Welcome to my life.
The life of a Marine's wife,
registered nurse,
dog owner,
wanna-be photographer,
and budding writer.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

If I leave here tomorrow

Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on now
'Cause there's too many places I've got to see

This month, this month has been a hard one. It's probably been the most emotionally trying month I've ever lived through.

I'm not good at grief. Not in the slightest. Every socially awkward, tactless, inappropriately sarcastic and poorly timed joke that I make in real life...is magnified about 1000 fold in times of grief. That's being conservative. I don't know the words to say, and I certainly don't know how to keep my mouth shut (have you ever met me?). I'm told that everyone handles grief in different ways. Some of us, we just don't handle it. We walk away and pretend that it doesn't exist.

But, it does.

I've known Tim Warren for a little over 9 years. I was 19 years old the first time we met in the hallways of South Tower (a dormitory at USC). I was his daughter's Resident Advisor. But, little did any of us know what the future would eventually bring...

There has never been a time that Tim has not been in the background of my relationship with my husband. He is my husband's best friend, his mentor and his father. Tim has been there through everything. He gave a speech on our wedding day, he'd go on to tell me how much he loved me by the campfire at Hagen, he would help us move from place to place, he would eventually cry tears of joy when we announced that we were expecting a son, he would hold my hand and tell me that I was brave and that I was so loved on the day I gave birth...

In the time that I knew Tim, he showed me more love than the father who was given to me by blood. Though I can't claim him as my own father, he is responsible (at least in part) for who I am today. He was tough when he had to be, always kind, always generous and more compassionate than I deserved.

The last thing he said to me was, "Take care of my boys. Love you, girl."

I will.
Love you, too.

To Brooke: 
I know that you aren't over affectionate. We've always shared that. I wish I could tell you that I've lost on an equal level. But, I can't. No one can. You and Tim never had a "conventional father/daughter relationship." But, you had something special. When were looking at old pictures before the funeral, I would often come across photos of you and your dad when you were a little girl. One sticks out: you were newly home from the hospital, you were laying beside your Daddy on the couch and he was staring at you. He was staring at you like that, because he was so proud that you were his. He had the same look of pride on his face in the photo the day you killed your first deer. I saw the look on his face when you graduated college, when you joined Hagen, in every photo I've seen of you two since.  I love that baby picture, because it so accurately portrays every action he's directed toward you in the time we've known each other. I've never known a father to love a daughter so much.

To Kathy: 
I can't imagine the pain you're going through. I want you to know that I've never known a stronger woman that you are. The love that we have for the one who was made for us is visceral, instinctive, whole. The road was long and hard-won, but you found each other. To lose your soulmate is likely the greatest pain anyone could ever experience. You lost your love on your wedding anniversary. At first I thought, how heartbreaking. But then, something truly beautiful was laid on my heart. Tim's life began the day that he married you. He had found his joy and the lover of his soul. He had searched the world over for you and here you have been since. Mother to mother, the love that we hold for our children is immeasurable. But, eventually, they spread their wings and make their own way in the world. When they have gone, the only ones left standing are you and the person you chose to spend your life with. And you were that person, you made him the happiest man alive. And your face, your love is what followed him home. He began and ended with you. With that said, my sincerest prayer for you is that you don't remember the day he died as one of heartbreak. I hope that you chose to remember it as happy as the day you walked to him, when you walked toward forever...because forever...is still ahead of you.

To Timmy:
You are everything you are, because of who you were raised to be. You are strong, tender, gracious, brave, hard-working and such a wonderful person. I pray that you and Henry have a relationship that matches what you and your father had. Over the last 17 days it has occurred to me that our parents are only in our lives for a short time, but the impact they make is so great that it shapes us for our lifetime. In turn, that relationship shapes the relationship we have with our children. I cannot put into words how blessed I would be if our son turned out to be like you and your father. Your Dad truly lives in you. You are the piece of him that is still with us. You are a light and you give strength to those around you. I know you are hurting, I see it everyday. But, know this, your "Old Man" is with you. He will always be...I love you, so very much. I am grateful for all that you are. I will always take care of you. I made a promise to an old man in his boxers on the front porch, after all.

Breathe Easy
Thank you for everything.

Song of the Day:
Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd
--the vinyl edition (Thanks, Tim!)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Once upon a different life

We rode our bikes into the sky
But now we're caught against the tide
Those distant days all flashing by

Today, I cleaned out my closet.
I had clothing in there that I've not worn since my Senior year of high school, when I began to feel like my life was actually my own. I held onto these things because "they were going to come back in style" or "I'm going to be small enough to wear it again." Both of which, have yet to happen. I seriously doubt that either will.

Maybe they will come back in style, but most likely, some trendy hipster will pick them up from Goodwill and wear them better than I ever did. Perhaps, someone will look at those remnants of a time when I was younger and fall in love with that particular item on the same level I did.

Some of these pieces of clothing have been with me since I could fit all my worldly possessions in a small linen closet. Because that's what I did when I was 16 years old. I moved into a home with a family I barely knew, shoved all my things (neatly!) into a linen closet the size of a broom closet and slept on an air mattress in the living room until I woke myself up for school or work the next morning. A cycle that was largely unchanged until a few months later when my now family moved into a new home (that was the equivalent of a mansion in my eyes). This house had a foundation made of bricks, a kitchen with a garbage disposal and a bedroom of my very own.

Then, there were the years of college. Friendships were forged and my worldview expanded on immeasurable levels. My mouth opened...and it never closed. I met my husband and hand in hand...we made a life with each other. A life that was completely and immeasurably different that any life I could have imagined would ever exist. For me. For anyone.

