38 weeks!

*This post is dedicated to a special friend (and her amazing family) who is brave and strong and is totally owning every second.  Love you.*

Pshew!  We are here at last friends.  38 weeks!!

When I woke up on St. Patrick’s Day, I felt so happy and positive for our measurement check later that day.  I just *knew* it was going to be a good one.  And sure enough, little ‘Wilburta’ shocked the doctor by having a huge growth spurt!  Not only did she catch back up to the 28th% overall, but her little bitty belly got back into the 20th% for the first time since 20 weeks back in December!!  Just to put that in perspective, at our last appointment it was <2%!

She is now considered a normal/average sized baby!  Can you believe it?!?  The doctor was so stunned and said he never expected us to get this far or for her to grow so much.  There are a few little things they are continuing to monitor so I’ve gone ahead and started my maternity leave now, but, you guys, I’m not even worried about it.  She will arrive later this week and we can’t be more thrilled to meet this little wonder- this little girl who has given us such a roller coaster and tested our faith.

I have to admit something.  Despite hearing for months and months that our baby was going to be born early and small, I refused to buy any preemie clothing.  I felt like if I did, I would just be giving up on the hope that the doctors would be wrong.  And I just couldn’t do that- give up hope, that is.  But then, after our last appointment at 36 weeks when her growth had slowed so much, I caved into the fear and bought some just in case.  I told myself that we would just donate them to the NICU if we didn’t need them.  It was just a precaution, just to be prepared for anything.  Those thoughts helped a bit, but I couldn’t help but feel this tremendous guilt for buying those outfits.  I felt like I was letting myself and my baby down by allowing that doubt to creep into my heart.

I did.  It got to me.

But I’ve learned now.  This little girl is following her own path, her own growth curve, and my goodness gracious have we overanalyzed her every move along the way.  I won’t be doing that anymore-  I have no control over any of it anyway.  God has taken me to some pretty scary and awful places so turning over the wheel is not easy, but I think that this journey to baby #3 has taught me to stop asking “Why?” so much.  To just trust.  That is faith.  That is believing.

I think I may just keep those little onesies as a reminder of what NOT to do.  Never, ever, ever give up.

***

When I was pregnant with Charlotte, we had a theme song.  This time along, we have found one too.  Every time I hear One Republic’s “I Lived” it just resonates with me.  The lyrics always stopped me in my tracks and reminded me of those lessons our sweet Callie taught us about life- the same lessons I want to teach Charlotte and Baby #3.  When I listen to it, I remember to not give in to my fears, my worries, and my doubts.

Instead, I remember to own every second that this world can give.

When I went to research the song origins and music video to include in this post, I was blown away.  One Republic’s lead singer, Ryan Tedder, originally wrote the song for his son as a message for him about how he wanted his son to live his life, living it to the fullest. I couldn’t have said it any better.  And the video…

Well, just watch.  Dare you not to cry.

Now, go.

Go crank this song up in your car and drive around with your windows down.  Feel the sunshine and be glad.

I’ll see you on the flipside with news about this little rebel!!

Hope when you take that jump, you don’t fear the fall
Hope when the water rises, you built a wall
Hope when the crowd screams out, they’re screaming your name
Hope if everybody runs, you choose to stay

Hope that you fall in love, and it hurts so bad
The only way you can know is give it all you have
And I hope that you don’t suffer but take the pain
Hope when the moment comes, you’ll say…

I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places, the things that I did
With every broken bone, I swear I lived

Hope that you spend your days, but they all add up
And when that sun goes down, hope you raise your cup
Oh, I wish that I could witness all your joy and all your pain
But until my moment comes, I’ll say…

I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places, the things that I did
With every broken bone, I swear I lived

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Angels Among Us: Our Christmas Prayers Answered!

xmastree-1

We were a bundle of nerves going to our appointment today to check on “Wilbur‘s” progress.  You name the scenario, I had envisioned it.  I had thought of the best case scenarios and the worst case scenarios and the in-between scenarios.  Every time I had a negative thought, I told myself, “NO!” and replaced it with a positive one…but I’ll tell ya, I had to do that a lot.  I even yelled “NO!” at myself so loudly in my dreams that I woke myself and John up!

Today, driving to the appointment the song “Angels Among Us” came on the radio and I made John stop our conversation so I could listen.  It’s a little cheesy, but I’ve always loved it because it was a song we sang in our sorority and after losing Callie, it had a different meaning for me.  The lyrics talk about how angels walk amongst us, in you and in me, and I connected it to my feelings of having ‘Earth angels’ who help you in your times of need.

Suddenly, in the middle of the song, a large shuttle bus swerved into our lane to avoid another car.  John slammed on his brakes and I shouted, “Lord, please protect us!!!”  I could see us heading straight for the back-corner of that bus- right into my side of the car.

