Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Starting our New Life

It's now been almost two months since we arrived in our new home. As you probably know, there have been some major lows, but also some great highs.

First thing's first, I have been so blown away with the amount of love, support, stories, packages, letters, and solid compassion from everyone we know. This rough stuff has been so much easier to bear knowing that we have an army of loved ones behind us. Thank you to everyone who reached out to us and comforted us. We have our good days and rougher days, but the rough ones have slowly become less frequent. We are dealing and hopeful about what the future holds.


The day after we got our bad news, my parents flew out to spend some time with us while I recovered and we dealt with things. Between that and the hurricane that caused massive amounts of heavy rainfall (seriously, the pond outside our apartment rose about 5 feet, almost to the brim), we stayed indoors for almost a week.

Basically, we hung out doing a lot of this (with the pooch always perched right there):

While right outside our window it looked like this: 

Luckily it was General Conference weekend and let me just say that I have never needed it or wanted it more than I did in those days leading up to it. So many talks were powerful (loved Grandfather's so much) and comforting and exactly what I needed, but the one that stood out the most was Sister Neill Marriott's talk. It was an honest answer to prayer and spoke to me on a level that is one of the strongest I've ever felt in Conference. I've gone back and read it since, and each time, it brings me a lot of peace. If you feel like you need to feel God's love and presence a little more today, here's the link:

Because it was Conference weekend, we also decided to carry on some very important Conference traditions. German Pancakes on Sunday (as I've done with the Dallof's almost every Conference since I can remember) and the Nelson Family tradition of donut-making during Priesthood Session. I don't wanna brag, but daaaaaaaaang. We did pretty good. Probably just because I smothered everything in Nutella and sugar. Can't go wrong.

We also hit some amazing restaurants, did puzzles, and watched ridiculous amounts of baseball. Plus, anytime we didn't go out, my parents spent the evening making all our favorite home cooked meals. It was so nice to have them here and just relax, not having to worry about anything, and being distracted from having to feel all the feelings that were so confusing to deal with. We are the luckiest.

Doing fast food right, crate-style with all the sweet potato pies Bojangles can offer: 

Nuca is obsessed with her grandparents and, as evidenced, was never more than 2 inches away from one or the other at any given moment. It was pretty adorbs. She loved having such special visitors.

The last few days they were here, the weather finally cleared up and we were able to spend some time exploring! While Robbie was at work, we loaded up the pooch and drove out to Myrtle Beach. It was the (almost) perfect day (could only have been complete if Rob had been there). We spent hours just walking down the length of the beach and letting Nuca wig out jumping back and forth through all the waves. We even found a bunch of retirees hunting for ancient shark teeth, so that's crazy cool! While we were having lunch on the pier (best fish sandwich e'er), Nuca proved to be the main attraction. Everyone stopped to fawn over her and tell us how beautiful she was. Cutest pooch won them all over. What a great day. The ocean breeze made the sunny day perfect weather. We also drove around looking at all the real estate up there and I lost myself in daydreams of one day being a richie rich and owning a beautiful beach house.

After my parents left, Robbie and I had some time on our own to digest everything. We relaxed for another week or so, and then decided we needed to start having some weekend adventures to take our attention. We spent our next big Saturday in Charleston!

Charleston - October 17, 2015

Charleston was BEAUTIFUL! Ocean views, adorable charming houses with huge wrap around porches and AMAZING FOOD. Seriously, these posts will almost always involve descriptions of what we ate because all our adventures revolve around finding delicious food.

All the heart eyes, I'm such a sucker for these big porches

Lunch at Jestine's Kitchen did not disappoint. I had a BLFGT sandwich, see if you can figure that one out. Yes, that's right, a Bacon Lettuce FRIED GREEN TOMATO sandwich. Are you kidding me?! It was amazing. I don't know if plain old BLT's will be enough for me ever again.

We had dinner at a place called Hyman's Seafood and WOW-zas, this may have been the highlight of the day. Since we've been in South Carolina, I have had my fair share of hushpuppies (basically deep fried pancake balls) but these were out of this world! I had way more than I should have. Beyond that, a mixed platter of fish, shrimp, crabcakes, etc. made this meal a party in the mouth.


The rest of the day, we walked up and down the coastline, explored King Street (the shopping district that is still somehow fun for non-shoppers), and wandered through beautiful parks. We even happened to be sitting on a bench right outside a gazebo when a wedding party showed up and had their ceremony right there in front of us! What a magical day.

King Street

Weddings! I love weddings! Drinks all around!

Camping in Asheville, NC - October 24th

Before we even moved to the south, my sister Brittany told us to make sure that we made our way up to the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina sometime during our first fall to see the leaves changing.   We decided to camp up there and make a weekend out of it. Since these are our closest mountains and they are 3.5 hours away (which is rough on these Utah kids), we need to take advantage of every opportunity to see them and bask in their beauty! Not to mention the pooch loves camping. Let me tell you, I have never received better advice in my life! I mean look at this!