I spent this entire year as a wife
. A normal wife that got wasn't separated from her husband by any geographical distance. I was able to experience the wonder of having a partner to walk this life with. His love is like no other I've ever experienced.

And today, some of the clothing placed into the "donate" box were those that I wore while walking with him in the park. Clothes that I wore on our first date. The dress I wore to my bachelorette party. But, I know how his hand feels in mine. I remember the strangeness of our first date. I remember the music in his car. I remember living off $100 per month and feeling like we were the richest people that ever were...I remember the joy in the prospect of getting to spend my life with him. Then, I remember saying "I do" and being so overwhelmed with emotion...with love.

I spent this entire year as a mother. A job title that I certainly never imagined for myself. It's been an adventure, to say the least. I've learned more about myself in 365 days than I ever imagined was possible. Being a mother changes you on a microscopic level. It's nothing that can be explained, but all mothers can look at each other...and know. We know the beauty, the struggle, the largeness, the smallness, the heartbreak, the panic, the joy and the feeling of looking at your child and just staring at him while he finds joy in the most mundane things. The world and everything in it is just so much more... Every emotion, so much larger.

And eventually, I will purge the clothing that marked motherhood. I will remember my son toddling toward me with a grin that touched both his ears. I will remember snuggling with him on the couch every morning. I will remember the smell of his hair after he gets out the bathtub. I will remember sobbing in the preschool while I wrote the check for his first week of classes. I will remember that he was a journey that I never imagined that I would live. He is part of a life that I never imagined I would live.

But, now my closet is lined with empty hangers. The promise of memories to be made...

During my existential crisis of throwing out the material that tied me to my past, I remembered a party from my college days...and 80's themed party to be exact. I remember going to Goodwill and picking out the most obviously 80's outfit you can imagine. Think big gold buttons, shoulder pads, blue eyeshadow and larger than life patterns. Then, I remembered that there was some woman, somewhere in the world who also wore that outfit. Maybe she was on her first job interview. Maybe she was a business lady who dropped her little son off at daycare. Maybe she was also in college and wore it to her first day of class. Maybe it's part of the wardrobe that she fit into a linen closet.

So, here's to the journey! Here's to the lives we build. Here's to coming up and moving on. Here's to to a New Year full of new possibilities, new adventures, new heartbreaks, and more joy than we could ever imagine.

With love, Happy New Year!

Song of the Day:
Hold Back The River by James Bay

Monday, September 28, 2015

Hope that you spend your days, but they all add up

And when the sun goes down, hope you raise your cup
Oh, I wish that I could witness all your joy, and all your pain
But until my moment comes, I'll say
I did it all

How many cliches can I fit into a single blog post?
You are beautiful.
You are precious.
You are enamoring.
You are wonderful.
You are silly.
You are smart.
You are joy.
You are an adventure.

There are so many things I could describe you as. You have taught me true joy and the definition of love at first sight.

Several weeks before your birth, I remember posting and article saying that I would always love your Daddy first. And, that remains true. In the back of my mind I know that one day you will have to leave me and it will be only he and I again. Your daddy is amazing. He is everything I ever wished for in a father. You won't remember any of the next few years when you get older, but I will always remember the way he looks at you. The way he looks at me. I will remember his voice as he sings to you in the bath tub. I will remember how you take off in his direction every time he comes home from work. I will remember you playing with the sleeves of his uniform. Every day I fall more deeply in love with him as I watch him fall more deeply in love with you.

You have taught me so much in the span of a year. I cannot even begin to describe how you've changed my outlook on everything. Some days I am overwhelmed, sure that I'm somehow failing in this job that God has entrusted me with. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be doing, apart from loving you. Apart from loving you, it doesn't matter what I'm doing. It has been the joy of my life to get to know you, to hold you for a year and to prepare (if the Lord wills it) for the years to come.

I've read many descriptions of the meaning of "love at first sight" and the definition of "loving your child", but nothing quite fits.

I was sitting in the car with you and your Daddy the other day, when it hit me:

People often tell you that your heart is what feels love. They tell you that it's your heart that breaks. You can actually feel it when it happens. I know otherwise, I know it's your brain that feels these things. I know that little messages get passed along to your heart that give it this physical sensation. But, I digress.

When I fell in love with your Daddy, it was a progression. In my heart, was a spot that I always knew was there waiting on the right person and the right circumstances. I knew that my heart was capable of loving someone the way I love your Daddy. When I first met him, I didn't know that one day I would marry him. I had no clue that I would grow with him, follow him all over the country and eventually we'd have you. But, I knew that eventually that spot could be filled.

But with you,

With you. 

With you... there was an instant rush of indescribable, aching, pure love. In my heart, there was a cavern that I never knew was there. The door was closed until the moment I laid my eyes on you. I had no time to nurture it, no time to know you, no time to grow with you or learn you. But, in an instant, everything in the world became big and beautiful. The sun was brighter, laughter held more joy and every emotion I ever had became so all encompassing I could barely contain it. All it took was a second. One beautiful second. I had never heard your voice, I hadn't even looked into your eyes. But, there you were and my heart went with you.

In a week we will celebrate a year of having you. It's been almost a year since the first time we met. I can barely believe it. I can hardly contemplate that I've not know you my entire life.

I am so glad you're here.

You are beautiful.
You are precious.
You are enamoring.
You are wonderful.
You are silly.
You are smart.
You are joy.
You are an adventure. 
You are so loved.

Happy Birthday, little prince

Song of the Day:
I Lived by OneRepublic

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Eulogy for My Mother.

