My body is doing weird things, that’s what’s up.
Mostly that’s why I took a break from public writing, because it is hard to find words when you don’t know what is wrong.
Also, marital bliss is very blissful and all that bliss keeps distracting me. It’s a bliss overload.
I did, however, keep writing in my personal journals, and will share some excerpts here.
But first, what you need to know is that I have been sick since the Monday after Nathan and I got married. Nauseous sick. All-day-long nauseous sick. Horrific sick.
The crazy weather has added to the excitement by making my vertigo way worse than it has been since my cochlear implant surgeries, leaving me dizzy and fainting and crawling along walls to find which way is up. I eat popcorn at 2pm everyday (thanks, Lisa). That’s just the exciting stuff. You don’t want to know the rest. Also, I am not any fun because I am exhausted like I have not been since my surgeries, and a bit confuzzled fairly easily, and easily overwhelmed so having to focus on work and home tasks before even texting makes much sense to me.
It is all very irritating.
I like to be up and around, going-going-going, accomplishing anything and everything, and then playing hard to celebrate. Rivers. Parks. Bikes. Running. Gardens. Hands in the dirt. Hair in the wind. That’s me.
Whiny-puny-whimpy-Emily annoys me.
And it’s been a month, more than a month, six weeks now, and it seems to be getting worse instead of better.
Nobody get excited. I had a honeymoon-miracle-baby test, and it was negative.
On the other hand, I did learn a lot. I learned that if you get married and even sneeze the next day, all your substitute grandparents giggle because they think you might be pregnant. I learned that it’s a fearful experience for that thought to even come into your head, and I learned that it’s a terrifying possibility even when you are excited and understand doctrine and are willing to learn some family love. I learned that it’s confusing when you are okay with it being negative, but also sad in a new and surprising way that you never had to experience before.
I learned to trust my body, and to listen to it, and to respect it.
Even on days that I don’t think we are speaking the same language, my body and me.
Carbs help. I never eat carbs. I will be the size of a tent if we don’t figure it out.
The rest of the food can go to Nathan, because even the thought of food makes me ill.
My body is doing weird things, that’s what’s up. Still. Everything else is a blur.
Nathan knows. He knows I am sore in strange places and riding waves of nausea. He knows I am stretched like taffy in some kind of emotional tesseract, where everything makes me cry even more easily than before. I cry when I am happy. I cry when I am sad. I cry when I am confused. I cry when I am inspired. I cry when he calls me, when we say goodbye, when he reminds me he will be home in just a few days. I cry when his packages arrive in he mail, when I make bread, when I hold my puppies, when I hug my mom before she leaves on a trip.
I do finally tell my mom that I am still sick and not feeling well. I tell her all my symptoms I shared above, and other things I left out. My need for her to be my mom finally and selfishly overrides my need to protect her from worrying. She says what I know she will say:
You need to go to the doctor. You need a new CA-125. We need to be sure this isn’t about ovarian cancer. It’s better to be safe than sorry. You are old enough for a mammogram, too. And you can get an ultrasound to be sure everything is ok. Don’t mess around with this.
Surviving cancer makes people a little intense about following up on random symptoms.
But that’s what ovarian cancer is like: random symptoms.
And it’s the following up on those symptoms that saves lives.
I love you, she says.
I know, I say.
I hug her goodbye and go back to work.
I have an appointment already, but I don’t want to worry my family because my nephew is getting baptized this weekend. I want him to steal the show, feel all their is to feel, and be wrapped up in how much we all love him.
I don’t tell anyone because I don’t know what to tell them, what to think, or what to feel.
I don’t tell anyone because I need to process on my own a little before the world around me tries to get “helpful”, which I am not very good at receiving. I am stubborn and independent, and it is hard work for me to understand that sort of help, and it takes a lot of energy. Kindness still seems shiny and new to me, trust and friendship are new skills for me, and I feel exhausted before I even get started.
Except I think I need them.
Nathan explains to me something about outgoing introverts, and somehow makes me glad all over again that I married him, that he loves me, that he knows what is going on even all the way from New York.
He takes good care of me, and I start to believe (almost) that I am not alone this time, not alone anymore, that this is his last time away from me (for now). I realize that part of why I love him is because of his solid goodness, because of how kind he is, because of how safe that makes me.
