Tuesday, February 28, 2017

On Selfishness

It's amazing how drastically your life can change over time --  it could be a few years, a couple of months, or even a split second.  You're just plugging along, sometimes just trying to survive the day to day grind, then suddenly you stop and look back at a specified amount of time and you go, "Holy crap! A lot has changed!" It could be within yourself or just events in your life. Here are some examples of moments like that from my life:

-The year I graduated high school (2008), I had suffered heartbreak twice before meeting Josh and building my relationship with him. So basically, I had 3 boyfriends in one year 😳😲. That's a little embarrassing to admit...as it shows my immaturity..

-I wrote Josh letters for 2 years while he served his mission in Tampa, Florida, feeling like I had an imaginary boyfriend with him being gone for so long, and then suddenly we were married for eternity 7 months after he returned home. 😍

-I had a really painful falling out with close friends in Utah while trying to endure the cold winters alone at BYU-Provo and then 2 years later I was a newlywed attending BYU-Hawaii surfing all the time and making new friends.

-Josh and I struggled with the pain of infertility for 4 years, and then in a matter of 3 months since starting acupuncture and chinese herb treatments, we were pregnant. 😇

-I was pregnant for 41 weeks then in a split second, the moment Mikala was born, I became a mother. <3

-I worked as an elementary school teacher for 3 years, then at the end of the 2015-2016 school year, I was a stay at home wife/mommy with no lesson plans, data analysis, or grading to do.

I could go on and on, but you get the point. Life is always, always changing. It was part of Heavenly Father's plan for us to help us grow and progress! One of those changes listed above that I had been struggling with was becoming a mother. Yes, I know, I KNOW. I wanted this!!! For soooo long I dreamed of just quitting my job and enjoying life loving on my precious baby, becoming a beautiful family! Don't get me wrong, I am eternally grateful for my son for making me a mother and completing our family.  However, I did not expect some challenges to come up as a result of getting what I wanted so desperately. The biggest challenge for me after becoming a mom, was my marriage. I guess I should add one more life change to that list:

-For 5 years Josh and I built and enjoyed a beautiful marriage and family, which was inclusive of just the 2 of us.  On 9/14/16, we became a family of 3.

I thought the equation for our relationships would be as simple as 2 + 1 = 3. But now I am realizing that relationships are NEVER simple, hahaha.  Because relationships consist of humans, imperfect humans, with their own preferences, skills, talents, passions, mistakes, etc. So really the equation looked maybe more like this: 1 (Josh, husband, father, Elders Quorum president, intern, full-time graduate student, newly hired full-time state worker, hard-worker) + 1 (Ari, wife, stay-at-home mother, HORMONAL, round the clock milk bag for baby, did I mention hormonal???) + 1 (Mikala, innocent baby who was a bit colicky when first born, but healthy and happy) = my family. That probably didn't make sense to anyone else but me...anyways...

Simply put. I. became. selfish. Who am I kidding, I was probably already selfish in our marriage before Mikala was born. I can't blame everything on the little guy! But my attitude became worse after he was born. "I've done this all day, I don't get any breaks, I don't get to surf, I am so tired, I, I, I, I,...." What about Josh? Well, he just took on all of his new responsibilities like a CHAMP. And you know what, he was always constantly trying to find ways to serve me and to make me happy, despite my crappy attitude.

This weekend we kind of hit rock bottom. I was sick so I had stayed home all weekend with baby. I didn't even go to church because I felt so sick. Josh selflessly took the baby with him to church so I could sleep, uninterrupted (and it was GLORIOUS). You would think I would be a cheerful, grateful person after that, right? Well, I'm sad to say I wasn't...in fact I spent the day angry about certain things that were out of my control. I was totally unpleasant to be around, so Josh took the baby to my family's house for dinner without me (because I was having a pity party with myself). While he was gone my head started to clear and I started to see how awful I had been all day. Once I realized that, the first thought I had was: How can I serve Josh and make him happy? So I decided to tackle the huge mountain of laundry that had 2 loads worth of washed but unfolded clothes.  When he came home, I said, "This is my way of saying sorry," and he said, "I know."

Last night we had the talk that kind of turned my attitude around and gave me a big fat slice of humble pie.  I HAVE BEEN IN THE WRONG. So I asked if we could talk, and Josh asked, about what? And I said, don't you feel like we're kind of in a slump right now?? And he said...we've been in it for A WHILE NOW. I cried as Josh finally felt comfortable opening up to me about he has been feeling this way, basically how our marriage felt kind of dead as we just "did our thing" everyday. I took care of baby. He worked. He's been trying to serve me to make me happy, but I still acted selfish and ungrateful and unhappy... I have been letting my stress about Mikala affect the way I treat him. The biggest factor was that I completely stopped saying personal prayers. I didn't care about feeding my spirit anymore. I felt like, just because I wasn't doing anything BAD, that I was doing okay. I read something the other day that put things into the perspective I needed:

"Language matters. Instead of saying, 'I don't have time for that,' try saying, 'That's not a priority right now.' Watch how it changes your motivation to do certain things."