There are many things I SHOULD be doing right now. I've got loads of laundry to finish, beds to make, a shower to take, photos to edit, earrings to piece together, and the list continues...

My time is limited as Henry naps during the day. As he gets older, the naps become shorter. The more he learns, the more I want to be present. With every breath he takes, I want him to breathe easy in the knowledge that his mother loves him, his mother dies to her identity in little ways every day so that he can retain the smile on his face. I don't say "die to myself" to make myself a martyr for the cause of raising my child, no, I mean it in the most loving way possible. In a biological, polarizing, beautiful way. A feeling that is truly only "felt."

Which is why I have do this. Which is why I have to eulogize my mother.

When I found out that my biological mother had died, I was fast asleep in my bed. Apparently my sister, my step-father and my grandfather had all tried calling me. Instead, I woke up to the gentle pressure of my husband's hand on my shoulder. A gentle rub of the hand. I opened my eyes in the groggy 12 am stupor of someone who had not had a good night's sleep in 6+ weeks. When I realize that Timmy is home, I immediately start to worry. He's got overnight duty. He's not supposed to be here. My eyes dart to the baby monitor on my nightstand, the one I put there even though my 6 week old child is sleeping in the very next room. I can hear every sound he makes. I am immediately relieved when I note that he is breathing rhythmically, undisturbed in his swaddle.

Then, Timmy grabs my hand and says, "It's your mom." I immediately know what's coming next. I look at my husband and say, "She's dead." He somberly shakes his head. I sit in silence. I knew this day was coming. I quoted that she would be dead before the end of the year. The rightness of my words were unsurprising, yet cut like a knife all the same.

I begin making all the necessary phone calls to my immediate and extended family. The story becomes clear:

Let's get this out of the way. Cause of death:

My mother had taken a cocktail of medication that was prescribed to her. She had accidentally overdosed between the hours of 2000-2200. My mother had taken a handful of Xanax, Soma and Oxycodone. She did this all the time, without mortal consequences. The difference, this time, was the newly prescribed Fentanyl patch. A patch that was prescribed to her even though she had a history of accidental overdose, of suicidal ideation and narcotic drug abuse. With this extra added medication, she took her last breath two days before Thanksgiving 2014. She was 44.

The cause of death listed on the program for her funeral states: "an illness." An illness? Is that all this boils down to? The summary of her life was this one line. This one line, The Shepherd's Psalm and a summary of those that she left behind...

There on the pulpit, was a preacher I had never met who kept calling her "Melissa." She hated being called that. There my mother lay in a pink open casket. Donned in a Gamecock t-shirt and jeans, her arms crossed at her chest, her body in the position that it would forever be in.

There were a total of 10 people in the crowd that I knew personally.

This wasn't right.

So, here I am. I'm going to eulogize my mother.

Bobbie Vause

Melissa Bobbie Vause. Melissa? Who's Melissa? For as long as I've known my mother, which has been my entire life, I have never known her to be called Melissa. She has cringed at the thought. Don't even go there with "Missy" unless you have a death wish. My mom told me that when she was born her name was meant to be "Bobbie Jo." Apparently, my grandmother (Betty Jo) had had a lingering wish to name her daughters after the members of a TV show called "Petticoat Junction." In a decision of disdain my grandfather said that she was not allowed to do that, so they settled on the name "Melissa Bobbie Lawrimore."

But, like most good stories, this was not the end. My grandmother, in her had-just-given-birth-to-her-fifth-child-in-the-squatting-position-all-natural stupor, misspelled "Melissa" as "Melissia." This was often a story that warranted big, whooping laughs from my mother. She thought it was absolutely hilarious and felt especially vindicated that she would be forever known as "Bobbie" and still had the chance of picking on the unfortunate decision of her parents NOT to go with the Petticoat Junction bit.

We are here today to remember the life of my mother, of Bobbie. As we sit in this room, I know we are all thinking the same thing. We are thinking about the actions that led to this woman's untimely and wholly unnecessary death. The issue is at the tip of our tongues. The issues we have judged her on, that we still judge her on. We've heard the whispers to one another of the decisions that have led her here. We tip-toe around them, because in death, they have become taboo.

Let's clear the air. My mother was an addict. As the program mentioned, she died of an illness. Truer words have never been spoken. She did not die a "distinguished death" from cancer or some other physical malignancy. She never had a "Pray for Bobbie" Facebook group dedicated in her honor. She never had a "Go Fund Me Account" for rehab expenses. She was often the butt of snide comments, of shame, of degradation and humiliation for her affliction. I would absolutely be lying if I stood before you today and did not admit to my part of her shame. It is hard to see mental illness for what it truly is. It is difficult to remove yourself from the pain that an addict can inflict on you.

My mother died of mental illness. The illness that no one wants to talk about. The selfish illness of addiction, depression, of codependency, of low self-worth, internal struggle, poor decision making, and a broken heart. The consequences of which led her down a path of destruction. A path with many victims, a path that she was ashamed of, one that she could not talk about to anyone. A path she could not beat in life. I mention this, not to condemn her for the illness in which she suffered, but to bring awareness to the fact that it is real. We should talk about it. We should absolutely talk about it. Not behind closed doors, not in whispers and not in condemnation. We are never fully aware of the struggles that another person must face, and my mother's struggles were not few and they were not pretty. When we accept that fact that she had a quantifiable and legit illness, we can begin to accept reality. We can begin to move on. We can begin to change, to help those who struggle around us. This is not by enabling them or contributing to their illness. But, it is by showing compassion, understanding and love. Perhaps that may have changed the outcome of her death. Perhaps not. I just know that I, personally, would have felt better if I would have given her a hand to hold when she was hurting.

