New Life Grows Hope

New life. LIFE. No doctors. No drugs. And yet LIFE. To say that I’m shocked is an understatement. We had come to the tentative decision to end this infertility journey after walking a bumpy road of trials once again. Nate was on one page and I on another. I went to therapy to try to FIND his page. To muster the courage to try again with all that means for us. Drugs and doctors. Ultrasounds and needles. Nothing about this process is romantic or spontaneous. And yet – this time – it was. I had been on the pill for two months after yet another failed cycle and the total devastation of failed hope over and over again. Why did I let myself open that door only to be completely crushed yet again? I push away the pain and popped a birth control pill to make even a thought of pregnancy an impossibility.

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We were putting our house on the market to sell and I had enough stress in my life. We had been to a particularly difficult grief group meeting for baby loss and Nate was suddenly on the page I was on so many months ago. Facing fear of yet another variable of loss and pain, we put hopes aside and just lived. We sold our home to the first people who looked at in a single weekend. Two God loving people ready to start their life together in a home that’s brought us such joy. We started the task of finding a new home – in a market that had few to choose from. I came home in tears many nights after seeing nothing but cat piss and wet basements. Then we came upon a foreclosure that we had driven by when it was still pre-forclosure on the very first day we even pondered the thought of house hunting. After a lengthly process it was ours and we packed our bags and moved in with the help of our family and friends. This ugly duckling is on its way slowly to becoming a swan. Well. Some day.

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In the midst of that insanity I got the awful news that my cousin – just 37 years old – was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was ANGRY. So angry. I was fearful for her and then for me and my mind kept jumping to the two months of birth control pills I had somewhat selfishly taken to shut my brain off in regards to conception. All I saw was this huge blinking sign that said “RISK”. Why did I do that? Couldn’t we just have abstained with the same outcome? This did a number on my head. I opened the drawer filled with ovulation test strips. We had been trying for months without stimulation drugs. I refused to go back on them. We tracked with a home ovulation monitor and ultrasounds but only saw that elusive peak symbol once. Even with the ovulation injection it didn’t work in the past. Month after month, nothing.

What in the world do I do with all these stupid test sticks? I begged Nate to try one more time. Help my brain reverse the reasoning of those two months of birth control pills. If I were seeing the endocrinologist again he would have had me on them to calm my ovaries and encourage rebound ovulation. Sometimes it can happen the month after the pill. And there it was again. Hope. Do I dare even consider it again? I refused to go back to yet another doctor who didn’t listen to my story or understand my grief. Let’s do this on our own. Use the remaining test sticks and the home monitor. It would tell us if I ovulated or not. And hey – it’s the last week in our first home. Why not try to enjoy it? We can officially end our fertility attempts on OUR terms and I’ll have one less box of test strips to pack. Sure enough – the monitor peaked. I stared at that symbol on the monitor for a long time before believing it was true. We had three days in the house without family there helping us fill boxes and we made the most of them – no doctors, no needles. I marked the appropriate test day on the calendar and promptly forgot about it all completely (FYI: this never happens).

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We made the move and lived in the midst of chaos for two weeks. We went camping with family and relaxed by the fire. I didn’t think once about what I should or shouldn’t be doing or eating which is something I never imagined I’d be capable of after ten years of trials. I kept having signs that something was going on however. I pushed the thoughts away until Monday morning when I pulled up my calendar and there was the test day reminder.

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My head was suddenly spinning. I grabbed the stick and waited. There it was. The words I never imagined I’d see on a test. Pregnant.

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I’ve never in my life seen a positive home pregnancy test having always done blood work before home tests. I sat there shaking. The things my body were telling me confirmed the thought and my head was going a million miles a minute. I called for an HCG confirmation and sure enough my doctor was the one on call. She immediately ordered three every other day labs to watch the HCG levels rise – and they did – perfectly. I drove to Nate’s office and told him in the parking lot with a shaky hand and heart. Baby Bear peaked out of the gift bag as he did back in 2007 with our second pregnancy – ultimately ending in an ectopic surgery. The bear had lived with us through every pregnancy since so why not this time too?

