Bliss

The best way to describe life right now is with the word BLISS. My pup, Hollywood, was found to only have a benign growth and has stopped having to wear his t-shirts as his wound is healing very well. And, even though I don’t know anything more about the placenta previa (next appointment is late this week), I feel calm and hopeful we will fall into the large percentage of situations where this takes care of itself.

So, for now, I am enjoying the longer days of sunshine. I am reading books, connecting with friends and family, and continuing to prepare for this little guy who is now over 24 weeks gestation. I cannot believe my good fortune to be able to spend this time with him!

I have written before about how I loved my time with Adam Gabriel. Even though he left before I was ready for him to do so, I cherished my happy time with him – and still think of him with an enormous open heart (sometimes it feels like a gaping wound but always it feels like infinite love). I think about him often while I prepare for this new little guy. I am so thankful to have had every day with each of them.

Also, I feel overwhelming love from everyone in my life. I genuinely feel like everyone is cheering for us to have the limelight right now. Everyone wants this little guy to come home with us. It’s like a giant prayer I feel as I walk through my days right now. We have so many supportive people in our lives that it is impossible not to feel so special. I know this little boy is loved a little more because he’s made it this far and all our loved ones are eager to meet him.

As Christians are celebrating the Easter season, I feel like I am identifying with the resurrection. It’s been a long few years – feeling like my forty days in the desert for sure – but now I am relishing in the belief that the tide seems to be spitting me back onto shore where I can rest for a bit.

So, in an effort just to give everyone a little update, I just wanted to write about enjoying a blissful period of gratitude. I am thankful. I am not taking this time for granted. Every tiny baby kick, every snuggle with Hollywood, and every day I have my health seems like the greatest gift.

Lighter and Brighter

Having time to process the placenta previa concern, I am feeling so much better. I have heard many reassuring stories from readers and friends, and I am feeling so happy that it seems like this should be one of the things I don’t let myself worry about yet. And, by the time I should start preparing myself to deal with it, the concern likely will have disappeared! How wonderful! So, for now, I am skipping the gym and going on long, lazy walks, enjoying the birds chirping, the sun on my skin, and the warmer air that has just started circulating this area of the globe.

My dog, Hollywood, is wearing funny t-shirts everyday to protect his recent stitches. I think they are hilarious and he seems to enjoy wearing them. I think maybe they make him feel more human (he also loves when I put on his collars which supports that theory), or maybe he just enjoys the laundry smell that reminds him of home. Either way, I have also calmed down about his skin removal and will just have to wait and see what the biopsy results reveal.

Hollywood's tshirt

As a rule, I have noticed that pregnancy makes me calmer.I find myself more at peace and more able to let slights go. I think it may just be because I am so incredibly grateful for this gift of carrying a child. At 22 weeks, everything still looks and feels positive, which allows me to embrace my joy a little bit tighter.

So, even though the pounds on the scale are accumulating awfully fast, I am feeling light and healthy. My being is soaking in the goodness that is all around and growing inside of me, literally! The little guy is kicking all the time; my buddy, Hollywood, is back to himself and as sweet as ever; and I am getting to enjoy a time in marriage that is compassionate, considerate, and thoughtful.

Life is really good right now and that is something worth sharing. So many of us bloggers are writing – or at least started writing – because we had a lot to work through and we felt compelled to use a platform that could connect us to others that might understand our struggles. I hope people that find this blog because of my losses don’t stop reading before they see things turning more positively.

I am sure I have said it before, but I feel like pain and suffering are largely universal emotions, regardless of the actual circumstances that cause these feelings. Through all of my agony, numbness, and loss of hope while dealing with losing children, basically a career, and nearly my dog (my constant companion and source of love), I have somehow traveled to a place where the fog – the drudgery – has lifted and peace has replaced it. Even if you are fighting a different battle today than the ones I’ve described, please try to remember that this is just a season.

Wellness does return to us in many forms. We adjust and integrate our losses (time, opportunity, relationships, you name it), but we can move forward with more wisdom and compassion for others – and, maybe most importantly, ourselves.

