Innocence in the Unlikeliest of Places

The TV show “The Middle” hasn’t been on my radar for long, but I’ve had it on in the background from time to time when working from home. Being recently pregnant and then miscarrying has also meant a lot of couch and bed time, and I’ve seen the last few new episodes in a row. Overall, the show doesn’t blow me away, but the last two episodes featured a fascinating marriage proposal for the 17-year old, overachieving, nerdy, sweet daughter, Sue. I very much identify with Sue in general, as I was an over-achieving, bookish teenager (right down to the long, brown, middle-parted hair), and I just loved the fact that this sweet, innocent relationship storyline is portrayed on mainstream TV in 2015.

Sue’s boyfriend sends her on a Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt all over town, which ends at the tiny house he just bought. He gives her a tiny tour and then proposes to her. She is shell-shocked and says, “Sure.” She goes home, still stunned, and tells her parents at the family dinner table that she loves him but doesn’t want to get married, and was too afraid to tell him so. The whole episode is her trying to tell him this but being faced with potential in-laws, wedding dresses, and honeymoon plans – and all she can do is go with the flow, run away, or crawl into bed to sleep between her parents.

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I know to a lot of people, Sue’s might seem like a disingenuous, unreal reaction, but I know it’s really not. My first kiss was at age 12 or so at the local roller skating rink. The guy was a friend of a friend, very tall, and he liked me. The details are a little fuzzy, but I remember standing in our roller skates near the lockers when he kissed me – nothing crazy, just a quick peck. Afterward, I went to the bathroom and hid until my father picked me up, what felt like hours later. He sent one of my friends in to talk to me, saying he wouldn’t try to kiss me again – he just wanted me to come out and talk to him. I refused! I was afraid because it was new and scary and grown-up, I wasn’t ready for it, and I didn’t know how to deal with that. I let him keep calling, but I’m not sure I ever even saw him again. I didn’t know how to deal with the situation, so I acquiesced in person and then just didn’t. A few years later, an older guy, 19 I think, liked me, and I really liked him back. We spent hours on the phone, but the reality of dating was scary, and I wasn’t ready for it, so I met his repeated attempts to take me out on a date with excuses; I told him my parents wouldn’t let me go because he was so much older. He said he’d love to meet and talk to them in person or that we could go out with a group of people first – but I kept insisting they said no, even though I never mentioned a word about it to them. My diaries from those years talk about little else BUT boys, but when it came to the reality of dating and being physical with them, as many of my friends did, I just wasn’t ready. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I started dating my first real boyfriend, and that fun, innocent, functional relationship lasted a year until he went off to college.

I wasn’t unaware that other girls my age made different decisions. In fact, my zip code was featured at some point during those years on Oprah because we had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. I just operated with a different mindset, one that wasn’t brainwashed or scared or culturally bred into me – it was simply my truth, falling, I suppose, somewhere in between the Duggars and Kardashians (who, strangely, fascinate me equally). This is why I love that, in an age of shows like Teen Mom and even Modern Family, where kids lose their innocence at a very young age, and 19 Kids & Counting, where teenage girls are only trained to be submissive wives and mothers, The Middle successfully and honestly portrayed an intelligent teenage girl at an uncomfortable crossroad knowing herself well enough to make the conscious decision to put off growing up before she was ready. Several of my high school friends got married very young, and most of those ended up being great decisions. I made the right decisions for my teenage self by staying in the slow lane, although I wish I’d had Sue’s example back then to articulate for me why I hid in that bowling alley bathroom (because at the time, I just felt intimidated and scared). So kudos to ABC for explaining it so well for today’s young girls.

44 Days With Blueberry

It never occurred to me, when I got pregnant for the first time, that I wouldn’t have control over the outcome of my pregnancy. I know that seems obtuse, especially with all the challenges I face as a 36-year-old first-time mother, but I honestly and arrogantly thought that if this pregnancy was prematurely terminated, my husband and I would be the ones making that decision. After all, I am the “decider” of my life (thank you, George W., for that apt term): an amazingly-lucky, 21st-century American female who gets to choose her own level of education, career, marital status, birth control and every other detail of my overly-privileged life. I’ve been out of my parents’ house since I was 18 and didn’t get married until I was 34; I’ve been making my own decisions, mostly unhindered by limitation, for a very long time.

