A Letter to My Momma

This time of year is hard for my mom. Yesterday was the birthday of the baby she lost when he was only three months old. Wednesday is Valentine’s day and her Valentine is in heaven and then a week after that will be her wedding anniversary. Then a couple weeks after that, we’ll be celebrating Jen’s 5th heaven birthday. Those of us who are used to grief know that there are just times of the year that are harder than others. So I think my mom needs to be reminded of some things.

Dearest Momma,

You are essential to my life. I’ve said this before, but my physical body was made up of atoms and molecules stolen from yours.  From the very beginning, you kept me warm, protected my tiny forming soul and soothed me with the soft sounds of your heart beat.  You provided everything that I needed.  This is something I didn’t fully appreciate until I had children of my own.  And even then, it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that you were my sole source of every single nutrient, molecule, atom, element that I needed, sacrificing yourself for me. I was the parasite and you were the willing host.

I was your rainbow baby.  After losing Josh, God gave you me – a stubborn, strong-willed, bossy little girl who you refused to put down or share.  And if you ask my older siblings, they will tell you that I was as attached to you as you were to me.  Thank you for loving me with so much passion.  Thank you for holding on to me so tightly.  Thank you for making me feel special. These were things I also did not appreciate very much until I had my own rainbow baby.   

Then through my difficult preteen and teenage years where I was an insufferable know-it-all and always looking for a fight, you continued to love me no matter how prickly or difficult I was.  You engaged in my fights just enough to make me feel like I was heard, but not so much that I felt like we were always fighting.  You supported my decisions and provided me with plenty of opportunity to express my independence without removing all sense of responsibility.  You trusted me.  Anyone who knows me knows that I struggle with being told what to do and while you had the unpleasant job of doing that, you also allowed to me to figure out what needed to be done without telling me to do it. That takes serious skill!

It was not until I moved out and went to college that I really learned to appreciate what an incredible person you are.  You are smart and sensible, rational and logical while at the same time, warm, caring and motherly.  You are calm in the middle of a storm and you ease the anxious hearts of those around you.  You’re generous and loving and supportive.  You give some of the best hugs – while not giant bear hugs like daddy’s, they are soft and warm and comforting.  Patrick always talks about how much he loves your hugs.

Then when I had children of my own, it was very clear how much I had taken you for granted.  Not only your expertise in the labor and delivery room, but just your expertise in life.  Your patience and love.  Your kindness and forgiveness.  Your discipline and sense of duty.  Your sense of humor and your hugs, always your hugs. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for you.  Please rest assured, that no matter what you might think of yourself, no matter what self doubts you may have, no matter what you think you could have or should have done better, you did one incredible job as mother to me and my siblings.  We could not have dreamed for anything more.

And I haven’t even mentioned the incredible pillar of strength and faith you are and how much you’ve held me up over the past years.  From showing up at my door with groceries and making me dinner after we brought Bo home from the hospital to being by my bedside as I delivered each and every one of my children.  From coaching me through labor to being the first person to hug me when the doctors decided Jake didn’t make it.  From feeding me, caring for me and sacrificing everything for me and my siblings to sitting by Jen’s bedside as she slipped away.  Mom, you are seriously the strongest person I know.  God made you for the purpose of being my mom.  He prepared you in every possible way to be able to minister to me, love me and support me through life.  I am unafraid of what is to come because of you. I wish I had more words to tell you what you mean to me and how much I love you, but I don’t believe there is time enough in the world to do that.  

I love you.  You are my hero – the one I aspire to be.  The one with the other half of my brain.  The one I look up to and admire more than anyone else. Thank you for pointing me to Christ and thank you for showing me what it means to live like Him.  Thank you for showing my children what a grandmother can be – loving, generous and kind but without undermining me or spoiling them.  Thank you for being YOU.  You are one amazing, awe inspiring, beautiful woman.




When I am weak, then I am strong.

I don’t write very often now.  I feel like I mention that at the beginning of every blog post.  There is less urgency behind my need to express myself.  I feel resigned to the fact that my heart hurts day to day and the desire to share that has diminished.  My grief has become a constant background noise instead of a immediate din that needs to be explained.

Today marks four years since the morning Jen died.  I woke up seconds before my sister breathed her last.  I was sleeping in her hospital room, curled up on a chair with my brothers and nephews and parents arranged around the room in various levels of sleep and sorrow.  My father sat on Jen’s left, stroking her hand and Chris sat on her right, softly speaking to her.  Her breathing was ragged and loud; it was clear that the time was coming soon.

