Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Plants are the Strangest People

I've recently found a new blog Plants are the Strangest People and I'm obsessed.  I found it researching the difference between Pothos and Philodendron. I've ordered several new plants for my new 'vertical indoor garden' (more on this to come soon), and I wasn't sure if I was actually getting what I ordered because the two plants look so similar in pictures.  Hence the research.

Anyway, the blog is both funny and informative.  My favorite is a list on the left side, of all the different plants he's grown (ordered from easiest to most difficult), and I haven't been able to keep my eyes away.  Not only am I learning new things, I'm laughing loud enough to be glad my co-workers are not in yet!

Anyway, check it out.  Also, this man has 1726 plants (and counting I suppose).  Which is both impressive, and possibly a life goal.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Baby Shower - Guitar Gift

A few weeks ago I attended a baby shower for a good friend here in Alaska.  She is having a little boy, and we had a bit of a fox theme going with the gifts.  I'm not sure if that's a decision she consciously made for her nursery and the baby, or if the fact that the invitation had a fox on it made everyone assume that a fox theme was in the works.  Here is a lesson learned for everyone:  If your baby shower invitation has an obvious theme, it can drive the gifts, so send one that matches your decor or one that's neutral enough to not inspire gift ideas!

I knew I wanted to package the gifts in a fun way, like a diaper cake, but different.  However, this inspiration did not strike me until after I bought all the gifts, so I had to find something that would work with the gifts I had, and also something that would work for my friends.  I ended up going with a guitar since the father of the baby is a musician.  It turned out to be a surprisingly easy to accomplish project.  Other than the gifts all I needed was some ribbon and safety pins to hold it all together.

Here are the gifts I had to work with:

A baby thermometer
That is not my fox - baby book
Fox costume (for newborn pictures)
A package of Honest Company newborn Diapers
Two pairs of baby leg warmers (one fox theme that I bought, and one that I crocheted)
Best Bottom Diaper Shell (with foxes)
A Fox themed receiving blanket
Paris themed swaddle

I didn't watch a tutorial (though there are plenty on youtube if you are interested), but I did find great examples of guitar shaped gifts (see my pinterest below).

I took the box with the thermometer and covered the bottom with the diaper cover, and the top with the fox costume (stuffed the bottom of the costume into the top) to give it a round shape.  I then took the diapers and layered them around the box to make a vague oval.  Using ribbon I tied the whole thing together, then wrapped the swaddle around it.  There was a bit of stretching and pinning to get this step to work.  I folded the receiving blanket until it resembled a long stretch of fabric about the same width as the whole diaper/swaddle assemble.  I used a ribbon  tie it just above the center to make the guitar 'pear shape' then wrapped more ribbon along the edge.  I cut a piece of cardboard to make the guitar neck, and stretched the leg warmers over it, wrapping it with more thin ribbon.  Then I wedged the book and 'neck' under the previously tied ribbon.

The final gift came out like this:

Check out more baby shower ideas on my Pinterest board here (and fair warning, I'll be throwing a dinosaur themed shower in a few months, so there may be a lot of dinosaur things popping up!):

Pinterest-Baby Shower 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Three Week Home Makeover

So J left for three weeks out in the field, and I've gone on a bit of a house-frenzy.  Now cleaning would seem like a logical first step, but no,  I've gone straight to painting.  While he's gone, I want to paint all the doors in the house, the spare bedroom, and the upstairs bathroom.  Maybe the downstairs bathroom too, but that would involve moving the new washer and dryer, and that may be too much for me.  Unfortunately, J hates large house projects, especially in a rental, so I may not be able to get his help moving the appliances, but we'll see.  I've spent most of last week choosing various shades of gray and white and off-white for this project.  Normally I love lots of bright colors, but this is a rental, so I'm just glad that my landlady is letting me paint at all!  She said yes to neutral colors and asked us to keep all doors and trim white.  I'm happy to get to put a fresh coat of paint on everything and to get rid of at least some of the weird pink creme color that my entire house is painted.  The pink/red undertones don't match ANYTHING, including the tile, the carpet colors, or the counters.  I think the last realtor choose it.

