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.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

pregnancy after loss {the third time around}

I'd like to tell you it gets easier - and in some ways it does - but in many of the big ways it's hard because the trauma is still very much there.

This pregnancy I'm working with my therapist on managing my cortisol levels so I go into the labor / delivery situation calm and able to remain so. I think this is a very lofty goal, but we are working towards making at least some progress before the baby comes. I've been in therapy since January so I hope I am at least slightly better at managing my anxiety and stress.

I am slowly getting used to the idea of having another baby. I bought a car seat because it was on sale, and I found the baby swing I really wanted so I bought that as well - more on that later as it is a good story - but then my therapist tells me to tour the hospital where I'm going to deliver and I'm like, Oh no, that is NOT happening. This one is going to magically appear. Jesus and I have talked about this.

And then she's like, "No really, you need to tour the hospital."

So while I was wrapping my mind around that idea I put on my brave girl pants and began putting together a small baby registry and looked on Craigslist to see if the swing / seat I was hoping to find used was for sale.

I saw this swing at a friend's house and it was the most interesting / futuristic baby seat swing I have seen. It was fascinating and I said, "What is this? Where did you find it? I need one!" And then she told me she had bought it used because the retail price is $$$$$ and I immediately began looking for one. I can't even explain how different it is - look up the Mamaroo and watch a video.

Yesterday was my lucky day because I found one nearby and it was a reasonable price. I began e-mailing the seller and we agreed to meet up this morning. And then she sent another e-mail:

Just wanted to say, I saw the link in your signature of your email and it caught my eye because I lost 2 babies- I delivered twins at 21 weeks in 2015 and  just went through a very high risk/stressful pregnancy with my 8 month old little girl.  Congrats to you and hang in there, I know how stressful it is.

We e-mailed back and forth a bit about our experiences, and it reminded me that pregnancy and infant loss is everywhere. While I have felt like I'm meeting with a long series of compassion-less providers this pregnancy there are a lot of people who understand and are willing to spare a moment to send encouragement and kindness my way.

There's the friends and family who are excited and hopeful for us because we can't find the emotional wherewithal to get to that place yet.

There's the providers who are extremely caring and willing to receive my desperate texts about the possibility of private hospital tours because I am not interested in hanging out with shiny happy first time moms.

There's the sweet elderly lady from our old neighborhood who checks in every couple weeks via a phone call to see how the baby is and how I'm doing. She tells me she is praying for me, she says she is thrilled we are having another baby because we are wonderful parents, she tosses out name ideas and tells me the same few stories over and over again. Her phone calls lift my spirits immensely.

And there's the kids: B and Ains are over the moon about having a sibling. They love babies, they're excited to change diapers and love on a sister. Their excitement is carrying me through the darker moments of this pregnancy; the moments when I doubt if I can do this again - the whole shebang, birth to newborn days to raising another one - because it feels too overwhelming and hard.

Pregnancy after loss is hard, but it's worth it. I promise. Even though this is not what we planned. Even though we're still reeling a bit and trying to figure out what exactly we need and how exactly it's all going to work. Even though we can't agree on a name and it doesn't seem likely that we will. Even though being pregnant and facing another birth brings up a lot of trauma ....

It will all be worth it when we meet our new baby girl.

Friday, October 13, 2017

We're having another ...


I knew it!

That's 4/4 I've known the gender of from the beginning.

Baby girl is very healthy and growing as she should. I'm 19.5 weeks now, which I'm declaring as halfway through this pregnancy. 

I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this, but I'm not ready to go there today so I am just going to leave this as a very quick and short update.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

it's so different {what it's like to try every type of prenatal care available}

My pregnancy and birth history is complicated, which means I have never delivered with the same person or in the same location more than once. The constants at my birth have been Jonathan and my first midwife, but my first midwife has acted as a doula / support person / shoulder to cry on during my subsequent births.

Here's a quick outline of who I've seen and where I've delivered:

Birth # 1: Midwives only, stand alone birth center, all natural

Birth #2: Prenatal care from midwife and maternal fetal medicine doctor (high risk OB), hospital, MFM doc delivered, Pitoicin given, zero pain meds

Birth #3: Prenatal care from midwives and maternal fetal medicine doctor, different hospital from #2, midwife delivered, Pitoicin and epidural used

Pregnancy #4: Prenatal care from OB and completely new maternal fetal medicine doctors and clinic, hospital delivery (different from birth # 2 & 3) and ... who knows the rest. We'll see what happens, but as of this moment I am not planning on a natural birth because this mama has had enough birth trauma / let's try all natural / I can get through this with prayer and deep breathing etc.

This week I had an OB appointment and it was so impersonal. I went through the whole vitals check thing with the medical assistant and then after a while the doctor came in. She spent the visit reading the maternal fetal medicine doctor's notes, asking how I was feeling, checking the heartbeat and then that was it - after she asked if I had any questions.

