Monday, December 26, 2011

Advent 2011 Prayer Buddy Reveal

I had the pleasure of praying for Lisa at Cheerfully Chaotic this Advent season.  I’ve enjoyed reading through her blog and getting to know her.  I think we'd get along great IRL too - she has a wicked sense of humor!

I’ve been praying for Lisa by remembering her in my mass intentions and praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for her special intentions and her baby in utero daily.  I also asked the Lord to let her sleep and to wake me up instead so I could pray for her during the night.  I hope she's been sleeping, because I sure haven’t. ;-)  Also, I’ve been offering up all my anxiety about a situation I mentioned here for the safety of her sweet baby so she could focus on her older two children and her husband.

Merry Christmas everyone!  Junior really enjoyed himself this year.  I can't imagine it getting any better than it was this year.  He was so excited about everything and seeing his face on Christmas morning when he realized that Santa had come was just priceless.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's the Most...(1)

Wonderful Time of the Year.

It is the season of Advent, when we wait for the coming Christ child. I admit waiting isn't my strong suit. I am more of a get it done now kind of girl.

Can waiting be thorough? If it can, this year it has been thorough. Our family has been waiting on so many things...the roofers, the appraisal, the closing of our house, that situation I can't quite talk about that is still up in the air. Not least of all, we've been waiting to start our Christmas preparations.

Let the holiday merriment begin with cookie making.

Such a mess...

For such delectable results...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Miscarriage: The Feelings Post

My heart ached for the Dug.gar family when they recently shared that they had lost their 20th child when Michelle was 19 weeks along.  This family, who has been abundantly blessed with children, has felt the pain of a miscarriage before and that is one of the reasons they traveled the road they did with regards to leaving their fertility in God’s hands.

When my SIL posted to FB that she was sad to learn of their loss, the comments astonished me.  The first friend posted…"Not to make light of something as tragic as a miscarriage, but doesn’t she have like 50 other kids?”  First of all, if you don’t want to make light of something, why did you?  Secondly, just because she has other children doesn’t make the suffering accompanying the loss any less acute.

Some may marvel at that.  After all, she has 19 other children she can hold in her arms and 2 grandchildren.  What’s the big deal if she loses one baby after all the ones she’s had?  How much pain would you be in if you lost one of your fingers?  You have 9 others.  Using this “friend’s” logic, it shouldn’t hurt to have your wisdom teeth pulled…you have 28 other teeth.

Come on. 

From the moment many women begin to suspect they are pregnant they start imagining their belly growing, getting bigger and rounder with each passing day.  They often dramatically change their eating and sleeping habits and make other radical lifestyle changes immediately.  They start making two mental lists of names.  They wonder if there’s only one baby in there or if there’s two!  They figure out the due date.  If they work outside the home, they look at their company’s policy on parental leave.  They imagine how they’ll share the news with their husband, other children and families.  They long to feel that first flutter of movement in their womb.  They start designing the nursery.  They imagine holding the baby in their arms, feeding the baby, changing the baby, bathing the baby, cuddling the baby.  They calculate how old they’ll be when the child goes to kindergarten (will I be the oldest/youngest mom there?), graduates high school, finishes college, and finally how old they will be when, if their child follows in their footsteps, the child gives them grandchildren.

And, honestly, that’s just the stuff I think of on the first day.

A miscarriage is more than just the physical pain of the loss of a baby.  It is an emotional loss of your hopes and dreams for that child and your family.  Someone unique was lost.  There will never be another child like that child.  Another baby won’t have that baby’s birthday, won’t have that baby’s personality, won’t have that baby’s talents and won’t have that baby’s possibilities.  The fact that the baby was never held and that it never drew a single breath here on this earth does not detract from the pain.

If a mother and father have other children, they probably are even more aware of what they have lost.  While holding our children may bring us some comfort and make us thankful and grateful to God for sending them into our lives, we are very much attune to what is now missing.

Then, there’s the guilt.  For the vast majority of mothers there is nothing we could have done to alter the outcome of the pregnancy.  Our doctors tell us this.  We try to believe them.  But the doubt can linger in the back of our minds and hearts, jumping out at unexpected moments.  Maybe if I had started taking the pre-natal vitamins a few days earlier, my baby would still be with me.  If only I hadn’t taken that cough syrup two days after I ovulated, my baby would still be with me.  If only I hadn’t moved that dresser to retrieve the toy car that had fallen behind it, my baby would still be here.  If only I had stuck to my new year’s resolution and lost those 15 lbs. before I got pregnant, my baby would still be here.  If only I had…

People try to say helpful things like “maybe it was for the best” or “that’s just nature’s way of taking care of a problem” or “God must’ve wanted an angel.”  All we really want to hear is “I’m sorry for your loss.”  If we want to talk about it, let us.  If we don’t, don’t pry.  Each person handles a loss like this in their own unique way.  Each couple will deal with it in their own way.

The physical aspects of a miscarriage are sometimes startling.  Once we get through the actual physical miscarriage, whether that happens naturally or surgically, that’s not the end.  Our moods can become erratic as our hormone levels return to a non-pregnant state.  Many women will experience hair loss…just like we do after giving birth*.  If the couple begins a search for answers, the poking and prodding from our doctors begin.  There’s the blood work that must be coordinated on specific cycle days, the ultrasounds and the various other sometimes invasive tests that come with searching for a “cure.”

