Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Take Time to Smell the Roses

Exactly eight years ago today, Mgo and I took a long walk in my parents' neighborhood. We had met a year prior and had gotten a taste of what a long distance relationship was like. It took a toll on both of us. We were hesitant to tell each other what we were thinking, but we finally realized we were both scared to keep things going because we were so far away from one another. I, for one, was scared to be in a relationship with someone I barely knew. Yes, we talked for hours on the phone each day. We wrote each other letters, emails, texts, and sent each other gifts in the mail, but it wasn't enough. We weren't in each others circle of friends. We couldn't attend each others family get togethers. We couldn't be spontaneous. We couldn't be a typical couple. However, as we walked, all I could think about was how much I didn't want it to end.

We walked and walked and walked until we finally stopped in front of a gas station. We had shared all of our concerns, but we were still holding hands. He pointed to something behind me and when I turned around, there was a sign that read “Take time to smell the roses.” And right there, we made a pact. We would stay together, even though it was hard. We wouldn’t dwell on the bad and take time to enjoy the good things happening in our relationship. No matter how difficult life got, we would trust God.

And we stuck together.

And life got difficult.

Recently, Mgo went to Armenia on a mission trip. While there, he led a seminar on preparing for marriage. He shared our story. When he read it to me prior to his trip, I was a bit overwhelmed. I hadn't realized how many hardships we have actually faced during our life together.

How sick I got during our first winter in Rhode Island. The year of aggressive testing and treatment to diagnose me with Fibromyalgia, which led to depression. Mgo's mom battling cancer. Mgo having to live with a woman who was slowly losing herself. Enduring a year of unemployment when God called us out of the church in Rhode Island. Bed rest during my pregnancy, fourteen trips to triage, and the traumatic birth of Emelia during which we both faced death.

I'd never really thought about it all. In the midst of the afflictions, I was definitely weakened and frustrated. However, God ALWAYS pulled us through, even when it felt like we'd never get answers or relief. Even if I was angry with Him. Even if I didn't always cling to Him.

While battling my symptoms and waiting for a diagnosis, I met a young woman who was diagnosed with arthritis at a young age. And she became a source of God's indelible grace, coaching me through the entire process and encouraging me to face the frustration I was feeling. She is one of the most encouraging people I know. Her, her husband and kids are now family to us. They are a gift. Mgo's mom fought and won and has been cancer-free for years now. God led us to Fresno, and just like in Rhode Island, we are beyond blessed by the church. Although I had a difficult pregnancy and delivery, and despite all the scares that Emelia wasn't healthy, she made it and is thriving.

I know that He will hold our hands when the next trial comes. He will walk us through each tribulation, even if they last a long time. Even if we don't always get a happy outcome.

And thinking back on my time with Mgo, even though we have encountered a lot of hardships, I wouldn't change a thing.

It has been the best time of my life.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


I know it’s morning, but I keep my eyes closed. I hear the shuffle of his footsteps on our mostly new carpet and then the shower comes on. Just two more minutes. I purse my lips because my muscles are tense and achy. I turn onto my back and take a few deep breaths and try to relax them, starting at my toes and working my way up to my head. As my body wakes, the pain intensifies. I sit with it for a moment. A small pity party ensues. I turn on my side.

I’m suddenly aware of the sound of rain. It’s pelting down on something hard. It’s dramatic yet calming. I realize I forgot to turn Emelia’s sound machine down last night. I open my eyes and see her feet up in the air. The screen goes light to dark to light again as her legs go up and down. She’s babbling. Lots of aghas and ahhs. She looks around her room in wonder, like she’s never seen it before.

Our room smells like Irish Spring soap.

“Morning,” he says, adjusting his tie. “Is she up?”

I smile and we both watch the screen for a while. She finds her yellow pacifier and tries to put it in her mouth. She misses and slurps loudly on her fingers.

He goes in and changes her diaper while I brush my teeth. I hear him talk to her and she squeals.

“Be good for momma today,” he says. He gives me a worried look.

I smile. “Hope you have a good day.”

He hands her to me. We kiss.

Emi runs her hand across my nose, cheeks and lips. She gets her fingers stuck in my hair and I try to remember the last time I washed it.

I put my hair up. We rock in the chair for a while. She kicks excitedly when I open and close my fingers in the air while singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” It’s her favorite. When the song is over, she looks up at me and smiles. She pats my chin.

After some time in her swing and another diaper change, it’s time for her nap. She wriggles around in my arms and buries her face in my shoulder. I close her blinds and walk her around the room. I sing “Jesus Loves Me” and feel her warm, milky breath against my neck.

