Mommy Confessions

To the Babies Born Sleeping

This year June 18th came and went and when I realized it had passed, it punched me in the gut.

When I was 24 years old, I had lost three babies to miscarriage.  Miscarriage. Such a pretty word to explain the devastating loss of a child. To gloss over the fact that the life that was once living inside a mother must be removed…somehow.

My medical record says I’ve had three abortions.  Abortions. Because the medical community doesn’t differentiate between the loss of a child via choice and the loss of a child when a mother was pleading with God on her knees…sobbing…begging to save her baby.  Every year when I have a physical they ask, “How many times have you been pregnant?” I say, “Five.” Then the follow-up, “How many live births have you had?” “Only 2.” And into my chart they record 3 abortions.

When I was 24 years old I had given birth to three babies asleep.  I prefer this to miscarriage.  Three babies born sleeping.

The first two times were in public restrooms at Grand Valley State University.  So unimaginably small yet so unmistakable in their form.  Amazing how quickly a baby is a baby.  Yet they were damaged and I could reconcile that maybe God had been merciful and His plan was perfect. They were meant to grow up in heaven.

On June 18, 2003, I gave birth to my third baby sleeping. I was home.  I was alone.  The doctor had told us a few days prior that we no longer had a heartbeat. The baby was so small, “the body would pass it on its own.”

She was born in the shower.  Unlike the others, she seemed perfect. So impossibly complete.  Yet so terminally small.  She could have fit into the fingernail of my pinky.  Yet there she was.  Unlike the others, there was no doubt.  I had a daughter.  And now before she could begin, she was gone.

I called my Aunt Shirley and sobbed my eyes out. How could God be so cruel? What did I do wrong? How can I continue when this hurts so much? I told her the biggest hurt was that these children didn’t matter. The world didn’t care. They didn’t exist. Another abortion on a spreadsheet that the mother didn’t chose.

Shirley patiently listened to my rant.  To me sob, to me plead for something other than the pain I was feeling.  And then she told me to say a prayer and name all three of my babies the first name that came to mind. She said make them real.  Give them a name.  They were real.  They deserve a name and to be mourned.  She said to bury my tiny third baby and to pray to God that I could heal.

So I closed my eyes and I prayed.

Baby #1 – Sarah.  God had promised Sarah she would have children. I took comfort in that this name coming to me was a promise that I wouldn’t grieve forever. Somehow God would fill my empty arms.

Baby #2 – David.  The Bible says that David was a man after God’s own heart.  Also, once upon a time, I had loved a boy very much whose middle name was David.  I prayed that in heaven, God had my baby David and he was a man after God’s own heart and he was kind like the boy I had loved.

Baby #3…I still held her in my hand as I prayed.  I was devastated.  I was alone.  And suddenly I remembered the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary and telling her she would have a son.  My third baby…my perfect baby girl born impossibly small. Too small to survive.  Gabriel.  Due February 29, 2004.

I buried Gabriel under a Rose of Sharon in my yard.  Until this day and until I take my last breath every home I own will have a Rose of Sharon to honor my baby girl.

I would love to tell you that after this I felt closure and that I was healed. That God miraculously closed the wounds in my heart and I moved forward. But that would be a lie. I grieved and grieved. I felt hopeless.  I wanted to die with my Gabriel, my David and my Sarah. I wanted to be where they were.  My life felt meaningless and void.

My husband, Mr. Businessman became angry with me because I could not overcome my grief.  “When will you get over this?,” he yelled.  “When will you be normal again?”  I didn’t know.  It felt like never.  I couldn’t explain to him the emptiness and at the same time the overwhelming abyss of grief.  A deep pit of grief that felt like it would swallow me whole, and I wanted to give into the grief.  I knew God in his mercy would forgive me if I just gave into the grief. And then, I thought, I wouldn’t hurt anymore.  I’d be with my babies.


Three weeks after I said goodbye to my Gabriel under the Rose of Sharon, I ended up in the emergency room with severe nausea.  Again, I was alone.

They asked if I could be pregnant.  Devastated, I said “No, I lost a baby 3 weeks ago.”

“Ma’am, we are going to do an ultrasound”.

Okay, I thought.  Maybe appendicitis. I mean what else could God throw at me right now?

“Ma’am. We have a heartbeat.”

“We have a heart beat”?

My head spun. How is this possible? Did I miss a health class that explained how you could give birth to a baby asleep and three weeks later have a heart beat with no intercession in between to cause it?

The doctor’s explained that they were going to treat this heart beat as a new pregnancy because to err on the side of new pregnancy was safer for the baby long term.

I was numb. I wasn’t ready to accept a new baby or to fight for a new baby. I wanted Gabriel, not new baby. New baby was just another baby that would be born asleep.  I wasn’t strong enough to say goodbye to another baby.  They calculated new baby due date as April 29, 2004. Exactly 8 weeks later than Gabriel.  It made absolutely no sense from any calendar or activity in my past…but I didn’t argue.


