November Birthdays

November is an explosion of niece and nephew birthdays around here. Of our eleven, six have birthdays in November and one has his in December.

It’s my favorite kind of insanity because A) I think birthdays are the best and B) I love to pick fun presents for kids.

Gift giving/receiving is my love language, yo. I even had it tested, so that is legit. Anyway, as the gift giver in this house I get SO EXCITED TO BUY ALL THE PRESENTS and Cortney looks at the budget and just says to me, “don’t go too crazy, mmkay?”

But November is also weird for me. Both of my miscarried babies were due in November.

Today we were at a birthday party for Cortney’s sisters youngest who are turning two and four. Eddie is the oldest cousin on that side of the family by two years. He tells me that he often feels like a giant (he is tall, but also I know it’s because he’s the oldest). I fleetingly wonder “what would this scene look like with one of those other babies here? If the first pregnancy had worked out, I would have a ten year old this year! If the second had worked out, a nine-year old.

But then would we have Eddie? If we did, would he be the baby instead of the oldest? Would we not have Charlie and Alice?

I don’t know. I don’t like thinking about it, and usually I turn off my thoughts as soon as that last one enters because my heart won’t even let me imagine a world without Charlie or Alice.

We are told that God knows everything about us even as we are “knit together in [our] mother’s womb[s].”  Are each of us here on purpose? Is the opposite of that then, those who didn’t make it, not here…on purpose?

Once a friend told me that maybe Eddie just took three tries to get here. That all three were Eddie in some way. Honestly, I don’t know what to believe. Sometimes I think of them as babies in heaven so Cortney’s dad can take care of them and have grandkids. Sometimes I don’t think of them as babies at all, but just as lumps of cells that quit developing.

The first one was a blighted ovum, so it helps me to think that maybe something was  wrong and my body was like, “STOP! This isn’t right!” The second one was most definitely because my body doesn’t make enough progesterone (maybe the first one was too? Hard to tell since it ended so quickly, but my uterus didn’t get the memo). When we figured it out and my pregnancy with Eddie “stuck,” we found out when I went into labor that my body isn’t shaped right to birth babies. Not only do I have a tilted uterus, but rather than widen, my parts that are supposed to push the baby out stay narrow straight through.

Also, I apparently grow giants.

So all my babies were born via C-section.

Maybe my body knew that and tried to stop me from having babies, but I did it anyway.

I don’t know, this month brings up weird thoughts for me every year.

November is wonderful and weird all at the same time.

It makes me nostalgic for a time I never even lived.

It reminds me how sure we are in our decision to be complete, and yet brings me back to a time before we had even gotten started.

Photo by Erin Barkel Photography

five sleeping babies

2015-11-17 19.05.22

Saturday Charlie came into our room while I was in there, and wandered over to my bedside table and this conversation happened:

Charlie: Mom Mom? What is in that circle box?

Me: Two little hearts.

Charlie: Why, Mom Mom?

Me: Because they are for two babies.

Charlie: What two babies?

Me: Two babies that were in my tummy, but died.

Charlie: What were theirs names?

Me: They didn’t have names. They died before we knew if they were boys or girls. They were very tiny in my tummy when they died.

Charlie: Well….they are somewhere.

Me: Yup. They are. Maybe in heaven with Papa?

Charlie: Yeah. Mom, Mom? Why do you have three pictures of Alice?

Me: Those are not all Alice. That one is. But that one right there is Eddie, and that one there is you.

Charlie: We are alls sleepin’.

Me: Yup. All five babies. Sleeping.

Charlie: I like babies, Mom Mom.

Me: Yup. Me too.

*************

Sometimes the most important conversations happen when you least expect them to. Cortney and I have always made it a policy to always answer our children’s questions in the most age-appropriate, honest way possible. When we brought up this conversation with Eddie, he first reacted in a way that was almost a little funny to me.