But, as previously mentioned, I am not here to condemn my mother. I am here to speak on her life. The good parts. The good memories. I see my sister and my brother in the front pew. They know that our lives weren't the easiest. Growing up with two addicted parents does not "Disney World memories" make. But, I would be lying if I said it was bad all the time.

I've been keeping a journal since I learned of my mother's death. My hope is to fill it with memories that were good. I often remember them in the stupor of dreams or as I'm filling my day with one task or another. Isn't it funny how things come back to you?

My fondest memory of my mother begins with us lying on her bed. She has a cigarette in the ash tray beside her and a tall glass of Dr. Pepper beside it. No one in the house was allowed to touch that darned Dr. Pepper or she would kill you while you slept. Seriously, if you took my mother's drinks...you would never hear the end of it. There are numerous people here today that can attest to that. Anyway, my mother loved to budget. There could literally be $5 in the bank and she would budget that $5 until she had saved $20. Not kidding. She rarely (okay, never) stayed on budget, but she liked to do it anyway. When she got tired of adding and subtracting numbers she would move on to plotting schematics for her future home. These homes were often grand and charming. Sometimes, they'd have two living rooms and a fireplace. I couldn't imagine what kind of life that would be! We had grown up in a two bedroom trailer. My mom would then look at me and say, "Ashley, this is going to be YOUR room!" I would look at the page in awe and say, "It's so big! I'll have my own bathroom, too?" To which she would reply, "Duh!" We would talk about this house for what seemed like hours. We would talk about the landscaping and the maid. About our in-ground pool with a diving board and all the friends we would invite over for sleep overs. Then, she would close her book and I'd be on to other things.

My mother was a dreamer. She had the largest dreams I've ever encountered. She never let the fact that her dreams were often unattainable hold her back from dreaming the dream in the first place. She had a great way of getting those around her caught up in the same dreams. 

When I turned 16, my parents took my brother and sister and moved to Florida. I stayed behind to finish my Junior year of high school. I lived with my grandma for half of 2004. When the summer came to an end, I received an offer to be taken in by a family who loved me, a family that nurtured and encouraged my success. My mother would often tell me of the struggle she had in convincing my father to "just let her go without a fight." My mother boasted about how she got him to concede that I was better off elsewhere. She would often brag, "I love you so much that I let you go. That was the hardest thing I ever did." 

I never understood the depth of those emotions until I had a child of my own. My Henry is 7 weeks old. The love I feel for him is without comprehension. Without depth. Without reason. In 7 short weeks my view on much and nothing has changed. There is a magnet in my soul that gravitates toward him. He is the sun and I am the Earth. A bond, that if ever broken, threatens to disintegrate my life. "Letting him go" will not be an easy feat of heart. Painfully, I imagine him going off to college or getting married or whatever his future adventures entail. 

When I think of the inner turmoil my mother must have faced when she "let me go," I think of it with a whole new heart. In my mother's struggles she did not often do the best parenting job. The feeling of being discarded when she "let me go" is something that I struggled with for years. Until very recently. With this new set of eyes, I realize that my mother loved me. She never stopped loving me. There is no way that a mother could ever stop loving the child she bore. It's not physically possible. The heart of a mother is all encompassing and passionate. No matter how often you hear mothers say, "If my child is this or that, I'm going to disown them..." I'm here to tell you that it is not physically or emotionally possible to reject your child. It cannot be done.

My mother loved those around her fiercely, often to a fault. When I had my wisdom teeth out, she wanted to be there. When my grandfather was sick, she wanted to be there. When I brought Henry home, she wanted to be there. When my brother had broken her heart numerous time, she still protected him. Ever on his side. When my sister struggled, she wanted to be there. When my father left, she loved him still. She took friends back who didn't deserve her friendship. She loved animals immediately. She loved with her whole heart.

Let's remember Bobbie for the fierce love the the Carolina Gamecocks, Mellow Yellow, Neutrogena make-up, tons of fabric softener, her love of budgeting and drawing big houses, her pride in being a grandmother, the fact that she could have probably committed a perfect murder given her extensive knowledge of forensics and "true crime" television shows, her love of Count Chocula cereal and the fact that any gift anyone got her was "the best gift ever." Let's remember her as a dreamer and a lover. 

Look back on good memories with fondness. Uplift those around you. Be mindful of the struggles that other's face. Love one another as fiercely as Bobbie loved those around her. 

Thank you.

Other people would share their memories.

Her funeral program would include this link: www.nami.org

Then, my brother would play "To Be With You" on the guitar. 

My sister would lay the first rose on her casket. 

The pallbearers would take her to her final resting place. 

She would be surrounded with flowers.  

Her tombstone would read: "A dreamer. A lover. A soul that is finally free."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Stand Up Little Girl

A broken heart can't be that bad
When it's through, it's through
Fate will twist the both of you
So come on baby, come on over
Let me be the one to show you

It's been 4.5 months since Henry arrived. Did I have a life before then? But, maybe my life really became different about 8 months ago, when we moved to Beaufort?

It's crazy the change a year can make.

This time last year, I was newly pregnant and scared out of my mind. I was a registered nurse in the second busiest emergency room in South Carolina. I lived alone (with the dogs) in a home that Tomato and I owned. I lived in the same town as my family. Though we never had a good relationship, my mother was still alive. I was hitting the gym as much as I breathed oxygen. I was 26 years old.

Fast forward a year, I have a son. A SON. Tomato and I live under the same roof, in the same town. We live in Beaufort. The closest family is 2 hours away (I realize that it could be worse). I'm a stay-at-home mother. My body is broken and scarred, having been stretched to capacity and much worse. I have lingering heartburn and leaky boobs. I realize that what I thought my life would be, will never be... I am 27 years old.

