Saturday, December 28, 2013

Parenting After Loss

We didn't visit Lily's grave this Christmas. Let me tell you why.

I forgot.

There. I said it. If you think you can make me feel any more guilty than I already do, you're welcome to try.

What kind of mother doesn't visit her child's grave on Christmas? What kind of mother forgets something like that? A year ago, I would be shocked at my own behavior. A year ago, I left Lily a little Christmas tree, and a stocking, and we took pictures with her special ornament and I spent time there, kneeling in all my pregnant glory, and I missed her. I felt her absence. I realized how different Christmas would be had she lived. How we would be scrambling to get her a nap so she wouldn't be grumpy and how she'd be crying to take off her uncomfortable Christmas tights with the ruffles on the bum.

I remember stroking my belly and wondering if next Christmas, we would finally, finally, finally have a baby to fuss over that wasn't buried in the ground next to my grandmother. I remember being so sure the baby inside me would never come home with me, that I actually checked to see if there would be room to put another tiny casket next to Lily's. I remember thinking that if I had to hang one more sad little dead baby ornament on my tree instead of a cute and happy "Baby's First Christmas" one, I would break into a million tiny pieces. I prayed I would never again have to hang another ornament that made me cry and ache for the giggles that were so blatantly absent from those moments of decorating our tree. As I sat by Lily's grave last Christmas, I hoped with all my heart that next Christmas would be different.

And then it was.

Jones has changed everything in my entire life. I love him more than I ever imagined I could ever love another child. I truly thought for awhile that I'd have to learn to accept this new baby. That the baby growing inside me would be kept at arm's length until I slowly and carefully let them in and learned to love them without the constant, debilitating fear of losing them. But then Jones was born. And I was wrecked for life.

He is the most gorgeous, most adorable, most make-you-want-to-bite-your-own-arm-off-he's-so-stinking-cute baby in the entire world, and you cannot be around him for five seconds without actually feeling your heart melt inside your chest (He's that cute. Seriously.).

But in all his adorable-ness, he has brought with him a chaotic state of life that I never anticipated. Of course I knew our lives would be different, but how hard could one baby possibly be? I mean, I've had twins. Two babies at once! Certainly having one baby now, with two live-in Mother's Helpers as a bonus, would be a piece of cake. That, coupled with the fact that Jones was so wanted, so prayed for, so desperately appreciated, that I could not imagine myself ever feeling the least bit stressed out or resentful of his presence.

Surely I would awaken every morning to his precious cries, no matter how tired I was, and jump at the opportunity to snuggle my sweet blessing that I had waited so many years for. Surely his glass-shattering screams at 2:30 a.m. would sound like music to my ears, because for so many years I prayed to hear those cries, to have the chance to comfort my baby. Surely, if this baby lived, everything would be rainbows and unicorns and glitter for all eternity, because I will have gotten my wish, and people who have their wishes granted would never dream of being unhappy ever again. Ever.

What I failed to recognize is...that's a load of crap.

Jones slept seven hours one night when he was about a week old. Since that night, he hasn't slept a combined total of seven hours, and he will be nine months old next week. I had no idea a human body could function on the amount of sleep Jones and I have gotten over this past year. I have never, ever, not even once since Jones was ripped from my loins, slept all night. And when I say all night, I mean three hours in a row.

I have been breastfeeding for nine months, and have had mastitis seven times. If you don't know what mastitis is, it is hell in the form of a breast infection. I love breastfeeding. I really do. I do not love writhing in pain and feverish shivers for hours on end while my baby screams for something I know will cause me immense pain to give him. And I'm exhausted. Oh. My. Gosh. I am exhausted.

You know when you've been up all night long and you feel like all your emotions are hyper-sensitive and anything at all can make you cry or laugh or laugh til you cry or cry til you laugh? Well I've been up for 270 nights. So.

I saw this commercial for something the other day. I think it was for a phone, or a banana, I don't remember. But it showed this teenage boy arriving with his family for Christmas at Grandma's house. And all his whole entire family was there, and he was just on his phone, acting all teenagery. He's got his headphones in while uncles and cousins talk to him, and he's acting all mopey and he's texting or watching videos or whatever, and I sat there watching it going, "This is awful. Teenagers are the worst." And then, at the very end, the teenager plugs his phone into the big TV in the living room while his whole family is gathered around singing Christmas carols or something, and he proceeds to show them all a video he had been making. Of their family. Talking and laughing and hugging and playing at Christmas. And it turns out, Mopey McCellphone was actually the sweetest kid of all time. And in the commercial, the whole family cried. But me?

I freaking bawled my eyes out.

I mean, I have attended the funeral of my own baby, and I have never cried so hard in my entire life as I did watching that commercial. Which is when I realized...

I've officially lost my mind.

Jones has pushed me to the brink of clinical insanity. And all this guilt I'm carrying? Guilt over crying, guilt over feeling exhausted, guilt over wanting a break now and then, guilt over forgetting to move that damn Elf on the Shelf, guilt because I work, guilt because I didn't go to work, guilt because I didn't visit Lily's grave on Christmas day, guilt because I can't be everything to everybody every moment of every's crap.

Do I miss Lily any less since I have Jones now? No. I wish that were true. The reality of parenting after loss is that I am constantly trying to strike a balance between parenting the babies I am raising and parenting the ones I've lost. The busyness of having three children constantly needing something from me every moment of every day is simply a short-term distraction from the pain of missing the daughter who will never need anything from me ever again.

No, I did not visit her grave on Christmas this year. But on Christmas Eve, I sat in the front seat of the car, while the kids jabbered in the backseat over how excited they were, and I stared out the window and cried. Not exhausted, emotional, losing my mind kind of tears, but soft, real, I miss my baby girl so much tears. And Josh held my hand, and he knew, and he felt it too. And we just missed her together for awhile, while we had the chance to do so.

And then someone in the backseat hit someone else in the backseat, and I was ripped back into my reality. The reality where I have three children to raise, a job, a husband, a home, a ministry, friends, and a million responsibilities that are constantly demanding my attention. And I love that life. And I'm so thankful for that life.

But it doesn't mean I'm not exhausted at times. And I have learned that it is perfectly okay for me to cry for the babies I've lost while at the very same time cry because my dream come true baby boy absolutely sucks at sleeping. Because that's my reality! I'm not apologizing for that, and I am trying so hard to overcome that trap of guilt that keeps getting set for me. I am no less grateful for my miracles because they drain every ounce of life from me at times. And I am no less heartbroken for the children I've lost because I don't have the time and space to dwell on their absence the way I used to. I miss them in the quiet moments, and this past year, I've had very, very few of those.

It is a balancing act I'm not sure I will ever perfect, parenting after loss. But it is one I will have lots of practice at. For I will never again be a mommy who has never lost. Everything I do as a parent is tinged with the loss I've experienced. And I know it makes me a better mom.

But it will never make me a perfect one.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Forget Me Not

Well, I have been eluding to some exciting news and I finally have some time to share it with you all! After years of praying and a LOT of work, God has opened the door for a new ministry that I believe is much needed in the church right now. 

Let me start with a little background. Last Mother's Day I was talking to a dear friend of mine, Becky. She was experiencing yet another heartbreaking pregnancy loss, and I was doing my best to walk with her through it. While there is something to be said for finding comfort in numbers, every time one of my friends walks over to this side of the fence, where there is loss and grieving and dashed hopes and your rose colored glasses are taken from you and shattered forever, it brings me to tears. I can't imagine going through any of my losses without the sisterhood of baby loss mamas, but at the same time I would give anything to keep all of my friends on the other side of the fence.

I shared with Becky that one day, I would love to begin a ministry that provides that sisterhood of support to women like us. One that offers hope and healing and resources and encouragement to women facing pregnancy loss and infertility. I shared with her my vision for such a ministry. How I'd love to host an event gathering all of these women together and provide them with tangible support and words of wisdom from those who have walked this road and have come out the other side with some important lessons learned. Becky and I talked and talked about what a ministry like that might look like, what we'd be able to provide in terms of support, what events we could host, what people we could bring on board, what our mission and goals would be, and so much more.

