Monday, August 31, 2015

So I had this hysterectomy. . . .

I had a total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingectomy (fallopian tubes removed) in April.  For me, it was the best decision I could have made, and the timing was right.  For me.  It wasn't a decision made lightly.  And to clear up some confusion (mostly with a few family members) -- it had nothing to do with birth control or restricting family size, and everything to do with saving my health, and maybe a little of my sanity.

This post shares my almost year-long experience in preparing for and recovering from my hysterectomy.  I hope it can help, and give hope, to someone else struggling with pain and bleeding issues, or faced with this decision.

Let's rewind about a year. . . .

My periods were getting longer and longer, heavier and heavier.  I felt so old.  My entire body HURT.  All the time.  My fertility app didn't even know what to think any more.

it shouldn't look like this.  at. all.

My body decided that if it wasn't actively bleeding, it should be preparing for bleeding. . . therefore permanent PMS!  Constant migraines!  Raging hormones!  Oh, my poor family. . .

After discussing my treatment options with my doctor at great length, I mulled over and prayed about my options for 9 long months.  And during that process, these are the things I learned while preparing for my surgery, then having and recovering from the hysterectomy. . . .

I tend to overthink things, but in this instance, I'm grateful that I took my time. . .

. . . first and foremost, to make sure my intentions were pure.  As a devout Catholic, this was crucial.  I wanted to make sure that I wasn't having a hysterectomy to opt-out of the NFP way of life, because it suddenly got too hard (HA!) or I just didn't feel like messing with it any more.  No, I researched, and I prayed.  And prayed and prayed and prayed.

My life was dictated by my uterus' whims, and my family was at it's mercy as well.  And then I wondered if I should just suffer, you know, all martyr-y and everything.  Um.  No, it was time to cure my body, in an ethical manner, and this fell under the principle of Double Effect.  I made the appointment.

. . . to grieve.  I'm not gonna lie:  I bawled -- all weekend long -- when I packed up Henry's tiny onesies, knowing that I would never, ever need them again.  There was something very final about that.  It was hard.

. . . to get used to the idea of how -- and how much -- my body was going to permanently change.  Sure, life without periods would be nice, but I had to wrap my mind around living without my uterus.

a few weeks before the surgery -- uterus very swollen and inflamed, 
and very, very painful

You see, I think the uterus is a glorious organ -- holy, almost -- in its power, its cooperation with God in its life-giving service.  I've housed fourteen souls within the walls of my womb, and nourished ten children until their births into this world.  This significance isn't lost on me, and I didn't relinquish this power and beauty lightly.

But on the flip-side, my uterus had begun to dominate my daily, weekly and monthly schedules, especially in the latter months.  There were days, almost weeks, when I couldn't leave the house.  I had to rethink trips to the gym, postpone outings, replan wardrobe choices.  Many days were spent lying in bed, because I was simply too sick or in too much pain to do anything else.  The negatives began to greatly outweigh the positives.  My health, my family, were suffering.  I was ready.


I Googled (but learned when I'd had too much!) and asked questions about tests, procedures and outcomes.  I reached out to friends who had similar experiences.  Listened.  Read some more.  And made sure I knew the risks -- and that I was willing to accept those possible risks and outcomes.  I was.

Be sure to check out HysterSisters.  An AMAZING resource for before, during, and after hysterectomy.  I can't recommend this resource enough!

Of course, once I had made up my mind that I wanted the surgery, I wanted it RIGHTNOWPLEASE.  But I had to have ultrasounds and an endometrial biopsy -- extremely painful, by the way, and a horribly scary wait for the results -- plus a mammogram and my yearly exam.  I (and my doctor) had to be very well-prepared!


My support circle was small.  Intentionally very, very, very small.  Not because I felt that my surgery was something shameful or something to be kept a secret, but because I had very little physical, emotional, spiritual or mental energy at the time, and I needed to be able to count on -- without a single doubt -- those few people to come through for me and my family in our time of need.  Choose your support system carefully.  Make sure they're the ones that will be there no matter what (mine were.)
(I love you . . .  you all know who you are!  And thank you again!)

my loved ones spoiled me


This category falls a bit under the Time and Research categories.  The more time I gave myself, the better I could mentally and emotionally prepare for all the coming changes.