Colors to come soon!  Also, some lessons learned from the whole project.  Biggest lesson so far?  If the door is already tight in a frame, sand a bit in that area, because after you put on two more coats of paint, the door won't close anymore.  Also, if your hinges use more than one type of screw, keep track of which screw goes in which hole, or just buy a whole bunch of longer screws, so you're not trying to screw a tiny screw into a large hole.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The unexpected moments of a miscarriage

We knew we were pregnant for one week.  One wonderful, hope filled week spend dreaming of our perfect future with a tiny addition to the family.  The line we had was very, very faint at first, but clearly darker just a few days later.  We even had confirmation from the doctor: there was hCG in my system. "Congratulations you're pregnant!"  We made plans for how we'd tell our families. We told our closest friends, those who already knew we had been trying, because there was almost nothing else on our minds.  A baby!  We were having a baby.

But even at the beginning things did not seem right.  My hCG levels were very low, and did not raise properly.  I didn't FEEL pregnant.  Our doctor ordered several blood tests, and then, when I started spotting and bleeding, an ultrasound.  An ultrasound that most definitely showed I was not pregnant.  No sign of pregnancy at all, as if though our baby had never existed.  J and I were devastated.  We also had friends visiting from the lower 48 at the time, friends that spend the week seeing me go to the doctor and who knew all that was going on.  

Yesterday the news become official.  Our doctor confirmed that our little Schrodinger was no longer inside me.  Even though I knew the statistics, having become part of one was quite a shock.  Still, it wasn't the big things but the smaller moments that were most unexpected.


1. A miscarriage is not a moment

I had always thought that a miscarriage is something that happened in the blink of an eye.  One moment there was a tiny life inside you and the next that life was gone and you cried, and then you worked on dealing with the tragedy.  But for me (and from the accounts I have read for many women) it's not at all like that.  We knew something wasn't quite right from almost the moment we found out we were pregnant.  Then a few days later, the spotting started.  Then the news of the low hCG levels.  Then the bleeding and cramping.  Then more tests.  And even now, five days later, I'm still spotting.  I didn't have a miscarriage as much as I am still having a miscarriage.  The body can take days or weeks to purge after a pregnancy that unfortunately went wrong.  Many women need medical help, in the form of pills or surgery, to truly be not pregnant again.  And it takes a long time.  At first wondering if you are having a miscarriage, and then actually having it.  And then wondering if you are done, if you can move on. It's rough.  The uncertainty is really rough.  J and I labeled it "being Schrodingered."  We're still working through it.  

2. Other women (and men) know your pain

Although we have only told a few people, many of them have told us of others who have had a miscarriage.  Online, there are hundreds if not thousands of accounts of this same pain.  My doctor informs me that at least 20%-30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, but that the real number is probably closer to 50%.  May of the miscarriages happen before the woman even knows she's pregnant.  So my story is natural.  It's normal.  Now this doesn't make it any less sad, or disappointing, or significant.  But it does make me feel that I am still WOMAN, that this is something WOMEN go through.  This is something couples go through.  And  they make it.  And they get through it.  I find that knowledge helpful and empowering.  

Here are some blogs and articles I found helped ease my mind:

I'm glad we knew about you
What I gained from having a miscarriage
What I didn't know about miscarriage until I had one
Difficult days for miscarriage survivors

3. We told exactly the right people about our pregnancy

Before even getting pregnant I read a lot about whether or not to tell people as soon as you get pregnant.  Both sides had really good points. Pro:  you get to share the joy as soon as you know it; have support if you have a miscarriage.  Cons: a private moment becomes public and you'll start to receive advice and warnings; if you miscarry, you'll have to tell people you're not pregnant anymore, whether you are ready to or not.  Now, the arguments always seemed like they were advocating one view; either tell or don't tell.  But that made no sense to me.  The people I wanted to share my joy with are the exact same people whom I'd like by my side in the event of a miscarriage.  These friends are the ones who were there when we started trying, even before, when I was agonizing over the decision of WHEN to start trying.  These are the friends I would call with all news, good and bad.  Why would I ever hide something this momentous from them?  Now, I admit, if I had shared the news on Facebook, I would have hated myself for having to tell the world about my miscarriage.  It would have felt impersonal.  And that's just not who I am.  And at the end, I'm so glad we told who we told, and we stayed silent to others.  Do what feels right.  Tell those people with whom you'd like to discuss things when they both go wrong and right.  And don't ever listen to absolutes.  We for example didn't tell our families, because we knew that they would simply stress out over the news, and it wouldn't make things easier for us.  Each of us has their own tribe, sometimes related by blood, and sometimes by friendship.  We all know who the right people to tell are.  And in the midst of it all, it felt good to have gotten something right.

