Being Brave in the Hard Seasons

My baby turned five today.  It’s really hard for me to write “my baby” because he truly is my baby.  I always thought there’d be one more.  I mean, we tried three times for one more, even though two of the conceptions were definitely not planned.  Three times I faced heartbreak chasing a dream.  The plan was always four babies.  That was always the dream.  Who’d have thought getting the fourth one here would be the hardest?

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Tomorrow we turn a page.  Tomorrow we close a chapter.  Tomorrow there’s no going back.  This was also the plan.  We agreed that this time was the last- no matter the outcome.  We agreed that whether Scarlett Mae made it here or not, there would be no more tries.  I know it’s the right choice.  I know if we don’t do this, if we don’t make it permanent, in a year, I’ll want to try again.  I know I emotionally cannot handle another pregnancy, especially if the outcome is the same as the last three.  I’m barely surviving this one.  Sometimes being brave means facing the truth, no matter how devastating that truth is.  Sometimes being brave means admitting hard things to yourself.  Sometimes being brave means doing something that hurts your heart.  Sometimes being brave means doing something that feels like you’re being ripped apart on the inside.

This has not been an easy season for me.  In fact, this has hands-down been the hardest season of my life.  I faced the loss of my second daughter.  I left a job I loved to go to a different job because it’s better for my family right now.  Don’t get me wrong, my current job is a huge blessing and the best way to serve my family and others right now.  It’s one I truly enjoy, but the job I left fueled my soul in ways I never imagined it would.  I went back to working full time, losing cherished time with my boys.  And now I’m saying a permanent goodbye to ever having another babe grow in my belly.  A permanent goodbye to ever feeling first kicks and the adrenaline of finally seeing the baby you’ve grown for the last nine months.  I wish I was like those women who can say with absolute certainty that they are done with kids, who adamantly don’t want another child.  I’m not like them.  I will forever long for one more, for the one that could have been.  Sometimes being brave is allowing dreams to die.

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Mourning dreams that have died is the bravest thing I have ever done.  Turning this page tomorrow, laying a dream to rest, will forever be one of the hardest things I have ever had the courage to do.  I know deep down that allowing these dreams to die will allow for Jesus to plant and grow new dreams in my heart.  In a way, it’ll be freeing to know that a choice has been made and that there is no going back.  But willingly laying down a dream?  It’s the bravest thing you’ll ever do.

In your hardest seasons of life, I’m a firm believer you are your bravest.  You’re brave when you get through another day without the one you lost.  You’re brave when you put one foot in front of the other when you just want to stay curled up under the covers.  You’re brave when you walk a path you never imagined you’d be walking.  You’re brave because life is still happening around you.  You’re brave because the world has continued on and so must you.  You’re brave because your family needs you to be.  You’re brave because you don’t have a choice not to be.

Why We Chose to Find Out Gender Early

This is one of those posts that I feel like needs to prefaced.  To me, it’s similar to breast-feeding vs. bottle-feeding or co-sleeping vs. not co-sleeping.  People tend to be very passionate about one view or the other, and people can get easily riled up.  So, let’s say right now- I believe with all that I am that what you do for your family is perfect FOR YOU.  Whether you breast-feed, bottle-feed, co-sleep, don’t co-sleep, stay home with your babies, work outside the home, cloth diaper, disposable diaper, home school, public school, YOU DO YOU!  Are your babies fed, clothed (well most of the time in my boys’ case!), and loved?  Then you’re doing amazing, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

But the thing with topics like these is that some people get so passionate, they don’t actually let themselves think about why someone chose differently.  Maybe that bottle-feeding Mama can’t breastfeed, and it hurts her heart.  Maybe that Mama works outside the home because she’s a better Mama and more present with her Babies when she gets the break and does something that fuels her heart.  The point is, you don’t know.

We found out what this baby is going to be.  Not only that, we paid for an Early Detection DNA gender test to find out even earlier.  We don’t qualify for the NIPT genetic test at the doctor because, while I’m considered high-risk for pre-term labor and have had multiple miscarriages including a second-trimester one, I’m not considered genetically high-risk.  I’m also not yet over the age of 35, therefore, our insurance won’t cover the test.  So we could wait until the 20 week anatomy ultrasound or we could pay $59 (with a coupon) to do an at home blood test that is processed by an independent lab.

