May 10, 2016

On my mom's journey...

I've been wanting to write this for a while.  Even now as I sit here I don't know where to start.  Yet my heart feels like it's beating a million miles an hour and is going to pop through my chest at any moment.  What I have to say is probably one of the hardest things I've ever written. 

When my mom was diagnosed almost a month ago, my world was rocked.  I distinctly remember the phone call from my dad that brought me instantly to my knees in a cold sweat as the tears flooded my eyes and drenched my face.  There's nothing like answering the phone to your dad as he tries to tell you through his own tears that "they found a mass in mom's brain."  I can never shake that off.  Since that call, I have experienced emotions I never knew before.  For one, fear on a whole new level.  Confusion, frustration, questions, FEAR again, sadness, anxiety, the list goes on.  My mom is a very healthy woman.  She eats well, does crossfit 3-5 days a week, doesn't have high stress levels, and she is involved in so many things.  I'm still processing how this could possibly happen to her.  My mom.  My best friend.

This is truly my worst nightmare.  Hell on earth.

I often pray and ask God for his complete healing.  I know a lot of people are praying that prayer.  I do believe that God is hearing our prayers, regardless of what the answer may be.  We have seen massive miracles that even the doctors are surprised by.  We were told that mom may never speak to us again, but definitely wouldn't be speaking for at least 8 hours after surgery.  Within 6 she already had told us she loved us! I tell ya, when I heard that I knew I never needed to hear anything again from her.  I'm thankful to hear her voice and laugh everyday.  We also were told that she could be paralyzed or never move her right side again.  Today she is a walking, talking miracle.  She still struggles sometimes, but never have I seen fire or determination in someone as they move forward to conquer something in the way that she is doing.

My questions remain though.  How can I encourage her best?  What am I going to do if I lose her?  I'm not ready, I need her.  What if I have a question (like so many times before) about how to best care for my baby girl in a specific situation?  Will I make it through this?  Am I strong enough?  How do I take care of my mom, my dad, my husband and my baby without melting down every 5 seconds?  I hope she can watch my babies grow up.  God, will you please save my mom?

I honestly don't know the answer to most of those questions.  Hence the phrase we've adopted (we've adopted many!)- "ONE DAY AT A TIME."  I wake up every morning in the hopes that this is over, that it was a terrible nightmare, and life is good again.


I'm coming to the realization that this is actually a gift.  Yes.  There I said it.  I am actually seeing how this terrible, awful brain cancer is a gift.  Every morning I get to do my mom's hair.  When we are doing her hair, sometimes we will talk and other times we will listen to worship music.  One morning last week, we were talking and it struck me again how much life has changed.  Not just physically and in ways you may think, but like spiritually too.  My perspective on life will NEVER, EVER be the same again.  Each day truly is a gift and whether we choose to see it that way is up to us.  We aren't guaranteed a single moment.  I've realized that when I wake up in the morning, the things I look forward to most that day are so drastically different than what I used to look forward to even 5 weeks ago.  Priorities have really changed.  I'm thankful for that.  We are enjoying simple moments with lots of laughter, some tears, still some fear, and an abundance of prayer.  

I want to remember the simple moments.  Reading Scripture together in the mornings, drinking tea in the evenings, stretching and going for walks, watching the birds on the bird feeder, watching my mom worship the Lord, playing cards together, laughing at memories, looking at old photos, talking about dreams, picking out plants, planting the garden, getting her water, covering her with a blanket, watching her watch Addy, seeing her tell my dad "you're my favorite," watching him care for her, praying with her before every pill.  I don't want to forget any of it.  