Some silent whisper from God woke me up that morning in time to hear my father and Chris say to Jen that they loved her and that she should stop fighting and let go.  Seconds later, I heard Chris cry out in mourning and I knew she was gone.  I prize those few seconds where everything was still and I was able to see her go from my perch across the room.  Slowly, everyone else in the room started to stir and we all gathered together. I know Jen would be pleased to know we were all there for her.

Many days I feel so weak for being sad all the time.  I cried at a wrestling tournament a few weeks ago singing a lullaby to Finn because I just missed everyone so much.  There was nothing special about that song or that place, I just couldn’t hold back the tears anymore.  That seems weak to me.  And if you have met me, you probably know that weak is one of the last words I want anyone to use to describe me.

In fact, I spent a majority of my childhood trying to make sure that everyone around me knew just how tough I was.  That meant that I was often aggressive, pushy and punchy.  That meant that I was bossy and take-charge and controlling.  My edges have softened, but I think some of that still hangs on.

But in church on Sunday, I was reminded what it means to be weak.  In 2 Corinthians, Paul says: (2 Corinthians 12:7b-10) “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I’ve read this many times.  I’ve had people send me portions of this as inspirational encouragement, but I don’t know why it stuck out so much this week.

First of all, I realized that it’s pride that makes me want everyone to notice how strong I am.  It’s pride that makes me feel like I have to put up a front all the time. It’s pride that makes me feel better when I can hold back those tears and no one knows that I’m hurting still. I have a student I admire who will just let it out when she needs to.  She doesn’t worry about it too much – she just quietly cries all over her physics work because the math reminds her of her dad and she wishes he was still around to help her with it.  I want to be like her in many ways.

Secondly, I realized that my focus is in the wrong place.  When Paul says he pleaded with God to take the weakness away, God’s response had nothing to do with Paul.  God’s response is about HIM.  God doesn’t say, “You’ll get stronger in time” or “Don’t worry!  No one is watching.”  God points to himself and says that He is enough. His grace is sufficient.  I lose sight of the fact that God is working in me when all I feel is weak.  I forget that this plan is bigger than me.  I forget that this plan is bigger than my reputation or appearance.  I forget that this life has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Christ.

Finally, I realized that my attitude was all wrong.  I should not be ashamed of my weakness or spend all my energy hiding it.  I should boast in my weakness because in my weakness, God’s power gets to shine through.  In my hardships and difficulties, when I am less, God is more.  And I should boast gladly!

So here I am, folks, I’m a wimp.  I cry at pretty much any movie I watch and most of the time I’m watching Disney movies (and still crying).  I can’t take a long drive or watch a comic book movie without missing my dad and I can’t wear the color purple or talk on the phone without missing Jen.  I can’t make eggs and rice or meatloaf without telling my kids a story about my brother Jake and I certainly can’t look at the moon without crying about Luna.  I wake up every morning and forget for a split second that I’ve lost all these people and when that split second is over, it feels like the wound is opened fresh.

There are days when instead of getting sad, I just get angry.  I am impatient and short-fused and spend more than a reasonable amount of time making the mom face at people who aren’t even my children.  I snap at my mother-in-law when she offers to do my dishes.  I make my kids go to bed an hour early because I am afraid I’ll yell at them for nothing and make them hate me.  I mumble to myself about all the injustices I feel like I’m experiencing and then paste on a fake smile when someone comes in the room.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

It is not enough to admit my weaknesses.  I think the next part of this is to acknowledge the perfect power of Christ.  God in his perfect wisdom uses these weaknesses to direct me to Him, to make me more like Him and to reveal Himself to others through me.  When I am weak, my message is strong because my message is that God is BIG and God is in control and God is good.  God is enough.

I am weak, but I am not perfectly weak.  I witnessed perfect weakness on this day four years ago, when Jen’s human body achieved perfect weakness and God’s grace took her from this world and this world’s weaknesses.  Jen was one of the strongest people I know, but she knew when to let go – NO ONE would call her weak. And through her God was and is glorified.

So those of you struggling through grief (and there are a lot of you), I encourage you to embrace your weakness.  For in your weakness, you are strong.  In your weakness, GOD is strong.  His grace is enough for us.  He is enough for us.  And I am praying for you.

