“Because we’re holding our own
In this great big storm
And though we’re cutting it close
We won’t let go
Oh, no I don’t believe
Everything falling down around me
And how we’re holding our own
And won’t let go, no”
-Nate Ruess, Great Big Storm
That’s how this baby #3 journey felt. It’s been a great big storm and somehow baby girl and I have been able to hold on for dear life and pray we make it out on the other side still standing; or at the very least, still breathing.
Getting a positive pregnancy test was both a relief and terrifying! Nick and I have a framed picture hanging in our room that says “I love you because…” and we use dry erase markers to write messages on the glass to each other. I decided to tell him we were pregnant through that. It read, “I love you because… we’re pregnant!” and I left the positive test on the frame (don’t worry, it had a lid over the contaminated part). It wasn’t the cleverest way to tell him and really didn’t make a lot of sense, but it was a little more fun than just blurting it out like I did with our other babies. Two days went by before he finally noticed it and it was the pregnancy test that caught his attention, not the message. I happened to be in the room when he spotted it and said, “what in the world is that?” and walked over to it to get a better look. There was probably a, “does this mean what I think it means?” or a, “did you really hang up a pee stick in our room?” followed by a congratulations and some ogling , but that was seven months ago so I can’t remember. However, I do remember that it wasn’t until a day or two later that he noticed the writing on the glass announcing we were pregnant. Before he only noticed the out of the ordinary pregnancy test. Perhaps our “I love you because…” message board isn’t as affirming as I once thought. Especially since that message remained there until after the baby was born, in which Nick changed it to say, “I love you because… we made a baby”.
Pregnancy is quite possibly my least favorite thing in the world. It’s right up there next to child abuse and politics! I hate it from start to finish and every moment in between. There is truly nothing enjoyable about it for me. By 5 weeks I was feeling sick and by 6 weeks I was throwing up regularly. And although the throwing up lessens, it never goes away. I throw up clear until I deliver… and in this case, during delivery, but that story’s coming. By 25 weeks I start to feel like I can function a little more and force myself to do things, but I don’t feel great and by then my hips hurt so bad I can hardly walk and in fact cry from time to time as I shift my weight and pray my legs don’t give out before I make it to the bathroom…the only thing that I’d get up for when I hurt that bad. There were times I could literally feel my tailbone pop in and out as I walked. I desperately needed a chiropractor, but the very thought of going while pregnant sounded miserable. Then of course there’s the acid reflux and inability to sleep because of it, feeling malnourished because nothing sounds good or smells good or tastes good and most of it gets thrown back up anyway, weight loss, constipation, body aches, extreme swelling, and so on and so forth. And don’t even get me started on what I go through with my deliveries. Don’t believe me? Just wait! I’m not sure why anyone would sign up to go through all of that and yet I did it three times. I still find it hard to believe.
Unfortunately, this pregnancy was by far my hardest because while I was prepared to be sick and miserable, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional toll it would have on me. When I was pregnant with Shasta I hated my job, didn’t have a demanding church calling, and didn’t have other kids at home. With Shelby’s pregnancy I was a stay at home mom and part time student at Utah State. My church calling was super low key and easy for anyone to fill in when I couldn’t do it. My teachers on campus were understanding of my lack of attendance and worked with me more than they probably should have. And although I had a child at home, my husband was home during the day and by the time he went to work I only had her a few hours on my own before she went to bed for the night. Ultimately with my first two pregnancies there wasn’t much for me to lose and if I did I wouldn’t have cared much.
Fast forward to pregnancy number three and I had a great deal to lose and in fact lost all of it.
- I now have two kids in which it was Shasta’s first year of school and my first experience with a child in Kindergarten. And because I was so sick I was completely disconnected from all of it. Nick took her to and from school every day. He helped her with her homework and practiced reading and writing with her. He volunteered to help during a classroom party and made sure she always had clean uniforms. He even attempted to do her hair every morning. He did all the things I should have been doing while I cried that I couldn’t and was missing out.
