Category Archives: molar pregnancy

The Things We Keep

One of my big goals this year is to clean out my house.  I mean really clean it out.  This undertaking is about more than sorting through toys, shredding old paper files, and purging unworn clothes from closets.  It’s about wanting – and believing it’s possible – to live a lighter, happier, and more fulfilling life with less stuff.  It’s about keeping the things I truly need and having the courage to get rid of the things I don’t.

As I walk from room to room surveying the endless objects that fill my home and life, I’ve discovered that the reasons we keep things – guilt (the kids’ stuffed animals), hope (my size four jeans), nostalgia (the shoes I wore to my wedding), and despair (my recently deceased dog’s bumblebee Halloween costume) – are often the very same reasons we eventually (and bravely) throw them away.

Nine years ago, I made a bowl in a pottery class on a summer vacation in Colorado.  I took the class because there really wasn’t anything else I could do. I was five months pregnant, so activities like horseback riding, biking, rock wall climbing, and wine tasting were off the table.  Just walking up the hill to the hotel spa for a prenatal massage left me winded from the altitude.

It was an ugly and beautiful bowl that I made.  Ugly because it was so flawed.  Beautiful because even though it looked like a lopsided, vomiting tulip, I made it with my own hands.  The resort generously shipped it to me when we left, and to my great surprise, it arrived home intact.  It survived a few additional moves before it reached its final destination on the small, white shelf above the toilet in my bathroom…because where else would I put it?

I should’ve thrown it out – it really was hideous – but I kept it because it reminded me of the precious summer I spent floating in the bliss of the second trimester of pregnancy with my first child.  The nausea and exhaustion of the first several weeks had receded, my belly was round but not uncomfortable, my body was ripe but not swollen, and I had nothing but time on my hands to daydream about strollers, diaper bags, and baby names.  It. was. magical.

But that’s not the only reason I kept it.

First pregnancies are magical, but it wasn’t technically my first.  That one happened a year and a half earlier around the time I embarked on a different family vacation, a holiday cruise to the Caribbean.  After taking a home pregnancy test, I raced to my doctor who smiled and said, “Have fun, don’t drink the water in Mexico, and we’ll do an ultrasound when you get back.”

What I remember most about that trip, besides the night I miscarried, was that there were Christmas cookies everywhere.  I couldn’t walk into a room on that ship without bumping into a tower of perfectly decorated cookies.

Within days of disembarking, I was admitted to the hospital.  Despite the crippling pain and discharge I experienced on the cruise, my urine and blood told the story of a woman who was about eight weeks pregnant.  The ultrasound, however, did not.

Heartbroken and scared, I counted backwards from 100 in the operating room uncertain if I would emerge from surgery with one less fallopian tube (if it was ectopic) or worse.  I woke up intact, but the relief was short-lived because the fetal tissue they found drifting around my uterus was indicative of a molar pregnancy. In other words, the “pregnancy” was nothing but a mess of abnormal cells that never would’ve formed a baby.

As if all of that weren’t cruel enough, four weeks later I found myself in the office of a gynecological oncologist because the sneaky thing about a molar pregnancy is that all of those messy cells can grow back and transform into something called choriocarcinoma, which is fancy talk for cancer in the uterus.

I spent the next two months undergoing weekly chemotherapy injections and the year after that doing  blood work to monitor my hormone levels because even though the cancer was curable, it wouldn’t have been if it came back unknowingly and spread to my liver, abdomen, lungs, or brain.

In a way, my first pregnancy was magical.  It was an illusion of epic proportions.  A disappearing act unlike anything I’d ever seen.   I wanted a baby, but I got cancer instead, and everything I believed to be real and true and good and safe and normal vanished before my eyes.

I never liked the lopsided, vomiting tulip bowl I made on that trip to Colorado, but I kept it because I believed it possessed the collective memory of the hard-fought journey I endured to reappear, to fall and get back up, to heal and trust and forgive, to eventually experience the precious second trimester of a real pregnancy, and to finally have a baby.

But, it didn’t hold any of that.  It was just a bowl and an unsightly one at that, so I threw it out because, with or without it, the memory of that magical time would always be mine.

This essay originally appeared on Scary Mommy.

 

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Replacing Buts (Not Butts)

storm

I’ve started seeing a cognitive behavioral therapist to address my anxiety. I’ve done a lot of traditional therapy over the years, but this is the first time I’ve approached my excessive worry from a behavioral standpoint. I’m only a few sessions in, but and so far it’s been kind of mind-blowing.