New baby was a fighter. This baby was a fighter when I wasn’t strong enough to fight anymore.  My heart was convinced it was another baby I’d have to lose alone.  I’d bury this one next to the sister in the Rose of Sharon.  But…I reached the glorious 16 week mark (a record for me!).

They did the ultrasound and new baby was a boy! I honestly didn’t care.  The ultrasound said he was alive!  He was a boy, who cares?! He’s alive!  They shook their heads and said, “He’s measuring 4-6 weeks ahead.”

Who cares? He’s alive!

I started to believe maybe we could make it.  This baby and me.  We were going to survive. I didn’t have to give into the darkness, to the abyss.  We were going to live together!

Then 20 weeks came.  I started to have contractions.  I was bleeding.

This time I was with my mom and she rushed me to the hospital.  He was trying to come to soon.

“Dear God please no.  Not this time…please. I don’t think I can do this again.  Please, I beg you.  Don’t take him from me.  I’ve come so far…I was just starting to hope, to believe.  I can’t do this.  If you take him from me, I won’t make it, this will end me.”

They were pumping me full of so much medication to stop labor, my heart felt like it would pound out of my chest.  My emotions were out of orbit and I thought, if he doesn’t survive this, I won’t either. I don’t want to.

They managed to stop contractions, but I had started to dilate.  They had to rush me to surgery to physically stop him from coming.  To close my body. To make it impossible for him to come.  As long as we could keep the contractions at bay.

I laid on the operating table alone. They can’t put you under for these procedures…too dangerous for the baby.  I asked them, “What happens if this doesn’t work?  What happens if he’s born?”

The doctor looked at me and said, “He’s too small, he will die.  We will let you hold him, but he will die.”

Again, I begged God…”Please no. I can’t do this again.  I’m not strong enough.  Please save him. Take me…but please don’t take him.”

The surgery was a success. I was sent home on complete bed rest. From November 2003 until March 2004, I was in and out of the hospital at least 2-3 times per week.  They would pump me full of medication to stop the labor.  Sometimes I would break down and cry because the effect on my body and my mentality were overwhelming.  But he had fought so hard, I was determined to fight as long as he would.  It was him and me against the world.  We were in this together. I wasn’t going to let this baby down.  We were going to fight this together.


On February 29, 2004, I thought of my little Gabriel.  She was due that day and I mourned her loss.  But still, my boy was still safe inside me. I’d made it past all the danger zone dates.  I knew that if he was born now, he had a fighting chance.

On the evening of February 29, 2004, he tried to come with a vengeance.  So much medication to stop labor.  A doctor looked at my chart later in life I was 27…shook her head and said, “You’re lucky they didn’t kill you that night with how much they pumped into your body”.

I was alone and sobbing in my hospital room.  Alone.  Begging for my baby and yet at the same time, selfishly begging for the whole ordeal to be over.  I was 25.  I’d giving birth to 3 babies sleeping in the last 18 months. I was tired. My soul was at its end.  A nurse came in and asked “What’s wrong?”.  I didn’t even know where to start.  How to you explain you are mourning the child who was supposed to be born today, while fighting for the one inside you, while all alone in a hospital room?

They managed to stop labor that night.

After that, the pregnancy went very bad.  In the next 3 weeks, my blood pressure skyrocketed and my kidneys began to shut down.  My precious baby’s vitals were not good.

On March 24, 2004, they agreed, it was time.  To prolong the pregnancy was putting my life at jeopardy as well as his.  He was far enough along that he should be okay.

He was born on March 24, 2004. They had a team on standby to rush him to DeVos Children’s Hospital since he was a preemie.  A whole team of med students observed to witness a preemie birth.

And he was born.  Absolutely perfect.  7lbs, 7oz.

No rush the NICU.

The doctor said, “That’s no preemie.  We should have never recalculated his due date.  That’s why your body was shutting down, it was all the symptoms of an overdue pregnancy. This baby was a twin.”

My fighter.

His name is William Gunnar.  He’s a soccer player.  A black belt.  An emotional cannonball.  He wants to serve his country and attend the Naval Academy.  He’s an emotional cannonball.

And his twin sister was Gabriel.

Home Sweet Home

Welcome to Paradise!

12037 W Devis Rd, West Olive, MI 49460

4 beds 4 baths 2,744 sqft above grade

Welcome home to 12037 West Devis. With zoning available to both Allendale and Grand Haven schools, you won’t have to change schools to attain paradise.  This stylish home, nestled on 2.5+ acres is centrally located between GH, Holland and GR. Boasting major curb appeal and a smart layout this custom home is bright, open and well-appointed.

IMG_4306 2
Elevated Wrap Around Deck with Two Sets of Stairs for Access from Either Side of the Expansive Yard.


Floor to ceiling windows flood the living room and adjacent kitchen with natural light. Details such as a field stone fireplace and 42-in tall kitchen cabinets maximize this home’s beauty and functionality. Cook for 2 or 20 in the well-appointed kitchen, entertaining is abreeze either inside or out with an island snack bar, formal dining room and large wrap-around deck.

