The Neverending Story

Courage is an interesting concept … as a writer, words do not scare me, however, I found myself needing to work up the courage to put delicate words together for this “personal essay” of sorts. This year has been the strangest year for many of us I’m sure, especially for myself it has absolutely been the most unique and complex in my thirty-something years. A brief timeline, as we went from dreading my job in January, to the Coronavirus pandemic infiltrating our hospitality industry in February, to my husband’s furlough in March, to then the ultimate separation from my employer in April. That was a bittersweet break-up. I felt such relief but immediate anxiety with what happens next?

Having been at an increased clot risk with my VP shunt, I was not prepared to face an uncertain health scare should I contract COVID-19. There are a lot of unknowns in living with some conditions that I try to wear with confidence, but I do worry about all that could go wrong. That’s natural. Acquiring hydrocephalus was a shock to me, but I am much more fortunate than some. I have known individuals who have had more shunt revision surgeries than I can recall. Luck, that’s all I can put this down to. I am more than lucky to have had a successful run with my shunt. I am circling back to this later this week for a particular reason, but for now, I am counting my blessings to suffer with low pressure headaches that I can live with in comparison to the stories of my friends.

Our little world stood still. Schools did not open, we worked with the kids at home to complete the end of their 1st and 4th grade quarters. Playtime outside with friends consisted of masks (thank you Grandmommy!), hand sanitizers, soap, Lysol, immediate showers and as much social distance as kids can cope with. From March … through today, September 3rd … and until further notice. E-campus learning has been in progress now for two weeks. With the influx of internet usage, the parallel programs running is too much for one computer. It has been challenging for both kids to need two computers just to attend school without the risk of becoming ill. Four days after our school had opened, the first confirmed positive COVID-19 case was made public to parents. Since August 24th, it has exploded across our district and county. There are still so many unanswered questions into how children carry this virus and the risks involved. Since May 28th, this became even more of a risk that we were not willing to take.

Here’s where the courage comes in. And here’s what happens next. Infertility. Miscarriage. Two words that had not entered my regular vocabulary until 2018. They say to stop trying and then it’ll happen … that wasn’t the case. No need to hash all of that out again. I lost my job in April, three weeks later, surprise! A positive pregnancy test. How was this even possible? In February, we agreed that 2020 was going to be awful, we would take a break on trying. And when I say “we” … I mean me, mainly, because it became so deeply personal that it affected my daily life. Sam has seen me at the lowest of lows in battling infertility. What happens when you find out that you are actually pregnant during a pandemic? Sprinkle in absurd anxiety on top of it all and you’ve got the messiest kind of happiness and worry at once. Fears of another miscarriage swoop in and you find it difficult to enjoy the moment. We knew that we wanted to keep this to ourselves until we were “sure, sure,” like 10000% sure our risk of miscarrying was significantly low. Because of the Coronavirus, Sam was not allowed into appointments with me. I was next level frightened to walk back into the same office for a confirmation ultrasound, where we had learned of our missed miscarriage in April. I was shaking. I was petrified. Sam was not allowed in the lobby, he had to wait in the hallway. I had to go in expecting the worst.

June 18th, 2020: Confirmation! A beautiful little fetal pole – everything looked good. Naturally, my anxiety was sky high. We would return on July 2nd. Until then, take care of me. This news was still a sacred whisper between us, but one lone soul did know. 💕

July 2nd, 2020: A heartbeat! Let me tell you how bittersweet it is to hear the heartbeat of your child without your partner. The office allowed me to record the screen for Sam. You could hear me in the background saying, thank you! over and over again. We cried. We sobbed. The emotions were deep. My eyes are watering. Moving on.

July 30th, 2020: Hello, baby Calabro! Doing little butt lifts, stretching out completely flat and not letting us get a profile shot, our thirteen-weeker was in full action! Heartbeat – great. Position – great (we were low-lying last year, dangerously so). Stubbornness – 100%. Bittersweet, again, to be witnessing our little life without Sammy. I think I could hear his tears from the truck. After the first appointment in a cramped hallway, he would from that point forward remain outside. I had a chauffeur and a beautiful a/c ready for me to whip off my mask and sob with my husband.

