The Apple Tree

When we found out that I was pregnant with Evelyn, Michael planted an apple seed.  When I asked him what prompted him to do it, he tells me that it was just a random thing, but then went on to say that he thought it would be cool to see Evelyn and the tree grow together. He had visions of her climbing it and playing in its shade.

I have to admit that I sometimes scoff at Michael’s ideas.  I didn’t really think that the tree would grow, and even if it did, I was sure it would never produce fruit.  And what would we do with it anyway?  We lived in an apartment at the time. I guess I kind of thought it was a silly idea, but I let him have his dreams.

Well, the apple seed grew.  At first I wasn’t even sure if it was the apple seed that was growing.  It could have been a weed or some other tree seed that might have blown into the neglected pot.  That pot sat on the patio season after season.  I think at one point, Michael wanted to bring the pot into the house during the winter, but I didn’t allow it. When we bought our house and moved, the pot came with us, but I was still certain that nothing would come of it.  Still, Michael seemed to treasure his apple tree, so I went along with it.

I’m not sure how it survived.  Year after year, the pot sat in some corner of the patio, away from everything.  Weeds grew in the pot and Michael would eventually pull them out.  At one point, he wanted to move the pot into the middle of my landscaping beds so that the tree would get more sun.  I sighed *that silly apple tree* and let him do it.  That was last year…or maybe the year before…I can’t remember…that’s how much I paid attention to this tree.

This spring, the tree exploded with white blossoms. Michael mentioned that we should probably put the tree into the ground.  Then the weather got cold for a few weeks and the gardening was neglected once more.  Now the tree is covered with little apple buds and the weather is warming up again, so today we decided to free it from the pot and put it in the ground.  I have no idea if it will survive this transition.  We waited too long to move it.  But, I figure it survived everything else it’s been through, including my lack of faith in its potential. It’s a tough little tree. It’s become a permanent part of our landscape now, just like the little girl who inspired its existence.

39

Photo Credit: Sheelah Brennan
Photo Credit: Sheelah Brennan

Today, I turned 39 and I’m eating cake.  Tomorrow, I’m embarking on a year-long journey to be in the best shape of my life by the time I am 40. Yikes. I’m “saying” it out loud.

There is just something about 40 that incites fear…and loathing…and panic, but I figure I have (God willing) at least a much time ahead of me as I have left behind me, so I might as well spend it well.

For the past few years I have been struggling with my weight and with just feeling unhealthy.  My body is definitely on the decline.  I am sore and tired most of the time.  My back aches.  Anybody who knows me knows that I hate exercise.  I can diet until the cows come home, but I really, really loathe breaking a sweat. To my dismay, I have been thinking recently that I really need to add it into my life, even if it’s just baby steps at first.  I work in a building that houses a senior center and on a daily basis, I see seniors, some of them withered and barely moving, walking laps around the building to get exercise.  Every day they faithfully appear, pushing walkers and limping along.  I have this daily reminder that I really have no excuse.

If they can do it, I can do it.  What’s wrong with me?

I’ve also been somewhat down in the dumps and I am fully blaming it on facebook and social media.  I have a serious addiction and it has been impacting the way that I interact with my family.  It also keeps me from doing anything productive.  It really needs to go.

So, I have decided that this is going to be the year that I pull myself together.  I am going to give myself one year to get into the best shape of my life…I’m not just talking about my physique. I feel like I need a total overhaul.  I haven’t decided if I am going to document the journey as I go (maybe monthly?), or when the year is over…I guess we’ll see.

I am 39 and 40 is looking pretty good to me.

And Then She Was Four

It’s been a little while since I have contributed to this space.  We got all caught up in the holiday madness, with places to go, people to see, guests to entertain.  Now that things are a little calmer around here, I can take a breath and reflect on the past year.  What a crazy year it’s been.  Every day, when facebook shows me my memories from the past years, I find myself half smiling/half dying inside.

Last year at this time, I was pregnant and expecting a little boy.  After losing him tragically at 16 weeks, we decided it was too much bear.  We couldn’t go through it again.  While we have decided that we are fine with leaving our baby days behind, I am still coming to terms with Evelyn being an only child.  We are so very blessed to have lots of families in our lives.  Evelyn started preschool this year, so she gets to be around other children all day.  She’s also been cared for by family friends before and after school, so she gets to play with their children as well.  Truly, she’s had the best of both worlds…surrogate siblings with friends and the perks of being an only at home.  Still, she caught me off guard when she asked my why God made three babies for our friends’ family and He only made one baby for our family.  The tears welled up in her eyes as she asked and I don’t know exactly why that would make her sad, but she seemed sad about it.  I could only tell her I didn’t know why and fight back my own tears.  It amazes me how much she has grown and how the questions come when I least expect it.