So I kept saying, I don't have time to go to the temple...I don't have time to read my scriptures...I don't have time to say my prayers... EXCUSES! Really, I was telling myself that temple is not a priority for me, scripture reading is not a priority, and praying isn't important to me right now. How horrible does that sound when you put it that way? And yet, that's exactly the situation. So what was taking up all my time, what WAS my priority? Ummm social media. Texting friends complaining about stuff. Watching Netflix... 😬

I always felt like the only way my marriage could ever fail is if one of us were ever unfaithful. Yep, that's how naive I have been. But after the talk Josh and I had last night, after making promises to him to be better and to treat him better, to MAKE HIM A PRIORITY, I had the impression from the Holy Ghost: Selfishness can destroy a marriage. This might seem really obvious to you, but it hit me so hard. I have been so selfish! For years! And yet my wonderful husband has chosen to stay with me, to love me through my selfishness.

This morning I read Mosiah 19 about a man named Gideon.  He sought to slay King Noah for all the evil things he had done, then King Noah asked Gideon to spare him, because he said he was worried about his people dying from the army that had been attacking them. In the scriptures, it said, "And now the king was not so much concerned about his people as he was about his own life; nevertheless, Gideon did spare his life." King Noah was being selfish.  In the end, most of his people were spared and taken captive, but Gideon ended up slaying him anyways later on.  It's ironic because the idea behind selfishness is that you are only looking out for yourself, to be happy and protected.  But just as King Noah died anyway, if I continue to be selfish in my marriage I could destroy it, as well as destroy myself, in a sense, because my marriage is one of the greatest sources of happiness in my life. It may sound dramatic and exaggerated, but I'm afraid that if I don't think in extreme terms then I might not be motivated to change myself.

I found my journal from my sophomore year of college at BYU-Provo. I was enrolled in a Doctrine & Covenants class in which the professor required us to write in our journal daily in tandem with reading scriptures daily. I was at a spiritual high in my life and it naturally made me more loving towards others and want to serve them. That's how I need to treat my husband. I need to get back to that. I need to learn to be more selfless. It goes against who I've been for a long time, but I know with practice, the Lord will help us to strengthen our marriage so that we may attain true joy, which will in turn bring joy to our son, whom we love so much.

Monday, October 10, 2016

1 Month of Motherhood

It has almost been one month since Mikala was born, which means I have been a mother for almost one month.  I don't even know how to accurately describe all the emotions I have felt since Sept. 14, but I'm going to try.

The biggest thing I have learned, is that the learning curve to parenthood is a steep one and it's a never ending cycle of learning! Here are the biggest things I have learned this month:

