July’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how may miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.


Life has been crazy – I kind of feel like I’m dragging my feet on my goals, despite the fact that I’m still sitting very comfortably on both. 40 books. 2020 miles. I’ll make it, but I like the months that I come out of so far ahead that I feel like I should take a bow at the end.


Books

24. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet (Contemporary, Race, Historical Fiction)
Well, this one was my final Book of the Month selection. As of June, I am no longer a member (WHAT?!). BOTM was so fun, but once I started falling behind and not reading them as they landed on my doorstep, it began to feel pointless to me. Why not just wait and borrow them from the library then? Regardless, this one also got picked in my book club as our July book, is written by a black author, and touches on currently trending topics (notably race and transgenderism). While I’d hoped for more depth on the obvious topics at hand, I found myself really enjoying this story and the way the author took “abnormal” situations and made them seem normal/non-controversial. 4 STARS

25. The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy (Historical Fiction)
I’m not sure when or why this read ended up on my Kindle as it took a back burner for quite some time, but in search of a book that would make me cry, I assumed one involving the concentration camps would do the trick. What kept me from the 5th star was Harriet’s plot line. Interwoven with her grandmother’s story, I did not care for Harriet’s part until the last 10% of the book. However, Claire, Vivi and Mirielle’s story was great. This was, of course, not an easy book to read because of the content, but I reminded myself the whole way through that we read these stories so we do not become ignorant to what others have had to face in life. With that perspective, yeah, I cried a lot. But at one point I thought I was giving it 3 stars because of the level of cheese with Harriet. 4 STARS

26. We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nonfiction, Feminism)
Ope, read a book with the word “Feminists” right in the title, there. For a short book, a long explanation: As the Black Lives Matters movement engulfed our nation, I became aware of two things. One – I don’t know much about what it’s like to be black. Two – my only real experience of oppression is a result of my being a woman. While I’ve never been denied the right to vote, I have a respectable level of education and I have made many large decisions on my own, I cannot say that I feel equal to men because, among countless one-off conversations/experiences, I have simply assumed my gender role. And in beginning to understand what that means as a woman, I begin to understand what it means to be black. The entire way through this book I was shocked by how easily I could remove the words “man” and “woman” and replace them with “white” and “black” and have the content resonate the same way. Chimamanda is right. We should all be feminists. It means something powerful to be a woman, and men and women should take pride in that. We should all also acknowledge that black lives matter. It means something powerful to be black, and whites and blacks should take pride in that.

I can’t do this book justice without sharing an excerpt:

Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human.

For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem acknowledge that. Some men feel threatened by the idea of feminism. This comes, I think, from the insecurity triggered by how boys are brought up, how their sense of self-worth is diminished if they are not “naturally” in charge as men.

Chimanada Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists

5 STARS

27. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games #0) by Suzanne Collins (Dystopian)
Ironically, The Hunger Games was, for the longest time, the only book I ever quit. I picked it back up last year and zipped through the whole series, throwing 4-5 stars at each book and excitedly awaiting the release of this, the prequel. Before getting the chance to dig into it, I watched the ratings come in as slightly less than the raving success of it’s counterparts. I had friends read it and tell me their critique of it and why it didn’t really hit home like the others did. But when I got to the end of it myself, I couldn’t see a reason to not give it 5 stars. The book is probably about 70% focused on the 10th Hunger Games and 30% focused on a short bit of Snow’s life thereafter. Like any book, the climax was within the last 10% or so. But unlike most books, the first 90% was also incredibly engaging. I mean, it’s the Hunger Games. It moved slow at times, but I would expect the games to move slow at times, too, which made it feel more realistic. And while Snow doesn’t exactly grow up to be our vision of a model citizen, his rise to presidency felt oddly natural. Not to get super political, but what politician do we love and trust? If we lived in a dystopian world, would our politicians not take more extreme morally questionable measures than they currently do? I don’t know, folks, it didn’t seem that far off from reality… 5 STARS

28. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Historical Fiction, Mystery)
In search of my 5 star read, this is actually the one I chose thinking it would be it. Everyone loves this book. And it was great – I understand why it’s well loved. But it didn’t pull me in as much as I had hoped. While I cared for the characters, I felt parts of it were predictable and (tiny spoiler alert), as it drew towards the court case, I found myself thinking, why do we love books about court cases? Why do we rally around wanting to decide who’s right and who’s wrong? By all means, serve the justice where necessary, but why does that have to excite us? Still, this was a great book. Earlier this month I realized my library has seriously upped their digital game on account of COVID, making books like this one more readily available for Kindle users. I went through and requested several highly rated books – just looking to push me over my 4 star average right now… 4 STARS