Aside from the sad memories on my facebook news feed, things are pretty good around here.  I returned to work a few months ago after our financial situation was upended a bit.  Now, Michael and I are both doing work we love and Evelyn seems very happy at preschool.  She seems to have grown so much since she started school, from toddler to a true preschooler.  She’s still having the occasional terrifying tantrum, but they are fewer and farther between and I have been really trying to change my own response to her, which I think has helped a lot.  I am trying to be more patient and positive and she is learning some calm-down methods at school that she actually tries to employ at home.  She will sometimes stop in the middle of a screaming fest to take a few deep breaths and calm herself.

Every day I see updates from friends on facebook….babies growing up, rolling over, sitting up, and crawling for the first time.  It makes me a little sad that those days are over.  Maybe I would have cherished them a little bit more, I don’t know.  But, even though I am sad to see her baby days passed, I am also having quite a bit of fun with this spunky, dramatic little girl that she’s become. Instead of babbling and cooing, we’re playing Uno (and she’s winning) and telling made-up stories at bedtime.  She helps me to cook scrambled eggs for breakfast and rushes the grab the dustpan when we give her dad a haircut. It’s fun to have a little partner-in-crime.

Even though this past year has been a difficult one, I prefer to look back on the fun moments with my 3-year-old girl that I will never get back.

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PicMonkey Photo

 

 

And, just like that, she was four.

 

Evelyn is 4

Old Becomes New Again

Photo Credit: Dustin Lee
Photo Credit: Dustin Lee

Once upon a time, I thought I might try to increase my followers here on the blog and try to use my writing to earn a little extra money for our family.  The first thing to do, all the best bloggers said, was to move over to a self-hosted site.  So, I did that.  However, I soon discovered that I just didn’t have the kind of time and energy that is needed to monetize a blog.  I also wanted to stay true to myself and write on my own terms.

I’ve been thinking a lot about where I want to go with my blog and the truth is, I’m not really sure that I want to go anywhere.  I mainly just want to write about my life and my experiences so that I can stay in touch with family and friends and so that I can leave our history for Evelyn someday.  When it was time to renew my hosting services this year, I started to worry about what would happen to my blog if something should happen to me.  If nobody had access to it and if nobody paid the fee to renew it every year, my blog would just shut down and the people who I most want to share it with would not be able to see it anymore.  So, after some thought, I have decided that it’s time to return to my free wordpress site.  All that means for you is that you can find my writing at a different address now.  Previously, I was blogging at ascenicdetour.com.  Moving forward, you can find me here at ascenicdetour.wordpress.com.  I have moved over all my old posts, so they are still available here and I have been working on a new design and layout.  The plan is just to keep it simple and write about whatever strikes me at the moment.  I’m still working on some details, but if you have been following along, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to keep in touch with what’s new.

I hope to see you as I move forward into this new chapter.

 

Becoming a Family of Three

When Evelyn was born, we became a family of three.  It was such a magical time, as it is for many families.  An adorable, wrinkly little being enters the world and a mother is born, a father is born, a family is born.  Despite the fact that I had to travel a long, hard road to motherhood, once I finally did get pregnant, I was certain that we would have another baby in the future.  I carefully chose all of our baby items to be gender neutral, so that they could be used again, regardless of whether we had boys, girls, or one of each.  Several hours after giving birth, I was already talking about the “next time” and the nurses teased me, since apparently most women are a little too traumatized to start talking about having another baby so soon.  I never had any doubt that we would have another baby.  When Michael and I discussed the future, I always referred to “our kids” because I knew that another one would be joining us eventually.  We were a family of three, but in my mind, that was only a temporary situation.  We would eventually be a family of four.

Three of Us

 

Once I got pregnant, I naively believed that it would be a snap to get pregnant again.  And actually, it was.  I’ve been pregnant four times since Evelyn was born, but we’re still a family of three…and the difference now is that I’m pretty sure we always will be.  Two chemical pregnancies and two miscarriages kind of left us worse for the wear.  After our last miscarriage at 16 weeks, I was pretty sure that it was time to just let go of the idea of another child.  We were so weary from the losses and just not sure if we could go through it all again.  We are both getting older.  Can you believe the medical term is ‘elderly’?  I seriously thought my OB was teasing me when he used that word. Physically, I am not what I used to be.

