The Unexpected Pregnancy

In early May I found out I was pregnant. I felt nervous, excited, and overwhelmed with love for a little person I had never met. Physically I felt really good. I was grateful for that. I had heard horror stories of women being so sick they were bed ridden for their entire pregnancy. I was not one of those women. If anything, I felt better than normal. I woke up feeling refreshed, ate well, still went hiking, and just enjoyed that season of life.

I went to the clinic and was met by our local nurse, Rosemary, who I love dearly. She cried when I told her the news. I went back each week with Andrew hoping to hear the heartbeat, but we knew it was too early. But we just wanted to know that our baby was healthy and growing.

Over the weeks my sense of smell heightened to Bloodhound status. I would sometimes feel slightly queasy in the late afternoon, but it would soon wear off. Andrew and I would sit and talk about what our child might be like. The qualities we hoped he or she would possess. The naming process only took a few days and I couldn’t wait to know which name it would be. Andrew was in Anchorage for an afternoon and came back with a Mother’s Day Present for me. We were looking forward to the adventure of parenthood.

One Saturday afternoon I began spotting and it was unsettling. I called the nurse and knew we just had to wait. I spent the day praying and asking the Lord to spare our baby. The year had already been so full of loss and grief. I wasn’t sure I could handle any more. There were tears shed and then peace. God sent some friends over for the afternoon and they were a wonderful distraction to the turmoil in my heart.

Monday came and I was fine.  Everything was normal. But we were told that we should get a sonogram as soon as possible just in case. We weren’t too worried and figured everything was fine. We planned to go into Anchorage on June 1st and set up an appointment for the morning after we planned to arrive just to be sure.

June 1st came and we visited some midwiferies. We drove out to Andrew’s parents’ house. They had already left for a cousin’s wedding, but Annie and Stephen (Andrew’s sister and brother-in-law) were there. I was bursting to tell them. We had shared the news with some close friends in Port Alsworth, but no one in our family knew yet.

We drove to our appointment and for some reason I felt like we would have bad news, but I had peace. The Lord continued to remind me of His presence and deep love for me. On the screen we didn’t see a baby. The technician told us that she would call the radiologist and have him expedite our results since we were from out of town. Doors shut and we were left in a waiting room. My stomach was in knots. “It has to be bad news,” I thought. Andrew prayed. We sat. Waiting.

I was called into the office and Rosemary was on the phone. She told me that I had been diagnosed with a Complete Molar Pregnancy and I needed to go to a hospital. It was serious if not taken care of and there was no baby. Her words were gentle and firm. I was so confused, but calm. Andrew and I went back into the waiting room. He called Annie and Stephen to tell them they should drive to Valdez without us. We called his parents and explained. I called my mom and tried to hold it together. These were not the calls we wanted to make.

I didn’t know what to do. I was so thankful for Rosemary. She set everything up for us. We went to the ER and by the time we got there they were expecting us. A specialist was on her way. We sat for several hours. There would be a flurry of activity; several people would come in, ask questions, run tests, and then leave. Every time they left I would cry. Thoughts tumbled around in my mind. “How could I love someone so much that never existed?” They kept talking about pregnancy, but doesn’t that mean there’s a baby? There is no baby. There never was. “I want to go home.” I won’t be home for weeks.

The doctor was clear. The cells needed to be removed as soon as possible. Rarely a Molar Pregnancy can lead to cancer. “How did we get from baby to cancer?” She said I need to go in for blood testing once a week until my HcG levels are back to normal. We need to watch those levels and make sure they don’t rise otherwise it could mean chemo. The only two things that raise those levels are pregnancy and cancer. We will watch them for one year.

We were discharged and an emergency procedure was et for 8:00am. We went back to my in-laws’ house. We sat on the couch and tried to wrap our minds around what we had just learned. We went for a walk and then took a nap. I was exhausted. Andrew researched.

The next morning we went back to the hospital. I was the only patient in the OR. All the staff was there for me. Saturday was set aside for emergencies only. I was an emergency. I had been told not to eat or drink anything before the procedure. My veins did not cooperate. Five attempts, three nurses, one pass out, and the IV was in. I remember going into the OR and lying on the table. Heart monitors were put on. Then I remember sitting there talking to Andrew. It was over. Was the doctor coming to see me. Andrew informed me that I had already talked to her. I didn’t remember.

“I don’t hurt, I feel fine.” I apparently sounded like a broken record. But I did feel okay. Physically anyway. We left, picked up prescriptions, went “home.” I slept and watched Anne with an E. We went for a short walk. I groomed Jubel the horse and cried. I wasn’t pregnant. There was no baby. January was just going to be another month. “Do you want to take the Mother’s Day Present back?”

