Sunday, October 16, 2016

5 years in.....

This Thursday, October, 20th at 8:35am it will be 5 years since our beloved daughter, Gracie was born. The old saying is, "Time heals all wounds," right? Well maybe.....I can say there isn't a day that goes by where she isn't in my thoughts. I don't cry like I used to, but my heart still has the same palpable hole in it. In fact I hadn't cried in a very long time (honestly cannot remember)...until last evening. It has been a chaotic farm year to say the least around here and I had just completed a vendor show Saturday afternoon and was driving home. For whatever reason, the gravity of everything hit me all at once. I found myself sobbing and driving which is not the best combination of course. Five in the world has five years passed since we last held our daughter???? A lot has obviously happened in the last five years, mainly her twin sisters arriving 3 1/2 years ago, which has been life altering to say the least. No matter how insane our lives become, my mind finds time to drift back to our first born. My eyes find her pictures on the wall and mantle. My eyes find the keepsakes scattered throughout the house. In our room we have a beautiful canvas with her hand and foot prints on it with the bible verse,: I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I have a beautiful framed piece of art a friend made of her toes with butterflies around it that hangs above my husband's desk. There are memories that surround me everywhere....even the car. Jeff's sister had a vinyl decal made for the side of the car in memory our daughter. I don't get in our car too often without looking at it as well. I do many things to keep Gracie's memory alive for many reasons....I don't want her to become a distant memory to people around me, which is my biggest fear. I continue to do my talks at two local colleges about our experience in having our daughter and I also continue to do our blanket and hat project for the NICU at St. Alexius hospital. These two projects keep Gracie's memory front and center and that as a mom is all I can do for her. She will always be my first born and my first experience at being a mom. It wasn't your typical "mom" experience by any means but it was a very significant and special mothering experience. She change my husband and I in ways that no other child would have ever changed us. We grieve her every our own way. Some days are more significant than yesterday was for me. Jeff came in shortly after my "sob fest" and looked at me and asked if I had been crying and I replied, "yes," He then said, "about Gracie?" I replied, "yes." He was silent....this is how he responds typically. We grieve very differently and I've grown to accept that completely. He said to me, "Five" Now, my husband is a man of few words, so these words are quite profound because for all that I typed, he summed up into one very short sentence. To top things off, our 7 year wedding anniversary is this week. Since Gracie's birth/death it has changed our anniversary as the days are 3 days apart. We've gone out to eat and "celebrated" our marriage but it's not the same. I think we both travel back to 2011 and what we were doing leading up to Gracie's birthday. I knew there would be certain "milestone" years that would be difficult and this is one of them. Gracie should be in the very first preschool class in McClusky. I helped a friend with getting things started for a preschool in town and so it is extra bittersweet as I'm so very excited they have their first class, but there should be an extra chair in their desk area. I wonder often what her personality would be like since her twin sisters have polar opposite personalities. Would she have more of Anna's personality (God help us all) or be more like Sarah? Would she have brown hair and eyes like her mom, since she looked like me? What would her giggle sound like? Would she have liked Anna or Elsa more? (this is an important debate among toddlers these days) The list could go on and on and one could play the "what if" game over and over and it would get you no where but really crazy after awhile. Most of us infant loss parents adapt and learn to live a "new normal" so we can cope with the world around us. We are forever changed. We lose some friends because they don't get the "new us" and we gain new friends from the baby loss community who tend to get the "new us" because quite frankly they are in the same boat as we are. Most folks think when you have your rainbow baby(s) it should "fix" us and we shouldn't hurt anymore. While they do help us learn to live again, by no means can anyone or anything fill the void of a lost child. Quite frankly if you haven't gone through this loss it is hard to comprehend and that is ok....we do not wish this pain on anyone.
Every year that passes, the surreal feeling of the situation does not lessen. There are some years or milestones that are more profound than others and it seems that year five has brought a whole new set of emotions with it. It's hard to put my finger on what exactly is so profound about this year but I think it's because she should be in preschool and writing her name and learning all sorts of wonderful things. Her art work should join her sisters on our fridge and it's not. There is just so much that hit me last evening when I finally broke down and sobbed my heart out. So much emptiness and so much hurt and ache.....just a vast space in my heart that is so unbearable. This year will be the first time Gracie's birthday falls on one of my work days which is very difficult....maybe in a way it won't be a bad thing as I will be busy with the clinic coming to see many of my residents. I guess we will see in a few days how it all goes.
To commemorate Gracie's 5th year I encourage you all to remember her and our family in your thoughts and prayers that day. Do something special with your family/children and be grateful for the life you have been given with them. We are not guaranteed any amount of time with our children. We are not guaranteed to see them grow up, graduated school, get married, etc. Those are all privileges that many take for granted, so please take a moment to acknowledge the blessings you have been given in your lives. Five years have flown by way to quickly for us, but as they say, the world doesn't stop for us. We must keep going and keep living for those we have left in our lives.