I think for most women the decision to be done having babies is huge, whether you have one or fifteen.  It’s hard to close that door forever, even if you think your family is complete.  Unfortunately for some, there is no choice in the matter.  For me, it’s been a process.  At first, I was really mad at the idea of leaving my childbearing years behind after such a negative experience.  I didn’t want my last memories of pregnancy and child birth to be so painful and traumatic.  I also didn’t want to go through another loss.  I started by getting rid of all the baby things.  It was so hard.  I still had ‘what if?’ in my mind.  But my mom and Michael gently reminded me that I could always get more baby things if I needed them.  So, I had a yard sale.  I cried when I went through all of Evelyn’s things.  I cried in my car when I met with ladies to sell her cloth diapers.  I cried a lot.

I worried about Evelyn being an only child.  In many ways, I think I wanted to have another baby more for her than for myself.  Michael and I both come from big families, so the thought of an only child was totally foreign to me.  I don’t want her to be alone in this big, bad world once her dad and I are gone.  I talked to a good friend of mine and read lots of blog posts about the experience of being an only.  I started to see all the positives that can come with that.

As I was slowly coming to acceptance over the idea of an only child, I was also still very much mourning the loss of our son, our last pregnancy.  It was very conflicting to start to feel happy and relieved about the idea of being done having children while I was still so sad over our loss.  At times I felt that if I let the happiness creep in, it was like saying that I never wanted my son in the first place.  I’ve been having to learn how to separate the two experiences and it’s still difficult sometimes.  But, I am slowly coming to a place of acceptance.

So, instead of becoming a family of four, we’re becoming a family of three all over again.  I’m kind of getting used to the idea.  I know we will be able to do a lot of cool things as a family that we might not be able to do as easily if we had more children.  I know that Evelyn will be okay.  I know that our family is not in a position to be starting over with a new baby right now and I am not sure we ever will be.  I suppose that if God decides to add another child (or children) to our family, I am open to that idea, but we are not actively pursuing it.  For now, I am just focusing on contentment, and it feels pretty good.

A Day in the Life

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I slept in your bed last night because you woke up with a fever, complaining that your head hurt.  I had hoped you would go back to sleep quickly, but once I gave you a dose of pain reliever, you wouldn’t stop talking and asking me for water every 5 minutes, so I settled in for the rest of the night.

This morning, I watch you sleep. I just read a mom’s blog story about her baby dying at 2 months from SIDS.  I gaze at the long eyelashes over your closed lids and thank God for this one, you, and for babies that live and keep mommas going.  You roll over and settle into your pillow.  I watch your eyebrows raise and lower again and I’m reminded of you as a baby.  You’ve been doing this eyebrow raise since you were just a few months old.  An outward display of your innate curiosity. When you first discovered something new…a toy, your foot, the ceiling fan…you would study it for what seemed like hours and your eyebrows jumped up and down.  I silently wonder if you will always do this and if I will be able to catch your adult eyebrows raising and be taken back again to your baby days.

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You are slow to wake up and be fit to interact with the world…just like your parents.  I swear, if I knew that coffee would solve the problem, I would very seriously consider having a cup waiting for you in the morning.  Since we’re all a bit foggy, mornings are usually pretty slow around here.  Coffee or juice, TV, morning news, feed the pets, tiptoe through our interactions.  It’s hard to know what kind of mood you will be in and even if you wake up sunshiney, that can turn around on a dime.  Your dad is the master of unintentionally “poking the bear,” as I like to call it.  Sometimes all it takes is too much of a smile or an enthusiastic “good morning!” to piss you off.  Somehow, though, we manage to muddle through.

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Just a few short months ago, every trip out the door was a struggle.  These days, we’re more like partners.

“Are you ready to go?”

“Yep, I’m ready!”

And off we go.  Amazing how we suddenly find ourselves here and I have no idea how we got here…working together and being on the same page once in awhile.  Not always. But now.

Most days, you are attached to my hip.  It’s a little frustrating at times.  I want you to be independent, play on your own, and be able to entertain yourself.  But, I also love that you need me and I know that this time is fleeting.  One day soon, you will stop wrapping your little arms around my legs as I try to make dinner.  You won’t ask to be held the instant I open my laptop computer.  You won’t request bedtime stories and those off-tune lullabies you have been hearing since you were a baby.  I won’t always see this sweet little face looking up at me.

No two days are alike around here.  I guess we’re not a family of routines.  Certain times of the day are pretty routine…mealtime and bedtime mostly…but the rest of the day is open for anything.  We make trips to the library and local parks.  We have shopping days when we drive out to the Amish produce and discount stores and then stop at the big stores for anything else we didn’t find. In the winter, we stopped at McDonald’s a lot so that you could let out some energy in the Playland area, but summer means trips to the coffee shop for ice cream or bubble tea.

