Baby Button Needs You To Stop Praying For Him Now

8 weeks ago, I wrote a story about the journey our baby was taking us on, and how we were praying that my body would survive being pregnant just 7 more weeks to give him the best chance. So many of you responded in love and prayers and genuine care.

I truly believe it worked because my body proceeded to need a total of 3 amniotic fluid drains, plus a dramatic 3 night stay in the hospital because I was having very real contractions every 5 minutes…and then suddenly everything stopped. I went home. Life has resumed at an almost-usual routine for the last 4 weeks. Baby Button has grown big and strong, we have a safety-approved place for him to sleep and travel, and my mom made it here without complication.

So now? I need y’all to stop praying. I turned the corner on 38 weeks yesterday, and I am done.

I know every third-trimester mother says that, but I don’t think you understand.

I am “answering questionnaires for concerned psychiatrists/sense of humor completely gone/collapsing into tears for no reason at least once a day” done.

I have survived the Apocalypse. I have lived in fear of the government and deportation. I have moved houses at least as many times as I’ve had birthdays. I’ve seen a childhood friend die right in front of me. I have endured losing a relationship with my father 2 months after it began. I have gotten lost in Europe, lost a baby, lost jobs, and been one paycheck ahead of financial disaster for years.

But 9 months of pregnancy, one of life’s greatest mysteries that I was looking forward to the most, is the straw that broke this camel’s back.

I feel sad. I feel angry. I feel needy. I feel weak.

And so I feel lost. My identity is shifting. I’m the girl who writes about all the crazy shit that happens to her, and still manages to make people smile. I’m the Chandler Bing, I’m the Spartan who keeps on trucking, I’m the one who has heard time and again, “Wow. Looking at you, listening to you, I would never have guessed that you survived all THAT. You’re amazing, and you should probably write a book.”

My shit has always been a little messy, but it was my mess, and it made me stronger.

Now? After being pregnant and sick and worried and unprepared for 267 days in a row (including being displaced from home for 60+ days in a cramped house with 4 animals and 4 in-laws out of that)?

All I want is to go to sleep, and wake up in my own bed with a fresh mani/pedi, a killer haircut, a multi-ethnic buffet, and an impossibly adorable baby who never cries longer than 5 minutes or makes me question whether I am mentally and emotionally capable of becoming a mother in the first place.

I feel gross for even admitting it. Because I can see all you ladies who have been moms for years, who are laughing at my innocence and thinking, “Just you wait, honey, it gets worse.” I can see all you ladies who have been thinking they’d like to get pregnant, and now I’ve just ruined it for you. I can see all you ladies who had magical unicorn pregnancies with babies made from Jesus’ eyelashes, and are secretly judging me for being so dramatic and non-sacrificial.

And honestly, I’m going to play the Pregnant Bitch card and say up front: I don’t need to hear from you right now.

The only thing that keeps me typing so vulnerably is the off-chance that maybe some lady will read this and think, Thank GOD I’m not alone. Maybe I’ll wait one more day before checking myself in to the closest institution. Hi, Carly. I’m your new messy mama friend. Let’s keep talking.

13 days or less…

 

Take Me To Church

I am what you might call a “church-goer”. I look back on my life and cannot remember a time that I was not connected to a church somewhere. I’ve attended chapel at school, chapel at camp, Presbyterian church, Alliance church, Foursquare church, home church, Pentecostal church, Evangelical Free church, Salvation Army church, Baptist church, and back to Pentecostal church. Morning worship, communion, Vacation Bible School, Sunday school, children’s church, youth group – sometimes attending, sometimes leading. I’ve done it all.

What can I say, sometimes they have snacks. And always really good juice. I know it wasn’t koolaid because I’m still alive. (Really, Carly? Too soon.)

It’s not hard to picture going to church like going to a family reunion. There are people you know, some you love, some that you’re just like “ehh.” And if you go to church alone like I have for most of my life, then sometimes you actually *do* get adopted by some parents or grandparents that take you home for lunch after the service since you are probably wasting away.

A church has always been my place of refuge, confession, re-confirmation of faith. Where I could find God the easiest.

And now, I find myself being called away. Maybe not from church completely, but from what I think I know and believe about church.

Like any family, church assemblies occasionally go through rough patches. Fighting, gossip, disagreement over how things should be done, taking sides, misunderstandings, financial stress; sometimes, people walk out and don’t come back. Bridges are burned, hearts smoldering in the ashes.

Unfortunately, in these situations, the rest of the world looks at people like us and points vigorously, “See! I knew they were hypocrites! That’s why *I* don’t go to church.”

And unfortunately, some of us are not humble enough to admit that it might be true. So, once again, the reputation of God gets dragged through the mud.

I have recently discovered that I am very passionate about the integrity of God’s reputation. And that because of this, I need to be equally as passionate about the possibility that I may not be right about everything.

“Anyone who gets to the end of their life with the exact same beliefs and opinions as they had in the beginning is doing it wrong.” – Sarah Bessey

Some people might call this instability; a flaky standpoint. I call it maturity.

When I first started out, no matter which of those many churches I attended, my core beliefs were always the same.

God is watching my every move angrily so I better toe the line. God hates gay people. God hates women who have had abortions. Poverty and homelessness is God’s way of saying they should have worked harder. People that aren’t white or Christian are kind of scary; I should avoid them. Women should be seen and not heard in church. Men are always right, especially pastors because God speaks directly to them always. I am a bastard child, but God might still have room for me somewhere, if I try hard enough.

I don’t remember actually hearing any of those words being spoken to me personally or from the pulpit. (Especially considering my 2 year experience at the Salvation Army church, where they are all about women serving equally in whatever capacity!)
They were just…there. Maybe they were the lies I was born with, and no one bothered to set me straight. These lies would tangle around my heart like poison ivy.

But as the years have passed, a garden scissor has slowly been cutting through – a painful act of being set free.
They aren’t done yet. For the truth to continue, for the pruning to yield more fruit, I need to step out of the comfort of the church building for awhile. It’s far too easy to arrive at a church every week, dressed in your Sunday best, to stand and sing a few songs, sit and listen to a few words, learn a few lessons, greet a few well-known strangers, and then run out the door to beat the brunch crowd.

