22-Week Update

I’ve had the best of intentions with continuing my writing, but it seems like time is going by so fast.  So much of my time is now devoted to preparing for this baby; from preparing the nursery to researching day care centers, and every item that the baby may or may not need, to starting a baby registry.  It’s incredibly time-consuming, but oh so fun.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit of a planner, so all the research that goes into preparing for a baby is basically a dream come true.

Baby Girl Gilbertson is doing well.  We had our 20-week ultrasound a few weeks ago and our little ninja is continuing to impress with her ability to break dance in utero.  45 minutes into the ultrasound last week, our sonographer, exhausted by the number of images she still had yet to capture, finally looked at Lee and I and said “you’re going to have your hands full with this one.”  As of right now, we’re assuming she has all 10 fingers and toes?  It was incredibly hard to tell with all the fist pumping and karate kicks going on during our ultrasound.

Can I feel all these kicks?  Hell yeah!  It’s a pretty amazing feeling.  Lee got to feel her kick for the first time last week, so I’m guessing it’s starting to get real for him too.

How am I doing?  Pretty fantastic.  I spent the entire first trimester in an exhausted haze, so the energy burst I’ve experienced in the second trimester has been a welcome change.  Watching my belly grow has been a pretty amazing sight as well.  I’m being very cognizant about the amount of weight I put on, particularly because having PCOS makes me extra susceptible to gestational diabetes.  I was tested at 10 weeks (it was negative) and will have to be tested again (most likely at my next OB appointment).

And if life couldn’t get any sweeter, we’re heading on our babymoon on Wednesday!  10 days traveling around London, Amsterdam and Belgium.

Yes, things are going pretty well with the Gilbertson clan right now and we couldn’t be happier.  Only 18 more weeks until we meet our little miracle!

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Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is always a funny day for those of us that struggle with infertility.  If you dare to go on any form of social media, you will no doubt see pictures of mothers with their children and sappy, albeit beautifully written posts from sons and daughters touting the super women they are lucky enough to call mom.  And while you’re so incredibly happy for the outpouring of love that every mother is receiving, there’s still a part of your heart that breaks if you’re not a mom but want to be.

So you know what?  I might not be the mother of another human, but I’m most definitely the mother of three amazing animals.  This is my mother’s day tribute to them.

Omar

Omar is an 11 year-old Rat Terrier.  I got Omar when he was just an adorable little 6-week old puppy; practically small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

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Omar is an incredibly well-behaved little dude.  He never wants to be too far away from Mom and Dad and prefers when both Lee and I are home together.  If one of us is missing from the homestead, it’s safe to say that Omar will be laying in our bedroom, completely morose until we return.

Omar believes that he should be the center of our universe.  He doesn’t appreciate when we pay too much attention to the cats, and he especially doesn’t like it when Lee and I pay too much attention to each other.  In his mind, his spot on the couch, in bed, and in life should always be right between us.

Omar loves car rides, human food, wearing clothes, and an early bedtime.  Yet, for as excited as he gets to go to bed at a decent hour, he still has so much life and playfulness in him.  He especially loves to put on a show whenever we have friends over.  He parades around with his squeaky toys, daring our guests to play tug of war.  He’ll drop the toy at their feet, almost as if he’s offering a welcome present, only to snatch it back up and growl playfully as they try to wrench it from his mouth.

Omar has forever spoiled me as a dog mom.  The love that he puts forth is so pure, so unconditional.  I’m most definitely a better person for having been his mom.

 

Gladys

I refer to Gladys as my “angel princess”.  Named after my paternal grandmother because of her beautiful green eyes, Gladys is extremely cuddly and affectionate girl.  She expects pets and head scratches first thing when you walk in the door, and she expects a lot of them.  So much so, that if you even think about walking away from the pets before she’s had enough, you can expect that she will try to hook your hand with her paw to get your attention.  Don’t be surprised if she also tries to bite you to get her point across.  The good news, however, is that half of her teeth were removed last year due to a mouth infection, so when she bites, you won’t feel a thing.  If she really wants to get her point across, she’ll just climb right on top of you and make herself comfortable.

