Monday, November 11, 2013

Two Veterans.

Aaron wanted to take his brand-new legs out for a spin the first day he had them, so he decided to say hello to a few friends. Here's one precious moment from that day.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I'm not busy, just scattered.

Somehow I am 25 weeks pregnant but before we go any further: Aaron retires out in <30 days, has extensive throat and nose surgery before that, we go home for two weeks, return to move a week later, and then should everything keep going well, we'll welcome little AJ in late January.

Overwhelmed much? Who knew leaving the military could be even more hectic than being in it. He also did not receive a mid-month paycheck, because DFAS was the only entity not to process his extension paperwork... back in August. Of course, nothing was figured out until the paycheck before last came up a bit short. Of course we were promised it would be fixed. And of course it wasn't, leaving us hanging until the 15th when the money didn't roll in. He should receive this all back paid on November 1, but we'll see. It's incredibly stressful because he should not retire without receiving all of his active duty pay. That seems to be what we would call a very bad idea. Then we'll go about 4-12 months without consistent income. Some will roll in here, some later, some sooner than later. He has all his out-process paperwork so as long as he's paid up, November 16 will be the day the bell rings on his active duty career. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

There are absolutely a ton of feelings going on with this retirement, but the one which comes to mind is how I'll feel now that he won't correct people when they ask if he's a retired veteran. "No, I am still active duty." I won't boast that he says it proudly and puffed up, but he is clear. He liked pointing out that you could still serve, even while injured. And he could have continued on in some capacity if he had chosen to do so, but that was not in the best interest of our family. He hardly brought it up. In fact, he just seems to accept it. He's the happiest dude I know, so I'm not surprised. He just wants me to allow him to 6 months without a haircut.

For me, however, I bounce between indifferent and happy that the military will be behind us. We still have loads of uncertainty ahead of us, so that's nothing new. But at least it's our uncertainty; we're waiting on ourselves and not anyone else to tell us what to do. I wish it was as easy and simple as, "Move home, build a house, raise family, go to school, get jobs." But we want to stay here. We want him to have access to one of the best hospitals in the world, and maybe the best place in the world for amputees. The VA in DC isn't too bad, either. At any point he can switch to Standard and still receive the care he would need from Walter Reed (mainly amputee) and the VA, but then choose from dozens of top-notch civilian providers as well. Staying here will give us both the most opportunity. We miss family and know it would be easiest to just "go home," but home is wherever we are. And we've been here longer than we've been anywhere else, anyway.

Pregnancy is physically incredibly easy for me. I can control a lot with diet and exercise (or pay the price for not being mindful). My back hurts a little and I have dealt with insomnia, but I've never been sick and I think I look great. I'm me, with just a bit extra. I've gained maybe close to 20 pounds, I guess. I don't have a scale in the house so I only know when I go in or visit other people who own scales. You can cyber punch me all you want for this next sentence: I finally broke 100 pounds for the first time in my life. I don't mind the changes to my body, but I definitely don't feel sexy, ever. I think I can look "nice" and "cute" but sexy? Nope. Not feeling it. I'm sure it'll come back at some point. Maternity clothes definitely make me feel better about myself, even though I didn't like shopping for them. And nothing a new pair of Michael Kors black boots with gold zipper and buckle couldn't fix. Even Selena Gomez liked them (she said as much when she visited the hospital). Of course, had I known we weren't getting paid, I would probably be boot-less. C'est la vie.

Emotionally, I can be kind of wreck but I think I'm okay. Mostly. I get really upset when I feel like there's no hope for certain things to get better. Some people really take pleasure in telling me how tired I'm going to be, how hard it'll be, how I have no idea what I'm in, et. al. It's actually pretty damn rude if you ask me. And further, not one person who has gone through this journey then entering parenthood has told me anything like that. No one who has faced real adversary prior to caring for a newborn has upset me. I know I should just nod and smile, but sometimes it does get to me. If you don't know their journey, don't comment on it, k? I feel completely capable in regards to handling an infant and my current life. I'm not saying I'll be rocking more classes or not eat a lot of microwaved food for awhile, but I'm not scared. I don't think it's going to be the hardest thing I ever do. The most important? Yeah, that I do agree with. It isn't The Most Important Job In The World, but for my existence raising my kid to be a healthy, functioning, contributing adult is probably the most important responsibility of my life. And if I can save a life, I'm sure I can raise one. At least I have Aaron here with me. The pleasure and privilege of that is not lost on me.

Life is stressful, but good. I am having way too many baby showers because so many people feel so much joy from little AJ's pending full-fledged existence. She's viable now, so I am currently baking a preemie in there instead of a fetus. I feel her all the time and can do certain things to get her to move. I really thought I'd have to meet her first to be so in love, but I've surprised myself. I want her. I need her. And I can't wait to meet her and tell her that I belong to her more than she'll ever belong to me.

We haven't bought anything because of the move, but I can't wait to build her room! Well, we ordered her furniture. Her very expensive, very heavy beech 3-piece suite. The chest and dresser are Bombay style, and in this princess pearl white I just love. Aaron and I took one look and knew it was for us. Nothing else compared. At least the crib converts up to a full-sized bed, so she'll get to keep this forever. If I let her take it with her when she moves out, that is. I really love this furniture.

Here's some of it. 

So everything is okay. I do have quite a list of big life changes in front me for the next 120 days or so, and while I might not rock it all- it all will get done. We'll be juuuuuuust fine. And eventually, we'll be awesome! Aaron has been awesome at walking a ton lately, and really kicking recovery's ass. So I really can't ask for more, can I?

Monday, September 9, 2013

From TriCare to Civilian.

I finally had enough with TriCare Prime and receiving prenatal treatment at the hospital and switched to Standard to receive civilian care. I had a new appointment four days later with my new doctor. I had seen him before for regular lady stuff, and was delighted to learn he also did OB. I'm already feeling much more relaxed about it.

We moved my due date up a bit (I knew the one the hospital was using was a little off but come hell or high water they don't move dates, all based off of the initial ultrasound), he measured me, called in my anatomy scan, and told me when to come back. And I get to return that week, not the week after! We had a real conversation about food and rules. We talked a little bit about birth and my feelings on it, including my very real anxiety which stems from what I went through with Aaron the first year he was in recovery. The doc really respected that and let me know that within reason, I will be making the choices when it comes to birth. And as for birth, I will not be discussing that publicly because ohmygods the judgement! Sheesh.

I don't think Walter Reed provides bad prenatal care. In fact, I'd love to give birth there. I felt more empowered to speak up there than I do with my current doctor, mainly because I like him so much and the providers seem to change a lot at WR. But it's definitely Tri-Cow, and I am not a bovine on the way to slaughter. I am not just another pregnant dependent. No one is. I feel that a lot of times, I was simultaneously expected to not look things up for myself but also figure them out for myself. I was given a purple pregnancy journal and planner at the beginning and seemed to be expected to just refer to that. I was almost done with my first trimester before I started getting care, and I am thankful I didn't need any first-trimester-only interventions. I would have missed the window entirely.

But the care can be dismissive. They don't seem to pay a lot of attention to a mother's anxiety and just pish-posh any concerns. Someone told a friend to "not bother" with a birth plan! The final straw for me wasn't even prenatal, but ultrasound. A geneticist referred me for an echo-cardiogram and the hospital couldn't see me. I was not given any instructions on what to do next. I actually asked the appointment setter what she expected me to do, and she didn't have anything. I said, "I guess I should just hope I'm okay since I can't be treated!" She wished me luck. So, yeah- done

The hospital I'll be delivering at is a bit of a drive from where we'll be living then, so I'll have to keep an eye on the weather. The only downside is that the hospital is the only one in the area with a few shared rooms so it can still charge you for the private. It's just enough money for you to think it's doable, but it's not cheap! I hope to get out of there quickly. With having constant care from Aaron and relatives, I think I'll be okay even if there's been surgery. A lot of my friends keep suggesting a longer hospital stay "to rest," but I swear I've lived in one enough to be done for the rest of my life. Hospital anxiety much? I will want to go back to my new apartment, spend time on my expensive mattress, eating delicious heat and bake casseroles, and enjoying my new baby. Or napping on the floor next to the dog. Either way. Better than a hospital. So cheers to choosing my medical care and loving my new doctor!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It Can Make You Sick.

I have so many thoughts right now. Admittedly, I haven't read the news very thoroughly but I have been listening to NPR and visiting news sites which aren't American. So I'm going to word vomit for a bit and then we can all go back to our mornings.

I never get over having to meet other people who are just beginning a journey we have almost finished. I feel physically ill each time I have gone to meet a new wounded warrior and their shell-shocked family. In about a week, it will have been two years since Aaron and I lost everything we had built and dreamed about, and begun the long road to rebuilding our life together. I am still not over it; I am not sure I ever will be. So when I see a spouse or parent with that look on their face, the one that relays so many wordless emotions, I just want to cry with them. I just want to hug them and I always wish I could somehow give them my two years' worth of knowledge and experience on this journey. I want to them to believe me when I say that it will be okay again, but it's going to be awful getting there. Purgatory would be a paradise most days for some time, but it will change. There will eventually be more okay days than bad; then maybe at some point, more good days than bad or just okay.

