Grateful?

IMG_3546I was driving the other day with my two daughters in the backseat. As I was driving, I suddenly felt overwhelmed with immense gratitude for my life and my daughters and the joy they bring me. I felt so much gratitude, especially, for sweet Cami. But as soon as I felt those feelings, I almost gasped.

Wait a minute! How can I feel so grateful for what my life is now when it is the result of such a tragedy? How can I be SO grateful for Cami, when she is here because Charlie is gone? And yet, I AM. I AM grateful.

It feels very weird and confusing. I am NOT grateful Charlie is gone. But if he hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have Cami here. I wouldn’t have Cami’s cheeks to kiss, her neck to nuzzle, her smell to breathe in, her smile to light up my heart, her babbles that give me the best conversations of my day, the noises that make me grin when she finally accepts the proffered binky, and the feel of her body as it wraps into mine each time I feed her.

We likely would have had more children if Charlie had lived…but I would probably only now be thinking about getting pregnant again. And would that other addition to our family have been Cami? Or another baby? I don’t know.

It’s so hard because for so long I said I would do anything to get Charlie back; for Charlie to have lived instead of died. But, now, if having Charlie back were to mean that I could no longer have Cami…well it’s a choice I don’t think I could make. I can’t choose between my children. I love them all with everything I have.

So I guess I’m also grateful that’s not a choice I have to make. And instead I’ll settle into the confusing, unexpected yet beautiful feelings of gratitude for the shape and content of my life resulting from losing dearly and tragically.

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Rainbow babyproofing our marriage

This last weekend Chad and I went on our first date sans Cami. We left both our daughters with our trusted friend and former caregiver, Melinda and her husband. Even though we trust Melinda completely, our anxiety was incredibly high as we drove downtown to a nice dinner. It was almost comical from an observational perspective. It was like, theoretically we knew going on a date, just the two of us, was really important. We knew we needed to reconnect as a couple. So as we drove, we tried to make conversation. But it was soo stilted! We both got caught in our own anxious thoughts. We both feared something would happen to our rainbow and we wouldn’t be there! And I know you know what I mean when I say something. It required so much emotional energy to focus on what Chad was saying. And I could tell it was the same for him!

Even though everything in me screamed to turn around, or change our reservations to somewhere closer to home, I gritted my teeth and pushed into the fear.

And dinner was delicious! And Chad and I ended up having a real conversation! A conversation that wasn’t interrupted every few minutes by, “Is she ok?” “Can you check on her?” We actually looked at each other! And we walked back to the car holding hands! Actually touching! Opposed to lugging a car seat or holding a swaddled Cami in our arms. Even though it was only a couple hours alone, we desperately needed that!

The arrival of a baby is always hard on a marriage. But I didn’t anticipate how much a rainbow baby could consume us! I’m not resentful or bitter in any way. I think it just Is What It Is. We are constantly driven by an underlying anxiety and need to protect Cami. Given that need, Cami is with us 24-7 I’m not exaggerating at all! One of us is always with her (including and especially when she is sleeping) and then the other is usually with Hailee. It’s kind of a Divide and Conquer scenario. And then, because Cami sleeps in a bouncer at the side of our bed, I sleep close to the edge to listen to her breathe. This certainly deters any nighttime cuddles! So literally days will go by without Chad and I even touching! We try to remember to at least hug every day…but sometimes that just doesn’t happen.

I’m grateful Chad and I have a strong base to stand on; one free of insecurities or jealousies. Because I know as long as Chad and I let this anxiety drive us, we will constantly be wearing our “parent identities” and not our identities as husband and wife. And as long as we let this be the scenario, it will require significant effort to connect. I know it’s not supposed to be this way. I know we are supposed to prioritize each other and our relationship above all. But after losing a child, and having a new one as helpless and vulnerable as the one we lost, I don’t blame Chad for choosing Cami above me, and vice versa.