I feel like I am floating out in the ocean by myself, guys. I know I'm not, but it sure feels like it. I have a GREAT doula and my midwife is going to do her best to be at the birth. Both are available for support via text, which I do require and use, but it's just not the same. I need tea, hugs, shoulder rubs, and heaps of understanding during a prenatal appointment. Ten minutes of interaction where the doctor mostly looks at her computer screen doesn't equal my favorite appointment.

If you need emotional support in pregnancy is that the best environment to receive it in? I'm not even trying because I have others to lean on, but if you don't have that is the ten minutes you get with the OB enough time to get out all the thoughts and feelings you have? And my next appointment isn't even with the OB! I see the nurse practitioner next. AND when I deliver I get the OB who is on call, NOT the one I've been seeing for my prenatal appointments. This system just seems all out of whack to me.

I'm sure some of you are reading this and thinking, I have the best relationship with my OB! We talk for hours and I feel so amazing after every appointment.

For me that is not the feeling I carry out of the office with me. I feel relieved the appointment is over (I hate that still moment - or ten - when the doctor is looking for the heartbeat) and surprised I was only at the clinic for thirty minutes.

This is my first pregnancy where the doctors I am rotating between don't know me and my story. They haven't walked with me for years. They don't understand just how anxiety inducing pregnancy and birth is for me. In fact, in the middle of our first consult the maternal fetal medicine doctor said, "Then we'll start non-stress tests, because that often helps with anxiety, but you, well, you seem remarkably calm."

I am excellent at pretending I am calm during appointments, but inside I just want to be done and get OUT, so there's a good chance the doctors will never know how anxious I am. (Well, until birth. Then I just lose my ever loving mind and any sense that all will be well) Holding all my feelings in is on me. I know that, but I am not a person who is going to open up about all my feelings during a twenty minute consult so I'm not sure that is going to change.

Now that I've vented for a solid twelve paragraphs I do have to say this:

I am so grateful for access to medical care, specialist doctors, insurance and hospitals. Thank you Jesus for options and help and doctors who care. It sounds like I think they don't care, but I know the ability to connect gets lost in the mess of our medical system. Doctors today are incredibly busy and under intense stress because our insurance system makes practicing medicine difficult and hard to navigate.

So yes, I am at sea here, but it's not like I'm going to have to deliver this baby in my backyard fifty miles from the nearest clinic with no way to get there other than my own two feet. I recognize and am very grateful for that.

This is just way more difficult to navigate than I thought it would be. I always try to be a normal pregnant mama, but that goes out the window as soon as I start the journey, because the truth is I have had a difficult relationship with birth and pregnancy. I hope as time progresses I connect with the OB a bit more, and maybe develop a relationship with the maternal fetal medicine doctor. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

here we go {homeschool / kindergarten}

Here is the thing about homsechool: I'll probably never know what I am doing and/or feel completely confident.

The first day I had to jettison the Bible curriculum I picked out. I read through the first lesson and Bennett said, "Huh?" And I said, "Huh?" Then I decided since he chose to participate in AWANA this year at our church that was enough Bible curriculum for his age and put the book in the back of the school cupboard.

We're keeping it simple this year, because Bennett is just 6, but I do want him to learn a few things and begin to enjoy learning.

To get an idea of what curriculum I wanted to teach from I read through the kindergarten chapter in The Well Trained Mind. The thing about The Well Trained Mind is that it appears daunting at 800 pages, but you don't have to read it all in one go.

I was planning on teaching Bennett how to read when he turned 7, which is late, I know, but I've done a lot of research and later tends to be better when it comes to teaching reading. However, when Bennett was finished with his second year of preschool he knew all of his phonics sounds and was beginning to blend words so I decided to keep the momentum going. We did a reading lesson every week or so during the summer, and he played the computer game Teach Your Monster to Read quite a bit, but we didn't start one reading lesson per day until the second week of September.

I tried Phonics Pathways and Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, but I struggled with the concepts. We switched over to The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading and the program just clicked for me. Bennett is doing really well with it too. The lessons don't take very long and require very little aside from index cards and the book. Having an alphabet board with letters does help. I put off buying one at first, but since I added it in last week the concepts are setting in a bit more. I am adding in sight word memorization as well because the book covers so few. I also read aloud from a long chapter book on school days.

Bennett's handwriting book is from Zaner-Bloser. I chose it because it's a continuous stroke program, which helps kids switch over to cursive writing. He is beyond the kindergarten book, which I did not realize when I bought it, so we are almost done with the first book. I think we will focus on copy work for the rest of the year and then move up to the first or second grade book the following year. Teaching a left handed child how to write has been challenging, but we're managing!