  • Breastfeeding. While I was pregnant, I was sooo determined to exclusively breastfeed my son when he was born.  I had heard about some of the struggles I may encounter from family and friends, mostly about the physical pain associated with it. What I had not heard about was the emotional struggles I would be facing!  On the day he was born, he did really well with his sucking and I thought I had him latched as well.  I just thought, well that's nice, this came naturally for both of us. Um, WRONG.  On the second night, I couldn't get him to latch.  He had been sleeping for SOOO LONG (another thing I learned, newborns tend to be really alert right after birth and then reeeeally sleeping in the days following) that I was worried he was starving. So I kept trying to wake him up to eat but he just wouldn't wake up! Then when he finally did, he cried. And cried. He was inconsolable.  I would put him up to my breast and he would just scream at my nipple, which then made me cry. I was trying so hard to feed and nourish my son, but he wouldn't feed!  This went on for about two hours and around 4 am Josh and I just looked at each other like, "What did we just get ourselves into?!" I had packed a pacifier in our hospital bag just in case we needed it, and finally I gave in and stuck it in his mouth. He eventually calmed down and went back to sleep.  At 6 am, the doctor came in to have us sign consent forms for him to be circumcised, since we had originally agreed to it. I broke down and started crying because I was afraid he would go through this painful procedure and the doctors would bring him back screaming, and I wouldn't be able to console him because he wouldn't nurse the night before. After some debating, we stuck to our plan to have him circumcised and after they wheeled him away and Josh and I were alone in the room, I just collapsed into his arms and began sobbing. Josh comforted me and reassured me that I wasn't a bad mom for struggling with feeding him, but also to not give up. Our nurse was so kind and let us stay the whole day so we could work with the lactation consultant. Originally we were supposed to be discharged at 11 am, but we got to check out at 8 pm instead. The lactation consultant was my personal savior that day. She taught me little tricks to get him to latch and told me that I'm not the only one learning how to breastfeed, baby is too. After that day, it has been smooth sailing ever since and baby is gaining weight really well. I am so grateful I didn't give up. I'm proud that I learned how to breastfeed.
  • Sleep. Oh that beautiful thing that I miss having in my life! The first week at home was rough. After that I quickly learned that I needed to take at least 1-2 naps during the day when Mikala was napping in order to get through those multiple late night/early morning feedings.  I also learned that some babies need help in falling asleep.  Some newborns just sleep like rocks. Not our little active guy.  The room has to be darkened at least a little bit, he HAS to be swaddled, and sometimes he needs to be held and rocked to sleep for his naps during the day.  If he's awake for longer than 1-2 hours, he gets over tired, overstimulated, and incredibly fussy.  Then I do the "try everything" method of getting him to sleep, which only stimulates him more, then by some miracle he eventually falls asleep.  And while he sleeps, a lot of times he's grunting every 5 seconds and I think he's waking up. But he does this for sometimes an hour straight! In his sleep! If he doesn't get several naps throughout the day, then evenings are just terrible for us. So I learned to make sure he gets lots of good naps during the day.
  • My husband/marriage still comes first. When I was pregnant, I was given a series of books called Babywise.  One of the first things it teaches you has nothing to do with babies, it is that you still need to put your marriage first to keep it strong.  Babies thrive when they know they are in a safe, secure, and loving environment provided by a strong, loving marriage.  When I read this I was like, duh! I was taught this from a child thanks to being a member of the LDS church.  However, once baby was born and I was overwhelmed with all the things I needed to do to take care of him, I am sad to say that I quickly forgot about Josh.  But he didn't forget about me at all. In fact, he has been serving me equally as much, if not more, as he takes care of baby.  The books warn against child-centered parenting, wherein the child always comes first and the spouse second.  Once either spouse begins neglecting the other, there is a breakdown in the strong foundation provided to care and provide for the child.  I am glad my husband lovingly reminded me that he needs attention and love and care from me still.  Just because baby was born, doesn't mean his needs have suddenly disappeared. It's ironic because I was always the needy one.  In fact I reminded him that I'm the one who had to chase him down and get him to like me before we started dating, hahaha.  I truly and deeply love my husband, and learned that I need to continue working on putting him first and not losing our identity as a couple.
  • Feeding my spirit will take twice as much work as before. I'm about to make myself very vulnerable here as I share my inner struggles of keeping myself spiritually strong.  I tend to care too much about what other people think of me, so I fear being judged by others. But more often than not, I know people aren't passing judgement on me. And if they are, so what? What's the worst that can happen? Anyway...after birth, recovery can be hard.  You're super sore down there and you're bleeding and just physically and emotionally exhausted from lack of sleep as you adjust to a newborn's schedule. I learned that I need to make time to feed my spirit. When baby takes naps throughout the day maybe I can rest for one nap, but the next one say a good prayer or read a General Conference talk or read my scriptures. I learned that just because I had a baby doesn't mean I can or should stop looking for ways to serve others, serve in my calling, etc. I learned that although it may seem like a hassle and be uncomfortable at first, making the efforts to wear my garments again now that I have recovered will be worth it.  I learned that every little effort I make to show my Heavenly Father that I have not forgotten Him is worth it. I learned that every prayer needs to include many words of gratitude to keep my mind positive at all times.
In my next post, I'll try to make it all about baby and his developments. I need to close this post now because I hear some wiggling and farting going on in his crib, so it's time to go tend to his needs...haha. Gotta love being a new mom.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Mikala's Birth Story

Our son, Mikala Kamea'oli Keali'ikumalama Young Gun Graham was born on Wed. Sept. 14, 2016 at 6:35 pm.  He weighed 7 lbs 10.8 oz and was 20.5 inches long.

Despite my struggles to conceive my baby, I was blessed with a very normal, healthy pregnancy. There was a little scare in the beginning when doctors found a small subchorionic hematoma at my 8 week ultrasound.  Basically I had a bit of internal bleeding during the implantation phase of pregnancy.  They said it could increase my chances of miscarriage should it continue to bleed, but also said many many women go on to have normal, healthy pregnancies.  I was truly blessed to be one of those women.

Before I begin, I just want to say that my whole life up until now, I was completely terrified of childbirth. I mean there was even one point when I was struggling with infertility that I had the passing thought of, "At least I probably won't have to endure the pain of childbirth.." And yeah, it is a crazy experience and yes, pain is involved. But I truly believe that the mind has power over this, and you can overcome any fear of childbirth with focused, positive thinking! My fear of childbirth has been replaced with a feeling of amazement at what the body can do and just the sacredness of the whole experience.