I crossed out that “but,” because one of the strategies I’ve learned is to replace “but” with “and” to remove negative bias. For instance, if I say, “Dinner was delicious but the service was slow,” I let the pessimistic part win. I diminish the fact that the food was good. If I say, “Dinner was delicious and the service was slow,” I still feel pretty good about the meal I ate. It’s a small tweak that has an enormous impact on my automatic thought process, which tends to thrust me down a perilous rabbit hole of fear and negativity.

For example: I have a headache. I don’t usually have headaches. This is weird. Something must be wrong. I must have a brain tumor. I’m going to die.

My fellow anxiety suffers, amirite?

I do this dangerous dance often with my health. In my defense, when you try to have a baby but (and?) get cancer in your uterus instead, an onslaught of irrational worry isn’t so farfetched. It happens with my writing, too. Imposter Syndrome is a beast. Another breeding ground of angst is my children, both of whom are anxiety triggers I lovingly live with day in and day out.

As any parent will attest, kids are a constant source of concern, but and when you have anxiety, concern occasionally turns into calamity without warning because anxiety is a shitty friend.

Lately, I’m fixated on school because I have one child, in particular, who is incredibly bright but detests school. Hold up. I have one child, in particular, who is incredibly bright AND detests school. Better.

I’m a successful product of public schools and my kids are enrolled in an excellent public school district, but parenthood has woken me up to how kids with learning challenges, sensory differences, and special needs struggle to fit in the neat and tidy boxes for which most classrooms are equipped and teachers are trained.

Did you catch that? Classrooms are crap! Teachers are crap! My kid is going to slip through the cracks! His spirit will be crushed! He’ll fail out of school!

I’m ridiculous. Let’s try that again.

I’m a successful product of public schools and my kids are enrolled in an excellent public school district, AND parenthood has woken me up to how kids with learning challenges, sensory differences, and special needs struggle to fit in the neat and tidy boxes for which most classrooms are equipped and teachers are trained.

Can you feel the difference? I turned out great and my kids are in an awesome school AND there are challenges. Now, the positive and negative parts of this story have equal value, and I’m empowered to tackle the problems and advocate for solutions. Everything’s going to be okay, but and I have a serious “but” problem.

School is important, BUT there’s too much homework, BUT there’s not enough recess, BUT there’s too much sitting, BUT there’s not enough STEM, BUT the classes are too big, BUT the classrooms are too small, BUT handwriting skills are ignored, BUT no one is teaching the kids how to type… I could go on, but and I won’t.

It’s hard to see anything positive from behind all of my “buts” (not “butts”). Not only am I hyper-aware of my own “but” problem, but also I’m starting to notice other people’s “buts” (not “butts”), including my kids’ “buts” (not “butts,” although their butts are adorable).

“The Amazon Jungle is the biggest jungle in the world.” My nine-year-old school-hater surprised me with this random and unsolicited outburst of knowledge.

“Is it bigger than New York?” My seven-year-old son’s curiosity was unleashed.

“Of course it’s bigger than New York.”

“Is it bigger than Texas?”

“Yup.”

“Is it bigger than Earth?”

“How can it be bigger than Earth when it’s on Earth?” He was smug with 4th grade superiority.

My seven-year-old, who will always be two frustrating years younger than his big brother no matter how hard he tries to catch up, matched his jungle and raised him a cloud. “Did you know clouds are heavy?”

 “How heavy?”

“Heavier than a grown man. More than 105 pounds!”

“Wow, that’s really heavy.” I stifled a giggle.

“If a cloud falls on you, you’ll die.” The older brother added his two (morbid) cents.

“Mommy, do you know how rain is made?”

“How?”

“Water evaporates from the earth into the sky, it forms clouds, and then water falls out of the clouds,” and then, “but that means when it’s raining, God isn’t peeing on us.”

but

There was a mix of satisfaction and disappointment in his voice. He was proud of his newfound knowledge, but and his imagination got truth bombed by science.

I knew just what to say. “Oh, sweetheart, it’s true that God isn’t peeing on us, but and it’s still God playing the drums when you hear thunder.” (For now, anyway.)