I also included a math program called Right Start, which the book does not recommend starting at the kindergarten level, but Bennett was very ready to jump into a math program. It was really hard to choose a math curriculum, and this one has him starting on really easy concepts he already knows, but the overall program seems like it will be a great way to approach math. I feel like it might even help me begin to grasp math, which has always been a difficult subject for me. I bought this curriculum from Rainbow Resource which has great prices. It has a LOT of manipulatives, so brace yourself for that!

Some days we do mazes, dot to dot or drawing to help with his fine motor skills, and I have a preschool science experiment book I want to start using once a week, but our core work right now is handwriting, reading and math.

Most days we complete Bennett's schoolwork in 1-2 hours (we can often get it done in about an hour on the days Ainsleigh is at preschool).

It's been a fairly easy transition. I know it's only going to get harder, but right now we both love it.

When I was going back and forth on whether or not to homeschool I wasn't sure it would be the right fit for us, but seeing where Bennett is at right now in his life, and what his needs are, I am certain it is right this year.

I'll let you know how we fare as the year progresses!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

surprise, surprise ... baby #5!

I know baby #4 was an early loss, but I believe every life matters so I am currently expecting our fifth baby.

Now let me give you a moment to recover from the shock ...

Still breathing?

(I'm STILL recovering)

I'm due in March so I'm a couple days shy of 14 weeks. In 5 short weeks we have the all important mid-pregnancy anatomy scan with the maternal fetal medicine doctor. Keeping this pregnancy under wraps has made it zoom by. I've been super sick, because that's how I do pregnancy, but I haven't thrown up as much as I normally do so that's positive!

Since I like to make things uber complicated I am delivering with an entirely new set of doctors. With the kids nearing 4 & 6 life has become a bit more complex: preschool, homeschool, gymnastics and church programs will fill our weeks this fall and I simply don't have time to drive 45 minutes to an hour to see my previous doctors. Also, my maternal fetal medicine doctor retired and the midwife that delivered Ainsleigh moved to a freestanding birth center.

SO - I'm trying a traditional OB this time and the maternal fetal medicine doctors at the local hospital. I've hired an amazing doula and my midwife from my first birth will hopefully be able to be there as a doula as well so I think it will all be fine. With this birth I'll have delivered in 4 different places without moving from our fine city, so that's something of an accomplishment I suppose.

Also planning on an epidural at 4 cm (is that even allowed?) because I am over birth trauma and getting through it and breathing and trying to go natural. Just get this baby out, please and thanks!

I wouldn't say we are excited, but I would like to get to that point, so we are starting to share about this pregnancy. Hopefully if others are excited for us we'll get on board. With that hope in mind I finally posted about the pregnancy on social media last night.

Everyone present thought this was a fabulous announcement idea, but we were on eclipse party day 3 and all feeling a bit rummy so our judgement was questionable. I *almost* didn't post this picture, because we all look a bit rough, but that's us! In our jams, un-showered (I was too sick to host people for the eclipse and shower; it was literally too much) at 10:30, hanging out in our backyard for a monumental event. We are not a well put together family at the best of times (why get dressed when you could be reading?) and this summer has been quite a mess with B going through a massive diet change and me feeling so ill. We went to the doctors in our jams more than once this summer, so this picture feels quite appropriate!

I believe God has a plan for our family and for this baby. And I believe our family is meant to have a third little one to raise, because that is the only way I can wrap my mind around this year of surprise babies. Everyone who has read here, or known me, or talked to me for more than 10 minutes knows the more babies question was off the table. Pregnancy and birth is so traumatic for me I couldn't fathom choosing to do it again. We have two beautiful kids we are raising and that was enough. But through Christ all things are possible, so here we are, expecting another blessing, and hoping we are done with surprises for a while.

Friday, June 9, 2017

honestly - it's been a hard year

This year has been full of brokenness and hard days.

Things really began in December of '16, but 2017 hasn't been easy. We're halfway to 2018 (isn't that crazy?) and I find myself unable to do much but hope the latter half of this year will be easier, because I don't want to imagine what other hard things might be coming.

I'm slowly coming out of a difficult few weeks of extreme illness. Like I have never before been so ill in my life. I know that is not a completely true statement, but goodness I have been sick.

Long story short:

My miscarriage left me anemic. When I finally went to the doctor to find out if I was low on iron I was told my body was so depleted of iron the blood test registered almost none present. My doctor put me on a HUGE dose of iron, which made me really, really sick.


I didn't know the iron supplement was causing my sudden disturbing symptoms.

I felt like I couldn't swallow.

I felt like I had a golf ball in my throat.

My stomach was upset.

I couldn't eat.

I had a massive anxiety attack because I felt like I couldn't swallow and it was the week of Charlotte's birthday, and the kids were really sick ... And I thought: oh dear me this anxiety issue has become a major problem and I should possibly be committed.

Then I lost 6 lbs in 4 days, a tremor developed in my right hand, and my heart was racing.

