The last 4 years: Thoughts on my life with my Jew(ish) husband

*Let me just preface this one by telling you that I am not up for a religious debate. You can go do that rant somewhere private, like your facebook status or your own crappy blog*

So many people want to tell you the exact criteria required for the * perfect* marriage partner. “Educated, handsome, hardworking, but ‘most of all, Christian.’” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard slight variations of that list, but no self-respecting, “good,” Southern girl would ever deviate from choosing a Christian partner. Now, did he need to truly love Christ and live a life reflective of one serving the Lord? Not particularly. He just needed to belong to a church, pray once in awhile, and agree to get married in a church. Now, I realize this is not everybody…I’m truly not that cynical 😉 . I know some people truly sought out real-deal Christian spouses and take great offense to my generalization.

I, however,  am a Christian who did NOT marry a Christian, and I can honestly tell you that I’ve heard it all. I’ve heard what a crap marriage we would have. That our children would be doomed because, “How would they know truth” when we believe differently. That I must not be a Christian if I would even consider marrying a “non-believer.” Oh and let’s not forget the out of context 2 Corinthians 6:14 verse, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers…” which is actually referring to business partnerships by the way. People ask all kinds of intrusive questions that are none of their business, and have even made really gross Anti-Semitic comments. I most often get asked, “So what are you raising your children as?” It’s a question I’ve gotten since before we even got engaged. First off, are we close friends? No? Then back up, you don’t belong in that conversation. The more bold have made statements like, “How does it feel to know he isn’t saved?” among other meant-to-sound-caring-but-are-actually-mean comments. I could totally point out that their father’s multiple affairs, or their own shady business practices aren’t Jesus-friendly, but I don’t. I just wish that they would remember that my husband and his family happen to be Jewish and I love them so very much, so the generalized comments made about “Jews” are being directed toward some of the most precious people in my life. Most topics I’m pretty game to discuss, but my husband’s perceived salvation and plans for our family are off limits to the vast majority.

My husband’s being Jewish is not why I married him, anyway. The quality my husband possesses that has made the difference in my life, our marriage, our child (soon to be children), and my overall happiness: his kindness.
To any and all unmarrieds–marry someone kind. Bottomline. If he’s not kind, then he’s not for you. Kind people are not selfish. They are thoughtful, sensitive, and precious. They don’t hate children or animals. Kind people are not abusive, violent, and will not  make you question their intentions. If you don’t like my explanation, look at the Merriam-Webster definition of kindness. It says, “Showing tenderness or goodness; disposed to do good and confer happiness; averse to hurting or paining; benevolent; benignant; gracious.”

Does that sound appealing? Then stop wasting time with the guy who only texts you at 10pm or later to “hang out.” The one who ignores his mother, kicks dogs (or cats), and acts like an ass to waiters in restaurants. It really is that simple. Kick the jerk out of your life, and make way for something exponentially better.

Kindness in action is when your husband brings your coffee to you in the mornings just the way you like it. It’s planning the perfect first anniversary date complete with Wicked tickets. It’s unexpected flowers and offers to do the dishes when you don’t have a dishwasher and haven’t done them in a week. It’s when he holds you after you lose your baby at 12 weeks, and then carries your drugged, wounded body out of the hospital to the pre-warmed car in -18° weather after your D&C. It’s when he cuts a “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” sign out of construction paper and hand makes cards complete with stick-figure illustrations. It’s when he tells your crazy-one-week-postpartum-self that it’s okay that you don’t like your newborn daughter because all she does is scream, anyway 😂  Kindness is when he lets his arms fall asleep so hard that they might actually fall off because he does not want to risk waking and hurting your baby daughter after her neurosurgery. It’s when he races home in between classes to make sure Libby gets an outside break, even if he only has 10 minutes. It’s when he helps you to the bathroom for that ghastly first postpartum trip. And lately, it’s when we both lay VERY still in the bed, pretending to not hear when Darcy wakes up crying. It’s like a game of uncle and we are actively–with our mind powers–WILLING the other person to break and get up. Ben always gets up with her and lets me sleep. I never said this kindness post was about me ha! He’s a gem, I tell you.

On November 23, Ben and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary together. We’ve packed a lot of living into those years. Ben isn’t the same guy I married. He’s made new career choices, taken up new hobbies, learned stupid nursery rhymes, and has a little patch of gray hairs growing on his chin (he attributes that to engineering school). But one thing has remained, and that’s his gentle spirit. And I’m telling you that throughout the ups and downs, moves, career changes, job changes, major surgery, complicated pregnancies, and *just* life in general–his tender heart has loved me well. May you all choose well and be as fortunate. Love to all.❤️


