Saturday, May 20, 2017

All things considered

It's been a long time since I've written, mostly because I don't have the time but also because I haven't had the words. They've evaded me, locked somewhere that was too busy changing diapers and feeding babies. But lately there's been this build of pressure, this intense need to sit down and think which means write, And write. So one morning, when I woke up at 5am to feed Emily and had this sudden, strange, urge to write down all of these ideas in my head, I thought it meant that I needed to write another book. I stayed up for over an hour that morning, writing notes in the notepad section of my iPhone. Notes that I went back and read the next day and realized that half don't even make sense. It helped settle my heart, and I've been writing a little bit every night, but it wasn't the words that needed to be let out. It wasn't the tugging I felt on the edges of my soul.

So then I thought about this space, where I've previously poured some of my soul out onto for whoever cares to read, and I remembered what it felt like to let those emotions take life outside of my body, to let them be read or felt by someone other than me.

Much has happened in the last year. Todd got accepted into the Navy and we began the process of "figuring it out." Where to go next, what to do, how to live. A rearranging of sorts had to take place. We stayed where we were (that apartment above the storage facility office where we worked), had another baby, enrolled Aubrey in kindergarten, and took deep breaths, Things had been figured, and we were happy, confident in the steps we had taken. Eventually we found a little house to rent so that Todd could focus on school (he had taken over my part-time gig at the office after I had Emily) and here we are- back to May, full circle. Emily turns one on Monday and all I can think is, where has the time gone?

But then I remember what it took to get here, the good and the bad, and I know that I will never forget this year. I will never forget learning to be content in our tiny apartment. I will never forget accepting the fact that we were there for a reason, whatever that reason may be. I will never forget looking at apartments and almost renting one that was nicer, newer, but much more expensive, and thinking, Do we NEED new appliances? Do we NEED 2 bathrooms? I remember walking into our house for the first time and thinking, This was a mistake. What have we done. I remember the time and sweat it took to clean it and make it ours. The rearranging of our lives to make it work. I remember the moment that I realized a dishwasher was ABSOLUTELY a necessity, that we could live without central AC and that maybe, just maybe, 2 bathrooms is a good idea. Oh, and also how new houses are super scary when you're alone at night!

I'll never forget planning to welcome a fourth baby, all the ideas and more rearranging that would have to happen. How we thought our room was so tiny and how I wasn't the least bit against that baby sleeping right in bed with us, even though none of the other had. I'll never forget sitting at our tiny table, telling Aubrey that the baby went to be with Jesus. Or Rory, sitting on our living room rug, rubbing my head as I laid on the couch, asking my why my belly hurt as I lost the baby, all while Todd was at school taking his final exams and wanting so bad to be next to me.

I'll never forget the pain, emotionally and physically. The emptiness of a womb that should have been expanding but was instead flattening. I'll never forget the days that followed, how it took so much effort to get out of bed, how I blamed myself, but mostly blamed God. How I let my anger draw me away from him, and how, maybe, just maybe, it still is. I remember one morning specifically, when I walked into an empty living room and the sunlight was coming in from the blinds of our huge window, how it was hitting the plants on the table and the floor and there were toys everywhere, and thinking, maybe this is it. Maybe this is all I'm meant to have. And how I realized how selfish and ungrateful that sounded, like what I have isn't good enough or just plain enough, but being too angry to take the words back.

But mostly I'll always remember how the kids were happy, no matter where we were. At the apartment with their friends, surrounded by people who love them. Here at the house with the space and the backyard and a driveway that isn't used for cars but for skateboards and bikes and scooters. I'll never forget how they never complained about the lack of a bathtub but instead started begging to play in the shower, how we bathed Em in the tiny sink and let it overflow with water until the kitchen floor was soaked and Em was laughing and how I thought that sink represented our hearts so well, overflowing and messy but wonderful.

I'll always remember the day when the light from the living room window stopped illuminating everything I didn't have, but instead began to lift the shadows that crept in the corners- of the house and my heart.

I'll always remember this year, and everything it meant to us, how it brought us closer as husband and wife and closer to our babies, and how I know that one day I'll look back and be grateful for it all, even the bad.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Where you lead

As I sit here, deciding how to start this particular blog entry, I can feel Emily's limbs rolling around inside of my belly. Always on the right side of my stomach, just like her brother's before her. It never gets old, the feeling of life inside of me, growing and stretching and pushing my body to it's physical limits. No matter how many times Todd has felt it, I snatch his hand and place it right on top of her outstretched arm or leg, hoping that it never gets old for him, too. And the stillness of his hands as he waits for her to move again and the smile on his face never disappoint. It's these little moments- of pure amazement and bliss- that right everything in our world. 