Oh, maybe not anxiety, I thought. Perhaps my thyroid problems are cropping up again. I called my doctor and asked for a same day appointment. She didn't have room in her schedule and her physician's assistant had recently quit so I was referred to urgent care where I found out that the golf ball in my throat was due to acid reflux and my thyroid levels were perfectly balanced.

Why in the world am I having crippling acid reflux when I have never had a problem with it before? I wondered. And why did I spend a week feeling like this before seeking help?!

Two miserable days later I finally traced the acid reflux issues to the iron supplement my doctor prescribed.

Every day I am off the iron supplement I feel better. (Well, I did until I tried taking my recommended multivitamin. That set me back a few days). The iron supplement destroyed my GI tract. I was only on it for a week, but it was a really high dose and my body did NOT like it.

The only good thing about all of this? I didn't touch caffeine for three weeks and I had hardly any sugar. Before this I would have said, impossible!, to three weeks without chocolate, but when every bite of food makes you miserable you want to avoid eating as much as possible.

Two weeks after my doctor referred me to an IV infusion center for an iron boost insurance approved the procedure and I head in Monday to get my first infusion. And I really, really hope it helps me feel better. And as more time goes by I hope all of the GI issues will settle and resolve. I still have to drink aloe juice 30 minutes before I eat to get food down and keep it down without getting knock me over acid reflux, but I no longer feel like I have a golf ball in my throat which is a huge improvement.

When I think about the stack of issues we are up against right now (B's health and mine primarily, gah it's all such a mess) I get overwhelmed, but in the middle of the swirling chaos that the last few months have brought I see God's presence and help in our lives.

I've written a little bit about going back to counseling at the beginning of the year. I'm still at it. Nearly every week. Yeah ... healing takes so. much. time. But a few things I've learned that have been SO helpful: how to breathe (I'm serious), calm myself enough to stop an anxiety attack (so useful) and use guided meditation when I a) can't calm down or b) can't sleep. It has been so helpful to learn how to manage my anxiety symptoms so I can function fully. Just learning how to use guided meditation (I just use YouTube to find guided Christian meditations, but there are apps) to help me get good rest has been instrumental to my survival during this month of illness.

This has not been an easy, or pleasant, process, but I hope at the end of all these health trials - whenever that comes - I'll be healthier mentally and physically. And in the meantime I am doing the in the deep trenches one day at a time dance, which isn't necessarily a bad thing for a worrier like me. Every day I have to evaluate what I can and cannot do, and the kids are learning to adjust their expectations of what I can and cannot do. It's not easy, but we're all hobbling through life together right now and the kids are learning flexibility and compassion.

This is my third health issue since December - broken finger, miscarriage, iron supplement nearly killed me (I'm kidding - ish) - but having so many issues is teaching me a lot about dependency and vulnerability and how to accept the limitations life sometimes puts on me.

After nearly four weeks of having problems eating / being unable to eat I am glad for the basics: food, having enough to eat, being able to eat, and hopefully soon - enjoying food. Right now I still feel wary about eating, but a lot of the anxiety that cropped up when the acid reflux crashed into my life has subsided.

I am so thankful B is done with school. The last week was pure misery for me; I could hardly function. I still haven't snapped his last day of preschool picture, but I'll get around to it. Maybe.

I've talked to many moms like me - worn out, neck deep in health issues, chock full of anxiety. We're so busy hustling and bustling for our babies and families we push ourselves to the back burner until we fall off the stove entirely and require extensive repair to get all the pieces back in order. Whether you're in pieces mentally or physically, or all of the above like me, you're in good company. There's a lot of us down here on the floor trying to figure out how to be healthier so we can continue caring for the ones we love with our whole hearts.

Don't forget to take care of yourself.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

year seven

I have a huge bruise on my right hip from zip lining with friends on Monday.

Can you believe I went zip lining?

6 days before Charlotte's birthday! 

With an anxiety disorder in my pocket (it's always there. I can't take it out, but I'm trying to make it less comfortable).

Because flipping out on a platform halfway up a very tall tree with no way down aside from a zip line sounds like fun!

Typically May is for hibernating, but that didn't make me feel better in years one through six so I thought I should try pulling myself together and living in May instead of suffering through May.

This year Charlotte's birthday falls on Mother's Day, which is making my head spin in ways I didn't know were possible (I think it's so overwhelming a thought I've mostly shut down and decided to ignore it) so when an opportunity to get away with my best girls came up I decided to go for it, anxiety disorder and all.

In utter defiance of the panic attacks that come weekly I packed the car on Sunday morning and said goodbye to the kids and Jon. As I drove to the resort I reminded myself I was going on a break, that it was going to be fun, and that I was lucky to have a chance to spend time with my friends without our kids climbing our legs and demanding our time (the five who went have 18 children here on Earth with us. That's a whole lot of needy babies!)

On Monday morning I ordered room service for breakfast because it is one of my favorite things. I don't care about the cost, or the fact that they overcharge, or anything logical or practical. I. love. room. service.