There was healing in talking about it. In dreaming about it out loud with another person. I remember how I had been waiting for God to provide me with the perfect partner to do this with, and when I got off the phone that night, I realized that He had done just that. It broke my heart that God knew the perfect person, that He knew the loss she was going to experience, and He needed to wait until just the right time to bring us together, but I was so glad He did. She brings everything to the table that I lack, and has such a passion for this ministry and the women it will touch.

So we began. We met at a Paradise Bakery and we hashed out our visions together. We set goals and we began talking with the Powers That Be. A few months later we we sitting in a meeting with church leadership at Palmcroft Baptist Church and were given the green light to pursue this, and that we did!

At one of our planning meetings, Becky was talking about these beautiful glass Forget Me Nots that her sister-in-law makes by hand. She was giving a fifth Forget Me Not to our "spiritual mom" and mentor, who had just lost her fifth grandbaby to miscarriage. Becky mentioned how Forget Me Nots grew in pink, blue, and yellow. We all just kind of looked at each other and it clicked. Forget Me Not Ministries. How perfect is that? And that's how the name was born.

We worked with the church to create a logo, order supplies, and put together fliers. We spoke with different groups on items we'd need donated and asked for their support. We began putting together plans for a comfort box ministry, where women who had experienced miscarriage or other pregnancy loss could be given a box including small comfort items like tissues and a candle, but also a devotional on baby loss, a card with encouraging scriptures, and resources for further support if the woman is interested in counseling or simply getting connected with another person who's been there.

We began plans for an event where we would bring women together who have experienced pregnancy loss, infertility, or who have a loved one who has. We would have speakers and breakout sessions and give each woman a chance to honor her journey. We would talk about what Scripture says about these topics and listen to the hope Christ gives. We would come together, and realize we aren't alone.

That event is now in the works for January, and will be called "We Remember You." I am so excited about this and cannot wait to see what the Lord does through it. This week was really exciting, because we filmed our short promotional video for the event. It was pretty powerful stuff seeing these women hold mementos of their journey with pregnancy loss and infertility, and I know that it will resonate with a lot of people.

More information will be coming soon, but I just wanted to share this huge project we are working on and ask for your continued prayers for it! We can't do this alone, and so far God has brought on board some pretty amazing people to make this dream a reality. I can't wait to share all that He does through this, and we are praying that a lot of women are encouraged and given some hope during a very dark time.

If you would like to hear more or are interested in helping with this ministry in any way, please let me know! I will keep you all posted and can't wait to share the finished video with you all!

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dear Jake (Happy Birthday Letter)

Dear Jake,

I cannot believe you are eight years old. It feels like just yesterday you were turning two and we were sending your binkies off into the sky!! You were such a sweet little buddy back then, with such a tender heart and the best giggle in the world! You still are a sweet little buddy, but you try to hide it behind a goofy, tough, cool kid now. ;) You still have a tender heart, and I have watched that grow into empathy for others, a sensitive spirit, and fiercely loyal attitude. You also still have the world's best laugh, though it's gotten a bit deeper and less giggly over the years!

You have shot up in height this year and now have a good three inches on your sister, which you are quite proud of. This year your reading "clicked", and since then, you've been reading everything in sight. You love to read things that make you laugh and adventures that "make you nervous". You have started writing your own comic book, and I can honestly say it is the most entertaining thing I have ever read!!! You have a hilarious imagination and way of putting things. You've also shown quite a talent for drawing, which goes nicely in your comic books. ;)

This year you played on your first basketball team, and although you say you like football better, you showed a real talent for it and we hope you continue to play! Your dad tells you over and over that you may not have the most talent for a sport, but you have a great attitude and willingness to learn, which makes you a "coach's dream". You work harder than any other player and take direction well, and we hope that sticks with you! I love to watch you play, and I looooove to see that embarrassed smile creep up on your lips when I cheer a little too loudly for your liking. ;)

I think the most important thing that happened to you this year is that you became a Big Brother!!! Not only did you become a big brother, but you got to name him! I remember how it happened. You were walking through the dining room and you said you came up with a name for the baby if it was a boy. You rattled off a ridiculously long name consisting of about seventeen names, and somewhere in there you stuck "Jones". Your dad and I looked at each other and said, "That's actually a pretty cool name!" I think even you were a little bit shocked that we actually named him that, and I can tell you're pretty stinkin' proud of yourself for coming up with it!

You are such an amazing big brother. No one can make Jones laugh like you can. When it has been awhile since you've held him, you tell me that you and Jones need some "Bro time", and you pick him up, take him away, and play with him or read to him or just hold him and try to make him laugh. You took losing your baby sister harder than even Eisley, and to this day you still have moments when I find you crying and holding your "Lilysaurus" and you tell me that you miss her. I know that losing her made you love and appreciate Jones so much more, and I know he can feel how much you adore him. I can't even begin to imagine how Jones is going to idolize you as you both get older. That is going to be a very big responsibility for you, always having someone watching you and wanting to be just like you. Try to remember how very much he loves you, and be very careful where you step, because Jones will be right behind you.

This year, I am praying that God brings you good friends, ones who are kind and make good choices and are nice to your sister (but not too nice...). ;) I am praying that you will gain confidence in the strengths God has given you, and not worry so much if Eisley is better at something. I am praying that God continues to become more and more real to you as you learn more about His Word and what it says. I am praying for your safety every day. I am praying God will help us be exactly who you need us to be. I am praying that you will make good choices.

I love you so much Jake Robert. You are my comic relief. You are the most caring little boy I know. You are a goofball. You are amazing. Your daddy and I are so proud of you, and so thankful the Lord blessed us with you eight years ago.

Happy Birthday Jakey!



Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dear Eisley (Happy Birthday Letter)

Dear Eisley,

You turned eight years old this week! I can hardly believe I have two eight year olds, because I remember very clearly being eight years old myself! When I was eight years old, I loved playing mommy to my dolls, reading, writing in my diary, and playing make believe. You love doing all those things too! Except you are also veeeeeery girly, and love to play with Barbies, paint your nails, try new hairstyles, dress up and accessorize, shop, and take care of your baby brother. I always wanted my mom to have another baby when I was your age, and you love having one around just as much as I would have!

I am so thankful that God knew enough to send you to me eight years ago, because I don't know how I'd take care of these boys without you! You help me with so much, from making lunches to organizing Jonesy's laundry, but the thing I appreciate most about you is being able to talk with you. I pray all the time that God will keep growing our relationship and keep showing me how to love you the way you need to be loved. The other day I took you out for a Girls' Night, and you talked my ear right off. I sat in the front seat smiling to myself as you jabbered away about your friends, boys, and all kinds of other things. I love when you talk to me about everything and nothing. I hope you always keep talking to me!

You have grown up and changed a lot this year. Your reading has taken off, and this year I finally pulled down my old box of Babysitter's Club books for you. I don't know who was more excited about it, you or me! I spent hours and hours reading those books when I was just a little older than you, and it was so fun to get to pass them onto you! This year you also started piano and gymnastics. I wonder if you'll be doing either next year, but I hope you are! You absolutely love to write songs, so I think piano will be such a fun thing for you.

I think the most important thing that happened to you this year was finally becoming a big sister. You have been so close so many times, and it has broken my heart to watch you put that Big Sister shirt in the back of your closet over and over again. When I finally got to see you wear it and meet your baby brother, that was just one of the happiest moments of my life. You have been the most amazing big sister Jones ever could have asked for. You love on him every chance you get, and I know that you don't take him for granted one bit. Unlike most eight-year-olds, you know what it is like to lose a baby in your family, and how very precious they are. I'm so sorry for the hard lessons you have had to learn in your eight short years, but I am thankful you have learned them. Every time I see you squeeze Jones and tell him you love him so much you could just die, my heart melts!

