Friday, January 31, 2014

one more memory

I rush through my shower and then run to Ainsleigh. She is screaming in her pack n play in the family room. She was asleep when I set her down, but she is awake now and mad. I need to settle her because Bennett is in his room trying to fall asleep and if he hears her he will get out of bed.

I pick Ainsleigh up and sit down on the couch to rock her back to sleep. I was in such a hurry I forgot my glasses. Everything is a blur as I sit on the couch and try to calm Ainsleigh down. I think about the busy evening ahead. I listen for Bennett. I think about how warm and inviting the room is when the sun floods in and lights the yellow walls.

And then it hits me: this is where we had the rocker when this was Charlotte's room. Way back when we first moved in the yellow room was the guest room, then it became the nursery when we found out Charlotte was on her way.

I glance down at Ainsleigh, who is still fussing a little, and wish I could move time somehow so that I could experience rocking my first born in the room that was meant to be hers. I wouldn't need much time, just a few seconds to create one more memory.

Ainsleigh won't settle so I set her on the floor in the living room to kick around for a while. Bennett calls it her exercise time. Ainsleigh plays with the baby activity gym we bought for Charlotte with a blue blanket we bought for Charlotte underneath her. We moved furniture, we switched rooms, we built a life with the babies that were born after our first, but there is no denying the fact that there should be one more. Charlotte is everywhere in this house, even though she doesn't live here.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

on worry and learning curves

Ainsleigh will be three months old tomorrow. We've spent most of her life like this. Ainsleigh is a mama's girl.

J calls every evening as he's leaving work to ask if I need anything (groceries, diapers, dinner). This evening I said "dinner is cooking" when he asked. The surprise and amazement in his voice when he replied, "really?!" made me realize I haven't been doing very well in that category. Thankfully J doesn't mind my inability to keep up with things. (We have run out of toilet paper TWICE since Ains was born. That's the first time I've done that!)  He just rolls with the chaos.

We have a routine, and we are settling into life with two, but there are still challenges. Food is a big one. Bennett eats a lot and his dietary needs are complicated. Lately the days I set aside to cook and freeze food for him have been filled with appointments for Ainsleigh. I should do it at night, but that's my time. I need that time to stay happy.

I know these days will soon be gone. I know Ainsleigh won't need me like this forever. I worry about her. I wonder how much her hearing loss affects her. We had a busy weekend. Ainsleigh has been fussy and needy the past two days and I wonder if it's because of too much social interaction. I know all babies get over stimulated, but I think Ainsleigh gets there faster and has a harder time recovering.

I worry about Ainsleigh a lot, but J tells me to let it go. He says we'll learn everything we can now and then if difficulties arise we will (hopefully) have the tools to address them. I know he's right, but I am a mama and I am a worrier and I excel at combining those parts of my personality. I think some part of me is still back in the room where we received the diagnosis trying to process what this means for our family. It's hard because most of the challenges won't be known for a long time. I am a lot of things but patient is not one of them.

We're slowly learning what Ainsleigh needs now. She cannot stand being held with her back to a room. She fusses if her right ear isn't in a good position. If you approach on her left side and she can't see you coming she'll get scared because she can't hear you either. Ainsleigh is already a master at compensating for the loss, but we have a steep learning curve and we don't always know what she needs. But that's true of all babies, right? They do their best to communicate with us, but we don't always know what they are asking for.

I'm really tired and I just lost the thread of this post. How about I end with this: Ainsleigh is three snuggly baby months old. I waited so long for this.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

why I love instagram & facebook

This morning I woke up at 8, Ainsleigh curled up next to me as usual. I fed her in the quiet of our room while J controlled the toddler breakfast chaos downstairs. As Ainsleigh nursed I picked up my phone to see what was going on in the world, but it was out of battery.

I looked around the room. I watched Ainsleigh slowly wake as she filled her belly with milk. I thought about how I should sit with her like that more often. Ainsleigh is days away from the three month mark. She will be sitting up within a few months, then crawling, then walking, then speaking. So much happens in one short year.

Striving to be more present is a daily goal. I always want to be here for my kids. In the moment. Loving on them, enjoying their individuality and the unique traits that make them who they are. I'm a stay at home mom because I want to be involved in the development of their lives and characters (and that is in no way a slam on those who work outside the home).

