36.5 weeks pregnant with our rainbow

IMG_3059It’s hard to believe that in a few days I will be Full Term! I still can’t fathom that the birth of our rainbow is imminent. But my body is doing a good job of reminding me. At this point in my pregnancy, I am having more frequent contractions. They can be quite uncomfortable and often wake me up at night. One day this last week they were so frequent and so uncomfortable, I didn’t dare brave commuting 50 minutes to work, just in case I actually went into labor.  Beyond the contractions, I’m just generally getting more uncomfortable. I have more heartburn when I lay down to sleep and my favorite (sarcasm) is the nightly restless legs syndrome that makes sleep evade me.

But honestly, I’m not complaining. I am SO grateful to be growing this rainbow and that she seems to be doing well. My weekly NST results are all positive so far. I am dilated to almost a 3 and am 70% effaced. This next week I am planning to start really preparing for her arrival. We will buy her car seat! We will figure out where she will sleep in our room (she’s gonna be sleeping in our room for awhile), we will decide on monitors, I want to buy her coming home outfit, we will start narrowing our name list down…maybe I’ll even venture to buy diapers.

I am feeling terrified and thrilled simultaneously. Her impending arrival brings up more memories of losing Charlie, which are painful to sit with. On the other hand, I am beginning to fantasize what it will be like to hold her, feed her, snuggle her, listen to her newborn noises, and love her. I am allowing myself to both continue to grieve Charlie and hope for her. It’s complicated, messy, and wonderful all at the same time.

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Grumpy

I’ve been grumpy all day. Sometimes I am just grumpy. But as the day progressed, I realized that my grumpiness wasn’t really about the messes, or Hailee’s runny nose, or the heat, or whatever else I latched my grumpiness too. It’s really about my grief bubbling up and my attempt to resist it.

Today I think I just need to miss my baby boy. And as I let myself feel that, my grumpiness takes a back seat and I just let the tears come.

I stopped resisting my grief after I had my 35 week OB appointment today.

Everything continues to look good with our rainbow baby. My non-stress-test showed her heart rate having a lot variability and my OB checked my cervix and reported I am 1.5 cm dilated and 70% effaced. Having good news like this diminishes the fear of losing her, but lets a NEW fear in. As the reality of her impending arrival dawns on me and I realize I may actually get to have her, I am overwhelmed with the thought, “CAN I DO THIS AGAIN?”

My OB asked me how I was doing emotionally about this baby and I didn’t know how to respond. I don’t how I’m supposed to be emotionally! So I smiled and said, “Good, I think.” He smiled back and said, “As good as can be expected I imagine.”

As I drove home I started thinking about having this baby. What will my labor with her be like? Will it be fast like it was with Charlie? Will she come at 38 weeks like Charlie did? Do I really want to attempt a “natural” childbirth? Will she get her safe? Do we get to take her home? Will I jinx her if I buy a carseat? What kind of crib or cradle do we want for her in our room? These thoughts bring with them a certain level of excitement and anticipation.

But they also bring a sadness. I long to hold another my baby. To nurse her, love her, and kiss her head and cheeks. But I am also sad because not even another baby can fill the emptiness Charlie’s death created. I am deeply sad I can’t hold him in my arms or see his smile, laugh at his intense gaze, or hear his “mama cry.” I don’t get to sing to him or tell him how much I love him or feel him nuzzle into my shoulder. How I miss those little things!

I am deeply sad that we won’t have all our kids on earth at the same time. That there will never be complete family photos again. Or complete family moments. That people will see Hailee and her sister and make comments about “Two sisters! How perfect!” and not know that they have a brother too! And of course I’ll smile and say something polite like, “yeah, sisters are awesome” but inside I’ll probably be crying at the injustice of our loss.

I don’t think this sadness diminishes my gratitude for the ability to have another child. I think the hope, healing, and excitement of a rainbow baby naturally brings with it another level of grief; a level I am beginning to experience.

I have to say, while missing Charlie tonight doesn’t feel good in anyway, it is nice to let go of my grumpiness. As soon as I embraced my grief, as horrible as it is, I felt I could breathe. I felt the tears opening my soul and I’m letting myself just sit with the complexity of what is my experience now.

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A quilt in memory of Linkin Hamilton

IMG_2381Last week I delivered another quilt to this new angel mom. I heard about Heidi’s story shortly after the quilting service project for Charlie’s angelversary. Heidi is also a SIDS mom, like me. Heidi and her husband Jason lost their son Link, on March 26th of this year. There are so many parallels in our stories that I immediately felt bonded to Heidi. Even as we emailed back and forth before meeting in person, I felt like our souls connected as we could understand each other’s losses so intimately.

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Last week Heidi came into town and we were able to meet for a night picnic at the park. She brought her daughter, Kezia, who is about Hailee’s age, and they played on the playground together till well after 9pm while Heidi and I talked.

IMG_2828We could’ve talked all night but as the sun set and our girls became tired, we had to call it a night. Even Chad drove to the park to check on us as it got so late and he was worried!

Upon meeting Heidi, I was eager to learn about Link and her experiences. It also never grows old to be able to talk about Charlie. I feel like talking is so crucial in the grief process. And when I’m with another angel mom, talking about our angels is just so easy and welcome!

