A Happy Anniversary, For Once...

I write a lot about sad anniversaries on here. Especially at this time of year when we are hitting the anniversaries around losing Grace.

But a conversation with a friend prompted me to confirm that today is a really happy anniversary. 10 years ago, Jim and I had our first kiss.

 At the wedding in early November that solidified my starry eyes for Jim.

At the wedding in early November that solidified my starry eyes for Jim.

We’d known each other for nearly a year via friends, and kept seeing each other every few months. By the time I saw him in August of 2008, I was developing a crush on him. I loved how quietly confident he was, and how passionate he was about his interests (music, biking, fun adventures). We saw each other at the wedding of mutual friends in early November 2008, and my crush was solidified.

We started emailing each other about an event we decided to work on together, and by late November, I was looking forward to each email, knowing he’d say something new that I found refreshing, affirming and interesting.

I went out to meet a mutual friend Thanksgiving evening in 2008, and mentioned Jim had emailed me. She said we should invite him out to join us, which he did, and after we all hung out for awhile, we walked her to her car, and then he walked me to mine. Except I didn’t get into it. We stood out on an unseasonably warm Thanksgiving, talking for hours. And suddenly, we were kissing.

I loved that Jim said he was going to call me the next day, even though I said I wasn’t free. He did anyway. And the next day. We went on our official first date a week later.

Today is the 10 year anniversary of that first kiss. And today, after everything we’ve been through together - dating, getting married, family health problems, our own health problems, 6 years of fighting infertility, a miscarriage, Grace’s diagnosis and the subsequent decision to terminate the pregnancy and everything we went through there… I’m more in love with him than ever. It’s cliché, but true. I enjoy Jim immensely, and can’t wait to see what kind of dad he’ll be…. but I have a hint. When I was pregnant with Grace, I once asked him what he thought about when becoming a father. I said I worried about finances, and her nursery, daycare and what to name her. Jim replied that he just thought about loving her. Having her in a baby carrier while at the grocery store. Teaching her about music. Enjoying her.

My heart nearly exploded out of my chest. How lucky was I? And how lucky was Grace to have a dad that loved her so much - so much that a few months later, he’d choose with me to spare her immense pain and take the hurt on himself instead. And how lucky is Grace’s sister now?

I’m looking forward to the next 10 years.

 Not long after we started dating.

Not long after we started dating.

It's the 2 Year Anniversary of Grace Passing. How it's Also Been A Celebration of Life.

Today is the 2 year anniversary of saying goodbye to Grace Pearl.

So much has happened in 2 years. Many of them are very, very good things. We’re so grateful to be pregnant again (29 weeks!) and are so hopeful that things will continue to go well with this pregnancy. It hasn’t been without its scares (and we are now high risk and receiving weekly monitoring), but overall, things are looking good.

And I miss Grace terribly. I wish she was here with us. I feel so terribly for her awful fate and that she never got to live the life she deserved to have and live. The unfairness of it all hits me especially at this time of year, with all of the anniversaries intermingled with Thanksgiving.

There are four big anniversaries around this time of year. November 17th is when we learned about her fatal diagnosis. The 18th is when we signed the horrible consents. The 22nd is when we had a dance party to say goodbye to her. And the 23rd, today, is when we terminated the pregnancy to spare her inevitable pain and agony.

It’s so strange to be joyously pregnant while going through these anniversaries, but it’s also how real life is for me. I’m so sad, but also so grateful at the same time.

Coincidentally, some of my very dearest friends (including the ones that did puzzles with me right after we learned about Grace’s disease) and my mom hosted a shower for our current pregnancy on the 17th. I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to spend that day and honor the intermingling of these circumstances, and I was SO HAPPY. My friends put out a memorial to Grace that made me start to cry, and I was able to thank 30 of my closest friends and family for being with us through these dramatically different seasons and circumstances of life. 30 people that care this much about us, and Grace, and this upcoming baby girl. How amazingly lucky are we?

 With two of my very dearest friends and hostesses of the shower. These ladies are the ones that scooped me up and did puzzles and drank tea with me right after we learned about Grace’s diagnosis.

With two of my very dearest friends and hostesses of the shower. These ladies are the ones that scooped me up and did puzzles and drank tea with me right after we learned about Grace’s diagnosis.