The night before my due date (Sept. 7) Josh and I decided to go out to a really fancy restaurant as kind of our last hurrah as a couple before we became a family of 3.  We went to 53 by the Sea thanks to my mom for buying us a gift card for that place.  We felt totally out of place because we are usually acting/looking pretty goofy and laidback, but this restaurant was the type where you felt like people were judging you or would want to kick you out if you showed up in a t-shirt, shorts, and slippers haha.  It was fun though! We pretended to be able to afford eating at a place like that, we felt fancy.  We actually both cracked a lot of jokes about being all proper and fancy. Another funny thing was we showed up to the restaurant in our Scion, which is a 10-year old car that has definitely seen better days and was covered in bird doodoo....I wonder what the valet guy was thinking when we pulled up...like are these people lost?!

Anyway, getting back on track here. During dinner I started having some painful contractions.  I ignored it because I was trying to savor every moment of this special date with my husband, and every bite of this very expensive but very delicious food.  When we were driving home, the bumpy potholey roads of town made my contractions hurt even worse and they were coming every 5 minutes.  We both got excited thinking, this is it!!! Little did we know, it most definitely was NOT it and wouldn't be for a whole extra week...

Everyday from my 40 week mark to my 41 week mark was full of regular and irregular painful contractions. There were many days I seriously considered telling Josh, "Let's go!" but something always told me, wait a little longer to see if the contractions get worse...and sure enough, every time, they would start to space apart and eventually stop. I was so frustrated! I Googled so many things throughout that week and discovered something called Prodromal Labor. It was terrible experiencing that. But I kept trying to reassure myself that if my body is spending so much time "practicing" for labor and delivery, things should go smoothly when the "real" day actually arrives.

On Tuesday, Sept. 13 I had an appointment to do non-stress testing. Basically, once you pass your due date, doctors want to monitor you and baby to make sure the placenta is still doing its job in taking care of baby.  I was strapped up to 2 monitors, one to measure any contractions I might've had and one to measure fetal heartrate. His heart rate was supposed to speed up a little during movement or contractions and it did, so he passed.  However, when they did an ultrasound to check amniotic fluid levels, they only measured a 4.  Normal fluid levels are supposed to be between 8-20, so it was definitely low.  The doctor on duty told me, it's not an emergency, but it is cause for concern so you have two doors you can choose from here. Option A is get induced TODAY, or Option B, wait another day and check tomorrow to see if fluid levels went up. Of course, I chose induction.  I felt baby was ready to be born and I was worried about the fluid levels thing. So we scheduled it for 8 pm that night.

I was texting Josh during that appointment and when I told him I was going to be induced, he thought I meant RIGHT NOW!! So he rushed over to the hospital and I was walking out with my papers in hand for instructions on the induction, and he was surprised we were leaving. So we went home around 1 and got to spend time resting and calmly getting things ready for the hospital.  I was feeling really nervous and kind of guilty that I was being induced.  However, that morning I distinctly remember waking up and getting the strong impression that I would be having the baby today.  It felt right.

We had our "last supper" with our good friends Mark & Megan Serrao at CPK to support their son's fundraiser for his preschool. Here was my last date night outfit and last baby bump pic of my pregnancy before dinner at 40 weeks 6 days pregnant:

It was really fun!  As we ate, again I was having painful contractions, but after a week of this I just ignored it and assumed it was my body "practicing" again.  The drive to the hospital was really peaceful, not at all how I expected or how the movies make it seem with all the hurrying and stress. I guess that is one pro to getting induced. We showed up to the hospital for my induction, but when they strapped me to all the monitors, they said I was already in labor! I was 4 cm dilated and 50% effaced. No need for induction! Yay!

My midwife was Linda Chong-Tim and she was completely amazing. Around 1 am my contractions began to space apart just a little, so they gave me a tiny dose of Pitocin to augment my labor. Those contractions were painful! But I got through them by controlling my breathing, telling myself positive affirmations given to me by my friend Suzie Bell, and I also bounced on the big yoga ball. That helped a ton with my terrible back labor. I tried to handle those contractions for another hour and a half before I got exhausted and said, okay, if I'm going to get any sleep at all to save energy for the pushing stage, I'm gonna need to get the epidural. Once I got it I was in heaven (Josh said I started acting loopy and kept smiling) and slept while I labored for the next 12 hours or so, waiting to be fully dilated and ready to push. It was a slow process! Each time I was woken up by being able to feel a contraction due to the epidural starting to wear off, I pushed the magic button to add another dosage and fell back asleep. Finally, my water broke on its own and a few hours later the midwife checked me and said I was 9 cm and 100% effaced. Finally! At this point, the nurse recommended I stop pushing the magic button, to which I got a little nervous about the idea of feeling my childbirth. But I listened, and some sensation and feeling started to come back in my legs and on my belly.