I’m not saying that everyone does this. I’m just saying that unless I’m living in a country that forces me to sneak-read my Bible, or whisper Jesus’ name for threat of death, I am the laziest Christian ever.

Turns out I’m not alone. I have friends who suspect there is more to this Jesus person and his way of life, and they want in.

“So you moved me, out of myself and into the fire… I can’t go with you and stay where I am, so you moved me…” – Susan Ashton, You Move Me

And so we’re going on a journey together. We don’t know where it will go, or what it will look like yet. But we do know that there will be no politics. Separation of church and state is still a thing.
We do know that it won’t always be on a Sunday.
We do know that we won’t be meeting in a building, and that there won’t be any programs designed to draw people in to the latest spiritual attraction.
We do know that it will be hard as hell, like someone’s pulled the plug on our Matrix-induced slumber and now we can see things as they really are.

Because that’s what we’re asking for: the real, warm, hard truth. To meet anyone and everyone in that truth, in
their story, and walk it out together.

For example, next week, the town is offering a bike course to teach kids how to ride bikes if they don’t know how. The course needs volunteers. So, next week, we’re going to show up, and help out. Because we know that if we can teach even one child how to ride a bike, we’ve changed their world. We don’t have a building with a kids program to invite them to, but we have our hands and hearts, ready to meet a need in the here and now. We didn’t have a board meeting, we didn’t take a vote, we’re just going.

Last week, we hosted a party where an entire pig was roasted on a spit, and many people I’d never met before showed up. And I talked to some of them. And I tried goat meat for the first time. And I helped a friend through 5 contractions in her long labour. It was all terrifying and exhilarating.

Maybe sometime, we’ll collect some of our own money to help a single mom without any strings attached. Meals For Moms is still going strong, and I’m thankful for that open door.

Maybe the week after that, one of our D.J. friends will book a wedding reception, and he’ll take a few of us over to start a celebration without asking anyone what their religious affiliation is.

Because love and building relationship and challenging any hidden prejudices is the name of our non-game.

Who knows what could happen?

And when we do get together to study the word of God, we’re going to ask the scary questions. We’re going to wrestle the angels until we find a crown worth keeping.

Maybe a woman will preach without feeling like she has to ask permission. Maybe a child will hear God speak and share it for our knowledge and benefit. Maybe we’ll see a body or soul be healed in front of our eyes.
Maybe we’ll fall on our faces, failing miserably.
Maybe we’ll get back up again.
Maybe we’ll wash out the bitter taste of God’s name in others’ mouths with pure water, free of hypocrisy and hidden agendas.
Maybe I’ll finally learn who I’m meant to be, and cut the last tangle of poison ivy from the soil of my soul.

That’s what I’m asking for.

[To be continued…hopefully]

I Don’t Follow Jesus

He’s not a Facebook page or a 140-character hashtag or a “like this photo to give this child a cup of clean water.”

I don’t follow Him – not like that.

We’re not far removed from the people of his day – but instead of wanting dominance over the Romans, maybe we want the biggest church building and those uncomfortable sinners “fixed.”

Instead of a flashy miracle show, maybe we want the best parking spot and a short line-up at the coffee shop.

(Okay, admit it, maybe we slightly want flash and dominance as well.)

They were wrong then, and we are wrong now.

But across these generations, we’ve claimed that, yes, we are Jesus Followers.

What do I do when I’m following someone?

I look where they’re going.

I turn left when they go left, I turn right when they go right, I go in a damn figure 8 just for giggles sometimes, if they want me to.

He’s always said, “Follow me.”

Not “Say the Sinner’s Prayer.”

Follow me.

Where is he going?

I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s not about directions in a military style, but a way of life.

He is not a cause, a banner to be waved across battle fields, a dictator’s propaganda conquering the empire of Right (Wing) and Wrong (Wing) on the backs of his people from the comfort of his throne. He is a warrior, yes – not safe, but good. Like that Narnian lion.

He’s not a slick hair/suit/man, asking for your money. He doesn’t need money, or suits for the matter; he’s got the moon and stars.

He is Shackle-Breaker – for that alcoholic heart AND that sex slave sold over the Internet.

He is Daily Bread for the poor in the streets AND in the mansions, Justice for the mud-trodden foreigners.

He is Forgiveness and Grace extended for the 491st time and beyond.

He’s in the bars and brothels and bus stops – in East Hastings and West Africa.

A warm bed enveloping you after a long, hard day.

The orphanages full of those who believe they are unwanted.

A song you heard on the radio.

A sun-rayed backyard full of sprinklers and laughing children.

The tears in your eyes when a loved one receives bad news and all you can do is hold them wordlessly.

A peaceful protest that holds a watching world accountable for its actions.

He is King, He is Servant, He is Creator, He is Spirit, He is All, He is Friend Who Never Leaves.

Even when you’ve been a liar, afraid, depressed, filled with loss and anger, apathetic, insensitive, short-tempered, joyless, and hardened – he’ll take off your shoes and wash your feet.

THAT’S where He is going.

And thank GOD, that is where I want to go too.

One day, everything will be made right and true and good again. Maybe, if we follow Him to all of those places and start washing those impressively dirty feet, that day can get a head start.

That’s where I’m going.

You can come too, if you want.

I Cried In Church Today

I cried in church today.

Not that I’ve never done that before. Anything can make me do that – a song, a prayer, a hug from an old friend.

Today I cried because I saw something I rarely see: community.

We gathered in a building behind the Tim Hortons – not just me and my people, but them and their people.

Multiple churches, multiple dialects of faith, all in one spot because it’s the end of the summer and this is what we do at least once. We pile in, we sing songs that we all know collectively, and someone chosen from the community speaks a message. We drink coffee together and we leave, feeling like real connection was made in that hour. Pastors, deacons, elders, middlers, young adults, teenagers, children, men and women – anyone who has a habit of going to the Church on a Sunday morning is there in equal measure.