Every day mom reminds us to trust God.  To pray and not cease on knowing his goodness.  Praying without ceasing.  Whew, I tell ya.  If I thought I knew what that meant before any of this, then I was wrong!  It takes on a whole new meaning when you realize it's all you've got that can truly save someone's life.  I'm not sure how we would make it through this without Jesus.  He is our hope and our strength.  I ask him every morning for strength and peace just for today.  For wisdom in what avenues to pursue for treatment.  For healing over my mom.  For more miracles.  For good doctors.  For simple treasures in the day.  For grace as I mother my 8 month old little girl.  For Him to be my everything.  I'm beyond thankful to know that eternally my mom and I will be together.  Regardless of what happens, I'm thankful.  And I'm thankful for today, because truly you guys-


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November 3, 2015

Adelyn Rose: Birth Story

This post is long overdue.  I guess in the midst of having a baby, some things just temporarily go out the window.  But this is one post I have been wanting to write and share, I just haven't really been ready to divulge this private part of life yet.  However, a lot of people have been asking me about it, and someday Addy can read about it, so here we go.

Adelyn's birth story starts a long time ago, but we'll just start from when I was 37 weeks pregnant with her.  I went to my weekly check up and the doctor asked me how I was feeling.  I told her that I was fine, but tired, hot, my back hurt and it felt like some days the baby was going to fall right out of me.  I asked her to check me and she did and lo and behold I was dilated at 2 cm!  I was so not prepared for that, especially when she told me she didn't expect me to make it to the end of the week before having the baby.  Talk about freaking out.  It was in that moment when I realized "Oh my gosh.  I'm having a baby.  I can't stop it.  This is happening.  Oh my gosh.  I'm so scared.  Are we ready?  What if I can't do this?  Is it a boy or a girl?  I'm having a baby.  Oh my gosh."  Naturally I started crying, happy but mostly scared tears.  I went home, packed my bags and waited.

Fast forward 2 weeks and I'm still pregnant.  Here's a lesson:  doctors, don't tell a pregnant woman that she is going to probably have the baby that week unless she has a scheduled induction or something.  That was a hard 2 weeks.  It was a miserable waiting game, full of lots of prayer, contractions, and false alarms.  I cried a lot.  haha.  Being pregnant through an entire humid New York summer was hard!  I was ready to be done, and the days dragged by.  I was ready to meet this baby.  So when I woke up that Friday morning with still more contractions, I was convinced it was just another false alarm.  I actually didn't even think anything of it.  I barely kept track of how far apart they were.  I told Nick I was having contractions, but that he should go to work and I'd call him if he needed to come home but that he probably wouldn't have to.  It was early.  I looked at the clock.  The contractions started at 5:07.

I tried going back to sleep, but couldn't so I got up, took the dog for a walk, read my Bible, and made myself breakfast.  The contractions were coming steadily every 7 minutes apart and it seemed that they were getting more intense, but I still didn't think it was real labor and that I was making it up in my head.  Nick called me a while later to see how I was doing and I told him that the contractions were 6-7 min apart at that point and I'd been having them for 3.5 hours.  Sidenote:  we had no clue what we were doing so we both called our moms and they told us that this was the real deal!  We still didn't think it was.  But Nick came home anyway.  We went for a walk and boom!  I still didn't think this was real labor, but I did know that these contractions hurt much worse than the other ones I'd been experiencing.  It was still bearable though and after we made our way home, I showered, Nick took Brinkley to the pet sitter, and we loaded the car to go to the hospital.  I fully expected to be sent back home.  My contractions were 5 minutes apart now.

On the way to the hospital we got lost.  haha.  So typical.  We took a wrong turn and eventually made our way through the traffic to the right part of town.  I told Nick I was super hungry since I hadn't eaten much that day and if I really was in labor then I wouldn't be able to eat once I was admitted to the hospital until after the baby was born.  I wanted a burger.  (Don't judge a pregnant woman!)  He stopped at a little diner about a mile down the road from the hospital.  He ran inside to get us some burgers and I kid you not, it took over 20 minutes!  So here I am in the parking lot of this sketchy, abandoned-looking diner having contractions every 4 minutes trying not to look pathetic as I bend over to hold onto something when one hits.  He came back with the burgers, and they're like half-pound patties.  I almost gagged.  I could've just gone to Dairy Queen.