4. I do not feel guilt

This one may seem odd, but I honestly thought I'd feel guilty.  Guilty for having a body that did not get this right.  Guilty for that bike ride where I did not hydrate enough.  Guilty for not being able to give J a baby right when we planned.  Guilty for drinking more than one earl gray two weeks ago. Even guilty for testing early, after all we might have never known, never gone through the pain.  
But I do not.  I know I did nothing wrong.  I know I took care of myself and the baby growing inside me, even before I knew it was there.  I know that my husband loves me and does not blame me.  I know we're going to try again.  I know the statistics and I believe in the medicine and the science.  I know that this is normal.  So tragic, so unexpected, but still normal.  I do not believe in fate, but I also know this baby was not mean to be.  My body made that choice for me, and I will trust it.  And I'm glad that we knew.  As all things that do not kill you, this has made me stronger.  It has made our marriage more resilient.  Our little family may not yet be growing, but after a bit we'll work on it again.  And it'll happen.  It's empowering to me not to blame myself for those things I do not have control of.  And it's empowering to say it here:  This miscarriage was not my fault.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Miscarriage

I'm waiting right now for a doctor's visit, where, I am sure, he will tell me that I had a miscarriage at 5 weeks, 6 days.  I am, almost, looking forward to it.  Not because this is what I wanted.  Oh no, I wanted this baby so very much.  It was our first time trying, and I was so excited that we got pregnant the first month!  But now, now that all the blood tests have been coming back with low hCG levels, now that I've had the spotting, the bleeding, the ultrasound (no sign of pregnancy at all), I just want to know.  So that I, and my husband, can move on.  So we can try again.

I'll have a bit more on all that happened in the last five days soon.  On my research.  On what helped and what hurt.  But right now, I just want to hear the news, officially, that our little Schrodinger (because it felt like I was both pregnant and not pregnant for two weeks), is gone.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Spotting or Bleeding in Early Pregnancy

You know what's scary?  Bleeding.  It is also way scarier when you are (pretty sure that you are) pregnant.  The words MISCARRIAGE and ECTOPIC PREGNANCY float through your head as you go through the first four pages of google search result after typing in "bleeding during the first trimester."  Because as pregnant women we just don't have enough to worry about!

I'm still waiting for the nurse to call and officially confirm that my hCG levels are now normal, and I can happily move on with my pregnancy, but that has not stopped me from mostly freaking out about a little bit of spotting I've been getting.  

First, the good news:  according to everything I've read, there are a lot of reasons women bleed during the first trimester, most are benign, and although this will not stop any pregnant woman from worrying, chances are your worry is baseless.  Around 20-30% of women bleed during early pregnancy.  Bleeding can be caused by implantation, sex, hormonal changes that affect the uterus, or a benign cyst that bleeds as your total blood supply increases.  

Now for the bad news:  by definition, any bleeding that occurs before 20 weeks means a threatened abortion (a medical name for a possible miscarriage) though roughly 50% of women do go on to have healthy pregnancies. If you are bleeding (not just spotting, more on that later) during your first trimester and you do have a miscarriage, there is not much they can do at this point. However, bleeding can be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy (egg implants outside the uterus) or a molar pregnancy (egg does not develop into a baby), so definitely see your doctor if you are bleeding.