Today, however, felt different.

The bodies were so close, the voices were so loud. I felt surrounded by a choir. My voice joined in, weakened by tears, strengthened by the words.

One pastor stands up, introduces the mayor and two female police officers. One of them is decked in the Mountie Red, another is on duty in black. They’re all asked to share why they are here today.

The mayor takes the microphone and smiles nervously: “I am here because I believe in the power of community. I am not a man of religion, by any means, but listening to you all sing just now – I felt the Spirit of God here. It’s undeniable. Smithers will benefit because of you.”

The woman in red takes the microphone. She’s young, new to town and new to the force. She’s a police officer, speaking publicly in a church building; she is practically a modern miracle. And why shouldn’t she be?

“I came here as a police officer because I want to help people. I know everyone says that, but it’s really true for me.”

The woman in black takes the mike from her. She starts to say something, but then she pauses, putting her finger to her ear. We sit in silence, wondering. After a moment, she says, “10-4, on my way” or something similar. Then she tells us, “I’m going to make this really quick.”

A laugh ripples across the crowd.

“I am here representing Cops for Cancer. We bike across the province every year to raise money for pediatric research. And if you don’t think pediatric research is relevant here – we all know of a little boy who is in Vancouver fighting for his life right now.”

We nod, and tears fill my eyes again. One of our own, a 10 year old boy who hadn’t been feeling well lately, had discovered his body was made more of cancer than blood and flesh and bone. Just a few days ago.

She tells us what we can do to help, and then she runs down the aisle of the sanctuary and disappears, because that’s her job. Any time, all the time.

We take up an offering. I pray that it goes directly where it is needed.

And then a man from the Salvation Army comes and speaks to us. He shows us a picture of this sculpture that is sitting in Toronto at this very moment.

 

 

It’s called “Jesus the Homeless.” He is lying on a bench in a shroud, and the only way to know that it’s him, is to see his nail-pierced feet peeking out. He speaks volumes.

We are led all over the Scripture, reading portions of passages where Jesus did nothing but reach out and spend his time with the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the unclean, the addicted, the outcast and the sinner – and the religious leaders did nothing but condemn him for it.

These passages are called The Gospel, or “Good News.”

Except it’s not news.

It’s not news that Jesus was a bit of a rebel, that he broke a lot of rules, made a lot of people angry with his all-surrounding compassion for just anyone.

It’s not news that Jesus would rather have dinner with a prostitute or a tax collector than a religious hypocrite.

It’s not news that Jesus never avoided anyone for the sake of his reputation.

It’s not news that he didn’t notice skin colour or background or age or gender.

So why do we act like it is?

I wept when I saw that homeless Jesus. I’ve seen him before.

I’ve also seen the poor Jesus, the aboriginal Jesus, the sick Jesus, the hungry Jesus, the black Jesus, the addicted Jesus, the gay Jesus, the mentally ill Jesus, the prostitute Jesus, the angry Jesus, the bitter Jesus, the strung-out Jesus, the imprisoned Jesus, the orphaned, abandoned, helpless, overlooked Jesus.

And I have not loved him.

I cried in church today, because we were all there. We all heard it, we all saw it. Even the mayor knows it now.

He’s right there, shrouded in the form of our community, just waiting to be picked up, dusted off, and taken in. It’s not too late.

Because once we’ve seen, we cannot unsee.
Because maybe, if we’re more like Jesus, then more people will want to become like us.
Because we all have a story, and we are all more than our labels, our backgrounds, our denominations or our mistakes. This is not news.

I cried in church today, and I think maybe God did too.

 

Come To The Light Side ; Sometimes, We Have Cookies.

I’ll never forget the first day I was allowed to bake cookies by myself. I was close to 9 years old, with an apron that went around me twice and a flour-splashed countertop in front of me.

I was ecstatically waiting for them to emerge from the oven, gooey and painfully delicious to the lips. Moments later, however, I would experience the bitter disappointment of too much baking soda.

My mom had mentioned that baking involved math and the use of proper fractions, but I had been sure that this rule could be bent. How could something so fun require something else so terrible?

Nearly 20 years have passed since then, and I know how to bake cookies now. About once a month, I get the urge to leave a lovely disaster of flour and broken egg shells on my countertop, despite the math involved. A small part of me even loves the math; it’s reliable, grounded and gets the results I want.

2013-08-14 15.56.45

On June 14th, 2014, I learned that I was taking on a different kind of baking venture: the ultimate bun in the oven, a baby.

As a birth doula, it’s already part of my job to know things about pregnancy and birth and infants. But I was determined to do this right.

So I read and googled and stopped lifting heavy things and eating sushi, and started drinking more water, and quit my job when it became apparent that it was too physical (and possibly dangerous) for the first trimester, and read and googled some more.

If this cookie was going to successfully bake for the next 8 months and emerge from my oven all gooey and painfully delicious to the lips (and my heart), then I was willing to do the math, sacrificially take care of my body, and follow the recipe to make it happen.

On July 20th, 2014, a mere month ago, the cookie emerged from the oven. All gooey and painful, nothing delicious.

Why?

Sure, it was my first go-round, but I had followed the recipe, hadn’t I?

Why had my precious little egg fertilized and then…never grown? My husband and I were both young and fairly healthy.

Why had my body still produced hormones that made my breasts ache and belly expand, when my pregnancy was over before it even really started? I’d never taken birth control or had any extreme hormonal imbalances before.

What had I done? What had I not done? This recipe does not add up.

And then I realized that I’ve been operating my entire life this way, at an If/Then Pendulum.

If I’m nice to people, then they will be nice to me.

If I pray and go to church regularly, then God will be happy with me.

If I work hard, then I will be rewarded.

If I’m healthy and hardly drink and take care of myself, then there’s no reason on earth why I shouldn’t have a perfectly healthy and happy baby from the very first moment I ask for one.

It’s just not true.

Sure, recipes can be followed in the kitchen, and formulas should most definitely be followed in the chemistry lab or math department. But Life is the master of Maybe and No Guarantees.