I think this mindset is why, at our 8-week ultrasound, finding out our baby (who we began referring to as “Blueberry,” which it grew to about the size of) had stopped growing at 6 weeks and did not have a heartbeat was so shocking. I had been so laser-focused on my pregnancy experience, what healthy choices I could make for myself and the baby, what genetic conditions would cause us to consider abortion – all the pregnancy factors I could control – that it simply never entered my mind that this child could leave us without my permission.

Another shock has been the level of bereavement I feel. I only knew I was pregnant for 34 days before the ultrasound, and to be perfectly honest, I spent most of those days complaining about how awful I felt, what this would mean for my career, my marriage, my budget, my body. I called my mother in tears multiple times, lamenting how long each minute and hour and day had started feeling because I felt so awful. I reached out to friends with multiple children and begged for morning sickness remedies. I bullied my way into my doctor’s office at 6 weeks (she normally doesn’t see anyone before 8 weeks) to discuss my myriad questions and concerns – and to get a prescription for Diclegis, a miracle anti-nausea drug. It seemed a surprisingly-Herculean task to simply wrap my mind around the “simple” reality of being pregnant when this pregnancy was carefully planned and prepared for; I don’t think it should have been such an all-encompassing, scary, painful, dramatic experience. But then the medicine helped me feel human again, and (I now know) my level of pregnancy symptoms was decreasing as the baby stopped growing, so I felt better. And with that regained sense of well-being, I started smiling here and there, imagining its sweet little parts – vocal chords! – that were being knit together inside me, searching Pinterest for nursery ideas, and I was really looking forward to telling everyone about it in a few short weeks. And then, with a wave of the ultrasound wand, it was taken away, and the wake of that moment has brought more sadness than I thought possible.

Logically, I understand why this is so jarring. But emotionally, I am just shocked at the depth of mourning I’ve experienced. I’ve led a very safe life. I live like I snow ski: fast enough to be fun, slow enough not to get hurt. All the big decisions I’ve made in my life have, for the most part, worked out – because I wouldn’t have made them were they not all but a sure thing. Deciding to trust another person enough to marry them was a huge leap of faith because a human is not a controllable factor, and it was scary, but I just had to jump – and it worked out. So then we made ourselves ready, and we jumped together, this time toward parenthood. And it worked out – I got pregnant within three months. It felt remarkably like hurdling down a double black diamond you know is fraught with moguls, but I was navigating each one very slowly, carefully and successfully. And then I was knocked off my skis, and it’s so much sadder and more painful than I expected it would be.

The physical pain of the actual miscarriage process came after all that and honestly has been easier to deal with than the emotional aspect. I did a lot of research on what I could expect at my stage of pregnancy and found mostly horror stories, so I’d like to share a little bit of my experience here for anyone searching for some context on their own situation. If that’s how you found this post, I’m very sorry for your loss. The embryo stopped growing at 6 weeks, and my 2nd, follow-up ultrasound was at 9.5 weeks. We decided to use medication to induce the miscarriage for many reasons: my body was clearly not getting the idea, waiting was emotionally very difficult, my doctor said I wasn’t likely to need a D&C if we went this route, and we could minimize work schedule impact. I would recommend having someone with you at all times just for safety; my mother and sister stayed with me until my husband got home from work.

