January 29, 2015

Perfect Sugar Cookies

I signed up to bring sugar cookies to sell at the concession stand for the Elementary School musical Wizard of Oz.  (I'll show them to you when we make them.)  We have been practicing with sugar cookies all year.  These are the cookies I made for our first ever Hope for Accreta- Upstate NY Chapter meeting.  I think they turned out pretty cute.

Sugar cookies are not my thing, I'm a pie and bread girl.  My 16 year old son, and my 11 and 12 year old daughters love making cookies.  I love doing things with them and so, we do sugar cookies.
Since we do cookies a lot (they volunteer us for sugar cookies almost every holiday) I figure I'd better learn how to make them cute.  And, we're getting there.  I'm still not Sweetopia   #sweetopia or The Allison Show #theallisonshow.

I tried Sweetopia sugar cookie recipe and it was a big flop for me.  My cookies tasted good but were flat and spread out.  Plus, I'm sorry but I simply do not have time to stick the dough back in the fridge for an hour before I roll it out and then refrigerate each tray if cookies for another hour before I bake them.  I, frankly, don't even have time to bring my butter to room temperature.  Sweetopia also uses a transparency machine that projects her image onto her cookies.  I don't have $400 for that.  So, we're stuck with cute non-perfect cookies here.

Ironically, after scouring the Internet for tips and recipes, I ended up using the very recipe I had in my binder from years ago.  In the picture above, the old recipe is this Sweetopia recipe, and the new recipe is Heidi Doxey's Sugar Cookie recipe posted below.  I should have switched and made the recipe that says OLD recipe, the NEW recipe-- my old recipe was actually JUST RIGHT.  Just right, just right, just right.  (Is Old Hat, New Hat one of your favorite books?  I haven't read the new board book, mine is an old copy.  It is definitely in my top 5 favorite books to read to my kids.  Along with My Nest is Best.  "I love my house, I love my nest, in all the world my nest is best!!!"  You love those books too, don't you?  Man, I should be making money with all my Amazon links.  Ha!)
Anyone know Heidi Doxey?  She was my friend years ago in Michigan and I haven't kept in touch with her.  Tell her hi from me and thanks for the sugar cookie recipe.

Heidi Doxey's Sugar Cookie Recipe

2 cups butter (I never use warm butter, I just cut my butter up into pea-sized cubes before I mix it.)
2 cups sugar
6 eggs
4 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract  (I didn't have this, but it sounds good)
6 tsp baking powder (I left this completely out, because I read online that baking powder makes the cookies spread.)
7-8 cups flour  (I added more four than this, I kept adding four until my dough felt like Play-doh)

Roll out thick (I did mine 1/2 inch might go thinner next time).
Bake at 350* for 8-10 minutes.
Don't let them get brown.
(My cookies were thick and my oven cooks slower, so I cooked them 12 minutes.)
This makes at least 4 dozen cookies.
I used this recipe for royal icing from Sweetopia.

I mixed all the icing,  checked it for thickness (see NOTE below), then poured it into smaller bowls to add coloring.
I had 5 empty icing bags with tips on them, folded tip-down, over 5 large drinking glasses (like a trash bag folded over a trash can).  My bags were bigger than my glasses, so the tips were scrunched at the bottom.  It was fine.  I filled each bag while it was in the glass, I could actually pour the icing right in-- so fun.  Way less messy than it usually is when I try to fill the bags with spoons.
The best idea was securing the bottom of the bags with a twist tie or elastic band before decorating.
Genius.  Really seal those bottoms good so the icing doesn't ooze out.

This one recipe makes a TON of icing.  I almost doubled it... ha!  Don't.
The pictures I took of the icing bags were taken AFTER I had decorated all of our cookies.

NOTE- Sweetopia explains a 10 second rule- here.  She says after you make icing (before you put it in bags, draw a line in the icing with your knife and count to 10.  The line should completely disappear in 10 seconds.

This time, my icing was too thick.  My line never disappeared.  I had already added more water than she said to add and I was too nervous to add more.  I can tell that my icing was too thick because it didn't dry smooth.  Next time I'm going to add more water and trust the 10 second rule.  We used a nail thing to spread the icing a bit once we piped it in, but you can still see bumps as it dried.
Also, I covered one tray of frosted cookies and left the others sitting out exposed all night.  The exposed cookies dried perfectly, the covered cookies were still wet.  (These are the wet ones- they look a little runny.)
I'd suggest making cookies a day or two before you need them and letting them sit out, uncovered, over night to dry before putting them in bags.  I just found one bagged cookie yesterday (about 5 days after I made them).  The cookie still tasted fresh, but the icing was a bit crumbly.  They were perfect for 3 days after making them.

Because I didn't like the first batch of cookies, I baked the second batch of cookies and frosted them all in one shot.  They turned out just fine.  I didn't leave my icing to dry for 6 hours between colors.  I really think it's fine to bake and decorate cookies all in one day.

Some tips about SUPPLIES.
I bought everything online at Amazon.  Later, I went to JoAnns and saw everything that I bought cheaper there.  I would check JoAnns first if I were you, mine had a great selection.  And, it really is better to see what your buying in person.  I bought red glitter for Dorothy's shoes that turned out to be more feathery sugar than glitter.