The truth is, we are in an unrequited relationship with Life. We are head-over-heels in love, and we want to spend every possible minute with it, maybe see the world together.

Meanwhile, Life doesn’t really give a shit about us.

Is it supposed to?

Does a manual exist somewhere that says if you’re a good, kind person, then nothing bad will ever happen to you? That if you only eat organic food and don’t cuss people out in traffic, then you’ll get a Golden Star of Immunity?

Do we think we’re entitled to a suffering-free existence?

Because you can do all the right things. Pay your bills on time, love your in-laws, serve your country. And one day, you may still find yourself losing everything that you thought made you a person.

It’s not that Life hates you. It’s almost worse, in that it’s nothing personal. Life is Switzerland, completely neutral – throwing a pebble in your pond and walking away, having no idea what it just destroyed or created. No one to blame, no one to exact street justice upon, no deals or bargains, no if/then.

What is the point? Right now, I’m not completely sure.

An ancient King said it pretty well:

“I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them…I amassed gold and silver for myself…I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before…I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labour, and this was the reward for my toil.
Yet everything was meaningless. So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun is grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chase after the wind…so my heart began to despair…what do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labour under the sun?…grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest.”

Ugh.

In the past, whenever a personal event has taken my breath away and torn my clothes in grief, I always notice that the world continues on. Even though my world has stopped, most people keep going about their daily lives as though nothing has happened. But for me, everything has changed, and I wish that, for just one second, that the rest of the world would stop with mine and acknowledge my pain. To know that it’s worth stopping for, that I’m not just making it up.

But.

The week that my baby died, planes started dropping out of the skies. Most of my province caught on fire. In the weeks that followed, war in the Middle East escalated, Ebola reared its ugly head, America-the-land-of-the-free-and-the-home-of-the-brave became a little less free and a little less brave, Robin Williams’ light left our atmosphere.

For the first time that I can remember, my world has stopped…and so has everyone else’s. And it sucks.

Again we ask, why?

The same King who doubted his life’s meaning wrote this beautiful passage a little later on, and it has become my hope:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace…
God has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Maybe you don’t believe in God right now or at all.

Then believe in the seasons, how you’ve seen them change year after year without fail.

Believe in the words of Mumford & Sons,

| But if your strife strikes at your sleep, remember Spring swaps snow for leaves.|

Believe in the sun that has kept its promise every single damn day for the past eternity, after hours of enclosing darkness. Always.

Believe that, when you’ve been battling your enemies in the mud and the rain for 4 nights in a row, Gandalf is going to come to your aid in the light of the 5th day, just like he said he would.

Believe in whatever keeps you here, keeps you fighting, keeps you floating above the water’s embrace. Believe that your Phoenix will rise from the ashes, if you let it disintegrate into the death it’s meant for.

No, there are no formulas or recipes or guarantees of anything in this life, but we DO have a time for everything, good and bad. We may not know why, but we know we are not alone. Death may hurt like hell, but we know that new life will always come from it. We may not know when it will be over, but all things do end, and our story will ring out that “YES! There IS a light at the end of this tunnel, I KNEW it!” and others may not be in the same part of the tunnel as you are and they may not believe you, but you can reassure them to keep walking, it’s coming it’s coming it’s coming, don’t give up.

This is what I will teach my children. Yes, MY children, because I have no doubt that they will come to me when they are ready. And we will make cookies together, and I’ll tell them about their older brother or sister who couldn’t stay, and what I was taught by their leaving.

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
when grief sits with you, its tropical heat,
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a  body withstand this?
then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes I will take you,
I will love you again.

–Ellen Bass—


(Source)

Behbeh Love Part 3

**Trigger Warning: talk about possible miscarriage, and all the feelings within that.**

Sohry aboot that cliffhanger, eh?

Part One    Part Two

Last Wednesday, I parked at Valley Imaging Clinic, 10 minutes before I was supposed to check in for my ultrasound. I sat in my car. I waited, I listened to music, I cried. I had been bleeding off and on for 5 days now, and I was still waiting for my blood hormone results, and I just…I needed to know if my baby was okay. Every minute felt like an eternity.

…I will call upon your name, and keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace
For I am yours, and you are mine…

So why was everything so quiet?

I laid on the table in a dimly lit room, trying to just keep breathing, trying to keep the cushion from sliding out underneath my hips while the stone-faced tech ran a wand over my jellied belly. Searching, searching, searching…

She said I had a very full bladder. A little too full, perhaps. She told me to go empty it so that she could do a vaginal ultrasound. I was prepared for this possibility. I saw Jennifer Lopez’s The Back-up Plan. Whatever would give me that heartbeat.

More cold gel…an aching probe…this will be worth it, this will be worth it, this will be worth it…

So why was everything so quiet?

“When’s your estimated due date again?”

“February 20th. I should be almost 8 weeks now.”

“You’ll need to go back and confer with your doctor. What I’m seeing does not indicate 8 weeks.”

I tried to keep the tears back. “Okay? So..nothing’s wrong, though? It could just be too early to get a heartbeat, right?”

“Just make sure you talk to your doctor. You can clean yourself up now.”

…Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,
Let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me…

It took 7 minutes. To go in and come out. Really, though, it was 7 years.

I sat in my car again, and decided to call the walk-in clinic, hoping they would have my blood hormone results.

“Your first test showed your hormones at around 13,000. Now they’re over 18,000, so everything looks good. Dr. Aspinall will be in at 1:30pm today if you’d like to talk to him.”

I nearly cried again with relief. “Thank you. I’ll be in at 1:30.”

For the next 2 hours, I distracted myself with food and the superfluous lives of celebrities in magazines at the Library. I gave a brief update on Facebook, then answered the flood of caring texts and comments.

I arrived at the walk-in clinic exactly at 1:30. The clinic was empty, and I rejoiced. When Dr. Aspinall heard that my blood hormones were still going up, he rejoiced.


(Source)

 Not even kidding. He did the double-fist pump. I officially loved him after that.

