TIME: A Cruel and Beautiful Gift

In the past three years, time has revealed it's multi-layered face within my life.

Two years of trying to conceive felt like a lifetime; seven weeks of hospital bed rest blurred the lines between days and weeks; four months in a NICU felt like an eternity. Then, all of a sudden, I had a one year old; on top of that, I'm almost 25 weeks along in a pregnancy that I've just wrapped my head around.

How does time take forever and slip by simultaneously?

Tonight I sat on the bathroom floor, beside the tub; Sadie Ann was in her inflatable, yellow rubber-ducky tub. She smiled, carried on serious conversations with her toys, splashed, giggled, and listened to me when I had to tell her No (a couple times - she likes to try and climb out). I watched her hold and study her toys. I watched her make decisions and come up with independent thoughts.

I just watched. 

It's been a few weeks coming. I've slowly been realizing the tiny baby that needed me for every nook and cranny of her life is growing up. She, of course, still needs me most of the time, but she can hold her bottle, she can sit on the floor and play by herself, she can move around and get the toy she wants, and she can entertain herself.

I'm no longer her sun.

Her world is getting bigger and my role is getting smaller. Only slightly smaller, but smaller none the less. Still, every aspect of her life is completely dependent on me - and will for many years to come; however, in each of those aspects she is gaining independence. An independence in which I am completely grateful - her prognosis at birth was quite terrifying and becoming an independent child wasn't guaranteed. So I'm overwhelmed with the progress and growth I see in her daily, but it's also a constant reminder that my little five-pound baby that we brought home at four months old, on April 10th, isn't that same tiny, needy baby. A hard and harsh reality to face.

Life doesn't wait for you to catch up - I find myself wanting to revisit the days she took a bottle every three hours. The nights when she was up two or three times. That sweet little face that has already changed so much. It all moves too quickly and I'm scared I'll be going to dance recitals and ball games, then taking her to the DMV and prom dress shopping next time I look up.

I was always warned of the beast of time. My mom and my grandmother have said multiple times, the older you get, the faster time flies! Yeah, I've noticed. But it's not until your baby girl is no longer a baby girl that it brings you to your knees.

My point is - tonight was a punch in the gut. It was a reminder that time doesn't stand still, there's no rewind button, and babies don't keep. And that's the cruel part. Contrastingly, we are given the gift of joy through watching them grow. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. We want them to develop their own independence. We want to see them move forward and create a successful and full life. Here I am realizing the juxtaposition of these emotions will be a never-ending tug-of-war game for the rest of my life.


Making a Mess

It's only recently that Sadie Ann has been interested in touching her food. It's a preemie thing - sensory issues and aversions to different textures through touching and tasting. Her pediatrician encouraged me to just put food on her table every time she ate and she's eventually warm up to it. She was right. SA doesn't mind slimy or mushy textures as much anymore - and she has no problem with them when she can also play with a spoon. 

So a messy photo shoot was produced! 

This happened last week and I quickly learned, much like Sadie Ann, that I also had an aversion; however, mine was to making a mess. I'm definitely not a clean freak or control freak, but it turns out letting my baby make a mess with her food makes me slightly uncomfortable. Fortunately, her adorableness and enjoyment help me to quickly get over it. 

Is it hard for any of you mothers to just let the babies be babies?


Finding Out the Baby's Sex

During my first pregnancy, shortly after finding out we were having twins, Chris voiced that he did not want to find out the sex of the twins. Well, he quickly lost that battle. There was no way I could go an entire pregnancy with TWINS and not know what they were. There were too many possible combinations and with a nursery and registry that needed to be completed, I had to know! 

So when this second pregnancy rolled around Chris, again, voiced that he didn't want to know the sex. I knew this was coming, but since it was a singleton and we already have some of the basic baby things, I decided I could wait. 

As the weeks have passed by, I've warmed up more and more to the idea of not finding out the sex. It's fun to know during the pregnancy (you know, so we can snag cute baby clothes and pick out a name), but to find out in the moment of delivery sounds so thrilling and wonderful. We're in our 30's and there aren't many surprises left in this life. This is not only the ultimate gift, but the ultimate surprise. Just imagining that as the baby cries for the first time, which is such a glorious moment in and of itself, but to also hear the words It's a ___ just adds a whole new depth to the joy of that moment. 

I'm one day away from 23 weeks - a tremendous milestone in this pregnancy and yesterday I had my last cervical length ultrasound. The night prior I was telling Chris that it would probably be the last ultrasound for a while - which makes me really sad. Having a complicated pregnancy is never desired, but if there is a benefit, it's that you get to see your baby A LOT! I've been spoiled when it comes to ultrasounds. When I was pregnant the first time I had weekly ultrasounds up to 12 weeks just because I was going to an infertility doctor. Then when I went on bed rest I had ultrasounds every other day. This pregnancy, because of the cervical length checks, I've had ultrasounds every other week. So the idea of going three, four, five weeks or more without seeing the baby is just weird. 