And then I met up with my friends and after scrambling into a harness with zero dignity and much confusion I climbed up a set of stairs on shaky legs, clambered onto a platform and threw myself into the beautiful cool stillness of a quiet Northwest forest. Oh wait, it wasn't quiet. I was with three other terrified girls; there was a LOT of screaming.

Oddly enough, I wasn't as scared as I thought I would be. By the end I was even stepping up for my turn without a topsy-turvy stomach and shaking hands. I was so busy focusing on what the guides had to say and how to keep myself alive I didn't have time to panic.

In therapy I've been working through the idea that I don't have control over my life, or the lives of those I love. I have a lot I am working through, but the issue of control is a whopper of a problem and the core of my anxiety.

Out there in the forest, soaring through the trees with the beautiful Columbia Gorge surrounding me, I made the choice to relinquish control and have fun. I couldn't zip line without the guides (not if I wanted to live) so I had to let go and allow them to be their job: a guide, a helper, a sign post.

At one point a guide was giving me directions and I cut him off. "I just want to go straight, please. I don't want to turn. Why are you telling me how to turn?!"

He put his hand on my shoulder and said, "I'm trying to tell you how to go straight. You're not listening. Just listen, I am showing you what you want to know."

I quickly shut my mouth, listened to his words, followed his instructions, and zipped down the line just as I wanted to (straight as an arrow, no spinning please! It's enough I am on this contraption, I don't need to spin in circles as I am flying down the line!!)

That interaction was my entire life encapsulated in thirty seconds of instruction.

I spend so much of my time in a STATE of upset I miss what I need to hear. I am so busy trying to solve and manage things on my own I don't see the helping hands all around me. I am so determined to sail the ship and keep all the people alive I forget it is not my job, nor am I able to do so. It doesn't matter how hard I try, or what effort I put forth: I cannot keep the people I love alive, well and safe. Coming to grips with that, which I am still in the process of, has been one of the more difficult things I have done.

The last few weeks I've been hearing the Lord urging me to pick up my Bible, but the lethargy of grief and the buzz of anxiety knocked aside His voice.

Why pick up my Bible when I can spend an hour on Instagram? Why pick up my Bible when I can watch Netflix?

Why pick up my Bible when I am so anxious I can't take a deep breath? Why pick up my Bible when I feel completely lost in the wilderness?

This time of year there is always a bit of a war between God and I and it always comes back to the salient fact that He did not answer the way I wanted Him to when I cried out for Him to spare my baby's life and give her back to me.

So I always circle back to this question:

Why pick up my Bible when you didn't save my baby girl?

But last night I listened and picked up my Bible.

This is what I read:

Psalm 27: 1-2

The Lord is my light and my salvation
whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life
of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 34: 4

I sought the Lord and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34: 18

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

After inhaling those verses last night my anxiety scaled down a bit. I'm still jittery as all get out, but I have confidence I can get back to a manageable place soon, and maybe even a healed place someday.

Last month I read a book called The Lucky Few. I wrote a review on it, but I am going to re-post part of it here because I need the reminder.

When Heather and her husband are struggling with the medical issues stemming from their first daughter's open heart surgery she breaks down over the stress, which leads her dad to remind her that God is in control:

"Heather. Heather Elizabeth. Every breath she will ever breathe has already been accounted for. Nothing you do or don't do is going to change that, Heather. God's got this ...

There it was: life-giving, life-changing truth. We had sat in the hospital in the shadow of death. Now we were home, and that same shadow was knocking on my door, but the truth of my dad's words drowned out the racket that death was trying to make.

The truth my dad spoke that night was branded on my heart. And as the days and weeks and months and years went on, I would say the words out loud whenever I needed to drown out the fear that death would whisper in my ear.

'Every breath she will ever breathe has already been accounted for. Nothing I do or don't do is going to change that.'"

In four days I should be celebrating my first daughter's seventh birthday. Instead I am navigating another year without her. A year that has brought new challenges and incredible valleys I found impossible to navigate solo. But it's also the year when I found the courage to live in May. It's the year I dared to say, I need help, and I am listening, and I feel anxious, and will you walk through this with me?

And it's the year I found a little bravery, jumped off a platform and sailed through the forest with shaking hands and a quick tripping heart.

Every fear I confront is for Charlotte. I want to live my life well because she didn't get the chance to.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

the lucky few {book review}

I was reading through The Lucky Few by Heather Avis when I realized she lived the story I'm in right now. It's a story of letting go of how we expect mothering and parenthood to be, and who we thought would make up our family, as well as relinquishing control over everything - even our children - and giving our families to God so He can direct our steps in the way He wants us to go.

For Heather and her husband Josh, the journey includes the valley of infertility and the rocky uncertain path of adoption and parenting special needs children. Throughout The Lucky Few, which chronicles the Avis family's life as they move from a family of two to a family of five, Heather is honest about her doubts, hopes, fears and strong feelings.

