November 14, 2014

Am I ready to meet Baby??

As I mentioned a couple days ago, I have been trying to find the courage to share a bit more of the reality that is preparing for our second child after having experienced the death of our first. A second child who has thus far proven to be huge, healthy, and genetic-abnormality-free. The pregnancy has been full of ups and downs, most of which I've kept very private while I try to comprehend this next chapter in my life. It has been especially difficult for me to organize such complex emotions into words. My reality is painful. On many levels, it absolutely sucks. But most of all, my reality as it stands today goes against all my previous expectations of what it is to be a mom.  

Now, less than one week away from Chickadee's due date, my expectations of motherhood are seriously being challenged. Challenged because there's a change a-brewin' and I can't slow that change-train down. Any day now I will be bringing my second child into the world, and I have to ask myself: am I ready for this next chapter of motherhood, to birth my second baby? Am I really ready to meet my second child?

Three and a half weeks ago my midwife told me I could deliver this baby "any day now." I was not particularly thrilled by that idea because I still had SO MUCH TO DO around the house in preparation. Well, as I shared on Wednesday, I have accomplished much of my to-do list and then some. I am logistically ready for our baby to come home. I excitedly shared this with my midwife earlier this week, who--in her usual way that I very much appreciate--bluntly shoved aside this little fact and cut to the chase: was I mentally prepared to deliver this baby? 

Oh sure, I replied. I mean, I'm a little nervous about facing the pain of labor again. That's no cake walk. But I know I can do it and I'm looking forward to tackling the challenge head on. 

This answer seemed to satisfy her so we moved on. But the answer did not satisfy my heart. I didn't feel like the answer was complete, or completely honest for that matter.

Throughout this pregnancy, I haven't wanted to address the possibility of having any thoughts or feelings that were anything but happy, grateful, hopeful, excited for this new baby. Those emotions are the approved emotions for someone who so badly wants to bring new life into the world, the approved emotions for someone who desires to be an example of "openness to life." Should I feel anything but these aforementioned emotions I am automatically a bad mother, a bad representation of openness to life. Of course, these standards are imaginary and were [subconsciously] set by me, myself and I. But I would never admit that out loud and I certainly wasn't going to entertain the possibility that I was avoiding my own life story, my own normal, my own reality. 

My midwife's question was a bit of a slap. Not a full-palm across the face kind of slap. Just a thwack across the back of the head. HEY! Pay attention. With a mind more focused, I suddenly saw the consequences of my subconscious-expectation-setting. And I fell into a bit of a panic. not ready.

Any day now this child is going to decide it's time to enter the world and I, his/her mother, am not ready. NOT. GOOD.

Of course, logically I'm ready to meet baby. I'm ready to mother. To soothe. To feed. To change. To care for, read to, sing to. I even am prepared to undergo the intensity of labor and delivery again. So what makes me think I'm not ready??

I'm not ready to face the harsh reality that I will be actively caring for my second baby and my first is no where to be seen. To face the harsh reality once again that my son, my Samuel, isn't here. That I had to let go, that I had to give him to God. Over and over again I am reminded of this reality, and I really don't want to be reminded right now. Meeting my second baby is supposed to be a moment of tremendous joy and gratitude. These feelings of longing for the son I lost very well may impede on those feelings of joy and gratitude when I meet my second baby. My second baby deserves the unadulterated love, joy and gratitude that I was able to offer Samuel. Not any of this tarnished-with-grief-love. I started to realize all the worries that have been lingering in the back of my mind. 

What if I focus too much on loving my little Chickadee that I start to forget my love for Samuel, simply because I feel afraid and/or guilty to long for him?  

What if I forget to include Samuel in my heart because I am so focused on what I have here on earth?

What if I love this baby more than I love Samuel just because I get to hold this baby in my arms, tightly not having to let go before I want to?

What if I resist loving this baby? Out of guilt because loving this baby might somehow imply I love Samuel less? Out of fear because I may one day lose him or her? Out of selfishness because raising this child to be worthy for Heaven could be a much longer and therefore harder road?

What if my grief consumes me and I cannot be present and love this second baby with all that I am? 

Fortunately I have tangible life experience proving that none of these worries will end up being true. I can firmly hold onto the knowledge that in the months leading up to Samuel's birth I worried constantly about being able to love Samuel enough. Was I really capable of loving a baby enough? As soon as he was born, everything fell into place. And I learned...yes. A hundred times over, YES, I could love my baby enough, even with all his quirks and complications. That is the beauty of God's grace. He will always provide us enough grace to love no matter the circumstances if we are open to it. 

