"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown

"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Over the past two weeks I have been extremely humbled by the willingness of people to give to our soldiers. These men and women are about to enter what is quite possibly the most difficult period of separation. While we decorate our trees, bake cookies, sing songs, attend parties, hug the ones we love, they do not. While we either enjoy the snow or complain about the lack of coolness (for those of us in South Louisiana), they put on layer after layer after layer to head out into the harsh winter Afghanistan holds or maybe just to sleep if they are not fortunate enough to have good heat.

"You can go ahead," I smiled and gestured to the lady behind me. "I am going to take a while." I nodded to the double stack of boxes waiting by the counter. She was the fifth or sixth person I had said this to. But I felt awful - only one person was working the counter and I knew I would take up so much time.

"You need to stop doing that," Michelle said after I had let the cute, older lady who "just needed a pack of stamps" go ahead of me in line. "It isn't going to stop. You'll be here till lunch!" She had come to know me well. Her and one other postal worker always helped me. I knew she was right. I told her this one lady was the last one. I promised.

I stacked all fifteen boxes onto the counter a few at a time. She barely checked the forms - we'd been through this so many times before. Luckily, I hadn't forgotten to sign anything or check "gift" or put an amount.

"What are all those boxes for?" the second woman behind me asked.

"For soldiers - we stuffed Christmas Stockings for them." She smiled. She was the mother of a soldier. Needless to say, we spoke nearly the entire time the packages were being processed. Michelle chimed in from time to time. I became far more aware of the line increasing. Where had all these people come from?

And then I started hearing it. She wanted me to hear it. A boot tapping, heavy breathing. I looked - her arms were across her chest, she was staring hard at me. "Oh God," she repeated over and over again as she shifted her weight from hip to hip. She did not appreciate the wait.

The contrast was incredible. Two women standing directly beside each other with two totally different attitudes. One growing more and more frustrated - even with knowing the purpose. The other asking for an email address so that she could be involved with the next drive. It is amazing how some things work.

"Don't worry about her," Michelle kept saying. "Don't apologize. Don't worry about it." She could tell that I felt horrible every time I looked back at the growing line. We talked about what was in the packages - not in the listing customs kind-of-way, but in the true interest, keep my mind off the line kind-of-way.

When I was putting the customs labels together and closing my wallet she looked me straight in the eye and said, "You're doing a good job." It caught me off guard and it took me a second to smile. When I did, it was sincere.

"Thanks, Michelle. I'll see you next time." I exchanged a few more words with the Army Mom and headed home.

I had not done a good job. So many people around me had done a great job. And because of how rarely it usually happens, every supportive action is just a bit overwhelming. When I put out there that we would be collecting items to stuff stockings for C and his soldiers I did not expect the response we received. It was incredible. People that I had not talked to in many years sent me messages wanting to help, mothers of old classmates, church members, friends of friends. Something incredible was happening and our soldiers would greatly benefit. We stuffed (to the max) 24 hand-sewned, donated stockings and sent several boxes of items that would not fit in each. A business donated and shipped a tree and lights for each soldier. People donated money to cover shipping. One small company donated chocolate-dipped and drizzled pretzels for each soldier. Hand-warmers, home-made cookies, candy, toiletries, hand-written cards - it was incredible. An old classmate, who is now a teacher, took the time to really speak to her students about the importance of Veterans' day and our soldiers and what they stand for. They were so excited and involved that they asked to make something and they did. They made the cutest paper eagles for each of our guys. Another old friend who I had lost touch with wrote a note to each one of C's guys to be placed in each stocking. I was amazed by her firm and unwavering support of those who serve this nation and her ability and desire to express it. I know her letter to each man will bring a piece of home, a touch, while they are away.

There is something that happens when someone shows such strong support for our soldiers. When a stranger offers to buy a soldier a coffee, when an old friend offers to help like no time has passed in between, when a mother wants to help anyone who takes the same oath as her son, something happens inside of us. We feel a little stronger, we feel a little more understood, we feel just a little more whole. Because that pride we have - while it does not go away - needs to be rebooted. That love that we have for this nation and the men and women who save it can make us feel alone. The hope we have for our tomorrows can sometimes seem to be in vain. But when someone gives us that look - that look that says, "Thank You" - with the deepest emotion, that same tear-provoking pride we know - gratitude floods our bodies. Complete understanding and absolute gratefulness reads through our eyes.