We finally made it to the hospital around 5:00 pm, only to find that all babies wanted to be born that day and there were NO ROOMS AVAILABLE.  What?!  So I labored in the hallway for the better part of an hour trying to keep it together during these contractions.  Walking helped, so that's what I did.  I told the nurse I was trying to go as far as I could with medication anyway so it was fine.  That was back when I was still being nice and polite to people.  I finally got into a room, changed into my gown and could finally be checked!  I can't remember for sure but I think I was at a 3 or 4 at that point.  Yay! I was really in labor and I was really going to get to meet this baby soon!

All of our family lives across the country and no one was there for the birth of the baby, so as I am laboring in bed and making it through each contractions (now 2-3 min apart), Nick is sending texts and videos to family back home.  There were times I wish I had the strength to reach out, grab his phone and throw it across the room. haha.  But I really am glad he kept our family in the loop.  Then it turned about 8:00.  The contractions were coming every minute and they were the most intense thing I have ever felt in my life.  I knew labor was going to be painful.  But NOTHING can ever prepare you for what you will feel when you are about to give birth to a baby.  It's like Lorelai Gilmore says, "It was like doing the splits over a stick of dynamite."  Only 1,000 times worse.  You know in the movies when there is the crazy psycho lady who is screaming bloody murder through her contractions and everyone in the hospital is afraid of her?  That was me.  I had no idea I would be like that.  I was screaming so hard, and was convinced that I was about to die.  This would be the end of my life.  Nick thought I was going to die too.  He told me later, that it was the hardest thing he ever had to do, watching me suffer like that with no way to help.  Well he tried to help by rubbing my back (which is so sweet!) but in the moment it didn't feel good at all so I snapped at him too.  I was screaming that I wanted my epidural!  It seemed like no one heard me so I kept yelling that I wanted it.  haha.  It took 45 minutes for the anesthesiologist to show up.  I think the hardest part of the whole night was getting the epidural.  I had to sit completely still and it was one of the hardest things I've ever done.  I was shaking uncontrollably, the pain was so bad I almost passed out and I had tears streaming down my face.  I remember just crying out to God this whole time to give me strength.  I could barely speak but I good only mutter help to Him for strength to get through it.   I finally got the drugs and felt like a million times better!  It was heaven.  I apologized to my doctor, the nurses and Nick for how I had acted and told them I was so sorry and embarrassed.  I will only get epidurals from here on out haha.

When I got the epidural I was dilated between a 6 and 7.  The nurse told me to get some rest and that it would likely be 5 or 6 hours before I needed to push.  The doctor would come back in an hour to check my progress.  Nick and I chatted for what only seemed like a few minutes and the doctor was back in the room to check me again.  "So you're fully dilated now and it's time to push."  What?!  Are you serious?  I dilated that much in one hour.  I was excited, scared, nervous, relieved.  I looked at Nick and our eyes just got so wide; we were about to have a baby and life was about to change forever.  The nurse held my left leg, Nick held my right leg, and the doctor was at the end of the bed to deliver our precious baby.  These were my coaches.  The epidural was so fresh that I couldn't feel a thing.  Which is usually good, but I couldn't even tell if I was pushing or not.  I couldn't feel my stomach so I just hoped I was actually pushing and making progress.  After one push the doctor goes, "Look at all that hair!" The baby had hair!  That was more motivation.  I wanted to see this little one.  So I pushed and pushed for just under an hour as my coaches told me when the contractions were coming and held my hands through it.  All of a sudden, a baby was plopped on me and I looked up at Nick.  His eyes were huge and filled with tears.  I looked at him through my own tears as he looks down and says, "It's a girl!"  We lost it.  A baby girl.  Our sweet Adelyn Rose.  Born at 11:36 pm on August 21, 2015.

Life has been harder, more tiring, more beautiful and more full of joy ever since.  And I'd do it all again in a heartbeat.