This year, you and Jake agreed on a Monster themed glow-in-the-dark birthday! It was so much fun to plan and decorate for it! You guys had a blast, and I know it will be hard to top next year! You and Jake want to be a football player and a cheerleader for Halloween, and you want Jones to dress up like a little football. We all went as Mickey and Minnie Mouse for Disneyland's Halloween Party a few weeks ago, but Jake put his foot down and said he refuses to dress like Mickey in front of people he knows! ;) You were an adorable Minnie Mouse though, and it was so fun for me to see you having so much fun with your Mickey brothers. ;)

You are so smart, so sassy, and a joy to be around. You have gotten in trouble I think three times this year, and each time, you have begged for my forgiveness almost immediately. ;) You made a best friend, you became a big sister, you discovered your love of reading. You decided you want to redo your bedroom to something "more mature," and you began writing songs. You started gymnastics, piano lessons, and the second grade (though you're in third grade math, which I know you are very proud of!). You learned how to change a diaper and burp a baby, and have done more than your fair share this year! You are more beautiful each day, inside and out, and I am blessed beyond words to call you my daughter.

This next year, I am praying that God brings you good friends that love you and love Him. I am praying that God protects your little heart from the Mean Girls that are sure to pop up now and again. I am praying that you continue to learn more and more about Jesus and that you keep building a strong foundation of faith even now, at only eight years old. I am praying for your safety each day. I am praying that I will be just the kind of mommy you need.

I love you baby girl, and your daddy and I are so incredibly proud of the young lady you are becoming.

Happy Birthday Eisley Joy!



Monday, October 21, 2013

So I Guess This Is My Mommy Heart... (Guest Post by Becky Brimhall)

This is the first "guest post" I've put on the blog. It was written by a dear friend of mine...a who've I've grown closer to through our shared loss and grief. She so beautifully captures the emotions immediately following pregnancy loss, and I wanted to share it here so that as many people as possible can, even if just for a moment, walk in the shoes of a mother grieving her baby...

Thank you for your transparency, Becky.

As I sit over my bowl of soup, tears mixing with the carrots, I find myself looking for a way to get it out.  Really get it out.  It's like that moment when you know that the dam wants to break.  Needs to break.  But can't.  It's so hard to lose it, unless you can lose it completely.  And rarely do you find yourself in a situation that allows that kind of uninhibited freedom.  Nothing held back.  

My last loss was 3 days before Mother's Day.  And this one, a week shy of National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.  The irony is not lost on me.

I went to a park this morning and in an effort to have something tangible to hang on to- and subsequently let go of- I attempted to do something to honor that which is intangible.  Did I do it to make myself feel better?  To find the ever-elusive validation?  To cry?  To ponder?  To have people at the park stare at me like I was crazy?  To announce my most recent loss to the visible public?  To have an excuse to leave work for an hour?  To have some pictures to help explain things to do the future kids that I'm not sure I'm ever going to have?  To somehow try to capture a loss so deep within my being that words simply do not suffice?  I don't have an answer to that question.  Mostly what I have right now are questions without any answers.  Again?  Really?  Again?  Why us?  Why now?  Will it ever change?  Will it happen next time too?  Will there even be a next time?  Will I ever feel like a normal person again instead of a socially awkward misfit that just makes everyone else feel uncomfortable?  Will the darkness ever go away?  Will the grief ever subside?

I don't want to hear social cliches.  I know people mean well, but it doesn't help.  I'm sorry but it just doesn't.  And some days, it makes things worse.  Don't tell me it will all work out.  Don't ask me what we're going to do next.  I'm still just trying to get out of bed and go to work and feed the dogs and wash the dishes.  Don't tell me that at least I know I can get pregnant.  Don't tell me to just relax.  And please. If you have any kindness in your heart.  Do not tell me that this happens all the time and a friend of a friend of a sister of a brother of a cousin of a friend at work went through the "exact same thing" and 4 years later in the middle of their adoption, they were surprised and things worked out perfectly, just like they will for me.  I'm sorry for their difficult journey.  Whoever they are.  And for who or what they lost.  I really am.  There are many who are hurting, and my heart goes out to each one.  It really does.  But it's not exactly the same.  No two experiences are the same.  No two children are the same.  And no two losses are the same.  I don't need anyone to minimize the children I have lost, size, gender, or gestation aside.  Children.  My children.  That I was given.  And were then taken away.  Before I even had a chance to buy the first onesie.   

One very short week ago today, I spent nearly 48 hours under the covers.   Reruns of Cake Boss playing from sun up to sun down.  Shades drawn.  Pillows soaked.  Pain so deep that the Morphine might as well have been Gatorade.  I don't remember it being this hard last time.  Was it this hard last time?  The darkness.  It feels harder this time.  Darker.  Angrier.  And it settles in.  The little moments.  Of numbness.  Of guilt.  Of grief.  Of apathy.  Of fear.  Of confusion.  Of rage.  Of paralyzation.  Of sobbing to the point of vomit.  When exhaustion takes over.  And in those moments, it feels as though the darkness is here to stay.  And that everything I used to know is gone forever.  The carefree newlywed with the renewed hopes and dreams is no longer.  She dyes her hair.  And dyes it back again.  And then again.  And cuts it.  And then cuts a little more.  Gets the tattoo that she said she'd never get.  All the while grasping, reaching.  Feeble attempts to somehow shout out to the world that she isn't the same.  To make the outside match the inside.  

A friend texted me that day and said "I'm not going to ask how you are, but I am going to ask you what you're doing to survive today."  Breathe.  Only breathe.

And then the light.

The teeny.  Tiny.  Sliver.  Begins to pierce the pervading gloom.  Mostly seen in the kindness and gentleness of the man who has seen me at my worst.  Who has literally picked me up off the floor.  More than once.  Who hasn't left my side.  Who has a never-ending supply of patience.  Who has put his own plans aside.  Who has prayed over me.  Who has sat up in the hospital for hours on end.  Who has loved me at my ugliest.  At my weakest.  When I have nothing left to give in return.  In the darkest moments when no one can see.  Who has, figuratively and in his own way, day after day, wrapped a towel around his waist, bent down, and lovingly and selflessly washed my sad, broken, hurting feet.  Who has been a very real picture of what it is to love in sickness and in health.  For better or for worse.  And who has loved his (at times most unlovable) wife like Jesus does.  Who deserves a hug.  Some encouragement.  A night with the guys.  And a medal.  And the glimpses of light continue to pour in in the kind words of friends and family who offer simple words of love and support in a text, comment, or "like" even though this isn't their burden to bear and they are likely sick of me clogging up their Newsfeed with my balloons and pictures of baby feet.  Who give it their best effort to let me know that I'm not alone and that my little ones, no matter how brief their existences, are remembered.  Whose kindness is overwhelming.  There is no greater way to love a grieving mom without any children, than to simply acknowledge her loss.  You know who you are.  Today, especially, I thank you.

As for the women who are expecting?  Who are welcoming their newly arrived little ones into the world?  I love you.  And I love your babies.  I may miss your shower, mostly for fear of making a scene that would take away from your day.  And I may be a little distant at times.  But I love you.  And I rejoice with you.  I really.  Do.  

And so.  As the loss dates and the due dates begin to run together, I wonder just how I will ever find the shore.  And in some moments, I wonder if that shore even exists.  And I wonder if He's forgotten about me.  Because I feel so.  Abandoned.  Isolated.  Forgotten.  Devastated.  And Heartbroken.  And just when I seem to find dry land, I'm swept out to sea yet again.  Where are you?  Why have you left me here?  I'm so tired.  I'm so.  Tired.  And I don't know how much longer I can keep treading water.  You think too much of me.  You think too much of me, Lord.

Today I will ask for air.  And maybe in a few days, for Hope.  And maybe the day after that, for Joy.  And then for Gratitude.  And soon for Obedience.  And then for Glory to the One who deserves it.  In the midst of it all.  Because this is all just too painful to be for naught.

To my little ones:  You are a part of me that is missing.  The days, weeks, months, or years are inconsequential to me.  I will never let anyone minimize your value.  You were fearfully and wonderfully made.  Knit together by our Maker with a body, small as it may have been.  You have a soul and a name and a place in our family until we meet.  And I will always make sure that you are Remembered and thought of with Love, no matter the years that pass on.  Your mom loves you. <3

Psalm 13
How long, Lord?  Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love; 
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord's praise, 
for He has been good to me.

Monday, October 14, 2013

National Pregnancy And Infant Loss Awareness Day

The blog has been silent for awhile, not because I lack things to say, but because I lack the time to write them! I have a lot of entries I want to write, and I even have some really exciting news to share (no, I am not pregnant), but I have been so incredibly busy that I just have not been able to keep up with the blog. I promise more is coming soon!