Temporarily Off Cloud Nine

The last few months have presented so much hope and joy for me. I am still carrying this little guy at 21 weeks! I cannot believe it. I have started to embrace the process and even have set up the crib and painted the walls in Son One’s Son Two’s Son Three’s room. The room has gone through a lot of changes throughout the last three and a half years, but I am feeling more confident every day that the most recent changes will serve the long term purpose of keeping Son Three safe and warm. But, with all of these warm and fuzzy feelings, a little reality started to lurk too closely again this last week.

I had my official anatomy scan with the high risk specialists and let me say right away that Son Three looks beautiful and healthy. He is averaging in the 70th percentile on his measurements which makes sense because my husband and I are both tall people. Son Three was so busy moving it was difficult to get his measurements! But, to our relief and as far as the specialists can tell, he has all the good stuff he is supposed to have and he seems to be progressing with robust health.

The reality set in when they decided it was necessary to flag me for a possible case of marginal placenta previa. Knowing a little (but not a lot) about this immediately alerted my fear centers. After all, this is the specialist’s office where I have done two post-miscarriage WTF appointments to see if we could glean any insight into why I kept losing babies. And, here they were, telling me I had risk for something else that sounded less than ideal. All I remember is seeing those words, “placenta previa,” in my miscarriage research in the past, just like I remember seeing “ectopic pregnancy” before actually having what was suspected to be one in Fall 2014.

The ultrasound tech left and I tried to process her admission without melting down completely since the nurse practitioner was on her way back into the room. Choking back some tears, I told my husband not to try to comfort me right now; it was one of those moments I needed to NOT absorb everything I was feeling and just concentrate on being logical and listening to information.

For those of you who do not know, placenta previa is when your placenta is covering, partially covering, or marginally covering your cervix opening. If early and unwelcome bleeding doesn’t ensue and demand a trip to the ER, often a simple C-section can now relieve the concern for placenta previa. In most cases, the marginal diagnosis I am now being monitored for resolves itself on its own. In fact, some sources say 90% of the time this becomes a non-issue by the time for delivery. But, when you’ve fallen into that 10% or 1% or less than 1% category several times in past pregnancies, it’s hard to feel too assured by the statistics supposedly being on your side.

So, I am mostly concentrating on being logical. I realize that my placenta has high odds of moving up and away from my cervix as my uterus grows and, essentially, pulls the placenta up on its own. (I think I vaguely understand all of this, anyway.) But, of course after all of our trauma surrounding pregnancy, I find myself – in moments – angry, frustrated, and fighting a little of that exhausted/defeated feeling we get when we’ve been struggling in a battle for too long. I was highly aware that I had finally moved out of that way of being into a lighter, happier place, and I had no intentions of willingly going back to fear, grief, or sadness.

So, here I am…overwhelmingly grateful for Son Three…enjoying every kick and somersault he seems to be perfecting…and, also, finding myself detached from the process in some moments because that has been a survival technique I have instituted when trying to handle past losses. I am trying to remind myself that this isn’t a death sentence. It seems far from it, actually. And, after all my husband and I have been through, a C-section birth – or even an emergency trip to the ER with this little guy in a few weeks when he is viable – would be delightful compared to losing babies. But, there is that puny, fear-based, limiting voice that says, “Why me?” Why do I have to have one more challenge that the doctors classify as random or unlucky, but still an issue? Why do I have to go back to the specialist for extra monitoring with this fifth pregnancy?

And, to add another layer of drama and anxiety to my current feelings, my gorgeous, playful, everything-to-me, six-year-old pup has to get a spot removed from his skin and tested this week. It’s been almost exactly two years since we almost lost him when his stomach flipped, and I am just not ready to deal with losing (or almost losing) family members again this year.

So, this post ended up being more negative than I intended it to be. I really am still so joyful about my current situation and feel like these two worries will take care of themselves in the weeks and months to come. I know this is life. We get presented with confusion and fear, and we grow by integrating it into our lives and not forgetting how incredibly positive so many moments in our life are each and every day. I am going to have to commit myself to balance, letting myself feel joy, and limiting my dark concerns. Worry isn’t helpful anyway.

Son Three

Son Three.

I wish those words could leap off the page with my excitement. SON THREE.

