March 28, 2013

Crap... and other hard things.


This journey has opened my eyes to so many possible trials.
Isn't the mental always harder than the physical?
Ultimately, as I have come to really SEE each situation I am faced with I can see the sunshine through the clouds.



Here is my list... 
I call it "Crap... and other hard things."
(Crap is referring to the latest possibility that my placenta is affecting my colon-- 
my ability to potty may soon be severely limited.)


1- Bed Rest, Doctors Appointments, Not Being Able To Care For My Family...
Actually, none of these things seems too bad.  (This does not mean that I don't sob when my baby asks me, "You going to doctors?" or that I don't yearn with my whole being to run a few steps from the car into the store.)  I remind myself often that bed rest is a gift.  I try to ask, what can I do today that I couldn't do if I were cooking dinner or cleaning my home.  It is a blessing to feel others serving you, even when you would rather get up and do it yourself.  I really, really, really love spending time with my husband- even it is in less than ideal circumstances (like urology appointments). Every hard thing has a silver lining.  I can spend my time whining about all I can't do, but that doesn't change anything.  Instead I hope I will always remember how I wish I could cook dinner for my family and accept this season of life.

2- Bad Luck and Placenta Percreta... This could NEVER happen to me!
Percreta was our first eye opener.  The odds were so slim-- and yet, this is my reality.  I think being diagnosed with Percreta just slipped me into a state of expecting the worst.  Sometimes I feel sorry for myself when something else goes wrong, but most of the time I think it's funny.  I like to think "Of course this would happen to me."  I also like to think that God lets it seem really bad so that I will experience great miracles.  Being faced with a lot of bad just qualifies you to really SEE His hand in your life.

I was sitting in church one Sunday prior to my Percreta diagnosis.  In the midst of praying with all my might that "my placenta would stay inside my uterus", I had a strong feeling envelop me.  It was love for the baby in my womb.  At that moment, with tears running down my face, my prayers changed.  I prayed that God would keep him safe, help him to grow, protect him.  In one instant I realized that I would rather a healthy baby than a confined placenta.  I let go of my plea for protection for me and plead instead for a placenta that fed my son.  My placenta is a bit out of control-- but I am so grateful that it is doing it's job... my placenta is feeding my baby and every day I thank Heaven for that miracle.

3-Death...
Death, for me, is not the worst thing that could happen, it is a natural and inevitable part of life.  Everyone should be told by their doctor that they could die... it changes you and makes you realize that you LOVE living.  How I cherish each diaper I get to change and each night I get to sit at the table and eat dinner with my family.  The truth is, we all have a chance of dying, I am just more aware of mine.

Percreta mortality risk (the chance of dying), is only around 9%.  I have a 91% of living through this.  Percreta morbidity rate (the chance of needing repeat surgeries or getting complications) is 40%.  I live in 2013, I am being treated by a team of the best doctors in the world and have access to the best medical technology.  I have a VERY good chance of living.  And, I'm counting on LIFE for both me and my son.   I also realize that  I have a greater chance of long-term complications than I do of dying.  Sigh...  THAT will probably be my fight.

4-Preemie Baby With Complications...
I will have a preemie baby.  One of the most emotionally difficult possibilities I have faced with this pregnancy is that of giving birth to a medically fragile tiny baby.  There are so many different levels of preemie babies and so many things that could be fine or could go wrong.  I don't think my baby will have long-term complications, but that is a possibility.  Anytime you get pregnant this is a possibility.  The time I spent learning about this journey (see www.understandingprematurity.com) has made me even more grateful for the healthy pregnancies and deliveries I have had.

Prematurity has got to be one of the most difficult trials both babies and parents are called on to endure.  Having to choose, over and over, whether or not to continue life support or do one more life changing surgery.  Having to watch your baby in pain or struggle.  Knowing that choosing life often times means choosing a very difficult life.  Feeling the pull of a baby in the hospital with other needy children at home.  Knowing when letting go is the best answer.  Oh, my soul aches for those of you who have made these wrenching decisions.

Raising a medically frail child or a child with disabilities has got to be one of the most beautiful and difficult experiences of life.  Preemie trials are often ongoing and continual.  My heart goes out to those of you who have experienced this or are living with it on a daily basis.  Having a premature birth is not an event, it changes you.  Some of the best people I know live this life and I would be humbled to join their ranks.  I'm not sure this is a life that any mother would choose to know.

