Saturday, July 12, 2014

There's no place like home... but getting there was an adventure!

My bed! Oh how I missed you!
I’m sitting at my kitchen table, looking out my window to see my cars and my neighborhood. I’m home! It is so surreal. When I close my eyes I’m still not sure where I am. Our European adventure seems like a distant dream where I can still remember all of the details, but the longer I’m awake the colors become less vibrant.

Luke traveling like a pro, all
he needs is his Curious
George book on the train
All our bags
This last week has been quite the whirlwind. I was released from the hospital Thursday, tried to relax Friday (but still walked into Switzerland to get some chocolate before leaving), (this is Mike, Cabrina’s husband writing: I just want to clarify that I was opposed to her walking to Switzerland thinking she needed to rest, but as those who know Cabrina will attest, when she wants to do something, you just say yes ma’am and tag along for the ride. Please don’t crucify me for being a horrible husband and not taking better care of my wife. It wasn’t my idea. You may now continue reading the rest of Cabrina’s post) moved from our flat and took a train to Paris on Saturday, toured Paris on Sunday, Flew to the USA on Monday, then after a few relaxing days at my parents house in Tennessee, we drove to North Carolina on Thursday. Since then we have been moving back into our house and trying to mentally process this crazy adventure that is our life.

Our hike to Sacre Coeur
Such a beautiful church
Thankfully, we had a relatively easy journey back to the states. Our train ride to Paris was actually very pleasant. We had some friends drive us to the train station so we didn’t have to attempt public transportation with our 3 suitcases, pack and play, duffle bag, stroller, car seat, and 2 laptop bags. Luke was an angel on the train and we met some interesting women from Cambodia who were very pleasant to talk with.

Beautiful view of Paris... despite the clouds

Even the train station is
Paris was as beautiful as always… even though it rained the whole time. We had one whole day to visit a few things we missed the last time around. We made the hike to visit Sacre Coeur, a beautiful church positioned on a hilltop overlooking all of Paris.  We stopped by Moulin Rouge so Mike could see it. We found the Bastille memorial and explored the Victor Hugo museum. We enjoyed our last French croissant and crepe until our next trip to France (who knows how long that will be). Paris was the perfect way to begin and end our adventure.

The angel slept so well on the flight
The plane ride on Monday was a thing of beauty. Someone upstairs is surely looking out for us. We arrived at the airport and had the perfect amount of cash for the taxi. We scored a free seat for Luke on both flights home. Luke was again an angel. He closed his eyes the first 15 minutes of the international flight and slept for 2 hours. Then when he woke up, he quietly played for a few hours. Then he watched his shows for the rest of the time. The only time he became cranky was when we landed in New York and it took about 15 minutes to get out of the plane. He kept shouting “Off the plane!” People turned around and said, “I had no idea there was even a kid over here.” That, my friends, is the best comment anyone can say to a mother after an international flight.

Arriving in Tennessee was perhaps the most surreal part of the whole trip. That could partially be due to jet lag, partially because of the drastic weather change from wet and cold Paris in spring to HOT SUMMER in the south, and partially because it was where we started our trip. When I was in Tennessee before I was filled with such anxiety about this trip. I had planned for everything and had no idea what to expect. Being back in Tennessee, being embraced by loving arms, having help with Luke and having time to reflect on our journey brought a sense of closure and a dreamlike absurdity to the whole situation. I was finally able to rest and start to recover from the miscarriage. Physically, I had done a terrible job of taking it easy (but I’m not sure how I could have with our schedule). I still get dizzy and light headed when I stand too long. I am completely exhausted by 10:00am and have been taking wonderful 2 hour naps and am still ready for bed by 9:30 pm. Luckily, this distracted me from jet lag and I recovered really quickly from the time change.

But emotionally, on the other hand, since I have slowed my pace from 130kmh to at least 40 mph I have started accepting the loss we suffered. I feel so grateful that my mind has been occupied with other things, and that last week seems so far away.  I am trying to find a balance between dwelling on the loss so I can have a chance to grieve and move on, and avoid wallowing in sadness. It is a strange process to go through. It has been much harder than I anticipated seeing all the kind notes people have written to my family and me. I am so grateful for their love and I didn’t realize how much their words would help support me during this time. I am normally very private regarding the challenges that I face, and I tend to just smile and pretend everything is fine to everyone but my family. I know this will take some time and we are trying to just find the joy in each day.