Gladys enjoys pets, rubber bands, playing with her mouse toys, waking us up with meows in the middle of the night to let us know she’s playing with her mouse toys, dry food and me.  She will accept affection from her father, but she’s a mama’s girl through and through.  Gladys’ dislikes include playing with our other cat, Roger, and when any of the neighbor cats walk through our yard.  Gladys spends many nights sleeping on my pillow, right above my head as if she’s my very own cat hat.

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I’ve said before, in this blog and in daily conversation, but I’ll say it again:  Gladys might very well be the best thing that’s ever happened to me.  Gladys greets me at the door every day when I get home from work, ready for affection.  Whenever I’m having a bad day, Gladys is there to make me feel better with cuddles and nuzzles.  Cats can often be such finicky creatures, but I really hit the jackpot with this one.

Roger

How do I explain Roger?  He’s just a super chill little dude.  Actually, he’s not all that little.  The fact that he helps himself to Omar’s food and attempts to steal food from Lee and I has given him a little bit of a pooch.  He’s not fat per sé, but the vet has advised not to let him gain any more weight.

Roger came to us when he was 8 weeks old.  He and Gladys took to each other initially, because he was an adorable helpless little kitten who needed a mom.  However, he soon grew out of his cuddly phase and has been rocking the tormenting little brother phase for the last 5 and a half years.

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Roger lives for food and naps.  He also enjoys making space for himself in places where he doesn’t quite fit.  He’s the most malleable cat I’ve ever met.  You can pick him up, move him around, make him dance, whatever.  He’s never bothered.  And while he’s just as affectionate as Gladys, he’s not nearly as needy.  Mostly he just wants a comfortable place to take one of his 500 daily naps.

He’s a creature of habit, following us to bed every night and staying with us straight through until morning.  He takes turns sleeping between my legs and Lee’s but he’s definitely a “bros before hos” kind of cat.  Most nights, Roger can be found “bro-ing” out with his dad and watching TV.

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As I write this blog post, my heart is filled with such pride.  While I hope our family isn’t done growing, I do have to say we are a pretty amazing little family of  5.  These 3 (and Lee) are my absolute world.  I’m so thankful to be their mom.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you amazing women out there.  Whether you’re a Grandma, Mom, Mother-in-Law, Mother-to-Be, Cat Mom, Dog Mom, Aunt, Sister, or just one hell of a woman, you deserve to be celebrated for all you bring to the table.

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Valentine’s Day

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day, which means……

Absolutely nothing.

If you’re one of those people who gets really excited about this holiday and looks forward to spending the day showering your loved ones with chocolate and accolades, that’s wonderful!  Back in the day, in my younger years, I was exactly like you.  As I’ve gotten older (and maybe wiser?) I put much less stock in the Hallmark holiday.  Because if I’ve realized anything over the course of the last few years, it’s this:  Love is hard.

Not always, of course.  When life is going well, it can be so easy to love!  It’s the times of adversity that are the problem.  When life gives you lemons, or worse yet, drops an entire lemon tree on your head, that’s when love can get tough.

Lee and I have been together almost 8 years now.  The first 4 and half (the dating years) were smooth sailing.  The last 3 and a half, well, at times, it’s been a bit of an uphill battle.  I think back to our wedding day, and of the vows we took,  how we both promised to love and support each other in these times of adversity.   It seemed so easy!  Of course I will continue to love you when things get tough!  How could I not?

Well, you know what?  It’s just not that simple.  I wish it were.  As Lee and I have struggled to conceive, I’ve heard from a lot of other couples that were faced with tough times.  Some were able to rebound, and some were not.  Does that mean they loved each other any less than the couples that were able to work it out?  Probably not.  But sometimes the struggles just become too much to bear.

As I’ve struggled to come to terms with some of the cards we’ve been dealt, it’s made it really easy to want to give up.  Not because I don’t love my husband; I’ve never loved anyone or anything as much as I love him (except for maybe my cat, Gladys, but Lee knows this).  It’s just because when times get tough, all I want to do is shut people out.  I’ll dream of running away and disappearing off the face of the earth.  It’s how I’ve always been, and frankly, it’s a hard habit to break.  Depression is a sonuvabitch, man.

Luckily for me, this is where Lee’s stubbornness comes in to play.  He refuses to give up on me.  He refuses to allow me the easy way out.  He thinks I’m perfect.  Well, maybe not perfect, but he appreciates my imperfections, because to him, I’m his perfect person.  And he’s most definitely mine.  And knowing that he sees so much good in me has allowed me to see some of it in myself.