He had the ultrasound report faxed over (yes, faxed) and we looked at it together.

Not only had there not been a heartbeat, there hadn’t even really been a baby to see. They base it by seeing what they call a “yolk sac” and “fetal pole”, which is kind of a fancy word for the spine. Therefore, it could not be called a “viable fetus” yet. Either something was wrong, and I would miscarry – or it was simply too early to tell.

Dr. Aspinall gave me another requisition to take back to Valley so that I could book another ultrasound in a couple of weeks, as well as a Bio Med form to have more blood taken later in the week.

It was 4pm by the time I got home. Steve got home not long after that, and we collapsed into a hug for awhile. The kind with no words, only touch and requited feeling.

Steve: “We’ll keep trusting the blood and the size of your boobs. Cause, honey, those things are still growing.”

 

 

People have been amazing. Texts, calls, private messages, stopping by the house to chat. Laurie even went so far as to order me cupcakes from my favourite shop. Oh yeah, and she’s approximately 2,000 miles away from me. So she’s pretty amazing.

2014-07-10 12.44.19

 

Days passed. I stopped bleeding and started puking. Hope returned, and every time a wave of nausea washed over me, I smiled. Baby Button is still here, and they want me to know it.

My in-laws opened their swimming pool, like an oasis in the desert. I used to give the Israelites a hard time for all their Old Testament complaining, but now I know better. I’m not even IN desert heat, I have food and water at my disposal constantly, and now I have a swimming pool. I would have been the bitchiest bitch of all those Israelites. Like, open-up-the-earth-and-swallow-me-whole-God-cause-at-least-it’ll-be-cooler-down-there-thanks.

2014-07-12 15.26.22

Not that you really wanted to know, but swimming really helps with my bowel movements.

 

Yesterday, Steve and I went to the hospital for my very first Maternity Clinic appointment. All of my walk-in clinic and blood hormone and ultrasound info had been sent over to them, so they wanted to create a Health History on the both of us. It went pretty well. Dr. Hansen told me to get my blood hormone done again that day, and that he’d get me an ultrasound earlier than the 31st. It all sounded awesome to me.

Until.

“Receptionist So-and-So, can you call over to Valley and tell them to get us an ultrasound this week? Chance of miscarriage is very high with her.”

“Of course, Doctor.” *beep boop beep* “Okay, Carly, you now have an ultrasound on Wednesday. Take your blood test today, and call us on Friday with all your results.”

Something in me went numb after that.

I had my blood taken, and was told I could check my online results that evening.

I went home and slept for 3 1/2 hours. I didn’t realize it then, but I was done. Giving up. Letting it get to me. I was back in the wilderness of my earlier years, the mindset of hoping for the best yet preparing for the worst. I forgot to trust the blood and the boobs like Steve told me to.

Even reading my results later didn’t phase me. Oh awesome, my hormones are up from 18,000 to over 28,000. Doesn’t matter. I must have done something wrong; now it’s over.

 

Last night, we lay in bed and talked. Well, more like I had a breakdown and Steve held me. Then we talked. I poured out all my fears, not even realizing that I was talking about this miscarriage as though it was a “when,” not an “if.”

What if I’m home alone when it happens? What if I can see our baby? What do you DO with a miscarried baby? I’m scared of the pain, but I’m even more scared of the After. I’m scared I’ll just fall apart and never get out of bed again. You deserve more than that. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I want to be strong. I want to be brave. But holding it in makes me dissolve, and what if holding that stress in is bad for the baby? But what if letting it out like this is bad for the baby too? I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

And then he cried, and spoke, and I was shaken out of my fearful stupor.

“I’m not even thinking that way right now. Our baby is still alive and growing in there, and I still believe in it! Do YOU? Whatever happens, you are loved and we WILL get through this TOGETHER. You will NEVER be a burden or a disappointment to me, got it?” He rubbed and kissed my belly over and over, whispering prayers into our child’s unformed ears.

 

Tomorrow is my next ultrasound. I feel like a broken record. But I’m STILL not bleeding, and my hormones are STILL going up, and my stripper cans are STILL getting bigger every day. And my Father has a plan that I WILL be able to walk in.

When I look into your eyes, it’s like watching the night sky
Or a beautiful sunrise – well, there’s so much they hold.
And just like them old stars, I see that you’ve come so far
To be right where you are; How old is your soul?

Well, I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough,
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up.

And when you’re needing your space to do some navigating
I’ll be here patiently waiting to see what you find.

Cause even the stars, they burn
Some even fall to the earth;
We’ve got a lot to learn, God knows we’re worth it.

I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I’m here to stay and make the difference that I can make.
Our differences do a lot to teach us how to use
The tools and gifts we got, yeah we got a lot at stake.
And in the end, you’re still my friend
At least we did intend for us to work,
We didn’t break, we didn’t burn, we had to learn
How to bend without the world caving in.
I had to learn what I’ve got and what I’m not and who I am.

I won’t give up on us, God knows I’m tough enough.
We’ve got a lot to learn, God knows we’re worth it.
No, I won’t give up. I’m still looking up.

(Jason Mraz, I Won’t Give Up On Us)

 

 Part Four

Advocation of the Shenis

A few (days) ago, Beth Teliho blogged about something called The Shenis.

It’s exactly what it sounds like: a penis for girls.

I could probably find a purple funnel in my kitchen if I looked really hard…

Nothing Freudian; just practicality when it comes to things like being able to pee standing up like one of the guys. #EqualityForAll

You’re doing it wrong. Cute, but wrong.

If they ever make an infomercial about this product (have they already??), I will audition to be one of the people living a terrible existence in a choppy black-and-white montage before they experienced The Shenis.

And I will win that “role” by telling this story.

