The Struggle With An After Baby Body

image1

By Elise Boutin

The following was actually written in July, seven months post-partum. Eight months later and one comment sparked the same feeling and thoughts. It reminded me of this piece and that maybe it was time to share it. I’ve updated it and hesitantly hit “post”…

I’m going to be a little vulnerable in an effort for connectivity. 

This is not for compliments, but for camaraderie. It’s for the woman who is breastfeeding at 3 a.m. scrolling through Facebook desperate to hear adult conversation. It’s for the mom who had to go back to work and doesn’t feel like herself. It’s for the woman who has had multiple children and has fully embraced motherhood and her feminine essence.

I’m talking about what it feels like in your own skin after you have had a baby.

I’ve just had my fourth child in under five years. I say just, but he made a year in January. I have had three c-sections where my tummy acquired a thin, discreet, horizontal line. For my fourth, however, it involved a vertical line straight through my belly button that connected to my previous scars. It looks like an anchor, pulling me into motherhood.

The difference with this anchor is that organs came out as well as my baby. At 33 years old I had a full hysterectomy to prevent me from bleeding out after birth because my placenta was attached to my uterus.

I am reminded of this fact sporadically during my reality. It’s strange how our brain copes with major issues. But that’s an entry for another time.

In July, I had a friend’s wedding to attend. I felt radiant when I left my house. I had been swimming daily and I no longer had the bedridden pasty look. I fit into an old special dress and I knew it was the best I had looked in a year. I received compliments all night, but there was the one unintentional, “So, is this your fifth baby?” I laughed it off and explained that I just had a baby. And added a little somberly that I can no longer have children.

I know it was a completely innocent comment, but no matter how exquisite I felt, I still looked pregnant. And it’s a hard thing to carry around sometimes. Some days I am empowered by the strength it takes to have four children. Other days I’m more conscious of my soft tummy.

It’s not the first time I’ve been body aware. During my freshman year of college I gained 40 pounds of Jim Beam and Taco Bell. After years of unhealthy choices, I returned to an athletic life style. It took a year to lose 50 pounds. Never once was I asked if I was pregnant during my heavier phase.

I’ve been asked for up to a year after having a child if I was still pregnant. A week after birthing my 11 pound 10 ounce first child, my youngest sister (who was 19 at the time) asked me why my stomach wasn’t flat yet. Uummmm. Because I’m 29 and life’s natural processes aren’t instant? I have to admit, I did wonder the same question. Five years and three more children later, I now understand that your body changes with each child and that your shape is never quite the same.

The expectation to have it all appear perfect is so ridiculous. Not only am I supposed to keep this child alive, but I’m also supposed to feed them Pinterest worthy snacks, have a home that Joanna Gaines could have designed (I love you, Joanna), and also rock a bod that could be on the cover of Self magazine…all while having a full-time job, too. This makes my brain hurt so much that my only logical response is to quote Cher from Clueless, “OH, As if!”

My body is finally starting to feel like my skin is sinking back to its original form. Even though I’ve lost 30 pounds, my belly still looks like I could be expecting.

After the mortality scare, I shouldn’t care about such superficiality, but here I am squaring off with the most trivial human inadequacies. Maybe it’s what distracts me from contemplating my loss of a uterus. Even though I know it was the right plan, there is a strange emptiness that exists within me. It’s not sad, just different. Slightly empowering, yet equally as weird. My body won’t be doing something it was designed to do. No periods each month. No more babies. At least the no period thing isn’t that bad.

There are no perfect words to describe the swirling vortex of emotions and thoughts that occur after you’ve had a child. Whether it’s your first or fourth, there is always something new to adapt to. Our bodies are how we interact with the world. Whether it’s the internal thoughts and pains that lend to spiritual growth or the outward shape that constantly changes, the body is a miraculous creation.

I just want to offer the reminder to work with it and respect its pace.

When that well intentioned, “When are you due?” pops up, remind yourself that you are a goddess. You grew another human being. You created life! You are strong and powerful and will celebrate your divine opportunities. Let it allow you to feel connected to your creator and your child.

Then take a cue from William’s character on This Is Us. Roll down your windows. Turn up your favorite song. And let it go. Because You, sister, are a rock star.

The Delivery

by Elise H.P. Boutin

picwithdax

The pattern of this pregnancy had been a week of stability followed by a few days of light bleeding. It seemed like we were in the home stretch after my team of doctors set the delivery date for January 19, 2016. I was enjoying the short weekend visits with my sons and family members, as well as sporadic hangouts with friends I hadn’t seen in years. I also strummed on my new ukulele – the music must go on- and continued to read and write.

Another bedrest perk at this Pavilion was the “Great Room”, which was conveniently located next to my room. It was filled with boardgames and books. It was a neat common area for patients to hang out. In my nearly two weeks in Houston, I had met several women with the same condition and it was nice to bond and vent together.

On the evening of Sunday, January 10, 2016, Jon and I met a couple from Monterrey, Mexico, in the Great Room. The wife and I both had accretas. She was 35 weeks and was scheduled to deliver on Tuesday. The four of us were able to discuss cultural practices and personal experiences that led to our current predicament. As of now, it is unknown why accretas occur. There is a correlation between c-sections and placenta previa and accreta. It turns out that Mexico has a 50 percent section rate, while the U.S. has a 30 percent. I was really surprised at the increase in cesarean deliveries. We talked for almost two hours before I was ready to rest in my room. After exchanging contact information, we wished them well and retired to room 1106.

At 1 a.m., Jon woke me up because he was restless. We had slept really late that morning and he was in a state of insomnia. He wanted to drive to Rayne in order to pick up a few personal items and then return to Houston. I wasn’t too psyched about the idea. I told him the whole reason I wanted him here was because I didn’t want to be alone at night. He completely agreed and tried to find something to occupy his mind while I went to the restroom. To my surprise, I had started to spot again.