We’ll spend our Valentine’s Day doing absolutely nothing special.  We’ll go to the gym, probably grab something quick and easy for dinner on the way home and be in our pajamas by 7.  But the fact that I’m spending another day with my one and only (my lobster, if you will), well, that is pretty fucking special.

So Happy Valentine’s Day to all those celebrating today.  Tell your loved ones how much you love them, not just today, but everyday.  And make sure to take some time to do something nice for yourself.  Take some sage advice from the illustrious Ru Paul, because:

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Christmas in Europe Part 3: The Weihnachtmarkts

We left London on Sunday evening to head to Reading, where our friends Charlie & Gareth live.  We were leaving for Germany on Tuesday evening which gave us a day and a half to relax and do nothing.  Except that Gareth had a little surprise for us.  He was already on Christmas Break and as such, was taking us to Winchester to check out their Christmas market.  He’d never been and he’d heard it was one of the best in the state.  Lee and I had never been to Winchester, so it seemed like a no-brainer to check it out.

Winchester was absolutely beautiful.  And old.  You see, Winchester has been an inhabited town since about 150 BC and was the capital of England during the reign of King Alfred (871-899 AD), so yeah.  It’s ancient.  We stayed mainly in the city center, which contained a beautiful cathedral and tons of shops.

 

 

Winchester’s Christmas market was nice enough, but Gareth was adamant that it didn’t compare to what were going to experience in Cologne.  I was glad to hear this, because so far, I hadn’t been all that impressed.  Every market we had been to in England was nice, but not overwhelmingly exciting.

Tuesday we packed our bags, headed back to Heathrow and made our way to Düsseldorf.  The plan was to spend a night in Dusseldorf and then make our way to Cologne on Wednesday.  When we got to Dusseldorf, we quickly checked into our hotel and made our way to the “altstadt”, or old town, to check out our first real Christmas market.  Unfortunately,  by the time we made it to the city center, they were closing up for the night.  We walked around a bit to figure out which markets to hit up the next day before heading to the hotel for the night.

 

 

After a somewhat slow start that morning (too much Prosecco and cribbage the night before) we made our way back to the altstadt and Lee and I finally got to experience our first authentic Weihnachtmarkt.

Oh.  My.  God, you guys.  If you ever have the opportunity to go to Germany during the Christmas season, DO IT.  Everything, from the atmosphere, to the drinks to the food, is beyond amazing.  I got to try my very first glühwein, which is a hot mulled wine, available in both red and white varieties, and Lee got his fill of hot chocolate with both Bailey’s and amaretto.file1-2

We spent about half the day walking through Düsseldorf before making our way to the train station to head to Cologne.  Lee and I were pretty jazzed about the markets we had experienced in Düsseldorf, however, Charlie & Gareth continued to assured once again, that they didn’t hold a torch to Cologne.

They weren’t lying.  As our train slid into the Cologne train station, we saw a beautifully gothic, almost foreboding cathedral in the distance.  It was absolutely breathtaking.  We  made our way to the hotel, dropped our things and went to explore the city.

As luck would have it, there was a Christmas market about 50 feet from the hotel entrance, so we didn’t have to go far to find some Christmas cheer.  I was parched after a 45 minute train ride, so our first stop was at the market bar so we could get another glass of that delicious mulled wine.  Once we’d had a look around we proceeded to the next market.

One of the great things about the Cologne Christmas markets is their proximity to each other.  You don’t typically have to walk more than 5-10 minutes before finding another one.  Cologne had a total of 9 markets set up when we were there, and I believe we made it to 8.

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Our evening was spent trying a bunch of new and exciting foods and drinking a lot of mulled wine and beer.  The markets close around 10, which meant that everyone made their way to the nearest bars to keep the festivities going.  We had a couple more drinks before making our way back to the hotel.  (We had a VERY spirited game of Cribbage that needed finishing)  A couple more glasses of wine and beer later, Gareth and I were still losing at Cribbage but less inclined to care.

