Expecting the Unexpected: a book review

Last Fall I was asked by my buddy, Amy Kim, to review her upcoming book, Expecting the Unexpected: An Honest Look at Miscarriage, Postpartum Depression & Motherhood. I eagerly agreed. I read through the manuscript in one sitting - on a flight and in an airport. I gobbled up her words through stifled chuckles on the plane and wiped away tears in an airport terminal.

For years Amy and I shared parallel journeys. I struggled through the darkness of infertility and Amy braved the depths of a miscarriage and postpartum depression.

As ambitious career women and adoring wives I don't think we both anticipated the journey toward or into motherhood being so difficult. So many of the public stories told are of positive pregnancy tests, growing baby bumps, and sweet smelling babies who breast-feed without an issue.

That wasn't either of our experience. Over the years I watched Amy's journey in real life and online as she bravely, publicly, and appropriately shared her stories at the right times. 

Amy was authentic and courageous in her own pain. And she was committed to getting through it, not stuck in it. I remember going to a book reading and signing of Cold Tangerines, written my old friend, Shauna Niequist. That was over 4 years ago. Amy was in the middle of a searing loss and I was smack dab in the center of a seemingly never-ending adoption process. We'd both read Shauna's book and it spoke deeply to us both. We needed that night together. 

Fast forward all these years later. We have 5 kids between our two families and it looks so "happily ever after". But sometimes the end of the story isn't as good as the middle part. The middle part is the part that breaks us down, strengthens us, transforms us, and shapes us into the people (not just mothers) we need to be. That's what Amy and my journey into motherhood did - and is DOING - for both of us.

 My endorsement of "Expecting the Unexpected" from the back of Amy's book.

My endorsement of "Expecting the Unexpected" from the back of Amy's book.

I know this book will be a gift to the women who's journey into motherhood isn't all fairytales and roses. I know you'll enjoy it like I did! 


April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.

Introducing Baby Diaz #3!

At 1:40am, Doctor Fung woke me up. Immediately, I noticed she was in her scrubs with hair net on and my gut told me what was coming: EMERGENCY C-SECTION. She gently explained in as few words as possible for my blurry brain that the baby's heart rate had delcelerated twice in an hour and had gone longer and lower than previously. He needed to come out. Now.

Flustered, I called Brian and asked him to come immediately. We tried to call some sleeping friends to no avail, yet quickly got a hold of our children's pastor and friend, Julie. In a 15 second phone call she agreed to come stay with Judah and Addise. Thirty minutes later, Brian arrived at the hospital and the games began!

By 2:45am we were in surgery the entire thing was done by 3:40am. Amazing doctors and nurses all around. Serioulsy - SO BLESSED!

All spiffed up in his jumpsuit.

Behind the veil. I had to tape my nose ring for some reason. It's surreal to me that I have 3 babies and have never felt labor or any real contractions!! I am not complaining here. :)

Asher Zacarias Diaz.
 Born April 23, 2012 at 3:03am.
4 lbs 5 oz and 16 inches long.

We toiled over his name all the way until last week.  But finally we agreed that we loved how it sounded as much as what it meant.

  • Asher - "blessed, happy, fortunate" Asher is a Hebrew name, also a son from the 12 Tribes of Israel in the Old Testament, like his brother, Judah. Unmistakeably, his life is blessed by the miraculous and gracious hand of God.
  • Zacarias - "God remembered" The Spanish spelling of his name (a shout out to Brian's Puerto Rican/Spanish roots) is from the New Testament. He was John the Baptist's father, unable to conceive with his wife Elizabeth for decades. This passage was prayed over us years ago during our infertility journey. You can read his story in Luke 1.

After the surgery we were so glad we followed the doctors orders! We found out that Asher had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck TWICE and was stepping on in...and this in the breech position. There was no way he was staying in my belly safely much longer, much less going full term with a vaginal delivery!!! PRAISE GOD.

Otherwise, he's so healthy. He looks great. Breathing on his own. Sucking on his hand. Moving his arms and legs on his own. He was given a 8 of 10 number after his birth...a full term baby only can have 9 of 10. Blessed.

For a Type A personality this whole process has stripped away my preparedness. AND I'M TOTALLY OK WITH IT. No breastfeeding class taken. No Lamaze classes. No hospital bag packed. No forms prepared to jump start disability insurance. Whatever. My son and I are doing well.