Dear friends sent comforting words and are praying. I grieve, but there is peace. My hope was not in this child. My hope is not in the plan God has for me. My hope is in Christ alone. He never promised me a pain free life. He actually promised suffering. He was familiar with suffering and grief. I believe He still is. In my grief I have moved closer to the heart of my Savior. I feel as though I lost someone, but I didn’t. I lost an expectation. It somehow feels the same.

Over the weeks there have been people who have had grace on me. Their words have been full of life and comfort. Some have not been. However, the Lord has answered my prayer and put a guard over my mouth and allowed me to have grace on them. Many people have shared similar stories of heart-break.

My prayer now is that this time of waiting will not be wasted. I don’t want to despise it. My life is still a gift from the Lord. I am no more or less of a person than I was when I thought I would be a mother. My story is not one of loss and hopelessness. It’s about Christ. He gave me a gift. I got a glimpse into the heart of a mother, if only for a short time. I may get that again, but if not, I choose to see that time as a precious gift. My hope is in Christ alone and not His plan for me.

Home

August 13.  A pretty momentous date in my mind. It marks one year since I moved in my little house in the woods. It may seem insignificant to have lived somewhere for only a year. Since moving to Alaska in 2012 I have moved 10 times and never spent more than 8 months in any dwelling. It’s hard to make roots, settle in, and make a place my own when I know I’ll be packing up again shortly.

Rewind to 2012. I had packed up all my belongings, gotten rid of anything that couldn’t fit into an 18-gallon tote, sold my car, said goodbye, and purchased a one-way ticket. It was an adventure, but I didn’t feel like I was going somewhere I might spend the rest of my life. One year full of tears, laughter, friendship, growth, and challenges…. I felt like I had a place here. But at the end of each season I would pack up, move out and put things in storage. Then I would move in with someone new at the beginning of each new season. There were always unknowns. Where will I go? Who will I live with? What will the dynamics be? Will this feel like home? Can I make it more inviting and comfortable than the year before? In so many wonderful ways I loved the unknowns. I could walk hand-in-hand with the Lord into those situations. I had to relentlessly trust that He would navigate through all the questions I had, excited to lead me since He already knew.

Then 2015 came along. Andrew proposed. Many more unknowns rose to the surface. Now where would we live? What would it be like to be married? How do you navigate differences when it’s a lifelong relationship? What will my role be? Will I be a good wife? Will he think I’m a good wife?  And the list could go on.

There weren’t any houses available in our town. None. Housing shortages are not something that I was accustomed to. I was trying to prepare my heart for living in a house where I would haul water, that wouldn’t be big enough to have guests, that would be sub-par in my mind, but adequate for living. But Andrew kept reminding me that God wasn’t stumped by our need. He owns it all and He knows are needs.  So regularly I would lay my need back in God’s hands and choose not to worry or fret, or even try to fix my need.

A few weeks later, I found myself walking through a house with Andrew. It was not just a house, but it was better than I could have imagined. It has two bathrooms,  guest room, storage, running water, and lots of character. It wasn’t so much the house that I loved the idea of, no, it was the idea of the things we could do with the house.

The Lord has allowed me to see dreams fulfilled in our home. We’ve been able to host guests, people in need, and small groups. We’ve had people sit on our couch and weep. We’ve laughed with people over meals, hosted game nights, and just had people here to rest.

I’ve had the honor and privilege to make our home a place of refuge. It’s a safe place for people to be real, to rest and be refreshed, a place to seek prayer and counsel, a place for quiet, or a place to come and rid yourself of loneliness. It’s a place where my husband can rest or get work done. I always dreamed of having my own home, but more than that my heart ached to mirror my Creator in being one who shapes the atmosphere of a place. I didn’t even know my heart longed for this role until I had it. It’s been one of the most fulfilling years of my life because I am doing something that I believe God instilled in my heart.

I have gotten to decorate, serve, love, give, host, cook, clean, organize, arrange, and all of it has been worship. I simply get to walk in the things that God has for me and I love it. Whether I am sweeping floor, doing laundry, getting the guest room ready, or feeding my chickens – I am the steward of this domain. My home is not my pride and joy, but it is my responsibility. I get to set the tone and I think that’s delightful.

I know that this will not be my forever home, but I do know that I will cherish the things that God taught me while living here. I will remember fondly the memories made and the opportunities it presented. I remember learning that I am a grower of things. It brings me great pleasure to grow flowers, vegetables, and my little flock of chickens.  But I also love to grow relationships and be used of God to help people grow. I believe the theme of this year has been of finding roots and of growing. I find it so beautiful how those things go together. The Lord gives good things and He takes great joy in watching us steward those things to His glory.