Grief is Forever

It has been ages since I’ve written in this blog.  Months.

Part of me feels bad because I want to document this process of grief that started…well, the grief started long before Luna, but my documentation started with Luna.  But what I’ve discovered is that grief is forever.

The way that my grief makes itself known is different now than it used to be, but it’s still there.  It’s a little monster that sits in my chest and waits until small tiny little nothings appear (like the perfect bite of pinto beans and cornbread or a Wonder Woman sweater that’s not my size) before it attacks and causes fresh pain all over again.

It will be six years in December since Jake died of his heart attack and I still pause before cleaning out his bathroom because I remember how I felt the first time I cleaned it after he died.  We found him on that floor.  He died in that room.  And the feeling I get is not disgust or sadness, it’s fear that I’m erasing evidence of his presence in that room.  Fear that I’m removing him from the space.  I still make my family call his room HIS room.  Not the spare room.  Not the blue room.  Jake’s room.  Uncle Bubba’s room.  Because he existed. He filled that space and to call it anything else ignores that…..doesn’t it?  (Forget the fact that my son, Bo, is like a mini-Jake in his interests and habits and personality.  Case and point:  he is currently working on a book of mythical creatures, now that he has finished his instruction manual for building a dragon robot.  I totally blame Jake for that one.)

Four years ago this month, we found out about Luna’s Turners Syndrome and started the whole medical rigmarole of appointments and ultrasounds and echocardiograms two and three times a week.  There are certain smells and sounds that I associate with that time in my life – medical tape, the rubber tubing of a stethoscope, the sound of velcro like a blood pressure cuff, the ppppbbbbbt sound of squirting gel out of a bottle.  It’s silly but every time someone squirts stuff out of a plastic bottle (ketchup, mustard, hair gel), it reminds me of the ultrasound where we found out Luna’s heart was no longer beating.

That means it has been almost four years without Jen.  I see so much of Jen in her sons that I miss her almost constantly. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could call her and talk to her.  Even to this day, I still forget sometimes that I can’t call her up.  Someone gave me some sad news this morning and my first reaction was to pick up my phone and call a dead woman!  The saddest part of this for me is that I find myself holding in a lot because she isn’t around to talk to.  That woman was so easy to talk to that I could vent about her TO her!  I have a collection of stories that I’m saving for her one day.  Maybe I should write them down.

And my dad.  Oh, Daddy.  I don’t even know where to start with my daddy.  I’m still not sure how I’m functioning without having hugged that man in almost three years.  I’m not ready to get in to that.

BUT, my point is that grief doesn’t ever go away.  It doesn’t stop.  Once you’ve experienced it, grief will always be a part of you.  Those of you grieving now?  Don’t wait for it to go away.  Don’t expect to “get over it.”  Don’t think there is something wrong if it still hurts after all this time.

It changes you forever. FOR.EV.ER. (How many of you said that like the kid from the movie Sandlot?)

But don’t let it change you for the worst.

Yes, I am sad more often now than I was.  But my happy is more happy than it’s ever been.  My joy is amplified to degrees that it never could have if I wasn’t given the opportunity to see and appreciate what God has given me.

I miss Jake and Luna and Jen and Dad.  I have these great big gaping holes in my life that cannot be filled up with anything or anyone else.  But I also have these amazing people in my life that love me and need me. My family.  My friends.  My students.  My coworkers.

Thank you God, for teaching me to love with more of my heart.  Thank you, God for showing me how to minister to my family, friends and students in ways I never could before.  Thank you, God for giving me the opportunity to help those who hurt.  Thank you, God, for making me more like you.  Continue to work in me, Lord.

Thank you, my loved ones, for loving me back.

Isn’t that what makes us grieve in the first place?  Our love?  What I mean is that I wouldn’t be sad about any of them if I didn’t love them in the first place.  I wouldn’t miss them if I didn’t love them.  I wouldn’t be upset if I wasn’t blessed by having them in my life in the first place.

Grief is forever.  But so is God.  And God is love.


The Big 4-0

Dearest Jen,

Today would be your 40th birthday, Nina.   If you were still around, we would celebrate with crabs and cake or pizza and movies or cuddles and ice cream cake from Hoffman’s.  We would gather together and pig out and laugh.  We all know that we would have started celebrating on the first of the month since you don’t celebrate your birthDAY so much as your birthMONTH.