It is so easy to feel forgotten. It is so easy to feel alone. When we have one of these moments - when we see and know that people will do anything to support them - they support us. They carry us for just a moment. Lighten the load. Strengthen the heart.

Our soldiers will not have turkey today - they may not have a hot meal. They will not listen as their friends and family gather to Give Thanks. They will not hold the hands of their loved ones or give hugs or enjoy baby kisses. They will give thanks for their families as they continue their mission.

No matter their exact purpose, no matter the exact order, their overall mission remains simple. To allow us to continue to Give Thanks. To allow us to continue to live in these comforts. We continue to receive, daily, the graces that were afforded to us many lifetimes ago. They continue to Give, daily, their time, their sacrifice, their lives so that we may always receive.

Give Thanks.

Give Thanks for the soldiers who will not have this day in the way that we do. Give Thanks for the fathers and mothers who will not hold their children today so that you can hold yours. Give Thanks for the sons and daughters who will not enjoy their mother's best dishes so that you can continue to share those recipes throughout the generations. Give Thanks for the spouses who will not hold their husbands' and wives' hands as they bow their heads so that you will never lose the right to bow yours in prayer. Give Thanks for these men and women who have given up this time to preserve yours.

Give Thanks.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Half-A-Lifetime Away

"I've missed nearly half his life, Megan." I hadn't thought about it like that. I hadn't seen it that way at all. But it was true.

He had.

He had emailed me back from my nightly email on what the boys had done. Eli was trying to walk, he was beginning to stand alone and he had done a full-on pull-up on the outside part of the pack n' play. He literally lifted his body inches off the ground. All still while being the size of the average 6 month old. He was struggling with hearing it all. He didn't want me to stop telling him, he wanted to know what was going on back here but it hurt him so badly to know how much he was missing. Eli was 5 months old when C left for Afghanistan - he is just over 9 months old now. He will miss his first birthday.

"I will have only been around for one of my kids' birthdays when this deployment is out." Another truth. He was here for Logan's first birthday - which we didn't throw a birthday party for. We had a welcome home get-together for our friends who had just returned from deployment and a private celebration with just us and C's parents later that night. He had missed his second birthday. He was at JRTC at Fort Polk. He will not be here for Eli's first birthday or for Logan's third. It broke my heart that he was thinking about this.

His plate is too full - he has too much responsibility on his shoulders - to worry about things he cannot change. But I cannot stop him from worrying, from feeling the pain of it. My husband knows how much I want to make everything okay and so often he has to remind me that some things are out of my hands.

I am a fixer. This can be a harmful thing as much as it can be a helpful thing. When there is a problem, I analyze it, I look at the options, and I fix it. It makes me a helpful resource for fellow spouses, it makes me a good problem-solver, it makes me a dedicated volunteer. I always want to help - which makes it oh-so-difficult when I cannot "fix" something.

I cannot tell you how much my chest tightened when I read his words. "I know it is part of it, but it doesn't make it any less difficult." I know how much he was missing his boys and there was nothing on this earth that I could do to change it. I was so frustrated, so defeated, so torn apart inside. To tell him what is going on here hurts him, to not tell him hurts him, and even with how much is jam-packed into his day, his mind cannot erase that reality.

It is such a heavy guilt that soldiers carry. And that does not mean for a moment that they regret what they do, as much as so many outside of this world seem to think so. Their hearts are heavy because they know what they are missing - because they know that they truly are missing pieces of their children's lives. I know that part of C feels like he is failing his family and it may be impossible for him not to feel that. I want so badly to take that pain from him, to keep his mind from going there, to stop him from taking everything upon himself. He has never failed us. By being where he is and by doing what he does, he does not fail us. It doesn't matter how many times I tell him how proud we are, how many times I say how much he is supported, how many times he hears that his boys are okay - he will not be able to erase that feeling. But I will continue to say those things because as much as they may not "fix" what he feels, they are important for him to know and to remember and to be reminded of.

I do not know what happens in the minds of other soldiers. I can only speak for what I know of my husband. They all process things differently, they all cope with the separation in different ways, much like how we who stay behind all cope in different ways. But it is difficult to know how to help him in this. He doesn't even know how to help him through it. Part of me wishes he could just shut us out if he needed to, to turn it off so that he didn't have to feel what he is feeling, but I know that that is not my husband. It isn't something I would truly want him to be able to do. Part of me finds so much comfort in how much I know he cares for our family, how much he does for us, how much he worries. I want nothing more than to make him feel the comfort I feel, how incredibly fulfilled I am by this family.