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August 26, 2015

A letter from daddy

My Little Girl,

            On Friday, August 21st at 11:36 PM, you came into this world – all 8 lbs 3 oz of you. It happened so fast; the way life does. Mommy would probably disagree with that statement though. She was laboring for 17 long hours and at the 15-hour mark, after a spasm of pain transformed her into a fire-breathing dragon, I didn’t know whether to call for the nurse or an exorcist. In her defense she was having egregious contractions mere minutes apart, each one dropping you lower into her pelvic bone while her cervix opened at a rate that threw the space-time continuum into a death spiral. I was certain the last words I would ever hear, before a lightning bolt came out of mommy’s forehead and turned daddy into a pile of smoldering ash, were “where is my epidural?!”

The medical system prevailed and the epidural arrived; ostensibly delivered by a cherub dressed in doctor’s garb. I wasn’t able to be in the room when mommy received the anesthetic, so when I returned I was surprised to find that her horns had receded back into her skull, and the steam billowing out of her ears had been replaced by an ethereal nebulas – she was in heaven.

The remainder of her labor can be described veritably as “happening so fast.” Her pain evaporated and she dilated from 6 cm to 10 cm in the same amount of time it took daddy to change your first diaper – 1 hour. When the doctor said it was time to push, mommy and I turned to each other with looks of slight bewilderment on our faces, and smiled hesitantly with half-open mouths, unsure of how much our lives were about to changes, but knowing more than anything were ready to meet you.

I’m not sure if they were light on medical staff or if this is a customary practice in child birthing, but when it came time to push I was entrusted with the solitary duty of holding back mommy’s right leg and instructing her on how to push you out. Without any knowledge of obstetrics, and a susceptibility to passing out at the sight of blood, I was less than the ideal candidate for this position.

Not only was I unqualified, but my clothing choice must have been some level of medical malpractice. The Doctor was outfitted in several pieces of modern birthing gear: ankle high booties made from a clear diaphanous plastic, polymerous gloves that had to be replaced regularly to protect you from infection, and an astronautical face shield that made me wonder if mommy was giving birth to an extraterrestrial life form. Not everything the Doctor wore was ultra-modern; she also had on the same antiquated blue gown that has been used in Hospitals since the beginning of time. At least the Doctor looked like she belonged in the labor and delivery unit of a Hospital though…I was wearing jeans and a tee shirt.

Despite my inadequacies I embraced my role as Leg-Holder/Encourager and told mommy to push when the contraction built up. She did perfectly and after just one push I could see the top of your hairy little head.

Before I get to your birth let me make one thing clear: mommy is amazing. During pregnancy and labor I literally did nothing. Like, less than nothing. Nothing would have been not convincing mommy she needed to eat a half-pound cheeseburger before we got to the hospital because they weren’t going to feed her after we arrived. My voracious misjudgment resulted in an unprecedented dichotomy, and mommy was forced to labor with food AND baby. So instead of giving mommy good advice, let alone carrying you, laboring with you, and giving birth to you, I sat in the bleachers and said, “push”. How pathetic.

In the end, we got you, and that’s all that matters. It took an hour of mommy pushing, and an hour of me holding her leg and imploring her to “push”, but you came.

The Doctor held you in front of me and asked, “And what do we have dad?”

I wanted to say “a human”, but this was an inappropriate time to be sarcastic. She was asking if you were a boy or girl. Mommy and I wanted to keep your gender a surprise so we planned that I would be the one to announce what you were. After looking at you for the first time, tears welling in my eyes, I got to say “a girl.”

“Adelyn Rose Johnson,” were the next words I said as my eyes did the back and forth dance between mommy’s face and your own.

You were so beautiful. It didn’t matter that your hair was an incongruous heap of ruddy, bloodstained tendrils atop an amorphous head, or that your entire body was covered in a splotchy film of amniotic fluid, or that your serpentine umbilical cord was still attached to your tummy and looked more or less like the small intestine, or even that, generally, you looked like something that needed to be dunked in a vat of saline solution. Despite all of this, you simply were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

My emotions were ineffable. Elevated by the wondrous miracle of life, I felt like I was floating through the stars, being pulled into a dimension entirely unknown to me but altogether inviting and natural. I felt breathless and insignificant, but mostly, I felt love.