- Then there’s my job which I truly love. I work for The Family Place and love everything about our mission statement. The day I told my supervisor I needed to step back from doing my Kids Empowered presentations was pretty hard. As she and another coworker rearranged their schedules to take over the rest of my presentations that month I cried. It was so hard for me to let those go, but I knew with how sick I already was I couldn’t do it, especially knowing the sickness would only get worse. I also had to step down from teaching my parenting classes in the jail and I cried some more when I gave those up. I loved teaching those parenting classes, especially to inmates who probably didn’t grow up in the best of homes and have the greatest examples. Knowing I was giving them information that was probably new and valuable to them was rewarding in itself. And I was a week out from switching to a new curriculum that I had studied and been preparing to teach and never got the chance because I was suddenly too sick. It’s one thing to be sick and have a desk job, it’s another to give presentations and teach classes. Throwing up in my presentations would have left a lasting impression, but not with the information I wanted them to remember, and throwing up in a confined classroom with the inmates would have put me in a pretty vulnerable situation. It was heart breaking to let those classes go, but it was for the best.
- Next there’s my church calling. I’m the kind of person who makes the most of whatever calling I have. When I was the bulletin board specialist you can bet it was the most creative, updated, bulletin board the ward had ever seen and I changed it out with every season! When Nick and I were the Ward Historians we took that calling to a new level and probably because of it were made the Stake Historians. I bet most people don’t even know either of those callings exist, we certainly didn’t, but we made the most of it and magnified our calling the best we could. So you can bet my current calling of serving the Young Women is one I don’t take lightly. It’s quite possibly the calling every sister who’s grown up in the church dreams of having! But when the sickness kicked in I stopped attending mutual and the third hour of church which is when the young women meet. And while both of those were hard to lose, the hardest was asking to be removed from the teaching schedule until further notice. Preparing lessons for those girls is something I love and feel passionate about. My mission in this calling is to find something that works for our girls to get them talking and feeling comfortable with each other. Every time I taught I tried something new and different in search of reaching out to them how they needed. I asked the Young Women’s President regularly to please not release me because I couldn’t take anymore losses and she always assured me she had no intentions of letting me go, but it was still a constant fear that she would realize she needed to replace me. And I cried a lot that I wasn’t able to serve the girls the way I wanted to and felt they needed me to.
- Speaking of church callings, I’m a very proactive visiting teacher. There’s so much good that comes from visiting teaching that I make it a priority to reach out to those I’m assigned to. It’s important to me to serve and be there for those women in any way I can. Having to report back month after month that I didn’t reach out to those sisters was awful. Yet another thing I was failing at.
- Then there’s the All Academy Preschool. I worked there four hours a week, so not a significant amount of time, but I loved those 4 and 5 year olds and all the teachers and aides I got to work with. I decided I needed to quit for the remainder of the school year and I cried on my last day because I felt so sick I didn’t want to be there and so sad that it was my last day.
Pretty much I cried a lot during this pregnancy. I felt like I had to watch everyone live my life for me. I lost everything I loved plus all of my social circles and instead traded them in for feeling sick and miserable and constantly hugging the toilet. And I lost everything all at once. It wasn’t gradual, but as soon as that sickness overcame me I couldn’t keep up with anything anymore and had to let it all go. Essentially I went from being really active and involved and surrounded by a lot of people, to only leaving my bed long enough to run to the toilet. And time and time again I was told, “the more you force yourself to get out of the house, the better you’ll feel”, but the days that I left the house for even an hour were the days that I threw up the most and spent the rest of the day trying to recover. I could suck it up long enough to go to a doctor’s appointment or pop into work for a little bit, but the rest of the day was spent trying to recover. I even had to force myself to shower because I was so sick I literally sat on the shower floor and had to talk myself into doing each step. Then afterwards I would dress as quickly as I could and rush to my bed to lay down and breathe through the nausea. And sometimes (most of the time) I’d still end up running to the toilet. If you’ve never thrown up in the shower you should give it a try sometime. It’s quite the experience! But that’s not a picture I want to paint for anyone reading this! And of course I’ve never had any luck with nausea medication working for me. It might start off taking a little bit of the edge off, but eventually it makes zero difference and it’s not worth the constipation.