Wanna see some pics?

Head full of dark hair, just like I dreamed. 4 lbs and 5 oz. Not bad for a 7 week old early baby!!!

Snuggle baby

Our non-Ethiopian baby boy. He's perfect. Chunky. 10 fingers, 10 toes. Chomps his gums like an old man searching for his dentures. His crying is a like a mix of a dog and teradactyl. I've yet to see his eyes. His ears are so brilliantly designed. His nose is gorgeous!

He looks so tiny next to the giant green hand.

I've yet to hold my son, but then again I had to wait 3 months after being introduced to Judah and Addise to hold them and another 7 week separation before they came home. This feels easy compared to that ocean-separation. Don't get me wrong - I cannot wait to hold my son.

Now we are awaiting being transported to another hospital that has a NICU that can adequately hold us. There are no long-term beds in this inn today. Bummer. Since I got to my part-partum room at 6 am, I've been attempting rest between incessant knocks on my door. Asher is kickin' it in the NICU. Brian's at home with the bathroom contractor and 2 big siblings. I got to talk with them on the phone this morning and Judah totally knows what's going on. He communicated he knew his baby brother was born, that his name was Asher, and proceeded to kiss the phone when I asked if he loved him. They also know this means "gamma" is coming to see them soon which may be the highlight at the moment. :)

So, there you have it. Welcome Asher Zacarias to our family and our world. I'm gonna try and get some rest again.

Much love and a FULL heart...


April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.

Part 1 - What a Weekend!

When I showed up to the hospital on Friday afternoon for my scheduled non-stress test (NST), I had no idea what we were walking into for the weekend. Before I share the facts, I would be remiss if I didn't say a MASSIVE thank you to those who've covered us in prayer the past 7 days. It has been truly unbelievable, unpredictable, and demanding of our greatest maturity.
Friday Afternoon and Evening:
Went in for my scheduled NST at 10:40am. What was going to be 40 minutes turned into 4 hours of monitoring my elevated high blood pressure and baby's heartbeat. Within minutes, I was escorted to labor and delivery and admitted for better monitoring.
After 4 hours, our baby boy was looking good and my blood pressure somewhat normalized so I was discharged. They required me to do a 24-hour urine collection for testing and also scheduled me for another NST at 3:30pm.
Saturday Afternoon to Sunday Morn:  
I cooperated with the doctor's orders and collected my pee (terrible task) and came in for the NST.
After 3 hours of testing my blood pressure was no longer alarming and it looked like I was getting discharged.
Then, the doctor abruptly came in an gently announced, "it looks like you've earned yourself and overnight stay with us." Instant, hot tears filled my eyes but I couldn't leak in front of this doctor while she explained "why". A good friend spontaneously hurried over to the house after Brian put the kids down for bedtime so he could be with me. Thanks Robyn and family for your help!!
  • Baby boy had a few decelerations in his heartbeat over the 3 hours. Though my admittance into L&D was for my high blood pressure, I was staying overnight because of concern for his stability!!!
  • I moved into the "high risk" category and was told it'll be one step at a time as to what that will mean.
  • Throughout the night, these heart "decels" happened multiple times and always in conjunction with a contraction. I didn't feel more than a couple of those contractions. They were very mild. But as a result, the doctor told me that I'd probably deliver early; we just didn't know when.
  • We were asked to sign C section consent form if there's an emergency or if he's breach.
  • Throughout the night I was strapped to 6 machines (IV, BP, pulse, 2 fetal monitors, catheter). No sleep for the restless and exhausted. The nurse was in and out all night checking machines, checking blood pressure, taking blood, etc.  Lemme just say that L&D nurses are AMAZING though. Brian's sister is an L&D nurse and I'm nominating her for sainthood now.
  • I was given a steroid shot Saturday evening for baby boy's lung development, in case I have to deliver early.  They gave me another 24 hours after the first.
  • They drew my blood every six hours to confirm the safety environment for the baby.
  • The ultrasound showed that baby boy is 4 pounds 9 oz; he's in the 48th percentile. He looked good! They did an ultrasound on the baby & April could see his fingernails!!  He's got everything at this point; these last 7 weeks are just mainly lung development & weight gain.
  • I was given magnesium sulfate in a drip to help keep my blood pressure down & help baby boy's brain development.  One side effect of this is that it makes you very warm & sticky - very uncomfortable. I felt like I was going to spontaneously burst into flames at points. This is no walk in the park.
  • Throughout the night they had me on an oxygen mask to make sure baby boy's getting plenty of oxygen, which helped when his heart rate dipped.
  • I've asked whether I need to go on blood pressure meds & whether this means bed rest for me.  No answers yet.
  • Brian called Ed Salas Saturday night to ask for some prayer and assistance with my Sunday schedule. Ed was moderating our services at Newsong on Sunday and graciously offered to invite to pray for us. We watched online and I immediately burst into tears with the first song: "Come thou fount of every blessing". ** Take note of our son's name later!!
  • Sunday morning: A good friend came to take care of Judah & Addise this morning; she'll stay til they have their naps; Brian plans to go back & be with them from nap time till bed time.
  • At this point I was hoping for a Monday morning discharge (they already confirmed that I need to stay Sunday night).  
  • My iPhone app says the baby is 19" long now & if I deliver now, he has a 98% chance of survival... and only 12% of babies delivered at this point have severe complications.

