Wednesday, September 10, 2014

On Being Pregnant

I feel like before I share a bit of our story, I need to preface it with a couple of things, things that I don't really know how to say, and I know I'll publish this post and later on wish I would have said it differently or better, but here it is from my heart. First of all, there's a part of me that will always feel like a betrayer for having Nolan and being pregnant. I know that sounds weird, but some of my dearest friends are those women who have stood by me and who I have stood with as we have looked infertility in the eyes and faced it head on together. And some of those women are still looking at infertility head on, with no babies in sight, and here I am with not just one, but two babies. This doesn't mean I'm not grateful, I could never be grateful enough, but this also doesn't mean that I've forgotten you or what it feels like to deal with infertility. You are brave and strong, and I will continue to stand by your side as you wish for babies that I know will come, but haven't yet. Secondly, I know that some people go through fertility treatments time and time again and are never successful. I pray for you and won't ever forget you, and will continue to stand by your side, too. My greatest treasure in life is being a mom, but my dearest friends and those who were my greatest supporters were my fellow infertiles and you were my first bits of hope and strength. You're not alone, and I still got yo back.

In 2011 when we had the absolute perfect experience being placed with Nolan, and when everything from falling in love with his birth mom, Makenzie to holding him for the first time and bringing him home, went so impeccably well, we were so satisfied, so fulfilled and so certain that if we never had another baby, it wouldn't matter. Nolan was all we needed and we couldn't have ever, ever been happier! Fast forward to 2014 and we still felt the exact same way, Nolan fulfilled every single hope and dream and idea that we had about being parents and having the most beautiful life, but something told us that maybe we weren't all Nolan needed. There's just something about a little boy needing a brother or a sister that got us thinking about the possibility of adding another baby to our family.

We were terrified, because Nolan's adoption was so seamless that we were just certain that nothing could ever go that smoothly again, and so starting the whole process all over again was a little daunting, to say the least. But after much fasting and praying and after a bunch of random (or not so random) questions from Nolan about babies and brothers and sisters, we decided to try again for a baby. Our path lead us to adoption, which just felt so natural and familiar and incredibly exciting. I mentioned a little bit about this story before here but in a nut shell, we thought we had a baby and the birth mother changed her mind, and though there was a moment of "well that stinks" we knew without question that this was the right thing and that her sweet baby wasn't our sweet baby. So next, in a pretty crazy chain of events that, frankly, felt really scary and unfamiliar and surprised us both, we found ourselves pursuing fertility options, something we hadn't done in 6 years. Six years ago we closed that door, and it was a bit strange to open it again, but we knew it was right, we knew it was what our Heavenly Father wanted us to do, and so we went for it.

We went through the entire process, from start to finish, all over again. Testing, retesting, uncomfortable conversations with genetic counselors and informative conversations with amazing doctors, and finally, again, the diagnosis, which was not easier to hear the second time around, but fortunately, not as big of a blow the second time around, either. We learned a lot of new details but the bottom line was still the same, you will never have babies on your own, and the only way you will ever get pregnant is through In Vetro Fertilization, and not the normal kind, the most precise, expensive, delicate, and tricky kind (it's called ICSI, if you're interested in Googling it).

We went home, processed a bit, called our insurance (which covered a whole bunch of our process which can only be noted as Miracle 3,548), did some more fasting and praying, and knew that this was the right step for us.

The road through In Vetro is incredible. The fact that there is such an unbelievable process and procedure that works, still blows my mind. But to be completely honest, the road isn't that pretty. It involved giving myself lots of injections, and Collin giving me lots of injections, and plenty of weight gain, and feeling exhausted, and then there was the time when I was allergic to some of the medication I took and I passed out and woke up  with several doctors hovering over me, and yada yada yada, like I say, not a particularly pretty road. And then there were the mood changes. Oh the blessed mood changes, which left me with only one things to say: bless my dear sweet angel of a husband. However, despite all of the ugly parts of the journey, there was a light, and a pretty bright one, at the end of that tunnel.

We had no idea what to expect after trying In Vetro, we certainly had no idea if we should anticipate pregnancy, so we tried to go in with high hopes but low expectations.

I'll never forget the moment I got the phone call from the nurse (Bridget) with the news that I was pregnant. I was at Jaron and Shelly's house, I saw that the nurse was calling, I ran outside, got the news, came back in, and lied through my teeth so that I could tell Collin before anybody else. :) Bridget was so nice. When she said, "you're pregnant" I immediately started questioning her and she laughed and said, "Ashlee, you are pregnant" to which I replied "I've just never heard those words before". It was surreal, exciting, and I couldn't wait to tell Collin.