If a couple is blessed enough to conceive again, the worry sets in.  You just want to get past the point of your latest loss.  If that means 6 weeks, 9 weeks, 15 weeks, whatever.  For me, I was monitored very closely once I had had a miscarriage.  I have to go in right away for a blood draw.  I get the results, and have to start taking the progesterone supplements (which are really expensive) because my progesterone is way low.  Then, I go back 2 days later to get another blood draw to make sure the hcg numbers are going up appropriately.  Then I go in at 6 weeks to have a viability ultrasound; that means they are looking for a heartbeat.  In my experience, those haven’t turned out well, so I usually get another blood draw that that time.  Then I go back for another ultrasound, and another until we get bad news again.  For women who have experienced a late term loss, the worry is present throughout their pregnancy.  I haven’t had this experience, so I can’t speak on it with any amount of authority.  I can only imagine that that is a different type of pain entirely from what we have experienced.

These are the feelings and emotions I have gone through as we’ve traveled this road of secondary infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss.  I speak only from my own experience.  If you’ve had a different experience, I encourage you, if you are able, to let others know about your feelings and emotions.  It is helpful to find that there are others out here experiencing something similar, even if they've experienced it differntly than you and that you aren’t alone.  We are here to support each other and pray for one another.  If you have a question I haven’t answered here or you would like me to explain more about something I’ve said, feel free to ask.  As an NPF instructor, I try to be very open and honest about all aspects of the miscarriages.

May God be with each of you and may you trust your children to His limitless Divine Mercy.  There is no one who loves you and ALL of your family more than the One who created each and every one of you.

*Over the summer when my MIL was visiting about 2 months after my second miscarriage, she commented that maybe I should see my doctor because of how much hair I lose.  I think she thought she was being helpful, but all I could sputter out was that I had just had a miscarriage and hair loss is completely normal at this stage.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Our Secondary Infertility Journey (so far)

This post has been a long time in the writing.  I joined this wonderful community of Catholic women bloggers, several of whom have struggled with primary or secondary infertility, as a way to support myself emotionally and spiritually and maybe, just maybe, to give someone else support.

After our son, Junior, was born we needed to postpone another pregnancy for a little while.  While I was ready to get pregnant again right away (well, as soon as AF returned which was only 3 months after giving birth.  I didn’t BF…there were reasons; I’ll leave those for a different post), my doctor advised me to wait until the due date for baby #2 was at least 18 months after the birth of Junior.  I had had a C-Section and she wouldn’t allow me to attempt a VBAC if the due date was less 18 months after Junior’s birthday.

Mr. Amen had been layed off from his job just days before Junior was born.  Though he had been looking for a new job, the recession had really taken its toll on our state and he was unable to land a new gig.  As 2009 came to a close with Junior past his first birthday, I longed to start trying for baby #2.  We kept thinking a new job was just around the corner for Mr. Amen, but each month passed jobless.  Finally in March 2009 we decided that we didn’t want to put our plans to expand our family on hold forever…afterall, I certainly wasn’t getting any younger.  We decided to put our trust in God and go ahead and conceive again.  After all, it had been a snap to conceive Junior.

Oh, how naïve we were.


I wasn’t ovulating regularly; I had short luteal phases when I did ovulate.  We’re talking 7-8 days.  My doctor talked to me about starting Cl.omid to get better ovulations and help lengthen my luteal phase.  We weren’t quite ready to take that step yet.

In early October 2009, Mr. Amen landed a new job.  We were thrilled and just knew another blessing in the form of a baby was right around the corner.

At the end of October we learned that we were expecting.  Overjoyed, doesn’t quite cover the emotions we felt.  We had made it through some very difficult times over the past 2 years and everything was falling into place at long last.  We were due on the 4th of July.

My blood work showed low progesterone, so I started Cri.none 8% (a vaginal suppository of progesterone, usually used during fertility treatments such as IVF).  When I was approximately 7 weeks along, we got home from Mass and I went to the restroom where I discovered I was spotting.  I was alarmed and told Mr. Amen who suggested I just take it easy that day, sit down and put my feet up.  I lounged around all day and didn’t have any further spotting.  Figuring all was well, I went to work on Monday.  During the morning, I went to the restroom and again found that I was spotting.  I called my (new, wonderful, amazing, Natural Family Planning only) obstetrician and he asked me to come in right away to be checked. 

Of course, when it rains, it pours.  I called my mother to ask her to pick up Junior from daycare and take him to his doctor appointment for me because I might be late.  I said I would meet her there.

I saw one of my doctor’s partners because he was completely booked (honestly, he’s always completely booked and darn near impossible to get in to see without an appointment months in advance).  She examined me and took me back to see the ultrasound technician.  As soon as the image flashed on the screen, I knew something was very wrong.  There was a sac, but no baby and no heartbeat.

I was told I had a blighted ovum, was miscarrying and that I could expect it to happen anytime over the next several days.  I left stunned, calling Mr. Amen when I reached the car to tell him the sad news.

I didn’t have time to really feel it yet though because I had to hurry to the family doctor for my son.  My mom was there with him and stayed for the appointment with me.  She was asking a million questions, as always, wanting to know why I was late.  I said I had to go to the doctor and get my blood drawn.  She asked which doctor and not wanting to get her hopes up, I told her that I had gone to my endocrinologist.

After Junior’s appointment we went to my parents’ house and Mr. Amen met us there.  We told my parents what was going on and we all had a good cry about it.  Tuesday evening, my parents invited us over for dinner so I wouldn’t have to cook or clean up.  While we were eating I started feeling more and more cramping until I broke out in a sweat.  We packed up and headed home.  Tuesday evening was the worst of the pain.  The cramping was incredible (I usually have a pretty high pain threshold) and the bleeding was heavy. 

I took a several days off work because I was so sad.  Explaining to my boss why I was suddenly off for three days with no notice was not exactly pleasant.  I did tell him the truth of why I was not coming in and he was very understanding, even sharing that he and his wife had experienced a miscarriage as well.

