Book Review: A Man Called Ove + This Is How It Always Is

July 17, 2017

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1. A Man Called Ove.

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If You’re Looking For: Fiction, humor, light

If You Like: Good stories, Grumpy Old Men, Up

My Review: Sweet, thoughtful, well written, and funny. Not oh that was funny funny. Laugh out loud while you’re reading funny. Have you ever seen the movie Up? It’s kind of like taking him (the grumpy old man) and hearing his story all laid out into a charming and well worth it novel. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. 5/5 stars.

Their Review: “This charming debut novel by Backman should find a ready audience with English-language readers… hysterically funny… wry descriptions, excellent pacing… In the contest of Most Winning Combination, it would be hard to beat grumpy Ove and his hidden, generous heart.” –Kirkus Reviews

Quoted: Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the greatest motivations for living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves.

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2.  This Is How It Always Is.

If You’re Looking For: Fiction, page turner, family & marriage

If You Like: Contemporary fiction

My Review: I finished this beautiful novel today. It’s about family, marriage, and the changes and learning curves in parenthood. I prefer reading books without any spoilers or overviews (I almost never read the flap), and this book especially reads better without introduction. Trust me and try it. The only critiques I read on Goodreads (after the fact) is that it isn’t darker. So if you’re looking for something dark and deep–you might try one of Gillian Flynn’s novels (I recently read Dark Places after swearing I’d never read another after Sharp Objects). This book is lighter, but full of enough depth and plot to keep you turning the page. A warm (but often heart wrenchingly sad) story on a topic most of us know nothing about. But most of all–it’s about family.

Their Review: “Deeply satisfying…An intimate family story…Day-to-day parenting dilemmas are where Frankel shines.” –The New York Times Book Review

From the author’s note: The novelist in me is inspired by how much raising children is like writing books: You don’t know where they’re going until they get there. You may think you do, but you’re probably wrong. Corralling and forcing them against their will to go where you first imagined they would isn’t going to work for anyone involved. Never mind you’re the one writing and raising them, they are headed in their own direction, independent of you. And scary though that is, it’s also how it should be. […] For my child, for all our children, I want more options, more paths through the woods, wider ranges of normal, and unconditional love. Who doesn’t want that? I know this book will be controversial, but honestly? I keep forgetting why.

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Favorite Books

All Book Reviews

Novi Turns One

June 12, 2017

A year ago today I participated in a glorious unmedicated birth, surrounded by my loving husband and team of competent doctors and medical residents!!

Just kidding, the epidural failed and at one point I started yelling JUST PULL IT OUT because after 21 hours of labor, I was pretty tired. Luckily my wish came true when his shoulders got stuck (shoulder dystocia), and a resident had to press down as hard as he could on my abdomen to help push him out. Austin said he pressed so hard that you could hear an audible crunch. Luckily I couldn’t hear it over my very audible scream.

Of course it all feels a lot less horrifying and a lot more magical a year later. As crazy as it is, I would do it all over again if I could. There is nothing like the first time you meet your baby. The beginning of a love story.

Happy first birthday to the baby of the family. My little fox cub. You are the worst houseguest but we love you all the same.

Birthday Video on Youtube

 

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birth story

That’s Our Baby In There (A Follow Up Guest Post Surrogacy)

May 19, 2017

Continued from this first interview on infertility and this follow up interview on surrogacy.

1. First of all, CONGRATS on a special delivery coming this fall. What’s the countdown?

THANK you! We are so grateful and excited to be so close to holding our baby girl, Finella Pearl. She is due to arrive on August 23, however Kim, our carrier, usually goes about 2 weeks earlier than her due dates. So maybe early to mid August for us!

2. What was it like finding out the sex?

We found out it was a girl at week 16 at a super cool ultrasound boutique place that let us see her in 3D/4D. It was our first glimpse at her little hands and feet and we totally melted. Kim brought her whole family to the appointment so we all had placed our bets (1 for boy, 5 for girl). I remember sitting there watching the tv where the ultrasound was displayed, waiting to hear the news. My heart was racing! When the ultrasound technician said “girl” we all cheered. I knew it was a girl from the very beginning and I’m 100% wrong at guessing genders. This was the first time I was ever correct! We had picked out her name the week before, so when we got in the car Nate said “so, it’s Finella in there” which all seemed so real and fun. We FaceTimed some friends in the car on the way home who helped us keep it secret and I immediately started dreaming up her nursery that night.