I’m not sure how, but we stopped a few feet shy of that bus and luckily no one rear-ended us.  As my heart slowed down to a normal beat, I heard the  song continuing like there had never been an interruption, “Ohhh, I believe there are angels among us, sent down to us from somewhere up above, they come to you and me, in our darkest hours…”

Later at the doctor’s office, we were taken back for ultrasounds and met an upbeat technician with beautiful dark skin and a gorgeous Nigerian accent.  Entering the room, we could hear Christian worship songs playing softly in the background (there’s never music!) from the tech’s Pandora Station.  She was bubbly and talked to us about her kids humorously but with so much love behind every word.  With every breath she told us how she asked God for patience with this or prayed to him to help her with that and it became clear that she was a deeply faithful woman.

I was listening, but also kind of tuning her out as I hyper-analyzed every measurement she made on the baby.  Is she growing?  What does that number mean?  Is her foot turned funny?  Questions zipped through my mind at a rapid speed.  At some point, she asked us how old our first was.  We told her about Callie and then told her Charlotte was 20 months old and that her favorite word is “No”.  She laughed and said, “After ‘no’ comes ‘why’.”

And then she told us a story that left me with chills.  She said once she was listening to her pastor’s sermon.  It was a story of a young boy who was racing to greet his father who was returning home from work after a long day.  The boy, joyfully distracted, ran right over top of some railroad tracks in the path of an oncoming train.  The father screamed out to his son and told him to GET DOWN!  The boy listened right away and his life was spared because the train rolled right over top of him, leaving him unharmed.

The tech looked us in the eyes as she told us, “You see, if he had stop to ask, “Why?”, he would have been killed instantly by the train.  It is the same way with God.  You have to trust Him and not stop and ask, “Why?”.”

My eyes filled up with tears as she finished the story, lovingly telling us that she reminds her son of that story every time he bugs her with a “Why?” question…”because I said so!”  she laughed.  But my heart was still back on the parable of the boy, his father, and the train.  I sat there thinking, here is another Earth Angel, right in front of us– just like my Maggiano Angel from that Valentine’s Day so long ago.  It was no accident that she was our technician today, when out of all of our bajillions of visits we’ve never seen her.  We were meant to cross paths and meant to hear that message.

She left me with a feeling of peace that was soon followed up with joy- because, GREAT NEWS!  ‘Wilbur’ grew!  She made great progress and even caught up a few days!  She’s still small, but the fact that she didn’t fall any further behind and actually made further progress than expected was OUTSTANDING news.

The doctor told me to keep doing whatever it is that we are doing and that he will check up on us again in two more weeks.  That means more rest, eating enough protein to qualify me for an NFL linebacker, and keep praying and staying positive.

We have no doubt that the love, support, and prayers from all of you played a part in today’s outcome.

We also know that there were angels among us today.

Especially one dressed in yellow with sunshine glistening off of her wings.

Merry Christmas everyone!  We feel so blessed to have our Christmas prayers answered this day.

xoxo

PPL<3

“I was walking home from school, on a cold winter day
Took a shortcut through the woods, and I lost my way
It was getting late, and I was scared and alone
But then a kind old man, took my hand, and led me home
Mama couldn’t see him, oh but he was standing there
And I knew in my heart, he was the answer to my prayers

Oh I believe there are, angels among us
Sent down to us, from somewhere up above
They come to you and me, in our darkest hours
To show us how to live, to teach us how to give
To guide us with the light of love

When life held troubled times, and had me down on my knees
There’s always been someone, to come along, and comfort me
A kind word from a stranger, to lend a helping hand
A phone call from a friend, just to say, I understand
But ain’t it kind of funny, at the dark end of the road
That someone lights the way, with just a single ray of hope

Oh I believe there are, angels among us
Sent down to us, from somewhere up above
They come to you and me, in our darkest hours
To show us how to live, to teach us how to give
To guide us with the light of love

They wear so many faces, show up in the strangest places
To grace us with their mercy, in our time of need

Oh I believe there are, angels among us
Sent down to us, from somewhere up above
They come to you and me, in our darkest hours
To show us how to live, to teach us how to give
To guide us with the light of love
To guide us with a light of love”

Wilbur

25weeks-2John has been re-reading Charlotte’s Web and has taken to reading it aloud to Baby #3 lately.  We have obviously always loved the book and decorated Charlotte’s nursery with a Charlotte’s Web theme when she was born.  Charlotte, the spider, is a loyal friend- brave, intelligent, and selfless.  It wasn’t until John started reading the book again to our littlest rainbow that I realized how special Wilbur is too.