And as if that wasn’t bad enough, my doctor’s office is in the hospital and when I walked in for my first appointment the smell triggered some memories that I had long since suppressed. Suddenly I was right back in the thick of everything that gave me anxiety with my last two deliveries and it hit me that I would likely go through all of that again. For the next month I suffered from traumatic stress. Every time I closed my eyes it was all I could think about. I started keeping a memo in my phone of all the things I wanted to talk to my doctor about to help me feel a little more in control of the situation and a little more prepared for what was to come. At my next appointment I brought up all the things I was worried about with the delivery and he probably thought I was crazy for worrying about things that were still so far out, but talking to him helped me so much and helped ease that traumatic stress.
But still, I cried a lot. I felt like my family was in crisis trying to function with me out of commission. All of our routines and habits went out the window. The only thing we did consistently was family prayer and even that changed to just the girls taking turns on the week nights while Nick wasn’t home and then he took a turn on the weekends. We stopped doing family night, stopped reading bed time stories, stopped singing primary songs before bed and having impromptu dance sessions in the kitchen. All the things I love doing as a mom were gone so not only were we in crisis, but my mental emotional state was at an all time low and trying to function in such a low place while in such high crisis is impossibly hard. And because of it we found ourselves in survival mode. We were literally doing the bare minimum, just trying to survive what would be the next 9 months until our lives could get back to normal.
And so began another loss where I felt completely abandoned and alone. I didn’t understand why everything had to be so hard and why I had to lose so much. Did God forget about me? Was He seeing my struggles? Did He see my tears and hear my pleas? I knew when we decided to have another baby I would be sick, but I wasn’t prepared to lose so much and I didn’t understand why everything happened the way that it did. I took so many hits all at once that in turn my faith took a big hit too. And even though I wanted to ask Nick for a blessing, I struggled because I reached a point where I felt like I lost all faith in my Heavenly Father being there for me. In hind sight I’ve realized He sent a few people to help me along the way, one person in particular who became my sounding board and always knew exactly what to say. She’s so in tune with the spirit and I really value her friendship, but in the heart of my trials I didn’t recognize that she was a blessing.
Fast forward to our big ultrasound appointment. Nick was pretty crushed when we found out the gender. He’s the only boy and his dad’s the only boy so he had his heart set on keeping the Hendricks name going. When we found out we were having another girl he was pretty disappointed. We picked up Shasta from school and the first thing she asked us was what we were having. We told the girls in the car as we were driving home and I asked them how they felt about it. They were excited of course and I asked if we should ask dad how he felt about it. He immediately said no and when I looked at him he was wiping tears from his eyes. And not that it ever took much, but seeing that broke me into tears. I hated knowing he was hurting and I felt terrified to talk to him about it. We had decided this was going to be our last baby and I was going to get a tubal ligation during my c-section. At my very first appointment we talked to my doctor about it and he was on board. But I was very aware of how much Nick wanted a boy and could see how disappointed he was and I was feeling so afraid he would change his mind and want another baby in hopes for a boy.
Several days went by before I got the courage to talk to him about it and I was so relieved to clear the air. I realized he needed to go through a grieving process. He had to let go of the idea that he would have a son and pass on his name. When I told him I was afraid he’d want to have another baby he reassured me that he was still planning on this being the last baby I carry in my body. We both have always been open to adoption and while he would prefer to have a biological son, he knows how hard pregnancy is on me and how much it impacts our whole family. Huge sigh of relief. The tubal ligation is still happening.
