Hard career choices

I’ve slacked off writing in this blog because I no longer feel like my blog has a cohesive identity. I am guessing that most people follow my blog because it is a “grief” blog. As a result, I don’t hesitate to write grief-related blog posts. But I want to write more about my life in here as well. I know I wrote a post awhile ago, indicating that was my plan…I just haven’t followed through with it much. It’s weird, I almost feel like talking in a public sphere about other parts of my life feels too vulnerable. I tell myself I can share my grief reactions because maybe they will be helpful to someone on a similar journey. But talking about the other parts of my life would really just be for my benefit: to share, document memories, work through struggles and feelings, seek validation and support, and serve no greater purpose than that. I think for that reason I haven’t written many posts outside the grief category. I am going to challenge myself though and share more pieces of me, of us, and our experiences. This is going to be one of those blog posts. And it’s a long one so feel free to stop reading now if you aren’t interested in hearing my mommy/career dilemmas.

So, you may or may not know that I am a Licensed Clinical Psychologist currently working part-time at the BYU Counseling and Psychological Services. I enjoy my job a great deal but want to give a little background on my professional journey and aspirations. After I graduated with my degree in 2010, I started working full time at Center for Change, an inpatient and residential facility for those struggling with severe eating disorders. This felt like the perfect fit for me because it has been my desire to specialize in two areas: Eating Disorders and Group Psychotherapy. I was able to pursue both these goals in very meaningful ways while I worked at Center for Change. Not only did I work with eating disorder patients each day, I also ran 7 groups for the center! However, while this job was professionally and personally fulfilling, it was also stressful and challenging. After I had Charlie, I had intentions of returning to work at Center for Change but wanted to see if I could work part-time. Well, fate changed our life drastically when Charlie died.

After Charlie died, I didn’t feel I had the emotional reserves to work in a high stress, intensive environment like Center for Change, even though I loved the work and the population. I honestly felt like I had NOTHING to give and to do work with eating disorder clients in any meaningful kind of way, I felt I needed to have emotional reserves. For this reason, I decided it was not good timing to return to work at Center for Change.

A part-time position became open at the BYU counseling center and former colleagues and friends approached me to see if I was interested. This felt like a serendipitous opportunity.

This was the perfect environment for me at the time. I worked at the counseling center as a graduate student and so the environment was familiar and supportive for me. I also welcomed the opportunity to work with a higher functioning population and knew as a result, that the stress would be significantly less.

So I have been contentedly working at BYU since Fall 2012. It has met my emotional and professional needs and my bosses and colleagues have been incredibly supportive and flexible (e.g. giving me extended maternity leave after having Cami).

As I work there, I still feel I am able to meaningfully pursue my aspirations of developing an expertise in treating eating disorders and group psychotherapy. However, this is on a much lower scale. About 1/3 of my clients present with eating disorder concerns and I run only 1 group (compared to the previous 7). I have been ok with this as again, as I’ve been healing, I’ve needed to work less and with a higher functioning clientele. It has been really beneficial to go home at night and not worry about my clients. I have also felt I’ve been able to strike a good work/home balance as a mom. Also, since I’ve been at the counseling center, I’ve been working with other clinicians to develop an Eating Disorder program where we offer eating disorder specific groups, trainings, consultation meetings, and supervision. I feel valued as a knowledgeable colleague in this area as I was able to present an inservice meeting last month on treating Eating Disorders to the entire counseling center faculty and even a couple health center physicians. I am also presenting a half day workshop at a national conference in February on group work with eating disorder clients.

So overall, I have felt BYU continues to meet my personal needs and career aspirations.

But I ask myself, “Can I really develop an expertise in treating eating disorders and running groups if my job stays the same?” I often feel frustrated at the minimal progress I’m able to help clients make when we are so oversheduled that I am only seeing my clients 1x a month! And running one group each week, while awesome, doesn’t fulfill my group itch or make me feel like I’m making a lot of professional progress in this area.

Last month a job opportunity fell into my lap that seemed so perfect! Center for Change approached me and asked me to help them with their group program at a new Intensive Outpatient Program in Salt Lake City (15 minutes from my house!). They were only asking for three hours of my time and offered generous compensation! This position fit my career aspirations perfectly. It seemed like a no brainer to take this position.

But nothing is a no brainer when you are a working mom. Or a grieving mom.

Working part-time at BYU, while not nearly as stressful as working full time at Center for Change, is still a lot of work. I often feel “at capacity” with my ability to be emotionally present at work AND emotionally present with my kids. Finding that perfect work/home balance is tricky, and I honestly feel like I’ve found it right now. While my professional self wants more responsibility, wants more progression and opportunity, the mom in me, and the grieving mom in me, doesn’t know if I have more to give right now.