Eddie: WHAT? YOU TOLD ME I WAS FIRST!!! HOW DID YOU NEVER TELL ME THERE WERE TWO BABIES BEFORE ME! I NEVER KNEW THIS UNTIL RIGHT NOW!!

He is a little dramatic.

But when I explained to him that he was the first to be born, and that he is a miracle, and that once he was born, we knew what we had to do to have healthy babies–his brother and sister–he was happy again.

Being oldest is important to him.

As it should be.

noise

There is so much noise lately.

It comes from every direction.

No one told me being an adult is so hard on the senses.

I’ve found myself complaining of headaches and backaches and neck aches a lot lately.

I think it’s from the noise.

Even when I turn everything off, it’s still in my head. So loud.

The noise is loudest when it’s quiet, I find.

During the school day when teenagers are being teenagery and in the evening when a preschooler is being preschoolery and a toddler is being toddlery, the noise isn’t so loud. It’s drowned out by immediacy of life.

But in the quiet of my planner period, my commute, my quiet time lying with Eddie while he falls asleep, my head fills with it.

Noise.

Static.

Yelling and shouting and vying for attention.

Anger and frustration and joy and excitement and overwhelm and worry and pride and anticipation and grief.

Oh the grief.

Memories are loud.

They scream in your heart and make you feel all over again the things you thought were past and gone and not coming back.

The pain, the writhing, the labor for…empty arms, empty heart.

Grief is the loudest of the noise.

Scratching and tearing demanding to be the center and then just sitting there in the middle of it all like dead weight.

Resurfacing to drown me.

The noise is so so loud when you’re an adult.

I want to go back to that warm place of being a child where the noise of the adult world is so far above me, it doesn’t make it to my ears or heart.

That place with dinner waiting on the table, two parents tucking me in, and no note of death or pain or worry in my ear.

I want the safety and silence of childhood back.

Because being an adult is too loud.

It hurts too much.

In honor of Infant Loss and Remembrance Day, I lit my candle for the two I have in heaven (snuggled there next to a picture of their little brother, Eddie) and for my niece, Bella. Who went home too this past week.

In honor of Infant Loss and Remembrance Day, I lit my candle for the two I have in heaven (snuggled there next to a picture of their little brother, Eddie) and for my niece, Bella. Who went home too this past week to be held in the arms of her Papa Steve in Heaven.

***Updated (9:21am 10/16/13)*** I just got word that Arabella Elizabeth Sluiter was delivered at 2:20am this morning weighing 1 lb, 3oz. She will always be loved and remembered.

because of them

Oh November, you bring with you such a mixed bag of emotions and moods and thoughts for me.

I love fall.  I do. I love crisp leaves and pumpkin spice lattes and leggings with boots and scarves.

But you make it so hard to really love those things with all the other stuff you bring with them.

With daylight savings time, you make my world darker, making me consider a SAD lamp every year. But I am cheap and delusional that I can get away without any SAD this year.

You also bring the end of the first marking period at work with it’s fluster of GET ALL THE THINGS DONE NOW week, so you know, stress and anxiety kicks in.

You also have the election.  Even when it’s a non-presidential election year, there is still something that we are supposed to vote for and people get jazzed up and political commercials take over the TV where there should be commercials for erectile disorder and tampons.  You know, light topics. And try as I might to ignore it, know my own beliefs and not get sucked into the opposing view, I do anyway.

And then there is that other thing about November.

That thing that was supposed to happen five years ago, but didn’t.  And then again four years ago, but didn’t.

I never know how to talk about my miscarriages.

I think I am in the minority of miscarriage survivors when I say that I don’t think of them as people that weren’t.  At least not most of the time.

I think about how our life would have been different if, five years ago, we started our family.  And I like to think that the spirits that were possibly in those small balls of cells…if there were souls in them…are in heaven with Cort’s dad.

But I don’t think of them as ever being full-fledged babies.