But that comforting knowledge does not make the grief any less painful. And let me tell you, I am so flipping tired of grieving. I really wish it could end. I know this sort of suffering is something that will never go away. It will ALWAYS be my cross to bear. I will always be taking small steps or big leaps to the next stepping stone on my path toward Heaven. It can just be so heavy sometimes.

I suppose that's where I am right now. Preparing to shoulder that cross. Staring at it. Reluctant to pick it up for fear that it will hinder my ability to be present with Chickadee, to mother Chickadee, to love Chickadee with all that I am. Fear that the cross will trigger memories of Samuel that make me miss him more than I can handle. Fear that missing Samuel will make labor pains more intense. Fear that this cross will cast a negative light on the memories I will have of birthing Chickadee.

Why must this cross be so scary? I just want to kick it, throw dirt on it, run away from it.

But I cannot move forward without this cross. It is part of me. It is part of the path God has set forth for me, a tool for the road ahead perhaps? Ohhhhh, more worries to flood the brain. Let's not think about that right now...

I will think about the grace God has given me to carry this cross for the last 19 months. I am in total awe of His mercy and grace that He's given me through my loved ones, through strangers, through long-lost acquaintances. All of YOU praying for me and David. All of YOU offering shoulders to cry on, hearts to help hold the hurt, ears to listen to the same story, the same pains over and over again.

All of YOU who are the hands and feet of Jesus helping me carry this massive weight through life. 

Remembering all of you now as I write this, I feel stronger. I feel like I can pick up this cross and walk toward the joy that awaits me in meeting our second baby. This cross that is my grief does not prevent the joy, just as the joy I will feel does not remove the grief. Rather, my joy and grief can coincide.

By the grace of God, I heave this cross back on my shoulders and am still able look ahead with excitement. There are so many things I am looking forward to! I'm looking forward to seeing my baby's face. To learning if we have another son or a daughter. I can't wait to see if my second baby has a thick head of hair like his/her brother. How massive is this baby, really? I am excited to look into my baby's eyes, even though I will likely cry remembering that I never got to see Samuel's eyes. I am excited to drive baby home in the car seat we purchased for Samuel almost two years ago. I am excited to lay my living, breathing baby in the co-sleeper his/her great-grandpa built. I am excited to snuggle. To nuzzle my nose into baby's hair, smothering him/her with kisses, again likely reminding me of my time with Samuel. I am excited to try feeding at breast rather than pumping!! A baby will be far more enticing in the wee morning hours than a milking machine. 

There are things I am ready for when it comes to delivering baby. The fears, the grief, the pain do not necessarily indicate that I'm not ready. Rather, they are part of my path. I pray that God gives me the grace to accept those fears and worries so that I can focus on the blessings. I pray that through God's grace I can open my heart and fully place my trust in Him for whenever the time comes to meet Chickadee.

And I would like to extend my prayers to include all of you reading this. I will be offering intentions throughout my labor with little Chickadee, helping my mind focus on God's love through the intensity of each contraction. If you would like me to add any of your intentions to my prayers please, please, please comment below!! I would love to pray for you, for something specific, or for someone else you think of!

May God bless you with His abundant grace today!

November 12, 2014

Waiting Game - it's almost time!

After months and months of preparation (one reason I took a break from the bloggin' world), our nest is ready to bring Chickadee home! Since we are at the point of twiddling our thumbs, just waiting for the "Go!" moment I took some time to empty my brain. And camera.

Tomorrow, I will be 39 weeks pregnant.

Though lil' Chickadee is measuring 41 weeks (oy vey).

This pregnancy has been nothing like my pregnancy with Samuel.

With Samuel...I was "high risk" at 36 weeks. Blood pressure was going up and up. Induction was definitely an impending doom. I spent the last three days before going into natural labor (yay!) on strict bed rest to keep that blood pressure from increasing even more.

This pregnancy is still low risk! Hooray! My blood pressure is normal. Baby is growing huge. Baby's heart rate is strong. My body is showing signs of labor.

I am horrible at this waiting game. I find if I don't keep my hands busy I start worrying. And worrying. And worrying some more. I also am quite prone to boredom. Wow, is it like this for every woman at the end of her pregnancy?

The crib in which I was raised! Yes, that's a drop-down side. No I'm not worried.
Mechanical engineer inspected and approved. 