I miss my husband. But this Is What It Is and what we choose it to be right now. And I know it won’t always be this way. Really just a few more months until Cami is past the greatest SIDS risk, and then I know we will begin to experiment more with shrugging off our “parent selves” and share more moments of just us. In the meantime, I think the way we are Rainbow Babyproofing our marriage is through a lot of understanding and commitment. And when we are feeling brave, brief moments stolen alone together.

The “embodied” me

I like to push myself. I like to “better” myself. I like to strive toward…something. I don’t always know what that “something” is but I strive toward it anyway. One thing that’s been on my mind since Cami has begun sleeping through the night and I’m feeling less sleep deprived is my own physical health.

I am an active person. I value having a strong body. I’m not one of those marathon runners or hard-core two-hour daily work-out people. Not even close. In fact, I also stand for moderation. I value variety in my workouts (because I get bored easily). I also value eating well and eating a variety of foods (including chocolate daily). I love having goals (like the 10k I ran last year in honor of Charlie or going on long, rigorous hikes, which reward me with spectacular views).

Given that side of my identity, it’s a bit hard for me to feel like I’m back at ground zero.

This pregnancy with Cami, I only gained 22 pounds and my weight gain at the end was exactly what I weighed before I delivered Charlie. I also didn’t exercise during this pregnancy because of the blood clot. When I was exercise approved I was too paranoid and too pregnant to do more than simple walks each day. When I learned at my last appointment that I had only gained 22 pounds (I don’t own a scale) I was impressed because I didn’t try to stay within some weight range at all! This added to my testimony of Intuitive Eating and listening to your body. At my six week post-partum appointment I learned I was only 6 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight and only 8 pounds above my “set point.” Again, I was impressed with my body and feeling pretty good about myself.

But since then…my body hasn’t changed and I feel I might actually be gaining weight (although I don’t know because again, I don’t own a scale). I have the biggest “gut” in my life and my thighs rub against each other more than they ever have. Where I used to feel “toned,” I am soft and flabby.

I am consciously trying not to care about this. And overall I think I’m doing a decent job (despite moments of weakness where I accidentally drop the “F-A-T” word in my conversations with Chad who quickly reprimands me and reminds me I’m beautiful. Those moments of weakness attest to the presence of my old nemesis: my negative mind. That negative mind emerges when I step out of the shower and see myself naked. Or when I squeeze into my pre-pregnancy jeans and feel my “muffin top” spilling over. Or when I drive and feel my gut protruding above the seatbelt. Or when I think about buying new clothes but dismiss this because it would have to be a size bigger than I’m used to. This is the negative mind that took center stage when I was a teenager and in my young 20s. This is the negative mind that made me miserable, insecure and devalue myself and my body.

This negative mind looks at my new postpartum body with disgust and encourages me to cover it up and to get on the treadmill as soon as possible. But over the years I have become much stronger than that negative mind. While it’s presence isn’t eradicated, those moments I described above are quite fleeting unless I decide to give them more attention. Instead, I have learned to value my body for what it allows me to do and be, instead of what it looks like.

And right now, I am trying to remember and value that I just pushed a baby out 2 months ago! My body is amazing for letting me do that! For growing and gifting me the beautiful rainbow I get to snuggle every day.

IMG_3480I also remind myself that intuitively I am an active and healthy person and I trust myself to return to that girl again. I am beginning to exercise more. I am taking is slowly because each day is unpredictable with Cami and Hailee’s needs and my energy levels. I am also taking it slowly because I know if I jumped back into my old exercise habits too fast, that when I miss a day, I would feel guilty. I do not want guilt to be part of my relationship with my body. It’s not about that. It’s about trying to be healthy and living within the context of my life now. And it’s OK if there are days when my daughters’ needs take precedence over my desire to exercise. It’s OK if there are days I’m just too tired to get up off the couch! So I am consciously being compassionate with myself as I begin this part of my journey.

This compassion is important because I’ll admit it is frustrating to go from running a 5k quite regularly and easily to my legs throbbing and my lungs burning from running 1 MILE. But I know my body will get there again. I am going to trust the process and be ok that I won’t be running a 5k anytime soon (although I aim to run a 5k Turkey Trot by Thanksgiving). I am also making sure I keep variety in my life to help stave off that negative mind. So I bought some Zumba videos and I am taking advantage of beautiful weather to do short hikes and long walks at the park.

