for cindy

I wish I had said more. I wish I had told you what a beautiful son you made. How his goodness is contagious, in that just being around him makes you want to be more like him because he is guileless and kind and he sees the best in everyone including me, which is a real feat. He is salt and rock and he is good. 

I wish I had said thank you for letting me in to your family. You opened up to a stranger, witnessed your first born's marriage when we were sealed like a knot and you came along. Your tears, I know now, were of joy.

I wish I had said I'm sorry. Sorry for unkind words or feelings. Sorry for asking too much or too little or nothing at all. Sorry for closing when I should have opened. Sorry. Sorry. I'm so sorry.

I wish I had said more to you every chance I had. I want to learn now, when it is too late. What he was like, what you were like. Because there was a lot of love there, wedged between you two and I want to know about that. 

I wish I had said nothing at all and just listened. 

I wish. I wish. I wish.

efficiency

I used to be really efficient. Like, I would do the dishes while brushing my teeth efficient. My days started with prayers, a morning workout and a green smoothie all before 8 am when I began my workday and simultaneously balanced multiple projects and still found time to make dinner, write a book, and take on freelance jobs. I even had friends.

These days I'd like to think I am efficient still, but the truth is I've really taken a step back. It seems like every time Claire isn't sleeping, I'm frantically working. Every time I feel like I'm ready to get out the door she needs her diaper changed, or she wakes up, or she's hungry. My days are slower, and more tedious. But they're also slower and more meaningful - and that feels important.

People told me a baby would change my life and I kind of nodded and smiled, like, "Yeah but I am a really capable person and I'm going to have a really good baby."

Ha. Ha. Haha. 

These days, my world moves slower. Sometimes it takes me an hour to get Claire to fall asleep and by then my back is aching and my eyes are beginning to shut. Nursing forces me to sit down with her at least every four hours and make her needs more important than mine. My nights are hers. I used to see friends, watch movies with Kev, read, write. Now I rock her with a sliver of light shining through the door and as soon as she's down, I collapse into bed.

My time is not really mine anymore, and that person who accomplished so much feels so far away sometimes. This motherhood thing is the most humbling thing in the world. It's funny and exhausting and the best. 

having it all

You know those annoying blog posts/magazine articles that have titles like, "How to do it all!" or, "Making it work as a Working Mom." Or the interview questions that beautiful and successful women are always asked, "How do you find the balance between work and children?" "Can you have it all?"

I don't want to get into this, because: A. It's clearly been covered, and B. I have only been back to work for one week and I already feel like I'm failing in a hundred different ways as an employee, as a mom, as an author. Never mind as a wife, friend, daughter, sister, church member. So obviously I have no light to shed on the issue and I don't know how to find a balance and it breaks my heart when I have to leave my baby at home for work and it makes me cringe to think that my boss doesn't feel like I'm measuring up since I had my baby, and it makes me sad that writing - which is my outlet, my dream - is slipping through the cracks.

I don't know what I'm trying to say here, other than that the pressure is real. I feel so much pressure to provide for my family physically and financially and emotionally. I feel pressure to be the same worker I was before. The same wife, the same everything - when the truth is I've been born again and I'm a new person, trying to wedge myself into my old life, but I don't fit there any more, no matter how hard I push.

I'm not sure there is such thing as balance. I think you just get by and do the best you can and hope that those around you - your baby, your boss, your husband, etc. all learn to forgive you and accept that your best is enough. 

Balance. Psh. Give your mom a hug. 

Loss

I wrote about my mother-in-law's accident here for the first time, if there are any new readers that need to catch up. Since then though, I've tried to avoid it because it's hard to think about and even harder to write about. Writing makes things concrete somehow. And I don't want this to be. I thought I should write all of these memories down to remember them better but a part of me doesn't want to remember them. Still, the feeling that I should do it anyway keeps coming back to me, so here it is. 

~

The first couple weeks were this tug-of-war between hope and grief. We would be given hope, which filled our hollow insides and made us tilt forward a little more on the edge of our chairs, waiting for news that would erase all of this. Later we would laugh about it maybe, with Cindy next to us. I pictured Christmas and the Fourth of July and Sunday evenings with her like we had. We could have that still, we told ourselves. We would have it.