I had also wanted to prepare a lot of freezer meals, have the house sparkling clean, have homeschool lesson plans laid out for several weeks ahead, but let's face it -- I felt like utter crap and I was exhausted.  And we were broke from paying for all of my tests, and doctor and surgical deductibles up front, so buying weeks' worth of extra groceries ahead of time was out of the question.  So I lowered my expectations, and I fell back on my great support system: my loved ones fed me and my family, my mom cleaned my house, and the kids took a few weeks off from school.  It was all OK.  Everything worked out just fine.

The results, please.

I had uterine fibroids in the endometrium and on the fundus, an inflamed uterus (no cancer, praise God!) and my uterus had firmly attached itself to my bladder, most likely from all of my c-sections (adhesions,) which caused serious pain, cramps and other issues.  I also thought I was going to have to have a bladder sling, y'all, but funny how when a 3-month-pregnancy-sized uterus lifts off and detaches from your bladder, you suddenly feel SO MUCH RELIEF.

 [image source]... and lots of great info on fibroids, too

The day after my surgery (TLVH/BS,) I stood up, and told my husband that I felt ten years younger.  And it wasn't the drugs, because I didn't even have any good drugs.  Nothing hurt.  No cramps.  No aches.  No pain.  I felt -- and feel -- incredible!  I feel like I've been given a second life, and I feel very lucky, and so very grateful.

5 days after surgery -- and feeling AMAZING

And then More Time.

Take time.  MORE TIME.  Take every single second / minute / hour / day / week of your recovery and follow doctor's orders to the very minute detail!  I know you have a job / family / event / whatever.  I DO TOO.  But you only have ONE chance to heal, and ONE chance to heal the right way.  Please, please, please if you take nothing else away from this post -- rest, recover, and rest some more after surgery.  YOU are worth it.

when I was cleared, we took short walks as 
recommended by my doctor

So, to sum it up. . . .

If you're considering a hysterectomy, and can take some time, can make some time,
to reflect,
to pray, 
to research,
to gather your support circle,
and to prepare. . .
Research and look at all of your options, risks and side effects.  That made this decision and transition so much easier for me (and therefore, easier on my loved ones.)

I know that having a hysterectomy is a very personal, intimate decision for each woman to make, and each woman has her own reasons to make it.   I simply wanted to share my experience, as well as my reasons, especially as a Catholic, so as to not give scandal or misunderstanding.  My reasons were solely for my health -- not for "birth control" or limiting family size.  My health (physical, mental and emotional) has vastly improved, and my family is already blessed by my improved health.

I also want to offer hope (but no medical advice, of course!) to anyone going through a similar situation.  Please seek help if you're in pain.  I suffered for years -- YEARS -- because I thought that this was my lot in life, that here were no options for me.  I was wrong.  I am open and willing to answer questions about my experience in the comments below or via email (just click tab above.)  Hang in there!  God bless!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Eco Market Bags and a big update

Hello, friends!  I've been working on a couple of posts for you, and while those are not yet publish-ready, I still wanted to drop in and give a little update or two.

First, some shop news. . . .

I've added a brand new product to my refabulous shop -- Eco Market Bags!  They are patterned after the ever-present plastic bag, but the design and construction of my handmade market bags blows plastic bags away -- completely.

Not only are they pretty, they're strong, versatile and unique!  I used high-quality cotton fabrics, almost all designer prints, and mixed them with cotton or vintage fabric linings.

Viva Frida fabric in aqua -- VERY rare and hard to find,
with a lovely vintage red floral fabric lining

 a sweet vintage cotton bird print, with a vintage floral fabric lining

We've been using these bags ourselves for years and years, and take them everywhere -- picnics, hiking, the zoo, the pool, the library.  Oh, and of course, to the grocery store.  Totally washable, and super-tough.  These also fold or roll up into a convenient, space-saving little bundle.