But when he comes home, his son who was only rolling will be walking. He will be beginning to speak. He will be trying to keep up with his older brother. His son who was saying a few words will be talking non-stop. He will be taller, he will be smarter, he will be older. His children will not be the same boys that he knew when he left. And I wish so badly that we had Skype. I wish he could see them as they grow. I cannot express how much it breaks my heart that he cannot see them, hear them, play with them.

I cannot fix this. I CAN NOT fix this and I cannot put into words how much that twists my brain and squeezes my heart. I can only pray that he keeps the strength, pray that his heart is comforted, pray that his mind is at ease. And I will continue to let him know that Logan can count to 15 and that Eli must be destined to be the smallest body builder in the world because as much as it hurts to know he is missing it, he wants to be part of it. He wants to be involved because of how deeply he loves his children.

He wants to be here, as much as he can be here. He wants them with him, in his heart, on his mind. He wants to close the gap between where he is and where we are ... a half-a-lifetime away.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Very Important Day

"Today is Veterans Day. I never really did pay much attention to this day. My dad did. He was a Veteran."

When you enter my parents' home a letter sits within a red mat and a blue frame, is pressed beneath clear glass and rests on the center wall above a cross with a flag in its center. My father wrote this the first Veterans' day after his dad passed away. Throughout it he speaks about how when he and his siblings were sorting through their father's things after his passing they came across the history of his military career through his medals. My grandfather chose not to speak of war to his children. He would never speak of what he saw. The only thing my father ever said he told him was, "Too many of my friends died." From time to time as my father would come across a ribbon or a medal my grandpa would make up funny stories about what each meant - never near their true meaning. It was not until he was losing a horrible fight with cancer that my dad and his siblings saw the physical scars from the War on his failing and weak body. It was not until after his death that they found the multiple purple hearts and the four bronze stars he was awarded during the second world war. He had never mentioned them.

I loved my Grandfather. He meant more to me than any other grandparent - probably to anyone in the world. He was my best friend. I idolized him, climbing into his lap when it was free of any of the other multiple grandchildren and would remain there until my mom or dad would move me out. From him I developed my love for the Chicago Cubs - quite simply just because he loved them. The first time I entered Wrigley Field with my father many years ago - his father is the first face that came into my mind. I loved my Grandfather not because he was a retired Master Sergeant, not because he had been awarded medals, not because he had faced such horror of a war and survived, but because he was my daddy's dad. Hearing "Taps" played in the distance and holding my dad's hand as guns fired into the air at his funeral is one of my earliest memories. I still remember my body jumping with each shot and my dad never letting me go.

I have read this letter a countless number of times since it was written several years ago. I have always been raised to respect the military. My mother has always had tears in her eyes when she sees a service member. My father has always been the first to approach and shake the hand of a man or woman in uniform. Even so, even with reading my father's powerful words, I never paid much attention to this day.

As ashamed as I am to say this, it was not until I loved a soldier that I realized the vast importance of Veterans' Day. I had been raised to respect the military. And I always respected the uniform, because it was automatic. But I never appreciated the soldier. I never understood because it was never something tangible to me. It was not something I was involved in - which is not an excuse.

My husband and I have been very fortunate to meet Veterans of WWII, Korea and Vietnam. The WWII vets - even in their aged bodies - hold an incredible strength visible within them. You can see it in their eyes. They helped to change the course of history and they lived through it. The men that we have met have been the most supportive, most involved individuals when it comes to supporting our current troops. They back them - especially the Vietnam vets we have met. Every time I have been introduced to a veteran of either of those wars, I have been humbled beyond belief by the incredible support they show for my husband and his comrades. These men are incredible people and deserve to be thanked and remembered and honored on this day and every day.

My husband is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and will be of Operation Enduring Freedom. I do not know how much he will talk to our children about these. I do not believe he will ever talk seriously about Iraq to them. What he saw there was not something I believe he will talk about. He will talk about his friends, he will joke about how his patrols were attacked more than any other in the company (and he will only joke about it because he brought each man in his platoon home with him), joking about how he was considered the luckiest, unlucky PL (platoon leader) out there. But I do not think he will ever talk about what happened in between.