I bought this food coloring.
And I bought this frosting kit (just to get more tips and bags).
Size 1, 2 or 3 round tips are all you need, with disposable bags, and enough of these coupler rings to make your different colors.  (Size 2 is the best, I want a size 1 for the more detailed cookies we are dreaming up, and size 3 worked for the big filling colors.)
I used some star tips for the colors like white and purple that were more fill in colors.  Star tips weren't ideal, but they were fine.  I found it easier to have a pre-made bag than it would have been to share or switch tips.

My favorite thing has been these little bags.
They are adorable and would be cute to handout regular cookies.
I think I'm going to make cookie valentines for my kids this year.
They perfectly fit one big sugar cookie with a little star.  I folded the top over and taped them on the back with some cute tape.  (I should have taken a better picture, you can kind of see the plate of take-home cookies I displayed at our little party.)

I don't have a ton of cookie cutters.  I raided my Play-doh toys for the little star cookie cutters.  I think adding a small cookie to the bag really made it cuter.

And, that's all the cookie wisdom I have for you.
I'm not an expert, just a mom who has to figure this out so I can sell edible cookies at the school concession stand.  Ha!

This is the reason I make silly cookies...
I have little girls who LOVE to stay up at night making a sweet mess with their mother.
And, I love them.
Our best memories are baked in my kitchen.
I would honestly say that 80% of the time I am interacting with my children, we are in the kitchen.
Cooking, cleaning, decorating, or eating... I bond as I feed.
And I guess, sugar cookies are becoming our thing.
I have a feeling we will be baking A LOT of cookies as we navigate the teenage years.  Ha!
Life with a cookie sure is sweet!

I'm off to make it a great day!

January 28, 2015

I Hate This Part.

I have always wanted to be a mother.  The love of little people oozes through my pores.  I love babies, I love being home, I love to cook and clean and watch Barney.  Mothering is what I was created for.

And some days I hate it.
I hate cleaning up another mess, I hate being patient, I hate having to gently push against the tide of natural man.
I hate driving a big van that is always dirty.  I hate shoes and laundry and cleaning up dog puke.  (Yes, my dog puked dark puke all over my recently shampooed rug!  I hate that.)

I hate feeling tired.  I hate budgeting money.  I hate consistency and never, ever being done.  I hate that my faults are difficult to hide as I parent eight.  I hate the vulnerability that comes from parenting-- eight little reflections of me are floating around every day.

I hate sickness, contention, hunger, want.    I hate To Do lists and refrigerators that need to be cleaned out.  I hate thinking of what to cook for dinner.  I hate never being able to find the scissors or the second church shoe.  No matter how hard I work there is always a long list of things I haven't done.

I hate mean people and mean kids.  I hate when I'm mean.  I hate toys and TV and busy schedules.  I hate packing lunches and I hate that pile of junk on my counter that is always waiting for me.

I used to love toddlers, but I think I've outgrown that stage.  I'm not sure I'll cry when Eve and Ben go to all-day Kindergarten.  Toddlers are a lot of work.  I'm also not a real fan of fifth, sixth, or seventh grade in general.  I know it's awful to admit, but I'm getting old folks.  

Seriously, there are many, many moments of my life where I look to Heaven and shake my fist- "What kind of crazy do you have to be to do this eight times?!!"

Maybe I shouldn't write blogs on days like today because these moments are temporary.

And, even though there are parts of mothering that I struggle with, there is still nothing I'd rather do with my life.  Nothing.  (I'm talking long-term here, short-term I'd take a week vacation somewhere exotic.)   I chose this life and I still choose it.  It is absolutely a sacrifice- but it is also an investment.

I am here when Ben learns a new word.  I get to teach Eve her ABCs and hear her sing made-up songs as she plays.  And, those hugs, the smiles, the cute things they say, the peaceful moment at night when they are all asleep and Heaven whispers you are doing a great work.

We eat breakfast together every day.  I do their hair, I find their shoes.  I feel their emotions and I teach them how to navigate through them.  I'm here when they get home.  They yell "Moooooom, I'm home!"  And, I answer them.  Every single day.  Oh, how those big kids need someone who is here during those magical transition times.  Soon enough they will be on their own.  I am shaping their foundation.  I am their inner voice, their confidence, their hope.  I love that part.

My kids have each other, and they have me.  Always.  I am their constant.  I give them my best efforts every single day.  Sometimes I absolutely fail, but most days they are some of the luckiest kids around.

I hate the days I hate my job.
But, somehow the cranky times make the good times a little better.  

I remember being surprised when Jakob was a baby, that there was so much of mothering I didn't like.  I wasn't prepared for the depth of sacrifice I would have to make.  I remember feeling great sympathy for mothers in general-- I always wanted to be a mom, I thought, and mothering was dang hard for me.  How does anyone do this?

Now, I know.
We were not meant to live forever in the Garden of Eden.  True joy is the product of genuine effort for a good cause.  Everything good in life takes dedicated effort to produce.  I firmly believe that as I parent my children I am doing the BEST work.  As I serve them, even when it's hard, I love them more.  