In our families, only my parents and Mr. Amen’s mother knew of our loss.  I couldn’t bring myself to tell my sister, brother and his wife.  They had just had their third sweet baby and we didn’t want to make everyone sad at the holidays.

After taking some time to heal physically, in January, we forged ahead with trying again.  This time, with Cl.omid.

Round 1
Dosage = 50mg on CD 3-7.  It didn’t help much.  I did experience some lovely hot flashes during the night, and my luteal phase was a whopping 10 days.

Round 2
Dosage bumped up to 100mg on CD 3-7.  Again, not much help.  Hot flashes were more intense and a few headaches.  Luteal phase = 12 days.  My doctor suggested PreS.eed, but honestly, it wasn’t needed…I’ve always had great CM.  That’s one thing my body does well.

Round 3
Dosage left at 100mg on CD 3-7.  Hot flashes and headaches continue.  Luteal phase = 8 days.
I called the doctor’s office after this round.  My doctor thought we should up the dosage and see if we got better results.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t around to provide a script for a higher dosage and their office policy is that the other doctors won’t mess with writing new/different scripts for fertility drugs for each other’s patients.  The nurse urged me not to waste the next cycle and just take the 100mg again and we could increase the dosage next cycle.

Round 4
Dosage = 100mg on CD 3-7.  Hot flashes and headaches same as before.  Luteal phase = 5 days.  Seriously, 5 days.  Awful.  The higher the dosage, the worse the results.

My doctor suggested moving on from Cl.omid to Fem.ara.  Mr. Amen and I talked about it over and over and we weren’t ready to go on to this new drug.  So we decided to take a rest for a cycle to think it over.

Rest Cycle 1, I didn't even ovulate and my "cycle" was only 22 days.  We stopped daily charting on CD 18 this cycle.  We really needed a break from the stress of it all.  I was extra emotional from everything that was going on and just needed a break.  Plus work was brutal, I was swamped and needed to give my full attention to my work instead of obsessing over my charts.

We still weren’t ready to up the ante to Fem.ara yet, so we decided to rest for another cycle and then make a decision. 

Rest Cycle 2, much to our surprise resulted in a positive pregnancy test on CD 26.  We were resting in the sense that we weren't pursuing fertility treatments, but we were still trying.  Our due date was 02/09/2012.  Again, I had low progesterone and started Cri.none 8% right away.  Just past 6 weeks, I went in for an ultrasound.  The baby measured 4-5 days behind, but we could see the heartbeat.  My doctor was happy and so were we.  At 8 weeks, on June 29th, my husband and I went in for our nurse OB appointment.  We had an ultrasound scheduled first to make sure everything was OK with the little bean.  When the screen lit up, I knew immediately.  The ultrasound technician grew very quiet and quickly took a few measurements.  I was already crying and Mr. Amen was growing restless because he couldn’t tell what he was seeing and wanted the tech to point out the baby to him.  The tech said, “you will be talking to a doctor today before you leave.  Do you want me to just tell you what I see?”  I said yes because Mr. Amen had no idea and I couldn’t say it.  She informed us that the baby had passed away just after our last ultrasound.  She left the room and we both broke down.  The doctor we saw was very kind, told us our options and we opted for a D&C on July 7th. 

We also had to go across the street to the hospital to get me a shot of Rh.oGam since there had been a heartbeat.  I’m allergic to that shot, so we had to stop to buy Bene.dryl to take before getting the shot.  When I got there for the shot, they had to draw blood to check to make sure I really had Rh negative blood.  We waited about 20 minutes and the nurse came out and told me I didn’t need the shot because I had Rh Positive blood.  Considering my raw emotional state, I think I did a pretty good job staying calm while I explained to her that 1) I do have negative blood, 2) I’ve had negative blood my whole life, 3) the R.ed Cr.oss says I have negative blood, 4) I have the same blood type as my mother who has negative blood, 5) I had the shot when my son was born, 6) please check your records again and 7) go get me the shot.  The nurse, then, went and got me the shot.

That weekend we went to a beach in Ontario, Canada for 4th of July.  I already had said I couldn’t bear to be home since it was the due date of the baby we had lost in November.  Now this.  We had a relaxing day at the beach with my parents.  Junior ran up and down along the “seashore” and when we got in the car to go home, he was asleep before we got to the main road.

The day of the D&C, we arrived at the hospital, they prepped me and it was over quickly.  Mr. Amen was really glad to talk to my OB, as he helped calm his nerves and told him the procedure went perfectly.  We had the baby tested to see if we could determine what was causing these losses.  When the results came back, everything was perfectly normal.

The doctor also ran blood work on me testing for all sorts of problems.  Everything came back perfectly normal.  My hyprothyroidism is well controlled, no other clotting factors or Rh incompatibilities showed up.  He tested for several other things…I can’t even remember them all, but everything was normal.

We were told we had to wait one cycle to start trying again.  We waited the one cycle, then the very next cycle we were pregnant again.  Our due date was 05/11/2012.  Because of my history, I was being monitored closely.  My first blood draw on CD28 showed hcg of 91 and very low progesterone.  I started the Cri.none 8% again.  Two days later, on CD 30, my hcg levels had more than doubled to 219.  Things were looking up for us.  On CD 43 (6 weeks) my hcg was 13,599.  Normally, they wouldn’t have drawn blood, but we also had an ultrasound that day and the baby was measuring 5 weeks instead of 6.  They thought that maybe I just o’d later than I knew I had.  Even though we had quit daily charting back in April, I was still marking CD 1, peak day and any mid-cycle bleeding on my charts.  I knew when I ovulated and I was distraught.