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a GORGEOUS highway that stretches along the tops of the mountain range. As you drive around the bends, all of a sudden this amazing vista just appears before your eyes. You stop and stare for as long as you can, unable to fully take it all in and finally reluctantly get back into the car to keep going, when 1 minute down the road you see another even better view and that continues for MILES. It's unreal. I tried to take pictures, but nothing captured how just plain powerful it was.

We also explored a little of downtown Asheville, which basically feels like the lovechild of Park City and San Francisco. It's awesome. As we were driving down one of the streets, we saw a really long line of people coming out of a building. Since we are sheep, we were immediately curious about what could be drawing such a big crowd. Naturally, we parked and joined the fun. Well, turns out we were in line for the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Have you ever seen the movie Chocolat? Well, we lived it. The crappy part was that there aren't any prices listed and not even full menus until you get up to the front and it's time to order. I was so overwhelmed with trying to decide what to get that I unknowingly spent $20 on two teeny tiny (espresso-sized) hot chocolates and four teeny tiny chocolates. They tricked me! Anyway, it was pretty delicious. And the hot chocolate was so thick, it was basically just melted chocolate. So, kind of a win?

Either way, camping and hiking with my man and my pooch made this the best, most relaxing weekend.

My two favorites:

Visiting the Brockbanks in Durham, NC - October 30, 2015

One of Robbie's good friends from high school, Ben Brockbank, is doing his residency in anesthesiology at Duke (smarty pants). Ben lives in Durham, North Carolina with his wife Alyse and their baby girl McKenzie. We've talked about visiting them ever since we got here, but spontaneously decided that Halloween was the perfect weekend to do so! You need to jump when a busy resident tells you he has the weekend off. Plus, we are still fairly lacking in the good-friends-in-Florence-that-you-party-with-on-Halloween crowd so off we went to North Carolina for the second weekend in a row!

It was such a great weekend! Ben and Robbie have always been friends, but the best thing is that it has been so easy for me to become friends with Alyse. That girl is the easiest person in the world to talk to. (Robbie and I call this the "Katie HI factor" in honor of our sister-in-law). She is so good, so down to earth. And man, that Kenzie is the CUTEST little babe in the land. Look at her Halloween costume! Isn't she the perfect real-life Cabbage Patch Doll?

It seems impossible, but she's actually even cuter in real life than she is in these photos. Also, this little minion made me wish a teeny that we had dressed up Nuca for the holiday: 

Alyse and I spent the weekend mostly gabbing while Robbie, Ben and Ben's brother Brandon spent the weekend doing more manly things like frisbee golf, installing ceiling fans, etc. Plus, we all gamed it up at night. Really, it was a win-win for all involved.

Finally, we took a visit to grand ol' Duke University. Thought of Scottie, my brother-in-law, and the year that he and my sister spent in this beautiful place. 

Last sidenote: Before we left for North Carolina, we also had a chance to ring in Halloween on our own by carving our pumpkins. Robbie is a true artist and will only carve something he has designed himself. He refuses to look at designs on the internet, so his original design is our Nuca Pooch Pumpkin. I, on the other hand, have no pride in my pumpkin designing skills, so I cheated and tried to mimick the Tree of Gondor (LOTR reference). It was working pretty well until one whole chunk of tree branch fell off. Oops.

Overall, the past month has been pretty crazy, but Robbie and I have definitely grown closer through it all. We have dealt with change, hardship, compassion, kindness and have grown to love and appreciate our new home.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Our Baby

We lost the baby. 

I feel broken. 

I have a hard time talking about it out loud. I find myself either overcome with emotion and can't get any words out or in a numb haze and I have no words at all. Since writing has helped me in the past, I thought I could try to write out everything I'm feeling. For the benefit of those that care about us and want to know, as well as for those that may be struggling with something similar, I have opened up here about this really personal experience. Hopefully this can help someone, at the very least just to know that they are not going through this alone. 

Getting to Pregnancy:

As many may know, Robbie and I have struggled with fertility for the past couple years. We have dreamed of becoming parents and having a baby to love for a really long time. It seemed that it just wasn't in the cards naturally. We tried on our own for a year and eventually decided to see a fertility specialist at Utah Fertility Center in Pleasant Grove. 