I'm particularly impressed with my ability to let go this time around. My initial to-do list (created last spring) is FAR from complete. In fact, I scratched many things off the list not because they were done but because I decided they weren't a priority. The baseboards, trim and main house will be painted at a later date! Laundry room update, maybe next spring! Sewing window valances, give me another year. :)

But I still have accomplished quite a bit in preparing for this little one.

Yard is (well...was, before the weeds came back, and the wind blew more branches and leaves around) prepped for winter. Not to mention we built a fence, removed seven trees, thinned dozens of overgrown shrubs, and removed some invasive blackberries!

Freezer is packed with a month's worth of prepared meals or partially-prepped meals. David is particularly grateful for that accomplishment.

Nursery is clean and organized (for now).

Our co-sleeper (more like porta-crib) that my grandpa built is ready to go.

More importantly, I have officially (finally!) finished sewing the bumper for this co-sleeper. That I had started a month before Samuel was born. And hadn't touched since until about a month ago. I love how it turned out, don't you?

The bathrooms are clean, floors are vacuumed and swept...for now.

The washing machine is deep cleaned. The fridge is cleaned. The oven and microwave are cleaned.

Don't look behind my appliances might find that I have yet to clean back there. :)

House is dusted. Most of the windows are washed.

Air ducts have been professionally cleaned. Furnace was serviced.

Smoke and CO detectors have been installed. Fire extinguishers are in place.

We have a new retractable drying rack, and an auto-on light switch in our mud room so I am not fumbling with the baby, groceries and shoe removal all in the dark. So nice!

Our hospital bags are packed.

The car seat (so adorable!!) is ready to bring home a baby.

Wow. We're going to be bringing home a baby.... another strange concept. This may be my second pregnancy, my second child, but these last few weeks and anticipating the weeks ahead...nothing like the first. It's like this is my first baby all over again. And you know, I guess I've been saying that all along. But now it's real. Now I'm really going to experience the firsts in the way I had always planned, hoped and prayed for.

Other than the giant baby part. The giant baby is a little alarming, though not surprising considering the daddy's contribution ;-)

While the To-Do list is pretty much done (save making an adorable mobile, finish sewing my last four receiving blankets, and finishing some art work for the nursery...all of which may not get done until after Chickadee is born), I am still working on preparing myself for meeting this little one. I would love to find to the courage to share more with you about how I have been coping with the upcoming change. How I've been managing my grief...I wish I didn't have to include grieving on my to-do list.

July 22, 2014

Scaring the Pregnant Mama: Listeriosis

Yep. A real live listeriosis scare in my very own home. And let me tell you, pregnancy hormones intensify such scares to the red zone on that nasty little fear-o-meter. Add in a history of losing an infant just over a year ago you can make a pretty solid bet on my sanity going completely out the window. My fear-o-meter just cracked under pressure. I am in full blown neurotic-grieving-mother-mode.

SERIOUSLY Costco?!?! Your solution is that I can return my nectarines for a full refund?! I bought and ate those nectarines a month ago. Nectarines are perishable, you know. Yes, I recycled the box already. Again, it was a month ago and I can't have clutter in my tiny little home. Oh, you aren't able to tell me the lot number of the item I purchased on June 24 at your specific store? You only have the packing warehouse identification number. Right. That's not helpful based on the information you have made available to the public. I have the specific item number. I have the date purchased. I have the numbers of the countless lots that may have been contaminated. And you cannot confirm whether or not my specific purchase was part of that lot delivered on that specific date?

Perhaps I should be more irritated with Wawona Packing Company. After all. They recalled six weeks worth of fresh produce (among other packaged goods). Fresh produce perishes after two weeks--in the fridge! People have long since eaten that produce, dear packing company. It is too late. The damage has been done. Sure, no cases have yet been reported. But maybe you aren't aware that listeria is a nasty, sneaky little bugger. Sometimes, it just lives in your system silently, no symptoms whatsoever. Listeria isn't really harmless to the every-day person, no. But a baby? A pregnant woman with a compromised immune system? YES. This is a very. big. deal.

My baby could be silently suffering and consequently be born prematurely. Have I mentioned I am 23 weeks pregnant? Or worse, born still. Another baby dead. Another baby lost.

For now, I will wait and see the approach my midwife would like to take. Shall we run a blood test, confirming whether or not I have the bacteria in my blood stream, affecting my baby? Or shall we trust that because I have shown no symptoms--stomach problems (other than the usual pregnancy calamities), severe headaches, stiff neck, confusion, or convulsions--my fruit happened to be clean from listeria, and therefore all is well? So happy to have one more worry for my list. Because you know, that list just wasn't long enough before I received the recall notice.