On the one hand, this position was only three hours of my time! On the other hand, that is three MORE hours of my time away from home and my kids.

Being a working mom, I face a lot of mommy guilt. Like when I missed Hailee’s Christmas Sing at school last week. I try to prioritize my kids above all else, and I also have to pick and choose. I took work off to volunteer at Hailee’s class Halloween party, but I couldn’t make the Christmas Sing work. And I felt bad about that and was sad I missed it. I am also sad that as of yet, I haven’t been able to volunteer in Hailee’s class, and I feel like I’m the only mom who hasn’t. I also get sad that our caregiver takes Cami to a Little Gym class on the days I work. I’m super glad Cami has that fun time, but jealous I am not there to witness her accomplishments like hanging from bars or walking a balance beam all by herself.

But in the  time I’m home, I feel Hailee and Cami get good quality time with me. Work energizes me and gives me a break from being home. And being home gives me a break from work. It’s a good balance. But I am aware this year, more than ever, that I am not “on top of it” as a mom. I miss notices from school about events, homework, activities, all the time. I also miss important emails from work! Sometimes I feel I’m losing my mind trying to keep everything straight. As a result, Hailee has missed out on some opportunities and I have a reputation at work for absentmindedness. See how precarious this balance is for me?

While I value both being a mom AND working, I feel I settle for mediocre in both responsibilities. And I kind of hate mediocre.

Back to the job offer: I honestly agonized over this decision and had long conversations with Chad and consulted with colleagues and trusted friends. I didn’t feel right taking the job and I didn’t feel right turning it down either. At times, the feminist in me got upset that I wouldn’t be facing this dilemma if I were a man! But then I also remember that I have the privilege of being a mom, a role many women want and don’t get to have.

Anyway, this is long and drawn out and in the end, I turned the job offer down. It’s hard to know I would probably thrive in the position Center For Change offered me. It’s super hard for me to “bridle my passions,” so-to-speak. But I’m also being protective of my time with my kids and my emotional capacity to be present with them.

As time progresses with our family and we continue to heal and grow, maybe the time will feel right to pursue added work or a different career course. But right now isn’t the time.

dsc_1436 dsc_1393

Happy Third Birthday Charlie

I was fine yesterday. Maybe fine is a little bit of a stretch, but close to fine. I went to work and felt pretty ok the whole day. I began to think to myself, “Oh, maybe this milestone won’t be so bad.”

Then I woke up this morning. Unprompted my eyes started leaking and I couldn’t get them to stop for most of the morning! I watched videos of my sweet baby boy that I haven’t watched in a long time. I heard his voice. I saw him smile. I saw him smile at ME, as I was recording the video. It broke my heart. I opened my scrapbook from 2011 and re-read his birth story and my feelings about having my baby boy and looking forward to seeing him grow up. It’s a little haunting to read my words from when Charlie was in my life. How I had NO IDEA what lay in store for me.

But now, I’ve gotten used to this new reality: the new normal of living with loss. It’s familiar to me now. And because it’s familiar, I don’t think about it a whole lot anymore. I mean, I am always aware that my baby boy is dead. But I don’t dwell there or ruminate or get stuck there like I used to. I truly have learned to carry on. And in general I’m doing ok. Sometimes better than ok. Sometimes I’m happy. Genuinely happy.

But this morning I woke up and remembered that This new normal sucks. It SERIOUSLY sucks that I don’t have my would-be-three-year-old son here with me. It is sad to me that I have no idea what he’d be into at this phase of his life (cars, batman? legos? trains?). I don’t know what it would be like to have him walk into our room in the morning (because he’d for sure be in a toddler bed, or even normal size bed by now). Would he come into our room first, or go snuggle his older sister in the morning instead? Would he be potty trained yet? I don’t know what color his hair would be. Or what his voice would sound like. Or what words he’d struggle pronouncing. Or what his favorite meal is, so I could make it for his birthday. Today I MISS him. I WISH he were here.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had this feeling of OH YEAH, THIS IS HARD. But today is hard.

And I’ve also learned that hard days can also be good days; memorable days; meaningful days.

I tried to make today as meaningful as possible. I wanted to give Charlie a special gift for his birthday this year but didn’t know what. Then, a week ago as I was going to sleep, it hit me. I asked family members and close friends to do Acts of Kindness for Charlie over the last week. I asked them to send me a list of what they have done for him and I printed out the acts of service on Christmas colored paper. I cut the paper, rolled it up, and put them into ornaments my nephews, Hailee, Melinda, and Auntie Zee decorated at his birthday party.