So in our conversation that night, after talking about it being the last ultrasound for a while, I got an I'm about to say something unexpected look across the room from Chris. Then, out of nowhere he says… 

I think I want to know what the baby is


Complete shock over here. 

The anticipation is getting to him and he's not sure how much longer he can wait. Which I should have seen coming since the boy can't keep secrets. I mean if he buys me a Christmas gift before Christmas, he's going to give it to me the day he buys it. He can't handle the anticipation! He still wants to wait, but it's just getting harder! 

Although, I've completely given into NOT knowing (*cough* Chris's idea) and I've romanticized the delivery and the announcement of the baby's gender immediately after birth, I love how excited he is! This has obviously been on his mind and he's now starting to give in. Either way, whether we find out before or after the birth, it's the most exciting thing ever. It will be thrilling no matter when we find out! 

So at my appointment yesterday I took an envelope and a card that I made above. My ultrasonographer took pictures of the baby's gender, put it in our card, and sealed it up! If it becomes too much for Chris to handle, we will open the card - if he can pull it together and wait it out, we will wait! 

In the meantime, I still have no clue or feeling as to what this baby is. The hardest part about not knowing is trying not to refer to the baby as "it". I try to say "the baby" most times. In my mind I generally refer to the baby as he, but I've also referred to the baby as she. I've only had one dream about the gender and it was a boy. However, when I was pregnant with the girls, I would dream about twin boys or boy/girls twins, but never twin girls. So it's all very confusing. All I know for sure about this baby is that he/she is growing strong and perfectly and is staying put! 


A Long December

There were times in the past year where I found myself jotting down emotions and thoughts through those darker, harder moments. I've smushed them all together to make a post for anyone going through a difficult journey. We all walk different paths and our darkness can look different, but the one constant is that the Light and our faith are able to take precedence in the hardest of times. 


And it's been a long December
And there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last

December 2014.

That month seemed to carry on long after all the calendars were thrown away and forgotten. A couple weeks following their birth it was a new year, but nothing felt new. Nothing changed. There were no resolutions and no excitement. It was just another day. 
The weeks following December 15, 2014 felt like a bad dream - the kind where you know what's going on. You can see it all, but everything around you is blurred and dark. Except the fear in front of you. There's a spotlight shining down on that so you don't forget about it. All of your pain and fear is illuminated. And even worse than that, there is no escape. 
During that time, I feared this feeling would linger far longer than I wanted or could even handle. That the darkness that continuously hovered and hung over my shoulders would never lift away. It was difficult to see ahead because the fear and pain were blinding. Hope seemed out of my grasp. 

Shamefully, I was scared to love my daughter. Of course I loved her, but readily giving her any large part of myself seemed careless because the fear of losing her was greater than anything else in my small world. I wasn't capable of losing another child. I couldn’t do it. Fear took over my faith and life was miserable. 

Looking back and attempting to captivate the emotions I felt during this time is a bit overwhelming. My life had become the perfect storm for pain. The present was devastating and the future was unpredictable, but worse than being unpredictable, it was mostly grim. Those emotions and memories will forever be so vivid in my mind. When I think back, it becomes a feeling that I will always remember. The memories hit me in the gut and I remember what it felt like to have my life shattered into pieces just lying around me – out of reach and unrepairable. 

Those feelings, the sounds, the smells, the view of my fragile baby, and the wondering of my own thoughts, when revived in my mind, hurt just as badly as they did at the time, but coming out on the other side makes them bearable when I do go back to that time.

I've mentioned before I try to never question God. That's not my role. But I do specifically remember the drive to the funeral home. It was two days after the girls' birth and Mary Elliott's death. Chris and I were in the car alone. Hand in hand. It was dark and cloudy with a slight mist in the air. The weather seemed to mirror our emotions. As we turned off our street, I verbalized the cold truth. We were 30 years old and driving to the funeral home to discuss the plans for our late daughter. At that moment I confessed to God that I just didn't understand. Why are we driving to see and kiss our baby girl for the last time? With the gift of time, I’ve come to realize that trying to comprehend the whys in life isn’t always necessarily my role. It’s easy to worry yourself to the point of sickness when you dwell on trying to figure out everything. Thankfully, my faith has allowed me to have peace and trust in God’s reasons – it’s not always easy, but it is enough. 

The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters, but no pearls
All at once you look across a crowed room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl

Being in the hospital in winter - through the holiday and through the new year - it's a very eerie feeling. Something you don't want to experience. It's sad. Not just for the reasons you are there, but also for the unknown reasons everyone you pass is in there. It's uncomfortable. Like being homesick. There was nowhere else we would have been, but it also felt like being a prisoner. 