“I love you,” I say, and put her in her crib.

There’s a glimpse of panic in her eyes. She holds my hand tight. I put her pacifier in her hands and guide it to her mouth. She goes cross eyed while she concentrates on it. It’s in her mouth. I give her a kiss and tip toe out of the room.

I think she’s asleep. The door creaks loudly when I start to pull it shut.

I freeze. No. Sleep. Sleep. Go back to sleep. She’s doesn’t move. Her hands are gripping her pacifier.

I let the dog out and look out the window. I consider going for a swim. The pain in my leg reminds me to take it easy. The Keurig gurgles and I take my warm mug to the office.

I look out the window and see a mom and a stroller full of twins. Her pajama pants are dragging on the concrete, and her shirt is a few sizes too large.

The leaves on our tree are green and plentiful, shaking in the breeze. I realize it’s August. Summer is almost gone.

I flip open my laptop and my fingers get to work. “I know it’s morning, but I keep my eyes closed.”

Friday, August 15, 2014

I Have Developed a Staring Problem

There have been many times when I've wanted to rush to my computer and update you all, but my time is consumed with my sweet Emelia, and I am loving it. There were moments when Emelia was down for the night and I sat in bed, trying to write a post. Most of those times I fell asleep while typing. The other times, I literally couldn't put what I am experiencing into words. Don't get me wrong. I have been writing a ton about Emelia. However, I feel like I owe it to myself and to you all to at least begin to try to share about what being a mom is like. So, here goes.

Motherhood is so hard yet so easy. It's tiring yet invigorating. It's frustrating yet exciting. In the beginning, I really had no idea what I was doing. There were many times when I held my tiny, screaming bundle in front of me and asked her what she needed. She cried and cried, and so did I.

It seemed like she nursed every hour for the first couple of weeks, so I was not sleeping. My mom or Mgo would take her into the living room between feedings during the day so I could catch up on sleep. And then I would hear it. The frantic huffing, whining, crying, so I held my breath and said a prayer. But, alas, the bedroom door would open, gently, quietly, and a nervous Mgo would appear.

"Um, cutie? I think..."
"Yes, I know!" I would scream, the tears already welling. "Give her to me!"

My poor husband sat with me and encouraged me while I cried and Emelia nursed...every single feeding. He's seriously amazing.  

I'm learning that the beauty about motherhood is that it gets easier as you get to know your kid. It's a total shock at first. Suddenly, after nine months of taking extra care of yourself, your focus is completely on another little human being, one that needs you ALL THE TIME. However, with help and advice from some of my mommy friends and Mgo's constant support, I slowly put her on a schedule so that she had a routine. She was much happier and I was able to decipher what her needs were at certain times of the day.

Fast forward four months and nighttime feedings have slowed down a bit. However, recently, when I was in LA, she was having a rough week. I believe it was the rightly dreaded four month sleep regression. One night, I decided to meet up with a friend. I parked my car and walked towards her. I'm glad she was waiting for me in the lot, because she informed me that my car was still running. I had parked it and walked away with the keys in the ignition. That night, I realized that I haven't slept longer than a three hour stretch at a time since April 3rd. Sleep deprivation is in full swing. I HATE that part.

And in the midst of it all, I have developed a staring problem. When I was pregnant, I couldn't wait to meet Emelia. Now that she's here, I can't take my eyes off her. Not only because she's adorable (I'm a little biased) but because she's just so interesting. Every day, she does something new and it's so fascinating to watch. This week, she discovered her feet. I'll surround her with toys, but all she wants to do is reach for her toes. She watches them so intently. When she wakes up from her naps early, she can't go back to sleep because she's so entranced by them. Yup. Big stuff happening here.

One thing is for certain: I am not "super" mom. I gagged the first time I pulled a ginormous booger out of Emi's nose. I sometimes roll my eyes when she gets too needy between naps. I say a bad word or two at 2 a.m. when she wakes for an unnecessary feeding after a long, fussy day. I take long showers so I can be alone and think non-baby related thoughts only to make a mental list of how I can improve as a mother. The house is never particularly clean. There's always laundry to be washed, folded, and put away. The sink is seldom empty. Last night's dinner was a frozen pizza from Trader Joe's. My purses are filling up with receipts, grocery lists, and gum wrappers because I don't have time to clean them out. Sometimes I'm so tired that I forget to change her 1 a.m. diaper so her 4 am diaper is too full.

