Sunday, October 25, 2015


Grief is a funny thing.  When I was doing my graduate coursework at USU, I had an incredible psychology professor.  He taught us the stages of grief using the example of an adult losing his favorite red pen.  “God, I promise I’ll eat all my green beans forever if you’ll just help me find my pen.”  Hilarious, right?  Well it was a pretty fun lecture but more importantly, it stuck.  I’m not claiming to remember all the stages of grief in order and all the possible manifestations of those stages, but what I did manage to retain after 10 years of filling my brain with Go Diego Go episodes and cleaning play doh out of the carpet is that grief isn’t just about losing someone you care about to death, and it’s not just about crying and anti-depressants either.  We grieve over many things in life and most significant to me right now is the fact that we grieve over what could have been.  As if I didn’t have enough to be emotional about, now I have to deal with feeling sad every time something doesn’t go as planned?!?  Yep.  But luckily, most of us “grieve” all those what-could-have-beens very quickly and almost without notice.  Like when you’ve had a bad day and you can’t wait to get the kids in bed so you can finish off the tin roof sundae in the freezer only to realize hubby finished it last night.  Grrr.  Oh well.  This what-could-have-been has been a little tougher for me to swallow. 
I had a hysterectomy.  There.  I said it.  I will not bare any more children.  My uterus is gone.  I’m grieving my uterus.  Saying it that way made me smile, which helps.  I’m actually grieving the loss of my ability to have children. 
Now before you feel too sorry for me, I do already have 4 beautiful children.  To most people this is already a very large family so they aren’t quite sure why I’m upset but I’ll explain.  I have a thing for even numbers so when Dusty and I got married in 2004 and I happened to have our first child in 2006, I really liked the pattern and I decided that we would have a child every 2 years until they were all here.  I will admit to having a certain number in mind but I didn’t tell anyone about that number of children that I wanted.  It’s not really up to just me and we had only been married a few years!  I wasn’t going to give Dusty a heart attack!!!  But let’s just say I like things organized and I have a journal entry were I listed the years and then there’s a column for each child and their age and grade when each subsequent child would be born (and yes, their names are there too).  Psychotic?  Probably, but it’s there on paper.  And more significantly, it was written in my heart.  Since we got pregnant with Brian as soon as we stopped preventing pregnancy, and because wanting children is definitely a righteous desire, I never dreamed anything would prevent my perfect plan from happening.  And nothing did, at least not for a while.  I had child #2 in 2008, Child #3 in 2010 and Child #4 cutting it a little close in December of 2012.  Life was perfect. 
So spring of 2014, I naturally started thinking about baby #5.  Actually, that’s a lie.  I’m pretty sure I thought about baby #5 a long time before Spring of 2014 but Mary was quite a handful so I quickly set those thoughts aside.  So here I am, it’s 2014.  It’s a baby year.  I really want another baby, I always have!  But, for the first 5 months of 2014, our family of 6 was living in a 600 sq ft 2 bedroom hotel room on Ft. Sill in Oklahoma while Dusty completed Basic Officers Leadership Training for the Army.  There were many days when I felt ready.  Someone else scrubbed my toilet for 5 months, how can you not feel ready to have another baby!?!? Hehehe  But Dusty wasn’t.  He was very overwhelmed with how demanding training was and already feeling like he was neglecting his family.  It was not time yet.  To Dusty’s credit, I’m pretty sure if I would have said, “Babe, I’m ready.  I want a baby.”  He would have been happy to oblige!  But since a marriage is a partnership and because deep down, I had a few doubts (remember that incredibly feisty 2 year-old Mary…) I decided to give up my perfect 2-year plan and wait.  And I was ok with that.  Oklahoma was an amazing adventure for our family and could have been pretty difficult with a pregnancy.  So when we arrived home that summer, I was ready and while we both had a few reservations about having another child (we’re going to support 5 children on a how much money?), we knew God would provide as long as we kept our priorities right so we stopped preventing pregnancy and I will admit, I fully expected to be pregnant 30 days later, just like our other 4.  So when my period was late, I was super excited, and then when it came, super devastated.  But it’s only been one month.  No worries. 
One month turned into 2, 3, and then 6 months went by.  In my denial and grief, I actually got kind of excited with the start of 2015 because now, just maybe I would have a 2016 baby and still have my perfect even numbers!!!  Silly Melanie, God has a plan and even though you’re even numbers thing is a little obsessive, He’s going to bless you with what you want. 
I had had several appointments with my midwife throughout this time addressing my periods that were now always late and always longer than 7 days and getting much heavier than they had ever been.  After trying several other options, I finally had some testing done in March and the Dr. found a uterine polyp.  “That’s what’s causing the bleeding, it’s a simple day surgery and you’ll be good as new.”  Well, it was a simple day surgery with a couple of days of recovery, but a few weeks later, I was not good as new.  I was bleeding again.  I was bleeding a lot.  My hopes for pregnancy were dashed again. 
