Sunday, June 16, 2013

THAT Day. The Story of Our Bella Grace

I have never told anyone the entire story of what happened before, I've just never made it through. There are pieces of Bella Grace's birth that I have never even told Ben, it would just be too much for him. It is too much for me. But as I am laying in bed listening to Benny and his Legos in his bedroom, and Max and Lexi quietly argue over what cartoon to turn on...I find myself wondering what she would be like in this mix? Would she be a Lego builder, a quiet reader, or a snuggler with her sister arguing over cartoons. So many times I catch myself thinking about what it would be like with two princesses but then I feel guilty. If I still had Bella would I have Max? I couldn't have gotten pregnant with him at the same time. Bella would have still been in my I have to turn those thoughts off and focus on how amazingly blessed we are to have three healthy, rambunctious, beautiful children. 

So here is the entire story, even the parts that are too scary and keep flashing back through my mind, especially those hopes that getting them out in the open will slow the flashbacks. Even after 5 years I can remember that day vividly, and I find my mind wandering back to it too much. Was there anything I could have done? How could I have let this happen. What on earth did I do to this precious girl? How could I let this happen?

Ben was working in Searcy, AR so that's where we were staying. While there was practically nothing in the town except car dealerships and a Sonic, I was happy to be there because it was only a 3 hour drive home for doctors appointments! Woohoo, typically it was 9-10 hours so three was a welcomed treat! I had gone home on October 11th for my appointment on the 12th. It was a normal appointment I heard my precious girl's heartbeat and everything was normal. I didn't know if she was a girl yet, but I knew she was. I had known from the beginning with all of my children and I am yet to be wrong! We had already picked out a name and a coming home dress. I even remember talking to my doctor about determining the sex at that appointment and she said they could but she would rather wait for the next. I remember I was a little let down but it was okay because Ben wasn't there and I knew he wouldn't want to miss it and because I knew she was a girl. I stayed the night at my parents house that night. My Mom was just feeling better, she had the flu the week before. I remember she was telling me before I left on the 13th that her doctor had called and said her flu was one that would have ruptured her intestines had she not gotten medicine. (If you are sick and throwing up you have the flu in my book, I know this would not be medical term for whatever the bug may be....but I'm the MBA of the family, not the nurse. So I will leave medical terminology to my sister!) 

Before I headed back to Searcy I stopped to grab something to eat for Benny, Lexi, and I and use the restroom. I noticed while I was stopped that I had started spotting. I didn't think much of it at first but as I drove and dwelled on it and the fact that this was the hardest pregnancy I had ever had (I had been to the ER twice for faintness due to my blood pressure suddenly skyrocketing), I decided to call my doctor. When I spoke to the nurse she seemed annoyed that I was calling to ask such a trivial question. "You're spotting? Oh well, that's normal. If it turns bright red is when you worry." First of all what the hell does that mean? 'Bright red'? It's effing red and blood and excreting out of me while I pregnant, show some compassion. Also, this isn't my first pregnancy I already had two children so I have a pretty good idea of what normal is. All of this I thought....none of this I said, go figure. In the end she made me feel stupid for mentioning it so I didn't call again. I pushed it to the back of my mind and spent the next two hours singing "Baby movin', movin' and a groovin'" with Benny and Lexi. (They weren't old enough to tell me to stop like they do now so they just giggled.) 

About the time I drove by the nuclear power plant (in Russellville, which is about the half way mark) my stomach started hurting. All I could think was, "Good job Alicia, pregnancy+3 hour drive+Taco Bell was a bad idea!" Oh well just power through it! Finally I made it to our little travel trailer in the woods, sounds kind of scary doesn't it? Well that's what you get in Searcy, AR! By that time my tummy was really hurting and I couldn't wait for Ben to leave for work! They where working nights and I couldn't go to the bathroom while he was home! (We've now been together 10 years and I still can't do that!) He finally left but by then there was just no way it was happening. So I gave the kids their bath and got them to sleep and snuggled in my bed to watch House. (Side note I am so sad House is over!)  My stomach hurt so bad I couldn't relax, then I just started vomiting. It seemed like it would never end, what a day. At about 8 o'clock Ben called to check on me and I cried into the receiver. He asked if he should come home and I said no because I knew I was just tummy sick from the ride/pregnancy and he would be a little annoyed that he was missing work. Ben to this day cannot handle missing a day of work. My stomach progressively got worse, at one point I had gone into a back bend position to stretch out my stomach it hurt so was like a fat lady exorcism. At 10 I decided enough was enough I needed Ben so I called him and he came. I love him so much for that. 

