Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pregnancy After Loss

What a month! We've been swamped nearly every day with wedding or birthday related activities, and I have to say I am kind of completely exhausted.

I will say, this month has been a welcome distraction from the pregnancy. I haven't had as much time as I usually do to obsess over my next doctor's appointment and compare each and every symptom to my pregnancy with Lily. But, now that things are settling down, I know what's coming. I'm in my 18th week of this pregnancy. Why is that significant? We found out around 19 weeks at our anatomy scan that Lily had died, but she had died at least a week earlier. That means the baby growing inside me right now is exactly the size that Lily was when I held her in my hands for those two hours on Father's Day of last year. This baby, right now, has the exact same sized feet and hands and little lips that Lily had when she came into and swiftly left this world. If I could peer into my tummy and look at this little one, I would see little difference between him or her and the images I have of Lily in my head.

Knowing that brings a whole host of other worries. If Lily died at this point in my pregnancy, maybe this baby will die here too. Maybe they were wrong, and it wasn't a freak cord accident, but some genetic defect that showed itself at 18 weeks and this baby has the same issue. Maybe at this point in the pregnancy my body turned on Lily and is getting ready to turn on this baby too.

Not only do these worries fill my head and my heart, I can't stop myself from comparing this pregnancy to Lily's in every way. Am I showing as much as I did with Lily? I never felt her move, not once, and I still haven't felt completely sure that I've felt this baby move either. Why is that? The other moms I've talked to have definitely felt movement by this time. What's wrong with me? What's wrong with this baby? I try to remind myself that I didn't feel the twins until I was around 22 weeks, and good grief there was two of them in there, but still, I can't help but worry about it.

I remember in my last two weeks or so of my pregnancy with Lily I noticed one morning that I hardly looked pregnant at all. I had been steadily growing a nice little baby bump with her, and I remember very suddenly one day that it looked less prominent, as if from then on, I just stopped growing. Well, Lily had died and had in fact stopped growing, but last night I looked in the mirror and thought to myself that I didn't look as pregnant as I did the day before. I immediately had a minor mental freak out and ran to get my Doppler and find the baby's heartbeat, even though I had checked it and it was fine only hours before. Sure enough, the baby was still alive. But every time I find the heartbeat, every time I think, "The baby is still alive," it is immediately followed by "for now".

This is what pregnancy after a loss, or in my case, multiple losses, is like (for me anyway). It is plastering a smile on your face when people ask you how things are going and saying, "So far so good". While in your head you are thinking, "I think. I mean I haven't checked the heartbeat since last night so for all I know the baby is actually dead right now but you probably don't want to know that."

It is thanking God every time you puke your guts out, even when you are far past the point that you should be puking your guts out, because at least that means things are still progressing. It is also having the realization that you puked every single morning up until the day you gave birth to Lily, so maybe it isn't as reassuring as you thought.

It is sobbing in the doctor's office when she used the Doppler for less than five seconds and couldn't get a read on the heartbeat so she decides to pull in the ultrasound machine "just to give you peace of mind". The sobbing comes from a gripping fear that maybe the baby died in the two hours between you checking the heartbeat at home and her checking it right now. It also comes from realizing that you will never, ever be able to enjoy these moments in pregnancy like other women and you are certifiably nuts for sobbing because the doctor tried for five seconds to find the baby when you know the baby is much higher up than where she checked.

It is holding your breath each and every time you go to the bathroom, hoping you don't see blood or something equally terrifying. It is never getting to a point where you don't expect to see it, even when you are past the point where it would be a sure sign of miscarriage.

It is trying your very best, but failing miserably, to not bond with the baby growing inside you. It is refusing to know the sex of the baby, refusing to think about names, not daring even for a moment to include the baby in your plans past your due date. It is forcing yourself to buy maternity clothing even though every fiber in your being is screaming at you that it is a huge waste of money if you won't need them anymore in a week or two.

It is not trusting your own body to care for the baby inside you, and feeling completely betrayed by it for not being able to carry your other babies to term. It is having no idea why you were able to have healthy babies at one point, but not anymore, and wondering why you seem to be incapable of doing what every woman is supposed to be able to do, keep her babies alive.

It is lying on your back and prodding at your belly praying that you will feel something to reassure you that the baby is alive and well in there. It is feeling something that could possibly be the baby, and immediately talking yourself out of it because your heart won't even let you go there.

It is giving up on the hundreds of "pregnancy no-no's" that the world has come up with in the seven years since you've had a healthy pregnancy because you didn't even know you weren't supposed to have lunch meats or soft cheeses or caffeine or soft serve ice cream for goodness' sake when you had your healthy babies years ago, but followed every rule in the book with your other pregnancies and guess what? The babies died anyway. It is eating a turkey sandwich with a bleu cheese side salad and washing it down with a coke and an ice cream cone and knowing that you have little to no control over whether this baby will die or not, and you wish you could go back to a time where you thought not doing those things would make a difference.

It is watching your daughter kiss your belly and talk to the baby and being torn between feeling absolutely touched that she cares that much and absolutely terrified that she does. It your children asking, "Is the baby still alive today?" instead of "How's the baby?" because they just know too much.

It is people asking you if you're having a boy or a girl, and if you have a preference, and you answering, "Yes. I prefer that the baby be alive when it's born." And them looking at you like you're joking, but you aren't, even a little bit.

It is still having the mentality of a woman who can't carry a healthy baby to term, of a "baby loss mom" but suddenly not "belonging" to that club anymore, because you are, in fact, carrying a seemingly healthy baby right now. You still feel all the same emotions and struggles as you did before, but it is as if you're no longer welcome to express them to other women experiencing loss or infertility. Because now you're one of those women. The pregnant ones who can't possibly know our pain. Who surely instantly forgot what it was like to lose pregnancy after pregnancy and bury a tiny dead baby and grieve her every day just because now she's pregnant again.

It is looking at a healthy pregnant woman and feeling jealous of her. Actually, truly, really jealous of her, and then realizing that you are pregnant too, and you are absolutely insane for feeling that way. Maybe it's because you know you'll never be a healthy pregnant woman again, ever. You're far too damaged.

It is not talking any photos of your growing belly because you're afraid to somehow jinx the pregnancy. It is mustering up the courage to take one picture of your new pregnant profile but instantly regretting it for fear that it will be the last one you ever take.

It is realizing yet another year has gone by, and you still do not have the baby you started trying for years ago. It is someone commenting that there will be "quite the large age gap" between your kids and you wanting to smack them and say, "I DIDN'T PLAN FOR IT TO BE SO BIG!!!"

It is getting to a point in your pregnancy when you realize that the baby has grown to a size that you will now be forced to deliver it if it dies. That you are past the point of being put to sleep and having things taken care of for you, now you will want to hold that baby and see what they look like and bury it in a tiny little casket. It is wondering if there is room next to that other tiny little grave for one more, and wondering if you even have the strength necessary to do that all over again.

 I think there is a great misconception that once a woman gets pregnant after experiencing miscarriages or stillbirth or an early infant loss, that she must be overwhelmed with gratitude that she "has another chance" at getting the baby she's longed for. This is just not accurate. What people don't understand is this: She had the baby she's been longing for. It died.

Pregnancy after a loss is not a replacement, it is not a second chance to get what you tried to get the first time, or the second time, or the third time, or in my case, the fourth time, it is simply another chance to lose. To lose another piece of you that you'll never get back, to lose another baby and add another charm to your necklace, to have your heart shattered once again after gluing it back together so many times before. It is a dark cloud that holds looming possibilities, and only a glimmer of hope that things will go your way.

At least that's what it is for me.

