Guys. A new year, and we are already two months in. (However, I’ve been waiting to post this since the end of January!) I absolutely love writing and reading year-end reviews, and especially from 2016, because the world-wide consensus was that 2016 could shove it. I’m not sure if it was the end-of-year disdain from the election, or rapidly dying celebrities, but I’m here to tell you that it wasn’t all bad. Our 2016 recap, cannot be told without some sadness, however, so this blog is lengthy, and I hope you’ll stick it out to the end.
First, I’d like to focus on all of the positives in 2016. As you’ll see, there are so many. And many that I’ve probably already forgotten.
Started out the year with BANG! Rudy bought his dream car, a 2008 Slate Blue Jeep.
Got just enough of Winter to take a photo in the Alabama snow.
Had a huge second year for Salt + Paperie, with some epic wedding shows, fabulous brides, and hosted dozen of handlettering workshops, even one at Anthropologie in Huntsville!
Celebrated a promotion and new position for Rudy in his current company, Aviagen. And sent my “little” brother off to his Senior year, and Bailee, a sophomore with a permit. Staaahp.
Kept our dogs from killing themselves for another year, and gave them their own yard in the back. They are as spoiled as ever!
Celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary in the Dominican Republic. Holy moly, one of my favorite weeks of my whole life!
…And while we were there, we had some beautiful photos taken for our anniversary!
Celebrated the engagement, and marriage of my life-long friend, Valerie!
Watched my best friend’s kid go from chunky baby to grown little boy. Time, slow down!
Went to the beach more months than we didn’t. March, for Bailee’s 15th. April, Dominican Republic. June, for Rudy’s 29th birthday. July for Valerie’s Bachelorette. August, for my pre-birthday celebration. September for my 30th birthday blowout. And, finally, November, for our annual Thanksgiving trip!
Of all the trips, the one that changed my year the most, was the one in August where I read Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequest. At that time in our lives, I needed direction for the future, and hope that everything could work for the better if I just stopped being so busy. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a little re-direction in their career or life.
When we weren’t at the beach, you could likely find us at the Lake!
Celebrated the seasons like a boss…
…and survived another football season and Iron Bowl. We both spent weekends in our respective towns, with our respective families and fans!
We declared 2015 The Year of Travel, and boy did we! We declared 2016 The Year of the House. Less travel, and more revamping our house. I had a pretty long list of things to do, and I’m happy to say that 85% of that list was either finished, or is being finished currently.
I got shiplap for Valentine’s Day (and loved it), then proceeded to repaint/decorate our living room and bedroom during two of Rudy’s long work trips to Europe.
In October, we finally bit the bullet on renovating our kitchen. What started out as painting the cabinets, and some new flooring quickly turned into a complete overhaul. It’s not quite finished yet, but rest assured when it is, you’ll get the full tour!
I’d say that’s a pretty fabulous year, right? If you were tallying up the big things you know we’ve had happen in 2016, you’re probably thinking that we forgot a big one. The Baby.
This is where our 2016 story gets a little heavy. But in the spirit of new beginnings, I am finally ready to let go of this burden that we’ve carried, with the help of family and friends, in hopes that someone else can find hope from our story. Our 2016 story can’t be told without retaking steps back into 2015. At the beginning of 2015, I was no where near ready to pour my heart out on to the internet, for the world to hear. But, I always felt a pull, that there was a reason, a big reason, that these things happened to me. When I started this blog in August, I knew I wanted to eventually tell our story, when the time felt right. The combination of despair, and hope, in 2016 helps me know that now is the time.
“And in your belly you hold the treasure
that few have ever seen, most of them dreams,
Most of them dreams.” -Jimmy Buffett, A Pirate Looks at Forty
Saturday • June 20, 2015
We have just begun renovating my office, in order to make space for a new printer & cutter. Rudy headed our to Grant to work on his boat, and I piddle around the house, pick out some paint and just do Saturday things. The next day is Father’s Day, and I thought, “Now wouldn’t it be cool if by chance I got to surprise Rudy for Father’s Day with a baby!?” I had not been on birth control since April, because we just wanted to “let it happen” and “not worry about it”. Sure enough, a positive test. All the emotions you can imagine, but mostly… “how am I going to tell him!?”
