Sunday, January 29, 2012

First pregnancy after a stillbirth, Part 1

In regards to the title, I am dying to write out my feelings on being pregnant for the first time after having a stillborn child, but my feelings are black and white-- black represents the first 10 weeks, white represents the remaining 30, thus the need for two posts :)

Feeling Black: Weeks 4-10

When Ben and I were in the delivery wing of the hospital that terrible/ wonderful weekend in September, one of the first things we said to one another was that we both wanted to continue on our road to Earthly parenthood.  We were quickly given a cursory warning that we'd need to wait three months after our experience to "try again", and I, numbly, nodded my head- agreeing in complete shock with whatever someone with a name tag advised me to do.

When the spiritual high wore off a couple weeks later, all I could think about was having another child.  We have known many people who have had trouble getting pregnant, and I was convinced I'd be one of them. I was so afraid that Eleanor was my one "shot" at having biological children that I wanted to start tying asap to maximize the minuscule odds I felt I had of getting pregnant again.

5 weeks later, I was pregnant (by LMP calculations.) I remember clearly that I felt pregnant in the days leading up to taking a OTC test, and already feeling ambivalent about the possible results.  See, at that time we were still waiting for Eleanor's grave marker to be put in place (remember that ordeal?), and I felt so guilty for thinking of another child before my first's grave was settled! I purposefully waited, knowing I was pregnant, to take the test so I could plead ignorance- saying I didn't "officially" know I was expecting #2 until Eleanor had been taken care of.

Waiting for Eleanor's grave marker was the first emotional hurdle I had to cross; many more came soon after. In the weeks that followed Eleanor's due date came, my sister's triplets were blessed in a weekend-long celebration in Columbia, and Christmas approached (the holiday we had most been looking forward to spending with our new "present").  I was not emotionally ready to love another child until I had celebrated these important milestones of my first child's.  I felt like a terrible mother for "putting El aside" in order to get pregnant again before her grave marker had arrived, her due date came, or the triplet's had been blessed (I knew I would be a not-so-hot mess that day- it reminded me so strongly that my child was supposed to be born two weeks later, but that we wouldn't be blessing her at all.) 

I know Eleanor didn't (probably) think of me as a bad mother, but I needed to work through those dates with her before I could focus on the child growing inside me. I guess a part of me was afraid that another stillbirth, or an earlier miscarriage, was always possible, so I shouldn't get attached too early, either. I've heard many mothers say that they fear they don't have enough love for another child after their first, and that's how I felt-- even though my first wasn't here with us. But already being pregnant is not the time to consider how you feel about more children-- they are already here! So I felt really torn between the guilt of not giving Eleanor enough time, and the guilt of not loving the new pregnancy immediately.  So I chose Eleanor, knowing I have the rest of my Earthly life to focus on this child.

Someone I love very, very much expressed their sadness that I waited as long as I did to announce my pregnancy-- she was an important rock to me when we lost El, and I'm sure she expected to be part of whatever my process was in the future.  I know she would have been (and is, now) an incredible vehicle of support and love, but I tried to explain that I just wasn't ready.  I used the old breakup cliche "It's not you, it's me." as that seemed the most appropriate: It had absolutely nothing to do with our relationship or the love and support I know she's capable of, I just simply couldn't broach the topic of baby 2 until I had given all I could to baby 1- including my thoughts, words, and actions. I had to do that for my child and myself.  Ben and I didn't even talk about the pregnancy much those first few weeks... Which really shocked me, considering how strongly I'd felt about having Earthly children as soon as possible.

It's incredible what the mind and body are capable of.  I was on such a spiritual high after delivering an angel worthy of heaven immediately that I planned another pregnancy with no consideration of the feelings of guilt, fear, and ambivalence that would follow.  Yet, knowing that I may not be as emotionally prepared as I thought, Heavenly Father still found this to be the right time to send another of His children into our arms.  I have come to trust (please, God... no more lessons) that Heavenly Father knows best, and there is a plan involving us and our children that we are slowly taking part in.

At this point I am over-the-moon ecstatic about this pregnancy, more so than I was being pregnant with El, in fact, and I am so so so glad that I was pregnant as early as I was and that we don't have to wait those additional weeks or months to have our next child with us. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for always knowing what is best for us, and, though those were some of the hardest months of my life, teaching me what true happiness can be!