Nearly 13 years ago, at the age of 17, my husband signed a contract with this country. He signed a contract with you. He stood before all of us and swore to give of himself to protect against anything that attempts to harm this country. Something did and he went willingly into the fight. Months before his first deployment he became an officer and again he made a promise to you. His parents stood beside him, with greatest pride and overwhelming fear, as he raised his right hand and vowed:

"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

"I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation."

One more time:

"I take this obligation freely."

Without reservation, these men and women have promised to give up to their lives to protect what this country is and should always be. This is beyond honorable. This is beyond absolute selflessness.

They do not do it for glory. My grandfather received four bronze stars and I know that he would be the first to say that there is no glory in war.

There is nothing more honorable, nothing more respect-worthy, nothing more deserving of deepest gratitude, than to serve this country.

I didn't understand that. It took loving a soldier to realize what no one could ever teach me.

In the words of my father:

"Today is Veterans' Day.
It is a very important day."

Yes, it is. Today is a very important day.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Questions and Answers

There are few things I get truly passionate about - and they take up so much of my energy. I love this life, I am amazed and blessed by my family, I will go to nearly any length to help a fellow Army wife, and I will lose my voice, my sanity and, sometimes, my heart over LSU football. I had an incredible weekend visiting with friends, my alma mater, and enjoying the sea of purple and gold surrounding me. I expected to have people I hadn't seen in some time ask about my children, ask how C is doing over there, ask when he would be home. I expected to hear these things repeatedly as I ventured across the familiar campus throughout the day and I did. There was one question I did not expect and it came after the excitement of the incredible win had died down and the pain of walking the campus all day had settled into our feet.

"Can you tell me why we went over there?" she asked.

I was not surprised by the question itself, I guess. It is a question we all hear over and over and over again but usually with a horrible tone behind it. Her tone was different. She truly, honestly, wanted to know what was being fought for. I wasn't offended by it - not for an instant. As I have said before, I truly believe many people simply don't know the answers to things and cannot understand the reasons behind this battle because the information is not put out there.

I am not going to get political; I am not going to get into why we went over there. Because to be completely frank, it doesn't matter. What I can do, and what I will do, is what I have done a handful of times before for those who truly and open-mindedly wanted to hear what I honestly thought. And what I am going to say, like everything I say is just my opinion. It is my experience with this war, my understanding from what I have learned from my husband and what I have heard from other spouses. And you don't have to agree with it, I don't expect most to agree with it. You don't have to take it as truth, you don't have to like it. But I figured I would answer her other questions here because I never got to answer them all last night. But I will repeat that I do not think that why we went there matters. It does for the history books and for years and years down the road, but for our men and women currently serving this country it does not matter. We are there. That is what I can talk about.

"What are they doing?" she asked next. Not at all offended by my answer to the first question (I hope).

What my husband has been doing in Afghanistan is completely different from what he did in Baghdad a few years ago. And I think that for a lot of this very few people, including myself, can completely understand what they are doing without seeing it. And there are a few explanations I have given in my one-on-one conversations that I won't give in such a public forum so I don't know how effective this will be. But still, I want to try my best to answer the questions that have been put before me.

In this country, I would bet, our poorest people are of greater wealth than most Afghans. I cannot tell you how many times my husband has said after going "out" on a drive, "I have never known such poverty. The kids, Megan, ..." They live in filth, they live in squalor, they live in conditions unthinkable to most of us and don't know anything different. It is easy to say it isn't our problem. Easy to say that helping them is not worth the lives of our defenders and at face value, I would agree. But it is so important to understand how horribly dangerous that absolute poverty is to this country and our way of life. It is because of this poverty that those who wish only harm to us can have such enormous control over this region. Recruitment for terrorism is much easier when it can mean the difference between quite literally having your body eat itself to death from starvation or being able to provide food to one's entire family. It is much easier to recruit when guns are held to the head of one's wife demanding their sons join their training camp. Fear is powerful. Fear is life-altering. Fear from this evil does not just exist here in our country. We are not the only victims of terror.

In Baghdad, my husband viewed and documented the body of a young girl with countless bullet holes throughout her entire body - from head to feet. The smell, the flies surrounding her body, the blackened blood that covered her body will never leave his memory. This toddler was doing nothing wrong when an unimaginable horror entered the home of her family. This is the only thing my husband has ever told me about what he encountered during his tour. This was the first time I had ever heard my husband cry. This moment - with 6,000 miles in between us - will forever be engrained in my head. We are not the only victims.