IMG_6121I was shocked at how many acts of service others did in honor of Charlie. Many did way more than we, ourselves, did! All together, the strips of paper filled nine glass ornaments full! My heart swelled with gratitude that those we love still love and want to honor and remember Charlie. I hope Charlie feels the love we have for him and is happy at our efforts to make the world a little brighter of a place the last week.

For Charlie’s party we had my brother’s family over, our former nanny and dear friend, Melinda, and Auntie Zee.

IMG_6075 IMG_6078 IMG_6079 IMG_6080Chad made Pizza Poppers (which were a hit with everyone!) and I made the  pineapple upside down cake. Per tradition (until Cami is old enough to assert her turn), Hailee blew out Charlie’s birthday candles after we all sang happy birthday.

IMG_6099After dinner I helped my nephews make homemade snowglobes. Being with my nephews during Charlie’s birthdays, for some reason, is always helpful for me. It was also so wonderful to be surrounded by those who love us and love Charlie. I am so grateful for such wonderful people in my life.

IMG_6094It’s nice to be at a place in my life since losing Charlie that I know the sadness and ache I feel today won’t debilitate me, nor will it hang on for very long. I also know I can continue to feel sad AND happy. But today I MISS MY BABY BOY and feel SAD.

After the party I finished decorating Charlie’s tree. In a few days I will put this on his grave. But for right now, I want to enjoy it and think of him.

IMG_6116I love you my Mister Mister!!! SO MUCH. Happy 3rd birthday!

 

The final frontier

Big things have happened recently. And all of them involve the long-neglected nursery.

First, I finally braved the task of transitioning Charlie’s clothes from the dresser and into storage. photo 1(1)

photo 2(1)It took me two and a half years to accomplish this feat. This is a testimony that grief has no time line. In many ways, moving Charlie’s clothes out of the dresser felt like the final act of…don’t know the right word…admission that he’s truly gone? Conclusion? Moving forward? I avoided this task for so long because it was too painful for me to approach. And then I just wanted to keep the nursery HIS and sacred. It was like, if his clothes were still there, ready to be worn, then He was still here. I felt content to let this scenario continue undisrupted for an indeterminate amount of time.

But Cami has been very ready to move out of our room. We have all been suffering horrible night’s sleep with her crib six feet from our bed. Each night, multiple times a night she has been waking up, crying, and demanding to be soothed. We know she is getting molars but it is too obvious to us that this family sleeping situation is no longer working for any of us. I have felt chronically fatigued and moody the last few months as a result of all the sleep disruption. I’m sure Cami will also be happier in her own space. Chad has been the long hold out. He can sleep through most anything and he loves his little girl close. So it took some convincing to move her out of our room.

But first came the task of making the nursery into Cami’s room.

Tackling Charlie’s clothes was easier than I anticipated. I approached it on a day that was relatively quiet and stress free. On a day I knew I had the space to feel whatever I needed to feel. And while it was sad, and certainly not easy, it was also, OK. Touching Charlie’s clothes and remembering him reinforced my desire to make a project with his clothes; a project I hope to embark upon soon. Pursuing this project makes me happy to know his clothes won’t sit for long in a sterile, transparent plastic storage box.

It also felt nice to move Cami’s clothes into the nursery from their previous location in their own sterile storage box in the living room.

photo 3(2)To my surprise, I didn’t feel like I was replacing Charlie. In fact, it felt like I was making room for both of them; allowing their lives to overlap and intersect in this sacred place.

The next project I immediately embarked on is decorating the nursery. We have lived here for over four years and I have never finished the nursery! As I contemplated moving Cami in there, I felt this strong need to make this room special. A room that celebrates Cami and also Hailee and Charlie.

The first step: paint an accent wall.

photo 4(2)It was hard to choose a paint color, but we did! One night our old nanny/friend Mel came over and helped me put on the first coat of paint. About a week later I put on a second coat and did my best to cover any spots we originally missed. So the accent wall is complete! But I’m not going to post a photo of it until the room is decorated because I like surprises!

And then, the final big step: Last night was Cami’s first night sleeping in the nursery! Chad moved the crib in yesterday morning and we used her naps to ease the transition into this “strange” room. We prepared ourselves for a horrible night, anticipating Cami’s sadness and confusion about no longer being in our room. But to our amazement SHE SLEPT THE WHOLE NIGHT! The only hiccup was that the Snuza alarm went off. (Yes, we still have her wearing the Snuza even though she’s almost 16 months). This event panicked us but Cami was totally fine and readily went back to sleep.