My whole vision about baby announcements was changed when I watched Wes and Tera Wages first baby announcement video. I searched hard for it on the interwebs, but came up short! It was Tera filming Wes when she told him the news, and then following their family and friends reactions as they told them all the news together. I wanted these moments, too!
I told him with an “early Father’s Day present” that was soooo obvious. Then he made me take the rest of the tests we had in the house, and then to get another brand. Just to be sure, ya know?
Sunday • June 21, 2015
Father’s Day. We decided to keep baby Gil a secret, because my mom had just arrived home from Alaska, and I wanted to tell her first, and without an audience. I’m sure we had stupid grins on our faces all day, though.
Thursday • June 25, 2015
I had to take Tucker to the kennel, and on the way home I had some pretty scary bleeding happen. I had no idea what to do, but I was panicked. I was actually on the phone with Rudy when it started. I went home and immediately curled up into the bed, crying, scared that we had lost the baby already. Rudy began googling everything about bleeding (bad idea…) and finally I called to get an appointment with my OB. They got me in within 2 hours, and got us in for an ultrasound. Our scanner couldn’t find the heartbeat, and our hearts sunk. But! Then she apologized about 100 times, because she found it! Our little baby had a heartbeat. We breathed. We had a follow-up appointment the next week.
Friday • June 26, 2015
It was Rudy’s birthday and we still hadn’t told anyone… and now it was getting ridiculous! I was shooting a wedding, and he worked. We were, of course, worried 24/7, but had no one to share our fears with yet.
Saturday • June 27, 2015
I finally had a lunch date scheduled with my mom for Rudy’s birthday! We told her, and then Rudy’s mom, and Ali, Margaret, and Giselle. We wouldn’t have waited much longer to tell them, but because of my love for wine/margaritas/beer… you can’t wait very long at all before it’s easy to guess! We told our parents with little gifts, and the photo of Baby Gil. Of course, they wanted to know why we already had a photo… and we shared the story from a few days before.
Thursday • July 2, 2015
Our follow-up ultrasound day. Anxiety through the roof, but we were hopeful. We saw our baby again, and everything seemed okay. But I was sent for blood work, in order to see how the pregnancy was progressing via my HcG and progesterone levels. We had dinner and drinks scheduled with friends, so I drank fake wine, and we kept our secret a secret.
Saturday • July 4, 2015
My favorite holiday, but I had to secretly drink Fresca from a Yeti cup! We hung with family, but my Dad didn’t know he was a granddad yet! There were so many people around, the timing didn’t feel right. We decided to sit on it until we could get them alone.
Wednesday • July 8, 2015
A follow-up appointment to see blood work results. Rudy met me at the doctors office and we were sweaty, and nervous. The waiting room was excruciating. Finally, we got called back to the ultrasound room. The nurse said nothing while scanning, and eventually told us the doctor would be in to talk to us. We knew this wasn’t good news. I could feel my eyes getting hot, but I wanted to be strong, so I fought back the tears. Whatever happened next, is all a blur. The numbers weren’t good, and there was no longer a visible heart rate, which meant that the pregnancy was headed in the wrong direction. My head was spinning as they told me what would happen if I let my body deal with it naturally. No, I didn’t want to “be pregnant” any longer if our baby wasn’t alive. I chose to schedule a D&C for the next day. 6 weeks, 1 day. That’s how long we had our first baby with us on earth.
Now, what was I supposed to do with all these photos? What about my plans for my announcement video? The pictures where people didn’t even know I was pregnant with them? I put them in a folder, way back in the back of my computer in a folder called “Pics for Us”. I knew I couldn’t delete them. But, I also knew I couldn’t look at them. One day, I would want to though. I knew I would want to see the look on my mom’s face when I told her, and the tears from Rudy’s mom. I didn’t put a lot of effort into putting these together, but it’s too special not to share. Yes, it still makes me cry.