But I've got a little secret: I LOVE social media.

I do.

I love, love, love it. 

I like Instagram. I like Facebook. I'm still working on my relationship with Twitter. We have pretty serious communication issues. I really like text messaging.

I lean on social media.

I do.

It's the perfect tool for a slightly social introvert like me.

I use it

on the hard parenting days

when I'm feeling lonely

when we receive life altering news 

when I need to tell someone I love Charlotte

when I have good news to share

There are moms scattered all over the world who have walked some difficult roads with me. The only way I can connect with them is through social media. I live thousands of miles away from them, but I get to watch their lives unfold. I get to cheer them on and be there when things fall apart. I get to watch the babies they longed and prayed for grow up. That's incredible, isn't it?

Thanks to social networking I can squeeze in a little adult time for myself between diaper changes, meal preparations, and gun battles (every toy is a gun when you are a two year old boy). And the encouragement - oh my lands the encouragement! - that I receive from a well timed e-mail, a verse sent via text, a quick note via Facebook or Instagram. I've found a community of women who understand where I've been and where I'm at. Some of us share the same faith. A lot of us have lost children. Most of us are in the thick of parenting.

I like being able to post a picture of my kids in the middle of a crazy day because it forces me to stop and look at their faces. As I crop and pick a filter, or think of a caption, I look at their faces and am overwhelmed with love. They are my purpose, my life revolves around their needs and wants, but being able to step away for a few moments and connect with a friend can ease the isolation that comes with raising little ones.

I like to think I'm pretty good about putting down my phone and playing with the kids. I probably won't delete the Facebook app off my phone, but I try to save looking at it for nap time. And when quiet moments like this morning present themselves I try to take every advantage because it nurtures a different part of my soul.

Friday, January 24, 2014

on hearing tests, grief, parenting three, and a full life


The room is quiet. Ainsleigh is sleeping in my arms. I start to drift off a bit.

"You look tired today," the audiologist's quiet voice interrupts my state of near sleep.

"I am." I acknowledge. "I'm really tired."

I shift in my chair a bit, but not too much because Ainsleigh has to stay asleep and the testing equipment is delicate. The audiologist returns to her notes while I try to stay awake.

All of the fluid from birth is finally gone so we went in to see if Ainsleigh can hear anything on her left side. After that appointment the audiologist and doctors have termed her loss left-sided deafness. If we SCREAMED at Ainsleigh she might hear a little bit on that side, but it's also possible she wouldn't even hear that. We have a big appointment for her eyes in February (a normal precaution, they should be just fine) and then we get a nice break until May when we go back in for more hearing tests.


Tuesday, my first speaking engagement in months:

It was at the grief and loss class at a local college I've spoken to before. Each time I speak the dynamic is different because the class sizes shift, but the people are always kind and open to hearing about my experience with grief. I think this was my fifth or sixth time doing this. I've lost track, but I know I've done it often enough that I hardly need my notes anymore.

Speaking drains me, but it's encouraging too. It gives me a chance to talk about Charlotte and what happened to me when she died. If you have the opportunity, and if you are brave enough, I think it is the best therapy out there. The question and answer time can be rough because I never know what people are going to ask, but I just put on my big girl pants and answer as honestly as I can.

I have this huge, overwhelming desire to do more of this. I feel like I'm using Charlotte's death in a positive way when a future social worker asks me what to do if they have a client who has lost a baby. I can tell them how to approach the situation, what not to say, what to say etc.

Every day I put that dream and hope in God's hands. I believe He will open more doors for me when, and if, the time is right. Hard as it is to admit, I don't think that time is now. Having one commitment a couple times a year is plenty right now. My hands and heart are so full with these living babies of mine. I thought I was going to show up in my jams on Tuesday. That morning was SO hard. I always say I am raising two, but I parent three, and that morning I was in the parenting three trenches.


Those are the big events that happened this week, but there were a lot of minor things too. My mom stayed over last night. I was able to get a little extra sleep and shower uninterrupted this morning, which is such a nice break. We're having a slow, quiet day after our busy week. I took the kids on a short walk around the block, Bennett still in jams, so we could fill our lungs with fresh, cold air.