So many of these people want change. Not to change their way of life, exactly. But they do not want to live in fear. They do not want to live in fear that one day they would be met with the choices of life as one of them or death. One of my husband's interpreters has two little boys - like us. He does not go home to them each night. He will be separated from them for months at a time. But when he lays his head down at night, he does not just wonder how they are doing like my husband. His heart does not just ache because he didn't get to see his youngest son's first steps - like my husband's will. His heart aches because he wonders if he will go home to find his toddler, almost the same age as our Logan, also lying in his bed (if he has one) with his body nearly unrecognizable because of all of the bullets and blood and flies and maggots. This will never be an image my husband has to fear for us. No one will enter our home and kill our children to send him a message like happened in that home in Baghdad, or that his interpreter fears will happen for his family. There are people in these countries that care and that are working hard to change what they have always known.

For each region that our soldiers secure, and then teach a trade, provide a resource, build up a police force, they change the course of things. They make it that much harder for the Taliban to reign over these people. They offer a chance to experience and sustain a life with far less fear, far less opportunity for terror to grow, far more hope for a different future. They diminish the possibility of young boys being stripped from their families or sold by them who can be taught and brutally raised to believe in and conform to the will of the extremist. Our soldiers cannot just wipe them out - but they can make their impact over this region far less intense.

"Why can't they all just leave?"

A good question. And the answer is because it isn't possible. The only safe way to get every service member out of the region at the same time would be by an incredible magic trick. It doesn't happen like that. It won't happen like that. To leave Afghanistan right now would cause the death of far more soldiers. It would be horrendously dangerous and would not take into account the lives of those left behind. We still have posts in Germany, in Korea, in Japan, and will always in Iraq. Whenever we do leave Afghanistan, we will still have some there. If we leave the middle east, it becomes far easier for the extremists in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Iran to step up their evil plots because the cost to return soldiers across the world is great, takes incredible coordination and planning and would not happen with the swiftness it would require.

We live in a different time. Wars are different. This enemy is different.

Soldiers are not just "killing Taliban," they are not just searching caves and kicking down doors. Most of them aren't. They are showing how to build, how to teach, how to survive without the threat or option of terror. It is not an easy process and it requires cooperation, patience.

Why we went there doesn't matter. What matters is that we are there. What matters is that our soldiers will do everything in their power to never allow us to live in the fear the Afghans live in.

They are not just helping these people like I described to be good people. We are not providing humanitarian aid. The intentions of our nation are very selfish. By helping them, we help ourselves. By protecting them, and teaching them to protect themselves, we protect ourselves. By securing their future, we secure ours.

It isn't pretty. It isn't fair. But it is how it is. I don't like that we are there just like anyone else. I want nothing more than to live in a world where my husband can be here with me and our children. But, in my opinion, we do not live in that world. We live in a world where our soldiers will fight in whatever way is most effective. What is effective is altering the norm. What is effective is bettering these people. I pray with everything in me that it works.

I do not like this war. No one likes war. But there are times when it is necessary. I grew up with this conflict. I recognize that for those the age of my little sister - they can only remember our country at war. That is beyond frustrating, beyond imaginable, beyond what should seem acceptable. But I believe, with everything that is in me, that our country would have suffered another horrible and terror-filling attack if we had not entered into these countries. I believe that if we leave now, this country will experience another 9/11. As long as he feels that there is something he needs to fight for, as long as he believes that his life is worth losing for this purpose, he will continue to defend this country. As long as my husband is wanting to stand up for this country, I will support and defend his sacrifice.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Read When the System Fails first.

I should warn that this will be graphic. I have edited it down a bit but I think that describing how badly this labor went is important. Please be aware you may cringe as you read. I know I more than cringed when it all happened.

April 3rd 0700 hrs

Blood splatters when the LPN tries to get my IV in. The sheets are soaked and need to be replaced. Someone comes in to mop the floor. Only one other time had I ever seen so much blood. I overhear someone saying something about popping a vein. I don't care - I am finally being induced.

"We are projecting a 36 to 48 hour labor. Your body is not ready for this yet." My current Doctor tells me. I have heard this a countless number of times - well 4 - each time I had been sent in to be induced. Two days. Two days and it would be over. I focus on that part.