Wilbur the pig is the runt of the litter.  The farmer’s daughter, Fern, saves him from being killed because he is “small and weak” and “will never amount to anything”.  With some mothering love, Fern nurses him into being a strong, healthy pig who then has to worry about becoming the Christmas ham for his new family.  You can’t help but fall in love with Wilbur.  He is innocent, sweet, polite, and cheerful.  He loves unconditionally.  The author mentions numerous times how Fern, and his new friend, Charlotte, look upon him with utmost affection.

You probably know how the story goes… Charlotte begins writing words in her web as a way to show Wilbur’s humans that he is an extraordinary pig, one worth saving.  When John read the following quote the other night, I couldn’t help but make connections to our own lives right now:

“Have you heard about the words that appeared in the spider’s web?” asked Mrs. Arable nervously.

“Yes,” replied the doctor.[..]

“Do you understand how there could be any writing in a spider’s web?”

“Oh, no,” said Dr. Dorian.  “I don’t understand it.  But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place.  When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle.  But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.

“What’s miraculous about a spider’s web?” said Mrs. Arable. “I don’t see why you say a web is a miracle- it’s just a web.”

“Ever try to spin one?” asked Dr. Dorian.

Mrs. Arable shifted uneasily in her chair.  “No,” she replied.  “But I can crochet a doily and I can knit a sock.”

“Sure,” said the doctor.  “But somebody taught you, didn’t they?”

“My mother taught me.”

“Well, who taught a spider?  A young spider knows how to spin a web without any instructions from anybody.  Don’t you regard that as a miracle?”

“I suppose so,” said Mrs. Arable.  “I never looked at it that way before.  Still, I don’t understand how those words got into the web.  I don’t understand it, and I don’t like what I can’t understand.”

“None of us do,” said Dr. Dorian, sighing.  “I’m a doctor.  Doctors are supposed to understand everything.  But I don’t understand everything, and I don’t intend to let it worry me.

Sometimes you don’t realize how miraculous the smallest, ordinary things are around you until something big happens.  I’ve been praying for a miracle -that we will hear at our next appointment that everything is just fine- but I’ve missed the miracle right in front of me.  Baby #3, our runt, our Wilbur.  She is a miracle already.  So is Charlotte.  So is everything else that is gloriously ordinary in our lives.  We don’t really like hearing worrisome news at doctor’s appointments and we like it even less that we can’t understand it.  But I’m going to do my best to stop trying to understand it, and I’m trying to not let it worry me.

Today at church, our pastor talked about Mary and how she was struck with fear when the angel told her that she would become Jesus’ mother in Luke 1: 26-38.  Despite this fear, the implications her pregnancy would have, and the multitude of questions she must have had running through her mind, she gave herself over to God completely and allowed herself to be his servant.  What a gift she gave to God and what a gift He gave to her and to the world!  She did not understand.  She didn’t know what to expect.  But she trusted God and found peace in that.  And look at where that trust led.

After watching the lighting of the candles on the advent wreath- faith, hope, love, and joy- and listening to these words, I felt strengthened and peaceful.  Like Dr. Dorian mentioned in Charlotte’s Web, I don’t know everything but it gives me great peace that I don’t have to.  It’s in God’s hands.

Thank you so much for praying for our “Wilbur” 😉  We have been so comforted by your messages of support.  We are so lucky and so blessed.  I hope you all have a wonderfully, amazing Christmas.  We’ll keep you posted on how things are going after our next appointment!

Leaving you with our favorite Christmas song right now…

Baby #3

Charlotte, proudly announcing that we are expecting our third child, our second rainbow in April :)

Charlotte, proudly announcing that we are expecting our third child, our second rainbow in April 🙂

Baby #3.

How can I explain to you the roller coaster that has been Baby #3 this far?

I just spent this rainy afternoon reading back my old posts from Charlotte’s pregnancy.  I was blown away by how differently I feel this time around.  John and I were still very much in grief from losing Callie when I became pregnant with Charlotte.  I was so sad and so scared throughout it all.  I fought so hard to stay hopeful, face my fears, and maintain faith.

I’d like to tell you that this baby’s pregnancy has been the complete opposite…happy and carefree!  But, that’s not exactly true.

I’m not sure how to explain this time around…

When I first saw the positive test, we were on vacation.  I slipped back into bed and whispered to Charlotte that she was going to be a big sister and left the test there as a surprise for John unsure about my own feelings.  When he came back beaming, I had trouble beaming back.  I was happy, I suppose, but I just couldn’t bring myself to be excited.

As time went on, I tried really hard not to think about the fact that I was even pregnant.  I avoided talking about it with John and fake smiled when I did have to discuss it.  I felt relief upon seeing our little bean at the first ultrasound, but not exactly joy or wonder.  More like “blah”.

Before Callie passed away, John and I had always dreamed of having three kids.  It sounded like the perfect number.  I thought that losing Callie would make us want kids so much more, potentially leading us down the path to having a boatload of kids.  In actuality though, that just wasn’t the case-  for me, at least.

