Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The story no one sees

You see me.

A petite woman, cute clothes, and two young kids in tow. My girls are almost perfectly spaced. With little miss still in a infant-seat, it probably seems strange to see me at the OB/GYN getting a blood draw.

Probably another pregnancy. Why else would I be getting blood work at the OB's office. Gosh -- what is she doing getting pregnant so soon? you may wonder.

Perhaps you look at me, and wish I would just be satisfied with the two I appear to have birthed. You might be jealous, and wish you could trade bodies with me ... or at least uteri and ovaries. Or maybe you wish I could be supermom, and never ever complain about them not sitting still or not listening.

Perhaps it looks like I have it all. Alive kids. Easy pregnancies. And *look* she's at it again.

But you would be wrong.

And I look at you. Cute blonde hair. Precious two-year-old son. You look to be in-shape and made of money.

Probably pregnant again, I wonder. It's probably easy for her to be here. Gosh, I wish it were easy for me to be here.

But then I hear the nurse talk to you about the "situation." Do you need a nurse consult? she asks you. Yes, you reply. Given the circumstance, I think I would feel better about that.

And so then I know. I was wrong, too. Maybe life isn't perfect for you either.

It takes some guts (or maybe stupidity), but I finally break the silence. I tell you my real story -- or at least the highlights.

I had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, and two miscarriages. We are in the process of adopting little miss. I hate being here at the OB's office, but we're in the thick of testing, so I'm here a lot. I don't know what you are here for. I hope it is for good news. But if not . . . I understand.

I ramble on, worried that I'm that awkward crazy person that shouldn't be let out in public.

But then I see it all over your face. Relief, understanding, camaraderie.

You admit you have had two miscarriages, one in your third month. You are pregnant again, but have no idea if this one will "stick." You wish you could be happy, but you feel numb like you are waiting for the ball to drop.

And there it is. We are both baby-loss mamas. We look like we have it all.

But what we really have is a story.

Just like every one else.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hope deferred

This is a story I wish I didn't have to post. Stevie is one of my best friends from way-back-when, and has been a huge support to me through the last several years. I wish she didn't have a story to share -- but I'm thankful and feel honored to be able to share it.

Thank you, Stevie. 

<3 Rachel

 My name is Stevie Ballinger.  Rachel and I have been friends since Jr. High.  I am the owner of a small jewelry business called Mama B’s Sweet Peas, and I make a line of mothers’ jewelry that resembles peas in a pod.  I offer smaller beads that I call “Angel Peas” to represent miscarriages, stillbirths, etc., and I speak almost every week with at least one woman who has a child who has gone before her.  My heart breaks every time I hear a new loss story.  I never thought I’d be telling one of my own…
Seven weeks ago I peed on a stick.  I hadn’t missed a period yet, though I knew it could have been a possibility.  Quite honestly, though, I wasn’t expecting anything, and I didn’t get it.  Not pregnant.  Okay.  NBD.  We weren’t trying (or preventing), and I have a baby less than a year old who is still nursing.  I can work with that.

Six weeks ago, I repeated the process.  It was still really early to test, as I’d still not missed a period, but it said PREGNANT!  What?!  Yes!!!  So exciting!  Baby B. #3!!!  

I could hardly wait to tell everyone!!  I called Husband pretty much right away.  I said “We’ve really got to get Big Sister potty trained...”   He sounded slightly preoccupied when he replied “yeah, I know”.  Then I said “…because come March, I don’t want to have three in cloth diapers.”  He didn’t get it right away, and told me later that he thought I was speaking hypothetically.  I said “Did you hear what I just said?!” and after a pause, he said “Are you?”, to which I replied, “YES!!!!”  Needless to say, the news was met with great joy.  

Then, two weeks later, I began to bleed.  I was alarmed and sad, worried and afraid.  Lying in bed that night beside Husband, (after thinking all day about losing this precious gem inside of me) he recalled that I’d had a period when I was pregnant with Baby Brother.  That instantly changed my mood!  Yes!  I had had a period with my second pregnancy.  Everything had turned out just fine.  I was sure it was going to be the same with Baby B.

It was just like a regular period, and even started on the day I would have started a period anyway.  A few days later, when I was done bleeding, just to be certain, I peed on the third stick. 
Not pregnant.  