I’ve tried to fight being a “statistic” my whole life. I always wanted to be different, in the best way possible. Here we are, one of the 1 in 4 miscarriage cases. And the worst part is that even the doctors say, “There’s no true reason, nothing you could have done, it just happens.” For a doer like me, these are not good statements. I want to know facts, reasons, and ways to prevent this from ever happening again.
The following days, and months were so dark. I felt so angry at people’s fairly common questions about “when are you guys having kids?”, and even felt withdrawn from socializing at all. But, it was our choice to keep it a secret, and it was hard to be angry at them when we weren’t willing to tell them the truth. I wanted to keep it a secret, selfishly, to be able to get that excited reaction from some of the people closest to us that we didn’t get a chance to tell the first time around, specifically my Dad and my Grandmother.
Rudy and I both hate, hate unwanted attention, and especially sympathy. This was another huge reason we didn’t share it publicly. You know the sad looks, and weird things people say after someone dies? We wanted to avoid that at all cost. If we were having a good day, and there hadn’t been any tears, I couldn’t afford for someone to ask me “how I was doing?” Although, I knew everyone meant well, I couldn’t talk about it without crying, and once I started crying I couldn’t stop. It was best to just “not”.
Miscarriage feels so private, and so personal. You feel like no one understands how you feel, even though you know you aren’t the only one. Only later would we know the full truth to this statement. I thrust myself into work, and barely gave myself time to recover. We threw the rest our time, and money into travel, and anything to keep ourselves busy. Busy was better, because there wasn’t time to let the sadness catch up to you.
Fast foward to May 2016. Yes, nearly year later. A year of trying apps, hating apps, tracking insane things, thermometers, watching a dozen-plus baby announcements come across Facebook, wondering if period cramps were really early pregnancy signs, all to be disappointed for 10 months. I researched all the things, and even went gluten-free, until a wise friend talked me down from that craziness. I researched, and began regularly visiting my Chiropractor, and was on the brink of acupuncture.
“We will have love, we will have pain
There will be days and days and days that feel the same
We will have fear, we will have joy
There maybe little girls and little boys” -Dave Barnes, Amen
Sunday • May 8, 2016
We were at the lake celebrating Margaret’s 30th birthday all weekend. I knew I was late, and the wine over the weekend was giving me massive heartburn, but it was Mother’s Day.Could it really be? On the way home from Cullman, we picked up a pregnancy test. I took it as soon as I got home, and there it was, a yes. It was kind of hard to be excited, but kind of hard not to. There were definitely tears!
We were headed to my Grandmother’s for Mother’s Day lunch. Should we get another test to make sure? We went to Target on our way, got another brand, just to make sure. We didn’t want to be getting people’s hopes up for no reason. The test at Target was negative. My heart sank. Was it a false positive? What we were supposed to believe? We stopped once more at the Dollar General on the way to Guntersville. Another cheaper test, another negative. (In hindsight, it was because I was chugging water, and diluting the HcG in my urine… but how was I supposed to know that?!) We decided to keep it to ourselves, and ride the roller coaster quietly again. I took this photo with mom, as a mom, and she didn’t even know at the time!
Monday • May 9, 2016
I woke up and took another test. It was positive. I was pretty sure there wasn’t a chance that two would give us a false positive. So, we were having a baby! Everything you read says that if you have a miscarriage, you are less likely to have a second. We breathed a little bit easier in knowing that the stats were on our side this time.
Tuesday • May 10, 2016
It was a big day! I scheduled a very last-minute lunch with my mom. We told her without video, or a gift. We stopped by Rudy’s parents, told them, and met our friends at Stem and Stein to celebrate Margaret’s 30th birthday. I debated about whether or not I should tell everyone, because I didn’t want it to be about me… but when I wasn’t drinking it was going to be pretty obvious! I told Ali, and Margaret (happy birthday!) and then we announced to a table of folks there celebrating Margaret about our news. Again, the no wine thing kind of gave it away before we could tell. We shouldn’t be scared, after all, we had already dealt with the sadness of the loss of a child. We could tell with a little more confidence this time!