Thursday morning, Gareth & Charlie walked us down to the Cologne lock bridge.  Like it’s Paris counterpart, the lock bridge is a place where couples place a lock with their names and anniversary date on the bridge.  The couple breaks the key off in the lock before making a wish and throwing the key into the Rhine.  Charlie and Gareth immortalized their wedding date on their last trip to Cologne and it didn’t take much convincing for Lee and I to decide to immortalize ours as well.  We even found a spot right next to Charlie and Gareth’s lock so we’ll always have a place next to each other.  Best friends for life!

 

The rest of the day was spent hitting up Christmas Market after Christmas market and stopping for glühwein whenever we got cold.  Charlie and Gareth made reservations for us at their favorite Cologne restaurant that evening, an Alpine-themed restaurant complete with servers donning lederhosen and boots of beers.  I chose to try Wienerschnitzel that evening and made lots of Tenacious D references to people eating my fucking schnitzel that apparently only I found funny.  Whatever.  I stand by my jokes.

Friday morning we visited the markets one last time, in order to buy all of the items we had been scoping out since we arrived before making our way back to the train station.  It was a bittersweet day, as reality sunk in that we would be heading back to the US the next day.  Our Christmas vacation was nearly over and we would have to return to the real world again.  A return to the real world meant in-depth conversations and tough decisions were going to be headed our way.  We promised each other that this wouldn’t be the last time we came to Europe to experience Christmas.  If anything, this was just the beginning.

 

Stylin’ & Profilin’….

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….that’s how my dad would refer to himself when he thought he looked good.  And we heard it a lot.  Because dad always looked good.

Today marks the anniversary of his passing.  It’s been 6 years, and while each anniversary gets a little bit easier, it doesn’t change the fact that there’s a spot in my heart that will always be just a little bit damaged from losing the first man I ever loved.  We didn’t have a perfect relationship, and it wasn’t always easy, but if I’ve learned anything in the time since he’s been gone, it’s that our relationship was always worthwhile.

After my dad passed away, my best friend, my sister and I were to clear out some of his things.  We found 4 pages of songs that he wanted played at his funeral.  If he would have had it his way, we probably would have had a music festival in his honor.  Well, we didn’t have that kind of time or that much money.  We did manage to find a slightly more cost-effective way to honor his memory; we took songs from that list as well as songs chosen by me, my sister and his best friend and created a compilation CD.  We then handed one out to each person in attendance at his memorial service.  It may not have been all of the songs he chose, but he hasn’t chosen to haunt me or my sister for our song choices or lack of a music festival, so I’m gonna go ahead and take that as Dad’s stamp of approval.

Both my parents loved music, so my sister and I grew up in a household where at least one stereo was playing at all times.  In fact our downstairs stereo was Dad’s piece de resistance.  He’d proudly show off his Klipsch stereo system anytime he had guests over.  There were many a night where my sister and I would be jarred awake from a deep sleep because our dad had to show his friends how great his speakers sounded at close to full blast.  Mom would tell him to keep it down and he’d promptly ignore her.  You see, my mom and dad both loved music but went about it quite differently.  Mom had her favorites that she would listen to on a regular rotation.  She’d listen to it, appreciate it and then file it away before it got annoying.  Not my dad.  He had a way of playing songs so frequently (overplayed was not a word in his vocabulary) that you would get to a point where you would rather to stab your eardrums than hear that fucking Crash Test Dummies song one more time.

But for him, it wasn’t just about the lyrics, or even the melody.  It was about the layers and the composition.  His dream had always been to be a sound engineer and while it was a dream that was never fully realized, he had a way of making sure he shared his love and knowledge with us.  Any time we got a new car, it wasn’t ready to drive until Dad had tuned the stereo.  And if you fucked with any of the dials, he would know the next time he got into that car.  The guy had an ear unlike anyone I’ve ever known.  While I’d like to think that some of this may have rubbed off on me.  Those nearest and dearest to me know that I can pick up a baseline in the middle of crowded bar and tell you what song is playing, no matter how much background noise is going on around me.  It’s a super power, really;  one of many fine qualities that I inherited from my dad.

I put together a Spotify playlist to honor my Dad and am adding to it, as I hear things that remind me of him.  It’s a playlist that my sister and I listen to whenever we need to feel his presence; because we know that’s how he lives on through each of us.  I’ve chosen to share it with you today and I invite any of you who knew our dad to share a song that reminds you of him.  We’ll make sure to add it to the rotation!