On days when your dad is off work, we make bigger outings, like to the beach at Bald Eagle State Park or we drive to State College.  You love to go to Barnes and Noble.  We make trips to the strawberry fields, pumpkin patch and the county fair every year.  You like to spend a lot of time at your art table, using your watercolors and playdough.  Sometimes you help me in the kitchen with whatever I am cooking that day.

You follow me everywhere….literally.  Even if I tell you to stay put because I have to run to the basement to pull something out of the freezer (a 30 second task), you have to follow me down there, making the process take much longer.  We talk about privacy and how people need that when they go to the bathroom, so you follow me in there and tell me that you’ve closed the door so that I could have some privacy.

Some days we spend way too much time watching TV.

Some days feel like they will never end, but the weeks seem to fly by in a flash.

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I usually have to dodge a trail of toys that magically appear in the kitchen when I am trying to prepare dinner.  At least once a week, you tell me you don’t like my food.  We almost always sit down to eat as a family.  You have become an old pro at saying grace and as we eat we share our favorite parts of the day, as well as our less stellar moments.  More often than not, you barely touch your food and then 10 minutes after dinner you are asking for fruit or gummies.

Bedtime is our time.  Your dad takes turns with me and he tucks you in at night too, but more often it’s me.  I still sit with you every night until you fall asleep and, though there are times when I think it would be nice to just plant a kiss on your forehead and leave you to fall asleep on your own, I still really enjoy just sitting with you because that’s when we talk.  Ever since you were about 18 months old, we have been having conversations at bedtime.  I used to be able to rock you in the chair and you’d lie in my arms and look up at me and tell me about your day, 2-3 words at a time.  Now, you lie in your big girl bed and tell me how much you want to see penguins and that you want to go to the ocean. You ask questions and every response that I give you prompts another question. Not topic is off limits.  I like to tell you the truth about whatever you ask.

We move through the motions of the bedtime routine you have had since the beginning.  Brush teeth, potty, three books, and as many songs as it takes to get you to sleep.  Sometimes I sing and sometimes we use a playlist.  You yawn and then I yawn. “I made you yawn, mom.”  It’s our little inside joke.  I love that we have jokes now. 🙂

Pretty soon, I can hear you lightly snoring and I know that you will be out until morning (at least most of the time).  This is the moment when I pause, watch you sleeping, if only for a few seconds.  No matter how different you seem from the baby you were, this is the time when that little baby reappears and I thank God for the seconds, minutes, hours we have had together.

When you’re finally in a deep slumber, I back out of your room and take one last glance at those long lashes covering your eyes, grateful that I don’t have to be quite so careful with the rattling of the door knob.

 

Our Life Since Then (Surviving a Miscarriage)

surviving

It’s been about a month since we lost our son and I can’t say that I am an expert on recovering from miscarriage, but I am at least feeling better and finding ways to move forward. This kind of loss is so personal and I think everyone handles it differently, but I wanted to share some things that have helped me so far because I know that overwhelming feeling that comes in waves…”How am I going to get through this?”

The first week was the hardest, but fortunately, Michael was home with me and we were able to just grieve together and to allow ourselves to feel whatever we were feeling.  We had a few “normal” moments, but for the most part, we struggled.  After about a week, I wrote about my experience and posted it here.  That was very cathartic for me and I feel like a weight lifted after that. We are very fortunate to have a lot of amazing people around us (and far away) who showered us with phone calls, flowers, gifts, food, prayers and love. It was so comforting to be able to lean on the people we love. For me, it has also been helpful to seek out others who have been in the same situation.  I joined a facebook group and some online forums that are specifically for parents who have experienced loss.  There is something very healing about being able to share your experience with someone who knows your pain and it’s even more healing to be able to offer encouragement to others as they are going through their darkest hours.

One of the biggest realizations I had during both of my miscarriages was just how precious my daughter is to me.  When I found out I was pregnant with her, it felt like a miracle.  I had tried for so long and had been through so much before she came along.  It almost seemed selfish to hope or ask for another child, but we always thought we would have another one and really wanted Evelyn to have a sibling.  We were very intentional, right from the beginning, about the items we purchased (everything gender neutral) and the way we set up the nursery.  We had always anticipated that there would be one more.  But, after two losses, back to back, we are just not sure if we will continue to try to expand our family.  We aren’t ready to take any permanent measures of prevention, but we are definitely planning to take time to heal from this loss and weigh the pros and cons of trying again…or not. As much as I wanted another child, I have always felt that if I only ever had Evelyn, that would be enough for me.  I don’t want the weight of this loss to impact my relationship with her, so I am doing my best to maintain life as usual.  April has been full of Easter preparations and trying to enjoy the warmer weather.  I’m taking pictures again…I know that sounds weird, but I used to take so many pictures of Evelyn and over the past 6 months, I had just kind of stopped.  For me, that’s a sure sign that something is wrong.  I decided it’s time to take pictures again, to experience life as it happens and to really appreciate all that I have.