I like talking about grief (as much as one can enjoy the topic) and spending time with people, and there are so many necessary appointments right now, but the introvert in me craves days like today when we don't have anywhere to be or anything to do. When we sit on the couch, listen to music, look at books, and enjoy each other's company.

As I write Ainsleigh sleeps next to me while Bennett sleeps in his room. He fell asleep while playing, which has never happened before.

This is normal life, but every now and then I break from the sweetness and step into the bitter air of grief so that others may see what sorrow looks like on a person. But I know - oh do I ever - how blessed I am to cuddle my living babies after sharing their sister with a roomful of compassionate strangers.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

you can spend your whole life trying to find her

How do you know you are finished having children? How do you close the door on that part of your life when your job doesn't feel done, or done well?

Last night J and I were talking about having a living baby girl. How it's changed the landscape of grief, made it more difficult and complex. As layers of hope and joy are etched into our hearts we see what we missed out on four years ago in a new and clearer light.

"It's huge," I said last night. "I mean, we had a baby girl and she died."

Sometimes the enormity of what we experienced still has the power to knock me off my feet. And then I understand why people stare at me with jaws hanging open when I say I have a child in heaven.

It's not supposed to be like this. We do not expect to outlive our children.

I look at Ainsleigh, who is almost three months old and doing so well, and I think, I could do this again. I could have another one. I could grit my teeth and make it through another pregnancy (and how lucky am I that I can choose to do that? I am so blessed with the ability to conceive and carry children. I know so many who want to, but have difficulties). I could. But I don't want to.

What I want is to stop feeling like there's a space to be filled. I want to look at Ainsleigh and Bennett and feel good about being done with that particular part of my life instead of feeling like there's another baby waiting for me.

There will always be a baby waiting for me. Always. I could have 16 more children and I would still see the empty space Charlotte should fill. That won't go away. And wishing it away feels a little like wishing Charlotte away. Which is not the case at all. I'm just tired of missing her. My living babies ease that ache some, but there is an impression she left behind no other baby can fill.

Pregnancy and birth hold so much trauma for me. I needed Bennett to help me go on. I needed Ainsleigh to restore a broken part of me that was convinced I couldn't keep a girl alive. And knowing what they would bring into my life allowed me to push through even when I thought the fear and anxiety was going to win. But I don't know what a fourth baby would bring. Aside from more joy, work, noise. I can't see how another baby would heal, but they do, each one that comes after mends some piece of my soul.

I think I'm working through packing away that part of my life. I really do think I'm done having children, but I don't like how that part of my life unfolded so I am reluctant to put it away. I want all three of my children here. I want a nearly four year old, a two and a half year old and a three month old running around this house. I want it all. That wish won't go away. Even as I wish for all three I am (mostly) content with what is. With who the Lord chose for us to raise.

I will never understand why Charlotte couldn't stay. I'll always live under the shadows of the mystery that was Charlotte's life. You can say it's my fault for where she was born, or you can say it was meant to be, or you can find three thousand other platitudes or words of blame to throw at me, but no matter the reason or cause the core fact is that Charlotte is dead. And I spend every day integrating that fact into my life and learning how to live without her.

Friday, January 17, 2014


Ainsleigh is sleeping really well at night, but I'm still very distracted and forgetful.

- After Ainsleigh's ultrasound yesterday I went across the street to Costco. She was upset after the appointment so I fed her in the car then put her in her car seat without buckling her. I was planning on buckling her in once I had her settled in the cart, but I forgot. I was a few blocks into my journey home when I looked in the mirror and saw that she was unbuckled.

- I can't manage menu planning, grocery shopping and getting dinner on the table. The menu is planned. The shopping is getting done. But having dinner on its way to being ready when J gets home is so challenging. I'll have everything ready, but then I will forget to defrost the meat, or pizza dough, or whatever else I need out of the freezer. I've done that twice this week.

- This morning I decided to brave the germ infested library. I was showered, the kids were fed and dressed and the library was just opening so I thought, why not? Mornings are really hard for me. Getting the kids up and out the door if we have to be somewhere is difficult. I pray for patience. I try to stay calm. I remind myself that being late happens. But when our appointment is in ten minutes and B is screaming as I try to put his shoes and jacket on and Ainsleigh is crying because she doesn't want to be in the car seat I get frustrated. I try to do things that don't have a set time so I don't feel that urge to be on time.