I would have never in a million years thought eating a well-rounded diet of fresh fruits and vegetables during pregnancy could potentially jeopardize the health, no the LIFE of my baby. Thank goodness I wash everything.

Lord Jesus, take my heart and fill it with peace. Take my worries and lay them to rest. I cannot carry these worries alone. And dearest Samuel, pray for your mama. She's a bit of a wreck right now.  

July 15, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.

Most of my yard is, well, cringe-worthy. It is overgrown. Over-shaded. No room to run around. And weeds. And old brush just shoved in corners by previous owners. And bamboo. uuuuuuuughhh...the bamboo.  

BUT. As I have allowed the yard to 'just be' for this first year, I have discovered some real delights that affirm my decision to be patient. My garden grows and changes with every passing week and I learn to appreciate what we do have, and refine my plans for the ultimate landscaping face lift. A few favorites as of late:

My hydrangea. My pride and joy. And she took no care at all. She just...bloomed! Now if only she was more attractive come winter (naked twigs are not my idea of attractive). Perhaps I'm asking too much.

And apparently this is a yucca. How fun this that? Soooo tall, though this picture does not indicate that fact. I must get around to staking it upright. The poor thing is really too big for its own good!

Over on the south west side of my house I have this GORGEOUS row of crocosmia. Favorite. Color. Ever. More please!!

Our giant redwood out front is the real showstopper. It is at least 120 feet tall. We believe it is original to the house (as is ALL of our landscaping). But it is dirty, shedding its needles late-summer through fall. Furthermore, its ginormous self blocks the sunlight from our entire house. Fortunately we can safely limb up the branches another 10 feet, hopefully allowing in more light.

One last little delight: wild blackberries! Blackberries are very much a weed. In fact, we plan to remove most of them because they are simply too invasive. But for now, they are producing something delicious. No where near ready to pick. Plenty of flowers and green berries. A bit more time and the berries will be perfect for pie, coffee cake and smoothies. Maybe I'll even make some ice cream!

July 10, 2014

Never stop learning: Adventures in cooking fish

Never. Ever. Stop. Learning.

Hubby was experimenting with his new camera accessory, a flash. :)

What is life but a stagnant pool if you cannot gain more information and explore new things? I much prefer a river that is full of sudden bends and rapids, mystery and adventure. I have never been one shy to ask "why" or "how." Ever. In fact--I chuckle as I recall this little encounter--when I was a retail clerk at Michael's Arts & Crafts the summer after my freshman year of college, a co-worker commented on this exact point of my temperament: "You will go so far in life as long as you keep asking all those questions of yours!" It had never occurred to me to approach life in any other way. If I had a question, ask! Looking back I can certainly see the benefits of this desire to gain clarification, knowledge, insight.  

In the past month or two, I decided to finally learn how to cook fish. I had purchased some wild Alaskan cod back in March (it was flash-frozen, don't worry!) that I had yet to touch, nervous about wasting money if I cooked the fish poorly. Plus, I had only just started eating seafood in the past three years so I was a bit squeamish at the idea of cooking it myself. Perhaps the only reason I started enjoying seafood was because other people cooked it well? Nevertheless, I mustered up the confidence to give it a go. After due diligence in research of course. Blog after blog, and tip after tip. Reading how to ensure the best end product. All very necessary. And all very worth it. The cod was a great success! I marinated (lime juice, oil, seasonings) then grilled it. Oh. Yum! My dearest David is such a trooper when I experiment in the kitchen, and fortunately he enjoyed this experiment very much. So much so that I'll be cooking it up for the in-laws when they come to visit in a few weeks. Yes. Hint, hint in-laws.

This week...oh, this week. I am still salivating in delight over here just thinking about my new found love. Copper river salmon. 

Photo by Ken Lambert / Seattle Times

If you've never had copper river salmon (I had not), let me give you a teensy bit of background. Copper river sockeye salmon is harvested but once a year. These fish migrate from the head of the 300 mile-long Copper River in Alaska down to the Pacific Ocean where they are caught and sent to market immediately (fresh or flash-frozen). Because of their long journey, they grow bigger and stronger than any other salmon, developing this deep, rich flavor (super-packed with omega-3s!) unlike any other salmon variety. The fish are only available for 6-8 weeks every year, and will cost you a pretty penny. At the beginning of the season Costco was selling them for $18.99/lb. Oy vey. I could not justify spending that kind of money on one package of protein. However, for whatever reason just this last weekend Costco had reduced the price of Copper River Salmon to, get this: $9.99/lb!! 