In the New Testament, there is a very brief but memorable scripture where a woman with an issue of blood reaches out to touch the Savior’s garment and is healed.  She had been suffering for 12 years!  In the past year I have bled for 151 days.  That’s 41% of the year.  I would consider that an issue of blood!  I have no idea how the woman in the bible survived that long.  When I get to heaven, I would like to give her a big hug and say, ‘I get it.’  The other thing I was beginning to get is the pain women experience with infertility.  Now before you get on your soapbox and remind me that I had 4 complication free pregnancies that resulted in perfectly healthy babies, I will reiterate that I was beginning to get it.  I will never understand the pain of infertility and miscarriage completely.  Everyone’s trials and experiences are unique and only the Lord has a perfect understanding.  But, by April 2015, I had spent many nights crying.  I had prayed and prayed and asked why and I had received priesthood blessings and I had tried to eat healthy and exercise and follow the Dr.’s orders and gone to the temple and prayed some more.
This is the part of grief that I think is the hardest—this searching for the why part.  At this point, my Dr.  (because I couldn’t see the midwife anymore, I was beyond help from her) basically said, “you have 2 options: You can have a hysterectomy, or you can do hormone therapy which will only mask the symptoms and not actually solve any problems.”  (For those of you who want the medical details, my uterus and cervix were so prolapsed that they were literally falling out of my body anyway so hormone therapy would have controlled the bleeding for at least a little while.  But, eventually, I would need the hysterectomy anyway.)  So during this searching for the why part of grief, I finally started praying “thy will be done” and looking and asking for comfort and acceptance rather than the miracle that I wanted.  It was also about this time that almost every single general conference talk was about the family and how important it is!  That hurt.  Why?  Why is this happening when what I want IS what God wants?  Why can’t I have another baby when God wants us to have families?  Why can’t I have another baby when the family is THE most important thing for me to do on this earth?  Why is Dusty so ok with this and I’m the one balling my eyes out every night?  Why, why if this IS God’s will for me can’t I be okay with it?  If my family is complete and that is what God wants for me, then why do I have to hurt and cry and be so NOT OK all the time?  If this is God’s will, why isn’t He sending me peace? And then I would think about all the women who can’t have 1 baby let alone another one and I feel like a complete shmuck and I don’t dare say anything to anyone because I’m completely selfish and heartless.  And I’d cry some more.
The truth is, God WAS comforting me.  He sent me hugs and kisses from my kids.  He sent me people to serve.  He sent me friends to listen.  He sent me good doctors so I could get medical care.  He sent me the most caring husband who held me every single time I cried and listened even though I had said the same things a hundred times.  He was patient with me and said, “It hurts me too, I just don’t show it the same way.” And finally, God sent my mom who knows me too well to believe me when I say I’m fine.  And she said, “Melanie, maybe it’s not God’s will.  Maybe it’s not that God doesn’t want you to have more children.  It’s just that something is going wrong with you physically and it needs to be taken care of so you can raise the children you already have.”  And that’s the day I was finally able to stop asking why.  Sometimes things happen.  And it hurts.  A lot.  And I firmly believe that it hurts God a lot too just like it hurts us when something hurts our kids.  But, in His perfection, He understands what we have to gain from allowing us to hurt.  So in the midst of my asking why, He was preparing my heart for some pretty significant understandings that would never have come without the pain.
In a small way, I am now able to mourn with those women who suffer from infertility.  It hurts, but it does help to have a friend who listens and understands that it hurts.
In my perfect, even numbers life, I have now had a significant trial.  I have struggled and questioned.  I have hurt and had to work and pray to overcome.  I know what that feels like.  The Lord has come through for me again, just as He has with every other trial in my life and just as I know He will in the future no matter what.
I am a mother.  I will always be a mother and I will mother far more children than the 4 that I bore naturally.  In his infinite wisdom and care, Heavenly Father put a bug in my ear to host an exchange student this year.  Why in the world would that be a good idea when we just bought a thrift store and I’m homeschooling Brian and Dusty’s starting his master’s program?  Well, because He knew in my pain and loss, I would need concrete proof that my worth as a mother is not dependent upon my ability to get pregnant.  God sent me another child in the year 2015.  She just didn’t come as a baby.  And she has been a great blessing and joy to me.  I’m confident that the future will hold more children for me.
I will be a mother forever.  I now have an unshakeable testimony that I will have prosperity without end in the eternities.  Death is not the end and neither is surgery.  Jesus Christ has overcome it all and so will I as I do my best to keep his commandments.
So I scheduled my pre-op appointment for late October.  I had to go to the Doctor a week later because I was once again, bleeding to death.  The PA I saw, put me on the next surgery schedule because waiting a few more months was just not an option anymore, they squeezed in my pre-op appointment the next week and here I am 6 days post-op having a very cleansing cry as I write.
Recovery has been brutal for me both physically and emotionally.  From the nurse who said, “congratulations on being barren” to the need for narcotic painkillers, the ride is not over and neither is the grief.  But, there is hope.  There are smiles and there has been laughter.  One particularly depressing day during recovery, Dusty looked at me and said, “well, I guess you can quit.”  I laughed out loud, which hurt, but I laughed again and was grateful for the perspective of not “quitting” recovery.