After I posted the breastfeeding blog entry, the blog absolutely blew up. I have had over two million hits since that entry went up, and let me tell you, I can (and probably will) write an entirely separate post on what happens when your blog goes viral. Oy.

But there are a couple of things I just couldn't let pass without talking about them here. First, my precious Jake and Eisley turned EIGHT years old today!!! How, how did that happen?!? It amazes me that it wasn't just last year that we sent their binkies off into the sky on their second birthday! It has truly flown by so quickly, but I am so blessed to have spent each moment I have with them. Happy birthday Jake and Eisley! I will post their "birthday letters" sometime next week.

Second, if you didn't already know, tomorrow is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Actually, the entire month of October is dedicated to Pregnancy and Infant Loss (though I believe we share the month with Down Syndrome Awareness and Breast Cancer Awareness).

Ever since the loss of my first pregnancy a few years ago, October has been a bittersweet month for me. I am so blessed to celebrate the babies I am loving and raising here on earth, while also missing the ones I love from a distance and miss every day. To be perfectly honest, every single day of my life is like that, but in October, the world misses them with me...

Since I didn't have the opportunity to write a new post on this special day and month that we honor the men and women who are grieving the children they have lost, I wanted to invite you to read what I posted last year. I hope you take the opportunity to read it and re-post it and honor this special day with us.

You can read the entry here...

I would also like to ask for one more thing.

One in four women have experienced pregnancy loss. One in four. Do you know four women? Then chances are, you know and love someone who has lost a baby. They might not grieve openly, or publicly, but I assure you, they do grieve. You might not even know about their loss, but I can say with certainty that everyone who is reading this knows and loves a woman who has experienced pregnancy loss. So with that being said, would you take this opportunity to openly acknowledge their loss?

How can you do that? I will leave that up to you. But I do want to encourage you that nothing you do to honor the loss your loved one has experienced will "open old wounds" or "remind them" of something sad they've forgotten. All it will do is remind them that they are loved, that their loss was real, that it was valid, and that it mattered.

So here I go...this is my open acknowledgement of the losses of my loved ones. These are the women, whom I love, who have grieved the loss of their baby or babies.

I love you. I'm so sorry we are in this club together that no one wants to join. One day, I will rejoice with you as we meet and gush over the children we are reunited with in heaven. What an awesome playgroup that will be...


And to the women I know and love who have never shared their experience with me, consider your name up there as well.

Your baby mattered. Your loss matters. And I remember with you...

For my own sweet babies, whom I carried for such a short time...I remember you, and I deeply feel your loss. I remember you, and I miss you.

Gracie, I miss you. You would have looked like Eisley, and wanted to be just like her. You were so wanted. You were our deepest hurt because we never, ever expected to lose you. You taught us to cherish every moment, and we still do.

Lily, my heart literally aches for you at times. You stole and broke our hearts the moment we laid eyes on you. You looked like Jake, and had perfect little feet, and that's all I will ever know about you, until I see you again. I miss you the most because I know what it was like to hold you, to know you, to realize what I was losing. I miss you. I miss you.

To my last little one...the one I barely had the chance to know about. You are no less loved, no less remembered. You will be the biggest surprise to us someday because you are the one we knew the least about. If I had to guess, I'd say you were a boy. Jake and Eisley call you "James". I never knew what to call you, because I blinked, and you were gone. I can't wait to meet you...

Thank you for remembering with me, and for honoring the losses of the smallest of blessings.

Friday, August 30, 2013

What Eisley Taught Me About Trust (Originally Posted July 2012)

This entry was originally written shortly after we learned about Ember's diagnosis. One big lesson God taught us all during that

Laura Story

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for families
Protection while we sleep
We pray for healing
For prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while you hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things
Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you're near?
What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel you near
We doubt your goodness
We doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

All the while You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe
Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you're near?
What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win we know
That pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
What if my greatest disappointment, or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy?
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest night
Are Your mercies in disguise?

I saw that song plastered all over Facebook months and months ago. I never clicked on it, just saw that people were "so touched by it". I don't know why I never clicked on it and listened to it. I just didn't.

I was at a friend's house awhile back and we were talking about old memories of Psalty the Song Book and his wonderful repertoire of children's music, and my friend was flabbergasted that I didn't have my kids listening to the very CD's (which were at that time cassette tapes) we all grew up on. She offered to burn me a copy (thanks Rachel!!!) but there was still some room left on the CD after Psalty. She told me she'd burn some Laura Story onto it, she was sure I knew her.

"No," I told her, "I don't think I've heard her."

"What!?!" she said. "How have you not heard her song 'Blessings'"? It's like written about you!!!"

Well alright then, I better listen to it! And I did. And she was right, I felt like it was written about me. (I realize I say that a lot, but you know what I mean) After our many losses, especially our experience with Lily, I often found myself wondering what in the H-E-double hockeysticks the Lord was doing. Did He not hear my prayers? My cries to keep my babies healthy and my pregnancies uneventful? Why, why, why did this keep happening? I often felt ignored by God. Like He simply wasn't listening to me, or didn't care, or both. In my heart of hearts, I knew the Truth, of course. But when you are in that much pain, you don't care for the truth much.

And then, once again, the Lord allows yet another unspeakable heartache to enter our lives. We have grown to care and love very much this woman and the baby girl she is carrying. That happens when you spend so much time in prayer for people. But once again, it is as if our prayers fell on deaf ears.

We SPECIFICALLY prayed for this baby's health. "Lord!!!" I cried. "WHY can't you just hear me just ONCE!!!???"

I have cried that so many times.

The other day Eisley asked me if I could dig out the Psalty CD. After we got it, we listened to that thing until I was literally dreaming in children's worship songs, so mommy decided to put it away for awhile, replacing it with Adele, which I realize isn't the most uplifting of music, but the change I needed after months of non-stop Psalty in the car (Yes, I do own an Ipod, but we only have one car dock, and Josh keeps it in his car for reasons I am now thinking I should debate...).

Anyways, I stopped for a moment to find the CD, and stuck it in. We listened and sang along, and it was just a Psaltastic time. Yesterday, I was in the car by myself, and the CD had moved along to the Laura Story song "Blessings" my friend had burned for me. I literally had to stop the car because I was just crying and crying over the realization that I, in fact, do not know everything, and God is not ignoring me, but He is aware of a heck of a lot more than I am. Who am I not to trust Him? I have to believe. I have to believe that there is a greater purpose in all of this, that He does hear me, that He does love me more than I can fathom, but He knows something that I don't.

Our greatest aspiration as Christians is to live for the life beyond this one. What if all that He is allowing into our lives, as painful as it is, is fulfilling a purpose that may not be apparent in this life, but will be in the next one? Which life do I want to live for, this one, in its blink of an eye, or the next one, which will last an eternity? As hard as it is to do, I definitely want the latter.

I was out shopping with Eisley today. She begged me, begged me, in her sweetest little Eisley voice, to take her shoe shopping for school. Even though it was totally past a time I like to leave the house and she was already in her pajamas, I just really couldn't think of a good reason to turn her down. It's summer, we are starting school soon, she slept really late this morning, and it would just make her entire day if I said yes, so I did.

She has had her eye on a specific style of shoe ever since I broke down and let the kids start watching Nikelodeon (which I specifically did not allow up until this point because of the commercials and the direct effect they have on my children's begging). They are high topped Sketchers Twinkle Toes, and Eisley simply can't imagine herself starting at a new school without them, especially since I dropped the bomb on the Style Queen that she would be wearing one of six school uniform shirts in a bland variety of colors every single day of the first grade.

So we ventured out on this little shoe shopping adventure hoping to find a cheap pair at Ross or something, but were totally unsuccessful. She was so, so disappointed. I looked at her sad little face and I just melted. It is not often she gets her heart set on things, but when she does, it is simply a travesty not to fulfill her wish. I had these sudden overwhelming feelings of sadness for her, not because of the stupid shoes, but because her greatest wish at this point in her life is to be a big sister. And try as I might, I just can't seem to make it happen.

But I can buy shoes.