As of Sunday Night:

  • When I called my mom, Brian was just leaving with the kiddos to see me. That was water for my soul. I was missing my babies after such an abrupt separation. My mom asked me how Judah & Addise were doing, and I said, "They're doing great... all kinds of people are playing with them!" ...and then I broke down & cried.  
  • A shift in my spirit occurred when Brian reminded me, "We've done this before - we had to leave the kids in Ethiopia for seven weeks - we can do it again..."
  • It was more or less confirmed that I would have a C-section, whenever he was ready to come.  The baby's heart rate decelerates each time I had a contraction, so the thinking was that labor & delivery would be too much stress & trauma on him. Plus he was breach.
  • My spirit surrendered and I said, "We have no control over anything anymore". A C-section was #1 on my list of what to avoid for a number of reasons. But my dogmatism wilted away to obedience, trust, and a deep confidence that God's got this.
  • My blood pressure was been normal for nearly the entire time. The mag-sulfate treatment helped with that.
  • Late Sunday night, the doctor confirmed that in order for me to be discharged from the hospital, she has to have a "clean strip" for 24 hours. A clean strip is basically when his heart rate wouldn't decelerate at all during those 24 hours. At 5pm Sunday, his heart decelerated again - so at this point, 5pm Monday would've been the earliest I'd be discharged.
  • Then, the doctor warned: There is a 50% chance I would have a C section on Monday... if his heart decelerates more, then they will strongly consider a C section earlier.
  • Emotionally, Brian and I were both feeling very good... no stress/not scared/not sad.  We had deep confidence that "God's got this... He started it, He'll finish it."  We had a good measure of strength & peace. God started this whole process six years ago & look what we have today.
  • We talked with the NICU doctor today, and she said that 33 weeks is a good size.
  • Of course, everyone is well aware that every day he's still en utero, the better, but having the baby now is not cause for alarm.  In some ways, having him now would be easier than carrying him full term if things continue on as they have for the last 36 hours.  Obviously, having him wasn't our goal or aim, but if it happens, "it's ok."
  • Meanwhile, our bathroom is under remodel. SERIOUSLY?!?! Brian's begging the contractor to work on it double time this week.  (The initial end date is 1-2 weeks from now.)
  • If the baby is born Monday, I'd be home in 2-3 days and the baby would be a little longer - from a few days to potentially 2-4 weeks longer if there are complications or if he just needs growth time.  It all depends on whether he can breathe, suck, and swallow on his own.
  • I got to eat dinner, Brian helped me shower, and went home around 9pm to get our kids from our friends house. I've been praying earnestly about our kids' sense of security and peace in these days. I think J&A thought they went on vacation with all the friends and attention they had on Friday and Saturday. Thank Jesus!

Words and Prayers We Fell Asleep To:
** that I remembered to save and post

  • We serve a powerful, provident God — no surprises for Him. (my little bro)
  • He's just ready to come. (Maria)
  • A couple L&D nurses who interestingly enough had their babies at 32 and 33 weeks with no complications with the baby and minimal NICU stays.
  • I KNOW you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, but sometimes with let's say with strong personalities (Which God uses mightily) the strength sometimes is our own pushing through.....and not God's. Just a note to make sure you hand over the control (EXTREMELY HARD I GET THAT) to the wise and remember FACT, FAITH, FEELINGS. Keeping those in order is vital for you and your tiny little baby within. (Annette)
  • "God is our refuge and strength. An ever present help in times of trouble." You are bathed in prayer & covered in love. Your baby is covered in prayer as well. You are an incredible, sensitive, knowing, adaptable, strong, intelligent, resilient, prophetic, faithful, deeply-sensing mom. You & your body know exactly what to do & how to experience this. Each step, each breath, is completely covered with the prayers of the Saints!!! (Becca)

    Sweet dreams and good sleep was in our prayers.  
    But another surprise was in store...
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April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.

