Friday, June 28, 2013

The Best 3,652 Days

We met through mutual friends during winter break of 1996.  I thought his dimples were adorable and he totally didn't notice me at all.  It wasn't until we went to see Jerry McGuire at the movies that I was able to make my move.  At the start of the movie we were separated by several friends on different sides of the row.  Me, being ever so sneaky and suave, "went to the bathroom" and came back and "couldn't get back to my seat".  By the end of the movie we were holding hands, the rest is history!  Well, sorta... 

We dated all through the rest of high school.  Homecomings, proms, his lacrosse games, my swim meets and softball games, lots of nights at friend's houses just being kids.  He tried to teach me to drive a standard transmission, I tried to get him to ride horses.  For teenagers we were remarkably drama free and truly had one of those fairy-tale romances where we loved each other, we loved each others friends, and we just had fun together. 
I had known all along that his dream was to go to the Naval Academy and become a military officer.  Of course, because teenagers have no sense of time, I thought that goal was a hundred years away and it was never on my radar screen.  Shamefully, I didn't even really know what the Naval Academy was.  I knew it was a school for people in the military, but I didn't understand that it was a true four-year college, and that it would mean challenges to any relationship, let alone a teenage one.

15 years ago, on July 1, 1998 I joined his parents in saying goodbye to him on Induction Day at the Naval Academy.  Looking back I can say that without a shadow of a doubt that I was more heartbroken and confused on that day than I have been since (even with three deployments under my belt).  I was young, I didn't know what was coming, and I think that when I walked off the Yard that day that I thought I had lost him forever.  I wrote him tirelessly every single day that summer.  I waited for the mailman with bated breath just hoping for a glimpse of him, an indication that he was okay, and some small details about his new life at USNA.

Time went forward, Plebe summer ended, and so the journey at USNA began.  My senior year of high school he accompanied me (in uniform!) to Homecoming and Prom.  I was so proud to have him with me at those events.  I would sneak to Annapolis on weekends and take him back to McLean.  We were daredevils because McLean was just outside USNA's "22 mile radius" rule for plebes.  We only had one harrowing evening where we happened to see one of John's upperclassmen at the local Blockbuster.  Watching John dive behind the shelves really illustrated the fear that the military can instill in the hearts of the lowest ranking mids.

I graduated from high school in June of 1999 and headed to Emory University in Atlanta.  Who knows what it was, be it Atlanta humidity (no) or being heartsick for Johnny (yep) I ended up transferring to Villanova University in 2000.  While in college we tried to see each other as much as we could.  I prayed that Navy would win football games so that John would be given weekend passes.  We saved our meager incomes to try and get train tickets and gas money.  He didn't have a phone in his room and that was back in the day where 500 minutes per month on a cell phone was expensive.  Oh how I wish I still had some record of our AOL IM conversations because I think we pretty much coordinated our life that way between 1999 and 2002.

In the fall of 2001 Johnny ran his second marathon.  Being that he was 21 and "indestructible", he ran the race despite barely training at all.  I criss crossed across Washington, DC to cheer him on and met him at the finish line where he was so completely exhausted and beat up that I had to take his shoes off and practically carry him to the Metro.  A month later, he asked my father's permission to propose to me.  And shortly thereafter, on November 30, 2001 he asked me to marry him.  To this day he will tell people that he proposed because I was willing to untie his shoes and care for his feet.

Johnny graduated from USNA in 2002 and I placed one of his ensign shoulder boards and his new cover upon his head.  He was off to Pensacola for flight training and I was back up in Philadelphia for my senior year.  My friends thought I was crazy to be engaged my senior year in college.  While my sorority sisters partied and met boys I was picking flowers, bridesmaids dresses, and planning my transition to being a military spouse.  I got a few snide comments about how I had no idea who I was or who he was and how we were doomed for a quick divorce.  But I knew then (just as I know now) that I was marrying my best friend.  And somehow I knew at 21 just like I know at 32 that while romance and passion is important, it is the friendship and laughter that keeps it going forever. 

I graduated from Villanova University in May of 2003.  On June 28, 2003 I took the walk down the long aisle at the USNA chapel and married my high school sweetheart.  We were absolutely crazy young (I realize that now, but still think we made the right choice) and completely naïve as to the way our Navy lifestyle would be.  10 years later we are both proud of our history.  Proud to be high school sweethearts, proud to be 2% club members, and proud to be celebrating 10 years of marriage at the 32.

Johnny, I have vowed to love and honor you for the last 10 years, 120 months, 522 weeks, 3652 days, 87,658 hours, 5,259,488 minutes, and 315,569,260 seconds.  We have had ups and downs, we have had great times and sad times, we have watched our babies get older and said farewell to souls too soon.  You have held my hand and comforted me for every single difficult point in my life and tirelessly and selflessly supported me through the happiest times.  I am so incredibly lucky to have you and I cannot wait to walk through this life together. 

Here's to many more decades together!

A Short Journey in Photos:
2013 photo TBD...
Tuesday, June 11, 2013

From a Three Year Old's Eyes

Rightly or wrongly, we had told our children we were expecting another baby.  We aren't naïve, we have experienced loss before, but we were trying to push aside anxiety and make this an exciting family event.  Connor decided that in light of the upcoming addition that he was "THE baby" and that there are no other babies and that is that.  Forever and ever, Amen. He even started to pretend to cry like a baby sometimes.  It made me laugh to watch him crawl up on my lap, look at me and proclaim "I'm the baby, mommy!" and then say "waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!".  Thank God he didn't start asking for diapers again.

