Friday, March 29, 2013

Baby Sophia

Today is the third anniversary of baby Sophia's death and birth.

Death... Then birth. I really wish life never happened in that order.

My very dear friend, Stacy, had quite the journey before she was blessed with the short life of Sophia.

It took her and her husband years of trying and treatment to fall pregnant with their son. Complications arose and little baby boy was born a few months early.

During their quest to expand their little family, Stacy suffered 3 miscarriages. After the miscarriages, she discovered she had cancer. Thankfully it was caught soon enough that it was treatable.

Stacy and her husband pursued adoption, and were chosen by a mom to adopt her baby. They prepared for months, only to have birth mom change her mind after the baby was born.

More trying and more treatment later, a precious miracle began to take shape.

Little baby Sophia was their miracle.

She was wanted and loved more than anything in the world. At 32 weeks, Stacy noticed she hadn't felt Sophia move. She had a feeling of dread, and knew she might be facing bad news, but still hoped it was nothing.

When they went to the hospital, they had the worst news a mom could hear. Her baby's heart stopped beating.

3 years ago today, little baby Sophia was born still. Her life brought more love into Stacy's family's heart than they thought it could contain. Her death has brought more pain than someone should ever have to face.

Stacy has a long list of tragedies. 3 miscarriages. Cancer. Failed adoption. And stillbirth.

But she has created (or rather, God has created in her) an amazing legacy.

In honor of Sophia, Stacy has gone on to become the chapter director of MEND -- NW Washington. She invests so much time and energy reaching out to other hurting moms, because she knows exactly what they are going through.

After our loss of Olivia, and then with my subsequent miscarriage in October, Stacy was right there with me, giving me hugs, holding my hand, and listening when I just needed to cry or vent. There are a lot of moms who could say the same thing of her.

I know she gives all she can not because she is just one amazing woman... But because the way she shows her undying love to Sophia now is by loving on other bereaved moms.

Sophia's precious life was so short. But in the last 3 years, she has touched so many lives more deeply than most of us do in our lifetime.

To Stacy.... Today I am thinking of you, dear friend. I remember your sweet little one who was gone too soon. Thank you for all you do to carry on Sophia's legacy. So many of us have been given the strength and encouragement to carry on through grief by your own love and example.

To Baby Sophia -- you will always be loved and missed.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mrs. Frumpmeyer

Remember that box I told you about last year? That pretty little tidy box I always try to present myself in?

Well, I've been working on breaking out of that box over the last year.

And this past week, I'm afraid, I took it a little too far.

I'm pretty sure I accidentally smashed the box to smithereens. Oops.

Let me take you play-by-play into my foray into frumpdom...

Our social worker and little misses' guardian ad litem were visiting the house at 9:30 am this past Friday.

That morning, little miss AND Maddy woke up at 5:40. (Maddy gets such a kick out of getting up in the "middle of the night," as she calls it.) If you don't know this already, life before little miss never greeted me before 9 am every morning.

So, I woke up exhausted ... And still dressed in the clothes I wore the day before that I happened to fall asleep in. I got the kids fed, bathed, dressed, and little miss back down for a nap. My bathroom floor was covered in dirty clothes, my living room floor was covered in neatly folded piles of clean clothes (thanks Mom!!), and my entry was covered in a little bit of everything.

With limited time left before the meeting, I had a choice... Make myself presentable... Or make my home presentable. Since I doubted that they would judge my parenting on how perfectly coiffed my hair was ... I went with the house.

I actually felt proud of myself a little for not being too ashamed to meet someone sporting yesterday's clothes (and makeup).

After the visit, it was time for another nap (oh, how I wished it was for me!). I layered on some new makeup over yesterday's (so against everything I believe about skincare!) and put a few bobby pins in to keep the ponytail in. Then it was off to daycare for little miss (late, of course)... And to the doctor for Maddy.

(And here's where things start to go downhill....)

I forgot they were doing vaccines. So... I am the brilliant mom who brought her kid in extra tired and extra hungry without any preemptive Tylenol. Not a good set up for shots, let me tell you.

The nurse had me hold Maddy down (who proceeded to knock me down twice --- the girl is strong when she's upset.) And before I can request help from another nurse, the lady just starts poking my kid. 4 times!! I have no idea how she got them in the way Maddy and I were struggling.

As soon as she popped the band-aids on, she left. But I had to deal with the aftermath. Maddy screamed into my face for a half-an-hour non-stop. Not in a "I didn't get my way, so I'm throwing a fit" kinda way. This was a "I feel out of control and violated" kind of rage that brought me to tears. I held them back because I was trying my best to just speak calmly and soothing to her. But I hated seeing how betrayed she clearly felt.

A nurse finally came in to the room to try to help things along with promises of stickers and pencils. I think she was trying to help... But more I think she was just trying to get me out of the room so they could stop hearing the screaming, and maybe, just maybe, use that room for another patient.

The bribes didn't work so well.

So another 15 min later I finally emerge holding my whimpering, traumatized kid who I wonder will ever forgive me for holding her down.

