Thursday, April 12, 2018

My last pregnancy - 2017 Retrospective

Posting from September of 2017

I’m officially 12 days away from my due date and I’m realizing how many fun stories I have and how few I’ve documented. Currently everyone at work is asking how I’m feeling, and today I feel fine. It seems as if I’m moving backwards. I was having more contractions and signs of impending labor last week than this week. Because of my age and gestational diabetic status, the Dr will induce me similar to the last two pregnancies. Eviction notice posted to the last bit. You must be out of my womb no later than 10/10!

At work –

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I’m a new job where I don’t know everyone or that I’m at several locations or that this is my third pregnancy or that I’m carrying a boy differently than the girls, but I can’t go anywhere without strangers engaging me about my pregnancy. It’s all positive, but I keep joking that I need to make a game out of it. An over/under of how long it takes before someone says something.

The girls

I am pretty open with the girls about what happens with the baby and how he will come out. It’s not news to them, however Caroline had a classic reaction one night. She was confirming how baby JoJo would make his entrance to the world and said “EWWWW”. I looked at her and said, well that’s how you were born.” She looked me dead in the eye and said “Well, I did NOT like it”. I laughed so hard. Jonathan said I should have told her it was because she did it wrong… She was posterior, making her labor extremely difficult.

With Caroline in Kindergarten now, Maggie and I get a lot of time in the car together. It seems almost every other day she has a question about baby JoJo. I can tell she’s thinking about it because it’s those rare mornings or afternoons when she’s quietly looking out the window. She’s then ask me something like “Momma, will you be in the hospital when the baby comes? Will Dada pick me up from Nonnies?”

Or this question that took me a minute to decode, “Momma when I came out did it look like I had poop on my belly?” I think she saw a picture of another newborn and she was talking about the umbilical cord that was still attached…


For me

You are quite the mover and shaker. I would say you probably move the most of all three. It sure seems like you like my stomach as a pillow because I’ve had the worst indigestion with you. Sometimes I have to push you down to get some relief. I keep trying to remind myself what it’s like to have a newborn. Four years seems like a long time ago.

I know it’s going to be hard when you’re born that your Grandpa won’t be there to meet you. Your dad is going to have a hard time with that, but hopefully we can regale you with all the stories – because there are more than you can imagine.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

2017 retrospective- Maggie’s 4

Dear Maggie Moo Margaret Jane,

You are four – what a mix of big girl, big sister and big helper while still holding strong to the night time toddler rituals, most notably the pacifier. I finally pulled the plug on that ritual just a month after your birthday. As is true to your nature, you balked but then accepted the inevitable. You also never give up. Still crying for your pacifier at bedtime, in the car and whenever you sense my weakness.

You talk all the time. So much so that I honestly don’t always listen. I just add the obligatory reply when you ask, ‘Right momma?”. I’m not even sure why you ask me anything because if I tell you an answer, you are certain to disagree and tell me what you believe to be the right answer.

You are nearly as big as your sister, which leads me to sometimes forget you are only four.

You love taking baths and playing with playdough or anything sensory. You are smart, in more ways than one. You will pretend to not know how to do something so you can get the attention of an adult.

You have your dad’s extroverted nature and charm. There are no strangers to you. Walking through the grocery store, you say hello to every single person, telling me loudly when they don’t respond in kind. You look forward to engaging with people in a way this introvert will never understand, but always admires. We both LOVE listening to you introduce yourself as “Maggie Moo Margaret Jane Rinehart” with confidence that suggests there is nothing odd about having five names. 

You have yet to learn your power, when you look up at me with round, wide eyes, full of innocence and hope and ask for something in the sweetest, most polite voice neither your dad nor I can say no. I think you can hear our hearts explode with love.

Currently your biggest challenge is pronouncing the word yellow – it comes out ‘little’. When you slow it down, YELL – OW, you can say it. Before you know it

You are hilarious, interesting and so much fun. You are also always thinking about others. You will bring me the last bite of your candy or letting your sister play with a toy first. 