So when the news blows up and the word is that our nation might try to solve another nation's problems the way we have been doing for some years now, I just want to scream. Or sob. Or just quit. I feel actual anxiety thinking about people going through what I've been through. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. At times, though, it feels as if those like us and the dead are just collateral damage. It's just a cost of what this nation does. NBD, right? We got $100,000 and a sweet retirement deal for my husband's troubles, and I'll even get paid, too. The families of the dead supposedly get four or five times that amount. So I guess because we're paid off, it's all okay, right? But it only really works out for the most physically injured and the families of the fallen. Ask a single leg amputee, someone with extensive nerve damage, or PTSD how well they made out after losing so much. Those are the ones who get screwed, and I promise there are more of them than there are of us.

So I'm going to have to say "no." I have to take a pass. I am just as horrified at what is happening to sweet little babies and other innocents. I have never felt threatened on my land, nor watched a war between two groups take out so many people who had no choices in the matter. Perhaps if more nations were willing to match American troop numbers, I'd feel better about it. But we know that isn't the case. It appears that our people are worth less than others. Is it because there is more of us? I don't know. I don't know what to say nor can I make a suggestion on how to fix anything. Should the world care to do something? Yes. But it's a little selective, don't you think? What about all the other nations who have gone through similar loss? Why this one? Why this time? There is nothing worth more planes full of maimed and the dead. Not one cause. It just needs to stop.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Just Be Happy, Asshats!

Election year can make anyone nuts and that includes me. End of the year, I was posting news articles all over the place. I don't know why, since I am well-aware that nothing I say can really ever change someone's mind, especially if their entire belief system is the polar opposite of mine. In the past several months, I've abstained from inflammatory over-sharing. What does that mean, though? I got really happy when DOMA was repealed (the same day I found out I was pregnant!), but I didn't share the voting records of Congress critters to prove that someone else's party member sucks or discuss how family planning clinics provide essential services besides terminations. It just isn't going to do any good. I can't change anyone, so why waste the energy? I posted some stuff about the George Zimmerman trial, the worst being that maybe people should stop celebrating a verdict and pray for the parents of a dead minor child. I mean, I guess that's inflammatory. But I am not sure it should be.

Okay, so I get a little preachy about love and acceptance, but that is a far cry from being preachy about actual political crap. It's not hard to figure out which way I swing, but that's not the point. If I want to talk about how maybe George Zimmerman could have given Trayvon Martin a ride that rainy night instead of following him (not my idea; stolen from Twitter), it's not to piss people off. It's to provide a different perspective on what this world is, and what it could be. That is all.

Overall, I've decided to be a damn hippie and just be effing happy as much as  I can. It's about love, right? I can get a little intense about it (angry optimist?), but it's definitely working for me. I also like to hide things on Facebook that I don't like, instead of trying to tell someone why the information posted sucks. I mean, why does it bother me? As long as no one is hurting me or my family, why should I care if someone is a bigot or racist? Or maybe it isn't all that bad, but I just don't agree with someone. It just doesn't affect me. At all. If I really don't like someone, I just won't hang out with that person. It's not that hard to keep my mouth shut and go play with my puppy to remind myself that I can choose to be really happy.

So for the most part, I just read cute and sappy stuff on the internet. And I share that. And I get really excited over cupcakes on my birthday at a Nationals game. It's working.

I just can't care about everything anymore. I can only hope that I teach my kid love and acceptance, you know? If we're going to talk religion, I'd rather teach my kid about Jesus and his actions than God and that vengeance. If I don't like someone's choices, I should teach my kid that some people make decisions in situations we can't imagine and shouldn't judge, even if we don't like it. I am sure many people feel the same way about me and my choices. In fact, I am certain there are a few people out there who are horrified I have a chance at being a mother. Good for them. They don't bother me any more than I actually bother them. I don't think I see any of those people, anyway.

Just be happy, you miserable wads of festering butt boils!  That is all! Happy 31st Birthday to me (yesterday)! I could not be a luckier woman!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Love and Sacrifice.

I am going to do my very best to say what I want to say without sounding judgmental, ungrateful, or like an ass. So here goes nothing.

For most people, especially women, the first time they really put themselves last is when a child is brought into the picture. I don't mean putting themselves second or third, but definitely last. Last to shower, last to eat, last to go to the doctor to get refills for the headache medicine. Last to obtain good sleep for months on end. And that's crazy love and sacrifice, but also a rude awakening to what sacrifice means. I imagine, anyway. And even more women say that the ultimate definition of love is what you go through when you become a new parent.

Some women do this and don't look back while others struggle. Some women think they can't do it another day and others have another kid less than 18 months later. Whatever, you know? Some women have that one thing they can't seem to get their kid to do- eat, sleep, poop with regularity. And it breaks my heart when a new mom posts a minor complaint on Facebook or Twitter only to met with, "That's just being a mommy! LOLZ. Get used to it!" I  mean, what the hell? So her kid was sleeping and now isn't- I think that warrants a complaint. But noooo, new parents can never complain about anything ever, cause you know- it's so funny to see someone else suffer. I probably won't share much about my struggles because people seem incapable of being helping but would rather remind you that you're going to be tired for the next 5 years. I'd rather just ask someone in private, which I will do.

Now back to love and sacrifice. I guess I'm privileged enough to already know what putting myself last feels like. I already understand what it's like to worry my head off about the very well-being of another human. I understand true, soul-sucking exhaustion that seemed to eat at me for weeks on end. I know what it's like not to know if the clothes I picked up off the floor are clean or dirty, but wearing them anyway. I know what it's like to shower at 4am because I was up anyway and also, it might be the only time I can enjoy it for a few days.

I have feared for my husband's life in a way most people are lucky they don't know exists. I have helped nurse him back from near death. I have cut rotting flesh from his wounds. I have watched him cry from frustration and pain. I have seen him struggle to feed himself. I saw him in an utterly helpless state, something most adults don't experience, even in their final days.

And in all of that, I was last. I wrecked my little body over and over again, to the point of being unable to walk for days. I have been in the ER more times for tension and migraine headaches since Aaron got hurt than in the past five years (or longer). I am pretty sure I lost my hairbrush at one point, and went around in public looking like a Minion. Good times.

And you know what? For some people, I still might not know what love and sacrifice is. Somehow, an infant is still going to be the hardest thing I will ever do. Love and sacrifice and exhaustion only applies to caring for a child, but never anything else. And while no one has been malicious or continued to argue the point after I made my feelings clear, it has still been on my mind enough that I wanted to write about it.

If someone is going to look me in the face and tell me that what I've done for my husband isn't the same as what I'll do for my child, or that it isn't as difficult, then I have nothing to say. Simply put, if having a baby is worse/harder than what I've already done, then I probably won't be too happy about it. Who in their right mind would sign up for that? What person would look at everything Aaron and I have been through and say, "Bring on something harder! I still don't know what being exhausted means! I don't know love because I haven't had a child!" Seriously. And I am not the only caregiver who feels this way. In fact, even my caregiver friends with kids have let me know that compared to what I've already done, what I'm about to do is totally manageable.

I understand that it won't be the same. I, of course, with my human brain am aware that I will encounter situations I can't fathom until I'm pulling the puke and shit from my hair (but to be fair, I know a lot of caregivers without children who've dealt with their fair share of puke and shit). I am not stupid. I know that this will be challenging in whole new ways. Some things might even feel impossible. I bet a lot of things will. In fact, I am sure I will wonder what the hell I think I am doing at least three times a day. I am not being flippant about my entry into parenthood. But I will say that I have certain skills and tools I've gained throughout my experience as a caregiver that have undoubtedly prepared me in a way that most people aren't privileged to understand.

The biggest damn difference in all of this is that I have a partner this time. When things get rough with the baby, I can look to Aaron for comfort and support. We can make tough decisions together. If there is something wrong, I won't have to be the only one to sign the paperwork that sends the baby to surgery. With Aaron, I had to make decisions I wouldn't even want to make for my puppy. Alone. And while I had the love and support of our families, the decisions were ultimately mine to make for him. I won't have to do that alone again. If the baby ends up in the hospital, needing care, Aaron and I can comfort each other. We can go through it together. And that, right there, is all I need to know to be absolutely positive that having this baby is going to be just a bit easier than helping save Aaron's life. And if helping save his life isn't also an "ultimate" definition of love, then I really don't know what is. Everything I need to know about love, I already do. Anything past this point is just icing on the cake.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

On Pregnancy: How did this happen?