I don’t think of them looking like anything.

I don’t think of them and wonder about their futures…because they weren’t meant to have one.  That was not the plan.

That sounds harsh, doesn’t it?  It sounds cruel and insensitive.

I don’t think that about other people’s miscarriage.  Especially those who have suffered so many and have never had the blessing of a full term baby.

I read in my devotions not that long ago that everyone has a purpose in this world.  The ones who die young fulfilled their purpose quickly…even if we don’t know that purpose.  If the purpose is never revealed to us, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one.

I try not to play the “why” game.

I gave up on that game when Cort’s dad died.  There just wasn’t an answer that I was allowed to know.

I mean, I can conjecture from what I see has become of our life and how certain things wouldn’t be as they are without those tragedies, but I can’t say that was for sure the purpose of losing two pregnancies.

As I told my therapist last week, I never even thought of them as babies.

I’ve tried to.  I’ve called them babies, but after having Eddie and Charlie, that just didn’t feel right to me.

The first never progressed past a couple cell divisions before it quit.  It was my body that didn’t get that message.  My bodythought it was pregnant.  Had my body not mixed up that message, it would have passed without me ever knowing it was a miscarriage.

The second was a small dot on a screen.  But we never saw a heartbeat.

However, if I am being honest here, even seeing Eddie’s heartbeat for the first time didn’t convince me he was a real baby.  I know now that was probably a defense mechanism on my part.  And I am in no way saying anything about when I believe life starts (goodness knows I don’t want to start THAT debate here…this is about me and my experience only), I just don’t really grieve those lives that never were anymore.

I have a small box next to my bed with two hearts in it that represent those two pregnancies.

They were hugely important in my life.

The first convinced me I did, in fact, want to be a mother.

The second showed me my own strength and that I could get through physical pain that was greater than anything I ever thought I could endure.

Both pregnancies opened my eyes to who I am…a person I didn’t know I was.  A woman who was stronger and braver than I knew.

Both pregnancies are a puzzle piece to how our family was shaped.  How our attitudes toward loving each other fiercely and not holding grudges was fashioned.  How our persistent to be open in communication and our love for one another was created.

I know that those losses created an urgency of love and appreciation and living in the moment with those we love.

I know I am different because of them.  I know Cort is too.

I know Eddie and Charlie are seen through different eyes and loved with different hearts than they would had their not been loss before them.

But I don’t spend my November thinking about babies who weren’t born in this month.

And now, with the addition of my sweet new niece, Maria last weekend and the other niece, Lilly due in a couple weeks, I have two babies births to celebrate this month.

I don’t forget what I lost, but I don’t mourn it anymore either.

Instead I say a prayer of gratitude for all I have been blessed with despite the losses we have endured.

And we just are.

 

my hearts

These guys {and their dad} are my whole life.

But there was a time just over five years ago when I wasn’t sure I ever wanted kids.  It wasn’t just me.  Cort was in agreement with me.  We loved being just the two of us.  We had been married for a year and a half, were getting quite close to turning 30,  but all of our discussions about kids ended in,Not now. Just….not now.

Then one day in 2007 I took a pregnancy test because I was late.

I haven’t been able to write about that short pregnancy.  Mostly because I still can’t let go of thinking it’s abrupt ending was my fault.

The thing about that pregnancy, it convinced us that we wanted…very badly, in fact…to be parents.

The following year, I found myself pregnant again with almost the exact same due date as the year before.

This time we wanted it from the beginning.  We prayed and timidly allowed ourselves to be excited.

But it was no use.  We lost it.  I lost it.

I try so hard not to think about those little hearts.  Those little ones who did not make it.

It seems…fruitless.  Is that the right word?  I don’t even know.  It seems ungrateful.  There. That is better.

It seems ungrateful to dwell on the Lost Ones.

I mean, would I have my boys if I had them?