My awesome mom, my dead fridge, and Darcy’s book pillow

My mom is better than yours. She just is, and she drove 5 hours to save the day last weekend because her name is Mavis and that is how she works. You see, Ben left the country because he’s not pregnant and still maintains a fun lifestyle. I, however, am something akin to a beached whale, who has contractions if I sneeze, lift a pillow, or roll over in bed. Lifting and chasing after Darcy full-time could seriously send me into pre-term labor (again), so my mom drove 5 hours and stayed with me to help. She cleaned my house, did my laundry, cooked, shopped, and took care of Darcy all while I planted my fat ass on the couch and watched new episodes of “Call the Midwife.” It was glorious, and if you haven’t watched that show, you are totally missing out. I hope I’m half the woman my mother is one day. Seriously that short, little woman can accomplish anything in small timeframes AND do it better than anyone else could. Also, while Ben was gone (side-eye to Ben), Darcy decided to cut 4 teeth at once, and our refrigerator died. Like dead, died. Luckily my in-laws quickly got us a new fridge. In the meantime, Ben’s twin brought us his mini-fridge, and Ben’s younger brother brought us food. So, even though Ben was all la-ti-da “I’m going cliff-diving and climbing volcanoes,” while the world fell apart (exaggeration, but have you HEARD my daughter whine while teething?!), his family stepped in with greatly appreciated replacement fridges and Newk’s pizzas. That Mavis, though? She’s the real MVP for life. Darcy agrees and is in love with her. She’s known as Mattie by all of her grandchildren, except Darcy. Darcy calls her Mammy and cried whenever “Mammy” left the room. Last night she saw one of my mother’s diet cokes in the fridge, snatched it, and ran for the front door screaming for “Mammy!” It was cute, but Darcy was pretty disappointed when the Diet coke didn’t work like a genie lamp and produce her doting Mammy.

Anyway, Ben returned from his Central American adventures, my mom went home 😢, and this past weekend we transitioned Darcy to her big-girl IKEA bed (see previous post) and moved the crib into baby Clark’s new room. Darcy is doing fairly well-ish with going to sleep, but has been waking up at around 5:30am on the nose, screaming. It’s not very cool, but at least she’s sleeping through the night in her bed. Sunday morning, Ben crawled into her little bed with her when she freaked out, and we all got another 1.5 hours of sleep. Success! So, it’s not perfect, but we’re working on it. For instance, tonight she decided to act crazy and keep climbing out of bed while screaming hysterically. So, we let her scream (I’m a member of the cry-it-out-within-reason camp. Not sorry) for about 5 minutes and wander around in her dark bedroom. After 5 minutes, silence. We go and check on her and she’s fallen asleep face-first on her books on the floor. It was hilarious and kind of tragic at the same time. But, because we are not stupid, we let her continue sleep on her books for another 15 minutes, so she would be in a deeper sleep for the transfer back to her bed. It worked like a charm, so judge away if you so feel inclined.

Andddd, we had another depressing doctor’s appointment today. I’m not even going to share details on it right now because I’m already sad enough, and I don’t feel up to rehashing the particulars. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve felt better about Clark’s situation. I feel hopeful that he’s going to be okay and that the “potential issues” could be nothing and that everything will be fine and he will be healed. I want to chalk it up to having faith, but in all actuality, it’s probably just a heaping dose of denial. After I recover from an appointment, I blissfully live in my growing faith-bubble (denial) for a couple of weeks. Then, I have another appointment and the hope I had been growing is dashed and destroyed in about a 2-hour time span. I cannot possibly convey to you how absolutely wretched these appointments are, I can only tell you that I would not wish the “gift” of this pregnancy’s anxiety to the person I hate most in this world. I’ll be 32 weeks tomorrow, and I’m thankful that this pregnancy is drawing to a close. I genuinely hope this baby comes early. Not *too* early, but early. So that this part will be over, and we can move on.

School continues to be unimportant. I ignore it as much as possible because I have very healthy coping mechanisms called: 1) avoidance and 2) eating all the things.

I’m sorry if you’ve called me, sent a text, or left a FB message, and I haven’t responded. I fully intend on responding to each one, and your reaching out is so appreciated. I’m just buried in my feelings, and I’m feeling fragile lately. You see, I used to think I was kind of badass and could handle heavy and uncomfortable things, but I was stupid. I am not very strong unless you count waiting until I get into my car to fall apart when leaving my hellish appointments. My faith is shaken, and I’m struggling to find the good in things right now. I don’t want to be anyone’s rain cloud, so I’m retreating to my safety bubble (the couch–lets be real), and I’m waiting for Clark to get here, so that I can come up for air. Love to all of you beautiful people.





When the Rayner family does Ikea

For the last couple of months, Ben and I have been discussing what to do concerning nurseries. Darcy and Clark will at most be about 21 months apart, and she’s still in her crib. Now we have an extra dresser, nightstand, etc. But we need another bed and another bookshelf and possibly a glider. What KIND of bed has been a topic of discussion and research. See, another crib seems like a kind of good idea. It keeps Darcy nice and trapped in her bed (she’s made no effort thus far to scale the sides to freedom). Then again, spending money on another crib seems kind of stupid when we’d likely be transitioning her out of it in the next few months anyway. Decisions, decisions, and of course everyone has an opinion:
“Do NOT transition that baby out of her crib until she’s three. You won’t sleep once she realizes she’s mobile.” “Oh we transitioned our baby at 18 months! It was no big deal.” “Do it before Clark gets here. That way she can get used to her new bed.” “Wait as long as possible. Put her in the big girl bed a couple of months after Clark gets here.”