It’s so easy, I think, as women to buy into the pressures of “being it all.” The pressure to have a baby and within weeks have our stomachs, butt, and legs toned and skinny while simultaneously sporting our rockin, milk-producing, breasts! But seriously?! What misery that would require to accomplish! I am grateful that Charlie has taught me to value motherhood in ways I hadn’t before. And my “soft” body is a daily testament to that role and who I am.

And now I’m going to go eat a couple pumpkin chocolate chip cookies Chad just pulled out of the oven! Yum!

Cami two month update

IMG_3123We have made it to two months! Cami continues to bring us so much joy. Of course the anxiety is still there, especially as between two and four months she is in the highest SIDS risk category. But we are living each day, each moment, at a time.

Cami is smiling more, especially in the mornings. She has also begun to coo. Chad is particularly good at eliciting conversations from Cami and it melts my heart to watch. She has also found her hands and has decided they taste very good.

IMG_3117At her two month appointment, Cami weighed in at 9 pounds, 10 oz, which puts her in the 21%. That is up from the 8% at her two week appointment. We are excited for the weight gain and the sweet little fat rolls she’s accumulating on her thighs! She is 21.65 inches long, measuring in the 23rd percentile for length. And her head now measures in the 30th percentile, which is up from the 18th percentile at two weeks. Over all her growth and development are awesome!

IMG_3122Cami has also begun to sleep through the night! She has gone as long as 10 hours! She doesn’t do this consistently but her trajectory is definitely sleeping longer and she averages between six and eight hours straight. I usually feed her now between 4 and 6am. This allows me to get more much needed sleep! Although I’ll admit I still set an alarm each night for 4:30am to check on her if she doesn’t wake me up first. Sometimes I regret this as it wakes her up too, but overall its a system that works for me.

Cami is such a good baby. She’s not colicky like Hailee and Charlie were, for which we are grateful. But we have spoiled her and she sure loves to be held. In fact she’s sleeping in my arms right now. She still always sleeps in our presence, no matter what; either in her bouncer, her swing, her carseat, or in our arms. I don’t know when we’ll be brave enough to let her sleep on her own, or in a crib. Definitely not till she’s past four months and probably more like six months.

I love everything about this sweet little rainbow and am so grateful for the two months we’ve had with her so far. Here’s to hoping and praying for many more!

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Transitions

As summer transitions to fall, I’ve decided to transition this blog some. In fact, I’ve already started doing it but I want to be overt about it. This blog began as my grief outlet. As such, I spent a lot of the first year after losing Charlie spewing all my thoughts and emotions out through tons of posts. Then, as time went on, I noticed that I didn’t feel compelled to post as much. I saw this as a sign of my healing over time.

For many years I kept a separate blog of our life. Since we lost Charlie, and grief consumed me, that blog became grossly neglected…and I’m not very inclined to return to it.

Instead, I’m inclined to integrate my life into this grief blog. As time has progressed, I’ve realized my grief and my life are not separate. They are intertwined; and forever will be. Grief is like the background music of my life. Sometimes it’s so loud I can hardly think or breathe, but a lot of the time lately it’s so soft I have to pay attention to notice it. Further, who I am now; how I view and interact with the world, is shaped from my experience of losing Charlie, even if I don’t voice it out loud.

So, I want to bring more of my day-to-day life into this blog. Of course I’ll continue to use this as my grief outlet, just like the other day as I wrote this post. I also still have lots to say regarding grief and our experience as we carry on without Charlie. I even have a few posts I need to publish that I’m finishing up. But I will also begin documenting our life, with all it’s ups and downs, the adventures and mundane. I think Charlie would welcome this transition as well. What better way to honor him and the gift of his life than through persevering, living, and highlighting our life as it is now? I hope you will continue to join me for the journey!