Yes, there are parts of this job that I hate.   But, I still LOVE being a mother.  I'm so grateful for my eight.
Even when I don't love a task, I still love my life.
Life is good.

January 22, 2015

My iPhone Life

My front yard.
My backyard.
My kitchen.  
What I wish my kitchen looked like.
The curtains I want to sew.  
I have the fabric pinned up to see if I like it.
(My wall color drives me crazy!  Someday I'm itching to just paint everything white.  Cream and orange oak... My life.)
And, I want to sew this pillow.
For the concession stand.
I'm nervous.
What I really do every day.
This is why I am not painting or sewing.
This is happening.
So excited and nervous.
Ben screams.
A lot.
Little stink.
I put him in Time Out this morning.
He WOULD NOT apologize for hitting Lily.
He would hug and kiss me, rub softly on my face and arms.  When I told him to give Lily love he'd say "Eh!" and hit at her again.  
(He finally kissed her hand-- but it took 20 minutes of coaxing.)
Little stink.

Thanks for reading my blog.
My life is not glamorous, but it is good.

January 21, 2015


We had an Orange Lunch yesterday, just adding a little excitement to our day.
Ben figured out he could reach the bag of baby carrots.
We always see who can make the loudest crunch!
I think Ben liked crunching better than eating carrots.

He would take one or two bites and throw the carrot on the floor.
That kid.
He thought he was hilarious!

In other news, I tried to flare out my eyeliner line.
I'm not a make-up person.
Eve thought I looked "Sooo Beautiful!"
Haha.  I love little girls.  
I need a maid, a nanny, AND a personal stylist.
Oh, life!!
I love it.

(Please pray for my friend Annie!  She's pregnant again with her second little boy, after loosing a baby and she has been spotting.  Thinking of you Annie-- I just have a good feeling about this baby.)

January 19, 2015

Martin Luther King Jr Faces Fear with Prayer

I enjoyed this holiday to remember and spend time with my family.  Martin Luther King Jr, was not a perfect man.  He was a good man who worked with many good people to bring about good changes in our world.

I have a favorite story that helped me when I was ill.  I loved how normal I felt after reading that even great men are afraid sometimes.  Courage is not the absence of fear, it is choosing faith despite your fear.

I've already quoted the story here- MLK overcoming fear with faith and here- Life is a journey towards healing.  Click over, you'll love to remember!  I first read this story in this wonderful BYU devotional Healing = Courage + Action + Grace by Jonathan Sandberg.  Seriously, read that devotional, you will love it.

Hope you enjoyed your long weekend!
I know He is with each of us as we stand for righteousness, stand for justice, and stand for truth!

Today, I am standing for goodness by really teaching my kids at home.  It's little things, like reminding them to floss every day, to kneel and pray morning and night, following through, sharing what I believe with them and why I believe it.  Living what we believe takes courage and effort.

I am actively involved in my school helping with PTO, helping with costumes and props for the school musical, and coordinating a community cookbook.  This week I'm meeting with the Red Cross and I'm so excited to be hosting our first ever Hope for Accreta Syracuse Chapter meeting at my home.  (Wow, that sounds like a lot.)

I've done PTO for a long time.  I'm often involved in my church and school, but it wasn't until recently that I have been more involved in my community.  There is an organization called Interfaith Works in Central New York that I just love. My eyes have been open to the struggles in this area and in the world.  I'm a better person because of the diversity I'm exposed to.  Many religious groups come together to do good, it's beautiful.  I am a better person because of the time I spend with my friends of other faiths.  I would really encourage you to look for Interfaith organizations in your area, or start one.  There is another organization here called Women Transcending Boundaries- Bringing women of faith together after 9/11.  Oh, how I love this!

Like Martin Luther King, Jr.  I'm inspired to do good in my neck of the woods.
Life is good.  I am so grateful to be alive.
Happy Monday friends!

January 15, 2015

Slowly Mothering

I read this quote yesterday, and I loved it.

"If a little child picks up a sharp object, sometimes a foolish adult will grab for it, frightened for the safety of the child. Instinctively, the child will grip it more tightly and perhaps be injured. The wise parent will trade him for it—some equally appealing, but harmless object, given in exchange, so that he lets go willingly and without tears."

This is from a 1973 talk by President Boyd K. Packer.

He says, "Keep that in mind when you have a problem with young people and their music. To change it may take some time and require inspiration."

President Packer was talking about teaching our kids to edit their music.  But I believe this principle is SO universally true!  We often want a quick fix.  To really change things we need TIME AND INSPIRATION.

Good kids don't just happen.
Everything good takes work.
Sometimes we forget the work because hard fades in our memories. 
The best parents are beautiful exchangers.

My cutest cousin has three young toddler boys.  She posted a cute picture on Instagram of her laying in bed with a very awake little fella asking for some naptime advice. She eventually concluded that she did not have 45 minutes a day to spend trying to get him to take a nap.  She is an amazing mom!

My heart just smiled.
I know!!  I know!!
We've ALL been there.
Nothing is more frustrating than a little boy who will NOT go to sleep.