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Every appointment God has surrounded me by friends and family who are prayer warriors and could provide a hug during a time that was incredibly scary for me. I continue to be amazed by His hand in this. The days following have been filled with a roller coaster of emotions as we both try to grasp the reality of what this all means for our future. We know there are no promises in this life especially after learning the stories of so many losses. We’re no longer naive and unaware of how terribly wrong things can go. Yet our prayers remain the same for a healthy pregnancy for both myself and baby. After what we’ve lived through there are moments when I feel like that’s impossible. It’s hard to utter that word knowing that God has done just that however – the impossible. We conceived a child on our own after doctors have told us we cannot. Now we try to walk in faith and hope that the impossible continues and He blesses us with a healthy and safe pregnancy.

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We ask that you pray with us as this journey continues knowing that you’ve walked this with us before faithfully. We realize that this is not an easy thing to ask of many of you and respect your grief, worry and fears in the midst of our own. That said we also know the joy this life can bring and pray you see that for us as well.

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** I wrote this post within the first two weeks of getting our good news. I’d had four HCG labs that continued to double as hoped and one ultrasound showing that the pregnancy is placed appropriately in the uterus (not ectopic) and confirming a single sac. Since that time we’ve had many ultrasounds after a few scares (all which are fine now) and heard baby’s heart on doppler. We are truly blessed by this miracle baby and are trying to savor every moment of joy we’re given while pushing away as many of the fears as we’re able. We appreciate your prayers!

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Bittersweet Valentine’s Day

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Two years ago today – Valentine’s Day 2012 was a bittersweet day. Ten days prior we said goodbye to our sweet babies. Three days prior we had their memorial service. To say I wasn’t in a celebratory mood was an understatement. Our friends from church were getting together for a couples’ night out at one of our favorite restaurants and we were invited. These friends that felt like family. These friends who helped ensure our memorial service was perfectly prepared. These friends who had planned baby showers and then cancelled them upon my request. Who delivered care packages and surrounded us with comfort during a time when that seemed like a foreign word.

I remember digging through my drawers trying to find something to wear. Something that made me feel like me again. The old me. The me who enjoyed dinner parties and drinks with friends. The me who didn’t have five dead babies. I didn’t realize then that no matter how hard I tried to find her – she had forever changed.

Two weeks prior I was so proud of the weight I had gained. I gained it for my babies. I dedicated my days to filling my body with nutrition and calories to make strong bodies for the precious lives I carried. Now it was just fat. A reminder of what I didn’t have. I pulled on the one nice pair of maternity jeans I owned. Maternity jeans. Those are for women who are pregnant. A cruel reminder that I wasn’t. I found a soft sweater that my friend Natalie gave me. I remember always being so cold. I was used to sharing my tummy with three, warm little ones.

I sat at the table and felt like I was most positively ruining any joy that my friends would have had. I felt like a burden … not because of anything anyone there did or didn’t do/say … simply because I felt it was unfair to expect these wonderful friends to give even more of themselves for my sake that night. I felt like the elephant in the room. But I was there. I was proud of that somehow too.

I practiced living. I tried smiling. I talked about the weather. I asked how others were doing. I tried to respond genuinely when asked how I was doing. I tried. I practiced living among people who made that a safe place for me.

Two years later it’s hard for me to realize how much true joy I have in my life. There were days I was sure it would never come. Despite the love I knew had multiplied in my heart with the birth of my children, grief was delivered that day as well. Grief that overshadowed that love too many days to count. The comparative today is bittersweet. Lunch with my husband. A butterfly balloon and treat bag for my beautiful Nora. Smiles. Love – for all I have and for all I’ve had – for hope – for the new me regardless of how I got here.

I’m thankful for the love my friends showed me on a day when I had a hard time finding it on my own.

Forest Hill – Fall 2013 – Inspired

It was a beautiful fall day, the sun was shining, I was in the midst of an online art class and felt inspired to dig out the Prismacolors.

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I got in the car and headed to the cemetery to work out some details at. I was dreading it, so I set my heart on inspiration there and not details that revolved mostly around family arguments. I needed something to look forward to. What I found was beautiful.

ForestHill_2013_IMG_1859This is the view sitting in their spot. The pond is the far background.

ForestHill_Sky_2013_IMG_4526This is the view of the sky from their spot.

Thankful for an afternoon smelling the sweet scents of fall, listening to the birds chirp and geese making a fuss in the pond, and taking in God’s beauty all around in me in a place that many people only see death and not life.

