Monday, December 19, 2016

On Choosing to Quit

As we're staring down the calendar at a new year, it's a time of reflection on our choices, a time to evaluate where we are and what's working.

We've been a homeschooling family for most of our parenting years.

As our oldest entered sixth grade this year, we made the choice to transition from homeschooling to our local parochial school.

Our four year old is also in preschool there three mornings a week.

LB had been asking for a while to go to traditional school, and SP LOVES her preschool.  So much so, she told me she was very sad when I made her stop going after PK3 (otherwise known as Summer Break).

But the deciding factor for going back to school this year was me.  I need some breathing room.  I need to not feel like I'm failing to do ALL THE THINGS constantly.  I need time to work from home without that precarious balancing act of childcare hanging around my neck.

I needed to stop trying to do it all, all at once, without a break.

For over ten years, I've worked sporadically from home as an Instructional Designer, developing online training and tests for companies who would rather hire that out than keep someone on staff.  I've balanced working from home and homeschooling through the younger grades, but as schooling became increasingly complex, I constantly felt like I was behind on grading, not following up enough, or just generally not doing enough.

I felt a lot of peace about making the decision, but I also felt that stereotypical, "we're not doing the most involved thing we possibly can so we're probably failing".  Because isn't that the message we get from all the worst parenting gurus?  Do all the things and do them my way or you're the worst.

This school year has solidly reinforced what I've known to be true for a long time.  We're all doing our best, and it's going to look different for everyone. 

My best for this year might be different from my best for next year.  And it for sure looks different than last year.

Going back to traditional school has taken the entire burden of LB's education off my shoulders.  I still find myself grading homework most evenings, or reviewing upcoming assignments, but all the mental space of planning and organizing it has been freed. 

Choosing to quit the homeschool life has had some downsides - can you say early bird wakeup calls? Mornings will probably always be rough for me, but we're making it.  I can't put the school week on hold when life starts to be too much.  I can't time the school day around our family life.  It all happens on their schedule. 

Still, the hour+ I spend shuttling people back and forth, the early mornings (which my husband helps with A LOT), the homework assignments, the extra committee meetings, it's all been working out.

It's been a positive shift to have a more rigid structure in our day, and the downtime it's afforded me has allowed me more time to work on my Etsy store, as well as my Instructional Design business, meaning my husband was able to move to a position with fewer hours last month.

Although the thought of sending SP off five days a week next year still gives me pause, and I'll never rule out homeschooling completely, in all I've learned that sometimes, quitting is the very best choice after all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Walking Beside You

Walking in the door, I set down my purse and stare at the pile of papers I still need to sort. Later, later I will.

First, a moment here with you. To share the hardness and joy of this special path God has me walking.

How could I have known I would stand in this place?  It's so humbling and so heartbreaking all at once. Humbling in the blessings constantly raining down on me, heartbreaking for those few most precious drops falling just out of reach.

When I found out I was pregnant last month, I had this imagery of sitting at the feet of God in overwhelming gratitude at a blessing beyond understanding. When we gave that baby back to God less than two weeks later, I was humbled in a different way, by different blessings.

I feel more profoundly wrapped in love and grace than I've ever experienced. It's still a hard and heart wrenching path, but I'm in awe of the love and kindness poured out in front of me.

Just when I thought I was coming to a place in life where I had something more to teach, something more to give, I'm reminded of what a blessing it is to be a gracious receiver.

Every sorrow refines my soul, and the suffering burns compassion into my heart.

As I look into the face of another mother awaiting the day she will meet or see once more the face of her child in heaven, I see her more clearly than before. My sorrow can speak to hers, "I know you sister, I see you. I wait with you."

This road of life is hard, and suffering will meet us along the way. Take heart, sister, you do not walk alone.

For more reflections from women on varying stages and places in their fertility journey, I invite you to join us at Waiting in the Word. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Made for Heaven

This month is Pregnancy Loss Awareness.  On October 1st, all the memes and Facebook posts started showing up.  While I was reading them, I was laying on my couch, binge watching on Hulu and miscarrying a baby.

On September 22nd, I took a pregnancy test and hopped in the shower before I read it.  After a quick shower, I took a cursory glance at it before pitching what I assumed would be yet another negative test.  The faint positive that appeared jolted me, surprised me, and caused me to exclaim, "Oh my God!"  I'm an "oh my goodness-don't-take-the-name-in-vain" kind of gal, so the shock value was definitely high.

The next few days were doctor's phone calls, blood draws, and scheduling additional testing.  35 and previous pregnancy loss adds up to a lot of early testing.

As I scheduled tests, I had a hard time getting excited by the pregnancy and new life growing.  Every time I went to the bathroom, I was waiting for spotting to start, for something to go wrong.  I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.  After all this waiting, how could dreams finally be coming true?

In the midst of struggling to find excitement, I had this moment of pure clarity staring at myself in the mirror.  No matter what happened with the pregnancy, there was a new soul.  A complete, unique soul and person who would exist for all of eternity NO MATTER WHAT.