Perhaps the last hiccup to our adventure happened on the way home. We were about 20 minutes from my parent’s house in Tennessee when our lift gate opened. We didn’t realize for a few minutes and as soon as we did, I ran out to close the gate and didn’t notice any thing missing. Then about half way through the trip Mike realized that our diaper bag with the iPad in it fell out. I was instantly sick with the prospect of sacrificing another expensive electronic item to the road trip gods. I instantly called my Dad and he kindly left work and made the drive to scour the roads for a canvass bag that may or may not be road kill. We were again reminded that someone upstairs is watching out for us when my dad stopped at a gas station and they had the bag… with the iPad! Some kind, wonderful, honorable, decent person found the bag in the parking lot of the gas station and brought it into the store.  

Now we are home; our wonderful home. The whole European adventure has come and gone and has left us changed. I now understand some French, am a pro at navigating a city and public transportation with a stroller, fear international flying with a toddler much less, have memories of some of the most beautiful country sides the world has to offer, can handle anything after crazy blood loss in a foreign country and am even ready to begin considering our next big escapade.

Oh Europe, I thank you for joy, sadness, stress, beauty, chocolate, excitement and the adventure.

Adding pins to our travel map

Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Overnight Stay in a Swiss Hospital

I'm not quite sure how to begin this entry. I apologize if this is extremely personal, but I’m not sure how to tell this story without opening up my heart and pouring out what hides inside. I have always found writing helps me better understand how I’m feeling. I tend to have thoughts jumbled inside my mind without words to link them together, writing has always created some cohesion and allows my mind to rest from constantly analyzing each moment, phrase and feeling. Perhaps through writing this entry, I will better understand how I am feeling about this whole situation.
This could have been one of the most stressful and scary 24 hours of my life, but I have felt powerful love and enduring comfort that far surpasses the strength I alone could muster. I am overwhelmed by the compassion bestowed on my family and me by individuals I scarcely know. It is a strong reminder of the good that exists in everyone and the unity we share as children of God.

Here it goes…

A few weeks after we arrived in our flat, I found out I was pregnant. That would make me 12 weeks this last Tuesday. We were so excited but were waiting to make it public when I made it home and had my first ultrasound. However, those plans were altered... as they frequently do. I started bleeding a few days ago, and it became severe last night. After a frantic few hours of trying to get our Swiss phone to work, contacting some friends from church and having them find people who could give us a ride to the hospital and someone to watch Luke, trying to reach our insurance company, all while I was trying to stay calm, avoid passing out and avoid going into shock. We were finally able to get the help we needed. A wonderful Argentine family from our church came to our flat, the wife stayed here and listened for Luke while her husband drove us into Geneva (about a 20 minute drive) to the hospital.

I hardly had the strength to make it down the stairs. I laid down in the back seat and swayed to the turns the car made. The whole time telling myself to breath and that everything would be okay. I was fairly sure the pregnancy had been terminated, but didn’t know for certain. That was the worst part… not knowing what was happening to my body… and flashes of all the lost blood kept playing in my head.

I felt so calmed when we finally stopped at the hospital. They immediately wheeled me in and began checking my vitals. Mike was not able to accompany me and I knew that would worry him. I felt comforted with my three nurses, but I realized with Mike not knowing what was happening, especially for someone who has a medicine background, this would drive him crazy. Mike later told me that when I went through the hospital doors and left him behind in the waiting room he turned to the man that drove us and said “We have been married for 5 years and other than when she had our son, this is the first time she has been in the hospital.”

Over the course of the next few hours, everyone took really good care of me. I learned I had in fact lost the baby and that most likely the baby had stopped growing 3-4 weeks earlier and it was a delayed termination of pregnancy.  The doctor was able to stop the excessive bleeding, I was able to stop shaking and Mike was finally able to come to my side. However, I still couldn’t stand or even sit without dizziness overcoming me. I had lost a significant amount of blood and required multiple courses of IV fluids to deal with how dehydrated I had become. The doctor recommended I stay the night. It was around 3:00am and Mike decided to head home to be there when Luke woke up and we would both try and sleep in the mean time.

I tried to sleep, but kept having strange dreams. I guess my subconscious was processing what my conscience mind wasn’t quite ready to work through. Needless to say, over the next few hours I didn’t sleep much.

As traumatic of an experience as this was, I was actually managing very well emotionally. Strangely enough, I felt from the beginning this pregnancy wasn’t going to have the desired outcome. With Luke, I always had a connection. I knew I was having a boy even before I was certain I was pregnant. I never felt that with this pregnancy. My thoughts and dreams kept turning toward miscarriage. When the bleeding started I did carry a glimmer of hope that all would be okay, but I wasn’t surprised when the truth was revealed. I feel so grateful that I was emotionally prepared for this outcome.