But as I floated away on my cosmic emotional voyage, I was pulled back to the delivery room by an imperceptible force. Instead of hearing your incipient cry or mommy’s giggly laugh, I heard myself repeating the first words you ever heard me say: a girl.

First: Panic. Second: Panic more. Third: Panic morer. I know morer is not a word but the important thing here is PANIC.

Girls are set up to fail in this world. Just go to Times Square and look around. The whole place is a microcosm for vanity. Thirty-foot tall advertisements of size negative two women dressed in barely enough fabric to make an eye-patch for a pirate, and some conceited quote, telling girls to Fill-In-The-Blank if they want to be beautiful. And then women go and try to fill in the blank with all of these worldly things, instead of realizing there is no blank to fill because they are already created perfect and complete by Jesus.

So please don’t ever forget that you are already perfect and complete. The only hope you have to succeed in this world, one where you are set up to fail, is through the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

My prayer for you is this: live a life of humility so you don’t become entitled or self-righteous, be filled with joy in all situations through the Holy Spirit living inside of you, and love others with all your heart, no matter their race, religion, and social class.

I prayed that in the Hospital and I pray it now while you lay next to me on mommy’s chest, with her arms folded over your little body, feeling each of your tiny appendages squirm and wriggle in the most perfect way imaginable.

It’s been five days since you were born and you are finally starting to look like a human. I think you have mommy’s eyes but you are still so small it is hard to tell. The important thing is that you are home and healthy.

We went on a walk today: mommy, daddy, and you. It was only going to be a few blocks so we left the stroller behind after I convinced mommy that my “dad strength” could carry you the whole way. You were light, nearly weightless really, but like everything, after a while you felt pretty heavy. I couldn’t help but think that someday you would even be too heavy to carry. You would grow big, I would grow old, and I wouldn’t be able to carry you anymore. But then I thought about my prayer, and I realized that even if I can’t always carry you, or guide you, or be there with you, Jesus can. No matter how big you get, Jesus can carry you. No matter how lost you get, Jesus can guide you. And no matter how alone you feel, Jesus will always be with you.

So if you do one thing with your life, besides ignoring my prototypically bad advice (see above cheeseburger scenario), follow Jesus. He is the way. The only way.

I love you my sweet little girl. And I always will.



July 26, 2015

36 weeks!


How far along?  36 weeks

How big is baby?  most babies right now are about the size of a canteloupe, however after our appointment last week, we were told that our baby is measuring a little on the smaller side of the spectrum (doc said this might help during labor!)

Total weight gain/ loss: almost 30 lb gain

Maternity clothes?  it's either that or pj's or nick's shirts haha

Sleep:  baby is definitely keeping me up a lot more now.  I get up usually twice during the night and it seems to take longer to get back to sleep...probably because it's harder to get comfortable :)

Best moment this week:  ultrasound and hearing baby's heartbeat

Movement:  oh ya! usually baby is hanging out in my right ribs and it likes to stick it's little arms and legs out of my belly which really creeps dad out ;)

Food cravings:  not really.  in fact I don't feel hungry most of the time, but when I am I usually enjoy some fruit

Any aversions:  nope

Gender:  still a surprise!  I have to say that I am SO HAPPY we didn't end up finding out- it's been so much fun and is making it even more exciting!!

Labor signs:  pelvic pressure and lots of braxton hicks

Pregnancy symptoms:  I just started having swelling in the last couple of days, especially when walking a lot.  heartburn is easing up a bit, waddling is the new swag these days, SO MANY bathroom breaks (I swear I go and not even 5 minutes later I feel like I never went haha), and by the end of the day it becomes very difficult to bed over to even tie my shoes haha

What I miss:  my clothes, cooler weather

What I'm looking forward to: meeting our little one!

Upcoming appointments/ events:  we have an appointment every week now til baby's birthday

Milestones:  we have almost made it to full term and I'm considering that a full on accomplishment :)