Still, I have never, ever, EVER spent that much on protein for my family. Ever. We buy our meat live from local farmers my extended family knows. We butcher it ourselves (or, in the case of a beef, we have it butchered). And ultimately store it in the chest freezer. Our beef cuts--including prime rib, tenderloin (you know, filet mignon) and rib eye steaks, etc.--cost about $6/lb. after it's all said and done. Pork is about $1.25/lb (or less). Lamb is just around $2.00/lb. This animal protein is consistently cheaper than purchasing the equivalent at the store--especially if I were hoping to get similar quality!--and definitely cheaper than purchasing fish. 

But sometimes, it's just time to expand one's horizons. David loves, loves, loves, loves, LOVES salmon. I should clarify: he loves wild Alaskan salmon. None of this farmed Atlantic stuff. Sorry East coast. We used to enjoy the plentiful local restaurants serving PNW cuisine, which of course features Alaskan salmon. But since we've purchased our home, our financial priorities have changed. We don't eat out like we used to. And we certainly don't seek out the high-end local restaurants as regularly (i.e. bi-monthly) like we used to. So David has been missing salmon just a wee bit. When I saw this price for copper river at Costco...oh man. We could have 8 servings for just $25!! That was less than one person's meal at a top-rated restaurant! Ok then. Apparently I needed to learn how to cook salmon. And I was going to take a huge risk by purchasing one of the most expensive salmons out there as my first ever salmon dish. 

A few days before purchasing I researched various methods and recipes. I had never been fond of fish grilled on tin foil and I hadn't found much delight in oven-baked fish either. So I could smoke the thing (would need to acquire a smoker...not really worth it), pan-fry it (too hot these days, and greasy), or grill it on a cedar plank. I had never grilled anything on a cedar plank. This would also be new territory for me. So of course I proceeded to research this method. 

Yes, that is a broken cutting board on which our hot-off-the-grill plank sits.
It's called resourcefulness.

Grilling on cedar plank:
I learned I needed to soak the untreated plank (which you can buy at your local Home Depot, or at any home goods store in the grilling section) in water for 30 minutes up to 24 hours prior to cooking. I also learned that I needed to remove the plank and food from the direct heat in the event the plank catches fire. Catching the plank on fire would be something to avoid, yes. Definitely don't do that. To avoid catching the plank on fire a good soak is necessary (ok, note to self: soak for 24 hours) and a medium/medium low indirect temp on a clean grill is key. Okay, clean the grill thoroughly, soak the plank thoroughly, cook on medium/medium low over indirect heat. Got it. 

Cooking the salmon: 
I now needed a recipe. Lemon always seemed like a good flavor for fish, or a sweet Asian marinade. Searching...searching...(oh Pinterest, how I love thee)...finally. Came across a recipe with two complementary sauces that intrigued my palate's imagination: Cedar-Planked Salmon with Mustard-Dill Sauce. The first sauce is basted onto the fish as it cooks. The second is served with the fish as an accompaniment. David isn't a huge fan of mustard, though, and this had a hint of Dijon mustard. Hmmm. Question posed: David answered. Let's try it. Oh, I how love our adventures!

Look at that beautiful result! And the taste? Is copper river salmon actually better than your year-round wild Alaskan salmon? I'm not sure my limited experience makes me worthy of making this comparison, but I can say that this was the most decadent salmon I have ever tasted. Rich, melt-in-your mouth decadence. I think the cooking method and recipe only enhanced this beautiful fish, even though my plank did happen to catch fire for a brief moment. Oops! Just adding a bit of rustic, home-made flare, right? Not only was this meal "restaurant" worthy, but David and I didn't pay restaurant prices. And...I learned something new! Grilling Salmon 101: I give myself an A. More importantly, I no longer fear cooking fish. 

Oh! And that salad under the salmon a few pictures up, you ask? A Lemon-Cucumber Couscous salad, adapted from Budget Bytes. A favorite easy side dish at our house. Notes: I omitted the feta since I am not eating soft cheeses until Chickadee hatches, and David doesn't particularly care for feta. I also used regular couscous rather than Israeli because it's what I had in my pantry. Finally, I am a fresh-lemon snob (ask my mother), so please please please...just use fresh, not bottled, when you need juice. Thanks! 

June 30, 2014

Camping: A Summer Kick-Off

Guess whaaaaat? It's summer! Well. Technically. Summer doesn't ever really show up until post-July 4th in the PNW, but we celebrated anyway. With our first camping trip of the year!