So at almost 16-months, Cami is finally moved into her own room. This may seem like a long overdue transition to many people, maybe even most people. But one thing I’ve learned in this process of having a rainbow: we do what is best for our family and only we can determine that. Yes, we let anxiety dictate having Cami in our room for so long. But we did what we did to stay sane. And we loved our time together, the three of us, (and sometimes the four of us when Hailee would come crawl into our bed in the early morning hours). Despite the sleep deprivation, it’s been a wonderful 15+ months! We miss having her so close by but are excited for the possibility of DECENT SLEEP! Fingers crossed that last night wasn’t just a jinx but a true seamless transition!

 

5-year-old grief

2014-11543-58One thing I remember in my foggy, drugged-like grief state after Charlie died, is that the social workers told us that Hailee’s grief would be delayed. Because Hailee was only two and a half when Charlie died, she didn’t understand what happened. The social workers told us that as Hailee would get older and begin to develop a concept of death, she would go through her own grief process over losing Charlie. They mentioned that this usually happens about age six.

As Hailee just recently turned 5, it hasn’t been on my radar to vigilantly look for her emerging grief processes. But we are picking up evidence that Hailee is beginning to go there.

For example, earlier this summer, while Hailee was on a play date with her bestie, Grace, Grace’s mom, Ruki sent me this photo:

20140625_130738In this photo, Ruki explained that Grace was consoling a crying Hailee who was reportedly crying over missing Charlie. When Hailee came home she explained she got upset because Grace said she was going to marry her little brother ,Truman, and so Hailee got sad because her own little brother, Charlie, died, so she couldn’t marry him! Obviously one day we’ll need to talk about the dangers of inbreeding…but besides the point, this was one example of Hailee’s grief emerging.

Then, this morning, Chad called me after he dropped Hailee off at school. He said while driving Hailee to school he looked back and saw that Hailee had tears in her eyes. He asked her what was wrong and she said she was missing Charlie. Sometimes Hailee will “cry” over Charlie as a way to get attention or a way to get out of a consequence for doing something naughty. But this example felt genuine as her tears were silent, and had Chad not looked in the rear-view mirror, he might not have even noticed.

Also, yesterday, after work, my nanny sent Chad and me this text:

“I wanted to tell you, I thought it was so sweet and cute so I hope it makes you happy and not sad! But today when Hailee and Cami were holding hands in the car, Hailee says,’You know, I really miss Charlie. I, like, never get to see him anymore. He used to make me laugh ALL the time.’ Then she goes, ‘He’s just so busy all day. He has to help Jesus listen to prayers and watch over people during the whole day and night! He has a big job!'”

Doesn’t that melt your heart?! Agh I just wanted to wrap my Hailee up in my arms when I read that text. What is striking to me about what Hailee told our nanny is that we did not tell Hailee any of those things she detailed in Charlie’s job description! The only thing I can think she picked up from us is when we say family prayers, we ask that Charlie watch over us. Her sweet little brain is working hard to conceptualize what happened, where Charlie is now, and her relationship with him.

These are just some examples of many that show Hailee’s own grief process is emerging. It’s interesting to watch these processes occur, because as Hailee was so little when Charlie died, and probably remembers very little (if anything) about him and memories with him, I believed she wouldn’t really grieve him. I believed Charlie would be more of a vague idea than anything. I am finding that I am wrong. Even though she was young, Hailee seems to have some real grief reactions emerging to the loss of her baby brother!

IMG_1291I need to be more mindful of Hailee’s experience. I want to seek for opportunities to talk with her more about her thoughts and feelings regarding Charlie and his death. Maybe I should do some things with her that have been helpful for me: like show her photos of Charlie (especially of her and Charlie together), and visit his grave, or say goodnight to him each night when I see the sunset, for examples.  I feel sad when Hailee is sad. But I hope I can validate her emotions and help her sort them out as best as her little 5-year-old brain can, instead of trying to soothe her or help her just “get over it.”  I want to encourage her to feel a more active relationship with her brother; that he is nearby, caring for her. Because I believe that’s true and I want her to feel that. I want her to know she can cry with me, anytime she needs!

Even though sometimes Hailee is difficult (as most 5-year-olds can be), I am SO IN LOVE with this girl!

2014-11543-30

Oh Canada!

Last month, Chad and I celebrated 12 years of marriage. I think, as parents, it’s a natural inclination to prioritize children above a marital relationship. Tossing in a heavy dose of trauma, grief and anxiety, and a marriage can become even more neglected. Suffice it to say, losing a baby is hard on a marriage. I honestly don’t think a couple could be asked to go through much harder together. I think Chad and I have weathered this storm as best we could. We’ve also navigated the complicated, anxious path of having another baby as best as we could. We haven’t done it perfectly and our marriage has often times been neglected as we’ve prioritized our kids, our grief, and our anxiety. But throughout the last two and a half years there has been love, commitment, patience, understanding, and forgiveness.

