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Fall, 1986 – Kate was just two years old. Sean was just months from turning four. They are 19 months apart in age. I was 26 years old soon to be 27. I was pregnant in this photo. It is the only photograph we have in which we know we were pregnant with our last baby.

October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Every year when October seems to suddenly be here and I see soical media posts about it being Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month I consider becoming part of the conversation in my own small way by sharing my story, and then I don’t do it. I didn’t decide to write it this year in preparation for this month. It was decided for me. I was looking for some photos for a project and came across this photo of me with the kids. It feels like the right time to share.

Tom and I made the decision to have children a few years after we married. I was in my early 20’s and physically fit. I had been long distance running for a few years and felt prepared physically. As planned we got pregnant just a few months after going off birth control pills. Like so many women who are wondering if they are pregnant I took an at home pregnancy test. I was pretty excited to find out I was. Two months into the pregnancy we had a miscarriage.

For sure I thought it was my fault as I had continued to run after I knew I was pregnant. My obstetrician thought otherwise and counseled me to let go of the guilt. I’m not sure I did that so easily. I was miserable that I had a miscarriage. I had to have a procedure to stop the heavy bleeding and needed some time to heal both my body and my heart.

Over a period of 18 months, we would have 3 miscarriages. Just in case running was a problem with the first pregnancy I never ran again when I was pregnant. I can still recall with laser sharpness how people tried to offer comfort that hurt more than helped. “Don’t worry, you are young, you can keep trying” “There was probably something wrong with those babies. They were not strong enough to survive.” “At least you know you can pregnant”.  I wish I could say I let those words slide off of me but I didn’t. My feelings were raw and my fear was real that I’d never be able to carry a baby to term. Those sentiments shared with me did not help. I do know they were trying to help me feel better and meant no harm. People, me included, struggle with the right words during tragic or difficult times of loved ones.

All of these years later I’ve learned to offer others, and myself, more grace than I was able to back then. The truth of it is sometimes nothing can make you feel better. You just have to feel the things as they are and give yourself the space you need for those feelings. Some things in life are not fixable.

Our fourth pregnancy brought us our son. Nineteen months later we had our daughter. Each of their births were by cesearan section. We did not anticipate a c-section for either of their births and held out to the last minute before agreeing it was the right thing to do. We were not stubborn about it. We just wanted the best shot at a natural birth if at all possible. It took exactly one second of our babies in our arms to fall in love with them.

One would think two live babies who were now toddlers would be enough but we weren’t done yet. Tom and I wanted to have at least one more child. In the fall of 1986 I was pregnant again. After the births of our two children, we knew what we were in for and super excited. I had a ton of morning sickness with this pregnancy, the day and night kind of morning sickness one hears about. At 16 weeks we heard the babies heartbeat. We thought for sure we were going to go the distance with this pregnancy just like with our son and daughter.

When we were pregnant with our daughter I had intermittent bleeding. It was January. Tom worked full-time and was in college at night, four nights a week. We had one car and lived in an apartment. The apartment’s heaters were under the windows. They would make the windows moist and freeze over. It was either too hot or too cold in the apartment. When the bleeding started I was put on bedrest. Our son was just 11 months old. How does bedrest work in a situation like that? It doesn’t. The boy and I stayed home all day, all night, every day until the weekends. With frozen windows it was like we lived in an iglo. On the weekends’ Tom did everything to get us ready for the next week – laundry, food shopping, taking our son to the park, he did all the things except his homework. He never had a minute to breath on weekends. On week days he left at 7:45 a.m. and walked in the door at 11 p.m. If anyone could handle all of everything it was Tom. Amazingly, our little cherub survived the crazy life we had and came into the world at a healthy weight of 8 pounds 9 ounces and 22 inches.

Our last baby offered no clues as to any distress. I felt quite pregnant with all of the hallmarks of feeling naseous and my waist beginning to expand and then I didn’t. One day pregnant, the next day not. It was just like that.  Tom and I went to the doctor and the baby no longer had a heartbeat. There was nothing to do but wait until my body released the baby. It would be a week before that happened.

Christmas Day, 1986, that’s the day my body chose to let our baby go. It was the most difficult one of all of the babies. So much bleeding, so much heartache. I spent the night in the hospital after the procedure. They let me convalese on a surgical/medical floor instead of the maternity floor. I picked up a virus while in the hospital and came home terribly sick. I don’t care what anyone says my broken heart left my body vulnerable to illness. It took me weeks to feel healthy again.

Tom made a decision to have a vasectomy. Every time we were pregnant I had surgery of some kind, so six surgeries and two toddlers who needed a momma to take care of them brought Tom to that decision. He was unmoved by my resistance to his decision. I knew he was right but hated that he was. I grieved that decision pretty hard for a long time.

Every baby of ours that died I grieved. Even though I barely knew them I grieved hard for them. I told myself a story about each of them. I gave them names and genders: Margaret, Siobhan, Oliver, and Megan. They may have came into my life briefly but they left indelible love in my heart, for always. All of these babies and the two who lived to be bright shining stars, Sean and Kate, deepened my life more than I could possibly have imagined.

To all of the moms whose babies have died I hear you. I see you.

 

 

July 9, 2020 dinner written and published on October 20, 2020. This late writing and posting of something that happened three months ago are emblematic of my caregiver’s life. The days fill up with tasks almost before my feet hit the ground getting out of bed every day.

I love this recipe: Seared Scallops with Garlic Basil Butter. It’s my favorite. I’ve made it once a week since July.