I wrote about Son One and Son Two in my last post, having no idea that the very next day I would know for sure about Son Three. So, with what seems like the most beautiful love story, let me start at the beginning…

Last October, my husband and I were starting to realize the adoption just wasn’t moving. We decided, once again, that our current plan wasn’t working for us and, if we ever wanted to try to have a biological child again, it’s always better sooner than later. So, we took the precautionary measures to prepare my body for a healthy pregnancy, and decided to play roulette one more time.

Then, we went on vacation. We saw the world’s most famous art in Rome. We walked alongside the many colors of bougainvilleas in Capri. We ate way too much pasta in Sicily, laughing incredibly around the table with my big, partially-Italian family. We swam in the pristine seas in Greece. We explored Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia. We visited the most beautiful basilica in Venice, St. Mark’s, where I, being the crazy Catholic that I am, had an intense moment with Mary, letting her know I knew she – the mother of all – sees the longing of my heart and has the closest connection to her son and his all-knowing divinity. Then, in Florence, the night before a wine tasting trip in Tuscany, I took a pregnancy test that was positive.

I abstained from the wine gladly, and a few weeks later – on our 10th wedding anniversary – we heard the baby’s heartbeat. We continued to have great appointments with our new, amazing doctor, beautiful ultrasounds, and kept the secret from family and friends, mostly, until yesterday. We had early genetic testing at 12 weeks and, at 13 weeks, we found out Son Three was on the way with all the right chromosomes.

Yesterday was the parallel day in my previous pregnancy I found out A.G. didn’t have a heartbeat. I planned an early morning ultrasound yesterday so I could get through the day as smoothly as possible. Despite not sleeping well the night before from nerves, we added “can kick legs over his head” to the list of funny things we’ve seen him do – the list that also includes flutter kicks, holding his hands, and sucking his thumb. Yesterday, my son had a healthy heartbeat and, instead of going to the hospital, I got to go home and make appointments for my 20 week scans.

Today, is my 33rd birthday. As if this fairy tale couldn’t get any sweeter, it did this morning at 3:30am. My husband and I were both restless for no reason we could ascertain, so we started talking. I wanted to tell him that my mom found out my dad was saying a rosary for our son every night at bedtime. (Swoon.) Within a few minutes, I felt a little bubbly sensation where our baby resides. I asked my husband to put his hand on my stomach to see if he could feel it too and he promptly confirmed that he did. Almost everything I have read says that the partner usually cannot feel those little movements from baby at this gestational age, but I guess the night was still enough and the moment was magical enough…clearly, this is a birthday for the record books.

Son Three. SON THREE. Son Three might come home. It’s actually looking probable and, even if he doesn’t, look at all this joy, love, and beauty he has added to my life. Today, we are overwhelmingly grateful. I share this because, after four miscarriages, I hope that it does give some of you working through infertility, losses, shaky adoptions, or all of the above, a glimmer of hope.

I don’t say this lightly. I don’t say this asking you to “just relax” or “be patient.” I intimately know it is not that simple. I also don’t say it asking you to “not give up.” It’s an individual decision to decide when and how it’s all too much. Frankly, I thought I might be there already before October. I just want to say “hope.” That’s all. Chances can be slim, and this Son Three may not even come home, but hope can come back after you’ve thought you lost it completely.

Son Two. Son One. Son Zero?

SON TWO

I don’t know what to think anymore. Now, after two years in the adoption process, our agency cannot find the birth parents of our match so our referral cannot be completed. If they don’t show up…sometime soon, I guess?…then, we will get rematched and start the last seven months over from the beginning. If you are reading this and considering adopting from Haiti, I would run away as quickly as possible and find another avenue. Don’t believe the promises of a system getting resurrected like we did. If we get rematched, we could easily have another 2.5-3 years in process ahead of us.

But, that is all about us. The really sad thing is that, from what I have heard from other families in similar situations (unfortunately this is not a rare circumstance),  it takes Haiti a long time to declare a child a true orphan if the birth parents drop out of the picture, committing the child to several more years stuck in the system without being released to join a waiting family. This boy. This boy that is waiting for proper familial love. I could write a lot more but I am afraid I would be projecting and exploiting his experience, so I won’t. But, this just makes me very sad.

So, as my husband and I are considering, once again, if this is the right path for us (not adoption as a whole but this process in Haiti), we have recently received an opportunity to work through some of our past trauma by going back to the hospital where our son, Adam Gabriel, was born.