We don't have 45 minutes a day helping an active boy take a nap.  We don't have hours a day to clean again and again and again.  Piano lessons take money and so much stinkin work.  Sports practices-- can I tell you I have probably spent a complete month of my life looking for a lost soccer cleat.

Oh- video games and 6th grade girl drama.  I'd almost rather put a feisty boy to bed than sit and listen to a 14 year old tell me about his clan wars.  Except, I love 14 year old boys.  I am NOT a drama girl.  Listening to 6th grade is like listening to someone cracking their nuckles or watching them touch their eyeball.  But clan wars and girl drama are tunnels into the souls of my children.  I want to be in their souls so I can love them and teach them.

Can you believe I have insisted on a set table for 16 years? For 16 years I have had to remind my kids to fold the napkins and place them under their fork.  They NEVER do napkins the first time.

Sometimes I wish mothering was fast.  
I wish we could say "Share your toys" once, and have toddlers who always share.  (Spoiler alert-- if you think this is your child, wait a few months or have another baby.)

Why didn't God program all children to just magically fall asleep when we say it's bedtime?

As I'm typing this Eve is trying to put together a puzzle and Ben is "helping" her. Eve would be done so much faster without Ben, but oh the lessons she is learning as she navigates life with a brother. 

My teenagers just started coming into my room at night.  My girls especially, get chatty and emotional 30 minutes after I think they should be in bed.  Grrr.  I LOVE my time alone at night.  My friend says this time with her teens is her best time.  She says almost every good conversation they have happens at night.  She says these night chats are magical.  
Darn it.  

I want children who talk to me, so I must invest by listening to them.
I want children who eat healthy food, so I invest by spending hours and hours and hours of my life flying airplanes of spinach around their tightly pursed lips.

Sometimes  I try grabbing away the knife. I yell.  I insist.  I learn again that being harsh and rigid just doesn't work.  I don't want children who have been broken, who are angry or afraid.  I want children who CHOOSE goodness.

Sometimes I ignore their naughty, harmful behavior.  I often surrender a battle even as I continue the war.

Sometimes I take TIME.  I seek INSPIRATION.  And, I see miracles.  My firm, strong, naughty child melts before my eyes.  They become sweet and compliant.  And then, I find the next problem I need inspiration to overcome.  

I will be an old lady who says "My children were all excellent nappers."  
And they were.  Because some days I spent 45 minutes (that I didn't have) convincing them that they LOVED taking naps.

We all have different parenting styles.
Me, I teach.
I potty train my kids around age two.
It takes a lot of work as they try to figure things out, but it is SO worth it.

My kids all take naps.  I love naps.
Sometimes I choose not to fight the nap war, but I 100% believe in naps.
Teaching my kids to sleep has taken time and effort.  Too much time- but it is SO worth it.

I teach my kids to eat things they do not like.
I help them navigate friendships.
I teach them their letters.
I read scripture with them and teach them my religious beliefs and standards.
I work hard teaching them to work hard!  To do their hair, to wipe their bottoms (this is a really hard thing to teach), to not wipe boogers on the wall.
I'm tired every single night.  
I love the irony that I am a non-working mother.
Oh man!  

Every single parent I ever heard who described parenting as a need to be strict, constant, firm, exact-- they had kids that were unreal.  Absolutely perfectly behaved children, kids who ALL rebelled as they got older.

Every single amazing family I have ever seen, has had absolutely high standards and has taught them gently, with humor and perseverance.  These amazing families ALL have had kids who were WAY hard to handle.  Most of the time outsiders would look and see a saintly mother with a beastly child.  In time, we have all seen that beast tamed and transformed into an absolutely fabulous adult.  

Sometimes you can't see the hard, but it is there.  Good families take a lot of work!!
Clean, organized homes take a lot of work.
Good, strong marriages take a lot of work.

I don't have time for a lot of things in life.
I don't have time to get my nails done.
I don't have time to watch The Bachelor (I still read Reality Steve every now and then for his spoilers).
I don't have time to write a book.
I don't have time for Girl's Nights Out (I prefer spending my free time with my favorite man or my kids).
I don't have time to finish my 1000 hour cross stitch (just a few stitches some nights).
I don't have time to heal everybody, teach everything, do it all.
But, I do have time to love this one.
Even Christ only did one thing at a time.

But, I have time to teach, to trade, to invest...
Mothering is slow and eternal.
Isn't that great?!
Life is good.

This is the winter wonderland outside my front door.  Isn't it lovely?!
Unfortunately the inside of my house isn't quite so lovely.
Time to change into my Cinderella clothes.  Ha!  
I LOVE CLEANING MY HOUSE (with toddlers)!!

January 10, 2015

Surviving Accreta- The story of Jenifer and Ben Moss

I'm telling my story in the first person, although every time I write I, I mean WE.  This is not my story, it is OUR story.  My story is a story of a mother, a miracle boy, a couple, a family, a community.
Choosing to get pregnant with my 8th baby was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made.  I believe that God knew how difficult this pregnancy would be and that He needed me to choose.  As Todd and I prayed and cried together, asking God to bless us with one more pregnancy, we did not know that this was the first of MANY opportunities we would have to choose life in the upcoming year.  