And I've learned to be okay with a house that's untidy and hair that's always disheveled, because I want to bask in each sweet moment with my family.

I don't want to miss a thing.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


It's been a whole month since our sweet Emelia was born, and I’m finally ready to write her birth story.

I want to say my pregnancy and her birth were magical and brought me intense joy and that is the truth. What's also true is that my pregnancy and especially the birth of my daughter were full of complications.

And I’ve been shaken.

I have to tell you that this post is a bit of a selfish one. In my heart, I know it's more for me than for those who have been bugging me to write. So I'm sorry in advance.

On Thursday, March 27th, Mgo and I celebrated 36 weeks of pregnancy with my doctor at my prenatal appointment. It seemed like the whole office was rejoicing with us, because we didn't think we'd make it! It was truly a blessed day. It had been three long months of strict bed rest, strong meds, 14 hospital visits, and constant worry that our little one was going to come too early. At that appointment, my doctor smiled and told me she didn't think I'd go too long before going in to labor.

We began preparing for our little girl's arrival. I also allowed myself a few outings since I'd been laying down for so long. I had been having contractions since the end of January, but they were finally welcome, and the anticipation was killing us! There were a few times we thought it was really time, but the contractions slowed down.

When the preterm labor scares began, my doctor decided that, twice a week, the baby and I were to be monitored, and aside from intense contractions that surprised even the nurses, we always left with good news - the baby was doing great! On April 3rd, we went to the hospital's outpatient center for our routine biweekly non-stress test. When I tried to sign in for my appointment, the receptionist told me I didn't have an appointment. I laughed because I realized I hadn't made any appointments past March 27th, thinking there was no way we'd make it past 36 weeks! He asked me if I wanted him to squeeze me in anyway, and I said yes. I figured, why not?

The nurse smiled when she saw me walk in, knowing what a big deal it was that I had made it that far. During the test, I started to feel extremely nauseated, but I figured it was just normal pregnancy stuff. I was, after all, almost full term. 37 weeks that day. I slowed down my sips of my latte just as Emelia's heart rate began to decelerate. Suddenly the nurse was at my side, flipping me in all different directions. I figured that my baby had moved over and that's why the monitor was having trouble picking up her heart beat. But then the commotion started. Nurses yelling to one another to call my OB, call triage, call my husband, all the while telling me to remain as calm as possible. The doors flew open and about ten nurses rushed in and started rushing me to triage, running, telling everyone to get out of the way. As usual, Mgo was waiting in the car for me. I texted him to hurry over to triage. Something was wrong. Something was really wrong.

By the time Mgo arrived at my side, Emi's heart rate had returned back to normal. My doctor called my cell and told me that after speaking with my specialist, they’d decided to induce me that day. Moments later, after being prepped for induction, my sister arrived. Just as I told her I had just experienced the scariest moment of my life, Emi's heart rate dipped dangerously low again, and I told her to hurry and get Mgo. The nurses rushed in. When her heart rate finally came back up, I was told that my doctor was on her way to perform a C section. We needed to get the baby out as soon as possible.

When the anesthesiologist came in and told me he was going to knock me out since it was an emergency, I begged him to give me a spinal. I wanted to be awake when my daughter was born. He seemed extremely nervous as we spoke.

I was rushed into an operating room, placed at the edge of a hard bed and told to lean forward.

"Now, this is really going to hurt, but it's for your baby," the anesthesiologist said from behind.

Then I felt him administer the spinal. No time to numb my back.

They quickly laid me down and immediately I felt my legs go numb. I heard her heart rate fluctuating on the monitor and looked around for my Mgo. He was still in triage. Minutes later, something didn't feel right.

"I can't breathe," I said, feeling my hands go numb.

"Don't worry, Tamar," the anesthesiologist said calmly. I heard a hint of a smile in his voice. Even almost a chuckle. "Everyone thinks they can't breathe when they get the spinal. Just take deep breaths."

As soon as he said this, I became paralyzed from my toes all the way to the top of my head. My eyelids shut and I stopped breathing. However, I was conscious. I heard everything, but I knew I wasn't breathing. The anesthesiologist had the nerve to tell me to hold his hand. How? I couldn’t move.

Focusing on the one thing I could feel, the beating of my heart, I prayed. I prayed that my baby would be okay. That they would get her out quickly. That she would live, even if I didn’t.

I don't know how long it took for the anesthesiologist to yell, "Oh my God. Someone help me! She's not breathing!"