I called in my nurse and she assessed the situation. She attached me to the monitors to check if I was having contractions and to follow the baby’s vitals. This was such a standard procedure for me; I had this happen five times before. She informed me within the hour that everything looked stable and no action was going to happen soon. By 3:30 a.m. I was able to fall asleep, and was awoken at 9 a.m. by a team of doctors making rounds.

“We have a surprise for you,” said Dr. Clark.

“Another MRI?” I said sleepily with a slight dose of sarcasm. As I sat up, I saw my high risk specialist from Lafayette turn the corner.

“Dr. Sheryl!” I squeaked as she walked open-armed toward me. We embraced with that South Louisiana welcome and then commenced with the usual catching up.

Dr. Clark then informed me that as of now they weren’t going to move ahead with an unscheduled delivery that day, but if I continued to bleed they would move up my surgery. The crew left with smiles and wished me luck.

I spent the morning visiting with my aunt and a new hospital friend while Jon made his drive to Rayne. In the afternoon, I attended the “Bedrest Boogie,” which is a small gathering of the women on the 11th floor to give them a chance to create a craft and enjoy the fellowship of those going through a similar situation. We each developed a onesie for our newborns. I used a basketball stencil for Dax’s shirt.

I watched movies the rest of the evening until Jon returned from his roundtrip. We talked and watched t.v. until I was pretty exhausted and wanted to fall asleep. I was taking off my compression hose when the one on my left leg got stuck. I put a little more effort into the endeavor and felt a gush of blood.

I immediately asked Jon to remove the stocking and went to the bathroom. It wasn’t a scary amount of blood, but it was definitely more than I had prior seen. Jon went to get my nurse as I made it back to the bed. The usual procedures began: monitors, vitals, questions. A doctor walked in, then another. They walked out.

“Okay. Let’s talk about what would happen if this starts to move more into an emergency situation,” said my nurse. Before she could say step one, three nurses walked in with an IV set. There was no time for a local anesthesia, so they went for a stick in my left arm. It hurt, which was unusual. My vein blew and they were going to try in my hand.

My thighs started to quake. I was pretty sure the Richter Scale picked up its vibrations. My head was fine, but my body could not deny my nerves. My nurse held my hand as Jon put his hands on top of my legs. The pressure helped.

The doctor walked in and explained the present course of action. “I’m on call on the 9th floor, so we are going to move you to labor and delivery. We are going to start you on a magnesium drip, which slows down the uterus in case you are going into preterm labor. It also helps babies who are under 34 weeks with brain bleeds and other complications.” [I remind myself that at this point I’m 33 weeks — not far off] I made a call to my parents to inform them there was potential that I was going to have the baby soon.

In less than five minutes they were calmly rolling me down two floors; my nurse never let go of my hand.

I wheeled into a much larger room and bid farewell to my nurse and was greeted by another sweet nurse who was already prepping the IV bags and medicines. My legs were only mildly shaking while my mind was whirling. From deep within my chest I tried to capture a calming deep breath that would dissipate the unease. Dax kicked me as if to let me know it was going to be okay.

By the time things calmed down, it was nearly 4 a.m. I dozed in and out of consciousness until one of my case doctors strolled cooly into my room and sat next to me.

“So. Your baby looks great. We checked your blood and your counts are good. However, the factor for clotting has gone down a bit, which is the one we are concerned about. You haven’t stopped bleeding— even though it’s light— and you’ve had a few contractions throughout the night. We’re going to go ahead and move up your surgery to an hour.”

My legs began to quiver again. Dr. Fox sensed my nerves.

“Look. You are not in a state of emergency, which is why we want to move it up. You do not want to have this surgery in a state of chaos.”

I flashed back to the night before and realized she was completely correct. I suddenly had a second realization.

“Oh no. You don’t have to bump Patricia’s delivery, do you?!”

“She’ll be okay. We’ll be able to get to her later today. I’ve already put this in motion and everyone is prepping for you.”

At this moment my high risk doctor from Lafayette walked in.

“Well,” she said. “I was here to observe the morning surgery, and it turns out it will be yours!”

I mean what are the odds?

The two doctors reassured me that everything was going to be fine and they strolled off to discuss the morning routine.

I grabbed my phone to update my parents and after a short call with my mother, I noticed I had my morning prayer text from a former colleague at RCE. I tried to steady my nerves so I could read the message and was instantly calmed by the memo. I was so overwhelmingly tranquil that I asked the nurse if she had given me something. She giggled and said no.

Within five minutes we were off to prep for surgery. The staff was so methodical that it made me feel at ease. This was not their first rodeo.

I had a few phone calls come in while I met with my anesthesiologists. Turns out one of them was from Mossbluff and attended Sam Houston High School. We chatted about high school football since our teams played one another in the late 90s.

He then said, “Okay, hugs and kisses,” while looking to Jon.

“No thanks, man. I don’t know you that well,” Jon wittily replied. The room laughed. Jon leaned over and kissed me. “I love you, babe.”

“I love you and I like you,” I retorted, “most of the time.” [I watched a lot of Parks and Recreation in the hospital]

And I was off.

Zipping past the the doors and nurses’ stations I kept thinking to myself, “This is it,” while I held my bulging belly where Dax beat in unison. As the operation room door opened, I was asked which Pandora station I wanted. I responded, “The Postal Service.”

Brand New Colony” punched through the air waves and the electronic sounds battled for dominance over what seemed like hundreds of machines. As Ben Gibbard sang all of the things he would “be” for another person in order to care for them, I sank into the operating table in a state of trust and comfort. I wasn’t sure if I was trusting that I could be all of those things for Dax or if God was reminding me that I would be afforded the same pleasure. The beat changed into the seductive repetitive lines, “Everything will change.” By the end of the four minutes and twelve seconds of the song, I was entering a euphoric place of poetic justice. Everything would change after this surgery.

They brought the mask to my mouth and told me to breathe deeply and slowly.

I repeated the following mantra to the rhythm of my breath:

“I trust you, Jesus.”

“I trust. You. Jesus.

“I. Trust. You. Jesus.

