Thursday, May 17, 2018

Lotsobaby Lane is becoming I Need Eight Arms!

New state. New city. New home. New job. New school. New life.

It's hard to believe but we left Texas almost six months ago. Coincidentally, it's been that long since I've blogged as well. 

With everything else new, it's time for Lotsobaby Lane change too. I've secured the website:  Look for exciting updates coming soon!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Why Didn't I just leave?

"Why didn't you just leave"? 

It's a question I've been asked at least 1,000 times and asked myself even more often. Several weeks ago, I shared my story of the crisis that has been my life. Still, over and over, I've been asked by family, friends, and even police officers "why don't you just leave". "There's so many resources out there to help" is usually the line that follows this incredulous question. As if leaving has never crossed your mind.

My answer: "It's not that simple". 

Did you know that it takes the average woman seven attempts before she leaves a violent relationship for good? 

Four times I have tried to leave. Four times I packed up myself and the kids and tried to leave. Much to my family and friends dismay, I always went back. Why? For a lot of reasons. I could spend hours telling you all of the reasons I've stayed; the dangers that come with leaving; the lack of resources that are really there for women in this situation, how it feels to be a burden for someone else to have to help you. But I'm not going to do that. You see, in my heart, I know that I did what I knew was best for myself and my children at the time.

Instead, I'm going to focus this post on society's viewpoint of domestic violence. When we ask victims of domestic violence "why don't you just leave", I believe that we're once again, placing the blame on the victim. To think that it's as simple as "just leaving" is choosing to remain ignorant in regard to what domestic violence really is. A woman might have 50 or 1,000 reasons why she stays. Until you've walked through what she's walking, experienced the hurt she's felt or dealt with the psychological trauma she's dealt with, no one on the planet can understand her reasoning or the complex dynamics that makes it absolutely impossible to see or think clearly. If a moment does come that we see clearly enough to find a safe time to make an attempt to leave, the resources needed to do so have to be readily available, or it's even harder to stay gone. 

The reality for most abuse survivors is that leaving an abusive relationship is often a herculean task that endangers the woman and calls for resources that aren’t readily available. Instead of minimalizing such a complex issue with such a simple "just leave" solution, I believe society should focus on education, awareness, and resources to help prevent abuse in the first place but then to restore, respect, and empower victims of abuse so that "just leaving" isn't such a herculean task.

Until society as a whole makes an effort to not only understand domestic violence and remove the taboos surrounding it for those who've endured it, but to also heal, educate, and restore victims, women will continue to suffer in silence and to me, that's as bad or worse than the original act of violence itself. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

My Life In Crisis

Infertility. High-risk pregnancy. Lengthy NICU stays times four.  Your Mother's cancer diagnosis. Multiple moves looking for a support system. Leaving a career you loved. A spouse's struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. Your spouse's job loss.  Your Mother's cancer remission. Emotional, physical, and financial abuse.  The return of cancer. Your Mother's death. Your spouse's addiction issues spiraling out of control. You spouse attempts suicide multiple times. Your spouse facing criminal charges. Inability to obtain affordable childcare so that you can work. Adultery. These are just some of the many events crammed into the past four years of my life.

A crisis is defined as a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger. A crisis of life is a highly volatile or dangerous situation/emergency requiring immediate remedial action. A crisis occurs when a stressful life event overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope effectively in the face of a perceived challenge or threat. Typically, individuals respond with an elevated stress reaction; mental confusion and overload and physical symptoms such as a racing heart and high blood pressure. An individual's ability to think and decision making skills are hampered and focus shifts solely to survival. But how long can someone survive living in crisis mode?

For the past four years, my life has been a crisis. Sure, there have been some happy moments along the way. My children's birth and the many, many, many, many blessings that they've brought into my life has been amazing. Honestly, they are the four reasons I get out of bed every single morning and try to put a smile on my face. Still, earlier this year I started seeing a counselor to help me cope with the amount of stress in my life along with grief from my Mom's death. At our first appointment, she asked me what it was that I was coming for help with. I would imagine that most people seeking counseling are dealing with the aftermath of a specific event or two. After summarizing the amount of stress and crises occurring in my life, all at the same time, she was at a loss of words for a little while. She informed me that I was and had been under more stress for an extended period of time than most people (something I had kind of guessed) for a while. She advised me of the long-term effects of stress when we experience it for a longer than normal amount of time and recommended that I seek out a full physical from a medical doctor, which admittedly, I didn't do (who's got time for all that). Also admittedly, I stopped going to see the counselor too because being overwhelmed with life was hard enough, much less trying to find an hour to myself every two weeks. 