As I post this, almost 6 months past your birthday, your speech is already clearer and I’m constantly surprised by your vocabulary and imagination. The other day, you saw a young tree with a protective fence around it through the car window and you said “aww, that little tree is in jail. Isn’t that sad momma?” Another day on a walk you were inventing a game where we weren’t supposed to walk on the cracks because you said they are “dangerous”. I mean, what four year old uses the word dangerous?

You are your father, with all his charm and intellect also comes what we’ve coined, transitionally challenged. Transitioning you from bed to the bathroom to getting dressed and out the door in the morning might be most exasperating part of my day. But you’re teaching me to be more patient so we can all start our day in a good mood even if we are a half an hour late all the time.

You will do great things my love. You make the world a happier place and there is no greater gift!


Friday, February 23, 2018

Sammy So So

I was going to do the 2017 retrospective in chronological order, but I changed my mind when our neighbor’s son brought me a tennis ball he found in the yard. I never thought a tennis ball would make me so sad, but there won’t be anyone to chase after it this summer…

Sammy was my Christmas puppy. It was 2006 and with our new house and giant fenced in back yard, I told Jonathan I wanted a puppy. Not just any puppy, a Great Dane! I wanted a big, cuddly, lazy dog.

Well Jonathan was on a mission, except he didn’t like the idea of paying for a designer dog. So he took to the county pounds looking for the perfect addition. It was late November when he stumbled upon a “Great Dane mix” on the Stark County Dog Warden’s web page. He called immediately only to find out he was third in line for this adorable puppy. Cue the Rinehart charm. The Dog Warden told him he could have her if he could pick her up the next day. After more hustling and charm, a friend agreed to pick her up and bring her back to Columbus. Now it was a question of where to hide this puppy for a month so it could be the ultimate Christmas surprise.

Since I have only heard this story after the fact, I have no idea what Jonathan thought when he saw her, but she was not a Great Dane. She was a 40 pound pit bull.
Somewhere along the line he thought it would be ok to keep this puppy at his mom’s house. Oh and did I mention she was trying to sell the house at the time? Yes, let’s keep a puppy at a house that is on the market and ask his mom to care for her, for a MONTH! It’s the part of her story that I never hear the end of…
Fast forward to Christmas Eve 2006 and everyone was in on the surprise. As we traditionally did back then, we headed to his mom’s house for Christmas Eve. The still unnamed puppy was cleaned and donned with a bow and tag.

I walked into his mom’s house to escape the cold only to be aggressively greeted by what I thought was some inconsiderate guest’s dog. My first thought was “who brought their DOG to your mom’s house? How rude”. I think I said a more polite version, “whose dog is this?” I looked around and saw his family looking at me with expectant smiles all over their faces. Evidently the hyperactive puppy that was more like an adolescent, had ripped off the tag and bow. “It’s yours” someone replied.

Yeah, here was a 40 pound dog that was mine. Not exactly the cute, cuddly puppy I had in mind. That is how I came to meet my Sammy Girl. And expectations be damned, she was the best dog I could have ever asked for.

11 years later, only a couple weeks before Christmas 2017, she got sick and left us. And I miss her like hell right now.

We always used to say she was the most expensive pound puppy there ever was. She tore her ACL, had major digestion issues requiring specialized food (and ruined many rugs until), had a tumor removed from her spine, had a spell with seizures and had a thyroid problem. Her vet chart was so big, it made a thump on the table when they got it out. But in her most recent visit to the vet, they said she had many years still in her.

Whatever caused her rapid deterioration, it was a surprise to us all. It happened fast, less than 24 hours that we had to say goodbye. Who knows how long she was actually sick. Luckily the girls got to say goodbye to their dear friend. She was 11 years old, older than our kids, our marriage and even some friendships. There is a gaping hole in our house and a deafening quiet. She wasn’t a barker, but her nails on the hardwood, the jingle of her collar, the thump of her happy tail (the rhythm of her happiness) and even her snoring was the white noise of our family. Jonathan went out for a walk just the other day and almost whistled for her out of habit. Maggie asked one morning, where’s Sammy? And I hesitated, forgetting for a heartbreaking minute that she’s gone.
She was our kid before we had kids. We took her on the boat, took her cabrewing and often took her camping. She snuggled with us on the couch, but only if we gave the permissive double pat on the bed/couch and said “up up”. We lazily exercised her by shining the laser pointer around the back yard from an upstairs window. She was an adept escape artist, climbing the chain-link fence, opening the basement door with her nose, slinking out of her collar when we had to revert to a tie in the yard, and even just wandering away when we weren’t paying attention. When she did escape, no matter how frantic we were, we would eventually be reconnected because she would find her way to people. She LOVED people. One time her escape started with a mud bath and ended in someone’s car, as if the open door in their driveway was an invitation.