At 5:30 the pushing began, and at first I had a hard time figuring it out. Then the midwife suggested we use the squat bar with a towel tied to the bar so I could pull on it during each push, like a tug of war. So I rested my legs on each side of the bar while Josh supported my neck and head and encouraged me with each push. He was such an amazing coach, it came so naturally to him. This worked really well for me and we progressed really quickly. I was grateful that the midwife let me pace out the pushing on my own, she didn't control when I pushed, she just said, "Let us know when you feel a contraction starting and we will all support you!" In between pushes, the nurse, midwife, and Josh were all talking and having a conversation nonchalantly, as if I wasn't in the middle of giving birth. This actually helped to keep me calm. She asked if Josh and I met at school and he told her I went to Kamehameha, then we made the connection that her daughter was my team mate in cross country, and her husband was my coach! What a small world! At one point, the midwife brought out the mirror and said sometimes this helps! At first I was like ew! I don't want to see that! But she wheeled it out anyway and as soon as I looked at the mirror I saw my baby's head and just melted. I could even feel the baby's head! I had a new surge of energy and motivation knowing he was so close. I did a few more big hard pushes and as his head was almost out the midwife told me to now do short, slower pushes to ease him out so that I wouldn't tear. That was the most painful part, because the biggest part of his head was crowning and I had to just deal with the pain and resist the temptation to just force him out with one big push to end my pain! This is the only part where I got kind of loud haha, it hurt! His head and shoulders came out and to my surprise she said, "Okay now reach down and grab your baby!" So I scooped him up and out and onto my chest and just broke down crying saying over and over, "My baby, my sweet baby!" Josh cried with me as we cherished those first moments meeting our son we waited so long for.

Mikala started coughing up some amniotic fluid (so that's where all my fluid went, he was drinking it all!) and immediately began crying. Boy was his cry strong and loud! Then we took this pic documenting how pissed off he was at the world for being forced out of his snug, warm home:

I really wanted to donate some cord blood, but I guess because my placenta was starting to give out, there wasn't much to give and I didn't have enough to meet the donation requirement. That's okay though. Then Josh cut the cord.

I barely had an hour of skin to skin time with my baby before my family showed up. They were super excited I guess...my brother even showed up to the hospital in the middle of me pushing so he had to wait outside awhile. Like I said, my family was SUPER excited hahaha. Finally the nurse weighed him. Here he is, still pissed off at the world hehe. All joking aside, I think he cried so much when he first came out because his head was a little swollen and it probably hurt him :(.

Because my family got there so soon and all wanted to hold him, Josh didn't get to hold him until they all left and he was feeling kind of disconnected to baby, after all I'm the one who carried baby for 9 months and got the immediate bonding time for an hour after he was born. So I suggested he take off his shirt and hold baby against his skin and he said he immediately felt better. It was so adorable watching the two of them.


Mikala is officially one week old today, and it has been a crazy ride of utter happiness and overwhelming stress since he was born. Nobody tells you how LITTLE sleep you get in the hospital, due to the nurses CONSTANTLY checking on you and baby and wanting to take him away for vaccinations and tests...I cried a lot in the hospital hahaha. Sleep deprivation is real.  But we survived the first week! And each day gets just a little easier and a whole lot better. I'm recovering really quickly and I almost feel back to normal. I can't wait to continue to watch baby Mikala grow. We love this little miracle so very much.


(This pic was taken after zero sleep and crying a lot! But I'm posting it because it shows the true, raw emotions of being brand new parents.)


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Pregnancy Journal: Part I

Wow, the last time I blogged about being pregnant, I was just barely announcing it at 10 1/2 weeks! Pregnancy is all I constantly think about, and with my excitement to meet our little one, sometimes I feel like it is going by so slowly. But right now, it feels like it is flying! Before this pregnancy experience passes me by, I want to make sure I document all the wonderful memories we have made so far.  I don't know if this will be my one and only pregnancy, or even when my next one could be. It's all up to my body (and the Lord)! This might be a long one, because I'm a very detail-oriented person (I get that from my dad!!)...so bear with me...