After about a week, I finally started allowing myself to hope a little more that this baby wouldn't be just for heaven.  As my pants started to feel a little tighter, I added items to the secret Amazon shopping list.  I started to plan and dream again.

Including a dream so vivid, I saw the face of my baby as I delivered him.  Bright blue eyes and a bald head with faint glimmers of peachy red hair.  Rounder than SP's face and pinker than LB's.  A little boy uniquely himself.

On my second hcg draw, the numbers didn't do what they should, so more testing was indicated. 

Just as I was starting to not check for spotting every time I used the bathroom, the spotting started.  On Friday, September 30th, I had some light spotting and as I realized what was happening, I sobbed and said many many many f-bombs.  I called Hubby and tried to stay calm as I left multiple messages on the doctor's voicemail.

The spotting stopped, and the nurse instructed me to continue on with the hcg draw planned for the next morning, as well as gave me worst case scenario instructions.

On the day I was headed in to do the next draw, the miscarriage started.  Testing that day showed that my hcg was in fact dropping rapidly.

I went home under directions of what worrying signs to watch for and rested all weekend. 

When the bleeding first started Saturday morning, I cried out for a miracle.  I prayed for intercession, I told the baby he was wanted and he was welcome.  But, I also told him I forgave him if he wasn't strong enough to stay.

About an hour later, the bleeding increased and the process of miscarrying was in full effect.

That night I sat on the floor of my shower sobbing and cursing God until the hot water ran out.  I said every angry, bitter word inside me and left the shower feeling lighter and spent.

I waited all weekend for painful cramping and contractions.  They never came.  Some slight discomfort was relieved by a little medicine, but for the most part, it was physically painless.  A small miracle and grace in the middle of a hard weekend.

As the weekend progressed, I reached out to many friends asking for prayers.  And as I did, I felt myself wrapped in grace so tangible as to be beyond understanding. 

I had expected to be so overwrought that I would have a hard time functioning in daily life; instead, I found myself a little tired, but able to manage without much struggle. 

I found myself not wanting to pass on the news because it seemed to upset others more than it upset me.  Almost like the whole enormity of what I'd been through was so big, I would need time to absorb it. 

Or maybe, as I told my mom, we've been through so much that it didn't hit high enough on the Richter Scale to be traumatic. 

I think the best explanation is that we've been buoyed in prayers.  I've seen blessings and grace everywhere.  The way my husband and I walked through this together versus how we managed after Mara was like a terrible and wonderful milestone of how we've grown. 

The last few days, I've noticed myself easily irritated, and while part of that may be hormones realigning, I think it's the grief starting to poke through the cracks.

I'm sure it's not actually true, but it seems every commercial is pregnancy tests, formula or diapers lately, and if my Kindle doesn't stop showing that baby car seat as the start screen ad, I'm going to lose it. 

I was supposed to have a baby for my 36th birthday.  And now I'm not.  I was going to buy a new stroller, but there's no need for that now.  I saw the bag of cloth diapers in SP's closet that I was daydreaming about putting on a tiny little bottom, but now I'm not.

So much of what is lost in a miscarriage is the dreams.  Still, I feel a surety that another baby is coming.  Not to replace the one we lost, but as his or her own unique and wonderful person. 

This pregnancy proved the surgery was successful, at least in part.  We're another step down the road on our journey.  We're hopeful that next time, it will be a baby we get to hold.

Until then, here are the few photos I have to mark the life of Francis Therese, named after the feast days we celebrated in the midst of his loss.

Four days before we lost Francis - I'm so glad I took this - and took the moment to celebrate his life

From the weekend on the couch

Turning back off the pregnancy setting was one of the worst parts

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Hope in a Hopeless Place

Something crazy happened tonight. 

There's been a lot of construction around our new house. A. Lot. The main road in and out of our neighborhood has been under construction since well before our move and recently, the progress on the road has caused it to take longer to get down the hill. One of those worse before it's better kind of situations. 

This evening, I sat in traffic, waiting for my turn to creep down the hill and my thoughts were brewing darkly. 

My surgery in early August is healed, and there's now the potential that we may conceive. In fact, earlier this week, I was feeling really hopeful that maybe this would be *the* month. 

I allowed myself to daydream about the stroller I've wanted for ten years and never gotten that I've promised myself I will splurge on if there's a next time. 

I've thought about what it would be like to tell family and friends. How we could surprise them. What joy it would be.

I've prayed for the intercession of our beloved late priest Fr Logan to bring us a miracle. He loved my husband so much, thought he was so funny. He called me the rose between two thorns when I sang with my dad and another parishioner at healing masses. 

He prayed over me at those same masses when I was pregnant with SP and struggling with complications. I brought him dinner once a week for the months following one of his surgeries.  He was the priest at my first communion, and there when LB made hers as well. 

He was woven in a special way into our lives, and it was him I turned to in intercession this month when the inflammation that has plagued me and been non-responsive to all medications and unknown in cause to all testing remained between me and fertility. 