When I got married in 2012, almost exactly five years ago, I never in a million years could have pictured my life becoming what it has become or experiencing even half of what I've been through. Just one of any of the events I've been through is enough to cause long-term issues and changes for someone. To experience them all, almost all at the same time, has been devastating. The constant stressors have affected my life in every way: physically, mentally, and emotionally. I am tired. My body hurts. My brain hurts. My eyes don't have tears left in them. I now doubt almost everything anyone tells me and I find myself angry  at the world more often than not. My faith has been tested. When I say life has been a roller coaster, it truly has been a roller coaster. I've tried my best to hide it, but I really, really want off this ride, and soon.

For more than four years, I've lived life without a support system. When we found out we were having quadruplets, the first thing I wanted was to be surrounded by the people I love the most and to lean on them for love and support through what I knew was about to be the hardest chapter of my life yet. One thing after another has happened to make this the perfect storm for me and it seems as though Murphy's Law is in full affect. I've relied on the mercy and kindness of strangers far more often that I dreamt I ever would in my life. I've been hurt more by the people I love the most because of my own foolish expectations of them. And now, I've got a house full of kids whom I love dearly, no husband, a tiny long-distance support system, no childcare to work, and thus no income coming in. My life in crisis continues...

Sunday, October 15, 2017

My "New" Gig as a Shipt Shopper

I wanted to write a post to share all about my new job as a Shipt Shopper. I say "new", but really, I started "Shipting" in February of this year. Very, very part time. You guys know that "time" is not an area of abundance in my life, but I also have a need to contribute to my family financially. Becoming a mother of quadruplets has certainly well-versed me on all things grocery. Feeding a family of six and toting around four infants, toddlers, and now pre-schoolers through the grocery store has kind of made me a professional in all things shopping, so when I heard there was a company in Corpus Christi that would pay me to shop for others, I said "where do I sign up"? 

The interview process was simple. I submitted an application online. The next day, I had an email invitation for an online interview. After that, I had to pass a background check, submit my car insurance information, take a couple online classes and pass a few tests. Within a week, I received my Shipt Shopper Shirt (pictured below) and my PEX Card (like a credit card) to start working as a professional Shipt Shopper!

So what is Shipt? Shipt is an internet-based grocery delivery service based out of Birmingham, Alabama. There are 100s of cities in the country that currently offer Shipt services and more coming. The concept is pretty simple. Members subscribe to the service on either an annual or monthly basis. With their membership, subscribers get free grocery delivery on all orders over $35. Members select their grocery items using a simple app downloaded on their phone or the website. Once you select your store, you're able to choose from any product the store carries. (Seriously! If you can't find it in the app, a simple special request will yield you a real person who will search for whatever it is you need and usually deliver. As a side note, I think the most unusual special request I've had was for an actual chair.)

Once you place your order, it's dispatched out to all of the shoppers who've put themselves on the schedule in your area for that time frame. Shipt uses an algorythm to determine whom shops are offered to. Factors that contribute to what shops a shopper is offered include: total number of shops completed, customer ratings, percentage of on-time shops, and percentage of shops accepted. Your personal Shipt shopper will take things from there and in as little as an hour (depending on the time frame you select), you'll have groceries delivered into your home fresh from the grocery store!