Now that Cami is older and our anxiety has decreased substantially, and we’ve come a long way on our grief journey, we are putting more time and effort into our marriage again. We have regular weekly date nights now, which make a huge difference! But also significantly, last month we went on our first trip, sans kids, in four years!

We spent 6 days exploring the amazing Canadian Rockies with two of our really good friends, Dianne and Bryce.

IMG_5548We felt really nervous to leave our girls but it was so worth it! Our souls and our marriage desperately needed this adventure!

IMG_5145We hiked every day and got up close and personal with impressive glaciers and listened to powerful music of cracking ice.

IMG_5582We ate at a tea house high up on a mountain next to a huge, ancient, glacier.

IMG_5129We saw waterfalls plunging into aquamarine pools.

IMG_5099We heard and saw tons of cute little Pika (the smallest bunny rabbit species) bounding across the boulder fields underneath the glaciers. We witnessed our friend Bryce pet fat fuzzy bumble bees busy loving on all the beautiful mountain flowers.

IMG_5127We hiked through mossy forests to heights that rewarded us with amazing views!

IMG_5126We saw glacier lakes whose colors were so blue it seemed almost surreal. We rented canoes and went paddling on one such lake: Lake Morraine.

IMG_5146We went mountain biking to a gorgeous river.

IMG_5169We bathed with many other locals and dusty travelers in some hot springs (and showered really well later).

IMG_5158We stayed one night in a castle (that I pretended was Hogwarts) where we pampered ourselves at the spa and ate cheese and chocolate fondue to celebrate our 12-year anniversary!

IMG_5170 IMG_5171And we took many many photos of all the amazing views!

IMG_5172The Canadian Rockies is honestly the most beautiful place I have ever seen! I already ache to go back again! I am so glad Chad and I braved this adventure together. Though there have been beautiful moments in the last two years since losing Charlie (e.g. the birth of Cami), our marriage has suffered a drought of positive experiences and memories. This trip was like finding respite at an amazing oasis after a long, grueling trek through a barren dessert. It feels like further evidence that we are moving beyond survival and into LIFE again. And Life TOGETHER.

But whatever the landscape we face, we face it together and I am grateful to have this man by my side!

IMG_5130

 

 

Kindergarten!…and Pre-K?

Remember my big dilemma when Hailee graduated preschool? The dilemma to put her in Kindergarten or hold her back another year because of her summer birthday? Well, one thing I’m not super awesome at is making decisions. Just ask Chad. So, in true Anna fashion, I didn’t really make a decision about Hailee and school this year. Or rather, I decided BOTH! That is, let’s put Hailee in a pre-kindergarten class at Challenger in the mornings and a kindergarten class at her public school in the afternoon. I KNOW this sounds psycho and Chad thought so too at the beginning. I just get so ANGSTY when trying to decide what to do for Hailee academically. And I figure the best way to make a decision is to feel BOTH options out! After meeting with both sets of teachers, touring the schools, and talking this through, Chad got on board with this decision. We rationalize we can always pull Hailee out of one school whenever we want, if we see that she is overwhelmed with the amount of school, or it becomes obvious that one option is a better fit.

IMG_5223 IMG_5228We are now in week two of this experiment and Hailee is doing great! She loves both her schools, her teachers, and her friends. It’s a smidge stressful getting Hailee from Challenger at 11:30, feeding her lunch, changing out of her uniform and into normal clothes, cleaning out her backpack, and then whisking her to kindergarten by 12:35. But so far it is working. And on the second day of Kindergarten, Hailee insisted on taking the school bus home! I tried to talk her out of it because I didn’t feel ready for my LITTLE GIRL to ride the bus! But she said, “Don’t worry about me mom. Worry about yourself.” Lol. So Hailee now rides the bus home from school in the afternoons and feels super cool about it!

IMG_5239And although she doesn’t say so, I’m sure Cami appreciates one less episode of being strapped in a carseat each day.

My only concern with this experiment is that I don’t know if I’ll be able to come to a good conclusion. The reality is, it seems Hailee is learning more in Pre-K than she is in Kindergarten. This makes sense since Challenger prides itself on its academic prowess. And she should be learning more if we are dishing out a lot of $ for the experience! But it won’t help us decide which grade is a better fit. I think the reality would be that if we chose Challenger, we’d have to keep Hailee in Challenger through all of elementary school because Hailee would be BORED at public school Kindergarten next year. So it seems the choice won’t be to hold her back or not, but rather, do we pursue private schooling vs public schooling? If Hailee had her choice, she’d probably choose public school, for the school bus factor alone! Obviously, not sound reasoning upon which to base academic decisions. :)