So we continued, and we went to store after store and failed miserably at each one. WHERE ARE THE SHOES??? Why would you advertise something and then make it impossible for normal people to find?!? I was feeling like a failure as a mother. I felt so sad that I couldn't grant her this simple thing. I wanted so badly to give it to her. And then I had this thought...

God loves me so much more than I love Eisley (which, I have to tell you, is an unfathomable amount, because I already love her an unfathomable amount, so, you do the math). When you love someone that much, you want to give them the desires of their hearts. You go out of your way to do it. You stay up past your bedtime and go to more stores than you'd like to admit. You spend more money than you probably should. You work extra hours, you spend the time and the effort, you do it. Because they want it, and you have the power to give it to them, and it won't do anyone any harm to grant them this tiny thing, so you do it. I wondered to myself, why? Why, if God loved me so much, wasn't He granting me the one thing I have been asking for these past two years? What was the hold up?

As we walked out of the last store into the dark of the dead of the night, I told her we needed to give it a rest and try again tomorrow. Or try the internet. The internet will not fail us. She sighed. And then she told me she needed to go potty.

Well, okay. We were in a parking lot, and she's six, so I figured her bladder could handle the five minute ride home.

I was wrong.

As I rushed home as fast as my conscience would allow on a very busy main road, she yelped at me from the back seat that I needed to hurry, hurry mommy, don't let me have an accident mommy!!!

I finally made it to the stop light right before our house. I had to turn left, and as I said, it is a super busy road. I waited in the middle of the intersection for the clear space needed to turn left, but cars just kept coming. Eisley is literally crying in the backseat telling me to turn. I'm telling her I can't, it isn't clear yet! She screams that I have a green light and she is going to pee in her pants if I don't turn RIGHT THIS SECOND!!!

"But I can't!!!!!!" I say.


Now, I am an adult, with twelve plus years of driving experience. She is six. The extent of her traffic knowledge is "Green means go." To her, I was torturing her. All she wanted was to go potty, if she didn't get to a potty RIGHT NOW, the worst of the worst of the worst in the world of a six-year-old would become her reality. She would pee in her pants.

But I knew, being the wise and highly intelligent adult that I am, that if I turned, we would crash into another car and die or be severely mangled. Does Eisley know that peeing her pants is nothing compared to being severely mangled? Yes. But she did not understand that these were mutually exclusive. To her, I was simply being mean. That, or I didn't understand the severity of the situation at hand.

Remind you of any other situations you've been in?

I realized, as we were sitting at this stop light, Eisley crying, me panicking, Laura Story singing about Blessings on the CD player, that this situation is not unlike what God must experience on a daily basis. Us humans whining about peeing our pants when He is only trying to protect us from being severely mangled in an automobile accident!!!

This analogy might seem like a stretch to you, but it really hit home for me.

He knows more than I do. He is listening to my first prayer, my greatest prayer, to honor Him with my life, to serve a greater purpose for Him, before my second prayer to have another child. I have to trust Him. I have to trust His love for me, even when what is happening makes no sense to me at all and seems almost cruel.

Eisley thought I was being cruel. That I wasn't listening. That I didn't understand how very badly she needed to go potty. She was mad at me! To me, her pleading broke my heart. I hated seeing her like that! I could relate to what she was experiencing as I myself have been six and had a bladder the size of a walnut with a brother who would have teased me endlessly had I peed my pants. Her situation, through her eyes, was dire. I wished so much that she would just trust my love for her and the fact that I did understand her pain, but I had to make a different decision, for her own good. Even though it broke both of our hearts to do so.

But I know better than her. I love her so much, that I would allow this awful, horrible, no good thing to happen to her, because I wanted to save her the pain of what would come had I turned left when she wanted me to.

Josh and I struggle with the trial that God has allowed into our lives right now. We are so hurt that we are going to lose another baby girl that we have grown to love. We are so sad and especially heart broken for her mother. But if God were to sit me down and explain to me that He is allowing this because of this amazing reason and that amazing reason, that this person may come to Christ and that person may finally turn back to God and showing "Kim" this kind of unconditional love may cause this chain reaction and that chain reaction, I am sure I would understand. He loves us so much. He allowed something awful, in our eyes, to serve a purpose for Him. And I am pretty confident that one day He will have that conversation with me, and we will both cry, and I will thank Him for allowing what He did for the reasons that He had.

Does that make it less painful right now? No. Honestly, no. But it does make it worth it.

Josh and I are determined to find and help create purpose from each tragedy the Lord allows into our lives. We will never, ever waste a sorrow. Ever. We will do everything we can to make the tears and the heartbreak and the utter brokenness of what is happening worth it. At this point, that means sharing with all of you what God is teaching us. I'm sure He is doing a lot of behind the scenes action that I'm unaware of, and that is comforting as well.

We will not shield ourselves, our children, or any of you from the pain of what is happening, because we are fully confident that the Lord will create something totally awesome from it. We will continue to love this little girl and her mother. Even if it means another piece of our hearts is taken from us.

My sweet cousin Lisa sent me this video, that so much better says what we are feeling about this whole situation. Please take a moment to watch it, and if you have two moments, listen to Laura Story's "Blessings".

You won't regret it.

"All of Me"
Matt Hammitt

Afraid to love something that could break
Could I move on if you were torn away?
And I'm so close to what I can't control
I can't give you half my heart and pray He makes you whole

You're gonna have all of me, you're gonna have all of me
Cause you're worth every fallen tear
You're worth facing any fear
You're gonna know all my love
Even if it's not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me is where I'll start

I won't let sadness steal you from my arms
I won't let pain keep you from my heart
I'll trade the fear of all that I could lose
For every moment I'll share with you

You're gonna have all of me, you're gonna have all of me
Cause you're worth every fallen tear
You're worth facing any fear
You're gonna know all my love
Even if it's not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me is where I'll start

Heaven brought you to this moment
It's too wonderful to speak
You're worth all of me, you're worth all of me
So let me recklessly love you even if I bleed
You're worth all of me, you're worth all of me

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Warning...You Will Be Getting No Warning (Originally Posted 12/2011)

For the next few weeks, I will be featuring some "old" blog entries from the past couple of years that meant a lot to me, and I think, my readers. I hope you enjoy them!

This is a post I wrote a couple of years ago after Michelle Duggar lost her baby girl at around the same gestation that we lost Lily. I ask that your comments on the following entry be sensitive to the feelings of mothers everywhere... 

Last week a story on my Yahoo home page caught my eye. Michelle Duggar, the "reality" show mother who with her husband has twenty children, was said to have lost her baby to miscarriage. I clicked on the story and had tears in my eyes as I read that she had gone to her routine 20 week ultrasound, expecting to find out the exciting news about the gender of her child, only to find out her baby had passed away in utero. I had flashbacks to my own ultrasound in June, where I got the exact same devastating news, and my heart broke for her and her family.

I would have felt compassion for this woman even without my own strikingly similar experience, but since I have, what I was feeling went far beyond empathy. I pictured her lying on the ultrasound table, holding her husband's hand, her excited smile slowly turning downward as the ultrasound tech struggled to find a heartbeat. I could feel the pit in her stomach grow deeper as she realized there was no familiar flicker on the screen. I could hear the staggering silence in that room grow louder by the second. I had been there, I had been in that room, and my heart broke knowing another woman was going through it too.

I pictured her and her husband having to tell their children, some the same age as my children, the news that their baby sister had died. I wondered to myself if they had trouble finding the words to explain it to a five year old, as Josh and I did. Did they find a quiet spot to sit them down and talk to them? Did they cry in each other's arms wondering how they would possibly say the words out loud to their children? Josh and I were picking ours up from Vacation Bible School after our appointment. We found a shady spot under a tree at the church to sit down and talk to them. What did the Duggars do? How did they answer their children's excited questions with news no child should have to hear?

This is where my mind went, where my heart went. I don't know this family personally, but I know they are believers. I know they are kind and loving and respectful to one another. I know they love their kids. My opinions on their family choices are really not relevant, and in that moment as I read of their grief, nothing but sadness for what they were going through crossed my mind. Until I read the comments below.