We drive to the store and hand-select every item on your list. Our shoppers' motto is "be on time, be accurate, be awesome".  This means that every single item we deliver to your door must be perfect. Shoppers are trained in produce selection and have a variety of resources to help us ensure that your produce is perfect. Because we are there so often, we develop relationships with store employees and work as a team with them to make sure you order is perfect. Members are able to choose how they'd like for their Shipt Shopper to handle the unfortunate situation of when an item requested is out of stock. "Contact Me" means we will contact you and offer suggestions for any item the store doesn't have. "Use Best Judgement" means your Shipt shopper will use their shopping experience to determine the best replacement item for your order. Finally, "Do Not Substitute" means any item the store doesn't have will be skipped. You'll be notified at delivery of any items the store didn't have.  Shoppers communicate with you throughout the shopping process and if you ever need to make a change or add an item to your order once it's being shopped, your shopper can take care of that for you.

Once we have everything in your order, we then head to check-out where we pay for and bag all of your groceries. We keep all of your cold items in cooler bags and ensure that your ice cream and meat remain cold when it's delivered to your door. We're also careful of how your items are bagged and handled all the way to your door. Your groceries are then loaded into our vehicle and we let you know when we're on the way.

Once we arrive, we actually carry the items into your home for you or you can accept them at the door if you're more comfortable with that.  Some customers even have us leave them on the doorstep for various reasons: baby sleeping, social-anxiety disorder, illness, surgeries, and more! We're totally flexible and we want to help you!

Once your groceries are delivered, all you have to do is put them away and enjoy. Shipt will ask for your feedback by rating your shopper. If you receive any items that are damaged or produce that isn't perfect, simply note it in the app and Shipt will make it right. It's pretty magical, I tell ya! 

You're probably wondering about pricing. It's actually super simple. The price you see in the Shipt app is the price you pay. Delivery is free for members on orders over $35. Smaller orders are welcome, but a $7 delivery fee will be added to help cover the costs of shopping and delivery.  Shipt prices do vary slightly from in-store prices to help cover the costs of picking, packing and processing. Members can expect to pay about $5 more using Shipt than they would on a $35 order purchased in the store themselves. For example, a loaf of bread might cost $2.29 if you bought it in the store yourself. With Shipt, it would cost you $2.59.  Members are happy to pay the extra 30 cents for the convenience of having the item delivered directly to their home.

I love being a Shipt shopper. I work as an independent contractor which means I do bear some of the costs of working. I pay for my own cooler bags, uniforms, my own gas, mileage on my own vehicle, as well as my cell phone and data plan used to shop for orders and communicate with members. In return, I get the flexibility to set my own hours. I work without someone looking over my shoulder and I'm solely responsible for my customer's satisfaction. I love building relationships with my customers and seeing their faces light up when I knock on their door with their groceries. Some of my regular customers don't have the ability to get out of their homes and as a mom who spent nearly the first two years of my kids' lives on lock down in our home, I can appreciate that and look forward to offering them some company. Shoppers are paid on a per shop basis. We are paid about $5 per order plus around 7% of the order. Tipping is optional for members but we receive 100% of all tips and tips are always appreciated because they do help to offset the costs of working for ourselves.

All in all, Shipt is an amazing company. As a shopper, I get the added benefit of a free Shipt membership so I've tried the service myself just to experience it (also, because sometimes our family gets sick and there's nothing better than having popsicles, gatorade, and chicken soup delivered to your door in this situation).  I wish Shipt had been in our area when the kids were tiny premature babies and I once went two weeks without going to the grocery store and survived on pizza delivery and baby food jars for a few days until I could get there. (I'm not a huge pizza fan to this day as a result but I digress.)  You can use your membership to deliver to your home, office, vacation destination, or even send groceries to your son or daughter in college. It's the perfect answer for busy moms, elderly, sick, or disabled people or just anyone who wants to save themselves some time and not spend it in a crowded grocery store!

If you'd like to try Shipt, I'm happy to tell you that I can offer you a coupon code to save $10 on your first order. On the third screen of the checkout process, enter the code LOTSOBABYLANE and you'll get $10 in groceries for free delivered to your door. And if you're in Corpus, maybe I'll show up at your door with my arms full of groceries to get you started on your Shipt journey!  Hope to see you soon!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Part 3 - Taking It All In

We received news that we were pregnant and then the news that we were pregnant with quadruplets within about a week's time. We went from feeling like we were finally going to be a normal family to not really knowing what to do next in a matter of a 30 minute appointment. Life was about to change dramatically for us and we didn't really know the full scope of how nor did we how to prepare.  So, we went on living and tried our best to guess what the future held for us.