And did I mention that these are super-SUPER-roomy?  Plus, the comfy handles won't cut into your hands like the plastic bag handles do.  BONUS!  :)

true story!

I'm a little excited about these, as I'm sure you can tell.  I hope you'll drop by and take a peek!  If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.  Please also take a moment and share, pin and/or comment!  I love hearing from you.

The Other update. . . .

Custom orders have been keeping me really busy lately, which is good. . . .

massive twin bed-sized minky blanket and hundreds of pins.  OUCH.

. . . because it's keeping me busy and not focusing so much on the fact that my oldest dear Monkey is ABOUT TO FLY THE NEST.  She's ready.  I'm sorta ready, but I'm not.  
I always knew this day would come, but you don't think it ever really will.  
I'm so excited for her, but I'm nervous and scared and I want my baby to stay home with me forever.  
But I know so many wonderful opportunities and adventures await her, and I have to let her go.  

Friends, this is so. damn. hard.

Soooo we're keeping busy with the sewing, yes. . . .

she whipped up a t-shirt quilt in a day!
but then packed it before we took any pics. :(

. . . but also with hunting down furnishings and treasures to furnish her very first place of her own. . . .

 thrift store in my kitchen

every new place needs a tiny llama, right?

I'm just trying to keep it all together inside.  Sewing helps.

I should have another blog post up for you by this weekend... hopefully!  Talk to you soon!

Monday, July 27, 2015

refabulous back to school update

It's that tiiiiimmmmme!  Back-to-school!  One of my favorite seasons -- FOR REAL!!!!  I seriously love it like Halloween and Christmas.  The smell of crayons and pencils and notebooks... mmmmm..... and I love back-to-school sewing even more! YIPPEEEEE!  So I've been working on some goodies for the occasion, like these:

sneak peek!

Not as much as I would have liked, but I was busy having some fun.  ;)  

I'll begin stocking my shop this morning around 10 a.m. CST, with lots of zipper pouches and some market shopping bags, just in time for back-to-school!  I'll be having Stocking Days for my shop once or twice a month, plus days where I open up slots for custom orders, as opposed to sporadically adding one or two items here and there to the shop.  Today will be one big stock, and then I'll restock at a date about two weeks from now.  I'll be sure to keep you updated on the exact time and date on my facebook page as well as on my instagram.  You can follow there by clicking the buttons on the left sidebar, if you'd like.  :)  

I'll be accepting custom orders for buntings, too!

Don't forget that you can access my shop from the tab above!  ;)  Thanks for dropping by, and don't forget to have some fun today!


P.S.  MANY thanks to all who prayed for my niece, Marley Sunshine.  She is making truly miraculous strides in her recovery.  You can follow her journey and read her mother's updates on her facebook page.  Thank you again for your kind words and prayers.  God bless.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Life is Fun

My lovely friend, Charlotte, once said, "life is fun."  

Life. is. fun.

That stuck with me.  Charlotte has not had an easy life.  By no means.  But she has made a beautiful life -- and is an angel on earth.  Seriously.  I wish you could all meet her.  But back to those three tiny words:

Life is fun.

celebrating St. Henry's feast day -- and Henry's namesake

I'm not saying life is easy.  LIFE IS HARD.
I'm not saying life isn't ugly.  IT CAN BE.
All the hard and ugly and nasty and mean is there if we look for it.
I promise.  You'll find it.

But you will also find beauty
and joy
and innocence
and purity
and simplicity
and happiness.
if you look for it.
It's there.  You'll find it, if that's what you choose to look for.

Why not find fun and joy, in the midst of the hard and ugly?  Focus on the fun. On the joy.

I'm not naive.  I know there are terrible things, very, very bad things out there that can hurt my children, that can hurt me.  I can find them with a few simple clicks of the keyboard, or simply turn on the news.  Can I focus on them, obsess over them?  Sure.

Do I choose to focus on them?  No.  Because focusing on and obsessing on the evil, horrible things in life doesn't make me or my children any safer.