It was a 45 minute drive from the job site home..during my wait I would have minutes without pain and I kept thinking "Oh my God, he's going to be so mad at me if he gets here and I feel better or I just had to poop!" When he finally got there he didn't want to crawl in bed and cuddle like I wanted to, he made me go to the ER. Great, they're just going to say its gas or something. In that moment I realized what was happening, my intestines were bursting! Damn me for staying the extra night and catching that flu is all that kept going through my mind. Then I realized I hadn't actually said anything to Ben since we had been in the car. So I tried to start a conversation:  "How was worrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrkkkkkk?" I couldn't make it through my sentence before the pain was back, oh and it was so bad. Damn these bursting intestines. "It was good, just try and relax." He said as he reached over and rubbed my shoulder to lean me back. "Okay, is Skipper mad you left? I'm sorry I asked you to." "No he's fine I didn't give him an option. I told him I had to leave my wife was having a miscarriage." The air was sucked out of the truck with that. What? A miscarriage? No, my intestines are bursting, my baby is fine. I tried to explain to him that was not what was happening but he just motioned me back against the seat again and told me to relax. Yeah, so not happening. I was pissed at him for even thinking anything could possibly be wrong with our littlest, beautiful girl. So I just turned up the radio and listened to Taylor sing Love Story. That song was always on at that time, but I didn't mind I still loved it at that point. I softly sang with her (I am sure we sound exactly the same) until we got to the hospital. 

White County Medical Center. I had been to this ER once before for my blood pressure flair/faintness/numbness... It was old and looked dated. My mind flashed back to last time when my Dad had called ahead to make sure the would see me first (because he doesn't over step at all...) which I'm pretty a sure made them call me last. I wasn't looking forward to the long wait in the middle of the night with two babies who had just had a refreshing nap. :/ 

This time was different though. I went up to the dingy window and told the admissions lady why I was there and she made a concerned face then made up for it with a smile that was TOO smiley. I was turning to go sit with Ben and the kids for what I was sure would be 30+hours of waiting when she said, "Come with me Hun." What? Where are we going I need to wait, there was a lot of people waiting before me. Oh well I'm sure I'll wait after triage. 

I went into the dingy little room, and met with the triage nurse. It always surprises me when nurses are men, not because I see nurses as a girl job just because I don't ever see male nurses. Anyway, he took my height, weight, temperature and blood pressure. I bet he hates that job, I would, you spent all that time to get someone's weight... Oh the things that run through your mind when your actively trying not to sing.

 He asked me to sit down and tell him my symptoms but by that time I couldn't. He said it was okay to stand...I liked him slightly more for that. I could feel it coming I was going to have to pull out my exorcism moves again. I remained as still as pain would allow and tried to explain to him the intestine bursting flu. At that point he said, "You're pregnant right? How far along are you?" "14 weeks, but my Mom just got over this flu and I went to visit her..." "Lets just focus on your pregnancy right now and we will move on to that okay?" He was kind and just doing his job so I agreed. "Where is the pain?" "Right here under my belly button." "When did this start?" "Hours ago and it keeps getting worse I'm pretty sure my intestines are about to burst." At this point he looked at me and covered concern with a smile and said let's just go find you a room. Wait what? I have hours of wait before I get the "honor" of finding a room. And where's Ben? I need him. I started turning to go out the door away from him and he quickly "Just come with me, I'll make sure they make it back there with you." So I did. 