PART I: Finding Out - Saturday, January 16, 2016 (6 weeks, 3 days pregnant)
My period was over 2 weeks late by this point, and this was the first month in a long time I didn't suspect anything. I was trying to not think about trying to get pregnant for once! I was just late, as usual! My body likes to do things randomly, on its own schedule. I waited, and waited, and kept telling myself it's coming, and I absolutely refused to take a test. However, I started feeling slight waves of nausea whenever I went too long without eating, and I thought that was super weird. So on Friday night, I put a pregnancy test on the bathroom counter and thought, what the heck, I'll just take this in the morning. 4 am rolls around and I wake up because I HAVE TO PEE SO FREAKING BADLY. This never happens to me. I blindly stumble to the bathroom and literally took the test with my eyes closed, hahaha. Honestly, it's amazing I didn't miss. Welp, I opened my eyes, and I didn't even need to wait for a result because the line was SO FREAKING DARK! I took this photo at exactly 4:05 am:
My tired eyes suddenly got HUGE, I couldn't believe it! I started feeling breathless and my heart started racing and I just stared at that test for a good five minutes in disbelief as tears welled up in my eyes. For a split second, in my drowsy 4 am stupor I wondered if I was dreaming. Nope, this was real. Next thought: WAKE UP JOSH! Don't worry guys, I washed my hands and everything first. I ran out, no glasses on or contacts in, so I was still pretty blind... I yelled, "Josh!" He jumped up and said, "What-what-what?!!" So I just said, "I'm pregnant!!!" Take a guess at this guy's response. You would think he would hug me or at least say something other than, "I don't believe you." Yup, that's what he said!! Thinking back, I can see why he said that... we've both been through 4 years of disappointment, it's just a defense mechanism to protect himself from getting hurt. So I showed him the test and I kept crying and shaking. He stared for a good long while...still in disbelief. It was too early to tell anyone from home, so I sent this picture to 2 of my close friends who lived in the mainland and thank goodness they were awake to freak out with me! I didn't go back to sleep obviously... At around 6 we got ready for the day and decided to eat breakfast at Anna Miller's. We then went surfing and I had to resist the urge to tell every single surfer I paddled by that I was pregnant. Before getting lunch, we bought another box of pregnancy tests because Josh was still acting like I wasn't pregnant...which kind of annoyed me, but again, defense mechanism! I took this test in the bathroom at Pono Plates in Pearl City...small kine shame haha.
Seeing this result made me scared that maybe I had a false positive earlier that morning, the test I took was kind of old... Until I realized that the line on the right is the CONTROL, and the line on the left is the TEST line. My HCG levels were so high by this point that it took all the dye inside the test and didn't leave any for the control line! After showing Josh this test, and explaining to him why one line is so light, his eyes got huge and he started laughing and saying, "Oh my gosh!!! What the heck??? How??!! This doesn't even make sense!!!" Finally, I got the reaction I was hoping for. After lunch, we went to Babies R Us because it's right by Pono Plates and I bought a couple of things to announce it to my parents at their house.  There was a pair of tiny baby booties, and a bib that said What Happens at Grandma's House, Stays at Grandma's House.  I told my mom it was a belated birthday gift for her. As soon as she opened the present, she jumped up and screamed because she got it right away. My DAD on the other hand.... oh my goodness haha. It took him several minutes to get why I got her baby stuff. Once he finally understood, he hugged me and just said, "This is so wonderful Ari, we've been praying for you and Josh!" Even as I write that right now it's making me tear up a little, because I knew how many people have been praying for us for so long, and I am immensely grateful!

The next day (Sunday) we had family dinner at my parents house, so I announced it to my siblings by volunteering to say the prayer to bless the food. At the end I tried to subtly add in the line, "And please bless that everything goes well with my pregnancy, inthenameofjesuschristamen." I literally said the closing so fast because I didn't know how they would all react! It was fun, I got lots of hugs. The following week, my brother in law Nick took a work trip to New Orleans and got me this onesie (my first official baby gift!):
It made me feel so loved to know that our family was excited for us. On Monday, we announced it to Josh's side of the family as it was a holiday and we were having a BBQ to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I then got to have fun calling the cousins on the Ho and Graham side. 

Each time I told another person I was expecting, I loved experiencing all the same feelings of excitement. So I spread out who I told over the following weeks. And there you have it! That's how we found out about our little miracle, Baby Graham. :)

Stay tuned for Part II next time, I'm going to write about the first ultrasound!




Monday, March 7, 2016

Grampa Young - 5 Years

Today started like any other normal day. Just imagine your usual routine of running around to get ready to go to your full time job. All day at work was hectic as it usually is moving from one lesson to another and to another, all while trying to herd cats (aka nearly 30 students). Right when the bell rang I rushed around my classroom to prep for tomorrow's lessons then ran out the door to drive all over tarnation running errands.

On one errand I had to stop at my mom's house and as I was trying to run back out the door 5 seconds after running IN through the door, she stopped me and said, "Can you do me a favor? Can you go to grampa's grave and put flowers there?" For a second I thought it was his birthday but then she said, "Today marks 5 years since he passed away."

It added yet another errand to my already growing list but this was something I willingly did. I made it my last stop on my way home. I don't even know how long it's been since I've visited my grandparents graves but somehow, my intuition guided me right to their graves in the middle of a gigantic field of graves. It was such a nice, serene way to end a day full of chaos and hustling and bustling.

It gave me some great perspective. I am a worry wart. There are sooo many things I worry about from the big to the little things. But my grandparents have passed from this busy life and are now resting from their labors of this earth. I know I will join them someday and it made me realize, "Why does it matter so much if only 70% of my students are attaining proficiency in Reading or Math? Why does it matter if my lessons were not perfect today? I am doing the best I can with the resources and the time that I have. I mess up a lot but I don't give up on trying to be great. I think I'm making my grandparents proud.

