Belated Thankfulness

I have so many swarming thoughts, but – a little belated – I want to write down many things I am thankful for this year:

1. My husband and my 9th anniversary. We’ve grown in our understanding of each other through each joy and setback. Our commitment to making each other’s life easier and more full of joy and hope continues each day. He is the kindest man I know and I am humbled to have him by my side every day. EVERY day. I am amazed at such a lovely truth.

2. I am not sure if I’ve put this into words before (maybe I have), but I often think how lucky I feel that our son, Adam Gabriel, got to meet nearly all of my most cherished humans when he traveled with me in my womb. We went to weddings of friends I’ve had for decades, danced all night with my huge extended family at my parents’ anniversary party, and attended girls’ weekend getaways. We met strangers on planes that wished us sincere happiness and even, in one instance, gave us a warm hug. We were glowing everywhere we went. These people he met, and the times we had, cheer me up from the inside out. I had more joy than ever before or since with late night milkshakes, deep conversations, and lots and lots of dancing.

3. Relief workers. On every continent, there are many who dedicate their lives to creating more good in this world with their time, talent, and treasure. As I grow in my compassion for life itself, I have a softer heart and true thankfulness for those who make sure others have clean water; housing; nutritious food; and maybe even education and equal rights. There are people who work really hard to keep families and support systems together. Humanitarians make me so happy and I have found that I am extra thankful for them in this season of my life.

4. Health. Whether it is being cold-free, cancer-free, or maybe just not having a doctor’s appointment on the schedule, I have realized how dependent I am on my good health. I used to take it more for granted, but just being alive and feeling well is such a huge gift. When the white noise lifts (poor work environments, difficult relationships, or other clutter we tend to collect and give more importance to than warranted), it is amazing what little, basic needs are vital to our happiness. A little sun and friendship can go a looonnnnng way.

5. And, finally, that leads me to connectedness. I have so many strong connections to people I’ve known almost all my life, to those I’ve known just a decade, or maybe even just a year or two. I have had friends who are more like sisters fly in to see me for an extended weekend. I have had friends with toddlers load up the car by themselves and drive many hours for nothing more than a great hang out session with walks, wine, and laughter on the agenda. I have spent half days lurking in coffee shops with soul sisters, pouring our hearts out about every interesting detail that has arisen in the last week, month, or year. I have people to unexpectedly cry in front of and not be embarrassed because I know they love me even though I am broken. I have a husband that often knows me better than myself. I am loved and connected, and anyone who knows me well, knows that connection is what I cherish above all else.

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And Then There Was Just Sweet Relief…

As I clicked on a draft to write this post, my eye caught my last post titled, “Bittersweet Relief.” A few short days later, I am truly writing about something with nothing “bitter” about it. A dear friend and soul sister of mine just gave birth to a very sweet, very healthy, baby boy.

She has three beautiful kids at home and, now, this little one she will take home in a few days from the hospital. From the outside, we probably look like two very different people considering our geographical location, family structure, and day-to-day activities. What people passing her at a baseball game or at the park may never guess is her family didn’t come so easily. Last January, as I was acknowledging Adam’s due date at home, she was in the hospital, giving birth to a sweet little girl, little Olivia, born many weeks too soon.

When I heard about Olivia, I reached out immediately, trying to see how I might help her tackle this crazy sadness and overwhelming disbelief she undoubtedly was feeling; I wanted her to feel less confused, scared, and alone. We were old summer camp friends and hadn’t talked in over a decade, but that made zero difference. Our paths had lined us up perfectly to take care of each other through some of the darkest, scariest months we had experienced. As the months passed, we were able to connect through sharing our grieving processes, our pregnancy fears, and little details about Adam and Olivia, whom we both agree must be connected now in their own way.

As I struggled through more miscarriages, she had the experience and compassion to understand what that really meant. As she struggled with hope and trust as the weeks of her pregnancy flipped on the calendar, I was there to do the same for her. Although our journeys are somewhat different, they are very much the same, and – today – we get to celebrate the pure light that comes after the darkness.

Today, I am going to celebrate the miracle she has (we have) been given. I feel a great sense of relief and joy. In the not hopeless days I have been experiencing, this is a great chance to pause and – what else – steal a little nectar.

A Bittersweet Relief

Week 13. In most pregnancies, this is around the time mothers start to breathe a sigh of relief because their babies made it through the most delicate weeks. Now they can, more assuredly, trust their pregnancies, and maybe even make joyful announcements to family and friends. I am relieved for a very different reason: this week, my relief comes because I have been declared officially NOT pregnant.

This feels especially counter-intuitive since I so desire a healthy pregnancy, yet I know it is a natural feeling for my situation. After a full two months of knowing this was not a healthy pregnancy, I don’t have to worry anymore about the small probability of surgery, if the doctors will call with results before the weekend, or if my left arm will scar over like my right has, from all the blood draws in the last few months, leaving my phlebotomist having to find a nontraditional method for entry.

More than feeling like a victim, these situations just amaze me. Until I started having pregnancy complications, I have mostly felt on the healthier side of things. My “now” is opening my mind up to all people go through whom are actually sick. I have an acute sense of compassion I didn’t have previously. I just didn’t get it. Now I know…I get to walk away and heal; others aren’t so lucky as they undergo a lifetime of complications, medical bills, and friendships that can’t withstand the emotional toll required.

So, although my relief is bittersweet, my outlook is bright. In the past week, I’ve been lucky enough to have two dreams about adopting our little boy or girl. (One was about a little girl named Roberta and the other was about a nine year old boy whom I think was even Caucasian…?) I know all of my experiences are now encouraging me to refocus my energies on this beautiful adoption journey. I am thankful I am finally going to have full resources available for bonding and there is nothing bittersweet about that.

