Monthly Archives: August 2008

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a successful prom night….

Formerly known as the Hornet Ball, Ian and I attended the Strike Fighter Ball this past weekend in downtown Norfolk. It was our first ball since 2004. We had an excellent time. My body cannot handle that crazy party anymore, that is for sure. And, how strange it is to become the old crusty crowd. But I seem to have skated through it without many stains on my dress. Haven’t had the guts to check out Ian’s white jacket. Maybe I will be back on track tomorrow? I have a wee little migraine that I am contending with right now. Dehydration is NOT a good thing. Yes, that does, in fact make it a two day hangover. Getting old HURTS. However, catching up with friends we haven’t seen since flight school? Priceless.

Oh well, Here’s to the VFA-211 JOPA who managed to win Mutha. Mutha, not to be mixed up with her new duplicate, Fatha, is a strange little sculpture with oddly glowing eyes. She is the award that represents Fighter Spirit and is among one of the highest spirit awards in the world, I am sure. Maybe I will get an opportunity to have a photo shoot to the Queen of the former Tomcat community herself. Cheers! Here’s to Mutha! Here’s to the Fighting Checkmates of VFA-211.

p.s. Thank you to the staff of the Downtown Marriott for putting up with 800 drunken air crew this weekend until 2 am. Y’all earn the big cash we drop for the pleasure.  Next time, however, please tell us nicely when it is time to go instead of making us feel like criminals.  Kay?

Confession: why i don’t believe in coincidences (part 2)

Yesterday I Woke Up Sucking A Lemon (cue the Radiohead)

but today Everything Is In Its Right Place

Being a PPH Survivor can be a very very lonely place. Let me explain. I was 29 when I suddenly and traumatically became sterile. Trying to bond with a newborn, face a controversial war as a military wife, and grapple with my own mortality and sterility issues at 29? I was deep in the ‘it won’t happen to ME’ stage when it DID happen to me. It was a distinct before and after. It was a place of great mourning. Great sadness. Instability. A place where I felt I suddenly understood more about the world than I was ready to at that point in my life. It felt very very unfair.

I learned that when someone is going through a period of mourning there is nothing you can say that will bear their load – that will make their pain lighter. You just have to sit and listen and be their friend. A one line answer to lighten the mode is merely … insulting. I won’t give any quotes but those comments still sting in my head. I am understanding. I know it is so hard to know the right thing to say. It is hard to remember when the scars are not visible on the outside. I know I have said the wrong thing many times. I can’t take back my words. They still sting in my head also. I can only promise to be more thoughtful in the future. I can only imagine that the people who said hurtful things to me have the same realization at some point in their life.

Mostly, I couldn’t help but recognize at every single stage along the way that Evan was my ONE AND ONLY CHILD. Every stage that passed was a stage I would never see again. Because my choice to have more children was ripped away from me so suddenly it was something I could not help but to focus on. It wasn’t always a negative thing. I was ready to give things away and move on rather easily. No need to hold on to an old crib or changing station ‘just in case’. I quickly recognized that there is a distinct time in life – the child bearing years – where all things revolved around fertility and babies and diapers. You can not hang out with the baby crowd and not talk about all things baby and all things birthing. And, talking about babies and birthing became a painful reminder of my horrific experience and my lack as a woman. It reminded me, that, for a time, I felt damaged. I was the big pink elephant in the room that no one sees. Not only was I the hush of depression in all those conversations, I had a hard time not being jealous of the light and cheerful mood I could not fake as much as I tried. I could completely understand the plight of the infertile couple. And, yet I had a baby! I didn’t fit with the single/ dating/ couples. They were free to go anywhere at anytime. I had a baby. Not only that but when they announced their new pregnancy it was like a cold stab in the heart. I didn’t want to go to play groups and hang out with the fertile crowd. And, when they announced their second or third pregnancies it was just as strong of a stab in the heart. And, my son was too young to hang out with the older group that was past the baby stage. I realized I was all alone.