If you were still around, I would have found some pretty yarn or a beautiful scarf or some fragrant tea to give to you. I’d have my kids draw you birthday cards and bake you a cake. We would come visit you and my sticky kids, smelling like summer, would snuggle beside you on the couch while Criminal Minds or Law and Order plays on the TV even though no one is watching.

If you were still around, your laugh would be more than just a memory and your smile would be more than a mental photograph.  Your hugs would still warm me up from the outside in.  Your raised eyebrow would still make me aware of my stupidity and your mom face would still even the most unruly child.

If you were still around, you would have opinions on the new Harry Potter book.  You’d have a list of summer reading books to tell me about and suggest to me.  You’d have a million knitting projects, some for my children and all of them for people other than yourself.  And I would still wonder how you have time for all of that.

If you were still around, I could talk to you about everything.  I could teach you all about what I learned in Botany this summer and we could compare our tiny gardens and jealously poke fun at Jes’ green thumb.  I would tell you all the goofy things my kids say during the day.  (Like the other day, Joe was wearing a skirt and he said, “I wearing girl clothes, but I still boy because I wiener.”)  You would make me miss my treadmill time because you’d come over too early or too late for me to get on it without being rude, just like you used to make me miss my nap times.  And I wouldn’t care.

If you were still around, I wouldn’t worry about people and relationships so much.  I wouldn’t be so self conscious about my introverted nature because I know you would fill me in on who is who and why I should care and what I should be praying about.  I wouldn’t be so isolated because you’d force me to do social things and go places. (I just hosted a LuLaRoe party because I thought it was the kind of thing you’d make me do.)

If you were still around, I’d be happy.  I had to delete that sentence a hundred times and rewrite it.  I am happy, Nina.  Without you here.  I am happy.  But that happiness was hard to come by.  That happiness took extra work.  This happiness was the hard-fought, snatched from the claws of anxiety and depression, sunlight through the storm clouds kind.  I think you wouldn’t want me to be sad without you, but you should know it’s a different kind of happiness.

Since you’re not around, I am teaching my children about strength.  I’m teaching them to love and cherish their siblings even when they are the most obnoxious people they know.  I am teaching them about the realities of the weaknesses of the human body and how they can’t stop us from being happy.  I’m teaching them to love reading and imagination and information.  I am teaching them to take care of each other and to always use “secret” ingredients in recipes.  I’m teaching them to hug and cuddle all the time.  I’m teaching them that one of the strongest, most amazing women I know was their Aunta Nina and that they have incredible lessons to learn from her story.  I feel the most sad for Maggie because I know that you two would enjoy each other so much (at least as long as neither one of you is pouting).

Nina, I love you and you are remembered.  You are cherished and adored.  You will not – CANNOT – be forgotten or ignored.  You are still a force of nature and an immovable object.  You are still incredible and beautiful and strong.  You still make everyone pale by comparison.  You were so brilliant with light while you were alive, that you still give off light years after your death – like a star who’s light is visible from Earth even though, light years away, it doesn’t glow anymore.

Happy birthday, old woman.  We love you.  Sending you kisses and steamed crabs in heaven.


“A New Coat for Anna”

Before all the craziness of vacations and nosebleeds and babies this summer, we did one last week of summer “school.”  I don’t remember this in as good detail as I usually do, but it was such a fun one that I didn’t want to skip it!

We were reading “A New Coat for Anna” by Harriet Ziefert which is about a girl in post-war Europe who needs a new winter coat.  Her mother trades all sorts of household goods in order to get what she needs to get that coat and in the process, makes new friends and learns what goes into making a coat.

On the first day of the week, we went to visit a good friend’s farm to see her sheep.  We got to meet all sorts of animals (goats, chickens, cows and sheep) and learn about everything that goes into taking care of them.

As close as the sheep would let us get.

As close as the sheep would let us get.

Notice Bo sneaking up on them in the background. He was practicing his pounce.

Notice Bo sneaking up on them in the background. He was practicing his pounce.

We learned about the things they eat and what sorts of products we get from sheep (milk, cheese, meat, wool) and we discussed all the fun parts of taking care of animals. Then we played some before we left the farm.  Thanks, Krissy for letting us bug you for a day!

We were digging sand out of their clothes all day.

We were digging sand out of their clothes all day.