We went back a week later for another ultrasound.  The baby was measuring 5 weeks 6 days with a heartbeat in the 90s (should have been 7 weeks).  They adjusted my due date to 05/18/2012.  Two weeks later we returned for our nurse OB appointment with an ultrasound.  I knew I was 9 weeks, they said I was 8 weeks.  It didn’t really matter because the ultrasound showed that the baby had passed a few days after our last ultrasound; the baby only measured 6 weeks 1 day and there was no heartbeat.  We scheduled the D&C for 2 days later on a Friday. 

This time as I was being prepped for surgery, I broke down entirely.  Three miscarriages in less than one year.  I felt like a failure as a woman.  The surgery was over quickly.  The doctor said it went well.  I needed the Rh.oGam shot again, so they gave me some Bene.dryl, then the shot.  Luckily the Bene.dryl knocks me out, so I slept for about an hour and a half after surgery and then went home.

We had the baby tested again for chromosomal abnormalities, but everything came back perfectly normal again.  The doctor informed me at a follow-up appointment that the two babies we had tested were both girls.

I was given a note from my doctor to take an entire week off work to recover.  It was more of an emotional recovery period than physical.  I asked for more time than just one week, but my doctor knows me well and knew it wouldn’t be good for me to sit at home for long.  I would just think about the losses and stew in my sadness.  He sent me back to work, and that was probably a good thing.

Our next step was to take a baby aspirin daily with my pre-natals…just in case there is a clotting factor we haven’t identified.  I wasn’t tested for MTHFR, but my doctor said that by taking the baby aspirin we can head off that problem as well as others. 

We also had a saline hysterosonogram.  For anyone who hasn’t had one, this test involves the doctor placing a clamp on the cervix, feeding a balloon and a catheter into the uterus, then pumping the uterus full of saline.  Then, they do an internal ultrasound at the same time so they can view the uterine lining better and identify any problems with the lining or any malformations in the uterus.  The worst part by far, for me anyhow, was the cervical clamp.  That just hurt.  My doctor (have I mentioned how wonderful he is?) tried to put my mind at ease, and the ultrasound technician was very kind.  Still, it was just humiliating.  During the procedure, I experienced a lot of cramping and became lightheaded.  I had to use my breathing techniques I learned for labor to get through it without fainting.  Afterwards, my pulse was really slow so they gave me some apple juice to help me perk up a bit.  The funny thing was that when they handed the juice box to me, the straw was pointing right at the sleeve of my sweater and the juice shot right down my arm.  Nice.  As the mother of a toddler, you would think I would have seen that coming.

My amazing, Catholic, NFP-only doctor is also contacting a colleague who is Crieghton trained to get suggestions on how to help us.  One of my doctor’s partners also suggested that we visit a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist to see if he has any suggestions of things we can try or look into that we haven’t thought of yet.  We haven’t made that appointment though.  I think with everything we have going on right now with the house buying, the holidays, family birthdays, renovations, moving, switching daycare centers…we have a full plate and I don’t think I could fit in another doctor appointment.

So that’s our journey so far.  I recognize this is a little light on my reflections about our secondary infertility…I’ve given you almost entirely all facts.  I’ll try to address my feelings in a separate post.

Friday, December 9, 2011

7 Quick Takes (4)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 155)

It’s snowing!  We’ve already had a dusting this year, but this is the fun, fluffy, dipped in marshmallow snow covering all the trees.  I’m trying to keep Junior from eating it…but that’s not going so well.
Our appraisal has been ordered.  Now we are just waiting to hear what a great deal we are getting on this house.  J  We should be closed before Christmas. 
Now I just need to work on our renovation & moving timeline.  We have some renovations that need to be done before we move in (think roof, flooring, insulation, furnace, water heater, and bathroom).   We also have to change day care centers for Junior.  While we are really happy at the center we currently use, the whole point of moving closer to work was to cut down on my commute time…if we stay at our center, I’ve just added 40 minutes each way.  No thanks!  Plus we are getting movers.  As my darling sister would say, “I don’t pick up boxes.”  I have to coordinate getting all our cr@p from 3 different locations (our current apartment, my parents’ house and our storage unit) and have it all brought to our new place.
My nephew and niece have their Christmas Concert tonight at their preschool.  I’m so excited to go see them perform.  My sweet nephew invited me special and asked me to bring my family.  I could just bite him he’s so cute.

One of my greatest wishes this holiday season is to get my tree up before our son goes to bed on Christmas Eve.  Last year, we almost didn’t put a tree up at all.  I didn’t want to do it, it was already Christmas Eve (we had a crazy December), but my husband begged me, so I gave it and put it up after we got Junior in bed.  Little man was awestruck when he woke up to see all the twinkle lights glowing in the dark living room, so it was totally worth it.

I also freely admit that calling this one of my “greatest wishes” is an exaggeration.  But I still want to get that tree up before Christmas Eve.  Especially because…
 This year we are contemplating going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve at the Cathedral downtown with the Archbishop.  Whew!  That was a lot of prepositional phrases.

Bowling.  Bumper Bowling.  We are going tomorrow.  Taking 4 children under the age of 5 with us.  Should be interesting at least J
Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Prayers Needed Please

Prayer buddy, your prayers have done wonders so far this Advent season. We have a roofer for the house we are buying at a great price and the paperwork was submitted today!

The car troubles have been fixed with $0 out of pocket!

Now I have a major prayer request...but I am not ready to talk about it yet. Could you just pray that God's will be done in this situation and that my family will all be at peace with the outcome?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Girls Night

Wahoo! I am out for Girls Night with my dear friend. Neither of us ever get a night off so we are really excited. We're having dinner, then going to a movie!