The master suite is truly your at home oasis.  Grace into the bath with imported Italian tile, a soaking tub, shower, dual sinks and enough space to get ready or ball room dance!  Newly remodeled closet includes cherry built in drawers and shelves as well as hanging space. Then let the french doors lead you onto the wrap around deck all while enjoying the seamless flow of house integrated audio from the kitchen, to the great room, to master suite, and onto your deck.

The upper level is a finished loft allowing you to enjoy the floor to ceiling windows showcasing the breathtaking view of your wooded paradise.  Also on the upper level are two bedrooms and a full bath.  The full bath includes a soaking tub/shower with tile surround and tile floors.

Step downstairs to the “theatre district” where you can set up your own concession stand and enjoy the fully equipped home theatre.  Includes 10ft screen, projector and surround sound.  Also downstairs you will find a play room/video game room for the kids with newly installed wood-look porcelain tile.  Leading from the video game room are french doors revealing a perfectly decorated woman’s home office or craft room.  This is a room that should be featured in every design blog and HGTV show- floor to ceiling storage, herringbone porcelain tile, heated floors, chandelier and custom roman shades all perfectly coordinated.  This is a room that could equally inspire a female executive or the savvy crafter.  Lastly, the basement includes a 4th bedroom with adjacent full bath. Basement carpeting in the stairs, hallway and bedroom were just installed in July!

Calico cat is not included 😉 However, for serious buyers, the cherry executive desk can remain with the home!

There is storage galore both inside and in the oversize garage. Must see to appreciate all this home offers! 

Make your appointment now to see for yourself!

Click link to schedule your private showing!

Crazy Career

Interviewing is Like Speed Dating with your Paycheck

In the past 6 months, I’ve been actively seeking employment.  I’ve interviewed with so many companies, I can’t remember them all anymore.  I’ve applied to even more.

I’ve done recruiter screens, phone interviews, in person interviews.  Most of them are pretty vanilla, honestly.  It’s a dance between the interviewer trying to sell the candidate on the awesomeness of the company & role while still objectively screening the interviewee who is trying to convey exactly how perfect they would be with this particular widget company selling widgets.

I like to let the interviewer open up the stage.  They set the tone.  They invited me to this dance, so they get first chance to lead. Formal? Casual? Candid? Firing squad? Do they want to get a sense of my personality or just my skill set?  Are they more conversational or god-help-us-all are they using the dreaded behavioral questionnaire format?

I’m allowed to hate this behavior interview style because I have a master’s degree in behavior analysis – I know exactly how and why each question was written, what they want to hear and how to deliver it.  Every single behavioral interview question should be answered in some variation of – Situational Assessment, Task at Hand, Action, Result.  Here’s a hint – most people spend waaaaaay too much time babbling about the situation and task and gloss over the most important part – the RESULT.  If the result was not positive, you should explain how you would fix it in the future to get a better result.  I’ve had more than one interviewer tell me I’m the best they’ve ever seen at handling this style…I mean the reason is right there on my resume. But I digress.  I respectfully dislike behavioral interviews the most.

At least that’s what I thought until I had my in-person interview with this particular widget supplier.  I applied for the position because it was local but gave me a chance to still network with large scale CPG companies.  Perfect transitionary role back into sales.

Interview #1 was a phone call.  Totally standard.  He introduced himself as the President/CEO/Owner of this widget company.  Oh, local start-up.  Very intriguing.  It was fashion widget company, which was my second choice. My preference would be beauty CPG, but hey, beauty & fashion are like brow liner and eye liner.  You don’t need to have fashion and beauty on the same day – but why would you line your eyes and ignore your brows?

My first impression was this guy was a flustered young entrepreneur who was probably highly creative but had no business actually managing anything.  He literally said, “So how should we do this?”  I have never once had an interviewer convey to me that he had no idea how to conduct an interview process.  I literally thought I might be his first employee and I almost found it endearing.  I watch Silicon Valley on HBO Go – I figured he must be like the geeky CEO of Pied Piper, but the fashion version.  Guilty admission – I love geeky guys.  Something in me clicked after seeing Val Kilmer in True Genius and I’ve been hooked on geeks ever since.  I’ve married two.  Their special blend of social ineptness and brilliance makes me feel needed and challenged all at once.  I find it irresistible.  But, I’m job hunting, not dating here. So I’m not going to lie, internal warning bell #1 just went off.

I suggested we meet 1:1 either in his office or over lunch.  I thought he could decide if he wanted casual or formal.  He opted for the formal office interview.  Groovy,  on it.

I get to his office and he actually has roughly 10 employees, all women.  Not always a bad thing…but darn that psychology degree has my warning bell humming.  Two chances here 1) he’s a highly progressive guy who values female leaders and has made his life’s mission to use his business as a platform to give women experience in sales 2) he’s a super insecure guy who sees women as inferior and therefore are less likely to challenge his fragile sense of superiority and manliness.  50/50 chance here.  I’m still hoping for Val Kilmer.