Despite the chilling sounds of monitors, the spotlight shining down on my fragile, weak daughter, and grim updates from doctors in those first few weeks, as time passed and I was able to pull myself together, deep in my heart, I had peace. I had this undeniable feeling that our daughter would leave that NICU perfectly healthy. All statistics were against her, but I was beginning to see a beautiful outcome - a healthy one we wanted for our daughter before she was even conceived. 

I've never talked about this feeling of peace I had, but it was very present. It wasn't immediate, but it wasn't long after the start of her journey. We hadn't received much good news and she wasn't close to passing any milestones, but I knew. 

I specifically remember hearing from nurses or other professionals different possible scenarios - “preemies usually have… this or that... to deal with throughout the rest of their lives.” I received the information as something to possibly prepare us for if/when that time came, but I also remember, a lot of the time, thinking not our Sadie Ann, she’s strong and is an overcomer. Her story is different. I felt like her being a micropreemie was more so a means to an end. And that’s what my mindset became. This was the peace that passed all understanding (Philippians 4:7). It never made the journey easy, but it restored all my hope and did help me make it through those hard days. 

And that peace I had proved to be her story. 


So it finally feels like that year is over. 

I'm thankful to put this past year behind me. I didn't know if it would ever end and then it was over before I could catch my breath. This year has been so significant in my life - it's has strengthened my faith, strengthened my relationship with my husband, it has taught me that even in the depths of great sorrow, great pain, great fear, and unpredictable futures there can be light. There can be significant lessons learned. It is possible to walk out of a storm better off and stronger than you ever imagined. 

Although the pain of loss carries on for a lifetime, the joy of children and motherhood (whether they are in your arms or not) also carries on. And it's a gift I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. 

Despite an undesirable year, we are thankful. 
We move forward. 
And we can laugh again.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.
Proverbs 31:25


To My Daughter on Her First Birthday

My darling Sadie Ann,

It has taken me quite a bit longer to write this letter than what I initially thought. I guess really sitting down and wrapping my mind around the reality that you are one year old is a lot more difficult than I even imagined. It seems surreal because time, in this past year, has lost it's meaning and become the biggest blur of my life.

In the days and weeks following your birth, there was no certainty of a celebratory birthday in your future - that was our reality a year ago. And yet, here we are. Celebrating and thanking the Ultimate Physician for everything you've overcome. Your strength. Your willingness to fight and preserver. In your short, one year life, you've faced more than some face in a lifetime. You've proven that 23 weekers should be given the chance to be called "viable" (mommy, hates that word!). And through this past year, you've already been an inspiration to so many. You've introduced faith to some, restored faith for others, brought people to their knees for the first time, and provided motivation for others.

A year ago I couldn't touch you. Your chance at surviving was small. If you did survive, it was likely that you would have significant health issues beyond the NICU. We were told that you'd face pulmonary difficulty throughout your life. We were told the extra steroids you required for your lungs could possibly cause brain damage and developmental deficits. We were told you could likely never walk due to a growing brain hemorrhage. We were told your prematurity and need for oxygen would most likely result in some degree of blindness. But, we were also told every baby is different.

You crushed the NICU. The first two months were challenging and terrifying, but once you were finally off of your breathing machine (it was a long 59 days) you took off! Two months after that we carried you out of those doors and welcomed you home. You left that NICU without any need for medication or supplemental oxygen, your brain bleeds resolved, and a few months later you were cleared by the retina specialist and pediatric ophthalmologist with perfect vision. Seeing who you are a year later, it's hard to believe where you started out.

So many people you've never met - that mommy and daddy never met - have prayed for you. Have been on their knees crying out for your health. You are easily the most prayed for human that I know. And even greater than that, the God of this Universe, took the time to listen to all of our cries and answer them. You are a beautiful example of the power of prayer. Your story will always include a world-wide group of prayer warriors.

Despite all the trails and hardships you've faced, you are happy. The constant smile on your face reminds me daily of how far you've come. Your laugh brings me to tears because of all it represents - strong lungs, typical brain function, social skills, and, of course, a baby that is happy. Your personality shines bright every day. Your idiosyncrasies melt my heart. I adore the sounds you make, how serious you become when you're "talking", I love how you aimlessly rub my hand or chest when you are drinking your bottle as you fall asleep, my heart explodes hearing the sweet sounds you make right before you fall asleep, I love starting every single day receiving a smile from you as I walk into your room to get you out of your bed, I love how you root into my chest when you're tired, I love the excitement on your face when I give you two play cups to bang together, I love how you absolutely lose control in complete happiness when I start singing You Are My Sunshine - but the truth is you are.

I've never experienced this type of joy and happiness simply by loving another human being. My love for you is indescribable. It's only a feeling that I have the complete pleasure of feeling every day and for the rest of my life.

You are my sunshine, my joy, and my love.

Mommy loves you more than you will ever know. Happy first birthday, baby girl!