Let's make no mistake. I am so thankful that God has blessed me with this pregnancy, despite my gripping fears and damaged heart. In the rare moments when I let my mind wander to the possibility of one day holding this baby and laughing through my tears at their beautiful face, when I think about who they might look like and how it would feel to finally take a baby home to Jake and Eisley, I plead that the Lord will allow that. But those moments are short-lived and are very quickly swallowed up by the reality of my past.

As the weeks progress, it has definitely gotten a bit easier. The first few weeks and months were, as I've mentioned before, filled with denial and fear. Those emotions have given way to cautious optimism, but the emphasis is heavily on the cautious. But as this baby continues to grow, as I continue to grow, I am being forced to accept the fact that this baby is here. There is a little person with me every day, that I am going to hold and kiss and love completely, whether they are born crying or still. I might as well accept that fact.

Every once in awhile, when we're lying in bed right before falling asleep, I will ask Josh, "Do you think this baby is going to make it?" He will answer me, "I hope so." The other day he put his hand on my tummy for the very first time, and I almost started crying because I realized that he's going through the same things I am. He's trying to protect his heart too, and wrestling with the emotions of knowing there's a baby growing in there and not wanting to get his hopes up too much. But in that moment, he pushed his fears aside and let himself accept it.

We're having another baby, it's happening. We don't know if this baby will be born alive or not, but it will be born. We will hold it, we will love it, we will welcome it into our family and into our hearts. Knowing that fact honestly makes it easier for me to bond with this little one, knowing I will hold him or her, no matter what, and see what they look like and who they look like. That might sound completely morbid or backward or whatever, but it is what it is. We're dealing with all of this in the best way we know how, and we are working hard to give our fears to the Lord and allow Him to work on our hearts.

People tell me all the time that the Lord will not give me more than I can handle. A friend of mine reminded me the other day that she didn't think that was true actually, that the Lord absolutely gives us more than we can handle at times, so that we are forced to lean into Him and allow Him to help us with our load. I have to completely agree. This pregnancy is more than I can handle. It is more than my heart can accept and more than I can deal with emotionally. And sure enough, I have no other choice but to give it to God and let Him work on my heart and help me carry the load. The alternative is cracking under the pressure of it all and completely abandoning my faith and what I know in my heart to be true, that the Lord loves me and wants the best for me and my family, that He has a greater plan than what I can see right now, that He wants so desperately for me to be a part of His will and all I need to do is follow Him. I have absolutely no desire to walk this road alone. That, to me, is far more terrifying than facing what's in front of me.

So we face it, but not alone. Never, for one moment, alone.

Isaiah 42:16

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them:
I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Why It Matters to Have a Day of Remembrance

Breast Cancer Awareness.
Down Syndrome Awareness.
Domestic Abuse Awareness.
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness.

The buttons and banners and articles pop up all over Facebook, all over everywhere really, and those are only for the month of October. We are almost bombarded with things to remember, things to be "aware" of, and it makes some people wonder, "Why is it so important to have a day, a week, or an entire month to raise awareness for a certain topic?" Or more specifically, why does it matter to have a month or even a day set aside for something like pregnancy loss? It won't change anything. Not one less baby will die because I changed my profile picture to a pink and blue ribbon or lit a candle in remembrance of the babies who have already died. So what's the point? Why all the fuss? Why is my Facebook being overrun with sad articles and tiny footprints?

This is why.

Go through your Facebook friends list. Run down in your head all the women you know and love. Now take one fourth of those women and say to yourself, "All of these women have lost babies, have had miscarriages, have had infants die early on, have delivered babies born still, have carried babies that died with either no explanation or one that just wasn't good enough."

This is not a statistic I pulled out of thin air, this is reality. One in four women have dealt with some kind of pregnancy loss or early infant death. I actually went through my friends list tonight just to see if the statistic held true for me personally. Guess what? Not only did it hold true, my statistic was closer to one in three. One in three women who have a reason to be remembered today, October 15th, National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. And that's only counting the women I know for a fact to have had pregnancy losses, I am positive there are more who just aren't as open about their experiences and have kept quiet about their pain. And to add to that, more than half of the women I counted on my list have had more than one loss, some more than two, some as many as five. How many babies is that? I lost count.

So if that many women have dealt with this kind of pain, have experienced this kind of life altering occurrence, why, why, why is it not all over the place all the time? Why are there not talk shows interviewing Miscarriage Survivors every other day? Why are there not billboards declaring undying support for men and women who have lost children in this manner? Where are the walks and the marathons and the telethons raising support for burial costs for families of stillborn babies or counseling services for women experiencing post traumatic stress disorder or depression after their pregnancy loss? Why aren't ribbons in every grocery store checkout line and why aren't football players sporting a specific color with their cleats and their jerseys and their helmets showing their support for the women fighting to get up in the morning after losing a baby? One. In. Four. Women. Why?

Years ago, there was no such thing as Breast Cancer Awareness. Years ago, breast cancer was considered a "women's problem" that was not to be discussed in polite conversation. It was talked about in whispered voices, usually only by women, and was not something the general public thought about or talked about or felt affected by. Sound familiar? It does to me, because that's where Pregnancy Loss Awareness is right about now. So what changed? I'm not entirely sure, but I think it had something to do with the fact that at some point, somebody woke up and realized that this was not just a women's health issue, this was an epidemic. This was everywhere you turned. Her mother, his sister, my grandmother...all of these women affected by the same thing. People looked up and said, "Hey, wait a second, I currently know four or five women fighting this battle right now. Why is no one talking about this? Something needs to be done! We need to support these women and their loved ones!"

And so Breast Cancer Awareness was born. And at some point, it exploded. Save the Tatas. I Heart Boobies. Pink ribbons, pink shoelaces, pink cookie boxes, pink everything everywhere shouts "BREAST CANCER AWARENESS!!!" Turn on a football game this month. I dare you not to be bombarded with macho manly football players wearing pink something. And every time we see these pink reminders, we are reminded. There are women, everywhere, fighting like hell to stay alive after a shocking diagnosis they had no control over. Remember them. Support them. Don't make them fight their battles silently. Stand by them.

This. This is what I want for the women fighting a silent battle after losing a baby. I am so proud of our country for how it has risen up to support women fighting breast cancer. But sometimes I wonder, where's the support for the hundreds of thousands of women affected by pregnancy loss? Why is this something most women still feel they must endure alone, quietly? Why is this still a topic whispered about mainly by women because men won't touch the subject with a ten foot pole? Why has my husband had one, maybe two friends even acknowledge his losses? Why do I have women quietly message me and tell me that they, too, experienced pregnancy loss twenty, thirty, fifty years ago but have never talked about it with anyone? Why is this subject so hush hush? Why was breast cancer once so hush hush? Because it is sad? Because it is uncomfortable to talk about? Why?

I won't pretend to know the answer to that. I will only say that bringing awareness to these kinds of issues and topics takes time, and it takes voices. Lots of voices. Unfortunately, the voices of pregnancy loss are usually silenced in their grief. And if that doesn't do it, it usually only takes about one or two idiotic and insensitive remarks to make a woman vow to never talk openly about their experience again. And maybe two or three other women overheard or read those insensitive remarks and vowed to themselves to never talk openly about their experiences for fear of having someone say something like that to them. And then there is the common misconception that one shouldn't bring up such a painful topic for fear of reminding the person experiencing pregnancy loss of their pain. As if saying, "I was thinking of you and your sweet baby today, and I am so sad you are missing them," might somehow make that person go, "What!?! Thanks a lot! I had COMPLETELY forgotten about my baby until JUST NOW when you said that!"

