One life was ushered out, and another life ushered in.  I use the word life both figuratively and literally.  A life I had known for 32 years morphed into a life I never thought I would experience.  A life that was my rock, best friend, and first baby gave way to a new life disguised as a little bundle of joy. 

Goodbye: Dustin and I agree, 2011 was the best year of our lives.  A new life was started in Colorado; it held so many new discoveries and opportunities.  Every weekend, a new adventure.  I landed a good job with the fish lab and a fantastic volunteer opportunity with RMNP.  I was on the Dean’s List at CSU.  Dustin found a gig with limitless growth potential.  Venus’s disease progression slowed and her and Bailey seemed to be friends.  Dustin and I’s already solid relationship, improved.  Visions of how great our life would be were topics of countless conversations.  As the saying goes, the world was our oyster.  I had grabbed the life I wanted, finally. 

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Life was good in the Masters’ house until adventures gave way to spending hours hugging the porcelain bowl.  I had acute morning sickness before the Duchess of Cambridge made it cool.  Where I once craved an escape to the wilderness, I now craved a few hours without throwing up.  Morning sickness gave way to depression and anxiety.  The blue plus sign that brings so many people great joy brought me unhappiness and despair.  I didn’t want to be a mom; I didn’t want to give up the life Dustin and I had.  Just when I started to experience the life I always wanted, a baby in the belly snatched it away.  As the depression and anxiety improved, concerns about the baby and my health surfaced.  After being sick for five months, I was put on bed rest at 7 months.  A far cry from strapping on our packs and fly rods to take off to an unknown destination.  With every baby kick, I felt my “dream” life slipping away. 

Goodbye life I knew.

Venus (1)

Goodbye:  Venus and I grew up together.  No, not grow up in the sense most often thought of; I raised her, but she raised me too.  I was nineteen when I first met Venus; she was 10 weeks.  My dad went with me to help pick out the cream of the crop from the 12 German Shepherd puppies.  The powers that be made Venus his top choice, and me Venus’s top choice.  Pointing at Venus, with her orange and blue ribbons, Dad said that is the pup you want.  As luck would have it, she came up and bit my toe.  It was love at first nibble. 

She at three, me at 22, we faced our first hardship, divorce.  After that, I provided Venus many opportunities to be the rock on which I became so dependent.  She loved me when I was emaciated while I battled an eating disorder.  She was my bright spot when I swirled in the darkness of addiction.  Venus was always exactly what I needed, no matter the situation.  A pillow when I needed a place to lie my head, an exercise partner when I needed to relieve some stress, my sole source of unconditional love when I acted a fool, the cornerstone in which I built my life around.

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She tolerated the countless men I brought into her life while I struggled to find the “one”.  When she was eight, love and stability found us both.  Love was named Dustin.  For the first time in her life, she was crazy about a man.  I don’t know if she succumbed to Dustin’s charms as I did, or if she just knew I finally gave my heart to someone, and she in turn loved him by default.  Perhaps it was a mix of both.  Thinking of her and Dustin is bittersweet.  I wish he would have known her as a younger dog, but I know that things would have not worked out if the timing would have been different.  I am just glad he got to know and love her, even if she was in the twilight of her life.  His life and her life were better because of the time they spent together.   

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Unfortunately, my baby dog that had been so strong for me, fell victim to Degenerative Myelopathy.  As the name suggests, it is a degenerative disorder that effects the neurological system.  She first showed signs of this after her tenth birthday.  We controlled it well until January of 2011.  At this time, we noticed more knuckling and dragging of her back legs.  We started a vitamin regime and purchased a doggie wheelchair for her.  This treatment was promising, and I wholeheartedly believe it allowed her to stay with me for a year and a half longer than she otherwise would have.  February of 2012 she lost all function in her back legs.  The disease seemed to have progressed overnight.

In April, Delaney waters were open.  I knew I could not leave Venus behind, as she needed us to get in and out of the house.  We packed her and her couch cushion up and made the two hour drive to the Delaneys.  Oh how she longed to get in the water.  Swimming was her favorite activity of them all.  Dustin and I obliged her cries.  We carried her to the water and let her get her legs wet for a final time.  Visiting a high country lake must have been a final item on her bucket list, as this trip proved to be her last.

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On April 27, we  received the news about the house.  The one we wanted was ours.  Cheers all around.  It was time to really get cracking on the packing since we had to be out of our place by the next week.  Out came the boxes and the tape.  That night Venus didn’t want dinner.  I wasn’t too alarmed because throughout Venus’s life she never got that excited about food.  At this point, Dustin and I were sleeping on a mattress on the living room floor so I could hear Venus whimper if she needed something.  The moment finally came when Venus needed me to be her rock.  She kept waking me, and I wasn’t sure what she needed.  The last time she woke me, I knew her time was close.  Dustin and I took her outside for her last time and he whispered to me, “you can’t help her anymore, babe.  It’s time.”  As I held her, her breath slipped away, and my heart broke. 