Then Mr. CEO/President/Owner steps out of his corner office (the only one with a door in the building).  He is decidedly not Val Kilmer from True Genius.  He’s a midwest version of Ralph Lauren. He’s an older gentleman in an over-startched, overpriced, brightly colored button-up long sleeve gingham shirt that I’m sure he has in ever color.  I’m already picturing the Mercedes and luxury golf clubs.  New impression.  This guy built a business from selling fashion to his friends at the country club almost by accident and now he doesn’t know how to manage it.  Warning Bell #2 rattles away.

He asks me to fill out a job application.  Somewhat standard again – even with salaried positions I generally have to do a formal application at some point in the process.  His asks for my high school – warning bell.  No one cares where someone with a Bachelors or Masters degree went to high school unless you were on the Science Olympiad team with the now CEO of a major CPG company (again…me and the geeks).

We proceed to his office.  He says it’s going to be very casual and normally that’s my preference. However, I am starting to get the impression that we are going casual because he doesn’t know what to do.  He asks me if I am familiar with on-line sales – and just as I am about to answer with robust explanation of my omni-channel new product and catalog launch strategies utilizing social media, .com sales and brick & mortar, he interrupts me.  He interrupts me and says…no I can’t make this up “Oh of course you shop on line, you are a woman.”

At this point, I’ve checked out of this interview. I’m going to politely and professionally continue the interview, but I don’t plan to talk to Mr. CEO/President/Owner ever…again.

He tells me how his sales business is 100% relationship building.  He claims he can tell you the details of every single person he sells products to…he claims to know their kids names, their pets, and the ages of their kids…yet when I ask about 3-4 specific companies as prospective business opportunities for him he tells me he is not sure if he does business with them or not.  I tell him about major marketing opportunities with THE major retailer in our market and he’s never heard of the events even though they are probably the two biggest community events for this retailer.

He tells me this role will manage an established $4M account, although he plans to still “lead” it but “isn’t sure how that will look or what role he will actually play”.  He also expects the role to bring in an additional 20 accounts for an estimated incremental $2M in net sales.  First, those are super tiny accounts and I think he senses that because he becomes defensive.  He blurts out, “I’m not L’Oreal and I’m not Unilever and I’m not Meijer, but I know my business can do great things!”  I agree with him – his business honestly probably could do great things with the right account manager.  I see lots of potential and my mind is trying to decide if dealing with his brand of personal issues is worth the continued interaction with the top CPG companies I know I could land for him.   Essentially, is the opportunity worth letting him build an empire on my back?

Then he talks salary.  He looks at my most recent salary and says that is too high for him.  Ok, I ask him what he sees as a fair salary for someone managing roughly $6M in sales. He brings out a number that is literally LESS than HALF my most recent position.  At this point, I’m just trying to decide if I should feel sorry for him, laugh, or go comic dead pan and just get up and leave.

By the grace of the almighty, he decides to ramble a bit more about his love of Feng Shui and his belief in 100% relationship selling.  He tells me he reads faces and automatically knows a person within 30 seconds.  He then thanks me for my time and wishes my son and daughter well in their new school year – especially my son in his senior year.  He hopes my husband continues his success at a company I’ve never heard of before…definitely not the one I told him he actually works for.

I have two boys.  They are in 6th and 7th grade.

But while we are on the “proof in relationship selling skills” – deep breath – Mr. CEO/President/Owner has a dog that loves to lie upside down on her bed.  He used to have a fancy spaniel of sorts (one of the snobby kinds rich people get to look impressive).  His wife had a colored pencil drawing made of it – and then mounted and framed for his office.  He marveled at the talent someone has with just a pencil.  He had a green and gray agate stone sitting on a round cherry disk on his desk.  His side table had Budha and a stone replica reflecting pool.

He walked out of his office after shaking my hand and drove away in his white mercedes.

And in case anyone is still reading…my very first sales rep ever worked for Wrigley (before the merger).  I met him in 2005 and haven’t worked with him since 2007. He has 3 kids – a girl and 2 boys. They are all adults now.  They are named (in order) with names starting in A, then B, then C.  I asked him if he considered a D name and he said “done”.  His daughter went to cosmetology school and his two boys both went to Western Michigan.  His older son’s first college girlfriend was a nice girl that dad liked – her name was Pam.  I’ve often wondered if they stayed together.  He didn’t like his daughter’s finance but was doing the best to be an amazing supporting dad.  His wife’s name was Laurie and he sadly lost her to cancer.  He said she was heavy footed on the breaks but didn’t have the heart to tell her she was causing them so many break jobs on their cars.  One of the last things she did before losing her battle to cancer was write the annual family Christmas letter – it was a tradition and despite her failing health she was determined to get that last letter out.  He loved to hunt and  was teaching it to his sons – he was teaching them to “harvest the deer” not “kill the deer.”  He enjoyed brewing his own beer.

So yeah…I do relationships.  But my results are based on analytics, business acumen and hard work.







Mommy Confessions

Why I Left “The Church”, but Not Jesus

Why I Left “the Church”, but Not Jesus

I grew up in “the church” as we called the church attending members of the Christian faith. Until the last 4 years, I was a regular attender. I taught Sunday school, worked nursery, sang in the choir. I did Bible study and MOPS. I tithed. My kids attended a private Christian school. I was part of “the church”.