Wednesday • May 11, 2016
I called to schedule my first OB-GYN appointment for June 6th. That seemed so far away, and it was! That would be around the 9 week mark. Again, trying to not be paranoid, I said nothing about our previous loss and waited, anxious and excited, for three weeks until the first appointment. I also headed to Tuscaloosa, and got to officially make the baby’s first road trip to the right town. Ali and I talked baby talk the whole way down. Due dates, boy/girl, and beyond.
Friday • May 13, 2016
An unexpected, and scary day. Rudy was on his way to lunch at the Marketplace Cafe and wrecked (totaled) his new jeep (Jeep #1 pictured in the January re-cap!) We are so lucky he wasn’t injured, and that no one was! But equally thankful that I was running late and it wasn’t me and the baby.
Saturday • May 15, 2016
We made a point to head to Grant to tell the two people I was most excited about this go around. My dad and my grandmother! I did video them, even though we didn’t do it for anyone else this time around. I did a really poor job of capturing my Grandmother (thought I hit the button, but didn’t… oops), but my dad’s is pretty funny. 🙂
Sunday • May 16, 2016
We told the rest of my Chandler family at birthday dinner. Lots of shrieks and shrills from aunts and cousins ensued. It felt so good to let people share in our excitement. Although nervous, I started documenting the weekly photos. I wanted to remember each moment, even more so, the second time around.
Friday • May 28, 2016
We headed South to pick-up Rudy’s new jeep in Tampa! We barely road with the top down because it was so blazing hot and we both didn’t want me and baby to overheat.
Monday • May 29, 2016
Memorial Day, 8 weeks! One week to go until the first appointment.
Sunday • June 5, 2016
We had lunch at my grandmothers. I remember talking to my cousins about how I didn’t “feel” pregnant, and hadn’t had any real symptoms like morning sickness. They assured me not everyone has that, and I should be glad!
Monday • June 6, 2016
Rudy and I loaded up and went to our 7:30am appointment, nervous, but excited. We waited, and got called back to the Ultrasound room. The scan started, and there was definitely something there, but it looked an awful lot like what we saw the last time we were in this room. Small and blurry… the tech got quiet. I asked, ” is everything okay?” I understand, this is so unfair to them. I know they don’t want to be the barer of bad news. She said, “baby is just measuring a little small.” She left us there, with our blur on the screen. The measurement at the top read 6 weeks, 1 day. Is this happening? The same thing again? How can this be real life? But the statistics said…
The weekly pictures, null and void, because our baby wasn’t alive then, Margaret’s birthday pictures felt tainted. Now, we had to tell our families and friends the horrible news. Of course, everyone was so great and understanding. I felt so much better with people knowing this time around, and felt sad we went through the first time without telling so many people. Rudy somewhat preferred it the other way, with less people knowing, but what was done, was done. We at least had a huge prayer army behind us from that moment on.
I was sent down the horrible hall to get blood work again. I’d been here. I knew the drill. I was a zombie, just going through the motions.
Wednesday • June 8, 2016
We were brought back in for the results, and another scan. I could see my body was already starting to reject the baby by my shrinking uterus photo, from even two days prior.
What was there to do? Go home, hold each other, and have a really tasty homemade dinner before I prepped again for one of the worst surgeries on earth.
Saturday • June 11, 2016
We ran away to Atlanta, because travel is our therapy. Being in our home felt like torture, and even 4 hours away seemed like we could just escape for a little bit. And, the smiles in these pictures are real, because I knew truly had a life partner in sickness and in health. It still feels weird to look at these pictures, and remember thinking… if these people knew what we were dealing with, would they think we were crazy for watching the Braves in 100 degree heat, and actually smiling for a photo?