Keeping the faith has been a priority for me.  I have been down some very difficult roads before and I recognize that these are the times to draw close to God and grow in Him. The first week after we lost our baby was hard. Really hard. On a cerebral level, I knew all the things that people say to be true.  It happened for a reason. God had a plan and would use the situation for good.  But, I was mad at Him. I needed to be mad at Him for a period of time.  Despite my anger with God, I didn’t run away from Him.  I went to church on Sunday, two days after I got out of the hospital.  I started reading some devotionals that centered around grief and loss.  I prayed…constantly. I talked to God and told Him about every fear, every regret, every pain.  I asked Him why, over and over. I still do from time to time. I know that God can use this situation for good in my life and that He can use my experience to help other people. I don’t know what that will look like just yet, but I pray about it every day.

There was never any doubt that we would have to find a way to honor our baby.  He was real to us, our child, not just a fetus…whatever that means.  We got to see him and hold him.  We dreamed about who he would be and how he would complete our family. I had just begun to feel movement in my belly and we took pictures of him when he was born.  We had named him and talked to our daughter about all the cool things she would do with her little brother. The hospital staff who worked with us were incredible and they gave us a box which contained all kinds of keepsakes, a tiny blanket and hat, poems, a necklace and other items.  We added our ultrasound photos, pictures that we took, the little outfit I bought when I found out we were having a boy and, eventually, we will add the tiny urn that holds his ashes.

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I am also planning to dedicate a little section of our garden to the angels we have lost.  Some friends of mine put together a gift basket for us and it contained some seeds and a decorative stone, so I am excited to get started on that as the weather warms up.  I also ordered this adorable necklace, as a way to represent our family of angels, both here on earth and in heaven.

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Several months ago, when we were caught in the throes of an endless winter, we reserved a little cabin for a weekend getaway in the woods. Our weekend is coming up soon and it has been nice to have something to look forward to. It will be nice to get away from our familiar surroundings, go hiking, enjoy the outdoors, sit by the fire at night, play games, and cut ourselves off from our cell phones and Netflix. We’ve also been thinking a lot about some day trips that we can take with Evelyn this summer and possibly a getaway for just Michael and me around the time of our anniversary. It’s helpful to be able to think about the future in a positive way instead of always dwelling on what could have been.

I know that there will still be difficult days ahead and that healing happens moment to moment.  So, I think one of the most important things to do, if you are faced with loss, is to just give yourself time.  Don’t expect to feel better tomorrow, or next week, or next month, but know that you will feel better, in your own time.  As I have talked with friends who have been through miscarriage, we have been able to say that we are better, stronger people for having known and lost our angels.  If you are going through this now, take heart. We will never forget, but slowly, it does get easier.

Our Second Trimester Loss

***Please, if you are currently pregnant or have suffered a pregnancy loss, please be aware that this post may contain painful triggers or graphic details that may be upsetting or distressful.  Please feel free to skip this post.  My intention is to remember this time and to grieve in my own way so that I can begin to heal and move forward.  I also think it is important to share stories of loss, so that others who are traveling the same road can feel less alone.  It is not my intention to upset my readers or to cause anyone pain or distress.  Much love, Carrie***

Photo credit: Bart Heird / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
Photo credit: Bart Heird / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Since my miscarriage in October, a darkness has taken up residency here.  I had hoped that my most recent pregnancy would bring some light to my world (and to this blog) once again.

My second trimester started with an ultrasound around 13 weeks.  Everything looked normal, although the baby wasn’t very active and the ultrasound technician wasn’t able to get the measurements he needed to complete the screening for chromosomal abnormalities.  So instead, they offered me a blood test that would screen for the same issues and would give me the added bonus of knowing the baby’s gender well before my 20 week ultrasound.  Once we had that ultrasound in hand and had heard the heartbeat once more, I felt comfortable sharing our good news with the world at large (aka, my facebook community).  This was the week before Valentine’s Day.