Telling people in our lives was not an easy thing to do. I avoided my own Mom's phone calls for the afternoon because I wasn't sure how to tell her I was carrying four babies. The first person I called, was a very dear friend from church who'd been praying for us to conceive. She advised me that God has entrusted four little babies to us and I should feel confident in sharing this news with everyone that loved me. Quickly, we began asking for prayers that our pregnancy would have a successful outcome.

The first thing we knew we had to do was identify a specialist, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist or MFM, if you will. This is a doctor who helps take care of women having complicated or high-risk pregnancies. We chose the leader in our area, Texas Children's Hospital. Once that was identified, it took about one phone call to let them know I had just found out I was pregnant with quadruplets and they had me all set up for my first appointment. They seriously took care of everything: ultrasounds, nutritionists, specialists. When it came to prenatal care, I feel like I was very well taken care of. 

And then we had to start making not so easy decisions. Where would we live with quadruplets? What would life with quadruplets really be like? Would we need help? Who would help us? How would we afford quadruplets? What would they do while we worked? What all would we need to care for them? Our life was seriously changing into something unrecognizable and something we never expected in a matter of just a few months. 

We knew we were in a time-crunch to make as many big decisions and make as many large life decisions as we could before I ended up on bedrest, which for many quad moms happens as early as 12 weeks gestation. 

We continued with daily life, while we tried our best to formulate a plan. Life became consumed with doctor visits. We had lots of check-ups to ensure that everyone okay and no risks were taken. It didn't take very long for the reality and the seriousness of what was happening to sink in. I was tired. Growing four babies at once was physically exhausting. It took everything I had to crawl out of bed and get dressed for work in the morning and by lunch, I craved nothing more than a nap. By the time it was time to go home in the afternoon, my eyes wouldn't stay open. Adam was sweet enough to drive me to and from work, so I'd normally sleep on the way home as we sat in traffic. In the meantime, through the exhaustion, we did our best to talk through what life was going to look like.  

When the house we were renting started having some major mold and water well issues, we decided that it would be in our family's best interest to move. We chose to move close to my family because it was still within driving distance to the hospital where we'd deliver and it was also still possible for us to continue working at our current jobs, even though it would mean a longer commute. It also meant that we'd be close to my parents, who would help us with the babies when they arrived and I had extended family and lots of friends in the area who we felt we could count on to help. Our plan was to live in my Uncle and Aunt's farmhouse until we could build a barndominium on the family farm to accommodate our family. Once the babies arrived, my Mom volunteered to watch the babies so that I could continue working. We put our plan in motion, made arrangements with our jobs, and I started packing 10 weeks pregnant with quadruplets. It was exhausted, but the two of us (or should I say six of us) managed to pack up our home and put most of our stuff in storage on our own. 

The first of many decisions had been made and we felt like we were on the path to becoming a quad family. We were excited. Friends were excited. Our church was excited. Everyone we met was excited for us when we shared our news. We felt like life was falling into place and we knew God had a very special plan for us. People started pouring in to love on us and support us and we were blown away by what God had done. 

At this point, we felt safe. We felt like we were going to be okay. And then, things slowly began to crumble.

To Be Continued in Part 4...

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Part 2 - Getting Pregnant and SURPRISE!

Now, now, I know when I left you, it was kind of on a cliffhanger. We had gotten the news that I had a 0.5% chance of ever getting pregnant. Obviously, we all know how the story ended up. In this post, I'll take you through how it came that we got pregnant with quadruplets. Don't worry! I won't give you ALL the details. I save those for the nosy ladies in the grocery store.

So right after our doctor told us that basically, we weren't going to have a baby, he offered up a treatment that he said would give us a 40% chance of conceiving. 40%? That's almost 50%, I'll take it (what  can I say, I was desperate).

The next Saturday, we attended a class with three other couples. Here, one of the new skills we acquired was learning how to inject medications into my stomach via needle. Talk about fun! We also got a detailed calendar with our treatment plan that told us what medication and how much we would use on what day. 