I can’t imagine our life without Eddie and Charlie.  They are meant to be our sons.  I know this just from looking at them.  They were meant to be here with us.

So why the first two?  Were they just random glitches?  Not meant to be thought of?  Not meant to be dreamed about?  Not…anything?

I can’t believe that either.

No, just because neither made it past “embryo” doesn’t mean they weren’t something.

Recently Cort and I were talking about his dad (I know this seems off topic, but bear with me) and how he would be so tickled about all his grandkids and seeing his own children become parents.

Sometimes on the happiest, most fun days with our boys and Cort’s siblings, he will get the saddest thinking about all his dad is missing.

I held his hand and told him something I had been keeping in my heart for a few years:

I believe our first babies are in heaven in order to give your dad some grandkids to play with right now.

Cort squeezed my hand and I knew he was struggling against tears.  He told me he liked that and I was probably right.

I don’t think of those miscarriages often anymore, but those unborn babies sit in my heart.  They were part of me even if for a short time.

Too many of my friends know of this pain, but one friend in particular has suffered this (more times than I have) and has become my heart buddy. No matter her struggles and pain, she remembers my fight too.  She never discounts my pain because it is “less” than hers.  She knows pain is pain.  And she knows I am fiercely praying for her with every beat of my heart.

She wrote a post about her five hearts who are not with her.

I cried. She is so strong. SO. DAMN. STRONG.

And do you know what she did?  She sent me two of my own hearts.

This past week I bought them a little “box” and now they reside on my nightstand.

I know it’s weird to say, but having those hearts right there, next to our family picture, next to where I sleep…it’s like they are home.

Something in my heart settled down the day those hearts arrived in the mail.

I held them in my hand today during nap time.

I closed my hand around them and felt their cool hardness.

And I quietly thanked them for my boys.

Without them I would not have Eddie and Charlie.

I would not have my boys.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.”  ~Proverbs 3: 5-6

*************

Don’t forget about the minted giveaway I have going on over here!

And read about how I know NOTHING about Canada over here.

thanks in all circumstances

I choose not to remember them.

Those who were due to be born in November.

I guess it sounds harsh.  Choosing to forget.

Only that first year did I forget to forget.

Fifty-one weeks of the year they barely enter my mind.

This week is different…

This year, on Thanksgiving Day, we didn’t get home until more than an hour into nap time.

Eddie was spent.

Plus he had knocked his head on the car door and had cried out any remaining energy in his body.

He just wanted me to rock him.

And so we rocked.

My belly makes it hard to accommodate a 35 pound, 35 inch two year old.

But he managed to wrap an arm behind me and lay his face against my chest.

He kept catching his breath because he had cried so hard earlier.  And he kept wiggling in closer, as if he was trying to fuse together with me.

I covered him in his soft blue minky blanket with the words “Baby Boy” on it, and gently stroked his hair.

Eventually, his body went limp and his head leaned back so I could see the soft innocence of his face as he slept.

I searched my mind trying to remember the last time this happened.

I traced his nose and cheeks with my fingers.

And remembered the two who were supposed to be born in November.

For the first time in four years, I didn’t feel an ache of emptiness.

I didn’t feel a stab in my heart.

I felt peace.

Somehow, it was because of them that I have this.

I have small boy who wants nothing more than to be wrapped tightly by his momma’s arms when he is hurt, scared, tired.

I have a little person who feels safe with me.

I have a baby on the inside kicking against the pressure of his sleeping brother on the outside.

Suddenly, any anger or confusion that was left in my heart evaporated.

It was replaced with gratitude.

And a deep joy.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

untitled

Ok, I cheated.  This week we were supposed to do flash fiction inspired by the word LIFE.  This is not fiction.  This happened to me four years ago.  But it follows the plot triangle of a story and it’s…um…flash.

I wrote it this week in my Writer’s Workshop I am doing.

Critique welcome.

*************

I didn’t know what to do with my hands.  I kept running my thumbs over my fingers and adjusting my rings.