I felt them intubate me. I felt a machine begin breathing for me. I heard my doctor rush in. She later told me she was in such a hurry, she ran into the OR, dropped her clothes to the floor, pulled some scrubs on and made the final incision to get Emi out.

Then I heard the sweetest sound I'd ever heard... I heard Emelia cry for the first time.

I woke up in recovery, completely confused and delirious.

"Congratulations, mommy. Your baby is doing great," a nurse told me.


I felt a squeeze on my hand and turned around to see my sweet sister smiling at me, nervously. I asked her a million times about what had just happened. She answered me as many times as I needed. And I'm so thankful for that. I was so thankful for her presence.

Mgo came in with a huge smile on his face, and showed me pictures of a baby that, apparently, was mine. She was here. And it took everything I had to not completely lose it in front of him. I decided not to tell him what happened in the OR. I wanted to be strong for my daughter, so I blocked out what had just happened out of my head. The joy I saw in his eyes was indescribable. I didn't want to hinder that in any way. I tried to savor it. I tried to join in on it. It was hard.

I met her for the first time in a hallway. I couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that she was MY baby. They placed her on my legs, and I felt her warmth. That's when I realized that the numbness from the spinal had totally gone away. I felt a strange strength come over me. I think it was my new identity: mom.

I'm still healing both physically and emotionally. There were times after we returned home that I sunk into a deep, dark hole. It usually happened in the middle of the night, when I was the only one awake, feeding Emelia. There were lots of flashbacks of moments I tried to block out of my memory, but somehow they crept in. I quickly made it a point to let God in on those dark moments. And, as always, Mgo is always by my side, making me talk it out, letting me lean on him, helping carry this burden.

Now, I stare at Emelia’s little face - her tiny nose, lips, fingers, toes - and I'm in awe of this precious miracle. I'm in awe of God's grace, for sparing both her life and mine. Every moment that I spend with her, I am filled with a joy that brings utter peace. I waited for this little girl, I fought for this little girl, and now she’s here, filling my days with wonder and laugher.

I'm so thankful that she's with us. I'm so thankful that God spared us both and continues to give us life each day, because I just love being Emelia’s momma.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

New Normal

I am slowly coming to terms with the complications that have developed in my pregnancy. It's funny, because up until a few days ago, while breathing through contractions, I told family and friends that I'm thankful that I have it so easy.

But I'm realizing that what I've faced and am still facing really is a challenge. I think I’ve been afraid to face the fear that is so real. I told myself and others that I wasn’t scared. But today, I’m letting myself worry about my baby. I’m letting myself be frustrated with my situation.

Since the end of January, I have been to Labor and Delivery 11 times for preterm labor. I am now on a high dose of medication that I have to take around the clock, including throughout the night, to help regulate my contractions. It still hasn't completely stopped them. I'm having contractions as I type this, because I'm sitting up. They've become a bit painful over the last week, so the medication is barely keeping them controlled. Baby girl has been doing well so far, but now there are some concerns about her health. As a result, I have to go to the hospital twice a week for NSTs, plus get an ultrasound every week to check on her. Every time I see my doctor, which is very often, there's a new complication that we must discuss, a new test, a new treatment... What I keep waiting for is a plan. If you know me, you know I’m a planner! However, as of now, a plan is pointless. Nothing is certain. She can come at any time. And it's still too early.

But this is my new normal.

Realizing and accepting that this is my temporary new normal helps me cope. I get out of bed every morning, get some coffee and breakfast, and spend my day on the couch. I've taught myself how to knit, and I'm watching a few shows on Netflix. I’m trying to read here and there, but the meds make me dizzy so it’s hard to focus. I know that in a few weeks, I will be able to get off this couch, hold my baby girl in my arms, and begin a chapter of my life that I'm so terrified of but yearn for. And it’s all part of a new normal - suddenly I have to live life one day at a time.

In three weeks, my doctor will potentially let me stop taking the medication and take me off bed rest (I would jump up and down about this if I could). I’m SO looking forward to being able to get up and get some organizing done to prepare for her arrival, and maybe go out and get a pedicure! However, I know that after I stop taking my meds, I could potentially go into labor. It could be hours, days, or weeks after my last pill. Again, no plan. And when she comes, preemie or not, I know new challenges will arise.

I love this baby SO much. This could be my “mom instinct” kicking in, but I worry about her well-being at every second of every day. I pray that she isn’t born too early. I pray that she’s big enough when she’s born, and that she doesn’t have any problems with eating or breathing. I pray that God gives me the strength through each obstacle, whether it concerns her health or mine. I pray for patience.