I think at this point, we were both still in such disbelief, such shock. Our baby is due February 1st, 2021, but with a scheduled c-section at the end of January.

WE ARE OFFICIALLY PREGNANT!

The best kind of surprises are true surprises, we truly had no idea this was ever going to be possible again. To conceive and maintain a pregnancy?! What a blessing. I spent the next few hours working on a video that would reveal our secret to our family and friends, who live across the world. This was also, how we planned on showing Ben and Emma that they would become a big brother (again) and big sister, early next year. The video was a compilation of the past few years, moments I had captured of Sam with the kids, our beach wedding and so many more memories in-between. The video would then shift from captions about love and how full our hearts are, to our best kept secret. Our little wiggle worm and heartbeat would appear in the video and bring everyone to tears (really not my intention) but everyone cried. Including the kids, I mean Ben is always a softy, but he sobbed so much my shirt was wet. Our baby is strong and growing. This is really happening!

We learned how incompatible Android and Apple phones are, when attempting to send a four minute long video to my Android family, please get iPhones, guys … but we made it happen. So many tears! Seriously, just an amazing way to share the news during this pandemic. My parents live twenty minutes away, but to limit exposures, we have only seen them less than five times since the beginning of 2020. It’s been devastating that we have been unable to travel to see family in Virginia as well. This pandemic has changed our lives.

Sam and I have spent 132 days together, without a break, since April. We would have been lucky to have sixty-six two-day weekends together between his hectic kitchen schedules, but the world tossed a new set of parameters our way. We have grown closer, learned even more about one another, and made this time in our lives positive for both ourselves and the kids. Our levels of stress and anxiety are down, we have implemented budgets and we have reshaped our business plans to include the “new normal” precautions with COVID-19 in mind. This year, 2020, is not over yet, and neither are the changes & challenges that we accept with open hearts and open minds.

Our little girl is coming into a world that is currently experiencing so much change, hopefully for the greater good, and we will do all that we can to contribute to the future.

Baby girl, you are the luckiest little human. Your daddy is amazing, your big brother and big sister are the kindest and most loving kiddos. Your dog is a beautiful mess and your mommy is too. We cannot wait to meet this stubborn little Italian/English bundle, which we think will have bright red hair, my nose and Sammy’s beautiful eyes. 💖

Cheers to 2020, for so far, being the most incredible, unique, confusing and beautiful year of our lives.

Somewhere Amidst the Chaos

So I fell off the wagon. In recent weeks, my intention as mentioned previously, was to blog once a week. But then life happened. My little man, who has what I like to refer to as Peter Pan syndrome, does not want to grow up. He is fully unprepared to accept that he will be ten next month. Anyway, there was a surprise “F” on a report card. A “surprise” F? Yes. None of us knew … there was no warning. Evenings became a lot more intense with supervision over homework and then, it got better! Enter in from stage right in Alex’s Comedy of Realities … some misinformation from the dude, i.e. lies … big, fat, intentional lies. Sigh. So, a lot changed in a short period of time. Benjamin is a curiosity. His heart is delicate; he’s stuck in that awkward transitional period between momma’s boy and ten-year-old dude that is halfway to twenty. (Do yourselves a favor and casually drop into a conversation with your child that they are halfway to their doubled age, shock.) This made Ben stop in his tracks. Tears in his eyes … immediate realization that his upcoming birthday is half of twenty. Little man was shook. Haha, it was cute in a sad way, since it signified that moment of temporary acknowledgement that he has to grow up. Valid excuse, I know, but what about the evenings after the kids are in bed? Hello, Chiari Malformation migraines.