The rest is sort of history. Our family has said endless amounts of prayers of gratitude and thanks, we've done plenty of belly patting and name discussing and all of the things that I dreamed we would be able to do some day. And aside from being terribly sick (ER visits, throwing up all day every day, losing 16 pounds (what!!!)) these last 12 weeks have been some of the most wonderful of my life.

I will never take pregnancy for granted. I will never forget what it feels like not to be pregnant. I'm also pretty sure I will never forget what it feels like to be pregnant, and for that, I could truly, never be grateful enough.

We are excited, feeling blessed beyond measure, and I have high hopes that as I start feeling a little less sick, maybe my blogging frequency will increase. Don't hold your breath. :)

***I'm not a huge fan of public thanksgiving because I'm notorious for forgetting somebody or leaving something out, but I can't not say what I'm about to say, so please know, if I leave somebody or something out, it's not because I'm not grateful, it's because I'm an idiot. :) There have been sick days these last several weeks where I literally could not stand up, much-less feed my family, and in those times of need my freezer has been filled with breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for my family, with magical smoothies for me that kept me from withering away, my fridge was always full of something from somebody, neighbors have watched and/or offered to watch Nolan, people have had Collin over for dinner, friends and family have called/texted/emailed/messaged or dropped by. Friends have mowed, the youth have weeded and tended to our yard. I've had my own, personal, on-call Meals on Wheels driver, who also happens to be the leader of our congregation here in Racine, and undoubtedly had 1,000 other things to do. I've had my dear dear friend literally feed my family every day for weeks, make belly bands so I don't have to wear uncomfortable clothes, send over anti-nausia food, and check on me every single day without fail. People have offered to clean, or cook, or just be here with me, and though the list could go on, I'll stop there because my hormones make me cry when I talk about stuff like this. But before I completely finish, I HAVE to say thank you to my boys. Nolan has been so patient and so loving, and Collin has taken over my roles and never complained once. I am so blessed and SO THANKFUL FOR YOU!!!

Friday, May 23, 2014


Collin spent 2 weeks over seas and when he got back he took the week off so we could spend time as a little family. We decided to go camping, partly because a whole entire year ago Mama and Papa Smith gave Collin camping gear for his graduation, and a year later we still hadn't used it, and partly because a few days with no cell service, no people, and no computers sounded like heaven especially after not having seen each other for 2 weeks. So...we went camping. And while we were there, our little 2 year old decided to turn himself into a 3 year old. We spent the day doing what I think every little boy should do on his 3rd birthday, fishing from a row boat, throwing rocks in the lake, running on the beach, eating cake straight from the pan, and running in the woods getting really, really dirty. I hope that being 3 is awesome for him, because being mommy to that 3 year old is the best thing in the world. 

**It should be known that I was approximately 90% opposed to camping before we went, and a full-fledged 100%  fan by the time we drove home. I think this means we'll go camping again, I hope soon! 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Ride On

We have this really amazing hill right out our front door and we have this low to the ground bike/car toy that can handle adults and kids alike, and really, I can't think of a better combo. So, I give to you…Ride On. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Thoughts on trying to have a baby