Thank you Sammy for being such a great dog, the wuppiest puppy and an amazing friend. We miss you.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The big C

The last post and this post were originally one in the same-written with fresh, raw emotions. Those same emotions that probably provoked me to delete. So instead you get the whole story until now, diluted by hindsight. So here goes...

It was a Saturday and we were on our way to Canton to visit friends when I got a call from Mom. Selfishly, I thought she was calling to check in on me per my ‘news’, but once I answered, I heard that tell-tale tone in her voice. You know, the one that raises the hair on your arms and creates a pit in your stomach. She got right to the point, “Your Dad's being admitted to the hospital. It looks like he’s in kidney failure. We don’t know much else right now. I just wanted you to know what is going on.”

That sickening calm came over me and I said ok, probably asked a question or two that I can’t remember now and told her to keep me updated. I hung up the phone and started to cry. I told Jonathan what I knew and we drove on in silence.

I’m not sure I remember much about that weekend, but I do remember doing some frantic googling because of how scary “kidney failure” sounds. I mean, when one of your organs fails, there’s no coming back, right? Well not in this case because he was quickly treated. He went to the ER because with severe back pain and a slew of tests revealed the kidney problem.

A couple of days to confirm, but the doctors suspected cancer. It turns out that the kidney problem is indicative of a specific type of cancer, Multiple Myeloma. He tested positive and they started him on Chemo immediately. 

So what is Multiple Myleoma? Well this is how the Mayo Clinic defines it - Multiple myeloma is a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. Plasma cells help you fight infections by making antibodies that recognize and attack germs. Multiple myeloma causes cancer cells to accumulate in the bone marrow, where they crowd out healthy blood cells.  

That’s all very technical so I just tell people it’s in the same cancer class of leukemia and lymphomas.

Now what do you do, who do you call when you feel lost and you can’t lean on your mom and dad? Well, it helps when your best friend, the one that just beat the shit out of breast cancer, also works as a Nurse at Children’s Hospital specializing in leukemia and lymphoma bone marrow transplants. 

Kelli will probably have a better recollection than I, but I remember it all came pouring out--- Jonathan currently not working, me starting a new job (possibly), pregnant and now Cancer! While she claimed to not know much about this type of cancer (because it very rarely presents in Pediatrics), she knew more than most people, both from a first-hand experience of getting a Cancer diagnosis to also caring for patients that have treatment courses similar to what Dad would ultimately go through. She told me what she knew in that calming nurse way that didn’t over promise success, but also didn’t scare me to tears. OH I Love you Kel.

As the never ending appointments started for Dad, I would ask for as much detail as I could remember and then quickly dial my inside source. She would help translate what I heard third hand. What did she know about this drug and that drug, what does this diagnosis mean, should he be going to a different hospital???

The plan was for Dad to be on Chemo for three months (not the most aggressive Chemo, but not exactly anything anyone volunteers for). After the first three months they would check his numbers (what numbers, I don’t know, but they’d check them) and if the numbers were good (low?) They’d probably recommend an autologous bone marrow transplant.

What the what??

Essentially it’s a transplant of your own bone marrow back to you. They take the bone marrow – dose you with Chemo (like a shit ton of strong chemo) I think they call it ablative, and then give you your own bone marrow back. This is safer than getting a bone marrow transplant from someone else. But either way he has to be in the hospital for three weeks because he will have NO immune system to protect him.

After the transplant, they'd give him three months to rebound, you know, from almost killing him with Chemo. Then they check his numbers again and he’ll start back on the same lower dose chemo he started with.