Looking backward, I can see that my uterus was not healthy prior to getting pregnant an 8th time.  My 5th and 6th deliveries were emergency c-sections.  My 7th delivery (only a year and a half prior to this pregnancy) was a VBA2C (vaginal birth after 2 c-sections).  The doctor had a difficult time delivering my placenta.  Knowing what I know now, I believe I had undiagnosed Accreta with this delivery.  I bled a lot as I was recovering.  My periods from this time, until I got pregnant again with Ben, were extremely heavy and clotty.  I'm certain that my condition was made worse because I started with an unhealthy uterus.

I could tell right away that something was wrong with my pregnancy.  I was crampy and spotting bright red blood and I was certain that I was miscarrying.  As I was busy navigating out of town guests, Thanksgiving and Christmas with 7 kids and extended family members, I kept bleeding.  An early visit to my OB showed very elevated levels of pregnancy hormone, an ultrasound showed a placenta attached low in my uterus, and one very strong beating heart.  I remember looking at that little peanut with a beating heart and being surprised.  My sense of loss was so strong, I knew that I was miscarrying.  And yet, I could see this strong heartbeat.  Later I learned that I was pregnant with twins and had miscarried one.  Even this early on in my pregnancy, my OB said, "That is one miracle baby.  He wants to live."

Diagnosed with Placenta Accreta
I continued to spot, sometimes more than others, and around 17 weeks I was referred to a Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor for further testing.  I wrote about my experience in a blog I titled "In A Moment."  At this appointment, I was diagnosed with Complete Placenta Previa and Placenta Accreta.  We also found out that we were having a little boy and I KNEW that he was mine!  I was referred to Oregon Health Science University (OHSU) put on complete pelvic rest and partial bed rest and told to expect a risky pregnancy.  

My early diagnosis was SO helpful.  I was able to prepare physically and emotionally.  We were able to grieve, to plan, to gather resources and help.  Because I was diagnosed early, I was able to find a team of doctors experienced enough to operate on me and a hospital big enough to have the blood supply I would need to save my life.  

What is Accreta?
Placenta Accreta affects 1 in 2,500 pregnancies.  Because of new birth control methods, more abortions, and the rise in c-section rates, Accreta is becoming more and more common.  I had never heard of this condition prior to being diagnosed.

Placenta Accreta occurs when a placenta attaches to the wall of the uterus instead of the uterine lining.  A placenta is a big sack of blood vessels designed to keep your baby alive and growing.  The placenta is usually delivered after your baby is delivered.  When your placenta is attached to the uterus you are at risk for hemorrhaging or requiring a hysterectomy to remove the uterus and placenta together after birth.

The most severe case of Accreta is called Percreta.  With Percreta, the placenta actually grows through an old c-section scar and attaches like cancer, onto other internal organs.  Your bowels, bladder, and kidneys are most often affected.  The risks of Accreta are many, hemorrhaging, prematurity, hysterectomy, damage to organs such as bladder, bowels, and kidney, and both baby and maternal death.    [While I was in the hospital on hospital bedrest, another mother with this condition died in childbirth.  Oh, how Katrina Lawrence and her family hold a special place in my heart.]  Although I believe these statistics are inaccurate and out of date, I was told I had a 10% chance of dying (mortality) and a 70% chance of needing repeat surgeries (morbidity).

Here are some of the Early Warning Signs of Placenta Accreta that helped my doctors diagnose me...

1- Prior uterine surgeries or births.  I had 2 prior emergency c-sections and one prior dnc after a miscarriage.  Some evidence suggests that certain birth control methods can increase the risk of Accreta.  Just be aware-- healthy pregnancies need a healthy uterus.


3- Spotting or bleeding early in pregnancy.  Although this does not mean you definitely have a problem, most of the women I have talked to with this condition also began their pregnancy with spotting.  I believe that as I miscarried one twin, I shed much of my uterine lining making it easier for the placenta to attach right into my uterus.

4- Placenta Lakes.  Even an untrained eye can see the black swiss cheese lakes that show up on a placenta in early ultrasounds, these lakes are actually a mother's blood.  If you are pregnant-- LOOK AT YOUR PLACENTA during the ultrasound.  Black craters in the placenta do not guarantee there is a problem, but it should be a red flag!!

5- Elevated maternal serum alpha-fetal protein levels.  Doctors do not need to do an amniocentesis.  A regular blood test can show elevated protein levels that suggest something is wrong.