Let's do a little comparison shall we? Let's say a friend is diagnosed with breast cancer. She is currently being treated and starting on a hard road to recovery. What might one do? Well, one might change their profile picture to a pink ribbon. One might leave encouraging messages for the woman fighting this battle on her Facebook wall. One might offer their assistance in the form of meals, child care, or grocery shopping. One might send a card in the mail reiterating their love and support. One might offer to drive their friend to their doctor's appointments or even sit with them during chemo. One says, "I am praying for you! You will get through this, and I will be here by your side all the way!" One signs up to do a 5k in honor of their friend. One wears a pink ribbon on their work badge. One does anything and everything they can, because their friend is fighting a hard battle, and the least they can do is fight it with them.

One does not say to themselves, "Well, I don't want to rub in their faces that I myself do not have breast cancer, so I will just not speak to them until they are cured." One does not say, "I don't want to remind them that they have breast cancer, so I will just pretend that they don't have it at all." One does not tell their friend, "Friend, this was just God's will. It is something you must accept and move on from." One certainly would not say to their other friends behind said friend's back, "That friend of ours. When is she going to get over this breast cancer thing? I mean, sure, it's sad, but isn't it time she move on with her life?" Or maybe this friend lost a breast to her battle with cancer. Would a friend say, "Oh, well, at least you have another breast. Be thankful for the breast you have."?

Atrocious. Anyone with a friend such as this should immediately run in the other direction and never speak to that person again. Yet...things like this are said to grieving mothers every single day.

"I don't want to rub in their face that I have never had a miscarriage. I can't relate to them. I will just avoid them."

"I don't want to remind them of their loss, so I will just not mention the baby ever again as long as I live."

"I know it's hard, but it's God's will. You must accept it and move on."

"When is Suzy going to get over her miscarriage? It was months ago. I mean, sure, it's sad, but when will she move on?"

"At least you have other children, Suzy. Be thankful for the ones you have."

I myself have been the recipient of some of those gems, and know at least one woman who has been the recipient of all the others. It used to make me gawk in disbelief. I have come to accept it as ignorance. As not knowing any better. As the product of an environment where people don't discuss the issue, so no one knows what to do when their friend or loved one is faced with it.

This. This is why it is important to have these "Awareness" months, or weeks, or days. It gives mothers like me permission to shout from the rooftops, "MY BABY DIED, AND I STILL STRUGGLE WITH THEIR LOSS." It opens the door for others who might not otherwise have the courage to talk about their loss to do so. It starts conversations. Conversations about how to support women and men experiencing pregnancy or infant loss. Conversations about what is not appropriate to do or say. Conversations about why these losses occur, how they affect the parents and the siblings and the grandparents. It shows women that they are not alone in their grief. That so many others have been through it and can relate to their pain. That what they are experiencing is not only normal, it is okay.

It is okay that I still miss Lily, over a year after she was buried. It is okay that I feel random moments of grief for the three babies I will never hold again in this lifetime. It is okay that I cry sometimes. It is okay that I laugh sometimes. It is okay that I grieve however I choose to grieve. It is okay that she did a balloon release today in honor of her baby and she only lit a candle in honor of her many lost little ones and I did nothing but write this blog. It's okay. Because we're in it together, and the only reason we know we're in it together is because we're open about our losses, and we are open about our support.

Please, please understand my heart as you read this. I am not in any way saying, "Darn those breast cancer survivors, they get all the glory." As I said before, I am so, so proud of how our society has stepped up to support those women and love on them during their battle. I use them as a comparison because I think they were once in our shoes, fighting a battle silently, a battle no one felt comfortable talking about, a battle practically no one showed their support of. And look at them now. The entire world takes pride in standing up next to those women, in making sure they know they are not alone.

I don't wear a ribbon or have some badge of honor showing that I have been affected by pregnancy and infant loss, not one the general public recognizes, anyway. I wear a bracelet with Lily's name on it. I wear a necklace every minute of every day with three tokens for my three babies that are no longer here. But if there was some recognizable, universal badge showing support for the survivors of pregnancy and infant loss, you better believe I would proudly wear it every day.

And maybe, if we keep working at it, someday there will be.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dear Jake (Happy Birthday Letter)

This is Jakey's birthday letter! Happy Birthday baby boy!

Dear Jake,

I can't believe how big you are! I know I will keep saying that for years, even until you're bigger than me, but 7 years old just seems so grown up already. I always tell you I wish I could just freeze you and keep you this big forever, but you just keep having birthdays and getting older and older! This year you are about two inches taller and ten pounds heavier than your sister, but there is never a doubt about who the oldest is. She will always consider you her baby brother, even though you will always be bigger than her!

When I was in the hospital having you, Eisley came out screaming and I just waited for you to come right on out after her. You took your sweet time and did NOT want to leave! I think you enjoyed those 40 minutes all to yourself, and it took all we had to drag you out! When you did come out, you didn't cry, you just moaned, and the nurses said you looked like a tiny cherub and were the cutest baby boy they had ever seen. You have been a little lady killer from the beginning! I remember the nurses laughing and saying, "Ohhh! That poor little guy! He has footprints on his back and a black eye from his big sister!" You were so pitiful looking and for the first four weeks of your life I swear you moaned constantly from getting so beat up inside mommy! All you ever wanted was to be swaddled up and snuggled, and I remember thinking I better enjoy it while it lasted because one day you wouldn't even fit in my lap anymore. That time has officially come and it's all I can do to get a hug from you sometimes! Though that part makes me sad, I am so thankful God has let you grow up so big and tall and have so many birthdays with me. I sometimes hear mommies say they wish their babies would never grow up, and I understand how they feel, but after I had your baby sister Lily, I appreciated so much more getting to watch you grow up and have so many birthdays.

This year you are having a shark birthday party. You decided that during one of your favorite times of year, Shark Week! You absolutely love to learn about sharks and all kinds of other creatures God created. You always surprise me with the little facts you know, and sometimes when you aren't looking I google them just to see if you're right, and you always are! You tell us you want to be a science teacher like your dad, or a professional football player. The other day you asked me if I would wait and have Christmas and Thanksgiving for you when you got back from traveling, because football players always have to play on those holidays. :) You are already great at sports, and your daddy and I may not tell you this for fear of ruining you, but we pretty much breathed a huge sigh of relief when we realized you loved sports and showed some potential in that area! We love to watch you play and try so hard! You have always had to work harder than your sister at a lot of things like reading and memorizing things, but when we get you outdoors, you are the pro! You pick things up so quickly and aren't afraid to try anything, like riding a two-wheeler and doing crazy tricks off the diving board. Eisley is always one or two steps behind you, but you are so patient and encouraging with her, and I know you will be a great daddy and coach someday!

These are some of your favorite things right now...football...Larry Fitzgerald...science...singing (you have the most amazing little voice! Don't tell your dad but I think you have a future in music little man!)...riding your bike...swimming...making people laugh...The Avengers...Star Wars...playing with Avey...video games, video games, video games...throwing the football with your dad and papa and uncles and making them teach you new plays...the Cardinals...drawing super heroes...making your sister mad...fishing (you can bait your own hook, cast it, reel it in, and take the fish off without any help at all! I can't even do that!)...asking questions I don't know how to answer...legos...getting chased by girls (even though you say you hate it)...learning about Bible stories...

Since the moment you were born, you have been mommy's tender-hearted little guy. You are so extremely tough when it comes to getting hurt or knocked around outside, but you have the most sensitive heart. You have moments when something will happen like you'll get embarrassed or someone will hurt your feelings and I can tell you are trying so hard not to cry. You open your mouth really wide and blink your eyes a hundred times to try and keep the tears from coming. Those moments all I want to do is scoop you up and hold you! I am having to learn to let go a little bit and let you hurt without embarrassing you more by planting a big kiss on your cheek in front of everyone, and that is not easy for me! I will always want to hold you when you're sad, and right now I cherish the moments you let me do that.