Can you imagine all the questions I had for Kelli?

The most frustrating part is that all of the above information was not for sure. I think they were trying to tell us that it is a very fluid process and there are so many factors to take into consideration. There was no way to tell what the treatment plan would be in 6 months. We wanted to hear the plan, the checkpoints and the assurances that this would work. We were digging for hope and optimism. Yeah, the Oncologists don’t work that way…

How do I distill a whole year of my experience with this into one post? I don’t know. 

One day, I’d like to ask my mom to describe her feelings over the past year. I know my parents were in a precarious spot of being scared, but also driven to protect us and not worry us. I can’t imagine the fear, anxiety and suffocating worry.

All I can do is talk about the experience from my perspective. Deep down I was (and continue to be) more optimistic than my sisters. Maybe it was all the talking to Kelli, or just my denial that this would get really bad, but I didn’t think that this would be the end for Dad, just a really painful battle. I remember expressing my optimism once to my sisters. I immediately felt embarrassed and naive when these highly educated medical professionals didn’t have the same positive expectations. I also was worried that my optimism would be mistaken for under-appreciation of the pain, exhaustion and sickness dad would experience.

There were times when I was selfishly grateful that the worst of the experience would take place close to my home so I could be there for support. But to be honest, this stage in my life made it difficult for me to be the support I wanted to be for my parents. I want to be there for my young kids, but also pulled to be near my parents. Couple all of that with a new job in which I had to save all of my PTO for an upcoming maternity leave so we could still pay the bills. It was often a gut-wrenching feeling, dissecting the 24 hours in the day wanting to be in all places, knowing each day I took off work was stealing time from my unborn baby, but each day I worked, stole time away from my parents, all the while deferring my own feelings. There were days I cried at my desk, days I cried in the bathroom at home and days that I screamed at Jonathan for things that had nothing to do with him. Saying it was a hard year doesn’t really do it justice. And that’s just my perspective, I wasn’t even the one going through Chemo or caring and worrying for my partner who was trying to fight cancer.

It’s a lot to distill into one post, which is why this one is so long. I will end it with this text that Dad just sent this week – almost one year after his initial diagnosis.

"Good news today from the James. The latest bone marrow biopsy revealed Minimal Residual Disease MRD! The test is now refined to even reveal very low levels. In my case as Melissa told me they reported a big fat zero! This is the best possile outcome at this point...But in any event wanted to share this good news with all of you who have cared for me and worried for too long. Love you all."

It's never really over, but we are so lucky! Here's to a Healthy 2018!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

January 2017

So I had a very long blog post somewhere that I must have deleted. It documented the craziness of January last year. My guess is that I deleted it because I didn’t want all of my negative feelings posted without time to resolve and come to terms with all of it. So now what I write will be through the lens of hindsight, and not as raw as what I probably deleted.

Close your eyes and pretend its January 2017, a year ago….
I’m still working at the big blue bank, but I am actively interviewing at a regional green bank at the same time Jonathan is actively looking for his next employer. It was during the month of January that the green bank informed me of their job offer. I’m a ball of nerves as I begin the negotiation process that determines the livelihood of my family. I am all for negotiating strongly and knowing that I’m the only one that will fight for me, but I’m also a chicken. Jonathan pushes me to ask for an obscene salary. I’m glad he does because it pushes me to ask for more than my modesty would normally allow. After many stressful weeks of negotiations we settle on a number. I unofficially accept and begin to plan my resignation from the blue bank.

It was around this time that I mentioned to Jonathan, half joking that “I don’t remember the last time I had my period, what if I’m pregnant?” Knowing how difficult it was for us to get pregnant previously, we both shrug it off with a laugh as a sign of our stressful lives. As I get closer to leaving one job for another, the thought again crosses my mind. I should just confirm that I’m not pregnant.

Here is the text exchange


He did not get that last message to not waste the money...

So for about a week, a pregnancy test sat in our bathroom taunting me. I finally decide to take it so I could throw it away. After the obligatory three minutes, I look down and faintly see that second line creating a plus sign. WTF? Are my eyes playing tricks on me? So many times I’ve looked at these tests and willed that line to be there, maybe that’s what’s happening. I’m seeing pink lines where there are none to be seen. But I know! I know that false positives don’t happen. Even the faintest of lines indicates something.