I realized that after being robbed of a future of Callie, I was taken down to the most fundamental and basic desires.  Lord, I just wanted a baby that would stay with us.  Please, God, just let me hold a baby.  Please, please let me hear a cry.  Let me change diapers.  Let me nurse her.  Oh, God if I could just have this one thing, please, please, please.  And then Charlotte came.  She never took Callie’s place, but she did answer so many of my prayers.

I was good.  More than good- filled with absolute contentment in every sense of the word.  You see, after having Charlotte, my heart was so full I just couldn’t possibly dream of having any more room left in it.

How in the world could I need anything else?

And it was in this mind frame that I went into Baby #3-  reluctantly, with the distant goal of giving the gift of a sibling here on earth for Charlotte to know and play with.  This sounds so horrible, but it wasn’t for me at all.  It was for Charlotte.  It was for John.  For our families.

Because like I said, I was good.

I spent much of the first trimester battling some pretty bad mood swings and a general feeling of discontent, mixed with strong nausea and fatigue.  I will also add that during this time, Charlotte was waking up in the middle of the night constantly and only wanting mommy, so I was downright exhausted.  I broke down in tears often and felt such guilt at my lack of ability to bond with my growing baby and feel excited and grateful for the gift that he or she is.  Finally, I had enough and went back to my therapist to talk things through.

And- poof!  I felt better!  I vented and she listened.  I started to realize that my lack of excitement, was really just my fear:  repackaged and redesigned.  Fear of not being able to handle two kids.  Fear of not being able to love each of them enough.  Fear of taking away my undivided attention from Charlotte.  Mix those fears in with some of the old fears… what if something happens?  why mess with a good thing?…and I was a just a ball of emotions.  Getting it off my chest and owning my feelings has helped me tremendously.  Oh yeah, and getting more sleep and having my hormones calm down a bit didn’t hurt either 😉

I’ll be 100% honest with you and tell you that, although I feel much happier, stronger, and less fearful, I am still not jumping up and down with excitement.  Maybe this is how it feels after experiencing pregnancy for the third time?  Maybe I’m too busy chasing Charlotte, teaching students, and managing a growing business to really even think about anything more than the moment right in front of me?  But I do know that I’m not alone in these feelings and that so many other mothers have felt the same way.  I’m not sure if I’ll start jumping up and down any time soon (or at all!) but I do know that each day makes me feel better, more ‘into it’, and enthusiastic.  I’m very much looking forward to more ultrasounds, more opportunities to get to know this little one, and the kicks that will make it feel “real”.

And here’s the other thing I’m going to be honest about.  I’m in this with my whole heart:  I want this baby and I know that after he or she arrives, I will never be able to imagine my life without him or her in it.

But…

…I can also completely understand now why some people choose not to have another.  Especially those who have experienced loss.  Because truth be told…I was good, allllllll good.  That intense satisfaction is an amazing feeling and I do not doubt that my life would have been very full and happy should we have chosen that path.

But we didn’t.  And I know that this path will be awesome… I just had to get my bearings first.

So, that’s me right now.  Happy to be past the black cloud that was the first trimester with a better outlook for the next two.  Enjoying Charlotte with my whole heart.  Letting hope slide into my heart in bits and pieces and preparing for it to grow and stretch to limits I never imagined were possible.

Love,

me

********

Please join us tonight for the International Wave of Light in memory of Callie and other babies lost too soon.  Light a candle at 7 p.m. wherever you are.  We appreciate it so much!

Not pregnant, just fat AGAIN

Not pregnant, just fat...

Here we go again.

Recently, on a teacher workday, a teacher’s assistant at one of my new schools asked when I’m due.  When I told her that I’d had a little one in April, she felt embarrassed…and so did I.  So embarrassed that I didn’t tell anyone about it, until now.

Why is that?  Why did I need to feel bad about the way my body looks after only 4 months?  After TWO BABIES IN TWO YEARS?  After physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually handling the loss of my first child and the birth of my second?

I could point the finger at a lot of things.  I mean, what am I supposed to think when I see glamorous celebrities bounce back in two months?  Society tells us that is the goal.  And if you fall short of that, you are failing.  Closer to home, we hear it in our conversations with other women.  Have you seen so and so?  She looks great!  or maybe it’s the other way Oh my god, so and so has gained a ton of weight.  I don’t know about you, but when I hear other women talk this way, I internalize it.  I wonder if people are turning the same critical eye on me.  Men don’t talk like this.  So, why do we?  I mean, seriously, when is the last time you heard your husband gossip about his friend’s beer gut lately?  My guess is NEVER.

Again, I could point my finger and place blame all day long, but in the end it comes down to…  me.

Me.  All me.

