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.

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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)

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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.