...and I am the happiest I have ever been in my life.

Transitioning to stay-at-home mother has not been without it's difficulties. Often, I find myself pondering my purpose. Often, I second guess myself. Often, I mourn the loss of my perceived dreams. I submerge myself in an unrealistic amount of "hobbies" and "functions" just to feel like I am making use of my life. To stay relevant and appreciated.

And then...

I look at our home and realize how far we've come. How we've matured and grown. How responsibility was planted and nurtured. I see our branches in the photos on the walls, the toys that are strewn around and the dinner cooking on the stove. I feel the love we have for each other, not because of the things that surround us, but because of the journey we've walked together. I pray that God never allows me to forget the warmth of this security, of this feeling.

I look at my body and realize that it's scarred, but it's used. I wasn't intended to chase youth until the day that I die. I am intended to live. I am intended to use this body to it's potential. To use it up until I have stretch marks and laugh lines, crows feet and grey hair. A map of my life is written all over me and it's nothing I should be ashamed of. I pray that God never allows me to forget what my body is capable of. That every line is a tattoo that tells my story.

Then, I look down at my baby. He may be nursing, playing, smiling at me, laughing or looking at me as if I'm the most magnificent person he's ever laid eyes on. I kiss his tiny, stubby little fingers and pray that God will never allow me to forget the feeling of his soft, wrinkly skin on my lips.

Then, as I lay next to my husband before going to sleep for the night, we reminisce on the days that aren't too far gone. We agree that life is better now. Then, he kisses me and I pray that God never allows me to forget this simple moment, the scratch of his face, the warmth of his hand in mine and the graciousness of his heart. The promise that there is better yet, to come.

The only thing I want when I'm old and used up, is to remember these moments. Because, no matter what I was before these moments, THESE moments are the best of my life. These moments bring promise and fulfillment. There is nothing that can fulfill me more than these seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years...

And that's all I have to say today.
Love your journey.
No matter where you are, no matter what it entails.

Song of the Day:
To Be With You by Mr. Big
(my mother's favorite song)

Friday, January 9, 2015

I dont exist

if I don't have her.
The sun doesn't shine, 
the world doesn't turn. 

This has been the most difficult and most spectacular 3 months of my existence. The arrival of Henry has brought us so much fulfillment and joy. I get that it's cliche, but it's so true. I *almost* forget how difficult pregnancy was. Almost.

It's been weird for me to learn how to manage this stay-at-home-mother thing. It's a lot harder than it looks! I have one child and I can't imagine those mothers who have more than that. Seriously, how do ya'll get anything done? Ever. Today, I was joking with my hair stylist about my constant use of dry shampoo. I didn't even know there was such a thing as dry shampoo until I became a mother. Seriously, did ya'll know this product existed? It's amazing. I can go like three days without washing my hair. Don't worry! I wash my body...maybe. Did I shower today? I'll go slap on an extra layer of deodorant. You know, just in case.

But, let me tell you a little about Henry...

Henry is a ginger. He's approximately 26 inches tall (that's 99th percentile for height!). He weighs almost 14 pounds and is the most joyful, beautiful boy. I don't even know how I got to be so blessed with such a sweet baby. I was sure that God would get me for privately calling so many babies weird looking. I mean, a lot of babies are weird looking right?

Maybe ya'll think my kid is weird looking?  Maybe he is. But, you couldn't tell me that. He's perfect.

Everyday I fall more in love with him. It wasn't easy at first, but now that he's beginning to develop a personality? Game on.

Here's what Henry does for me:

I am not a joyful person by nature. I tend to be extremely pessimistic. I'm a worrier. I'm incredibly sarcastic. I talk too much. I am selfish. I talk over people, I get excited. I interrupt. I sometimes say hurtful things without realizing they were actually hurtful. I'm socially awkward. I think everyone is out to get me. I'm sure that people actually hate me behind my back. I've got crazy anxiety. I'm a neat freak, who freezes (or has an emotional breakdown) when my environment cannot be controlled (or gets out of hand). I am critical. I am desperate. I am eager to please others. I'm a germaphobe. I live in a consistent state of stress (my husband says I can't function any other way). I always feel like a burden.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

But here's the thing. To Henry, I am perfect. I am beautiful. I am giving and selfless. I am the source of his comfort and nourishment. I am funny. I give him my undivided attention. I am charismatic. He loves me when he can't see me. I am eager to love him. I want to be a happier person, because he will be a happier person. I always let him talk to me...and I listen. I am care-free. I am positive. I build him up. Seeing him smile is like looking at heaven. I. Am. Joyful.

God knows what He is doing. Henry was an actual missing piece of my life, of my personality, of my spirit. He is strong in the things that I lack. He is actually making me a better human being, much like his father has. I can't even define the husband that Timmy is (he is the most wonderful person I've ever known and probably will ever know).

I have often found myself grieving over my lost childhood. As each day passes, however, I grieve less, because I can give him the childhood he deserves. You know, if the Lord's willin' and the creek don't rise.

I know that one day, he'll have a family of his own. And, no, my existence doesn't revolve around him. I tell you one thing, though, I am better to have known him. I am better that his spirit touched mine. He is medicine for the heart.

I cannot even believe there was a time that I couldn't connect with him. I hope that if you haven't met him yet, that one day you will.

Today, at the grocery store there was a little old lady. She looked at Henry and commented on how observant he is (he has been the most alert baby I've ever seen). She told me that he is an old soul, and he truly is. He is warm and pensive. He is concerned and talkative. He is content to watch me cook or do dishes.