I should have stopped right there and walked away from the computer, but I didn't. Like watching a horrible accident, my eyes wouldn't turn away. I read comment after heartless comment absolutely ripping this family to shreds for their choices on birth control (or lack thereof). Saying things like "they were asking for it," that this was bound to happen, that they deserve it. People who were claiming to be Christians said the Duggars were giving Christianity a bad name by continuing to breed. That the death of this small child was blood on their hands, that God was trying to teach them a lesson, that He obviously wants them to stop. These were the kindest of the comments.

I was appalled. How could we? How could we as fellow human beings see a grieving family and have anything but sympathy for what they were going through? Was I the only one that wanted to find Michelle and give her a great big hug? Did I only feel this way because I had been in her shoes?

I continued to think about the Duggar family all week. Then, yesterday, my dad mentioned to me that he had seen pictures online of the Duggar baby and how the photos looked strikingly similar to Lily's photos. I went home and attempted to search for the photo he was talking about. I found them easily. But on every site that posted them, the baby had been blurred out. As if she was some obscene image not appropriate for the internet. The internet!!! One gossip site posted blaring warnings on the blurred out images of little Jubilee's hand before you could click on them and see the actual photo. Really? I don't remember being warned the last time some celebrity accidentally showed off their entire butt getting out of a car. But not only do they blur out the image of this child's hand, I also get a stern warning before I can view it? So this is where society is at now.

If I thought the comments last week were bad, I was in for a rude awakening. People who had seen the black and white images of Jubilee's tiny hand and feet were in an uproar, calling the Duggar's "sick," "twisted," "morbid," and a whole host of other names more suitable for serial killers than grieving parents. Others were saying they had gone too far, photographing the "corpse" of their dead baby and sharing the images with the world. I read one comment saying it was "ridiculous" that they were going so far as to hold a memorial service for "it".

As I sat reading these heartless comments, I looked up on my desk and stared at my framed photo collage of my own child. The photos I was staring at on my desk of my baby and the photos that were being torn to shreds by the world on my computer screen were incredibly similar. Anyone but the family of the children in the photographs would have a hard time distinguishing between the two. The hands and feet were the same size, the skin the same translucent color. The comments I was reading were suddenly directed straight at me. They were calling me sick, they were calling my baby's sweet feet morbid, they were calling my family ridiculous. And it hurt.

Where was the voice of the mothers and fathers of these children among the loud and unsympathetic shouts of this mob? Why, in all of these hundreds of comments, were there maybe one or two brave souls carefully defending the choice of the Duggars and other grieving parents? Where was the voice of reason? Why was no one standing up for this family? Standing up for my family?

So this is me standing up. I am the mother of a baby born dead at 20 weeks gestation. I am the mother who fell in love with, named, and cherished my little girl. I am the mother who was given the devastating news that my child's heart had stopped. I am the mother who had to tell my children they would never get to meet their baby sister. I am the mother who had to go through three horrible days of pushing my body to let go of the baby it should have held for five more months. I am the mother who held her tiny baby girl in one hand. I am the mother who saw nothing but beauty in my child's incredibly small hands and feet. I am the mother who asked for a photographer to come into the room and get as many pictures as they possibly could of my baby, knowing they would be the only photos I would ever have, the only way for my sister to meet her niece, as she was half a world away at the time of her birth. I am the mother who has nothing left of my child except the blanket she was wrapped in and the photos I took with her. I am no different than Michelle Duggar, and the thousands of other mothers in America who face this kind of loss every year.

So many mothers face this kind of loss, in fact, that an organization called "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep" is used all over America to give something tangible to families facing the loss of a child. It is completely dedicated to taking beautiful photos of babies who have passed away. They are one of the few organizations who support and encourage bonding and making memories with your deceased child. It is only in the past twenty or thirty years or so that mothers and fathers have even been allowed to spend time holding their stillborn baby. So maybe I shouldn't be surprised that most of America still seems to be stuck in the fifties when mothers were knocked out only to have their baby ripped from them and disposed of before they were even able to see their child. And yet, I am still appalled at a society who deems pictures of a tiny baby's hand to be so horrific it should be blurred out for the masses.

When a young child passes away, it is a tragedy. No matter who the parents are or their religion or walk of life, the world mourns with that grieving family. Pictures of the child playing and smiling and laughing are no doubt cherished by all who see them. It is a reminder to the family and friends of the beautiful person that has left them, of the happy times you had with them, of the heartbreaking loss of a young life. Yet, what about the families who only had one opportunity to get photos of their child? Only one chance to record what their baby looked like, how small they were, how miraculous their hands and feet were? What if you only got to hold your baby once? Wouldn't you want pictures of them? Wouldn't you want something to go back to in the moments months and years later when you felt yourself forgetting what they looked like, what they felt like in your arms?

Unless you have been the mother or father with only hours to spend with your child, you have no right to judge how these parents deal with their grief. It breaks my heart that this family is being beaten down by the public for valuing the life of their baby, for seeing her as a precious and beautiful miracle, for treating her like a child. What breaks my heart even further is how few people will stand up next to these families, next to my family, and defend their right to grieve.

So this is me, speaking on behalf of so many other grieving mommies, and saying this: I had a child. She was beautiful, she was meaningful, and she is gone. I am so thankful for the memories I was allowed to make with her in the hours following her birth. I am grateful for the photographs I have of my child and the opportunity I have to look at them whenever my heart is missing her. I am proud of my baby girl, and I will proudly show off her miraculous features through the photographs we cherish. And I will never, ever blur them out or warn you before doing so.

You are not alone, Michelle. There are so many mommies who have been where you are and support you whole-heartedly as you stumble your way through this grieving process. The pictures of your baby are beautiful, and I thank you for sharing them with the world, even if the world won't.

The tiny hand of Jubilee Duggar

The tiny hand of my Lily

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


You may have already noticed that the blog has a new title! In the interest of making things as easy as possible, I tried to rename the blog without completely going in a different direction. It is now "Our Family Faith Walk" instead of "Our Adoption Faith Walk".

Please take note that the blog address will be changing soon as well! I want to give everyone a few weeks of reminders before I do that, so consider this your first reminder. ;) When I make the big move, I promise to leave a link on this blog to the new one, but I wanted to also give everyone a heads up!

I will also be playing around with the blog format and updating the pages on the blog to include Mr. Jones. Please be patient with me while I make these changes! Hopefully they will all be for the better!

And because it has been far too long since I posted pictures of the you go!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Children Live Here

"This place is a disaster."

I probably say that phrase both out loud and in my head about a hundred times a week. I say it when I walk in the door from work. I say it when I walk through the house on my way to the kitchen for breakfast. I say it to the kids before they go to bed and I whisper it to Jones when I'm up feeding him at 3 a.m.

There is always, always, always a mess in my home. Not a "Somebody call TLC and get this family on Hoarders" kind of mess, but the kind of mess that I am almost certain (if not genuinely hopeful) occupies almost every mother's home.

There is blue toothpaste all over my kids' sink. Sticking to that toothpaste are my husband's whiskers from when he shaved this morning. My daughter's headbands and hair ties are strewn throughout the bathroom and I'm pretty sure I saw one in the toilet, but I don't want to look twice. My living room is covered in baby toys. There are bumbos and boppies and rattles oh my. If I walk through the whole room without awakening a sleeping light up monkey by stepping on its face, I pretty much do that every time.

There is always a clean basket of laundry sitting by the couch begging to be folded, but more often than not it just eventually dwindles down to a few rifled through pieces of clothing that I throw into the kids' rooms, only to be replaced by another load I will never get to. Video games litter the shelves and floor while the box specifically labeled "video games" sits empty.

There are dishes in the sink, dishes on the counter, dishes under the bed (probably, but I don't care to find out for sure). Bills and homework and sticky note reminders cover every square inch of the desk and counter top. Someone spilled salt under the dining room table and apparently salt is the one thing our dog won't lick up (poop she eats, but nooooo, helping me out by licking up a salt spill is apparently beneath her). There is a lingering smell of dirty diapers, even though I've taken the diaper trash out four times already.

 My couch cushions and carpet are stained with baby spit and boogers. There is dust hiding in every nook and cranny of my home, and the light switch in my son's room has his actual fingerprints outlined in little boy dirt. I cannot even bear to open the door to the playroom for fear I will have a nervous breakdown.