I have a pretty amazing life, really I do. It's the kind of life where I wake up in the morning, open up my Gospel Library app on my phone, read a few versus of the good word, roll over on to the floor and say a heart-felt, generally not particularly rushed, good morning prayer. After that stuff I look at my calendar, see what the day has in store, and then as long as I show up to the right place at the right time, or call the person who needs to be called, or make what needs to be made, all the while giving as much possible attention to the two boys who make my world go round, I deem it a pretty perfect day. Nothing too incredibly pressing, never anything too dramatic, always lots of fort-building type activities and always a lot a lot a lot of apples and peanut butter. I drop Collin off at work with a kiss and a hug, and if ever he's too rushed or heaven forbid I'm not in the mood, Nolan yells "HUG" and "TISS" at the top of his lungs until the three of us have sufficiently squozen and smooched each other, which I know is essential to Nolan being able to call his day a success. We greet our daddy at the end of the day with everything the song was made of, always including but never limited to a hug around the neck, a kiss on the cheek, and some definite knee-climbing. Dinner is usually simple, delicious, and full of "today this happened" and "let's please don't spit our food out" and plenty of toddler burps (maybe my favorite and least favorite thing at the exact same time). Then it's bath time with daddy and kitchen clean up time for this girl, and then we usually top our day off with some sort of screen time before we sing a stirring rendition of 'Book of Mormon Stories' which naturally leads to reading said stories, and then it's prayers, a book, sometimes a song, and goodnight. It wouldn't be for everybody, but for me it's a pretty perfect life. 
And believe it or not, that entire paragraph up there ^^ was a precursor to a whole horrific account of how despite my perfectly happy life I still long for what I can't have…which is a tale as old as time and generally includes bigger houses or skinner thighs or all expenses paid vacations or maybe shopping sprees. But for me, all the bedrooms in the world, all the legs for days and sandy beaches and every stitch of clothing in the world is not what I long for. For me….it's babies. Plain and simple. A house full of children to chase and tickle and kiss and love. That's what I want. And that's what I can't have. Or at least, not yet. And you know what, it's not because we haven't tried, because dear sweet heavens have we ever tried. 
There was this one time, earlier this year, when we thought we had been chosen by a birth mother so I called up our local theater and told them "I can not thank you enough for offering me a role in the upcoming show Les Mis (my favorite, and a dream come true!) but I can not accept, because a birth mom has chosen to place her baby with us during the time the show is running". The director was SO thrilled for us, and so understanding and it was all lovely. Then, a short while later, we found out the birth mother picked a different family instead. 
***THIS IS IMPORTANT*** I feel 100% confident that that baby boy was not ours and that the sweet birth mother made the right choice and that baby boy will go to the perfect family for him. I am not devastated, heartbroken, angry, resentful, hurt, nor do I feel betrayed, letdown or lied to. 

But we did get to add one more event to our list that we call 'Ways We've Tried To Have A Baby That Have Failed'. Then there are fertility treatments, those money sucking, body mutilating, marriage testing treatments, in which I turn into somebody I'm not, all the while Collin wonders where his wife has gone, Nolan thinks Mommy has lost her mind, and I can see all of it unfolding right before my eyes with limited to no ability to stop. the. crying. And all of these treatments are dependent on so many things that are out of our control, the least of which is a demanding work schedule, the most of which is, well, our bodies. It's a lot, this whole wanting to have a baby and not being able to thing. A really lot. 
And on the days when I see a newborn baby, or (and especially) on the days when it's so blasted obvious that Nolan could SOOOO benefit from a sibling (we're talking only-child spoils, and limited ability based on limited necessity to share, and most of all this thing I've never seen in a child his age where he sees a baby and can't help but gravitate towards it, this kid LOVES babies) it hurts my heart beyond belief that I can't just ask Collin to come home early from work one day and then walllahhh, 9 months later gift Nolan with the sibling of his dreams. And then, beyond (and way less important) than all that, is the fact that we went a little overboard when we moved out of the city and purchased a home for 3 that was intended for 10 and all day long I'm walking past empty bedrooms and lonely cribs and little tiny baby blankets that are just sitting there…waiting. I think it was yesterday that I said to my love, in a moment of frustration and slight rage, "why do we even waste the money to live in this house if we only need 2 bedrooms? Let's just move!"…which was clearly a rational thought because in the middle of a mini-breakdown that is mostly hormone induced and doesn't have a clear end in sight, moving is definitely the answer, the perfect answer. 

Anyways, despite all this negative rambling and (as I'm sure I'll discover when I read this in a week) ample over-sharing, there is a point to this…story? Is this a story? I don't know…but the point, the point is this….we are trying, my goodness are we ever trying. We are trying to do things right, not just baby stuff but all this life stuff…we're just, trying to get it right. We're trying to make the best decisions. We're trying to teach Nolan the best stuff. We're trying to be thankful for what we have and not sad for what we don't have. And by George, we are trying to have a baby. I think we'll have one, though I'm not 100% certain, and I think it will be a girl, though I'm way less than 100% certain, and I think Nolan and she won't be 10 years apart, though right now that wouldn't surprise me. 