Fertility Drugs/Treatment Plan

Then we waited. We waited on my next cycle. Once it was time to begin, we called  our doctor's office and the process began. For nearly three weeks, we injected medication into my stomach. As we got closer to ovulation, I started getting daily ultrasounds looking for an egg that was of the right size and ready to trigger ovulation. Once we found one, we had one more shot to give me, in the hip.

And then came the business of making sure that that egg was made into a baby! I'm leaving this part out, because well, some things are just personal. (If you want to know, you'll have to catch me at one of those perfect times like when I'm out to dinner with my family or trying to buy groceries with four kids in the cart).

About a week after the trigger shot, I suddenly noticed some severe bloating and pain in my pelvic area. The pain became so severe, I could not eat or get comfortable in any position. Eventually, I ended up contacting my doctor and they had me come in. At this point, I was diagnosed with Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS).  An ultrasound revealed that my ovaries were each the size of oranges and unfortunately, there was nothing we could do about it but wait it out. Two days in, I couldn't even wear my pants because they would not button. In retrospect, I probably should have Googled and I'd have figured out that my ovaries were in overdrive and were sending eggs all over the place. Who knew? 

A week went on and I continued to suffer and try to hide both my pain and bloating from everyone at the office. Eventually, I couldn't take the waiting anymore. One morning, I woke up and decided it was time to take a home pregnancy test. Low and behold, after probably 5,000 negative pregnancy tests in my lifetime, I saw two pink lines! At first, I couldn't believe my eyes. I told my husband. Later that day, I went for a follow-up regarding the OHSS. I told my doctor that I knew I wasn't supposed to test yet, but I did. He asked me what the result was and when I told him it was positive, he sent me for bloodwork. Two days later, I went back for more bloodwork. On August 2, 2012, my nurse called me to confirm, I was pregnant! (I only remember the date because it's my Dad's birthday).

About a week later, we had another appointment to confirm heartbeat and numbers. I guess maybe that was another clue I should have picked up on in retrospect but when you're living it, you only see your dream, which is to be a normal family and have a baby (although I'd be lying if I said the thought of twins never crossed my mind as being kind of cool). I remember when I told my Mom about the appointment, she picked up on it right away and said "numbers!!!! What do they mean by numbers"? to which I responded, "Mom, it's just a possibility of twins;they said it's a 5% chance" (maybe it's important to note that we already had a set of twin in our family).

That afternoon, she started calling me at the office wanting to know how it went. I avoided her calls the first few times. I just didn't know how on Earth I'd break the news to her that there were four.

Earlier that morning, my husband and I sat in an office waiting to hear our child's heartbeat for the first time. As I lay on the table, my husband sat off to the side and we both attempted to peer at the screen, which was conveniently turned just out of both of our lines of sight. What seemed like an hour passed and this sheer look of panic swept over our doctor's face. My husband and I made eye contact. Fearing the worst, we finally asked what was going on. I can't remember his exact words, because the shock hit me pretty hard, but I know that our doctor told us that there was nothing wrong with the heartbeat, except, there were four of them. And then we proceeded to hear each heartbeat. Each little answer to prayer.

The next clear memory is sitting in the parking lot in my husband's little Honda Civic, staring at the traffic passing on I-10 and wondering what to do next. Once one of us was able to form a sentence, my husband asked "what do we do now"? My answer was "we go to work. We have to work if we're going to afford four babies". And we did.

To be continued...Stay tuned for part three.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Part 1 - Where It All Began (Battling Infertility)

Over a month ago I posted that I have a story to share. A version of our story that's not the watered down version for fear of judgment. I drafted this post over a month ago but out of fear, I've spent weeks thinking and praying on whether or not I should begin this series. Dead end after dead end, and struggle after struggle, have led me to believe this is necessary.  So with that, I give you part one of many posts to come about our story.

I cannot count the number of times when I was pregnant with quadruplets, and when the babies were very small, that someone came up to me and upon finding out I had quadruplets asked me why I didn't have my own television show. Over and over again, complete strangers approached me as they saw me out and about with the quads and the question I heard the most (besides "are they...") was and continues to be "Quadruplets! Wow! I bet you have a lot of help." Usually, I am able to smile and nod and go on about my business. Because honestly, we've had some pretty amazing friends and even perfect strangers pour out so much love on us unexpectedly. Still, the truth of the matter is, I've basically raised quadruplets by myself for much of the past three years.