So I’m spending this Thanksgiving season full of gratitude and sadness. I will take it over the pure sadness the past few years brought. Grace will never, ever be forgotten, as my friends and family so tenderly and lovingly reassured me. But I’m grateful that I haven’t lost my ability to feel the pure joy of anticipation too. This little one deserves that, and boy, did people deliver. I have a lot to be thankful for this year.

 With my mom and my amazing Aunt

With my mom and my amazing Aunt

 With Venessa, a friend who has become like family to me since we lost Grace.

With Venessa, a friend who has become like family to me since we lost Grace.

Two Years Ago Today, We Had The Dance Party To Say Goodbye To Grace Pearl. Listen Here.

I posted nearly this exact same post a year ago today, and it feels appropriate to share it again this year. Two years ago today, we had to figure out how to say goodbye to our much anticipated, already deeply loved unborn daughter. Our abortion due to her diagnosis of Bilateral Multicystic Kidney disease (which is fatal) was scheduled for the next day, the day before Thanksgiving.

This year the anniversary hits on Thanksgiving. It’s our second year encountering the anniversary of these deeply sad and painful circumstances around a time focused on gratitude and thankfulness. The coincidence is at least becoming more and more bittersweet.

Medically, I spent much of this day 2 years ago recovering from the first medical procedure to prepare my body for the abortion. When you're 21 weeks pregnant, it's a two day procedure, and the first day you have seaweed sticks called laminarias placed in you cervix to start to dilate it for the dilation and evacuation scheduled the following day. In my shock, I had forgotten my doctor's advice to take 800 mg of Advil to prepare for it, and I remember feeling hesitant to do so once they offered it to me: I knew Advil wasn't good while pregnant and I still felt so protective of Grace. The procedure was excruciating: Jim held my hands and cried while I suffered through it, and I spent the remaining afternoon with a heating pad on my abdomen, laying on the couch. 

Around dinner time I felt well enough to go to the kitchen to eat some dinner with Jim, and asked him how he wanted to say goodbye to Grace: this was out last night with her. In memory of the beautiful way Jim suggested we spend this precious time with her, I have reposted his blog entry here: 

A Dance Party for Grace Pearl

Robin and I received the news of our daughter Grace Pearl's Multicystic Dysplastic Kidney Disease on Thursday, November 17 at approximately 1:45PM at the 21 week anatomy scan. The following days and nights were filled with grief, numbness and disbelief, all while looking for anything to distract or lighten our hearts. The previous six months had been spent thinking of what life was going to be like with our daughter, the endless opportunities and things we as parents were looking forward to sharing and experiencing with her. The reality now was that future together was going to be much shorter.

While finishing dinner at home on Tuesday, November 22, Robin (thankfully) brought up that this was our last night together with Grace. Robin gently asked if there anything I wanted to do or say to Grace before we said our final goodbye to her the next morning. The reality hit that instead of the lifetime of memories with Grace we anticipated we were getting a few more hours before the chance for new memories with her would be over. 

When faced with this reality the only thing that made sense for this situation was music. The love and appreciation of music has helped me more in life than anything else, making the great times more festive while being the greatest comforter during the hard times. So with our last few hours with Grace slipping away, the thing I wanted to do most with her was share music - something I had probably looked forward to doing with her more than anything else.  

I realized I wouldn't get the chance to spend an evening with Grace playing Public Enemy albums and explain how I learned more about American Black History from these records than I did in 17 years of public and private education. I wasn't getting the chance to spend a weekend afternoon playing her albums from my favorite early 90s Olympia, WA and Washington D.C. bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Slant 6. Bands who called out the patriarchy and challenged "liberated" men to do better while making some of the most exciting and memorable music that still sounds as important as it did 25+ years ago. I wasn't going to get the chance to go on a road trip with Grace and play Willie Nelson, Ornette Coleman, Stevie Wonder and John Fogerty albums for her, and tell her why I thought that there should be a "musical" Mt. Rushmore in America with their four faces on it celebrating these true American geniuses.