I read The Lucky Few in one day. As I was finishing it up my kids were at the park with their dad, burning off energy before bed. Moments after I read the last words I could hear the arrivial of my family. Ainsleigh was screaming and crying so hard in the driveway I could hear her from the house. While at the park Ainsleigh slipped and fell in a creek. (She is fine, we took her to the ER to make sure, but our sweet girl had a terrifying experience last night.)

As I held Ainsleigh in my arms in the ER waiting room I thought about the chapters in The Lucky Few when Heather and her husband are struggling with the medical issues stemming from their first daughter's open heart surgery. When Heather breaks down over the stress her dad reminds her that God is in control:

"Heather. Heather Elizabeth. Every breath she will ever breathe has already been accounted for. Nothing you do or don't do is going to change that, Heather. God's got this ...

There it was: life-giving, life-changing truth. We had sat in the hospital in the shadow of death. Now we were home, and that same shadow was knocking on my door, but the truth of my dad's words drowned out the racket that death was trying to make.

The truth my dad spoke that night was branded on my heart. And as the days and weeks and months and years went on, I would say the words out loud whenever I needed to drown out the fear that death would whisper in my ear.

'Every breath she will ever breathe has already been accounted for. Nothing I do or don't do is going to change that.'"

I know this isn't a straightforward book review - mine usually aren't - but I believe God put this book in my hands so that when we were sitting in the ER waiting room I would recall Heather's words (and her father's) and remain calm.

I've been doing so much work on letting go of my kids and family and asking God to be in charge (because He ultimately is and I'm just wearing myself out trying to steer the ship solo) and then something like last night happens and it reminds me how close all of us always are to the edge.

I can't keep my kids alive.

I can be careful, vigilant, and mindful in my care of them, but I do not have the power to keep them whole and healthy. That is a difficult truth, but it is one Heather Avis comes to terms with in The Lucky Few as she watches God take control and grow her family in unexpected ways.

I enjoyed reading about Heather and Josh Avis and how they created a beautiful family with God's grace and guidance. 

I  received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, April 9, 2017

disaster falls {book review}

Just as I was going to pick up Disaster Falls and begin reading I miscarried. I put it aside for a while, knowing my heart and mind were not in the right place to read a book about child loss. When I flipped the calendar to April I knew it was time to try Disaster Falls again. I needed to read it before May and Charlotte's birthday and all the attendant emotions that come with her month fell.

I thought I would need time to read about Stephane Gerson and how he experiences life and grief after his son Owen drowns on a rapids trip in Utah, but I tore through the book in one afternoon. I was captivated by Gerson's story (how often do we get to witness a father's grief experience) and how he navigated his journey of guilt and grief.

In Disaster Falls Gerson explores his relationship with his father, as well as his father's history, and ties it into the greater story of his son's death, but it was the narrative of Owen's short life that captivated me. I can't always read books on grief and loss. Sometimes the stories are too close to my own, sometimes I can't relate at all, sometimes there is too much bitterness or anger for me to continue, but Disaster Falls is a well written story of a father who loses his son far too soon and how he coped with that loss and his feelings of failed responsibility.

The story of Owen's life and death is interesting and well written in and of itself, but Gerson's meditations on being a father to a surviving child, and potentially having another child, were the most poignant for me. In what might be my favorite passage Gerson writes,

"How would we carry the memory of a dead child while remaining open to the possibilities of a new life?
I wondered whether I would allow myself to experience the full immersion in parenthood that I observed in young couples. If so, where would this leave Owen? If not, if loyalty to his memory and fear of pain held me back, what kind of father would I be this time around? Children deserve insouciance and the belief in a better future and a world in which mistakes do not necessarily yield disasters."

Stephane Gerson's Disaster Falls is a book well worth reading whether you have lost a child or not. He writes about the trauma of sudden loss and what it looks like when a family loses an elemental part of its structure. Gerson also explores how loss, guilt and grief changes him, and how it is possible to move forward while still holding onto memories of the lost life after something unexpected and devastating happens.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

miscarriage {baby #4}

We lost a tiny one a month ago. A really tiny one, just a few weeks along. We were still in the whirlwind of what the ... that throws a wrench in about a thousand things ...

I haven't really wanted to talk about it. Less than a handful of people knew I was pregnant. Then a few more found out I lost the pregnancy when the process went on longer than expected.

But I can now confirm something I have always claimed despite a previous lack of personal knowledge: a miscarriage is hard in its own way. A just forming baby can be desperately missed and wanted. Equally so, a just forming baby can be a shock and a surprise, and the loss can lead to mixed emotions.

That's where I landed: mixed emotions and one difficult month that I'm only just on the other side of. It's not that I wanted a baby, or another pregnancy, or even another child, but once I had it - however briefly - I wanted, and expected, to keep it.