And, for a bit, I felt hopeful. But, as I've crept closer to the start of a new cycle, closer to what experience has taught me will be a hard reality, I've lost hope. 

It was this lost and hopeless feeling that centered in my thoughts as I sat in traffic waiting.  

The dark thoughts were reigning supreme and I was feeling so done. So over finding a way to have any shred of hope left. 

As some traffic slowly made its way up the hill, I glanced over at a car waiting to turn into traffic. And my heart leapt in my chest with a moment of ecstasy. There, in that car waiting ten feet from me, was my lost girl, my SB, sitting in a car with her dad. She looked good. She looked happy. 

I never knew I could hold so much joy and sorrow simultaneously in my soul. She looks good. Somewhere out there, my baby looks happy. 

What's more, there's this fear I've carried deep down in my soul that I wouldn't know her if I saw her. I haven't seen her in over two years, and I feared she would change so much before I ever saw her again that I wouldn't know her even if I saw her. But, I did know her. 

I'm not sure what to make of all those feelings that were swirling inside me when I looked up and added the feelings of seeing SB to the mix. Perhaps the takeaway is even the most hopeless moment can be redeemed. 

Or maybe it was just a moment of straight gift sewn into a hard season of life. 

In the end, I'm struggling to let the joy win out. But I'll take the tears and sorrow. It was worth it just to have that momentary glimpse and knowledge that she's okay. Just a girl, talking to her daddy in the car. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Sitting with Uncertainty

Our Little House of Dreams has been for sale for about three months now. We've moved on to our idyllic house in the glen, but yet, our little house sits. 

When we moved, we made the decision to find a forever home without the pressure of an impending sale on our current home. Also, with 800 sq ft and four people, trust me when I say it shows much better without us!

We spent 10 years in our old house, fixing it up and pouring out time, energy and love into it. We spent years paying off all of our student loans, car loans and the like, and then saving up a separate down payment for the new house, as well as a cushion for carrying two houses for a time. 

Along the path to closing on our new home, we had so many moments of blessing and reassurance that we were doing the right thing, that we had calculated our decisions and all would be well. 

When we finally moved, I spent most days at the old house, cleaning, painting, perfecting every surface because surely(!)  someone would fall immediately in love with our special little place of only the walls were soothing tones. 

After two weeks of backbreaking labor l, the house went on the market and I eagerly awaited the news that someone loved it as much as we had. 

I prayed the novena to St Joseph, confident that any minute I would hear the good news. 

And yet, nothing. Very few people have shown interest, and we've had a few silly reasons for passing (a la House Hunters) on the few that have appreciated it. 

Today I went over a tucked St Joseph into the cupboards. 

Not for good luck or an assured sale, but as a reminder and dedication that this house is under his guard. 

We have entrusted this sale to St Joseph. We have done all the prudent things to make a sale successful, and now, we wait. And as much as I struggle with being in control, and as much as its a drag writing out two mortgage payments and two utility bills, I feel a peace over this. 

I feel confident that God has this in hand and St Joseph has my back. When I prayed that novena, I prayed that the exact right person who would be blessed by our house would find it.  

I want someone who feels about our little yellow house how we did. I want someone to wake up, look out at the sun rising over that giant fenced in yard and smile, like I did so many mornings. 

I want someone to smile as they pass an open window at lunchtime or in the evening, because you can hear the bells ringing from the nearby church. Many a day I stood in my garden and heard those bells and felt a connection to all the generations past who stopped their work to pray. 

I loved my House of Dreams hard. I cried when we left. The first morning I woke up in our new house, I felt blessing and grace as I felt this certainty in my soul that this new house was where I should be. 

I slipped into life here like a favorite moccasin, comfortable and formed to me as only years of use could manage. I woke up that first morning knowing I was where I was meant to be. 

That certainty has never left. Through months of waiting on our little house to sell, through feedback on all the flaws of the house we spent so many happy years and have so much love for, the peace remains. 

For me, uncertainty is usually a traumatic place to rest. The biggest thorn in my infertility is the not knowing, the uncertainty on how this will all resolve. So, I know this peace can only be from God. 

The little house will sell when it does. Maybe it'll sell tomorrow, maybe we'll find ourselves landlords for a time. Maybe this house is just waiting for the right new owner and we'll land somewhere in between. 

Whichever way the path goes, I'm trying not to feel the irritation and angst of the double bills. I'm trying to rest in this peace and remember, all my resources belong first to God, and if this is the way they should be allotted for now, the updates and new purchases can wait. 

Obedience is hard. Sometimes yield on to God's will means waiting, which is the very hardest thing of all for me. 

So, off St Joseph went to my little House of Dreams, to remind me he's got this and I am not in control beyond my own actions. 

Where are you waiting in your life?  How can I lift you up in my own wait?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Going Under the Laser

I've been working with a NaPro doctor for a couple years now. 