It was around this time that I began to have a strong shift of consciousness. Well, if the baby years are turning their back on ME, I am going to take care of myself, thank you very much. Suddenly my thoughts focused on what I could do as a non-mom type for the rest of my life that I could NOT do if I had multiple kids to raise. A spunk grew out of the shell that had succumbed to putting family first. It may have started small — sometimes as an excuse. I need to care about fashion because I am a non-mom type. I need to care about my car because I am a non-mom type. I CAN drive the SMALLEST CAR I can find because I am a non-mom type. And, it grew to more productive things. I will find something I love for ME because I am a non-mom type. I will take risks that I would never have taken before because I am a non-mom type. We will only have ONE college fund to pay into so I will invest in nice camera equipment because I am a non-mom type. Soon I stopped having to justify it as being a non-mom type. Soon it just became ME. And, suddenly I was Paula the girl who follows her heart – who looks like a 25 year old who has that wild boy Evan. Suddenly everyone knew us and recognized us because we were very different.

Six years have passed. The early years were GRUELING. At year two (literally four years ago today) we moved to our house in Norfolk. In some ways it was a turning point because no one here knew my story and I didn’t have to try to hide the pain of being with my old VFA-41 friends who were deep in the depths of the baby years. I would reinvent myself anonymously into a safe crowd – spend my time flying under the radar for a while. It was at year five when I finally had the guts to say I am GLAD this happened to me. Is that selfish?? I said it and waited to be struck down, and yet nothing happened. But it is true. I am glad it happened. I am sorry my boy doesn’t have a little brother or sister. But I would not be here. I would not be who I am. I would not be PRB if it didn’t.

i don’t believe it was a coincidence. I believe this girl was hiding inside me, all along. Trust me, she had to BEG and PLEAD to get out. She used to sit on the couch and almost cry in ANGST trying to get out. During my stage of angst I realized I had been living in the shadow of my fighter pilot husband’s accomplishments and not saying a word. I wanted a place in the sun – a place for me. How do I get that??? What can I do that will be GREAT? Here she is. I believe I have fully emerged at year six. I have grand ideas for the coming year.

That is how it all got started. The story of PRB.

I love my family. But love is not enough. I wasn’t happy walking through my life empty and lacking on the inside. I found a way to make myself feel closer to whole despite the problems in my past. I found a way to take the worst thing that has ever happened to me and turn it into something very positive and fulfilling. I recently heard a quote in the trailer for the documentary movie The Business of Being Born where a woman is quoted saying, presumably about giving birth naturally, ‘If I could do that, I can do anything’. That is a strong statement that movie is making – suggesting that we who do NOT give birth naturally are less empowered by the experience. My initial reaction was to feel a slump – a kick of a reminder that I got a D- in birthing. I am a failure. I couldn’t do that. I am less of a woman. I will never know that sense of calm. And, finally my good sense kicked back in and hit me in the head. WHAT?? I survived something horrific and turned it into something amazing for myself. Thank you very much, but I believe I upped the ante on that one a little.

So Happy Birthday to Evan. And, Happy Live Day to Me!


During a long saga it is always good to take a breather before jumping into part two…..

Confession: I got a D- At Childbirth (part 1)

I didn’t FAIL at childbirth. I mean, I came darn close. But he is here and I am here. So that means I just skated by with the passing grade of a D-. And, after all, as my poetic college-rugby-playing boyfriend once said, D’s get degrees.

Alternative Titles:

The One Hundred Thousand Dollar Baby

How Evan Broke the Mold

The Day I Closed NAS Lemoore Naval Hospital

Why You Should NEVER Say ‘I Had a Terrible Birthing Experience’ to Paula if You Don’t Like To Be Upstaged

Why You Should NEVER Invite Paula to a Baby Shower If You Prefer To Not Have The Awkward Hush In The Room If Someone Says, ‘Paula, When Will You Have Another Child?’

Why You Should NEVER tell Paula if you are considering a HOME BIRTH.