In the early evening, I am told I can eat because we have at least another full day to go."Go to your meeting," I tell C. There was a steering committee meeting that night and there was no point in sitting in the hospital. A new nurse finally comes in to start the pitocin drip. Whatever pill they had tried three times made absolutely no difference in prepping my body for labor and delivery.

Around 8 o'clock in the evening, my nurse hurries into the room. My mom quickly moves to my bedside concerned by the urgency readable on my nurse's face. The nurse moves my belly from side to side - trying to knead it. She instructs me to move in the hospital bed, rolling my large stomach from left to right and back again. I had been having contractions. I could feel them but I didn't think they hurt (I have a pretty good pain tolerance). With every contraction, Logan's heart would drop and would then have trouble coming back up. I am put on oxygen. My mom calls my husband who is just about to walk out of his meeting and within fifteen minutes he arrives.

Soon after I am told I can take off the oxygen and I feel comfortable enough for my mom to leave for the night. I tell C to get some sleep on the couch. He had been getting little rest over the recent weeks.

Some time later my nurse comes back in, puts me back on oxygen and turns my pitocin drip back down. This is a problem. My labor couldn't progress because they could not increase the pitocin because Logan's heart couldn't handle it. The oxygen stressed me out so my blood pressure would not remain normal (or as close to normal as possible). It is around 10 o'clock when I ask about a C-section. My nurse said that was most likely but that the doctor wanted to do a vaginal birth. I ask her to express my concern over the situation and she said she would get him. She soon returns and tells me that my doctor has put all necessary personnel on "stand-by" for a c-section. I text message my mom (I couldn't talk on the phone due to oxygen) and she heads back to the hospital.

I do not remember much about the next several hours. I finally fell asleep and I don't remember anyone waking me up to check on me.

While my husband was asleep on the couch in the room, my mom rested in the glider in the corner. She cannot say what it was, but 'something" came over her and she felt a need to move across the room and to sit by my monitor. She looked at the screen and noticed my contractions were coming hard and fast and couldn't believe that I was sleeping. I wasn't moving. I had finally given in to sleep. Then, she looked to Logan's monitor and panic set in her. His heart rate was at 40, then 30, then 20. She watched the door. No one came.

In seconds she was in the hall, the nurses were gathered around talking together. No one was paying attention. "Is anyone watching my daughter's monitor?" she shouted. My nurse looked over and terror covered her face.

I woke up to my body being lifted by 7 or 8 nurses. I was being poked, turned violently from side to side, oxygen on my face, tears beginning to fall, my body beginning to uncontrollably shake, heat rushing through me as my pressure soared. Logan's heart was failing and my pressure was no longer reading. My husband woke up to me on all fours (hands and feet), bare behind in the air, as multiple nurses tried desperately to find his son's heart beat.


It was low, it was weak. But it was there.

While on all fours paperwork was placed below my face and a pen in my hand. The water dripping from my eyes and the mucus mixing with the moist oxygen pouring down my face covered the pages. I was instructed to sign each one with little explanation as to what they were. Another nurse stepped on a stool and removed my jewelry while I balanced my now 200 pound body on my hands and feet feeling like I would collapse at any moment. Horrible pain shot through my legs as their color became too purple. My arms threatened to fail below me. All the nurses then, together, flipped me back over and one nurse inserted a catheter without any anesthetic. I screamed with everything in me as two nurses tried to hold me still as the wretched pain ripped through my lower body. My husband stood by my side and held onto whatever part of me he could. My mom stood beside him with tears in her eyes, praying desperately behind them.

I entered the OR where the Nurse anesthetist had two nurses try their best to hold me still so she could insert a spinal block. My body could not stop shaking. I had been pumped with drugs to prep me to surgery too quickly and my blood pressure would not stop rising. It was a horrible combination. I had no control. Then a new nurse stood before me. I had only seen her once, briefly, and she asked the other nurses to move. I could hear the panic in the background as the other nurses talked "quietly" about what staff was missing, how Logan was going too long without oxygen, how they couldn't get a hold of the pediatrician, how this baby had to come out "NOW". I heard it all and I couldn't speak as sheer panic coursed through every vein that was pumping blood too quickly and with too much difficulty through my body. My heart quite literally felt like it would burst from the pressure inside of it. She put her hand to my face then pulled me towards her. She cradled my body to her chest and a calm came over every part of me for the tiniest second and the needle pierced my skin going just where it was meant to into my spine. Then, she was gone.