So I found out I was pregnant the day DOMA was declared unconstitutional (yay! awesome!). I knew there was a reason I wanted a waffle so badly. Actually, I didn't think I was pregnant at all. We're filming a documentary and I was going to take a pregnancy test for a scene. I was just going down the checklist before I went into my reproductive health appointment to begin testing for IVF: period, no?, take test, negative, report back. It had been quite some time since I'd had a cycle, but I really wasn't concerned. Nothing about the absence felt "pregnant" to me. But then, I had a large loaded caffeinated beverage and was exhausted afterwards. I had some stomach issues. I started to wonder.

I was going to wait to film to take the test, but then I remembered what usually happens when Aaron and I both process something sad/frustrating/negative at the same time: lots of crying and arguing. So, being the woman I am, I decided to take the test the day before so I could spend a little time on my emotions about it before Aaron had any.

Yeah, that didn't work out so well. When the test came back pregnant, I double-checked, pulled up my pants, and ran into the living room. I stood there for a second, holding the plastic wand, just staring at Aaron. He looked at the scene, exclaimed, "ARE YOU PREGNANT?!" and his eyes began to water. All I could do was hand him the test. I couldn't even speak. He immediately asked for more tests, to the tune of about $100 over the next few days. He couldn't believe; neither could I. I managed to get a blood test from the doctor's office a few days later, but at an ultrasound in the ER last week, we learned just how far along I was. We went from 7 weeks to about 9 weeks to over 10 weeks! So now I am in the middle of my 11th week.

I have yet to vomit, but I do have some serious sinus issues I'd trade a good puke for, that's for sure. My body is already changing- it's gone soft. Big roundness in the front and the back. It's all really very strange. I'm really thirsty, fairly hungry, and super tired. Pregnancy insomnia sucks! But I really am not having a bad time at all, and so far am enjoying this.

This doesn't take away the pain of the last few months; hell the last few years. We probably won't be able to do it this way again, since Aaron needs to go back on testosterone and that will eventually sterilize him. But we're not scared; we're just enjoying it.

My next post will about the absolutely ridiculous crap people say to expectant parents. OMG.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Everything Can Change.

We've been through so much. Everything has been more difficult than it should have been. Everything has taken longer and hurt more than what we thought it would. We got to keep each other, yes. But this has not been easy. We haven't felt like winners in a long time.

So it is with great shock and love that I announce our pregnancy. We are overjoyed, and as terrified as expectant new parents could be. We had scheduled IVF for this fall and he had been diligently taking his Clomid, despite the terrible side effects. He was going to bank his sperm so we could try for a kid.

When the sperm analysis came back and we were told it was "almost normal" but the sperm didn't swim in the right direction, I was already pregnant. I was already pregnant when one of our favorite doctors told us we might never conceive outside of a medical office.

I feel like a winner, but not because we conceived at home. Any conception is a win. No, I feel like a winner because we get to try to be parents. We get a chance. I don't care how it came about. I went a long time without knowing I was pregnant (try nearly 8 weeks), have been to the ER once, and have my first official appointment this Friday.  It's already been kind of crazy, but we wouldn't have it any other way.

Meet Glow Worm. I hope to welcome him or her into the world before February!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

I Knew.

One of the things I don't talk about too often is how I knew something was wrong the morning I was notified Aaron was injured. I knew I needed to clean the house and get ready for something, but what I didn't know what. Not yet. I think somewhere in my mind I knew something was about to happen. And I think Aaron did, too.

The day before Aaron and I had a long talk, on the phone and internet. We had argued and I had cried, as usual. But then he seemed to really man up and said something to the effect of, "I don't want to make you feel bad. I know this is hard, and we don't talk much, so I want to make better use of our time." So we did. We laughed more then than we ever had. He made some pretty ridiculous jokes, which is about all I can remember. Aaron stayed up late to make me laugh. I awoke the next morning to two emails and another message.

And because of that, I think Aaron knew something, too. He wasn't one to write a lot, especially not three times. Knowing him the way I do now, I think he felt that our arguing, our issues, were probably temporary and decided to focus on the love first, knowing that all the complicated stuff would go away and we would have us, and we wanted to best us.

That morning, as I ate my cereal and read my emails, I compiled a list in my head: start on some schoolwork, clean the house. People were coming over. No, I wasn't having company. But I knew. I had emptied a storage container and wanted to go through it and get it back in the closet. I wanted to clean my house because somehow, I knew it would be full of people.

So I don't know. It takes a lot for me to use the word "miracle" these days; even on Day One. There was the moment I could have found out by email that Aaron had lost his legs, but did not. That was a miracle. A Jesus moment, if you will. And I suppose there have been others, too but they felt more intimate than that. Maybe one day I'll get my religion back in order, but for now I'll be grateful for a God that isn't all cruel. I got to keep him, and build a new life with him.

But back to the topic: I knew something was wrong. Maybe Aaron knew something could happen that day, too. Things had been rough out there- since he isn't going back, he tells me more than he would have a few years ago. A few years ago. He was on his last deployment a few years ago; tomorrow will mark 669 days, or one year and ten months since that day. It's almost funny.

Life is changing in so many ways, and while I'm excited to move on, I don't want to forget, either. I don't want to forget that I knew I could lose him. I don't want to pretend it never happened.

I was eating cereal when life began again. It was harmless. But it was the last ordinary thing I ever did. And I knew in some way. Maybe I'm just lucky like that.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Baby making news.

When Aaron made his first donation for a sperm analysis, he came home and apologized to me. The Clomid he's been taking has really put him under the weather in many different ways, and he didn't think the first test would be any good. Clomid is certainly not testosterone treatment. We went back home to Alabama for a visit afterwards and when we returned, he went to urology the next day. I stayed home with our new puppy (squee, that's a whole 'other post).

He has sperm that is great for IVF! Not great enough to knock me up the old fashion way, but our chances at a successful IVF cycle are pretty good, as long as there aren't any problems with me! I mean, this is such great news. We thought it would take another month of Clomid for anything to be usable, but it is very usable! We haven't been this excited since he got his legs with knees. He is going to take Clomid for a few more weeks and make donations to a sperm bank, and when we're ready to make a baby, we can at least try!

This was some much needed good news. Recovery has been slow around here lately, as he's been having socket issues with his left leg. He also developed a crazy rash while home, and we don't know if it was because of the heat or something a little more serious, like yeast or staph. This whole "wheelchair collecting dust in the corner" business seems like an impossibility. A future seems like a dream.

We are so grateful, though, that our ability to make a baby that's ours genetically is a real possibility. Of course, IVF could fail. It could be awful. But we have a choice, and a chance. I couldn't ask for more than that!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hi, there.

I realize I haven't returned since my previous post. I'm okay. And yes, just okay. In the past few weeks we've had some pretty amazing experiences with family, and also have come across more upsetting information about our situation and future. All of the comments here and elsewhere mean more than each of you could know.

What I am learning is that I am not alone in this, no matter how alone I feel. I have all types of people around me that I need to utilize more. I still feel that I am shrouding hostility in honesty in some cases, especially towards Aaron. But he knows that I am just trying to be transparent. I still feel pretty strongly about not taking a pill this time, but I understand that I need to be equally committed to a healthy lifestyle: exercise and more exercise, whole food, and regular visits to the chiropractor. Do something a few times a week for me- art, a kid's mechanic set, a meal out. Whatever.

I know I can overcome this. I have already overcome so much! I am just tired of all the bullshit, but I'm not going to beat myself up for that. I wouldn't judge anyone else; why am I judging myself?

Love and hugs to you and yours.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The long one about failure.

Throughout this whole process, I have never lost sight or feeling for the immense love that I share with Aaron. I'm one fortunate soul. While I wouldn't wish this path on anyone, I know how lucky I am to walk it. We've been doing it for 20 months. I'm just gonna tell an ugly truth here; not for attention or help. But being honest about this whole journey is what I do, and writing helps me cope a little. So there's that. Think what you may.

We've taken some hits lately, and it seems that I'm the only one who has had enough. I finally got a referral to see Reproductive Health, but can't get in until July. A month and a half of our precious time left will be utterly wasted. I'm having feelings of intense anxiety over how much reproductive and IVF work should be done before November. I have explained our time constraints, yet nothing can be done. We will just have to hope that scheduling issues don't cost us the ability to freeze any embryos. The best case scenerio is Aaron's sperm being good enough to freeze when they test in June. Then we wouldn't need to do an egg extraction. That would be amazing.

We also had a little bit of a bad time getting the new truck adapted. The guy who does the paperwork basically told us he didn't think anything could be done because I'm so short. Right off the bat, as soon as the door opened. I wanted to scream at him and run away, or ask him if Aaron should divorce his short wife and get another one just so he can have a vehicle adapted for him and his spouse. The mechanic guy fixed that for us, so hopefully it goes okay. I mean, it wasn't as hopeless as paperwork dude made it out to be. When we dropped it off yesterday we learned that Aaron can't have additional functions on his hand controls- no blinkers, lights, or horns. If he wants it, the truck is out of commission for 16-18 weeks. I mean, what the hell. Apparently the guy who could get it done in a month left and now the place is left with this kind of insane wait time. Now Aaron has to take his only steering hand off the wheel to use his turn signal or brights. I know this is very small, but it's also just another annoying thing in a sea of annoying and frustrating things. More crap because of the injuries.