In the week to follow, I had my blood drawn for the test, and about 1 week later, I received a phone call from my OB’s office.  They called to share the good news that the baby was at low risk for chromosomal abnormalities and the surprising news that we were expecting a BOY!  I was completely taken aback because I was pretty convinced that we were having another girl, but I was happy just the same and I knew that Michael would be elated.  I ran out to the store that day to buy a cute little boy outfit and some bibs, wrapped them up, and gave them to him as a way of sharing the good news.  We were so very excited and even though Evelyn was in denial for a few days (she was convinced that she wanted a sister), she came around to the idea that she would have a little brother.  Michael had told me in our early days of dating that if he ever had a son, the baby would be named after his father and his oldest brother, who shared the same name and who had both passed on years before.  So, we already knew what we would call him and Evelyn was excited to help us decide what his nickname would be.  She started telling everyone about the baby in mom’s belly named Robbie.  So, shortly thereafter, I shared the good news once again.

By this time, I was about 15 weeks pregnant and was finally starting to feel better after months of being sick.  But then I got sick once more with the 24 hour stomach bug.  Finally, on a Thursday, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, starting to feel better again.  I put my hand to my belly and was overcome by the “feeling” of not being pregnant anymore.  At the moment, I brushed it off as just a silly paranoid feeling, but now looking back, I believe that was the moment my baby boy’s heart stopped beating.  I was exactly 16 weeks pregnant.  I guess it was that moment in the middle of the night that prompted me to pull out the fetal heart monitor that my friend gave me to use.  I never had one with Evelyn and I had only used it a few times to hear his little heartbeat for a few seconds at a time.  But this time I couldn’t find his heartbeat at all.  I tried again a little later and still couldn’t find it.  I started to worry, but convinced myself that it was just a fluke and that my anterior placenta was probably blocking me from hearing him.  I tried again several times the following day and still couldn’t find anything. I was really starting to worry now and Michael suggested that I try to move my next doctor appointment up a little bit, so that I could have some reassurance.  So I was able to schedule my appointment for Tuesday instead of Wednesday and I just did my best to convince myself that everything was fine while I waited to see the doctor.

First thing on Tuesday morning, I went in to see the midwife.  I told her about my worries and she tried herself to find the heartbeat, but couldn’t find it either.   At this point, I kept telling myself that everything would turn out ok on the ultrasound.  She walked us to the ultrasound room and the technician put the wand on my belly.  Michael was trying to wrangle Evelyn, so he didn’t see most of what transpired.  But I knew right away that something wasn’t right.  When we had gone for our ultrasound at 8 weeks, the technician assured us instantly that the baby was there with a nice heartbeat.  This time, he didn’t say anything.  I knew.  I couldn’t see the baby moving on the screen and after a few seconds, I saw him look at the midwife and shake his head.  She frowned and looked at me whispering, “I’m so sorry.”  I couldn’t believe this was happening.  Part of me already knew that he was gone, but the rest of me didn’t want to believe it.  I got Michael’s attention and gave him the same head shake that told him the bad news.  I think we both wanted to just break down, but we had to keep it together for Evelyn.

Next, I met with the OB and he explained the next steps.  I could either have a D&E, which he said was not advised at this stage in the pregnancy, or I would have to be induced to deliver the baby.  There really didn’t seem like another choice.  The idea of waiting for a miscarriage to happen on it’s own seemed unthinkable and dangerous.  He told us to think about it, not to wait too long, and to call to schedule the induction when we were ready.

We actually tried to entertain ourselves for the rest of the day by taking Evelyn to visit her aunt, going out to lunch, and riding the carousel at the mall.  We didn’t have it in us to be cheerful around our daughter and the thought of going home just meant that we would probably break down.  I was scared.  I didn’t want to schedule this induction…ever.  But Michael had to go back to work in two days and suggested we schedule it for the next day so that he could be there with me.  I called later that day and we set it up for the following morning.  I tried to do some internet research to find out what this process would be like, but it was difficult to find any two stories that were similar.  I had no idea what to expect and lots of scary possibilities floating around in my head.  But the one thing that echoed through every account that I read was the importance of seeing and holding the baby and taking pictures, for closure and to aid the healing process.  Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very well that night.

At 7:30 the next morning we arrived at the hospital to start the process of delivering our baby.  My plan is to write a separate post about the medical aspects of this whole process, for those who are interested.  But I think for now it’s sufficient to say that the induction didn’t go as planned.  A process that was supposed to take 12-24 hours ended up taking 48 hours because the medication that they used for induction didn’t work on me.

During my stay in the hospital, I joked with the nurses, visited with family, and tried to be strong.  But in the moments that I was all alone, I cried for what I was about to lose…what I had already lost…the baby boy I would never rock, sing to, or nurse to sleep…the little brother that Evelyn would never see, never tattle on, and never teach to dance, as she once asked to do.

