Thursday, October 29, 2015

Permanently Broken

I hadn't been to Rachel's grave but maybe twice since August 4 and Matt hadn't been with me for a visit in I don't know how long.... so on the 3rd, we took a trip together, just him & I.  I had picked up a pretty mum plant for her and for our porch here that looked like little pink daisies.  The weather was decent, which was good because there was a lot to be done.  All of the stuff there was either dead or broken so we replaced the daisy lights and cleaned everything up.  The one good thing about 'things' is that they can be replaced or fixed.

I was brought down memory lane from when we picked her stone out.  I was 7 or 8 months pregnant and standing on the ground that would eventually hold her, talking to the monument guy about what we were hoping to get her for a stone...  It was late in the season for dandelions, but I looked down and there was a little yellow flower right where she would soon be buried.  The same thing happened on this visit. ♥

It's interesting, because I was due with Asa two weeks before Rachel's 1st birthday - and yet the dates lining up that time didn't seem to be as heavy on my heart as they are this time.  Maybe I was still in survival mode, being in my first year of grief, but for some reason, this pregnancy is bringing me serious flashbacks that didn't happen with Asa.  At times, I forget it's not her in me because everything feels so similar.  It makes the pain feel raw again in ways it hasn't in a long, long time.

I didn't know yet in these pictures that I had poly, but it's kind of obvious when I look at them now seeing as I was only 28 weeks here... 

So, I felt better, leaving her spot looking clean and loved... and here I am almost a month later and haven't been back once to take care of it... so I know it's looking yucky again and it's weighing on me.  I was going to go this morning, but I ended up coming back home because I needed to rest and car rides tend to put me in serious pain these days.

Continued prayer for my poly and pain levels and also for the baby's safe arrival are appreciated.  I also covet your prayers for my heart and mind.  These days are hard every year, but this year is feeling especially heavy as I await Rachel's youngest sibling's arrival... and I'm starting to get the feeling that year 5 just might have been a hard one anyway.  I'm missing so much with her. :(

I'm actually starting to wonder if it ever will be consistently easier.... I have moments of 'easy' but 'hard' always returns and honestly, I'm pretty tired of it.  I'm worn out from the hard.  I just want easy.... like life was like before I knew any of this pain.  I am tired of feeling so broken.. and even more tired of feeling like I can't be put back together.  Tired of knowing how impossible it is to replace her or to mend the places in my heart where her absence is felt.

I know I have seen great and amazing healing throughout the last 5 years and I'm thankful for that. God has been more than good to me and provided more than I deserve.  I just wasn't prepared for the permanently broken aspect of this journey.  It was easier to handle when I was naive enough to think it was temporary, like the rest of the world often believes about grief.  But it's not.  It's permanent.  I still believe it has a beautiful purpose in God's plan for my life... but I just wish I didn't have to endure it.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

All of Me

In September of 2010, we went to a beautiful beach in Maine to take pregnancy photos with Rachel.

Last week, we went back to that beach to take photos with our little E.... My friend Amanda took them for us as a gift.

Being there felt surreal.  I didn't remember anything about the drive or how to get there - I only remembered parking on the side of the road, explaining to Kelly (the NILMDTS photographer) why I I had the blanket and the little "hope" token with me, and what we can see in the photos we have.  It was just a month after her diagnosis when we were there with Rachel, so my mind was literally just trying to keep my body going.

I don't think I realized how much so until we went back last week.  Driving there and realizing I had no recollection of any of it reminded me of just how heart wrenching my news about my little girl was and how hard it was to walk through those days.  I had different 'props' this time... this time it was my Rachel bear that is the weight and length Rachel was (and ironically the estimated length and weight this baby is now in my womb) and a picture of her to represent her in the photos. The emotions going there were a reminder of just how much of this burden is on my shoulders alone... but also the great gift of how much I have gained in knowing her. The pain, though, is so real and so... still here.

It's been 5 years.  I'm pregnant again and have had two other babies since her.  Everyone assumes I should feel better and just be able to think about the new baby.  And new babies are 'happy' and 'exciting' and no reason to be scared....  Everyone wants to talk about it - and I'm "supposed to" want to talk about it too.  But I don't because I can't answer like people want me to.  And if I do, I'm faking it... and that gets so tiring.