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Why not just wait for the ultrasound?  Or even better, why not just wait until the baby is born?  We’ve done both those options, my Friends.  With our first born, we didn’t find out.  He was the present we got at the end of 33 weeks (because he came early) and found out he was a boy.  I will admit the adrenaline of finding out “it’s a boy” seconds after giving birth is simply amazing!  Then with our next two boys, we found out at their ultrasounds because this crazy-organized Mama wanted to be prepared and settled when Baby arrived.  Both ways were fun and beautiful and special.  But here’s the thing:  three of my babies have never been born.  Two of my babies never even made it to a point of me being able to find out if they were a boy or girl.  One baby I only found out because my husband and I drove 100 miles to a private ultrasound clinic at 16 weeks.

I could give you a million and ten reasons of why I wanted to find out.  We’re having a rummage sale, and I want to know if I can sell our oodles of boy clothes or need to hang on to them.  I want to go out and find amazing rummage sale deals if it is a girl because one baby doesn’t need tons of brand new clothes that she’ll outgrow in a few months with no one to pass them down to (because yes, this is the last one, no matter the outcome).  I want to know how to decorate the room because a Christmas baby comes at an already chaotic time of the year, and I want everything ready to go so I can just enjoy the holidays with my family.

But the real fact of the matter is, I want to know for me,  and to be quite frank, it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or feels about it.  I didn’t feel connected to my first-born until he’d been in the world almost a month.  His NICU stay didn’t help matters.  It’s hard to bond through an incubator.  Knowing with my next two boys gave me a way to make a connection.  Being able to call baby a him and a he and by their names was a huge help to my mental well-being.  Knowing Clara was a girl helped me grieve that sweet little life.  Naming her, buying pink things in her memory, talking about her to my boys- all these things have helped me process and handle her loss.

If you read my last blog post, you know that for the first 8 weeks of this pregnancy, I was completely detached.  I didn’t think about this baby.  I didn’t want to see this baby.  I didn’t entertain the idea of the baby making it here, and it was driving me to the brink of depression.  I needed to know for my own mental well-being.  I needed to know because if something does happen, I want to know if that baby is a boy or a girl.  I needed to know because I want to pray for this baby by name.  I want to say he or she.  I want to envision all that life will be with this baby.  I want to celebrate every tiny detail of this baby because the truth is, as we learned a year ago, it’s not guaranteed I’ll get to know this baby this side of heaven.

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Yesterday we found out this baby is a GIRL!  Wyatt was beyond excited for a little sister!  We may wait for confirmation in a few weeks via ultrasound before I start selling all the boy things because there’s always a little room for error with home-based tests; and if it’s wrong, we’ll be just as thrilled with another Little Man for our house full of crazy (and it’ll be a really funny story!).  I’ve felt this little love was a girl from the beginning though.  My pregnancy has been identical to Clara’s, and 100% different from the boys.  Like I said above, we’re celebrating every little thing we learn about this baby.  I’m certain this little girl will be perfect in every way.  Her name is Scarlett Mae.  Yep, we’re even sharing her name early this time because if you think of us and know our story, we’d love for you to pray for her by name.  

So you do you, Friend!  Whether you wait to find out what your bundle of joy is or find out early, I trust you’re doing what’s right for you and your family and your mental well-being.  There’s no judgment here, and I’ll celebrate that Little Life with you with all the love and excitement that comes with a new baby.

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**If you’re curious, we used the Sneak Peek Early Gender DNA Test.  I tested at 10 weeks 1 Day.  I’ll be sure to come back and update this post once we confirm if it was correct or not 🙂

 

 

The Truth About Rainbow Babies

April 27, 2018-  a day I was broken as I went into surgery with Sweet Clara and came out alone, feeling empty and longing for that Baby Girl I’d never meet this side of heaven.

April 27, 2019-  a day of panic and hope as the test came up positive and I uttered the words “Well that is terrifying.”