There’s something truly liberating and healing about connecting with another angel mom. And connecting with Heidi was  especially unique because I felt like I was sitting with myself one year ago. We share so many of the same thoughts, fears, concerns, memories, and beliefs. I found myself nodding and relating to everything she was expressing. As I listened to Heidi, and I remembered the pain, fog, confusion, and desperation in the early days of my grief after losing Charlie, I really felt for her. While I’m not healed from our loss, not by far, I am grateful to finally feel that it does get better. I wish I could fast forward the experience for Heidi so she can feel that too, but I know she has glimpses of that and that she’ll get there. She’s doing absolutely amazing for having lost Link less than 3 months ago. I truly admire her courage, faith, hope, and perseverance.

I’m so grateful to have met her. Even though she lives a few hours away, I look forward to staying in close contact with her and I hope there are more night picnics and long talks in our future!

Daring to believe in rainbows

One of the hardest questions people can ask me right now is “How are you feeling about your pregnancy?” As a quick tangent, I really appreciate that the majority of people ask how I feel about the pregnancy instead of making comments like, “Aren’t you excited?!” It’s nice to know people are thoughtful of this experience and anticipate (quite rightly) that this pregnancy is emotionally loaded for us.

One thing I’ve known about myself in general is that I can be quite emotionally avoidant. It’s not a skill I like to brag about. It serves me at times, but probably the majority of the time, it keeps me from emotionally processing what I need to process.

I’ve been living the last little while being quite emotionally avoidant about this pregnancy. This is why when people ask me how I feel, I literally feel at a loss for words, because I DON’T KNOW.

I DO think about this little baby frequently. I smile when she moves and kicks. I worry when she’s too quiet. But I have a hard time thinking about her beyond the experience of her inside of me. The idea of her joining our family seems too fantastical for me. After losing Charlie it’s so hard to believe something will go right for us again. I feel to scared to hope for her.

But as I watch how much Hailee hopes for her…I realize I DO hope for her too.

IMG_1478And today I felt that vulnerability of caring and loving her as I was at my 33 week OB appointment.

Besides the first trimester bleeding I experienced in this pregnancy, we also got blood results that revealed elevated alpha-fetal-protein levels. This could have been an indication of spinabifida but an ultrasound ruled this out. Subsequently my Dr told us it’s possible I have a “leaky” placenta and after 32 weeks we’d need to start doing non-stress tests to regularly check the well-being of the baby. I had put this out of my mind until today…when they started the non-stress tests.

As I lay there listening to my little girl’s heartbeat on the screen and felt her kick inside of me, I felt this overwhelming longing to KEEP her. And simultaneously SO SCARED that I will lose her.

The non-stress test went fine. My Dr. looked at the heartbeat read out and said, “That’s exactly what we want to see. You’re baby is doing great.” Then he shook my head and told me to come next week for another NST. I left feeling reassured…but then anticipating another NST next week I recognized the all-too-familiar feeling of being so vulnerable. Anyone who has lost a baby knows how quickly everything can and does change….and there is NOTHING I can do about it.

I hate feeling vulnerable like this. I hate feeling helpless. But at the same time, I know truly living involves allowing myself to be vulnerable. So, come what may, I choose to want and love this little girl growing inside of me. I pray I get to meet her and keep her and raise her.

And I will commit to allowing her to take up more room in my heart. First by continuing to think of a NAME for her!

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So here’s to daring to believe in rainbows!

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A quilt in memory of Finleigh and Bridger

IMG_2844Last week I delivered this quilt to this angel mom. Staci has lost, not one, but two babies. I cry just thinking about the enormity of that loss. She lost her son Bridger over 4 years ago at 10 months old. Then she recently lost her daughter Finleigh just about two months ago at 18 days old. Both babies were born with congenital heart defects. To read more of their story, and see photos of these beautiful angels, check out Staci’s blog.

Staci and I met for lunch. I have to admit, I was a little nervous. I wondered if I had anything to offer her given all she has gone through and continues to go through. She has truly lived through every parents worst nightmare, not once, but twice. I felt so inadequate to offer her any semblance of comfort. At the same time I was also eager to meet another mom who gets it.

When we met, and began talking, I quickly realized that while both of our losses are different, they are also the same. We know what it feels like to continue living with a broken heart. To continue walking through a world that is shattered and forever altered. Staci and I immediately began commiserating about our experiences. It was refreshing to cut through all the superficial sentiments and delve  straight into the depths of our experiences.  We talked for two hours and could have talked for many more if other obligations didn’t pull us back into our daily lives. We told our stories and also talked about transformations, family, faith, hope, coping and continuing to survive.

I left feeling so grateful to have met her. I loved the experience of just meeting her and talking like we have been in each others’ lives for years. She has some amazing and beautiful perspectives on life and faith because of her losses and I hope to adopt some of them. I can also deeply connect with the pain and despair that is present as well. I hope she and I will continue to connect in the future.

I also had this fantasy in my head that our sweet babies in heaven knew we were getting together and in some way joined us that afternoon. It’s a thought that makes me smile.