5 years ago I was so excited and engaged to be married when my Grampa passed away 6 days before my birthday. It put a damper on things but I felt his presence in the sealing room when I was married in the temple 3 months later. Families are forever.

I love you Grampa. Thanks for being such a great example to me. Happy 5 years.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Miracles

Where do I even begin?  I've been dreaming about this day, this life I am living right now for so long. What do you do when one of your dreams come true? You blog about it, of course.

Many of you know that Josh and I have struggled with the trial of infertility for the last 4 years.  I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) in 2012 and it has been a rollercoaster ever since.  While I know there are many out there who have struggled longer than I have, or are still struggling, or still wonder if they will ever become mothers, it is not possible to compare one woman's journey with another's.  There is no such thing as "my pain is greater than your pain."  I like to use the analogy that I may have a broken arm while you have a broken leg.  We suffer differently, but we still feel pain. And in the world of infertility, just having that common pain with another brings a little bit of comfort to know that you are not alone. I was not alone. I have met countless women who are full of faith and strength and I would not have met them and learned from them if I had kept my struggle a secret.

Let me break down some numbers for you about my journey:

8 Clomid cycles
2 Letrozole cycles
2 failed IUI's
5 OB/GYN doctors
1 reproductive endocrinologist
29 blood tests
2 semen analyses (Josh)
1 HSG procedure
1 month of dieting
3 months of acupuncture and Chinese herbs
6 months of chiropractic

All of that adds up to thousands of dollars spent, sometimes causing us to go into debt.

43 months of:
negative pregnancy tests, painful menstrual cycles, disappointment, shattered hope, feeling forsaken by God, struggling with my faith, nights of crying myself to sleep, painful pregnancy announcements from people whom I loved (and maybe even from some people I didn't like), emptiness in my arms and in my heart, feeling like we were an incomplete family, etc.

I write all of this down not to brag or whine, but to say that this was the price I paid for my little blessing that I am carrying. All of that was worth this moment right now, and the moments that continue to happen for us as we experience this pregnancy together because let's face it, whatever the mother of the child experiences, the father experiences it too by default haha.

I feel so guilty announcing to the world that we are expecting. Only because I have been on the other side for so long, wishing it was me.  No matter WHO it was or how much I loved them, it still stung to hear of another pregnancy announcement.  It has strained my relationships with people as I struggled to balance my own suffering with the love I wanted to express to them.  If you are one right now, reading my blog, and feel this...know that I am so sorry and I love you. You are definitely allowed to feel bitter or sad. That is your right. Take the time to feel it, because trying to ignore it or pretend that pain is not there will only be worse for you in the end.  But also, move on from it.  Say a prayer, decide to have faith, and tell yourself that you are loved and your time will come when it is right.  There's no medical explanation for why I am pregnant right now. I got pregnant, not from a procedure or any fertility drugs, but by a miracle.  I have a testimony that this was just when I was mean to conceive.  For so long, I tried to force God's hand.  I don't regret any of the efforts I took to fight for my baby, but I also wish my attitude had been better.  I know that the Lord blesses us when he knows is the perfect time for us in His plan for our lives.

I look back and see all the wonderful blessings Josh and I have experience because we were gifted with time. Yes, we struggled for 4 years, but we have had 4 years of love, of joy, of being bonded closer than I ever could have imagined.  We both got to finish our degrees, begin careers, have many many many date nights and surf sessions together.  We have had 4 beautiful years, and now that beauty will only be added upon.

I guess my purpose in writing this was twofold: one, so I could start keeping a record because I'm horrible at journal writing and it's one of my goals to establish that as a habit.  Also, I wanted to share my testimony that God loves us. He was always there right by my side and I know that the fight will never be over.  He loves you, and has chosen you to go through whatever trial you are being called to go through because He knows  it is your refiner's fire.  He is molding you to be the best you that HE could imagine.  So keep the faith, and believe in miracles, because they do happen.



Saturday, November 14, 2015

When Life Knocks You Down...Breakdance!

That's a line by Kid President.  If you don't know who that is, I recommend you watch his videos on Youtube.  He's a very inspiring kid.  And that's something I needed to hear today.

So much has happened since my last blog post.  Let's do some quick updates...

Work: In my second year of teaching, I have an inclusion class. Which, in the world of education means "including" special needs students in the general class setting, so they are able to learn in the "Least Restrictive Environment."  It was also decided last year that I would be the Grade Level Chair (GLC) for my team of 5 total 4th grade teachers.  ALSO, (there seems to be two too many also's in this update...) I am a co-leader for the Math Content group...for my entire school... WHY did anyone think I could do all of this on top of figuring out how to teach in my probationary years as a teacher?! I don't know. I have no idea.

House: For the past 6 months or so we've gone back and forth with my parents on co-signing to buy a house with them. I think it's finally happening and we'll close sometime in the end of December. We're planning on renting it out so we can save money by staying in our cheap studio. We will move out if something happens that requires that we move...which brings me to my next update.