29. Educated by Tara Westover (Memoir)
To be honest, I’d seen Educated around and judged it right by its cover. I love memoirs, but the title and the image did not resonate with me before I knew more about it. For over two years, now, it’s been raking in great reviews, so I finally checked out this eBook and dove in. And I loved it. Like a good, strong memoir should, it cracked into Tara’s soul, sharing everything from major successes to literal and metaphorical deep wounds. Tara has overcome so much in her life, and it’s all been in such a unique setting. I’m fascinated by her story because I see myself so easily in the shoes of multiple character. Could I be the crazy, convinced parent? Probably. Could I be the daughter trying to escape? Definitely. Could I be the outsider trying to help? Of course. I loved getting to know more about the many settings of Tara’s story, and I’m so grateful she chose to share the innermost caverns of her heart. 5 STARS


Biking

And now, onward with the goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike.

My current total…

1442

We’re now up to 388 of those miles having been outside (183 of them pulling a kid). Oh, and we’re also up to one flat tire – which I suppose had to happen sooner or later.

I’m a little disappointed in the amount of miles I’ve ridden outside. I would like to get that number up, but (1) it’s hot, and I don’t do heat and (2) I’m in a phase of life where I need to multi-task if I want to do everything I want to do. When I bike inside, I can read, crochet, watch TV, etc. The stars have to seriously align in order for me to do the work of getting my bike all set up with our Burley and getting both kids out there with me.

Hope you had a great July! Stay healthy everyone!

27 and 5

With things going well, we began our weekly celebratory Starbucks on July 20. In 2017, we celebrated each new week of pregnancy with a s’mores frappacino. In 2019, we celebrated each week at/past 27 and 5 with a s’mores frappacino.

It’s like our pregnancies were already becoming sibling allied forces. Let’s make things scary. Let’s overcome some real crazy stuff. And let’s celebrate.

7.20.19

“Do I feel like this baby is ready to be born? Absolutely not. Am I ready to bring another baby home? Mostly, yes.”

It was a hot July day. My husband was up north, taking part in his family’s annual summer vacation. My daughter and I stayed home, afraid to venture too far from our local hospital because in my last pregnancy, this was the gestational age I delivered my baby at.

27 and 5.

Two numbers, three words – they meant nothing to me until June 29 of 2017. And then they became a mantra because every doctor, every specialist, every neighbor, every extended family member, every passerby in the grocery store wants to know the gestational age your horrendously premature preemie was born at.

At first, they want to know because of how small she is. Then, they want to know because of how great she’s doing. And then, you want to remind yourself because of how miraculously she overcame so much in just one year of life.

Yet when pregnancy number two hit 27 and 5, it felt terrifyingly too early… as it should. Babies are not meant to be born that early. And we prayed hard for the 62 days I would be allowed to continue carrying of the 86 I should have had left.

With things going well, we began our weekly celebratory Starbucks on July 20. In 2017, we celebrated each new week of pregnancy with a s’mores frappacino. In 2019, we celebrated each week at/past 27 and 5 with a s’mores frappacino.

It’s like our pregnancies were already becoming sibling allied forces. Let’s make things scary. Let’s overcome some real crazy stuff. And let’s celebrate.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 27 weeks, 5 days
Doctor’s Appointments: 9
Ultrasounds: 4
Makena Injections: 11

Survivor’s Guilt

My husband and I were the couple who received the abnormal diagnosis that miraculously cleared up two ultrasounds later. Between ultrasounds three and four, we’d accepted our fate. While we didn’t want our son to be “abnormal”, we knew we couldn’t expect God to hand us miracle after miracle. We knew at some point it was our turn to stay in the muck and mire. And we also knew God would not give us more than we could handle.