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Filed under anxiety, health, molar pregnancy, motherhood, parenthood, school

God Is In The Picture

I’m as surprised as you are that I’m writing about God. As Dylan would say, “Awkwaaaaaard.” I feel as qualified to talk about God as I do quantum physics or Minecraft mods. What the heck is a mod, anyway? I don’t even know if it’s appropriate to write God or if I’m supposed to write G-d. The whole thing makes me as uncomfortable as watching “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” I’m going to stick with the “o” over the dash here, because the dash makes me feel even more anxious, if that’s possible.

I believe in an energy that runs through the universe and that if I’m lucky or fortunate or grateful enough, I can tap into it to feel something larger than myself, but I don’t know if that means I believe in God.

I send prayers to friends and family who are grieving or ill, I whisper a prayer for safe travels every time I get on and off an airplane, and I see my beloved Harry in rainbows and sunsets, but I don’t know if that means I believe in God.

Years ago, a gust of wind knocked me off of my feet after my Great Aunt Glenna died. I felt her presence so fiercely that I lost my breath, but I don’t know if that means I believe in God.

I don’t know why I can’t just say that I do or that I don’t believe in God. Whichever it is, a concrete answer would be a lot easier to live with than the perpetual questioning to which I subject myself. But, I can’t. I simply don’t have an answer, so God and I have an unwritten agreement to keep a safe distance from one another. We avoid eye contact, we’re not friends on Facebook, and we let calls go to straight to voicemail, but regardless of our efforts, something keeps bringing us together.

It’s not motherhood per se. Becoming a mother didn’t sway me one way or the other, although I totally get how it could. I mean, I grew a human being inside of my body! Twice! My molar pregnancy didn’t squash or boost my faith either. It just made me angry and sad. A decade later, it’s a wash. I’ve experienced the devastation of loss and the miracle of life, and I’m still on the fence.

It’s my kids. My children have natural and independent inclinations toward God and the unknown that have nothing to do with me (that I’m aware of). I have parented them the same. I have given them the same foundation of values. I have provided them with the same education. Yet, Dylan questions everything. He’s fascinated with death and insanely inquisitive about the afterlife, so much so that I sometimes wonder if maybe he’s been here (or there?) before. Whereas some kids ask “Why?” on a permanent loop, Dylan’s go-to question is, “What happens after we die?”

Riley, on the other hand, plainly and beautifully accepts God as true. “God is everywhere,” he once told me once while nibbling on Goldfish crackers in the car. “God is in my Goldfish,” he said munching away. How could I argue with that? It was a lovely sentiment, especially considering how many Goldfish cracker crumbs were on the floor of the backseat of my car.

Another time, Dylan asked, “Who makes shoes?”

Riley said, “God makes shoes.”

“Actually,” I piped in, “people make shoes,” to which Riley concluded, “God makes all the things that people don’t know how to make.”

Fair enough.

These conversations happened when the boys were much younger, but I remember them clearly – in fact, I wrote them down – because I never want to forget the authentic and easygoing relationship they have with God. I remain as confused as ever, but my kids and their unabashed honesty – about their certainty or their doubt – have taught me to appreciate my spiritual journey more and worry about my spiritual destination less.

I no longer cower from or cringe over my boys’ questions about life and death and everything in between. I welcome the opportunity to engage their curiosity and confront my own hesitancy. When Riley says, “God is in my heart,” I’m comforted by his faith (how ever long it lasts), and I’m equally reassured by Dylan’s courage to question it all.

Not long ago, Riley and I did an art challenge after dinner. In an art challenge, we choose a theme and then we each draw a picture. When we’re done, Dylan or Dad picks a winner. (Exciting stuff, I know. At least it’s not Minecraft!) That night, I drew a bird per Riley’s instruction and he drew a truck per his whim.

Several minutes into our battle, he said, “I think I’m going to win.”

“Why is that?” I asked as I feverishly drew a bird with colorful feathers surrounded by fall foliage.

“Because God is in the picture,” he said.

“God is in your picture?” I asked peeking over.

“He’s building a house,” Riley explained.

godriley

Indeed, God was building a house in the sky above the truck, Best Buy, and “Targit.”

My little feathered friend and I were totally screwed, because you can’t win an art challenge if your opponent has God in his picture. Still, I felt triumphant because, thanks to my kids, God is in my picture, too.

godmommy

Not that picture. ↑

This picture. ↓

godboys

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Filed under boys, conversations to remember, death, Harry, molar pregnancy, motherhood, religion