It's hard. Every moment of this is hard. I'm praying through the difficult moments and talking it out and praying about it with Mgo.

And once a day, I sit in her room.

With my hands on my growing, moving belly, I let my mind wander and imagine our life with this gift, this little girl, who I feel will bring us immense joy and inspire us beyond anything else in this world.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

29 Weeks - Today is a Small Miracle

It's a little difficult to write this post, because I haven't fully digested what I want to update you all on.

But I want to write it out, so here goes.

A week ago, I woke up with some pain in my stomach and back. I didn't think much of it, but it worsened as the day went on, so I called my doctor. She told me to go straight to Labor and Delivery. We spent the next few days in and out of L&D, trying to stop and slow down what turned out to be pre-term labor. It was difficult to hear the news that I was having contractions so early in my pregnancy, and so close together. On Wednesday, they were two minutes apart. That was scary. However, we really did stay calm, knowing that panicking wouldn't do any good - it would just make my contractions stronger. I was given a shot to stop the contractions at the hospital, and then given medicine to regulate the contractions at home. Praise God, we found one that worked. During my hospital visits, I was also given steroid shots to develop and mature the baby's lungs in case she makes her appearance early. When they told me that's what the steroids were for, it became a reality that our baby could come at any time. And at 28 weeks, I was scared for our baby's life.

Baby is doing well so far, so we are thankful for that. She scared us a few times with an irregular heart beat during the stress tests, but the doctors and nurses are saying that she is doing great.

It has been a difficult week, to say the least, but we have had an overwhelming sense of calm throughout. I believe this can only be attributed to the fact that we know the Lord is in absolute control. This baby is His.

At this point, we are taking it one day at a time. Every morning I wake and thank God that she is still cooking and hasn't made her appearance yet. Every day counts. And today, at 29 weeks gestation, marks a small miracle on this journey. My pregnancy is considered high risk, and I have been placed on strict bed rest. That means laying down as much as possible, no cooking, cleaning, driving, etc.. My focus is on taking my medicine on time, staying hydrated, breathing through contractions, and staying put as much as possible. Walking around or sitting up too long brings them on, so I'm being extra careful.

My mother came to town and has been waiting on me hand and foot. She's such a big blessing. Mgo has been by my side at every moment, holding my hand through contractions or emotionally overwhelming moments. He's seriously the most caring person I know. I'm so glad we are in this together! When he's near, I feel stronger. I know we will get through this, as we have made it through so many of life's challenges together!

Of course, I have my moments of fear, but God is so incredibly gracious. I know that even this difficult situation is a blessing - a good thing.

And I'm thankful for it. I'm thankful for the opportunity to grow in my faith, strengthen my marriage, and prepare for motherhood. My heart is overflowing with joy.

**I want to thank all who have called and left me messages. I'm still processing it all, so I apologize for not having returned phone calls yet. The medicine is hard on my body, so I don't have much energy, but I am ever so thankful for the encouraging words and prayers sent our way. Thank you for loving us and caring for us. We are so incredibly blessed.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Winter Reverie

I wake to waves that make my stomach ripple and quiver with life. Good morning, baby. Thank you for letting me sleep. I lay there for a while and revel in her movements. A foot rolls against the palm of my hand and I close my eyes and try to picture what she will look like.

I hear a voice coming from the bottom of the stairs, and as I descend, I see the eager little face of my nephew while he suits up to play outside.

"No school, Auntie Tamar," he exclaims, leading me to the door. "Count my layers!"

Together, we count eight layers of clothing. I tie a scarf around his little neck, my fingers brushing against his warm cheeks that will soon turn pink in the 18 degree weather.

We open the door and both gasp as the cold air takes our breath away. The world is white and the air glitters with the flakes that blow off the trees. My nephew rushes out. I hand Mgo and my sister-in-law their coffees and they sip them quickly, their faces disappearing behind the mist rising from their floral mugs. They continue to shovel the long driveway to make it possible for their mom and dad to join us this afternoon.

I stare out across the white in wonder. The snow is piled high and soft like the froth that sits on my cappuccino.

"Get inside," my sister-in-law commands, staring at my stomach.

I shut the door and sip my now cold coffee. My hand is on my belly again. I nudge and she kicks back. I watch from the window and my nephew slowly settles into the snow. His skin is almost as white as the powder beneath him. He stares up at the white sky in total awe and giggles as the flakes settle onto his nose and cheeks.

And I pray that, one day, he will be wonderstruck by the love and grace of his heavenly Father.