Kate, on the other hand, took a more serious approach.

Kate is a sweet, mature, and very considerate child.  She'll be 4 in a few weeks but amazes me with her empathy and loving nature on a daily basis.  She loves babies and even before we were expecting again had asked me on the playground if we could maybe have a baby in our house one day.  When I found out I was pregnant, she was so excited.  She would kiss my tummy and tell anyone that would listen that there were "three babies!!!".  Not exactly good for trying to be incognito about pregnancy, but sweet and heartwarming nonetheless.

Explaining loss to her has been very hard.  The best way I could try to describe it to her was that God gives us babies and that sometimes He has to take them back to heaven sooner than we would like.  I have been having trouble with her recent questions and conversations.   

Right after we found out about our loss:

Me: "Kate, sometimes God has to take babies back home before we want Him to.  I'm sorry, but mommy doesn't have a baby in her tummy anymore."

Kate:  **thinking for a few seconds** "God takes babies?  Did it hurt when God took the baby from your tummy?  How did He get it out?"

Me: "I'm fine honey.  My heart hurts, but I will be okay"

Kate:  "My heart hurts too".

Then this morning, I told her we were going to a play date and that there would be new friends for her to meet and play with:

Kate: "Will there be any babies there?"

Me:  "Maybe"

Kate: "I want a baby in our house"

Me: "I know, honey.  Maybe one day, God willing"

Kate:  **runs to the dining room, grabs her markers, asks for paper** 

Me:  "You want to draw?"

Kate:  "I am drawing a picture for God so that He will bring us a new baby"

The counselor in me feels horrible that I have dragged her into my own grief.  I feel like I have done a disservice to my young children (who really don't understand the concept of conception and miscarriage and birth) by getting them excited and then ripping it away.  However, I have been impressed by Kate's ability to ask questions and try to find her own three-year-old solutions.  It has certainly been a learning experience for me as a mother.

If we are lucky enough to get pregnant again one day I have no idea if we will share the news with them early again.  Probably not.  And that makes me sad. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Loss of Control

It has happened three times now.  Laying on an ultrasound table, waiting for the wonderful moment that you should see your new baby for the first time, and then nothing.  Quiet.  The silence descends upon you like a wet blanket, the eyes of the ultrasound tech look desperately for any sign of life, and then you know.  Or at least I know.

Three times.

The blog has been quiet for the past 6 weeks.  I have been feeling tired, sick, and happy.  We found out I was pregnant again on my 32nd birthday in April.  It was sooner than we were expecting, but we are both well aware than any pregnancy is worth celebrating - timing be damned.  We both felt like our family wasn't complete and were so excited for another set of tiny toes, smiles, and of course dose of craziness and chaos that kids bring.

Everything was normal.  I was extremely sick, tired, and took some solace in those symptoms.  With my previous losses I had been worried because of bleeding or other clues that made me doubt.  I had no doubts this time.  This loss has hit me like a freight train.  I had no idea.  How can a woman not know what is going on in her own body?  How can her body hide such a loss?  I feel betrayed and out of control.

I have been pregnant four times.  I have experienced the incredibly isolating dark ultrasound experience three times.  Two singletons and Kate's twin.  It isn't fair.  I don't understand.  I feel completely alone.  I know I'm not alone.  Pregnancy is terrifying - like playing Russian roulette with my heart, only for some reason my gun seems to have more than one bullet in it. 

Miscarriage is extremely isolating and that is probably why I am writing about it.  Because the loneliness I felt going in for my second D&C the other day isn't something women should have to endure.  There is something very cruel about the emotional and physical ramifications of loss, but then the societal expectation that it be hidden beneath a thick family veil.  Nobody wants to offend the masses with something so raw and misunderstood. So women suffer in silence, careful not to step on the toes of people who aren't in their intimate inner sanctum.  I am ashamed to say that I even feel shame.  I know that isn't fair to me.  But there is a societal value put on pregnancy and babies and fertility - like I am less of a woman for my struggle. 

I have this desperate desire to take back control of my body.  To force myself to be happy with my children and move on.  Even the nurse in recovery said (in an effort to be upbeat) that I am so lucky to have two kids "a boy and a girl even!" and should take solace in that.  I do take solace in my children.  Believe me that their little faces have brought me out of the deep fog much faster than anything could have done when we had our first miscarriage in 2007.  But Kate and Connor, as wonderful as they are, cannot erase the deep sorrow I have for the three babies I have lost.  And for the potentially brutal realization that we might, because of our loss history, be forced to not build our family how we desire.  That Tuesday's ultrasound will be my last ever.

Control.  Something that women who have ever had problems conceiving or carrying to term wish they could harness somehow.  Like if I wish and pray and hope and visualize it enough, it will just happen.  Close my eyes and wake up to the sound of a newborn crying in the delivery room, safe in my arms, devoid of the terror I have surrounding pregnancy.  I have this huge urge to go run and run and run until I can't physically take one more step.  Just to exhaust myself because I said so - not because someone else has told me my child is no longer living.  This is exhausting emotionally and impossible to describe accurately to people lucky enough to be on the happy side of the statistics.

If you are struggling with infertility or loss, you aren't alone. 

Hi, I'm Jill!

Hi, I'm Jill!
Extrovert. Mom of two. Wife of a cute Naval Aviator. Lover of wine. When I'm not chasing my two kids around town you will find me writing, taking too many photos, and researching the ten future areas the Navy could potentially (but probably won't) PCS us. We are fish out of water, landlocked at 7,000 feet. For now.

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