Once June came I hit an all time low. I woke up one morning feeling upset about how out of control my life felt. I had a doctor’s appointment and had to take my glucose test. Then at my appointment the nurse struggled to draw blood and had to dig the needle around in my arm. She still couldn’t get anything so she decided to draw blood out of my other arm and I got to walk around with hot pink bandages on my arms for the next 20 minutes or so. Then later that day I went into work for a department meeting in which some very upsetting things unfolded and I felt like I was being pushed out of my job. I left work crying, sat in my car and sobbed and by the time I got home I was pretty inconsolable. I hadn’t been home more than 10 minutes when my phone rang. It was my doctor’s office letting me know I failed my glucose test. As if my day hadn’t been bad enough, that poor nurse I’m sure thought I was nuts as I sobbed on the phone with her and could hardly get the words out trying to ask her questions. She told me I needed to go in and take a three hour test within the next week to confirm if I really had gestational diabetes and while that may not seem like any big deal, to me it was devastating.
While I could have gone in the next morning, I wasn’t mentally prepared for it. After the awful day I had where everything came crashing down all at once yet again, I couldn’t even bring myself to get out of bed the next morning. I cried off and on all day long. I had so many things I needed to do, but I didn’t care. My phone had died the night before and I didn’t bother charging it or connecting with the world in any way. I was supposed to be getting ready for youth conference because we were leaving in three days, but I had no desire to even go anymore. I wanted nothing more than to blow it off altogether, but I knew I couldn’t because they were depending on me. I actually learned something about myself that day. I realized that I could never fully embrace extreme depression because I’m too connected to consequences to stop caring entirely.
Failing my glucose test was overwhelming and I didn’t know how I was going to survive the 3 hour test. Fasting makes me sick when I’m at my best health and not pregnant. And as much as I hated eating while pregnant, if I went longer than 2-3 hours without eating something I would regret it big time. How could I possibly fast for 8 hours, drink the glucose drink which always makes me feel sick to my stomach, and then hang out at the hospital while they draw my blood over the next 3 hours? I was certain I would end up puking while I was there which would render the test useless so what was the point? Plus, what if I failed it? The very thought of my diet being restricted when I was already so limited in what I could keep down was enough to make me cry every time I thought about it. How could I possibly survive the rest of this pregnancy when I was barely surviving as it was? Carbs were my lifeline. Take away breads, pastas, and rice, the things I could always keep down and didn’t cause acid reflux, and I’d lose the majority of what I could eat. And so my state of crisis rose and my ability to process everything I was dealing with went down.
After getting that call that I failed my test, I called one of my sisters who had failed her last glucose test. I sobbed on the phone with her as I told her everything that had happened that day, but took a lot of comfort in what she had to say. I later talked to another sister about how frustrated I felt about how hard everything was and how much I wanted my mom to come help me, but she wasn't able to because of her own health concerns she was dealing with. Since my entire family lives in Arizona, I knew it was asking a lot for anyone to come so I knew it was a long shot. This is the only time I've thought a few sisterwives would come in handy! Haha!
That Sunday evening I decided to attend Bishop’s youth fireside and it ended up being a good thing. He referenced my favorite scripture, Romans 8:16-17 and it spoke to me like it always does. I left feeling good about going to youth conference in the morning. And it turned out going was actually really good for me which I don’t know why that would be a surprise. When I got home from the fireside, my phone rang. It was the sister I hadn't yet talked to. She told me she chatted with my other two sisters and they went through their schedules to figure out who could come to Utah and help me. Turns out she drew the short end of the stick! Haha! I promise she didn't feel that way about coming. But admittedly, as much as I desperately wanted her help, I felt humiliated letting anyone see what my life had become. Thankfully it was still a month out before she would arrive so there was time for my life to straighten out a little before she saw what a mess I had become. Unfortunately I was so busy the next month that there wasn't time for me to gain control in any of the areas I was lacking in.
Here’s how the next 5 weeks went. After failing my glucose test I went to youth conference Monday morning and came back Tuesday afternoon. Then I worked the rest of the week at The Family Place helping with Summer Camp. The next week I had 8 hour trainings every day. The week following that I had a doctor’s appointment Monday morning and still hadn’t taken the 3 hour glucose test because I hadn’t had time. But my appointment wasn’t with my doctor, it was scheduled with a nurse practitioner and I actually found that really frustrating. Normally it wouldn’t have mattered, but because I failed my glucose test I wanted to be able to talk to my doctor. I wanted his help and guidance. Instead I got to listen to the nurse practitioner lecture me about taking the 3 hour test and all I could do was smile and nod. I wasn’t interested in explaining to her everything I was going through. Let her judge me. I’d never see her again so whatever. I didn’t care.