“I. Trust. You…

“I. Trust…


“I…

—————————————————-

I groggily awoke from a blank state of consciousness. With every blink, the specks on the ceiling brought me into a brand new reality. I inhaled a breath of gratitude and realized I had survived.

“How is my baby?” I managed to ask through a scratchy throat. My lungs felt weak.

“You’re waking up!” said the nurse. “He is doing great. He was five pounds and eight ounces. Let me get your husband.”

I could tell that I was hooked up to quite a few things and then felt the central line that was protruding from the right side of my neck. It bounced as I spoke.

Jon walked in and his eyes were filled with relief as he grabbed my hand and kissed my forehead. He informed me that my parents, sisters, and two of my aunts and uncles were all in the waiting room, and then he updated me on Dax: he had woke up from the anesthesia, had a breathing and feeding tube, but was very stable.

My heart was near a nuclear explosion. I’m not sure I had ever been so happy.

Dr. Fox slipped through the curtain. I tried to move my neck in her direction as she spoke kindly to me, “You, my friend, are a rock star. You had what we consider a dry surgery.”

“I didn’t have to have a blood transfusion?” I interrupted.

“No. In fact, you lost as much blood as if you had a normal vaginal birth.”

“And I had a hysterectomy?”

“Yes. We were able to easily take your uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes. You have both of your ovaries and shouldn’t have to worry about hormonal issues.”

Another one of those calming breaths coursed through my legs. They definitely were not shaking anymore.

“You look great. We didn’t even have to mess with your bladder at all. We couldn’t have asked for a better surgery. I’ll check on you a little later, okay?” She made a quick exit to go check on a few other patients.

Throughout the next few hours, my parents checked in, as well as two of my sisters. My sister informed me that my school had a moment of silence during the day for me and Dax. I teared up. Humbled. The emotions were starting to surge through my body. I took a deep breath and savored the love.

We had made it. The odds looked to be ever in our favor.

Now we just had to recover.

The Ride

1510813_10208164163683722_5422654420808082579_nThings spun into a whirlwind of chaos when I learned that my condition had worsened. What was supposed to be a standard MRI to determine a delivery date, turned into a transport to Houston, Texas.

I was admitted to Women’s and Children’s in Lafayette on December 18th due to light bleeding. Because this was the second time I had an active bleed, I knew I was going to have to remain in the hospital until I delivered. Ultrasounds confirmed that I still had placenta previa (it was low and covering the cervix), but my high risk doctor seemed to think I may have been out of the woods as far as the accreta was concerned. The ultrasounds didn’t show any sign of growth and the placenta’s outlines were clean and didn’t seem to be attaching to anything.

So I sat for two weeks chatting with my amazing nurses and doctors, visiting with family and friends, and celebrating the holiday season. My doctor scheduled an MRI for December 30th to confirm the presence of the accreta. I enjoyed playing solitaire while talking on the phone with a friend, and was then surprised when my younger cousin stopped by to hang out. At 12:30, my nurse and one of the high risk doctors walked in and I could tell from the look on my nurse’s face that they meant business.

The MRI indicated that the accreta had potentially progressed to a percreta, which means that the placenta is growing through my uterus and into other organs. My stomach had the same feeling as when I pulled the parachute cord – it dropped about 2 feet while free falling. The specialists would review the scans again, but they told me to prepare for a transfer to Houston within the week.

I continued to talk films with my cousin, and my nurse came in to check on me. I think she knew I was in a bit of shock. Another of my dear friends popped in, and then my primary doctor called me from out of town. She wanted to ensure that I was okay, but also to tell me that they were going to push for me to leave sooner. “Pack your bags,” was her first line of the second call. “You’re going to leave within the next 24 hours.” We were going to have to wait to see what the insurance would clear.

I called my mom to ask if she could come immediately to help me pack. I had yet to call my husband because I didn’t want to upset him at work.

The whirling started. For the first time in nearly seven weeks, I began to get anxious of my fate. One more complication made me realize the severity of my condition. I tried not to let my worry bubble over the peace and trust I had built up over the weeks. But my insides could feel the battle of emotions.

The ultrasound technician came in to check on my baby. The sight of his health helped to ease my nerves. Jon arrived. Then my mom. A nurse walked in and said I would probably be leaving within the next few hours. Jon decided to head home to pack. My mom started to pack up my room. My uncle walked in, followed by another aunt and uncle.

Then one of my nurses who was with me the most walked in with her hands in the air and cheerily yelled, “We’ve been approved for flight! Acadian Ambulance will pick you up in a helicopter in an hour.”

It was all happening so quickly.

My sisters, brothers-in-law, and all of our kids then walked through my door. Hugs and kisses were exchanged while the kids lined up against the window of my room, which was conveniently located in front of the helicopter pad. I tried to get in as much cuddle time with my boys because I knew it would be a while before I would see them again.

It turns out that you can’t really bring a whole lot onto a helicopter. I would need to put necessities in my purse and my parents would have to bring the rest of my clothes and gadgets later. My stomach felt like an insectarium as we heard the chopper land.

Now silly me, I thought I’d be wheeled down in a chair and would be able to have an adventure-like experience with AirMed crew. Then I saw the gurney.

A very kind paramedic, Ken, completed the procedure of strapping me down. I suddenly realized what my kids may feel like in their car seat, except instead of facing forward, all I could really see was the ceiling. All I could really hear, was the sound of someone crying. I shifted my neck in a way to look around and saw my sweet 7-year-old goddaughter nearly hysteric. The scene was quite traumatic for such a young child.

The hallway was filled with my family leaning over me to say goodbye. My oldest son looked pretty nervous, but his brave 4-year-old self managed to give me a kiss once someone lifted him to me. My smiling 3-year-old enthusiastically said, “Good night, Mommy!” while giving me a big kiss and hug. My nearly 2-year-old was on top of someone’s shoulders and gave me a high five. There were more embraces, including some from my nurses. Part of my nervousness was leaving my caring staff.