Those who know me well, know that I bought a thrift store, and hosted an exchange student in the same year because I enjoy working and I enjoy being busy.  They also know, resting is excruciatingly painful for me.  So for now, I will pick up another good book, start crocheting another blanket, and pray to find new learning from so much rest.  I will take the good (no more periods!!!!!) with the pain (seeing Dusty hold our beautiful infant niece) and know that God does have a plan for my future that includes healing, happiness and eternity with my favorite husband and my 4 amazing children.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Goodbye Oklahoma

Our $10 stroller- RIP
We spent our last few weeks in Oklahoma cramming as much fun and friend time in as possible.  As a result, I didn't get a ton of pictures but we made lots of amazing memories.
Covered in pebbles at the hotel playground.

I was able to go out for lunch on Saturday with a friend for Mother's day.  We ate a delicious lunch and then sat and talked for 3-4 hours.  The waiter kept coming by to see if we needed anything!  hehehe

Then, the night before Red Leg War (Dusty's week-long field experience) Nathan fell off the bed and broke his arm.  Obviously we didn't know for sure it was broken but Dusty made him an awesome splint out of a sock, some cardboard and duck tape!  When I took him in for x-rays the next day, the nurse asked if he had been seen previously- I guess it looked pretty professional!
The cast- he's so proud!

We threw ourselves a goodbye party at the park (which we were late for!) and could hardly get the kids away from their friends.