You are famous with my friends for your hilarious "Jake-isms". The things that come out of your mouth sometimes are so incredibly funny, there has never been a single day I've spent with you when you haven't made me crack up about something! You love making people laugh, and one day you are going to make such a wonderful husband because you are such a sweetheart with a wonderful sense of humor (though I plan to love you so much that no woman will ever be good enough for you!). Your dad makes me laugh all the time, even when I don't want to, and trust me, it is a skill set that can't be taught, so I am glad you were born with it!

These are some of my favorite moments with you...the rare times when you let me lay down in your bed and snuggle with you and you sing me songs with your amazing little voice...watching you play with your dad and seeing how hard you try to impress him and make him proud of you...hearing your one of a kind, wish I could bottle it up belly giggle from the other room, especially when that's the sound I wake up to in the morning...watching you teach your sister something like how to beat a level on a video game or how she can be better at riding her bike...when you ask me ridiculously hard questions that no child should challenge their parents with so early on...listening to you spout off facts about nature or animals that I'm pretty sure most adults don't know...when you have out of the blue moments of missing your baby sister and ask to see pictures of her, and we sit together and cry and talk about how we wish she hadn't died...when you talk, about anything, ever, because you have the cutest little voice and way of saying words that I just can't even stand...when you pray and tell Jesus "I hope Lily and Gwace and the othoo baby aw havin' fun up thewe"...when you randomly walk up to me and touch my belly and whisper "Hey...baby...you still alive in thewe'? This is yo bwuthoo Jake."...when your hair is getting too long and I can wrap my finger around and around the curl in the back (which we affectionately refer to as the rat tail) while you're sleeping...watching you play action figures with your sister's dollhouse so you can play together...anytime you're asleep, because you look like an angel and are so quiet and adorable...when you smile so big that your dimples show...when you let me smother you with kisses on those chunky cheeks!

I know there are times when you don't feel as smart as your sister, or you think she is way ahead of you because she does something first like lose a tooth or read a chapter book all by herself. Let me tell you something. I grew up feeling like that because my sister was older and better at a lot of things like school and being good. But you know what? God gave me talents that He didn't give my sister, and God gave you talents that He didn't give your sister too. You let her be good at what she's good at, and you be proud of her for those things, because she is so proud of you for the things you are better than her at. He made you two to be a perfect pair, that's what twins are! He gives extra talents to each of you, because together you're pretty much unstoppable! You are a team, and you are better together, so don't ever forget that you're supposed to be good at different stuff, because God wanted you to stick together in life and help each other out! She will always need you to be her protector, that's why He made you stronger and faster and tougher than her. And you will always need her to help you figure things out and think things through. You are so lucky to have a twin sister that will always be there for you, and my prayer is that neither of you ever take for granted what a gift you are to each other.

There are so many unknowns about what you will grow up to be! We will be surprised at the path you take because you have so many options with the talents and passions God has given you. But there are some things that will not be a surprise to me, things I know will happen if God blesses you with a very long life...you will be a wonderful friend, you will break hearts, you will be incredibly good looking, you will take care of your sister and probably get in trouble more than once for beating up any boy who hurts her, you will light up every room you walk in, you will do wonderful things for your Lord, you will make my heart stop a hundred times when you do something dangerous like go off a ramp with your bike or get tackled in a football game, you will cause your dad and I to ask "What were you thinking?" more times than we'd like to, you will make us so, so, so very proud of you that our friends will want to stuff a sock in our mouths for how much we brag about you.

I love you more than you will ever understand or be capable of grasping. You are such a huge blessing to our family, and I am so thankful for each day God has allowed me to have with you. Happy 7th birthday Jakey Robert! Your daddy and I are so proud of you!



Our poor beat up little guy!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dear Eisley (Happy Birthday Letter)

The following is my Birthday Letter to Eisley Joy...she will be 7 years old on Sunday! I wrote one for  Jake too, but since she is 40 minutes older (40 loooooong minutes), I thought I'd post hers first. :)

Dear Eisley,

I can't believe you are about to turn 7 years old! At the same time, I find myself thinking that you are finally growing into your personality! You've had the maturity of an adult and the attitude of a teenager since before you could talk, and there are very few people on this earth that I'd rather sit and have a conversation with than you my dear. When you were born your daddy would sit with you in his lap and just stare into your wide eyes. He'd say, "Look at her eyes, she's just taking it all in." You would just look at things and we could tell you were thinking deeply about something! We used to laugh at the big words you would use as a toddler like "concentrating" and "frustrated". You seem to finally be growing into those big words and grown up phrases!

I tell people that you practically raise yourself, and handle the majority of raising Jake too! You are his second mother, and though we get on you about being bossy, he has never seemed to mind one bit. Your teacher told me she catches you putting Jake back in line when he makes it crooked, always making sure he is behaving! I have caught you a dozen times asking to smell Jake's hands when he comes out of the bathroom to make sure he used soap. I always anticipate Jake getting mad and calling you bossy, but he always either runs back to wash them correctly or holds them up proudly for you to smell. You will be such a wonderful mommy someday with all the practice you are getting now!

Years ago you asked me when we would have a little baby of our own. Years ago your daddy and I started to try and give one to you. You have never wanted for anything, between your aunts and uncles and grandparents who love to spoil you rotten, but this is one thing we haven't been able to give you. Each time we find out a baby is coming, you light up and count down the days. You talk about what you will do together, how you will dress it, what songs you will sing it. Too many times I have had to tell you we won't be bringing a baby home after all. Too many times I have watched you cry and mark a sad face on your calendar. It breaks my heart, and I worry so much that I have caused you to lose a bit of your faith. I wonder if we should have just said no in the beginning and saved all of us a world of hurt. But...then I think about the gift you and Jake are to me, the unimaginable blessings you have been in our lives, and I know that someday when we hold that baby, when I finally put that baby in your anxious waiting arms, we won't even think twice about if it was worth it.

These are some of your favorite things...Taylor Swift...arts and crafts...the color pink...accessorizing with hair pretties and earrings...shopping...baking...playing babies and dollhouse...dressing up...reading...telling Jake what to do, when, how, and where...singing (and writing your own songs) into your pink microphone with your pink guitar...playing restaurant...learning to text on mommy's phone...playing games "just the four of us"...Hello Kitty...Victorious...Disneyland...and, of course, Jesus. ;)

This is the first year that you and Jakey have opted for separate birthday parties and separate Halloween costumes. It is a little bittersweet for mommy to watch you both wanting to claim your independence in these little things, but I am also so proud of both of you! So far on Halloween you have gone as a cheerleader (to Jake's basketball player, both costumes I purchased at Build-A-Bear, that's how small you were!), a princess (to Jake's prince), Pebbles Flinstone (to Jake's Bam Bam), Dorothy, or as you called it "Dork-thee" (to Jake's cowardly lion), Tinkerbell (to Jake's Peter Pan), and Princess Leia (to Jake's Luke Skywalker). This year you have begged Jake to be Harry Potter to your Hermione (making mommy so proud!) but Jake has swiftly and vehemently refused. I caught your bottom lip trembling over this the other day, and I thought to myself that it must be hard for you too sometimes to see Jake doing his own thing!