Swimsuit Palooza

photo credit: http://24.media.tumblr.com

photo credit: http://24.media.tumblr.com

So, I have just bought between $800-$900 worth of swimsuits. Really.

No, I am not wealthy. No, I am not manic or a hoarder. I will return all but one, really! I just happened to be gaining weight after a misfortunate event and am a tad out of control these days, in more ways than one, and have never had a reason to own a one piece suit until now, until I got a little more sensitive about my body. Let me back up…

Yesterday I would have found out if my husband’s and my first child was a boy or a girl. We were going to go to dinner to celebrate and then start selecting nursery items (flamingos or sailboats, perhaps). We had names picked out. We had cleared the back bedroom for the baby’s arrival. At three months, my parents announced the arrival of their 10th grandchild at their 40th anniversary party with more than 150 guests. I had waited 4 months, but then gave in and made the pregnancy “Facebook official” with a cute announcement with a tiny, stylish baby carriage. Against all odds, we found out we were having a boy 3 weeks earlier than we expected to receive the news.

I went for my 16.5 week check-up. My husband and I decided he didn’t need to come since it was just a routine check-up. Afterall, we’d seen the baby and its heartbeat at 8 weeks, and then again heard the heartbeat at 12 weeks. This is when I realized sometimes you fall into the 1%. Sometimes your baby’s heart just stops. You’ll never know if you were sleeping, running, working or laughing, but the little soul inside of you just slipped away quietly.

The details could take hours to divulge, but here is the short version. The ultrasound tech looked at me with tears in her eyes. The doctor sat beside me and explained it wasn’t my fault – I couldn’t have protected the little one against fate. I called my husband. I called my mother. Somewhere in there the reality started to sink in and I allowed myself to cry. I packed a bag for the hospital without diapers, a tiny onsie, or the baby blanket my sister gave me less than a month ago.

I received the staff’s stares when I checked into the labor and delivery floor because they were all expecting me and were curious about this girl, this couple, having to deliver a dead baby. I was poked up and down my arms until, on the fifth try and third health professional, a vein was found that would accept the IV. I spent 4 days in the hospital with drugs being delivered, by people I had just met, through my arm and between my legs, largely consisting on ice chips, popsicles and pain killers.

I cried, I slept, I accepted love and prayers from visiting friends. On the third day I asked if I could please shower, and my husband had to come in with me since I couldn’t bend one arm, compliments of the IV entry. On the fourth day, I delivered a healthy-looking baby boy at 5-6cm dilation, moments before the doctors would have to make the difficult choice to put me through complicated surgery to remove the contents of my uterus.  My husband and I held him. We prayed with him. We gave him away forever.

We named him Adam Gabriel. Afterall, he is our first son and is quite literally an angel now. We put all his things in the back bedroom that my husband can’t enter anymore without getting choked up. I kept bleeding and crying as we accepted visitors, meals, flowers and notes. I went back to work. I started running again. I stopped bleeding and, mostly, stopped crying. Then, I bought swimsuits.

I bought swimsuits that might help me forget that my body has been through war but I don’t have Adam to cuddle and kiss. I bought swimsuits that would leave me less rigid at the upcoming bachelorette party as I try to hide the layer of fat left on my stomach – and the pain threatening to roll down my cheeks – that reminds me something happened.

Dearest Adam Gabriel, our angel baby:

I have faith in our Creator that you lived the life of your soul’s purpose. I have faith you were warm and know you were loved by so many, so many whom cried with us in between patients at work, cried with us at the movies, or cried with us at the grocery store when they heard the news. I fervently worry that you struggled to breathe – to let someone know – but know that won’t do either of us any good at this point.

I feel great pain at your absence, but I need you to know that you gave me immeasurable happiness in the time we had together. It has been a hard year – and of course now I have this new struggle with your departure – but you provided me with 4 months of joy, excitement, hope and love. You provided me with 4 months of stealing sweet, unbridled nectar. You will always be the one child who could do that for me in pregnancy. You will always be the first born, the first light. Please be well, visit often, and wait for me and your daddy. We’ll meet you under better circumstances once again.

Countdown

As I approach thirty, I think of all the things I’ve done with my life and those still to come. I’ve fallen in love and have gotten my heart smashed into little pieces. I’ve fallen in love again and married the chips to my salsa, the wind to my kite. I’ve moved halfway across the world and then back home again. I’ve moved across the country – which was unsurprisingly fun – and then I moved across the same state, which I found to be surprisingly much less fun and much more of a culture shock than moving across the country.

I’ve defended not having kids seven years into my marriage. I’ve defended working moms. I’ve defended stay-at-home moms. I’ve cried from the relief of not being pregnant. I’ve tried to get pregnant. I’ve cried because I wasn’t pregnant. I’ve cried in front of those I swore I’d never cry in front of: employers, coaches, hell…a massage therapist (yes, during a massage…aren’t I a treat). Would you believe I actually don’t have a reputation of a crier or someone whom falls apart at a pin’s drop?

Well, the countdown is officially ON. I have less than one month until my 30th birthday. (!) So, of course there are some petty, superficial thoughts bursting through my brain as the crossover approaches. There are also some deep “this will take opening a bottle of wine with my best friend” thoughts. I’ll go from a celebrated, “the world is your oyster” twenty-something to a what-do-you-have-to-show-for-your-life-you-are-not-so-young-anymore thirty-something.

As I’ve said before, I believe in commencement. Even though it would be easy to say this birthday is “just another day” and glide, I prefer to mark the occasion – contemplating it to the finite point where my husband stops listening – and celebrate the tidbits & tribulations, triumphs & tales, of this unique life, my journey on uncharted (preferably seafoam green) waters.