As Gen X and Millenials came of age, there became a growing concern “in the church” as people in these generations fled and stopped attending. I’ve read many articles from people still in “the church” attempting to explain (rarely to actually understand or accept accountability) why these generations are just leaving “the church”. The lack of self-awareness or humility among “the church” has just shown over and over 1) why our generations our leaving and 2) how much they just flat don’t get it.

So here is my take on where we, the generation of Jesus-lovers and church avoiders, sit. You aren’t showing us the love of Jesus. We love HIM. We reject you because “the church” isn’t where we find Jesus anymore. In fact, I’m not sure for our generations that it ever really was…

“The church” only loves and offers charity to those people who fulfill an unwritten list of standards. When you are part of “the church” you are subconsciously aware of these standards. I grew up wondering why we only helped certain people and ignored others. Just in the last 12 months I’ve personally experienced the ostracization and judgement from Christians who are still in “the church.” In my experience, the following will disqualify you from any sort of empty or charity from “the church”:
a. Divorced Women. You can be a divorced man and still get acceptance from “the church” since it is ultimately a patriarchal organization. However, divorced women are almost 99% out of luck. Unless your husband commits adultery – and you have undeniable proof -like it was on Facebook Live – you are a now a pariah. Abuse get you back in the circle because Bible cherry pickers will only allow for adultery. Even if you are a woman who gets the jackpot of proven adultery from your ex- you will never be fully back in the fold. You will always be slightly outside the center and it will be evident when you are no longer asked to teach Sunday school, when your children aren’t included on the PK’s birthday parties, etc.
b. Anyone with mental illness. You see the issue is that you just aren’t praying hard enough for “the church”. You will be told that God only gives us what we can handle. So if you are depressed, anxious, bipolar, etc, you are just not praying enough. You won’t qualify for any empathy or help from “the church”.
c. Non-church attending Christians. You aren’t real Christians as far as “the church” is concerned. You don’t deserve any love, support, empathy, charity or help regardless of your circumstances. They have catty nicknames for you – biannual christans, C&E Christians, Chrieastians, we really are really clever in our judgement. It would actually be better in “the church’s” view point if you didn’t call yourself a Christian. Non-Christians are more likely to get support from “the church” than people in this group.
d. Drug Abusers/Criminals/Prostitutes. All sins are not equal to “the church”. They say the are – but actions would show this is a total lie. Some churches do have outreach programs for people in these groups. However, they are usually on Tuesdays at like 11a when you are least like to be seen or dishonor any of the “real” members of “the church”. If they can get away with it, they will even hold meetings/groups for these people completely off church campus as to not taint “the church” with their presence.
e. Parents with special needs children. I mean going back to the whole “God only gives you what you can handle” this is a real problem for the church. No societal group probably needs MORE help than those with special needs children. But their desperate need is really off putting – because God gave it to you, so you should be able to handle it. Also, our cherry picking Bible friends will love to refer to the sins of the father being passed on to future generations. Soooo….I mean….for “the church” your child with special needs is a pretty strong indicator that you or your forefathers weren’t “real” Christians and thus you deserve to be punished with this child’s special needs.

So, while I really don’t want this to be a bash “the church” post…I do want to challenge church leaders to really seek first to understand. To love. To offer aid, empathy and help to the very people that seem least deserving. It’s easy to help and love people who meet our standards.

However, I think we were called to something greater.

We were called to love.

I’m waiting to see that from “the church”. I see it regularly from people in my pariah list. Why not “the church”?

Until we see it, we will continue to leave you and your buildings.

Autism Mom

Our Autism Journey Began in the Kidneys (Part Two)

Konrad and I ended up staying 3 days in the hospital.  I never left his room.  I’m convinced dry shampoo and face wipes were inspired by moms who endured such stays.


Mr. Community Hospital Doctor referred Konrad to Mr. Kidney Specialist at DeVos Children’s hospital.  The new doctor ordered a VCUG. I wrote that down to google it later.

Of all the tests, I learned to hate this one the most.  A VCUG, or according to doctor Google, a “voiding cystourethrogram, is a minimally invasive test that uses a special x-ray technology called fluoroscopy to visualize your child’s urinary tract and bladder.”  That sounds simple.  What it *really* means is that they insert tubes (without anesthetic) into your son’s penis.  The tubes insert a dye that can be seen on ultrasound screens.  Then they wait for your son to try to urinate.  When they attempt to urinate, the dye allows the doctors to see and record the function between the kidneys and the bladder.

Once again, they asked if I wanted to stay with him for the procedure.  I looked at them in complete disbelief.  I could not imagine leaving my infant.  He was only 9 weeks old.  I’m not sure if my presence helped him at all, but I was NOT going to leave him. I held my baby Konrad down as he screamed in agony.  His little face scrunched and writhed in pain.  I held his hands and I sang to him.  I sang “Jesus Loves Me” over and over. I’m not sure if I was trying to convince my infant or myself.

After the test, they handed me a CD of the kidney images to take to Dr. Kidney Specialist on the other side of the hospital.