And that’s the truth about Rainbow Babies- they are absolutely terrifying.

In the months that followed our loss of Clara, we were trying for one more baby.  Maybe it was part of the healing process or maybe we were clinging to the memory of our Little Girl, but month after month was a disappointment.  In November we decided enough was enough.  I was having other health issues not being able to retain iron, so we stopped trying and started preventing, both of us agreeing that our family of five was perfect the way it was.  Truth be told though, there was always a part of me each month that held my breath until I knew I wasn’t pregnant because Rainbow Babies are terrifying.

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When the one year anniversary of our loss of Clara rolled around, we had figured out my health issues, I’d started a new job, all the boys were almost in school full-time.  We were truly at a place to move on from babies.  But as the memories popped up on my Facebook timeline, not all of them were bad.  Not all of them were painful.  The pictures of me at 14 weeks when I was absolutely glowing, seeing Clara move on the ultrasound screen during numerous prenatal visits- those memories made me smile.  The thing was, the fix to my iron retention issues meant ending the possibility of more babies for good.  So we made a choice not necessarily to try, but to not prevent anything until July when some of our insurance changed.  Then I would make the appointment.  Except that at the end of April, the test said pregnant, and the feelings and emotions that have followed have been a roller coaster (complete with nausea) because Rainbow Babies are terrifying.

It used to be when you heard the baby’s heartbeat or saw the baby on the ultrasound screen, you let out a huge sigh of relief.  The baby was fine!  It was going to make it!  That used to be me.  Our first two miscarriages were early (6 weeks and 4 weeks).  At 6 weeks, I’d feel a slight weight lift off my shoulders.  At 9 weeks, the anxiety would ease.  When I’d hear that beautiful heartbeat for the first time, I’d finally release the breath I didn’t know I’d been holding.  But with Clara, I’d seen her moving, seen her heartbeat, watched her suck her thumb just a week before her heart stopped beating.  I’ve seen this Baby’s heartbeat twice.  I’ve seen how it’s grown in a mere two weeks.  I’ve heard that fast galloping sound of 167 beats/minute.  Mamas who’ve experienced such great loss, you know it does nothing.  You’re already thinking ahead to the next appointment, wondering if that heartbeat will still be there in two weeks or four weeks.  (And the thought of our 16 week appointment gives me such anxiety, it could knock me to my knees.).  Rainbow Babies are terrifying.

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During the first several weeks of the pregnancy, I’ve been super detached.  I had zero desire to see this baby on an ultrasound screen because that would make it more real.  It’s a defense mechanism, a safe-guard for the pain you’ve already experienced.  Pain that you’re terrified of experiencing again.  There was no talk of when this Baby arrives because, to be quite frank, I was already preparing for the loss.  Every ache, every cramp, every time I didn’t feel pregnant, I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Fear and anxiety ruled my world because completing this first trimester means nothing anymore.  I saw my OB for the first time at a little over 8 weeks.  He came into the room and said, “Hey, how are you?”  Y’all, I lost it.  “I’m terrified!” and tears rolled down my cheeks.  That was the first time I’d actually let those feelings flow to the surface.  Sure, I’d said them to people.  This baby wasn’t exactly a secret, but we weren’t shouting it from the rooftops either.  When we’d tell people, they’d say “congratulations!” and I’d respond with “we’ll see.”  My OB is amazing, by the way.  He calmly let me collect myself and in the most gentle way possible told me I likely wouldn’t breathe easy until 20 weeks.  (Let’s be real though, I won’t breathe that sigh of relief until I’m holding this baby in my arms.)  It’s hard to find a heartbeat at 8 weeks with a Doppler, but he told me he wasn’t letting me leave until we saw the heartbeat.  He held true to his word.  Friends, I’m sure it was only 30-45 seconds, but it felt like 5 minutes until he finally said “There it is!” and let me hear it through the ultrasound machine.  During those 45 seconds, I was already mentally preparing myself for him to say the worst…because Rainbow Babies are terrifying.