The room felt so full.  An exam room is not made for four people.

I could feel that my eyes were wide with apprehension.  I stared silently at Cort hoping he could provide me with some sort of reassurance, but when our eyes met, I could feel his worry match mine.  The deep line in the center of his brow-line mirrored my own dread.

I turned my focus on the professionals in the room.  I searched the face of my nurse for the look of routine.  I scrutinized the doctor’s demeanor for the assurance that all this was normal.

But instead I was asked to lie down.  To try to relax.

While the nurse busied herself, I found my words, “is this going to hurt?”

She paused suddenly, stopping in the middle of her prescribed procedure.  Her face softened.  She looked at Cort and told him to come stand by my head and hold my hand.  And that no, it would not hurt.  But it would probably be a bit uncomfortable.

It was.  Uncomfortable.

But more uncomfortable was the silence of the doctor as he searched.  And searched.  And didn’t speak.

I could feel the burn of the fiery tears in the corners of my eyes.   But I wasn’t going to let them come.  There was business at hand.  I had to know the facts and not let my emotions get a hold on me.

Both Cort and I stared at the black and white screen attempting to see whatever the doctor was looking for.

Finally Cort asked the doctor if everything was Ok.

“Well,” and he didn’t continue.

He didn’t have to.  I knew.  I asked if we could take a break so I could use the bathroom.

I can’t remember if I really had to go or if I just needed to leave the room.

When I came back there was no need to lie back down.

There was nothing to see.

*************

Did you enter yesterday’s giveaway to win a bracelet?  You should do that.

Also?  With it being blog conference season?  There is a MUST enter giveaway that went up today.

tiny reminder

Spring had come, and with spring, baby showers.

So many cute little jammies and hats and shoes and onsies and teeny tiny pants.

I sat in the middle of the almost finished nursery carefully cutting tags and placing items into a basket to be washed.

My first load of itty bitty items.

The socks were so small.  Would they get lost in the great big washing machine?  Would they get eaten in the dryer?

snip snip snip.

I held each item to my round, growing tummy.

I told Eddie how sweet he would look.

There had been quite a few showers, and as I worked through the pile, I remembered the guests at each one.

Who had given me these cute overalls, and who had gifted my son with the warm jammies, and who had squealed with me as I opened the hand-made hats.

I was happily snipping the tags off what I thought was the last blankie when I saw it.

It was wrinkled and shoved to the bottom of the pile.

The tags had already been eagerly clipped off long ago in hopes of already belonging in the rotation of clothing for a small one.

I picked up the tiny white onsie.

I ran my fingers over the two embroidered ducks and the wording on the front.

“Mommy and Me.”

I tried to brush the cat hair and dust from the front–clearly the cat had been the only warm body enjoying this discarded memento of the past.

I shook my head and threw it to the top of the pile in the basket– and in turn,  the memory out of the front of my mind.

And let my hands rest on my swollen middle.

As if he knew I was distracted, Eddie pushed a heel up and out near my ribs.

I gently rubbed his little foot back into a more comfortable position and realize…he will wear that onsie.

His older siblings never did.  They never made it to the clothing stage of life.

They  never made it to life.

But he will wear it.

He will wiggle and cry and sigh and giggle in it.

He will lie in my arms and sleep in it.

I picked up the harsh reminder again and looked at it.

Then, gently, I spread it across my tummy where Eddie rolled and flutter kicked me.

A smile for what would be spread slowly across my face and moistened my eyes.

Just as quickly as the sadness had come, Eddie took it away.

———

pssst.  I am guest posting today at the lovely Hannah’s place, Peggy Ann Design.  Name sound familiar?  It should!  She is one of my amazing sponsors! This month is the Month of Hannah!  Valentine’s Day, her (leap year) birthday, and her anniversary all in one month!  To help celebrate she asked little old ME to guest post!  yippee!!!