I walked through the pedestrian walkway over Michigan Avenue that connected the children’s hospital to the urology wing.  I held him against me as I walked, pressing my hands against his back and praying that healing could pass from my hands to his little body.  As I crossed that walkway, I felt both eagerness and dread.  I looked at the cars below passing under us.  Just cars passing by.  Cars on the way to work, school, groceries, and countless other mundane tasks.  I wondered how many mothers with sick infants and children had walked that bridge with cars passing below.  Cars passing below not realizing just above them were women like me pleading with the universe for a good answer on the other side of the bridge.

There weren’t good answers on the other side of the bridge.

As I sat in the waiting room, I decided Dr. Kidney Specialist needed an interior decorator.  His office had grey walls and grey striped carpeting.  It was devoid of any toys, children’s books, or any sign that this man worked with children every day.  It was as if the office itself was designed to suck any remaining hope you had as you walked through the door.  It looked like despair.

The nurse called us back to the room. As she was leading us to the exam room, she asked me “So how are you doing?”  I realize this is a simple question on any other day, but on that day, I didn’t know how to answer.  Do people visit urologists on routine issues with infants?  I mean are there moms out there that just ask for preventative infant check-ups with the kidney specialist? The honest answer to how I was doing that day would have been “desperately numb with a growing sense of doom”.  I decided to go with “fine, thanks”.

Inside the exam room, I sat alone again with my baby Konrad.  Holding him, rocking him, and praying.  It seemed so silly to pray.  The answer was already on the CD we got in the ultrasound room.  What was I praying for? Peace? Strength? Guidance?  I wasn’t sure, but I also didn’t know what else to do.

Mr. Kidney Specialist finally arrived and asked for the CD.  He put the images on a screen and pointed to both Konrad’s kidneys.  He said calmly and without affect stated, “He has damage in both his right and left kidney’s.  The left is in worst shape than the right.”

I once again summoned strength from the tips of my toes. I would not cry.  Deep breaths. I said, “Okay, so what do we do?”

He flatly said, “There’s nothing we can do.  Kidney damage is forever.  Once you get kidney damage, there’s nothing we can do to fix it.  He also has kidney reflux. Grade 5 kidney reflux.  That means the valves between his bladder and his kidneys do not function properly. Because the valves don’t work correctly, they allow urine to roll back from the bladder to the kidneys.  The force with which this happens on Konrad is so strong that the tubes actually twist and prevent the kidneys from emptying again. This is why they are swollen.”

He further explained that Konrad would need to be on baseline antibiotics.  We would need to take him to the hospital anytime he hit a fever of over 100°. We would redo the VCUG in 6 months to see if any it got any better.  Basically, we had a diagnosis, but he was too little to do anything about it.

I walked back over the bridge on Michigan Avenue with Konrad in my arms.  I was tired. Alone.  I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to think or feel.  It wasn’t good news.  But then again, many parents get worse news everyday.  I told myself I should be thankful…I wasn’t thankful.

I’ve driven down Michigan Avenue many times since that day. I’ve seen the mothers pushing strollers or carrying infants in their arms.  I never drive under the pedestrian bridge without saying a prayer for the mothers walking above.


Mommy Confessions

I registered my son for karate to get a “mom break”…Now he’s a Black Belt.

Mommy confession time.  When I registered my son for karate at the age of 6, I never thought he’d be an 11 year old black belt.  It’s not that I thought he couldn’t accomplish a black belt.  To be completely honest, it never even crossed my mind.

In January 2011, Gunnar’s friend invited him to attend Standale Karate on a “Bring a Friend Night”.  Now up to this point, we had tried T-Ball and I watched him play tic-tac-toe with himself with dirt in the infield and pick dandelions in the outfield. We tried soccer and he came home from practice sobbing because he would never be able to kick a ball with the inside of his foot like his coach had instructed.  So I had honestly just accepted that maybe sports weren’t Gunnar’s thing.  No biggie, he was 6 years old.  Certainly plenty of time to find his passion.

So on that January night when I took Gunnar to Standale Karate for the first time, I also expected it to be the last time.

However, much to my surprise, Gunnar loved karate.  The instructor, Master Rick Heath (now Grand Master Rick Heath) had a playful yet authoritative approach with the kids.  He was one of those men with seemingly endless patience and a gift for teaching children. He instinctually understood Gunnar and how to methodically help him with the various blocks, kicks, and stances.  Gunnar instantly loved Master Rick.

After class, Gunnar asked if he could come to karate again.  Let’s be clear…Gunnar had *never* asked to repeat a sport before.

I inquired with the Director, Jan Heath, on the cost of the classes, uniform requirements, times, dates, etc.  She told me it was a flat monthly fee with no contract required.  We would also be required to purchase a uniform from the school for approximately $30.

Confession moment.  Here’s what I heard from Jan: “For a small monthly fee, plus the cost of uniform, we will give you a mom break up to 4x per week”.  At that time, my husband, Mr. Businessman traveled overnight every week for work, leaving me alone with two young boys 6 and 4 years old.  I was also working a full time job at the Meijer Corporate office.  I was functioning as a single mom while working a full time job with two young children.  I was flat exhausted.