While it would've been easy (and earned) to put together a playlist that was filled with somber and serious music for these last hours together, I didn't want Grace's last hours to be about sadness,;we’d already spent the past four days fighting sadness. Instead of going for the Joy Division, Diamond Galas and Black Heart Procession records (which I figured I would be sharing with her during Grace's potentially morose teenage years), I wanted us three to celebrate the amazing time we did get to have with each other. The songs and artists chosen are ones that Robin and/or I loved and thought that our little girl would enjoy. The emphasis was songs that we hoped our little girl would gravitate to, simple pop songs that could be used as a foundation to discover her own musical taste and path in life. 

In rushing to put together this playlist that night I forgot a few songs that meant the world to me. Songs like Lulu “To Sir With Love”, Linda Ronstadt “You’re No Good” and The Ronettes “Be My Baby” were just a few of the major songs that were missed unfortunately.

The below are the songs we played on shuffle that evening. We danced for over an hour in our living room, late at night with only candles lighting our dance floor. Robin gently patted along to the rhythm on her baby bump and we replaced lyrics in several songs to be Grace Pearl. Some of the songs were key selections from our wedding, some we knew would be irresistible to a little girl, and lastly I wanted to make sure that she got to experience three songs with my favorite drummer all time Al Jackson Jr. behind the drums.

Robin had been told to bring headphones with her to the procedure the next day, for reasons we didn't really stop to think about while we fumbled through our shock and grief. She ended up not being put under the the procedure, and was advised to listen to music while Grace left us. She put on this playlist, and remembers listening to Born To Run, Superstitious, Let's Spend the Night Together and Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay. It brought both of us comfort to think that Grace's last moments were spent listening to music through her mother's body.

You can listen to the playlist here, and see the list of songs below:


Grace's Dance Party Playlist

The Beach Boys - God Only Knows

The Beatles - Twist And Shout

The Bee Gees - Stayin' Alive

Blondie - Atomic

Chuck Berry - You Never Can Tell

Sam Cooke - Nothing Can Change This Love

The Doobie Brothers - What A Fool Believes

Earth, Wind & Fire – September

Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way

The Four Tops - I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)

Marvin Gaye - Got To Give It Up, Part 1(Single Version)

Al Green - I'm Still In Love With You

Al Green - Let's Stay Together 

The Hollies - Bus Stop

Michael Jackson - Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough (Single Version)

The Jackson 5 - ABC

KC & The Sunshine Band - Get Down Tonight (Single Version)

Kenny Loggins - Footloose

Little River Band - Lady

MFSB - T.S.O.P. (The Sound Of Philadelphia)

Olivia Newton-John/John Travolta - You're The One That I Want

The O'Jays - Love Train

Otis Redding - (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay

The Rolling Stones - Let's Spend The Night Together

The Rolling Stones - Brown Sugar

Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run 

Warpaint - New Song

Stevie Wonder - I Was Made To Love Her

Stevie Wonder – Superstition

Neil Young – Harvest Moon

We Hit a Major Milestone Today

If you listened to our Moth Podcast, you know our big announcement…

… I’m pregnant again.

The way that Boston reacted to this announcement after I told them about Grace Pearl took me by surprise and promoted tears of gratitude. I listen to the cheering over and over again and cry happy tears. I will never forget that moment.

This pregnancy didn’t come easily for us either. It took us another round of IVF including one canceled attempt, 3 more frozen embryo transfers, a surgery, another new Reproductive Endocrinologist working with our amazing local one, exploring autoimmune diseases and much, much more research into adoption in the meantime. And a lot of pauses to see if this is what we really wanted.

But today is a really, really big day. I’m 28 weeks pregnant today. Viability is a moving target, without concrete lines that can really be accurately drawn, but this is a big one. While I know all too well how wrong things can go even when you’ve been given every assurance that it won’t (there was only a 1% chance after 10 weeks that something would go wrong with my pregnancy with Grace due to the early testing we had done), and I know women that have learned the worst news possible at this point and later and have had to terminate wanted pregnancies at this point and later…. I’m so hopeful.

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I was a Trader Joe’s tonight and the news kind of tumbled out of me while talking to the cashier - that I’m pregnant after a very hard road and just hit a major viability milestone, and she rang the bell twice and suddenly a bouquet of flowers was in my hands to celebrate the occasion. Cue tears of happiness again.