The second day, we learned about World War II (on a very basic level).  We talked about the Axis countries and the Allies.  They made a chart by cutting out country names and putting them on the right side.  This gave them practice with cutting and gluing.  Then they took a world map and colored the Axis countries red and the Allies yellow.  Finally, they colored a German flag and we talked about famous German composers like Beethoven and Bach.  Bo was excited because he remembered Bach from music class.


Even Joe got in on the coloring fun. So enthusiastic, this one.

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On the third day, we all got up early and went fishing!  This was daddy’s favorite day.  We tried to catch fish so we could measure them like Anna was measured by the tailor for her new coat.  We also wanted to practice making observations and recording data, because I’m a science teacher, so you know I can’t resist that.  Unfortunately, we only caught one tiny little fish, but we had a beautiful day on the lake relaxing and had lunch in a very cute diner nearby.  A bust in terms of learning, but a great day of spending time together.  And we measured lots of other things besides fish.

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For the next day, we got to spend the day with our resident fiber/wool expert, Nana.  The kids were excited to have a teacher besides mommy and they got a big day full of adventures.

First, she showed them unprocessed wool and asked them to describe what it looked like and what it felt like.  They didn’t like the greasy feeling of the lanolin in the wool.


Then she showed them how to use very hot water and Dawn dish soap to clean the wool.

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After letting it dry for a while, we then learned how to card the wool using brushes with tiny metal teeth.  At every step, my mom asked the kids to observe how it looked and felt differently than it did the step before.


Then, she showed them how to spin using her spinning wheel.  Maggie was extra excited about this because she knew spinning wheels from Sleeping Beauty.


She showed them that yarn can then be knit into clothing by showing them a sweater she was working on and that it can be woven into fabric by showing them her loom.  In the book, there is a weaver that makes the wool into fabric, so this was interesting for them.

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The final step was dying the wool.  The kids chose a bright red color (motivated by Bo who is obsessed with red).


Of course after this, we had to wait for the yarn to dry before we could do anything with it and then Nana promised to knit Bo a sweater with the red yarn.  Maggie asked for a pink shawl and Joe claimed some very soft blue yarn for his sweater.  Just recently, my mom finished all these projects and my kids are loving it.  I just wish I had pictures of all of them.

Maggie shawl

Maggie wearing the perfect pink shawl Nana made her.

The last day was all about appreciating what we have and what goes into making it.  We talked about not taking things for granted and being thankful for what we have.  We prayed together as a family after listing some things we were thankful for.  This was a very simple day, but I think it reminded my kids to think about the work that goes into things.  Maggie went for a week thanking me for all the work I put into making dinner, which was super sweet.

We’ll see how cooperative they’ll be next summer with this whole school at home thing!

The Sun Shines through the Trees

I have a confession to make.  I haven’t been writing in my blog because I haven’t been feeling like I had anything important or wise to say in my grief.  In fact, my father’s death hit me like a ton of bricks, as the cliche goes and I haven’t felt quite the same since.

There was a day this past summer when I was riding in the car with my mom on the way to Lancaster when I noticed something was different.  I looked out the window at the beautiful scenery and I didn’t feel sad.

We were on our way to Green Dragon – a huge flea market – and were going to spend the day with many of my extended family members.  I brought all four kids, including the newbie that was just weeks old.


Taking a break from the flea market shopping to take a picture with my children.  You can’t see it, but I’m wearing Finn too.

The last time I had gone to Green Dragon had been with BOTH of my parents, and I was already preparing for moments where my eyes would fill with tears and I’d have to hold it back.  Memories of laughing with my dad and eating with him and walking with him. Wishing he was still with us to buy big jugs of beet red pickled eggs and munch on sausages and pretzels.

But they didn’t come.

Well, the memories did, but the tears didn’t.  Not that I wasn’t sad that he wasn’t there to form NEW memories, but I wasn’t sad about the old memories.  I was actually happy about the old memories.  Happy to have them.  Joyful to share them with others.  Glad to remember him and those moments with  him.

My dad had been dead for over a year at that point and that was the first time I could feel like I was peeking over the mountain that is my grief. It’s almost like every time someone I loved died, the grief was piled higher and higher and it became more and more difficult to pull myself up to the summit so I could see the sun shining on the other side.

And for the past year, I think I’ve been stuck clinging to the edge of my grief by my very fingertips, getting more and more exhausted trying to hold on.

