Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The First Year: 2003-2004

One week after we got back from our honeymoon, I got a sister. Jennifer had been raised by her grandmother and my parents went to church with both of them. My dad had been pretty invested in Jennifer's life already for a few years. He helped with house and yard work and spent time with their family. Jen's grandmother told my parents that if anything were to happen to her, she wanted my parents to adopt her. Her grandmother had gall bladder surgery and apparently an infection was inside her body that spread rapidly when they performed the surgery and her grandmother passed away. My brother spent literally one week being an only child, and he got a sister. And my sister was obviously in shock and broken. There was still lots of drama between my mom and I. So all of that was a recipe for disaster.

A couple of weeks after our wedding, I got a phone call from Ricky. I thought it was strange that he was calling me. I could tell immediately something was wrong. He told me he had be wrestling with if he should share something with me or not, and I told him I thought he should, no matter what it was. He told me that the night before my wedding, my mom called him and basically said, "If you have ever cared about my daughter, you need to stand up tomorrow and object at the wedding." There had been nothing more between Ricky and I so I was baffled as to why she had called him. She put my friend in an incredibly awkward place and broke trust with  me again. My heart was crushed. I told him I was so sorry she had done that, and that he had no responsibility in any of that.

Dwayne and I were happily making home though. I can still remember our first grocery store trip and our first meal I cooked. I remember doing my best to make that tiny house and our second hand furniture as homey as I could. We met our neighbors in our apartment complex. We determined we would have a set date night every week. Dwayne was working as a teller at a bank, and I started working in an after school program at a local private Christian school. I was in my third year of college and still on scholarship. At this point I knew I wanted to be a Writing major. UALR had an amazing writing department that I fell in love with when I was a freshman. I knew it would be a good fit. I loved my classes and felt in my element.

I'm not sure what struck us, but suddenly in October, we got the bite to buy a house. We realized that we were paying rent when we could be putting equity into something. We found a super cheap house and made an offer on it, but the roof was bad and the owners were not going to pay to replace it. Well, being that we were newlyweds (and didn't have a lot of knowledge about these things), we had already turned in our 30 days notice to our apartment (who were giving us no penalty for leaving our lease agreement), and we realized we weren't going to have a house. So we went to our apartment complex and they told us they had already rented our apartment to someone else and we had to leave. We were in shock. And homeless. And we hadn't even been married six months yet. Good grief. I, of course, was freaking out, but Dwayne went to work trying to find a short term solution. After years of a not great relationship with his dad, his dad offered for us to move in with him and Dwayne's step mom. I was a little concerned about this, but we had no other options and didn't want to make a bad move, so we went with that. I remember us hauling stuff in my dad's truck to Dwayne's dad's house on Halloween night. Super awesome.

We were welcomed with open arms and I felt very safe there. I was grateful to get to know Dwayne's family more and I know that it was healing for him to be there too. Unfortunately a  lot of craziness happened while we were there. At some point I got the kidney infection to beat all kidney infections. I probably needed to go to the hospital because I couldn't hardly move. I had 103 temperature and couldn't get out of the bed without crying because I was in so much pain. Working at the elementary school, I got sick more that year than I ever had been in my life. Kiddie germs.

Also I was having increasing blowouts with my family. For some reason my mom thought it was her right to still try to tell me what to do with my stuff and our money and my school and all kinds of other things. When I would gently explain that these things weren't her concerns anymore, she would get really angry and involve my dad and then I would fight with him too. I can't tell you how many screaming/crying matches I had with them. They would ruin a perfectly good day for me with a short phone call gone bad. If I simply disagreed with them or tried to state my opinion, calmly, as an almost 21 year old married woman, I would get yelled at that I was being disrespectful, talking back, etc. Things that a small child gets told. Dwayne's dad and stepmom actually were there for me so much and I was grateful to have supportive "parents" in my life because my own were definitely not at that time.