7.13.19

“Baby boy is healthy! While we’re grateful for this last ultrasound’s results – no more echogenic bowel – Kevin and I feel, again, as though for some reason we barely squeezed by on the ‘good side’ of a bad situation while so many others do not. We are not immune to struggle, to tragedy, but here we are again. Who are we to deserve saving from strife? I never anticipated the level of survivor’s guilt I’d feel post-NICU with our daughter. And I never thought I’d feel it again with kiddo #2. Blessed, lucky… I don’t know what to call it, because I know neither would sound fair to those who are ‘less fortunate’…

We were at a place where we were praying for who/what our child would be, not against what he might face. We were, in a weird way, ready, but now we’ve been spared again. I don’t know why…”

In 2017, amidst an incredibly tumultuous pregnancy, my husband and I had been prepared to deliver a potentially terminally ill baby. We held on by a thread for 35 days before delivering said baby at 27 weeks and 5 days gestation, 12 weeks and 2 days shy of a normal, 40 week pregnancy. And then our daughter joined 7 other babies fighting for their lives in Area 11 of the NICU of our local children’s hospital.

For 69 days, we watched Oaklee’s roommates come and go. For 69 days, we envied the parents who were ushered in alongside 5, 6, and even 7 pound babies – those who needed little to no respiratory support and those who would be going home in a matter of days. For 69 days, we gave jealous smiles to the parents who brought in their car seats and prepped their babies for a homecoming. We wanted that good thing for us, too, and we eventually got it.

But in those 69 days, as our daughter got better and better, our hearts were wrecked for Oaklee’s roommates, too.

Shortly into her stay, we watched a baby come and go for multiple surgeries while his young, unmarried mom and dad struggled to be there to support him. Our hearts cracked open when we listened to his grandma sing Jesus Loves Me  as his tiny body clung to the life Jesus gave him – Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong – was he not among the littlest of the little ones?

As Oaklee’s stay spanned days, weeks and eventually months, our broken hearts broke further for the families of the babies who had been admitted far before Oaklee and were still there. We began to know their names, their stories, if not from the run-ins in Area 11 or the pumping room or the cafeteria, then from the overheard conversations of nurses. Was there a light at the end of their tunnel?

And on the final day of Oaklee’s NICU stay, we entered Area 11 drunken with happiness but quickly sobered up, becoming flies on the wall as we silently watched every parent’s nightmare unfold. Why them?

I was 27 years old. I’d felt that God had brought us to the border of death only to bring us all the way back to health and happiness and “normalcy”. He gave us everything we wanted and prayed for in a situation where statistically we should not have gotten everything we wanted and prayed for. I was 27 years old, and I was facing my first bolus of survivor’s guilt. 

I didn’t just passionately want the good thing for my daughter. I wanted it for her 7 roommates, too. And for the 70 other babies in that NICU. And for the other 15 million babies born prematurely every year.

I have no regrets for praying hard that God would heal my daughter – that He would make her not just survive, but thrive. Like any parent, I wanted the best for her even when it felt like that meant relying on a miracle. Our miracle came true. And while I prayed for the babies who occupied the 7 other isolettes of Area 11, I can’t say the same for all of them.

And I don’t understand it.

Then, just two years later my husband and I were the couple who received the abnormal diagnosis that miraculously cleared up two ultrasounds later. Between ultrasounds three and four, we’d accepted our fate. While we didn’t want our son to be “abnormal”, we knew we couldn’t expect God to hand us miracle after miracle. We knew at some point it was our turn to stay in the muck and mire. And we also knew God would not give us more than we could handle. We were ready to love our son. We were ready to let him be a light in this dark world in whatever fashion that might look like. 

But we were spared again.

And I don’t understand it.

At 29, my second bolus of survivor’s guilt.

God, I want the good things for us all.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 26 weeks, 5 days
Doctor’s Appointments: 9
Ultrasounds: 4
Makena Injections: 10

June’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how may miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.


Life has been crazy – I kind of feel like I’m dragging my feet on my goals, despite the fact that I’m still sitting very comfortably on both. 40 books. 2020 miles. I’ll make it, but I like the months that I come out of so far ahead that I feel like I should take a bow at the end.