SON ONE

Hospitals are a big trigger for us now. When our niece was born last fall, the whole family wanted to FaceTime with us from the hospital 15 hours away from our home, but we regretfully declined, explaining how births and hospitals are just such a big trigger for us, and we weren’t sure we could handle it well. We felt awful telling them we couldn’t just FaceTime, but we also know we have to explain our perspective to people because they didn’t experience the awful situation we did so they don’t know how it haunts us.

So, a dear friend had a beautiful baby girl this week. In my excitement about her wonderful news, I immediately committed myself to going to see her as soon as I was welcome (as the real, undamaged me desired). We have the kind of friendship that there was no reason to hesitate. It wasn’t until after the conversation ended that my anxiety started erupting. I realized it was the same hospital, the same floor, possibly the same nurses, and the same set of doctors…the doctors I have since sworn to never visit in that capacity again because of my personal disappointments with them over the four miscarriages I have had (they had nothing to do with the losses, but handled many, many other things very unprofessionally and even dangerously).

So, now my mind was racing. What if the doctors ask how I am doing? What if the nurses recognize me? What if I see pity in their eyes? Can I really make it through those same doors I left 2.5 years ago without a baby in my arms but, instead, with a short list of post-labor instructions? Talking it through with my husband, I decided I really wanted to go see my friend, but I knew I couldn’t do it without him. I knew it had to be a game time decision when we received the okay to head down.

And so we did. We got the invite. We bought flowers. We parked in the same parking lot where we left our son. We walked through the doors into the building where we left our son. We went up the elevators, passed the nursing station, and down the hallway where we left our son.

And then…

We walked through my friend’s room that was bursting with family and energy. Toddlers, grandparents, sisters, and husbands. A newborn baby girl as perfect as anything. She is handed to me. She is beautiful. This room has life. This room has hope. This is a different room in every sense of the word. No doctors come by and no nurses I recognize come into the room. I just get to catch up with my bubbling, beautiful friend (I mean, come on, how can one look so good after labor at 4:30AM?) and hug her kind, compassionate family. I witness cousin kisses that are as soft as butterflies. I see the glow that no lack of sleep can touch.

And I remember why we force ourselves to recover. We go through those doors and up those elevators. We risk the panic and being overcome by emotion. We do this because there is so much more to life than our pain. Sometimes sons don’t come home, but sometimes daughters do. And that is everything.

 

A Time for Reflection

Each new year brings a chance to reflect on the last one. Some years, the dam finally breaks. Instead of a rushing stream of water, sometimes it feels more like a steady trickle of new life, but – still – the crack in the stone wall has created room for breathing.

My 2015 finally presented a broken dam. For the first time in three years, I did not endure a miscarriage (or two). I also stopped putting anxious energy into my work life. In some ways it felt like a giving up of big pieces of my life – turning a blind eye toward goals and achievement – but, in another way, it just felt finally, calmly, like back floating in a bed of water, warming myself under the sun above me.

And you know what? I needed the back float more than I needed the achievement or marked progress. I was thirsting for the sun to provide its soft loving gaze. The UNfocus, the accepting of life, the kicking off of responsibilities or any worries that could bog me down…these healed me. The kid in me reappeared. Slowly, and not without resistance and some old-bitter-woman moments of fallback, but the kid in me reappeared nonetheless.

Toward the end of 2015, I finally started recognizing myself again. I was laughing easily, back into a friendship with my body, and giving my mind a break from the criticism. 2015 did not bring home a child with all of its adoption delays. It brought me less consulting work than ever. But it brought me wet, juicy memories – laughing and just BEING with friends and family – that will always remain.

It brought me travel, shenanigans, and boat rides. It brought me stargazing and nights full of fireflies.  It brought me life again. So, for the first time in several years, I did not say good riddance to another year. I said thank you for being with me in the time we had.

Unhappy Endings

So, I must have some appeal with older men. Not like that. (Refer to last post.) But, I must look approachable, trustworthy even. I hadn’t seen my neighbor long enough to engage in conversation for a few months maybe, but today all of that changed.

I am just walking by his house with my beautiful labradoodle, earbuds in, enjoying the unseasonable sun and warmth, when he stops me with what seemed like a quick hello. I wave, take my earbuds out, and walk closer for a bit of a chat. I casually comment on his Christmas lights and ask about his wife who is still living at his other home, seeing if she’s been convinced to join him in this new, albeit smaller set up.