Dwayne and I talked a lot about the short and long term future. We talked about kids and about holidays and how we wanted to spend them. We also started attending a new church at this time. Our old church, while absolutely wonderful in so many ways, began to concern us with a few theological issues. We began to feel like the purpose of that particular church--to create diversity within the church--began to supersede the purpose of THE Church, which is sharing the gospel and hope found only in and through Jesus. When these concerns were discussed with the pastor, Dwayne was chastised and it got ugly. We knew in our hearts we needed to go elsewhere. The new church we joined had tons of young married couples and we felt at home there. We joined a small group with other young marrieds and some of our friends from college were part of that group. During small group, discussion about babies and the timing of that in marriage would often come up. One of the girls didn't believe in using birth control because it was basically taking control of family planning out of God's hands and putting it into our own. She had been married for a couple of years at that point and they didn't have any kids yet. Her longing for babies was palpable. I had been on birth control since I was 13 because of endometriosis and had never considered coming off of it after we got married. I figured when we were ready to have babies, we would do what everyone else does and talk about it and "try" to have a baby. Suddenly my heart began to be pricked: what if I'm wrong about all of this? What if this is an issue of control for me? Don't I think I know better than God when I should have kids? And aren't I just assuming He's going to give them to me when I'm ready? By doing it this way, am I not just taking Him out of the equation completely? I began to wrestle with this. I already had a really high chance of having fertility issues. My ob/gyn had already told me, after five surgeries for endometriosis, years of hormone treatments and other strong medications, that IF I were able to get pregnant, it was going to be hard to get there. I believe he fully expected me to need fertility treatments.

Sure I was in college and we were newlyweds, but what if we had this all wrong? This was a real wake up call for me. God was burning in my heart. My heart's desire for as long as I could remember was two things: to be a wife, and to be a mama. Of course I had personal, career-related aspirations, but my two big dreams and what I wanted most in life were those two things. In fact I was basing my college career around doing something that not only did I love, but that I thought could provide stay-at-home income for me. So if that were true, why wouldn't I surrender my body and my planning to God? Dwayne and I began to talk and pray like crazy. While we did, we found a great apartment near our church in a good community. It was a new building and a place we thought we could stay for a while. We moved just before Christmas in December. I remember the first thing that got moved in was a wooden cross Dwayne built that was going to serve as our Christmas tree. Basically we wanted Christmas to be all about Jesus and we both fell in love with the idea that a cross would better represent that than a tree with ornaments. We decorated it with Christmas lights and put our presents under it and everything. And that was the month that I went off birth control. We were going to choose to trust.

When my family got wind of this it wasn't great. In the beginning I was still trying to maintain the relationship with my parents that I had before I moved out and every time I shared something about my life with them, it became a lecturing session about what an idiot I was (not in those words, but those were the implications). I actually had a relative that believed I wouldn't finish college because of the decisions we were making. We had so much opposition in our lives even from the beginning.

We loved our new place. It was great to be on our own again. Second semester of my junior year (2004) came and I was going to try to knock out as many hours as I could in both my major and my minor. I signed up for three upper level Writing classes and two upper level English classes that semester. In February we traveled to Waco, TX for a missions conference. Dwayne had lived in Waco for a time before we got married and was part of the church that hosted the conference. We were blessed that some friends of Dwayne, Barry and Charlotte, let us stay in their apartment while we were there for the weekend.

I turned 21 on February 12. We celebrated that and Valentine's day together. It snowed like crazy and we were determined we were going somewhere nice to eat. We crawled up a very steep hill in our car in Little Rock while others were sliding back down the hill. But we made it to the restaurant, ate a great dinner, and came home and did what married couples do. Ha! I did not have a drunken party, but I spent my day with my love and that was far better to me.

The end of February I had a check up with my OB/Gyn. He occasionally performed an ultrasound on me to make sure my uterus looked okay with all the endometriosis issues I had in the past. This day was no different. When he got the ultrasound into place I heard him suck in his breath. I looked at him. He said, "Do you see that?" I looked. I saw a circle. He said, "That's a pregnancy sac." The room started spinning. I was late for my period, but I had not been regular since I stopped taking birth control and I assumed it would take months for me to get pregnant, if I got pregnant at all. I was just trusting. I wasn't even thinking about it. He printed pictures for me.

I walked in to our apartment and Dwayne was sitting on the couch watching tv. I put my things away and kind of hid the pictures. I went and sat beside him on the couch. He turned the tv off and I handed him the pictures. His eyes got big. "What do you think that is babe?" I asked. "I think that's a picture of my first kid," he said. And we both started crying and he prayed.