I can't say enough about him. I'm sure other mothers feel the same about their children. But, Henry is mine...and this is my blog. Haha.

I can't wait to explore and learn and have many many adventures with this little man.

To say that fatherhood has changed Tomato, is a gross understatement. He loves this kid. He reads to him every night, changes all his diapers (when he is home), sneaks away to come home to kiss him on the forehead. He discusses hunting and current events. He is wonderful.

Henry is so lucky to have Tomato as his father.

Tomato has been working hard here on Parris Island. We've been seeing less of him due to recruit training, but we take what we can. We are blessed that he is such a hard-worker. That he loves us so much.


Zero loves Henry, he bathes his head quite regularly and lays on his blankets whenever I forget to take them off the floor. If the baby cries, he becomes concerned. He can often be found checking on the baby or lying on the floor in his room in the middle of the night.

Alpha, is the jealous type. If I'm playing with the baby on the floor, he promptly inserts himself between us an turns his belly toward me. It's pretty funny. He's coming around. Haha.

Song of the Day:
Steal my Girl by One Direction
(Henry's favorite song. Haha.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


dear heart.

For a long time I have struggled with wether or not to write this. When I went into the birth of my first born child, I had no expectations. I understand this is the best way to enter these situations--without expectations. If I'm honest with myself and with everyone else...that is the one thing that I have been most thankful for throughout the birth experience and in coming to terms with it after the fact. It's what I fall back on, because I can't imagine the place I would have been in had it been the other way.

I would also like to add that at 2 months post partum, I am in a much better place. Hormonally, I'm more balanced and life is so good with my precious ginger muffin (he'll hate me for that later). 


October 6, 2014: 
The one shining thing that I will remember about this day, is that it was Moe Monday. Moe Monday is Tomato's absolute favorite day of the week. You can get a burrito (of any size), chips, salsa and a drink for $5.99. We sat in the back of the restaurant because it's always so busy on Moe Monday. We talked in length about the the next day being Henry's due date and the fact that I had felt absolutely NO contractions or signs of them my entire pregnancy. I was absolutely sure that I was going to be one of these women who had to wait a year after the due date to have the kid. I was miserable, but glad to be sharing whatever time was left with my husband. After dinner, we went to Wal-Mart and the Dollar Tree because I was in search of planner goodies, because I love my planner. By the time we got to the Dollar Tree I was starting to feel some aching in my back, nothing that really jumped out and said "Hey! You're going to have a baby soon!"

I will never forget, Timmy looked at me and said: "I think it's going to be tonight."

October 7, 2014

0030: I have been binging on Netflix, specifically Pretty Little Liars (ya'll Ezra is a super creep. All I'm saying is that he PURSUED a 15 year old girl and nobody thought that was weird?!). Tomato went to bed hours before that, because like most of the working world--he had to work the next morning. Anyway, I got up to pee in the middle of an episode. I do my thang, go to wipe and I can't stop peeing. I finally finish...stand up...and I'm peeing again. So, I look at the scene of the crime. I had lost my mucous plug (I'll spare you the details, trust me on that one) and I was leaking. I could feel my breathing get faster. Holy water broke and I still didn't have any clue who "A" was.

I proceed to waddle down the hallway like a pregnant ninja in hopes that I won't mess up the carpet. I get to the master bathroom, find a pad (yes, birth is gross and it just gets worse), strap that thing on and start yelling for Tomato. We get dressed and I begin shaking like a leaf. It's time. Holy crapoley. I'm going to be a mother. Surreal doesn't even begin to describe how I felt at that moment. Our last few moments as a married couple were spent packing the car with hospital bags. The entire way to the hospital my husband held my hand and smiled at me. There wasn't a cloud in the sky.

0100: We arrive to the hospital. Tomato parks at what we think is the entrance. We get to the door and it won't open. So, we go the the next entrance down...which also doesn't open. Finally we get to the ER entrance (thankfully the door opens) where a nice security guard rolls me back to the labor triage area. At this point, we're laughing and carrying on at the absurdity of my being in labor and not being able to enter the hospital.

When we get to triage we meet one of the nurses, she looks at me skeptically, obviously sizing me up. She doesn't think my water really broke. She asks me to stand up, go in the bathroom, get naked (including my underwear and the dam holding in my child's amniotic fluid) and put on a gown that shows off my hiney. She asks me to pee in a cup and then call her in there. I do as I'm told (with the exception of the pee in the cup part...because all that came out was baby juice) and call her into the bathroom where I'm standing very vulnerably while she attempts to get a drop of amniotic fluid on a litmus paper to prove to herself that I am ignorant and don't know what "water breaking" actually is. Finally, I ask her to turn around and look at the cup I peed in. She does. Then, I'm back in the chair and into the L&D suite. I told her.

When we get there, we are asked the battery of questions to include the name of my first pet and what I had for breakfast 5 years ago to the day. Kidding...maybe. I am silently judged for not taking any birthing classes or picking a pediatrician before coming to the hospital (the military assigns our pediatrician). I have no idea how anyone ever had a baby before birthing classes. By this time, I'm already feeling like a mother failure. Then, I made the cardinal mistake of all mistakes. I told this woman that I was a nurse. NEVER. DO. THAT. The reply I got was something like this, "Well I hope you don't think you can touch my machines or your IV fluids." Ummmmmm. What?! I promptly reply that I don't know how to do her job, so no worries on that.

She then "checks" me and I'm at 2cm. I don't feel any contractions at this point. She tells me to get some rest. Timmy makes necessary phone calls to parents...and we settle down. No sleeping was to be had, mind you. I'm about to give birth to a child, you know.

