Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Next Chapter

Yesterday DH started a blog, devoted to chronicling the next chapter of his life. His words are profound and meaningful, so it's easy to overlook the less than perfect grammar in his entries. Stylistic and grammatically correct prose is not his strong suit - he's a poet, a songwriter, a rare person who can transform strong feelings into beautiful words so fast it makes my head spin, and it's that poetry that is leading him on this new journey.

I am so proud of my man, who is committing himself to the only path that makes sense. I am fortunate to have watched him grow and blossom as a musician, and I can't wait to see what he next chapter has in store.

When we were just young kids, barely old enough to buy a fifth at the ABC, our paths crossed. A simple friendship was born, but the more I got to know this shy, reserved young man, the more I saw his raw and odd sense of humor, his depth of emotion, his rare gifts. At the time, DH was early in his self discovery through music. He had been playing guitar for only a few years, but obviously had a gift for it. Guitar players are an attractive bunch, but one with the ability to pen soulful, expressive lyrics was especially attractive to me. I remember being more and more attracted to him each time I saw him on stage, and even more so when I watched him scribble out a song, sitting on the couch with his body curled over his guitar to reach the spiral notebook in front of him (a notebook we still own, in fact).

2003 - Moments like this caught my attention,
and he still has the ability to captivate me when he's on stage.
I've watched this man move through the various stages of his musical career, and I've watched him continually put his dreams on the back burner. I've seen him struggle through band breakups, I've witnessed the joy of meeting like-minded musicians,  and I've tried to understand and be supportive when he's been unsatisfied musically. I've been there for spectacular shows, I've been there for shows when I can tell by the look on his face he's not pleased. I've sat through countless practices, sound checks, load ins and load outs. Although the title of "band girlfriend" sounds more glamorous than it is, there is still, eleven years later, a little magic in knowing that I get to go home with that guitar player. 

Last year, I realized my guitar player was unraveling. Somehow I missed the warning signs, failed to see the pain and the daily struggle, and because of my blindness I nearly lost this man who I've built my life around. Thankfully, we committed ourselves to facing the storm together, and I was able to see how music helped him find his way in the darkness. He would sit for hours just listening to music, watching videos, and I remember him talking about how the music only he could hear kept him company during the long hours of waiting in the hospital. 

As we came out of that painful chapter in our lives, as we turned the page on the past, my love began to fill page after page of his notebook with fresh music. For weeks, I fell asleep to the lullaby of guitar strings and his soulful voice finding the notes and the words. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, he had written enough material to fill an album. 

Now we are starting a whole new chapter in our lives, feeling mostly recovered from our traumas, and the future looks bright. Last night my dear husband announced to the blogosphere that he is launching a new career - the only career he should have ever considered. My man has always been a singer and a songwriter, and he's finally giving those gifts the credit they deserve. I hate that it took traveling through the long, lonely darkness to get to this point, but in many ways that darkness was a necessary evil. It has brought this family to where we are today, and it has finally lifted enough for my dear man to see his path. I am so proud, and so excited to help him navigate this path. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Window In... I'll Pass

I'm reaching the point in my pregnancy where nearly everyone asks, "So, do you know what you are having?" Although it's very satisfying to me, DH indicates that it may be less than kind to always answer with, "Hopefully it's a baby, but we aren't ruling out a shark." 

In any case, this question is almost always followed up with, "Oh, you didn't find out at your ultrasound?" and then a look of shock when I explain we haven't had an ultrasound.

In today's obstetric environment, it's absolutely shocking to most people that you could make it through a pregnancy without having a peek. Ultrasound, like so many of the other things that we do during pregnancy, is seen as so routine that no one gives it a second thought. In fact, most mamas I know love the chance to have an extra scan or two so they can get an extra peek at their baby.

We didn't have an ultrasound during our pregnancy with E, because it was never medically necessary. When my pregnancy continued past the 42 week point, we seriously discussed the need for an ultrasound, and were planning to make an appointment for the 30th of December, but then he showed up on the 28th. More than halfway through, we know this pregnancy is healthy and progressing normally, so I feel no need to have an ultrasound.

Somehow I think ultrasound gives people a false sense of security. Don't get me wrong, ultrasound definitely has its place. But in general it's a very overused technology, the dangers of which are just not known. The fact that ultrasound "studios" are popping up in strip malls and charging exorbitant fees for 9 dimensional shots of unborn babies is more than a little concerning.  The way my babies scamper away from the Doppler at each appointment, I feel certain they would blow a fetus-shaped hole through my belly if I subjected them to ultrasound waves. When I was fighting the battle of wills with the OB during my labor with E (you can read some about that here), one of the cards he pulled out was, "We have no idea how big this baby is, and an ultrasound at this stage couldn't accurately determine weight." Even with all the stress of the moment, I had to stop and laugh at him, because I know loads of women who have had late term ultrasounds, around the 39 or 40 week mark, and been coerced into induction or surgical birth because the never-failing ultrasound shows a big baby. (Had Dr. PainInMyAss decided to do an ultrasound, he would have seen an active, slender baby who weighed less than eight pounds and measured at the 50% for head circumference.)