Our future plans also have yet to materialize into well, anything. DC and the surrounding areas are really expensive for living. In fact, the "free" home programs can't get anyone closer than 30-40 miles out. That's a 1.5 hour commute- each way. We don't feel entitled to a free home just because of Aaron's status, but it really sucks that his plan to continue his career here eliminates us from it. It's not 100% impossible but it's close. Just another thing that seems to make this harder than it already is. Just another not-choice we have to make. And yeah- there are a lot of choices that aren't really. I'm pretty familiar at this point.

Aaron doesn't have a clue as to what he wants to do after retirement in 6 months and frankly, it is eating me alive. I'm waiting on him. I can't make any moves of my own; not that I have any to make, really. I just want to know what the hell we're going to be doing, ever. I've offered up suggestions but it'll be yet another few months before an iota if an idea could be had. It's easy to tell myself to just chill out and be happy, but it's not that easy in application. In fact, there's nothing really easy-going about not having a clue about our future. Try it and tell me how fun it is for you.

Everything is always "another few months" away. This has taken so, so much more time than we ever imagined it could. I am empty inside in terms of looking ahead. I just can't see it. All I can feel is this years-long recovery process, staying in a temporary place a permanent amount of time with absolutely no idea of what happens next. It's a lot of anxiety. It isn't getting better.

It might be different if we were even 5 years younger. As it is, he's 34 and I'm turning 31 soon. I think we're a little old not to have a future planned, even just a little bit. It might be easier if we were going back to our hometowns, like so many seemed to do. But we want a home wherever we decide to make it; we just want to make some choices. But by not going home or having a clear plan, this again becomes harder than it should be. I suppose it's easy to see that a lot of our additional hardships are things we are doing to ourselves. It'd be simple to just go home or go to school or pick a place and decide that whatever jobs that place offers will be the perimeters we set for ourselves. I think it'd be kinda nice, actually.

We've seen so many come and go here. They arrive, some much worse off than Aaron ever was, but then they fly right past us. I commented to Aaron how relieved I felt that he was finally far enough along for that to not happen anymore. I'm not comparing us to anyone, but it's a fact of our time here. It does sting a little. It stings when we know couples with very similar injuries to Aaron's move right along, some even conceiving children while here. I'm happy for anyone who gets out of here, whenever they do it, and with brand-new babies even! All of those are very happy things. I can't lie and say that it doesn't hurt, though. I want it to be our turn.

I am not happy much these days. I don't have a lot of positive things to say, and it just may be that I lost the gusto and grit I've been riding on these past 20 months. There's just nothing left in me, it seems. I don't feel a lot, and when I do it's frustration, immense sadness, or rage. I actually choose the rage because it's easier to process than sadness and hopelessness and I'd rather feel something than nothing at all. But that nothingness is definitely creeping in, a little more as each day goes by and nothing changes. I'm beginning not to care about what happens. I've voiced a few opinions here and there, but I don't think they've been very conducive. I just don't have much to add because everything I want comes out of a desire to get away from whatever is making me feel so empty.

I was trying to stay afloat, and stay busy. I thought that I could focus on me, my education, my hobbies. It all slipped away from me in the past few months as I increasingly began to feel less concern for my own goals. I really screwed up at school, and we'll see if there's any way out (doubtful). I wasted time and money on what? An opportunity to never get my act together? I know that I'm not really okay but mostly I just feel lazy, selfish, and irresponsible. I don't go with Aaron to events anymore because I think I'll stay home and take care of things that haven't been done in a long time. If I manage to get out of bed and start something, I can hardly finish it. I sit on the couch or lay back down and continue to feel nothing, while I command myself to get up and do something. But I just want to get my responsibilities done and then do the things I want to do that could maybe make me happy. I wallow in frustration with myself for being so sad I can't get anything done and simultaneously not caring about it, either. Sometimes I laugh at myself because it is completely ludicrous. I am a pretty spoiled human to allow this to happen to me.

I tried taking my anti-depressant and it just made me feel worse (and actually so groggy I couldn't even drive). I tried taking it at different times and nothing improved, so I stopped. I am not in a place to feel worse for any amount of time. I know that is not usually the brightest thing to do in these situations, but (thankfully?) I'm pretty well versed in this dance of anxiety and depression, so I'll figure it out eventually and get myself out of it. I honestly feel that I am just lazy and need to quit being rotten about this thing called life. That's all this is. Life. No one- no god or person- promised us humans anything in terms of quality. It is solely up to us to enjoy it. And if anyone thinks "If God put you to it, he'll put you through it" is actually helpful, I implore you to... well, not say it. Don't even think it. It isn't the least bit helpful, nor is it true.

What hurts the most is seeing Aaron struggle with watching me go through this. He is such an amazing, positive person and really can't fathom what the hell is going on with me. He is out right now, trying kayak sprinting and where am I? Here. At home. Trying to clean up the mess I've made. I can feel him struggle with what to do and in effect, we are both withdrawing. I didn't go with him today because the thought of being around cheering, loud, happy strangers sounded like total hell. I would just sit there like a lump on a log and barely respond to those around me. I'm pretty happy around Aaron. There are moments, like going to see the new Star Trek. And then there are other moments, where I know he doesn't even want to cuddle me anymore because I am such a black hole. He doesn't know how to help fix it, but he does the little bit he can. I don't expect him to fix anything, actually. He can't. I have to do this alone. I have support but the work is on me. No one can do this for you. But I hate feeling so alone when I have the most loving man in the world beside me. But I'd rather be alone than drag him down with me. That would be the most awful thing I could do.

I just want to be happy with what I have. I don't care to finish a degree or have some career in public speaking anymore. All of that feels pretty unattainable right now. I don't want to be sick of myself. Actually liking myself and how I spend my days would be nice, as opposed to just moping around and feeling despondent all the time. I just want to care again. Even though our life is probably getting better, my brain is responding with, "A day late and a dollar short." This journey has been so long. We have so much more to go, and I just don't know how to care about it anymore. If I had anything left inside of me, I'd pour it out right this second but you can't pour from an empty container. Right now, there is nothing left to give.

I am not this person. I don't know how this happened, and more than anything I want it to change.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How To Bake A Baby In As Many Steps As Possible.

If there were a hard and long way to do it, I think we've found it. But, there is some hope. Here is our master infertility plan.

1. Sperm analysis, one in June which could be a "yes" or a "maybe" and another one later, six months after beginning Clomid, which could be a "probably not" or "yes." Any further ones usually display the same results as the second analysis, so we will decide then whether or not to emotionally torture ourselves for another three months or call it a day.
1a. If the sperm is stable, it will be frozen. Yay!
1b. If the sperm is not stable, it will hopefully be matched with my eggs and embryos will be frozen. Yay! And where do my eggs come from? Onto the next step...

So, concurrent with steps 1-1b:

1a-1. I will get checked out and make sure my pipes are clear and my oven (uterus) compliant.
1a-2. I will go through hormones and egg extraction, hopefully this summer! The referral to see the specialist was supposed to be put in but of course, it was not because referrals can never be put in correctly the first time. Inconsistency is consistent.
2. Embryos will be made and frozen if good.
3. In a few years, we will attempt to nestle an embryo inside my uterus.
4. 9 months after that, we attempt to begin to raise a baby. Whoo!

Seriously, how many more variables could we rely on to make this work? We hope his sperm is stable enough for freezing. We hope my body responds to the hormones and I eject many healthy eggs. We hope that if his sperm is not stable, embryos will be made and they will be good enough to freeze. And we hope that in two-three years everything still works and a baby will grow inside of me and then wa-la, we will be bio-parents. That is waaaaaaay too much hope for my personal comfortable level, to be honest. Hope kills. Hope doesn't have to deliver- it just has to be a prayer. I am not comfy with that, but that's just me. So, so many things are dependent upon timing and the idea that biologically, everything is working and will continue to work until we don't need it to work anymore (preferably after a baby has been baked and delivered).

And if it doesn't work and the eggs have already been extracted? I'll donate them. Not that anyone would want them, but I'd rather not just have them destroyed. And why are we waiting? Because I think 34 is a wonderful age to bring a baby into this world, especially for us. We both KNOW that having a baby now or soon would be recklessly stupid of us. A few more years of getting our whole lives figured out and we should be good to go. You know, like most people do in their early 20s after college, not early 30s (mid for Aaron now... heehee) after a freaking devastating war injury. Awesome.