I’m choosing to listen.  I’m choosing to take it personally.  I’m choosing to internalize.  It’s me who looks at others and wishes I could look differently or gets jealous.  It’s me who forgets all of my beautiful qualities and focuses on the negative (if there really are any!).  It’s me becoming a victim of ‘society’ instead of overcoming it.

It all comes down to me.

It’s time that I set myself straight.

Here is the real truth:  My body produced two beautiful babies.  My pregnancies were only separated by six months.  Each stretch mark is a reminder of the 9 months each one of my girls spent making a home inside my belly and my c-section scar tells two very different stories…one of loss and one of hope.  The faint wrinkles I have started to notice are a permanent record of every laugh, smile, worry, and fear.  How could my body not show the signs of this wonderful life I have lived?  Wouldn’t that be a little freaky?

For each of us, all of these stories our bodies tell add up to one beautiful person.  The only thing standing in the way is our own perception of ourselves.

BUT (and this is a big but…not big butt haha), we have to be careful not to let our stories become excuses.  Or at least, I know I do.  I have been gentle with myself after having Charlotte.  I haven’t felt like going crazy at the gym.  Something about nursing and bouncing boobs during exercise hasn’t really seemed too appealing.  Instead, I’ve been enjoying her and going easy on myself.  And that’s ok.  But, now after a two month plateau in my baby weight loss, I know it is time to change.  At this point, my stories have become an excuse for something I can and SHOULD do to be a healthy person and live a long life.  I can handle exercising now.  It won’t be the same because I have a little one taking up so much time and energy, but I can do something.  Something is better than nothing.

I’m trying to remind myself that it is time to change for ME because I want to, not because I think I should.  Not because society said so and not because I am comparing myself to others.  Of course, those reasons are in there because I’m human and sensitive…but I want my voice to be louder.  And my voice needs to be nice, but firm.  Compassionate, but encouraging.  Understanding, but fierce.  And without the guilt.  If I’ve tried my best at the end of the day to live a life I love, then that should be good enough.  If I didn’t, well…  I’ll try again tomorrow.

I don’t think I will have all my Charlotte weight lost in the same amount of time as I did with my Callie weight.  And that’s been “weighing” on me 😉 But I have to remind myself that those were different circumstances and I am in a different place now.  I can’t compare myself with others… I can’t even compare myself with myself.  I have to live for now and remember that my past has given me experience, perspective, and knowledge, but it does not determine my future.

This month, or whatever is left of it, will you help support me as I make a commitment to being a healthy and active person again?  Do me a favor…  As your Kindness for Callie this month, let’s focus on beauty…REAL beauty.  Go tell someone random that they are beautiful.  I can’t remember…  Have I ever told you on this blog about the time I was in the airport and a total stranger passed me and then turned around and told me, “You’re so pretty.”?  It was an older woman.  Not a yucky boy hitting on me.  Another woman, a total stranger, made it a point to turn around give me a compliment.  It made me feel like a runway model.  Sometimes, we don’t pass along the compliments that we are thinking in our minds.  Why is it such a small act so hard sometimes?

I don’t know, but I want you to go do that to someone else.  I will too!  Take your lipstick and write the words “You’re beautiful” on the mirror in the ladies’ room.  Tell your best friend why they are beautiful both inside and out!  Poke your daughter’s squishy tummy and tell her she is drop-dead gorgeous.  Please do this for me and for Callie, but also for you.  I guarantee you will feel more beautiful afterwards.  Share your kindnesses with me if you’d like to.  You can list them on the Kindness for Callie log by clicking on the tab at the top of this page or you can label a picture of your kind act with #KindnessforCallie.

Let’s all agree to be kind to each other, but even kinder to ourselves, shall we?

xxoo

****

K4C Update:

I was sooooo excited when I got Ginny’s email this week:

“I gave the K4C card to the carhop at SONIC this evening with a $10 tip on a $4 order…the neatest thing was that he told me he had been given several of these before.  He has them on his wall and even asked one person if they had extras so he could give them out.  How cool is that!!  I haven’t been good at emailing you each time I use them…but this was way too cool to pass up!  So although people may not send you every good deed they do in Callie’s name, know that sunshine is still being spread throughout the NRV!
BTW…Charlotte is adorable!”  – (thank you, we think so too!)
YAYYYYY!  It’s spreading!  I love knowing that at this very minute, someone I’ve never met could be doing a random act of kindness in Callie’s memory.  The feeling I get from that is indescribable.  Thanks again Ginny for being such a great supporter of Kindness for Callie 🙂

Signs

I’ve been thinking about Callie a lot lately.  Last night, after Charlotte went down for the night, I sat in a bubble bath and cried until I was a complete prune.  I’m not sure what brought it on, but I just had to cry and let it out.  I thought about Callie’s short life, her birth, her death, the aftermath.  I thought about how unfair it is.  I asked God the golden question Why?  Why do some people receive more than their fair share?  Why us?  I rehashed all of those things that I have been at peace with and had found acceptance with.  I was having a grief bubble.  A wave of sadness popping up in the middle of nowhere.  Actually, I was having a grief bubble bath to be more exact.