Blah. Blah. Blah. Not that we aren’t appreciative of other’s opinions, it’s mostly that conflicting opinions are often unhelpful. With no clear-cut answer, we decided that Darcy will move to a big girl bed before baby Clark gets here, and Clark will get the crib. Now…what kind of bed to buy for Darcy? A toddler bed or a twin bed? Ben thinks Darcy is too small for a true “big girl bed,” and I kinda agree. I mean she’s not even 25 pounds at 18 months old. She’s still my baby! So, I looked at toddler beds, and I thought most of them kinda sucked. Until, I was FB stalking a girl I went to college with and somehow ended up on her sister-in-law’s profile and saw that her daughter had the perfect bed. I know, I know, that sounds super weird and creepy, so I took it a step further and I actually messaged sister-in-law and asked her where she got her daughter’s bed. Yes, my old sorority sister’s sister-in-law that I’ve never met. Funny enough, she actually responded and informed me that it was an IKEA bed. I then spent the next 20 minutes finding it on the IKEA website. It was called the Minnen, and it was beautiful. The price was really good–like $80, and it is a pretty, white, iron bed. It’s also a toddler bed, sort of. It’s the width of twin, with an adjustable length. So it can be short like a toddler bed, extended a little longer than toddler-bed length, or a full twin length. “I’ll just order this sucker online!,” I thought. Shipping alone was $100. Um, no, thank you. I will not order this sucker online. So, when we went home the following weekend for my 10-year reunion (holla Magnolia class of ‘07), we took the trip to the new Memphis Ikea. Ay yi yi.

IKEA. Land of Scandinavian inventions and efficient, cheap furnishings. Land of unknown. Land of insane layout. Okay, if you have ever been to an Ikea, then you get it. If you haven’t, allow the following paragraphs to enlighten you and to also prepare you.

I had heard that Ikea was an experience, but I had also semi-prepared. I knew what we were going for: the bed and the mattress required for the funky lengths of the bed. No window shopping here. My research was done, son. So we get up on Saturday morning, and head out sometime around 10:00, getting out to Ikea around 11:00. It’s huge, man. This Ikea building thing is massive with a big ole parking lot, too. It’s not that crowded and we walk in. Immediately Ben is all, “What is this? Where do we start?” You see, when you walk in, there’s kind of a lobby area with a big sign numbered 1-29ish. Under each number it says something like “lighting” or “living room” or “kids furniture.” Bingo. Section 9: Kid’s furniture. Now where did we find section 9? Well, apparently, you can’t just walk to aisle 9. You have to “ENTER THE SHOWROOM” and traverse through sections 1-8 to get to section 9 in a strange labyrinthy-type of manner. Luckily we brought our stroller and Darcy was successfully contained as we whipped around “kitchen,” “living room,” and whatever else occupied sections 1-8. As we approached “kids furniture,” I saw it. The Minnen (cue angel-music). Darcy’s eyes also lit up as we approached. I looked at her to try to see which toy she was looking at. She wasn’t looking a toy or at any of the other 6 beds on display. She too was reaching for and enthralled by the Minnen! “Let her out, Ben. Let’s see what she does.” He unstrapped Darcy, and she immediately crawled into the bed and gave us her cheesiest smile. Silently congratulating myself, I was thinking, “She loves it! Ha! Ha! My job is so easy. Great minds think alike, little one.” She rolled all over the bed, sooo excited.


Now Ben asked, “So where is it? The bed? Where do we grab one.” Well, I knew that we picked it up somewhere else, but I wasn’t sure where exactly. I grabbed an Ikea person and asked, and he told us to write down the aisle number and bin number on the display Minnens’s tag. So we did, and then he told us to follow the signs to the warehouse. Yeah. The signs to the warehouse pointed us to walk all the way through the cafeteria and sections 10-29. What. The. Crap. Is there not a quicker route? No, actually. There isn’t.  You go to Ikea, you gon see ALL of Ikea. I knew this was going to be bad because Darcy LOVED this bed. Leaving this bed was going to cause a tantrum as we walked through the remainder of Scandinavia’s ultimate warehouse. I looked at Ben. He looked at me. We nodded in agreement, and he grabbed up the small human. The small human thrashed, screamed, and attempted bites as we took her away from her newly favored playground. Held like a football, Darcy was walked through the crowds in the cafeteria (it was now lunch–of freaking course it was), and through sections 10-25 where she finally calmed down(ish). Everyone was made aware–Darcy was here, betches!  Ben was SO understanding and accepting of Ikea’s ways *snort* and proceeded to complain at every section we breached. “What the hell kind of design is this? Why are we still walking?” Insert eyeroll emoji. Get over it, Ben. We are getting a bed and mattress and duvet and duvet cover for under $200. Shut it, boo.