And yeah, I get that the hormone shots aren't "that bad" but I am one of those needle-avoiding persons who still cries at ALL shots. I am not excited in any way, shape, or form about this egg extracting process and all the drugs that go with it. I'm already off my very functional birth control pill and not enjoying it. Maybe it's TMI for you guys, but I'm having the revenge period from hell. Anyone who has stopped a pill that was doing a great job knows what I am talking about. My damn uterus is out to kill me. Little does she know that once she does her job or we figure out there will be no baby to bake, she will be put out of service forever. Bwa-haha. I've discussed her inability to function properly before, so I figure you guys get the gist: she has rarely done well without birth control, and even that's been hit and miss. Oh, I got diagnosed with a fibroid at my last "wtf is wrong with me" appointment. So a cyst and a fibroid within the past year. I am pretty sure I've had more cysts but they are cyclical so hard to catch. Whatever. I can't do a damn thing about any of this, apparently. And of course, none of this is a big deal to the doctors and nurses and "these things just sometimes happen." I've had unexplained problems since I was a teen. Why would I think it would get better or be treatable in my 30s? Let's not start trying new things now, right?!

I am sure my sense of humor is sick and offensive, but what the hell do we have left in this process? Cause I've cried it out and Aaron has hashed it out and really, it's either going to work or it's not. We will absolutely, definitely adopt and perhaps we start the whole thing of eggs and sperm, and realize that we don't care to bake a baby at all and everyone goes on their merry way, AND THEN one day we find our kid through adoption. At this point, it's out of our hands. We are about to be doing all we can with this. And I'm okay with that.

One of my best friends got married in Vermont a week or so ago, and it was awesome. I also still need to post about the USO-Metro Awards Gala. I will. I just need to get my shit together this week. Love and hugs, guys. Have good weeks!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Caregiving to the second power.

I have a lot of neat-o and cool things going on, in addition to the fact that I haven't posted about the USO Metro Awards from March, which was as magical a night as my wedding. I also spoke to a panel of medical professionals concerning sexual intimacy issues facing wounded warrior couples (that was a riot). But caregiving is kicking my ass right now, so that's what's on my brain.

There's all the usual stuff which I still struggle to do, to be honest. I've never had anyone take of me as an adult so it's challenging for me to understand needing it done. Yes, even in our situation. It's complex and I'm not proud of the fact that I can't fathom actually physically needing someone to do stuff for me but that's the truth. I imagine people who have children fair better at this because of that. Well, I didn't even have a pet until I got married so I have always been woefully unprepared for this.  I continue to do chores that my husband actually can't, on top of the usual "men forget to do everything in the house and have dust/dirt blindness," so some days suck. Some days I'm not nice about it, some days I cry, but most days I realize I do have to remind Aaron 15 times to do dishes but he will do them. And everyone is fine and happy. We're cutting up, laughing, listening to our vinyl records, and enjoying our time together.

But then he gets sick or hurt and the caregiving duty is doubled. He won't even take his meds or eat if I don't take it to him. He tries, but is sore, in pain, weak, and tired of it. He had a spinal tap performed last Wednesday and hasn't been right since. Two ER trips and laid up all weekend. Laid up today. I don't mind doing these things for him. Not at all. I think we're just tired of being tired and hurt and sick. No one wants this.

There was a Paul Mitchell salon day scheduled for the caregivers today, and usually it wouldn't be an issue for me to attend. But today- sigh. He's still in bed. I am going to drive him in later for appointments to get him checked out, but it was a battle just to have him agree to that. I'm not upset with him for being laid up and in pain and consequently, needier than usual. That's not it at all.

It just sucks. We're all going to get sick and needy from time to time, and if we're lucky we have someone around to tend to us. He does what he can when I'm stuck with back pain for whatever reason. It's okay. But when you throw it on top of a daily life that already includes a certain amount of caregiving, it can feel endless and overwhelming. It's like a black hole of having to get right back up the minute I sit down, checking on my husband to make sure he's comfortable, driving him in because he needs to recline on the ride. I don't mind doing any of this. Duh. All of it, any of it. He'd do the same for me if he could, and when I am sick, he does do what he can.

I won't lie, though. I won't smile and pretend that this is normal and okay and everyone is going to get out of this completely unscathed. Bullshit. This is hard. This hurts. And while I know Aaron and I will be fine and happy and in love, I also know that we are changing and responding/reacting and must be patient with each other. We are growing inside of this, and it is not without growing pains. And I suppose as long as we are still listening to our vinyl records at the end of the day, and cutting up, it'll be okay.

It's just a hard road to travel to get there.

Friday, March 22, 2013

An unexpected loss in the community.

When we (as in, Aaron, me, and our families) arrived at Bethesda in September 2011 we were very scared and unsure. The very first fellow caregivers to speak to us were Siobhan and Krystina, who were there for Derek (his mom and girlfriend). Derek had already been in ICU for 50 days when we arrived. Derek was a very sick man and more than once he was almost lost. However, he pushed through. For the past 20 months he has worked harder than anyone else I've met at the hospital. He and Krystina won a dream wedding, totally $80,000 in worth, just this past December. He had recently begun the med board process and looked forward to going back home to Jersey and finally beginning his life. Here is their initial story as told by Siobhan.

So it has been a huge, terrible shock to learn of his sudden passing. There aren't any details known yet, but it happened at point where he would have been sleeping. Krystina discovered him. After so much hard work and hope, everyone who knew this family is devastated. There is nothing to be understood about Derek passing away because it isn't understandable, fair, or even comprehensible. I absolutely can not imagine the pain his family is feeling. Siobhan composed a beautiful good-bye letter to Derek on a site she was very passionate about, DC Military Family Life.

Siobhan and Krystina are the molds for caregivers. They did whatever it took to make sure Derek got what he needed, and didn't care who had to work harder or get pissed to do it. The hell they are in now is literally the most unfair situation I have ever heard of and I honestly can not process it. Derek was quiet but well-composed and a talented writer. Krystina constantly posted about their shenanigans and how much fun they had together. High school sweethearts, they spent a total of six years together. A lot of marriages don't last that long.

Here is a link to donate at Operation Ward 57. If there was a post of mine to re-post and share, it is this one. It is not about the money- it is about making this family feel loved and remembered for all they have been through. It's about making sure that they never feel alone in their new journey. They were on the brink of the rest of their lives when it was so unjustly robbed from them. When they post information on which charities to donate to in Derek's honor I will be sure to share it with you all. That is just the kind of people they are, which is all the more reason to drop a dollar or ten at the link for them.

I will not claim to know them particularly well, but you didn't have to be affected by this massive loss to the Walter Reed community. Derek was a friend of the animals, and had just selected his service dog. Krystina had just picked out her wedding dress. They were so ready to move on and move home, and that is exactly where he will be taken now. I had the opportunity to hug his mom the other day. My entire family remembers their brief encounters with her because she was there to hug and coach us in those early days when we had no idea what to do or how to proceed with Aaron. Now it's our turn to pass love onto Derek's family. Whenever I spoke of caregivers and the price they pay, I always thought of them. They have sacrificed so much.

So please, share this link. Share their story. If you never share another thing from me, just share this.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hope kills but love perseveres.

I can not thank each person who read my last post enough. The outpouring of support and condolences overwhelmed me with love. The post even reached people who could possibly help us through this mess, as well as get the story out there. It's not just me and Aaron going through this, I assure you. I'm not an ideal voice for anyone but myself, but I am willing to talk. Thank you all, again and one thousand times. It will get better.

We've had some time to process this mess we're in. Retirement seemed imminent and unwelcome until the only other option was presented: continue on active duty (COAD). For more reasons than I think I can list, that is really not a good option for Aaron or me as his wife. And since it seems that we are in this together, we have discussed it. Just... no. I do not trust the regular Army to know what to do with him when he needs medical care, or anything else related to his unique situation (I have seen this demonstrated time and time again, unfortunately, with other soldiers who COAD), which is just one compelling reason for us to move on. Financially, employment-wise, the ability to settle down... all of these are things COAD would make difficult. There is a lot of aide (like receiving a home) we can't accept while he's active duty. So, yeah. That COAD info sheet put things into perspective really quickly. Retirement it is.

Delaying retirement is also a non-option, as it would take a catastrophic medical event for that to happen- and let's just go ahead and say "hell no" to that. We've had all the fun we're going to have with this whole routine of losing limbs and recovery and such, thankyouverymuch. Aaron does not have to start all over at a VA with treatment when he becomes a veteran; he can continue some services at Bethesda. There is that and that's all there is to it. The rest of our life together is coming at us, like balls in a batting cage. We're swinging as best we can.

