my mother died. I have ached to write something, but each time I sit down to try, I can't. I don't know why. Maybe I haven't found the words, or they haven't found me yet. In April, she was diagnosed. Brain cancer. She fought. She fought hard. But in June, she had moved on. I miss her terribly.

This is what I wrote for her memorial, though my words have been few since. Maybe they will find me.

Anyone who knows my mom has likely been acquainted with her affinity for The Muppets. Through the hallways at Cal State, her Muppet and Sesame Street CDs might be heard from time to time. She would joke that people might think she was crazy, but I think she enjoyed the fact that it drew people into her office and that it brought a smile to their faces.

She would often be asked who her favorite Muppet was and without hesitation she would reply: “Kermit”. She loved the song, “It’s Not Easy Being Green” where Kermit is ruminating about identity and accepting yourself even if sometimes you feel you fade into the background. I think she enjoyed the character of Kermit and how he was always trying to manage the madness around him and allowing other people to shine. My mom knew how to do this and yet, deep down, she wasn’t fully a Kermit. No. My mother was a Gonzo. Why is she a Gonzo? Well, let’s examine the evidence.

After Kermit meets Gonzo he asks himself: What is Gonzo anyway? “He’s a little like a turkey. Yeah, a little like a turkey, but not much.” The other muppets classified him as a Weirdo, or a Whatever. Gonzo was unique. There was never any doubt that my mom was as well. There is a quote from a movie that I enjoy where someone something to the effect of “when you start out in life standing out, you just keep on standing out”. My mom embraced her “differentness”. She couldn’t help the fact that she was tall, striking, and redheaded, but she embraced it fully and started to stand out in other ways as well. The way she walked with purpose, her commanding voice that when she sang you could hear her from far away. Her whistling any tune she had heard. Even in expressing herself, she would sound different. Her large vocabulary and unique writing style certainly let you know it was her. A family favorite being “Nice evasive maneuver, Matthew!” after my brother had a near miss on a sledding adventure. Even if, perhaps, she worried about being ordinary, it was clear she wasn’t. And, like a friend said, “did I mention she had red hair?”

Gonzo is well known for his many ideas. Sometimes, it wouldn’t work out so well, but it never spoiled his enthusiasm or desire to try again. Once before a stunt, Floyd Pepper asks Gonzo “Do you think it will work?” to which Gonzo responds, “No! Isn’t it terrific?” Our mom was always full of ideas. Even when she was ill, I would get phone calls from her that would start out, “I’ve got a couple of ideas for you....” Even when something wouldn’t work out, her mind would still be percolating on something new or thinking of another way to approach a problem.

Gonzo and Kermit are both known for being fearless. Kermit for leaving the swamp and pursuing his dream and sharing it with others. Gonzo for his stunts and generally living his life on the edge. She was ahead of her time in many ways which I think carries with it a great degree of fearlessness. She was certainly not afraid of being herself. The only time she seemed to fear anything was when it regarded someone she loved and cared about, rarely was it fear for herself. She’d shoot herself out of a cannon if the situation called for it! I think she inspired others to be fearless as well, to go after what they wanted, the way she did.

How do we remember such an individual? Well, I’ve got a couple of ideas. Be yourself, don’t be afraid to be daring and follow where your heart and your mind lead you. And even though she is no longer in our company, in the words of Gonzo: “We can hold onto love like invisible strings”.

So whether she was being a Kermit and bringing people together or a Gonzo and pulling off feats that are unexpected, I’d like to say in her own words, “What a character!”


Saturday, December 15, 2012


I joke sometimes that since we've moved to Connecticut, there seems to be disaster after disaster and that maybe if we moved, things would go back to normal. Maybe I am not so funny.

We live a few miles away, but attend church in Newtown, Connecticut. The congregants in our ward come from multiple towns in the area. Today, one of the families lost their precious and beautiful six year old daughter. Tomorrow, we were to have a Nativity celebration and she was to have been an angel in the play. Instead, she is a true angel.

I have tried to put together words that would be eloquent or that would really capture the feelings of this day and give it the reverence it deserves, but, I struggle. Even having walked the path of child loss, I can't even begin to comprehend what anguish so many families are dealing with.

I looked so many times at my daughters, who would sit near that little girl in Primary on Sundays, and just thanked my Heavenly Father for each moment I get with them. Thankfully, they put up with my many hugs and squeezes and kisses today.

Tonight, they prayed for this girl's family. Unfortunately, the know death all too well. I prayed that they will turn to God always in the face of tragedy and that we will all continue to hold each other close.

With such a heavy heart, I hope that we can all "mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort."


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