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