And then all I could hear were their muffled voices as I was quickly rolling down the hall and elevator. When we made it outside, I could hear my family members yelling goodbye. Ken opened up the rear part of the helicopter. My mother commented that it looked like another MRI. My breathing was restricted for a second. She kissed and hugged me and told me goodbye in the most motherly way possible. I exhaled as he pushed me through the tight space. For a few seconds the ceiling nearly touched my nose, but then the height changed to a normal backseat.

Ken hopped in the chopper seat next to me and then had to hook me and the baby up to monitors to check our levels while we made the trip. As we took off, he motioned for me to look to my right, and I watched the view of Lafayette become the speckled lights of a Christmas tree. It was a complex endeavor considering I was strapped to the gurney, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

We landed for a moment to fill up with fuel. Ken informed me that the helicopter burned one gallon of gas per minute. I tried to breathe calmly because the tight squeeze was kind of getting to me.I just closed my eyes and the next time I opened them, we were descending into Houston. As the sound of the propellors did a decrescendo, I was pulled out of the chopper and then loaded onto an ambulance. Another first for me.

The ambulance only had to go about two blocks to my hospital. Even from ceiling view, I could tell the facility was nice. I finally reached the triage room and thanked my paramedics for the safe delivery. While all of the transfer papers cleared me for admittance, more tests were run to have on file for the new doctors. My uncle, aunt, and cousin arrived for support until Jon made it from Lafayette.

We didn’t make it into the room and get settled in until after midnight. I tried to sleep as best as I could because I wasn’t sure what the next day would entail. I managed to rest until around 7a.m.

Dr. Steven Clark, author of Critical Care Obstetrics, came to see me around 9.    He explained that there are two different teams of 30 people each within the accreta center. He assured me that they had a major blood supply on hand and that the urologists would be capable of taking care of the bladder should the placenta have grown into the organ. He ordered an ultrasound to get a fresh set of images. It wasn’t long before I was wheeled down for the ultrasound, and get this, another MRI.

It took a day to get the results. As of now, the placenta has only grown through the uterus, which is called an increta. There is an unusual bulge near the bladder, but as of now it has not penetrated any other organs. 

As long as I do not have excess bleeding or go into pre-term labor, the goal is to make it until my 34th week, which is the week of January 18th (Dr. Martin Luther King Day). Dax looks great so far, too. The Neonatologist met with us two days ago and informed us that his survival rate is 95%, even if he were born tomorrow, there would just be a longer NICU stay.

We are in the safest place available with some of the best doctors in the country. No matter what happens next, I know that our best odds are here. The cascades of prayers have washed through my soul. I know that’s why I have yet to break down.

Here are a few things you can specifically pray for: minimal bleeding, a planned surgery with no complications, Dax’s health, safe recoveries for us both, my support staff, and all of the medical staff and teams that we’re entrusting our care.

If you’ve read this far, thank you. I’m impressed and humbled. This whole process has opened my eyes and my heart more than I knew possible. And there is still more to come. 

I’ll end with these two quotes:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10.

“Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.” Jeremiah 17:14.

The First Update

tree

My view for the next few weeks. A surprise Christmas tree that is toddler appropriate–ornaments on only the top 1/3 of the tree. The lights are cheery. 

For the past two weeks I have been either on the couch or in bed. I feel like I’m in some sort of an alternate universe. I even ate spray cheese on a cracker yesterday. It’s weird.

However, it’s not unproductive. I’ve really focused on prayer, rest, gratitude, and healing. All while watching The Vampire Diaries (which I finished yesterday, so I am in the market for a new series to binge watch on Netflix), and trying to complete my graduate school work that is due this Saturday. All things are possible.

I saw my high risk doctor yesterday for the first time since parting from the hospital. An extensive hour-long ultrasound was performed where I saw way more of my insides than I ever thought possible. Dax is very much still a wiggle butt although somehow he managed to gain almost an entire pound in less than two weeks. He is now at 2 pounds 12 ounces and so far everything looks perfect.

Now comes to the interesting part of really having to discuss my uterus. There is no chance that the previa or accreta will go away. However, upon a very thorough examination, it seems as though the accreta is smaller than it was two weeks ago. My doctor said this was “very encouraging”. Now what does this mean for me?

The most dangerous part about this condition is during my delivery, as is for every single woman’s delivery. The kicker for my condition is that having a hysterectomy after a section is more difficult. The way my doctor explained it yesterday is that the blood vessels are much bigger during a pregnancy (part of the fascinating way the female body ensures getting nutrients and essentials to the baby in utero). Trying to take the placenta and uterus out after a delivery can get risky.

What is encouraging is that if the accreta stays this size, there is a chance I will not have to have the hysterectomy. I would still have to have my tubes tied because another pregnancy would mean an 80% chance that this would happen all over again. BUT, this would be much safer.

By no means am I out of the woods yet, but rather than having to see the high risk doctor every other week, she didn’t feel like there was a need to see me again for another five weeks. This will give us a more logistical approach as to what will really happen. Other complications could arise, but for now I am relishing in this state of gratitude, which is far more healthy for my healing than drowning in a case of the “what-ifs?” We’ll get through whatever comes this way.

So now, it’s hopefully 5 more weeks of rest, prayer, gratitude, and healing until we know a little more. I am trying to embrace this opportunity and utilize all of its wisdom. I know this strength is derived by the grace of God and outpouring of love and support from what seems like all corners of our country and beyond.

A tremendous thanks for all who have prayed, loved, sent messages, brought colors, helped, cooked, and just all around rocked my positive presence. I couldn’t do this without you.

With love,

Elise

The Condition

rockingout3I can finally admit to myself that what is happening is serious. I’ve felt so positive about what is going on that I was afraid to say it aloud because I didn’t want the doubts to begin. The negativity of others. But then I stopped and thought, those who love me will want nothing but the best for me and will want to help in any way they can. So now it’s time to share.