I've had panels of blood draws, glucose tests, thyroid tests, diet changes. 

I've recently even lost about 35 (!) pounds. 

However, on June 5th, I turned 35, and the volume on my internal clock has become less like listening to the end of an egg timer and more like standing inside Big Ben at midnight. 

Added to that, I've been having some pains I'd like to have investigated, so, I made the trek back down to my doctor. 

When I met with her, she told me I've done the medical side and what remained is the (gulp) surgical side. 

My next best course of treatment is exploratory laparoscopy. They'll put me under, make a few small incisions and poke around looking for cysts, fibroids, endometriosis, anything that could explain this unexplained infertility and pains. 

Since my doctor told me ago, I've been living with varying levels of anxiety. From full blown panic to a low grade hum in the background. 

Now, it's time for surgery. Tomorrow (Wednesday) morning, I'll be getting up bright and early for my husband to drive us down to the surgical center two hours away, sitting in prep for two hours, and then having surgery for however long it takes to fix or repair as best she can whatever is going on inside. 

I've run the full gambit of worst case scenarios. There's a little echo on my ears of the doctor telling me that, as with any surgery, there's a risk of death.  However unlikely, the words are spinning on repeat in the back of my head. 

There's also a niggling fear over why I've been having pains. Cysts? Fibroids? Something worse?

In all likelihood, I'll be uncomfortable for a few days and hopefully have more answers than before. I've been put under general anesthesia a few times and it's always been fine. 

As I was reflecting on it all, it occurred to me that my husband really has the worst end of this. I'm going to go to sleep and it'll all be over when I wake up. My husband, on the other hand, has to watch them wheel me away, wait as they do surgery and then wait to be let into the recovery room. 

Waiting is harder than doing. At least it always has been for me. 

So tomorrow, please keep my husband in your prayers as he waits. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Today You Are Five

Today, Sweet Baby turns five. I thought I would be buying her kindergarten uniform, brand new crayons, a backpack with matching lunch box, her favorite toys, a new bike.  But, I'm not.

We haven't seen our sweet girl in two years. It's now been as long without her as we had with her.  How could it be? A lifetime ago and the blink of an eye. 

Today will be one of the hard days. But, two and a half years later, the hard days are further apart and fewer.  On Tuesday, I cried in the shower. I cried for our broken world and a broken foster care system.  But mostly I cried because I want to hug her, see her, hold her. Tell her that I never stopped loving her. 

Never. Yesterday, today and forever. 

I dream of a day I will see her again. A day where I give her the precious baby clothes she wore that I've saved. Where I can show her the photo albums from her earliest days with us. Show her that her picture hangs on our wall. 

Because she is a part of our story, as much as we are a part of hers. 

The gift of time is slowly learning that there is still more story. Our lives have more chapters to be written. For so long, I lingered on the final pages with her. 

Today, I honor her birthday by living fully in this new chapter. In this new home, leaving behind the little house where we shared our lives with her. 

Moving on to new adventures and dreams. All the while, thanking God for the 5 lb little miracle that came into our lives five years ago. 

Happy birthday sweet girl. I love you.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Not Yet Fertile

I was thinking of laying low this Infertility Awareness Week. 

Because this is one of those ugly hard months. The ones where it doesn't feel okay that other women are pregnant, where I can barely manage a congratulatory "like" on yet another pregnancy announcement. Because why not me?  Why this cross?

I'm turning 35 in five weeks. Back when I was 22, engaged, and planning out my perfect life, this is the year I would have my final child, probably our fifth or sixth.  

Because surely I would be old and have a big family, so why risk anything less than perfection?

Man, that girl was not great. 

Instead, I'm watching my minimal fertility sputter out.  The cycles with signs of fertility are fewer. Every month, I watch the window slide a little further closed. 

My two girls will turn 11 and 4 this summer and I'm working hard to fully embrace this picture, without daydreaming of another. 

Every day, I pray for peace with my life just this moment as everything is. 

As I am. With the family size I have. I pray to dive down deep - not into accepting where I am, but actually reveling in where I am. 

I pray for joy, even as the crashing wave of another unsuccessful cycle swallows me whole. The cycle where all the things lined up perfectly....and 

I pray, as I ask you to stand with me just a moment and feel this crushing weight. Imagine with me a moment what it is to take a gift for granted, and then spend the next ten years begging for it. 

Like thirst for water in the desert, it burns. 

Some months, I find an oasis. In the midst of my desert, I find respite. I laugh and cheer those swimming in the ocean. 

I pray for them when the water is so deep it scares them. All the while, happily sitting next to my puddle. 

Other months, the sun has scorched the earth and I'm thirsty. I can see the water, but I can't have it. 

This is that month. Where I'm struggling to stay upright. Not because I'm depressed or unbalanced, but because this cross is heavy. This road is hard. 

Infertility is sad and hard and grief-stricken.  The desert can wither your soul, or that heat can become your refining crucible. 

It's who I take into the desert that matters. 