We walked through the hallway of the hospital it reminded me of those old horror movies, they really need a remodel. We passed the nurses station, I tried not to look at anyone...making eye contact seemed wrong when my intestines were bursting. I got to the room and paced, he gave me a gown to put on and left to send in the nurse and go back to his little dingy office. She walked in and I just remembered thinking how young she looked, she must have just graduated, she was so pretty though, her shoes had fluorescent yellow on them... I liked those shoes... She asked about the pain and the spotting. Then Ben and the kids came in, finally! I told her about the flu and she gave me the same overly smiley smile and said she was going to get the doctor. They must practice that smile in staff meetings, how annoying. 

The doctor came in and said I heard you're in pain we are going to fix that, get her in for an ultra sound so we can look at the baby and her intestines. Finally someone who understands its not my baby, my baby is fine. And go ahead and cath her so we can check that spotting. As a c-section veteran I know that means I'm about to have a tube and balloon inserted into my bladder. Joy. Ben and the kids stepped outside the curtain and she placed the catheter. She left and they came back in and watched Mickey, who knew Mickey was on at this time of night! Thank God Mickey is on this time of night. After a bit I realized I was leaking. Ewh, leaky catheter, nasty. Then I realized I had felt this kind of welcomed release of pressure only once before when I was in labor with Benny. I knew what happened but I couldn't say it just yet. "Hey Ben why don't you and the kids go to the truck and watch a movie, they're going to have to redo this thing and I'm sure it won't be much longer. I know the kids are super tired. And will you tell the nurse the catheter is leaking on the way out and ask her to come back?" He said yes and I kissed them all and told them we would see them soon! 

As soon as they were out the nurse came back in and took out my catheter and said, "Its not leaking, I'm going to have to check with the doctor but I think your" "I know, my water broke. He didn't need to be in here for this." "IIII see, I will go get the doctor."  And she left. 

It didn't take long after that. I laid there crying, singing Love Story, curling up with pain that was becoming more and more unbearable. I remember tucking the blanket under my toes and using it to pull myself up, then relaxing back down, then one final pull up. I didn't even need the blanket pull this time it was all abs and then a rush of relief. I felt so much better but I was terrified to look under the blanket. But I did. I lifted up my blanket and opened my legs and there she was. My beautiful little girl, head down face down just like they're supposed to come out. But she wasn't moving or crying, or anything. She was much bigger then I had envisioned her roughly the length of my forearm from elbow to hand and so white.  I am so ashamed to this day of how terrified I was of her. You read more and more stories of how babies are being born early and saved by their mothers holding them skin on skin. I wanted to hold her so much but at the same time I was frozen in fear. I stared at her for a minute then closed my legs and looked for a call button. There wasn't one. What kind of shitty hospital was this? Still singing Love Story I looked at her again, this time even more terrified. My baby was dead. My baby was dead and I was basically sitting on her. I was sitting on my dead baby. Where the fuck was the call button? I started screaming. Literally screaming. "My baby is dead!" "My baby is on the bed with me dead!" It took a literal 10 minutes (there was a clock in front of me) for anyone to walk in, is that a common cry out in the ER? I must ask Audra. 

The person who finally walked in was a janitor, taking the trash. I looked at him and yelled "My DEAD little girl is on the bed!" He looked at me puzzled, grabbed my trash bag and closed the curtain. I heard him yell down the hallway, "Um, she's saying her dead baby is on the bed." Fucking Searcy. 

Then the same sweet nurse rushed in with wild eyes and told me lay back and look away. She laid my bed to the reclined position and picked up a giant metal bowl from the counter. She was picking up my dead baby and putting her into a giant cold dog bowl. She needs a blanket. She needs her Mom. Why didn't I pick her up? 

About that time the doctor came in and was looking down there. The nurse said, "Does this look like all of it?" All of it? Yes hooker that's my entire baby. One head, two arms, two hands, two legs, two feet, 10 fingers, 10 toes. I counted. I really hated her at that moment. I laid back. I sang Love Story. The doctor said, "You're really lucky. It was complete so there is no need for a DNC. I'm going to take these tweezers," holding up what looked to be a Carrot Top prop pair of giant purple tweezers, "and try and clean up some of this tissue." Yeah, really lucky, I feel like I just won the lottery. Lets go to Disney World. Asshole. 