The next morning I shipped off to girls camp. I only stayed the one night and left after testimony meeting the following night. While there my hips hurt so bad and my ankles got SO swollen. And ironically enough, I was assigned to give a devotional on faith of all things. Something I had been struggling with for the past 6 months and here I was supposed to teach and share my testimony of faith to all the young women in my stake. I knew I wasn’t going to share my current experience because it wasn’t something a bunch of teenage girls could relate to, but thankfully I’ve had plenty of past experiences I could draw on and quickly realized I had an experience I knew most of the girls would be able to relate to. After my devotional, throughout the rest of the day I was pleasantly surprised how many of the youth and leaders approached me and thanked me for sharing my experience and testimony of faith. Funny how the very thing I was struggling with was something other people appreciated me testifying of. It was probably God's way of reminding me I still had a testimony of faith even if I was unsure it at the moment.
Anyway, the next morning after getting home from girls camp I went to work and had to work the rest of the week. I had one week left to get my Summer Camp prepared and two of those days were lost because of the 4th of July. The week of the 4th I worked 10-12 hours a day trying to get everything ready in time. The next week was my Summer Camp Monday-Thursday and my 30 week doctor’s appointment was on Wednesday.
To clarify the timeline…
Week 25: Failed my glucose test
Week 26: Youth Conference and Summer Camp at work
Week 27: 8 hour trainings at work
Week 28: Girls Camp and work prep for the next Summer Camp
Week 29: 4th of July and Summer Camp prep
Week 30: Summer Camp and Doctor’s appointment
There wasn’t a single day during that time where I could go in for a 3 hour test and lose an entire day trying to recover from what it would do to me.
I had zero confidence going into my 30 week appointment. Since girls camp I had tons of swelling in my legs and hands which I know swelling is normal in pregnancy, but to me it has always meant something bad. It was hard not to feel paranoid, but I had also never had a summer pregnancy so I told myself that was the reason for all the swelling. On the very rare occasion I would see spots/flashing lights so for a week I went to the grocery store and tested my blood pressure at the pharmacy. Every day it was a little bit higher than the day before, but I figured worst case scenario I’d be put on bed rest so I didn’t feel too rushed to go see my doctor. I knew I had an appointment the next week so I would just wait it out.
On Friday I got a blood pressure reading of 143/87. I felt nervous enough to call the afterhours doctor just to be safe. She told me to come in if it went over 150/90, but otherwise I could just wait until my appointment on Wednesday. Monday evening I got 147/93. Hmmm… one number was above the “come in” mark, but the other wasn’t. I can wait until my appointment. Tuesday evening I checked again and got 159/99. This can’t be good. But everyone I had talked to about my blood pressure over the past week said store machines aren’t very accurate so I felt like I could wait until my appointment the next day. Aside from swelling, I wasn’t aware that my blood pressure was high. I had started checking it because I was worried that I was so swollen and then because every day was a little higher, I kept going back to see where it was. If it wasn’t for checking it, I would have been completely unaware of it being high.
And so Wednesday came. I went in to work at 8:30 in the morning for my Summer Camp. It ended at noon and by 12:15 I loaded my girls in the car and drove them to Nibley so Nick’s sister could watch them during my appointment. Like I said before, I wasn’t feeling super confident about this appointment. In fact, I was pretty sure I’d get sent upstairs for some monitoring and then get sent home on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy so it was better not to bring my girls. Nick had even taken the day off from work just to be safe. I went home to pick up Nick and we headed to the hospital for my 1:00 appointment. And so it began; the appointment that turned our lives upside down in what had already been a great big storm. I didn’t think the storm could get any worse, but boy was I wrong. Everything up to this point was only the rain and wind. The thunder and lightning, hail and flooding, that’s all to come starting with the next part of the story; the appointment.