Anna and Melanie
Than and Brian
Megan and Samantha
Anna, Melanie & Janae
Then the day of graduation/departure went like this:

Dusty had a 10 mile run in the morning and couldn't get back into the apartment because his key had been deactivated.  I knew he had a long run so I didn't miss him yet.  He had to hail someone down to let him into the building.  He had to do a few things while I ran a few errands.  Then we finished packing and started loading the van.  We didn't give ourselves enough time because Dusty had to leave for one more graduation rehearsal so that left me with 4 kids to play Tetris with the rest of our stuff.  Blessedly, my good friend Janae took the kids while I hauled the stuff down the stairs.  The temperature was close to 100 which means the inside of the van was quite sweltering where I was desperately racing the clock to get everything to fit.

A little background before the next part of the story, I had gone into the front desk a few days before to ask what our check out time was and request a late check out.  Because we are rewards members they said 2pm check out was fine.  2pm was the time of Dusty's graduation so other than not having a place to change into comfy travel clothes after the ceremony, we thought that would be just fine.  The National Guard would not pay for the hotel that night as his orders ended that day so we figured we might as well get a few miles out of the way before having to pay for a hotel.  The plan was good- the execution was not so good.

So now it's after 1pm, I had figured I needed to get the kids changed into their nice clothes starting at 1:30 so we could get over to the graduation which was just a few miles away.  I have 1 more load of stuff to bring down to the van (the cooler, the food bag, diaper bag, and the bag with our nice clothes for the graduation) and my key stopped working!  Panic!  I can't miss (or even be late) for graduation!  This is what this whole 6 months has been for!!!  I literally ran the 3 buildings over to the front desk and not very nicely demanded free nights and a fixed key since this was now the second time today our keys had been deactivated and I had to be at graduation in 30 minutes and I didn't have time for this crap! The management reactivated my key and tried to calmly explain that they couldn't give me a free night because the guard was already paying for our room (which the guard was only paying for most of our room each night.  We had to pay a little because we were staying in the 2-room rather than the single Dusty would have been in if he had been by himself) but I just ran out as soon as they handed me the key.  I ran all the way back to our building..... and the key didn't work.  Totally defeated, ready to cry or punch something and terribly embarrassed by how brash I'd been, I pulled out my cell phone and called the front desk, "Hi, I'm the psycho who just came in because my key didn't work and I have to be at my husband's graduation in 30 minutes- yeah, my key still won't work.  Can you please send someone to let me in?  I'm kind of in a hurry."  They apologized again and assured me someone would be right there.  They helped me carry the rest of the stuff down and offered to give me hotel points to appease my tantrum.  I apologized for being so rude and ran to get myself and the kids changed for the graduation.

Picture this- I've been running up and down stairs, loading the van and then that sprint to the front desk and back in near 100 degree weather.  I'm drenched.  Add in the humidity- not pretty.  But I spit bath and well as I can and think, maybe we'll just skip celebratory pictures...

We load the kids in our already loaded to the max van and I pray to find a decent parking spot which i do hoping that I don't get a ticket or towed because i'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to park there and we race into the auditorium.  There was a gentleman dressing in ASU (the formal uniform) coming into the building just as we were and to my relief informed me that we weren't late because he was giving the invocation.  Whew!  We found seats next to a friend (another blessing!) and we made it!

Then about 5 minutes later Nathan has to go potty.  What? Seriously?  I had made a point to have him go before we left my friend's apartment!  So I haul him, and Mary and Samantha to the bathroom while Brian did who knows what.  We get sat back down and Mary starts fussing.  So I stand up with her in the back and one by one the kids follow me.

Luckily by this time, they are starting to read the names. And double bonus, they started with the As!!!  As Dusty comes up the isle after getting his diploma, Mary sees him and yells, "DADDY!!!" (which was seriously the cutest thing ever!) and didn't stop yelling.  Nathan tried to follow him to his seat with all the other graduates and I was still drenched.

So we left in all our stroller-pushing, diaper bag flinging, baby yelling, kids driving toy cars on the walls glory and sat in the foyer until the ceremony was over.