It's not really that I don't want to talk about this baby.  It's not that I'm not excited or happy about this baby.  It's not that I'm *only* fearful about this baby.  I'm just not what most people are when they are pregnant.  I don't feel like I'm 'expecting a baby' as much as I'm 'waiting to see if I'll get one' because I have no false sense of security that just because my belly is big and baby is dancing around that I will have a baby come home with me in 3 months.  And I can't answer a question, even as simple as "when are you due?", without feeling the conflicting emotions - and the questions that inevitably follow are even harder to hear and answer with grace, like a normal, undamaged person would.

Every once in a while though, someone asks me that I know is safe to share the burdens of my heart with - someone who has held their lifeless child and then waited for another - and it's such a relief and actually helps me to feel closer to this little one.  Today was one of those days and I really needed it.  But you know,  I'm SO tired of being needy.

I'm so tired of being unable to be there for other people. Tired of not being able to follow through with the things on my heart.  I'm tired of being so bad at so much in life.  I'm tired of everything being so complicated in my mind and heart.  It seriously makes me wish I wasn't me.

I've never enjoyed pregnancy - hormones have always been hard on me - but since Rachel, I can't even put words to how difficult it is for me to be pregnant...  and this time, being due at the same time as her, has me in such a similar place as I was when I was carrying her - yet nobody thinks I should be, expects it, or gives any room for my feelings in regards to it.  I'm tired of failing and tired of feeling hurt, tired of letting people down, and really tired of being bad at being Rachel's mama, so I'm just hiding out and trying to press into God.

Back in August when I was walking through another August 4th heartache - and waiting on this baby's 'routine' ultrasound, I came across a song called "All of me" and wished I would have heard it when I was carrying Rachel because that is how I felt about her.... but last night as I was editing the photos from last week, I went to pick a song to put on it and came across it again. It might seem like an odd song to put on a pregnancy photo shoot movie, but it's where I'm at as a mom....

I want to give this baby all of me too, like I did with Rachel.  I don't want to sit back, knowing I could lose again, and not make use of this time with my child because I'm afraid of the pain.  I don't want to miss it twice.  And I know enough to know that no amount of attempted detachment will ever remove the pain if something did happen to this baby, but probably only add regret too.

And so I'm trying to take the next 12 weeks and celebrate this little life while it's here so that if it's gone tomorrow, I won't have regrets.  I still probably won't enjoy answering questions.  I'll still probably continue to hibernate until my head is in a better place and I can be a better friend.  But I'm going to be more purposeful about bonding with my little E.  I've been talking to him/her more and started looking around for a going home outfit and blanket.  And just like with Asa & Ezra, who both came with similar difficult emotions - and Rachel, who didn't come with the ending I wanted - I know God will get me ready to meet this baby, regardless of the outcome.

"I'll trade the fear of all that I could lose, for every moment I'll share with you. You're gonna have all of me...."

Here is the video...  Thank you SO much Amanda for taking these!  I'm so thankful to have them ♥

Friday, October 2, 2015

Behind the White Picket Fence

Maybe I'm the only one, but since I had Rachel, when I look at pictures of my wedding day, I often think about how completely clueless we were as to what was in store for us.

I had an idea of what happened when you got married and added to your family and it didn't include heartache and dead babies.  It didn't include a constant struggle against sin and selfishness.  It didn't include brain aneurysms or autoimmune diseases.  It didn't include false friendships.  It didn't include most of what growing up and growing in the Lord does...  It didn't include being so bad at so much in life...  Mostly I just pictured a white picket fence, 4 kids, cooking and cleaning, baking cookies - and being able to keep a house clean and smelling fresh! - and things continually getting easier with time - not harder.  Growing up has caused me to learn that there is pain behind every white picket fence.

Often I'm tempted to feel like we've got it all wrong and that's why we continue to have hardships and trials - but the truth is, God never promised we wouldn't.  Some of the most dangerous and hurtful people are the ones who tell people that if they just have enough 'faith' and just pray enough and trust enough that nothing bad will take place.  Because the Bible doesn't say that.  It says that in the valley... in the pain and sorrow and death and sin that exist in this world, that God will be with us.  That He is enough.  That He can turn the ashes to beauty and make something more out of it all.  That we can trust HIM.  Not to give us what we want, but that He is in control of everything and has purpose, even in the things that hurt and are not what we asked for.