While this story still makes me cry uncontrollably, it also makes me smile.  You see, Venus stuck with me until she knew I would be okay to make it. At the time, I was so stressed about finding a place, how I could put Venus through another move, was it really time for me to put her down, and how in the world could I care for both her and a newborn.  She answered all the questions for me.  She knew I would be okay.  She gracefully took her exit, and she gave me a chance to be with her to the very end.  The epitome of a good dog, the best in fact.  

Sometimes, her familiar smell flits into my nose.  When I go out to get the dog food every morning, the dog door flaps.  I like to think it is her going out for her morning pee.  A few times, I have looked up and seen her standing there.  These moments make me sad, but reassure me she will always be with me.

Goodbye, Venus.

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Hello: It was 2:00 a.m. on June 18th when I felt the unmistakable pressure in my midsection.  I got up took a shower, dried off, got dressed, then paced the floor.  Contractions had been coming and going for the last week, but this felt different.  Dustin got up at 4 a.m. to go to work.  He had hesitations about going, but I assured him I would be okay.  For some reason, he didn’t believe me and timed my contractions.  They were five minutes apart.  No big deal, I said.  I could walk and talk through them, right?  Turns out I wasn’t really talking through them.  After a call to the Women’s Clinic, we drove to the hospital.

After hours and hours of four minute apart contractions, the midwife came in and asked if I would like my water broke to speed things along.  Yes, please!  Now here is where I offer advice.  Get your epidural BEFORE they break your water.  You see, I had managed the pain pretty well.  Of course in true Stephanie fashion, I had a specific plan for when I would have my epidural.  Well, that plan got threw out the window.  I dilated from a 5 to 10 in less than an hour.  My epidural, yeah, it came after I was already dilated to 10.  Contrary to what you hear, you don’t forget the pain.  At least I haven’t.

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At 7:28 a new life came into the world, our little baby Drake.  To be honest, it was really weird when the midwife put him on my chest right after birth.  He was slimy, squinty-eyed and red.  As I looked down at this little being, I thought, well I did it.  Our family walked into the hospital as two, and walked out of the hospital as three.

Hello, Drake.

Hello: Sleep?  That is a childless persons luxury.  Throwing only my wallet in my back pocket to run to the store?  A thing of the past.  Now it is more like…Diapers, check.  Spare outfit, check.  Bibs, check.  Burp blanket, check.  Car seat, check.  Mortimer, check.  Toys, check. Diaper Bag, check.  A last minute impromptu trip anywhere?  Not feasible.  A clean house?  My definition of clean has changed. An office, fish tank and fly tying room?  Hardly.  Our “hobby room” is littered with toys.  Boobs I can hold down in a sports bra?  Nope, leaking bouncy boobs I have to share with a hungry baby.  Strength and cardio training everyday?  Only if walking up the stairs counts.  Daily showers?  Dreams are important to have.  Backpacking trip this weekend?  Not going to happen. 

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Yes, the simplest things in life I took for granted.  With a baby, few things are simple.  One thing that is simple though, loving him.  During my pregnancy, I didn’t know if I could.  Turns out, I can.  Watching Drake discover the world is incredible.  A friend told me, “It is like your world becomes Technicolor when you see it through your baby’s eyes.”  I thought she was full of it, but now that I witness it, she has a  point.  I get the opportunity to see things for the first time all over again.  Being a mom is a challenge, but the reward makes all the hard parts worth it.  Holy cow, I sound like a total “mom”.  I still don’t agree with the “now my life is complete” mommies;  I feel more like my life now has another fun, interesting layer.  It goes without saying that I desperately miss hiking and fishing whenever I dang well pleased, but I can live with the trade-off for now.  

Hello, mom life.

Let’s see what 2013 brings!

-Stephanie

Written by Stephanie Mullins

13 Comments

Midgeman

2013 will bring you guys nothing but miracles, interspaced with a few new teeth and diapers, diapers, diapers….. You might even be able to squeeze in a few fish and put some more miles on the hiking boots.

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cofisher

Stephanie,
My eyes started "watering" after reading about Venus. I'm so sorry. I smiled while I read the rest of the post…you guys have really touched me with your love of all things surrounding you.

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Jay

Truly touching post. I'm sure you'll find ways to get back out there. If you don't already follow it, the blog "Flies, Fins, Feathers, & Freedom" might give you some inspiration for getting out with the little guy in tow. You may have to look back through some older posts, but I think you might find it worthwhile.

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knapperbill

I can't express how sorry I am about Venus. You guys loved her so much and provided everything she needed, even in her hardest times. She was lucky to have you. Very emotional, well-written post. I wish you guys the best in 2013 and beyond. Drake has so much to learn from you both:)

Bill

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Troutdawg

I'm so sorry to hear about Venus, it's never easy and I had the same thing happen to me a few years back with my fishing pal Zeke. Venus seemed to have lived a wonderful life!

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