There is playdough ground into my carpet. There are barbie shoes and legos hiding stealthily around the house, never to be found, until you step on one barefoot in the middle of the night. There are binkies everywhere, until I need one immediately, then they are nowhere.

The floors need mopped (but first they need swept). Everything needs dusted. A run through with the vacuum wouldn't hurt, but I'm pretty sure the vacuum is acting as a gift bag holder in my hall closet, so that's obviously out.

This place is a disaster.

The disaster seems to taunt me the most at times when there is simply nothing I can do about it. The debris screams out at me while I sit, tied to the rocking chair while I feed the baby. It whispers in my ear, "You are such a failure" while I rush the kids over the laundry and out the door to school in the morning. It hits me like a punch in the face when I arrive home from a fourteen hour day and all I have the energy to do is shower and lie down.

And in case my family doesn't seem to notice the disaster (and they never do seem to notice it as much as I do), I make sure to tell them. All the time. I remember one specific time I was stressing about the mess, out loud, to my children, the ones who are most responsible for it (or at least the easiest to blame). I was frantically trying to clean up the living room before their grandparents came over for a visit (what will my mother-in-law think!? She cleans houses professionally!! It's like inviting a professional chef over for a dinner of cold hot dogs and boxed macaroni!).

I remember scolding them, "This place is such a disaster! Why are none of you bothered by this? How can you just sit there and read your book and play with your dolls while there is a DISASTER around you!!??" And I will never forget what my daughter said to me.

"Mommy, children live here!"

I looked down at the game of UNO I was gathering up for the nineteenth time that week. One minute ago I was tempted to throw it in the trash after being sick of seeing it on my coffee table, while my husband had started using the cards as coasters.

Children live here.

But what if they didn't?

If children didn't live here, my house would be clean, at least most of the time. Because when I cleaned it, I wouldn't be immediately followed around by little walking tornados, who see an empty, tidy, freshly vacuumed floor as the perfect place to dump out nine thousand action figures and set up a battlefield or perhaps lay out a giant blanket and set up the world's biggest tea party.

If children didn't live here, my guest bathroom would be just that, for guests, or at least suitable for them. The counters would be clean and there would never be toothpaste staining my sink, because there would be no little mouths to do it. There would be no hair ties in the toilet, because there would be no perfect brown curls to need them.

I would never trip on any toys or step on any light up jungle animals, because I would never have had reason to buy these toys and light up my children's faces. There would be no baby swing, baby boppy, baby bumbo or baby blankets lining my floors, because there would be no baby to use them.

My couch cushions and carpet would still be white. There would be half the laundry to do, and half the dishes, so I'm sure I'd be able to stay on top of those. When I got home from my long days at work, I'd be greeted with a clean house, but nothing else. I'd have time on my days off to tidy up, because there would be no baby to care for or children to rush off to activities.

My house would be clean. And quiet.

I thought about that for a few days. I laid in bed and let my mind wander, and as mothers sometimes do, I let it wander to the worst. What if children didn't live here? What if they never had? Or what if they did, but then they stopped? I wondered what it would be like to lose my children in an accident. I wondered what it would be like to come home for the first time, knowing they would never come back, and see the mess they left behind. Wouldn't I break down, clenching the action figures and rattles and baby dolls while I wept? Wouldn't I pray to God that He would bring back the cause of this so-called disaster?

I wondered if I would ever be able to clean any of it up. What would I do with all their toys? All their clothes? Every piece of the untidy mess of laundry and legos would be the only evidence I had that children had lived there. Would I ever want it to go? Could I bring myself to sweep up the crumbs they left on their chairs from the last peanut butter and jelly sandwhich they ate there? Would I ever be able to wipe away the toothpaste they left in the sink that morning? Or the dirty fingerprints on my son's light switch? Could I ever bring myself to make their unmade beds, or would I simply lie in them, tracing the outline of their heads on their pillows?

What would the mess look like to a mother who would never have to clean up another mess again?

I think it would look like treasure.

To a mother in the midst of the stresses and chaos of everyday life, those messes can look like failures. Like evidence of her inability to be the perfect housewife, the perfect mother, the perfect woman. But a simple change in perspective, and suddenly those messes are not evidence of failures, but evidence of all she holds most dear, of everything she cherishes, of moments in time she will not get back again once they are gone.

I thought about the women I know who are struggling, praying, wishing to one day have messes of toys and books and baby things all over their house. Who wonder if they will ever get the chance to step on a lego or wipe crayon off the walls. Who look at those of us with ragged hair and baby food on our cheeks with envy, wondering, "When will it be my turn to look like that?" Who listen to us complain about our messy messes and wonder if we have forgotten what a blessing and a privilege it is to have such messy messes in the first place.

I thought about how in thirty years, when my kids are grown and gone, when I am looking around at my clean house and missing the disaster of when my children were children, what would happen if I could go back in time and visit the house I have today. I know what I wouldn't do. I would not say, "Ugh. What a terrible time in life. What a disaster my house always was then! I'm so glad my house is always clean now!"

No. I would walk around my former home, exploring every room and crying happy tears about the memories they brought. I would pick up the baby blankets and burp rags, and smell them to see if they still smelled like Jones. I would study Eisley's handwriting on the papers she left all over the table, and touch each letter, remembering how very little she was. I would pick up Jake's action figures, and wish I had saved them for my grandson. I would sort through the pile of laundry on the floor and marvel at how little my children once were. I would run my hand over the dirty fingerprints on the light switches and walls and mirrors, and remember when my children had fingers that tiny. I would look at the toys on the floor and the games that weren't put away and remember how much fun we had playing with them together.

I would look at the disaster, and I would think, "Children live here."

And I would think it was beautiful.

My house is a disaster sometimes. When I have the energy and the time, I clean it up as best I can. I ask my children and husband to help me keep the house in a way that we can function and have company once in awhile. But when the mess starts eating at me, when it starts whispering "failure" in my ear and begins to eat away at the joy in my heart, I try (and sometimes, I have to try really, really hard) to see the beauty in the disaster. And I repeat that phrase to myself, the one Eisley reminded me of, the one I forget sometimes.

"Children live here."

And I am so, so thankful they do.

Monday, August 5, 2013

World Breastfeeding Week Salute

After about a million and a half unexpected views on this particular blog entry, I became aware that some of the images I had used to add humor to it may be copyrighted and not mine to borrow. In the interest of "better safe than sorry", I decided to remove any picture that wasn't mine. I hope you still enjoy my little salute to Nursing Mamas, even without the pictures. :)

Did you know that this is World Breastfeeding Week?? Did you know there was a World Breastfeeding Week?? Well there is! I breastfed the twins for a few weeks before making the decision to switch to formula, and that is a decision I do not regret one bit! They thrived on it and I was able to regain some of my sanity after those incredibly difficult first few weeks. I have fed my babies in numerous different ways, from breastfeeding to formula feeding to exclusively pumping...they all have had their ups and downs. I'm so thankful God provided so many ways to feed and nourish our little ones! 

But since this is World Breastfeeding Week, I'd like to throw a shout out to my fellow breastfeeding mamas. Nursing Jones has been one of the most challenging, difficult, painful, rewarding, stressful, hair pulling, peaceful, relaxing, joyous experiences of my life!! It has been a roller coaster of emotions for the both of us, but I am so glad we have been blessed to be able to do this together. We've battled weight loss (his, not mine, unfortunately), tongue tie, low supply, terrible latch, mastitis (twice), just to name a few. So I'm pretty proud of the fact that we've come this far and have finally gotten to a place where we both enjoy it and he is growing and thriving! 

So to all you other breastfeeding mamas out there, this is my salute to you. 

To those mothers who spent the first weeks and months of your child's life literally attached to them 24 hours a day, I salute you. You, who eats, sleeps, and yes, sometimes even showers whilst simultaneously nursing your little nursling. Who can't remember the last time you slept longer than three solid hours without being awoken by a screaming baby and/or a soaking wet shirt. I salute you. 

You, who has traded in her pretty, lacy, normal sized bras for unrecognizable contraptions with snaps and buckles and removable fronts in sizes you'd never thought you'd achieve without six thousand dollars and a good plastic surgeon, I salute you.