3. How has the surrogacy process been going?

Surprisingly, it has been going really well. And I say surprisingly because I was worried that somehow I would feel left out in this process or ill-attuned to Finella. But the opposite has been true. We see Kim and her family at church on Sunday, so we see her belly grow each week. She sends me videos of Finella kicking or bump pictures, and I send her crazy worst-case-scenario birth videos.

We also recently purchased Belly Buds which allow us to record ourselves reading books to Finella. It even allows for others to record and send their files to us, so we had both our parents read and sing to Finella. I think it’s the best thing for surrogacy pregnancies, especially since she is now remembering voices. Kim just places the little buds on her belly and hits play and Finella gets to meet each of us, one by one.

 

4. What’s been the hardest part?

I think the hardest part is not being around Finella all the time. I’m not sure how much you can tell about a child’s temperament in utero, but part of me feels like I’m always missing out. This feeling is not nearly as constant and pervasive as I imagined it would be, but it still happens enough and it’s hard.

5. What’s been the most surprising part?

Everyone knows someone who knows someone who has used surrogacy or IVF. Every time I walk into a baby store I get “are you expecting?” or “shopping for a new little baby?” Part of me wants to punch them in the face, because I want to shop in peace, but the other part oozes all over and says “yes! it’s my baby, I’m shopping for my baby!” Which then turns into me explaining that I’m not pregnant, we are using a surrogate, yes we did IVF, and yes, it’s our genetics. And so far, 100% of the time the person says, “you know what, my son/daughter/niece/best friend/neighbor went through IVF or used a surrogate.” That’s when the whole conversation changes and they are so excited to help me find the perfect little outfit for this miracle baby. Somehow Finella touches them and their history in a way that allows such a tender part of them to emerge. The best is when Kim is with me, and I can say “that’s our baby in there.” People melt. And if I can soften just one person’s heart towards IVF or surrogacy, my hope is that the others they come into contact with will be offered the same tenderness that I felt from them in that moment.

6. Do you have an idea of what you’d like the birth to look like?

I’ve really let this up to Kim. She will be the superstar that day. We have asked to be in the room and I’ve asked to pull Finella out, but other than that Kim calls the shots. She has free rein to ask for what she needs and birth this baby however it’s comfortable for her. We have a midwife and Kim’s husband in the room too, and hopefully a new room in the hospital that is supposed to be closer to a “home birth feeling.” As long as Kim and Finella are safe during birth, she can do just about whatever. I already know I’ll be in awe of her strength.

7. At this point, would you consider doing surrogacy again down the road?

Wow, big question and one we’ve talked about a lot. If we had another embryo in storage, yes, absolutely. Unfortunately, we do not have any more embryos which means we would be starting IVF all over again to get some and my body is already cringing at the thought. So the short answer is no. But if there were embryos, then most definitely, yes. For now, we are going to enjoy Finella and if we feel another baby would fit well into our family, we will cross that bridge when we get to it.

 

8. What’s the one thing you get asked about the most?

How did you find Kim? and Did you know her before this? This seems to be the most asked question since this process began. And I get it, it’s a unique arrangement though I often think people are also just asking themselves if they could do it. I imagine they are quickly flipping through their mental rolodex of people, wondering who they would trust to carry their child. I give them the story of how we met, which is usually followed up by, “When is she due?” and “Will you be there for the birth?” Or “What’s her name” then “How do you spell it?”

 

9. Do you recommend surrogacy to others when they ask?

Yes. I know it sounds so foreign (or at least it did for me), but it is so beautiful. I just walked with another woman this past month as she prepared for her embryo transfer to her surrogate. It is such a unique experience and I’ve had women contact me from all over the country asking for me to walk them through the process.

10. What advice do you give them?

After losing so many pregnancies, I often tell them that allowing another woman to carry your child is the most loving thing you can do as a mother. I lived with that reframe for months until I was ready to pursue surrogacy. After so many miscarriages you begin to think that maybe your uterus isn’t the most safe place, and I felt guilty for all the embryos my body couldn’t give life to and the potential future they would have had. And ultimately I came to the conclusion that if I ever wanted to give our frozen embryos a chance, the most gracious and motherly thing I could do is have them carried by someone else. Once I viewed it from that perspective, I warmed up to the idea pretty quickly. 