As I got out of the tub, I heard Charlotte down the hall with John.  She had woken up and he was putting her back to sleep.  I needed that grief bubble burster right at that moment.  To bring me back to the moment, instead of dwelling on the past.  A friend of mine wrote John and I a card after Callie passed that always stuck with me.  She said in a nutshell that there was nothing more painful than losing her daughter, but if that had not happened, her son would never have come into this world and she could never imagine her life without him.  When I ask myself Why??, I always think back to that card.  I don’t think having Charlotte was the reason Callie passed away, but I truly cannot imagine my life without her, so I cannot wish away this path that we have traveled down, no matter how painful it is at times.

I’ve seen signs of Callie lately.  Maybe she knows that I’ve been missing her.  Although I have prepared for it, I still feel like someone punched me in the gut every time a stranger sees Charlotte and asks, “Is she your first?”  I have tried every response…yes, no, a non-answer like “She’s our little sweetie pie!”, and even what I thought was bullet-proof, “She’s our oldest!”  When I used that one, a lady at church said incredulously, “Well, that means she’s your first!” in the same tone as, “Like, duh!” as if I was a total idiot.  I felt rage course through me as I envied a life where someone did not know the pain of losing a baby and how the first does not always mean the oldest.  When we went to the garden later, I said a silent prayer to Callie, hoping that she was having fun in heaven and living a full and happy life up there without feeling one ounce of heartache ever.  Because heartache sucks.  Big time.

But back to the signs of Callie…  There are many, but I’ll share my favorites.

First, the owl.  If you could hear me reading this aloud, when I come to the words “the owl” I would be saying them in a deep and dark mysterious and dubious voice.  Because, the owl freaked me out.

It all started back in the fall, when I was pregnant with Charlotte.  One night, I stayed reallllly late at school trying to catch up on some projects I had been falling behind in.  As I left the school building, I saw an owl, perched atop a road sign incredibly close to my car.  As I drove past, the owl watched me and I rolled down the window to take her picture.  At the time, I thought it was SO cool.  I mean, I’d never seen an owl up close before.  I was thinking of the children’s book Owl Moon and how it would be so neat to tell my students about my encounter.  I drove away, my mind already filled with other things and I did not think much more of it.

The Owl

The Owl

Until, that is, I pulled into my neighborhood, several miles away from school.  There on top of a light post was another owl.  I couldn’t see it up close, but I could tell by it’s silhouette that it was most definitely an owl.  Was it the same one?  It couldn’t be.  I thought to myself, That’s weird, and went inside to tell John about it.  How odd that I would have two owl sightings in one night!  Being a big believer in omens and signs, I broke the great commandment of Charlotte’s pregnancy:  Thou shalt not Google.  I searched:  Symbolism of an owl.  I was shocked to see that some cultures viewed owls as a bad omen and as harbingers of death.  If you will remember, I was just a teensy bit on edge with anxiety while pregnant with Charlotte (understatement of the year!) so I was freaked out that something bad was going to happen to her and I let my mind go to all kinds of awful places.  After much coaxing, John soothed me back into a semi-calm state and I was able to put it (kind of) behind me.

Later that night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard hoooo hoooo.  Hooo hoooo.  An owl hooting from our rooftop.

What the (bleep)?!?!?

John heard it too and I had both of us thoroughly freaked out by this owl.  Weeks and months passed.  We didn’t hear from the owl again and Charlotte made it safely into our arms so I had kind of forgotten about the owl and its freakiness.

Fastforward to a few weeks ago when I had the brilliant idea that it was time to move Charlotte out of our room and into her own crib.  She was getting too big for her bassinet and was sleeping through the night so it felt like she was telling us it was time to let go and move her out.  Being slightly on the paranoid side, we went out and bought an AngelCare motion sensor monitoring system to help us sleep a little easier at night.  As I shut the door to her nursery that night, I wept…WEPT…and called my friend, Barrett, because I was so emotional about this next step for Charlotte, who by the way could have cared less.  She was fine, but I was distraught over her becoming more of a baby and less of a newborn.  It was all going so fast!

After a few hours of watching Charlotte sleep on the monitor, analyzing every breath, and two false alarms from the AngelCare that gave us heart attacks…we heard it.

Hooo hooo.

Me:  “Did you hear that???” 

John:  “Yes, I did.” 

Me (frantically):  “Go get her!!!” 

And that is how Charlotte’s first night in her crib went.  The next night, we were so exhausted that we put her back in her room and we all had a great night of sleep…owl-free.