B cried about going to the library, but when I said we didn't have to go he cried about that. Toddlers are really hard in that regard. The crying and sudden emotional outbursts over the smallest things make me a little crazy. When we got to the library I parked, unloaded everyone and everything, and then ... I put the money in the wrong meter.

I stood there for a good two minutes muttering "shoot!" and trying to decide what to do. B thought we were playing a game. He picked up what I was saying and began using it: "Shoot, mama! ha-ha-ha ..." I was out of coins so I couldn't just put money in the correct meter. I didn't want to put both kids back in the car. But I couldn't leave B alone in the parking garage while I remedied the situation. I don't trust him to stay where I put him. One little glimpse of something shiny and he would have been gone with no thought of safety. I finally left Ainsleigh in the stroller by the meter, put B in his seat unbuckled, and quickly parked in the correct space.

I'm getting used to the chaos that comes with two. I don't like how forgetful and distracted I am, but it won't last forever. J doesn't get dinner some nights - or he has to make it! - but at least I have entertaining stories to share every evening. These days feel so long, but I know they're not. And I am so lucky to spend every day with these little people who make me forget all the small things so I can focus on the important ones. Like love, and slowing down, and the joy that can be found in the everyday.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

stir crazy

We've been staying in more than usual because of the horrible flu bug that is everywhere. A lot of our regular activities are off the docket for now. We haven't been going to story time, though we are going to church which is just as bad. If only toddlers had the ability to keep their fingers out of their noses and mouths ... We were going to get haircuts from a friend today - B looks like he doesn't have a mother, he is well on his way to dreadlocks - but I gave us food poisoning Sunday night.

A little bit of advice: if you have a memory lapse and leave an entire bag of groceries in the car throw away the chicken! Don't listen to the internet when it tells you all will be well so long as you cook the chicken really well. I cooked, then shredded, then baked the chicken so we didn't get as sick, but it was still pretty awful. Bennett was the lucky one, he ate the most and wasn't affected at all.

This morning I decided to get us up and out for a walk. I've been so irritated and Bennett has been difficult because we've been staying home a lot. (We have about 8 weeks of flu season left, how are we going to make it?!?) And when we're not at home he's in the care of someone else while I haul Ainsleigh to various doctor appointments (where the flu germs congregate, of course). 

It's hard to keep a toddler busy. The tricky thing about toddlers is that they need something to do at all times or else they will begin destroying things. They're a bit like puppies in that way. Another issue is the incredibly short attention span of the average toddler. You can try 15 Pinterest-inspired activities (and fail miserably at all of them) only to realize you've wasted a measly hour AND your house looks like the craft fairy went on a bender then regretted said bender for hours afterward. That much effort should result in HOURS of entertainment, but it never works that way.


So we aired our lungs this morning. In the freezing cold. Now B is resting (and he's not screaming so maybe he is actually resting!!) Ainsleigh is sleeping and I need to figure out dinner. I've been feeding everyone homemade soup, but I think we're ready for something a bit more substantial.

 I have pictures of Bennett crawling up these steps *sniff*

Sunday, January 12, 2014

night terrors

Since we welcomed Ainsleigh home Bennett has had horrible night terrors. Every night he wakes up crying and nothing we say or do calms him down. I don't know if what he is having are actual night terrors because he does wake up, but whatever he is going through is awful to witness.

Bennett used to wake up every night and come upstairs to us. That was our routine, we were all used to it. But since Ainsleigh's birth his coming upstairs routine involves a lot of drama and wakes the house up. I have no idea if this is just an adjustment period, but I want it to stop. It makes me sad that he is upset but won't let us comfort him. We use Calms Forte before bed some nights, but he refuses to take it when he's really upset in the middle of the night.

We've been struggling with naps too. If Bennett naps the night time routine is a nightmare. We switched over to rest time, which was really going well, but now he's refusing to be alone in his room. I leave the door open with the baby gate up and the light on, but he still cries and yells, "Save me!"