 He did his thing with his elephant sized tweezers then I finally went to get an ultrasound. I stared at the screen showing my empty womb, I was searching for Bella. I knew she had to be in there. She couldn't be in the dog bowl in the other room. The ultrasound tech saw me looking and turned the screen away. Bitch. I asked her if it looked normal, "I can't answer your questions Hun." Bitch. I'm not your Hun. Fucking Searcy. "But it looks normal right, my uterus didn't fall out too? It feels like it." "Yes, you have a healthy uterus." Obviously not.

 I laid there, I sang Love Story until I was done and could walk back to my room. 

When I got there I was glad the dog bowl was gone. Though, I still wish I could have held her. Dammit, damn me for being so scared. I could have saved her. I found a way to kill her twice. Dammit Alicia. 

The nurse was already in the room. She asked how I was feeling, I just continued to sing. I couldn't stop, I was obsessed. She offered my pain medicine again, I turned it down earlier, I didn't want anything to hurt Bella. Now I had nothing. I was a shell of myself. I was hollow. I was dead. She gave me a shot in my bum anyway without waiting for my response that would have never come. I was glad, within a few minutes my stomach stopped hurting as much. I couldn't get over how guilty I felt for being relieved by the lack of pain when my daughter was dead, in a dog bowl. I continued singing. 

I finally found words that weren't lyrics and asked if there was anyway to determine what happened, she said no and continued giving me discharge instructions. To be honest I have no idea what she was saying. The doctor came back in to and brought prescriptions and told me to go see my regular doctor tomorrow. Obviously I was never coming back to White County Medical Center. 

The nurse came back and brought me my discharge papers. That was it. I came in with bursting intestines and I left with all my intestines and my baby in a dog bowl in someone's office and a piece of paper describing a miscarriage symptoms. I'm glad they spelled that out, not like I just lived it. 

I walked out of the front door of the hospital, onto the freezing pavement still singing Love Story.

It was 4:14 in the morning on October 14th, 2008 when I climbed back in the truck and helped Ben buckle up Benny and Lexi who were surprisingly still awake. I was dead on the inside but I tried so hard to interact with them. It wasn't their fault. I couldn't stop being their Mommy. But I was dead, no doubt about it. 

We drove and found an all night pharmacy and filled the prescriptions and bought the necessary lady stuff. We sat in the car and cried. I remember saying, "Well I guess we should call our parents since we will be home tomorrow. Will you do it? " And he did. He got out of the car and called my parents and his. I don't know what he said, but he did it. I love him so much for that. 

This makes two early morning phone calls my parents have gotten from me, once to tell them I was pregnant with Benny (at 18 and my sister made me do it then...) and one to tell them their youngest grand baby was dead. 

We drove back to the cabin in the woods, got the kids to sleep again, got in bed and passed out. I remember Ben trying to hold me. I could tell he was scared and devastated but being strong for me. I love him for that. 

The next day our bed was covered in blood, so gross I know. I had passed out and not known it happened. Ben said he knew but it didn't matter because he wasn't letting go. Gross, but I love him so much for never letting go. We striped the bed and headed back to Bentonville to the doctor. I cried in the waiting room looking at all those beautiful round bellies and feeling the increased emptiness of my womb. Damn those perfect round bellies. Dr. Sarver our normal doctor was in a delivery so we saw her then husband Dr. Smith. (He is the same doctor who did my precious c-sections and in the future would be the same doctor who accidentally punched me in the face while trying to un-wedge  Max from my uterus. But that's another story.) He was caring and talked softly. I cried. Ben cried. Dr. Smith left us alone and Ben found a way to make me laugh by looking at the poster and giving himself a breast exam. Have I mentioned how much I love that man? 

We went to my moms house for a while to pick up the kids and eat. I remember passing tissue, it hurt so bad. It was like the whole thing was happening again. When it finally came out it was a huge lump. It truly was as big as my fist and looked like a heart, a real life supporting heart. I'm fairly sure that it was mine.

We left and went back to Searcy, my medicine knocked me out. I am not sure what happened after that. The sheets got washed somehow though.. Still stained with the last remnants of my pregnancy though.  Ben allowed me to keep them on the bed for a month. I just needed them. I needed her. 