Gunnar – First Night in Uniform

I looked over at my little Konrad and saw him playing along side the other younger kids that had brothers and sisters participating in the class.

I couldn’t sign Gunnar up fast enough.

For a small monthly fee with no contract…you are going to occupy BOTH of my children?!  Not only that, this is like a good thing right?  I mean, I’m not dumping them with a sitter…I’m doing something constructive here.  Gunnar’s getting exercise and maybe earning a couple belts, which is good for self-esteem.  Konrad’s making some new friends, no small feat for him.  And for up to 4x per week, I can enjoy watching my son in karate, or play Angry Birds on my phone, maybe do some of their clothes shopping on-line, text my friends, etc.  I can generally chill for up to 4 hours a week.

Mommy. Lotto.

Fast forward to March 2016.

Gunnar & Grand Master Rick Heath

Gunnar actually stuck with karate and Master Rick.  They’ve formed a bond that has forever shaped the man Gunnar will become in all the right ways.  Master Rick taught him discipline, respect, determination, precision, and most importantly, the unconditional love of a male figure.  He also taught him it’s okay to have fun and be determined.  I’ll forever be grateful that God brought Rick Heath into our lives.

Gunnar successfully participated in multiple karate tournaments throughout this time in karate. He medaled in the 2015 Sate Games of Michigan Summer Games as well as the 2016 Winter & Summer State Games of Michigan.  He also competed in the 2015 State Games of America, earning 4th place in Weapons and 6th place in Forms.

In many ways between the relationship with Rick Heath and the confidence he built at tournaments, Gunnar found himself in karate.

Now on March 19th, 2016, Gunnar was 11 years old and testing for his 1st degree black belt.  The test was 5 hours long and juried by a panel of high ranking black belts including Grand Master Rick Heath.  His co-testers included adult 3rd, 5th, and 6th degree black belts.  To prepare for the test he had committed to 3-4 practices per weeks over a six month period and numerous private lessons all while adjusting to middle school and participating in travel soccer (refer to second paragraph for that touch of irony). Also, he was sick with the flu the whole week leading up to his test.

But he did it!  Gunnar earned his 1st degree black belt.

And you know what? It doesn’t really matter why I registered him for classes back in 2011.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you..plans to give you hope and a future”



*The professional pictures of Gunnar were taken by Angela Lawson.

She has a Facebook page of all her wonderful work:

Her website:



Our Autism Story Began in the Kidneys

On July 30, 2006 at 5:18am, my joy arrived in the morning.  A beautiful, healthy baby boy. His eyes were blue like sapphires.  They say all babies have blue eyes, but his were BLUE.  As I carefully unfolded his blanket and counted the toes and fingers, I gasped.  He had 10 perfect, long skinny fingers and 10 long skinny toes. I told him then, “Baby, you have the fingers of a musician. And oh those toes.  Grammy will call those worm toes.  Just like mama.”

IMG_1873Gunnar arrived at the hospital later that morning.  Just 28 months, 6 days older.   He squealed with joy to meet his baby brother.  To this day, I think when he met Konrad, he thought we got him a present.  He kept saying “Baby, baby for me!  You get me baby!”

We brought my baby Konrad home and my heart was full.  I had beaten the odds.  After the miscarriages.  The uncertain months of pregnancy, drugs to stop labor, bedrest. Pre-eclampsia.  The tremendous swelling.  Damage to my kidneys. It was all worth it. I had successfully carried and delivered two healthy baby boys.  I was full of joy and gratitude.

Then came September 17, 2006.  Something was wrong.  My normally easy peasy baby was suddenly crabby.  No matter how much I rocked him and sang to him, he seemed unable to get comfortable.  My baby who always smiled, couldn’t stop fussing.  I took his temperature and it was 101.8…they say anything over 100.4 in a baby is cause for concern.  I told myself he had an ear infection.  I headed to Zeeland Hospital Urgent care to get him some antibiotics.  There was a Notre Dame game that day…so instead of bothering Mr. Businessman with my concerns, I took Gunnar to the hospital with me.

We arrived at the hospital at some point late that afternoon or early evening.  I honestly don’t remember anymore.  The doctor immediately checked Konrad’s ears. I waited expecting to get an ear infection diagnosis, a prescription, and be on my way home.  I was an experienced mom now.  I knew the drill.  But…nothing was wrong with his ears.

Okay, I told myself, no biggie.  Mr. Doctor wanted to do a chest X-Ray.  Of course! Gunnar had pneumonia at 3 months.  I bet Konrad will be the same. A little scary, yes. But, not my first day as a mom.  They will do the chest x-ray and give us meds.  We will be home before we know it. I told little Gunnar that they just had to do some tests on baby to make sure they knew the right medicine to give him.  Don’t worry about your baby Gunnar, the doctors will fix this all soon.  But his chest x-ray was clear.

At this point, Mr. Doctor gets very serious.  Too serious.