Sunday night I had one goal - to watch the "blood moon".  I heard it was so rare that it won't happen again for another 30 years.  It was supposed to be at the most spectacular from 8:00 - 10:30 pm.  That night, I was so overcome with sadness that I was too busy having what could totally be classified as a complete breakdown, that I never remembered the moon.  The next morning, I woke up to Isaiah telling me I *had to* come look at the moon.  I said we missed it and immediately was even more upset because it just seems like I can't get anything right - not even looking out the window at the right time.  I went to look and the moon was still big and beautiful.  It was nothing like what happened the night before, I'm sure, but it was still dark in the early morning hours and still looked as bright and round as a light bulb in the sky.  Isaiah was certainly satisfied with it....

I went to get my coffee and mumbled to myself, maybe if I'm still alive to see the next one in 30 years I won't be crying my nights away anymore and can actually see it.  And I just felt so hopeless - thinking that probably isn't likely.  That I'll either die from a heart attack or brain aneurysm by then or miss it again because that is just how my life seems to go.

I went outside with Ezra later that morning and saw that suddenly, flowers were blooming everywhere in my garden.  Plants that have been barren or dead for weeks - some longer - all had just one or two new flowers on them.  I have no idea if a 'blood moon' can make flowers bloom, but it was crazy.  My daisy mums were due to bloom, but to see the carnation standing tall - a huge Hibiscus out of nowhere - and the one purple flower in my pot that someone gave me for Teacher's Day months ago that has been dead for weeks and looking pretty sad for much longer than that... and even one of my day lilies was showing it's face...

I started taking pictures and one picture really captured my thoughts...  mostly because of the white picket fence in the background.

I have a beautiful home - it's small for us now, but when we moved in, I couldn't believe it was mine - I have the white picket fence. I have a house full of kids and get to stay home with them like I always wanted.  I have a hard working man who is a great and devoted dad.

I also have dead babies.  Pain.  Heartache.  Loneliness.  Marriage is hard.  Parenting is hard.  Good, loyal and true friends are rare.

I have a beautiful garden that I worked for years to make so it always has blooms somewhere through the warmer months - but I still have to face winters.  It's just the way life goes.  I never like winter better just because I can see it coming.  I hate watching things wither and die - and since I buried Rachel, I have developed a serious dislike of the hard, frozen ground and how the snow gets in the way on the roads on the days I need them clear the most.  My favorite season by far is spring because I love watching things come to life and bloom...  but I suppose I only love it so much because of the hard season before it that makes the new growth so refreshing and encouraging.

Right now I am watching the world lose it's color; it's life.  I'm seeing the beauty of the leaves as they die and watching them start to fall, leaving behind bare and plain trees.  The air is cool, the nights are longer and colder, the fun and light summer days are gone.  These days are always hard for me because I feel Rachel's birthday coming from August on - and I'm not sure if that will go on for my entire life, but I certainly didn't still expect it to be 5 years later back then... so I won't be surprised if this half of the year is always a long reminder of my days with her.  And being pregnant again right now... it's just so strange.  Hard to believe at times.  Hard to remember it isn't her at times.

I'm preparing myself for a long winter....  but I hope along the way God will give me splashes of color like he did on Monday to keep me hopeful because I'm struggling to feel it... to see it... to know it... that this season will eventually lead us back to the new life and growth of spring.  That death only stings for so long and eventually life will spring forth and with it bring the promise of eternity.

I remember when I was pregnant with Rachel looking at the falling leaves and hearing God whisper to my heart that I need to learn to bend with him.... and I'm in that place again.... needing to learn to bend and trust.  I also remember after she was gone how year after year he has used my garden to love on me as my heart has ached for her.

Monday when I saw all these beautiful flowers peeking through dry and withered plants I felt a sense of calmness wash over my heavy heart as he reminded me the control He has over everything and how He can bring life out of death and beauty out of pain - in unexpected places, at unexpected times.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Baby E Update

My appointment last month at Maine Med was... how should I put it... a nightmare.

After all I went through early on in this pregnancy with local doctors and with insurance - to finally feel relief and comfortable with the landing under Dr. Pinette's care, I went in for my last appointment with a lot of concerns I needed to address with him to find I had to see someone else.  This someone else is a new guy who... how should I put it... shouldn't be a doctor.  That's the absolute nicest way I can say how I feel about my short time with him.  It was awful.  Maybe he'll get better with experience, but yikes.

So then the nurse came in to schedule me for my next apt and I said I didn't want to see him again and she told me that I wouldn't be able to see Pinette anymore because he's on a different assignment now... and since I'm on the high risk side of the office, I don't get to pick who I see and that they can't even guarantee I won't get stuck with that guy.  I started crying and cried the whole way home.