We get to the warehouse where Darcy wants to run amok and act like the heathen we pretend she isn’t. I leave Ben to deal (don’t worry, karma is a swift hag), and just go to the aisle and bin I’m supposed to, find what we want and flag Ben over to come grab it. He does, we buy it and we go home, tra la la. HA! Not exactly. Because while Ben checks out, I take Darcy to the car to get her in her car seat, settled, and out of the way for loading. We get to the car, and she goes into full savage mode at the sight of the car seat. In her defense, we had driven from Baton Rouge the night before (5 hour trip), and gotten in the car this morning for the drive to Memphis (1 hour trip), and she was hungry. AND basically because of who she is as a person, she just could not deal. So, there I am in the Ikea parking lot, pregnant as hell, sweating to death because it’s Fall in the South, and actively manhandling my surprisingly strong, extraordinarily pissed-off toddler. It was AWESOME (see my earlier karma statement). Finally, I muscled her into her carseat about the time Ben arrives with our stuff. It was then that we discovered that the box for the bed was too large to fit in my car. Like not going to happen in this lifetime. So we had to open the box, get all the pieces of the bed out, WITH the instructions (see, I was on my A-game), and rearrange everything, so that the pieces wouldn’t bang together on the way home. It took about 15-20 minutes in the heat and everyone was in an *incredible* mood by the time we left.

All things considered, I count the trip as a roaring success–I mean my bar of expectations is set pretty low, behavior-wise. We got Darcy a whole new bed set that is really, really pretty and girly for under $200, and we didn’t have to pay shipping. And we had the experience of Ikea which Ben would like to repeat never. Although, he did find this particular gem particularly amusing: cinnamon1

Shall we take a closer look?cinnamon

Like “Good call, Ikea. Without that disclaimer I was totally going to sue you for the misrepresentation of cinnamon roll size. I would like to pay $1 to eat cinnamon roll forevah, please.”

Personally, I found Ikea strange, yet oddly likeable. Not unlike the first time I ate sushi. To all parents who are parenting tyrannical toddlers, I salute you. It really is fun and funny and we’re gonna have awesome stories from it. Plus, Darcy really is a sweetheart. She loves to play and run and just be a crazy person more than anything. Right now we just have fits when the fun has to end. The days are long, but the years are short, and I am so thankful to spend them with my sweet Ben and my precious Darcy. Love to all.

Pregnancy woes, nursery wins, and a tiny savage witnessing it all

So, last week we had our regular OB appointment on Tuesday followed by the fetal echo on Wednesday. The OB appointment went well, the fetal echo was kinda crappy. First off, I just hate ultrasounds at this point. They are uncomfortable, frustrating, and generally open more questions than provide answers. Wednesday’s appointment was no different. They looked over the heart and determined that the pulmonary artery WAS in fact bifurcated and that the rest of the heart structures looked “normal,” BUT that the pulmonary artery was slightly dilated before the bifurcation, there was mild to moderate leakage from the artery, and the ductus arteriosus “appeared torturous.”

So what does this mean?

“We will follow up to see if it resolves.” “Yeah, but what if it doesn’t?” “We will follow up after birth.” “And then? Are we looking at surgery?” “Unlikely.” “Sooo, what will we be doing, then?” “Continuing to monitor. It may be idiopathic and fine.” “But if it isn’t?” “We will monitor for signs of any issues.” Okay at this point I nearly punched the woman. Answer the question and quit being vague. If you’re a big enough physician to say ‘There’s a potential problem,’ then you damn well better be ready to explain. Finally, I said, “WHAT WOULD CAUSE THIS THAT HAS YOU SO WORRIED?” “It is probably idiopathic and will resolve on it’s own.” At this point I give her a death glare and use my scary voice, “What. Could. Be. Causing. This??” “Um. It could be a sign of a connective tissue disorder. But that’s rare. See you in 4 weeks.” Yeah, I pretty much loathed that cardiologist because she ignored me the entire scan, then provided a craptastic explanation of what she saw and what it meant. Basically, she provided zero concrete information, yet she flooded us with new worries. I will not be following up with her in four weeks. Or ever because I hate the air she breathes.

To say I hate appointments and pregnancy is like the understatement of my life. It is miserable. I have been officially diagnosed with polyhydramnios. My fluid levels are now straddling the line between mild and moderate poly. I cannot breathe even a little bit unless I sit straight up. I no longer sleep and eating or drinking anything makes it even more difficult to breathe. Imagine cutting the amount of lung space you generally have in half. Now, for funsies, half it again.  That’s what I’m dealing with, and it totally blows. It also causes a lot of pain. Not normal late pregnancy pain. Like major ascites kind of visceral pain. I ended up in the hospital this past weekend because I could not breathe and could not walk. I literally hobbled out of work on Thursday because I was contracting so badly. This too is due to the excess fluid. My body is all “WTF man, I can’t handle this fluid.” I got admitted to L&D, and got the full pre-term workup: hydration, pain meds, magnesium drip (satan’s infusion), and labs. Now I’m fine, Clark’s fine, but I won’t say that it’s been such an awesome ride, because it’s actually been total shit.

