Thursday, May 31, 2018

morning reflections

At 5 am I airlift you over the high side of the bassinet and into my bed
You are still newborn enough it's awkward and I wonder what you make of being lifted high while your head slightly flops and your whole world shifts
You are restless, but I'm hoping for more sleep
I stretch my right arm out - the one that aches from 3 months of this
- overuse - my chiropractor said shaking his head when I walked in wincing and cradling my right shoulder -
I place your head on my tender shoulder and you instantly roll to your side, press your face to my neck, and enter a deep sleep
This is our reward for making it nearly an entire night on the recommended "seperate sleep surfaces"
In the beginning I strived to place you in the bassinet
The older ones slept with me as infants, but you seem content on your own so I work hard to deposit you in your bassinet, even as my head nods sleepily over your nursing body - curled like a tiny shell on a warm sandy stretch feet from a cold ocean -
At 28 days old - the number etched in my mind by the constant repetition of doctors with furrowed brows - you developed an upper respritory infection that knocked us all for six
Our anxiety rising like a tide as we were tasked with nursing you through your first illness
We held you upright through sleepless nights
Counting your breaths and willing you to continue breathing
Though we knew from experience willing a baby to breathe doesn't always work
When you were healthy again I continued sleeping with you in my arms
We were both comforted by the nearness, but I'd pray every night for safety
I'd scour the internet for safe bed sharing guidelines at 3 am when you woke hungry and seeking comfort
One night I read that mothers should only co-sleep if they would not feel guilt if their infant died next to them in the night
I threw my phone aside
Could anyone ever achieve such a lofty place of motherhood? A mountain top of achievement and enlightenment where guilt doesn't exist?
I already carry the guilt of one dead baby  I've been assured I can set it down by all the professionals and loved ones imaginable
However, after all this time, the critics who don't know me are the ones whose voices are the loudest
They encourage me to hold the guilt close. To accept fault. To shoulder the blame.
I've set it down a thousand times, but at their urging I always return to it and heave it into my arms once more
The next night I placed you in your bassinet
And you slept
Without me
Though I hardly slept without you
So when you wake for milk at 4 or 5 am I keep you with me
I don't know why my mind believes you're less likely to die between 5 and 8 am
But it does
And the hurting, broken part of my mothering heart that split into pieces when your sister died craves the comfort of a soft infant head pressed against a swollen shoulder
The pain reminds me I kept going through the worst pain of my life; that an aching shoulder pales in comparison to outliving a child
- A backwards order that should not exist, but if you take the time to ask you'll find many mothers without children, with less children than hoped for, with heaven side babies they wish to drag earthside, because while the fierce missing abates it is never entirely gone - 
Your tiny curled fists and squeaky sleepy noises are a reminder of the power of hope to carry one through the darkest most anxious moments of pregnancy and childbirth after death has visited a sacred time that should never be visited by such darkness
If you grit your teeth, if you rely on all your sources, if you take it minute by minute, it is possible to wade through the trauma of pregnancy and birth after loss and find yourself in this peaceful place where babies live and breathe and need you
I doze, never quite falling into a deep sleep, as the house wakes around us
Perhaps that's what makes me feel the early morning hours are safer than the middle night hours when sleep is deepest and caution overpowered by the basic need to sleep so the following day isn't filled with the harsh voice of a snapping sniping mother
Your dad is on the other end of the house
We - the mother / infant duo - always send him to another room for a few months
It creates a powerful us against the world feeling
Though we don't hesitate to tiptoe through the dark house - bare feet burning from the cold tile floor we must cross to get to him - if the night feels long and sleep hard to come by
Your siblings sleep next door
Not all of them
One of your sisters is busy with heavenly things
I'd like to think she's waiting for us, but I'm fairly sure the waiting is our task and burden to carry
But two of them are next door
Your face will light up when you see them in a couple hours
I'll feel full of joy as we all tumble out of warm sheets and begin our day
As we rise I thank God for your life
That we made it another night with all of our lives intact
Eight years ago I confronted the temporary fragility of life
I learned breath can crumble in an instant
That ceasing to be can happen fast as a thunder clap and resonate through those who are left for years and years and years
You have two sisters, dear heart, I whisper as the sun begins to rise
You'll always have three siblings though you'll only know two
We'll always be surprised by you, darling unexpected one
And I'll always believe you were sent to us by a wise God advised by a loving sister who knew we needed another dose of the healing only a baby can bring

Friday, March 23, 2018

answered prayers and a child's worry

Harper has her first cold. That's what happens when you have older siblings! She's been congested and coughing on and off, but fever free and still doing all the necessary newborn things.