Stylin’ & Profilin’ – Songs for Dad

My sister and I will spend this anniversary together, as that has become our yearly practice.  We’ll make a Dad inspired meal, listen to Dad inspired music and share stories.  And while we might not choose to toast him with his drink of choice (because Bacardi Cokes are disgusting), I’m sure we’ll find a suitable substitution.

So cheers to you, Dad.  I can’t wait to see you again.

 

The Elephant in the Room

There’s an elephant in the room that I had no idea existed until recently.  I thought I would address it so that people can stop feeling uncomfortable around me and my husband.  I can only speak for the two of us though.  Other couples struggling with infertility may be different.

We are perfectly capable of being happy for people who are pregnant.  If you want to post a cute picture on social media of some baby shoes or a picture of your dog with a sign saying they’re going to be a big brother/sister, I’m going to like it.  You deserve to have the love and support of all of your friends and family when you announce something so exciting.  You might want to refrain from posting ultrasound pictures, however.  Not because you’ll offend me, but because you’ll offend another friend of mine who firmly believes that uterus photos belong on your fridge and not on your Facebook timeline.

Our fertility struggles are no one’s problem but our own.  We’ve chosen to share them with you to raise awareness for something that affects at least 10% of all couples.  I’ve said it before, and I will say it again:  I guarantee that Lee and I are not the only couple you know that are struggling to start a family.  We’re not trying to make people feel uncomfortable or as though they have to walk on eggshells around us.  We’re trying to start the dialogue so that other couples feel comfortable discussing their concerns as well.  Infertility has been such a hush-hush topic for years now.  Many men and women had to suffer silently through their pain because it was not publicly discussed.  I’m trying to do my part, however small it may be, to change that.  But let me make one thing abundantly clear:  Our issues don’t stop us from being over the moon for any of our friends and family members that happen to be successful starting a family.  Please give us a little more credit than that.

I’ve been through far worse shit than infertility and I’ve survived.  No, you know what?  I haven’t survived.  I’ve thrived.  I will not let my fertility struggles define me.  I won’t let it define the relationship I have with my husband.  And  I would prefer if you didn’t define me in this way either.  I have a lot of things to be thankful for, the most important of which is the love of my husband.  If there’s an upside to all we’ve been through, it’s that we’ve developed a deeper love and appreciation for each other than we even knew was possible.  This latest setback may have bruised us a little bit, but we are far from broken.

Lee and I are going to keep living our lives, loving each fiercely, and hoping that our dream of starting a family eventually becomes a reality.  If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t.  It won’t change the love we have for one another, or the excitement we feel for our loved ones as they start their families.

If you’re struggling with some form of infertility, do not be ashamed.  Know that there are plenty of people in this world who understand what you’re going through, and when you’re ready, share your story with the world.aa6172156fab1a5a0d2b82c2c0c32150

 

 

Dad’s 60th Birthday

Today would have been my dad’s 60th birthday.  If heaven exists and marijuana is legal, I have no doubt that he’s celebrating by talking music and sharing a joint with one of his favorite artists and one of heaven’s newest arrivals, Tom Petty.

When I found out that Tom Petty had been removed from life support on Monday, I was an inconsolable mess.  Yes, I’m sure some of that pain can be attributed to our IVF failure, but a large part was due to my love for Tom Petty.  I grew up on his music. My dad was the kind of person that would play a record to death so I’ve probably heard “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” more times than anyone else in this world, save for The Heartbreakers.  And yet, despite the repetition, I’ve never tired of Tom Petty, as a solo artist, part of the Heartbreakers or part of the Travelling Wilburys.  Since my dad passed away in 2011, I’ve made sure to see Tom Petty in concert every time he’s come to the Twin Cities area.  It’s always an emotional experience for me-seeing him live brings me a step closer to my dad, if only for a few hours.  I won’t ever get to experience that again.  Losing Tom Petty felt like losing a little piece of my dad all over again.

Even though my dad has been gone for almost 6 years, it doesn’t seem to get easier.  Every milestone that he misses, every success, every failure, brings his loss back to the forefront of my mind.