It changes who I will be when I emerge. 

To all my fellow desert wanderers, this week, praying for you is getting me through. 

To all my friends in the ocean, I'm loving you hard and praying you stay afloat. I'll find another oasis I'm sure. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Little Yellow House

We've been house hunting. Looking for something that meets the needs of our growing girls - like a second bathroom and a dining room for family gatherings. 

As we search, a little part of my heart grieves. 

You see, moving on to better things means parting with what we have here and now. 

It means washing away the crayon marks from the wall - the last tangible marks that Sweet Baby lived here - that she touched this space as much as she touched our hearts. 

It means leaving behind the home where I brought my babies home for the first time. One of those babies is no longer with me, and it's like losing her again to lose the place she crawled, walked, and laughed for the first time. 

LB said to me last week, "I just realized we're going to leave my childhood home. The next one will be the one Sweet Pea thinks of that way, but this one is mine."

Yes. We need more space. Yes. The new home will bring so many moments of happy life. Maybe there will be new babies. Definitely there will be new milestones. 

Still, a part of my heart grieves with every trace of our family I erase from this space. With every box I pack, and nail hole I fill. Every old crayon mark I erase, it stings a little. 

So many times in life, we have to say goodbye to something we love to grow. 

Leaving a home with parents and siblings to join our spouse in a new life. Leaving behind an old home to grow into a new one. Leaving our earthly bodies to embrace eternity. 

Every growing pain hurts. So, I'll cry sometimes while I pack. Not because I don't want to go, but because parting is such sweet sorrow. 

The crayon marks I need to erase. 

The ten years of memories wrapped up in this home we'll be leaving. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Weight: A Milestone

Today is a day I've been working for. 

Today, when I stepped on the scale, I was down to the weight I was before we lost Sweet Baby. 

All week, I've been anticipating this milestone, tearing up at the thought of all I've been through and what I've done to get to this milestone. All the emotions have swirled around me all week. 

Then, this morning, I stepped on the scale, and I didn't feel this surge of great emotions. I felt grace. I felt peace. 

It was a moment of quiet celebration, and a resounding sense of peace. 

The number on the scale reflected an internal truth, and it all just felt happily, calmly, right. 

I've been diligent in my nutrition, working out, and feeling better every day.  

It's fitting that on this day, I finished a project that's been swirling around in my head. Inspiring head wear for working out. Reminders that I'm not punishing my body, I'm honoring it and my Creator in my workouts. 

This new health journey isn't about punishing who or where I've been, it's about remembering I was always worth it. Remembering that I am beloved and wonderfully made. 

For all that "Sparkle" running down my face while I work out :)

You can find your own inspiring gear at 

Blessings on your journey, whatever gear you go with ;)

Friday, March 25, 2016

God Blesses the Fiat

Today, for this day, Mary is young, unmarried and proclaiming her Fiat - all the while she is a mourning mother enduring the worst to honor that Fiat.

The whole arc, from carrying the Son of God and feeling him kick along her ribs to losing a teenager on a family pilgrimage to witnessing the final pilgrimage, bloody and beaten to the cross. 

It was all in that yes. All of the weight in those first words of trust and acceptance.  When she gave herself fully over to love, to the love of God for humanity, she held nothing back from it. 

That's what love is. Holding nothing back. Not stopping to cover and hide the vulnerable parts of your heart. 

In 2011, we were called to our own fiat. Early in our placement with Sweet Baby, someone asked me how we were guarding our hearts for the possibility she might leave. 

She said it with true, compassionate concern for our hearts, but I could only think to say, "we're not."  And we didn't, because that was our fiat. To dive into the deep end and trust that we wouldn't drown. 

Because we couldn't give her any less than all. Through the sleepless nights or infancy and all the highs and lows of the toddler years. All of it took all of us. 

After two and a half years, we were one hearing away from termination of parental rights....and then everything flipped, and we were suddenly in the process of separating our lives from hers. 

Watching her cry for us as she went away. Calling her a new name. Hearing her stop calling me Mom. And finally, being cut off from her completely. 

And then our heads went under the water, even as grace reached down to pull us through. We knew that's what our fiat could mean, but we didn't fully know the depth and breadth of it until we lived it. Until we walked our own road to Calvary. 

I didn't guard my heart, and it was destroyed. That heart was shattered, but in its place, grace grew a new one. 

Today, I think about the hardness of our story, and I think about the hardness of Mary's story, and I hope they both tell you the same story. 

The fiat is your whole self, it can be crushing, but ultimately, finally, it is the greatest story of your life.  And infinitely forever worth every tear. She was worthy of every tear.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

All the Layers

 In January, my resolution was a commitment to health. To working on being the best version of me, mental health, emotional health, physical health. 

It's been like gathering pieces of a puzzle without quite knowing the picture...or even the number of pieces. 

My hormone numbers continue to look good with the intervention of bioidentical progesterone, low dose naltrexone was added to temper the hormonal mood swings and boost endorphins (best. thing. ever). 