We need to find someone to watch Gunnar because they need to do more invasive tests on Konrad.  It wouldn’t be appropriate for Gunnar to be in the room.  Oh…okay.   Well certainly whatever Mr. Doctor thinks.  I call home to Mr. Businessman.  He doesn’t answer because there is a Notre Dame game on that day.  He doesn’t like it when we interrupt his games.

I have no one else I think I should bother with just an infection…my mom.  Oh no, she has just had treatment for varicose veins.  Her legs are wrapped and she’s not supposed to drive.  I call Mr. Businessman again.  No answer.  I don’t know what to do.  I call my mom.  She comes immediately.  She takes little Gunnar into the waiting area just outside the emergency treatment room where I stand over my Konrad.

Mr. Doctor explains that something “out of the ordinary” is causing Konrad’s fever.  They will need to do a spinal tap.  I feel my word come apart piece by piece. My world has become pixelated. Mr. Doctor asks if I want to stay with Konrad while they do the procedure.  I think of punching Mr. Doctor.  How could I possibly leave my baby right now?  I am not sure how I’m going to get through this, but I will not leave him.  I summon all the inner strength I can find…I swear I am pulling strength from the tips of my toes and the roots of my hair.  But I am NOT leaving my baby.

Mr. Doctor asks about the father’s consent.  But Mr. Businessman is still not answering the phone.  Mr. Doctor doesn’t understand it is a Notre Dame game day.  Mr. Doctor insists that we need to get dad to the hospital.

I am dressed in a surgical mask, hair net and gown. I help the nurses hold down my little Konrad.  My mother stands outside the doors with Gunnar in one hand and a cell phone in the other.  I begin yelling through the door the phone numbers of my neighbors.  I don’t even know what numbers they are at this point.  I’m shouting numbers through the emergency room door that come to my head.  I’m shouting numbers, while I’m holding my 7 week baby down on an emergency room bed.  While Mr. Doctor performs a spinal tap on my little Konrad.

The spinal tap is clear.  My baby.  My heart.  My little Konrad is diagnosed “failure to thrive.”  They started the first IV of general antibiotics.


One of the phone numbers I yelled through the emergency room door turned out to be my next door neighbor.  Sarah.  I didn’t know her well.  She gave Mr. Businessman haircuts.  We shared a beach across our backyards.  She was nice and beautiful and outgoing.  I’ll never know why her number was one that came to my brain as I was holding down my baby that night.

She was and is a die-hard Notre Dame fan.  If my brain had been fully functional, I would never have given her number.  Mr. Businessman had taught me it is not appropriate to bother Notre Dame fans on game day.

Yet Sarah took my mother’s call that day during the Notre Dame game.  As I she tells it, she burst into our home.  Looked Mr. Businessman square in the face.  She kept eye contact as she stomped to his TV and turned it off.  She pointed her finger and said, “Get. Your. Ass. To. The. Hospital.”  Mr. Businessman would later tell me how rude she had been.  I nodded in agreement at her brash and inappropriate behavior. I was secretly cheering.

Back at the hospital Mr. Doctor explained that they needed to do a blood test and take a urine sample.  I was numb, but I agreed.  A proper urine sample can’t be done on an uncircumcised boy without doing a penile insertion.  Mr. Doctor asked why Konrad wasn’t circumcised.  I told him Mr. Businessman did not think it was necessary.  Mr. Doctor said that in 99.9% of cases, that is true.  I thought how comforting it was to be a statistical outlier.  Mr. Doctor explained that any numbing medication could taint the accuracy of the test.  So I held my baby again that night for another painful procedure.

Mr. Doctor told me Konrad needed to relax or the procedure wouldn’t work.  It was a horribly painful procedure done without any numbing medication.  He was 7 weeks old. Konrad was screaming.  My world again became fuzzy and pixelated.  I held his hands and I tried to sing.  I tried to sing but I couldn’t remember the words to any songs.  At the end of the world, there is no music left to be sung.  I tried to sing the very first song I ever remember learning ~ Jesus Loves Me.  I am still not sure if I got the words or the melody right.  But that night, with Mr. Doctor and my baby Konrad, I sang as my world came apart.

His urine sample came back with infection.  I’ll be honest.  I rejoiced.  Finally, I thought.  No more tests.  They knew what was wrong!  We can get medicine and go home.

I was wrong.  So wrong.  By the end of that night, he had so many IV’s I didn’t know how to hold him.  They finally had to put one in his head.  That IV would permanently kill the pigment in his hair and create a white spot in his hair for life.  They had to do so many more tests.  Kidney ultrasounds.  Finally we knew.  The problem was between his kidneys and his bladder.  My 7 week old precious Konrad had permanent kidney damage.

Mr. Businessman finally came for 15 minutes and left.

That night pediatric nurses came and helped me hold my baby. There were so many tubes, I didn’t even know how to pick him up.  They expertly and gingerly handed him to me as I sat in the rocking chair in his hospital room.  That night, I rocked my baby to the rhythm of medical beeps and through my tears, I sang “Held”.  I promised him no matter what happened, I would never leave him.  He would be held.