Without going into too much detail, on Week 10, Day 2 (44 days after learning I was pregnant), I took Misoprostol vaginally (less nausea/gastro side effects than taking it by mouth – very important to me) and Tramadol to control the pain, two pills each every 4 hours. I started the first Misoprostol round at 11:15 a.m. so that hopefully the process would be over in time for bed that night, and looking back, that was a good choice. I took the first 2 Tramadol pills when the light cramping started, about 35 minutes later, and they took about 30 minutes to kick in. The bleeding started at 1 p.m., and the lower abdominal pain was minimal (Thank God for painkillers! There is NO reason to go through this without them). I felt hungry and ate a small lunch at 1:45. Small clots started coming about 3 p.m. The second round of Misoprostol and Tramadol at 3:15 and 3:45 brought slightly heavier bleeding and slightly less pain. Over the next couple of hours, both the bleeding and pain became heavier, and I noticed about 6 p.m. that reading made me a little dizzy, and it was hard to focus on the words – but I didn’t feel “drugged,” just not sharp.¬† At 7 p.m., I had a wave of sweating, nausea and pain that lasted about 15 minutes, and then it all stopped pretty suddenly. I went to the bathroom at 7:30 and passed two large, heavy clots (about 2 inches long) that I believe were the embryo/sac. That process was painless and quick. I went ahead and took the third and fourth round of drugs in case there was more. I had small clots throughout the evening, but my pain level reduced after the two main clots. I had a small dinner but couldn’t eat much. I got very sleepy at about 10 and went to sleep after the last drug round at 11:30. I woke up every hour until 3:30 a.m. for safety, just to check the bleeding level. I then slept several hours at a time until about 10:30 a.m.

That morning, I felt fine until I had half of a chocolate protein drink for breakfast, which started nausea that lasted the entire day. I didn’t eat much and stayed in bed, but there was very little pain. The next day, the nausea was gone, but I had intermittent lower abdominal pain all day. I checked with my doctor, who said all of this was normal; the nausea was likely from the drugs, and the pain was from the uterine activity. She recommended Ibuprofen for the pain, which worked very well, and I set up a follow-up appointment for two weeks later. The third day, I felt good enough to be bored, with lighter, intermittent pain. I slept 10 hours and went to work on day four, and I felt tired and slightly crampy with movement. On day five, I had bleeding and light cramping, but I felt better than I had since I got pregnant. Day six, the bleeding slowed somewhat, and my energy has been shocking. Bleeding continued for two weeks, with very light, intermittent lower belly pain.

The emotional component of recovery has been interesting.¬†Flushing the tissue that would have been our child down the toilet wasn’t hard to do when it was happening, but the emotional aftermath has been hard to deal with. I have actually felt lonely without someone inside of me, which is a feeling I never could have imagined experiencing. Grief has come in unpredictable waves. Work, talking to friends and family, television and the Internet offer distraction, which is helpful. But the only things that make me feel truly better for any length of time are spending time with my husband and planning a ski trip/mental health break. Being with my husband is always something I enjoy, but right now it is a healing balm, and I find myself getting very sad – and sometimes even a bit panicked – when I leave him or he has to work odd hours. I’m not sure why this is, as we’re a fairly independent couple, but I’m told it’s common until the hormones leave your system, and I’m not going to worry about it too much; I know it’s part of my process and will pass. I do, however, love that this experience has drawn us closer, rather than further apart – drawn us into communication and mutual support rather than isolation. I in no way compare this experience to the loss of a born, living child, but I know this general category of experience has a tendency to weaken some relationships, and I’m happy to know we’re not one of them.

The doctor did an ultrasound 12 days after the miscarriage; she said my uterus is empty and declared the process a “success” with no infection and no D&C needed. I’m glad for many reasons that this is the case, but the word “empty” stung a bit. I’ve never had “baby fever,” so I’m constantly surprised by the sadness and, well, emptiness, of this process. I began the pregnancy knowing it was something I wanted but was extremely nervous and unhappy about the physical experience, and that only got worse as my symptoms became more pronounced. Now that I’ve experienced what it’s like to be pregnant, even though it was only for 10 weeks, I think when and if it happens again, I’ll be much more prepared to deal with the physical and emotional experience. Knowing loss, I will be all the more happy next time to see that second pink line appear – and, until I meet the child, much more cautious about considering it a person. So I will plant a blueberry bush in the back yard to remember the short life of our little one, enjoy this time with my husband and puppy, treat my body well until we can try again, close the door on this painful chapter and look forward to whatever lies ahead for our family.Blueberry_1

The Reception

We searched a long time for the perfect reception location. We finally found it when we walked into the City Club, which is a private club on the 69th floor of Bank of America Plaza, the neon-lined, tallest building in Dallas. It’s perfectly iconic with incredible views – you can see the buildings of Fort Worth’s downtown on a clear day, which is about 30 miles away. It was a short drive, about 15 minutes, but it was MORE than worth the inconvenience. As a sixth-generation Texan and a descendant of the La Reunion colonizers who helped settle Dallas, it was the perfect place to begin my married life.