“So lift up your eyes, lift up your heart
Singing, mercy will we overcome this
Oh, one by one, could we turn it around
Maybe carry on just a little bit longer” -Dave Matthews Band, Mercy
I went back to my OB-GYN for a check-up from the surgery. (This is where we will start introducing real characters to this story, so that we can “publicly” thank them!) Enter Belinda, my OB-GYNs Nurse Practitioner. We had seen her before, and she did seem genuinely sad for us both times we lost our babies. However, this time, she came in and said, “Why is this happening?” I’m sure I looked puzzled enough, and thought, a little smart-assy, said “You’re the doctor, you tell me.” I answered with, “I wish I knew”. She looked at me, and really asked, “No, but really, why would God let this happen to you?” Now, I was just caught off-guard. I got choked-up and after a few minutes answered, “Maybe so He can try our marriage to its core, maybe so we would consider adoption, where we had not previously, there’s no way to know.” Belinda has been an true angel sent to us, and anyone who has been to Dr. Kakani knows what I am talking about!
“Normally” they wait to refer you to a specialist until you have three miscarriages. This seems unreal, and cruel, however, turns out the statistics we read after our first miscarriage weren’t all they were cracked up to be. Many women do, horribly, suffer 2-3 before their first viable pregnancy. I considered ourselves lucky to have been referred by Dr. Kakani’s office to Huntsville Reproductive Medicine, because both of our miscarriages happened at 6 weeks, 1 day.
One day after Father’s Day, we had our first appointment with Dr. Davenport. We were scared about the money, naturally. And, of finding out that children just weren’t possible for us. Of all the things Dr. Davenport talked about, what I remember most is this chart he showed. I wish I had a copy of it now, but basically, it was a bell curve of statistics that said that we had a 70% chance of having a viable pregnancy without doing anything with their office at all. The statistics got me. We lived in the statistic world the last time, and now they were more unsettling than settling. What if we weren’t part of that 70%? The statistics had not worked in our favor before.
I filled out a massive amount of paperwork regarding mine and Rudy’s family history. I highly recommend asking all the questions to your parents and grandparents while you have them. Some of the things they asked if we had… we had to google to even know what they were! Then, the tests started. Blood work like crazy. 9 or 10 tubes one time! Back to the OB-GYN. Back to the specialist. It seemed crazy, but at least it felt like we were doing something. The only thing that ever came back abnormal was an off-the-chart reading of B-12. Who knew you could have too much? Anyways, all other tests for Rudy and I—normal. This is good, and this is bad. Good because—yay! Nothing was found! Bad because—well, why did this horrible thing happen, twice, at the same time?
After we got the “all clear” for the genetic/psychical tests in July, I got to meet Joan. Since we’ve started sharing our story to more people, every person has mentioned how much they LOVE Joan. We are no different! I would get my weekly tube of blood drawn, then be sent in to see Joan. She was so encouraging, and confident. I honestly believe that she had more confidence in my body than I did at the time. She would do her thing, and send me on my way, feeling better about everything than I did when I arrived.
Our first month of being able to try to get pregnant was July of 2016. I had two follicles that were nice and big. My wandering mind went straight to “twins!… we could have twins!” I was prescribed clomid, and waited for the blood work to come back. I loved how Joan would call, with her subtle way of saying, “Looks like you have some homework to do.” August came, and I got my period. I was undoubtedly disappointed. It had only been a month though, what did I expect?
Back to blood work for August, back to clomid. This time I was prescribed a HcG trigger shot to give myself on August 31. (That I gave myself! eek!) More “homework.” I had very specific instructions that I was not to take pregnancy test until 14 days after the shot, or it could produce a false positive.
Wednesday • September 14, 2016
I took a pregnancy test. It was positive. Positive. Of course, all the doubts about a false positive were in my mind. I didn’t want to be excited. The line was so faint. By this point, my mom, Rudy’s parents, and my closest friends knew we were waiting on the 14 days. It was like a shockwave of texts the entire morning… “it’s positive, but it could be a false positive, so don’t get your hopes up. I go for blood work tomorrow morning.”