The Year Was 2005…

I was a skinny Mexican teenager unaffected by the mass amounts of mini-donuts I was consuming at a small-town Fall Fair…

As I was for a number of years…RIP teenage me…

For four days at the end of every summer, our little Smithers was overtaken by madness. Semi-truck after semi-truck would pile into town, and we would watch excitedly as we could see our favourite rides being constructed before our eyes like Legos in a local field. We prepared ourselves for the Parade (building and dancing on a Bible-themed float down Main Street, skeet-a-skeet whaaaat?) and the ensuing Midnight Madness, where you paid $20 for a bracelet that entitled you to an unlimited amount of rides and skeezy out-of-towners trying to sell you stuff. And, of course, mini-donuts.

As will happen, a group of my friends and I needed to use the bathroom. Pairs? Try fives.

We made our way through the crowds, only to find this unfortunate situation in front of the girl’s washroom:

Begrudgingly, we got into line, trying to calculate just how much this would cut in our unlimited ride time. After 10 minutes, we all started doing the scissor dance

and after 5 minutes of that, I noticed that this was happening in front of the men’s washroom:

So I said, “Girls, I’m going in..I think!”

They all said, “Girl, don’t do it. This line’s gotta move eventually.”

I, in my infinite wisdom, “Girls, my girl can wait no longer. Cover me.”

So I took a deep breath and crossed the line…into Urinal Territory. I could hear whispers of friends and strangers alike, as I was clearly a groundbreaking bad-ass.

Friends, I’m not gonna lie…it was pretty bad. There were 3 rotten urinals against the wall; I took a few more deep breaths, entered one of two sit-down stalls, and locked the door. I had no sooner unzipped my pants and sat down than I heard it.

A rumbling in the floors, in the walls. Drunken shouts. The boys bathroom was now filled with what I imagined to be at least 5 football-player-sized meatheads who didn’t need urinals, but needed to crap or puke or both.

In terror, I quickly bent my knees and tucked my dazzly flip-flopped feet up on the toilet seat. I don’t know why I thought this would prevent them from seeing me, but I held my breath – praying that God would cause the cunning enemy-defeating spirit of my Yaqi ancestors to descend upon me with powers of invisibility.

BANG. BANG BANG BANG.

My stall door rattled and shook until I thought it was going to unhinge. I expected at any moment to see a head pop up underneath the door. Or worse, a body crawling underneath to unlock it from within. But, too drunk to figure out what was happening, these boys started yelling at each other in frustration.

“Fudge! This stupid fudging door is fudging stuck! This is fudging bullcrap! Oh wait, there’s another one, this one better fudging work…”   *

*Actually different words.

So there I hunched and waited as each one of those gentlemen took turns using the one available stall. Oh yeah, and you can bet that I’d still never peed.

5 minutes…10…15 minutes later, the stomping and swearing and bodily function noises finally subsided. Ever so slowly, I let my legs unfold and my feet touch the floor again.

Quiet.

I bent over, looking at the floor from all angles for any evidence of feet.

Nothing.

I sighed and released my bladder like Niagara Falls.

I flushed, unlocked the door, washed my hands and ran like a bat out of hell.

And guess what I found in front of ladies washroom?

That’s right. The amount of time I was trapped was equal to or more than the time it took to go through the entire line-up. Everyone was gone, including my friends.

Not. Worth. It.

Suddenly, a lady came out of the women’s washroom, and her eyes widened when she saw me.

“Oh my god! Are you okay? We watched you walk in there, and literally a bunch of guys barreled in right after you. I was so worried!”

I looked around at the emptiness. “Well, that makes one of you. They didn’t find me; I’m okay. Thanks.”

And if that wasn’t enough, it took me bloody half an hour to find my friends. Who laughed their asses off when I told them what had happened.

Come to think of it, a decade later, I’m not in contact with any of them. Hmmm…

So, in short, if I’d had the Shenis with me that day, I’d have more fake friends and less of an addiction to mini-donuts.

Actually, nah, that sounds like a win to me. Thanks, Yaqi ancestors.

 

Book vs. Movie

It’s no secret that nowadays, converting books to the big screen is a major money-grab. Some are ragingly successful, some flop flatter than that kid at the public pool trying to dive for the first time. But one thing is for sure: everyone will have an opinion about it.

I love books, and I love movies. But I will probably never get caught up in angrily comparing them, and here’s why.

1. I didn’t write the book or make the movie.

Audiences take books and movies so damn personally! And I don’t understand it. That director or script-writer cannot please everyone, even you. He/she doesn’t hate you, and he/she will probably never read that open letter you wrote to them, describing your hatred for them.

2. Editing is really, really necessary.

When a director/writer converts a beloved book, he has a lot of choices to make. Many developments of character/storyline in books are slow, or lacking dialogue, and that’s okay. We read books to take the time for escape. But for an average two-hour movie, not all of these details can be transferred in a way that’s compelling and interesting. (This is why I’ll always be impressed with the visionary world created in The Hunger Games. The books’ stories were told completely from Katniss’ point of view; she doesn’t describe or even know about many of the things we get to experience on the screen.)
Game of Thrones is literally the only thing I have currently seen that’s pretty much word-for-word from the book, plus boobs. (I’ve only read the first book so far, though, so I can’t speak for the accuracy of the rest yet.) And each book is equal to a 10 hour season of a very expensive mini-series. I’m sorry, but Hollywood can’t and won’t do that for every book you read, even if it makes you mad.

Ultimately, those changes that were made from book-to-movie HAVE to be approved by the author of the books themselves, if they’re still alive. When those authors penned those books, even they have to make a disclaimer at the beginning: “This is a work of fiction. Any relation to a person living or dead, or a situation, is purely coincidental.”  The chances of their original book actually imitating the life of someone, without permission, is very unlikely – but they don’t want to get sued, so they cover their butt, just in case. Movie-makers have to take the same care with the material they’re given. I refuse to shake my fist at a director who apparently “didn’t read the book!”

Believe me. They did. Legally, they had to. And they discussed everything with the author. They reached an agreement, they signed papers, and they covered their butts. Just because it’s not the world that you imagined when you read the book, doesn’t mean that it’s not a good movie version of the story, deserving of acclaim. That’s like hearing an epically beautiful and moving orchestral score, and saying, “Well, that’s not what I heard playing in my head when I read it! I hate it!”