It's so frustrating when I want to get in a 20 minute workout during quiet time, but all I can focus on is his screams of, "The dog scared me! Save me!" Do I think the dog barking outside really scared him? No. Do I think he needs saving? No. But if I think there is a slight chance B is scared or upset I go to him. That's reason # 500 why cry it out sleep training methods never worked for our family.

Some nights Bennett is so upset I just stand and pray over him because I have no idea what else to do. Other nights a pat on the back is all he needs. He goes right back to sleep, no crying or screaming. Every night at some point he wakes up and has a hard time settling. J is good with him. He can usually get him calm and back to sleep upstairs with us in a few minutes. So I guess we're dealing with it but I want it to stop altogether.

B doesn't sleep very long before waking anymore. He used to make it to 3 am or so, now he's with us by 10 or 11 most nights. At least the going to bed routine is fairly easy - so long as we skip his nap. The two hour (or more!) bedtime routine we were going through before we moved him to the toddler bed was brutal.

I have no idea why B struggles so much with sleep. Well, I have a bit of an idea. I think his allergies make it difficult. He is always itchy to some degree, even with the very limited diet we have him on. And before we knew what he was allergic to his sleep was always disrupted because he was miserable. Bennett spent the first months of his life too itchy and uncomfortable to sleep well and I think that's really affected his sleep patterns.

Last night was particularly bad. I was at a total loss. J was understandably frustrated. Both kids were awake, it was late and I had no idea what to do. Then I remembered how I used to calm Bennett down when I would find him crying in pain in the middle of the night, his face bloody from where he had been scratching: music videos. So I found a video of Billy Joel singing Lullabye and we sat on the bed in the dark and watched until Bennett was calm enough to go back to sleep.

As I sat next to Bennett last night I patted his leg - which made him scream, of course - and reminded myself that this will not last forever. It's difficult, some nights are very long, but most nights as soon as he is with us he settles. And J is the one who deals with it night after night. I don't know what I would do without him.  I think Bennett will grow out of sleeping with us by the time he is three or four. And by the time he's six or seven I'm really going to miss it. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

ainsleigh girl

Yesterday J and I took Ainsleigh to OHSU to see a pediatric ENT. We received some good news at that appointment. The hearing in Ainsleigh's right ear is exceptional. It is so good the doctor is doubtful she will struggle with speech development.

Ainsleigh definitely has some degree of hearing loss in her left ear, but it's difficult to tell how severe it is. The cause of her hearing loss is unknown, but a genetic link is unlikely. In the doctor's opinion something - an event as he called it - occurred sometime during early pregnancy which caused the hearing loss. An MRI might give us answers on what happened, but there isn't an urgent medical reason to put Ainsleigh through an MRI. Since doing so would include sedation we have decided not to pursue that avenue for now.

The doctor we saw yesterday encouraged us to look at what we have: a very healthy girl who just happens to have hearing loss in one ear. Ainsleigh is fine. She is developing well. She is growing. She is cooing, smiling, and laughing just like a 10 week old should. We will be tracking her development closely - our pediatrician will be helping us with that - but all of the early intervention we initially thought we needed will most likely be unnecessary.

Of course I keep going back to that "event in early pregnancy" phrase because it makes me think of Charlotte and how we'll never know what happened to her. This morning I took Ainsleigh to the pediatrician. When the doctor asked how I was doing I said, "Oh, I'm fine. This is not all that surprising. My babies all have problems. At least she's alive." And it's true, at least Ainsleigh is here, fussing next to me as I type this.

There is more testing to be done (hearing loss can mean other organs and systems are affected) but right now the results are encouraging.


sweet Ainsleigh is growing well. She routinely sleeps 6-8 hours at night! and is weighing in at 11 lbs 4 oz.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

missing charlotte

I can hear them breathing: B, Ains, J. I didn't think we would all crash in one room, but we do. Night after night. B is like a pack animal. He needs to be where his people are to sleep well. And I have to have Ainsleigh close to me.

I'm awake because I had my support group tonight and my mind is in overdrive. As it always is after a meeting.

This May will be four years since Charlotte died. (Remember when I counted the days? Every Friday kicked me in the heart. Every 14th made me cry.) Four years!! And I'm still a holy mess.