Here’s the thing though- I left that appointment and came home to my boys (one of whom is a Rainbow Baby).  I sat out in the backyard and watched them play.  I was also watching an adorable one-year-old that week, and he was exploring all the things with the wide-eyed wonder of a toddler.  Side note- that one-year-old Little Love is also a Rainbow Baby.  As I sat in the grass, I contemplated the events of the day.  Finally letting the tears flow at the doctor’s office (that was only slightly embarrassing but I mean, he’d seen me at my absolute worst so this was nothing, right?) and realizing just how much my fear and anxiety were affecting me.  I was on the brink of depression.  Maybe I was already there.  Why does anything get to have that much power over me?  When those words entered my mind, I knew they weren’t mine.  Our God is so good.  He has carried me through the worst of times.  He daily provides for our family.  I’ve seen him work miracles in the smallest details of our lives!  How could I not trust Him with this?  Because as terrifying as Rainbow Babies are, my God is stronger.

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I will be 10 weeks tomorrow.  Don’t get me wrong, fear and anxiety still get the better of me some days.  But I’ve started making little changes.  Instead of saying ‘if this baby makes it here’, I consciously make myself say ‘when this baby makes it here’.  I bought a maternity shirt that I won’t be able to wear for several more weeks.  I wonder if it’ll be a boy or a girl.  I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.  I don’t want my boys to watch me go through this pregnancy cold and depressed and full of negativity.  I want them to see me walk this journey with my eyes fixed on Jesus, trusting that whether I hold this baby in December or when I get to heaven, my God has got this.  For nearly 9 weeks, I didn’t allow myself to think about if this baby makes it here.  But slowly I’ve started letting myself entertain the idea of days with one more Little Love in the house, and those days look pretty dang beautiful.  Because the real truth is Rainbow Babies are miracles.  Rainbow Babies are light.  Rainbow babies are worth every ounce of fear.  Rainbow Babies are strength.  Rainbow Babies are hope.

The Day You Should Have Been Born.

My Dearest Clara,

Today is the day you should have been born.  Today is the day, had you not decided to come earlier like your brothers, we would have had a C-section scheduled.  Today is the day I should have held you in my arms for the first time, seen your sweet face, smelled your baby smell.  This is the day our family should have been complete.

I’ve been dreading this day, Sweet Daughter.  I’ve had this letter mentally written for weeks.  When September rolled around, I got a pit in my stomach; and as this day has drawn closer and closer, every morning I’ve woken up wanting to puke.  Because this day is not just the day you should have been born, but a reminder of the things that should have been, could have been, and likely never will be.

This day is a reminder that I should be holding you in my arms instead of typing this while sitting in a coffee shop with tears running down my cheeks.  I should be anxiously awaiting your brothers to get out of school so they can meet you-  a sister they were so excited to have.  I should be feeling relief that you made it here safe and sound.  I should be feeling contentment, that our family was complete and whole.

This day is a reminder that I will never get to watch you grow up.  I will never get to see you twirl around in a princess dress and wrap your baby dolls up in blankets.  I will never get to take you to get your ears pierced or put your hair in a ponytail.  I will never get to have a girl’s day with you shopping.  I will never get to hear about your crush or watch you go on a first date.  I will never get to watch you fall in love with Jesus.  I will never get to watch your Brothers be fierce protectors of their Baby Sister.  Oh Clara, Wyatt had been praying for a sister since the day he found out you were in my belly.  Before that even!  He would have loved you so fiercely, the way only a brother can love a sister.  I will never get to see you wrap your Daddy around your little finger or watch him walk his Little Girl down the aisle.

This day is a reminder that while I love your Brothers with all that I am, our family will forever feel like a piece is missing.  This day is a reminder that, barring an act of Divine Intervention, I will likely never see that test say positive again, feel a baby move in my belly again, never experience the first cry again.

What would you look like?  Would you have curly hair like me?  Would you have your Daddy’s blue eyes like your brothers?  Would you have been a whirlwind of energy like Logan or more reserved like Isaac?  What would it have been like to have a little pink bundle in a house full of Boys?