NOW WHAT? WE don’t have the money for another child, we don’t have the room, I don’t have the energy. I just accepted a new job. What will they do? How will they respond? I won’t get a maternity benefit. I am leaving a company that has one of the best Maternity benefits in the US. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?? I was finally getting some independence back with the girls out of diapers, pull ups. Bottles, baby food, teething and Breastfeeding were almost distant memories. Yes, babies are awesome, but it’s not like I get the luxury of focusing my energy on the baby, I have to work, pay the mortgage and put food in the fridge.

I made it all the way to work before I sat in a room and cried. Oh the irony. The years of willing it to happen and then it did, just not in my twenties or early thirties!

So I did what any girl would do, I called my mom.

 She could tell I was crying so I had to quickly reassure her that it wasn’t anything bad (no one was hurt or dying). As my fears and poured out over the phone faster than my tears dropped I realized I was saying all of this to a woman who had raised three awesome children and was pretty successful herself, putting herself through school with those three kids and a full time job. I sounded foolish because all of the things I was scared of, she did and more. 

My biggest concern at the moment was what to do about this job opportunity…Do I pass on it because I ‘might’ need maternity leave benefits. I mean all I had done at this point was pee on a stick. What if I miscarried, what if it was false, what if, what if?? Well my wise mother gave me some great advice – “Marci, you pick the job that is best for your career and your family. Maternity leave is a one-time benefit and shouldn’t be the determining factor.” 

Boy I’m glad we had that conversation on the Friday we did, because the next day things changed. Her attention and focus rightfully shifted as Dad was admitted to the hospital....

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017 - in Retrospect

Hey, guess what? I'm still here.

Almost a year to the day of my last blog post I've decided (been bullied by Anna) to return to posting. 2017 was a very big year and I did not stop writing, I just couldn't find the time to edit it all and post. From career changes, to family changes, the big C and a little J only to wrap up the year with the loss of our dear Sammy. It was a lot to sort through and as always writing helps me with that.

So, for the next month or so - depending on how diligent I can be, I'll be posting 2017 in retrospect. I'll try and keep it chronological so they still make sense, but we'll see how this goes.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Wedding Anniversary - 8 years married, 15 together.

Not that kind of "Dear John" letter...

This week marks our 8th wedding anniversary, almost 15 years together. When I think back, we seem so young and naive. We really have grown up together. When we decided to get married, I felt we were crossing an invisible threshold into adulthood. How many thresholds have we now crossed? Each time making us more 'adult'. Luckily you (and hopefully I) haven't lost your juvenile sense of mischief. Although it does get harder to be ridiculous when you're trying to teach the kids to be responsible and smart.

I'll tell you what, I'm tired of being an adult sometimes. Can we go back to the irresponsible kids at OU. Do you remember when we had fans? When the biggest problem was paying for beer and what to do on a rainy afternoon?

Life is so complicated as an adult, always throwing tough shit our way. Even when it gets REALLY, REALLY BAD, I'm still proud of my younger self for picking so wisely. And proud of the foresight in the stubborn, younger you for not letting me go, even though I tried halfheartedly.

What I'm slowly learning is that the tough times don't preclude the beauty, especially that of our growing family. I understand better each day the analogy of a life being a tapestry woven together-without the threads of struggle, doubt, fear, anxiety and vulnerability so intertwined with joy, laughter, excitement and love we wouldn't have created this life, this deep, beautiful and sometimes painful life. 

The balance is hard. Prioritizing each other is something we are refocused on. Thank you for that. You bring so much laughter, levity, sensitivity and strength to me. Your spirit is the strongest thread of this family. When it weakens, we all do. I took that for granted. It really is what keeps us all burning bright and focused on the joyful moments in life.

Thank you for being patient with me (most of the time). I know I'm a very sensitive, passionate and emotional person trying to excel in a very logical, pragmatic world. It is big role to be the protector of a heart this big, and easily bruised.

I love you!