Bed Rest and High-Risk Pregnancy
I quickly discovered that when I was active, I bled.  When I put myself on bedrest, I stopped bleeding and cramping.  I (again meaning we) decided that I had to be very careful.  I knew that I could still lose this baby and potentially even lose my life.  I needed to be able to say that I did everything I could.  Although bed rest with a family of 7 children is tricky, I would spend almost the next year learning that it is possible.  Family and friends, neighbors and church members came forward to drive my children around, shop for us, bring us meals, and help take me to doctor appointments.  The sense of family and community we experienced is indescribable.  As unlucky as this pregnancy was, I felt SO lucky to be loved by many.
At 28 weeks I was admitted to the hospital for hospital bed rest.  (I wrote this blog- Sunday Morning Love, before I was admitted.)  While in the hospital I received blood transfusions, steroid shots, daily monitoring, an MRI, many ultrasounds, a PICC line was inserted into my chest, and the hospital planned for my upcoming surgery.  On the mother/baby floor I was their most concerning patient as they were always prepared for me to hemorrhage and require emergency surgery.  
Trained doctors repeatedly expressed concern for the seriousness of my condition.  Experts continually recommended that I terminate this pregnancy to save my life for the seven living children I had waiting for me at home.  Deciding to keep this baby and risk my life was a very difficult decision and one that nobody makes lightly.  Many opposed my decision, many supported my decision, and everyone worked together to save our lives.  I could write a whole book (read this post- A Good Nurse) about my love and admiration for the medical profession in general and the care I received specifically.  These brave, skilled men and women became my neighbors, my friends, and then my family.  They spent hours and hours on me and my little boy.  They worked with God to save my life and I am SO grateful for them.

We scheduled Ben's birth for June 6, 2013.  I was a hospital celebrity.  My husband's aunt who works with the Red Cross in Idaho, called ahead to the Red Cross at OHSU telling them to be prepared with O+ blood.  I had a huge team of doctors, residents, nurses, anesthesiologists, oncologists, gynecologists, urologists.  You name it, they were there.  

Interventional radiology inserted an Internal jugular in my neck and I had two extra-large IV ports in my arms.  If I remember correctly, they had 5 major access lines to deliver blood quickly in case of hemorrhaging.  They also inserted balloon catheters into the main arteries of my groin on the right and left side.  The plan was to be able to inflate the balloons during surgery to block the blood flow into my abdomen so they could operate.  

I knew they would have to perform a hysterectomy.  I was hoping they would keep my ovaries and my cervix.  They ended up leaving my ovaries but taking my cervix.
I fought with my anesthesiologist.  I desperately wanted them to allow my husband to be in the operating room for the birth of my baby.  They refused many times.  Finally, I cried telling them that there was a very real chance that I might not make it through surgery.  I begged them to give us that one moment.  I wanted that "It's a boy!" moment.  I wanted a birthday celebration in the midst of one very scary operation.  Once the baby was born, Todd would leave, they would put me to sleep, and the baby would be rushed to the NICU.  My beloved anesthesiologist finally agreed.  That man not only allowed Todd to stay for the delivery, he also kept me alive for the next 11 hours of absolutely intense surgery.  He is my dear friend and life-saver.  That one moment-- was absolutely worth the fight.  I knew my baby was alive, doctors were fighting for me, and my life was in God's hands.  Live or die-- all would be well.

Months later I learned that my right iliac was cut during surgery and I nearly bled to death.  Doctors fought for my life all day as I bled out over and over again.  The blood bank was literally running blood products in coolers down the hospital hallways to my room.  They had empty containers of blood lying in piles of ten on the operating floor.  That day I received over 200 units of blood.  200 strangers literally became part of me that day.

As I bled out, the balloon catheters in my groin burst.  One of my surgeons later told me, "It was one of the worst days of my life.  There was blood everywhere, you were dying in our hands, and we loved you."  I gained almost 100 lbs of fluid, was put on a respirator, and they were unsure how my heart or my mind would hold up.  Although they had not been able to stop my bleeding, they called in the trauma team who packed my abdomen and locked me into a belt that held my insides together, I still have scars on my thighs from this strong belt and stretch marks from the weight I gained.  I was moved to trauma ICU and was assigned two nurses who didn't know if I would live through the night.  The time I spent in the ICU was sacred.

Baby Ben was put on a CPAP machine, but he was doing well.  For a baby born at only 33.4 weeks gestation, he was large at 5.5 lbs, he was so sweet, and he was healthy.  Half of my heart lay in the NICU, the other half kept beating in the ICU.

3 days later, a team of experienced trauma surgeons cleaned up my insides and they were able to repair my damaged right iliac.  I had lost circulation and feeling in my arms and my legs, one of my legs was cold and one was hot.  I had blood clots in my legs, so they inserted a IVC filter near my heart. As they were inserting the filter, they caught a large blood clot seconds before it entered my lungs.  Once again my life was spared.

Later x-rays and CT scans would reveal an abdomen littered with stitches and staples.  My bladder was damaged and repaired, my uterus and cervix were removed, and my ureter was damaged.  I was on major pain medication, the most intense IV pain reliever they can give, and I was still in constant pain.  I had a catheter.  My bowels were not working as they were in shock and my body was full of intense medication.  I couldn't walk, my vision was blurry, my mind was hazy.  I had a baby in the NICU that I was so worried about and a family at home that I was fighting to see again.  My skin and eyes were deep yellow with intense jaundice.  I was scared for my children to see me.  I had an open-wound down my stomach that would take months to heal.  It was gross and painful.

I knew that having Ben would be difficult.  But, I had NO IDEA just how tough my recovery would be.