All these steps and tests. Thyroid panel came back slightly off, but too close to normal for medicinal intervention. 

I'm waiting on glucose/insulin resistance test results, and hoping if there is a problem, it's easily remedied with intervention. 

In the meantime, I've started another journey.  Three weeks ago, I began a ketogenic diet with the blessing of my doctor and the support of a nutrition coach. 

The progress has been painstakingly slow....because three weeks...shouldn't I be done by now?!?! Such impatience. Much frustration. 

Still, the scale has been creeping down. And tonight I'm sitting just a few pounds above where I started before we lost our Sweet Baby.  

Over the last couple years, the layers of grief have enveloped me, and now, slowly slowly, I'm peeling them away. 

Looking forward more days than I look backwards. Dreaming new and different dreams again. 

A few pounds from here isn't my final milestone, but I'd wager it will be one of the most bittersweet.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

When I Thought I Knew

This summer will mark 11 years of motherhood for me.  Eleven years of changing, growing, and learning that there's so much more I really don't know.

My mother raised nine children, all natural births (not on purpose every time, she'd be quick to tell you....those doctors and nurses foiling her drug attempts!), all breastfed. 

When I had my first via planned C-section, a little bit of my perfect plan crumbled away.  L was frank breech, legs folded up, bottom down.  There was no way she was coming out that way.  Pioneer days version of me would have labored three days and died. 

Modern day me was crushed and anxious that my body wouldn't be doing things the way I'd always expected to.  For a long time, I felt this guilt about telling other moms I had a just seemed like I did something less mom than them.  But, time and maturity have taught me something.  You know what?  Thank God for modern medicine.  Thank God for hospitals and skilled surgeons. 

Back in the day, my silver lining of true mom-ness after my C-section was nursing L 17 months.  I had no problems with supply, and after the first three weeks of figuring out a good latch and surviving the blistered awfulness of a constantly nursing newborn, everything went smoothly.  L nursed pretty constantly for the first six months, and then when she started some solids, I had a respite, and we continued on until it was just a bedtime routine before she self-weaned. 

I was mother, hear me roar.  I nursed my baby until she stopped. 

Then, six years of secondary infertility with pregnancy losses along the way and we found ourselves with a foster daughter.  It was my first experience with formula feeding, and contrary to recent articles, she thrived. 

She grew from a 5lb preemie to a robust and vibrant toddler.  All on that powdered stuff I could get in exchange for currency at the grocery store.  Magic.

Still, I was a bit self-righteous about nursing.  After all, I was (finally) expecting again and of course nursing would go just as well the second time around.  Maybe better, because, after all, I was now a pro.

Oh folly of pride.  From the moment Sweet Pea was born, I struggled with supply.  Every supplement, every home remedy, I tried them all. 

Nursing cookies?  Baked.  Guinness with dinner?  Drank it.  Increased water intake?  Oh man, I almost floated away.  Fenugreek? Check.  Brewer's Yeast?  Check.  All the supplements that everyone who ever nursed or even heard of nursing told me about?  Tried them.

It didn't make a dent.  Guinness was by far the most effective, and an evening beer was a great way to unwind, so the excuse of milk supply welcomed.  But still, I couldn't keep up with the nutritional needs of this little baby entrusted to me to nourish and care for.

Finally, it was Sweet Pea who saw reason and ended the madness.  At eight months, she had more sense than me and self-weaned.  I pumped what meager amounts I could get for another month before finally succumbing to sanity and switching fully to formula.

Still, every bottle I mixed in front of someone, I felt the need to explain that I had tried everything to avoid this.  Why?  Because of things like men who know nothing of what it is to nurse sharing articles by sketchy moralists.  I felt defeated, guilty and shamed.  I felt lacking that my body would not cooperate.  It could not cooperate. 

Many of the factors contributing to my sub-fertility contribute to low supply and difficulty in breastfeeding.  It's a double betrayal by my body.

Before I knew what it was to feel like a failure, before I knew what it was to try and not succeed, I thought I knew all the answers.  I thought I knew that nursing worked because it was natural and women's bodies were made to do it and how could they not because just try harder

Until I tried so hard it was insanity in my life.  Then I really knew.  I'll always try to nurse any babies I have because it may work for a time.  But, when it stops working, now I know, formula is a gift, not a curse. 

It is a blessing that we have ways to feed and sustain babies when mental, physical, or emotional challenges prevent breastfeeding.

Every now and then, I'll meet an expectant mother who has all the answers, who knows all the best ways to labor, who has the best laid plans for nursing into toddlerhood.  When I meet her, I try to remember the me that was her, who knew all the things just like her, and I try to extend her grace.

Because, really I didn't know what I was talking about, but I really thought I did.  Now I know how very much I don't know.  And I'll think to myself as I walk away from her, "bless her heart" in the Southern-most expression of that phrase and pray she discovers the truth in a gentler way than I did. 