Oh, and I just left Adoration.

Oh, and I do believe we've finally found a rioters for the house we are buying. So now we can order the appraisal.

What a great day. The only thing that would make it better is if this ridiculously swollen lymph node would stop being so sore!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanks, Prayer Buddy

Prayer Buddy - you are amazing :-)

I dropped off the car in the pouring rain on Tuesday morning.  The dealership called me early in the afternoon with an estimate of $1,300.

What's that?  That doesn't sound like a fantastic deal to you?  Me neither.

So I called another repair shop.  They estimated about $250 at the most.

Then I called my dad.  He talked to his neighbor who is a master mechanic.  He'll fix the car this weekend for the cost of the parts...maybe $50 at the very most.

You were working overtime on Tuesday, Prayer Buddy, and I really appreciate it!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Car troubles and house buying trials

First of all, prayer buddy, if you could say a prayer that when I take my car to the dealership tomorrow, we find a minor problem (or no problem at all!!).  The check engine light has been going on and off over the last couple of months and I finally made an appointment to take it in.  Technically, the car belongs to my parents, but we have been borrowing it for several months because my dad can't drive due to seizures.  We pay for all insurance, upkeep and maintenence.  It would be really helpful to have this fix be inexpensive because...

We are FINALLY buying a house.  We tried to buy a house a few years ago when Junior was first born, but the deal didn't go through (it was a short-sale nightmare; after five months of waiting we still had no answer whatsoever and we gave up and moved back into an apartment.  With Junior approaching 3 years old soon, we really need yard space for him to run off some of his extra energy.  We had the inspection last week and found some major repairs need to be made to the home immediately.  Repairs such as a new tear off roof, a new furnace and a new water heater.  We renegotiated with the sellers for a purchase price reduction, but now we have to figure out contrators and find good prices on all these repairs.  It's difficult for me to coordinate making calls to contractors, our real estate agent and mortgage lady.  My husband would love to help more, but his job makes it very difficult for him to make calls or go to appointments during the day.  My job is about 45 mintues away from the house and is also very demanding.  We are go-go-go from 5:30am until 9pm every day.  Please pray for patience, guidance and peace as we go through this whole process.

Now on a happy note, I bought some amazing shoes the other day :-)  I walked into a store and the first pair of shoes I found were a beautiful zebra print with pink accents.  They only had one pair in stock...and they were my size.  Size 11 wide.  Who would've expected that?  Since my 1st pregnancy my feet have grown one entire size and are now wide.  Let's just say that 11W is not usually an off-the-shelf kind of purchase.  That was totally God giving me a hug. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Reveal

Like I said yesterday, I was really excited to see how my hair would turn out.  I started the rinsing process and it took about 45 minutes to get the vast majority of the grit out of my hair so I could finally use the shampoo.  I shampooed my hair four times, then conditioned it once.  After all that (including a quick wash of the bathtub - the henna stained it), I finally dried it to get a sense of the color.


OK, it did turn a shade darker (I already have dark brown hair).  The color, in my regular bathroom lights, seems richer and my natural redish highlights are long gone.  But the red I was hoping to see didn't materialize.  My sister says I have to do it several more times to really saturate my hair with the henna to achieve the color she has.

Honestly, I don't think I have the patience (or time) to repeat this process multiple times.  I think what I'll do it just go for the black cherry dye and see what happens.

When I showed it to my sister. mom and dad, they all thought the color was significantly more red than I thought it was.  Maybe being in the sunlight instead of the artifical bathroom lighting helps?

Anyhow, I'm not thrilled with the results.  Frankly, if you have a lot of time on your hands and don't mind scrubbing the bathtub frequently, then I'd recommend trying henna...otherwise, I'd skip it.  It's a more natural product than hair dye, but the process is too time consuming and messy for me.

As a side note though, I don't want to sound disrespectful to Almighty God, but I did want to give Him a shout out for His help on my shopping trip today.  I'm not a shopper (I have frequently used a personal shopper in the past to avoid being in the store longer than absolutely necessary).  Shopping during the Christmas season scares me more than anything.  It's a combination of the crowds, the hot mall, the screaming 2 year-old I inevitably drag along, the heavy bags, the stroller that doesn't fit through the narrowed aisles and my general dislike of shopping.  I had to buy an outfit for mass tomorrow because I have to go up in front of the church withe the RCIA group for the Rite of Welcoming.  We literally walked into the ladies section and there was a manaquin wearing a cute plaid skirt and a black sweater.  I bought the outfit immediately.  For shoes, I can't usually buy shoes in the stores because I need an 11 wide (ugh, pregnancy foot spread).  I called my sister and asked her to hook me up with some of her shoes and she just walked in the door with choices galore :-)

God is so good!  He saved me from hyperventilating in the mall today!  Thanks be to God :-)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Henna Hair

My dear sister came home for Thanksgiving.  My sister lives in Atlanta and comes home only a couples times a year for a few days or so.  I went to see her at my mom and dad's house and she's been working really hard to lose weight and she's been wildly successful.  She looks amazing!  Like she did back in high school.

And her hair is gorgeous.  It's black, but with a lot of red undertones.  It reminds me of Bella's hair in Twilight.  When she's in the sunlight it positvely shimmers this fantastic black cherry color.  Of course, I had to know what color she had dyed it (she's always dyeing her hair different colors).  She said she was using henna to color her hair.

I have to say, I was intrigued.  She mixes black henna and brown henna together and it turns into this really thick, pasty mud.  She applies it to her hair, wraps it in plastic wrap and leaves it in for four hours or overnight.  Rinses it out and POOF! this spectacular black cherry color is left behind.