My dad would have wanted to be so involved in our fertility journey, probably to the point where I would have to tell him to reign it in a little.  When he got sick, his mobility became limited.  Being a homebody and having so much time on his hands made him an internet search guru.  I don’t doubt that he would have become an expert at infertility.  My sister and I like to imagine what it would be like, and our conversations normally end in a fit of laughter.  There’s just something about envisioning our dad asking about endometrial lining that proves to be a little too much for us.  But yet, despite how embarrassing and personal his questions would seem, we know that they would be asked with the best of intentions.  He would want this baby so desperately for us, that I know he would do whatever was in his power to help us be successful.

When my dad went to his doctor’s appointments, they always asked him what it was he was living for, what he was working toward.  His response never wavered:  his goal was to walk his daughters down the aisle and to be able to hold his grandbabies.  He didn’t live to accomplish either and that makes me really fucking sad.

That’s not to say that he didn’t try.  He fought a good fight, but lung disease is a sonofabitch.  While I’m still so very sad that he’s gone, I’m happy to know he’s longer suffering.

Today will be a day of reflection, thinking about my dad and finding ways to celebrate him.  His copy of Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits is already loaded up in my car.  My sister and I will have a cocktail this afternoon in his honor.  We’ve tried this before with his drink of choice, but it turns out that Bacardi is terrible, so I imagine we’ll have to make an exception there.  And finally, I plan to eat some cake.  After all, what birthday celebration is truly complete without cake?

Happy Birthday, Dad.  This world just isn’t the same without you.

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Lake Life

This week, I had the great fortune to spend 5 days “up north” (the Minnesotan colloquialism for vacation) with my husband and his family.  Lee’s immediate family as well as some of his extended have had an annual lake week tradition for the better part of 3 decades.  The week and the resort have changed a few times over the years as have some of the faces in attendance, but there’s still a pretty amazing turn out each year.  It’s probably the thing Lee looks forward to most; a week at the lake with his nearest and dearest.

The resort is located in Ottertail, Minnesota, about 3 hours northwest of our home in the Twin Cities.

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The area is filled with resorts and stunning lake homes.  Time seems to slow down in Ottertail, which is exactly what I needed this week.  Though I had planned to write this blog post while I was up there, I found myself apprehensive to even open my computer.  I knew that if I opened my computer, I would probably feel the need to check my work email.  There would be some email that would inevitably put me in a terrible mood and send me down a rabbit hole I would have a hard time climbing back out of.  As such, I didn’t check my work email until I arrived back at the office Thursday morning.  After all, I was on vacation.  Work could wait.

We were able to bring our dog, Omar on this vacation as well, as this resort allows dogs during the offseason.  Omar spent most of his time begging for food, (from us and other families at the resort) and napping in the sun.  All in all, I think it’s safe to say that he enjoyed himself.

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This year was a little bit different than years past, because Lee and I are abstaining from alcohol.  It wasn’t too bad, but I do have to say, the minute we finished unpacking, our first instinct was to make a cocktail.  Old habits die hard, I guess.  Instead of a cocktail, we opted for sparkling water and iced tea.  Don’t tell us we don’t know how to party.

Another thing that was different this year was our bedtime.  It’s amazing how much earlier you go to bed each night when you’re not up playing drinking games.  Early to bed meant early to rise and being an early riser,  I was able to watch the sun come up.  Absolutely breathtaking.

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The majority of our days were spent sitting lakeside, playing cards, bags, doing crosswords and listening to music.  Not a bad way to spend 5 days.  We’d venture in to town from time to time, but I found myself happiest and most at peace sitting on the water.  It made me so thankful for the beauty of my state.  Sometimes, I think  we get too busy with day to day monotony to stop and appreciate the beauty around us.  I was thankful to have time to do that this week.

It’s also crazy to think that by the time lake week comes around next year, we might have a newborn baby to bring with us.  As we drove home on Wednesday night, Lee and I talked about all the changes having a baby would bring to lake week.  For starters, we’ll probably have to give up our bedroom in the party cabin and get a cabin of our own.  We’ll also need two cars; we have a hard enough time fitting all of our stuff into one now!  Yes, many things will change over the course of the next year if we get our positive, but we welcome these changes with open arms.  And we know that if we’re lucky enough to have a baby to bring to the lake next year, between Lee’s parents, sisters, aunts, uncles & cousins, this baby will feel more love than anyone could possible imagine.