BUT, with all of this trying and failing and this overwhelming uncertainty, a few things have become increasingly clear to me. If we never have another child, (particularly a tiny little girl in the next year or so, like I'm dreaming of) we will be okay. We will make it out of this roller coaster called life, okay. If Nolan Smith is the only child I ever have, I will never feel cheated or robbed or like my life as a mother was wasted because being a mom to this miracle boy of mine IS ENOUGH. It is more than enough. This little almost 3 year old was the last piece to my puzzle, the one who made me "Mommy", the one who taught me more in 2 years than anything I learned in college. And if he's the only child we ever get to do life with, that is okay. More than okay, really. Because when I think about his story, and Makenzie, and the people that love him, and the way he holds my hand, and the way he dances when a record comes on, and the way he runs to me after a nap, and the mischievous smile in his eyes, it's okay, it's all okay, every single thing…is okay. 

But….we're still going to keep trying. 
^^^Photos from a family fishing trip we took a few weekends back. I thought documenting the day my heart exploded from the cuteness that is a little boy + a homemade fishing pole was a decent idea. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Larry E. grandpa

It's sort of mind-blowing that just a little over a month ago I posted this about our grandpas and less than two weeks later one of those good men was gone from this earth. My Grandpa, Larry Elton Sherwood, passed away March 22, 2014. (You can read his obituary here). Grandpa Sherwood was something different to everyone, but he was something to everyone. I've loved, so much, hearing all of the things that he was to so many people; patriarch, cow-hand, bishop, boss, employee, friend, etc. and I am so grateful for what he was and is to me. 

Grandpa is a flood of memories for me, starting from a very young age, all the way until 2 weeks before he passed when I got to hang out with him for a couple weeks. That's 26 years of inspiration, motivation, example, and love I got to have from that man. What a blessing. I've learned from the passing of my dad that writing down memories and referring back to them often is a crucial part of healing and moving forward, so that's what I'm going to do now, share some of my sweetest memories of my grandpa. 
I don't ever want to forget:
Lying in bed on a Saturday morning and hearing the doorbell ring followed by a loud "Are you gonna sleep all day?" which was generally preceded by some form of cuss word, most often the "h" word. :)

Sitting between gramps and Uncle Rolf on our way to who knows where, stealing a sip of Diet Coke from Uncle Rolf's giant Maverick mug and then a sip of Grandpa's DP from his giant Maverick mug. 

Running out to open the big white gate at the farm and it being too heavy, so I'd wait on the bottom pipe of the gate until Gramps would lift it open and then push that gate out nice and hard so I could get a good swinging ride on it before I had to jump off and get back in the pick up. 
My first time butchering with Grandpa. I can still remember being absolutely blown away by the whole thing, from realizing what a chore this really was, to recognizing that this was a labor of love that was going to feed an entire family for a long time. 
Watching Gramps shoot a hog not long before he "retired" from butchering and being so incredibly impressed and proud to call the man that just nailed a hog dancing around in the back of a horse trailer directly between the eyes from what had to be 50 yards away, my grandpa...and my 85 year old grandpa, at that. (I think it was about 8 years ago)
Trying on a dress that only had one sleeve and while Mom was pinning and tucking, Grandpa walked in, with blood all over his hands (from butchering) and asked for a plastic bag, which I thought was going to be for some butchering purpose, he then proceeded to wrap the bag around the arm without a sleeve and said, "that's better". Needless to say I did not ever wear that dress, nor did I ever wear anything sleeveless ever again. 

Watching Grandpa hurt and cry for us when my dad passed away. He would have traded places with my dad in a second but that wasn't the plan and he picked himself and us up by the bootstraps and kept on keeping on. 

Sitting on top of the chute looking over with over-sized anticipation, waiting for that dead silent, yet deafening head nod which meant "pull", and then watching him rope a steer in nothing flat! Pulling chutes for Grandpa and Uncle Floyd at The Martin Place made me feel like a queen, I seriously felt so honored!
And speaking of an honor, I remember the first time I was handed a hot shot and asked to go move some cows. I felt like I had finally made it in life! (I was probably 8)

Sitting 3 or 4 cousins high on that old pink and tan flowery couch in the living room waiting for our Fast Sunday FHE to start and trying to look away pretending that I wasn't completely thrilled at the prospect of being asked to play the piano for our opening song while Markee led, but I was completely thrilled, and he asked every time and it made my day every time. 

Grandpa asking Markee and me to play and lead at our private family viewing for Grandma, I felt so grateful for the opportunity. Grandpa was ALWAYS giving me opportunities to shine and experience honor and responsibility. 