Friday, May 27, 2016


It's been far too long since I've blogged and the one topic that keeps creeping up on my mind and nagging at me to be let out is Mom-shaming. Those not familiar with this term; Making a mom feel like crap for any reason you can imagine. It really should be an Olympic sporting event for how popular it is in this day and age. Frankly, no matter what you are are doing it wrong and by all means your children are going to suffer for your costly mistakes. Some examples of my personal Mom-shaming experiences shall follow.....

1. Breastfeeding. When I was pregnant with the twins I was going to be a die hard breast feeder/pumper come hell or high water. In the last trimester of my "delightful" pregnancy it was discovered my iron supply was low...well no, it was nearly completely depleted as my girls had literally sucked the life out of me. Oral iron tablets were not a friend of my stomach so I was to start Venofer (IV iron) infusions weekly that would last through my pregnancy and for a month after the girls arrived. I started out breastfeeding in the hospital but frankly my children were born starving and the whole theory that they can survive on the little bits of colostrum that you produce apparently bypassed my children, so I went home to pump and supplement as needed. Since you can imagine the pure chaos that twins brought to our lives I didn't get to completing my Venofer infusions until they were 3 weeks old......yup, hematologist (blood doctor) didn't think about the Venofer passing into my breast milk and frankly I was just happy if I could stay awake to do the 23 mile drive to Turtle Lake to the hospital and back, so I did not think of it either. The gut issues began in the girls from the "iron bomb" as I refer to it as hit their systems. Horrible tummy aches that resulted in two little babies to be beyond miserable. Well after a week of hell, it dawned on me and I was so tired I looked at the breast pump and told it good bye forever and started to feed my girls formula....yes, I am a monster! So this is topic #1 that seems to be in the Mom-shamers  world. Frankly if you can breastfeed then good for you, but don't chap other mom's butts that cannot or could not do it for various reasons. Why assume you know some one's story and jump on the shaming wagon? Why throw every breastfeeding fact and photo in other's faces? If it works for you great.....leave the rest of us alone. I support breastfeeding 100%, but it's not always a feasible option for everyone.

2. Sleeping through the night. Oh topic #2! So God bless everyone that was given children that sleep through the's not that easy for every mom and it's not because of anything we did or did not do. I was blessed with one very crappy sleeper and one that was just a few hairs less crappy. So my girls didn't sleep through the night until they were 2 1/2...yup...that was a blur of 2 1/2 sleepless years, but I'm still alive to tell about it. The "Cry It Out" (CIO) method is highly debatable in the Mom-shaming world....really it either works for your home or it doesn't. Why can't it be left as simple as that? If your kids don't sleep the users of CIO throw it in your face (yes, this did happen to me). Those that don't use CIO tell the parents they are cruel....what? We didn't use CIO and that was our choice as it wasn't a fit for our family. Yup...I was awake a LOT and I did whine about it, but that is life. Some people have children that are born sleeping through the night (you all know them) and I had one of those moms say to me when my girls were 18 months, "So what do they want when they get up?" Let me tell you this much......self restraint of my mouth was pretty high that night. Why we all can't just do what we want is beyond me but this is definitely hot topic #2 in the Mom shaming world as we know it.