He stops dead in his tracks and says she’s divorcing him after 50 years…divorcing him after having a brain aneurysm over seven years ago, leaving her entirely dependent on his care…divorcing him while he lets her keep the dog, the larger home with acres of lush grounds he enjoys farming, the car he just bought her…and his heart. Yes, he calls her an “absolute angel” today.

He knows she is not capable of thinking straight. He knows she cannot care for herself so he has been checking in on her. He knows that she probably has less than a year to live, and everything settled in divorce court will go to his daughter, allowing him to partake in his old home and his farming acres before the divorce is probably final in September.

My neighbor talks of embarrassment. He talks of all of his church friends knowing he has taken good care of her all of these years and being supportive, although it’s hard for him to face them now. He explains how, when he was served the papers, he went into a full blown anxiety attack and was left a motionless mess in the new home he bought them while he waited for his old friend to come check his heart. He motions to his chest, showing me where his friend beat on his ribs, thinking he was having a heart attack and trying to get him to respond after finding him on the hardwood floor. He says he will get through this.

I just stand there, listening, telling him I am shocked so I can only imagine how he must feel. I let him know that I acknowledge that this is a Big Pain, one of those things that stays with you forever. I comment that these things, when we get through them, change us forever, don’t they? I encourage him to get another dog so he is not so lonely and he says, “Well, only if it is a puppy, so I can train him to obey me,” as he launches into another story about his dog he no longer sees.

So, tonight, I think….should I get him a puppy for Christmas???!!!

 

Apples, Jesus, and Everything Else That Really Matters

I was just quickly grabbing some apples from the produce section, having completed most of my shopping already. An older man – probably in his late seventies – decorated with a veteran hat and plain clothing, asked me which kind I preferred. I replied that I supposed I would go for the Braeburn. He asked me to consider the Gala apples. Afterall, they were less than half the price. I smiled, gave him a friendly glance, and told him he had changed my mind – I would try the Gala today. I thought the exchange would end there.

Looking back, I don’t think it even started there. I think he tried to converse with me on the other side of the produce section over a fallen itemized sign, although I cannot be sure because I did not pay enough attention to my audience. I glazed over that quick communication, thinking nothing more of it than someone wondering what had fallen on the floor, making sure I hadn’t lost something from my cart. This time, I noticed his veteran hat, his blue shirt, and his worn jeans. This time, I stopped to peer into his face. This time, he told me his wife died last March.

How does this happen over apples with a stranger?

As he started the next sentence after we had moved on from the apples, I made a mental note to make sure I thanked him for his service. I asked what he did to celebrate Veteran’s Day. He told me which restaurants he’d gone to this week, with whom…and I think that’s when he started crying. I think that’s when he said he lost his wife this year. So, here I am. Apples in one hand, other hand placed on his back, intending to comfort him, as he tearfully tells me about the hardest year of his life.

I gaze into his eyes, solemnly saying I understand loss because I have experienced it, too. He looks at me, a little confused, and asks if I have lost my husband. With my hand still on his back, I explain that no, I have not lost my husband, but babies. He doesn’t hear what I have said, so he asks me to repeat myself. “BABIES,” I say. In between apples and lemons and grapefruit, I loudly say, “I HAVE LOST BABIES” to him and anyone within ear shot in the supermarket. I wonder who might be listening to our conversation, wondering if this is my grandfather or a family friend, but I don’t look around. It doesn’t really matter.

He understands now. He asks my age. I tell him and he looks surprised I could be so old, as anyone 40+ years younger than him probably starts to blend together in a beautiful, youthful way (well, that’s what I will believe, anyway). He says he will pray for my next babies. He says I should consider having more than one because he has five grandchildren and he loves them just like his children. He says he needs my prayers. He says a lot of other things about heaven and people who don’t know Jesus going to hell and asks me where I go to church and I just let him talk. I nod, I don’t disagree with him because I know the specifics don’t matter*. This connection matters. This moment matters where he feels heard and he can cry with someone instead of crying alone at home like he told me he does “constantly.”