*Sharp intake of breath*  What!?  I didn’t know what to feel or think.  This isn’t the way it was supposed to go!  No!!  Me?  Mama to an Angel baby?  I took the test in to Husband and showed him.  He didn’t really know what to think, either.  He was scanning my face for a sign of what was going through my mind, but I didn’t know what to tell him.

We long for a full quiver (Psalm 127:4-5) and have had no issues thus far.  Up ‘til that point, I’d been pregnant twice and had given birth to two full-term, healthy babies.  For some reason, I guess I felt I was beyond the reach of miscarriage.  Why, I don’t know…  

I had two really rough days in which I was weepy and very depressed.  I was just so shocked!  Then, I saw how my mood was affecting my family, and asked the Lord to help me out of the pit I was in.  He was gracious and merciful and lifted my spirit.  Longing to be pregnant again, I told Husband that I was ready to try for a baby, and he was definitely okay with it.  (I don’t chart or anything, in case you are curious.  All three of my pregnancies have been unplanned.  We’ve done the “don’t try, don’t prevent” method since we’ve been married.)

I’ve been back to normal since then…that is, up until tonight.  I spotted a little bit earlier.  I told Husband.  I went back to the bathroom later to pee again and was spotting more.  I began to feel the tell-tale ache in my lower back shortly thereafter and knew it was AF.  I’ve been overcome with the blues ever since, and knew it was time to write the guest blog I’d asked Rachel if I could write when I’d first miscarried.

I needed some encouragement, so I picked up the Word of God.  On Sunday, at church, the pastor had mentioned Psalm 128, and I’d marked it with the ribbon in my Bible so I could remember to read it later.  I opened to that spot, and on the right column of the page was Psalm 130.  I felt as I began to read that the Lord knew I was going to need that passage just then!  I’ll give you the main chuck of what spoke so deeply to the hurting places in me:  “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.  Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications…  I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.  My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.”

God is so gracious and so merciful!!  He knows our pain, he knows what we are enduring!!  How kind to give me those verses!  I know that I will not meet Baby B. until the day I see Heaven, but I am okay with that.  There may have been something wrong with her and it is for the best.  I don’t know.  

I don’t know when I will meet my next child.  I am hoping that it is sooner rather than later, but I have given the timing up to my God.  I may not be completely over it, but I am mostly at peace.  It’s a one-day-at-a-time kind of thing, and that’s okay.  

“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.”  Proverbs 13:12, KJV

Not my life

Last week I entered a fertility clinic.


REALLY? Am I really going to a fertility clinic now? It doesn't seem real. But it was.

As I entered, the male receptionist was super nice and friendly. The chairs were upholstered just so, and coordinated perfectly with the posh carpet and wall hangings. The complimentary hot tea, lush plants and modern furnishings spoke more of a hotel where I would vacation -- not the place where people try to piece together broken dreams.

As I moved from the lobby -- to the nurses' station -- to the opulent office of my endocrinologist, I felt as though I were playing out a perfectly rehearsed script. For someone else's life.

Not mine.

Other people were there. Many men -- some by themselves, and others with their wives/girlfriends/whatevers.

We all played our parts well. We patients (clients?) dressed nicely to match the set. We kept pleasant expressions which never belied the ghastly stories I'm sure we all keep hidden in our hearts. We hid our nervousness for all the procedures, blood draws and news we didn't want to hear, but had to. We act as though it's nothing more than a doctor's appointment. But it's so much more.

We each bear the invisible nametag -- Infertile.

Maybe that's why we don't make eye contact there. Maybe there are no pleasantries exchanged -- because there are no pleasantries to be had.

The staff acted happy and very concerned. They assure me that it's ok if I email or call my nurse every day. (Every day?!?) They ask me which genetic tests I want done as casually as if they asked what take-out I wanted ...  Chinese or Mexican?

As for the doctors, well, I guess I've never met such nice doctors before. Yesterday, while the doctor let me know he would not perform the procedure we had scheduled for that day -- that I was all prepped to undergo -- he just was so nice about it, I couldn't help but trust him. Many times he reassured me that my well being was of utmost importance, and he wouldn't do anything that he thought wasn't the best for me.

It is a place of hope.  It is a place of desperation.

And apparently, it is a place that I now belong.

Tonight, I'm wearing my new shirt declaring that I'm a leader for M.E.N.D, our pregnancy loss group, which I'll wear as we march in the Whaling Days parade this weekend. Tonight, I folded little misses' laundry along with Maddy's. Tonight, I mentally beat myself up for being behind on our homestudy. Tonight, I think about the genetic tests that I'm so nervous about. Tonight, I wish I had answers. Tonight, the tears I always hold at bay fall freely.