Whether you’re a mother to embryos, a growing fetus, or a baby in your arms, you would go to the ends of the earth to ensure their survival and wellbeing. This is no different.  It’s definitely a long journey and one of many sacrifices, but also one of much beauty and treasure.

Check back this fall for an update on Kristy. We can’t wait to meet Miss Finella Pearl!

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Beholding You Photography by Nicole Bressler

You can make donations to help fund Kristy and Nate’s miracle here.

Smart Women Speak: On Going Back To Work

May 15, 2017

This is my friend Kelly. Kelly is a hard working nurse practitioner living the farm life with her husband and two children in Eastern PA. She is smart, kind, and always makes the best book club drinks.

Q: What is something you’d say to a new mom leaving their baby for the first time to go back to work?

A: The first thing I would say is: it will get easier and it never gets easier. Leaving a baby for a career outside the home is tough. It takes commitment. It takes help from a lot of people. Give yourself grace as you adjust to being a new mother, learning a new normal, and finding a new routine.

When I had my first baby, I didn’t make it easy for myself. I chose to go back to work full time at a brand new job in an entirely different role as an nurse practitioner. I wanted to quit almost every day. However, I vowed to make it 6 months, and with the help of some really great people in my life, I did. 3 1/2 years later I’m still working in that position and I just transitioned back to work after my second baby.

I still struggle with feelings of guilt for being away from my babies. That part never gets easier. However, I know they are loved so much when I’m away by their grandmas and I can love them more when I am home. That’s the sacrifice I’m choosing to make right now for them.

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This is Emily. Emily is a military ER doctor who recently returned from a 6 month deployment to Afghanistan. She is one of the bravest people I know.

Q: What would you say to a new mother who is about to spend a lot of time apart from their child to go back to work?

A: Leaving your baby for the day to go back to work feels like an impossible thing to do. Leaving your baby for six months to deploy to Afghanistan feels like it might actually kill you. I know. I’ve done both. The two practices that have served me best as a working mom are gratitude and perspective. A dear friend gifted me a gratitude journal while I was in Afghanistan, instructing me to find one thing to be thankful for, every day. It was hard. Some days, the only thing I could find to be thankful for was that the day was over, meaning I was one day closer to going home. Other days, practicing gratitude shed light on just how great I had it, even though I was 8000 miles away from my family, watching my baby grow up over FaceTime. I had my health and all four of my limbs. I had a family to miss. I would be going home eventually. These were luxuries not afforded to everyone. My time in Afghanistan has shone perspective on all of life since. Once you’ve survived six months away from your baby, an 8-hour shift in the ER is no big deal. It’s still not nothing. It still hurts to miss milestones and firsts. It still destroys you to see the disappointment on their faces when they see you in your uniform and know you have to go to work. No amount of perspective makes being away from your baby ever feel totally okay. For me, knowing I’ll be home in a few hours—instead of in a few months—takes a little of the sting out of it. It still hurts, but you wear that hurt like a badge of honor, as proof that you love your babies well.

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This is my sister Kelly. Kelly has a lot of different roles in life that are wonderful and noteworthy (wife, mother, professional, friend), but if I had to choose my favorite it would be: Life Of The Party. Which is why I chose this photo of her soaring like an eagle instead of something beautiful and posed that she would probably prefer. Funniest person I know.

Q: What is something you’d say to a new mom leaving their baby for the first time to go back to work?

A: I almost turned around. How could I possibly leave the baby I just met with someone else for 40 hours a week? It seemed unthinkable. The fear of having to leave my son at daycare started months before he was born. I knew I’d have a short six weeks with him to learn how to be his mom, learn how to be awake during the day after being awake all night, learn how to deal with postpartum hormones in public, and learn how to walk up and down a flight of stairs without wincing. It was overwhelming. It was hard. In my case, it was unavoidable.

Things to remember: It’s harder for mama than it is for baby (baby won’t remember; they don’t even know where their hand is). Don’t focus on the 40 hours away. Focus on the weeknight cuddles and those blissful 48 weekend hours. Focus on how you’re supporting your family and how it’s okay if that means being away from your baby during the day.

It will get better. It will get better. It will get better.

I treat my daycare provider as a third parent. She’s there all week to help me raise my baby. It’s takes a village and I am so grateful for that.

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