When it is late at night, I ask Nathan to leave me a voicemail that I can listen to over and over when I miss him, or when he is gone, or when he is busy, or when I am just a sappy girl feeling tearful and wanting to be close to him.
He does. Right away. He calls, and leaves the sweetest voicemail ever. He tells me I am brave and strong and good, and he makes me believe him. He says tender things and kind things and funny things. It fills me with love and happiness on a day I am feeling very, very weak.
And he does this from the streets of New York, late at night, by the subway, where people notice if you stop in the middle of people-traffic, where you can get mugged for pulling out your phone on the street, where strangers overhear his words to me. That is a bold man, unafraid to love, and doing everything he can to stay connected from so far away.
It makes me cry, of course.
My body is doing weird things, that’s what’s up. Still. Worse-er. Worse-er even than yesterday. Worse-er than the last six weeks.
My friends notice my food aversion, see my vertigo knock me flat when I try to stand, and watch dizziness wash over me when I try to move.
This is no fun, I say.
They ask me if I am “late”.
I remind them that I am always late.
They ignore my joke, urging me to take another home pregnancy test.
I tell them I already did (because Lisa made me).
They say one negative home pregnancy test means nothing.
I say it’s too early for that to be the issue.
They say it’s never too early.
I say it took my parents almost ten years to be able to have children.
As soon as the words come out of my mouth, everything goes fuzzy, and all around me because background while I stand under my own internal spotlight. We don’t have ten years, I think. I push this thought out of my head immediately, because it is a grief I cannot bear to ponder. Now in need of external solutions to rescue me from my internal emotional response, I give in to my friends and let them distract me.
I take another test, again.
I have been married only for five weeks, and already hate these tests. I hate waiting for a tiny little window to tell me what I already know. I hate that it argues with me. I hate the waiting. I hate the hope. I hate the disappointment. I hate the roller coaster. I hate the waiting. I hate the waiting.
I hate that it doesn’t have a window that says “cancer” or “not cancer”.
I could endure the waiting, even relish in the sacred secret, if it were not for the cancer factor. It’s not fun, secret news. It’s not tender moments shared with an attentive husband. We are not waiting for the good news of a miracle baby. We are ruling out cancer. I hate the waiting.
I hate that cancer gets a role in what should be a moment of joy. I hate that cancer gets to invade all the most sacred moments of our lives. I hate that cancer attacked my mom while I was gone years ago, and I hate that cancer killed my dad a year ago.
I don’t even care about the stupid test (negative again), and throw it against the wall when my three minutes are up. I am angry at cancer, angry at death, angry at emotions that override my brain when my body knows my brain is the only thing I have going for me.
I am curled up on the floor, my face against the wall, crying.
There is so much grief in me, and layers of tears pour out. There are layers I hadn’t seen, layers I had hidden, and layers that were too big to look at until now.
But it all comes out, and this is a good thing.
I finally feel a little better after I cry.
I can admit that my mom is wise, and I need to go to the doctor. I can admit that I miss my father. I can admit that falling in love, getting engaged, and getting married from a thousand miles away was really, really hard. Pioneer hard. Excepting that the best things are worked for, and I know that Nathan and I are so good together and so happy together because we had to consciously do the work to make it happen. I can admit that no matter how strong and independent I pretend to be, that I will be very much relieved when my husband comes home for good in only a few days. I can admit that I love him, completely, wholly, entirely.
My tears of hate and anger and pain and grief turn into tears of gratitude. My body stretches out from a helpless ball to prostrate submission and adoration. I thank Heavenly Father for answering m prayers so exactly, for giving me a husband, and for sending me one who will do the hard work to truly be alive in loving. I thank Him for the protection we have had in all our travels back and forth and in our time apart. I thank Him for the provision, for all that has been given to us, for our temporal needs being met, for spiritual blessings overflowing, for gifts that pulled off a wedding reception and honeymoon and set up our new home. I thank Him for our home and the husband who blessed it. I thank Him for our bodies as temples, for Nathan coming home soon so that we can visit each other “regularly and often”. I giggle. I thank Him for the long days of hours of scripture study last year for the Book of Mormon and Isaiah blogs that go me through such hard times and gave me such understanding for what is happening in the world right now. I thank Him for challenging me in the ways that so exactly grow me just how I need. I thank Him for knowing me so well, for loving me so much, for being both my Father and my God.