Just over a week ago David and I visited beautiful Whidbey Island for a little camping trip with my sister and brother-in-law (remember them from their wedding last summer? So beautiful!). The weather was supposed to be iffy, but ended up being just perfect. Well, almost perfect. The first night I was FREEZING. But that's just lack of preparedness on my part. David assumed I had my little heater box to keep me warm. Not quite yet, my dear.

Every year we try to camp at least once. Last year we managed three trips. Three! I should specify our version of camping. We are tent campers. Not backpackers. Not RVers. Not pop-up-trailer-tenters. Just old fashioned tent campers. We'll find some state park that we're interested in exploring and make reservations at the beginning of spring, pack our multiple tubs of equipment and head out for 3-4 days mid June. In western Washington this is a bit risky considering my opening statement: summer does not really start until on or after July 4th. Nevertheless, we take the risk and plan for rain. Isn't that what all PNWers do?

This trip was by far the most relaxing camping excursion I have ever taken. And I think it was all because of my have-everything-packed-one-week-prior-to-the-trip-so-I-can-make-some-last-minute-store-runs planning. See, it all starts with an Excel spreadsheet. (Go ahead. Pin it! You know you want to ;-) though it's not very pretty...)

This is the source of my sanity for complex excursions. After every trip I come home and add what we forgot to pack, or what would have been nice to have. I know this looks like a lot, but trust me. It is quite simple. All of our supplies fit into four plastic totes with lids. We bought ours at Costco: the 3-pack of clear, 45-quart/11.25-gallon totes with latch-on lids (they are currently out of season; perhaps they will return in the fall?). One tote carried dry food. One tote carried our cooking utensils. One tote carried camping essentials. The last tote carried the left-over randoms. Yes, the randoms. Our cold food and beverages fit in one cooler. Our "big" stuff like our tent, sunshade and camp chairs were easy enough to pack on its own. We also pack a "bed-in-a-bag," which is simply a large duffle bag with our air mattress, sheets, and blankets/sleeping bag. Our pillows are in a separate bag. Both David and I are a wee bit type-A (can you tell??). I am especially so when it comes to packing. I prefer to be concise and efficient. Camping is a tough balance because I wish we could pack less. But when I pack less, I regret leaving something behind. Ah me, the woes of a silly mind. People call these sorts of worries first-world problems, yes? Yep. I can see that.

I spent almost two weeks preparing our food. Baking and cooking different parts of meals ahead of time to freeze it. I had really screwed up last summer and neglected to pack, let alone make cookies for our trip (I also forgot to pack an entire make-ahead pressed sandwich. Forgetful mama with her postpartum brain!). So this time around I made two different kinds of cookies, getting them in the freezer well in advance so I would not be in trouble. Baby has been craving all sorts of sweets lately, so I must oblige, right? ;-) Oh, I know I can't blame baby--not his/her fault. I simply lack self-control. In the middle of my prep, I came down with a bit of a cold, which definitely slowed me down since I could not medicate. I opted to purchase naan and sourdough English muffins instead of making them myself. (Note for future: DON'T buy naan. Unless you are purchasing from a bonafide naan baker, just don't.) I was rather proud of myself for letting go of the reigns...just a bit.

We arrived at the campground Friday evening, no rain in sight! After setting up camp and starting a fire we were able to relax with dinner and good conversation.

This was actually Saturday's dinner. I didn't take pictures Friday night.
Over the weekend we explored the park and all its beauty while soaking in the sun.

My sister and brother-in-law. They really do love each other. I promise.

The ONLY picture of my sister and me from the whole weekend.

Para-sailors were practicing while we ate lunch on the bluff.
Our hike in the morning along the bluff and down to the beach was lovely. I felt great the whole way, though was a tad bit slower than perhaps the others would have preferred. I was feeling so great I forgot I was even pregnant. However, about 10 minutes of bad-mitten after lunch led to a pretty strong Braxton Hicks. Perhaps my body was trying to tell me something? David was a trooper and picked up the slack while I took a little rest.

He played quite well against these two! We all got a bit burnt by mid-afternoon so made our way back to camp. In the shade. Not as beautiful as the sun. But much more protected.

On Sunday we concluded our trip with Mass at a local mission church. It was so tiny and adorable. In fact, the chapel itself was a historical building on the island from when the community was first established. You could tell the community knew we were outsiders! Before David and I headed home, we decided to explore the gun battery at Ft. Casey. Not our first gun battery by any means, but fun to explore nonetheless. David is a military history nerd so you can imagine how these sorts of adventures excite him. "Oh, let's go in here! What's in here? I want to look over there." I fall in love with him all over again when he gets excited. He will be a wonderful example and teacher to our kiddos!