This past year has been filled with lots of doctors visits, books, fertility treatments, hormone drugs, IUI procedures and more. Despite all that, every month we got the phone call from the fertility center saying they were so sorry, but it was another negative. We dealt with some pretty serious emotions, but got through it. We thought and prayed a lot about what to do next. We talked about adoption and even went to an adoption information meeting, but still felt like it wasn't the right time. We finally decided to take the BIG step. We had saved some but continued saving up for a few more months and started the IVF process this past July. Up until that point, through all the rest of those treatments, I found myself sad and upset every time we got a negative pregnancy test, but there was always this light at the end of the tunnel. I knew we still hadn't tried IVF. We waited because of the expense and the emotional and physical toll it would take on us, but we always knew it was there. Almost like, if nothing else worked, we still had that and it had to work. We had heard so many success stories that we just believed deep down that it had to work. It was the absolute most we could do and we were both committed to doing anything we could. 

 It was a hard but really exciting month. I took a lot of medications and started giving myself injections daily, sometimes four per day. I visited the doctor a lot, some weeks having appointments every day to check the status of our follicles and how they were growing. We had 15 healthy follicles growing. At our egg retrieval on July 25th, they were able to take out 12 mature eggs. Over the next 5 days they fertilized them and watched them grow in a petri dish. We knew that a lot of eggs don't make it through this fertilization and maturation process, so we were just hoping and praying that we would end up with something, ideally that we would have enough to freeze extras for later attempts. By the time we arrived at our Transfer Day on August 1st, we had two mature embryos remaining. We were thrilled that it was enough to implant this round, but a little disappointed that we didn't have any extras. It made us very aware that this first try needed to work. But we just kept telling ourselves, all it takes is one. One embryo can become a baby. 

After our Transfer Day, we had to wait ten days before we found out whether or not the embryos took. Those ten days were TORTUROUS. August 11th would be the day, and it couldn't come fast enough. I declared to Robbie that since it was such a big day, it was also the day we could celebrate our third anniversary. We weren't able to celebrate it on July 28th since I was right in the middle of the most intense part of our IVF process. I had myself convinced that we should celebrate it the day we got the results from our pregnancy test because if we got a positive result, we could celebrate it all together and if it was negative, I would have something to distract me from the guaranteed devastation that would follow. It probably wasn't the best decision but luckily, it worked out. 

I will never forget the moment we found out. We had both been getting ready for our big night out. I hadn't heard my phone ring and when I came back in my room, I saw that I had a voicemail from the fertility center. This was it. I just walked blank-faced over to Robbie and wordlessly held up the phone. Since he was clearly confused, I just said, "We have a voicemail." We both sat down on the bed and stared at the phone for a minute, afraid to push play. Finally, he said, "Ready?" I nodded and he pushed it. All the words on the voicemail seemed jumbled until we heard the word "positive" and then we lost it. We threw our arms around each other and just cried. It finally happened. We were finally pregnant. We could barely get a handle on ourselves. A baby was on its way!

Two weeks later, we had a 7-week ultrasound and were able to hear our little one's heartbeat. It was so fast, but so strong. We were just all smiles and couldn't believe we were finally here. We got a printout of our little bean and looked at it all the time, proudly showing it off every chance we could. 

Just days after our ultrasound, the time came for our big move to South Carolina. Robbie had gotten a new job at GE Healthcare and was expected to start September 14th. We decided to make a road trip of it so after a few days of travel, we arrived at our new home on September 8th and got settled in. Since so many of our friends and family knew about our pregnancy back home (since our IVF procedure was pretty public) we decided not to hide it here. We were about 8 weeks along when we arrived and had no signs that anything was out of the ordinary. My pregnancy seemed relatively easy. I did find I was tired a lot and got more emotional than I should about different things, positive or negative, but I didn't get sick or nauseous at all. The lack of nausea did make me a little nervous just because I couldn't feel anything telling me I was pregnant. I didn't have any physical proof, but a lot of people don't experience nausea so I pushed it aside. All in all, I was happy and excited. 

The Loss: 

It started Monday, September 28th, the start of my 11th week of pregnancy. I was feeling fine and had been running errands for most of the day. Around 3:00 I went to the bathroom and noticed that I was bleeding. At first, I pushed the worry aside. I'd heard that you can have some light spotting through your pregnancy. But then I started to get nervous because it didn't look like light spotting. I texted Robbie and he told me to call the doctor right away. 

I don't even know our doctors yet. I was supposed to have my first appointment with them the next day (Tuesday). I called in and at first the secretary said that since I technically wasn't a patient yet, she couldn't give me any medical advice. I just repeatedly asked her, "Could you at least give me some idea if this is normal or if I should be concerned?" Finally, she asked me to hang on for a minute. When she came back, she asked how much blood there was. I told her and she said, "Can you get here in the next 30 minutes?" I told her I'd be there in 10 and hung up. This is when my real fear started. I texted Robbie as I walked out the door, telling him they asked me to come in to check everything out. He called me back as I was driving and said he would meet me there. He had gotten permission to leave work a little early to go to the DMV and an eye appointment but said he would come to me instead. Despite my fear, I told him it was probably nothing and that he should just go to his appointment. I'm so glad he didn't listen. I could not have done this alone. 