Should you be going to the emergency room?  Well (and I am not a doctor, so please take everything said here with a grain of salt) this is where the bleeding vs. spotting comes in.  If you are spotting (think pinkish or brownish discharge, not enough to soak a pad), stay home, try to relax, and let your doctor know that you have spotting.  If you are bleeding (bright red, soaks a pad in two hours or less, possibly passing blood clots), get yourself to an emergency room.  That kind of bleeding could be dangerous to you, and not just your baby.  The nurse at my hospital confirmed that "a pad soaked in two hours" is the amount of blood that my hospital thinks warrants an emergency room visit.  Also, this information is only valid in the first trimester.  Different rules apply in the second and third trimesters.  

So what do you do now?  Monitor the amount of bleeding you are getting (a panty liner is a good idea), as well as the color.  Call your doctor if anything feels wrong or if you are also getting cramping.  Trust yourself and your body.  If something feels wrong, don't ever be afraid to call your doctor (or midwife).  Unfortunately, the story will not end well, for some of us, we will miscarry because this baby to be was just not viable.  And we will grieve because no matter how early we lost a baby, we'll still know we lost that baby.  And that's OK too.  

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

I am pregnant?

This week I've done something I've never done before:  I've taken a pregnancy test and hoped it came out positive.  It turns out, however, that life is just not that simple.

This all started a year or so ago when my husband (J) and I had our big wedding.  We traveled to Chicago, said 'I do' in front of our friends and families, danced, had some cake and a generally good time, and came back to Fairbanks happily and officially married.  J's family was quite respectful of the fact that we are newlyweds starting out on our careers and living two thousand miles from our nearest relatives, and after hearty congratulations, let us live our life in peace.  My family, or to be more precise, my grandmothers, did not waste a week before they both summarily told me that they want to be great-grandmothers, and at 29, I better get a move on it.  

Now I'm a planner and it seemed to be utter foolishness to go into baby making without some serious prep.  After months of talking about timing (didn't want the baby to be born while J was away), and our mental readiness, we came up with a start date:  June 2016. I bought a couple of pregnancy books, read them, and put a plan into action.  I started taking 400 IU's of folic acid, eating more fruits and vegetables, slowly lowering the amount of caffeine I drank, exercising more to get to my 'ideal' conception BMI.  Eventually, I started taking a full pre-natal pill and charting my period/ovulation.  By the time May rolled around, everything was in place, and I schedule my appointment to get my IUD out.  

For June, we planned our honeymoon: an amazing, five-day backpacking trip to Gates of the Arctic.  A time to relax, be alone, and to maybe make our first child (as luck would have it the ovulation dates lined up!)  The trip was everything I could have asked for in a honeymoon.  The sun did not set. The weather was (mostly) perfect.  And we fell asleep under the orange light filtering through our tent to the sound of a brook and birds singing every night.  

And then came the wait.  The dreaded TWW I had read about, but never before experienced.  Even though I read many wise ladies stories on what a bad idea it was to test early, I only made it 11 days before going to our local military hospital for a blood test.  It came out negative.  We were both disappointed by consoled ourselves thinking that maybe we were too early, or we could just try again next month.  Four days later (the actual day of my missed period) I took a test at home.  It was a VERY weak positive.  So weak in fact that both my husband and I wondered if we had convinced ourselves to see something that wasn't there.  So back to a hospital, and the news:  a weak positive, to be confirmed by a blood test later that day.

So now I'm scheduled for another blood test tomorrow, so see how my hCG levels have changed.  And at this point, it's been SIX weeks since the beginning of my last period.  Waiting two weeks was hard enough, but waiting almost four?  It's torture.  

So now we wait.  

I did want to say one more thing, to any ladies out there who are experiencing infertility, for those of you who have waited for a positive again and again: you are amazing.  I have the utmost respect for you and your ability to keep trying, to wait again, and I hope your miracle comes.  I know my few weeks wait must seem like nothing compared to what you've gone through.  I highly respect that.  Just know that I am a novice at this getting pregnant thing, and this post is more for those like me.  Women who try for the first time.  Women who thought a positive pregnancy test is a positive pregnancy test.  Women who are trying for the first time and did not realize how fluid and complex this whole thing was.  

Tomorrow, only 24 hours away.