Giving Thanks

Today in America, we celebrate Thanksgiving.  For a lot of people, this holiday can be very controversial.  Historically, it is a reminder of land and lives that were taken.  It can also be a reminder here in the present of people who are missing from around the table, through loss or estrangement.  It can be a contentious holiday as people avoid certain topics, walking on eggshells to try to keep the peace.

But it’s also a day set aside to celebrate gratitude.  It’s a bittersweet concoction of seeking out the joy and gifts in your life that follow so closely the struggles and pain.  It’s searching for the presence of God in the stillness of sorrow.

Personally, Thanksgiving is a time of hard memories.  It is surrounded by lost dreams.  My first daughter was stillborn four years ago the day before Thanksgiving.  My second daughter was actually supposed to be born the day before Thanksgiving two years ago, but was stillborn a few months before her impending arrival.

And this Thanksgiving.  I’m holding a miracle of a son in my arms, overwhelmed with gratitude, but also with loss and wonder at what it might have been like if my daughters were alive.  How chaotic and loud would my home be?  Would my daughters play with my son as I cook dinner?  How different would our Christmas card look?

It’s okay to feel both gratitude and heartache this holiday.  If you need permission to feel so, then I’m giving it to you right now.  It doesn’t have to be either/or.  It can be both/and.  And if you are only feeling one or the other, that’s okay too.  Gratitude (much like love on Valentine’s day) doesn’t have to be forced into one day a year.

With all of that said, I hope you find some rest, eat good food, and have memorable and positive conversation around the table this holiday.  I am so grateful for all of you in this wonderful community!

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Another Family Visit

This past weekend, my mother in law came down for a visit.  It was so nice to see her and watch her interact with our son.  I’m so grateful that we have such loving grandparents on both sides of our family.

The only downside was that it rained for most of the visit.  All the outdoor activities that we planned had to be canceled.

So, that meant we took another trip to IKEA!  People, this is my place.  We are making a few changes (all stemming from a growing and curious boy) in the layout of our home, so this is a store (and website) that I am frequenting lately.  I went with my parents back in September, but this time Michael was able to join in the fun.  No pictures yet, but soon, my friends.  Soon.

We also went to a Half Price books (well, we went to two this weekend, one of them after his mom left).  We have several in the DFW area, and I always seem to find something to purchase, whether for me or for Sam.

I found this book, which I originally saw in a baby store and really wanted to get it.  So, I put it on a TBB (To Be Bought) list on Amazon.  THEN, I found it at Half Price books at a major discount.  Score!  I would love to get more of this series.  He really loves this one.

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And for myself, I purchased this puzzle that I am hoping to frame and put up in my office/library (one of the places getting an upgrade).  A 1000 piece set is more of a challenge for me since I don’t do these very often, but it seems a little easier?  I guess we shall see!

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Of course, Michael’s mom doted on Sam the whole weekend.  It was lovely to see the two interact (especially when Mimi was trying to encourage Sam to crawl).  I look forward to spending more time with family during the holidays.  I can’t believe it’s just around the corner!

A Night Out to see John Crist!

Michael and I have been really grateful to be able to get out on a few date nights these first months of Sam’s life, thanks to friends and family.  This past weekend, we were out way past our bedtimes so that we could see one of my favorite Christian Youtubers live.

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John Crist.  He’s hilarious.  If you haven’t seen his stuff on Youtube, here’s one of my many favorites:

His set was really funny.  It pokes a little fun at Christian life and some of the things we say and do.  There were 6000 people there.  It sold out in only a few weeks.  wp-1539112031617..jpg

My favorite part is when the DJ would start playing a song and then we had to finish the phrase.  It started out with some Christian hits (Good, Good Father) and then they threw in a Biggie rap song.  When the audience easily finished that lyric too, Crist joked that there must be some testimonies in the audience tonight.  It was so fun.

It was a great night.  Michael and I even got shirts, which I never buy merch, so that was pretty big for me as well.  We paid for it the next day with lots of nap times, but it was so, so worth it.

If you have a chance to see him, I would highly recommend it!

A Visit from the Parents

My parents live in Atlanta, GA, about 14 hours or so away from us.  So, any visit from them is quite a treat.  Last week, they visited for the whole week, and it was wonderful.

We did several things together, but I didn’t get very many pictures because I was either juggling the baby or lost in the moment.  I don’t apologize for that, either.  But I did manage to get a few pictures from the Dallas World Aquarium, one of our major stops during the visit.

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We visited right around feeding time which was really fun.  There were divers in a lot of the tanks, either feeding or cleaning.  Sam was most interested in what they were doing.

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I thought the aquarium would be better than the zoo because of the heat but also I thought that for a four month old, this would be more his speed than big open pens of animals.  The Dallas World Aquarium is somewhat like a zoo, however, because it has a lot of animals in addition to the fish.  There is a huge enclosure with birds and crocodiles and another exhibit of penguins, so it was like a first step to the zoo.

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Also during their visit, I took my parents to IKEA because they have never been to this store.  When I found that out, it was a must for this visit.  IKEA is such an experience.  We had dessert in their restaurant and walked through the entire store.  I took several pictures for ideas for the house.  I’ve really enjoyed our couch from IKEA.  It’s so easy to clean and has held up pretty well over the years (and is so comfortable).  I’m making bucket lists for several rooms in our house, so IKEA trips may become more common in our future.