So, if the author (or whoever is acting on their behalf) is cool with it, why aren’t you?

3. The Bible is not a novel.

I know, I know. I’m going there.

If converting books to movies has become a major money-grab, then converting Bible stories into movies has become the peak of money and controversy. But it’s not a new thing. Like, at all.

The Bible has been used for big-screen stories for the past 100 years, at least. And I highly doubt that any of them were completely “accurate.”

White Jesus, anyone?

Maybe because…

A.) None of us were alive when the Bible was happening.

B.) I believe that the Bible is the actual word of God, intended to teach and challenge us, to get us talking to (and hopefully loving) other people. But it is not always heavy on dialogue, infinitesimal details or even character development. Even with the big, well-known stories, there are still many aspects shrouded in mystery.

C.) Movie-goers and directors alike cannot exactly consult the many Authors of the written material to turn these stories into the movies they deserve to be.

That being said, I’m just happy that Hollywood is trying AT ALL, and a lot of them (not everyone) are doing the best they can. I have a list of based-on-Bible movies that I love. It’s not huge, but it exists, and all of them have details that are missing or added or changed. It’s my choice to not get offended by that. If the integrity of God’s character and his-story is still intact, I still feel blessed and encouraged every time I watch the stories of God and his people brought to life. It’s also up to me to keep reading the Bible, so that I remember the important details.

Wait, so you’re saying Moses’ future wife didn’t actually push him down a well and then become a gangster?

My point is: If you don’t want to spend your money on what you feel will be a piece of crap, that’s fine. Stick to the books…but you might miss out. (Personally, Steve and I like to watch the movies first and read the books afterwards. Then it becomes like an expansion pack of the world we were just introduced to!)

I just honestly don’t think that you can go into a theatre to watch a movie based on a book, novel or Bible, and expect it to be totally accurate or what you thought it would be. If you want that, you might have to make it yourself.

“Be the book-adapted movie you wish to see in the world.” — Darren Aronofsky *

But that’s just my opinion.

*He didn’t actually say that. I did. Or maybe Gandhi. I don’t know. Accuracy is hard.

Liar, Liar. (Family Matters Part 3)

Part 1 and Part 2 are here for you.

“What have you been told about me?”

I had no idea how loaded of a question this was, coming from her side of the story. For a few more days, hours, I would be on Cloud 9, reveling in the joy that I had found my sister at last. I was a child at the county fair for the first time, wide-eyed and wondrous, having no idea that I was about to watch my balloon float aimlessly into the abyss while I retched on the pavement.

With sparkly eyes, I typed furiously : “I mean, not much, just that my dad and my mom were close friends, and mom really wanted a baby, so she asked dad to try to give her one. They knew it would be wrong, but they decided to try it one time, and luckily, it worked. And then we moved away when I was really little so I never actually got to meet any of you. I’m so happy I found you!”

There was silence on the other end for awhile. I waited anxiously where I was house-sitting…playing with the dog, coming back to the computer. Channeling nervous energy into Bugle consumption, back to the computer. Completely alone with 10,000 of my thoughts rushing through me at once.

Where is she? Did I say something wrong? She’s probably just eating lunch too. What if she hates me? She’s a mom of 3 girls, she’s busy, calm your shit. What if everything is about to change?

Finally! A message.

Cassie: I know a very different story, and I’m hesitant to tell you because I don’t want to hurt you or jeopardize our relationship so quickly.

Me: I want to know the truth. Please tell me whenever you can.

An hour later, the crushing pressure that had been building inside my chest all morning spilled out in sobs and muffled curses. I was glad to be alone, although the dog was concerned. As the pup licked my tears away, I felt like she was the only one I trusted in the world.

How could my mother have done this to me, to US? How could she have lied about this for nearly 20 years to my face?

An affair. Of course it was. Nobody just “has a married guy friend who decided to give the gift of a baby to a desperate single woman.”

You ignorant homeschooled hick.

It got worse. Oh, it got worse.

My dad had been a pastor, his wife the church office manager, his mistress the worship leader.

For three years. Before I was even thought of.

When mom got pregnant, she told everyone that she’d “finally” decided to go to the sperm bank cause, after all, she wasn’t gettin’ any younger! The church, friends and family rejoiced.

Cassie had been ecstatic. Mom was like an adopted aunt to her, and they would go on lunch-and-movie dates all the time. When I was born, Cassie babysat me multiple times. SHE F***ING BABYSAT ME, AND SHE HAD NO F***ING CLUE THAT I WAS HER BABY SISTER.

Oh, but our dad. He knew. He probably looked out into his congregation every Sunday and saw his dimply, brown-eyed bastard smiling right back at him.

A little over a year later, his wife finally figured it out.

Everything blew up, within his family, within his church – so my mom took off with me and little else. She’s been on the run ever since.

All those years I never knew why we couldn’t settle down, why we were always moving, why she never had time or desire to play with me as I grew bigger.

Now everything made sense. She had been in love with him, and every time she looked at me, she was reminded of the face she would probably never see again.

I will admit that, at first, most of my anger was self-righteous. I was already sick and tired of hearing about pastors’ infidelities, and now my parents were just another statistic, with seemingly no guilt – only owning up to their secret when they were caught. Yeah, they sound like real Christians to me. Hypocrites; nothing worse than a couple of those.

But then I realized something: nobody is perfect. Nobody is immune to loneliness or desperation or even rationalization when something feels so right it can’t be wrong. Sure, we hold Christians to a higher standard and can be eager to kick them when they fall off the pedestal. But maybe they were never meant to be put on a pedestal in the first place.

Once my high horse became more of a pony, I only felt sadness and hurt for everyone who experienced the ripple effect. My sister was 14 when she learned of the betrayal of those closest to her; it changed her, sent her down a path that would do more harm than good. I’m thankful that she was able to work through her (rightful) emotions and become the counselor for young people that she is today.
My dad’s wife endured the betrayal, the anger, the pain – and she stayed. She’s still with my dad to this day. I can’t speak specifically to the tenderness of their current relationship, but she keeps showing up. I know nothing of my brothers.