We are often lulled into a false sense of security because a certain medical technology has been used for a long time and therefore must be safe. Let's remember, however, that x-rays of pregnant women were once routine. There are scads of medications that were routinely prescribed to women during pregnancy and labor over the past century, medications that were used for many years before it became obvious that they were doing more harm than good.

I won't make the claim that blasting our unborn children with ultrasonic sound waves damages them, because I don't have the proof of that. Here's what I know: our society has seen a dramatic increase in childhood disease, including behavioral issues and chronic diagnoses like ADD, ADHD, and autism. The rising rates of these diagnoses have paralleled the rising rates of ultrasound, vaccination, food additives, screen time, plastic exposure, and augmented, medically managed birth. It seems obvious to me that there must be some connection between the two. I live by the precautionary principle, which leads me to avoid things that can't be proven safe, especially when the benefits don't outweigh the risks. Unless there's a medical need, I'll avoid ultrasound. I'm not that interested in a grey scale picture of my baby looking like an alien anyway.

I posted this with caution, fearing I may alienate the rest of the population who peek into their uterus with regularity. I know very few mamas who have not had an ultrasound during their pregnancy, so I'm in the minority here. The truth is, there's magic in feeling your baby move and getting to know him or her that way. I've felt both of mine move before I even heard their little hearts race along with the Doppler. It's the sweetest and most organic feeling ever to know your baby and your baby's position with your own hands and your heart. I like to do things the "old school" way, and I love that my midwives can put their hands on my belly and map my baby, that I can do the same, and I have faith in that wisdom.

Marsden Wagner's Paper in Midwifery Today, 1999

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I Am The Face

Today, October 15, my Facebook newsfeed is full of graphics supporting and links to various miscarriage, stillbirth, and pregnancy loss websites. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and today is the official day for the I Am the Face campaign. For women who have experienced this kind of loss (and 25% of women have), every day is a day of remembrance, but it's beautiful and uplifting to see society as a whole embracing this often unacknowledged part of a women's journey.

Having experienced several losses myself, it's amazing to me the culture of silence surrounding miscarriage and pregnancy loss. The loss of a child, either early or late in the pregnancy, is one of the most painful things a woman, a family, will endure. The fact that our society very rarely talks about it is really sad. This is a time in life when a woman needs the support of her sisters and the understanding and compassion of society at large.

Both my children are rainbow babies, a term used to describe a baby who is conceived after a miscarriage. I am the lucky woman, the woman who had little trouble picking up and trying again, who was able to find the rainbow in the storm that is pregnancy loss. Many women suffer in silence, losing pregnancy after pregnancy, and losing hope right along with those little souls.

Both my losses were early losses, but that didn't make them any less painful. I remember cycling through the stages of grief with each of my losses. Did I do something to cause this? Is this punishment for something I've done in the past? Why me? I felt alone after my first loss, just before my pregnancy with E, and it was an experience we shared with very few people. DH and I walked the healing path alone, and it was a few short months later that we were expecting again. I was still feeling sorrow for the little spirit I never got to know, and I still feel occasional sadness for that child.

Women who experience early losses often feel very alone. Most people don't know just how common early loss in pregnancy is, and partners have often barely gotten their heads wrapped around the idea that the baby is coming. A woman feels the reality much sooner in the pregnancy, and it can be very isolating to feel like you're mourning that loss alone. In our case, DH was so wrapped up in supporting me that he never acknowledged his own grief.

When I experienced my second pregnancy loss, less than a year ago, I was devastated. Having just fought my way through the hardest season of my life, I thought I deserved happiness, and never imagined the universe would lay a loss at my feet. I was caught completely off guard, and both DH and I were standing there, dazed and hurting, trying to understand how this could happen again.

This time, I had many more women in my life who had suffered losses. The curtain of silence surrounding miscarriage seemed to have lifted for me, and I was able to talk with my sisters about my feelings. DH and I are in a totally different place in our relationship, and our improved communication meant that we were able to talk about the hurt, the disappointment, the road to healing, more freely.

The silence can be one of the most painful parts of pregnancy loss. Just a few days after my recent loss, a relative stranger approached me and gave me a five minute "lecture" on why we should have more children. Holding back tears and angry words, I nodded politely and walked away, but inside me was an angry woman who wanted to shout and cry and shame her for being so insensitive. In our society, though, it's the woman bearing the pain who must be the sensitive one.

It's absurd that, as a survivor of miscarriage, I must be the one to bite my tongue, to have the self control not to shout "I'm trying! I WANT another baby, but the universe isn't cooperating!" It's absurd that I've felt ashamed of what I had no control over. I remember being in the hospital, about to give birth to E, and feeling shame when a nurse spoke my pregnancy statistics aloud - "grava 3, para 1" is a terrible thing for a mother to hear just as she's about to welcome her first full term baby into the world.