The following Monday, one week later, I was on my way home from school when I felt wet down there. No. I rushed to the apartment and to the bathroom. There's blood. Shit. I called the nurse while trying to calm my hysterics. She wanted me to come in and get an ultrasound and bloodwork. I called Dwayne. I was in this. In the 7 days since I had found out, I had come to accept, joyfully, the fact that I was going to be a mama. Despite all the odds against me, God had granted life in my womb. Our lives made no sense to the world, but we had faith that somehow God would lead us where we needed to go.

At the doctor, everything looked fine. My hcg levels were good and the pregnancy sac was growing. We assumed I was only about 6 weeks along based on the size of the sac and my missed period.

But I kept bleeding. On and off. I didn't really have any cramping, but I was still bleeding and it didn't look good. I started going to the doctor every week. I was anxious and emotional. I wanted this baby. Why would God allow me to get pregnant and then take it away from me? God why am I going through this?

On the 4th week of this routine, the doctor looked at the ultrasound. There was still no baby. Just a sac. And the sac, which had been growing, had now shrunk. My sweet doctor, had given his all for us but he knew what we knew. It was over. He told me we could either wait for it to happen naturally or we could have a DNC. I had been waiting too long already. I needed it to be over. So the last week in March 2004, I had a DNC. I was so broken. My daddy was really sweet to me and prayed and prayed that it would not be so. My mom and I had been at odds and also her with Dwayne, but she was coming to the surgery. I told Dwayne that I wanted her to come back when I woke up because that always comforted me during the other surgeries I had. She had also planned to come to our house with us afterward and cook us dinner and help take care of me.

I went to sleep and when I woke up, Dwayne was standing over my bed. Immediately I was concerned. "Where's mom?" He looked sad. "She left." What? Why? They had an argument in the waiting room and she got angry with Dwayne and left.

While I was back there losing what was left of the non baby I had.

Are you kidding me?
I was so angry. And too tired and broken and sad to be angry. But still angry. I told him he better make it right with her because it needed to be about me right then and not about whatever pettiness had happened between them.

So when we got home, she still came. And she cooked dinner and helped and they tried to make peace. At some point during the night something was said that she didn't like. I think I was even the one that said it. And she left angrily again.

And then Dwayne and I got into a fight. In retrospect I had no idea that he was hurting as much as I was about our loss. I was perceiving it as my loss, but it absolutely was his too. We had our first big blow up that night. And he left.

They had all left. It was so messed up. I called my friend from small group crying and told her what happened. She asked if I wanted her to come over, and I knew I was okay and that it would be harder to be with someone. I just wanted to go to sleep.

A little while later Dwayne came home. I was still so mad, but also glad he was okay. I asked where he went and he told me he was honestly going to go to a bar and start drinking. He wasn't someone who ever did that, so I knew he was in a bad place. But he told me as he was leaving he got a call from another guy from our small group who wanted to check on him because he knew we had miscarried that day. This person did not know about our fight or any of that. And Dwayne went to be with him. And God answers prayer.

Dwayne and I made things right between us. He acted somewhat selfishly, but my mom pushed him, just like she had pushed me. The difference between he and I is he wouldn't stop standing up for himself or cower to her like I did. I knew he did the best he could, given the situation. I was probably more hurt by my mom, that regardless of how she felt, she couldn't be the bigger person and make me a priority instead of whatever her agenda was.

I grieved. Silently. Loudly. In written form.

This song was on replay for me during that time

I had a precious instructor that I had shared my story with (because I had missed some class, I told all my professors that I had a miscarriage. They were all super gracious to me.) who had encouraged me to write about it. Dr. Isom's class was "Writing for Children and Families" and as one of my last assignments, I wrote a guide for helping someone who is going through a miscarriage. Dr. I built me up so much even in the middle of that incredibly dark time. Also, despite the fact that I missed quite a bit of school, at the end of the semester where I was taking the hardest load of classes I had ever taken, I made straight A's for the first time in college. I was baffled. That was only Jesus. There's no way I could have done that.