Little did I know, at that point, that this chapter of my life was not closed, even though I had made peace with everything – even to the point where I forgave my mom in the silence by never bringing up her past that was now known.

A year later, I would become driven by the need to find my dad and to speak to him for myself. And what do you do when all you have is his name, the field he works in, and a sister not willing to share more?

You hire a hacker, that’s what.

To be continued…

 Skyfall (Family Matters Part 4)

 

 

 

 

How Frozen Changed My Life (And Made Me Jealous)

The other night, I got an email from one of my former roommates/regular partners in crime, asking if she could make a !!!GUEST BLOG POST!!! because she had something she really wanted to say.

Her name is Natalie. She’s awesome. Nay, stellar. In fact, she’s the coolest Natalie I know, second only to Natalie Portman. (Who I don’t actually know…so…thanks for bringing that up! Ugh.)
I’ve always known Natalie to be a fairly “inside voice” operator. You’ll think that you know what she’s thinking, but really, she’s just letting you think that. And then, when you’re least expecting it, BAM! She lays all her cards on the table and squeezes your heart into a little ball with all the emotions. She might sing you a little song she wrote or introduce you to The Hunger Games novels and Tangled and Once Upon a Time, or give you a Christmas card poem that she wrote herself or make you a huge bowl of Kraft Dinner and “walk” it for you to the bus stop when you fail to organize your time efficiently enough to eat something before you rush to work.

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And today, I’m excited to share her thoughts and revelations that were collected towards God and her sister after she watched Frozen.

BRB, crying. Again.

A Jealous Love by Natalie W.

So I know I’m probably a little bit behind the times when it comes to the revelation that is the movie Frozen. I just saw it a week and half ago, and since then, have had some time to think about it and process it.

There is no doubt in my mind that Frozen is an amazing movie, with charming characters, and songs that make you smile while feeling a huge range of emotions all at the same time. I enjoyed it immensely, and as an older sister, I felt like I could relate to both Anna and Elsa because of their struggles with their feelings towards themselves and each other.

I could completely comprehend Elsa’s desire to protect Anna, even if it meant pushing her away, especially after their shared childhood incident.
Yet, at the same time, I identified with Anna and her need to know her sister, to simply “be” with her – all the while, wondering if Elsa still felt the same way.

These are all the things I have felt with my own sister, and I understand how, at times, sisterly love can be both confusing and amazing. It is a lot to contemplate, and that is exactly what I was doing recently after listening to the soundtrack again. These thoughts about relationships and sisterhood aren’t exactly new or significant for me, but little did I know that somewhere underneath all of this contemplation, something was stirring.

It’s funny, sometimes, when and where things choose to happen that just completely break you down. In this case, I was making toast.

I stood in my dimly lit kitchen, listening to TV chatter, while thinking about Anna and Elsa’s relationship and comparing it to my own life. I’ve always had a protective (and often jealous) nature over the people in my life that I really care about, the most significant person being my younger sister. We are not that far apart in age (almost exactly a year and a half), and because she has been in my life for almost its entirety, I have always considered her to be one of the closest to me – and yet somehow, also the farthest at times.

If you know anything about sisters, you’ll probably agree with me when I say that sisterly love is, in all truth, a fairly irrational love. We see each other at our worst, our best, and everything in between – and yet, over all of that time, still choose to love each other.

ImageI don’t know if it’s because of that nature, or blood-ties, or my simple desire to be close to someone, but the truth is that I love my sister fiercely, and I know that I would do anything in my power to protect her. And while I realize that this kind of love might seem a bit over-the-top to some and maybe even downright incomprehensible to others – if there’s one thing you can trust me on, it’s that it is there and it is real.

So there I was, in my kitchen, wondering about this crazy love that means being a sister, and I had a thought:

There is no comparable love that I can think of, to the love that I have for her.

And right after that thought, I had a moment. One of those realizations that hits you like a tidal wave, that you know can only come from God. It went a little something like this:

“Do you see and feel that amazing love for your sister? Well, that is NOTHING compared to the love that I have for YOU.”

It was a revelation. I experienced a part of God that I had not thought about or believed in for a long time. And in the REALNESS of that moment, in knowing the raw honesty of the love I have for my sister, I was brought to tears by the love I know God has for me.

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The jealous, protective, unconditional love that is only possible through amazing grace.

And the fact is, to deny Jesus’ love would be like denying the love that I have for my sister, my family, and my friends. I can’t imagine mine ever changing, so how could His ever change? This jealous love is everlasting.

 

Carly’s Thoughts:

I love Frozen for all of these reasons mentioned above, and more. I love God for using our own family bonds to help us relate to how he cares about us – or, if we have no family bonds, to give us new, unbreakable ones! And I love Natalie, who was brave enough to open her heart and share this with me.

And maybe you’re confused at what appears to be a contradictory idea: God is Love, and Love is not Jealous, so how can God be Jealous? But if you look back through AAAAALLLLL THE TRANSLATIONS into the original Hebrew (which, perhaps, we all should do anyway?), we find that there are two kinds of jealousy: the kind that leads to anger and violence and broken relationships, which we tend to associate with any mention of the word “jealousy” in our culture – and the kind that is expressed when something/someone you are devoted to is hurt or compromised or unprotected in any way. This someone/something belongs to you, and you’ll be damned if anything happens to them on your watch. Think of anything you’ve ever created, from a Lego house to cupcakes to a novel to a baby. And now…

“Multiply it by infinity, take it to the depth of forever, and you will still have barely a glimpse of what I’m talking about.” (Meet Joe Black)

That’s God, and that’s you, baby. Take it in. And then use it. To love and protect the oppressed, the bullied, the outsiders, the poor, the widow, the orphan, and your family, whether they feel the same way about you or not. Cause Love isn’t Love until you give it away, right? For free, with no guarantee of its return. And for Pete’s sake, throw that dirty Prince Hans on a boat and sail him away! Your kingdom don’t have time for that.

 

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All the warm hugs,

Carly & Natalie