What does focusing and obsessing on them do?  It robs me of joy and peace, and robs my children of their mother. . . and her sanity.

I know, because I did that for most of my adult life.  I fretted, and worried, and what-if'd my entire adult life, and I hated and lived in fear of every stupid scenario that could possibly come true that never did.  (And I gave myself ulcers and migraines to boot.)

By the grace of God, I'm overcoming that, am healing and learning to let go. . . and trust.  It's always a process.  But I'm better than I used to be.

Now I'm trying to stay in today, and make life fun. . . .

I'm feeling at least 10 years younger these days since my surgery, and I've been busy making some silly magic with my monkeys every chance I get.  They've had to deal with real, grown-up stuff for far too long -- like a parent being sick for days and weeks at a stretch, lying around in bed all the time -- that's too serious for little souls, and it's time they had some fun.  You know. Like a childhood or something.

So we've been enjoying our public library's offerings, like Superhero Day. . .

And we took a lovely day trip to Balmorhea State Park on Justus' birthday (one of our angel babies.)  It was absolutely perfect.  (I also snapped the picture of Donovan with the butterfly, posted a little above, while at Balmorhea.)  The butterflies, which always remind me of our angel babies whenever I seem to need a little lift or reminder, flirted and played with us all day long that day.  So precious.

the palest bunch in west Texas.

Time is fleeting with these kids.  I'm trying to soak it all in.  They're growing up, and some will be moving out soon.  I'm ready, but are mamas ever *really* ready??

roadside shrine

Speaking of growing up, we graduated two more kids!  Yippeeeee!  3 down, 7 to go . . . .

 college bound!  future professional photographer 
(the one in the purple, with glasses on her head)

professional baker intern (the one in pink... and she wants everyone to know
 that she did NOT make the cake in the picture.  hers are way better.)

And of course we had to make Unicorn Poop cookies.  Ours didn't hold their shape like the pictures, but I don't think the kids cared.  I mean... sugar!  sprinkles!  poop!

We've also been enjoying some free movies in the park, free splash parks, dollar movies, free bowling, free concerts on the lawn (notice a theme here?) ha!  ;)  I have to be frugal with such a large crowd, and especially with Brendan's other leg surgery coming very soon.

concert on the lawn with these two crazy cuties

So let's soak it all up, friends.  The good, the joy, the beautiful.  Yes, and acknowledge the bad and the ugly, too, but don't focus on it.  It's there.  I know it is.  I'm not being insensitive, or flippant.  I know (and see and feel) there are terrible circumstances, some even in my own life.  Let's deal with them, as best we can, lightening our burdens, together, but let's not forget to celebrate the good and beautiful in our lives.  It's all around, if we choose to see it.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Serious and urgent

Friends,  last weekend, my sweet niece, Marley Sunshine, was in a terrible accident.  She has been literally fighting for her life ever since.  She sustained massive head injuries.  Marley is on full life support and in critical condition.  During the week so far, she underwent multiple surgeries to reduce the swelling in her brain and faced other complicating factors.  She has a very serious, difficult road ahead.

So I'm writing today to ask for your help. . . .

Marley with Henry

She is in desperate need of your prayers.
Her father (my brother) and her mother need your prayers.  
Her medical team needs your prayers.  

I know you guys, and you are lovely, warm people with big hearts.  So if you would like to lift her spirits with a card when she awakens from her coma (or perhaps send an encouraging word to her parents, Emily and Freddy,) you can send them to:

Marley Mercer
Trauma ICU Floor
C/O Harris Methodist Hospital Downtown Ft. Worth
1301 Pennsylvania Ave, Ft. Worth, TX  76401

You can follow Marley's progress and get updates on her condition at a facebook page set up for her:  Prayers for Marley Sunshine.  I hope you'll drop by.

If you're so moved, there's also a gofundme account set up to offset what will be their astronomical medical expenses.

So please... 
And above all, PRAY.

St. Jude, pray for us.

Talk to you soon.