After looking myself in the mirror and talking to Aaron, he supports the so-called decision that attempting IVF in a few short months is probably epically reckless of us, if not ludicrous. IVF is not for the weak, but the super human. Having children under any circumstance should not be a forced issue, either. I am not in great physical condition at the moment. In fact, I'm pretty wrecked from care giving. I've been off and on birth control because I either bled through the pack and stopped taking it, or stress screwed my cycle up so I took the pills to have some consistency. I just don't think I nor Aaron can handle that this year. I am not happy, at all, that realizing this could jeopardize our chances of making a kid at all and forever, but that's the reality of it. Perhaps if there is workable sperm we can freeze it and attempt IVF in a few years, when we had planned on  it, anyway. Aaron and I both feel that IVF at this time would damage our relationship. We just... can't. Sigh. So even if it is an option, it's not one we want to gamble on at the moment. Yes, babies are wonderful and usually having one is the most adverse situation a couple faces. Aaron and I are pretty well versed in adversary and we just can't elect into any more.

Aaron and I did not get married to have kids. I don't know if anyone does, really. What I'm trying to say is that kids don't make or break this for us. This doesn't make us "better" than people who do decide on kids, and go through many different means to become parents. We got married and agreed that kids could happen in the future. Neither one of us lobbied for more than one or two. In fact, before we said our vows, we spent more time talking about adoption as a means than the more traditional method. I know we have the capacity to love a child we did not create and that gives me more confidence in being a parent than our ability to make and bake.

 I just did not fancy myself a mom without a partner. I never dreamt of babies. Call me dysfunctional, but that's the truth. A lot of that has to do with my very turbulent relationship with my uterus. It's never been an easy or pleasant ride, so I've never really harbored good feelings about it. Basically, everything else my uterus has done has sucked so I would never expect it function well in baby making, either. I could be wrong, however. Maybe it was only made for baby making and the rest of it (not making babies every month, thank God) just sucks. So there is my explanation/excuse for why I never thought about becoming a mom. It feels a little bit like it's biting me in the ass, but that's ridiculous. The universe does not work this way. I doubt God works that way, either.

But. But. Aaron does things to me and my brain, and I'd love nothing else more than to have a mini-me/him running around. Maybe even one for each of us. And as always, becoming parents should be a choice. It's not fair, nor will it ever be, that the choice was taken away from him and his wife. That will always be awful, and yet another cost of war. That's what he gave up to go do his country's bidding, to protect other soldiers by taking on that bomb, to be an EOD team leader, a service member, a hero. It's bullshit if I ever heard it. He deserved so much better than this.

I am not okay with any of this but I am content with it. Aaron and I will probably adopt in a few years. We will eventually be okay with all of this. What I really appreciate more than anyone could know is how supportive Aaron has been. It terrified me to be honest with him and tell him that I just didn't think I could go through IVF in a few months and what that might cost us. He just wants us to be happy and healthy in every moment, and he knows that we will be happy later with or without a biological child. Or any child at all. Who knows. We do have some choices (like, two. Kidding, we have four).

We have each other. We have each other. We have each other! And if that's all we get in this lifetime, we already got more than we bargained for. More than we ever could have hoped for. I am so lucky to wake up next to him, to be his wife, his caregiver, his partner. It's not easy but I have never, not once, thought that it wasn't worth it. My marriage has already been through hell and back and we're just a month short of our third anniversary. We know what we're made of, what it means to work and lose and fight and cry and still laugh. Every morning starts with laughter. This ain't easy, but if he can still text me "boobies" hours after I've had another meltdown, I know we'll be alright. I don't need anything or anyone else, really.

And on a little bit of a more content and not-quite-happy-but-not-morose note, that's all I have to say about that. (I am also going back to a therapist and probably going to get a little medicinal assistance for a few months, because my anxiety is through the damn roof. But I am doing okay.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Between a bullet and a baby.

This is as real as it gets.

This is the part that hurts as much as it did when I found out my husband lost his legs in war.

This is one of those posts I never thought I'd write. And as for writing, I don't know what else to do right now. I've certainly cried enough. I've got to get this out.

Aaron's VA and DoD disability ratings came back. There are definitely some things to appeal with the VA packet nor are we sure about the DoD packet. Once he signs off on the DoD side though, it's 90 days until retirement. It is an understatement to say that he is not ready for that yet. We could definitely say he could be good to go in six moths. We are not sure if we can delay anything at all yet, or how long we'll be able to do so. It's all kinds of a mess that is happening much too quickly for us both. And then it gets worse.

We also had a meeting with urology and the doctor he's had in that service since he arrived. Aaron's been on testosterone therapy for almost the past year and a half straight. First it was shots every two weeks that I gave him (poorly) and then he tried implanted pellets that dissolved in his back. He had his testosterone tested about a month ago, near the end of when the pellets would be effective. It was lower than what is considered normal (300-1200). He has never had a sperm analysis done because either his testosterone would be too low or the therapy he was on was inhibiting production. There was an attempt at a sperm harvest 11 days post blast while he was still in ICU, which obviously came up with nothing. We knew all the facts about testosterone therapy but didn't bat an eye about him getting the medicine he needed. Testosterone is essential to many functions like mood, sleep, appetite, and energy. We planned on looking into becoming parents at some point, but not any time soon. We also knew how he'd get his sperm production in gear: Clomid. Yes, that Clomid: the medicine women usually take to help with their fertility issues. It boosts testosertone in men, too but without inhibiting sperm production. It takes about 90 days to get an answer on it, though. Do you see how that's the second time "90 days" has been mentioned in this post? Do you see where this is going?

Somehow, someway, we've been put under the gun with a lot of life-changing decisions, including parenthood. If there is sperm, we have to pull the trigger on proceeding with IVF immediately after finding out. That would be June for us, also about the time the military is trying to retire him.

Last year, Congress approved "free" (not free-free, because someone does pay for it, of course) IVF for active duty members who sustained fertility threatening injuries while in theater. Yes, the woman receives the IVF and I know some people have a problem with that but I can't really help anyone who thinks that to understand it better. However, the free IVF does not extend to veterans; even those who were injured in war; even those who have been active duty since the policy passed; and it is only his tired, long, determined, and paced recovery that has prevented him from pursuing parenthood sooner. So again, if there is sperm and we want to try with IVF in a situation we've grown to trust, we have to do it over the summer. If we don't want to worry about seeing if Congress extends the program to veterans, or how we'll raise the money, we will have to do it soon. And that's if his retirement can even be delayed. That's if IVF is even an option. The answer could be "no."

Honestly, neither one of us has any idea what to think or what to do about all of this. We are completely stunned and emotionally drained.

Are we even ready to approach parenthood? Financially, yes. We would make great parents, as well. Awesome, actually. We want a child eventually, so why isn't now good enough? Does our complete horror and confusion over the whole situation discount the fact that we still feel robbed of having a damn choice at all? What about our dreams, our goals, the things we'd like to have on the table before attempting to bring life into this world? Aaron doesn't even know where he wants to work yet. I am nowhere near finishing school. And what about my body? I've been taking birth control off and on for the past two years. Do we want a child "less" just because of the decisions we made for our health and not for the end goal of having a kid? Do we care less than anyone else? Trust me, there have been more cares given, more tears shed, and more hope gained and lost over the past 18 months than I ever thought humanly possible. It has been more than I will ever be able to articulate. Just... so much more than we ever thought it could be.

But how do we turn down the chance at IVF over the summer? We'd be foolish not to give it a try. And we have to least try. But when does it count? When do we get to be completely devastated that we don't get a chance to have our own kid? Is one IVF cycle enough? If I don't switch out his body wash and deodorant for all natural products, did we want it enough? Is me being on birth control the past two years mean that we didn't want it enough? Does the fact that I wasn't sure I even wanted children at all until I married Aaron mean that I didn't want it enough? Does it matter than I didn't spend my 20s dreaming of the day I'd be a mother? Or how he said he'd be a lifelong bachelor, until he met me- does that mean we didn't want this enough? Is the fact that we opted into testosterone therapy 18 months ago, knowing what it could do in the long term, mean that we didn't try hard enough to be parents to our biological child? Does the fact that we don't consider using donor sperm an option mean that we just don't want me pregnant, with some genes instead of none, enough? Is it that we don't deserve it, that we don't get to say that the idea of being told "no" hurts more than we thought it would because we admit doing it now is scary, too? Where's the goddamn line? For the record, we are more than okay with adoption. We welcome it, actually. We just didn't actually think that it might be the only way we become parents. Maybe that's the problem- we're so okay with adoption that the universe has conspired against us to make it happen. We chose Aaron's immediate health over trying to make a baby in the middle of his life-saving recovery, during what possibly could have been the worst time in our lives, and now we are paying for it- that's it, right? We just didn't love God and Jesus enough, did we? We should just lie down now and give it up. We clearly didn't want this enough.

Here's the thing, plain and simple: There is no reason why we would have ever thought that we couldn't make the parenthood choice on our time, on our own dime, and for our own reasons. We just found out that the free IVF is only for active duty, so we didn't think about this six months ago when it would have been appropriate to do so (yet another understatement). Just a minor detail.