The waiting seemed endless.  My body just would not cooperate.  Michael and I spent time crying and laughing as we talked about all the people who were already holding Robbie in heaven and what each of them would teach him.

As I waited to deliver my baby, my fears vacillated between being scared to endure any pain and being afraid to actually see the baby when he came out.  I wanted to get it over with, but I was afraid of what I would endure and see.  I felt stuck, trapped.  At the end of the second day, I still had not made any progress with the medication.  The doctor started offering other options that were scary to me, but I started to feel like I didn’t have a choice.   If nothing else worked, I would have to have a D&E, and that meant I would never get to see and hold my baby.  I cried, prayed, and gave myself permission to let go.  I begged my body to let go of my son, so that I could say my goodbyes.

I agreed to try a different method to induce labor.  The doctor inserted a balloon device around my cervix and and  I settled in for my second night.  For the first time since I entered the hospital, I was relieved to finally feel pain.  I slept through the cramping and woke every three hours when the nurses came to deliver my medication.  Finally, around 4:30 am, I woke up to a severe cramp and then felt a “pop.”  Finally, some movement, but no baby yet.  I started to feel a lot more pain and requested some pain relief around 5am.  I think that the pain meds allowed my muscles to relax enough to just let everything go.  Finally, at 8:20am, I sat up in bed and felt my baby enter the world.

I was afraid to look, but had to confirm that the baby had arrived before I called the nurse.  I peeked under the blankets that covered my legs and saw his little body lying there.  I called the nurse and she and the OB came into the room.  As he examined our baby, the OB showed us how the umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around his neck and there was also a knot in the cord.  It was a relief to know that there was nobody to blame for his death.  While I was waiting to deliver, I wrestled with the idea that I might have done something to harm my baby.  Maybe it was something I ate, maybe it was the medication I took when I had the flu, maybe it was that one time I scooped the cat litter or drank those few sips of wine.  It is comforting to know that I had done nothing to cause this.  At the same time, it seems so unfair that there was nothing wrong with our little boy.  He was perfect. He died from a freak accident, in the place where he should have been safer than he would ever be on this earth.

The nurse wrapped him in a blanket and put a tiny hat on his head.  Then they left us so that we could have some time alone with our son.  We looked at him for a long time and cried.  We didn’t really exchange any words.  There was nothing to say.  Our beautiful, perfectly formed little boy was dead.  It felt strange to do it, but I took a few pictures.  I’m glad that I did, even if it’s hard to look at them now.  This was my one chance to hold my little boy’s hand…and his tiny hand looks just like Evelyn’s.

 

Because I had reached 16 weeks, we were told that we would have to take care of making arrangements for the baby’s body.  I was glad for this because I knew that it would be hard to just let him go and leave him at the hospital.  We live about a block away from a funeral home and when I called them to ask about our options, I was told that they would provide cremation free of charge.  It was such a blessing to discover that there would be no financial burden attached to the loss of our son.  Today we chose a heart shaped locket to contain his ashes and I feel so at peace about the fact that he will be at home with us.  I can’t even express how grateful I am that this part of the ordeal was so simple and handled with such compassion.

I have no idea where we go from here.  It’s been one week since we learned that our baby no longer had a heartbeat, but the wound is still so fresh and I don’t think that I will be ok for very long time.  I know that I have to be strong and keep going for Evelyn and for my marriage.  I know that Michael is grieving too and we have just been very gentle with one another over the past week.  As much as I would never wish this on anyone, it’s a comfort that I don’t have to go through it alone and I know that he understands my hurt because he is feeling it too. I know that God has a plan in all of this.  I know that my son is in a better place, but it’s going to be a long time before I can even begin to understand why this happened…and maybe I will never understand it at all.  But just like any child would, my son has profoundly changed me already.

 

It’s been awhile…

It’s been quite some time since I have posted here, and I don’t have any particular reason for staying away.  I guess I just needed a break.  A lot of changes over the past year have left me in a strange state.  I don’t know if it’s depression or exhaustion or just indifference.  You know all those big life changes that cause the most stress?  Even the good ones…getting married, moving, having a baby…can take a toll.  It seems I always experience big life changes in large lump sums.  Never one at a time.