And then my EKG I had that day came back abnormal.  I have been having a lot of heart issues again and last Sunday spent the night in the ER again - getting blown off by another bad doctor.  I swear unless you are an old man, Dr's don't take heart problems seriously.  Maine Med had referred me to the cardiologist after my EKG and I went for my appointment on Monday and he didn't even have the EKG that I was being sent there to review and blew me off saying "We both know there is no reason for you to be here" (as if I have time to go to unnecessary apt's??) And there is nothing they do for pregnant or nursing people anyway so call them in a year and a half when I'm done nursing and we can talk medication and scan my carotid artery again (it's 50% blocked which he didn't know until I told him bc he apparently didn't have time to read my chart before entering the room).  I asked if he could look at the EKG I had that was abnormal from before I was pregnant and he said "They must not have sent it over".  When I told him that HIS OFFICE did the EKG, he said "it must not have been scanned in, and wouldn't make excuses for technology, but it didn't matter anyway".  Then he asked how many kids I have and said "you have mostly boys, right?" (not sure how he knew that) and asked me if this was my last baby and I said yes to which he replied "Unless it's another boy?"

Is this guy serious??  He doesn't want to talk about my heart issues, track down my EKG - or even take the reason I'm there seriously - but he wants to analyze why I have so many kids, which he apparently thinks is because I'm trying for a girl?  First of all, I have TWO girls already.  Second of all, it's sort of none of his business.  Third of all, I'm about tired of everyone on the planet assuming that I would only have another baby for something as shallow as needing a certain gender. (try walking into the grocery store as me... it's sickening how many times people ask me if I'm trying for a girl!!)  I would love another girl, but I will absolutely LOVE another boy.  I have 7 children because God has blessed me with the exact little humans that He wants me to have - or miss - while I'm here on earth.  Might not fit this guy's picture of the "American Dream" (one girl, one boy, two jobs, a big house and expensive cars) but my dream has more to do with bringing home a living child that I get to raise, regardless of what's between it's legs.  I'm wondering why my insurance company needs to pay him for that visit?  I'm sure it wasn't cheap.

So, to put it MILDLY... I was totally DONE with doctors.  They are a joke and the one doctor I've found who actually puts his brain to use in his profession I've now been told I can't see....  in the middle of a lot of concerning things that nobody else wants to pay attention to.

I was going to just cancel my appointment for yesterday at Maine Med - but since I've been feeling so abnormally tired, I decided that I should go since it was my blood work and diabetes screening day.  I had enough conversations with the nurses leading up to this appointment that everyone was well aware of how unhappy I am about this new set up.

I went in for my ultrasound and it went well.  I didn't watch much bc it's getting harder for me to not see the gender since I've had hundreds of ultrasounds in my life and can read them well... but I have it on a flash drive to watch later and the tech was super nice.  She gave me some cute chubby cheek pictures, which have me seriously staring at them nonstop since I left there.  I am so in love...  I have *cute* kids.  This baby looks a lot like Asa!!

Then I met with the nurse, who gently prepared me for the other new doctor... she said "Give her a chance, I think you'll like her." and I was like "Well, she can't be any worse than the other dude...if you told me anyone liked him, I wouldn't believe you."  (hormones remove my filter which is why I tend to hibernate while pregnant - but she laughed so I think she agrees... just saying.)  I then let her know that, after this appointment, I didn't plan to come back unless I needed to be seen until I went into labor.  And that was my plan.  No more appointments just so they can make money and I can be dragged through the mud and waste my days anymore.

The doctor came in (and I did like her - Thank You, Lord!) and we started going thru my list of concerns.  She listened and answered them thoughtfully and seemed to actually know what she was talking about. (should that be rare?)  First up, I had written to ask her about my fluid.  I have just gotten so big this past month and between struggling to breathe and how I feel - and how HEAVY my belly is - I had a feeling I had too much.  Sure enough.... the ultrasound showed that I have Polyhydramnios (poly) again like with Rachel.

With Rachel, poly was extremely painful for me. So this probably explains why my back is on fire again.  It also explains why I can't breathe when I lay down and why I'm so big.  It was also my biggest concern with Rachel as far as making it to her birthday without going into early labor because the risks of premature labor are very high with poly. There are a few risks that I'm better off not knowing, but do - like placenta abruption, cord prolapse and stillbirth... With Rachel though, the fluid built up because she wasn't swallowing and the Dr. said that there is nothing wrong with this baby, that this is just a fluke thing that will hopefully stay under control long enough to get the baby safely here.