We also went several other places and did many other things (including a nice date night for Michael and me which was so appreciated).  But my favorite moments were just hanging out and watching my parents love on Sam.  They ooo’d and aww’d at all of Sam’s milestone abilities, laughed and played, even changed a diaper or two.  I’m so thankful for this visit and for my parents being a part of Sam’s life!

Postpartum Anxiety Update

It’s been a couple months since I talked about being diagnosed with Post Partum Anxiety, so I thought I would give a little update and reflection on how I’m doing now.

In two words, much better.  But it was definitely a journey to get to this point.  I was already in therapy at the time, but that continues on a regular basis.  I was also put on medication, which I continue to take.  And I incorporated meditation and regular exercise (either walking or yoga or both some days) into my routine.

While I think the conversation around mental health is getting better, there is also a stigma still surrounding the topic.  But mental health is just as important as our physical health.  I find it interesting that if I was diagnosed with diabetes or cancer, taking medication, adjusting lifestyle, and going to doctors on a regular basis doesn’t seem out of the ordinary.  But if I’m dealing with depression or anxiety, it’s a different story.

In fact, something I still feel weird talking about is the fact I was diagnosed with PTSD while I was pregnant with my son.  I always thought PTSD was reserved for “real trauma” – war veterans, physical or sexual abuse, things like that.  But I did go through real trauma with my daughters.

Anne Bogel, a blogger on modernmrsdarcy.com, shared a post she wrote last year about her experiences on 9/11 and the panic attacks she had following those events.  And how she didn’t get help right away because she felt like her situation wasn’t as bad as others.  In the infertility and pregnancy loss world, a comparison can be just as detrimental.

Even now, when I’m asked if Sam is my first, I say that I had two stillborn daughters before him.  If I say I had miscarriages or pregnancy loss, they ask how far along was I in the pregnancy.  As if to say that if it wasn’t far enough along, then I’m not entitled to my grief or to even talk about them. In fact, I still struggle to talk about my first miscarriage, before my two daughters, because it wasn’t “as bad.”

I know that it’s hard to talk about what’s going on inside our heads and our hearts.  Sometimes even we aren’t able to process everything fully and with clarity.  And it’s easy to compare our situation with others and write it off as nothing.  But it’s not.  If you found a lump in your breast, even if it wasn’t as big as someone else’s lump, you would still go to the doctor to get it checked out, right?  In the same way, going to a professional therapist to talk about the things you are experiencing is just as normal.

No matter where you are in life, and what you are feeling, you are not alone.  To be honest, I think everyone should include mental checkups in their annual routines.  So if you are experiencing anxiety or depression, or even just think a mental checkup would do you good, I highly encourage you to seek out a good therapist or talk to your doctor.

How I Survived The First Three Months

Sam is about to be 4 months old in a couple weeks.  I’ve learned a lot about myself and him in these last few months.  Just like any life stage, there has been a definite learning curve to the adjustments.  So, I thought I would share some general things I’ve learned.

  1. Get your people.  Your community is necessary.  Whether I was going through pregnancy loss or melting down at the frustrations of sleep deprivation and breastfeeding, I am so thankful for the support system I have around me.  My husband is incredible, as well.  I don’t know how I would have gotten through these weeks without him.
  2. Self-care is important.  This is something I really started to prioritize after I lost my daughters, and it is still true in this season of life as well.  Whether it’s a couple hours on the weekend, or even just a favorite body soap in the shower, I have tried to find little moments throughout my day that give me a little pick-me-up to keep me going.
  3. Find your rhythm.  One of the most unhelpful things I have seen are the hundreds of websites promising the perfect schedule or product that will help my baby sleep (which all looked like they could work in the desperate hours of 2 or 3 am).  But even before I had Sam, I was trying to find the perfect schedule or planner or product that would make my life easier or more efficient.  But something I have learned in the last couple of years, and especially had to re-learn these last couple of months is to be okay with what works for you.  Trying things out is fine, but embracing the rhythms that were already there, making sure my priorities were met, and letting go of the strict schedules that worked for someone different than me were probably the best things I could have done for my own sanity.

Everyone in this life is just trying to figure it out.  No matter what life stage you are in, no matter what you are dealing with, no matter what accomplishments or pitfalls you are facing, these things really helped me and I hope that they might help you too.  Of course, having a God in my life willing to walk through it with me makes all of this even possible.  His quiet whispers of encouragement through my community, his soft reminders to take care of myself, and his calm rhythms thrumming in my own life have helped my head to stay above water.

Thank you for all of your encouragement and support over these first few months as well as the last five years.  I’m always so grateful for your friendships, both near and far.

A Dog Update

It’s been a couple of months since I gave an update on our two pups and how they are doing with our new addition.

Our rat terrier is still apathetic towards the little boy.  I think the only thing she realizes is how much he encroaches on her snuggle time with Michael.  Any time he is sitting on the couch, holding our son, she insists on getting up there with them.  She will even let the boy give her a few pats on the head if it means she can be sitting on Michael’s lap.

Our blue heeler has taken a more active role.  When I’m feeding Sam, he comes into the nursery just to check on us, then goes to sit on his chair in the library (it has become his chair).  He has gotten a bit adventurous with the kisses (and I have wipes on hand now).  He mostly loves to go for the hands, and Sam has responded by attempting to grab his tongue.  Yes, lots of handwashing and monitoring during these interactions.

Sam obviously is responding more to the dogs.  He notices when they walk in front of him or sit beside him.  He’s still hesitant to reach out and touch, but he has been pretty gentle so far.  I look forward to teaching him the right ways to interact with these puppies.  I continue to hope he loves them as much as I do.