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Monday, December 22, 2003

Oh boy. Bed rest. Already I've become an ingrate. Pathetic. I remember a time not too long ago when I would have chopped off my legs just to be able to eat, without the slightest concern for bed rest. But now I am eating and on bed rest, and all of a sudden just eating doesn't seem good enough, no. I want to be able to vacuum the floor and make dinner. Not gonna happen. Bed rest, Cervix Girl. Get it through your melon! Mmmm, melon.

The wonderful people at my local organic coop have been pampering me by picking up, sorting out, and delivering produce/dairy. Today we got watermelon, Sharlyn melons, Fuji apples, Pink Lady apples, tangerines, oranges, Red Bartlett pears, etc. Gonna be a feast, boys and girls. My favorite in the delivery today is something I've been dreaming about for a while now: fresh delicious beets with tops. UNGH! Biting lip. Steam the little devils, tops and all. Butter and salt, and give me a call! Good luck, hubby. I'm slightly afraid to eat them because for a day or so I will not be able to monitor cervical clues well. Beets, for those who don't know, cause the urine to turn pink and sometimes nearly red. Same goes for the stool. I remember the first time I ate a big bunch. I went to the bathroom and thought I was hemorrhaging. Pretty funny. Beeeeeets!

By the way, I'm drinking eggnog as we speak!

Alright, alright, the bay-girl:
Elise is moving all the time. She is a mess! She comforts me though, because every time I wake up in the night and don't feel her moving she wakes up for me and gives me a jab. Already taking care of me. My poor dove. During the sonogram we could see a perfect profile of her face. Her nose and lips—everything. She was moving constantly. Her little mouth was sucking and sucking as she waved her hand in front of it trying to get that thumb in. My kids are not coordinated, but they get their passion for nourishment from me, I can tell you. The 4D sonogram is going to be really neat. I think I may wait until 26 weeks to get it. The later the better I hear.

OK, now for the heavy, depressing part of this entry:

A few days ago I told you about two notes that I wrote myself early in the pregnancy when things were really going from bad to much worse. I know I can sit here and say, "Folks, it was really bad, so bad," but if you haven’t been there, you just can’t imagine. I’m not criticizing. I know it's this way for all of us. The first time I heard the story of Jesus fasting for 40 days and nights, I quickly thought, "Gee, that would suck," but that was the extent of my personal investment. I couldn't understand even if I tried. But this pregnancy, I went almost twice as long without eating (though I had a feeding tube), and I didn't even choose to do it. Because of this, I now have a better appreciation of Christ's fast than I ever did before. My point is, I'm not sure that you will understand or even be able to forgive the words that you are about to read. Luckily, you are not my judge. However, for what it’s worth, I invite you into the dark arena of my blackest heart to learn more about HG, to witness the bleak moments of human despair that can only lead to death and more despair, and then to experience the hope that rescued me and my baby girl.

I was six weeks pregnant and in the hospital for the first or second admission. I knew it was only the beginning. I was sick to my core and terrified of living one more day like that. The living death. The rack. Torture. I wanted out. I began to think like an animal, to make plans I knew I would regret. I knew the sick Ashli and the healthy Ashli were two totally different people, and I had to be convinced that the plans I was making were necessary. But were they? I wanted each point of view to present her case before I passed final judgment. I also wanted an emotional snapshot of where I was when the die was cast. And so I wrote two notes to myself:

Note to Healthy Ashli (from Sick Ashli):
"If you are reading this then you opted for another therapeutic termination. This is unbelievable and yet understandable. I know how sad it is, but I want you to remember and cling to two very important things: 1) No matter what you tell yourself later on, there is no way you can live like this for 14 more weeks, and 2) the baby is as big as a grain of rice. This is the early first trimester; the child will not feel pain. I know you will pour over this pre-death note a million times wishing you had not done it, but you will be well then and not sick like you are now. Terminating again was wrong. Yes. No denial here. The illness was too much to bear, and you were not as faithful and strong as you wanted to be. While the baby was from God, the illness was not; it’s a conflict that will be hard to resolve. And the fact that the baby is due in your birth month will only twist the knife; your own birthday will become even more complicated. But the current pain and anxiety are such that one more day and 14 more weeks of this are more immediately pressing. Even from here, I can see that it isn’t really justifiable, but who can attend distant concerns in the face of a pulverizing present? You will have to cling for dear life to the facts that the unaware baby felt no pain and you honestly could not take 14 more weeks of this. This rationale will be all you have, so you had better find a way to value it above all else. And you must never attempt a pregnancy again."

How many lies could you pick out? I should hold a raffle and give away jellybeans to the person who can count that high.

My dear abortion-supporting friend who used to work at Planned Parenthood, and who almost terminated her daughter over HG, came to the hospital and told me that if I ended the pregnancy she was certain I would kill myself or lose my mind and that either way my son would have no mother.

Before we even knew the sex, my husband kept telling me this was our baby girl promised from God and that termination was not an option.

My pastor told me that everything I was feeling, thinking and planning was absolutely understandable, quite normal and rational—but that I must not do it. He reminded me that I knew how God felt about it and that it was against the laws He put into place because He is holy and because God practices strange math: the fetters of His laws are freeing and give me the best chance at a happy life. My pastor was sensitive and bold, and he supported me by saying NO.

And what of God’s support? Must the obvious be said? He gave me the sacrificial suffering of His Son for my example and His very Word, which is always there to speak if I will but listen.

The shoulder angel of me wrote her own letter in response to the one with which my shoulder devil tempted me:

"Dear Ashli,

Don't you dare take such advice. It is the deceptive siren song of death. The Lord your God is with you, and the life of this child is His to direct. The LORD has rescued you both by providing necessary treatments. Pray that His guiding, saving hand continues. And praise His glorious name, for He is your salvation and is inspiring you to know something of love through courageous acts of personal surrender. You shall neither be demonized nor separated from your child if you keep your heart full of the Lord Who has spoken to you already through the Word and through the hearts of other believers whom He has sent. So be not afraid, for God is your strength, your shield. Trust in Him with all your heart, and you will be helped. Do not kill your child. God is with you both, and you can do all things with Christ. You can suffer as greatly as you think you can’t. May God forgive you for nefarious thoughts during desperate times. He has suffered and prevailed; He has paved the way. Hold fast to your faith and be blessed."

Now, don't think I don't know how weird these "multiple personality" writings are. They will seem even weirder to you unless you have been held hostage by such an illness or situation. Just remember that Tom Hanks' character in Cast Away started cracking up too: The man was talking to a volleyball! I needed a way to give audience to the different facets of myself that were coming out under immense duress and guiding decisions. A writing exercise seemed appropriate.

Decide what you think about those facets of me: desperation and hope. One filled with terror and selfishness and the other filled with thoughts of God and something better than even my own life. One would have killed my daughter, disappointed God, and ruined me for good. The other got us this far.

My child was promised to me. I know it because I have her today. Perhaps tomorrow will never come, but I live this moment for and in the promise. She is God's oath, my Elise, and it's only because of Him that we are still together.

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