I was told at my halfway check up that my placenta was low, which could be a previa (this means that the placenta is outside and of the uterus, which can cause a multitude of problems). I was put on pelvic rest and told to take it easy, which I complied. Monday morning as I was getting dressed for work, I experienced light bleeding, so I immediately came to the hospital. That’s when the tests, monitoring, and ultrasounds began. All signs of health were there until the ultrasound. It was obvious that I had a previa, so I was admitted into the hospital to figure out a course of action.

That afternoon, the high risk specialist came in. She gently sat on my bed and hooked up the ultrasound machine and began to explore my belly. She found what she referred to as a suspicious area from the placenta. It was close to my uterus and possibly encroaching upon my bladder. Since I had stopped bleeding, they scheduled the MRI for two weeks and I spent the night in prayer, while magnesium coursed its way through my body as a preventative for if the baby came early. I was also injected with a steroid to pump up his lungs.


Late Tuesday afternoon I experienced a little more spotting. My doctor ordered an MRI for Wednesday morning to find out what was going on. That evening she came in and reported that I have a minimal accreta, which means that the placenta attached part of itself onto the scar tissue of my uterus. The biggest concern is hemorrhaging. That’s what is most risky for me. Luckily, it is minimum now, but it still has a chance to grow, so I’ll have to be monitored closely. If it looks like it will get more aggressive, then I will be transferred to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston where the staff is more practiced with such special cases.

Part of the protocol is that I will have a hysterectomy after my son is delivered via c-section. It is likely that I will need a blood transfusion.

All of the facts can send the mind swimming in a rough sea of confusion, yet I’ve somehow held onto some type of rock that keeps me from flinging through the currents. I am lucky that we figured this out early and have been able to put preventative steps in place.  I am starting to add more iron to my diet to make sure my blood is strong. So far, everything looks as positive as it can for this situation.

Am I saddened that I won’t be able to bear more children? Yes. But, I’m also grateful that I have been able to carry four beautiful boys. We had been praying for a while about what would happen after this baby. To be honest, I am very tired after having four pregnancies in about five years. So in a strange way, I feel that God is revealing this to be the answer. I feel reassured that I was very open to life and now I just have to trust him to get me through this next phase.

For now, I rest. This may be the last chance I get to rest for 20 years, so I will take advantage. Relaxing is a weakness of mine, so there’s another opportunity for a life lesson.

The reality is I have the facts in front of me and now I can choose to focus my energy on the healing aspect of my body. Our bodies can do miraculous things, and I really feel that if I remain in the light of the Lord and share laughter and offer up thanks with my friends and family, that no matter what happens, I will be in a great place. So please, no worries. Do not fear. 

The goal is for the accreta to remain minimal and for me to make it to 34 weeks, which is mid-January. This is not impossible. My biggest need is for prayers. Prayers to remain positive. Prayers for my family through this challenging time. Prayers for all of my wonderful doctors and nurses who are caring for me. Prayers for world peace. Prayers. Prayers. Prayers. And Peace.

Thank you all for the continued support. I truly feel the power of your love. In the words of Journey, “Don’t Stop Believing”.  

I’ll leave you with Psalm 62:8, “My safety and glory are with God, my strong rock and refuge.”

With love and peace,

Elise

Elise’s Ted Talk

workingElise is a high school American Literature and Theater teacher. She also sponsors Rayne, Alive!, a student produced news program. She is currently working on her Masters of Arts in Teaching at McNeese State University.

In honor of the upcoming TedXVermilionStreet Talk on September 12, 2015, in Lafayette, Louisiana, I decided to share a talk I had to create for one of my summer courses: Motivating the Reluctant Learner. If you’ve never seen a TedTalk, do yourself a favor and enlighten your mind by clicking here (only after you have read the rest of this essay, of course). There is discussion among leaders in virtually every field to share motivating discoveries and inspirational experiences, hence the slogan, “Ideas worth spreading.”

TedX is an independently organized program that uses the same discussion platform, but features local leaders. If you haven’t recognized the progressive potential in Acadiana, please start to look around. There are invigorating ideas that will take our Cajun culture and lifestyle to an even greater level.

Now, I wasn’t one of the hundreds of applicants who vied for one of the speaking spots at TedX, however I will use this line to commend Butch Roussel, one of my best friend’s younger brothers who constantly fascinates me with his endeavors. He is the founder of civicside.com, which helps to raise funds for projects around the area. Mr. Roussel is just one of the impressive list of speakers you can hear in just a few more days.

My “talk” is short. We had to discuss Dr. Carol Dweck’s concept of a fixed vs. growth mindset. Dweck is a psychologist who advocates for our ability to constantly improve. I was inspired after studying a few of her concepts. I hope you walk away feeling just that way after you finish this piece.

The Talk:     According to a USA Today article on October 9, 2014, Americans are living an average life expectancy of 78.8 years, the highest in history. Let’s use an old cliche that someone “peaked” in high school or college. Their highest moments of achievement, fulfillment, satisfaction, occurred when they were under 20 years old. That means if they live the average life span, nothing of value happens for 58.8 years. How boring and tragic.

I would offer that many Americans live within a fixed mindset. They believe they possess certain talents and abilities and don’t venture away from what they know. Especially in South Louisiana. I can’t tell you how many times I hear, “But that’s the way it’s always been done.” There is not much change or growth in a land that I feel is abundant and rich in culture and possibility.

How do we shift people to a growth mindset? One where we can focus on the process of learning, of life, of chances. I live around some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met, but their effort only goes into limited domains. If the adults are being examples of a fixed mindset, how can we transition students to growth?

One of the tools I am using right at this moment can be part of the way. Many of these wise elders do not utilize technology. As educators, we can find important Ted Talks and incorporate it into our classrooms for our students to be exposed to these thought processes. We can also send out these messages to parents to encourage them to learn something new or to simply not give up on one of their dreams. We can have students create media to share. We can have older students give pep talks at younger feeder schools to give those students practice and motivation.

The possibilities are endless. We just have be to open to finding what will work in our area and our own lives.

