Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hannah Who??

Fields and flat plains you can see for miles. The smell of wheat harvest in early July and backyard barbecues. Just the sounds of the wind and small creatures at night. A place where the grocery store is just around the corner, you shop locally because their business is your business, and everyone knows you.

I am just a small town girl from Kansas and this is my story.

Being the first born of five children, I had a lot of responsibility growing up. My siblings are 2, 6,12, and 18 years younger than I am. Needless to say, I became a chauffeur, babysitter, cook, and seamstress, just to name a few. Don't get me wrong, I never really minded that much. I was kind of a homebody anyway. I was involved in 4-H for 11 years growing up. It taught me the domestic side of life. I stayed home baking, babysitting or sewing on the weekends and summers. I guess I kind of had a natural calling to help and nurture others.

As a junior in high school, the last thing you want to find out is that your mom is pregnant. I was horrified and upset when I first found out. I was just getting used to it being just the four of us kids. Plus, high school was a delicate time for me. I didn't have time for my parents to be consumed with yet another child. That sounds selfish, I know, but remember, I was a teenager. I sure was glad when my brother was born though. I can't imagine what our family would be like without him now.

In the fall 1999, I went off to college. I started an interior design major at a small private college in Oklahoma. With aspirations to do well in the business and move to Texas and start a career after graduating, I decided to transfer to the University of Arkansas my junior year to complete by degree. I chose the U of A to be close to my sister when she went off to college that year.

As my junior year in college wrapped up, I was looking forward to the summer break, working part-time, and taking some summer classes. My sister and I were living in an apartment with two other girls for the summer. One evening, about a week after classes got out, my sister and I decided to make a home cooked dinner. As I stood there in my summer attire of shorts and a t-shirt chopping vegetables to make egg rolls, the pan of hot olive oil caught fire. Not taking a second to think what to do, I picked up the fiery pot and took it to the sink where it flamed up and I spilled it on me. At this point, the kitchen had several small fires and all I could think was to run and get help. I ran out the door and knocked on every apartment door upstairs and down until someone answered. I screamed at our unsuspecting neighbor to call 911, that our apartment was on fire. He ran up to help my sister who was putting out the fires. As I stood in his apartment downstairs in shock, I can remember looking at my hands, arms, legs and feet thinking "I am burned". I stood at his kitchen sink sobbing and running cold water on my wounds. I didn't know what to think. My sister and neighbor, were able to put the fires out with no real damage. I needed an ambulance though. I sat on a bar stool shaking as my sister stayed with me and never left my side. In her calm, soothing voice, she kept saying everything will be okay. Was it really going to be okay? What had just happened to me? The next few hours are a blur as I was whisked away in the ambulance, sirens and all. My sister stayed with me all night, bless her heart. I was pumped full of Morphine and not feeling a whole lot of pain in what I had come to find out were 2nd and 3rd degree burns along the right side of my body, mostly hand and foot. The next day, my mom and four year old brother arrived. Recovering from burn wounds is long and painful. The doctor advised daily debriding which consisted of scrubbing the wounds to prevent infection. For about four days I suffered through this excruciating process. When we arrived back in Kansas, my mother researched holistic and alternative approaches to burn healing and we opted for that route. Still, seven years later, now and then I can feel the pain of the nerve damage. I have scars on my hands and feet that get many questions that I don't mind to answer. It is a reminder that from that day on, my life was about to take a drastic and wonderful change.

That fall I went back to school. I struggled in many of my classes. My interior design classes were especially difficult, as we were building scale models and constantly drawing and sketching. With my hand still wrapped in gauze, those small tasks became huge endeavours for me. That semester I failed psychology. The ride home to Kansas at Christmas was miserable. I played over and over in my head how I was going to explain to my parents that I needed a break from school. Surprisingly, they took it well and agreed I needed a break. That following March I landed a career at the Wal-Mart corporate headquarters in Bentonville, AR in the product development department. Handbangs, scarves and gloves became my life. After six months, I was promoted. The money was good, but I found myself sobbing at night on the phone with my mother. Nine months in, I wasn't happy in the corporate lifestyle. While I continued to work there, I decided to take classes to get my degree in holistic nutrition. While taking my first class, was reading a book called Healthy Healing. As I sat on the porch of my town home reading the chapter on "Your Health Care Choices" it hit me, I was not going to spend my life in a cubicle. Six months later, I quit my job at Wal-Mart and enrolled in massage school. Seven months after that, I began my career in massage, moved to Texas, and then got married in the summer of 2006. I continue to do massage in addition to my newest pursuit.