0800: The morning shift RN comes in. She is awesome. I love her. She is not as judgy as the night shift nurse.

This is the first time I see a physician. I have been at the hospital for 7 hours. My contractions aren't bad, mild really. Kind of like menstrual cramps. The doctor wants to check me. OK. 

HOLY HELL FIRE. I'm sitting in the bed, preparing to be checked and the pain of a thousand suns swells inside me as he is "checking" me. I'm writhing. This is unbelievable. 

He tells me, "I can't really tell how far you've progressed because you're squirming all over the place." 
Well, I'm sorry sir.
"Maybe this will be better after your epidural. I believe you're at 2 cm, but I can't be sure."
"Well, when should I get the epidural?"
"I'm going to start you on pitocin. Your water broke at home, so we want to deliver the baby as quickly as possible (within 24 hours) to reduce the risk for infection. So, go ahead and get the epidural."
"I mean, it's not too soon?"

10 minutes later, there is an anesthesiologist at my bedside. 

That was fast.

0900: The anesthesiologist preps me. They kick my husband out. I'm deathly afraid of needles. This guy is going to paralyze me. I just know it.

"Stay really still."
"Yes sir (you should be really polite to physicians with long needles who presume to penetrate your spine)."
"I'm going to stick now. You'll feel some pressure."
"Yes sir."
"Okay, I'm finishing up back here."
"Yes sir."
"What, what's happening?" *wiggles toes, considers sobbing*
"Oh, nothing. I just got a page to surgery. Some guy swallowed at toothpick."
*waves of relief flood my brain.*

The nurse is looking at this man like he's done lost his mind. He leaves the room. Nurse profusely apologizes. I consider crying again.

"Please just get my husband back in here, okay?"
"Yes ma'am."

1000: I am the proud owner of a patient controlled epidural at only 2 cm dilated. Yes, just 2 cm. I'm stewing in the happiness that I just may get through labor without ever feeling a single painful contraction.

I sit in bed, I chat with family. Tomato is making the round, he eats breakfast. I get ice chips. I'm watching the contractions on the toco-monitor and I'm loving life. I'm only mildly anxious at this point because of all the baby things surrounding me.

Then, the baby's heart rate keeps dipping into the 90's- low 100's. The nurse asks me to turn this position...then minutes later...to another position. Then, they adjust and readjust the monitor. At this point, I'm getting a wee concerned that something isn't right. The keep assuring me that he isn't showing decelerations (which are bad) and that his heart looks good, that it's just slow. So, they lay me on my back (have you ever been 10 months pregnant and laid on your back?! No bueno. It sucks. It's stupid. I can't breathe.). The baby likes me on my back. On my back I stay for the rest of labor.

Then, a whole lot of nothing happens. I laugh with family members and watch "How I Met Your Mother" reruns. All is right in the world. I feel okay. I'm happy. My baby will be here soon.

1700: What is this discomfort I'm having to the left side of my body? Holy shitoke mushrooms, I'm having contractions. I can feel them. What is going on?

*Pushes button for more epidural juice and continues on with life*

OUCH. *pushes nurse button*
"Yes ma'am."
"I'm feeling contractions."
"Just push your button."
"I have."
"Okay, the nurse will be right in."

Nurse comes in.

"Let's just switch positions again. Sometimes the medication settles strangely."


The nurse comes back in. She puts a page in to anesthesia. She agrees that something doesn't seem right.

1815: A medium sized man comes strolling in my room. He's wearing jeans and open-toe sandals. He has two vials in his hand. He tells me that he is the on-call anesthesiologist. He asks me my name. I tell him. I want the vials.

He gives me mystery medication. After the medication is administered he tells me that he's just given me fentanyl and lidocaine.

Immediate relief rolls over me.

He then informs me that I am becoming tolerant of the epidural and that I should have not gotten it so soon.


1845: The pain returns with the magnitude of a million zillion suns. I have never experienced anything like this. My body is crushing. Crushing. Why has no one checked me? I must be dialated to 20 cm by now.

The nurse checks me...I'm at 8cm. Where is my doctor?

The nurse calls the anesthesiologist back.
He is wearing scrubs this time.

He gives me another dose of medication.

"I'm not coming in here every hour to give you this medication."
"But, I'm in labor. I'm 8 cm. It can't be too much longer now."
"We'll have to reevaluate this situation if you call me again."
"Yes sir."

1915: The judgey nurse is back. I beg my day shift nurse to stay. Pain. She promises she'll be back tomorrow to meet the baby.

The contractions are back. I'm pushing the dang button with every breath I take. Pain. Crushing me. I remember holding Tomato's hand and thinking that I was probably pulverizing it. Ms. Linda is at my back rubbing it, trying to give me some relief. I am in agony.

The anesthesiologist hasn't come back. OR the nurse hasn't paged him. I'm not sure which.

Ms. Linda gets mad and wants to cuss everyone out. Pain. Apparently, I'm the only one in labor on the whole floor. There are no other patients. Just me.

Where is my doctor? So much pain. Why is my body betraying me? Where is my doctor?

2030: The doctor finally makes his appearance. He checks me. I'm in agony. He asked me what happened with the epidural. I told him that the anesthesiologist said he wouldn't give me anymore medication. My doctor informs me that he will have a "chat" with him about that. I agree with that plan.

I am 9cm. I'm happy, because I know that it must be almost over now. Soon, I'll be holding my son and this will have been just a memory.

2045: My doctor is back. He asks everyone in the room to leave.