I thought I knew.  I thought the answer was just try harder.  It's not.  The answer is God knows the struggle of that mama's heart and far be it from me to add to her burden, whatever the parenting style, food philosophies or screen time routines. 

When I thought I knew, I judged.  Now I know, that judgment in my heart was unfounded and hurtful. 

Still, I'll try to extend grace to those ignorant of the injustice they lay at the feet of all mothers when they criticize any of the things we do in the best interests of our family.....but inside I'll be thinking, "You just don't know that you don't know yet."

Monday, February 1, 2016

Zelie & Co: Giving Back

A few months ago, a group of Catholic women artisans got together to do a pre-Christmas giveaway to build awareness for our shops, and give one lucky winner a very Merry Christmas.

From that little bit of working together, our group meshed so well, we couldn't break the connection lightly. After all, in this disconnected world, how often do you find a group of women who share in a love of creating, a love of the Catholic faith, and that can laugh thousands of miles apart about kids and potty humor, but also support you with business advice?

It was kismet. As our mutual repoire grew, we knew we should work together, and so, Zelie & Co was born. 

Our patroness is St Zelie, mother of St Therese (and other wonderful children) and lacemaker. St Zelie knew what it was like to balance crafting and housework, and we could think of no one to better intercede for us, helping us to balance our families and our work as we strive to emulate her and grow closer to God. 

Every Tuesday, our group of artisans offer sets on Instagram (@ZelieandCo) at a discounted rate from our individual stores (bonus - free shipping!) 

However, something very special is happening on Tuesday, February 9th. 

We're not just selling sets from our shop - we're working on sets worth over $100 and partnering with bloggers to auction them off for charity.  I'm so excited to be partnering my shop (Annery's Handmade) with Rosie from A Blog for my Mom.  I'll be donating all my work and craft, along with paying shipping to the winning bidder, the funds will all be sent to the charity Rosie has chosen.

Make sure you stay tuned with Rosie for pictures of my set, but I'll give you a little sneak peak here. 

Patron saint of lace makers and mother of the Little Flower, this set is straight up their alley, I'm sure of it. It's a beautiful thing to be able to give back, and I am can't wait to see who wins my set at auction and how much we're able to raise for Rosie's charity. 

Make sure to follow along at #ZelieCharityAuction - and stop by @ZelieandCo tomorrow morning for the last traditional sale before Lent begins. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Little Piece of Grief

Yesterday took a sharp left turn. The kind that makes you spin out on black ice. 

I received word that a mother at our parish lost her infant daughter during delivery. 

I'm from a large parish with a variety of mass times, so I didn't know her, but, I was asked to contact her to offer comfort. 

When we lost Mara in an ectopic and then again when Sweet Baby left our home, love met our grief in the form of casseroles.  Love showed up as a meal I didn't have to find the energy to prepare. Love showed up in the face of every woman who crossed my threshold with an offering of time and caring. 

So, I did what that love has shown me and made a casserole. LB added an offering of rice crispy treats to the mix. 

Then, like generations before us have done, I brought the family a meal. I visited for a few minutes, hugged, and shared in their grief. 

As I went through the rest of my day, the weight of their loss stayed heavy on my heart, as if I'd taken a little bit home with me. 

Then, I thought, perhaps I had. Perhaps that's what we're supposed to do in times of loss. Chip off a small piece of the grief and replace it with kindness and caring. 

None of us can fully remove the weight of loss, but we can each pick up a pebble from the boulder and share the weight, in some small measure. 

I can carry this mother in my heart as she grieves, and perhaps my small offering will be a kindness that brings comfort, such as I've experienced before. 

In our modern and convenient world, it can be so easy to avoid pain and discomfort, but we were not made for comfort. 

This week, more moms will be reaching out with meals to bring a small light to a dark place. I pray this mother feels this surround her as she faces a long and painful way forward. 

I'll keep my pebble of her pain, and like a rosary bead, hold it when I pray. In this moment, I am reminded, we were not made for solitude. We were not made to grieve alone. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Saint to Guide Me

Every year, Hubby and I talk about homeschooling versus private schooling.

This year, we decided to send SP to preschool two mornings a week so I could have a little more time with LB to focus on her schooling and do those things that take some undivided attention. 

We've also taken a pretty bare bones approach to the year. The main focus of fifth grade for LB has been reading, writing, math, and religion. Those are the things we're trying to do well. Everything else, we've put in the "extra" category. 

It's given us a better focus to the year and made the school day more manageable. Extra subjects have found their way in, as life doesn't happen in a vacuum. 

We've maintained a subscription to Green Kids Crafts, and every month, a science box that LB can complete independently has arrived. 

We bought the complete four volume set of The Story of the World on audio, and she's listened several times, absorbing history in the context of a worldview. 

This Christmas, we bought a new family computer and added Rosetta Stone Spanish and Dance Mat Typing to the school day. 

The school year is going well, so well, I really was surprised by the incessant push I'm feeling to go back to private school with the girls next year. 