Books

21. A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler (Contemporary)
This one was a Book Of The Month choice of mine. I like contemporary fiction. The third paragraph of the synopsis grabbed my attention: “Told from multiple points of view, A Good Neighborhood asks big questions about life in America today―What does it mean to be a good neighbor? How do we live alongside each other when we don’t see eye to eye?―as it explores the effects of class, race, and heartrending star-crossed love in a story that’s as provocative as it is powerful.” What I didn’t know was just how relevant it would be to current events while I was reading it. It took me a bit to get to the meat of the story, but once I got there, it just took off. I absolutely loved the writing style – so unique and fun! I have to highly recommend this read on account of it’s relevancy. It could be a game-changer for your perspective on racism. 4.5 STARS

22. The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees by Meredith May (Memoir)
How many times can I say how much I love memoirs? I just think it’s incredibly beautiful and empowering to allow people to tell their stories. Some hit home with me, some are shockingly different from my experience and some are less meaningful to me. This fell into that third category. What I loved was her comparisons to and knowledge of honeybees. That side of it was so interesting. While Meredith experienced far more than I did as a kid, parts of the written story were slow. The last quarter of the book had all the makings of a great book and arguably made the book as a whole worth a read, but I struggled to get into it quickly. Though I should mention, I’ve already suggested to my husband we start a hobby honeybee farm… 3 STARS

23. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood (Contemporary)
June’s book club book was this highly rated/reviewed story. I had nabbed in as a Kindle daily deal because of the ratings. I wanted it to rock my socks off. I wanted to cry, but here’s why I didn’t. First, the story had an ick-factor to it; an inappropriate relationship that I struggled to get over for approximately the first half of the book. By the time I got over the icky-ness and started rooting for these characters, the book felt entirely too predictable. I had figured out the ending far before the end and was unsatisfied with the amount of proper resolution. It felt, to me, as though the bad guys got bad things and the good guys got good things. That being said, I did appreciate the points of view/writing style. And the story as a whole was interesting. 3 STARS


Biking

And now, onward with the goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike.

Again, 2020 miles in a year means approximately 5.5 miles/day. Some days I ride 12. Some days, 8. Some days I don’t ride at all, but my current total…

1232

We’re now up to 258 of those miles having been outside (147 of them pulling a kid).

We ended June in a horrendous heat wave, and as someone who really only tolerates temperatures up to about 75 degrees, that means I’ve been back to biking inside. I don’t hate biking inside. I get to read at the same time when I do that. But it’s harder to get motivated to bike inside. As the heat wave spills over into July, I’ll just be over here racking up my indoor miles I suppose…

Hope you had a great June! Stay healthy everyone!

Is It ok for Me to be at Home?

But by the 21st of June, we’d entered into new territory. I was living at home in a stage of pregnancy where I’d lived in the hospital last time. Though I probably didn’t need to, I felt like a time bomb once again. But this time, I wasn’t down the hall from the nurses and doctors who could help me. I was a 25 minute drive away.

Oops, sorry for the delay – coming off from the COVID quarantine and heading right into a last minute decision to buy a house and move this summer. 2020 is truly the craziest.


6.21.19

“We’re 5 days past the day we landed in the hospital with Oaklee. It is crazy and emotional and stressful…”

Just over two weeks past the diagnosis of an echogenic bowel in our son, we’d already found peace in the unknown there. We’d gone through the same phases of shock we’d been through beginning the day we landed in the hospital with our daughter when they told us everything that would probably be wrong with her if she were born that day.

Shock, grieving, mourning, depression, acceptance. We felt all the feels.

When it comes down to it, though, here’s our thing about “disabilities”. We believe in a purposeful God. If God had wanted my daughter to be blind, for example, like the doctors told us she probably would be, he would have done that. And we would have survived. We would have figured out how to do life with a blind child. Would it have been easy? My guess is no.

And if God wanted our son to be “abnormal”, we would figure out how to do life with whatever that might look like, too. Would that be easy? Probably not.

But by the 21st of June, we’d entered into new territory. I was living at home in a stage of pregnancy where I’d lived in the hospital last time. Though I probably didn’t need to, I felt like a time bomb once again. But this time, I wasn’t down the hall from the nurses and doctors who could help me. I was a 25 minute drive away. With our daughter, I went into labor for my first time at 22 weeks and 6 days. The doctors and nurses reversed it 5 times before I delivered my daughter on the 6th time. 

If I went into labor now, with my son, what could be done? What would it look like? The whole point of only carrying to 36 weeks instead of 40 was so that my body wouldn’t have to go into labor and risk a uteran rupture on account of my previous classical cesarean section. How fast would things move? Would I be ok? Would my baby be ok? Is it ok for me to just be living at home right now?