Sordid Stories at 8 Months

32 weeks and 5 days. According to my iPhone app, our son is as big as a honeydew, roughly weighing in at 4.5 lbs and 29 inches. He seems to be doing great flip-flopping in belly. Enjoying being heads up before he settles down for his hopefully undramatic arrival.

But it's not all fun and games in the pregnancy world these days. At my last appointment, which my mom was joyfully able to attend, my blood pressure was fairly elevated. Apparently, it wasn't the first time (though I don't remember a previous warning flag) so my midwife ordered a battery of blood and urine tests. This week I got some results and next steps that left me leaking a few tears as I pulled out of my "stork parking" spot at Kaiser. My blood work all came back normal. My urine tests needed to be repeated. My blood pressure was high again. After an unexpected conversation with the OB on call, she requested my blood work to be repeated and begin 2/week non-stress tests (NST) at the hospital until our son is born. She also dropped a bomb that bed rest may be in my future if my blood pressure doesn't start cooperating. WHAT?!?

With these added appointments, I literally have over 20 scheduled appointments between now and his due date. It's a part-time job.

I went for my first NST on Tuesday and what was supposed to take 40 minutes took an hour and a half. During the NST they are checking his movement and heart rate, my blood pressure, and I get an ultrasound every time checking my amniotic fluid levels and his breathing. We both faired wonderfully on Tuesday and I began reading Anne Lamott's latest book, Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son.

Monitoring our every move....

All and all it was a great experience. The nurses are fabulous. The leather reclining chair was uber soothing. The reading was fitting. The extra peak at our son was beautiful.

Today I went in for NST #2 and within a few minutes she unplugged me and apologetically announced that after my ultrasound she was going to hand-deliver me to labor and delivery to be further monitored. My blood pressure was 142/100 and she did wanted me to be monitored by a doctor. Bleh. More blood and urine tests were run. My blood work came back normal. The "other test" requires 24 hours of gathering the evidence. Gross. My blood pressure was automatically checked every 15 minutes and vacillated from too high to normal. Baby Boy seemed to not notice as he rocked it floating obliviously in my belly. What I planned on being a 40 minute NST turned into a 4 hour detour in L&D today.

Tomorrow morning Brian and I head in for a 2 hour hospital tour, though I got the speedy version today. Tomorrow afternoon I get to hand in the "other test" and have another NST. And we'll go from there. A weekend at the hospital. Just what I was hoping for in the midst of the bathroom remodel. Who wouldn't want to spend their day off strapped to monitors instead of playing with little Ethiopians?!?

My BIGGEST prayer is that my blood pressure will stabilize in a normal zone and that I don't have to go on meds, bed rest, or any other terrible alternative (preeclampsia can be quite dangerous for mother and baby if untreated). The rest of my family also needs some prayer. Brian's pulling most all the weight at home and with our kids. He's always on, never off and getting oh-so tired. The introvert in him is screaming for care and I can't help. Judah and Addise are also starting to act out a bit. They are needy, whiny, and want their mommy. But mommy can't do what she normally does with them. I hate this the most. This weekend Brian and I are going to do some re-evaluating for these last 7 weeks and determine what must give for me and the baby to stay healthy. I need to listen to my husband and my limits more than ever...which is not my strong suit.

To leave this sordid post on a positive note, Brian and I determined over text messaging this week (the 21st century couple we are) what our son's full name will be!!!!!! Even after this week, his name means so much. We can't wait to share it with you after his safe arrival. Here's also a few pictures of the big brother and sister who get cuter and cuter by my assessment. Thanks for your love and prayers and help. We need them.

Making gluten-free oatmeal cookies together.

"Hurry up and cool down!"

My snuggle boy

1 Comment

April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.

March: Looking Back.

March. Oh March. Where did you go? As the weeks fly by and we get closer to baby #3, our days get fuller and fuller. Our life margin is as narrow as it's ever been. But life feels abundant and wonderfully good.