We both spent our 20s making our own choices and enjoying the hell out of it. As capable adults, we made choices together after we got married. Everyone gets some choices. But you know, since September 7, 2011 a lot of choices have been taken from us. He has lost more than anyone will ever know. I've adapted, adjusted, bounced, bended, and accepted enough "new" circumstances for 100 marriages, let alone just ours. I've bitched and moaned, yes. I've lamented who I was and what I've had to give up on this site quite a bit. But I'll be damned if anyone else wouldn't have done it, either.

 I have bled myself dry, over and over again, convinced I had nothing more to give this situation, only to wake up again and give more. Does the fact that we might bookend this experience with full IVF, shots and all, terrify the life out of me? Yes. I am terrified that I can't do it. I'm terrified I'll start it and it'll finally be too much. I am terrified it will be the last I have to give this situation. And does me admitting that mean that I just really don't want it bad enough, and I should quit my dramatic complaining right now? Will no one want to listen when I sob because we just couldn't do it? This is further complicated by the fact that Aaron does need some testosterone therapy. He can't just not take it and chill out until we're ready to give it a shot. We don't know how long he can take Clomid or even if that will be enough. It's not as simple as "wait and see." He'll need something, so just how badly do we want to try for our own kid if we're willing to pass just to keep him healthy? Will people think that I didn't want it enough? Who the hell knows. For every one IVF cycle you do, some other woman did 10. For every shot you had, someone else had five. Who is ever enough, anyway? Why do I not get to be totally lost, even if we realize we just can't do it- and again, that's if it's even an option. If. It. Is. Even. An. Option. At. All.

We have been utterly stunned the last few days. We can not believe that retirement, job future, moving, and parenthood would all come crashing down like this at one time. I haven't logged into my online schoolwork in days. The apartment is a wreck. We're both off the rails, emotionally. We just have no idea what to do, where to go, what to say, what to think, or even how to stop being shocked and start doing something.

This is not what we wanted. This isn't what I wanted for him. I'm more upset at the idea of him not being a father to his own bio-kid than I am about the idea of me not being a bio-mom. I spent 27 years and change convinced no one would want this with me, and I didn't want children outside of a two-person partnership. Then came Aaron. Aaron changed it all. Aaron made my ovaries explode, what with his dimples and blue eyes. His brillance makes me want a smart-assed boy child who plays with trains and Legos (like him) and loves to dance (like me). You know, after all the shit- well. No one is promised anything. And we can only control ourselves. I feel it's trite to end this with "but we love each other and that's all that matters." It goes without saying, actually. It's not a perfect marriage but it's ours- our sick, laughter-filled, tear-streaked, and beat-the-hell-up-but-we-fought-back-for-it-ALL marriage. This won't break us up, but it does break our hearts.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

"In My Honor."

I told y'all I was being honored with a crazy USO-Metro Award. Well, here's something else for ya- an invite to a reception in honor of the award I'm receiving. Meepies! I'm not going to lie- this is a little weird for me. I had the worst time writing my short biography the other night, too. This is about me, not Aaron. Which isn't exactly correct, because I wouldn't be who I am as a USO volunteer if not for him, but apparently that is neither here nor there. I knew there was a reception, but to see that it's in my honor just trips me up and gives me the biggest kick in my pants. Giggle. Me? Me? I just really want to ask if anyone involved knows who I really am, but I already know the answer- they do. They do, and they know what I say and feel and yet they still like me. Kinda nice. I hope it's the start of something wonderful, to be honest and not just a bright shining moment in this journey (it can be both). But no matter, I'll take it, and only because of what it represents. Just love your country, spend some time helping others, and love your soldier/sailor/airmen/Marine and all will be right in the world.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Plunging Love & Living Like Kings.

I'm currently out of town and spending time with family, so Aaron and I celebrated Valentine's Day last weekend.

Friday began the weekend with our arrival at the Park Hyatt DC. We had been gifted a weekend in the swanky hotel back in October by someone very special, and were finally able to get out and enjoy it.  Our room was upgraded to a suite, and we lived like kings for a few days. The living room had a very long (15 feet or so) sofa and balconies which looked over Georgetown. There was a separate office area, and then a divine bedroom. The lighting was very interesting in that it was behind blinds, so it felt like the sun was creeping through when we opened them. But the icing on the cake was the bathroom and dressing room. Yes, dressing room. Cabinets and shelves for each of us, a vanity for me, double sink with plenty of counter space, and slippers and robes (well, slippers for me- we know Aaron doesn't indulge in those anymore). The tub and shower were in the same room. A freestanding unit, there were two spigots for the tub: a regular faucet with a spray nozzle, and another waterfall faucet high up the wall. The shower was not separated, but far enough away that two people could do their business without interrupting each other. The shower had two heads: one normal, and a "rain" unit from the ceiling. The shelf for toiletries was also far enough away that nothing got wet, so in my case I could have my glass of wine within reach. There were bath salts and gel, so I took two baths a day. I could live in that bathroom. Dinner at the Blue Duck Tavern Friday night was one of the best meals of my life, and that was after we were met with delicious wine and apple pie  upon arrival in our room. After dinner, we relaxed in our robes and turned in, for Saturday was a busy day.

The Wounded EOD Warrior Annual Polar Bear Plunge took place early Saturday morning. A yearly fundraiser for the foundation, everyone goes all out with costumes and support. This year, we joined 400 other souls. I participated in our group costume, but did not plunge. I'm in some pretty intensive treatment for a myriad of back issues brought on by the events of the last 18 months and I didn't want to exacerbate anything. However, Aaron jumped. He was carried in on the back of our good friend Doug, with his friend Paul carrying another wounded warrior in beside them. It was incredibly touching moment. The most moving minute, though, came when we all sang The National Anthem together. Here are all these people in the most ridiculous costumes I had ever seen, wiping their eyes as they sung to themselves. It's probably my favorite moment from the two years we have participated in the plunge. We returned to the hotel after a group lunch. Aaron had ordered flowers for me, and I had booked a massage for him. It was a very relaxing afternoon. I am pretty sure I took another bath in the amazing tub.

Saturday night was date night. Aaron had made arrangements Cafe Milano. We had to wait a little while for our reservation, but it was completely worth it. The service was amazing as was every bit of amazing Italian food and sip of red wine. I received a beautiful necklace and earring set from the man, while I loaded him down with some interesting books. A bit unequal, but I had no idea he was getting me jewelry, anyway. He loved his books and I haven't stopped wearing my jewelry.

Sunday we had breakfast in the restaurant and left mid-afternoon to meet friends at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. It was possibly one of the best weekends we have had in quite some time.

Aaron and I are pretty romantic on a regular basis, and I definitely think that Valentine's Day is a Hallmark holiday if there ever was one. But since Aaron was injured, every opportunity to celebrate something has been taken. In the beginning, we celebrated him using his thumb to hold a menu and eventually being able to eat a chicken finger on his own. I went all-out for his birthday that first year and planned a big party for his first Alive Day (and Ruth's Chris tried hard to ruin dinner but did not succeed). My 30th birthday was spent atop DC, literally on a balcony overlooking the monuments. Every moment matters so much more because we're are acutely aware how lucky we are to have the chance at all. There are plenty of lonely and broken hearts out there; a lot of that is because of the consequences of war. I'll take any excuse to celebrate what I have, greeting card expense or not. I hope you all had an equally wonderful Valentine's or Thursday, however you spent it!

Team Shark Attack- shark, bite victim, and manly lifeguards. I feel that we were robbed for funniest costume group, but everyone else laughed!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

USO Wounded Warrior Center Open At Belvoir!

I've known for awhile about the USO-Metro's goal to build two wounded warrior specific centers at Fort Belvoir and Walter Reed-Bethesda. Well, the Belvoir center opened today! I had the opportunity to go down yesterday and participate in a "media day" to offer my perspective as a spouse. Aaron wasn't clear for interviews, but he did stand in for a few photographs.

I have to be honest, I am so excited about this center. I think I could even make the drive every so often for special occasions. It is the most beautiful wounded warrior building I have ever seen. They thought of every little thing. I can't wait to head back down and see it bustling with people and activity. I know a place like that really would have eased more than a few anxious days in the first 6 months of Aaron's injury. So until I can get back down there, here are some links to the media I did. I'm really proud of all the hard work that has gone into this place, and I'm lucky to be a part of the USO family.

Washington Post Blog

AP Video

Washington Times

NBC Washington

MyFox DC

I am really proud of all of this! There is a lot more media out there, but this is just I managed to collect. And no... no one coaches me. I really do believe all those nice things about the USO and what it is doing for all troops, all over but in particular what I have experienced on the wounded warrior side of the fence. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Day: Oh, stopped counting. STILL getting there.

The husband is in Aspen, monoskiing up a storm and attending the X Games as a Super VIP. I love the programs that take care of our warriors with sports and recreation. I went out today and picked up a t-shirt for him that has a photograph of Muhammad Ali on it, standing over a defeated Sonny Liston. I am going to give it to him when he returns and tell him to only wear on his hardest days. Things haven't been going as they should be around here and I want him to feel empowered to catch up, go past, and defeat. He has less than a year to get right.