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 23 weeks, 4 days
Doctor’s Appointments: 7
Ultrasounds: 3
Makena Injections: 7

What Will Be, Will Be

I look forward to holding our son. God can make his body however he wants, and what will be, will be. But my hopes and dreams for this boy are big, and I just wish I could keep him safe…

6.14.19

“Every day we’re farther away from last week Thursday, we become more and more at peace. I’m worried each next appointment will just make us worried again if we don’t soon get good news. I look forward to holding our son. God can make his body however he wants, and what will be, will be. But my hopes and dreams for this boy are big, and I just wish I could keep him safe…”

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 22 weeks, 4 days
Doctor’s Appointments: 6
Ultrasounds: 3
Makena Injections: 6

The Only Way Out is to See it Through

I found myself unable to pray for a miracle. I couldn’t expect God to pull us out of the muck again, brush us off, and send us on our way. It felt too insensitive to those who’ve been on the other end of our situations – to those who are also asking the question, “Why me?” So instead of a miracle, I prayed for something manageable. I didn’t need things to be easy, I just needed the strength to manage whatever was to come.

6.9.19

“Lots of tears these past few days. We’re a little bit mad, a little bit sad, a lot scared and just so, so confused. Why? Why do we have to worry our way through a pregnancy again? It feels like there’s a target on our backs. It has me questioning so much…”

On June 9 of 2017, I found myself asking the big questions when things continued to spiral out of control in our first pregnancy. I wondered if we were missing what God was saying to us. I wondered if we weren’t supposed to be parents of biological children. I couldn’t fathom such a rocky pregnancy leading to a healthy baby for no good reason.

On June 9 of 2019, days after the diagnosis of baby boy’s echogenic bowel, it felt like I’d landed right back in that dark place. Maybe God had, indeed, been trying to tell us something with that first pregnancy when he took us to the very border of death before bringing us all the way back to a healthy family of three. 

“Today, we’re proceeding as if this is all going to smooth over. But the reality is that it might not. We might not have a “normal” child. We might not have a healthy child. We might not have a child… is it too much to ask God to spare the life of yet another child for me?” 

I felt as though God had given me a life’s allotment of miracles back in 2017 when he saved my daughter from “the sickest of the sick”, when he brought her back from the border of death, breathing life into the lungs that weren’t ready for life and growing her 2lb 12oz body into a healthy baby. It felt foolish in 2019 to hope that things might just clear up again, that we might walk away from an abnormality, unscathed, as a family of four. Why should I deserve another miracle? 

Our love for our growing baby didn’t waver once from the moment we found out he may have some health issues. But what we saw immediately was a different future for our family. We wondered how much of our boy’s first few years would be consumed with doctor’s appointments. We wondered if he would ever be independent. We wondered if this would prematurely take his life. 

I found myself unable to pray for a miracle. I couldn’t expect God to pull us out of the muck again, brush us off, and send us on our way. It felt too insensitive to those who’ve been on the other end of our situations – to those who are also asking the question, “Why me?” So instead of a miracle, I prayed for something manageable. I didn’t need things to be easy, I just needed the strength to manage whatever was to come.

“We will play the cards we’re dealt, but please, PLEASE, let this be a manageable hand.”

We entered into yet another season of heightened worry. On the outside, we were brave. On the inside, we were broken hearted. But the only way out was to see it through.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 21 weeks, 6 days
Doctor’s Appointments: 6
Ultrasounds: 3
Makena Injections: 5

That 11-Letter Word

Post-poke, things got weird. Nurse N’s non-verbal communication changed as she told me – without looking me in the eye and while keeping her hands busy over paper work and organization – that Doctor H wanted to quick check in with me before I left. We made our way to an examination room I’d never seen before, and I sat there subtly on edge as I waited.

6.6.19

“I left what was meant to be a two minute appointment 45 minutes later and sat in the parking ramp while I broke the news over the phone to Kevin. Again, we question. Again, we worry. Again, we cry. My heart hurts so bad. I want to believe this is nothing, but only time will tell.”

Four Makena Injections in, on June 6 I headed back to my doctor’s office to pick up my next set of injections and be administered one. I drove the 20 minute trip downtown, parked in the parking ramp and made my way up to the office to meet Nurse N for a quick poke before she’d send me home with my goody bag of my next three injections. 

But post-poke, things got weird. Nurse N’s non-verbal communication changed as she told me – without looking me in the eye and while keeping her hands busy over paper work and organization – that Doctor H wanted to quick check in with me before I left. We made our way to an examination room I’d never seen before, and I sat there subtly on edge as I waited.