Two nurses pushed my body - and I mean PUSHED - onto the OR table. My doctor entered the room, obviously recently woken up, providing only an apology for not being able to give a "vaginal delivery". He pinched me, asked if I could feel it, listened for my no and then cut. He cut at 6:29 the morning of April 4th, 2008 and my son was born at 6:31.

I was not draped on the table, my arms were not tied down, my husband was not there. I couldn't speak. My lips were shaking too much and my mind was moving too quickly. I prayed. I prayed like I have never prayed in my life and I did not stop until I heard my son cry. That moment, the tears poured down my face, my eyes closed, I bit my lip and I thanked the Lord. The nurses began to check Logan - the pediatrician was not there. "There is the doc," my doctor said relieved as a man in blue with a mask over his face entered the room.

It was not Logan's doctor. It was my husband. He had missed it.

I do not remember leaving the OR. I do not remember the first twelve hours of my son's life. I do not remember the first time my husband tried to put him in my arms. I do not know what he looked like when he entered this world. I did not get to kiss him, or touch him, or count his fingers and toes. I did not get to know those moments. I will never know them.

They were taken from me.

It took my OBGYN with Eli nearly two hours to cut through and repair the damage to my uterus from Logan's delivery. Because of the great care of this man, I can have one more child someday - much further down the road so I can heal.

There is no doubt in my mind that what happened to me was the direct fault of those responsible for my care. There is also no doubt in my mind that miracles occured on that morning. The "something" that came over my mother when she moved to my monitor was a miracle. The nurse that cradled me and calmed my body so that my son could be taken out in time was a miracle. The fact that my son and I are alive and able to share in this life is, without question in my mind, a miracle.

We should not have survived. My son should not have been able to hold on. The last fetal heart rate I saw of him was 17. My body would not have been able to sustain the trauma of a still birth. We should not be here.

We are.

Thank God for miracles.

I thank God for my son.

Monday, November 1, 2010

When the System Fails

"How is your head?" my mom asked, checking on me again. She didn't just mean my head, she meant my legs, my neck, my hands. Every part of me that seemed to be growing before our eyes and increasing the ache along with it.

"It still hurts. And I can't get my ring off." I had taken my engagement ring off the night before, thank goodness. But I didn't want to take my wedding band off. She had told me that I needed to take it off but I just couldn't - emotionally that is. Now I really couldn't - physically. It was stuck. I tried lotion, butter, oil. You name it and I tried it. It didn't budge. I headed down the street to the after hours care center. I was in town for a couple baby showers and had little option as to where I could go. Of course I spent two hours (and then two weeks) back and forth on the phone with Tricare because they kept "losing my paperwork" approving the visit which is a battle I eventually gave up on. During my visit, my ring had to be cut in two places and pried apart with two pairs of plyers. When it was being cut, my finger was turning blue. My body became swollen that quickly. I gained 5 pounds that day, and ten that week. Something was wrong.

My mother called my old ob-gyn and asked if he would see me. Without hesitating, he said to come in right away. It was the third time she had taken my blood pressure. This wasn't weird to me. The last two appointments I had the tech's at the Army Community Hospital took my blood pressure three or four times. I didn't pay attention. I didn't know anything was going on. At my last appointment, in late December, my midwife told me I was "taking advantage of my pregnancy" and referred me to a nutritionist. This was now early February, and I hadn't had an appointment in between and didn't have one scheduled til later into the month.

My doctor came into the room immediately after I had sat onto the exam table. "Has anyone said anything about your blood pressure, Megan?"

"Um, no." I replied, not really understanding the reason for the question. "They take it a lot."

"And they haven't said ANYTHING about it?" he asked with a very confused look on his face, moving his eyes from me, to the chart, to me again.

"Nope. My midwife just said I was getting fat," I told him plainly - not wanting to relive my anger on that day.

"Seriously?" He asked - obviously as surprised as I was but for a different reason. "I need to run a test," he continued. "It won't take long. We can do it in the office."

I was lying on my left side as instructed to do waiting for the result. I began to sit up when he entered the room and was quickly instructed to remain lying down. "You have protein, Meg. Do you know know what preeclampsia is?"