I met him in the lobby and we both had some panic on our faces. We held hands and walked quietly to the elevators and then into the office. After filling out all their paperwork, they took us back to the ultrasound room. I laid there just praying and pleading over and over in my head that everything would be okay. When the screen was clear, I saw our beautiful, sweet little baby on the screen, and nothing else. No movement. Even before the technician said it, I knew. There was no heartbeat. I heard Robbie gasp and start to cry. I just covered my mouth and sobbed into my hand. 

I have never known heartache like I did in that moment. It is physically painful. I couldn't breathe, I could only cry. Our beautiful baby, the baby we had prayed so hard for and wanted for so long, was gone just like that. 

The technician said he/she was measuring at 8 weeks and 6 days (too early to know the gender). Since I was in my 11th week of pregnancy, he must have stopped growing two weeks before. I racked my brain trying to remember what had happened two weeks before. What had I done that day? How did I do this? How did I end this little life? I felt so heavy with responsibility. I couldn't protect him. He was gone for two weeks before I even knew. I'm his mother and I couldn't do anything to help him. 

The rest of our visit was a blur. We walked from room to room, wherever they directed us, taking care of all of the business that happens after you miscarry. There is so much business. It felt like we were walking around for hours, just in this tear-filled, blurry haze. We spoke to the doctor who advised us to do a D&C surgery immediately to remove all "products of conception." Even those words broke my heart. Our little one was reduced to a "product of conception." He was kind about it but it just hurt. Robbie just asked him what could have happened. What went wrong? He answered that it was likely a chromosomal abnormality and there was nothing we could have done to prevent it from happening. I wish those words could have lightened my heart, but it was still heavy. I still felt responsible somehow. Even if it wasn't a conscious behavior that harmed him, my body couldn't give him a safe place to grow. I felt broken, like my body was broken. I couldn't get pregnant. When that miracle did finally occur, I couldn't stay pregnant. There is a disconnect there and I don't know why. 

The following morning we went in for our D&C procedure. It was a long day, 12 hours total, at the hospital for a procedure that only took about 45 minutes. It was a lot to deal with. The only thing I want to remember from that day is Robbie laying next to me in the bed and holding me while we waited. 

Tender Mercies: 

The past two days have been some of the most difficult I've ever faced. I know deep down that Heavenly Father has a plan for me and for Robbie and for our children. It's so hard to understand what that plan is right now, but I know it's there. One thing that has been made clear to me though is that even if I can't see His plan, I can see His hand in all the details of the last two days. He has never left us, even for a moment. He has sent me small moments of tenderness and love when I have needed them the most. He has filled both our hearts with His tender mercies. 

The greatest of His tender mercies to me is my one big pillar of light--Robbie. He has done nothing but hold me and cry with me since we found out. He hurts just as deeply as I do, but he is so concerned with comforting me and helping me cope with our loss. I will be eternally grateful that through a true miracle, he was able to be with me in that ultrasound room. I've found through this journey that it's so easy to get sucked into thinking about what we don't have, but when I take a minute to stop and think of what I do have, I am blown away with gratitude for my love. I never in my life thought I would find someone who could love me for me. Someone who would understand the complexities of my many emotions. But Robbie does. He is my companion and my best friend through all of our ups and downs. He is the one that makes everything okay, even when it seems to be impossible. Whatever comes, I am so grateful to have him by my side.

I have also felt so much love and support from our families. I have never known the value of our call to "mourn with those that mourn" until I found myself on the receiving end. Nothing could be said to take away this pain, so no one tried to. Those we love have just taken it upon themselves and cried with us. They love us so much that they have shared in our heartbreak. They have actually felt it themselves. And I know they would do anything they could to take it away. In fact, both sets of parents immediately offered to fly out and be with us to help us cope. I couldn't be more grateful for all these amazing people we are blessed to call our family. 

In addition to these huge support systems, we have also been blessed in so many small and simple ways. One example from today was a friend of mine that happened to be passing through Florence on a family vacation. She stopped in to see me, bringing a grocery bag full of snacks and treats, and sat with me. She had gone through two miscarriages before having their sweetest little boy who is now 9 months old. She brought him with her and surprisingly, being with him and playing with him became a form of healing that I didn't expect. It was so comforting to sit down and talk with this amazing friend who had been through so much hardship and had made it through to the other side. 

I have been shown repeatedly over the last two days that the Lord hasn't forgotten us. On the contrary, He has been going through this with us. In our pain and despair, He has made sure not to leave us alone, or even let us feel that we're alone. He has mourned with us.  He knows how badly we want this, but He knows it's just not time yet.

So, here we are. Broken, devastated and confused, but also comforted, loved, and infused with trust. A new level of trust. A hope of things to come. 

To our little one, you were so loved by so many in your short time here and we will love you always. I know someday we will see you again and it will be a beautiful day.