Over the years I have had a strong interest in becoming involved with childbirth. After getting information from several midwifery schools I put it on the back burner. I wasn't sure being a midwife was quite my "calling", so I waited. In the meantime, my sister had two amazing home births. One in 2005 and one in 2008. My brain continued to be interested and I waited and listened.

One hot, summer day last August, I wasn't feeling just right. I woke up that morning feeling off. I had one massage appointment that I prayed myself though. I called in sick to my job that afternoon. Throughout the day I felt worse. Scott was at work and I stayed on the couch most of the day. As the day progressed, I was drinking tea and resting. I knew something wasn't right because I was bleeding. But, I chalked it up to being a cyst or something minor. I decided that I should make an appointment with a gynecologist just in case. They said they could get me in in two weeks. I said okay and then called Mom for advise. She did a little research and called me back. From what I had been explaining my symptoms were, she thought it could be a tumor or an ectopic pregnancy. One month earlier we had tried for a baby, but it had never occurred to me that I could be pregnant. Two weeks earlier I had been bleeding as usual. This was more serious than I had originally thought, so I called the gynecologist back and asked for an earlier appointment. They could fit me in first thing in the morning but advised me to go to the ER if I felt worse. At 9:30 that night I texted Scott on his way home from work. I was in desperate need of some ice cream. When he arrived home, I told him I thought this may warrant a trip to the ER. We debated our options. I wasn't in a lot of pain, but enough to feel "off". At 11:00 we went to the hospital. Three hours later I was in a room. They took blood samples and let me rest for another couple of hours. I told Scott to go out and sleep in the car. I was sure it wasn't serious, and he had to be at work early the next day. At 5:00am the sonographer came in. I asked him what he needed to do. He said my pregnancy test had come back positive and he needed to take a look. An hour later and with many views of my insides, sure enough, I was six weeks pregnant in my fallopian tube. Not five minutes after he left, Scott and I were being told that emergency surgery was necessary to remove the baby. That is a lot of information to find out all at once, but babies don't survive growing in the fallopian tube and neither does the mother. Just before noon, my surgery was complete. In just one day I went from finding out I was pregnant to losing a baby all at once. Thankfully, I acted on my intuition that night. I could had lost my life in just a matter of a couple of hours if we had not gone when we did. Amazingly, that summer was the only time in our marriage that we have had health insurance. We were surely being watched over. Now, our prayer is that God will bless us with a baby when the time is right.

That experience led me to pursue my certification as a Doula. In the weeks and months leading up to this loss, I had been researching. I felt it was meant to happen in order for me to become the kind of Birth and Postpartum Doula I was called to be. I now work for a local adoption agency that houses young women who desire to place their baby for adoption. My loss, I believe, has helped a few of them cope with their own loss.

Since getting the training to become a Doula, I have attended 12 births in the last six months. I know that my background in Holistic Nutrition and Massage Therapy is great asset in my work in pregnancy and childbirth. Women have the power to do anything they desire. I am an advocate for her physical, mental, and emotional well-being. She can have a natural pregnancy and a natural birth and I am here to support her. I have compassion, not experience. I learn by watching, reading, talking, and doing for others. My birthing day will come soon, but until then I am living on my desire and passion for women and expectant mothers to have exactly what they are hoping for. My prayer is that I have the strength and ablily to be just what they long for in their child birthing journey.

Here I am today, in Texas. I see the Fort Worth city skyline, the hustle bustle of cars as they race to their destination, sirens blaring throughout the day, stores and supermarkets full of strangers, and shopping for the best deals with people you don't know. It isn't Kansas, but I think we'll call it home.

And that is how I came to be.

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