Maternal Morbity? That Doesn’t Happen in the US?? In 2008! Does it???? (it does. Sometimes it is due to a Post Partum Hemorrhage or PPH for short

I am a {PPH} Survivor

I Was Almost a Statistic

I’m Amazed That I Survived. (A Proverbial) Airbag Saved MY Life. (cue the Radiohead)

So while something extraordinary happened to me on 8/22/02 at 4:11 am – little EJ came into my life, it was quickly overshadowed when something extraordinarily BAD happened to me at about 5:00 am. It was about that time that I crashed and it was apparent that there was something very seriously wrong with me. My memory of this is rather fuzzy because it came on the heels of a very very long and hard period of labor (30 hours, 4 of which were a failed attempt at pushing out a kid who was essentially stuck in the mud) and then finally a C section.

I need not go into every dramatic detail of all that went down on the very hot central valley Thursday morning, but if you will, imagine a chaotic scene from ER and it will put you in the right frame of mind. I gave birth at a very capable Naval Hospital in California. Capable of handling all sorts of minor surgeries and procedures. But not this Class A Incident. So what happens when your particular health issue goes beyond the capabilities of the hospital, your system is suddenly CRASHED and unstable and you are 45 minutes away from the nearest trauma center???? Honestly, if I had crashed only an hour of so earlier I probably would have been SCREWED 100%, dare I say, Dead. Because the main hospital staff happened to be trickling in at 6:00 am to start the day they just barely had the manpower to handle my catastrophe.

It is at this point I try so hard to trace my memory for every detail. Brain fuzzy from sleep and, well, lack of blood, my vision correction removed for surgery, it is as if i was in a giant cloud. I remember vividly the excruciating pain .. and the panic around me.. but here is where I would love to have the romantic memory — the out of body experience – the sense of looming doom or maybe SOMETHING poetic. STAY AWAY FROM THE LIGHT! But strangely all I remember is if I could PLEASE be put under so the pain would stop.

Emergently wheeled back into the ER at this point and quietly sleeping under general I didn’t realize all the hub-bub going down — the stressed announcements demanding that ALL PERSONNEL go to the ER STAT over the speaker, the fact that the facility was SHUT DOWN for the morning. The panic that they used ALL the units of type O blood on me and the controversy that maybe they needed to consider WALKING DONORS. Seeing the employees called in to help in their PT gear squeezing saline bags to try to get it in faster. But Ian didn’t. The proud new father holding his delicate newborn had the pleasure of that panic and horror all while attempting to learn how to feed and diaper a baby. I have been in the shoes of panic before, given the nature of his job. Never would I imagine he would have to be there for me

Later on, after they stopped my massive hemorrhage and I was stable enough to travel, the CO of the Naval Hospital came in to see me before I was transfered to a higher level hospital in Fresno. He told me that I was their Red Light. I was the hospital’s test. I nodded in delirium and confusion but later on realized that I pushed them to their very last limit. Um, sorry, sir.

When I woke up the first thing I remember is seeing my neighbor. Paul across the street was one of the administrators. Why was Paul there? He pulled in my doctor, Dr. Mueller, who was crying! Why was Dr. Mueller crying? She explained that they did everything they could to stop the bleeding but that finally they had no choice – they had to save my life so they performed a hysterectomy.
A hysterectomy??? I went from PREGNANT to STERILE in a period of 6 hours???? On the day I celebrated new life I was consumed by my own mortality??? What horribly bittersweet irony.

Let me explain what a strange shift of thinking that is. Of course it isn’t one that really hits you until about 8 weeks or so later when you are finally recovering and getting back on track. About when the normal calm creeps back into your life. But when it does???? Well, it hit me like of ton of bricks. And, I won’t even begin to add the part of the story that coincided with 8 weeks after my incident and just about pushed me to my breaking point. That is a whole separate topic about the perils of Naval Aviation.

What happens when you never get an answer to the question WHY?

Why did this happen. It was a severely atonic uterus. Why? It just did. Whose fault is it? There is no fault. It isn’t your fault, it isn’t the doctors’ fault. It just did. But how do I handle that? How do I make sense of that in my head????

Time. Learning to accept. Realizing it doesn’t matter why. It just DID.