 The next day Ben went back to work, damn work ethic. I stopped taking my pain medicine because it made me too groggy to watch Benny and Lexi and honestly because I didn't think I deserved it. I needed to feel the pain and remember what happened. I needed to suffer for whatever I did that somehow hurt my baby. I've never been a smoker or a drinker, I've never done drugs, I suppose I'll never know what I did. God just wanted her to keep him company I suppose, I understand that. I can't wait to snuggle with that princess! 

I am here now, I have three beautiful healthy children that I love more than life itself. I have an amazing husband who loves me and all my imprefectioms...and singing. I am blessed beyond belief. I know this, yet stingily I will always pine for my Bella Grace. I love you my princess, I am so sorry I failed you.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Peaches! Picked Fresh! Frozen and Canned!

As promised...we canned peaches! 

It started last Friday when the kid's decided they wanted to "pick their own food" I took that literally. We headed down to Vanzant Fruit Farms and let them go crazy! This may have been a form of child slavery...but they were excited and we had a lot of fun! :) 

This is the first year in 33 years that Vanzant Fruit Farms in Springdale, AR has opened their orchards to the public for picking. At $.90 a pound and all the peaches delicious you NEED to go get some! Everyone we met there was super nice, and there were a lot of other families there. 

Benny and Lexi had the most fun I think with the "fruit farming" (am I being to liberal with the definition of the 20 or so minutes we spent picking peaches...probably so..but lets just go with it) and Max was not so impressed...after he started sweating he was done. 

They had fun picking....

and picking....

and Spiderman picking...

and picking...until..

The lovely Vanzant's worker showed up on her ATV and helped us carry our mother load of peaches back to where we parked. We picked just over 26 lbs of peaches and paid just $20.66. Awesome. 

Once we got home we had a play date, then dinner really. 

It wasn't until the next day (Saturday night to be exact) the I built up the courage to "process" our haul. 

I learned something very important from this right away....when you pick peaches...and have tiny little hands helping...getting the very low NOT wait a day to process them. They get mushy fast! 

The first thing we did with the peaches I had actually not anticipated doing when we set out for the orchard the day before. But the lovely Vanzant's lady (I really wish I would have gotten her name!) suggested we try freezing them as well! I had to do this because as soon as she got done explaining it Benny looked up with his big doe eyes and said, "We.could.make.SMOOTHIES with those!" He was so excited it was a done deal peaches were being frozen! 

To do this is actually really simple...sounding. 

Step 1) Peal the peaches- The lady said we should be able to just peel the skin back. False. We had to use a vegetable peeler, then a paring knife on the softer spots.

Step 2) Cut peaches in half and remove the seed. (Easy peesy)

Step 3) Place peaches in a bowl and add just enough lime juice to coat the outsides. This stops them from browning and looking yucky!

Step 4) Place them on a cookie sheet, then place the cookie sheet in the freezer. This "flash freezes" the peaches so they can be stored and stacked without squishing!Genius. 

Step 5) Place the flash frozen peach halves into Ziploc bags. (We used quart sized ones.)

Done. Easy right?!

For the rest of the peaches we canned them! I found this "recipe" on Pinterest and used it. This girl, she's a genius. Here is the link ->

I am a VERY inexperienced canner and her instructions were simple enough that even I could follow! 

My bushel and a half of peaches yielded 6 Ziploc bags of frozen peach halves, 6 quarts and 1 pint of canned peaches...then I ran out of clean jars...but! It worked out in my favor! I was able to use the left over peaches to make one of my husband's favorite things...peach cobbler! I used this recipe -> (also found via Pinterest). I followed the recipe exactly except for the peaches I used had already been blanched from the canning process. They were still SUPER juicy and sweet so I did not add any sugar or water to my fruit mixture! So good. And it earned me "Good Wife Points". 

It was a fun project and I think we are going to do it again. We love peaches...almost as much as I love taking pictures of the kids picking peaches.... ♥ 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Story of How He and She Became a We

Just to clue everyone in, not that there is an "everyone" but I remain hopeful, here is is a brief breakdown of life as I see it.