2 Nephi 2: 22-25:

"22: And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. 
23: And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. 
24: But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. 
25: Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pregnancy Announcement Photos!!

*Thanks, Sharon, for taking these pictures for us in downtown Greensboro, NC!*

More posts to come on how incredibly happy and blessed we feel :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Personalized Ultrasound Picture Frame

Prominently framing one of Eleanor's last ultrasound pictures has been on my mind for about a month now, and today I found the perfect frame for the project I had in mind at Michael's (so it turned out to be 40% off, too!)

It was perfect timing because Ben is out of town for a few days and I always get more emotional, sad, lonely, etc., etc.... when he's away.

So, as long as my loved ones were on my mind and I was missing them anyway, I may as well set to work on the craft project I've been planning for weeks!


Glue gun w/ glue sticks
Buttons (or ribbon, or other decorations)
Picture frame (with a flat-ish edge or grove for the decorations to fit into)
Baby picture

I was so excited to find bags of tiny buttons in shades of green and blue.  That is exactly what I had wanted to use, and never dreamed I would get so lucky! I chose these colors because I think Eleanor would love green and blue the most, and they match the balloons we released at her funeral. (I know I've promised funeral pictures, but I'm still not ready.  Sorry!)

Gluing the buttons on was so easy, so fast, didn't need to be too precise or careful, and I used way less of the buttons than I thought I would so I have extras in case I do a follow-up project ;)

Finished product!

I added her photo to our family wall, and rearranged the pictures already there so that she is underneath a picture of a statue of a mother and her child I took during our honeymoon in Nicaragua.  

She's also right beside the frame that used to have an engagement photo of us looking really goofy into the camera.  Ben chose that picture of us to add to her casket, and I haven't replaced it. I may one day, but for now I don't mind the reminder.  I like that her pic is beside the empty frame now... We gave ours to her, she gave hers to us!

I feel so wonderful that I've done this.  I love that I will see her everyday. I love that the matting makes her photo prominent.  I love that the frame is simple but personalized and fun for her.  I love that she is added to our family wall.

I am so happy! 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

How Ben's Mind Works...

Ben: "I don't think it's a good idea for me to study next to the kitchen."
Suz: "It's ok since we don't have any food."
Ben: "What we do have is junk food!"

Suz: "There is plenty of healthy snack food.  Eat raisins, soy nuts, bread with Nutella..."
Ben: "White bread is bad for you."
Suz: "But this bread is fortified.  It's the bread of the Olympics or something."
Ben: "Really?"
Suz: "Actually the SEC."
Ben: "Securities and Exchange Commission?"
Suz: confused expression

Ben: "What else could SEC mean?"
Suz: "Southeastern Conference! It's football! I thought you were making a joke!"

Ben: "Oh.  Well I'm studying accounting right now.  What do you expect?"
Suz: laughing hysterically... "Can I blog about this?"
Ben: "Yes.  This needs to be shared."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Flowers for Eleanor

I hope one of you gets the title... Danny, maybe?

Eleanor's official marker finally came in in December! The cemetery has been really understanding with us, and filled the attached bronze vase with a beautiful set of violet flowers, then exchanged it for a large Christmas tree, but now it's our turn to honor our little angel our way!

We had a fun discussion about what we would like to keep at El's grave. We thought about taking the vase off and putting an angel garden statue or heavy-duty animal in the space, but removing the vase doesn't actually seem like an option, after all. All of the graves here are flat with these vases, so you just see a field of flower plumes across the yards.  Most of the flowers are fake, placed, then forgotten so there are pieces of disintegrating flower flowing in the wind and scattered across the grass constantly.

We did not want Eleanor's to get as unruly, but I can't guarantee I'll always have fresh flowers, or how long we'll live here to bring them.  When we eventually leave, what could we put in place that wouldn't look so terrible in a few months?

The final (for now) answer came from something we already have in our house.  I have had a vase from my mom for years that I've filled with beautiful glass flowers that I've collected from antique stores across the country (and packed and traveled with very carefully, I might add!) We decided the glass flowers from our own living room would be perfect for the grave marker-- permanent, beautiful, classy-- so us! 