I am not even half way to the average life expectancy and I do not feel like I peaked yet. If it’s a constant uphill climb until the end, I feel that may be just as satisfying.

Don’t close yourself off and become one of those boring adults who stick with what they know or peaked when they were still in their youth.

Be one of those adults who aren’t afraid to say they may not have mastered something yet because they know their best is still yet to come.

A Glimpse of the Great Jed Toups

Intro: It has been over three months and yet it still seems just as surreal. Jed was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He had the kind of silly spirit that could get the Deacon to lose his spot in the prayer book and make an overpacked funeral home await the start of his rosary only to have Siri pipe up to give the service some direction. There aren’t many rosaries that begin with laughter, but it wouldn’t have been a true tribute to him without it. Although I didn’t know Jed for a long time, he left such a solid impression on my life. If he could do that in just the couple of times we were together, I can’t imagine what it must be like for his family and long time friends. Here’s my testimony to you, Jed. Fly high, friend.

~Elise

Jed

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby, “You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.” This is what I have to say: Out of all the pebbles of people I’ve met in my life, Jed Toups was one of those rare gems whose pure soul gave you a glimpse of truth and faith.

On May 5, 2015, after a day of teaching The Great Gatsby to my American Literature students, I received a phone call from my mother telling me that Jed had passed away in an unexpected crop dusting accident. The details were as short as my breath. Scenes flashed through my head as I nearly drove into a ditch. I immediately thought of his young wife who was seven months pregnant and their three young children.

toups family

I knew the news was new because it was hours before Facebook flooded with condolences. A “GoFundMe” account was created by one of his wife’s classmates and within 24 hours nearly $30,000 was raised. As we waited to hear more details, the reflection and processing began. I retrieved the memory of when I first met Jed.

It was around 10 years ago when my sister , who owns a salon, called me to see if I would be interested in going on a blind date with one of her clients. He had just moved to my small hometown of Rayne and was trying to open a unique stained glass company and was in need of someone to go to his other work’s Christmas party. I lived in Lafayette and was in the height of my free-spirited journey, so I said I would be open to meeting him.

I heard the big red Ford diesel truck drive into the apartment complex from my third floor apartment. I was an activist and rode my bike most places to save carbon footprints. I opened the door to find a man with Wranglers, a Cowboy hat, and a smile from ear to ear. He was seriously jovial.

We decided to keep things casual and went to Jason’s Deli where we sat in a booth for hours and talked about our pasts. I learned he was one of six children and was the only boy. He had also lost a sister in a tragic car accident. I couldn’t understand how someone who had experienced such heart ache could still be so at peace. I was attempting to work through a break-up from a three-year relationship and he listened patiently and compassionately. By the end of the evening, he asked if I would feel comfortable enough to go to his Christmas party and I agreed to join him the following week.

We arrived at the Hilton where we were flooded with coworkers who raved about Jed. Every person whose hand I shook couldn’t wait to tell me about how fantastic he was. It’s almost like there was a contest to see who had the better compliment. At this point I have to insert the not so complimentary part about myself. My ex was texting me that night and the fact that I wanted to return a message made me feel utterly guilty. After the party, I was upfront with Jed about the situation. I had received the “friend” talk so many times before, and I dreaded that I was the one giving the speech this time. He was completely sincere that I was honest with him. With a simple hug goodbye we parted ways and I didn’t hear from him for another six months.

It was a random weekday in June and I received a random invitation. Jed had received a call from one of his glass suppliers in North Carolina. It was a small company and they had a shipment come in and wanted to give Jed first dibs. Usually his aunt would make the drive with him, but she could not. When he was thinking of someone who would be up for a random adventure, he had thought of me. He promised that this was an innocent gesture and that we would drive straight there and back. He needed an answer within the hour because we would leave that afternoon.

I consulted with my roommate and she asked if I thought he was a trustworthy guy. Without hesitation I said yes. From a journalistic point of view, I thought it would be cool to learn about stained glass, see a new city, and take a road trip. I called him back and within a few hours he had scooped me up in the big red Ford.

When we made it to outside of Greensboro, he let me take his truck into town while he searched through the frames. I went scout the town for a few hours and then returned to sift through their shop. I went through some of the flea market items and found a pack of Tarot cards that seemed pretty interesting. We packed up his trailer securely and thanked the couple for their hospitality and then continued back to Louisiana. In between eating Subway and reading the pamphlet describing what each card in the deck stood for, “Hey Jude” by the Beatles came on. I expressed how much I loved the song and he claimed that he had never heard of it.

I was singing loudly to pretty much stay awake and after it was over he lowered the radio and said, “I hope you don’t take offense to this,” I waited to see if I would smack him, “but I think it’s going to be a while before you find anyone around here.”

“What? Why?” I retorted sharply.

“Well, I don’t understand half of the words that come out of your mouth and you just think so differently. It’s not a bad thing at all. I just don’t know if you’ll find someone in Louisiana.”

I let his words sink in. He wasn’t wrong at all. And he wasn’t trying to be mean. I remembered how he was genuine when I spoke honestly to him half a year before, and respected his honesty now.

We drove a few more hours and the lack of sleep was starting to wear him out. He didn’t want to risk me driving with thousands of dollars worth of antique glass attached to the Ford and asked if we could stop to sleep in a hotel. Being in your 20s and having a man ask you to stay in a hotel room usually insinuates one thing. He noticed my hesitation and promised that this was strictly for us to sleep – separately. He firmly asked the desk clerk for two beds and kept his promise. Before he went to sleep, he got on his knees to pray. I was awestruck. I had never seen someone do this since childhood. I was impressed and intimidated. At this point in my life I had considered myself spiritual, but did not practice the Catholic faith I had been raised to know. This action solidified to me why he was so peaceful and exuded this sense of joy. 

We awoke the next morning and finished the last leg into Louisiana. The talks were short, but encouraging. He dropped me off at my house and we bid farewell with a hug and gratitude for the adventure. It was the last time we really spoke.