Sometimes, when people ask about apples, they really are just waiting to tell their stories. They are waiting to connect. They are waiting to say, “God bless you” and “Pray for me” and many other pepperings of things that don’t matter outside of context but matter because of the intention…the intention of love…the intention of shaking off our loneliness and trading it in for an exhilarating conversation that is wildly inappropriate by normal standards.

But, who wants to be normal anyway?

*Specifically, though, I do want to use this moment to explain where I stand. Anyone who reads this blog probably knows I believe in a higher power. I practice Catholicism (loosely), but I believe strongly in science reigning everything, an absence of hell, and the complete acceptance/belief of all religions (or even philosophies) founded in love. It’s the rituals and rules that get us into trouble. We all know who/what some of us call God. It’s the deepest part of ourselves. And, for this reason, maybe I can’t be called Catholic, and that’s okay, too. I hate labels anyway. So if you don’t believe in Jesus, that doesn’t bother me. Actually, I don’t think Jesus thinks you need to believe in him either.

My Little Time Out From Blogging

I realize it’s been ages since I have written anything on Stealing Nectar. This was an unintended time out, but I try to write only when I feel I have something to share so – this time – the time between posts got a little lengthy! Part of this is because I have been working on a creative project for a future little one and partially this is because I have also been on an amazing vacation! Life is good! So here are some updates…

Adoption: No news. We don’t know if the birth mom/parents signed on October 27th or not. Information is getting harder to receive each time. It certainly seems like we will be passing the two year, in-process mark (early Jan) before getting a formal referral to travel and meet a child. I am trying to accept this gracefully. I find that to stay emotionally even, I am distancing myself from the adoption process a little bit. I am still reading books in preparation, but it is hard to continue my Creole lessons and dream of our future Haitian child when it seems we are in an infinite holding pattern. I think this is just a natural consequence of the wait.

Children’s project: I am working on a little book from the heart to share with our child one day when he/she comes home. I am trying to tackle some transracial adoption issues within the pages. It’s been interesting to really try to go beyond my own perspective and be sensitive to everything I am learning about how a child who was adopted might feel about everything I write or illustrate. With some hugely helpful feedback, I am learning that I need to forget about my intentions and humble myself to what a child might have as a perspective instead. This is always the crux of the issue, as many of you, my readers, know with infertility and loss: perspective is hard to fully grasp unless it is yours…but it would be a much more helpful world if we all tried to understand without being automatically dismissive! So, I am trying to be helpful to our child no matter how many edits it takes!

Vacation: The fun part! I went on the most amazing holiday! I will include some pictures to follow. I went with my husband and my side of the family to many beautiful, far away lands including the following: Rome, Capri, Sicily, Greece, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, then back to Italy to finish the trip in Venice and Florence. This took us away for two full weeks and I am on such a high from seeing how beautiful this world is! And as an added bonus, it served as an amazing distraction from The Wait I feel like I am constantly participating in back home! Having said this, I feel I have to mention the attacks in Paris and how I desperately desire a world where we can still travel and enjoy each other’s cultures without fear. I feel enormously lucky to be able to travel and I plead with the universe that this privilege isn’t taken away from us entirely.

So….pictures….enjoy!

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Adoption Update (and Delay)

We learned today that our birth parents (so I guess there is a father…?) had “ID issues” and couldn’t complete their last interview and signing. They are rescheduled for Oct. 27th. I have to say, I don’t feel surprised or overly upset.

I think if my last few years have taught me anything, it’s the art of accepting reality and having realistic expectations. I am disappointed, but I have lived with a lot of disappointment. I have recovered from a lot of “downs” and this is no different. This little boy may or may not come home to us, and I am fully aware of this.

There are two primary concerns and only one of them is valid: a) that this little boy is healthy and receiving love and b) that I will move on from this stage of life sooner than later, before I fall into a deep abyss of depression and hopelessness. One is motivated by love. One is motivated by fear. Our fears rarely come true. Our love is always birthed by something greater than ourselves.

I will concentrate on love. I will work on minimizing my fear of the future unknowns. I will enjoy the moment and fight for balance. I will run toward consolation and run away from things that bring me desolation. This post is like a little prayer to myself – creating space – but I hope my readers can use this logic for whatever your struggles are today as well. Let’s continue to steal nectar today, despite the challenges!