When Rory says a new word, when Aubrey says "Yes, mam" without being prompted, when the boys (and the dog) are playing together, giggling and tumbling around on the floor and filling our tiny apartment with so much love. It's these moments that remind me of what's important- that whatever the reason, we are where we are for a purpose. 

And although things aren't going according to plan, we're holding on to the hope that God knows better than we do. That what he has in store for us is just so great that we can't even imagine it in our small scoped brains. If it were up to us, Todd would have applied and been accepted into the Navy back in January. The road would have been smooth sailing, with tests and physicals and interviews out of the way with one fell swoop. What happened went more like this- It took forever to set up his physical, he missed the January deadline, finally got his physical and was told he had a heart murmur. The heart murmur was confirmed by the cardiologist and now its a matter of waiting. Will it keep him out of the Navy? He was told it shouldn't. But honestly, at this point, anything is possible. If there's one thing God is teaching us through all of this, it's that. And determination. Perseverance.

 Fighting for what we want in the face of setbacks and disappointments.

I'm a person that gets easily stressed and overwhelmed. When things feel out of my control, I usually adopt a "nothing ever works out for us" attitude. And while it may seem that way, it feels that way, I stop and realize that we are poorer than we've ever been- literally living off of student loans with a family of 4- and we've never had more. More peace, more love, more happiness. Yes, some things are tough. The waiting, the not knowing, the being where we didn't think we'd ever be. But we miraculously pay every bill without trouble. We have food, we have a roof over our heads, we get days off together where we do fun things. For now, we're enjoying this time together, living in a small space where we're literally on top of each other, spending more time as a family. 

The plan now is for Todd to apply to the Navy in April. May will be a full month for us, with Todd finishing his first semester at FAU, little Emily due May 22nd, the boys birthdays thrown in there and finding out if Todd has been accepted sometime in between all of that. For now, we continue living, day to day. We thank God every morning for the breath in our lungs and every night for the food on our table. 

Will you join us in praying for His will for us? Whatever that may be, and wherever it may lead. 

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Monday, December 14, 2015

What's in a name...

It's funny how life, despite your planning and scheming and grand ideas, just happens. It unfurls and unfolds, sometimes in small, subtle steps- sometimes in giant, altering leaps.

We had ideas. We had goals and plans and desires and dreams. We learned quickly that it doesn't really matter, in the end, what you want or what you think you need. God gives, and he takes away. This little girl inside of me? She was not planned. I cried and questioned, confused as to why we had to lose one just to gain another barely one month later. Why go through the pain of loss and then the peace of acceptance, just to be thrown back into another cycle of fear and anxiety?

It took me weeks to come to terms with this baby. I thought I didn't want her- I thought she was going to make things so complicated. In those early weeks, I would sit and think about all the details. The "How will I work with a newborn?" details. The "Where will we put this baby in a tiny 2 bedroom apartment?" The "Rory will barely be 2 and he still needs me." thoughts. 

I thought, "There's gotta be a good reason for this." And then, at our first appointment with the midwife at 10 weeks, when we were expecting to hear a heartbeat but heard nothing instead, I thought, "Not again. Please God, not again." I thought "I can't handle this." And then I thought, "I want this baby." It took the fear of her being gone for the humble thankfulness to settle in. 

We eventually did hear the heartbeat, a skipping beat here, a longer rhythm there. She's hard to catch even now, when she's the size of a large onion and I can feel her tumbling around. As my belly grows, the worry dissipates. I stopped planning- I stopped setting expectations and wondering what we were going to do. I've realized that it's not my problem- it never was. We're kind of just along for the ride. I can trust that God knows our hearts and he hears our desires, that at the end of the day, where we end up is where we're meant to be. 

So now we celebrate this baby, A GIRL.

"What will I do with a girl??" I ask myself constantly. What will she play with and will she love me as much as our boys do? Or will she be her daddy's little girl, him wrapped around her tiny finger? He's already spoiling her, saying things like "She needs the most perfect name. Nothing common will do." So we searched high and low, scoured websites and kept our eyes and ears open, waiting for the perfect name to reach us. Everything I mentioned Todd hated (I like unisex names, as evidence of our boys named Aubrey and Rory :D), and everything he mentioned just didn't sit well with me. 

I thought we would never agree on a name, until we did. We saw it, we said it, and we knew it was the one. 

Eliette- pronounced ehl-ee-eht, emphasis on the ette. It means "my God has answered."
Louise- pronounced loo-eez. It means "renowned warrior."

We thought it was fitting, seeing as she's our little rainbow baby, the answer to a prayer we didn't even know we were saying. She's already brought so much love into our bursting full hearts, and we can't wait to figure out the world of girl alongside her. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mysterious Ways

Have you ever been asked the question, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" You probably have. More than once, and especially more as you get older. But eventually, the older you get, the less appealing that question is. You realize that all of the plans you had for your life aren't turning out quite the way you imagined.