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We took a private car there and chatted about the ceremony as we approached downtown. We ogled our new wedding rings, and I showed him the much-talked-about hair pin, as well as my grandmother’s white, silk handbag with tiny stitched flowers.

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We got to skip the long valet line and scoot right in, and we arrived far earlier than we planned for. That gave us a couple of minutes to walk through the space and see all the choices we’d made on paper come to life. We took a couple more minutes to sit alone and were brought drinks (champagne for me, and scotch for him) and canapes. We also pulled the best man and maid of honor aside and filled out the marriage license on top of a grand piano.

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We made our entrance and danced to Ella and Louis’ “Our Love is Here to Stay.” I had an extremely long to-do list leading up to this day, and only two things didn’t get done. One, I didn’t get back to the mall to buy the bracelet I wanted to wear, and two, I didn’t create an edited, shortened version of this song for the DJ. It’s kind of an awkward experience for everyone, the first dance; everyone stares at you as you share a fairly intimate moment with your new spouse, wishing you would finish so they can hurry up and eat dinner already. The fun part, though, during three minutes that felt like a hour, was finally getting to watch Barry dance. He hates it. Refuses to do any more than sway along with me, and even that is dangerous territory. For three and a half years, he always said, “I’ll dance on our wedding day.” And. He. Did.

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The rest was an incredible whirlwind, the best kind of busyness. All the people we love most in the world were all in one room, and our only job, after six months of SO MANY JOBS was to spend time with and enjoy them. After three and a half years, we’ve met most of each other’s important people, but some came from out of town or state and gave us the opportunity to finally meet each other. Our families got to meet our work families.

The main reason we chose City Club was the incredible view. There was so much going on that I didn’t notice the changing light as much as I wanted, but it was a prime spot to watch the sun set on this city that has been the setting for the White/Goetsell side of my family for six generations.

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The food was excellent! We had a tasting many weeks prior, but having eaten so little during the months leading up to the wedding, it tasted better than I remembered. The staff set up a table just for us near the windows, and they served us plates and drinks while the rest of the party ate buffet-style. We would have been happy with the cheapest package, but my parents very graciously went for the beef tenderloin, Madeira chicken, and grilled salmon with dill sauce. There was also a quartet of different salads and roasted vegetables, but my favorite of all was the Asiago cheese mashed potatoes. I lost 14 pounds in the six months between the proposal and the wedding, half of that in the last month, and I don’t think mashed potatoes have ever tasted so good. So many people complain they didn’t get to eat at their own wedding, but we made sure that would not happen to us. I’m pretty sure we even got seconds, and the staff brought me as much champagne and Barry as much Scotch throughout the night as we had time to drink! We consider ourselves foodies, and thanks to my parents, we and our guests ate and drank very well that night.

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Four people toasted us after dinner: my sister Lindsey, the matron of honor, Barry’s best friend Matt, the best man, Barry’s mother, Gay, and my father, Don. It was an honor to hear the nice, funny things they had to say and all the well wishes for our married life together (although I must admit, of all the day’s details, this is the most blurry). I’ve made three maid-of-honor toasts in the last few years, and after all that pressure to be appropriately witty and sentimental, it was really nice to just be able to stand there and drink champagne!

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Some aspects of wedding planning were tedious, but one of the most fun parts was the cake details. It was so fun to see all our choices come to life. Instead of a traditional bride’s cake, I wanted these petits fours a Grand Prairie baker has been making for our family events for years. They have always been delicious, and we had her make white ones with “G” monogrammed in navy and orange, our colors.¬† We also had a small, white square cake as the top layer. I’d seen it in a magazine and had to give it a try – when you cut into it, the layers are a rainbow!! We both went to SMU, and Barry chose red and blue for the groom’s cake. Go Mustangs!

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Cutting into the rainbow cake was a highlight of the evening for me. Helped alleviate the awkwardness of cutting and feeding each other cake in front of everyone.