I'm still trying to figure out how I ended up here. Mostly content. Often happy. Alive. I'm still trying to figure out how my heart kept beating, how it managed to do its job even as it shattered.

Heartbroken. That's a funny concept isn't it? If a heart were to literally break the possessor of said heart would die. Maybe we use that term when referring to the day our children died because it feels as of we have stopped living. Even when the heart continues to beat some vital piece of us is always back there, living that moment of trauma over and over and over.

I miss Charlotte. I really miss her. I miss the person I never got to know. I miss the baby I never got to rock. Lately I've been calling Ainsleigh Charlotte. It's like my brain has been wanting to send this name forth for years and having a girl baby has released whatever mechanism was keeping it in check.

There are three million ways to miss a person. But how many ways can I miss someone who barely was? How do I explain what I'm missing? Are there even enough words to explain the enormity of what is gone? The firsts alone would take me weeks to write down.

I miss her. I miss her laugh, her cry, her smile. Even though I have no memory to draw on. Impossible though it is. I miss the person she was meant to be.

I don't usually sleep close to Ainsleigh. I like to put my head near her feet. I sleep better that way. I don't worry about her safety. But tonight I'll sleep with my head right next to her. I'll count every breath until I drift off. I'm so glad she lived. I'm so glad I don't have to miss her.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

connecting pt.two

I have a few more thoughts after reading through the comments (thank you) I received.

Every year or so, maybe more often but I think it's about every year, I have a blog crisis wherein I wonder who is reading and why. So maybe just drop a comment on me every six months so I can stop feeling that way :)

I want to make sure people who read here and don't want to comment don't feel like they have to. I absolutely understand wanting to remain anonymous and in the background. I also want everyone who did comment to know I appreciate you for patting me on the back and soothing my junior high anxiety. I can be a little insecure, and having a new baby makes me even more so.

After writing last night's post I thought: oh hey wait, who am I supposed to please? Who is supposed to encourage me? Who is the One who will always be there? Where should I be getting my affirmation from?

Even though I write a whole lot of words about a whole lot of stuff my main focus is always my faith. I hope that comes across. I don't beat it to death here, but I hope it is known that I love Jesus.

Tomorrow we begin a series of appointments to ascertain what exactly is happening with Ainsleigh and how exactly we can help her. Even though I know she will be fine I am still feeling uncertain and worried. And that's where having people who are thinking of us helps a lot. When we walk into our appointment tomorrow I will find comfort in the knowledge that we have prayer and a lot of love behind us.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

connecting (and the giveaway winner)

The winner of the book giveaway is dejah. Email your contact info to so I can send it to you! 


I used to pay attention to my page views. I used to monitor them. I used to be interested in them. Then I felt like I was caring about something really silly so I stopped checking them as often. Every few months I check in to see if I've had any growth, but most of the time I leave the numbers alone.

I was looking at my stats recently when I realized something: I have a steady stream of visitors, but few people comment. I'm pretty sure comment seeking is frowned upon in the blogging world - it does seem rather needy - but I appreciate comments because it lets me know I am connecting with people.

If no one read I would still write. I would. I'm not just saying that because I think I should. Writing here is a really healthy way for me to process a lot of stuff. But when I share a post like I did a couple days ago and get few responses (a couple on facebook, none here) I wonder if I should switch to writing just for myself.

It's hard sometimes to select the 'publish' button. My family reads this blog. As do my friends. And my husband. It's really uncomfortable for me to think about that, so I don't. I push the thought of who is reading aside so I can share honestly and without over thinking.

But maybe I should think about what I write. Maybe I should write about different things. I don't really know who my audience is. Am I a loss blog still? Or a mom blog? I know I'm not a fashion blog. We can definitely check that one off the list!

I don't know if I'm explaining myself very well. I want to connect with people. That's why I write. That's why I keep coming back here. I just want to make sure we are connecting. If that makes sense. I want to know who in the world is reading here. I write for no one, and yet I want to know someone is reading. I hope that doesn't come across as self involved (though blogging is pretty self-centered isn't it?).

If I know what posts people like - more about loss, less about living children, more about living children, less about food, etc. - I can focus on those topics. I'd like to know if the commenting platform makes leaving a comment difficult. I had Disqus installed for a while, but received so many complaints I removed it. And if you want to read without commenting, if you like to read just because, that's great. I don't want to force people to comment, I just want to know if there is anything I can do to make this space less lecture hall more community meeting.