Moving on to lighter and brighter!

I do not have gestational diabetes! Woo! That is one positive thing. Another is that Clark’s nursery has taken off as of late and is looking more and more perfect.  I despise themes, and his nursery is basically a smorgasbord of boy like Darcy’s was a smorgasbord of girl. The walls are a really light blue yet still neutral-ish. His crib skirt is navy/cream mattress ticking, and there’s a big cowhide rug on the floor. I also really like mammoths and moose, so he has big stuffed versions of both on his bookshelf.

We moved all of the nursery furniture out of Darcy’s nursery and into Clark’s with the exception of the crib. We are going to transition her in the next couple of weeks to her big girl bed! It’s pretty precious and is already in her room. She thinks it’s a trampoline and will likely knock her teeth out jumping on it. She’s unconcerned and unreasonable though, so I’m not wasting too much worry over it.  She has had this recent language explosion. Her most recent additions to her vocabulary include, “It my!” (It’s mine), “Buh-bay” (baby), “Peese” (Please), “Heyyyy” (self-explanatory), and “Key” so that she can set off the panic alarms on our cars from the kitchen while playing with said key. She also becomes a total savage when we “force” her to leave any activity she wants to continue. A real-life screaming, hitting, BITING, savage. Since I can’t really pick her up much right now (seriously, it’s sad), Ben has been on the receiving end and it’s comical. We obviously don’t laugh about it in front of her, and out in the public it’s pretty embarrassing, but come on. She’s 18 months old, and is basically still an animal with animal instincts. She’ll outgrow it. I just hope she does before I’m the one manhandling her.

Ben and I are trucking along. School is hard for both of us, and I am less motivated than most at this juncture. Just trying to stick it out for another month and a half. Ben is getting ready to go to out of the country this weekend, so I’m a little concerned about dealing with Darcy by myself: just the general lifting and chasing because of contractions and inability to breathe and all that. We’ll manage fine though, that little tyrant and I. She’s my girl and gives me many kisses–and tells her daddy “No!” almost every time he asks haha! She’s a funny one, that girl. I haven’t ordered a Halloween costume for the Darce-bird either. I don’t know that I will. It seems like too much effort, and I need to focus my energies on breathing, so I don’t die to death while attempting to sleep.

Anywho, I hope this look into my life hasn’t seemed too dismal. I’m 30 weeks pregnant, so not much longer until I meet my sweet little Clark. That is the good stuff. Pregnancy may totally suck, but my new baby will be worth it all. I cannot wait to meet him and kiss his little face. Maybe Darcy will be more forthcoming with kisses for Clark than she is for kisses with daddy. Then again, Clark probably won’t be sporting the facial hair her daddy does. I’m rambling. Carry on good people. God is good in all circumstances. Love to all.



When you’re just keepin’ on, keepin’ on

Or, life lately

We had our appointments with our OB (regular baby-doctor) and our MFM (Maternal/Fetal Medicine aka high-risk baby-doctor) physicians this week. It started off with the MFM appointment, which Ben couldn’t come to. I went in, did all the vitals, etc. Then they asked me to lie on the reclining table thing while the tech scanned me. This was awful. You see, on a daily basis since about 18 weeks, I feel like I cannot breathe. It was a major complaint of mine when I was pregnant with Darcy, but it is 10x worse this pregnancy. No position helps unless I am sitting straight up, or leaned forward like a 75-year-old man with COPD.  So, after about five minutes, I said, “I’m really sorry, but I need to sit up now.” They said, “Oh, we’ll raise the head of the bed. That will help.” “No, I am going to puke if you don’t let me sit straight up.” Then everything starting going black, and I started sweating, and I thought I was going to die. So, my sonographer finished the scan with me sitting straight up. “Wow. You’re really symptomatic, how do you sleep at night? Reclined?” First of all, thank you Captain Obvious. Yes, I am super symptomatic because I CANNOT EFFING BREATHE. Secondly, reclining is terrible. You’ve just witnessed this. And I do not sleep is your answer. I wake up every 45 minutes to an hour to try to readjust. Well, this information concerns the MFM physician, and he says I might have congestive heart failure. WUT? Then he follows that little pearl up with, “I mean, do you exercise?” “Well, I ran a half marathon last December, and ran 5-10ish miles a week up until 15 weeks with this pregnancy.” “Oh okay, then. You’re probably fine. We just don’t see many small mamas with this much trouble breathing.” Anyway, he examined me and determined that I was just “super symptomatic,” and I wasn’t in congestive heart failure.