(That sounds so simple. It was not that simple. A lot of time, a lot of scouring my medical record – every single item recorded that fateful day, looking up every word, figuring out a timeline, trying to find answers that were not there. A lot of tears. A lot of feeling damaged. A lot of sharing and crying on the shoulders of my newly-formed online support group led by my dear sister brother Marianne Drenthe who you may know as Marmalade.. )

Tomorrow — Part II: i don’t believe in coincidences

Thank you to all the medical staff at Lemoore Naval Hospital on August 22, 2002. Thank you Doctor Mueller who I believe took the fall for someone else’s mismanaged care. Thank you Doctor Cayle for all you did for me on Aug 22, 2002 and August 22, 2003. Sorry Dr. McCollough that the very first baby you got to care for on your new orders turned out to be amidst such dramatic scene. Thank you to the many staff members I never had the chance to meet who are merely now signatures on my medical record. At this point all I have to hold on to all you did for me is a very thick and well recorded medical record. And, while that gives me all the facts it does not show what you did best for me that day — CARE. Thank you for keeping me alive so I can be momma to this amazing little boy. I think in horror every once in a while how it would be for him if he didn’t have me. Well, that is not a place I like to go anymore. I only revisit this on the anniversary. Simply, Thank You.

As a final thought on this topic, I want to add that I was totally blind-sided by my PPH which occurred due to Uterine Atony which means my uterus did not contract after birth. Because there is major blood flow to the baby the uterus must contract upon itself after birth to stop that flow of blood once the baby is no longer there to keep the blood in the system. My uterus was apparently done, said Check, Please! and gave up. The topic of PPH was an afterthought at my birthing class and a small paragraph in my baby book. I had no idea how dangerous having a baby can be and had full trust in my doctors. I did fit the risk factors. I had a long, precipitous labor, gave birth to a decent sized baby, and had a C-Section. Those were my risk factors. People have those risk factors EVERY SINGLE DAY and do not have their uterus quit on the job. While I don’t believe that I could have saved myself during labor by taking command, I will admit in hindsight I didn’t question my doctors along the way. I found out later that I was given a controversial drug for induction. While I don’t believe it was the cause of my PPH I will never know if it was one of the factors. I pushed on and off for four hours on a baby that was NOT fully descended because I had a stubborn midwife who was DETERMINED to not call the surgical staff for a C section. One of my favorite quotes — when the surgical staff was finally called in Dr. Mueller felt my progress and exclaimed, This is PROGRESS?? This baby is so high he is a BREAST IMPLANT! and left the room in exasperation to prepare the ER. That midwife actually made me attempt another round of pushing! And, I did it!!! In my mind, that IS the cause of my PPH but I will never know. I can report she was still on staff years later to deliver my friends’ babies despite my formal complaint. I will always wonder if I had REFUSED to continue, would things have turned out differently? Again, it was not up to me. It was up to my doctors. But ultimately I could have had a louder voice and listened to my own instincts.

Here is the first photo of me and Evan. Evan was two days old. It was the very first time I got to hold or see him because I was transferred to Fresno but he was not. I didn’t look so great. Don’t mind the junk coming out of my neck.

P.S. I am posting this a day early. I rarely revisit this topic. In the beginning it was something I wore on my sleeve and shared with any stranger in the grocery store. I have grown to be a little more stoic about it. I know that it changed me in many ways and yet it no longer defines me. I am tired of my baby’s day being synonymous as the day I almost died. I am not sure if it will EVER just be Evan’s Birthday on August 22nd. Let’s get this out of the way and I will discuss a more hopeful subject tomorrow.

documentary, baby…

NEW at PRB…….

I have an exciting new project I would love to announce – the documentary-styled PRB session.


Influenced heavily by black and white street photography and the elegance of some of the masters of 20th Century photography, I will come to your home and spend an afternoon documenting your family in their relaxed setting. This session is not about fancy outfits and big smiles. It is about capturing the natural beauty and aesthetically stunning world that hides BEHIND CLOSED DOORS.


The PRB Documentary Session will be black and white with a film-feel. Natural/available light. No Posing. I will attempt to blend into your schedule. You may choose to do a family activity such as cookie-baking or painting. Dance in the rain? Maybe a walk to the park? Play in the backyard with the dog? Or you may choose to just relax and go as per typical as I capture the everyday occurrences that manage to go overlooked in our hectic lives. During our consultation we will bounce ideas to find the best way to capture your family unposed unrehearsed uncontrived. ORGANIC.