I repent of being afraid.
I am ashamed, and I am sorry.
Only then do I start to see clearly.
I am humbled, and grateful, and thank Him for His mercy, for the atonement being part of His plan, for His grace to be so patient with me and still love me. I thank Him for His Spirit, that does both correct and comfort me, so that I am not banished entirely from His presence.
That’s when I feel Him respond to me.
It is as if I am washed by warmth and love. I remember the last hug from my father. My thoughts are clarified by my mother’s wise words. I see the smiles of my in-laws. I feel – feel – Nathan’s hand in mine.
I am not afraid.
I am not afraid.
I sit up. I blow my nose. I wait. I feel more coming.
The man who did the sealing ordinance for me and Nathan sends me a message, reminding me this is the pattern of my life: to be tested by big and scary things, and that when I face them with faith, the miracle always follows. He says do not be afraid.
The man who spoke at our reception sends me a message with his wife, telling me that God knows what Nathan and I need for the most blessings specific to us, and acting in faith for this means not being afraid. That only then can we move forward in confidence before the Lord.
I am in awe at their timing, and know that confirms the messages as tender mercies from the Lord.
I also know the are quoting my patriarchal blessing:
Do not be afraid. Move forward with this great gift of faith…
While I am not afraid anymore, I do not feel strong this morning (which is really a different morning, but here for the sake of writing and when Nathan and I got to talk).
It’s awkward because my doctor has just retired, so my referral came from a doctor I haven’t even met yet, and I don’t like that much, but it was the soonest appointment.
My body is doing weird things, that’s what’s up.
There is good news, though.
It is not cancer. My tumor markers are still high, but holding steady. It is like being on pause, as if the cancer can’t win until I fulfill some purpose, and yet it won’t quite go away. I growl at it now, and it slinks back into the shadows. No cancer today.
No cancer today.
There is also other news: I am, indeed, pregnant.
Excepting nothing ever happens the easy way.
I listen to the explanation from a numb state, wanting to be relieved of no cancer, but trying to be excited about a pregnancy, while interrupted by this other news. It is physically painful, this pinball of emotions. I can’t keep up, and I am numb as the words drone past my computer ears.
There is a sac, but the baby is not developing.
His words shock me instead of bringing me relief or joy.
He says we can do a D&C and “get it over with”.
I tell him I read the D&C every morning, and he doesn’t understand my joke.
He says we can also wait, because it could just be “a baby taking his time”.
That’s so us, I think.
He says it might just be too early to see clearly. We need a different kind of ultrasound. He keeps saying eight weeks, but I know his eight weeks is barely six weeks, if that. We could wait a few weeks and look again, he says.
But the risk is that if the baby does not develop, I will miscarry.
Be careful when you carry me,
be careful I do not spill.
A line from a long ago poem comes to mind. I think I threw that poem away, and suddenly I want it back.
Most, he says, like to just do the D&C so as to avoid the miscarriage, which can be “messy”.
I need a new doctor, I think to myself.
I look at him and say, “Families are messy. Children are messy. It’s part of the deal.”
He just blinks.
I am a therapist, so I wait him out.
He shuffles his feet. I wait.
He clears his throat. I wait.
So I tell him, unafraid, that I want to talk to my husband about all this, and that we will wait and see what happens in the next few weeks.
He tells me to make a follow-up appointment in a few weeks, but I bypass the appointment desk.
I will go back to my mother’s doctor, to the doctor that delivered me, to the one I trust with my well-woman visits.
Because I am a well-woman, and this will be a well-baby.
We will wait and see.
I would be scared and worried if it weren’t for the weird phrasing by that weird doctor. He was enough to keep me distracted, enough to help me keep my smart pants on, enough to keep my brave pants on.
I repeat it all to Nathan. He will research. He feels far away. We reassure each other. We decide not to tell our parents just yet, because we need to better understand what’s happening first.
We cannot end a pregnancy “just to get it over with”, not if there is even a small chance everything is fine.