I ordered a set of replacement glass flowers for the vase, but we ended up using the ones I purchased for Eleanor, instead.  Her vase is short, and we were worried that my longer-stemmed flowers would freeze and break more easily than the shorter-stemmed ones that we ordered.

Just to make sure you really appreciate the final product, let's go through the process of Eleanor's grave...

Blank plot (with straw) for months....

Temporary marker...

Permanent  marker...

Permanent marker with hand-picked glass flowers + an LED light provided by Grammy!

Isn't it gorgeous?!?!?!?!?!?!

(P.S. Flowers for Algernon  was one of my favorite books growing up.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

If you give a pig a pancake...

A little story about the way my mind works.  This was  a conversation Ben and I had about a week ago while yelling down the stairs at each other when I was brushing my teeth and he was working downstairs...

"I'm so glad you texted me when you were at General Conference 3 years ago."

"Umm... Good. What made you think of that?"

"I was brushing my teeth and saw the earrings mom gave me for my birthday on the counter...

"and started wondering why I hadn't brought them with us to Chicago to wear at Betsy's sealing. Then I remembered that I couldn't wear them because I was planning to wear my skirt with the gold sequins...

"That made me think about how much I love sparkles and how much sparkly things I own...

"but that I only wear my sparkly stuff when I need to cheer myself up, I'm nervous, or am celebrating something really big, like when I wore that same skirt my first Sunday back to the single's ward after my mission (which you noticed immediately) and for our engagement pictures...

"That reminded me that I bought my sequin All Stars the day before Thanksgiving 2009 and wore them with my dress for Thanksgiving dinner because I was sad that we were separated during our first holiday dating...

"Which reminded me that we had even started dating because you kept trying to stay in contact me while I was traveling, which started with the random text message during General Conference. So, thank you for texting me.  I'm so glad you did :)"

"I don't want to give a pig a pancake!"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Special Sealing in Chicago

{Photos courtesy of the photographer, my SIL Sarah!}

The reason for our trip to Wisconsin was to drive with Steve and Tamara to Chicago (just 2 hours away) to celebrate the sealing of Ben's sister, Betsy, with his side of the family.

To be completely honest (this is me, after all), I was sort of apprehensive about this trip.  I am beyond happy for Betsy (and her now-husband, Brad), but we had not originally planned to be present at their sealing. It was scheduled for December 28, and Eleanor was due to be born on December 15.  We expected her to be late (not 3 months early!), and I said early on that I knew I wouldn't want to fly across the country or drive with an infant so soon after having a baby, especially in flu season.  We were happy for Betsy, and really sad to expect to miss her special day.

One blessing from El's early appearance was that we were, suddenly, available to travel for Betsy's sealing.  We did really wanted to be there, but I was concerned that the dissolving of our original expectations would cast a shadow over our trip.  I was worried during the days leading up to the sealing that it would remind me of our change in plans, but I am so happy to report that there was nothing but love and joy on that amazing morning! 

In fact, I was {literally} sobbing from joy during the entire ceremony! Ben and I planned our sealing around Betsy coming home from her LDS mission to Temple Square in April, 2010.  It was important to us to have her there-- "waiting for Betsy" was sort of the joke around our whole engagement and marriage planning, in fact! She flew directly into Columbia and we were sealed the next day.  I was worried that we were raining on her Coming Home parade (everyone deserves their own special moment after such a huge accomplishment), but Betsy handled it so well and told us afterward, "It meant so much to me to see my whole family together in the temple just after coming home from serving the Lord. Thank you."

Well, Betsy, it meant so much to me to witness the sealing of a couple in love and to hear and remember the marriage covenants in the most spiritual place on Earth so soon after losing our daughter! Thank you!

I can not express how beautiful the spirit was, and how comforting.  I was reminded so strongly of the love Ben and I share, and how incredibly grateful I am that we made the decision to be sealed for time and all eternity before we had children (though a family can still be sealed together forever after a death, of course).  You can't plan the future- there was no way for us to know we wouldn't live with our angel. But Heavenly Father knew, and, years ago, restored the Priesthood- the power of God- to the Earth so that families like ours would have the opportunity to be together in the eternities after the devastation of this Earthly life.

It was a powerful message.