This morning I was snuggling with all of the kids in bed when Harper began coughing. B looked at me with worry in his eyes and asked, "Will she die from a cold?"

"Oh honey, no! Absolutely not." I said. "She's fine, she just has a little cold."

When Harper was born I realized how much mental health work I've done since last January.. I did not expect to see that work bear fruit during a very traumatic experience, but it did. Hard work with a counselor plus a whole lot of prayer and a deep knowledge that God was present in the hospital room where Harper was born, resulted in a calm birth where I was able to maintain focus and a feeling of peace.

Here is a short list of prayers that were answered before or during Harper's birth:

- The week before Harper was born I prayed for my labor signs to be very clear. I wanted someone to tell me I was in labor / be at least a 6 before getting the epidural / be sent from the doctor's to the hospital, but I figured that was unlikely / impossible / never going to happen.

When I went to my doctor's on the morning of the 1st to discuss induction on the 5th I was shocked when my OB said, "You're having this baby today! You're 7 cm. Go to the hospital, get the epidural and then they'll break your water."

- I was apprehensive about going through the traditional labor and delivery admittance process, but being sent to the hospital from my doctor's clinic allowed me to bypass triage and go straight to a room.

- I stayed at 7 cm for 3 hours while waiting for the epidural and I stayed calm! I refused to progress because I was terrified of delivering without an epidural. All of the work I put in with my therapist proved useful and helpful. I kept my cortisol levels low and my meditative breathing was so effective I dozed off while waiting for the anesthesiologist to finish his emergency c-sections even though I was contracting on and off. I was so worried I would have a panic attack while in labor, but instead I was in this other worldly state of calm. I did not create the bubble of peaceful centeredness around me; that was all Jesus.

- When the epidural failed to work on one side I prayed, "Jesus, fix it. I don't want to feel strong contractions. The anesthesiologist came back and fixed the epidural so it was fully effective. I said, "I am literally praying this works" and when he came back 20 minutes later to check in I was happy to report my prayers were answered.

- Pushing was quick - 10 minutes - AND I did not hemorhage!!!! I was scared to push because the medical staff kept mentioning Harper's head position not being optimal, but pushing was easy. And when they said bleeding was normal I couldn't believe it. 

During labor my doula said, "I hope this is a healing experience for you." And it was! Ainsleigh's birth redeemed the postpartum period for me - though I did still bleed a lot and needed extra recovery time - but Harper's birth redeemed the entire birth experience for me.

I've felt amazing the last three weeks - physically and mentally. I haven't been as weepy as I usually am during the immediate postpartum period and the anxiety I've carried with me when the other kids were small is hardly present. When it does appear I have the tools to tamp it down and move on.

But I see the shadows of my anxiety in the haunted questions B asks. And I understand now that my next hurdle is teaching him how to live without those shadows even though he has co-existed with them his entire life. Being the first child born after unimaginable loss is not an enviable position, but now that I'm mentally healthy I can begin to change the tides for him and everyone else in our family.

I doubted God's vision and wisdom for our family when I found out I was pregnant again, but I see now how desperately we needed this sweet girl who looks exactly like her sister Charlotte.

harper finley

Harper was born March 1st at 7:46 pm. Her birth was by far my easiest; God answered so many prayers and was very present during my labor and delivery.

Harper was 7 lbs 5 oz, right in the middle of B and Ainsleigh's weight. She is beautiful and healthy.

We are so in love!!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

35 weeks

Okay, we're not quite at 35 weeks, but on Tuesday I will be so I'm claiming it now.

I haven't written very much about this pregnancy because life is waaaay busier now than it was when I was pregnant with B and Ains.

I'm in the middle of the last month slog: twice weekly non-stress tests, iron infusions, chiropractor appointments, therapist appointments, baby preparations. I've had some mild contractions, and one quick trip to L & D for anxiety soothing, which is enough to make me want to have everything ready by 37 weeks. Which is 2 weeks from now.

The house is in complete chaos as Jon is refinishing the floors in the baby's room. All of the baby stuff is in our room and it feels like we're on the brink of a Hoarders episode. I just need everything settled and in its proper place so I can feel like I have a tiny bit of control over things.