That was how things began. Then we discovered that based on my scan I have borderline polyhydramnios. This means I have almost too much fluid, which can contribute to a litany of pregnancy issues including “breathlessness.” Clark looks the same—skull is funky, foot is clubbed–AND is measuring a couple of weeks ahead of my due date. Also, because he is a wiggle-worm, MFM couldn’t get great images of his pulmonary artery, and I’ve been referred for a fetal echocardiogram. I also failed my 1-hour-glucose screen that day, so depending on my results of my 3-hour-test that I took today, I might have gestational diabetes, too.  Then the doctor said he wanted me to get another genetic screening test done, but the first we had done wasn’t covered by insurance (you do not even want to know the price tag on that one). So, I asked if it would change the treatment plan, and he said no, so we declined the test. Anddd, basically Tuesday’s appointment was a huge pile of suck.

I’m okay with it all now, but Tuesday, I was distraught. I try to stay positive, and I know that these physicians’ jobs are to rule out any issues, but I’m at the point where I do not desire to know one more possibly negative thing about this pregnancy. I just don’t care to know. If it isn’t going to make a difference, then I don’t give a damn to know if or what kind of chromosomal abnormality MAY exist in Clark. Unless I start passing out, I don’t want to know if my heart function is shitty because of CHF. I have enough information at this time to decide I DON’T WANT TO KNOW ANOTHER DAMN THING. Because everything is “possibilities” and “probabilities” and “increased chance of” and/or “potential problem.” For some, knowing everything brings peace. For me, it brings doubt, and I don’t want to give Satan any more reasons to tempt me to doubt the goodness of God. I just don’t. I truly believe that God will give me the strength to deal with whatever comes our way WHEN it actually comes our way. One of my favorite books concerning faith is Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. She was just an incredible woman filled with wisdom, and she kind of agrees with me on the worrying thing.

Corrie ten Boom said, “Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

And the more information that something “could be significant” or “could be nothing,” the more I worry.  Ben and I have different perspectives when it comes to hardships and faith. Ben always believes that things will get better. That it IS going to be okay. I personally believe that saying things “will get better” is an invitation for things to become exponentially worse. I’m truly not pessimistic, but even you have to admit that the scales of fairness, statistics, and equality seem a little warped, and not in our favor. I believe that Clark won’t be healed, but that God will give me the strength the deal with whatever comes our way when he is born. My sister keeps telling me, “Clark will be who he has been created to be.” And that brings me comfort. God has allowed all of this. He has created Clark for His purpose, and He loves this baby far more than I could ever imagine. Just like He loves me. And that is good. It is the good stuff in the ugly situation, y’all. Beauty from ashes, and it will be beautiful.

As for grad school, I withdrew from one of my classes. It was an exhaustive, research-based, labor-intensive class, and I just don’t have the get-up and go for that and my other clinical-based grad school class, 40-hour work weeks, being a high-risk baby incubator, and existing as a functional human. It’s beyond my abilities at this point. So, this skews my overall ‘graduate as quickly as possible’ plan. I now feel at peace with this decision, even though it felt like a huge personal failure at the time.

Darcy is hilarious. She is rough and tumble and so, so much fun. She loves to run to me and shove her face in mine and just giggle. She also has about 10 bruises and six scratches from her legs to her face, and both knees are skinned and scabbed. Kid plays hard. Also, we got an incident report from her daycare because of an altercation regarding possession of a toy. Darcy had toy, friend wanted toy, a struggle ensued, and Darcy bit the hell out of friend. Ohmylanta. I’m sorry, mom of bitten child. My daughter is unreasonable and will fight to the death for her teeth to be brushed, so a perceived threat over a toy will likely continue to be dealt with a heavy hand (teeth). Sorry. She doesn’t bite at home.

Anyway, that’s all for now in our lives! I promise, I plan on writing a fun, non-heavy blog later on in the next few days detailing our first trip to Ikea with baby Darcy. Bless you, if you’re still reading along. Love to all.

Thoughts on baby Clark, Jesus, and how I’m a demon lady

To spare some of you from reading through a long blog, I’m going to address a few things up front. Soooo, first things first: There’s not an update on Clark, yet. Our next appointment with maternal fetal medicine is in a couple of weeks. Next, if you can’t handle Jesus-talk and cursing, my blog really isn’t for you. I’ve already fully admitted that I am a flawed person. I mean, I sniff hamburger meat a few days after the expiration date to determine whether or not it’s really expired or just kinda expired. And then, because I also live dangerously, I cook it up and eat it if it’s of the kinda variety. You see? Flawed. And I have reason to talk about Jesus, and I have reason to cuss. And don’t expect to get a spiritual or theological awakening, either. It’s mostly a confession of my own terribleness. I digress. 