The beauty of the PRB Documentary Session is that it blends into your day and can be scheduled as you see fit. Morning Afternoon Evening.

Prices start at $795. Session pricing will include a pre-shoot consultation, approximately three to four hours on-location in the Hampton Roads area, one week of online viewing set to music for family and friends, 10 of your favorite 5×7 images printed in matte black and white, and a CD slideshow of low resolution digital images so you may print 4×6 images and share them on your personal websites. Upgrade your presentation by purchasing a black leather presentation box with mats and an easel and qualify for exclusive gifts. In addition, Art images and albums will be available at a generous 10% discount when ordered during your week of online viewing.

reminder …. fall portraits!

just a simple little reminder as the summer slips away….

Fall will be upon us in the blink of an eye. It is the PRIMO time of year for outdoor photographs. Crisp clear air – bright color. Fall is a time for attitude and fashion. It is the time of year to think about holiday gifts.

please don’t wait! September and October are the BEST time of year for photos and only two September bookings remain! And, as always, prices and dates are not locked in until your session fee is paid

evan’s first photo excursion, part 2.

So, what did the wee man produce with that D200??? you must be asking??? Shockingly good photos! I don’t want to take away from his skills. That camera was on auto. But for a first assignment he got an A+++!

Evan’s assignment was to take along his pal, Arnie the Armadillo, and shoot photos of his around town. He learned about shooting wide versus filling his frame and then went to town.

As disclosure, I did select the best of the bunch to blog (but I did a lot of editing…. lots of great ones….). These are essentially straight out of the camera as I did not want to make them PRB. Sharpening, here and there a minor color balance tweak to remove that terrible D200 yellow, and once or twice a black and white conversion. That is it. He is just THAT GOOD (I say blushing with pride!)

And, here he is, ejb {young boy} photography:

and of notable mention outside the photo assignment:

evan’s first photo excursion, Part 1

Evan turns 6 a week from today.  WOW.  Six years.  I cannot believe how grown up he seems all of a sudden.  He is ready for first grade.

Of course, Evan has been my (not-always) patient model for those 6 years.  I learned to be a great photographer by taking his photo!  So it is only fitting that I begin to train little grasshopper in the art of photography.  I handed my throw-away camera, my Nikon D200 (ha!) to him with a 50mm lens and gave him an assignment.  He LOVED it and took some great photos with my guidance.  I will share those in part 2.  But in the meantime, I took some amazing photos of the wee man in the process.

May I present – The Young Photographer:

chocolate chip mint ice cream – what a pick-me-up after a hard afternoon’s work.

an exploration into freedom

(eta: A certain Aussie friend of mine who will go nameless COUGH lucky COUGH has made me feel very old this evening. But I am not ashamed and in fact will add a little bit of nostalgia to my post. Enjoy some Pearl Jam. Think of college or fifth grade – whichever is closer to appropriate.)

Do you ever feel like you are wandering around in a fog? Looking for something. But you just don’t know what you are looking for? Somehow that is how I have felt since I returned from Europe. When I got home I was reminded that I am not keeping up part of my photographic bargain with myself. I am not finding the photos for me – the photos that speak a message – the photos that have great depth and aesthetic beauty. I can sense that something is missing – but due to the nature of being in a fog – I am not sure how to pinpoint what that very thing IS.

After chatting with my wonderful friend, Melissa, I got to thinking and googling. Maybe a new door has opened in my realm of possibilities? I stumbled upon an article by Chip Simons. What an inspiration. His fresh outlook is so —– FREE. My ultimate path may yet to be realized but at least I feel a sense that my fog is starting to thin. I was so excited about that little glimpse of the sun that I felt the urge to write to Chip to tell him how amazing he is. Can you believe? He actually had a funky little letter that he wrote back and included a photo. What a cool, cool guy. 😀

Bouncing around the universe – picking up what I can – little bit by little bit. Let’s see where this leads me….

follow your path

no one said it had to be a straight line

go around the bend

park the bike

maneuver the narrow passage

take in the scenery

feel the beauty

eh. just do what ya gotta do. you’re free!

let go

think outside the box

just because it was an accident doesn’t mean it was a mistake

a solid design will wear the test of time

avoid the pesky obstacles

don’t feel self-conscious. they don’t really even notice you….

i don’t believe the answer is in the sky. it is in my heart.

i don’t have time to only think locally…..

a little creative time out…….