Thursday • September 15, 2016
I went for blood work at 7am, and had a slew of things, including lunch plans already made for the day. I headed to our meeting space to work on some globes for a client, trying to stay busy, and as focused as possible. Around 10, a call from Joan. “Well, it looks like you’re pregnant!”
I had to call Rudy to tell him the news, as I paced outside of Belle Faire. I couldn’t break my lunch plans, but I couldn’t wait that long to tell him, so I planned to head straight to his work after lunch. I just wanted to give him a hug! I called my mom, and the rest of the crew waiting on the news. All by phone, no videos, no presents, no capturing faces. It was different this time, and we weren’t ready to let our guards down yet.
Week by week, our confidence grew, along with our little #tanbaby. We passed the 6 week, 1 day mark and let out a huge sigh of relief. Then the 8 week mark, which is really big in the specialists’ minds. And, after week nine, we were released, with heavy hearts back to our regular doctor. Don’t get me wrong! I love our doctor. She’s awesome. But, we got so used to seeing our little nugget grow every week, that it was sad and scary to not have the same monitoring.
But, as I sit here finishing up this blog, with a kicking baby girl inside me, I hope a smile can grow on your face, after such a long, and heavy story. We are over half way there now!
(Update 3/8/17: We were only half way there when I first wrote this blog, but now we are in our third trimester!)
“I’m here to tell you that as two people who hate asking for ‘help’, this ‘help’ was the best thing we did in 2016″
So why now…why ever tell our story?
First, I wanted to list a few things that were suggested to me, for anyone who might be desperately searching for something they could “do” to help their own situation. However, we will never know if it’s these things specifically that helped us, or if God just decided to grow this miracle baby.
Belinda, my CNP and friend, suggested I start taking baby aspirin daily. She said a lot of research came out of UAB to show that blood clotting that runs in the family could cause miscarriages. Even if you are not aware (I wasn’t aware of any in my own family), it could help prevent it.
My friend Liana, suggested some Innate Response prenatals. They taste like dirt, and smell worse, but previously, I was taking generic Target prenatals because they were cheap. These Innate Response prenatals are not cheap at all, but I’ve been taking them since I found out I was pregnant. My chiropractor, Dr. Strickland, helped set-up an account for me to be able to get them. I told him just last week that I was thinking about switching back to the others since we were so far along now. He said “I’m not a nutritionist, but I go to a lot of conferences that have nutritionists, and they pretty much say, the stinkier the pill, the more potent its resources are. The more coated they are, the more they are ‘dumbed’ down.” I’m staying on the natural ones, stinky and all.
Speaking of my chiropractor—He’s been there the whole time, and knew about the first and second pregnancies. He’s so kind, and he has daughters of his own, which is easy to tell by his demeanor. After the second loss, he told me about how so many little details have to come together to form a baby in its first few weeks. A tiny little string-like thing, has to fit just right into a little loop to form the spine and brain, and from there things grow. If the little loop isn’t made, then the baby isn’t properly formed. He’s still there, monthly, lightly adjusting as needed, and now helping my ailing hips.
And Huntsville Reproductive Medicine and Joan; they were the calm in storm. Although I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to our doctor, Dr. Davenport, he left the greatest voicemail on my phone that I still have saved. I know that sex, and making or not making babies is a super private matter for most folks. I can’t even believe this blog that boils down to my sex life is now living on the internet, but I’m here to tell you that as two people who hate asking for “help”, this “help” was the best thing we did in 2016. Don’t be afraid to say “something isn’t going right”, or “this is way harder than I thought”. God has given us great people to help guide us through those scary days.
Most of all, I know of people who are still facing infertility and miscarriage heartbreak in silence. Please, please, please, be careful and choosy in your words when talking to anyone about children, having them or not. We dealt silently for two years with the heartbreak, and having people constantly bombard you does not make it easier. I hope anyone out there who is silently struggling knows they have a friend here, who would be happy to lend an ear, or a shoulder.