You, who took on the feeding of your infant entirely on your own, who is solely and fully responsible for their nourishment. Who didn't leave their infant's side for days, weeks, months, even to do simple errands, because you feared they would surely starve should you get stuck in traffic on the way home. You, who knows that the term "nursing vacation" is no vacation at all. Who's husband and mother and children hear one peep from your tiny bundle of joy and hand them right over to you saying, "I think he's hungry!" You, who simultaneously loves and hates that you are the only one on earth who has what your baby needs to survive, a job you take more seriously than anyone else can understand, I salute you.

 I salute those breastfeeding mamas who have sat in that doctor's office, bawling your eyes out because your baby is not gaining weight at the perfectly perfect "normal" rate all pediatricians came together and decided on so that they could strike fear and guilt into any breastfeeding mother whose child does not meet this perfectly perfect timeline. You, who does not have the benefit of ounce markings on your breasts and has absolutely no idea how much or how little your baby is eating, only that they are eating all the time. All. The. Time. 

I salute those mothers who have achieved their doctor's weight expectations and swell with pride (and milk) as they are patted on the back for doing such a great job growing their little human.

And to all those mothers who are growing those little humans despite mounting obstacles, who have battled tongue tie, low supply, excruciating pain, or all of the above and more, and have seen specialist after specialist trying to figure out what you're doing wrong, all of whom tell you one different thing after another. To those moms who stuck with it and to those who grieved the end of their breastfeeding relationship earlier than they anticipated, I salute you. 

To those breastfeeding mamas who feel the eyes of onlookers boring into them and their hungry baby at the restaurant, or the grocery store, or the bleachers of your son's basketball game, and silently wonder if feeding your crying baby will offend anyone, I salute you. I especially salute those mothers who have learned not to care one iota who will be offended and feed their baby without cover or hesitation, without shame or embarrassment, paving the way for the rest of us to do so comfortably as well.

And to those breastfeeding mamas who do use that cover, that blasted cover, I salute you. You, who have been asked to or feel pressured to cover up your two square inches of exposed skin so as not to offend the nineteen-year-old in a transparent tank top and shorts with the word "JUICY" emblazened across her buttcheeks at the next table over. You, who have mastered the art of wrangling a starving, squirming baby with one hand whilst simultaneously unhooking your bra, flopping out a boob and latching your baby with the other. You, who has learned to do all of this blindly,  under a tent which is surely made of the heaviest, hottest material known to man, while your baby looks up at you forlornly with a look that says, "Why the hell do I have to eat under this tent? It's 900 degrees under here woman!!!". 

You, who wonders to yourself what the logic is in making nursing covers so women can breastfeed "discreetly" when every single one you have ever seen is decorated with the brightest, most flamboyant patterns known to man. Who feels as if every time you pull it out of your diaper bag and throw it over your body, you are declaring to the entire area, "BEHOLD!!! I AM NOW GOING TO BREASTFEED MY BABY!!! BUT I'M GOING TO DO IT UNDER THIS LARGE TENT DECORATED IN BLINDING COLORS SO AS NOT TO OFFEND ANY OF YOU!!! BUT PLEASE KNOW THERE IS LACTATING CURRENTLY HAPPENING. UNDER THIS TENT. THIS TENT RIGHT HERE. LACTATING."

Yes, I salute you and your tie dyed nursing blankets. And to those of you living in the desert and breastfeeding in sweltering heat, I salute you twice. You and your sweaty babies.

I salute you, mothers who have endured nasty stares, rude comments, and blindly ignorant opinions regarding breastfeeding. For those who have friends, family, and co-workers who gag on the very word "breastfeed" and can barely make eye contact with you when you must do so in front of them. To those who have been told that breastfeeding is "so gross" by a world that pours the breast milk of a farm animal on their cereal every morning. And to those who have not only ignored these people, but have also rebounded with a quick remark of your own, or better yet, a shot of breast milk in their eye, way to go mama!!!

Nursing Jones with my "flamboyantly yellow" nursing cover

To those breastfeeding mamas who were promised it was the cheaper, more economical option than formula, but have spent a small (or large) fortune on breast pumps, lactation consultants, nursing bras and pillows with names like, "My Brest Friend", I salute you. 

I salute those breastfeeding mamas who have fed their babies at restaurants, in the car, at the park, in the garden aisle at Target, in the front pew of their church and in the shallow end of the wave pool. 

I salute those mothers who have mastered nursing their babies while cooking, cleaning, blogging, and sleeping. Who take the term "multi-tasking" to a new level.

To those mothers who pray for a hypnotist that will one day be able to remove from your husband's brain the image of you pumping on the living room sofa while eating a bowl of ice cream. Who wonder if your son will someday require expensive therapy for all the times he's seen you whip out your boobs. I salute you, nursing mamas, who have caught your young daughters lifting their shirt to feed their baby doll, and felt pretty proud of yourself when you did. Good job mama, I salute you and your future breastfed grandchild.

To those working mothers, who have lugged a pump, a cooler, bottles and ice packs with them to the office every single day, I salute you. You, who have spent hours upon hours attached to a groaning machine, watching your nipples stretch to unnatural and horrifying lengths while you pray that you'll squeeze out enough milk to get your daycare provider through the next day. You, who have pumped in closets, cars, your boss's office and rooms labeled "LACTATION", praying no one walks in and sees you in a way no person should ever see another person. Ever. To those mothers who have driven home at ungodly speeds in order to make your baby's next feeding, only to walk in and find your husband giving him a bottle, I salute you.

You, who puts your very value as a mother and a human being in the amount of milk you tote home that day. Who knows how much work and time went into those bottles and turns into a raving lunatic if anyone says the phrase, "Is that all you got?"  I salute the mothers who have literally poured out themselves into providing the best for their baby, only to accidentally knock it off the kitchen counter. I salute those of you who have had husbands jokingly tell them not to cry over spilled milk. And I salute you if you did, or did not, throat punch him.

On that note, I'd like to take a moment to salute the dads of these breastfed babies. To those husbands who have stood by their partner and supported her through the tears, the fears, the failures and the big wins. Who have taken on diaper duty because it is only fair that if she is in charge of input, you should be in charge of output.  You, who have listened to the phrase, "Looky, no touchy" for a year or more and have given tender nicknames to your offspring like "Titty Monster" and "Boobie Hog". To those dads who have spent countless hours washing pump parts and fetching ice water to make things on mama a little easier, I salute you. 

To those mothers who have powered through sore nipples, nursing strikes, teething babies, and growth spurts, I salute you. You, whose babies have the power to erase every bad experience and melt away every ounce of stress and frustration with one tender glance upwards as they nuzzle up against you. You, who feel both elation and depression at the very thought of weaning your nurslings. 

To all the mothers who have spent hours crying and praying and stressing over feeding your baby, and have been rewarded with one of the most special experiences this life has to offer. You, who knows what "milk drunk" looks like, and your heart fills with pride and joy that you are the one who put that pure look of contentment on your baby's face. You, who cherish those quiet moments in the wee hours of the morning when it's just you and your baby, doing only what you and your baby can. Who practically melts when your baby wraps his hand around your thumb, or pats your chest, or plays with your necklace. To all the mothers who have sacrificed your body, your sleep, your time, and a bit of your sanity in order to offer your babies the gift of mommy milk, this week is for you.

I salute you mama, and your baby does too.

I am so blessed to get to nurse Jones. I know it is a blessing and a privilege and I don't take it for granted one bit. I worked so incredibly hard to have the breastfeeding relationship with him that I do, and that work was worth it to me, because I didn't have a positive nursing experience with the twins and I very much wanted to have one with Jones. It is only by the grace of God that we made it past those first two months and finally got the hang of things, and I very often thank Jesus out loud that He did get us through it! I often spend the time I am nursing Jones just staring at him and thinking about all God brought us through to get me to this point, and how He built in this special time of reflection for a few hours into each of my days. So in celebration of all it took to get us here...Happy World Breastfeeding Week, my fellow nursing mamas. Go buy yourselves a treat. ;)

Nursing Jonesy...sans cover ;)