And it is so early, our baby such a tiny fleck, how could they find it yet anyway?
We will wait.
We are quiet together, in awe that we have created something, in awe that we are married, in awe that so much is happening so fast.
We will get a blessing.
Nathan will come home tomorrow.
Then we start to giggle a little, because everybody’s gonna know we made us a baby.
I sleep so much.
I feel some better.
I feel better in part just to know what is wrong and that I am not crazy for all the weird things my body is doing.
I feel better in part just because I am able to rest, and now know how to eat to keep my stomach calmer, and rest through conferences and crafts to keep be busy and distracted long enough to be still.
I am not very good at being still.
I deliver the gluten free sacrament bread to church before leaving for Springfield, where I will at least make it to my nephew’s confirmation.
I feel better after resting yesterday and today, even if my body is still doing weird things. Really weird things.
After having so many weeks of being so sick, I am grateful for a few good days.
I am grateful for a few alone days of resting, in which to get to know this little child within me. I learn many things, only for a mother to know.
When I get to Springfield, I hug up my nieces and nephews. I try not to cry at the relief of physical touch of real children with tangible hugs.
I cry, sitting next to my mother in church, with little girls crawling all over me.
Then I take my very exhausted self home.
I feel quiet and still.
Something in me is still.
Something in me is still, different than before.
I am afraid, and do not want to move, not even to cry.
I feel the need to be still.
If I am still, then it will be me causing the stillness.
Be still and know that I am God.
Except I am not God; He is God, and I know what He is trying to teach me.
I lay still and try to feel anything there is to feel, knowing it’s too early to feel anything, but desperately needing to feel something, anything.
I lay still, trying to keep the settling stillness at bay, trying to keep stillness far away from me, trying to pray up a quickening.
I read this weekend in my study a story about a case prophet telling Israel really big and scary news, but it is all false information. Jeremiah speaks to the people and pleads with them to discern truth and to not be afraid and to trust the Lord and only listen to true prophets.
I realize this regular doctor I saw is only my regular doctor because my other doctor retired. He is new to me, doesn’t know me, doesn’t know my story, and doesn’t know my miracles. Now that I do know I am really pregnant, I can go to my well-woman doctor in Muskogee, the doctor who delivered me, the doctor who knows my mother’s miracles and my miracles and our stories of creation and life. He knows our hearts, our oncologist, and our lives. He is my “true prophet” in this real life scenario.
Be at peace. All is well.
So I go “home”, to that “father”, to that “prophet”, to get the truth from the one who knows me and loves me and has cared for me always.
It is there, with the one who knows and loves me, that I hope to receive true information, real confirmation, and know that everything is going to be okay.
Everything looks fine.
I share the news. I want it to be true. But I know it is not settled.
The morning is fine, and for a morning I am happy, without tears, and at peace, because I have a testimony of my child, and have had three days of learning and knowing, which is far better and more exciting than six weeks of horrific sickness.
But in the afternoon, the pains begin.
New pains, pains in my back, unlike any other cramping I have ever felt.
I try to rest.
I try to be still.
But the stillness is getting louder.
I know my body is ready to let go.
But I am not.
There is this waiting, one day at a time, pleading and waiting, hoping and waiting, not breathing and waiting.
Waiting, waiting, waiting.
I am at peace and not afraid, but the waiting is painful. Hours stretch like weeks as I move from one patient to the next, move from office to home-based, move from paperwork to paperwork. I try to think of thanksgiving, but I move slowly and time moves slowly.
The waiting is harder when all the work is done, and now I am just waiting for Nathan to safely land in Tulsa.
The waiting gets harder when pains come, when cramping starts, when my body begins to tell me something is really wrong.
I try to rest. I try to be still. I try not to move, not even to breathe, as if that will hold everything inside me. I try as if I can save this tiny Lima-bean-sized parasite-child through my own sheer force of will.
I know that is false.
But something mother-ly-ish kicks in deep within me, and I must do all that I can do.
It comes time for me to go pick up Jessica for the holiday week, hoping we can get back in time to meet Nathan at the airport.
I am trying to have faith.
I am trying to wait.
It is a righteous desire, I think.