Looking back, I think that owl might not have been a bad omen at all…I think it was Callie, trying to reassure me that everything was going to be ok.  I mean, owls are nice in Harry Potter, right?  So, now me and owls…we’re cool.

Charlotte eyeing her owl toy suspiciously

Charlotte eyeing her owl toy suspiciously

As for other signs, yesterday, I absolutely know for a fact that Callie was trying to say hello.  It all started when I was talking to Barrett on the phone again in the parking lot outside of John’s school as I waited for him to come out to meet me for lunch.  All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a HUGE yellow butterfly landed right in front of me on the windshield.  It stayed just long enough to flap it’s wings once and then it flitted away.  Later on, as I was walking the dogs, I literally had to jump out of the way of another HUGE yellow butterfly that was hellbent on trying to land on me I think.  I should’ve let her, but things with wings freak me out when they get too close.  Weird phobia of mine.  Anyway, later yesterday evening, John and I left the restaurant where we were having a late dinner only to find ANOTHER butterfly on the driver’s side door of our car.

I don’t think any of these things were a coincidence at all.  Callie was with us yesterday, as she has been all along.

Have you ever received a sign?  I’d really love to hear your story if you have.  I’m always looking for the little things that prove our connection with something greater.  If you have your heart and mind open, you can find them everywhere.

xoxo

Confessions of a Rainbow Mom: I Had the Baby Blues

Last Sunday, Charlotte got hungry during church.  I strolled down the hall and someone showed me to the empty nursery that is used during the week by infants enrolled in the church daycare.  After changing her diaper, I looked up and saw it.

Callie’s rocking chair.

We had donated it to the church after cleaning out her nursery.  Painfully deciding what would stay and what would go, we felt that the dreams that the rocker symbolized- now dashed- were just too painful.  So we gave it to our church, where we planted Callie’s garden, feeling that it was the right place for something so meaningful to us.

I had forgotten.  Blocked it out?

And now, looking up with my little rainbow in my arms, I came face to face with it.

A dream lost and a dream realized.

So, I sat and rocked and nursed and rocked some more in the dark and peaceful room where my babies could kind of, sort of be together.

rugchurch

As I rocked, I thought back on the past two months since Charlotte was born.  All of the emotions and the ups and downs.

Yes, there were downs!  Big time.

I’m sure that most of you who are mothers probably are thinking, Of course there were!  That’s only natural.  But it has taken me a while to allow myself to understand that too.

For the first three weeks of Charlotte’s life, I was running on sheer adrenaline, joy, and excitement.  There were parts that were hard, parts that were easy, and parts in between.  I was full of love and overwhelmed by the surreal fact that we actually got to take a baby home.  Pinch me!  Is this real??

And then the blues hit.  Between 3 and 6 weeks, I was an emotional wreck.  And I didn’t want anyone to know.  I was so ashamed.  After all, I was supposed to appreciate this precious gift more than anyone else in the world, right?  I could remember that awful time right after we lost Callie when I would have traded anything, ANYTHING, to have a baby in my arms.  Even if it was hard.  I swore that I would remember that with Charlotte.

And I did.  There wasn’t a moment where it didn’t cross my mind.  I let it torment me.  I let it fill me with shame and guilt.  It ate away at me until there wasn’t much left.

After the first three week honeymoon where Charlotte was so so so good….well, she gave us a run for our money.  I read every page of the What to Expect the First Year chapters that related to her age.  I googled the definition of colic (which she didn’t have, but I wanted her to so that I could have a reason for the crying).  I spent many hours in the bathtub soaking my boobs trying to heal the blisters that kept popping up.  I took many trips to my favorite lactation consultant, sure that I was doing something wrong for it to be hurting for so long.  She reassured me that I was doing a good job, the latch was perfect…I just had a barricuda on my hands, with such a strong suck that the sheer Dyson-strength vacuum of it all caused me to get blisters.  I had enough milk to feed a village.  And it shot out so fast that it choked Charlotte and came out her nose!  At one point, I was having to nurse her with her little body resting upright (instead of cradled) while I reclined almost all the way back just to try and slow it down.  She looked hilarious and so did I…but the humor was lost on me.

I cried a lot.  When Charlotte cried, I did too.  I felt overwhelmed by so many emotions.  Love.  Frustration.  A desire for her to be a perfect angel baby that never cried so that I could tell everyone how good she was.  A loss of confidence in my ability to be a good mother.  I always thought I would be a natural who knew exactly what to do, all the time.  I felt trapped sometimes.  I snapped at John several times when he asked me a question about the baby because I just couldn’t take one more person needing me.  I got so frustrated that I could no longer have the complete independence I once had, even though I had sworn I would sacrifice anything just to have a baby.  Can’t I just pee, or shower, or eat like I used to??  There were several times that I seriously contemplated ordering shock collars for the dogs if they barked one more time.  I can vividly remember seeing John hand Charlotte to me to nurse one night and as her mouth opened up I thought she looked like a little leech coming to suck my soul away.  A little dramatic, but that’s what I thought.  And that was when I realized I had the blues.