We've always been open to moving between homeschooling and our local Catholic school, but just when I feel like we're in our groove, I think we might be switching it up again. 

As I've said in the past, we're blessed to be choosing between two goods. One isn't bad and the other better, but the flexibility of homeschooling has always been such a draw to me. 

Yet, God keeps speaking into my heart that it's time. Time to focus more on my own mental and physical health while the girls are in a place they love that nurtures their faith and minds. 

Time to put energy into working, as well. It's such a blessing to have work I enjoy, and a few hours a day where I'm not juggling schooling and a preschooler would go a long way towards our family's future. 

Last Friday, I was feeling guilty about going in this direction, questioning whether it was selfish and misguided to send the girls to school to give myself the space for personal and professional growth. 

Then, LB reminded me we hadn't picked our names for the Saint's Name Generator

As I waited to press the button, I prayed, "God, give me the Saint I need for this year." 

Then I clicked on the patroness of infertility and working mothers. 

Sometimes God has to bang you over the head with it.

Please pray for our family as we continue to make this decision and discern what our coming school year looks like.  We're doing our best to be open to being where God wants us to be.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Gethsemane Moments

I wrote earlier this month about my new medications and some of the hardness of it all.

Right after I wrote that post, I scaled up to my final dosage....and that next morning was a doozy.  All of Sunday was a blur of nausea, fatigue, and dizziness.  My husband and girls have been very helpful, and I've been able to get the things done that I need to, so it's a barely manageable kind of yuck.  It's slowly getting better, and hopefully soon my body will have adjusted, but all the suffering got me thinking.

Last night, as I lay in bed, I prayed, "Dear God, please, I just want to feel better.  Please, just make this stop." 

Then it struck me how similar it was to those words in Gethsemane, "Take this from me."  With a notable exception of Jesus' addition, "Your will, not mine."

And in those four words, Jesus teaches us how to suffer.  In the midst of the nausea, I felt tremendous gratitude for our Catholic faith.  We have redemptive suffering.  Jesus shows us through his life and death how to do suffering.   We have a guide to make our suffering into something.  To offer it up and lay it at the foot of the cross, crying, praying, falling in silence.

This moment isn't a waste.  As much as I want to be on the other side already, this awfulness isn't just something to gut through.  It's something to give. 

So, I'm doing my best to give it.  Even though last night I was so tired, I cried because the bath mat was damp.  So together over here!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Hello, Again, My Friend

Sometimes the deep moments happen in the quiet.

It's been hard to talk about the deep moments lately.  December 20th marked two years without Sweet Baby

In mid-November, I listened to an interview with Kathryn Whitaker (Team Whitaker).  She discussed the importance of caring for her marriage in the midst of the stresses of illness with her youngest.

It struck me like a thunderbolt what December 20th means to my marriage.  It's two years of holding on through loss, grief, and depression.  It's two years of not losing each other while our world crumbled.  Two years where we didn't let go.

So, I planned a trip and we spent two days alone together, because we made it through a crucible together, and that deserves a room with a fireplace and all the fanciness.

It was two days much needed and well spent.

The last month has also been a step forward in hormonal health.  After my latest consult, the doctor offered me the option to begin taking low dose naltrexone.  Two weeks of research and discussion with others who have taken it, and I decided with some trepidation to begin the medication.

The side effects include fatigue and nausea, so it's been all the fun of the first trimester, without any of the baby-at-the-end benefits.  The LDN boosts my body's production of beta endorphins, meaning my stomach has been taking a hit, but at least I'm happy about it :P

To mitigate the side effects, my doctor has had me slowly increasing my dosage.  After two or three days, my stomach and energy regulate.....until the next increase.  This week is the final increase.  I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  Soon, I hope to have an elevated mood and a peaceful stomach.

With all of the holidays, the inevitable increase in pregnancy announcements, and the general fatigue and nausea, this has been a trying month.  Really more crying than is strictly necessary, but not quite enough to feel better. 

The advent of a new cycle brought all of it, the anniversary of losing SB, the nausea, the feeling that everyone else is pregnant to a head.  The thoughts that had been brewing for months broke free.  It's time to let go of the baby stuff.  I've culled back little by little over the years, but it's really time now.

Not because it's a superstition to become pregnant, not because I'm hopeless for the future, but because it's time.  Deeply, profoundly time to stop living in a moment that isn't here.  Time to face both feet in the direction that is my life. 

With all the clich├ęd introspection that comes with a new year, I'm making a choice.  Each day, I'm going to pry my hands back open and let go of the life I thought I would have because it is only in letting go that I will find the person God created me to be. 

Today, letting go looked like packing up my Sweet Baby's crib and taking it to my brother's house.  My new nephew will be here within the month.  A baby will sleep sweetly in that bed once again.

Letting go is hard and scary and hopeful and sweet.  Wherever this road goes, I will be more me, more the person I was meant to be.  While that means snotty tears over old furniture, whispers in my soul tell me it's going to be amazing.