But it is my way, and my timing, comes my answer.
I feel that feeling, when things are about to be hard, but your soul is covered in peace and strength to endure.
I know then, in that moment, that more endurance wasn’t what I was hoping for, but is what I am about to get.
I let two tears fall, and then I am still. And pray. And wait.
I smile at Jessica, and lift her into the air and hug her tight like the child-of-mine she has been, like the child-of-mine I cannot save, not by my own sheer force of will. True love requires power greater than our own.
There is so much I don’t understand, so much I don’t yet know. I know nothing. Help my little faith to grow. Help me to be strong. Bring me through what is required.
I know, then, that none of this makes life stop.
That’s part of the lesson.
So even when I want to curl up and cry, I smile at Jess as she buckles in, and I put on our primary songs, and we begin to sing.
And I drive, with tears in my eyes and a song in my mouth and a farewell poem in my heart.
I drive until I see Nathan again, and then I collapse into him and cry the way I only can when he is holding me. Lucky him.
My door is covered in hearts by my friends, and there are flowers on the front porch, and Nathan has brought me chocolates. It all makes me cry, cry, cry.
I cry through realizing that for the first time since we met, he is home to stay. I cry through the blessing he gives. I cry as we kneel together and thank our God for allowing us the opportunity to host a child into mortality, even we are not called to raise him at this time. I cry as we thank our Father for this righteous spirit that has come as a part of our family. I cry as we acknowledge our understanding, His knowing best for each of us, and preparedness to do what is asked of us… even letting this one go.
I cry as I realize I was not waiting for this child to be okay, so much as I was waiting for Nathan to be home with me when it happened. I cry as I realize my body has known all along something was wrong, things were not right, that this was not going to be easy. There was not happiness and glowing, so much as distress and violent sickness – and I cry to be relieved of it, because I understand in a new way how and why a mother would endure anything for a child, and I know I have only barely tasted this truth.
I cry as I do my own kneeling down, in obedience to my God, but with a Daughter’s heart.
I thank Him for all the weird things I have learned this week, like how the weeks of a pregnancy are counted so strangely, or how they even detect pregnancy, or what an amazing process fetal development is. I thank Him for friends who were mother-sister-friends, explaining and teaching and bearing this with me even though they have experienced their own. I thank Him for their softness in welcoming me into this new circle of women and its rites of passage so kindly and so gently, without mocking or frustration or impatience. I thank Him for a husband who is patient and kind and attentive, even from a thousand miles away. I thank Him for His mercy in bringing Nathan home to me before asking me to endure this, and for temple blessings and promises that I am not alone. I thank Him for the child, for this tiny being that taught us so much in only six weeks, and for the experience of these highest highs and lowest lows and all we are learning from it. I thank Him for knowing what is best, for knowing more than we yet understand, for being our God as well as our Father. I thank Him for good jobs we enjoy, that provide for us, for a country with medical care options, for doctors, for a clean and safe home, for my protection in these things. I thank Him for the wisdom of women that comes only through experiences like these, and ask Him to help me in the future when I must do for my nieces what my friends did for me this week. I thank Him for His goodness, because I know that even now, He has given me peace and that all is well.
This is a long and painful and hard day.
For the first time in six weeks, I am not sick in the morning or nauseous in the afternoon.
The dizziness is gone.
I am not hungry.
The stillness has overtaken me.
The cramping comes in waves, and is different than anything else.
We lose our honeymoon baby in the night, before we are even able to tell Nathan’s parents about him.
Our Thanksgiving is not until Saturday, for which I am grateful.
I don’t want to see anyone.
I don’t even put on my ears, because there are no words I want to hear.
If someone tried to sign to me, I would just close my eyes.
Nathan knows, and feels with me, and holds me, and rubs my head where my scars are, while I pretend I have no tears left in me.
Too many scars.
He loves me, and I love him.
We have grown up a lot in a week, aged in ways we didn’t know needed maturing.
I ask him to take me to the river, because that is where I have always grieved and come to life again, and because I need to move before I drown in stillness.
I don’t feel like walking, but it’s a better kind of pain than what’s in my heart.
And so we walk together, hand-in-hand, because that is what we do.
And I am grateful.