This year, I left my job to become a stay at home mom.  It was strange at first, especially after 20 years of working.  20 years.  Is that even possible?  I still don’t feel like I have figured out how to be at home, but I can at least say that I have gotten used to it and it’s mostly been a great experience.  I am very grateful to be able to be home with Evelyn, but at times I wonder what on earth I am doing.  I sometimes feel like it was a frivolous, impulsive decision, even though we planned for it.  I guess for someone who has worked so hard and been in the workplace for so long, being at home feels almost irresponsible for me.  I am by no means saying that stay at home moms are frivolous or irresponsible.  Being at home is hard work and taking care of children and raising them to be decent human beings is a complicated and worthy undertaking.  It’s just still strange for me.  I often joke that I’m going through a mid-life crisis.  I probably am.

My miscarriage in October made the latter part of the year a bit of a blur.  This kind of loss is weird.  It’s not like a break-up, when you have someone at whom you can direct your anger and hurt.  It’s nobody’s fault, so you have to just sort of move on and get past it.  I don’t know how to grieve this way.

Then, only 6 weeks or so after my miscarriage, I got this…

…and I wasn’t sure how to feel about it.  Of course I was happy, but also scared and worried and a bit in disbelief.  The holidays came and went, I announced the pregnancy to my family and a handful of friends, but I couldn’t help but think about the fact that if the first baby had stayed, we would have been finding out the gender by then.  I totally distracted myself with online shopping during the month before Christmas, buying gifts for Evelyn’s birthday and for Christmas itself.  I didn’t allow myself to become too attached to this new little being and I felt like this cloud was hanging over us.  I didn’t take pictures or videos, which is completely unheard of for me.  For the first time since Evelyn was born, I just didn’t feel excited about much of anything.  This is a pretty depressing pregnancy announcement, isn’t it?

I’m still trying to work my way out of that funk and it’s been hard because I have also been physically unwell.  I am planning to write soon about my first trimester, but to make a long story short, I have been in physical pain for months (back, sciatic) and have had multiple illnesses over the past few months (shingles, influenza).  It’s been a rough year so far, but I am trying to move forward.  I will be starting physical therapy sessions next week and I have slowly recovered from the other sickness that has had me down.

I am looking forward to Spring and to many happy occasions that my family will be celebrating this year…graduations, a wedding, our baby.  I’m working on my spiritual growth, which is something that I have neglected for far too long.  I hope to be posting here more often again and I am finally starting to feel attached to the new little alien in our lives.  Evelyn is insisting that it’s a girl and we should be able to find out for sure in a few weeks…and it’s nice to finally see a light at the end of this dark tunnel I have been walking through.

 

Complete Lack of Focus, aka, Running to Stand Still

Photo credit: Amanda Sandlin
Photo credit: Amanda Sandlin

I swear at times I have ADD.  My thoughts swirl in all directions and I have trouble focusing on a single goal.  I start an activity and then as my mind begins to wander, I think of other things that I need or want to do and I switch tasks.  In the end nothing gets completely finished.  Or, my mind becomes so overwhelmed with the number of things I’d like to do (or should do), that I end up sitting on my couch, wasting hours on the internet, accomplishing nothing.  I’m a whirling, swirling, flurry of activity and I’m at a complete standstill.

This morning it occurred to me while I was wasting another hour of my life scrolling through Pinterest with no real goal in mind, that my problem right now is not that I have a lack of focus, but that my focus is on myself.  I’m trying too hard to figure out what to do with myself now that I am a stay-at-home mom.  But, it’s really not about me.  I quit my job 2 months ago so that I could be a mom.  Not so that I could be a blogger, or write a book, or makeover all the rooms of my house, or preserve all the food to get us through the winter, or embark on some new exercise program, or learn how to use my camera, or sew a million dresses for Evelyn.  Didn’t I just write a post about how we can’t have it all, all at the same time?  I’m in this place because I want to be the best mom that I can be.

Now, I am not saying that doing any of those things is bad or that a stay-at-home parent can’t be an amazing parent and do those other things at the same time.  I believe that we all need to have a way to exist outside of our roles as spouses and parents and I believe that I will get there eventually.  I just don’t know what that is for me yet.  When I was preparing to leave work, my mind was buzzing with all of the things I would love to accomplish that I couldn’t really do while working full time.  Now that I have extra time to do some of those things, I don’t even know where to start!

This blog has always been fun for me and for about the past year I have been thinking about ways to build my audience and possibly use it to make extra money for our family.  But, once again, I have become so overwhelmed at the crazy amount of work that entails, that I have come to an impasse.  I don’t want to stop contributing to this space, but I don’t want to make it my job, and most of all, I want to stay true to myself and to my family.

So, I think it’s best for me to start back at the beginning, back to basics, and focus my energy where it needs to be…my faith and my family.  Everything else is just icing on the cake.