Okay, so I was raised in the church of Christ. Only COC’ers will appreciate the capitalization consideration I took in that last sentence, by the way. I don’t necessarily identify by that church of Christ label. I’m a sinful woman who happens to love and want Jesus, and yet I have some major struggles with this faith. You see, I’m a doubter as well as a sinner. I get a lot of anxiety when people discuss the day they were saved. Because I can’t really pinpoint when I was. Oh, I can tell you when I was baptized, but I can’t tell you for sure that I was saved then. I was straight up told that if I wasn’t baptized, then I would burn in the lakes of fiery sulfur for all eternity. As an eleven year old, I was motivated, man. No fiery pits for me. But there was no big change in my life. I was still an eleven-year-old punk doing punkish crap, and I started to doubt my salvation. Like, “Am I safe from sulfuric fires?” This fear was further spurned on by the old, “If you don’t know whether or not you’re going to heaven or hell, you’re going to hell. When you’re saved you’re given blessed assurance of your salvation.” Well, shit. Blessed assurance I did not have. Now after all this time, I was back in hell’s corner. From there I have battled throughout all of my Christian life. I’ve grown a lot, and felt God’s presence, His goodness, and His blessings, but a lot of the time, I’ve felt like God’s stepchild instead of one of God’s chosen. I believe in Jesus. I know He exists. I know He can heal baby Clark, but I doubt that He will. I hope He will, but I doubt He will. I know that He has done crazy cool miracles in this world since He created it. I know He sent His only Son to die for all people in this world. And yet, I doubt He will heal my son for the same reason I’ve always felt just a * little * on the outside of God’s unending love; His miracles aren’t…well…for me. The pain and growing and just enough spiritual growth are for me. And I know that so many of you want to pray for me to deepen my faith and change my mind, but you won’t. I think it’s going to be my lifelong struggle. A couple of years ago, I confessed this to a minister of a church I was desperately trying with. I told him basically what I just wrote, “I KNOW and truly believe God exists, I just don’t put my full faith in Him, and I know that’s wrong.” His response, “Yes. Well, Beka even Satan’s demons believe in God. That’s not enough.” Damn. So, I’m stepchild status because I’m basically on par with the demons. I really am effed. It’s okay you can laugh at that, I don’t seriously think I’m on par with Satan’s minions. And, I also totally realize his answer was un-therapeutic at best, but I won’t lie, it occasionally concerns me on a spiritual level. Especially when this demon-Christian woman really wants her son to be healed. So that he won’t have to suffer. And if I’m being honest, so I won’t have to watch him suffer through big surgeries or handicaps. This leads me into the “non-update-baby-Clark” part of the blog. We don’t have concrete answers. We have confirmation of one defect (clubfoot) and strong suspicion of another (skull deformity/craniosynostosis), and therefore the possibility/probability of some type of chromosomal abnormality. So, the obvious questions in most people’s heads include something along the way of, “Wasn’t that what Darcy had?” or “So there’s probably a genetic reason, right?” and “Are y’all going to get an amniocentesis?” or “Are y’all going to try to have more children after this?!” Or maybe because all of these questions ran/run through my head, I just feel like they’re running through yours, too. I’ll share what I feel comfortable with as I feel comfortable sharing it. But to answer these 4 questions—Yes. We don’t know. No. Who the hell knows at this point?

 You know what I am thankful for? I’m thankful to my sweet husband Ben who brought me coffee this morning at work because I had a bad morning and initially failed my first test of the semester. I’m thankful that the other students in my class were my equal in dumb and missed the same questions I did on this morning’s test because the teacher threw those questions out—I now pass! And I am deeply thankful for an amazing tribe of friends who love this old demon-woman so well. Your thoughts and prayers and sweet gestures of love are so appreciated.

So that pretty much concludes the crazy faith-related storm inside my brain a lot of the day. I am not all doom and gloom. I feel lucky to be this little one’s mama, and I cherish each kick and flutter. I don’t constantly meditate on the bad or possible bad. Rather, I plan his nursery and tiny blue outfits. I plan on how to keep him safe from Darcy, who is a tyrant and tiny, yet strong, bully. Mostly though, Ben and I pray for baby Clark, laugh at our daughter, and love this life we’re in.




“It’s not supposed to be this way…right??”

What does it mean to you when your world gets rocked? How do you react? Are you angry? Devastated? Maybe just numb? You could even be like me and experience all of those big feelings in a predictable, repetitive, and exhausting movie reel. Up until recently, I’ve had three such occasions where the floor has lurched beneath my feet, and I’ve fallen on my face. You know, the situation or moment where the image of life as you had planned it is irrevocably blown into ash. Whether or not I directly influenced these world-rocking experiences, I thought I was as low as I could possibly go each time they occurred. And yet, each experience has brought me lower still.

When I was young, I was very much in love with a boy until I wasn’t. Telling him I didn’t love him anymore, and I couldn’t marry him was the hardest thing I had done in my life at that point. Like any decision you make in life, it causes ripples and the effects were felt for months. Cold shoulders, hurtful gossip, and some really awkward encounters in my small town were a few of the mainstays for the months to come. During that period, I felt lonely and abandoned by friends and family alike. It was the most alone I had felt in my life. I thought I would rather disappear than keep going, and I naively thought that it was probably the worst thing that would happen to me. Yeah, I was 21 and knew nothing.