Today, we went up to one of the many local Indian grocery stores and bought a bunch of henna hair dye.  We prepared the henna and let it soak for about six hours.  Then after Thanksgiving Day Dinner #2, she set up the "salon" in my parents' kitchen and we got to dyeing my hair.  It is a cakey, muddy mess right now, but I'm really excited to rinse it out and see how it turned out.  Around 11pm tonight I will start the rinsing (mostly because I don't think I could sleep with my hair all wrapped in plastic wrap and the mud drying and flaking all over the place.  Plus it is really stinky.

I'll update you all on the results tomorrow.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Oh October...

You won't be missed.

Autumn is my favorite season and October is my favorite month.  Favorite because, here in Michigan, the scenery is spectacular.  The beautiful reds, oranges, yellows, browns and deep, deep greens as the trees shed their leaves really contrast against the cold, grey sky.  Around here, we head to the cider mill on a cool dry day to pick apples and indulge in some fresh donuts and cold apple cider.  It's sweatshirt, jeans and rainboot weather.

Well, I did say October won't be missed.  That's because October is also my least favorite month.  Since I've been an adult, October has typically been a rough month for me.  It's when I get in car accidents.  It's when my pets die.  It's when I encounter travel difficulties.  It's when I have a health crisis or two. 

October 2011 was no exception; in fact, October came early this year.  The last weekend in September, I was in a car accident.  Not a bad one, no one was injured...but my car was in the shop for two weeks getting fixed.  Our son had an ear infection and a nasty cough that he just couldn't shake.  On October 5th, found out that our  baby had passed about 2 weeks earlier and I was scheduled for a D&C on Friday, October 7.    As this was our third loss in less than a year, I decided to take an entire week off work to recover...more mentally and emotionally than physically.  During that week off, I developed ear and sinus infections.  Then Mr. Amen was sick with a terrible sinus infection and cough.  Next, on the Thursday of my impromptu "vacation", our son had a severe allergic reaction to a cashew and was rushed from one hospital to another by ambulance (lights & sirens) and spent the night in the pediatric intensive care unit.  Once we got him stabilized and finally back home, we had a quiet week and though we were through with this October's trials.  But then my dad had some grand mal seizures one night and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance.  My brother and I stayed up all night with my mom at the hospital.  Finally, October ended.

Good riddance.

We were involved in preapring for a NFP conference and the coordinator from the Archdiocese said we should be prepared to be attacked by the devil leading up to the conference.  Boy, she wasn't kidding.  We were prayed up and ready to handle it all.  It was certainly exhausing and really tried our patience and faith.  But we made it through better than ever. 


Friday, August 19, 2011

7 Quick Takes (3)

Wow!  It's been awhile since I've updated the old blog.  I'm back.  Hoping to get some posts up soon!

My MIL is visitng us.  She arrived this week and will be here for 10 days.  Then she goes to Canada for 2 weeks, one of which we will be visiting her on our vacation.  Then she's back with us for a week before heading home.  Pray for us all.  It's tough having so many adults under one tiny roof.

Junior is picking up some serious Spanish having his grandma here.  It's cute listening to him mispronounce words in Spanish :-)

Well, the house hunt is going.  Slowly.  We are going to see some more houses on Saturday.  I'm tired of looking already and just want to find the right house for our family.

I've been looking for a really great Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie recipe.  I haven't been able to find one that is quite what I want and I've been looking for more than 4 years.  I think I'm going to have to develop my own recipe...anyone up for tastings?

We were are the zoo today and Junior was laughing at me because "Those darn bees making you dance!"  Yes, I am really afraid of bees and the bees were making me dance and I jumped around like a fool trying to get them away from us.  Ugh!  That's why I don't eat outside. 

Family picnic tomorrow with my mom's side of the family.  Looking forward to seeing everyone!  They live on the other end of the metro area and are a good 1 hour away.  It's always nice to get the cousins together and let the kids wear each other out!

Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Our Son

Conceiving our son was so easy.  Maybe even too easy.  We had been married about 9 months and using NFP to avoid a pregnancy as we settled into married life and into new jobs.  Our chart clearly indicated that we were fertile, and we hadn’t actually decided to “try”, but we decided to leave it up to God.  We were open to life and if that is what God wanted for us at that time, we were happy to accept the blessing.  And that was that.

Almost 2 weeks later, I had a regular appointment with my Endocrinologist and brought my charts along to talk with her about my borderline short luteal phases (9 days).  When I told her I wanted to talk about that, but suspected that I was pregnant, she just drew blood and said she’d call me.  On Monday she called to confirm my pregnancy, but we had already taken a home pregnancy test over the weekend and knew we were!  And we were over the moon!  I was due on Christmas day.

I called my OB’s office to make my first appointment.  They wanted to see me between 8 and 10 weeks.  For some reason I was very nervous about having a miscarriage and scheduled my appointment for 10 weeks and I even asked what I should do if I miscarried.  When the first appointment finally rolled around, we got an ultrasound and saw the tiny baby swinging and kicking.  It was the most amazing sight I had ever seen.

My pregnancy progressed easily.  No morning sickness; one short weekend of heartburn & burping; a nearly failed 1 hour glucose tolerance test; a totally failed 1 hour glucose tolerance test a few weeks later; a completely failed 3 hour glucose tolerance test.  I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and took a pill in the evenings to help lower my morning sugars.  Except for the GD, my pregnancy was textbook.  Starting at 32 weeks, I got to have a weekly ultrasound to check on the baby.  We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl and the ultrasound technicians did a great job of keeping the secret from us.