I’ve struggled with anxiety and insomnia.  I’ve worried and cried and worried some more about who was going to die next and what I would do if I lost someone else. What if the house catches on fire?  What if I drop this baby down the stairs?  What if that ache in my stomach is actually cancer?  As though being hyper-aware of every possible catastrophe would allow me to be better prepared.

I’ve struggled with depression.  I’ve carved a seat in the cushions of my couch that held me for days, wearing the same sweatpants and t-shirt the whole time. I’ve told myself that it doesn’t matter.  That I shouldn’t worry because as time goes on, more people are going to die. That’s just a fact of life.  People die.  I’ve chanted in my head a quote I heard when I was very young:  “From the moment we are born, we begin to die.”  As though being fatalistic would prevent me from having any hope and therefore keep me from feeling disappointed when someone died.

I was clutching my grief to my heart with all my strength.  Holding on so tightly that I couldn’t function in normal life.

But that day in Lancaster, I was lying on a picnic blanket staring up into the sky through the dark green leaves of a summer tree, listening to the tones of the voices of my family around me – not the words.  Just the tones. The bright tenor of my Uncle Joe and the warm altos of my aunts Chrissy, T and Mecky.  The sharp squeals of small children laughing and playing. The whispered sigh of a Nana holding a new baby while he sleeps.

And I realized my grief was beneath me.


This is the exact view from that morning.  

It’s still there.  Ever present. Inescapable.  I am constantly standing on top of a mountain of grief.  But it’s not the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last thing on my mind at night.

Standing on the summit, I can see the sun.  The Son.

And feel hope.

Hope in knowing that life – no matter how hard or sad or complicated – is not about our brief time on this Earth.  And that hard times will keep coming, but I have hope that God will refine my heart through them.

That his purpose is greater than what I can see.  Maybe even greater than I will ever see.  Definitely greater than I am capable of seeing.

So, today, on the third anniversary of Luna’s stillborn delivery – the day we celebrate as her birthday, I ask you to have hope. To remember that God is calling us to lives of difficulty and trial.  But to lives that glorify Him.  To have hope that life is not actually about this time here.  Or about the death that ends this life here.

I went back and read some of the blog posts I wrote when I lost Luna and I wonder who the heck that woman was.  I want to meet her. Her words filled my heart with joy and my eyes with tears.  My grandmother quoted one of my blog posts recently, and I didn’t recognize those words as my own words.  Like I had lost a bit of myself in my struggle with grief.

But I slowly feel it coming back.

I just have to look up to see the Son through the trees.

What just happened?

While we were on vacation in the Poconos with our Korn extended family (plus my mom), I got my very first bloody nose ever. I really don’t remember ever having a bloody nose before even as a child. It was heavy and gross. The blood went down my throat making me vomit clots and spit out blood. It lasted about an hour before it finally stopped and I breathed a great big sigh of relief.

Until the next morning. And again later that day. And repeatedly over the next couple of days. They started on Monday night. On Wednesday we were checking out to come home and decided we should stop in an ER on the way. In the ER, the doc said these types of nosebleeds are not something to worry about. He gave me some medicated nasal spray, advised me to pinch my nose for 30 minutes instead of 10 and wished me luck.

My nose bled again before we even got home. I used the spray and pinched for longer and tried not to over exert myself. It maybe seemed to help a little. On Thursday, I had one nosebleed and on Friday I had none! I was excited until about 2pm on Saturday when I sneezed while bending over to wash my hands and, as Patrick says, “I blew a gasket.”

On Saturday and Sunday I had repeated choking on blood nosebleeds, keeping me from sleeping at night and walking me up from those few moments of sleep I did get. Monday afternoon, I had an appointment with an ENT (ear nose and throat doctor). Of course, my nose bleeds right before the appointment but not while I’m at the docs. He does a thorough exam and finds no blood vessels that are good candidates for cauterization (burning them closed so they stop bleeding). He says that like most pregnant women, I have a lot of engorged blood vessels – called hypervascularization and it should go away after the baby is born. He packs my nose full of gauze and says to come back in a week.

No bloody noses on Tuesday, but on Wednesday, while putting in a load of laundry, I blow a gasket again. I think I get them under control, but that evening I have one of my worst while Patrick is away. My kids basically put themselves to bed. 