The advice he gave Collin when he was trying to decided which job to take a few months back. He said, "if getting up to go to work is a chore, you'll get stuck, but if you like getting up and going to a job you enjoy, you'll do better at it, you'll be better at it, and you'll be able to move ahead." Grandpa always worked, and he always enjoyed it, even the less-enjoyable stuff. 
When I wrote a song for Grandma after she died, Grandpa came in and said, "well where's mine?" I spent about a month writing a song for him that was in the same key as Grandma's and then I spent about another month joining the two songs together into one piece that I thought musically represented the love my grandparents' shared and the way they complemented and completed each other. I played it for Grandpa a few months later and he said, "you'll play that at my funeral". (Thank the HEAVENS I didn't have to, and thank the HEAVENS he was kidding. Also, thank the heavens my sweet Aunt Tina played at his funeral because it was truthfully the most beautiful piano solo I've ever heard. In fact, I hadn't shed a tear until her solo).  He didn't die for over 10 more years! I play it often when I miss my grandma and now my grandpa. 

Grandpa coming to my mom's house declaring that he'd left his glasses somewhere and we needed to go find them, so naturally I headed toward the driver's seat, given that the 92 year old didn't have his glasses, but he insisted on driving and I don't remember ever having more fun! 

Watching him handle a dutch-oven like it was his baby, and coming out with perfect biscuits every single time, because even if they were a little burnt, since Grandpa made them, they were perfect. 

Seeing him manage and maintain the reunion place to make sure it was always ready for the family.
When he took me on a DQ date once while Mom was doing paperwork and Nolan was sleeping. It was just Grandpa and me. I tried to pay, and he nipped that in the bud right away. He bought us lunch and a treat and we just sat in DQ visiting. To be honest, we didn't talk much, Grandpa didn't talk just to talk, I remember him keeping quiet until something profound needed to be said, but that lunch is one of my sweetest memories. 
The summer my dad was sick, and the summer after, and for several weeks this year, I got to spend uninterrupted time in Eagar, as an adult with a different perspective on life, and I got to be around grandpa for months at a time knowing that he wouldn't be around forever and wanting to learn every possible thing I could from him. I kept a notebook all summer long of the things he taught me. Everything from how old his oldest cow was to where he bought his bull. He knew how many cows and calves he had and he taught me when to sell them and what is a good price. I look at the notebook and remember riding in the Kubota with Nolan between us, and Nolan doing the cattle call and Grandpa cracking up. I remember Grandpa not even being able to step out of the truck because his cows were so close he couldn't move. They'd reach right up and lick him and eat out of his hands. They loved him just as much as he loved them. 
I want to remember the way Grandpa knew everybody and something about them. I want to remember the way he treated my mom and his kids. I want to remember Christmas shopping with Grandpa around town. I want to remember doing corn, and shelling peas, and fishing in the pond, the smell of branding, his determined and pointed walk that got slower overtime but NEVER lost purpose. I want to remember the way he looked after a fresh hair cut. I want to remember sitting next to him during church and him letting me play with his watch. I want to remember his hands, his worn, strong, hard-working, never-idle, sun-spotted, wrinkled, serving hands. I want to remember that he called me Matilda and sis and Ash, and I want to remember that he called Collin 'Collins'. I want to remember that he never called Nolan by his name but always by some other heart-felt yet slightly spicey (and always situationally appropriate) name. I want to remember how tightly he hugged my mom when she brought my dad home from the hospital, they hadn't seen each other in about a month and I think that might have been the longest in their whole lives. I want to remember his funeral and the horse-drawn wagon lead by 3 of his best cowboy friends. I want to remember the wonderful people who showed up to support and show love. I want to remember the honor it was to carry Grandpa's casket and the tribute it was to watch my cousins lower his casket into the ground with roping ropes. I want to remember his hat and his spurs, his horse Annie, and all the horses that came before her. 
I want to remember so many things about my grandpa but if I only get to remember one thing, I hope it's this:

My Grandpa was all of the things I talked about above, a dad, a brother, a son, an uncle, and grandpa, a friend, a bishop, a patriarch, a cowboy, a team roper, a butcher, a teacher, a peace-maker and a leader, but FIRST AND FOREMOST my grandpa was follower of Christ and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That always came first. ALWAYS. And if I never get to live on a ranch and use the notebook full of cattle-herding knowledge he gave me, and if I never get to grow a garden or sip water from a rusty old ladle again, and if I never get to do one other thing that my grandpa taught me to do, that will be okay with me, as long as I follow his example and never let my faith in and testimony of Jesus Christ waver. He was perfect in his testimony and I want that to be what I carry with me in this life.

I will forever be grateful to have had Larry Sherwood as my grandpa.