I promise her a trip to McDee's for the shots... But she falls asleep on the way. I take her home, and choose sleep myself.

Soon it's time to pick up little miss, so I take Maddy along so I can make good on my promise of pink-slime nuggets and fries.


We couldn't find the Tylenol to give Maddy before we go. And searching for it makes me late to pick up little Miss, which the daycare again didn't seem too happy about.

The missing Tylenol necessitates a trip to Walgreen's. I'm still getting the hang of shopping with two kids. The Miss's carseat doesn't fit in the cart, so little miss is half-tilted to the side and back, which looks uncomfortable...but little miss seemed to think it was fun hanging sideways, half-way upside down.

Then I had to stop by the mall to pick up a birthday gift really quick. Of course, neither my stroller nor my Ergo were in the car, so with hands very full, we rush in and out as quick as we can. I kept trying not to stare at the cute moms with their Cadillac strollers, packed out like they were planning to summit Mt. Everest with baby in tow -- not merely score a nice pair of skinny jeans.

Little miss is fussy, and I remember that her daycare won't give her bottles until we have a Drs. note (ugh) so the poor girl is probably thirsty. But I forgot a bottle (of course.)

We get to McDee's and I reach into the scant diaper bag I packed to discover that her baby food was still at the daycare and didn't get packed back in. (Which wouldn't have been a big deal if I had remembered to grab her regular diaper bag -- notice a theme?)

Maddy still feels terrible, doesn't eat her food, tells me to eat it, then goes off to play. Torn between fulfilling my obligation to Maddy to let her play, and wanting to make little miss more comfortable, I begin offering little miss the food I do have that she might eat ...

Which is ketchup.

And since we're trying to teach her to drink from a straw, I keep offering her my cup of half-sweetened tea, knowing full well she won't drink any of it because she doesn't understand the concept of a straw yet.

Meanwhile, I keep catching the sidelong glances from the other moms who clearly have it more together. Little miss is quite small for her age, and looks nothing like the 1-year-old she is. So I do realize for all they know, I'm feeding a 6-month-old ketchup and soda and eating my preschooler's food.

And I realize that on any other day, I probably would BE the one casting the judgmental looks I am now on the full receiving end of.

Not that I ever MEAN to look at people that way, or think those thoughts... But isn't it so true that sometimes they are out before you even realized you thought them?

So, on Friday... I was THAT mom. The one whose cute outfit (from yesterday) was crumpled and well hidden behind a frumpy fleece. Whose hair was slicked back ... Not by fancy product or some fashion design ... But by the oil slick I have to clean up every morning that practically requires a haz-mat suit. My roots loudly cried "get me to a salon," and my eyebrows started to look like Frieda's.

In fact, just to make myself feel somewhat better about the situation, I started referring to myself as Mrs. Frumpmeyer. (of course, not out loud.)

I certainly didn't look or feel like Rachel Lewis, decent mom of two and skincare consultant.

There was a cute mom there, who had it all together (at least in that day) and every once in a while, I caught her eye and would smile. If I had been Rachel Lewis that day, I probably would have struck up a conversation. But something about this chic's looks back to me resembled more pity than camaraderie. So I stayed silent.

Mrs. Frumpmeyer doesn't make new friends with cute moms.

On the way home, I touch the back of my head... Only to realize that my pony tail holder must have snapped at some point. And my hair was so gross, that it actually stayed in place all on it's own without a pony tail holder to be found. It was sticking up, and out, as though I had sprayed my hair with hairspray, and then stood face first into hurricane-force winds.

And it had looked that way for, how long???!!

I freaked.

I called Ryan and said as soon as I pulled into the garage, he was taking the kids. I beelined it to the bathroom, dimmed the lights, put on Miles Davis, warmed the shower, and mud-masked my face. I used every pampering product I had in my bathroom ... Which is a lot.

For the grand-finale, I blew-dried my hair... Which I hadn't done in a week.

It only took me about 30 min... But I couldn't believe how much better I felt.

As I washed Mrs. Frumpmeyer down the drain, I wondered who she really was. Was she sone sort of sacrificial hero ... Slaying her ego for the sake of her kids? Was she to be admired?

It would have been validating to think that.

But I really think that Mrs. Frumpmeyer had things a little backward. She gave, and gave, and gave, and gave... Without really ever giving to herself.

And that had her starting and finishing her day feeling frazzled and half-present... Instead of fulfilled and ready to take on the day.

I think Mrs. Frumpmeyer ignores a very real need. The need kids have for a confident mommy, comfortable in her own skin, who gives because she is full. Someone who takes time for herself, even if it's just a little bit, so she feels more grounded and ready for the day. Someone who has met her own needs, so she can more readily meet their needs.

I'm NOT saying everyone needs to look like they've stepped out of a salon every day. Or even that they looked like they stepped out of a shower.

But I do think us moms need to find what helps us feel grounded, rested and ready to give. For me... That involves a shower, a cute outfit, a blow dryer and some foundation and bronzer at least.