And then Dusty had to wait in line for another hour before he was cleared to leave.

So about 4:15, we said good-bye to my angel-friend and her girls, got gas and we were gone.  I think we crossed the Oklahoma-Texas border about 6pm.

We stayed the night in Raton, NM, had a lovely breakfast with real eggs and arrived home Wednesday, May 21st about 10pm having been gone exactly 5 months.

What an adventure!
Packed to the Max!!!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

More Adventures in Oklahoma

April 8 - May 4
We had to say goodbye to some friends on April 11th and I didn't like it one bit!  I'm not sure if I had any expectations about making friends here in Oklahoma but I sure didn't think I would meet and become such good friends with people so quickly!  I know it's probably hard for the kids to say goodbye to their friends but I honestly feel like they are too young to fully appreciate what the sentence, "We probably won't ever see them again." really means.  We did get to go to a goodbye party for them and we know that we can stay in touch.
Other than that, we've just done a lot of playing and exploring and learning.
Dusty has had quite an increase in his workload this week with a lot of new information to cover and a lot of tests and presentations (briefs).
Brian is really enjoying cub scouts and has earned his Bobcat.
Samantha is now doing homeschooling with Brian.
We celebrated Easter by giving talks in Sacrament meeting and completely neglected Easter Bunny duties. We continue to make new friends and grow closer to the ones we've made.
We have just over 2 weeks left and while we're all super excited to come home, it will be hard to leave our new friends.  Enjoy the pictures!

He was great dead old man.
Brian playing an old man during scout skit

Nathan Loves to fill up his shirt with rocks and send them down the slide!

On Saturday, April 12th we went up to Oklahoma City to go to a Science Museum.  It was a blast!
Tornado Tunnel

Hall of Mirrors

A giant mouth...

Fantastic Obstacle Course

I thought this was hilarious!

Playing with shapes

Wait... How many legs does that Elephant have?

Dusty must have shrunk!

Self-balancing scooters.  (I had a really hard time at first!)

I guess you can't really wear a blue shirt using a blue screen.

Nathan, Samantha, and Brian went on a mission to Mars!!!

Brian had to cook outside for a Cub Scout Requirement.  It didn't hurt Dusty's feelings that he got to help build the fire.  hehehe

Goofing around at home!

Easter Sunday- Some new friends invited us over for Easter Dinner.  They have a farm!  Mary was literally chasing the cows she was so excited!
Mary chasing the cows

Science Experiment for School

Balloon Rockets!

We saw Prairie Dogs driving through the Wildlife Refuge

This Bison walked right in front of our car!

Brian grew antlers!!!

Fancy old house this lady won in a lottery that we got to tour.

The day after it rained- Silly kids!

Snake! We saw while driving.

More Science Fun!

Mom!  I'm Handcuffed!

 The following pictures were taken from Fort Sill Days.  They have a parade (which was literally 12 horses) and a chuck wagon contest and a lot of beer.  We enjoyed some cupcakes from a bake sale and then skidaddled.  It was SUPER windy that day!

Brian found this at the hotel playground.

Last week we had a Frozen movie night with some friends who haven't seen it yet.  Their little girl and Nathan have become quite good friends.
This was from a previous trip to the museum.

Normally May day is one of my favorite little holidays and I completely neglected to do anything this year! Does anyone else celebrate May day?

Then another friend invited us over to do a Mother's Day Craft!!  I was way more excited than the kids to be able to get out the scissors and glue.

Saturday, May 3 we went up to OKC again to the zoo.  It was super crowded that day but we did get to see some animals we didn't see the last time we went.  We didn't get a picture but the peacock squawked and then displayed all its feathers right in front of us.  It was beautiful!

Mary really loved watching the sea lion.

We got to see both tigers!

We watched the giraffes eat.  They have super long tongues!

Just over 2 weeks left and then its home to Rigby!!!