Pregnancy and birth is so traumatic for me I couldn't plan on having another child, but when we were surprised with one I felt the hope that always comes with new life. I also cried a LOT because I don't do well with change and another baby is a BIG change. I felt so confused for the few weeks we knew. I wasn't sure I wanted another baby, but I also didn't expect the pregnancy to end so early. I assumed I would come around to the idea of having a baby eventually. (That's why pregnancy is such a long process, right?) And just when I began to think about Ainsleigh and Bennett - who love babies - with a new sibling in the house, the pregnancy ended.

After the loss I wasn't craving a busy 1-year-old or a saucy 2-year-old or a curious 3-year-old, but I desperately wanted a newborn. That's exactly how I felt after Charlotte died and feeling that way again sent me in to a bit of a spin.

I was worried the feeling would last forever; that my certainty our family is as complete as possible this side of heaven would evaporate and I would once again question if we should have another. But then the feelings faded, after one very intense difficult week, and I remembered that the deep, dark feelings don't last forever, they just feel like they will.

There is no way to know, but I think #4 was a boy. I believe I have a daughter and son waiting for me in heaven. We didn't tell the kids about the pregnancy, but they knew Mama didn't feel well (I couldn't hide that!) and there was so much comfort in their tiny arms and beautiful lives as I miscarried and recovered. 

Losing this baby was a different kind of loss, but it was still a loss and I am so thankful for the people I told for allowing me the space to grieve and have lots of different feelings about the miscarriage. 

There is a small part of me that is reluctant to share this. This loss is a much quieter one than our first. One of my initial goals for this blog, which I've tried to carry forward, is to be honest so that others may feel like they can share their life stories. In that spirit I am going to share about the miscarriage, but I probably won't write about it after this post.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

living with food allergies

I have noticed over and over and over that it is impossible to truly understand the impact and challenges of living with food allergies unless you or a loved one are exposed to the struggle daily.

When Bennett had his reaction last fall to the new nut butter we tried my anxiety went into overdrive mode and it is just coming down now (mostly due to therapy). Even though his reactions in the fall ended with hives and did not affect his breathing at all, I have spent the past few months in a panic about Bennett and his allergies. 

When I am at the children's museum, or the park, or church, and a child has a peanut butter sandwich, or peanuts are served, I want to explain to people how hard and stressful it is to live with a food allergy. If you haven't been exposed to food allergies, or lived in close proximity to people with food allergies, it's hard to understand how frightening it is to see a parent pull a peanut butter sandwich out of a lunch bag.

And Bennett isn't even that allergic! His allergy is triggered by ingestion, thankfully, but it's still stressful to to take him to the park and other kid heavy places because he has a terrible habit of putting his hands in his mouth (we hand wash and remind, remind, remind, but this is a hard habit to break!).

Our friends and family have been accommodating, kind and thoughtful, but if I had to tell a new friend about what it's like to live with food allergies this is what I would say:

It is very challenging and sometimes heart breaking to have a child with food allergies. My son feels left out, he knows he is different, and it makes him sad there are so many foods he can't eat.

I spend a lot of time shopping for food and preparing meals my son can eat. Every time I shop I check labels, even if it's the three ingredient rice crackers I buy every week. Ingredients can change at any time and assuming a food is safe can have harmful consequences. Please don't feed my child anything from your cupboard or fridge or child's backpack without my consent.

There are restaurants we cannot go to because they serve foods cooked in peanut oil or made with peanut sauce. We have to bring a separate dinner for our son if we are eating out. We used to be able to go to two places and get him something from the menu, but he's been too reactive lately for us to try. If we want to "eat out" we either bring food for my son or my husband brings food home and I make a separate meal for the kids (this is what we usually do).

Holidays can be a nightmare. Finding food substitutes and safe options is hard and time consuming. (Last Thanksgiving Bennett had a smoothie while everyone else had a full turkey dinner.)

I have cried because I don't know what to make for dinner / I'm tired of eating the same five dinners that are safe for my son / I am exhausted from cooking.

I have also cried because I want to take my son out and enjoy a treat with him. Seeing pictures of parents taking their kids out for ice cream, a hot chocolate, or a cupcake because they wanted to do something special makes me sad and jealous.

Despite the challenges there are positives as well:

We are all eating healthier. I still eat the foods my son can't have, like wheat, but I eat way, way, way less than I did before. Nearly all of our dinners comply with Bennett's diet restrictions, which means at least one meal a day (and usually two because I often eat leftovers for lunch) is free of gluten, soy, corn, dairy (mostly, I do love cheese) and preservatives / food dyes. 

My son is learning compassion for himself and others. He knows what it is like to feel different and he carries heaps of kindness and empathy in his little heart.

I've learned a lot about cooking and preparing meals from scratch with a handful of ingredients.