These are my absolute favorite moments with you...when you crawl into bed with me before the sun has come up and your frizzzy hair tickles my nose...when I pick you up from school and you babble on in the backseat about everything and nothing...when I tuck you in and you sing me my lullaby, and sometimes a lullaby to the baby in my tummy...when you offer to "make the boys dinner" when I'm not feeling well or have to work late, and I watch you take over as the mommy and do your best to take care of our boys...when you get incredibly excited over something like your birthday party or my baby shower or a voice activated diary you saw in the toy aisle and you absolutely moon over it like the entire world has been halted so you could gush over this one thing...when we go grocery shopping together and you and I have long, uninterrupted conversations and you tell me what you think about things like how old you should be when you wear make-up or date boys or get married...when you have been offended or hurt in some way and you have an absolute drama queen moment and carry on as if the world has come crashing down (I'm sorry baby, I just can't help but smile)...when you pray and you say, "Dear Heavenly Father, I bless that we have a good day tomorrow, and I bless that the baby will be doing good, and I bless that mommy will be feeling better, and I bless that..."...when you put on something pretty like your flower girl dress or your ballet costume and absolutely glow with how pretty you feel...when you take it as your personal duty to make your mommy feel good and find 101 different ways to compliment me...

You have big, big things ahead of you baby doll. I don't neccesarily mean you will become the President or a millionare or the next Taylor Swift (thought that is what your plan is currently), but I know you will do small things with great love, and those will be big things. When you rock your babies to sleep and sing them a lullaby, when you love your friends fiercly and selflessly, when you love your God and continue seeking how you can be a part of His will...I know you will do great things.

I literally could not be one ounce more proud of you than I am today. I hit the absolute child jackpot when I was given you and Jake, and I never forget this fact. You and your brother have made my heart a million times bigger than it was before I knew you. For seven years I have gained so much more than I've ever given with you two. You bring our family so much joy! We tell you that your name comes from your big, bright, intelligent eyes...but you once had someone tell you that Mos Eisley was the name of a space port on Star Wars and that's where we must have gotten your name. It upset you to your core. Here is the truth...I wanted your middle name to be Joy, like mine, because I think Joy is the best gift you can give anyone, including yourself. Your daddy happened to like a band named Eisley at the time I was pregnant with you and is the pickiest, most judgemental name giver on the planet, so when he liked a name I jumped at it...thus your name was born. But everyone who knows you thinks your name fits you to a T, and I agree.

We love you so much little girl! Happy 7th birthday! I am so blessed that the Lord has lent you to me for these past 7 years, and I hope he allows me to have you in my life for all the rest of it. I can't wait to see who you become, but I hope every single day I get with you absolutely crawls by. I love you to Heaven and back and six more round trips.



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Since We Found Out Blog Update

Well, about a week has gone by since we dropped the Pregnancy Bomb, and I am so thankful for the wonderfully supportive and encouraging responses we've gotten. I have read every single comment, and even if I haven't responded, I hope you know they meant so much to me and Josh, and we have actually enjoyed the past week of sharing the news and finally coming out of the dark about things.

It has been a rough few months, and while I don't think I can ever articulate all that's happened in our hearts the past few months, I did want to fill you in on some of it. You'll forgive me for how very long this entry will probably be, seeing as I pretty much wrote nothing on the blog during the time we were actually experiencing everything. It will probably come out like word vomit and you might have to take a break somewhere in the middle so you don't ruin your eyes. I apologize in advance.

About a week before Ember was born, I got that feeling. That feeling I have gotten, oh, about five times now. The feeling that is usually accompanied with nervous anticipation and hopeful anxiety. This time, however, that feeling carried with it nothing but absolute, stone cold dread.

When I told Josh I needed him to go buy me a pregnancy test, I think his reaction was something like, "You've got to be kidding me." I'm pretty sure that I immediately started yelping at him in tones only dogs could hear that I wouldn't kid about something like this and if he didn't go right this minute I would certainly keel over and die from the stress.

So he went, and I took it, and I have never seen a test turn positive so quickly or so cruelly. As Josh stood there in the doorway and I stared down at what I was sure had to be a bad dream, I lost it.

"Nonononononono you've got to be bleeping kidding me. Bleepity bleep bleep bleeperson Josh how the bleepity bleep did this happen bleep bleepity bleep."

Yes, I realize this is not language becoming of a Christian or a mother or anyone who isn't a soldier really. But please take a moment to understand where my heart was. My heart was, at that time, growing inside a birth mom who had just told us the baby she was planning to give to us had a terminal birth defect and would most likely die during or shortly after birth. My heart was immediately flooded with the dread of experiencing another miscarriage, or worse, another stillbirth. My thoughts were catapulted into memories of how hard the recovery from my first miscarriage was and how tedious and all-consuming the process of grieving Lily was and sometimes still is. I was smacked in the face with the record of our previous pregnancies and how no one in their right mind would bet on us if we were a football team. Our record was dismal at best. Add this to the fact that we were only days away from having to hold yet another baby with a death sentence. The timing was absolutely unbelievable.

While I sat there having my R-rated meltdown, Josh shook his head and sighed a sarcastic little laughy sigh and said, "Well. That sounds about right."

I then went into an entirely new panic mode. Let's say, by some miracle, I made it into the second trimester and we were forced to tell our friends and family about this little development? How could we possibly? What would happen with the adoption? How would people react? Most certainly they would react as badly as I currently was and probably never speak to us again. And then the baby would die, and everyone would say, "Well good grief. What did you think would happen?"

It was a dark place, and I was there alone. Josh almost immediately recovered and started reassuring me that it would all be fine. He reminded me that I always wanted four kids anyway, so maybe I should stop freaking out and just take a deep breath. And I remember thinking that he must live in some alternate reality where he couldn't understand what was really happening. I looked at him as if he was speaking a made up language from Star Trek and held up the pregnancy test.

"Hellloooo in there!!!! I am pregnant!!! Again!!! In the middle of a freaking adoption! Do you not understand what is happening here?!?"

I think he wisely chose to end the conversation and move on. And that's when I realized, that wasn't a bad idea. Since I obviously couldn't cope with my reality, how about I just didn't? It would probably all be over in a week or two anyways, so what's the point in talking about it and risk forming any sort of attachment to this "issue". Denial was the name of the game, and for the next few weeks, we did not speak about it, at all, period.

With Ember's arrival and all that was going on, it actually wasn't that hard to push it to the back of my head and not let it anywhere near my heart. But I couldn't deny it completely. I knew that even though this baby would surely betray me like the three before it and leave me suddenly and without reason, I still owed it the right to thrive. I forced myself into the doctor. I mentally and emotionally checked out as I filled out the mountain of paperwork describing all of my previous pregnancies and the reason for their "demise" as the papers put it. I then sat in the exam room for an hour discussing my incredibly depressing and even more complicated history with the doctor who tried to reassure me that my losses had been unrelated, freak accidents, not something likely to happen again.

Sure. She might not have remembered, but she had given me that exact same shpeal right after Lily died, and three months later I sat in her office grieving yet another unexplained miscarriage.

She gave me vitamins and started me on poison, I mean hormone supplements, to try and help the baby to "stick" as she put it. I was completely numb to the entire situation and didn't even discuss the torturous appointment with Josh.

We had an incident the day before Ember was born in which I had a lot of pain and was sent to the ER. The doctor feared the pregnancy was ectopic and would need to be removed immediately.  I knew, I absolutely knew, that this was the end of it, and was honestly very grateful that the Lord was ending it so soon, before I had the chance to accept the idea and let it turn into something awful like hope or happiness.

After nine hours in the ER and a few tests later, the doctor told me I was not actually experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, but simply had a harmless cyst that would probably go away in a few weeks or months. "Not to worry!" He said. Well, thank you doctor. Now that you've reassured me that I don't need to worry when I'm about five seconds pregnant, I'm sure everything will be perfect from here on out.