Our doctor told us that we didn't have to wait to try to get pregnant again. We weren't "trying" but just carrying on as normal. During the first part of May I began to have weird symptoms. First my boobs got rock hard and were painfully sensitive. Then I started getting headaches that made me slightly nauseous. I also began to get really emotional. For all I knew, I was about to start my period again. But Dwayne was like, "I think you're pregnant." Finally I took a pregnancy test. I was so scared to let my heart go there again. And it was positive. I was both excited and terrified. I was worried I would go through a miscarriage again. I had bit into the lie that God had made something bad happen to me with the miscarriage. That He was withholding that from me. And He might do that again. I didn't trust Him. I wanted to, but I didn't. That fear held me captive and in bondage.

My symptoms got stronger. Starting at week 6, I threw up. Every day. At week 8 I went to the doctor and we saw a baby and a heartbeat for the first time. We cried tears of joy. And my symptoms were so strong. My sense of smell was like a dog's. I could smell all kinds of things from miles away. I could smell things deep in containers in the fridge just from opening the door. There was a spot on our couch that smelled like rotten Italian dressing. Except no one else could smell it. I wish I was kidding. I couldn't sit on that spot on the couch. I couldn't hold down prenatal vitamins because every time I swallowed, I gagged and then I threw up. If I waited to long to eat, I threw up. If I didn't eat what my body wanted, I threw up. I threw up every day at least once. It was awful. It's like the worst motion sickness you could have and it never went away. There was no escape.

I had signed up for 13 hours of summer school because I knew I was going to have a baby the end of December. I knew if I did not finish school now, it would be really hard to do so after the baby came. So I was determined to finish in December. If I took 13 hours in summer school and 19 in the fall, I would be done. I did not have a scholarship for summer school so I applied for financial aid. I was able to get a Pell Grant to pay for the full cost of summer school. God's mercy. But that first summer session? I was sick as a dog. I spent most of the lecture with my head on my desk just trying not to puke. At the end of that summer session, around week 14, I woke up and could not even keep down liquids. I went to the doctor and I had lost 10 pounds. He told me they were putting me in the hospital. To add insult to injury, Dwayne was leaving to go on a mission trip to Slovokia with our youth group two days later. I was hysterical. I hated hospitals. I didn't want to be there. I didn't want him to leave me like this. What if I lost the baby? He told me he would stay, but he had raised money and had never been out of the country and I really wanted him to go. My parents said I could come stay with them and they would take care of me while he was gone. I spent two days in the hospital and got to feeling a lot better and then came home. He left the next day. We knew he would have no phone access so I was going to be without my husband for two weeks. And be with my parents, where things were not super.

They actually did a really good job taking care of me. And it was nice to not have to fix my own meals because that was part of what was making me sick. I managed to pass my first two summer classes with an A and a B. God's mercy. And one day while I was at my parents house, the phone rang and my mom brought it to me with big eyes. I answered. It was Dwayne!! My heart leapt and I immediately started crying. He did too, which made me cry harder. He was having an amazing time but we missed each other so much.

Finally he came home. I'll never forget the night I went to pick him up from the airport. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. It was like I fell in love with him all over again.

We had precious neighbors in our apartment complex at this time: Nate and Kendy. They would go buy me salsa from the Mexican restaurant around the corner because it was one of the only things I could eat without getting sick. They were precious to us.

Finally at around 17 weeks my sickness subsided completely. I finished my second term of summer school with passing grades and then we had our first anniversary.

Awkward stage of pregnancy. I just looked fat. August 9, 2004

And my hair was doing crazy things. But my sweetheart took me to eat steak that night and it was SO good.

We had survived year one. And it was a doozy. Some of it was bad decision making on our part. But through every decision and every situation, God was so faithful and we leaned on Him and each other. Looking back, I would not change a single thing we did. We learned about housing. We learned how to navigate relationships. We learned we could lean on each other while grieving. And we were experiencing the miracle of life. Even if the world thought we were fools, I have ZERO regrets about that time in our lives. I'm thankful for all the Ebenezer moments of that first year that we can come back to.

A little one is on the way and that one will change our lives forever. Get ready.


  1. And I just cried all the way through reading that....

  2. Aww man. I'm sorry I made you cry. It was a hard and crazy year and I cried a lot too. I'm thankful that the Lord really does turn mourning into dancing though. Love you sister!


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