We arrived home refreshed by this little getaway, even though camping does require more "work" than a typical vacation. Our laundry room no longer smells of campfire (finally). Though I would take campfire smoke to celebrate summer any day! 

June 27, 2014

Pregnancy After Infant Loss

Boy, I just keep letting months go by without sharing a single post. I have written. I've documented my thoughts. But I just haven't desired to share them. Life has been deeply personal over the last 4 months I suppose. Strange since I felt so open a year ago writing my story--that is, Samuel's story. I wanted the record. I wanted to never, ever forget each detail. Every emotion. I wanted to share those details with people who had never been in such a situation because asking me direct questions was out of the comfort zones of many. Most of all, I needed to document those details. I just knew in my heart those details would fade as I would learn to adapt to my new normal. I didn't want to lose everything.

Sure enough. A year later, those details are slightly faded. I have processed so much. I faced countless emotions and reactions and questions that have arisen in the year post-Samuel. Some things, some reactions, reoccur. That is irritating. I cannot express how utterly outraged I become over "not being over this" yet. Little triggers pop up all over the place. They take me by surprise, leaving me to flounder in reaction. The other day I was overjoyed that my neighbor finally had her baby. A boy. And she brought him home. Only a day after she gave birth, she was able to bring him home. Healthy. Strong. Alive. This, my friends, is totally normal. Exciting. Exhausting. Perhaps (probably) scary. But normal.

Not for me. That's just not normal to me.

I started bawling with jealousy when I saw my neighbor joyfully greet a friend at the end of her drive last weekend, her son just a few days old. We should be able to relate now, so why was I instead jealous?! There is supposed to be this bond between mothers! I am a mom! I gave birth to my son. I cared for him. I pumped milk for him exclusively. I changed his diapers. I soothed him. I was blessed to be able to bathe him. I mothered him. Yet, I cannot relate to the majority of moms in this world. I have no connection to bringing a new baby home from the hospital. Bringing home a baby that is not lifeless.

So no. Bringing home a healthy baby is not normal.

But having a healthy baby in my life should be normal. I should be excited about all "mom" things rather than have doubts, or jealousy, or anger, or confusion, or loneliness. And if I can't relate I should want to share the details of my healing journey, of my unique journey as a mom. Yet I still find that incredibly difficult.

Over the past four months--well, more than that; more like the past seven months--I have desired to articulate my experience as a mom. Most, if not every mom, whether she is a first-time mom or a rookie, will face the fears and joys of trying to bring a new life into the world. I had posted almost a year ago about being ready for baby #2. And let me tell you. I was so ready. I had been ready since June, barely eight weeks after Samuel had died. I felt guilty for this at first, then realized many moms may experience a sense of guilt if she desires to create more life. Will she be denying her current children her love? Is she desiring more children for selfish reasons? For me, it was "am I subconsciously desiring a replacement for the baby I lost?" I came to understand my motivation for creating more life, but creating life takes three. Mom, Dad and God. God was there. Okay. Perfect. I was there. Great, fantastic. The daddy? David? Not so much.

It took David until just after Thanksgiving to be in a place emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to feel like he could create new life openly. To take that HUGE leap of faith. To jump out of that plane and trust that the parachute would open. To trust that God would not add yet another heavy cross to bear. He had to trust that we would have a healthy child, or...that we would be given the grace as we had been before to carry that cross. At the time, waiting and waiting and waiting for David to trust God the way I was, to be ready to have another baby seemed to last for.ever. Our relationship started to suffer as I started to doubt God--why would God make me wait so long to have another baby?! The few posts I shared barely revealed that pain, if at all. I do not regret that, and I am sure most would understand. These things are so personal. So emotional. So delicate within a relationship. I am so thankful God gave both David and I the grace to work through such dissonance within our relationship. Our focus? Draw closer to Jesus. Come to know Him better so that our trust in Him would grow so our readiness to create new life would grow.

In hindsight, I really didn't have to wait that long for David to be on board. Finally the time came when both our hearts were open. Or so I thought. As soon as the possibility arose that we could possibly be pregnant--because, well, we were trying to get pregnant--I freaked out. Not much more to it. I was angry with God for "taking Samuel" from me. I was angry that I "had to put my body through the ringer yet again?! Just 9 months after giving birth to my first child?!" I was angry we were only just now trying--wouldn't it have been better to try and get pregnant way back in August or something before I started doubting God for "making me suffer"? From that anger came guilt. Heavy, cumbersome guilt for being angry that I might be given the gift to bring a new, healthy life into this world.