What is wrong? Is something wrong with my baby? I know his heart is still slow. Every bad thought I have ever had could not equate to that moment. I made a deal with God that he could give me as much pain as He would like, just let my baby be okay.

He sits down. Timmy and I are waiting for what he might say.

"Well the nurse said you were at 8 cm blah blah hours ago. Blah, blah, blah curve, blah blah blah. Your water broke, blah blah blah. His head is blah blah blah. Can't pass, blah blah blah. The safest route...blah blah blah. C-section."
"Whatever needs to happen to make sure he's safe!"
"Well we'll prep the team then."

I just remember looking at Timmy and thinking at that moment that I must have some how failed my child. I never had a plan, but I guess I just thought that everything would end up normally and perfect. That I would be able to have him naturally. That my husband would cut the cord and that we would be together as a family in the moments after his birth. No one there but the three of us (and the medical team) just learning each other and being together.

I'm a ball of emotion. I don't understand what's happening because I am in so much pain. They took the epidural completely out. The pitocin is still going. Why am I still on pitocin if I'm having a c-section? I bring this to the nurse's attention and she takes it down about 15 minutes later. I'm sobbing.

I ask Timmy to go to the waiting area to tell everyone. I can't do it. I can't say the words. I have no idea why I'm so devastated. I didn't have a plan. I'm just so tired and in so much agony.

I just kept apologizing to everyone.
I'm told to stop apologizing. I can't help it.
I'm sorry. I don't know any other feeling besides sorrow and pain in that moment.

2115: We are wheeled to the operating room. The whole way there I'm feeling a burning agonizing pain in my nether parts. I have never felt anything like it before. I feel like I'm going to go number 2 all over the place. I tell the nurse. She tells me that it's just his head bumping against my pelvis. That his head can't pass.

"Yes ma'am. I'm sorry."

They make Tomato stay and sit in a chair while the prep me.

I feel like they throw me onto the surgery table. The team forces me to a sitting position. The CRNA sticks me in the back again with a very large needle. I'm so weak that I can't hold myself up. I'm going to be paralyzed. I swear it. I don't even care.

The doctor passes me. Joking in an attempt to find some relief, I jest:

"You know what I want more than anything when this is over?"
"What's that?"
"A Diet Coke."
"Really? I thought you would want your baby."
"I'm sorry. Yes sir."

They lay me back down. The nurse uses a doppler to try to locate the baby's hearbeat. It takes a long time. I feel like it's been a long time. She found it. He's okay.

They start cleaning my belly and hanging drapes. WAIT. I feel the wet. I feel the cold. I can feel everything. I begin crying again.

"I can feel everything."
"Just give it a minute."
"I'm sorry."
"Quit apologizing."
"Yes ma'am. I'm sorry."
They're still cleaning me.
"I can still feel it."
"There's no way."
*I move my legs as hard as I can."

The tear down the drapes and remove the ones from my belly. I'm thrusted into a sitting position again.

The barefoot anesthesiologist is there and sticks me again. Thankfully, he gets it. I feel my feet starting to go numb. The doctor is cleaning again. I can't feel it. Thank God. He starts cutting...WAIT! Where is my husband?

They go get him. When he comes in the room I am dry heaving. I told the CRNA that anesthesia makes me deathly ill. She gives me 4mg of Zofran. I ask for 4 more. She refuses. I'm going to be puking when my baby makes his entrance. This is not what I imagined.

I can't breathe.
I literally can't breathe. I struggle to tell Tomato that I can't breathe.

The anesthesiologist informs me "If you're talking, you're breathing. You need to get it together."
"Yes sir. I'm sorry."

I tell Tomato that I'm going to die. That I can't breathe. I imagine what it will be like to be awake when they are coding me. Gradually I can feel the paralytic moving back down to where it belonged. Later, I learn that they must have overdid it.

Someone yells for me to look up. I do.

2157: In an instant my world crumbles and spontaneously builds up again. I still can't breathe, but it's because he took my breath away. I can't see his face. But, I can hear his voice. I tell Tomato to look up, he was looking at me. He looks up and I can see the tears roll down his face behind his surgical mask. I just want to touch him. I just want to hold my little baby.

They take him to be warmed up and checked out by the pediatrician. I tell Tomato to go with them. The CRNA gives me propofol and I drift off to sleep.

I wake up when they are closing me up. I'm rolled to recovery.

In recovery, Ms. Linda meets me. My baby is not there and neither is my husband. I learned that everyone got to see and meet my baby before I did. I can't explain the need to be with him and the jealously I felt.

What seemed like hours later, Tomato walks in the door holding a little bundle. He starts crying. That's when I meet him. My beautiful Henry James is 8.2 lbs and 21 inches long.


There are many events that happened even after Henry's arrival. To include his sugar dropping, some thankfully nominal heart issues that threatened him being transferred to MUSC, threats of putting me on depression medication...and the list continues.

My birth experience wasn't great. The afterward was just as fantastic. As I said before, I struggled with even writing this. I had many feelings. First and foremost was the feeling of disgust at myself for being depressed about the experience. I am home with my baby, I knew that there were many mothers who didn't get to bring theirs home. There are many mothers who are holding the hand of their child while they fight for their lives in the NICU. I was so incredibly lucky to have my son. Now that I've prayed and thought and talked to others about it, I can deal with it. I've come to the conclusion that I can't punish myself with the thoughts of how everything went wrong, but instead, focus on what was right. It wasn't perfect, but it was Henry's story.

I have Timmy. I have Henry. I have everything.

Thanks to Nadia Hurtt Photography for the wonderful birth photos.

Quote of the Day by C.S. Lewis