Doctor H walked in with the words, “Oh Mandi, why can’t anything just be easy for you in pregnancy?” I honestly still thought she was just referencing the inconvenience of coming downtown every four weeks to pick up my injections, but then she reminded me of my repeat ultrasound just three days prior to this visit. 

We’d been told we needed a repeat ultrasound due to the inability to get all of baby boy’s measurements at our early anatomy scan. But apparently, we needed it because they suspected there may be a problem. In the anatomy scan, they detected an abnormality of the bowel. In the repeat scan, the abnormality was repeated…

Baby boy was diagnosed with an isolated echogenic bowel. In laymen’s terms, he had something in his bowel at a time when babies should not yet have anything in their bowels. What was it? We didn’t know. But what could it mean? It could mean a few things. Echogenic bowels are a marker of both cystic fibrosis and Down syndrome. Baby boy’s case being isolated, we had no other markers to indicate which, if either, it might be, and in fact, it could still mean nothing at all. 

I’ve taken in bad news from a doctor before. Coincidentally, almost exactly two years prior to this date, I had one of the most notable doses of bad news in my life when I was told my water broke with my first baby at just 25 weeks gestation. I knew I needed to ask questions while my resource was standing right in front of me, but I was so blindsided by the news. Doctor H pressed forward, and explained my very limited options:

  1. I can enter into a whole season of genetic testing on me, baby, and even my husband if necessary to foresee our fate and decide where to go from there.
  2. We can wait it out and go through yet another repeat ultrasound to see if anything changes.

I hadn’t even left the examination room before I knew my temporary answer. I asked Doctor H, “What’s the point of doing the genetic testing now if it won’t change how we love this baby when he’s born?” I wanted to believe things would clear up before another ultrasound, and we wouldn’t need to have used this time to educate and prepare ourselves to parent a child with a disability. But if I’m being honest, I didn’t believe that. What gave me solace was knowing I had enough time remaining to go back on my decision and get the testing if I found I couldn’t wait it out after all.

I stood stoically at the checkout, trying to schedule another repeat ultrasound – one that was not noted on my checkout form. My heart clenched when the administrative assistant asked why I was having another ultrasound and if the doctor did, indeed, order it. I quietly spoke into being, “There was an abnormality…” As tears threatened my eyes, I scheduled the scan, rushed to the elevator and all but ran to the shelter of my van in the parking ramp.

An abnormality. That 11-letter word. Again. Why?

I texted my husband, asking him to step out for a phone call. When he called, I broke the news to him as I broke down. Meditating on this new news and our uncertain future, I drove back to work and attempted to finish my day as planned. 

We began the process that night of sharing our news with our inner-most circle – a rip-the-bandage-off approach. We re-iterated our situation again and again for our parents and each of our siblings. Here’s what we know. Here’s what we do not know. Here’s our plan. We’ll keep you updated. By the last conversation I’d become immune to the pain this news was causing me. I was emotionally exhausted. It was time to sleep. It was time to move forward.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 21 weeks, 3 days
Doctor’s Appointments: 6
Ultrasounds: 3
Makena Injections: 5

May’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how may miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.


It was a great month for biking… but the smallest amount of books I’ve read in a month in the past two years. Balance I guess.


Books

18. The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda (Mystery, Thriller)
Started the month off with the pick of the book club I’m in. I was not excited about this choice going into it, but I voted for it because the Kindle book was cheap and I’m Dutch like that. Either I was pleasantly surprised by this book or I just really needed to get away from reading books for work. At times, it felt a little repetitive, and by the end I’d figured it out, but as a whole, I really liked it and it kept me wanting to pull it back open. 4 STARS

19. Beartown by Fredrik Backman (Contemporary)
Followed up May’s book club pick with finishing out April’s book club pick. Oops. I tried twice to get into the audio book version of this one so I could finish it in time for book club last month, but I just couldn’t. The first third was way too much hockey talk and I couldn’t really see it going anywhere. There were lots of characters and plot lines to keep up with, but the main plot line was gold once I got through all the hockey talk in the beginning. I loved Maya’s and Benji’s characters especially. This book is the first in a series, and I won’t lie, the end made me 100% intrigued about where the series was going to go next, but… I don’t like committing to a series (especially since I’m still half way into HP). 3.5 STARS

20. Silver Sparrow by Taryari Jones (Contemporary)
Silver Sparrow is written by the same author as An American Marriage, another book I loved. While the themes in each were somewhat similar, the books were very different. This story dove into the life of a bigamist in Atlanta in the 1980s. With one public family and one private family, this story was so heart-wrenching. I loved getting an inside look into this situation; it was fascinating. And while I loved the two viewpoints, my only critique on the book is that switching from Dana (private family) to Chaurisse (public family) halfway through instead of alternating back and forth felt slightly disruptive. Regardless, it was wonderfully done and my heart hurt for these characters. 4.5 STARS


Biking

And now, onward with the goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike.