3. Picky eaters. I have one twin who is by far WAY more selective in what she eats then the other. Why? Can anyone tell me this one? They are twins! They grew up eating the SAME exact food! Once the fabulous age of two rolled around, everything went crazy in the food department. Every meal has been a battle since. It was to the point that when the very picky eater decided she would actually eat a hot dog, it had to be brown....the other would only eat red. Oh yes! And kids eat hot dogs....and they eat chicken nuggets! This is a whole new topic right here. Some folks only eat a "clean" diet...good for them. Once again...why can't people just do their own thing. I have read some very ridiculous comments about how horrible of a parent you are for feeding your, what's a good term, "unclean???" food. So nope, not even feeding your kids can be done correctly in the mom shaming world. This does go back and forth by the way...parents that let their kids eat "unclean??" will badger parents that feed a "clean" diet too. Neither side is safe, so should we just not feed them or what?

4. Pacifiers and when it's "right" to take them away. My kids turned 3 in March and they still use their beloved "nuks" at nap/bedtime. One of my twins is an anxious a very anxious child that will worry about every single thing possible in life and she uses her nuk as an outlet for her anxiety. Yup, I've heard the whispers in church when she gets overwhelmed and turns to her nuk, "Do you see that, she still uses a pacifier." Oh yes....once again judging without knowing the story isn't it great...better yet, judging one another in church. HA! So here's the deal, until she finds a way to cope with her anxiety (yes, we are working on this) the pediatrician told me not to even think of taking it away. The pediatric dentist and dental assistant said it's not even a little bit of a worry as her teeth are fine. So if one wants to not use a nuk, take it away at a year, two years, or beyond, why is this such a huge ordeal for the world? So yes, I've heard the whispers and notice "the look" when we go somewhere and she gets overwhelmed and she turns to her nuk for comfort.

5. Discipline. This should have probably been up higher on my list as no matter what you do it isn't right whatsoever. Whether you scold, yell, spank, do time outs, take away privileges, or whatever you can possible insert here, us as parents are doing it all wrong. Apparently after how many decades of spanking being used for discipline, now we are going to damage our child. We spank at our house...rarely is it needed, but on special occasions it is warranted and utilized. I don't feel a paddle on the butt is child abuse or psychologically damaging....but that is our household's view. It's not as if we have a paddle or belt hanging on the wall or in view as a threat. Most days all you have to do is mention if they need one and they are done with misbehaving. Do what works for your house and we will worry about ours. Of course it's not quite that easy, as others feel the need to place their shame on you whenever they possibly can.

So where did this all come from? Why all the judgment? I could keep listing all kinds of topics but I feel these are more the suffice to get my point across. Why can't parents support each other and lift each other up when a fellow parent is in a rough spot? Why is it that the first thing someone feels they should offer is, "Well if you think it's bad now, wait until they are teenagers!" Every parent has low points and instead of pushing them further into that hole, why not lift them up? Why not say, I totally understand where you are coming from and if you have some helpful advice then great...offer it as support. The "I told you so" or "it could be worse" or "boy they are making you eat your words" are all very un-necessary. My children have made me eat every single word I ever had said or even remotely thought of over the years. It's ok...I love them and I will continue to eat my words for years to come. I don't have the "perfect children" as some feel they have, but they are my children and I love them....even if they make me crazy on a daily basis. We do the best that we can, with whatever abilities we possess. Some days are better then others....there are lots of days I've cried after my girls have gone to sleep after a particularly challenging day. I pray for the strength to help me be better tomorrow. Parenting is hard....harder then anyone can imagine before actually becoming a parent. It's the toughest job I've ever done, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. So if you have the opportunity to lift up a struggling parent, then do it...don't tear them down. Be there for each other and help one another get over those hills....some of those hills are bigger then others.