If you know me (or my mother), you know I'm a woman of lists. They help me settle my ADD brain and make life manageable on paper. I've created a couple lists for these last 8 weeks and 3 days until our son is scheduled to arrive (who's counting?). One list for work seems impossibly long. The other list for personal projects is just called "Ticking time bomb tasks...". Last month we crossed off a number of HUGE tasks including buy a minivan, sell a Honda, file taxes, finish paperwork for Judah and Addise's legal name change, social security cards and adoption re-finalization, organize the garage and finish registering for my baby shower.

There was also about 2 weeks of sickness that invaded our house as we passed around some flu/cold virus. It spared no one. We also had 5 different doctor appointments between the 4.5 of us in a week's time. Glorious.

Did I mention all this was on top of growing a baby in my bulging belly, developing two little breathing beings, working full time in a high capacity job, and nurturing my most valuable marriage? Yeah. No margin. 

Last month was also graced with my parent's presence for the last week of the month. My mom is a picture perfect grandma - present, fun, affectionate, authoritative, teachable, and willing to be bossed around. Judah and Addise LOVE her and wish my parents didn't have to get on an "airplane to go bye-bye". My dad was also here for part of the time and though admittedly not a little kid guy, he found ways to connect with our kiddos - tickling, ongoing jokes, and loud noises - and they adore him. My favorite repetitive moment was Addise refusing to call my dad "grandpa" but insisting his name is "gamma". It started as a teaching experience and turned into hysterical laughter all around.

I won't even get into what this month - my month! - looks like other than a master bathroom remodel, hospital tour, have our carpets cleaned, and organizing whatever space isn't 100% utilized in our modest condo so we can accommodate another child and ensuing stuff. The month of May is equally as ambitious.

Pregnancy is well...not my favorite. My dad identified that I'm experiencing this pregnancy more as a task to be completed than an emotional journey. It's true. It's hard to do the latter with all the other happening. Currently, my favorite pregnancy symptoms are carpal tunnel, swollen face (especially my nose!) hands and feet, a dozen skin tags, itchy belly, utter exhaustion, compressed lungs that leave me breathless after walking up the stairs, snoring that keeps my dear husband sleepless, red rash around my nose, and waking up to pee or flop into a new position 3-5 times each night. And I may very well gain 40 pounds in these last 8 weeks. I'm insatiably hungry and munchy. I've also had a couple doctor appointments in the last few weeks that have indicated that my son and I are measuring about 2 weeks ahead of schedule, which either means he's coming early (PLEASE SOVEREIGN JESUS!) or he's going to be huge. Please pray. I'm begging you. Brian was over 8 lbs and his itty-bitty Puerto Rican mother had to push him out. I'm praying for a different end to our story. Otherwise, all is going well in this final trimester. "One and done" - this is the motto of my pregnancy.

Judah and Addise are impossibly cute and giggling at their shenanigans after bedtime, sometimes infuriated, often baffled, and ever grateful for their beautiful lives. Here are a few snapshots into this past month.

"PIZAZZ!" Is what my mom has aptly identified as Addise's 1-word descriptor. Her newest phrases are "what?!?!?", "mommy, where's dat?!?", "come on, mommy", while furiously nodding her head in a sing-song voice - "Ya like it?!?" She's also fond of saying "NO MOMMY" with some undisclosed authority, which is often met with stern discipline and a chance to do-over. 
Lord, have mercy.
Judah's first time constructively contributing to our grocery trip. He thrives on being a helper. I recently submitted this picture to a Gap open casting call which begins next month. I'm whipped over this one.
Addise got to ride a horse at a family celebration on Palm Sunday at our church. The cowboy who lead her down the suburban parking lot had her giggling with glee as the horsey galloped. Priceless.

BOUNCY! This is a pregnant mother's nightmare as climbing in to said bouncy house to collect her enthralled children is pretty much impossible. Eventually they came out. I don't know why or how.
Judah loved chasing and playing with some sheep, goats, bunnies, and chickens in a petting zoo on Palm Sunday. I have to catch my breath when I see my little Ethiopian having these childhood experiences for the first time. The longer he's with us, the more we see his confidence and boldness increasing. It's a reminder that our attachment work is not done.
Addise got her grubby hands on 4 freshly washed apples and gnawed into them with her little teeth. She was proud of her achievement. I was not.    


April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.