I am guest posting today, over at Peace Love & Poop! and I hope you will check it out when you get a chance; it is all about my hopes for this new year, 2012, and ties into this post. You can read my guest post here.
The last several years have been hard for us. My husband has worked one part-time, dead end job after another, struggling to provide for our little family of two, while I have bounced from one job to another, unable to keep one because of my health. Our income has vacillated all over the place, and as a result, so has our housing.
When we first got married, we had an apartment in a nice tax credit community (similar to low income, but newer and you don't get kicked out if you actually start to make a living wage), but after six months we broke our lease (a huge mistake) and moved back up the Valley to be near family and friends again. It wasn't that we were struggling or unhappy; I was a cook at a pizza place and he was my delivery driver, and we drove up to Missoula each week for church and to see everyone, but we didn't like the commute, and then, well, there was my health. Specifically, my inability to get pregnant. A few quickly failing friendships didn't help, either.
Our next apartment was bigger, but not as nice (or safe - our front door was a sliding glass patio door with no lock), and we ended up moving out in a huge, humiliated hurry because of a massive (ie: STUPID and beyond our control) conflict with our landlords that resulted in a family member giving us a large sum of money to pay our back rent, fix our car, and get us out of that nightmare of a situation (thank God for generous loved ones). By that time, my health was in such poor shape I could not work at all, and poor Nick had only been able to find a 1o hour a week job at minimum wage. Completely broke, we gladly accepted his best friend's offer to move into his spare bedroom at his condo, until we could figure things out.
Living with Carl was fun and relaxed, and a much needed break from all the drama of the previous few months. We celebrated our first anniversary while living there, and I think we could have happily continued the arrangement for some time, if it hadn't been for the military. Carl has enlisted in the Marine Reserve the previous year, and when he deployed, his dad decided to rent out the condo. Nick had lost his job, and I was unable to find work, so we moved out, and into my aunt's garage a few towns further down the Valley.
That summer was busy, which was a mercy. We slept most nights in our bed in the middle of the garage, surrounded by our belongings. I know it sounds terrible, but it wasn't as bad as you might think. It was a big garage, and we laid out rolls of carpeting, setting up house "zones" so it felt a little more normal. We had a living room area with our recliners and tv, a kitchen area with a table and small appliances including a mini-fridge and microwave, and a bedroom area with our bed and nightstands and dresser. The heat was the only part I really hated - Montana may be about as far north as you can get in the United States, but our summers were still in the 90's and 100's. Thankfully, we had a lot of fans, and we really didn't spend much time there except to sleep. I spent a fair amount of time indoors with my aunt and cousin, scrapbooking, cooking, and visiting, and we were over at Nick's parents' a lot, too. We actually stayed in their house for a full month in the middle of summer, hanging out with Nick's younger brothers while his parents traveled, and then enjoying the quiet after they moved to Illinois. All our belongings stayed at my aunt's garage, but the empty house was so much cooler in the summer heat we didn't care.
Nick had been unable to find a new job, but I was able to get full time work as a telemarketer at a magazine place, so we were doing okay financially for a little while. My health was still poor, but not so poor that I couldn't sit at a desk all day and read a script. We might have found our own apartment and stayed in Montana, but for a small problem with my job; we found out that the owners had been sued multiple times, and that the business had actually been shut down by the feds a few times (reopening under new names and with a new "owner" each time) because of fraudulent activities. I had become increasingly uncomfortable with some of the practices I was made to follow, and the same week we found all this out, my supervisor actually told me that if I didn't start including a bald-faced lie in my scrip (which I had left out, though still getting more than my quota of sales), I would lose my job. After many tears and much prayer, we decided that it would be better to be without an income than participate in fraud, and I quit my job.
It was August of 2008. Nick's parents and brothers had just moved to Illinois, his sister was about to get married and leave the state for Bible school in Wyoming, the house we were living in was going on the market, and as soon as school started in September, we would no longer be able to even stay in the garage. With neither of us employed, we had very few options, and we were scared to death! What were we going to do?
At the last moment, Nick's grandparents saved us. It was at his sister's wedding reception; they asked us what our plans were, and when we told them we really didn't know, they offered us a solution. We would move in with them in Wyoming, and in exchange for room and board we would do work around the place that they could no longer do.
Two days later, we packed the things we couldn't bear to lose into the back of our little sedan, and drove out of Montana for our new home in Wyoming. My wedding ring (the one my grandfather had given my Grama on their wedding day - she insisted we sell it) financed the trip, with help from almost everything we had owned up to that point. Many tears fell as we crossed the border.