Sigh.  Last week, I stopped reading the Preemie book.  I have laid this possibility on my internal alter.  I cannot comprehend how this would change my life and mold my soul.  I know that I would get through it somehow, but, like most mothers, I would rather suffer myself than watch as my baby endures much.

5. Hysterectomy... the end of an era.
Many women who have Accreta are faced with the devastating news that this will be their last pregnancy.  I know what it feels like to yearn for a child.  This ache, which can come from a number of different situations, has got to be another of the most heart wrenching of life's trials.  I have a mother's heart and even with a house full of children, I understand that pain.  I cannot imagine living with that emptiness and yearning.  What a difficult trial.

For me, I have known for some time that I had a little boy.  His spirit has called to me from the heavens and my spirit hungered to know him.  I KNEW I had a baby boy waiting... and I gave birth to FIVE girls.  Today I cannot imagine life without any of my sweet girls, I am so grateful for them. And yet, this son is the one that kept me having children.

Finding out that I would not be able to have any more children immediately after finding out that I was expecting a little boy, was not difficult for me.  I felt finished and complete.  I'm certain that the Lord gave me years of yearning for a son so that I would know, beyond a doubt, that this baby was meant to be mine despite his difficult entry into the world.  This has been one of my greatest tender mercies throughout this pregnancy.

Honestly, the thought of never having to worry about birth control or monthly periods is actually a blessing.  I'm also grateful that I don't have a choice.  My uterus is finished and our family is complete.  Todd said, "I wonder if God knew that both you and I would never be able to choose to stop having children.  We both love kids so much that He made the decision for us because He has another work for us to do."  I thought that was a sweet way to put it.

Yes, I would be feeling very differently about my impending hysterectomy if I wasn't expecting my 8th baby and even if I was pregnant with a girl and might have that impending "I have another one..." feeling.  But, this is not my situation.

I do hope I get to keep my ovaries.  Hormonally it is good to keep your ovaries.  I understand that they may have to take them and I just think that if that happens then maybe it is because synthetic hormones will be a blessing in my very hormonal life.  We'll see.  I also kinda wanted to keep my cervix.  It doesn't look like that will be happening... and so they will just sew me up.  Lovely.

As so many of my fertility organs are going to be removed I thank God every day for the fact that I had children young.  I'm thankful for the blessing of carrying 7 almost 8 children in my womb.  I'm grateful for a uterus and cervix and ovaries that have served me well.  I am grateful to be married to a kind man who is a wonderful father, spouse and mate.  What a miracle pregnancy and  birth is.  An absolute, complete miracle.

I realize that many struggle with fertility while many others endure the challenges of poor life choices, some have cancer, medical challenges are numerous and intricate and difficult.  I have not taken the miracle of life for granted.  My children are gifts from God and I am grateful and in awe of my opportunity to participate in this wonder.  As I bury my uterus, I will do it with a holy gratitude for the experience it has given me over the past 15 years.  I am not sad that I will have a hysterectomy.  I am so grateful.  Life is beautiful.

6. Blood, bleeding out and transfusions...
Blood equals brain power and oxygen and energy.  I know what it feels like to be weak and hazy and appreciate what it feels like to be able to exercise without fainting.  I'm grateful for blood an our ability to make it.  My body doesn't make blood well sometimes.

Often, major surgeries involving the placenta, include great amounts of blood loss.  Blood loss is the number one cause of death with Percreta patients.  The last two Percreta surgeries at OHSU, required 40 units of blood transfusion.  Just so you know, you don't even have 40 units of blood in your body you have 10 or 12, it was coming out as fast as it was coming in.

I am a HUGE wimp, or at least I began that way.  I hate needles and IV's and transfusions.  I guess I've gotten used to them over the past 15 years and I realize there are worse things (like catheters).  When they transfuse me, I always ask for a big hot pack over my arm.  Warm blood goes in so much smoother than cold, peanut butter blood.  I also insist that they start the transfusion very slow, so they don't blow out my vein at the beginning and have to redo the IV.  I've also learned that larger IV's hurt more going in, but transfuse blood so much better than the small ones.  Blood transfusions-- I got that one down.  (Thank you to every one of you who have donated blood-- you have saved MY life.)

7. Morbidity- surgeries, catheters, drains, infection, bowel or bladder reconstruction, impaired bladder or bowel functions...  urine and feces and blood, oh my!
Blah!!!  Yuck.  Ewe.  Ouch.  Puke.  Poop.