From the recipe:

12 large sea scallops, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds – I use large scallops and cut them up into fours

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, optional, see notes – I leave out the flour

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

2 tablespoons oil, such as olive oil, avocado oil or grape seed oil

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

2 garlic cloves, minced – I use garlic that comes in a jar already minced. Sometimes I add it sometimes I do not.

1 cup fresh basil leaves

3 to 4 lemon slices – Almost never is there a fresh lemon in my house. I use lemon juice and use it liberally in this recipe. It makes for a more fluid to mix the sides in with the scallops.

The side dishes were gluten-free penne pasta and asparagus cooked with a splash of olive oil and minced garlic.

When the scallops are cooked I add the side dishes into the pan and mix it all up. I’ve cut down the pasta so we split one portion size. Pasta is in the “okay” category for a diabetic if one doesn’t consume too much of it. Tom checks his fasting blood sugar every morning. We’ve seen a direct correlation to too much pasta with high fasting glucose.

I go overboard a bit on the vegetables. Asparagus is great but any vegetable works. Vegetables are a wonderful complex carbohydrate that helps slow down our digestion which helps diabetics control their sugars better.

Overall, this meal was five stars for us and continues to be.

 

 

July 10 &11, 2020 are the dates we made the last two meals of the 30 Day COVID-19 Cooking Challenge. It has taken six weeks and a few days to find time to write these last two up. They are combined into one blog piece because there is a great likelihood that it could take another six weeks to write the last day of the challenge. Caregiving challenges are consuming.

For day 29 Kate made a whole chicken. It was offered as a special deal for Butcher Box members. She took advantage of it because Butcher Box did not have chicken breasts available for a while. During the spring of COVID-19 some meats were not always available; not like we are used to.

A whole chicken is not something we cook with regularity though if you remember for our fortieth anniversary Tom, with Kate’s help, made a whole chicken for us. He has always enjoyed the experience of cooking a whole chicken, having it for dinner, and then the leftovers. Me, not so much. Too much messy kind of work for not a lot of quantity. He usually says things like “you could make soup with the bones” insert me fainting. When a whole chicken comes into the house it is already cooked by a supermarket as in a rotisserie chicken. They are moist, the meat falls off the bone, it’s tasty with little effort.

Kudos to Kate on the orange blossom whole chicken. It was outstanding. She made a side of summer veggies and rice. Always with the rice, right? As carbs go it’s one of the better ones for a diabetic. At this point in the summer, Tom’s fasting glucose was continuing to climb. It was, and is, worrisome so a side of brown rice it was and continues to be most nights.

For the last meal of the challenge, I made turkey tacos with lettuce as the wrap instead of a fajita. I used a gluten-free taco mix. We had some shredded cheese, light sour cream, ground turkey, salsa, and, yes, some brown rice. It was a relaxed meal. It was a good way to wrap up the challenge.

The 30-day challenge was fun. It gave Kate and me a way to change up dinners. It took us out of our routine in an interesting way. We always had to keep in mind that the food had to work well for a diabetic and be gluten-free for me. Also, it was amazing for me to have someone take on the role of cook every other night. Cooking and clean-up are typically all on me. In fact, most everything is all on me as a caregiver to a person with ALS who also has diabetes. Most recently, we have added insulin shots to the daily routine. As I have shared throughout the cooking challenge diabetes with a side of ALS is a problem that is not going away. The pancreas is simply not able to keep up with the demands, therefore, insulin has been added to address rising glucose levels.

The pandemic is far from over. Kate is back home teaching her third graders virtually but doing so from her classroom. Why from her classroom? She has resources there she does not have at home including her colleagues. As much as we miss her Tom and I are focused on some projects that are impossible to do when there is a guest in the house. We get through this ALS life with projects because a project always gives you something to look forward to. Each day it gives you a tomorrow.

 

 

July 8, 2020 ~Sausage, pepper, and onions. This is one of those meals I remember my mom making and loving it! As long as she made some sweet sausage along with the spicy kind I was good to go. Sausage, pepper, and onions are one of my favorites. My mom did not make it often but when she did it made my day.

The sausage Kate made was from ButcherBox. It had apples and gouda cheese in it. When Kate first mentioned this sausage was in the box I got to thinking: What is gouda cheese?

Gouda has its roots in the Netherlands. It is neither a hard or soft cheese but rather something in the middle, semi-hard. It’s a little creamy, a little nutty. The flavors of the cheese are dictated by where the cows are feeding. This makes total sense and got me thinking about when we were NorCal residents for a few years.

When we lived in Novato, CA, eons ago I remember visiting a cheese store out west in the rural hills of that area. The grasses had a sweet, yet almost bitter scent. We’d go out there for a day trip with the kids once in a while. Get some cheese, sourdough bread, flavored water, and have a picnic outside the store. I’m pretty sure all of it tasted better because the cheese was made there and the cows were in view. Though I wish I had taken some photographs of those moments, it’s okay, because just thinking about it brings me back to the smells, tastes, and sounds of those picnics. Some memories are perfect when they are stored in our minds without photographic proof of their existence. We can enhance them this way and no one can take that away from us with a picture. True, it wasn’t gouda cheese but it was good and to this day I have a love affair with cheese.

The apple gouda sausage we insanely delicious and most definitely repeatable. It wasn’t too high in calories at 270 per serving for the sausage. We had some rice, peppers, and onions for approximately 550 calories per person.