Long-term pain is incredible.  I gained a new respect for those with chronic pain.  Wow.  I was in Trauma ICU for about 2 weeks.  Ben was in the NICU about 3 weeks.  They eventually transferred me back to the Mother/Baby floor and allowed Ben to room in with me.  Todd was the primary caregiver for Ben for almost one year.  My damaged bladder and open stomach wound were my most difficult challenges.  I was so weak that I couldn't walk for months without a walker or wheelchair.  My feet had nerve damage and were on fire.

I was released home (Read this post- Coming Home) with daily visits from the sweetest home health nurses and physical therapists.  I was on a boat-load of medication, daily blood thinning shots (in my sore stomach), intense dressing changes.  I had catheters that continued to leak, clog, and cause infection.  Follow-up doctor appointments, continued blood transfusions for anemia, and saline transfusions for dehydration.  I couldn't eat.  I couldn't lift over 10 lbs and caring for myself was difficult.  Caring for my family and preemie baby was nearly impossible.  My pain during this time was indescribable.

I eventually ended back in the ER where they discovered damage to my left ureter.  My kidney was not draining, it was full of infection that went septic leaking into my bloodstream.  I was readmitted to the Cardiac ICU and given bags and bags of antibiotics.  During an emergency surgery, they inserted a stent from my kidney to my bladder.  I gained 40 lbs in two days from all the antibiotics and fluids they were dumping into me.  This time, I felt like I was going to die.

Can you believe that while all this was happening my family was planning a cross-country move? Yes, I was released from the hospital as my house was being packed up and I moved from Oregon to a hotel in New York.  I quickly found some good doctors and continued my recovery.  Meanwhile, my family of 8 were being constantly cared for by my parents and in-laws who worked tirelessly cleaning, packing, cooking, and parenting.  How grateful I am for those that served our family during this year.

Just shy of one year after Ben's birth, I went in for a major reconstructive surgery.  Doctors had mistakenly stitched through my ureter and a urologist in Rochester wanted to try and cut the damaged part off my ureter and reattach it to my bladder.  I had a fistula that ran from my bladder to where my cervix used to be, fistulas are very difficult to repair.  I had a hernia almost the whole length of my stomach scar and I had scar adhesions throughout my abdomen.  They wanted to perform many different reconstructive surgeries, but each surgery required a 6 week recovery time during which I could not lift over 10 lbs.  As a mother of 8, with a baby who weighed more than 10 lbs, I asked them to combine surgeries.

On March 17, 2014, another team of doctors worked for over 8 hours to do both laparoscopic surgery on my kidneys, and open surgery on my stomach and intestines.  They once again cut down my middle and really fixed me up good.  The recovery was intense and painful, but SO worth it!!  I was VERY ready to get rid of that irritable stent, two nasty stomach drains, and lovely catheter that I had tracked around for almost one year.  Ugh.
Worth it.
Today I am doing well, so very well.  Ben is a thriving, healthy, ACTIVE, sweet little miracle baby.  Our physical recovery was only one part of this story.  This was an intensely emotional and spiritual journey for me and my family.  I was not the only one who suffered, nor the only one who needed healing.

As I endured my Accreta pregnancy, I shared my life here on this blog.  The support that I (that we) received from family members, friends, and complete strangers is indescribable.  I could feel the very real strength that your prayers gave me.  Just writing about my experience publicly was therapeutic for me.  Through Hope for Accreta foundation, I met so many other women who had experiences similar to mine.   I continue to receive emails and messages from women all over the world who are called on to endure much.

I have learned a few things over the past couple of years.

I have learned that we are NOT alone.  God is with us.  Angels surround us.  We are brothers and sisters in this big world.  Our experiences are individualized, but the lessons we are learning are universal.  We need each other.

I have learned that our bodies are amazingly adaptive.  We can heal.  When the main arteries to my legs were cauterized, my body found another route to deliver blood to my toes.  Healing hurts sometimes, but it IS possible.  I have no doubt that our bodies were created by a divine creator.  I love my warrior body.  Yes, I've had many health trials, but I have healed.  AMAZING.

I have learned that LIFE is worth living.  Life was not meant to be easy.  Good people are often asked to endure really hard things.  But, even in the worst of times, especially in the worst of times, there is SO MUCH good in life.  People are good.  In time, we forget what pain feels like.  We remember feeling pain, but we don't often relive it.  Goodness, kindness, service, love, these feelings stay with us.  Although my surgery was two years ago, I still swell with love when I remember the kindness of virtual strangers for me and my family.  I feel the good stronger as the hard fades.  The good in life makes life worth the hard.  I guess I'm saying, I would choose again to endure the pain I endured to feel the love that I felt.  I would choose life, even knowing that life is hard sometimes.

I have learned that we are strong and resilient.  I am stronger than I thought I was.  I'm brave.  I'm optimistic and funny.  I feel like this experience showed me what a beautiful marriage I have, what resilient children I have, and how blessed I am to be a mother.  Learning about myself has given me greater hope in others.  When I hear people afraid, I honestly KNOW that they are stronger than they think they are.