I've been feeling pretty defeated myself, lately. I'm in more pain on a daily basis than I ever have been before in my life. I am fairly certain that my caregiver duties are akin to getting in a minor car wreck on a daily basis. Apparently, it's nothing that $3700 and 13 weeks of intensive chiropractic care can't fix, though. Isn't that wonderful? I am also going to get a new primary care doctor and a referral for physical therapy for appropriate exercise and home equipment, but I am 100% positive that chiropractic is what I need. And before I leave the hospital environment, I will find a way for caregivers to obtain affordable chiropractic care while they are here. It's a shame it isn't a possibility already.

I thought it would be easier a year and a half in. What do I know? I am 30 and still getting my shit together. I don't even feel 30. I don't even know what it means to feel my age. Emotionally, maybe. But I balance a scarred soul with an outright refusal to be "old" pretty well. My upfront personality is a fun-loving, probably immature young woman. But I've lived a few lives and been a statistical improbability enough times to carry a bit of a chip on my tiny shoulder called "experience in life sucking." And most people talk to me as if I am much younger, so I've always had to back track and prove my knowledge in some way later on. I was chatting with a friend last night and told him that I feel small people have two choices in life: live up their size or past it. I never wanted to be confused for some sweet doormat, so I went past it. I feel like a giant sometimes. And other days, I feel like a giant failure. 

The more I know the more I realize I actually don't know anything at all. I'm an infant. I just roll through life, learning as I go. The question of, "What do you want in life?" has always been answered with, "As long as I'm good to go when it's time to go, I will know I will have succeeded." So of course a philosophy like that doesn't call for planning a fantastic career or having a family with children or really, any idea at all of how to fill in the time between now and then. I aim to be happy with the current moment. Which is wonderful, really. But I promise you it encourages not planning and that isn't really going to contribute to success. I need to get better at that.

Which is why I'm going to sign off right now and finish one of two very late papers for my last class. Life really blew for a few weeks (hello, 2013, you old friend) and I could not handle much outside of small household chores and counting down the hours until my next dose of pain medicine. I don't want to live like that, so here's to getting better. I'm planning on it. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Version 5.1. I think.

I have a much more exciting post that will hopefully go up later today, but for now... at nearly 430am... I can't bring myself to finish it. And it's good. Commander-in-Chief Ball good. But until then... you have this.

I'm so tired of being tired. I went to the doctor last week and he seemed concerned about my fatigue and constant pain issues. So he ordered some blood work to be done, all of which (thankfully) came back negative. The most plausible diagnosis would have been an inflammatory disorder, but no such explanation. I also finally visited a sound chiropractic office, which took X-Rays and a full assessment, of which no underlying issues were discovered.

The truth? I'm tired because I don't sleep. I don't sleep either because my husband snores like a damn train or I just can't stay asleep. It's usually a combo of both. Some days I feel as if I never fully wake up. I quit taking a sleeping pill because it required more time than I was willing to risk. I also woke up painfully dehydrated. I am in pain because I am horribly out of shape and have been wrecking my body with the requirements of our "new" lifestyle. I don't know how this can still be "new" though, because as of March it will have been a year and a half since Aaron was blown up. What's new about it? This isn't temporary.

I feel like we must be doing something wrong. Actually, there have been shortcomings that I only recently learned about, so after his return from a ski trip he is taking this week we will reevaluate what we are doing and what actually needs to be done. I am actually a little excited that I have the apartment to myself for nearly a week. I feel like I can finally get it in order without more work piling up before I can even finish the task at hand.

I'm no longer uncomfortable with what my role in the this has to be. I don't fight it anymore; in fact, I make attempts to attack it. I feel as if I rushed into "me" things when what we really need is someone who focuses on "us" things. Aaron  really needs to focus hard for his remaining time at the hospital, because it is running out. So if he's working on him and I'm working on me, who's working on us? Who is doing things for the bigger picture? I know that for a marriage to function well everyone must have their own "things," so I'm not saying that I am laying myself and my needs on an altar for sacrifice. I'm just readjusting. I don't need to attend school on campus this spring term. I really want to and I thought I could, but then it was brought to my attention that I still need to focus on Aaron and supporting his recovery with a hands-on approach. There's no getting around that. I suppose I thought that if I were one of those people that just wished hard enough for something and behaved as if what I wanted was what was happening right then, it would happen. That's not how reality works, though. It's not very fluid, you know?

As long as I'm getting some educational requirements under my belt I am not short-changing myself. I can still be happy. But what will most certainly hurt both of us and our marriage is Aaron not recovering on schedule. And yes, there should be a schedule. We should feel pressure to get out of the hospital and on with our lives. I hear a lot about what we want to be doing, what we hope will happen in the future, but nothing ever seems to happen. I have tried so hard to force some normal normalcy into our lives that perhaps I haven't been focused enough on what isn't normal. I am sure there are some people out there who can do everything they want to do and get 6 hours of sleep a night. School work is done, spouse is happy, house is clean, outside commitments met. But right now, I'm not exactly a paradigm of health. I am tired, I hurt, and I can't ignore that anymore. And until I can get my act together so that I don't feel all of that every day, I can't pretend that I can do all the things that need to be done. So here's to readjusting. Again. At least I am becoming very apt at constant reinvention and adaptation, right?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mil-Spouse of... Aaron.

Some sweet soul named Kristen nominated me for Military Spouse of the Year and said the nicest things about me in the nomination. I got the email and activated, but as my inbox filled up with more emails and instructions from Mil-Spouse magazine and MSOY, I felt overwhelmed. Last year I didn't even know I was nominated until it was too late to activate, and I wanted to do better this year. But... I just don't think I'm in the right place or really, the right woman for the job. So I'd like to thank anyone who thinks of me as a model military spouse. I wouldn't suggest my methods of coping, surviving, and thriving to anyone but I don't regret anything I've done to get through the past 16 months or even the year and a half of normal mil-spousedom before that.

It's astounding to me that in just a few months I will have spent as much time as a wounded warrior wife as I did as a "regular" Army wife. And then I will have spent more time on this side of the fence than back there. I often wonder what I should do with it. I've been playing with the idea of becoming active in the hospital environment again. I'm pretty vocal but can be tactful as well (I promise!), and maybe I can help someone new not get screwed over or confused. For instance, apparently we could be living rent-free elsewhere through an organization. The goal was to get off-post AND away from the domestic intrusion of the Army, not every bit of the wounded warrior lifestyle. I was under the assumption that this particular need was for financial distressed warriors and their families only, and while Aaron's paycheck is not ah-mazing we do well with just ourselves. Hell, a certain organization won't even look at us because we don't have kids (it's either that or  because Aaron "only" lost both legs above the knees [and a slew of other injures], but what the hell do I know). What I meant to say before I side-tracked is that maybe I can prevent someone else from missing out on something like that. Or helping them navigate the caregiver healthcare. I want to leave the hospital better than I found it, but I have to think about it.

Part of me just wants to move on. Another reason why I don't think I'm MSOY material is because I'm happy to leave the Army behind me. I don't hate the lifestyle- never did. I met some incredible people during my time. But that road is ending soon and I'm not sad. Some people get really upset about their spouses leaving the service or being forced to medically retire, but this is okay. Aaron did one job in two branches of service and loved nearly every second of it. It was the only job he wanted to do, he did it well, and now he's ready to move on, too. He could stay in and teach or work as a liaison, but he's pretty excited to go federal or private yet continue to use his expertise in... hell, dangerous material is the only way I know how to describe it. He wants a career in nuclear stuff, and I'm lucky that he has aspirations like that. You wonder sometimes what happens to some of these guys- if they ever join the regular world again. Or if they live in the past, never overcoming who they became after injury. Aaron isn't perfect but he does have achievable plans for the future that don't have to be pushed by me or anyone else. That makes me a very lucky woman.

Even though I'm passing on the MSOY campaign, I do have something else huge coming up: receiving a USO-Metro Patriot Award. It's kind of a big deal, and I still don't believe that it's happening to me. I've missed volunteering very much and have spoken about my USO story several times, but it's not the same as serving up coffee to frozen soldiers in a Fort Drum winter. The new wounded warrior USO center should open at the hospital later this year, and I look forward to volunteering there. But, someone (or many someones) somewhere in the USO thought that what I've done by Aaron's side, and the things I've said about my story, were worthy of mention and honoring. The awards night is in March, and we've already filmed an interview and I am on orders to contact them if we do anything "fun" and "big." Aaron has a few sports things coming up, but I am just hoping to survive the semester and transfer to a good school this fall or next spring term. And speaking of, it's late here. Just thought I'd check in, and say thanks for all the support. I'm really not a role model but it means a lot some people think that what I've done is good for someone, somewhere. But for now I'll remain Aaron's warrior wife, sharing here and maybe elsewhere on the 'net (that's a hint). Night, folks. I hope everyone you love is safe in the morning.