It's time to break the silence. It's time for society to stop hushing up and covering up miscarriage just because it's associated with the mysterious (and in society's eyes, threatening) rhythm of women's reproduction. It's time for sisters to speak out and support one another. It's so comforting to know you aren't the first to mourn a spirit you never got to know, to feel sadness about a promise that won't come to fruition.

It's time to break the silence, and I see it happening all the time. There are many resources for women and families who are dealing with, or have dealt with, pregnancy loss, miscarriage, and still birth. There are groups out there, but the local support is often sparse, unfortunately. At playgroup a few months ago, I was with a group of women and we started chatting about pregnancy loss. Nearly every woman there had been touched by miscarriage in some way. It was very eye opening. It's my hope that any woman going through that will realize she's not alone, and will reach out to the sisterhood, the ones who have been there before.

I am the face of pregnancy loss, and I am the face of hope. I am there for my sisters in loss and in joy, and I am not afraid of what I've experienced.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Pepper Apple Chutney

The beautiful weather this year means the garden bounty has continued into late September. Last week I started the job of cleaning out the garden, and discovered a few spicy pepper plants still producing! I didn't have quite enough to make a batch of pepper jelly, and I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do with them, until a dozen apples showed up on my doorstep courtesy of my mother in law!

This was my first try at chutney. I based it from a recipe in my Ball blue book, and made changes based on the ingredients available.

1 dozen med apples, peeled, cored, soaked in lemon water, then chopped roughly (I used the food processor)
2 small bell peppers, finely chopped
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
2 banana peppers and about 8 spicy peppers, finely chopped (I did them in the food processor)
3 1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup honey
4 TBSP molasses
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp allspice
3 drops cinnamon bark essential oil
4 cups vinegar (I used 1 cup kombucha vinegar and 3 cups apple cider vinegar)

Mix ingredients in a large saucepot, bring to simmer. Simmer until thickened. Ladle into half pint jars and process for 10 minutes in boiling water bath.

(Yields approx 10 pints)

All my main ingredients were fresh and homegrown - the peppers grown in my garden
and the apples from my mother in law

Someday I'll get a corer/peeler/slicer machine...

Sugar, molasses, honey, plus spices and garlic

That pepper mixture is so beautiful (and so SPICY) it takes my breathe away.

Ready to simmer!

I used half pint jars so we can give these as gifts.

The finished product. Chutney is not the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, but
I'm hoping it will be quite lovely served on white meats.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

On Soulmates and Free Will

One day, whether you
are 14,
or 65

you will stumble upon
someone who will start
a fire in you that cannot die.

However, the saddest,
most awful truth
you will ever come to find––

is they are not always
with whom we spend our lives.

-Beau Taplin, "The Awful Truth"

A friend shared this on Facebook today, and it spoke to my soul. Although the passage doesn't specifically mention soulmates, it seems obvious to me that's the meaning.

Soulmates - a subject I think nearly everyone has an opinion about. They exist. They don't exist. They are really rare... Hollywood gives us great insight on the subject, and the conventional definition speaks to lovers, romantic relationships, to love eternal. For me, that definition doesn't consider the whole of the human experience.

Soulmates are not the same for each pair. To me, soulmates simply seem to understand each other on a deeper, more primal level. The souls can commune with one another, a rare gift that has been lost in the evolution of human intelligence.

Sometimes, soulmates become life mates. They meet and fall madly in love and spend their years building and savoring a life and a romantic relationship. 

Sometimes, soulmates are found in the context of friendships. Platonic relationships, same gender or not, where two spirits just get each other. Some of these relationships last a life time. Sometimes life or circumstances cause these soulmates to drift apart, and sometimes they transform into romantic relationships.

Sometimes, soulmates aren't destined for each other. The souls seemed twinned, but the personalities clash, or the circumstances are too tough, or the timing just isn't right. These pairs find each other, and are only fated to spend a short time together. Often, some great life truth is learned from the time spent together. Often, the hurt and heartache is immense.

I'm so thankful I don't share my life with the person I once called my soulmate. We came to know each other at a young, tumultuous time, and shared an intense connection, the kind that can only be souls speaking. A connection so strong that we hurt each other over and over, until the hurt was so overwhelming the relationship couldn't survive.

I'm so thankful the man I share my life with is not my soulmate, not someone predestined for me. Rather, we've made a choice, a decision, to nurture and grow our relationship. To have a deep and fulfilling connection, and to savor the beautiful moments when our souls connect, transcending the human consciousness and creating a bond that is more powerful because we built it. I'm so thankful I don't take that gift, that link, for granted.

I'm sometimes sad I tried to make a soulmate my everything, because choosing my own everything is so much sweeter. There's a sense of great pride in looking at our relationship and knowing it works, knowing it is deep, meaningful, and soulful, because we work hard and because we are intentional in our loving each other. 

As I write this, the man who is my everything and I are preparing to celebrate eleven years together. We haven't always loved each other the way we should, and our story has its share of sorrow and heartache. This chapter, though, this chapter is sweet, and I can't wait to pen the rest of the story.