My petit dejeuner courtesy of the
Swiss hospital
My dejeuner... it tasted even better
than it looked I promise

Thankfully, the facility was fantastic. It was nicer than most American hospitals, aside from no private rooms... but at that point I didn’t care. I was especially impressed with the food. I’m not sure if I was extremely hungry by the next morning or what, but it was very good. Perhaps seeing the menu in French created a correlation in my mind to fancy French restaurants… who knows. Though, it was very strange to be worked on by nurses who were not speaking English. Fortunately, enough of the staff spoke English to me that I didn’t feel completely powerless, but it was enough to remind me I was still far from home. It also made the experience even more… out of the ordinary.

The next morning, Mike was driven to the hospital by the same kind Argentine family; they even took Luke to their house to play while we were at the hospital. Thankfully, Luke was enjoying their slide and happily playing the afternoon away. That gave me such peace. After a few more tests I was able to leave around noon. I was finally able to stand with only a little dizziness. I was feeling so much better at this point.

Upon arriving home, I was so grateful for my little family. My strong husband who handled the stress of the situation and my sweet little boy who brings me such joy each time I look into his little face. I know this is a terrible experience to go through, but I just feel grateful. I feel grateful that it happened today rather than on Saturday on our train to Paris, or worse on Monday on our flight home. That would have been so terrifying. I feel so grateful that there are people here who don’t know us well, but are willing to sacrifice a night of sleep to provide us service. I’m grateful for the dear woman who watched my son and even cleaned my dishes and did my laundry when we were gone.  I’m grateful for the sweet sister missionaries who arranged the rides and help for us then brought us home made American style cookies today (You cannot even imagine how grateful I was for those cookies! A taste of home!). I am grateful for the team of 6 nurses that helped me over the course of those 12 hours. Nurses have such difficult and messy jobs, and they make all the difference for a hospital experience. I am especially grateful for the knowledge that things happen for a reason, and when difficult trials occur, you can be provided the strength you need to overcome the challenge and thrive.

I am of course disappointed and frustrated that those weeks of feeling sick and the pregnancy limitations seem to have happened for nothing. It is difficult to reconcile my emotions of telling myself I’m pregnant for so many weeks now having to drastically shift. It exhausts me to think of having to wait a few months to try the whole process over again. It is a terrible thing to experience. But I can’t help but dwelling on how thankful I am for the outpouring of love we received, that I am healthy, that my family is healthy and that I can try again in a few months for baby number 2.

My silver lining, the cheese isle is
now opened up to me. Now the next
dilemma is how to try all of them in 4 days
My fabulous not pregnancy approved
dinner tonight! Cold deli meat and
tomme cheese
But I cannot forget the silver lining in all of this! I am still here in France for a few more days … that means I can now try all the cheeses and deli meats I was restricted to eat while pregnant. I’m sure it sounds silly, but that was one of the experiences I was particularly sad to be missing while here.

I know the next few weeks and possibly months will be difficult and I know I have some grieving and processing to go through, but I know everything will work out how it needs to. I know the Lord has provided me the strength I need to overcome this terrible trial, and I believe that this experience will allow me to better relate to others who have similar experiences and help them through this process.
This whole experience has helped me feel so much more grateful for my little family. I have such a blessed life.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

My Italian Getaway: Pizza 4 times in 2 days is ok right?

This last week marked another adventure to add to the growing list. Although, this one was a little different than our other travel experiences. Luke and I decided to get away while Mike was working all week. We decided to take an easy 1 1/2 hour flight to Italy to visit my Aunt and Uncle who are serving a mission in the Rome mission.
Although, the easy 1 1/2 hour flight to Italy was rather deceiving. In fact, it was quite an experience to get there. It started with a missed nap, a bus ride to the train station, a second bus ride to the airport, and me single handedly navigating my infant son, stroller, diaper bag, duffle bag and car seat through the various forms of transportation. But, we made it to the airport without any problem. The flight went very smoothly, and I was incredible pleased with the service. We were even offered a sandwich and swiss chocolate for our short flight. Once we made it to the Rome airport, my stroller was not outside the plane nicely waiting for me, but rather at baggage claim. That was quite exciting, ranging a tired toddler and waiting for my bags. Luckily, that didn't last long, and I was soon standing with my wonderful aunt and uncle! 
My wonderful Uncle Paul
My Sweet Aunt Geri

They are serving their mission about an hour from Naples, and drove all the way up to Rome to get me from the airport. They must really love me... or they really wanted to meet Luke. We drove about 3 1/2 hours, along some of the most beautiful terrain, the Amalfi Coast toward southern Italy.  

Luke quickly warmed up to my aunt and uncle and immediately started calling them Grandma and Grandpa. Luke knows the way to sneak right into someone's heart.