I think the way we are leaning right now is to keep Hailee in both schools as long as it works logistically for us and emotionally, psychologically, developmentally, and academically, for Hailee. As we get to know our public school better as the year progresses and we feel confident Hailee would get a good public school education, we will probably enroll her in public school first grade next year. If we go that route, I don’t think we’ll regret paying a year of private school tuition for Pre-K because I feel it would provide Hailee with a firm academic foundation and catch her up (and perhaps surpass) the older kids who have 8+ months of experience in learning and aptitude by virtue of their older ages. But we are also open to falling in love with Challenger and being convinced that private schooling is the best option. A BIG + in Challenger’s favor is the student-to-teacher ratio with two teachers in a class of 20 or so. Whereas public school is one teacher in a class of 30! Also, I love the safety standards of Challenger, where teachers directly hand the kids to parents or authorized pick-up-people. The first day of public school kindergarten, Hailee’s teacher tried to put Hailee on the bus (gasp!) before I got there to pick her up. My friend Ruki saw Hailee and knew I was coming to get her. So she grabbed Hailee out of the bus line and the teacher didn’t even NOTICE that someone took Hailee. I’m a BIT paranoid about that sort of thing! So those are two things in Challenger’s favor. But at the same time, I, myself, am a product of public education and I did fine and I think there are some life lessons you learn through public education that you miss if you have a private school experience…So I don’t know. In conclusion, we will not make a conclusion yet!

It’s crazy to have Hailee gone all day though! I suddenly feel like Chad and I have become grown ups! We have a kid in SCHOOL! It feels OLD. It’s weird to adopt a routine of taking her to school 5 days a week! I miss her! I can tell Cami misses her too! My little girl is growing up! (whine). This is what parents talk about when they say they want to freeze time! Whenever Hailee gets home, I tell her my “fingers itch” for a Hailee hug and she jumps into my arms. I’m so grateful for my loving, cuddly, happy, spunky, feisty, adventurous, social, enthusiastic five-year-old!

IMG_5226

 

My girls

2014-11543-7I know I’m biased but aren’t they beautiful!?! I got photos taken for Hailee’s fifth and Cami’s first birthdays, respectively. This is one of those photos and it’s my favorite. I love how Hailee and Cami are true little buddies who just LOVE each other so much. It’s fun to raise sisters, as I never had one. Cami is truly a mini Hailee, wanting to do everything Hailee does. And Hailee doesn’t mind the little shadow and is always so sweet and inclusive with Cami. I love the light that just radiates from my little girls and fills my whole soul when I look at them!

2014-11543-35 2014-11543-27There is something so magical about childhood! I’m glad I get to witness that magic everyday and love on two very special little people.

Community of grieving sisters

Awhile ago I initiated a Facebook support group for grieving parents who lost babies to SIDS. I did this largely for selfish reasons: I wanted to surround myself with more people who “get it.” But I knew I wasn’t alone in my desire for connection and support. At first the group was a little slow in forming and openning up. People would post and others wouldn’t respond…or days and days would go by without any posts. It felt really vulnerable and scary when I didn’t know if the group was going to be meaningful for anyone. But then it just took off!  It’s been cool to watch these amazing women connect and share their vulnerabilities, anger, pain, frustration, sadness, happiness, confusion, doubt, search for meaning, celebrations, etc. I’ve been shocked at how many women we keep adding to this group as well! The title of the group is Utah SIDS Parents but we have members in different states as well. We’ve become a family in many ways, relying on each other, supporting each other, offering opinions, etc. There are weeks that pass when I forget to check the Facebook group feed and when I get back on, I see I’ve missed tons of posts and responses! The group has taken on a life of its own and is really self-sustaining as a source of support for almost 20 women! (contact me if you have experienced sudden loss of an infant to either SIDS or another cause if you want to be added to this awesome group of women).

Recently, one of the SIDS moms from the support group, and a friend, Heidi Hamilton, initiated a get together in Salt Lake City this weekend. She organized a play date with kids during the day and another group member, Julie Warnke, made reservations for quiet room at a fancy restaurant for just us moms that evening. Two members drove from out of state just to attend this SIDS momma get-together (one from Colorado and one from Idaho)!

I was a little nervous to meet some of these ladies in person. We are so intimate with each other on-line but it’s weird we’ve never seen each other face-t0-face! But my fears were quickly allayed minutes after getting to the splashpad with my girls. We all spent a couple hours at the splashpad and the kids all played while we talked.

IMG_5041 IMG_5040Then we went home to shower and change and five of us SIDS moms met again for dinner at the New Yorker in SLC. We ate a three course meal and talked for four hours.