Finally in early December, the baby was estimated to be just under 8 lbs. and was gaining weight rapidly.  Too rapidly.  They estimated the baby would be over 10.5 lbs by the due date.  At my last doctor appointment, the doctor checked me and was surprised to find that I was +5 cm dilated.  She asked if I had been having contractions and I told her I thought I had had one the previous Sunday.  She was shocked since a few days earlier I was dilated only a fingertip.

The doctors decided they would induce labor on December 10th provided the baby’s lungs were mature.  On December 9th, I went to have an amniocentesis done and found that the lungs were mature, so we were a go for the next day.

We arrived to labor & delivery at 7:00am the next morning and in triage did another ultrasound estimating that the baby was about 7.5 lbs.  I told them they were wrong, the baby was 8 lbs. 4 oz. today based on my calculations from my last ultrasound.  They just laughed at my precision calculations and said that their ultrasound measurements were usually right on.

As we settled into our labor and delivery room, I had a panic attack and informed Mr. Amen that I no longer wanted to have a baby and that I wanted him to take me home immediately.  He politely informed me that it was too late for second thoughts now, to calm down and get in the bed. 

The nurse came in to start my IV.  I warned her to be careful because my veins are terribly small and wiggly, that she would go right through it if she wasn’t careful.  Of course, she wasn’t careful and blew right through the vein and I proceeded to bleed all over the bed.  She finally stopped the bleeding and went around to the other arm to start the IV.  As she wiped my wrist with the alcohol wipe, my water broke.  There was no mistaking it.  It was a BIG GUSH just like in the movies.  My doctor was in the room and I said, “I think my water just broke.”  She walked over, took a look and said, “Good.  Now I don’t have to figure out when to break it.”  It was 8:45am.

I was and will be forever grateful that my doctors had me at the hospital that morning.  If I hadn’t been lying in a hospital bed about to have my labor induced, I would have been sitting at my desk when my water broke.  I would have been horrified to have to call maintenance and ask them to clean it up.  I would’ve been their first ever water break at work.  Not an honor I wanted.

Being a HUGE wimp and totally afraid of the pain of delivering the baby, I got an epidural at the first available moment (around 11:30am).  I was not afraid of the contractions, in fact, even on the highest dosage of Pi.tocin, they weren’t even painful.  (Don’t hate me.)  I was just really afraid of the actual birthing pain, and that’s why I asked for the epidural, I didn’t want to miss my window to get one.

Well, I should have known better than to take medicine.  I’m not a medicine type of person.  I don’t even take Tyl.enol when I have a headache.  I’m more of a napper.  The epidural made me sick to my stomach and I started vomiting between naps.  I wish I could tell you what Mr. Amen did all day long during the labor, but I have no idea.  I just remember sleeping and throwing up.  Oh, and I remember not progressing at all.  When we got to the hospital I was +6cm dilated…and I never got any farther than that.

Around 6pm, my doctor finally came in and I begged for a C-section since I wasn’t progressing, they couldn’t turn up the Pi.tocin anymore and I hate throwing up.  She agreed and said she had just been waiting for me to ask for one.

They took me back into the operating room.  After several minutes Mr. Amen joined me and as I lay on the table throwing up and shaking violently from the epidural/spinal, we welcomed our baby into the world.  The doctor announced it was a boy (something she was really excited to do since most people already know what they’re having long before they get to the delivery) and Mr. Amen exclaimed, “I have a son!  I have a son!”  It was such a sweet moment for our little family.

Our son, Junior, was born on 12/10/2008 at 6:58pm weighing 8 lbs. 4 oz., just like mommy predicted.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Mr. Amen!

Four years ago today, I married the love of my life.

It's been quite a ride.  We've had ups and downs.  We've been tested, we've been blessed.

It's been amazing and I wouldn't trade a minute of it for the world.  I'm blessed beyond measure to have such a wonderful man who makes me smile, laugh, crazy mad, holds me up and keeps me grounded.  I truly thank God for sending this guy to my life.

Happy Anniversary, baby.  I love you!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Basic Human Need

Let’s talk about a basic human need:  food.

What is your favorite food to eat?  Maybe you have a sweet tooth and a warm fudgy brownie topped with vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce is what tempts you.  Or, perhaps you prefer something a bit more savory like a big plate of nachos with smooth, melted cheese, fiery jalapeño peppers and olives just salty enough to remind you to drink that ice-cold glass of soda sweating on the table next to you.  Is it succulent fresh lobster tail dripping with hot, melted butter?  Is it a thick, juicy filet mignon seasoned to perfection?

We are attracted to foods because they’re tasty.  Probably, at least one of the foods described above sounds delicious to you and may have made your mouth water just thinking about it.

What happens if a person decides that he will only consume foods that taste good?  What if he decides that from now on he will only eat for pleasure - whatever tastes best to him? It won’t be long before he will start to suffer the ill effects of his decision.  He may become deficient in vital nutrients and his health may suffer; he may find he has less energy to do the things he needs to do; he may find it difficult to concentrate or focus on tasks.  But why has this happened?  Food is meant to taste good; there is nothing wrong with finding pleasure in eating.  So what’s wrong with only eating foods that he finds delicious?

What’s wrong is he forgot the other vital purpose of food.  Its nutritive qualities.

Food also supplies the fuel the body needs to sustain us in our daily lives.  Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals are all important components in our food.    In fact, in order for our bodies to function optimally, we have to get enough of everything, but not too much of any one thing.

Because we know that food has nutritional value, most of us eat more than just brownies and lobster.  We also eat our steamed vegetables, our grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts, our apple or orange for a snack.  And because man does not live on whole grain bread alone, we allow ourselves to enjoy an ice cream cone on a hot, summer evening, knowing that it is appropriate to enjoy our food as well as to get nutritional value from it.