Again, 2020 miles in a year means approximately 5.5 miles/day. I’ve gone pretty aggressively at it these first 5 months, and I’m on track to reach my goal with ease if I continue at this pace. What’s the current total?

1052.

I won’t lie, hitting 1010 felt good… like REALLY good. After 5 months of riding almost daily, I think I realized at 1010 (which I happened to hit on Memorial Day) just how proud I might be of myself if I achieve this goal.

This past week was filled with some great rides, too. I went two miles with my daughter riding next to me on her balance bike. I got a ride in on country roads, making a big loop instead of weaving through neighborhoods. I ran an errand on my bike. I biked a quick 8 by myself outside the morning I hit the halfway point. This might be my favorite week for biking so far…

As for the 1010 miles, we’re now up to 168 of those miles having been outside (89 of them pulling a kid).

Hope you had a great May! Stay healthy everyone!

“Redemption”

I didn’t want to be told how strong I was during my first pregnancy when I was cracked to the very core on the inside yet smiling on the outside. And I didn’t want to be told how redeemed I must feel during this second, presumably much safer pregnancy, when I was terrified.

5.30.19

“Everyone says what a ‘redemptive’ pregnancy this must be since it’s going so well, but pregnancy is not about me. I’m facing significant risks to my body to bring this baby into the world. If it were about me, and it was redemptive, I wouldn’t be so terrified. I’m not scared of what happened last time. I’m scared of what could happen this time…”

Is there anything we crave more than redemption? The happy ending, the eradication of past hurts, the relief, the good vibes, the resolution – we want it so badly, and we want it everywhere. Alleviate poverty. Fight hunger. Free the captives. Find the missing. Cure the cancer.

Our hearts long for redemption.

Yet I struggled to see pregnancy as a place for redemption.

Don’t take my past pains from me. Don’t take my scars, my hurts, my experiences, the things I’ve learned. They make me who I am and they’ve shaped everything I know and believe about my ability to safely bring a baby into the world. 

I didn’t want to be told how strong I was during my first pregnancy when I was cracked to the very core on the inside yet smiling on the outside. And I didn’t want to be told how redeemed I must feel during this second, presumably much safer pregnancy, when I was terrified. I knew too much and too little at the same time. I knew what could happen, but I’d gotten through that before. What I didn’t know was what would happen if a body – one that’d been vulnerably cut before, one that couldn’t even risk carrying a baby to full term – went into pre-term labor again.

When my doctor suggested Makena injections, I didn’t have to think twice before saying, yes, please, let’s do it. They are precautionary, and potentially unnecessarily so. They are expensive. They are a pain to get your hands on – a process that includes probably close to 100 phones calls between your doctor, your insurance company and a specialty pharmacy. They are a pain when physically administered – an experience that must be observed religiously on the same day each week and is meant to happen at your doctor’s office, creating weekly appointments. They are such a nuisance.

But hopefully you’ll get to the end and wonder if they were the difference or not.

My doctor was gracious enough to send me home each quad (the injections came in packages of four – a month’s supply – requiring you to call to start the process of obtaining the medicine over again five times to get your full 20 shots from weeks 16 to 36) and let my nurse of a neighbor administer them. Praise be to God for my neighbor who saved me from approximately 16 trips downtown by agreeing to stop by each Thursday night and poke me. Some women get approved to have the equipment and medicine shipped right to their house so they can administer the injections themselves. Not approved for that, I had to slip in under the radar and take a mysterious looking goody bag home each month from my doctor.

I was so terrified of going into pre-term labor, that I think I would have done anything my doctor suggested. Makena injections felt so simple, so I chased them with very little physical exertion and definitely no questionable “can-you-do-this-if-you’re-pregnant?” moments. I was about one step away from putting myself on bedrest.

So did I feel redeemed? No. I felt terrified. 

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 20 weeks, 3 days
Doctor’s Appointments: 5
Ultrasounds: 2
Makena Injections: 4