IMG_5046We cried, we laughed, we shared photos and videos of our babies. We talked, and talked, and talked, about our pain, anger, sadness, confusion, hope, families, and anything else related to our grief experience. Even though I’m two years into the grief journey, this was a very needed and very therapeutic night for me. Close family and friends are vital sources of support in this grief process, especially as they knew and loved Charlie too. But it’s also so wonderful to have this community of grieving sisters and know we journey together!

 

Live courageously and make a difference

That is my six word personal mission statement. It’s not one I often share outloud because it’s well…personal. But it’s true for me. I hold the values of living courageously and making a difference as top in my life. My mission statement pre-Charlie was: Have adventures and make a difference. I still value adventures but I believe living courageously covers adventures and so much more. Since losing Charlie, doing most things in my life require courage (having another baby, faith in God, commuting 2 hours for work, letting Cami sleep on her tummy, sending Hailee to school, etc). Those seem like everyday things, but to someone who has lost, like we have, those things are hard! As I continue to heal, I am also pushing myself to do more and more courageous things outside my comfort zone.  For example, I accepted to give a 45 minutes talk at the end of this month in front of my whole ward (minus the kids in primary and their teachers) on a topic that feels incredibly vulnerable: faith and doubt!

Regarding my desire to make a difference, this has been a personal value that burns within me. While I believe this is a GOOD desire, I feel slightly embarrassed to admit it as perhaps it sounds a bit narcissistic? Narcissistic or not, it’s something I really want to do. Something I want to do on both small and large scales. This desire to make a difference informed my choice to become a psychologist. It’s also part of why I love teaching (in all capacities from the young women at church, to college students at BYU). It’s part of why I have children. The thing that isn’t clear for me in my life yet is quite HOW I want to focus my energies in this arena. I want to make a difference in my children’s lives, in my client’s lives, in my students lives…but I also feel I have some calling. It’s a weird nagging feeling I’ve felt since I was a teenager. And I don’t yet know what that calling is. But I believe as I continue to do courageous things, eventually my calling will make itself known to me?

Sharing these thoughts all feel vulnerable, like writing in my journal. But I am writing this post because an incredible opportunity presented itself to me this week where I was able to feel I achieved BOTH pieces of my mission statement in one evening.

A small preface: It is a goal of mine to become a proficient public speaker. I know most people avoid public speaking wherever possible but I actually really enjoy it. Enjoy it in the way of adrenaline, vulnerability, nausea, and a test of my competency and if I something worthwhile to share. As another aside, I am connected with the Aspiring Mormon Women Community, which is a community of women trying to support, edify, and mentor LDS women, of all ages, pursuing higher education and careers. I am connected 1. because it’s a community I value and want to support as helping women pursue their dreams is a passion of mine and 2. I am good friends with the co-founder. :) As part of my association with this community, I have written a few blog posts for them. Late last year I wrote this blog post where I shared a resolution to “say yes” to any public speaking opportunity sent my way as a means of progressing in my goal of becoming a proficient and influential public speaker.

This last Thursday I had a ticket to the Aspiring Mormon Women Night Out where I was excited to listen to a prolific public speaker and be inspired (as well as pick up public speaking tips). A little after noon the day of the event, my good friend Dianne (the co-founder of AMW) called me in desperation. She told me the keynote speaker cancelled due to illness and they were in dire need of someone to fill her slot. I felt somewhat overwhelmed by the invitation but I accepted to fill in. I then had just over 6 hours to come up with something meaningful to share to approximately 80 women who had paid $20 a ticket to hear someone else!

IMG_5039This felt like the epitome of living courageously. As I spoke to this gathering of women on relinquishing beliefs about how they feel they should be, embracing and loving who they are, and more meaningfully pursuing their values, the audience was very engaged, receptive, and enthusiastic. Despite my lack of ability to really prepare for this event, I felt I delivered a meaningful message that many women later told me they loved and needed to hear. That night I was truly happy, feeling that I “lived courageously and made a difference.”

Our rainbow turns 1!

IMG_4986The irony here is I waited with baited breath for a WHOLE year for Cami to reach this milestone…and here I am finally writing about it three weeks later. Please don’t take my tardiness as indication for lack of enthusiasm. In fact, just the opposite! We are THRILLED Cami has turned 1!!! In some ways this year FLEW by (I can’t believe she is ONE!), and in other ways, it was the longest year of my life praying every day that Cami would live past the SIDS risk. And SHE HAS! At least I think so. I asked my pediatrician if 1 year olds really DON’T die of SIDS and what he told me was, “Statistics were always on your side; even though I know it doesn’t feel like that in your home. But now, where Cami is, statistics are really really one your side. Take the monitor off of her!” So that was pretty reassuring…but not really an answer. I wanted a resounding, “No, babies over 1 do NOT die of SIDS.” But regardless, our anxiety has decreased substantially since Cami has turned one. I feel like I’m finally getting permission to enjoy her! And ENJOY my life! Once a week, we are being brave and leaving Cami with a young baby sitter, who Cami LOVES, so Chad and I can go on long-overdue date nights.