This pregnancy has been so interesting as I navigate the (frankly) unfriendly waters of traditional OB care. I have thoughts and opinions about standard OB care now that I've tried most maternity care options available.

One thing that really bothers me is that I have had absolutely no emotional support from the OB. If you have a patient who has had a full term loss shouldn't you check in on their mental well being sometimes? I am lucky to have great support - including a therapist and doula - to ask those questions and assess those things, but what if I didn't? The amount of self-advocacy one has to take on in the standard medical care world is burdensome. To add in mental health on top of that seems so overwhelming. And I feel like if I tossed out, "I'm really struggling"at the end of one of my 10 minute appointments the OB would not be sympathetic / would say the wrong thing / would say something trite in her rush to get through patients.

I miss midwifery care. I have seen one on and off throughout this pregnancy when the OB's schedule is too full, but the appointments are so rushed and everyone is very to. the point.

Weight fine. Baby fine. Growth fine. Heartbeat fine. Any questions?

It feels like a very rushed fast moving system and I don't like it at all.

The kids are excited about the baby, but at the same time we're starting to hear some "I don't want to be a big brother / sister" hesitation. We're starting to slow down on homeschool - I have 5 appointments this week alone, there's no time - and I think the kids are sensing the impending changes.

I don't think anyone is ready, but we need to get to that place soon because we only have five weeks - or less - before we meet our third baby girl.

I'm going to spend my afternoon getting a pedicure and buying the last few baby things we need. A little break before the busy week ahead.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Loved Baby WINNER (s)

I updated the post, but haven't heard from either winner, so I thought I would post an update here!

Since I have 2 copies of Loved Baby and 2 entrants I decided to give away both!

So - SLM and ldybugdancer shoot me an email @ with your address and I will ship it out to you!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

23 weeks // hospital tour

 I was going through "next steps" with my therapist when I mentioned the paperwork I need to fill out and the childbirth classes / hospital tours that are offered.

She told me to take a hospital tour. We had a long conversation, but what it boiled down to was this: you need to walk in and see if you have a panic attack before you are in labor. And if you really struggle you need to walk through at least once more.

Therapists are annoyingly practical.

So I asked my doula if there was any way to have a private tour, because touring the birthing center with a passel of happy / first time / not panicking parents sounded like absolute hell. I am very lucky that my doula teaches birthing classes and gives tours at the hospital, so I was able to walk through with her and one other doula instead of a big group. Thank you, Jesus.

Good news: I didn't have a panic attack! In fact, I felt fine throughout the entire tour and I was able to get all of my questions answered. I still don't want to have another baby, but .... I think I can get through it.


the local hospital now offers nitrous oxide for pain relief / help with labor anxiety. Talk to me about this, friends! Please! I need more information. It sounds very intriguing, but I'm hesitant because I don't think I've ever used it before. Maybe once at the dentist ...? but I'm not sure.

I am not thrilled about getting an epidural, but I am also not interested in stalling out at 8 cm for the third time because the PTSD kicks in and I. just. can't. go. forward. So maybe nitrous is a good option to have on the table.

Little babe is 23 weeks along now and things are progressing as usual: the kids have felt her kick, which is very exciting, I'm super uncomfortable / in pain, and next week brings another round of OB and MFM appointments.

I feel like the holidays are going to come and go quickly and then I'll be faced with the baby coming a fast couple months after that.

SO - if you've had experience with nitrous in labor, tell me! (Unless it's a super awful horror story. I just can't go there right now). I want to be as prepared as possible for this completely unpredictable event. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

loved baby: book review & giveaway

I had intentions of posting this review during pregnancy and infant loss week, but I forgot about how turtle-like I become during October when I'm pregnant.

Loved Baby by Sarah Philpott is a well written book of devotions about pregnancy and infant loss. Philpott covers topics from miscarriage to stillbirth to pregnancy after loss to living a childless life to adoption. She takes the many strands of pregnancy and infant loss and weaves them together to include all who have lost under an umbrella of hope and love. And each devotion is full of reminders of the hope and love of Jesus Christ.

I wish I had a copy of Loved Baby after Charlotte died, but even now, 7 years after she died, it has been a helpful and comforting read. Loved Baby is a thoughtful, meaningful book to gift to someone after they have lost a baby.

Thanks to the Blog About Blogger Network I have a copy of Loved Baby to give to you.

Leave a comment if you would like to enter to win. I'll select a winner on Sunday November 5th.


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