Father’s Day

 

 

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Today marks the 6th Father’s Day without my dad.  I keep waiting for it to get easier, but something tells me it never will.

My dad had lung disease.  It started as Emphysema in his 30s and developed in to COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) as it progressed.  His lung issues were a mixture of childhood illness, genetics and years of smoking.  Over the years, he had issues with lung collapses, bronchitis, pneumonia and MRSA.  As he got older, the illnesses became more frequent and harder to bounce back from.

Watching him struggle infuriated me.  I know that’s not fair;  I should have had compassion.  I shouldn’t have taken my anger out on him. But I was so frustrated watching him in pain because I had already lived through the heartbreak of watching someone die from COPD.  My dad’s dad had died the same way 16 years earlier.  I can still remember the concern I felt at 12, watching my grandpa stand over the stove, hands on either side, head bent down as he tried to catch his breath after walking up the stairs from the basement.  It hurt to watch him deteriorate like that.  I didn’t want to watch the same thing happen to my dad.

But it was. And it was happening with my dad at a much faster rate.  My grandpa died at 76 years of age from complications of COPD.  My dad passed away just two months past his 54th birthday.

Dad went in to the hospital for the last time shortly before Thanksgiving of 2011.  It started out just like any other hospital stay, or so it seemed.  He was on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma, which was not necessarily a new experience.  He always pulled through and so I think that made it easy for me to not take his illness so seriously. But it became evident after a week or so that this time was different.  He was tired.  And every time they tried to take him off the ventilator, he fought it.  He didn’t want to breathe on his own.

After two weeks of being in the hospital and our inability to get him weened off the ventilator, the decision was made.  We would take him off of life support and let him go.  On Monday, December 5th, 2011, my sister and I walked in to the hospital to say good-bye to our father.

One of the nurses spoke with us shortly before the breathing tube was removed and warned us that we might hear some distressing sounds, but assured us that out dad would be comfortable and that it would be quick.  She was wrong on both counts.  It took a lot longer than expected but was so incredibly peaceful.  And surprisingly, as soon as the breathing tube was removed from Dad’s mouth, he woke up.  It was the first time he had been lucid in the entire time he had been hospitalized.

My sister and I stood on either side of him, surrounded by family and some of his closest friends.  I grabbed his hand when he looked at me, and asked him if he knew we loved him.  “Yeah”, he whispered.  I then asked him if he knew that he made us proud.  “Yeah”, he said again.  He then put his arms out and we leaned in for our last embrace.

My dad held on for two hours and I don’t think it’s because he was afraid.  In fact, I think he was excited at the possibility of being reunited with his parents in the afterlife.  I just think he didn’t want to break eye contact with me and my sister.  I told him that it was okay; we knew he was tired and it was alright to close his eyes.  I told him that I was going to be there the whole way, holding his hand.  Dad took his last breath shortly after noon, while “Here Comes the Sun” played in the background.  It was such a beautiful and moving moment; one that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

It breaks my heart when I think of all the things Dad has missed over the last 6 years. Since he’s been gone, I’ve bought a house and gotten married.  Just yesterday, I walked in my college graduation ceremony.  He would have been so proud.  And I think, if he were still alive, he would be very involved in learning about my infertility and being an ally in our struggle.

I’ve wanted to find a way to truly memorialize my dad for a few years now and a couple of weeks ago I finally had my chance.  A friend of mine who had also recently lost her father, told me about a tattoo that she wanted to get in honor of her dad and encouraged me to do the same.  I loved the idea and was determined to design a simple tattoo to celebrate my dad.

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I couldn’t be more pleased with the way it turned out.  The heartbeat is from an EKG taken the day my dad died.  The hospital presented us with his “heart in a bottle” shortly after he passed.  They wanted us to know that his heart was strong until the end.  I found the sweet saying in a Christmas card he sent me.  I placed the tattoo on my right forearm so that it is always in sight; a reminder that even though our relationship wasn’t always easy, the love that we had for each other was strong.

Make sure you call your dad today.  Celebrate your parents.  Make sure you tell them you love them.  Even if you’re not on the best of terms.  You’ll never regret what effort you did put into the relationship, but you’ll always regret the effort you didn’t.