For you, it might look like a cup of hot tea, a walk outside, a few pages in a good book, some worship music, a telephone call to a friend, a Biblestudy, or a few minutes on Facebook.

I'm sure Mrs. Frumpmeyer will be making an encore performance much sooner than I hope. But I hope to figure out the delicate balance between caring for myself, and caring for my family.

So... What do you do when you turn into Mrs. Frumpmeyer? How do you feel about her presence in your life?

P.S. Baby survived the ketchup incident, I'm happy to report. She got side-tracked on the slide, so we were able to extend Maddy's play time a little. And she had a full bottle and some veggies right after getting home.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Never forgotten

A year ago, I felt lost and forgotten. Two particular memories have been on replay over the last few days.

Memory #1

It was the second day of Arbonne's training conference. It also was the day I was scheduled to take a pregnancy test after our first month trying to conceive after Olivia.

The past several days felt like others' pregnancies and my loss were thrown in my face. Not in any sort of personal way. It's just tough to escape other people's fertility when you're in a crowd of several thousand women. Pregnancy was everywhere I looked.

The first thing I noticed when I opened my eyes that morning was that boobs weren't sore anymore. The day before they were KILLING me. And I was SOOOO sure this was it.

I knew what small, painless boobs meant -- but I didn't want to believe it. I took the test anyway -- and to my chagrin discovered that I was also spotting. And of course the test was negative.

I cried as I took a shower and got ready, but tried to keep it together as I rushed to the meeting. Within minutes of sitting, a video started playing.

The face of a well-known Arbonne consultant filled the screen, her arms cradling a tiny bundle. This woman had recently given birth to her baby, and the baby had been in the NICU. She was just sending the video to let us know that "OF COURSE" her baby was OK. And that she missed being with us that year.

Arbonne had NEVER played anything even remotely like that in a training session before -- and I was completely caught off guard. Thanks to my loss, and to the losses in my pregnancy loss support group, I happen to know that a baby's health can never be taken for granted.

There is no "OF COURSE" when it comes to life and death.

So, I did what any reasonable, PMS'ing, grieving woman would do. I rushed out of the stadium seats, practically crawling over my teammates' legs, and beelined it to the first open bathroom stall. Where I proceeded to bawl like a baby for the next 30 minutes.

"GOD!!!" My heart screamed in my chest. "Have you completely forgotten me??? Are you seeing this? Don't you care?"

My eyes remained bloodshot the rest of the day, and most of my perfectly applied eye makeup had run down to my chin in a grotesque Picasso kind of fashion.

I managed to keep most of the tears at bay for a better part of the day -- but then the moment my dear friend's mom asked how I was, the tears erupted yet again. We had a party still to attend, so I mopped up my newest Picasso painting, and applied as much makeup as I thought might cover up my pain.


When I think back of this journey of grief -- there are just certain days where the pain in my heart wasn't just a dull aching, or a generalized sadness. There were days where I literally felt like my heart was ripping in two. That was one of those days.

Memory #2

Another time of frustration in the first months of grief revolved around a gift (of all things.) My lovely sister Sarah sent me an acorn to plant in memory of Olivia. It would eventually grow into a huge weeping oak.

At least, that was the theory.

For 3 months, we watered that stupid acorn faithfully. But as each week passed, there was nothing. Nothing. Just a dead acorn to commemorate my dead daughter. Really, 1-800-FLOWERS -- really? I guess it seemed appropriate. Olivia's life was supposed to grow just like that tree into a magnificent creation. But life it seems, sometimes just likes to be cut short.

On March 2, 2012, I walked by that stupid acorn. And here's what I saw:

The start of a beautiful tree.

Life had started.

I didn't know it at the time. (I couldn't have.)

The exact day our tree started growing, our special little girl was born.
IMG_5717 e
Wasn't she adorable???
March 12 wm

I didn't get to meet this little miss till she was almost a year old. During that time, we miscarried another baby, and had a failed foster placement. I truly thought I was forgotten by God.

But in His wisdom and love, He had already started to redeem my pain -- even as I was stuck in anger and disbelief. God had been actively working on his plan 6 months before we even got pregnant with Olivia.

Remember that day where my heart tore in two?

My baby was already almost 2 months old. I WAS NOT FORGOTTEN!!!

I don't know where you are at today. Maybe you are new in your grief. Maybe you're not 1 year out -- but 10 years or 20 years into your journey. Maybe you have received the gift of a child. Maybe you haven't.

No matter where you are, I want you to know that God has not forgotten you.

This week, I have been consumed with God's grace and mercy in my life. He has not taken away my pain. And even though He already had a plan, I fully believe God was with me every single step in this last year.  He cried every tear with me.

As my faith sometimes faltered, He patiently bore it without judgement, knowing that my eyes and my heart simply couldn't see what He could.

Today, as I go forward, I find that not only do I WANT to trust in Him, I am absolutely compelled to.

My God is very good to me indeed.

Photo: Full arms and a full heart.
My arms are full once more.