I am not entirely sure if my headaches are back for good again or not, but I do know that being under fluorescent lights and in front of monitors 40 hours a week is adding to the weight. Valid excuse number two: I do not want to look at my laptop after my work day. I hate even having to type those sentences and question my level of pain and discomfort in comparison to life before the decompression surgery. If I decide I want to sing my heart out on the karaoke machine with the kids and my niece, but then I pay for it with a migraine on top of the regular pressure headache x1000 for the next week … I guess it is safe to say yes, at this point, that a lot of my symptoms are slowly reappearing in clusters again.

The most important valid excuse is the eventual acknowledgement that my depression has been dragging me through the ringer since August of last year. I increased my visits with the psychiatrist and we worked through a series of dosage modifications, which I think we have just successfully found this month. I am so fortunate to have such a supportive and loving husband by my side through this. He has been holding my hand and supporting my every season. In holding myself accountable, I needed to retrace why August was significant to me. Other than for a couple of obvious reasons, it was actually a follow up psychiatrist appointment where I was prepared to meet my new year, with infertility on the doorstep again … and this is where I found myself battling a deeper depression than I was expecting. I knew it was at its heaviest when I did not want to write. A writer not wanting to write? Done. Fix it now.

In the grand scheme of things, I needed to focus and find my footing. I kept my bubble small and had to shut out the world for a bit. This included some of those closest to me. I did what I needed to get through the hours, the days, the weeks … just until I felt like me again. So here I am. Working in hospitality and tourism, when we have a global coronavirus pandemic … I hate germs and I have anxiety … my down swing of depression has flipped into the anxiety up. Present day, Monday the 16th of March, 2020, is technically my Sunday. Tomorrow, I head into work with a lot of uncertainty. I like the idea of maintaining routine, but there are a lot of question marks at the head of this virus. How much longer will I have a job for? Will I have a job to go back to if we are put onto some kind of lock down? Central Florida is going to dry up. 2020 is a wash.

This is chaos, it really is like nothing any of us have been through before. The coronavirus pandemic is forcing Italians to choose whose life is more important? This is a serious threat. Anxiety is at a peak in the world. Wash your hands. Please … please, please, please.

Sammy and I have been putting together our business plan and new business models for two years, but never with more than a few hours at a time to dedicate to polish it off. This is kind of like, the breath of new life for entrepreneurs in this country. I ate Mesquite smoked ribs with Chef Sam housemade rub and Kansas City style housemade barbecue sauce last night … and it was the best barbecue I have ever had in my life. I am not just saying that because he is my husband, but because they were the best ribs I have ever had in my life. Period. He’s nailed it … and since the coronavirus shut down our town for two weeks … we get to make our future from ground zero. We aren’t 100% ready to unveil, but I imagine that will change soon.

I guess I could enter another valid excuse. Vote. In January 2019, I became a Naturalized Citizen of the United States of America. This is the first Presidential election that I have ever participated in. I’m nerding out over it big time. I am following campaigns, I am educating myself and find myself to be a political nerd at the moment. Sammy also introduced me to The Wire on HBO. Oh! Also, we watched the Trump docuseries on Netflix and the McMillions docuseries on HBO. Both pretty great, I do recommend. Back to the valid excuse … I am proud to be able to contribute my vote and voice to this country. Voting is not to be taken lightly, especially in this era and now with the impending financial crisis of our country … so I have been digging into that world in my spare time.

Kona, not Corona

Kona takes up a lot of time, but she is doing so well and she is still the perfect addition to our family. She fills that little void from the miscarriage too, so she’s a spoiled little puppy. We have been working on socializing Kona – she is still afraid but protective. We have had one successful and one unsuccessful trip to the dog park. Training a puppy requires dedication, which we have, but we are not sure what tools we need to teach her that other people are not a threat. She’s got a big bark for such a clumsy, lumpy pup. She’ll keep those coronavirus germs away, for sure.

Closing thoughts, I am always going to try to write … whether it’s once a day, once a week or once a month – I am not going anywhere. We are also not going to the James Arthur concert they just refunded our tickets for … in MAY. Waaaah. Anyway, I might have to blog once a day as we go through this pandemic together. Maybe I will do some sneak peak photos of some of our meats. Mmmm.