The two weeks waiting for my missed period seemed to be the slowest weeks I'd ever experienced. I needed to not be pregnant. The guilt increased as a result of dreading something for which I should be exceedingly grateful. I secretly coped, pushing all thoughts of doubt and fear and shame aside. I had to be the "mom ready to have another baby!" that I had been for the last six months. One week passed. Almost another. I couldn't wait any longer. I took an early test. With Samuel, the test showed positive immediately. None of this "wait for 5 minutes" crap. So I was surprised that this test didn't show positive right away. I set the test down on the floor next to me, following the rules and waiting the full 5 minutes. Maybe the second line would show up.

Or not.

I shook the stick, thinking maybe it needed a little encouragement. Come on. Are you sure??

My heart sunk into my stomach. How could I not be pregnant?! I know my cycle. I am a meticulous tracker of my fertility signs. I know we timed [things] correctly! Samuel was an immediate pregnancy. It's not like I am not able to conceive, so why was I not pregnant?!

This reaction was not what I was expecting at all. I had been caught up in all these fears--fears of being able to have a healthy baby, fears of dismissing Samuel, fears of having regrets, fears of not "truly being ready." The list of fears really had been consuming me. And I had wanted relief in a negative pregnancy test! But this reaction. This disappointed reaction filled me with...what was that? Joy?! Which led to a different kind of relief. If I am so upset by not being pregnant, I must be ready to bring another baby into our lives! I must be ready to accept the emotional challenges of going through a pregnancy after an infant loss. Not achieving pregnancy with the first attempt allowed me to see how open I truly was/am to adding another life to our family. I felt God's reassurance in this, as if He was saying "Ok, Beth. Now you can believe your intentions are true."

Our journey since that moment has been one filled with many highs and lows (of course). Fortunately, the lows have been merely superficial, though no less important. But for the most part we have been blessed with opportunities to celebrate. Earlier this week David and I had our 19 week ultrasound to check on the little one we are expecting to meet sometime this November. Our little Chickadee!

I feel rather guilty for waiting so long to share this announcement with everyone. In fact, I wasn't sure if I was ever going to announce. Well, perhaps when the baby was born... I am not totally comfortable with all of the emotions I am experiencing with this pregnancy, so I find it difficult to share. I wish it were not difficult. I wish I were "stronger" (whatever that means) so that I could share as openly about this experience as I did with my loss of Samuel.

Initially, I thought I our announcement of Chickadee's pending arrival would be 1) earlier than now and 2) radiating joy and excitement. I thought I would have this disgustingly creative announcement of our new tenant arriving this fall. I thought I'd be documenting weekly bump pictures and updates on milestones. All this because I thought that getting pregnant with #2 and then announcing this newest addition I would also be my announcing the conclusion of my grief.

One of these days I'll realize that expectations won't usually be met when it comes to grief and healing. These things are rather unpredictable.

Turns out, this announcement was postponed for so long because, for me, there is a great heaviness, a seriousness to it. There is grief. For this is my first baby after losing my son. This baby will be my oldest, but second-born. This baby will be my first breast-fed baby. This baby will be my first healthy, crying, pooping, breathing on his/her own baby. What an honor to be able to create and carry new life. As I allow myself to absorb the magnitude of this honor, my heart clenches and tears well in my eyes. I am aching for Samuel. I am rejoicing for Chickadee.
God, I ask that you bless this child with continued good health and great love. May I be granted the grace to be the best mom I can be to little Chickadee, to love him or her as unconditionally and as openly as I did Samuel. Amen. 

Chickadee is 19 weeks (about 4.5 months). Due November 2014. Measuring HUGE; 7 "days" bigger than average, but this means nothing other than HEALTHY! This is the only factor that differs from Samuel's 20 week anatomy ultrasound. So I'm holding onto that :)

I am healthy as well. Gaining enough weight, blood pressure is so-far-so-good. I was more nauseous with this baby than I was with Samuel, but still not sick. Craving sweets, sweets and more sweets. Carrying higher than I did with Samuel. Can no longer use conditioner or I will have a greasy mess by the end of the day. Oh. And my belly is much, much bigger at 4.5 months with this baby than it was with Samuel. That I don't particularly care for. ;-)
" I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him." 1 Samuel 1:27