We had a perfect ultrasound at 8 weeks. The doctor told Ben and me that the baby looked amazing, and that we should tell our family and friends the great news. “After seeing a healthy heartbeat on ultrasound, the chance of miscarriage is only 1-3%.” We told our families. And then, four weeks later after our next appointment, we had to un-tell them because during that ultrasound my doctor said, “I’m so sorry, dear. I just don’t see a heartbeat. There is no heartbeat.” For unknown reasons, our baby died, and my body hadn’t realized it yet. I was still sick and throwing up because my body was supporting a baby that had died 2 weeks earlier. It could be another month before my body caught up with what we already knew; our baby was long gone. I remember being aware of a strange high-pitched noise. It took me a solid minute before I realized that it was me. I was the thing making the painful noise, because I was in inexplicable pain. We scheduled the procedure for the following morning, and I took a week off of work. The worst of the aftershocks came in the immediate weeks to follow although now and again, I feel the emptiness of that loss almost as acutely as I did that day.

“Her forehead is very prominent, and I feel the ridge you mentioned. We need a stat CT scan.” And there went my “peaceful” introduction to parenthood. Darcy was 5 weeks old, and at her first real well-baby check-up when our pediatrician made the aforementioned statement. She was diagnosed with craniosynostosis less than 2 hours later, and we left the “well-baby” appointment with a new appointment with a neurosurgeon in 2 days time. My beautiful baby girl was going to have her scalp peeled back, skull removed, bones cut into pieces, and then jigsaw-puzzled back together with plates and screws. It was devastating. I, like any new parent, felt like my daughter was beautiful and perfect, and yet I was hearing that her forehead was too prominent, head too narrow, and it was all caused by an eventually brain-damaging birth defect. Unless, that is, she got her skull cut into pieces and put back together in a better, less brain-damaging way.

This isn’t some cutesy post to tell you how much “God grew me through each scenario” and “How grateful I am.” Now, I AM grateful for these experiences, I did experience growth, but if there had been another way, I would have taken it. I would taken that other, easier, gentler way in a heartbeat. I have experienced deep and real and life-changing hurt in my life. Hurting or being hurt by others, experiencing great loss, or being given more than you can possibly handle isn’t some right of passage to get awarded a “Hey! You made it!” medal. I don’t really think God works like that. I do believe that God makes good out of bad. I know God makes good out of bad. I just don’t think he causes the bad. God didn’t turn everyone against me or abandon me. God didn’t take my baby. He didn’t “give” my daughter craniosynostosis, either. But He did bring beauty out of our suffering. He met me in my suffering, and when I felt like my world collapsed around me, He was unchanged. He was still good.

Romans 5:3-5 states, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Now, I straight-up struggle with the “rejoice” part. Maybe when Jesus comes back and I’m all sanctified, I’ll rejoice at my past sufferings. But, I won’t be fully sanctified until Jesus comes back, so for this life-time, I’ll probably just have to be content to struggle with that. Anyway, throughout my life and my “big experiences,” I have grown in perseverance, and character, and hope. I’ve been blessed by such incredible people who have crawled down to my low, crumpled state and just loved me and stayed with me, especially when I felt utterly unlovable and unworthy. I have had the opportunity to offer comfort to other mamas who have experienced loss through miscarriage. I’ve been able to reach out to mamas of craniosynostosis babies and tell them that there is light and life on the other side of that scary diagnosis. It’s a goal of mine to reach and help as many as I can. In fact, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 sums it up rather well, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Because of my suffering, I can be a tool of God to help others who are suffering. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful that I too can experience the comfort of those who have battled the “ugly” before I’ve had to. I’m thankful because I’m going to need their comfort in the weeks and months to come. Unfortunately, I’ve been given more than I can handle once again, and once again I’m scared and I’m angry and I’m numb. As you can see, I’m really not all that original in my feelings. One day, I wake up and I’m okayish and I think it will all be okayish. The next day, I’m a rollercoaster of all the big feelings. It’s actually annoying how regular my emotions are. Anyway, we’ve named our baby boy Clark Elliott Rayner. Baby Clark has some issues that have become apparent through our ultrasounds. While we don’t have all the answers yet, he has two ultrasound anomalies that make an underlying chromosomal abnormality more likely than not. Today, our new high-risk physician confirmed the findings; club foot and skull deformity. The skull deformity could be craniosynostosis, or maybe not. Our high risk doctor couldn’t say for sure. I won’t lie. It’s been very, very hard to hear that something is wrong…again. I am prayerful and hopeful that God will heal my baby. I know that He can. But I also know that He may not. He. May. Not. And that’s going to have to be okay. Ben and I have so many things to think about right now, and are learning as much as we can in an effort to anticipate Clark’s medical needs. I will update as I can. Until then, love to all. ❤️