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There was a lot of dancing happening for my taste…but it made for cute pictures, so that’s okay. We decided to combine the daddy-daughter and mother-son dances to the Beatles’ “In My Life.” It reminded us of all the people we love, those who were there that night and those who have passed. We remembered Barry’s father, Griff, and our grandparents, none of whom lived to see us get married. My dad’s mother, Mimi, got to be at Lindsey’s wedding, and both my grandmother’s were at Jeff’s. I never felt like I missed out on much not getting married until my 30’s, but I have to say, I wish it had been earlier in life simply to be able to share the day with those we miss so much. I know that hit Barry and Gay hard during this dance.

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The last hour or so was a really fun combination of dancing, talking, drinking champagne, and just having fun enjoying the party we’d planned. Barry appeased me, and the DJ played “Gangnam Style,” which was fun for everybody – okay, mostly just me. We also did an anniversary dance where the longest-married couple was the last standing. It was fun to see so many couples I admire dancing all together to Adam Sandler’s “Grow Old With You.” The DJ handed out glow sticks to the wedding party, and I was a little distracted at the time, but it looks like they had fun! My bridesmaid Emily, my cousin, helped us that night with Mia, our flower girl, and they did a little dancing, too. Emily is so good with kids.

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I was completely shocked when Evie, our planner, told us it was time to go. It was three hours long, and I wish we’d had 3 more. Before we made our exit, the staff cleared everyone out of the reception area to go downstairs and get ready to see us off. We danced in the empty City Club to Harry Connick, Jr.’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” and it was a really great way to soak up the moment without all the distraction, letting us focus for a moment on the most important part of the day – that we had just joined our lives together, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, forsaking all others, ’til death parts us.

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It was the most wonderful whirlwind of a night. When we made our exit, our friends and family showered us with Flutterfetti! We made our way through the fluttering colors to our car, which took us to the Magnolia Hotel, where a beautiful downtown suite and packed-up CAKE awaited. We were so lucky – it really was the best day ever, one neither of us will ever forget!

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Top 5 Fabulous Things of the Month: The Wedding Edition

1. Barry Griffith asked me to marry him at dinner for our third anniversary, and I said yes! Well, after about 10 seconds of silent shock on my part, he finally said, “This is the part where you say yes,” and THEN I said yes.

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2. My engagement ring is a beautiful setting containing a diamond that’s been in my family for about 150 years. My German great-grandfather wore the rock in a tie pin, and then my grandfather inherited it and had it set in a big, chunky, gold man ring. When he died, my grandmother, who had never been given a diamond (such a cad, Jim Schmoeller), had the stone reset in a yellow gold “adjust-o-shank” to fit over her swollen knuckles. When she died, through the kindness of my mother and aunts, I inherited the ring. My wonderful boyfriend had the diamond re-set into my white gold engagement ring, and he added a few small accent diamonds down the sides. It’s perfect, and I love it. It’s the visual representation of our individual history and lives melding into something new and unique.

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3. To properly show off my new ring, I got a manicure, and Barry got his first pedicure. The faces he made were priceless. This one was when she slathered his legs with chocolate syrup (he got the chocolate pedicure) and wrapped them in plastic wrap.

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4. Just before Christmas, his company flew us up to Chicago for their Christmas party. I had never been there, and I decided to play tourist on the day he had to work. One of my destinations was the 1893 church where my great-grandparents, August (also German but not the ring guy) and Mary, were married 100 years ago this past October. I never met either of them, so my only physical experience of them was standing on their graves at the family cemetery in the Rio Grande Valley while we buried my grandmother. To stand where they started their lives together, not just where they ended, was a surprisingly emotional experience. And now that I’m beginning the wedding planning process, I want to make sure that in 100 years, my great-grandchildren can find the place we began our lives together. It knocks out the generic event centers that likely won’t be around for generations and gives me a bigger-picture vision with which to view this process.

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5. This man is maddening, annoying, messy, and doesn’t eat NEARLY enough vegetables. But he’s also kind to strangers in need, loving toward me when I am not, and accepting and amazingly understanding of people’s flaws, especially my own. I’m sure planning a wedding will start to be fun, but for now, I’m looking past it and can’t wait to start our new lives together.

 

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