I miss you, my Daughter.  I sleep with a blanket with your name on it every night because it makes me feel just a little bit closer to you.  Losing you was the hardest thing I have ever been through.  But you make me braver, Sweet Girl.  You make me stronger.  You make me so grateful for what I have- your Daddy, your Brothers, our family.  You give me the courage to fight for the things that matter in this world- quality time with those that mean the most to us and serving those who are hurting.  You give me a passion and an empathy for others struggling, and you taught me how to not only give grace because we don’t know what others are going through at any given time, but to receive it in return when our world was falling apart.  I never held you outside of my belly, Clara, but you changed my entire world.

So today, snuggle in a little closer in Jesus’ arms.  Know that you are missed and loved oh-so-much.  And I can’t wait to braid your hair and hear all about Heaven when I get there.

Mommy

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The Day I Went Back to Church.

Last Sunday, I did it.  I went back to church.  If you know me at all, you know I’m a Jesus-lover, worship-dweller, service-oriented person.  So this topic may seem kind of silly at the onset, but bare with me.

I haven’t been to church since we found out Clara’s heart had stopped beating.  Not because my faith was questioned.  Not because I was angry at God.  Quite the opposite actually.  I leaned harder into my Savior than ever before with the loss of our Baby Girl.  I proclaimed His Truth and His Grace and His Mercy over and over because there was no way I was letting Satan take even more from me at that particular moment in time.  I knew God would take the tragic loss of our Baby and bring beauty from those ashes, and He has proven faithful in that time and time again over these last two months.  Being open about our loss has allowed me to serve others who are silently suffering, not ready to share their loss.  We’ve started a little project called Clara’s Grace to serve others who are struggling and hurting.  I’ve seen Him move in big ways and little ways, and I’m anxious to see what beauty He brings about next.

 

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So why the hiatus from my church family?  Why this break from worship?  My church family lifted us in ways I couldn’t imagine when we lost Clara Grace.  They made sure we had meals for the next two weeks.  They sent care packages.  Our pastors reached out to us and offered prayer and services.  Our volunteer dates in the kids ministry were immediately covered for the rest of the year without us having to lift a finger.  Oh yes, our church family served us with the humbleness of Jesus.  It was beautiful and humbling and filled out hearts with so much gratitude.

But the truth of the whole matter is- I wasn’t ready to face all the people.  I wasn’t ready for the sad hugs, the questions, the physical “loving on.”  I wasn’t ready to answer the questions of how I was doing or politely reply to the well-meaning words of those who said the wrong thing not knowing what to say.  (PS- there is nothing you CAN say in situations like these.  Simply saying “I’m so sorry” is all that’s really needed ❤ )  I wasn’t ready to face those who may not have heard yet that our Baby Girl had passed.  With our past two miscarriages, no one really knew.  They were early, and we hadn’t shared we were expecting with many.  But it’s different when you’re 16 weeks along and starting to show.

I wasn’t ready.  And that is perfectly ok.  Grief knows no timeline.  It’s an endless ocean of calm and waves.  Sometimes the tidal waves come out of no where, and sometimes it’s a beautiful scene of remembrance.  Grief is forever unanswered questions and constant faith in a forever God.  I knew I would know when the time was right for me.  I knew I would know when I was ready…and so did God.

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He started planting that little seed a few weeks ago so that when I found out my Boys would be celebrating the end of VBS in church last Sunday, my heart was ready to go.  God orchestrated this beautiful return of allowing me to slowly see our dear Friends in Christ each night as we brought the boys to and from VBS (which ironically, or not so ironically, was the perfect theme- Shipwrecked) so that when Sunday came, I could simply focus on worshipping the Lord.

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I feel like this post is all over the place, and I had a hard time writing it but felt like it needed to be said.  Healing after a tragedy can only be done with grace and time.  I knew if I rushed back into “normal,” it would catch up with me all too quickly.  As I’ve navigated these waters steadily with my eyes fixed on Him, I’ve found He’s put me right where I need to be when I need to be there.  So whether for you that’s church, a Mom’s group, a volleyball team, a family reunion, a book club, or something else, take your time, my Friend.  Grief knows no timeline.  Whether you’re feeling tossed among the waves, like you’re drowning in the tide or sitting on the beach remembering all that was lost, your grief is part of your story…and your story’s not over.