We go back to the ENT on Thursday morning. We see a different doctor who says the same thing as the other guy and packs me again. She says that if this doesn’t work, we should go to the ER at Carroll so they can put me to sleep and find the problem.

On Friday, I get a small nosebleed while taking a nap but I get it under control and think maybe it was a fluke. That night around 12:30am, my nose bleeds again for real (including the clots and gushing and gagging) so I wake up a very flustered Patrick. He calls the ENT who is on call at Carroll and he says to come right in. My mom comes over to watch the kids while they sleep.

Once we get to Carroll, we get checked right in to the ER and they prepare an OR. My nose is of course not bleeding anymore. Everyone is super efficient and sweet and kind. They have a nurse from L&D come to monitor the baby while I have my nose looked at. We joke about how her job should be easy. I kiss my husband after bragging about how wonderful he is to all the nurses and docs.

I get a bloody nose as I’m lying on the table in the OR and the ENT is super excited because then he can see where it’s coming from. I fall asleep pretty quickly as people fuss over me in all directions.

Fast forward to when I wake up. I wake up in flashes. I remember having a hard time breathing. I remember seeing Patrick and my mother. I remember someone telling me they delivered the baby and I think I remember seeing him briefly before I was whisked away.

Saturday was rough. My hemoglobin was 11.6g/dL at the ER in the Poconos. Low is defined as less than 12g in women. When I get to the ER at Carroll, it’s just above 8g. After my nasal surgery, it’s just above 6g. Half what it should be to be considered normal. I spent the day adjusting emotionally to the fact that I had been rushed into an emergency c-section and my baby is not in my belly anymore. I am so tired from the general anesthesia and blood loss that I’m falling asleep every five minutes, in the middle of sentences, during conversations, even when I’m nursing baby Finn.

Let’s take a minute to brag about how awesome my baby is. The reason they decided to take him by c-section is because his pulse kept dropping (starting in the 140s and dropping to the 40s) and his oxygen saturation levels were troublesome. They had already extubated me from the nasal surgery and had to reintubate me for the section. But on Saturday when I was barely holding it together, my Finn was beautiful and gorgeous and seemingly healthy. He nursed like a champ and especially so considering I wasn’t up for helping him. The cardiologist had concerns because his pulse was still low so he was kept in the special care nursery with the oxygen on.

Overnight, they decided I needed a transfusion and I got 4 units of blood over the course of the night and Sunday day. Sunday morning people kept commenting on how much better I looked but I was still feeling very fatigued. Add to that nausea, gas pains, uterine cramps, incision pains and general grumpiness. Not to mention the residual swelling, pain and discomfort from the nasal packing and surgery.

They were promising me that Finn would be able to come join me, but we were waiting for a follow up echocardiogram and then we were waiting to have the pediatrician read that echocardiogram. He didn’t join me until 7:45pm on Sunday.

At some point on Sunday, much of my discomfort passed. I threw up and the nausea passed. I napped on my side and much of my gas pains passed. I worked with my mom and nurse to get out of bed and sit in a chair. Then my transfusions ended so I didn’t have to drag that IV pole around. And they took out my catheter so I could use the bathroom on my own. Finally, I finished the antibiotic, so they disconnected the IV on my left side. 

So here I am, late on Sunday evening, holding my Phinehas Aquinas, listening to him make little baby cooing sounds thankful because it could have been so much worse. I can look beyond the stuffy nose and how much it hurts to cough when I realize how awesome it is that my Finn and I are both okay.


Now….all I have to worry about are the pesky nosebleeds. Please pray with me that they won’t return.

And now let me brag about a couple of other people. My mother continues to amaze me. Here we are at a hospital where she doesn’t even work and most of the nurses and techs know her anyway. She’s spending the night with me tonight to make sure I can get around okay. She gives me her opinions, helps me make decisions and gets me the best care I can get. I really could not do this without her.

And last but not least, my amazing husband Patrick deserves some sort of medal. The night I was rolled into the OR, he sat in the family waiting room. Someone came out to tell him that the baby was delivered and was okay, but when he asked about me, they said they didn’t have any information about me at that time. Can you imagine what was going through his head? Then he watched me struggle through those first hours while I was still fighting the anesthesia and overcoming the blood loss. He arranged child care for the three big kids, taking a few shifts himself to put them to bed and cook them meals. He is an incredible man and I can’t believe God chose me to be his wife. Thank you God, for Patrick.