I think I believe her that the baby is ok - and yet I'm just wondering why everything has to be *so* much like Rachel's pregnancy??  The time of year, the ages of my kids, the drives, the complications....  I thought I was going to like it lining up with Rachel's dates, but I was so naive.  It's so hard.  So much harder than I expected.  I feel like I'm reliving it, except without knowing my baby is going to die.... and yet the constant reminder that my baby DID die.

But unlike people who have never buried a child, I can't just tell myself it won't happen to me again and believe that - because I know the fact is, I could leave the hospital again without my baby - even if I don't know it's coming.  And the hard part for me is that preterm labor and placenta abruption are the two big concerns I've had since I found out I was pregnant and if you have talked to me about how I feel, I'm sure I've said one or the other to you in the last 6 months.  I've been asking them to check if my placenta was attached right since I was 9 weeks along when they couldn't even see it yet.  I struggle with the knowing that God prepares us for trials by getting our minds and hearts ready for them.  These are not fears that I have had in other pregnancies so I have a hard time not feeling like I'm being prepared.  And I don't want to be prepared, I want to have - and keep - my baby.

The other aspect of this that just seriously complicated my life, is that I now have to travel (and find sitters for all day trips) weekly to Maine Med.  So my plan of no more appointments... yep, that isn't possible.  And not only do I still have to go, but I have to go every week.  The fact that a Maine trip takes up an entire day is bad enough because I don't have time or energy, but it also costs me around $20 in gas... and we don't have it. It's all just overwhelming.  Hard to believe it's happening, really.  I know God will provide, but wow....  And the trips... Rachel is on my mind the whole way.  This time of year is her time and making the Maine trips - those are her roads... it's so complicated in my heart.

When she said I had to come back weekly, I knew I did because I've dealt with poly before and know how quickly it can go bad - so I didn't debate her like she was probably expecting, but I did feel like I might seriously need a short stay at the crazy farm!  I'm already so busy and so drained!

I got my gestational diabetes test back today and, thankfully, I don't have it so that's not the cause of the fluid build up.  That's good news because that would definitely not help me get to full term.  So they will scan me each week and we'll pray baby stays in there and healthy, that the thing they found on his heart truly isn't worrisome and that this fluid thing isn't because of something wrong with him... and that (s)he comes home to be with us at Christmas time.  I'm feeling a bit nervous that I will end up having him/her on Rachel's birthday.  I really don't want to share her day with anyone.... the 4th would be okay though... it's a Friday ♥  I'm also nervous about my water breaking or having any bleeding (placenta issues) while I'm at home since I would never make the drive to Maine Med on my 7th delivery.  As a general rule, once my water breaks I have 30 minutes or less until the baby is born. And rumor has it when you get to #7, they only come faster... the drive is over an hour... So I would love prayer that my water won't break before I'm at the hospital.

As of yesterday, baby was measuring 2lbs 15oz and in the 76th percentile.  I do love being able to see what is changing in there.  I have been feeling pretty detached from this pregnancy because it's just been so hard - not just because of pregnancy itself, although I'm definitely feeling my age, this was MUCH easier in my 20's without a full house! -  but the stuff going on in my life through these past couple of months while I've been pregnant...

But I have to say seeing these chubby cheeks and squishy face makes me smile... I can't wait to hold this little (big) one.  Each and every life is a gift, no matter how small or how long they are here.  And every baby is a true piece of the mama, from day one.  I remain amazed at how intricately made each life is and how amazing a gift each one who makes it home from the hospital is.  In a world where thousands of people take that for granted every day as they leave with full arms, happy hearts,  and carseats buckled around tiny bodies, I will never - could never - forget that there are also thousands who leave broken hearted with empty carseats.  And I will never forget the day I did... which only makes the days since Rachel where I have left with my babies all the more monumental.

I hope this is another one of those times.

Some people wondered how I could be so sad to lose a baby I didn't spend my days with - but oh, how mamas love their babies so long before they are ever born.  Even having experienced it, I can't explain it or understand it, but it's so real and so huge that I'm not sure anything else in life compares to the love a mother has for her child from conception.  Rachel was my child before she was born.  She is my child now.  And this little chubba wubba is my child too and always will be.

And I love this baby more than life itself.

And I never posted pics after my last apt, so here are the ones from 23 weeks... (s)he has gained 1.5lbs in the last 4 weeks!  You can see it in the cheeks for sure!

this one reminds me SO much of Rachel's 20 week picture. ♥
hands near face