After the ceremony we were invited to congratulate the bride and groom.  I gave Brad a hug and told him what a wonderful family he married into, but couldn't say a word to Betsy.  My face was completely tear-stained (I had, at least, tried to sob quietly in the back so we didn't disturb the rest of the family), and I could just hold her tightly and try not to mess up her veil. Betsy, I hope you understand the gratitude I was trying to convey in that moment!

Many happy memories are yet to come to this special couple!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Holiday in Milwaukee

We were very blessed this past holiday season to visit both sides of our family.  Blessed and busy.  And tired.  And happy.  And ....

We spent Chrismtas Eve and Christmas with my mom and siblings (minus Brett :( ), then flew at 5 am to Milwaukee to spend the week with Ben's brother, Steve, and our sister-in-law, Tamara, and their children in Jackson, WI.  We spent some time there, drove down to Chicago for his sister, Betsy's sealing, then back to Jackson.

I was left with just one question...

Why didn't anyone tell us how much fun Milwaukee is?

Here is our downtown tour of the big city:

The Public Market
The Public Market was awesome! It is a large warehouse filled with stalls of local specialties.  
We tried cheese curds from a local dairy farm, watched  and learned about spices from 
around the world, and lots of other fun stalls representing Wisconsin favorites. 

It was a crowded atmosphere bustling with the scent of flowers, local store-goers, and fun colors.  Just we like to stumble upon in a new city :) 

Historic 3rd Ward
We never found out why it's called the Historic 3rd Ward, but we fell for it! This is a collection of a few streets downtown that are, in a word, charming! Complete with bronze street names on corner sidewalks, old-fashioned street lamps, and dental molding. 

The district is also known for it's collection of unique streetside shops

The classic...

... and not so classic. 

Milwaukee, like all my favorite cities, has bodies of water in every direction.  A lake here, a river there, the city is filled with fun water walkways and beautiful city/ nature landscapes.  

Check out my hunky husband on this great circular walkway thingy 
we found between old buildings on the river:

I think I drove Ben crazy comparing Milwaukee to Seattle (my favorite city in America.  Yes, it beats out NYC!) . I just loved seeing water surprise me in every direction and all the fun art and architecture tucked around the corners. (Ben says Milwaukee was founded before Seattle, so I should have been comparing Seattle to it, instead of the other way around.  Though Seattle still takes my cake, Milwaukee has one thing Seattle definitely doesn't: citizens with good fashion sense.)

Wisconsin Cheese Mart
The Wisconsin Cheese Mart is truly a state legend.  In a word: amazing.  But, hey, we love cheese ;) 

This is a large, open store that sells more types of cheese than I could count from all around the world.  It's specialty, of course, is locally-made Wisconsin cheeses, especially varieties of cheddar. We were greeted by this life-size heifer and a stand of cheese hats and other accessories which set the tone for the whole store.  It's a place where anyone who loves cheese can come to sample, stare, and savor! And the prices were great, too. We brought home a block of WI sharp cheddar, a section of white cheddar + peppercorn wheel (the 2010 World Cheese Competition Winner), and a bag of freezable cheddar cheese curds. 

Usinger's Sausage House
Usinger's is next door to the Wisconsin Cheese Mart on 3rd street, very conveniently.  We could get our famous Wisconsin cheese then go next door for it's sausage pair! 

We bought summer sausage, bratwurst, and kielbasa.  The summer sausage was amazing, but the other two were lacking.  That was disappointing,  but I blame myself.  Maybe we chose the wrong pieces of meat.  It is a really popular place; a fixture in the community.  Tamara even said her parents require her to bring Usinger's   hotdogs when she visits them in Charlotte :)

I'm willing to take the blame.

Sprecher's Brewery

I have been hearing about this place for the last two years.  Given the family's fondness for this Wisconsin treat, my love of beverages (thanks, Opa), and our mutual attraction to factories, I have been dying to come! This was our fourth trip to Milwaukee, and my first to Sprecher's.  

They conduct tours for $5/ person which includes the tour, four beer samples (which we, of course, didn't use), endless soda samples, and a free commemorative glass.  The tours have always been full when we've tried coming in the past, and it was full this day, too.  Tamara pointed out that there aren't many places where a person could get four beers + a glass for only $5-- explaining the hefty German-descent crowd!

Kara chose milk over all the other options... strange... ;)

All-in-all, I count our trip to Milwaukee a 9.8 success! We loved it, and can't wait to go back.