Grief tugged back though, just as hard, and sometimes we all toppled into the mud. We were given statistics and odds and through it all we pulled back with hope, believing that she would beat those. She would be the one in a million. She would come back and sing for us and laugh with us. It was a terrible dichotomy, the knowledge that we would never and could never be the same.

It wasn't just her, it was all of us that would change in the weeks and months ahead.

~

People were kind in the best way they knew how to be. So much food was brought to the hospital. Donuts and burritos and hamburgers. We stared at the accumulating meals in the waiting room and occasionally one of us would obligatorily unwrap something, only to put it down minutes later. One woman who knew Cindy packed a cooler full of grapes and cheese and crackers though, and I bless that woman because I had a 20 week baby inside of me then, and I'm not sure I've ever had anything that tasted so good. Since then, I have been trying to find the Tilamook slices she brought and buying grapes every time I go to the store. It's like I'm trying to recreate this experience that seemed so silly but meant so much at the time.

~

The day after the accident I was in the hospital with Cindy and Julie - walking back and forth between floors. I was tired, up all night waiting by the phone for any news and took the first flight out of Phoenix that morning. I hadn't eaten much, and I felt pangs of anxiety shooting through me. I was worried about the baby, so I went to the maternity floor and checked myself in.

They had me undress and put on a hospital gown in this huge, empty delivery room with all of Provo sprawled below me. I put on the gown and sobbed. It was the first time I really cried. I cried for Cindy and her suffering. I cried for Julie and her brand new baby boy - for the induction into motherhood she had. I cried for Kevin and the fact that he was alone in Arizona while I was here. I felt so guilty for abandoning him, even though it's what he said he wanted. I cried for myself, selfishly, because I knew that this would be a long road of grief and struggle no matter the outcome.

The nurse came in to monitor the fetal heartbeat while I continued to sob. She knew. Somehow it seemed that word spread through the hospital about the mother and daughter whose time just missed each other. She didn't ask me if I was okay, which I appreciated. She knew I wasn't. That we weren't. But she did rub my back, and left me alone for several minutes so I could stare at the doppler machine.

My baby's heartbeat pounded while I sobbed. Our rhythms matched. 

"She's a fighter," the nurse said when she came back in. "Look at that heartbeat. I never see them that strong."

Right then I knew she wasn't just talking about her.

~

We are back in Arizona now, and Kevin is rotating at the hospital in cardiology. He came home one day and told me he met with a patient whose mother had a stroke which caused her to enter a persistent vegetative state. (Which is what Cindy is considered being in now.) She cried and cried to Kevin, mourning the loss of her mother and the fact that she will never be the same again. 

"So do you feel like your experience with your mom made you more empathetic to her?" I asked, hope tugging at me like a child on his mother's hem.

"No." He said, but I could see that his eyes were welling up. "Her mom is 93."

Cindy is 49.

Grief swallows us up sometimes. 

~

I asked my doctor upon my return to Arizona how all of this grief and sadness is affecting my baby. I have felt guilty that she is developing and growing during such a hard time.

"Can she feel my sadness?" I asked. "What do I do with all of this stress?"

"She can't feel it," he said. "Unless you stop eating or sleeping it shouldn't affect her, so taking care of you is the best way to take care of her. Stress crying is okay."

But I didn't really believe him. So we have this lullaby we do, me and her, and I rub my belly and sing, "Safe inside, rockabye, baby girl you're safe inside." 

It sounds contrived maybe, and a little cheesy. But it's our thing. And in reality, I know it's way more for me than it is for her.

~

A few months after the accident the entire extended family went to the temple and later went to view a movie that Kevin's uncle put together. All of the kids (and me and Dj) shared memories of her that were on it. Along with that were various pictures and videos of Cindy when she was healthy. 

We sat in the basement of this room and I held Conner, Julie and Kevin on either side of me. One of Kevin's distant relatives asked Julie how old her baby Conner was now. "Ten weeks," she said, turning around. 