And now I am going to bury my head in Gilmore Girls and hope this post came across okay!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

our story/part four

This is an ongoing series where I periodically post a partial or whole chapter from the book I'm writing. This evening I counted 15 complete chapters. I think that calls for a little celebration.


I hate myself. I hate how I look. I hate how I feel. I hate my attitude. I've never been fat, but I've always felt fat. I've struggled with how I look, which is so unoriginal and common. I could write one thousand tangents about culture and image, but that's not what this is about.

This is about me, and how every ounce of self-loathing I carried spilled out of the box I kept it in the day Charlotte died. Everyone struggles with image. There is at least one thing everyone – even the narcissist – hates about themselves. As a species we are always trying to improve and better ourselves. I have never struggled with my weight, but I have always hated how I look. I've often wished I was thinner and more toned. Smaller even. I've always wanted to take up less space in the world. This wish gained prominence in my life after Charlotte died.

I bought stock in the idea that if I was smaller I would be better. I would belong. My school days would have been easier. My life in general would have been easier. There would have been less mistakes, fewer embarrassing moments, and more accomplishments. When Charlotte died my insecurities ballooned and took over my life. I coped poorly. The first weeks after she died intense grief rendered me unable to eat, but I soon regained the ability to eat massive amounts of food when stressed.

I didn't lose all of the weight I gained with my first pregnancy before beginning my second. When I see pictures of me after Bennett was born – on our holiday card, on my blog – I stare at my round face with shame. I don't take pride in my body for carrying and birthing children. I hate it because I feel like it let me down.

Bennett's birth was traumatic. I didn't watch what I ate, or how much I ate, after he was born. When I was four months postpartum I contracted a horrific flu and dropped quite a bit of weight in a short amount of time. I began walking with a neighbor. The walks were long; an amazing panacea I did not know I needed. I poured my heart out as we walked the broken sidewalks between our houses and downtown.

Friends are with us for seasons. Some are with us for short seasons, others for many. In that season of getting my feet under me as a mother to a living child and learning who I was going to be – because becoming a mother really is akin to shedding one self and adopting another – I needed her particular wisdom and kindness.

Walks with that friend eventually developed into mornings at the gym with another friend. (Until we both conceived and spent most gym mornings with our heads hung low, breathing shallowly, trying not to hurl on the treadmills.) I worked really hard to get to where I wanted to be and by Bennett's first birthday I was there. My weight was less than it had been during my university days and I felt good about myself – possibly for the first time since my teens. I was fit, which mattered so much more than thin.

In January of 2013 we went to Hawaii. Shortly after our trip I found out I was pregnant with Ainsleigh. I went a little crazy food-wise. I can justify eating a lot when I am stressed and I justified myself in and out of the grocery store and through drive-thru lines like a person possessed during my third pregnancy. I was scared to death to be pregnant again. And when my gut feeling that our third baby was a girl was proven correct via the mid-pregnancy ultrasound I went beyond scared to death. I don't even know what that place is called, but it exists, and let me tell you it is bleak and dark.

During Ainsleigh's pregnancy my thought process went something like this: I did everything I possibly could during Charlotte's pregnancy to keep her safe. Look what that yielded, a dead baby! I am going to do what I want because I'm stressed and scared. Something has to make me feel better. Something has to ease the anxiety. I'll eat whatever I want. Bring on the cheeseburgers, tacos, and deli meat. I don't care.

I didn't care about myself. I didn't care about how much weight I gained. All I wanted was to get through the pregnancy. I didn't think about anything but doing whatever I felt was necessary to get through to the end. Caring meant investment. I invested in Charlotte. I put my whole damn heart into that pregnancy; into making sure I did everything possible to grow a healthy baby. It didn't matter. She died anyway.

The summer after Bennett was born, when he was nearly a year, I joined a local support group for parents who have lost babies. When I was nearing the end of my pregnancy with Ainsleigh a mom spoke about how we make choices because we want to avoid grief, but at some point one has to put down the cookies, or set down the glass of vodka, or walk away from the countless avoidance tactics one employs to hide from emotion, and deal with the grief which is causing the behavior.