On top of having all of these emotions, I served them up with a big heaping serving of guilt on the side.  She would cry, I would get frustrated, then feel guilty about it.  Remember how much you wanted to hear that cry?  Remember how Callie never had that chance?  Remember.  Remember.  Remember.  I would have flashbacks of the terrible moment of when they took Callie off of life support and how I cried, My baby, my baby, my baby.  All of this, while holding my beautiful rainbow gift from God.  I beat myself up for being human.  For being just like everyone else, despite feeling so different.  For being a real mom, instead of a perfect mom. 

Thank God she started smiling during this time period.  Every morning, when I would pick her up out of her bassinet, Charlotte would grin at me and flash those adorable dimples and I could feel my heart melt.  It was like a reset button was pressed at the onset of every day.  Also, it didn’t hurt that she started sleeping for 5-6 hours at a time and I was able to start sleeping too.  In fact, there were many wonderful moments, smiles, and episodes of laughter.  Thank the Lord!  But, the past few posts I’ve written have shown the highlights and not the whole story and it just doesn’t feel right to leave it like that.

After she turned 6 weeks old, the dark cloud and swirling storm of emotions started to lift and I felt like myself again.  I didn’t need the reset button anymore, although it is still the perfect way to start the day.  I looked back at the mess that was myself and I gave myself permission.  Permission to have faults.  Permission to not know all the answers.  Permission to have hormones!  I had to remind myself once again that there wasn’t this magical destination called Perfect Happyland at the end of the hard road I’d traveled.  Nope, it’s a never-ending journey, with no end in sight.

I learned that being a rainbow mom is a whole heck of a lot like being any other kind of mom.  Sure, I have a different perspective…but we all do, because we all have had different journeys.  Before having Charlotte, I sentenced myself to a life of “enjoying every moment”.  That was an impossible goal.  After all, is there really anything enjoyable about nipple blisters?  Looking back at my old blog posts, here is what I wrote at the end of Callie’s birth story:

“Because at the end of the day, love is all that matters. Love like you’ve never loved before and never look back.  And do not take one single moment for granted…even the crappy ones… because even the ugly parts of life are so incredibly beautiful.”

I had it right back then, but sometime between then and now I had twisted it all up inside of me.   I mistakenly had led myself to believe that this meant I had to love every minute of life.  Some things are ugly.  And you don’t have to enjoy them.  “Not taking life for granted” doesn’t always mean that you love every single moment.  I’ve learned the true meaning of this sentiment lately and have decided to let go of this heavy guilt once and for all.  Yes, I, Kristin Cornely, rainbow mother, sworn silver lining believer and eternal optimist, had the baby blues.  And it’s okay.  It feels good to say it out loud and let go of the last bit of pride I had that was preventing me from being “real” about my experiences.  Not to make this a “happy ending” kind of post, but I have to share that lately, I feel happier than I ever have in my whole life.  Charlotte is so fun right now and my breastfeeding issues are (hopefully!) behind me.  I’m so happy, I almost get paranoid that something bad will happen…but that’s a topic for another day and another hour with my therapist haha.  The point is, motherhood with Charlotte has been an adventure in highs and lows.

Losing Callie taught me to appreciate life and not take it for granted, not to love every single moment of it…even though that would be nice, it’s not real.  Appreciation is gratitude and gratitude is thankfulness.  And that’s what I am.  I’m thankful.  Thankful for the sunshine and thankful for the rain.

After all, that’s how rainbows are made.

rainbow bootie

***K4C Update**

I’m WAY behind on this…so sorry!

~From my dad:  Today Steve, Tony, Freddie, Eddie, Julie, Katy and myself together purchased tickets for our cleaning service people to share in a fundraiser lunch for the tornado victims in Oklahoma.  They do not get invited to functions like this so we thought they deserved to be included.

-From my family:  sponsoring a meal at our church’s CommUnity Table as a kindness we provide for the community of Radford.  Our church is launching this meal outreach program to the community on June 29th.  Teams of 8-10 people will serve a meal to members of the community who come to our church on Saturday evenings from 4-5pm.  The meal is free and open to the public.  It is the aim of the program to provide meals to those in need financially, as well as those who need companionship, but all are welcome.

Thank you SO much for spreading Kindness in Callie’s memory.  If you have sent me an act of kindness in the past 3 months since Charlotte was born and I did not include it on the Kindness for Callie, please let me know so that I can write it down.  Things got a little crazy there for a while 😉

rainbowsmakemesmile