This area is known for its ceramic paintings

I kept trying to figure out how to take some of
these paintings home with me

Luke slept in a real bed for the first time. He actually did really
good... went to bed around 10 and woke up at 5:30 the first
day... but it progressively got better each day. 
The next day we had the opportunity to take a boat along the Amalfi Coast to the town of Amalfi. It was so beautiful. I feel like a broken record... every place I have been during these travels has been even more beautiful than the last, and these pictures just don't do it the justice it deserves! Here are some of my best efforts to capture the beauty.

Of course I had to take a picture of the beautiful gelato...
 Italians know how to do ice cream right!

We had the opportunity to tour this printing press. Amalfi was the home of 60+ printing presses and was responsible for making the paper that the Vatican used for important documents. Their paper was made out of cloth pulp and therefore lasts for centuries.
I had to put my feet in the
Mediterranean Sea

Luke didn't nap in his bed once, but
did manage to fall asleep everywhere else. 

This region is known for their lemons. We had some perfectly
refreshing lemonade slushies, with bits of lemon rind inside. SO GOOD!

Later that day we met with a bunch of friends and watched the Italy vs Uruguay World Cup game on a projector. It was such a fun experience being surrounded by die hard fans, sadly, the outcome was not quite what we were hoping for.
Luke opted to watch Frozen on the iPad instead

The next day we visited an outdoor market. I just can't get enough of these! This was especially fun because I found a treasure I had been searching for. Mike and I have a fun tradition of getting a classic book in the native language from each country we have visited. In hopes that one day we will be fluent in each language enough to read them in their native language... until then they are fun souvenirs. So far we have Don Quixote from Spain, The Little Prince and The Hunchback of Notre Dame from France, Grimm's Fairy Tales from Germany, Sherlock Holmes and Shakespeare from England, and I was on the lookout for Dante's Inferno from Italy. I kept my eyes open while roaming the book stand at the market and came across a fun copy. When I showed the book to the merchant, he became so excited and began speaking in rapid Italian. I soon realized he was actually quoting one of the cantos. He then turned the pages and began quoting another section. He then grabbed another book and began flipping the pages and quoting some more. I was very impressed. I then shared some of my favorite memorized poems (yes I have favorite memorized poetry... I am a nerd and I am proud of it!). He then quoted Shakespeare's "To be or not to be" soliloquy. in English.. and he didn't speak English. It was very impressive. I now have a new goal... I will memorize famous works in their native languages!

This day was also filled with mouthwatering food! I had my first Napoli pizza and no other pizza can compare! Now my international traveling child has had crepes and crescents in France, fondue and chocolate in Switzerland, Pretzels in Germany, Paella in Spain and Pizza in Italy.

The next day was truly magical. We visited a place that I have often dreamed of visiting since I was little. I remember sitting in my 5th grade class and learning about the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii. When my aunt and uncle said they lived an hour away I knew I would have to satisfy my curious 5th grade self and make the visit. We ended up seeing the slightly less well known city of Herculaneum that was also destroyed by the eruption, and is actually much better preserved than Pompeii. They still have frescos on the walls and mosaics on the floors. The city was created in 600BC and destroyed by the volcano in 79AD... that is extremely old ladies and gentleman! It was an awe inspiring experience. I have visited ruins before, but never anything this old and this well preserved. 

Interestingly enough, when Pompeii was destroyed, it was actually the falling ash and burning rain that killed the people and buried the city. The weight of the ash caused the roofs to crumble and become destroyed. However, Herculaneum was destroyed by a 100 mph mudslide resulting from the volcano that buried the city from the ground up, preserving the 3 story buildings and even the works of art on the wall. 

The city of Herculaneum with Mt. Vesuvius in the background

My favorite sandwich in the world! That is mozzarella di bufala, or Buffalo mozzarella, which is the creamiest mozzarella you will ever try. I think I ate my weight in this cheese. Sadly, it is very difficult to find anywhere else as it doesn't transport easily. 

An ancient fast food

After a total of 4 meals consisting of pizza (2 dinners, 1 breakfast of leftovers and 1 lunch of leftovers), 4 Mozzarella di bufala panini's, and lots of italian cookies and sweets, we finally concluded our trip. My Aunt Geri taught me some basics on how to cook the Italian way. Both may aunt and uncle taught me to love the people. They are very different than the French. I have noticed the French are very polite and always willing to give up a seat, or help me with my stroller, although they tend to keep to themselves a little more. The Italians on the other hand are very embracing and ready to invite you to anything. I was kissed so many times, and Luke's head was rubbed by every passing stranger. We even had a nice man stop and hand Luke a fresh apricot from the bag he had just purchased. I absolutely loved my experience!

 My aunt and uncle drove us all the way back to Rome. They even stopped at the partially completed LDS Rome temple. It will be beautiful. I am thrilled to come back and see the completed version one day. 

We were so happy to see Daddy when we came home.
Here is Luke eating his pasta all by himself.