So hop on over to her place and leave a little love on this Friday, would ya?

The Blackest Friday

It was important that this day be as normal as possible.  Remember that.  Normalcy was important to me.

Black Friday of 2007 started out normal and I was ever thankful for that.  My mom and I did our shopping and we had a good time.  I didn’t bring it up the entire time we were out.  Not during our first few shops.  Not over coffee.  Not while when we walked past the baby stuff.

When I got home with all my packages, I intended to decorate the house with Christmas and wrap all of my newly bought gifts.  Just like any other year.

But this is when my “normal” was shattered.

While I was out, Cort had made plans for us with our friends (who, by the way, are usually only in state once–maybe twice–a year).  This wouldn’t be a big deal to me if those plans had fallen into the customary time period after my decorating and wrapping frenzy, but the plans called for us to be ready to go in less than 2 hours and I hadn’t even showered yet.

I know.  Big deal, right?

My world fell apart.

I was immediately angry at Cortney for messing up my “tradition”.  Inconsolably so.

“Just decorate tomorrow,” he offered.

“THAT IS NOT THE POINT!” I told him. “TODAY is when I wrap and then decorate all to the sounds of Bing Crosby.  Why can you not respect this?  Why would you make PLANS for us during this?  Do you not know me at ALL?”

He was speechless.  He even offered to cancel the plans.  But I wouldn’t let him do that.

“how would that look?” I questioned him.  “what would they think?”

So I begrudgingly showered and got all ready.

And went out to eat and to have beers.

And acted normal.

But ignored Cortney. I mean, how could he be so thoughtless?

The rage built.

After dinner we all headed over to our friends’ house where we could sit around and visit and share some wine and snacks.

I continued to ignore  my husband.

It got so bad that nearing the end of the night he came to the chair that I was actively ignoring him from and asked if I would like to go home.

I said yes.

We left an awkward wake behind us.

I started crying somewhere between here and there.

Once home my memory blurs.  I think the yelling started as we got ready for bed.  I finally started telling Cortney how this entire day was a big suck for me thanks to him.

He didn’t yell back (he never does).  He just looked sad.

But he questioned me.  He questioned how in the world this small change in my “normal” Black Friday routine could be THIS awful.

I raged at him.

And then?  I collapsed into the ugliest cry I remember having and blurted out,

“We were supposed to have a baby this week.”

And proceed to cry so hard I couldn’t get my breath.

In the dark warmth of our living room, on the leather couch where I had lain recovering from the loss, Cortney sunk and wrapped his arms around me.

“Oh, honey,” he managed.

It all started to make sense.  I was grasping for routine.  For nothing to be out of the ordinary.  For everything to “proceed as normally scheduled.”

When it didn’t?  I lost my shit.

And we sat in the dark on the couch for a very long time.

He instructed me to breathe.  To take deep breaths, and to talk about it.  Neither of us had mourned that loss like this.  And I didn’t expect the due date to hit me so hard.  I thought I was over it.  That it never bothered me that much.

But it did.  I had just suppressed it.

In the winter, when we had found out my due date, it was perfect.  All of our friends would be in town.  Family would be around.  Everyone would be ready to celebrate our baby. Somehow that fact made our unexpected pregnancy ok.  It made things start to look up.

But that night while Cort’s arms held me, my arms were empty.

No baby.

And I started to cry all over again.

It still never escapes me that if the first time around had happened, we would have been throwing a 3-year old’s birthday party this week.

Sometimes I still don’t know how to feel about this.  If we were having a birthday party, Eddie maybe wouldn’t be here.  And he is…well…there are no words for how that little boy makes my heart swell.

But yet…

someone is missing.

(two little someones, actually.  but that is another post.)

The very next Thanksgiving, Eddie was baking away in my tummy and we have never had a “normal” Thanksgiving weekend again.

I am closer to Cortney.

And I have never loved this holiday more.

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