"Ahh," the woman clucked sympathetically, "The same amount of time it's been since the accident. What a hard way for you to keep track of that day."

Julie nodded, pained but I turned around. "Actually, the accident happened on a Friday and Julie delivered on Saturday. So it wasn't the same day." I surprised myself with my candor. I am just tired of everyone associating this horrible accident and Julie's perfect baby boy as one event. 

I expected Kevin to lean over and tell me that I was rude, that I should apologize to this aunt, or whoever she was, but instead he rubbed my back like he was proud of me.

Sometimes brutal honesty is the way we fight for the people we love.

~

I got a lot of texts and emails from well-meaning friends. Since I didn't make the treatment or the outcome very public though, it's been difficult when people ask. "So is your mother in law doing better?" 

I wish so badly I could reply, "Yeah, she's great. Recovering and talking and walking." I ache to be able to offer that response to these well-meaning people.

Instead though, I shake my head. "No. She's not doing well. Thank you for asking though," I always reply curtly. I don't do it to be unkind. I know people ask out of concern. But some things are too hard to talk about at a barbecue, or a birthday party or church when we are trying so hard to just forget about it and be happy.

I wish I knew the right answer. What to do when someone's family goes through something like this. The truth is though, nothing works. No meals, no cards, no emails or texts. Nothing fixes it. 

I wish I could accept the kindness of others with more grace. I wish it didn't pain me every time Cindy enters the conversation. I wish she would just wake up.

~

I was headed out the door a couple days ago for a church meeting and asked Kev if he was going to come. 

"No I have to study for my cardio exam," he replied, his face buried in his book.

"The Lord will bless you if you come," I offered - teasing as much as I was serious. 

Kevin looked up at me, "Will he?" 

~

I decided to make a book with all of our wedding pictures for Kevin. (Still isn't finished). I sat at my parent's kitchen counter weeks after the accident and sorted all of these pictures, choosing my favorites. Cindy was in most of them, and I was holding it together. Kevin too.

Then I got to this picture of Cindy and my sister-in-law Kim. She looked so beautiful. I cried for the first time in a long time. So much of my own personal grief has been for my loss sure, but more for Kevin than anyone. Looking at this picture I felt the loss of Kevin's siblings - Kim and Julie specifically. 

Life is hard enough. No one should have to do it without a mom.

~

We aren't sure what to pray for anymore. Sometimes we pray that she will recover fully. Sometimes we pray that she will feel loved. Sometimes we pray for the best possible outcome for her. 

Lately I've been praying to know what I should pray for. Faith is easy to talk about when you get what you want. It becomes more real though, when the answer is no.

We always say that someday we'll understand why this happened. But in the off chance that we don't find out, I want to be able to say that I had faith anyway. That grief didn't win.

It's still a work in progress.

4 babies

In addition to my own nugget, three babies joined my family this year. That means my little sis will have three cousins her age. Three!  In her grade in school, even. It's been fun to be pregnant with my two older sisters and my sister-in-law Julie. We've complained to each other about nausea and getting fat and heartburn and it's nice to have people who really get it. I mean, any woman who has had a baby gets it but when you're in the thick of it, it's easier to be empathetic with each other.

So let me introduce these beauties:

The first was born to my sister Melissa. Her name is Mary Irene. She is sweet and snuggly and so loved. This first picture of Melissa brings me to tears every time I see it. 

The second baby was born to Julie. They named him Connor Lincoln. He is funny and has an old soul - or so my mom says. He came at the perfect time, right when the family needed some hope.

(Me with Conner - not Julie)

(Me with Conner - not Julie)

My sister Lacey had her baby boy Beckham Mark on Saturday. I haven't met him yet but I can't wait to. Lacey and Drew are such cool parents and he is so loved by his older sisters already. Also, Lacey's birth story is crazy. She ended up having him completely natural--on accident. Yeah, rockstar.

I love these three so much. It terrifies me though that mine is next. I always had another baby to plan on, but now it's just me. Yikes.

 

yes yes yes

“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling.

You must write every single day of your life.

You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next.

You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.

I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime.

I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you.

May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise.

Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” 

 - Ray Bradbury