Baby: Many, many small miracles and tender mercies have been happening lately with this. Sorry in advance, this is going to be my longest update. Simply because this one is of most importance to me, hands down.

Back in May, I successfully ovulated on 100 mg of Clomid.  Mind you, this was my 8th round total of taking this drug. Yeah, I had lost count but once I finally counted, I knew that was SO NOT GOOD for my body. That would be the last time I took it. Anyway, I didn't get pregnant. I was so convinced it would work this time. It didn't, again. I was devastated, again. So we took a break from "trying" over the entire summer. We had a really, really fun summer as I didn't have to work and Josh was pool cleaning, so I'd go with him to "help" (...by swimming in fancy rich people pools and playing with puppies and dogs hehehe).  It was awesome.

August would be a fateful month for me.  Our close friend have a sister who has also struggled with infertility.  She lives in Utah, but she was here for their other sister's wedding.  We got to talking, and she said something to me that completely changed my life, along with my approach to this trial.  She said, "YOU have to fight for your babies to come to earth. Nobody else but you will care as much as you do about them. Not your doctor. Not your friends or your family. YOU."  That broke my heart because I knew that my efforts hadn't been 100% for fear of repeated disappointment and discouragement. I resolved right then and there, sitting on the couch next to someone I had just met, that I was going to start giving 110% of my all, my money, my time, my emotional strength, my spiritual efforts, to FIGHTING for my babies to come to earth. Step #1 was to get referred to a reproductive endocrinologist.  OB/GYN's can only do so much for you, but the truth is, they don't specialize in infertility. It's like going to a general surgeon to have a procedure done on your mouth but really you should be seeing a dentist!  So I fought for that to happen.

I had to jump through hoops to get my RE referral.  I needed to get an HSG test done, which is the one where they use an x-ray and you watch a live image of your reproductive organs as they shoot dye through your cervix to see if it moves through your fallopian tubes easily, thus diagnosing whether your tubes are open and clear, or if they are blocked.  That was probably the most painful test I've had so far. But the results were worth it, my tubes were open and no problems were seen there! I still had a bunch of other blood and urine testing to get done...doing all of that took about a month.

September rolls around and my friend asks me, "Would you ever consider doing acupuncture?" The fact of the matter is, yes I was starting to consider it. So I got an appointment with Dr. Edie Uchida and she said I had an overgrowth of the Candida fungus in my body. So I went on this strict diet and started taking digestive enzymes and probiotics to help restore a natural balance to my body.  I was also getting acupuncture done on me once a week and taking other Chinese herbs.  My goal wasn't to get pregnant just yet, because I was more focused on helping my body be healthy again and to function properly.  Little did I know...

Now it's October.  I FINALLY got my referral to see an RE and I did. I was praying that she would be a good doctor, that I wouldn't walk out of her office with more questions than before entering her office, as has happened in the past with OB/GYN's. I was praying she would know exactly what my body needed to help achieve pregnancy.  She was amazing.  She was very kind and caring, took the time to explain everything to us and made sure we understood what she was saying. And, she did an ultrasound! Finally! I hadn't had one in forever and needed to know what was going on. Lo and behold, she did the ultrasound and I had a dominant follicle that had been growing without my knowing. I was about to ovulate she said. WHAAAT?! Me? Ovulate naturally? On my own? Without fertility drugs? I couldn't believe my ears or what I was seeing on the ultrasound screen. I started tearing up.  She said yes, start taking tests on the Ovulation Predictor Kit (OPK's) and start timed intercourse.   I left happy but still a little skeptical I would actually ovulate on my own, nevertheless I started doing the OPK's daily.  3 days later, I got a strong positive: the Luteinizing Hormone (LH-the hormone that causes the egg to rupture from the follicle, which is called ovulation) was surging. I called Kaiser and they scheduled me for my first ever IUI, THAT DAY.  I was on Cloud 9 and rejoicing at the fact that I was even given this opportunity to do an IUI, which is what I had been wanting for months.

November 1st.  I am not pregnant. More negative pregnancy tests.  My menstrual cycle starts. The IUI didn't work. I am devastated, again. Disappointed and discouraged, again. I take one day to mourn and grieve what could have been, but the next day I pick myself back up and call my RE and set up an appointment to try again for another month.

Right now, I'm playing the waiting game.  I'll know by the end of the month if I actually conceive this time or not, but for now, I am grateful to even have these wonderful miracles and tender mercies in my life. I've never ovulated two months in a row before, but it's happening! The acupuncture, the Chinese herbs, the chiropractor visits, the RE doctor visits -- ALL WHICH OCCUR EVERY WEEK, have been working. I will keep fighting, keep getting back up when life knocks me down, and breakdance! --- Because I know my baby is just around the corner.