 

 

Help Us Fill Empty Arms

As many of you know, I’ve been working with local hospitals for a the last year to provide baby loss memory boxes in honor of the five babies I’ve lost. Although most of this project has been funded by myself and a few close family and friends, I’d love to see this project continue to grow. I’d love to not only provide more boxes for other area hospitals in Northern Minnesota but also include more with them. Currently the contents are simple. Granted, simple is better than nothing at all but my heart keeps tugging toward one specific addition that could mean so much. A teddy bear.

HELP US BRING THESE BEARS HOME

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SPONSOR A BABY LOSS BEAR or MEMORY BOX or MISCARRIAGE GIFT BAG :
Gladly accepting any amount, however a $20 donation
is asked to sponsor a Baby Loss Bear in memory of a child.
I also offer Memory Boxes and Miscarriage Gift Bags.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Some of you in the loss community are aware of the amazing organization, Molly Bears. They provide a beautiful bear with customization for the exact weight of your lost baby. However, because of the demands they have a LONG wait list. They offer opportunities to put your name to the top of the list, but at a steep price. I wish these families didn’t have to wait months or years for such a simple gift of comfort. We can help change that for our community.

Other organizations have also sponsored teddy bears for loss families, such as 11 Angels (also fiscally sponsored by Star Legacy Foundation) in the Minnesota metro area and Bears of Hope in Australia who both offer a full package of loss materials along with their bears.

You’ve likely heard of “empty arms” but if you haven’t lived through the loss of a baby you’ll never know the depth of that pain. It’s something that I can’t explain fully and nobody should have to endure. My arms, along with my heart, physically and emotionally hurt to a level beyond comprehension. Yes, my arms physically HURT.

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One of the things that provided comfort for me was the ability to hug and hold three stuffed lambs. I never thought I would find such comfort in a stuffed animal as a grown adult, but I did in a very real way. On my darkest nights I grabbed hold of them as tight as I could and prayed for sleep to come quickly.

My new goal for my baby loss memory boxes is the addition of a stuffed bear, of good size and quality, to FILL the aching arms of a grieving family. Read these personal responses from families who received a bear from 11 Angels.

My bear is my most prized possession because he was in the crib with my son and I can still smell him when I hold my bear.

I get a real peace when I see my “Connor” bear sitting on the shelf.  It’s as though my little man Connor is there with me.

I don’t know how to thank you for the things you gave me in the hospital. Everything is so very comforting but the bear is extra special.  Sometimes my arms ache so terribly to hold my daughter so I just rock the bear instead and it makes all the difference in the world.

Will you help me fill this need in Northern Minnesota? (If you’re outside of this area please consider donating to Molly Bears as they send bears around the world; or donate bears or boxes in your own community!) If you feel called to give I’d love your support for either the funding of a box or a bear.

You can find the baby loss memory box donation link and the baby loss bear donation links below. Remember all donations are tax deductible due to our fiscal sponsorship with Star Legacy Foundation. If you’re a baby loss family or friend and you’d like to sponsor a box or bear in memory of a specific child, please be sure to add a comment with your donation. All boxes and bears will include a note in memory of a child so a newly grieving family knows that they are not alone in this loss.

SPONSOR A BABY LOSS BEAR or MEMORY BOX or MISCARRIAGE GIFT BAG :
Gladly accepting any amount, however a $20 donation
is asked to sponsor a Baby Loss Bear in memory of a child.
I also offer Memory Boxes and Miscarriage Gift Bags.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Nicole Kurtz will be organizing efforts to purchase the first round of bears in memory of her daughter Aurora, born silent on 12.11.2010.

Wiggles

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I can feel baby B and C move quite often. In fact this weekend baby B did a total flip and it felt SO strange. Baby C must have had a bit more room b/c suddenly I didn’t have pressure on my left rib/lung any longer. Thank you baby B. I rarely feel baby A though. I tell myself it’s because he/she is so low near my cervix. Maybe he/she just isn’t as active as the others. But I’ll be honest that there are moments of fear that maybe something is wrong. I imagine this is a very real and normal fear with any mother who doesn’t feel her baby move at one point or another. So many parts of this journey have been, and will continue to be this way. Focus on the positive. Enjoy the little things and cling to them in hope and trust that all is ok. But in reality there are indeed very real moments of pure fear that overwhelm my heart for the future of these three miracles. I pray that you’re all ok, strong, healthy, growing … with hope for an amazing future with you all. Oh please be ok baby A.