I am NOT super excited for the lessons I am learning about my waste system.  I don't like poop or pee or long scars down my belly.  I am not a fan of catheters or even the word vagina.  Spreading my legs at an OB appointment is bad enough, spreading my legs again and again for nurses and doctors and residents to study my bladder and bowels is not so fun. Sigh.

I KNOW that there is a very high likelihood my hardest physical trials will come AFTER my surgery.  Recovery is going to be difficult and very well full of improvements followed by setbacks.  I keep preparing myself for "worst case", only to realize that there is ALWAYS a case that could be worse.  I really don't even want to know what the real worst case is.

I am preparing myself for bladder and bowel issues after this surgery.  Possibly my recovery will take months and I might not ever return to the normal I once knew.  I am grateful for every trip to the toilet I have taken for the past 35 years and can't help but appreciate the ability to pee and poop without having to see or touch any of it.  If I have to have a major reconstruction effort, I know that I am not the first person in the world who has had to do this.  Surprisingly, I know many people who have had bowel issues.  I'm ready to start learning new terms- like colostomy and drains and other yucky things.  I'm grateful for modern-day technology.

And, as horrible as this seems to me, I keep saying to myself... I'd RATHER it was ME than anyone else in my family.  I actually HOPE I am the one dealing with the bowel re-section NOT my tiny preemie baby.  I'd pick this over that.  I'd also pick LIFE with a bag of poop under my shirt, over death.  I'd also rather be enduring than watching my husband endure.  I'd rather have a cancer-like Placenta (that is also feeding my baby) than an actual cancer (some foreign mass invading my body).  When my pregnancy is over, my placenta can be removed and will not grow back... cancer is a different story.  I'd rather health challenges while I'm young and otherwise healthy than when I'm older (not that I get to choose any of these things).

8. 9. 10.  The unknown...
None of know what our future holds.  We just don't.  How are you going to cope with your current trials?  How are you going to cope with the surprises on the journey ahead of you?

Yes, trials are tough-- they are supposed to stretch us and refine us.  This life was not meant to be the Garden of Eden OR Happily Ever After.  This is the middle-- the school.  This is the part where we learn and grow and try to endure our journey with grace and gratitude.  This life is a life where the fruits are mixed with the thorns, where sorrow increases our joy and struggle increases our triumphs.

Months ago, I listened to the story of a young, college-aged girl who jumped off of a red rock cliff becoming completely paralyzed from the neck down.  (Yeah, loosing movement in your whole body might be a bit more difficult than pooping in a bag... actually, she probably does poop in a bag too.)  She told of a day where she sat looking in the mirror wondering if she would ever marry (she did) or have children.  She was crying and asking God, "Why every bad thing was happening to her?"  She felt a clear, loving voice tell her, "Do not covet, for I have given you more."  Her life was changed.


I feel that- I am so blessed.  I really have been given much, we all have.  Sure, I have a lot of crappy health things on my plate these days.  But, I have been given much.  I have a beautiful home (that we have to move out of next month), I am married to my best friend, I have seven (almost eight) amazing children who I adore.  I have a wonderful extended family who is serving me daily and church and community and blog friends that feel like family.  It is spring in Oregon and I am surrounded with breath-taking beauty.  I live a very blessed life.  I am grateful every day for all that I have.

We are so blessed even and especially as we climb our individual mountains.
Oh, how grateful I am to be able to SEE the sunshine through the storms.
I hope you can feel the joy moments of life even when it is hard.
This day, right NOW, is a gift.  A great gift.
We are a part of a very unique, eternal university.
We are being molded and refined.  It is a beautiful process.
I am humbled and grateful for this opportunity.
I would choose this.

Even when it is hard, especially because it is hard...
Life is so good.

2 comments:

Marie said...

Beautiful post, Jen! You always give us something to think about... My thoughts and prayers are with each of you as you walk down this path. You are such an incredible, strong, wise woman with an insane sense of humor. Your children are SO lucky to have you as their mom...! God really knew what He was doing when he brought you and Todd together --- what a team you two are!!!
So, on this Easter weekend, be blessed and know that you are loved! ❤

Dia Madden said...

Jeni,
Reading your blog brings so much wisdom and peace to my heart. Thank you for being brave enough to share it. It is at a time in my life where I needed this the most - you are truly a blessing to all who have known you.

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