We are also going to be REALLY brave and leave both Cami AND Hailee for 6 days next week while Chad and I go to Banff, Canada to celebrate our 12th anniversary! We are simultaneously nervous and excited. It’s going to be really good for us. And the girls. Baba (my ma-in-law) is coming to take care of them.

In service of this anticipated absence, we are officially, FINALLY fully transitioning Cami to her crib! No more sleeping with us! Last Wednesday night we started letting her cry it out. It hasn’t been easy but I DO think she is transitioning. For four nights now she has slept in her crib until after 6am! And we are sticking to our guns! But in service of total honesty, each night has involved me climbing into the crib with her to snuggle her back to sleep and I “come to” two hours later with aching hips and a kinked neck from accidentally falling asleep with her. My crib excursions are coming to an end SOON as I can’t handle the poor quality sleep I get in that shared 2 feet by 3.5 feet cage! I think ultimately this will be a great transition for everyone. We will ALL start getting better sleep as soon as crying-it-out turns to sleep-all-night-uninterrupted. Sometimes, in Cami’s stubborness to sleep, she falls asleep sitting up!

IMG_4924The little sinker will sleep for a long time in this position! One of the last nights she slept for two hours sitting up! When we go to push her over so she’s lying down, there’s an over 50% chance she’ll wake up and the fight will continue again. Finally, with regard to Cami’s sleep, we aren’t quite brave enough to take the Snuza monitor off yet. We’ll pass that bridge sometime after our anniversary trip and we get used to Cami sleeping all night, in her crib.

Besides transitioning to her crib, Cami has also transitioned 100% to cows milk. I was sad to wean her and actually tried to procrastinate that end, but she lost interest and as a result, my body responded in kind. I am grateful I did get to nurse her the first year of her life! It was an experience I didn’t get to have with Hailee or Charlie. I already really miss that intimacy with her but on another level it’s nice to have full ownership of my body again.

All these transitions feel like Cami is officially leaving “babyhood” and moving onto the “toddler” years. I don’t know how you define that transition so I just go off that little cartoon walking baby figure labeled Toddler on the Yogurt melts bag I feed Cami, haha.

Speaking of food. Cami is still such an eater! Sometimes it seems like her appetite is insatiable and she likes to double fist food!

IMG_4980We feed her whenever she’s hungry but despite her awesome appetite, she is still quite petite, weighing in at 18.41 lbs (11%). She has hit a growth spurt though, growing to 27.95 inches (up to 16% from the 3% last time she was measured). Her head continues on a very steady 51% curve. Because Cami eats so well, we aren’t worried about her size the way we constantly agonized over Hailee’s small size, adding avocado to everything she ate in an effort to help her gain weight and grow. Cami is petite and perfect and developing great!

Cami is super independent and is getting a grasp of when she is doing something naughty, or has something she knows she shouldn’t have, because she will run away from us and swat our arms away in desperate attempts to keep her treasured (most likely choking hazard) objects. She has also learned how to open cupboards and more than once has walked around gleefully brandishing bottles of dish soap or floor cleaner (poison alert!). Grateful for child-safety lock lids but am definitely going to buy cupboard locks ASAP.

She continues to be a very happy baby who loves snuggling and dancing (shaking her head from side to side with some cute, uncoordinated body jerks). She is Hailee-re-incarnate and tries to climb up on, and stand on anything she possibly can. She smiles so big when she accomplishes these death-defying feats and throws big fits whenever we grab her off those conquered mountains. Hailee continues to be her best friend and Cami follows her everywhere. I absolutely love watching their sister love and the way Hailee can make Cami giggle like no one else. Cami is also the best little greeter when we get home from work. She’s just as happy and enthusiastic to see us as any puppy would be. She immediately waddles over for a hug with a huge grin on her face. Selfishly, her unconditional love and positive regard is super therapeutic!

For Cami’s birthday party, we had a small BBQ get together. The only thing I really anticipated and planned for this party, was her birthday cake; which I knew was going to be rainbow  themed:

IMG_4891And besides how pretty this cake was, it tasted delicious too! IMG_4962 IMG_4963 IMG_4949It was perfect to have family and a couple close friends here for the celebration. I can’t describe how wonderful it feels to be able to celebrate another child’s birthday and watch them grow to meet an important milestone! We are grateful every day for our rainbow and the love she brings into our home! Wow, what a year! Here’s hoping to many more years to come with our girls!