Baseball

Last night I went to a Kane County Cougars game with my family.  I got to sit on the lawn in the heat, my hair blew in the Illinois wind, I  drank lemonade, saw some fireworks, my brother & nephews ate peanuts in the shell, my dad sang the National Anthem, and everything about it was so stereo-typically American.  It was a pleasant evening and I will miss simple pleasures like that with my family.

Vacation Bible School

Last week I had the honor and privilege of being Village Bible Church’s VBS missionary.  The theme this year was Amazing Wonders Aviation and seeing God’s power over nature, circumstances, sin, death and life.  Seeing as many of the “amazing wonders” that the kids would be learning about will be practically in my backyard in Alaska and I will have to fly everywhere I go, it only seemed natural to the VBS coordinator to have me be the missionary focus of the week.   I was able to share each day with the 350 children about what Alaska looks like, the people of Alaska, what my daily life will be like in Port Alsworth, and the ministry of the Tanalian Leadership Center.  It was a so fun talking with them and answering questions.  At times I felt like a celebrity, which was really odd.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The boys and girls had a competition to see who could raise more money to help send me to Alaska and I was blown away by their generosity and excitement to give.  I was overwhelmed and grateful to accept their gift of over $1,100 throughout the week.

On Friday it was evident that some of the pre-school and kindergarten age children were still a bit confused as to why I was going to Alaska, other than to see cool animals.  I was able to really share what it means to serve God and why my heart is drawn to serve Him there.

A send off luncheon was given for me on Sunday and I was able to share more in depth with more than 100 people from my home church about what God is doing in my life, what TLC has done in the lives of others, and why I am so passionate about that ministry.  It was a true gift and blessing to see the response of so many people.  I was surprised to see a friend from when I lived in Minnesota.  I hadn’t seen her in over 15 years and it was a joy to see her!  The whole week was so wonderful and I truly realized on Sunday just how truly fortunate I am to have my church family.  It’s not perfect, but we’re a family and God has blessed us with His grace over the years.  Thank you Village Bible Church for being one of my greatest blessings in life.

Sisters’ Roadtrip

Last week my sister and I decided to do something we’d never done before.  The two of us took a fairly impromptu trip down to Mayfield, KY to visit our grandma.  The two of us have never taken a trip with just the two of us before.  It was definitely one of the most fun trips I have ever taken though.  We left home at about 7:30am and began driving almost the entire length of Illinois.

We talked, laughed, took pictures of things we found humor (or attempted to and things didn’t quite turn out), and sang 80s and classic rock songs most of the way to Mayfield.  In quite a few spots along the road there are small, low to the ground signs that start a thought and continue it on several signs to follow that are spaced about 20 yards apart.  I began reading these aloud along the way. Our favorite groups of signs went like this, “If you want peace… prepare for war.”  “For safety at home… guns even the score.”  For some reason it just struck us as very funny.  I think because it was placed in Amish country.  Or because I thought it might have something to do with Jesus from the first line of “If you want peace…” since several before had been about Jesus.  Or maybe because it was nice to break up the monotony of Illinois…

We crossed the Ohio River at about 3:00pm and headed into Kentucky.  We decided to act like tourists (even though we used to live in Kentucky) and stop at the Welcome Center just for the fun of it.  I think the mostly because we were tired of being in the car.

 

We were both pleasantly surprised by how nice the welcome center was.  We signed the guestbook, looked at maps, and then headed toward grandma’s house.  We went to small group with her and then went out for dinner.  Grandma’s order got taken and so for the wait her steak dinner was free!  It was so good to catch up with her and just have fun together as adults.   Katie and I ended up going to bed by about 9:00pm and that became the routine for the 3 nights we were there.  We filled our days with funny family stories, episodes of Sarah Palin’s Alaska, good food, lots of laughter, and a grand tour of Mayfield – complete with a stop at Tractor Supply, Dick’s Sporting Good (where they had never heard of cross-country skis), Lowe’s, the two-screen Princess Theater, the Mayfield Football stadium, and the cemetery (there are pictures of all these things on my facebook if you’d like a tour too).

We left Mayfield and headed back for Illinois on Wednesday morning.  We laughed again at all the crazy and wonderful events of the trip.  It was an uneventful trip back, but we were very glad for three things in particular.

Christmas at the Kirkland House

This year was slightly different than most Christmases,  but definitely a good one.  I went over to my parents’ house after church and we all ate lunch together.  We moved to the living room and opened stockings and gifts.  My mom and sister and I opened our gifts from grandma and what should we find?

Yes, that’s right – matching Snuggies.  More amazing pictures to follow.

The guys all got MagLights.  I think we were a little more enthusiastic about our gifts.