I will not get attached. I will not get attached. I will not get attached.

This was my motto, and this is what got me through those first few weeks. And while I muddled through, God very slowly and patiently began chipping away at my heart, or more accurately, at the stone that had formed around it. When I say I didn't speak about the pregnancy to anyone, I meant anyone. I did not pray about it, I did not open up to Him about my fears, I just turned my head and waited for it to be over. And I feared once it was, I would never be able to speak to Him again.

A couple weeks later, I had my first real ultrasound. I was sure this would be the end of it, this would prove the pregnancy was not viable and I could move on with my life and our adoption. By this time Ember had gone home with her foster family and we were stuck in "no one knows we're pregnant but we can't go back on the waiting list until this whole thing resolves itself" limbo. When the tech started the ultrasound I did not look at the screen. I refused to open my eyes, and I laid there with my head buried in the crook of my elbow.

"Well, there's the little heart beating!" She happily exclaimed. I thought to myself that I would look like an absolutely horrible human being if I didn't at least open my eyes, so I forced myself to look at the screen. I weakly and very fakely smiled at her and said, "Oh, great."

What I was really thinking was, "Oh, great. Now it has a heartbeat. Now it's heart is going to stop. Now I'm going to have to grieve a baby who had a beating heart at some point." Very, very deep down, I was of course grateful that the baby was still alive, that this ultrasound hadn't ended like so many before it, badly. But the biggest parts of me were convinced I was in for one of those terrible ultrasounds in the very near future.

I went home and proceeded to live in denial. Unfortunately, either the baby or the hormone poison I was on made it impossible to ignore what was happening to me. I was sicker than I have ever been before, throwing up nearly every single meal and losing weight drastically. Though I have plenty of weight to spare, the way I was losing it was a bit hard to hide, especially from my incredibly observant children. Each time I would race to the bathroom or the kitchen sink, I would hear the kids say, "Oh, mommy's throwing up again! Listen to mommy throw up!" And I would wonder how long we were going to be able to hide this from them.

Until one day when Eisley straight up asked me, "Mommy, are you pregnant?"

I cannot, ever, bring myself to outright lie to my children. Like, ever, about anything. I have skirted the issue, I have changed the subject, but I have never straight up lied to their faces. I had only days before blatantly lied to my sister's face when she asked me the same thing, but for some reason I couldn't do it to Eisley. I tried my usual tactics of not telling a lie but not exactly telling the truth.

"Why do you ask that baby?"

"Because you throw up a hundred times a day and on Good Luck Charlie when the mom threw up a hundred times a day she was pregnant."

"Well, hm."

"That is not an answer mommy."

"Well, how would you feel if I was pregnant?"

"I would feel very mad at you for not telling me. You promised me you would tell me if you got pregnant again because last time you didn't tell me and the baby died before I even knew about it."

"Well, I was just trying to protect you."

And this is how our coversations would go every few days. Until one day when mommy slipped up. I was lying on the couch in utter misery as I so often did those first couple of months when Jake said, "Mommy, I sure hope I don't catch whatever you have."

"Don't worry baby, you can't catch what I have."

Both Jake and Eisley's heads shot towards me and they instantly started screaming, "YOU'RE PREGNANT!!! I KNEW IT!!! YOU ARE TOTALLY PREGNANT!!!"

I had no energy to confirm or deny these remarks, and told them to go talk to their father about it. I just had nothing left. So we told them, and thus began some very interesting discussions with the kids which I might share in later blog entries. Jake told me he was just glad I didn't have a horrible disease, and Eisley was still mostly mad at me for keeping it a secret from her. We swore them to secrecy, and that night I cried. A lot.

Now they knew, and now when this baby died it would hurt them. And that was just too much for me to bear.

Every two weeks I would go to the doctor and get an ultrasound, and each time I couldn't even force myself to open my eyes until the doctor said, "Okay, I see the heartbeat, you can look."

Each appointment I would take home a new set of pictures, and while you would think it would get easier as I got further along, it did not. I remember the first ultrasound that showed the baby waving his little arms and legs. I thought to myself, "Well now it has arms and legs. Now it looks like a tiny baby. Now I'm going to have to let go of an actual little person."

With each week, I did not grow more confident, I grew more fearful of the impact this loss would have. Each passing week brought me closer to the reality that this loss, when it happened, not if, would be more significant and eventually more public. I prayed that if it was going to happen, please just let it happen before we are forced to tell people about it. Before the baby is big enough that I would have to deliver it and go through what I did with Lily.

I drew further from the Lord and clung tighter to my fears. I was guarding myself from pain, but that also meant I was guarding myself from joy. The higher you get, the harder you fall. That is a fact I have learned through all of my losses. When you have no concept of what can go wrong, the shock when it does happen is incredibly hard to deal with. That's why my first miscarriage was so awful. We just didn't consider the possibility of the pregnancy being lost. I was thrown into a pit of grief that took me months to climb out of.

With Lily, I guarded myself, yes, but once I passed that "loss milestone" and got further into the pregnancy than with my miscarriage, I relaxed a lot and was able to enjoy the pregnancy, especially after hitting the second trimester. Ah, the second trimester. If you get there, all is well, miscarriage is no longer a risk, and you can breath easy. You made it! So I recklessly allowed myself to fall head over heels in love with Lily, because I knew we were now in the "safe zone". So, again, when we lost her, the shock of it was unbearable.

After Lily, we tried once more to get pregnant, did, and a mere week later, before I had the chance to react in any sort of way, we lost again. I had been very guarded when we got that positive, and quite honestly the loss just wasn't as hard to deal with because we hardly had time to accept it and hadn't been very optimistic to begin with. But that was the last straw. Never again. Never. I would not put myself through it. Deep down in my heart, I knew I really wanted the chance to carry another baby to term. I had been told the losses were unrelated, and maybe they were, so maybe, someday, I would have the courage to try once more. But in reality, I don't think I ever would have gotten to a place where I would have willingly put that much on the line again, and I certainly wouldn't have convinced Josh to do so.

At some point Josh and I cautiously talked about the pregnancy now and again. He asked how long I thought we could wait to tell people. I responded, "Forever." I remember the first time I had actually said the words "I'm pregnant" out loud to someone other than Josh. We were getting fitted for bridesmaids dresses for my sister's wedding. After everyone left, I snuck back in saying I had to use the restroom and quickly went back to talk to the alterations lady. "Excuse me, but, um, I was wondering if I might be able to get my dress altered to be, um, bigger?"

She looked at me and expected a little more of an explanation. "Um, well it's just that, um, I'm pregnant and um..."

The ladies behind the counter immediately erupted into squeals of delight and congratulations. I was quite taken aback actually. I think I stared at them wide eyed for a full minute before speaking. I hadn't expected anyone to react so happily to something so incredibly not happy. But they didn't know the situation, I reasoned.

I explained that there was a small possibility that I would need a larger dress as I could be about five months pregnant at the time of the wedding (I don't think they caught onto the significance of my use of could). They assured me that I would need a bigger dress, probably thinking that I didn't understand how a pregnant belly expands in five months. Oh, I understood. I just knew that it was a larger possibility that I would no longer be pregnant at that point. But I wasn't going to go into that with perfect strangers, so I didn't.

Josh was alright with my hesitation to tell anyone what was going on, but I could tell he was mostly just going along with it, and had I said the word he would have been just fine sharing the news. At some point I brought myself to share it with my sister, and I remember how significant that was to me. It was officially out there now. Saying it out loud somehow made all of it real. Not the four ultrasounds I had already had or the fact that I was vomitting every five seconds, but saying that to her, it opened my heart up just a bit. This wasn't going away, and I would have to deal with it whether it ended badly or progressed even further.