Those words were so convicting. I don't know how to do that. I've worked through a lot of my grief, but I've hit a wall I don't know how to get around or over. I want to like myself more. I want to take better care of myself. But when I have a hard day – when Bennett is difficult and Ainsleigh won't stop crying – my thoughts turn to food. I wonder what I can eat to ease the pressure in my head a little bit. I hope eating something will make me so happy I'll stop hating myself. Because that's the core of the issue, right? I don't like myself, so I don't take care of myself.

There is something about the pain of losing a child that brings forth every insecurity. I don't know if I'll ever be rid of the feeling that I did something wrong. That I fell down on the job. That I failed Charlotte. I'm trying to work out how to stop calling myself stupid. I'm trying to turn to prayer instead of food. Friends instead of food. God instead of food. Love instead of food. Kindness instead of food. There are so many things and people that can lift the spirit. I want to reshape my habits so I love more and eat less.

Part of grieving is becoming a new person. The transformation can be positive or negative. Now that I have two living children I want to make sure my transformation is positive. I want my children to see joy, peacefulness, and contentment when they look at me. I think it is okay to show them sorrow. There will always be elements of sorrow in our lives. The story and life of their sister will always be spoken of and shared, even though it makes us cry.

But I want the everyday mama my children interact with to speak joy and find happiness as often as she can. I want them to grow up knowing they are beautiful and loved, and that God is the ultimate comforter. I want them to know they don't need a crutch to make it through the difficult times, but if they want to use food every now and again when things get rough that's okay too. I have to change my attitude and words until what I want them to know becomes my heart truth.

Charlotte's death has forced me to grow immensely. I'm not the person I was before she died, and I'll never know what I might have been like had she lived. When I take the time to really look, to peel back the layers I put on as protection and defense, I see a person I quite like buried beneath the avalanche of negative words I pour on myself daily. It is okay to love myself. It is hard to do, but I am learning how so I can show my children the way.


Friday, January 3, 2014

where I belong

I am so tired. And I can't even blame Ainsleigh. Last night I went to Saving Mr. Banks (excellent movie) at 10:00. I have two friends I spend a lot of time with. One of the things we enjoy doing is going to the movies. We saw Catching Fire just after Ainsleigh was born, but we managed to convince our husbands to release us for another night. J never complains about my movie nights, but it's hard for one person to handle multiple kids at bedtime. The 10 pm showing was a good time since it let us get the kids settled, but I usually go to bed at 9:30.

We thought we would be fine seeing a late movie then meeting up at 8 am for the play day we arranged a week ago, but we were all pretty tired this morning. When I was trying to switch car seats so we could take two vehicles instead of three I was glad to have friends who are a little more put together than me. I often feel like the least put together person in any given crowd, but I'm okay with that.

We had a good time today even though we were all exhausted. We went to a great indoor play place and let the kids run around - we have eight kids between us (plus our babies waiting for us in heaven), finding a place everyone is happy can be difficult. When we got back to my car and I failed at switching car seats again I thought about how lucky I am to have friends who step in when I need help. And they usually help me with much bigger problems than moving a car seat.

Friendships wax and wane. I have a couple friends I've known ages, but not many. My closest friends (I think I'm too old to say best) I met after Charlotte died. I wish they had known me before - I used to be so different - but maybe we wouldn't be friends if that were the case.

I think I'm too tired to say what I want to say which is basically this: I am surrounded by people I can be honest with. I don't have to pretend I have it all together. I can talk about Charlotte if I need to. I can admit I'm having a hard day. I can be the least put together person and they don't mind, they just pull me along behind them.

I think it is vital for mothers to have friends they can just be with. We don't compete - though some bragging is allowed, we have awesome kids! We don't judge. And we don't criticize. We celebrate the small things, we cry over the big things (so many lost babies in our little circle) and we have a lot of fun.

So often in life I have felt out of place and out of step, but at this particular time I feel like I've found the place where I belong; where I was always meant to end up. I think that feeling is proof that the Lord guides our steps and is with us. Even when it feels like the dawn may never break there are beacons shining through the darkness. We just have to find them. Or if that's too hard, we have to be patient and let them find us.  


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