He was correct about the time frame for me to find someone. It was five years before I met my husband, who was from Oregon—and we met through a blind date situation. As I reflect upon this now, I realize I may not have been so open to the introduction had my first set-up been horrible.

Jed was fortunate in his quest for love because it wasn’t long after the road trip when he met his wife. And if I thought he was happy when I met him, I was mistaken. For when I saw him with her, he could have lit up New York City brighter than the fireworks on New Year’s Eve in Times Square. They both radiated a loving light that no one could deny. They exemplified why you should wait for true love.

Karris_honey_do_shower

As I watched glimpses of their life via Facebook, I was always inspired by their dedication to each other and to their family. Their sacrifices were more than most could make and their attitudes were better than most could achieve.

Maybe we all just get glimpses of truth and pure love through one another. Sometimes it’s more rare than we’d like. I just wanted to capture in words that I saw it and recognized it in Jed. His death is tragic, but his life was not. How many of us will be able to say that when it was our time to transition to our original state that we were doing what fueled our passions? Jed longed to fly and be with his family. On that morning, he was flying over his home ground knowing that his family was near.

What’s hardest for me to consider is that I never told Jed how much I respected him. I didn’t really understand just how much he impacted my life until I had to pause and reflect the path I took after our encounter. It’s like Fitzgerald wrote about Gatsby’s death, “Let us to learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead…”.

He’s not gone completely. We will see glimpses of him through those four beautiful children. We will give them glimpses of him through our stories, so they can get to know their wonderful father. And when a crop duster nearly blinds you with their wings, look and listen for Jed. He’ll be there within the wind, giving us glimpses of heaven.

Feel free to share your glimpses of him, so together we can create more than just a glimpse.

************************

Update (8/16/15) : The “GoFundMe” account has raised $53,296. His wife successfully delivered a healthy baby girl. Prayers are definitely still welcomed and appreciated.

“You’re pregnant, again?!”

“You two need to get cable.”

“You know what causes that, right?”

“What are you going to do?!”

And then sometimes you really do get the sincerely genuine, “Congratulations! Children are such a blessing!”

But most of the time it’s a comment accompanied with a look of pity. It probably has to do with the look of exhaustion I wear daily—it doesn’t really blend well with the Mac concealer.

Yes. I am pregnant with baby number four. Now that I’m etching past the 12 week mark and the first trimester of exhaustion and nausea, the reality of what I am about to embark upon is overwhelming. It wasn’t “supposed” to happen for another year. I needed to finish grad school. My oldest is just entering pre-k and is not even four years old yet. I thought I’d have more time to prepare…as best as one prepares for four small children.

It seems like the female reproductive system is such a commonly discussed topic among media outlets and politicians. I’ve read so many blogs that talk about what we should and should not talk about with one another. But as more people discover our news, I feel like I have to have some type of stance as to why I am choosing to be so open to life. I may not seem very convincing in person because I am just so tired. 

This week I had my new students read my short story, “The Liver Philosophy”. The moral of the story is to do what is right for you, even if no one else gets it. I had my students write a summary of what they felt it meant and quite a few of them wrote about some of their own choices that they are willing to be a “Liver” for. It was both insightful and inspiring. What moved me more is that I had forgotten to live out the very words I had once wrote!

I know that having a large family is not what everyone desires. I know that being open to “God’s will” is very open to interpretation. I also know that I am not one to judge other people’s choices, as long as they can respect mine.

I don’t know what I am going to do. My motto is that I tend to take life 50 minutes at a time. It’s the teacher in me. Every time the bell rings, a new class begins and anything and everything can change. It carries over into my home life. A meltdown one moment can lead to giggles the next.

Having my children so close together is hard. I’m really finally admitting it out loud. Maybe that’s one of the reasons you have to be open to God to have bigger families. You have to pray a lot for your sanity and you also have to admit that you need other people. It’s a hard thing to do when you have a lot of pride and you were once so independent, but then you look around and you see that you have a real family and real friends who live and celebrate this one life with you.

I sometimes question if I’m making the right choice, but then today happens. After a chaotic day, my three boys will be so sweet. And we do something random like “chase the sun”, which involves driving down an open highway to watch the gorgeous sunset while listening to The Postal Service. And they talk to one another like brothers do and say in an almost synchronized, rehearsed manner, “Good night, Sun,” to the melody of how we read, “Good Night Moon.” And I think, Yes. I can have another. I will survive thrive.

See you in February Baby Bou:)

Hummingbird

Thomas stood at the window and watched the hummingbird dart frantically from each side of the feeder. There were five other mature birds sipping the red nectar and the young one seemed to be bobbing for the chance to savor the juice. Thomas’ eyes focused on the blur of the wings. “How did they move so fast?” he wondered. His brothers were talking seriously in the background and their voices began to blur similarly to the movement of the fluttering wings. He had the sudden urge to leave the kitchen and followed his wandering feet to the bird feeder.

An attraction lured him to get a more personal look at the small hummingbird. The scent of a fading rose bush brushed against his nostrils through the mid-September breeze. A neighbor was cutting the grass and he welcomed the droning hum of the mower over his brothers’ conversation. He sighed a releasing breath and realized that the winged creatures hadn’t noticed he was merely a foot away.

He was suddenly struck with a strong desire to witness the impossible. He never had an encounter longer than a fleeting moment with the species, but somehow thought he could earn the hummingbird’s trust. He let out another long sigh and instinctually extended his right index finger toward the feeder. He didn’t have a plan. He was just completely aware of the present moment. It’s as if the only thing that had ever existed was this moment with six fluttering birds. He didn’t care how long it would take to make the connection; he only took comfort in his stillness.

He closed his eyes and exhaled. He assumed the wispy movement on his finger was his own breath. When he opened his eyes, the young hummingbird was perched on his finger. The stillness of the wings alluded to the moment.

After a second, Thomas decided to take a step. The bird remained in his care. Within a few more steps, he was in his truck, driving to meet her. The bird zipped around the truck like the thoughts in Thomas’ head. He tried to focus on the small miracle that occurred and hoped it was a sign of what was to come.