It also gave me something we had desperately needed the past few weeks...encouragement. Josh was too close to the situation to be of any real encouragement to me. He was, after all, going through the same fears and emotions I was, though not quite so severely. And I was of absolutely no encouragement to him, of that I can assure you. Telling Lisa shed some light on a seemingly dark situation. She was cautious in her encouragement and approached me as if I was a scared animal who might freak out and bite her face off whenever she asked about the pregnancy, but she would listen to my negative rantings and ramblings and she would validate them, but then offer some light and truth and something I needed desperately, optimism. And God continued to chip away a little bit more at my heart.

When Josh and I were going through marital counseling some years ago, we talked about how Satan works best in the dark. When things are secret, hidden, and we can't even bring ourselves to talk about them to God Himself Who of course knows everything anyways, Satan uses that against us in huge ways. He convinces you that things are insurmountable, that no one will undersand and everyone will be against you. He whispers these lies into your ear that everything will be worse when it's out in the open and you will most certainly never recover. He uses it to isolate you from friends and family and especially the Lord.

While I don't think keeping quiet about a pregnancy is on the same planet as keeping dark secrets about illicit affairs, the concept held true for me during this time. And once a bit of light was cast upon things by opening up to my sister and soon after to our families, I was able to see that maybe, just maybe, things weren't as hopeless as I had been believing.

Their excitement over the ultrasound photos and recordings of the baby's heartbeat gave me permission to get a little excited about them too. I refused to show it, of course, but God had been working to soften my heart and show me that, like it or not, we had another child that was living and breathing and growing bigger every day, and they deserved to be loved just as much as all our other babies.

We eventually had to break the news to our adoption agency too, and I had put it off only because I was so certain it would be a moot point and thought it best to just wait until I at least had one more ultrasound showing all was well. Four good ultrasounds later, I hesitantly wrote the email to our case worker, and was so thankful when she replied quickly and happily, and told us she'd be praying for us and keeping our file on hand for when this little one was older and we were ready to adopt. The doubts in my head told me it would more likely be after I lost this pregnancy, but I tried to push them out of my head and do what I had not been doing for the past three months, think positively.

We had a "big" ultrasound around 12 weeks that would tell us of certain abnormalities and give us a better idea of how the baby was doing in there, other than just having a heartbeat. I went in prepared for the worst, but having heard the heartbeat on my home doppler that morning, I was a bit more relaxed knowing the baby was at least alive in there. I have never seen a baby wiggle so much than I did on that ultrasound. It took a good 30 minutes for the tech to get any kind of measurements because the baby was so bouncy. She thought it was just hilarious, and all I could think was, "Stop it! Calm down in there! You're going to get all tangled up in your umbilical cord and freaking strangle yourself like Lily!!!"

These are the highly ridiculous and irrational thoughts of a woman pregnant after a loss. It was that ultrasound that the tech also offered to tell me if we were having a boy or a girl. "NO!" I quickly and somewhat suddenly snapped at her. She said, "Oh, you want it to be a surprise at the birth?"

"Um. Yes. Sure. A surprise."

I knew the truth. I didn't want to know the sex, because if I did, I would not be able to keep myself from attaching to this baby. It would be a baby boy, or it would be a baby girl, and there was no way I could remove myself from that knowledge. Then we would have to tell our families, and they would not be able to resist buying sweet little pink or blue things whenever they saw them, even if I begged them not to and they promised they wouldn't. I knew they would anyway, and then I would be stuck with more baby things forever taunting me and reminding me of the baby we do not have. I could not bear to have another box of things that were meant for a baby that was never able to use them. So when people ask me why we're not finding out, I tell them we want to be surprised, but now you know the real reason. And while I think the not knowing will make that moment in the delivery room that much sweeter, I also need to put that moment off until the doctor can hand me a baby who I can feel absolutely no qualms about bonding with.

It was around this time that Eisley informed me, "Mommy. You better start telling people you're pregnant, because you're belly is just getting too big to hide."

Such a sweet, sweet child.

It did bring up the conversation between me and Josh, though, and while it if had been up to me I'd have kept quiet about things for the next six months, I knew our time of denial was over, and we needed to think about how we would share this news. I couldn't even consider the cutesy facebook announcements everyone else gets to do when they're expecting, given our situation and my qualms about everything, though part of me is sad about that. I just couldn't deal with it and didn't know how people would react. I chose to tell my closest friends through text message or blurting it out quickly at random moments, like ripping off a band-aid. It was never as bad as I expected it to be, and with each reveal I let myself get a little more open to the situation and definitely appreciated the encouragement.

You of course know how we announced it to the rest of the world (see previous blog entry), and the rest is history, as they say.

So now, here we are. 15 weeks pregnant and still getting used to the idea. I had another ultrasound today which I was fortunate enough to get video of. I thought about posting it to facebook, then thought better of it, then thought about it again. I have no desire to share it with everyone and at the same time I find it harder every day to quiet that voice deep down that tells me she is happy about this baby and would like the opportunity to share her happiness with her loved ones. (Does that make me sound like I have multiple personalities? I would deny that I do, but that's pretty much exactly what is going on with me right now.)

Well. I guess I can at least share a couple pictures. Just in time for Halloween, our little baby has decided to go as a creepy skeleton. Don't worry, we still think it's cute.

Creepy skeleton baby. We aren't that worried because Eisley looked creepy like this too in her ultrasound pics and look how cute she turned out.

We think it's screaming, "LET ME OUUUUUUTTT!!!" while it pounds its fists on my tummy

Well there you have it. I have no idea what I'll be blogging about in the coming weeks, but I'm sure I will find something to say (I always do). Thank you so much for all of your encouragement as we walk this pretty scary road. You guys are too good to us, and we are so thankful for the love.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Curve Ball

I've contemplated how I would write this post so many times. And each time, the reality of our past reminded me that I might not have to write it at all.

But, apparently, I do.

God has brought me a long way since our journey with Ember. I have a long, long way to go, as I'm sure you will see, but He's brought me at least far enough that I feel I can finally share, granted with great trepidation,  what's been going on with our family since just before Ember's birth.

God has decided to, once again, throw another curve ball at us. I wonder sometimes if He gets enjoyment out of doing so, or just enjoyment out of my reactions. Either way, He seems to do it a lot.

World...meet our latest curve ball.

 I've struggled a lot with how to share this news. So much so that we put off telling even our closest family and friends until very recently. I struggled even more with telling the rest of the world, for a whole lot of reasons. To name a few, I (albeit ridiculously) felt a gripping fear that as soon as we "went public" with this, it would immediately jinx the pregnancy and I would almost certainly miscarry. I also felt a lot of hesitation to drop a bomb such as this with people who have been so faithful in praying for and supporting our adoption. This certainly wasn't in the plan, how would people react? I also wanted to make sure that what our family is going through and feeling is accurately conveyed. I don't want to seem ungrateful for what is obviously a surprise blessing, especially with so many people I know struggling to get pregnant or hold onto a pregnancy after multiple losses, but I also don't want to seem blase' to the fact that this was not in our plans, changes things drastically, and brings with it a host of really difficult emotions and struggles that I'll eventually try to articulate.

But all of that said, Josh and I agreed that it was time we share the news with you. I am in fact pregnant, and the baby is due in the first week of April. We are getting to a place where we can share the news with a cautious smile, but it's taken some time and I'm sure God will continue to work on our hearts, mine especially.

I am perfectly aware that with this news will come a host of questions, and since I can't see any of you or hear those questions, I will just pretend I can. Hopefully I'll at least cover the basics.