I met Ben when I was almost was instant love. I was a carhop...he was a was meant to be. We went on our first date on December 26, 2002. We were both supposed to be going with other people and we both got ditched because of snow. (God knew what he was doing, I am pretty sure it was planned!) We ended up sitting together and by the time we walked out I had that boy holding my hand!

Flash forward a few years..or four...we found ourselves getting married (Awh!) on March 11, 2006. Also known as the day the storms started for the tornado that tore the roof off of the Bentonville High School Football stadium. And they say rain on your wedding day is lucky!

Then later that same year we welcomed our first bundle of joy! On August 8th, 2006 ( I see you out there adding that up on your fingers...yes I was pregnant when we got married. But, no, sadly it was not a traditional shot gun wedding...we already had a date set we just moved it up from July 22 (the day directly in the middle of our birthdays...yeah silly I know...but we were 18!) to March 11 because I refused to be 9 months pregnant in my wedding 5 months pregnant sufficed!)  Benjamin Chop Jr. was born and golly he was (and still is) a looker. He is so analytical, it is just amazing to sit and watch him figure out how to solve his problem. (It generally stems from needing a roof for a Lego house or sides for a Lincoln Log bridge...) He is so smart, and sweet and snuggly! 

Flash forward again to December 19, 2007 and you will be there for the arrival of our second sweet bundle of joy Alexa Hayden Chop. She is our only girl, I do not think I would change that! I love her, I love how girly she is, I love how she loves to dress up, I love how she poses in the mirror and dances to her favorite songs. But to have another girl? We just simply could not ever afford another Alexa!

Then our final little love arrived on September 22, 2009! Samuel Marshall Chop a.k.a "Max" or "Pookie". He is our last baby. I would love for him to stay little but I do not think he will. He is our tiniest baby (okay he's our shortest...I just don't know how this happened...I am 5'11 and Ben is ALMOST 5'10....okay never mind it's Ben's fault!) I truly would never change it though, what he lacks in height he makes up in personality. This baby, whashooo... he will wear you out with the giggles he induces..some because he is HILARIOUS...some because you cannot believe that just happened...

REWIND..just for a second...In October of 2006...after Benny was born Ben (the big one) started working for a directional drilling company and we all traveled year round. It was AMAZING. We got to see and experience so many different things that otherwise we never would have. (Like what it feels like in Baton Rouge in a travel trailer...when the power goes out for a few days.. yeah.) We traveled with Ben until August of 2011 then he traveled by himself for a few we all live at home. In our tiny house that I love, and refuse to leave until we build OUR house.

I was always a stay at home mom until January of this year when I went to work at my "big kid job". I am a Sales Analyst Assistant (wouldn't it sound so much more grown up if I didn't have to type assistant?! Eh..soon enough!) I have a Bachelors Degree in Business Management and MOST of my MBA with a focus in Marketing. (I can't call it done until I officially graduate in January...but it I am pretty sure it's a done deal...)

Ben does the same type of work he used to do on the road at home..kind of... He is a heavy equipment operator. Or as Benny likes to say it "he has a big hoe at work!"....haha! He is an amazing husband, father, chef, Alicia Calmer Downer (trust me, THAT is an accomplishment), as any husband he is also at times an amazing Alicia Worker Upper (that, not so much of an accomplishment!)

That is it, that is us. And here we go...

Domestication. Take it or Leave it?

I have tried several times over the vast six years of our marriage to do wife like things....they generally fail...they generally MISERABLY fail. This year I have vowed to change that!

So far I have made jelly. I know what you are thinking, "dumb" or "why make jelly when you can buy it in every flavor under the sun generally for about a dollar?!" The answer my friends...because my sister was doing it and I wanted to too. (Isn't that always the case?)

We met up at her house and pulverized some strawberries, added sugar and cooked it until the house was sufficiently a billion degrees. The end result?? Four pints of strawberries, 6 cups of sugar, one packet of pectin cooked and canned into six (yes, SIX) delicious jars of strawberry jam. I am pretty proud of this small accomplishment...I am even more proud that the kids will eat it! I consider this a win!

Next up....Peaches! Canned and frozen!