Thanks to everyone celebrating and hoping with us. It helps so much more than I can even say. As we approach Grace’s termination date very soon, it feels great to have our dread and grief so beautifully intermingled with hope and celebration.

Our Plea: If You Have Been Touched by our Story, Please Vote!

We share our story for a variety of reasons, including to show how we were ensnared by the Missouri abortion laws, and in the hopes that we can encourage people to vote with us to change them and preserve our reproductive rights.

 I am featured as part of the #IVoteBecause campaign, photo by the amazing Janette Beckman

I am featured as part of the #IVoteBecause campaign, photo by the amazing Janette Beckman

If you are a person that is a proponent of Reproductive Rights, thank you so much, and I ask that you please vote in every election. We were impacted so much more by our local legislators than our federal ones - it was the local lawmakers that created the 72-hour waiting period, the deadline and all of the consents. Every single election really matters. All of these things are state laws, not federal laws.

Additionally, we can't insist on perfect candidates. For instance, where I live, Claire McCaskill is up against Josh Hawley for Senator. There are reasonable concerns around McCaskill, however she has a solid record on Reproductive Rights, and Hawley wants to diminish our Reproductive Rights even further. When I think about it that way, voting for McCaskill is easy for me.

If, on the other hand, you are against abortion (and if so, thank you so much for lending me your mind and heart and considering my perspective!) and are not in the habit of voting for candidates that protect Reproductive Rights, I just want to share three facts with you that relate to how these laws impacted me (that were not shared in my story).

1). There are rarely exceptions in the laws for situations like Grace's. If you feel like abortions okay in our situation but not others (this is a really common feeling that is shared with us), know that exceptions don't exist that way. Occasionally laws are written with exception for rape, incest, and health of the mother (though I see against laws that have no such exceptions in them all the time), but very rarely do laws include exceptions for fetal anomalies. In fact, the deadline to get an abortion in the state of Missouri shows a complete misunderstanding about when fetal anomalies present themselves - by the time you find out your unborn child is sick it may be too late to do anything about it. We had our procedure one day before we legally couldn't in the state of Missouri anymore and we had to act very fast to make that happen. Our laws do not consider the realities of what women face in pregnancies. If there is one thing I've learned in this process, it's that we have really crappy laws around reproductive rights that don't fit every situation fairly, and worse, we are electing politicians that have no interest in doing better. I have testified numerous times about bills like these and they don't even pay attention to me. I want better politicians/lawmakers and better laws, and I hope that our story has left you wanting the same things.

2). Our doctors were not wrong. I hear this a lot. "Doctors aren't always right." We had eight doctors and a pathology report confirm that Graces diagnosis was accurate and that she would have indeed passed away in agony. They were not wrong. We can't make laws assuming our doctors are going to give us the wrong information.

3). You voting for a politician or law that protects Reproductive Rights does not mean you ever in your life have to get an abortion, or even that you think it's right. It just means that you respect that what you would do shouldn't dictate what other people are legally allowed to do. I would never, ever insist that another family facing the decision we did should have to abort the pregnancy - it would be wrong of me to say that. I just want the same right to make the best choices for my family that you do for yours. 

I implore you to vote, in every election, and to vote for people that will work to protect all of our rights. It's about letting a mother do what's best for her very wanted unborn daughter. It’s about humanity, dignity, and the ability to make the best decisions for ourselves and our families.

You can see my voter guide (for Missouri) here.

The Moth Podcast Is Live With a Huge Announcement.

I am nervous and very excited to share that our story, "Loving Grace", is now live on The Moth’s podcast. You can find several ways to download it here: LINK or here (direct link to iTunes).

It includes a huge announcement about our lives and our path forward.

Sharing my story as part of The Moth was one of the great honors of my life. The producers were fantastic to work with, Boston was a warmly welcoming and supportive city to share it with, and it felt like a very special way of honoring Grace and all that she has and continues to mean to us.

I hope that you will listen and share our story with others.

 Sharing my story as part of The Moth at the Wilbur in Boston, MA on 10/18/18.

Sharing my story as part of The Moth at the Wilbur in Boston, MA on 10/18/18.