I have been needing to find extra creative outlet lately. a little bit of play here and there – feeling the need to spread my wings with some experimentation. It is funny. I have noticed that the more technical my work becomes – the more I hone my skills – the less interested I am in specializing. As if by learning more I open more doors and I am no longer willing to leave out possibilities. Huh. Somehow I thought by now I would know exactly where I would be going on this long photographic road of mine. Instead of picking a path on the fork I have merely created more tines. Who knows. Maybe one day I will find a way to get myself into a gallery. I can always dream.

a little refrigerator poetry….

the use of a bizarre combination of camera and lens for a very funky and cool photo which I adore

and a little self-portraiture

(by the way, Kelly, I see we have the same pattern in our photos….. our little secret about where it came from…. :-)


now it is true that there are no trumpets or roses in the photos I took of Tori today, I am quite convinced that her dad is gonna be PISSED. Yes, you read right. Pissed – because his little Tori is all grown up. How can she possibly be considering which college to attend already? Well, I am so honored to have been able to be her photographer. She has come a long way since the day I first met her as Evan’s baby sitter several years ago.

to be cont’d…………

black velvet fiasco

UNIVERSE – I got your message. I promise I will walk away from the sewing machine and never attempt to do a project on it again.

Well, except maybe a really really really basic hem job. Or maybe some more paper crafts. But no more sewing projects. No more black velvet.

Oh, and, Thanks for the message. I am sure you saved me at least one head ache down the line. SMOOCH!

soaking wet

Yesterday evening I had the fun privilege of getting soaked at the beach with four gorgeous sun-drenched little people. And, yes, I, too, was running in the surf with my investment! And, it was worth the wet shorts and sand because I took some really really FUN photos.

The only catch is that it was filmed. It might show up on YouTube captioned Crazy Kid Photog.

The beach is a very popular location for photos here in Virginia – understandably – considering it is our areas biggest attraction. I admit it is not where I am most comfortable. For me, the goal is to see something different. The open nothingness and bland colors are daunting for this photographer who likes bold statements. I must approach the beach differently to satisfy my own inner harsh critic. So when I go to the beach and find photos with character, charisma, and even a little mood and attitude? I am a very happy girl.

Without more ado, may I present my preview shots. I love these.

to ian….

a weekend lost….

We really needed to connect. I am sorry we didn’t.


a musical interlude…..

While we were in Holland last month, we had the opportunity to go to the Parade Festival. What an amazing experience. It was located in Utrecht. The Parade Festival is unlike anything I have seen in the US. It is a collective traveling show complete with great food, rides, and entertainment. But it was the flair of theater that set this festival apart. Definitely in the category of counter-culture from American standards, the edge of this family event was absolutely fascinating.

One of the absolute highlights was the show put on by Coparck. While not known in the US, they are a well-known band in Holland. They had a 360 degree video presentation in their tent with fabulous music that chronicled the breakdown of Rita Hayworth. Of course, while I am sure the actress Rita did a fabulous job, it was entirely in Dutch. Given the fact that we were completely in the back of the crowd directly next to the band, I found myself watching them play the entire time. Can you say WOW. I was instantly in love with their talent. A cross between Radiohead and Zero 7, two of my favorite bands, with an injection of jazz, I am determined to find a way to get all of their CD’s. After spending the entire show staring at them, I almost feel like I know them. Evan even had the chance to play drums with them at the end. 😉

Coparck’s tent:

Coparck is not known in the States, but they should be. Please enjoy.

Cheers to Holland!

Cheers to Coparck! Definitely CRUSHING ON COPARCK!

Cheers to the D3!

(Coparck fever is catching….. Check out Marmalade…..)