Sexual intercourse also has two purposes.  It is both unitive and procreative.  Is it any wonder that, much like with food, when we divorce ourselves from one of its purposes we suffer harmful consequences?

Today’s contraceptive culture has told people that they can engage in the unitive aspect of sex while insulating themselves from the procreative aspect of it.  The hook-up culture goes a step further than that even by telling people that they can have all the fun of sex, without any commitment whatsoever to their sexual partner and, of course, without the commitment to any lives that may be created in the process.  What has been the result of these messages? 


The pain of a broken heart when a girl finds that he was only after one thing.  The pain of a vaccination against a disease that could have been prevented by abstinence until marriage.  The pain of an STD that has robbed a couple of their fertility.  The pain of a child being raised in poverty because his mother can’t identify his father.  The pain of lost self-esteem when a person’s been used time and time again for another’s pleasure.

For a moment, consider the other extreme.  What results when couples focus only on the procreative aspects of sex? Sadly, the outcome is more pain.

The pain of a couple who has forgotten how to enjoy each other in their quest to have a child.  The pain of invasive and dehumanizing medical procedures meant to produce a child at any cost.  The pain of a father working three jobs to support a family he sees only in passing.  The pain of a mother’s depression as her body struggles to keep up with the demands of pregnancy, childbirth and childrearing. 

Reject these lies that bring destruction, pain and misery to so many people!

Modern Natural Family Planning methods allow couples to enjoy both aspects of their sexuality.  NFP users recognize and are open to the possibility of life with every encounter.  Couples are encouraged to let the fruit of the Spirit flourish in their lives by practicing patience, faithfulness, gentleness and, most of all, self-control.  By embracing the natural rhythms of our bodies we enjoy both the unitive and procreative aspects of this powerful gift and bring balance to our lives and glory to our heavenly Father.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Amen Family - How It All Started (Part V)

If you thought there wasn’t much more to the story, you’re assessment would have been incorrect.

After our Thanksgiving “proposal”, we started talking about a September or October wedding.  We hadn’t firmed up any dates when Mr. Amen found out his company would be laying off his entire department anytime between March 1 and June 1.  That presented a very real problem for us.  Mr. Amen was in the US on a work visa sponsored by his company.  If he was no longer with the company he would have 30 days to leave the US.

We would have to get married much sooner than anticipated or risk him being forced out of the country.  If forced out, we would have to apply for a “fiancé visa” which would allow him to enter the country for the purpose of getting married.  Once grated, we would have a very short window of time during which to marry.  Then, once married, we would begin the long paperwork process to get him an Emp.loyment Auth.orization Doc.ument so he could work, and even longer to get a “greencard.”  When I returned to work after getting engaged, all the ladies asked when we were getting married.  They were shocked by the answer and suspected I was pregnant (ummm…NO!).

Three weeks after our official engagement, we were legally married.  Only 8 people other than us and the mayor were at that ceremony (my mom, dad, sister, brother and sister-in-law, Mr. Amen’s mom and aunt, and his best man). 

Immediately we began all the immigration paperwork to get his greencard and we received it in record time!  The actual immigration interview was not at all like in the movies.  We were super nervous and thought that we might be at a disadvantage going into the interview because we hadn’t lived together.  In reality, the interview was pretty short, they asked how we met, about our wedding, asked to see pictures of the wedding and asked us to identify the people in the pictures.  The “defining moment” came when the interviewer asked Mr. Amen for my birthdate.  I snapped my head to look at him with a look on my face that said, “You better get this right.  That was what she wanted to see…that head snap told her that we were a real couple.

We explained the situation to the Deacon that was to officiate our church wedding; he was very understanding and said this type of thing happened all the time.

That Memorial Day weekend I traveled to Oklahoma to pack up Mr. Amen’s apartment and move him up to Michigan.  He was laid off from his company on June 1st.  He moved right into the apartment where we would live after we were really married in God’s eyes.  Our wedding went off, without a hitch on June 30, 2007.

And, that, my friends, is how the Amen Family started.

Friday, June 3, 2011

7 Quick Takes (2)

A friend of a friend did an IQ & personality assessment on Junior last weekend.  It’s for his graduate studies and we won’t actually get the results, but I still think it’s good practice for when Junior takes a real one.  We realized we need to make sure he knows the English & Spanish words for things.  Whoops!

I stood up for our parenting choices to my own parents.  It was difficult to tell my dad to “butt out”, but it took our relationship to a whole new level.  I think he respects me more as an adult now.

I use a meal-prep place to prepare the vast majority of our dinners.  Even though it is more expensive than if I shopped on my own, what it saves me in time makes it worth it.  Additionally, we eat a greater variety of foods than I would normally choose on my own.  (Chicken again, anyone?)

Let the house hunt begin!  We are finally looking for a house again and hopefully we will get moved in before the summer is over!

My great-Aunt passed away on Monday.  She was very old and it was not entirely unexpected, but she has been the matriarch of the family for as long as I can remember.  I’m sad she’s gone, but know she’s at peace with our Lord.  My family will remember her for years and years to come.  She was the keeper of our Belgian family’s Lukken recipe and had passed it on to my mom and me many years ago.  Aunt Jen always made the best Lukken and I know I’ll tell my child(ren) where the recipe came from.

Fun with blood draws…where to start?!?  Had 2 this week.  Looking forward to more in a couple weeks.  My veins are terrible.  No matter how much water I drink in the days leading up to a blood draw, it never seems to plump up my veins or make my blood run any thinner.  It’s like syrup filling the vials. 

We are going to a “family picnic” at Manresa, a retreat center near where we live here in Michigan.  They are having mass at 2pm followed by a picnic on the grounds.  I’m so excited!!

Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!