Tonight, I wonder how I got here. When did I blink and everything change? When did I lose 3 babies? When did I become infertile? When did we add little miss to our lives? When did my plans for our family get so horribly, and yet so beautifully, twisted?

I don't know. But I do know, this is not my life.

Except... It is.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

On becoming her REAL mommy

Lately, God's been putting it on my heart to check the email I had set up for our open adoption. (Well, if it wasn't God, it was something. Something was pulling at my heart to check it.)

Anyway, I had been procrastinating. I guess I feel like there needs to be some separation for me from bio parents.

At first, when we got little miss -- I felt like she was OURS. She was MINE. I was mommy.

But experience after experience, and person after person, reminded me that she was NOT mine and I was NOT mommy. Not really.

And so I think that belief has taken root.

I have found myself referring to her as our foster daughter. I don't know why. Other than the idea was planted that she wasn't ours (because she's not) and it's stuck.

I started seeing her bio parents as her real parents. I still think of her first family as her family.

So I needed (ok, still need) some separation from her bio parents so I can establish myself (even if only mentally) as little misses' REAL mom.

And so -- I didn't want to check my email. Just IN CASE bio parents had written. Just IN CASE they accused me of baby-stealing. Just IN CASE there was this overly emotional plea of how much they miss her, and they need to see her.

But whatever it was on my heart kept pressing -- and so I checked the email this morning.

There was no email awaiting me from bio parents. But instead, an email from bio grandma.

And it was really, really sweet. She was happy that little miss has a good, new family. And she was happy to see she now has a big sister. And she asked if she could still send presents, letters and photos to little miss.

I really enjoyed writing back and giving her some of the updates. "Little miss hates the sprinkler, but loves the pool. She gives kisses now, and blows kisses too. She signs several words, and is babbling a lot. She's going through a growth spurt, and we can barely get the food down fast enough . . ."

It reinforced to me that pursuing an open adoption is the right thing. I know this grandma would have taken care of little miss if it were physically possible of her to do that. But it wasn't. So I feel blessed that we can keep their relationship going. I think it will be so good for little miss to have that connection to her heritage.

Apparently this grandma was also giving our social worker some family medical history, so I'm thankful for that.

In other news, we got a little more time to complete our paperwork! THANK GOODNESS FOR THAT! I must admit I'm still daunted by the adoption process. Perhaps it's because I can never have more than 3 rooms in my house clean at one time. And either the dishes are done, or the laundry. But never both at the same time. Either my business is booming, or my house is clean. I really can't seem to do it all. And so adding a TON of paperwork (*NOT my strong suit*) to the mix is a little, er . . . a lot daunting.

In other, other news . . .

Little miss has started giving me kisses. Real kisses. And it's so dang cute.

I call her name, stick out my lips in a kissy face, and she comes running with her mouth wide open and plants a slobbery one right on me.

I love it.

Earlier on my Facebook page I wrote that sometimes it's hard to bond. But today I found myself saying "I love you so much." And I realized I meant it with every fiber in me. It felt good not to hear myself say it, knowing my heart wasn't always in it.

I've read and heard from others that when it comes to adopting, you have to leave feelings out of it. Not that you are an unemotional blob. But that you do things whether you feel like it or not. You act like you are the best mom for that child, even if you question it. You give them snuggles, and hugs and kisses, even if they've just thrown the biggest tantrum for no reason and your still angry you can't figure out what is wrong with your child. You love them, even when you don't feel loving.

And that is what I have had to do lately. Love her, even when she screams very loudly for a whole day and I have no idea why. Love her, even when she goes around the house putting everything in her mouth and I can't get anything done because I just have to tag along keeping her safe. Love her, even when she arches her back, and cries because I had to put her down just for a second. Love her, even when I can't get the food down fast enough and she bangs her head on the back of the high chair out of frustration.

But the beauty of it is I get to love her when she gets an owie, and comes to me for comfort. Love her, when she's sleepy and yawny and just wants some time in the rocker with mommy. Love her, when she's giggly, and happy, and makes the cutest faces ever.

I guess it's just like being a mom to your own child.

Love isn't a feeling. It's actually the opposite. It's an action, through and through.

But for today, I'm loving loving her.