I have learned that faith is a CHOICE.  So many times I could have doubted God.  I could have chosen to be angry or afraid.  I had to absolutely choose to believe.  I chose to focus on the miracles, not the mistake.  I chose to laugh instead of cry.  I chose to HOPE instead of FEAR.  I used to think that we had to figure out what we believed by searching our thoughts and feelings.  I don't think that way anymore.  I absolutely know that when hard times come we will have so many different feelings flooding our minds.  We don't need to figure them out, we need to CHOOSE what feelings we will feed and focus on.  There were many hours where I cried, complained, and was really angry at God.  Trust me, He has heard a lot from me throughout my life.  But, it always came down to a choice-- so what?!  This crap is happening are you going to stay mad or are you going to find the silver lining?  There was always sun shining through the clouds.  ALWAYS.  Faith is an absolute choice.  As I chose to feel His love, I was filled with His love.  As I chose to SEE miracles, I saw more and more miracles.  As I focused on the good things doctors and nurses did to help me, I saw more and more good things.  Before this experience, I always felt that my faith was a gift.  Today I see that faith is an ACT.  We choose.  I love that.

I have learned that suffering is sacred.  Healing hurts.  Our natural instinct is to shy away from sadness, sorrow, or pain.  I don't think suffering is always bad.  Often doctors or nurses must hurt us as they are helping us.  Often we must endure in order to grow.  Like a butterfly that must break out of its cocoon on its own in order to be strong enough to fly, the hard things we endure in life are designed to make us the people we need to be.  I'm grateful for the opportunity I had to suffer.  I am a better person because of it, my family is stronger, my marriage is sealed.  I understand.

As a Christian, I believe that Christ suffered for our sins.  I believe that He descended below all things so that He could overcome all things.  I never understood this teaching until I tasted suffering.  I still don't fully understand the Atonement, but I have a glimpse of understanding.  Yes, it makes sense to me that the holiest of holies has suffered most.  Suffering is sanctifying.  He who is able to succor ALL men has endured ALL things.  It makes sense to me.  Our ability to succor others is strengthened by all that we endure.

I have learned that suffering is more normal than a life of pleasure.  We sometimes believe that our trials are the worst, our tunnel vision makes us feel like a tragic victim as we endure hard times.  When hard things happen to us, it is natural to feel sorry for ourselves.  It takes effort for us to SEE suffering all around us, but there is more equality in testing than we sometimes imagine.  When we really look, we see that this life is full of tragedy.  And then, when we see that suffering is universal, our tendency is to lose hope, to curse God, and to ache for others.  Suffering is normal and holy.  I absolutely know that as we suffer, we are blessed with compensatory blessings.  To him who much is required, much is given.  I know it.  And that, my friends, is why life, even when it is hard, is so good.

When I look at my quilt of a body, I feel blessed.  Over two hundred strangers donated blood that became part of me.  Hundreds of people spent years and years in school to learn medical skills that have blessed my life.  I am so grateful for them, for their families, for their minds and hands and God-given gifts of healing.  Hundreds of people have literally held my insides.

My mother gave me life, God gave me breath, and so many have stitched me together time and time again.  My life has been spared MANY times.  I wonder why?  It is inspiring and humbling.  Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue-- my scars have enlarged my heart and soul and I feel saturated with love and gratitude for so many.
I am a HUGE advocate of the Red Cross.  I believe donating blood is godly, the greatest gift you can give.  People don't need food or clothing or shelter if they have no blood.  Blood is something that costs no money to give, only time and a little inconvenience.  Donating blood is giving part of your life to save another.

Many Christians partake of the Holy Sacrament each week.  The bread and water we eat are symbolic of Christ's body and blood.  As we symbolically partake, He is becoming part of us.  As I partake of the Sacrament each week, I can't help but be grateful for so many in this world who have given their blood for me.  I am alive because strangers gave of themselves.  You literally are a part of me.  I love that.  In the USA we use 44,000 pints of blood every day.  Blood does not have a long shelf-life, I think 2 weeks for regular blood and 5 days for platelets.  Donate blood.  It saves lives.
Life after Accreta is not easier than life with Accreta.  It's just different hard.  It feels so good to be one serving instead of the one being served.  I hope to continue to find purpose and meaning in my life.

I feel so grateful for every day that I am alive.  Birthdays are holy days for me.  I am grateful to be here to parent my eight beautiful children.  I feel lucky.  It may sound unbelievable, but I honestly think I would feel lucky and grateful for my life, even if I would have died that day on the operating table.  In time, I would have felt honored and blessed by my experience even if Ben would have died.  Someday we all will die.  We are lucky for the days we have now.  Life's experiences are refining gifts and holy opportunities.

This little boy was worth the effort it took to get him here.
Life is worth the struggle.
It is the climb that strengthens the soul.
I thank God for allowing me to learn from my Placenta Accreta experience.
I feel honored to be a mother.
I KNOW life is good.

If you made it all the way through this story I'm impressed!!
Would you consider voting for me and Ben as the 2015 Face of Accreta?
Honestly, I love every one of these women.  Just vote for someone and help us raise awareness!
You can vote once every 24 hours.  THANK YOU!!
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