I had skipped over that section in the book. I never thought it would apply to me. My mom's eyes looked from him to me with the greatest concern on her face.

"It must have presented itself really early," he began. "I don't know how they could have missed it. Did they run any tests after checking your pressure?" I shook my head, still lying on the exam table. Not comfortable to say the least. He started mumbling - looking at the chart, then looking at me, then looking at my mom. He didn't want to let me travel back to Tennessee. That was out of the question to me. I was not going to spend the last two months of my pregnancy separated from my husband. He was debating admitting me - hospital bed rest. It was THAT bad. After arranging for my husband to fly down to New Orleans to drive me back, he agreed to let me go with strict instructions for a physician (not a midwife) to contact him when I arrived. He said not to wait, to go to the hospital the very next day.

The midwives at the Army Community Hospital didn't care. They didn't contact my doctor. Didn't check my test results. Didn't even assign me to a doctor until I fought - and fought hard. Then, that doctor left for her next duty station and I was never transferred to another physician until I called every single day with my blood pressure reading and symptoms. I was sent in to be induced four times - each time being turned away from some other doctor. I was on strictest bed rest, two minute showers (sitting in the shower) every other day, lying on my left side the entire day, strict diet, no standing, no walking. But if you asked them, I still wasn't preeclamptic. Every other day I was instructed to report to the hospital for monitoring and eventually I found out no one was even checking my results. Every other day, I got dressed, walked to and from my car, in and out of a hospital, all while on supposed "strictest bed rest." Towards the end of my pregnancy, the moment I stood my legs turned purple, tingled, and began to go numb. My hands went numb constantly. Yet every time I was sent to be induced, I was told by the next doctor who got to make that call that I was not a priority.

This is how the army healthcare system works (or at least did for me). You don't have a real doctor - and you don't have the same doctor. I saw three doctors and four midwives over my pregnancy. Only one midwife could remember who I was the entire pregnancy. She was the one who told me how to fight the system, and that I needed to fight the system for my own safety.

The third time I was sent downstairs from the women's clinic to be induced my blood pressure was terrifying. The last time it read it was 210 over 110. I should have been dead - or have at least suffered a stroke. They didn't believe the machine could possibly be right so they continued to try to take my pressure again and again. My arm was blue - not purple - it itched, it was convulsing, and I felt shooting pains. I had to scream and fight to take the cuff off myself to get them to stop trying to take it. My pressure wouldn't even read on the machine. My doctor came in saying that my protein levels were off the chart and this baby needed to come out "NOW." I was instructed to go down to labor and delivering. I was not given a wheel chair. I walked.

After lying in the equivalent to a closet for nearly two hours, a doctor came in. He quickly said I was not his priority and sent me home. He did not care that I had been sent by a doctor upstairs. He said it was his call and he wouldn't risk having three women in labor (there were three beds open) come in and have to turn one away for someone he had induced.

When we left, I could barely walk because my body wouldn't stop shaking. My husband tried his best to support my now nearly 200 pound body to the car.

This was a Monday. On Thursday, I entered labor and delivery with my pillow, bags, and husband and said I was not going home. It was then that our real nightmare would begin.


There are things I know now that I didn't know then. Patient Advocacy is an Army Family's best friend. USE them. Had I, I would have been there daily. With Tricare - ALL pregnancy and post natal appointments are covered under prime AND standard care. If you enter another hospital, through the ER, with problems in your pregnancy Tricare has to cover the care you receive. I was told by the doctors at this Army Community Hospital that I could not change. The Tricare office told me I could not change without the written consent from the doctor on post. You Have Rights. Patient Advocacy can let you know what those rights are and can help be sure that you are protected, well cared for, and receiving everything you need. Most major hospitals have patient advocates familiar with Tricare and the Military healthcare system. They, too, can and will help. Speak out. It wasn't until I was willing to fight hard, yelling into the face of a LTC midwife, with my husband at my side, that I ever even saw a physician. I called every single morning with my readings. I did not stop fighting - but I needed to fight more and I needed to fight sooner. I didn't realize that I could. I didn't realize the other options available to me. Be aware of what is out there. I know women who have had good prenatal care at this hospital. It doesn't happen to everyone - but it does happen to some of us. Protect yourself. Protect your family. I was healthy and petite. I worked full-time, ate well, and was active. I was not taking advantage of my pregnancy.

Understand the system. Work the system - or it will work you.

To read part two click HERE