We spent three years in Wyoming, and there were good times as well as bad. We had our own apartment for 9 months in the middle of that time, my sister, Rosie, lived with us for six of them, but circumstances beyond our control made it necessary to move back in with the grandparents again. Ed and Linda are incredible people, and though living with others is never easy, we loved our time with them, and I miss them dearly now that we are gone.
Nick and I both worked a variety of jobs, trying to get our income to a place of self-sustainability, but it never quite worked out. (For one thing, I had a nervous breakdown at work after being harassed by a coworker for several weeks, and was unable to find another job in that town.) We finally came to the realization that we had a choice to make; stay in Wyoming and scrape for a living, or take a chance and move on. By that time, Nick's sister and her family had moved to the same town in Illinois where his parents and brothers had gone, and in October 2010 we made the two day trip out to see them for our niece's 1st birthday.
We fell in love with Illinois. The wide open spaces, the green fields and forests, the winding rivers... And it felt so right to be back with his family. During the long journey back to Wyoming, we discussed our options, knowing that any move would be a huge leap of faith. It wasn't until we crossed the border back into Wyoming that we decided it was a risk worth taking. As much as we love his grandparents, we couldn't stand to live in that state any longer.
It took us several months to scrape together enough money to make the move, but we did it. We arrived back in Illinois in early March 2011, this time pulling a small trailer behind our Jimmy. We still had to sell a lot of our belongings (it's amazing how much you accumulate in three years, even without your own home) to make it all fit, and to get enough cash together for the journey, but nothing precious had been lost this time. Nick's parents graciously opened their home to us, and we moved into their guest room. Our nephew was born a few short weeks later, and for the first time in years, Nick and I began to have hope for our future.
It took five months for Nick to find work, but he kept busy with family, and volunteers every week in the puppet team ministry his sister and her husband run through our church. I found a job almost by accident, and worked in a commercial photography studio until August, quitting because of further health problems the same week that Nick finally landed a part time job as the wheelchair aid on a special needs bus for our local school district.
Barely more than a week later, we found out we were pregnant!
I was in Kansas, visiting my friends Tina and Tyler and their wonderful kids. I had been feeling "weird" for about a week, and Tina insisted that I take a home pregnancy test. I was genuinely curious, but also very jaded by this point; around the same time that we first became homeless and moved in with Nick's best friend, Carl, back in 2008, my doctor confirmed that I have hypothyroidism and diagnosed me with PCOS (poly-cystic ovary syndrome - a condition wherein a hormone imbalance causes painful cysts on a woman's ovaries, and infertility). We had been trying (directly or by not preventing) to get pregnant since June of 2007, and by the fall of 2010 we had finally given up. Nothing had worked, including fertility drugs, and we sold all of our collected baby things, and gave the dream back to God, thinking someday to adopt if we could. So when Tina suggested I might be pregnant, I was both suddenly hopeful and completely sure that it couldn't possibly be true. But I took the test; hope cannot be denied forever.
I took three tests before finally believing I was really pregnant. Then I called Nick, and told him the good news. He was so shocked, he actually threw up! It was a hard week, keeping it secret from everyone (except Tina and her family, of course) until I was able to return home. Poor Nick thought he was going to lose his mind, and several people called or messaged me on Facebook asking if he was okay, and teasing him about being a mess without me. Little did they know!
I have written about our pregnancy journey elsewhere - how we made the announcement, when we found out our baby is a girl, etc - so I will let you read those posts yourself, rather than rehashing it here. You can find posts about our pregnancy here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. If you don't feel like wading through all of that, or if you want more information about our fertility journey and our sweet little girl, you can read about it here on our Journey To Baby page.
The first several months of this pregnancy were both wonderful and very, very hard. Being pregnant after infertility is not quite the fairy tale I expected, or that most people want to hear, but that is a story for another day; I need more time to process my thoughts, I think. It really wasn't until month six began - after we knew she was a little girl, and after passing the "danger zone" where pregnancy complication or early labor could spell disaster - that I really began to relax and enjoy everything.
I am almost seven months pregnant now, and hope - where it used to be something elusive and transitory - has become my friend. I wake up each morning, feeling my daughter move, and I am reminded that life is a miracle. That is a precious gift.
Thank you for reading about Nick and my story! I hope you will take a moment to hop over to Peace Love & Poop! and read my guest post, as it ties into this one. Have a wonderful day! Blessings...