How far along are you?

14 weeks.(To put it into perspective, I lost Lily at 19 weeks)

How are you feeling?

Physically, better than I was.

Emotionally...better than I was.

What are you thinking about all of this?

I will go into detail in later posts, but the short answer is that God has brought me a long way. I would say we are cautiously optimistic, but I don't know that that's the truth. We are cautiously something, but I'm not sure optimistic is the right word. We've come to realize that we have little to no control over what happens in our lives, only the reactions we have to what happens. So we are trying to react gracefully, but I gotta tell you, it hasn't been easy. If I had a magic genie in a bottle, I would wish that this baby would be born healthy and I could enjoy every minute of this pregnancy. But I don't have a genie. I have a God who I can only ask to prepare me for whatever happens, and stay very close as we navigate something that is quite frankly terrifying for me. Not because of the possibility of loss, but because of what I'm sure I'll struggle with if we do experience loss again. But, like I said, more on that later.

Was this planned?

For lack of a better answer...Hell to the NO.

No, we did not plan to get pregnant in the midst of an adoption, after three consecutive losses, in the middle of grieving another baby who we would be forced to let go of. We did not plan to throw our family into yet another complicated and scary situation to which the outcome is so unsure. We did not save and raise thousands of dollars, spend months and months of our lives jumping through hoops and navigating this crazy adoption process, just to say, "You know what I think is a great idea right about now? Getting pregnant." This was not planned by us, but I have no doubt it was planned by Somebody.

Are you excited?

Honestly? No. I'm not excited. My previous three losses have stolen that privilege from me. So "excited" is not how I would put it. Will I be absolutely, positively, over-the-moon ecstatic if this baby arrives alive and crying? Without a doubt. But until then, I'm accepting of the news, and quite frankly even that is quite a step forward from where I was three months ago, but I'm not excited about it. I was talking to someone the other day about that, and they said, "Well, that's a real shame that you can't get excited about it or enjoy it at all." You know what? It is a shame. I greatly miss the naivety I had in previous pregnancies, and I miss feeling excited about carrying a baby, but that doesn't mean it is less of a blessing or that we will love this child any less just because our eyes have since been ripped open to the possibility of negative outcomes. And I do enjoy certain moments very much, like hearing the heartbeat each night when I check for it, and every two weeks when I get another ultrasound that shows everything is okay so far, but those moments are almost immediately followed by the realization that it took only a moment for Lily's heart to stop beating, and I have no way of knowing if a moment like that just happened with this baby too.

What is going to happen with the adoption?

That is a great question. That is one of the first questions we asked God when we found out about this little surprise, and He still hasn't answered yet. I will tell you that we still have it on our hearts to adopt, we still want to follow that path if God allows, but we realize that He may change it slightly or halt it altogether. It is something only time will tell us. We continue to trust that He has a plan, though I honestly can't figure it out right now. But I rarely can, so that's okay. Our adoption agency has been very supportive and encouraging, and we told them to keep our file close at hand just in case this pregnancy doesn't go the way we hope it will, but in the event that this baby is born healthy in April, we will talk about going back on the waiting list. Our agency has a policy that you cannot adopt while pregnant, and you cannot go back on the list until your youngest is nine months old, so this has of course changed our path quite a bit, but only time will tell how it changes it and what God will lead us to do down the road.

What will happen to all the money you raised?

This is the thing that scared me to pieces when thinking about how we would share this news with loved ones. I was (and still am) scared that people would be upset, angry even, that the money they gave us might not be put to the use they intended when they donated it. I expressed my fears to Josh many times, and we've had many discussions about how we would handle the situation.

 For now, every penny that hasn't already been spent on adoption fees (which is the lion's share of what was raised) is safely tucked away in a savings account completely untouched. If God allows us to pursue adoption in the future, whether it be after this baby is older or we experience another loss, we will keep that money aside for the use it was intended. If God chooses to steer us down another path, we've talked about the possibility of either donating that money to one couple who is desperately in need of funds to adopt or maybe split it amongst a few couples in the adoption process. Only one thing I know for sure and can promise you, that money will go to help bless a Christian family or families with a child through adoption. That's what it was given for, and that's what it will go to. Maybe it will be us, maybe it won't. We'll see what God does. We will not do anything with it until we feel that God is clearly leading us in one direction or another, and hope you know that the money raised will be used for the purpose it was intended, to grow God's family through adoption.

How can we be praying for you?

Such a great and encouraging question, one that I've already gotten a lot! I think the knee jerk reaction to hearing our news is to automatically commit to praying for the health of the baby. We've already had so much loss, so many devastating outcomes, that people tend to want to focus their prayers on asking God to bless this baby with perfect health. This might sound really odd to you, and please bear with me while I explain it, but I do not want people focusing all their prayers on the health of this baby. That is not our greatest wish or our greatest fear. While we welcome prayers for this baby's health, God will allow this baby to be healthy, or He will allow it to die early, or He will allow it to have a challenge or illness that we can't anticipate. I don't care about any of that. What I'd like you to pray for, is that this baby be used to further His kingdom. Whether this baby is healthy (which, of course, is our hope, but we've been through enough to know that sometimes God can do more with the short life of a sick child than the long life of a healthy one) or not, our prayer is that God will use this baby's life to show others His grace, His love, His mercy, and His faithfulness. 

We would like you to pray that whatever God chooses to do with this baby, that He will equip Josh and me and our children to handle that. I was telling someone the other day that I am not most terrified that this baby will die or have a severe disability or illness, I am most terrified about what will happen to my heart and my walk with the Lord if it does. I am terrified of what that will do to my faith, to my marriage, to my testimony. So I pray each day that the Lord will please, please keep me close to Him, no matter what happens. Every time I go to the doctor and lay on that exam table looking at the ultrasound screen and waiting for the doctor to either smile or frown, I pray fervently that He won't let me lose it if we get bad news. I am so scared that with all these people watching us, that if we have another loss or another devastating blow, that our testimony will not be honoring to Him. That I will turn into a bitter, cold, distrusting shell of my former self. That my children will never be able to have faith that the Lord loves them and wants to give them the desires of their hearts, that my husband will never be able to lead our family spiritually after yet another blow to his faith. Those are my greatest fears, and those are the areas we could use prayer in right now.

God has so often clearly led us in one direction and then very suddenly changed our path. We've experienced it so many times that you'd think we'd be used to it, but you never get used to the abruptness of sudden change. We were on a clear path marked for adoption, and for some reason, God has either changed that path or just put a major detour in the road. I have spent a lot of time stomping my feet and throwing a grown up version of a temper tantrum because things suddenly changed so drastically. I'm still adjusting, and I think it will continue to be an adjustment for awhile. But I am not blind to the fact that God has chosen to bless our family with another child through pregnancy, and that makes six for us, if you're counting (and seven if you count our brief time loving Ember). If you peel back the layers and layers of doubt, fear, anger, sadness, and what is just plain pessimism guarding my heart, you would find joy in there, though it is heavily, heavily guarded right now for it's own protection.

I know God has been leading me to do a lot of writing about loss, pregnancy after loss, faith and trust and hope and a myriad of other things that we've been learning about the past couple of months and even years, so I hope you'll continue to follow along on our journey, though it is definitely a different one than you started following. I think God still has a lot to do with our family and we hope He will choose to continue using us and our experiences to reach others somehow.

I feel like posting this and then hiding under a rock for a few days because I am so nervous to put this out in the world. Thank you so much for continuing to love on and support our family, through all of the ups and downs and twists and turns! It has been a bumpy road, but you can't say it hasn't been an interesting one. :)

Stay tuned...I'm sure God will continue to keep us on our toes...