Twenty minutes later he pulled into the parking garage. He opened the door as the young bird flew out and circled above him before returning to his finger. Thomas thought about how much she would adore the innocent gesture as he passed by the “Lourdes Hospital” sign. He ignored the gasping nurses as he walked down the hall and instead directed his memory to afternoon coffee breaks at the kitchen table next to the bay window overlooking the bird feeder. It was one of her favorite things to do.

He opened the door to Room 308 and saw her laying in the same position she had been in for the past week.

“Mom,” he said softly, hoping that this time there would be a sign that she heard him. He longed to see her dazzling blue eyes open. The doctors had given her no more than two weeks to live once they discovered her cancer had spread. Within two days of the diagnosis, she slipped into a coma. His bubbly, caring mother had just fallen asleep and showed no signs of waking from her slumber.

“Mom, I brought something to show you.” His voice was hopeful, and he continued as if she were listening. “I saw this little guy hanging out at the house and thought you would want to see him. Look, Mom.”

There was only stillness.

A tear fell down Thomas’ cheek as the little bird turned its head toward the human’s emotion. The sound of the monitors kept a steady rhythm as Thomas cried silently. The hummingbird stayed perched on his finger and seemed to look between the mother and her son. A memory surged of the two playing spades one afternoon and he remembered a song she had sung.

Thomas found himself singing it aloud,

“Why do birds suddenly appear? Every time you are near.

Just like me, they long to be close to you.”

At that line, he nearly broke. Thomas sucked in a silent sob as a smile crossed his face.

“I don’t think those nurses have ever seen someone walk into the hospital with a hummingbird on their finger,” he started to chuckle. “You should have seen their faces!” Suddenly he was laughing heartily. “I’m sure they’ll be talking about this for a while.” He let out one final laugh, then became a little more somber.

“Mom, thanks for always allowing me to be myself,” Thomas said as he squeezed her hand. With that, he looked at the little bird and said, “I better let you go.”

He walked through the halls toward the exit and again heard gusts of shock. He opened the heavy door and was standing on a breezeway that connected the hospital with the parking garage.

“Well, little buddy, this is where we part,” he said looking at the hummingbird. “I’m glad we were able to share this moment. You’ve got some purpose in this world and I’ll never forget it. Go now and be free.”

Thomas extended his hand in a careful gesture and the hummingbird flew away without hesitation.

A gentle breeze seemed to caress Thomas’ arm, which comforted him. He tried to grasp what it felt like to be free. Although his mind was grappling with a concept he may never understand, he unconsciously sang the words,

“Just like me they long to be close to you.”

 

 

By Elise Peltier Boutin

10/10/14

Dedicated to Maw on what would have been your 76th birthday.

We miss you terribly, but pass on your love to all those around us.

 

Breeched

I’m now a little over 200 pounds. I’ve officially gained 29 pounds during my pregnancy and I still have three weeks to go. Last Wednesday marked my 37th week. Although I feel like I have been pregnant forever, I still can’t believe that the time is almost here.

It has been a very interesting journey to say the very least. I feel very blessed because I haven’t had very many issues. My placenta was low during most of my second trimester. I had a few restrictions, but I got through it. I listened to songs like “Rise” by Eddie Vedder and “Rise Up” by March Fourth Marching Band. At a 31 week ultrasound we found out that my placenta had risen to a very safe place, however Charles was in a breeched position.

I still had nine weeks to go, so he had plenty of time to flip. I tried not to worry about it. I called a friend of mine who is a Bradley Method instructor. She delivered a nine pound baby at her home and had a natural delivery using this method. She told me to get on all fours and rock-every night. She said it would stimulate the baby to get into a birthing position. Even though I felt silly, I tried to do it as often as I could.

Two weeks ago when my doctor checked his position, he was still breeched. We discussed a few options, such as an ECV – external cephalic version, and talked about a possible C-section. I researched the ECV and had very mixed feelings about it. The success rate is only 50 percent and there are a few major risks: the cord could get wrapped around his neck or my placenta could rupture. I would have to be hooked up to an I.V. and sign an emergency C-Section waiver. After the procedure, regardless if it was successful or not, I would have to stay in the hospital to be monitored for a few hours.

Uuuuummmmmm. Maybe not?

I have imagined myself having a natural birth this entire pregnancy. You would think that I would have completely over researched and prepared myself adequately but I really haven’t. I like experiencing the complete awareness of listening to my body and having no expectations. I may come to regret this decision when I’m huffing and puffing during labor, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. But now with my baby boy’s positioning I was trying to choose what would be best for him. If he is all comfortable and large in this position, why should I try to force him to change? Plus, it would be very convenient to know what day I would have him and when I needed to leave work.

So junior and I had a chat. One day I sat rubbing my belly in a clock-wise motion and explained the situation to him. I discussed all of our options and told him that I would leave it up to him because after all, this whole event will take the both of us working together. I decided against the ECV. I was going to set a C-Section date and if he hadn’t flipped by then I would take it as a sign that a section was the way for us to go. I felt comfortable with this decision and it seemed like he did too.

Last week I had an ultrasound to check his presentation. When the technician put the wand against my lower tummy the first thing we saw was a big head. Somehow he decided quite quickly to flip over and now he is head down and looks like he is ready to go.

Now it’s going to be the waiting game. For a sliver of a second I thought I knew when he would get here. But Charles has decided to remind me of what pregnancy teaches you: You will never have your own schedule again and you need to learn how to be patient and on your toes at the same time.

It’s double Dutch time. I will be hopping back and forth from left foot to right foot as I wait for a contraction and that cliche moment when I can yell, “My water just broke!”.  Even if in the end I have to have the c-section, I won’t be totally disappointed. If the breeched situation taught me anything it’s that regardless if we are in the “wrong” position and stubborn as hell, the world has a way of moving us to where we need to go. Alright Charley, let’s get moving!