And here's some ways you can help:

Be considerate and try to remember the food restrictions. I know this is really hard to do! Right now Bennett's list of restricted foods is so long it is easier to list what he can eat than what he cannot eat!! But the kids who remembered my son's food allergies on Valentine's Day and made sure he had a non-food treat in his bag made my day - not to mention his.

Think twice about bringing foods with peanut butter to kid focused places and events. For kids with airborne or contact allergies just breathing in or touching the allergen can cause anaphylaxis.

If you have a child with food allergies over for a play date:

- Please wash your child's hands and wipe the table down after they eat.
- Don't let them play with toys while eating unless you plan on washing them.
- Don't let them wander around the house with food (my son eating a small bit of peanut butter cracker off the floor when he was 9 months old led to an ER visit and his Epi-pen prescription)
- Musical instruments that touch the mouth are not to be shared (whistles, harmonicas etc.)

Parents of children with food allergies appreciate your kindness and consideration! It is so stressful to be in an environment where allergens are. When there is a safe place for us to drop our time consuming vigilance and let our kids play and make friends our whole family benefits.

Does your child have food allergies? Do you have a friend who has a child with food allergies? What is living with - or near - food allergies like for you?

assimilate or go home {book review}

Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith by D. L. Mayfield is a well timed book that every evangelical Christian who is interested in reaching beyond the church should read.

Mayfield grew up wanting to be a missionary so when she has the opportunity to use her hometown, Portland Oregon, as a missions ground she is excited. But as Mayfield lives and works with Somali refugees in Portland she realizes being a missionary and loving her neighbor is more difficult and complex than she expected.

Mayfield's refreshingly honest stories about her struggles with helping others, particularly refugees, was enjoyable and written in a an easy to read style. I appreciated Mayfield's willingness to confront her failures and how she learned and grew from her missteps and mistakes.

I recommend Assimilate or Go Home for anyone who is seeking to learn how to help with the refugees who are pouring into American cities. As I read Mayfield's book I realized there is a population in my city I don't know anything about. With this book Mayfield provides a road map of how to sit with and learn from people instead of trying to convert and change them.

Monday, March 6, 2017

choosing real {review & giveaway!!}

Bekah Pogue's book Choosing Real is an invitation to learn how to cope and enjoy the journey when life doesn't go as planned. Pogue encourages readers to lean on God and let go of striving for perfection when life goes sideways. She uses her own life experiences, particularly the loss of her father, to explore what it means to truly 'enjoy the journey.'

I appreciated Pogue's honesty and encouragement as she wrote about her experiences as a mother and learning how to be content with her place in life. There are a lot of books out on this topic right now, because our world has changed so dramatically, and we are living so much of our lives online, but Pogue does an excellent job of bringing every topic she explores back to God and how living closely with him can help us let go of the idolatry of striving and comparing.

I enjoyed this book and I think you will too! Thanks to the Blythe Daniel Agency I have a copy to give away! Leave a comment and I'll pick a winner on Thursday!!

Monday, February 13, 2017

alongside {book review and giveaway!!}

What do you do when a dear friend finds out they have cancer? What do you do when your neighbor, whom you've only met once, experiences a significant loss? What do you do when a family in your church encounters crisis after crisis? How do you help? What can you do? Should you do anything?

Alongside by Sarah Beckman seeks to answer all of these questions with solid, researched advice, much of it drawn from her experiences and the experiences of people she interviewed, all who have been through - or are in the middle of - crisis. I wish I had fifteen (or more!) copies of this book to give away. I wish all of the parents I have met who lost children had people in their lives who read this book, because some of the comments and actions that I have heard about have made a devastating loss even more so. I wish I had a copy of this in my hands years ago, but I am glad to have it as a resource now.

Beckman covers everything from what level of response to a crisis one should have based on their relationship: from Tier 1 to Tier 4 (this is so helpful for those who are trying to navigate how to respond to friends and acquaintances in times of need) to what to say and not to say, and what gifts / offers might be appropriate.

I especially appreciated Backman being honest enough in her writing to admonish people to keep their focus outward and make sure their purpose and intentions are to serve, not glean information, or show off how much they are assisting. Motivations get mixed sometimes and it is important to remember that helping someone through a major life event is for and about them.

Alongside is a useful guide one can pull out again and again as different events in life happen. There are practical gift guides, helpful websites, and practical advice spread throughout the book. You can either read it front to back or use it as a reference guide as needs arise.

I highly recommend this book for everyone who is trying to live out the Biblical edict to love one's neighbor (which is everyone by the way, not just the people next door or across the street). And even if you are not a Christian there is practical, helpful advice within these pages if you are walking through a difficult time with someone.

Thanks to the Blythe Daniel Agency and The Blog About Network I have one copy of Alongside - signed by the author! - to give away. Please leave a comment if you are interested in winning a copy. I'll choose a winner on Friday, February 17th!


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