I promised you a story. So you're definitely getting a story. The truth is, those people that see me in the supermarket have no idea what my story is like, no idea the battles I have faced, and honestly, no idea what it's like to be stared at and asked a million questions about your personal life by perfect strangers as you're trying to buy groceries with a litter of babies (some people get offended by calling babies a litter and I'm sorry if you do but sometimes, I really do feel like a Mama Kitty carrying my babies around.) When they casually ask me "did you do in-vitro?", I'm certain that either they don't know the sting of a battle with infertility or else they're battling infertility themselves and too afraid to say. 

As with any good story, it's probably best to start at the beginning.

Battling Infertility; Where it all began: I can trace my earliest signs of infertility back almost as far as junior high. I was the last girl in my class to get her period and when I did, it was extremely painful and heavy but was never regular. At age 16, I went on birth control pills to help regulate my cycle. They did and I managed to go through the rest of high school, college, and even a few more years living a relatively normal life thanks to my new best friend, the oral birth control pill. However, in 2006/2007, I started having some issues with not having a period even on birth control and later bleeding that wouldn't stop. This eventually turned into some weird cramping pains so I went to see a specialist. It turns out, I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). Basically, it means that my hormones are crazy. I do not ovulate regularly, thus I don't have regular periods (I also still have a TON of eggs as a result). On top of that, I was also diagnosed with a dermoid cyst (a collection of cells) on my right ovary that had to be surgically removed, along with part of my ovary. So when my husband and I got married in 2012, we knew there would be issues with ever wanting to have a baby. We decided that my life long dream of becoming a mother was important to us both, so we didn't wait long before seeking help. Near my 34th birthday, I made an appointment with my Ob-Gyn. We tried a round of Clomid (an oral fertility drug commonly used to treat infertility) to see if it would help but because of my age, she didn't want to play around with it and risk wasting any eggs and referred me to a specialist off of I-10 in Houston. 

I still clearly remember my first meeting with the fertility doctor. I saw him at a satellite office that was close to home. It was an office that he must have shared with other doctors as there was no decor, no homey feel, and if I'm honest, it felt kind of shady. The doctor was very matter of fact, laid out a million facts to us, and explained the infertility testing process that we'd have to go through before we even knew whether it was something that could be treated or not. I left in tears. I remember feeling defeated. I'd wanted a baby for so long and had watched friend after friend and relative after relative have babies and more babies but my dream, my dream was tied up in some invasive tests that not only I would have to undergo, I'd force my innocent husband to endure as well. Talk about feeling less than feminine. The whole reason behind being designed as a woman and I was failing at it. Let's just say my confidence was more than lacking. 

As we sat in the car following the visit, I told Adam that I gave up. I just wasn't meant to be a mother. And I sobbed. From little on, I doted over my baby dolls and I mother henned my baby brother to death. I wanted nothing more that to be a wife and mommy, but those dreams seemed about as far out of my reach as the moon. Still, my very logical husband questioned me "did you listen to what he said, Misty"? In truth, maybe I hadn't. Maybe I only had in my mind what I wanted to hear "you'll be pregnant by XYZ". But I didn't hear that. Instead, this very smart man who'd helped tons of women get pregnant before me, was explaining my body to me and outlining a very detailed step-by-step process we would go through on that journey. I'd missed the opportunity to see just how smart he was because I was more focused on my feelings. 

The next week, we went to our first appointments for bloodwork. Over the course of the next two weeks, we'd pretty much lose all shreds of dignity with the invasive tests and procedures we'd both endure. They make machines to do things that I'm pretty sure I'd only dream of hearing about in sci-fi novels. 

About three weeks later, with all of the test results in and labwork compiled, Adam and I went for a consult with our doctor.  The news was, all of the issues lied with my and my PCOS. I had a 0.5% chance of ever conceiving on my own. Did you see that ZERO? That's about as hopeless as it gets, friends. 

To be continued...