Me? My plan was simple. I wanted a family, a permanent home. A place where my babies could grow up, living in the same room their whole lives, never having to know what it's like to move from one house to the next. Sounds boring, right? It sounded like bliss to me, back when I was 15 and in the midst of yet another move. I thought stability meant being in one place all your life.

Now, here we are, completely floundering in a world where floundering is not a respectable thing to do. Some say "Good things come to those who wait." Others say "Good things come to those who work for them." I've found that neither are true. Good things come, and sometimes they don't. I'm convinced that what we do doesn't bear much weight in the grand scheme of it all. That's not to say that we don't have any control over our lives- what I'm saying is that the control we think we have isn't always true.

I'll tell you our story.

It all began in January, when we decided it was time to buy our very own house. We figured out our finances and found that we could afford one, after all. Todd's job was promising, the housing market was only going to go up, and we wanted another baby. There was no better time.

Fast forward a few weeks, and we've already hit a road block. Credit score problems caused by idiotic credit card companies and their mistakes, but we weren't going to let it slow us down, no way. We were willing to work hard for what we wanted, and we wanted a house! After phone calls and hours spent over the phone, Todd finally figured everything out, and we began the search again. We had very specific requirements for this house of ours. "Needs" that would eventually get thrown to the wayside. When it came down to it, we were willing to live in a shack of a house if it meant having our very own place.

The longer our search continued, the more discouraged we became. We began to question if we wanted to stay in West Palm at all. Bad schools, high crime rates, expensive. But we persevered, putting offers on several houses only to lose out to cash or a higher offer.

In the midst of all of this, we were trying to get pregnant. Month after month, negative after negative, and I began to wonder. "Are we meant to only have two?" Just as I start to think that maybe it's for the best, there's two little pink lines, disbelief and indescribable joy. In my mind, everything was falling into place. It was only a matter of time before we found the perfect house, the one that God would provide because he gives us the desires of our hearts, right? If only we have the faith to ask for them. If only we believe that he will provide.

Sometimes it still hurts to think that we almost had what I thought was "it all." Looking back now, I can see that it wasn't meant to be. That our path ended in such a drastically different destination.

We lost our baby and a prospective house in the same week. I was angry. I wondered what we did wrong. I blamed myself for losing the baby, I blamed God for taking the baby. I blamed the investors of the house for doing a crappy job, I blamed our realtor for trying to deceive us. It never even crossed my mind that maybe it just wasn't meant to be.

Eventually, the search for a house ended. I like to call the next few weeks that followed the healing weeks. My body returned to normal, the physical and emotional pain lessening every day. The intense desire for a house faded, and when the storm calmed, Todd and I looked at each other and wondered, "Now what?"

We made a list of the things we truly wanted. We set goals. We reevaluated. We came to conclusions. We felt peace.

I set out to find a part time job with the idea that a second income, albeit small, would help with rent. I say rent because we'd decided that we didn't want to stay in Florida- that Todd would finish school and we would go somewhere, anywhere. It was that thought path that brought us to our final decision- the final choice that would bring everything else around us clicking into place like a coded lock that was waiting for just one more right move.

This is where we are now:
I found a part time job working two days a week. A job that provides an apartment, that I can bring the kids to, that allows me to be a full time mom and wife while also helping financially. Todd is continuing his education at FAU in the Geomatics Engineering department in order to join the Civil Engineering Collegiate Program with the Navy come January.

Not more than a few days after all of these decisions were finalized and we were taking the appropriate steps to make it happen, Todd is informed that his current position at work will no longer be available.

God has a funny way of working things out. If it were up to us, we would have a brand new (to us) house and a baby on the way, and Todd would have no job. Can you imagine?

Now, we will have a place to live without the fear of not being able to make rent. It's small, but just big enough for the four of us. We have savings to last us through the year until Todd can (hopefully) join the Navy program, which we wouldn't have had if we weren't trying to buy a house. And eventually, we will be able to move out of Florida and begin a brand new journey, just like we always wanted.

God works in mysterious ways. Thank you everyone who has prayed for us, thought of us, sent sweet words of affirmation and love. We've never felt so wrapped in comfort and reassurance as we do now, despite the fact that we've given up all "control."

Your continued prayers are coveted. We don't know where this journey will take us. All we know is that it isn't about waiting or not waiting. Wanting or not wanting. It's about giving up, hands in surrender, and shouting "Your will be done."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Out of the Woods

110 hours.

That's how many hours we spent in the Palm Beach Children's Hospital.
That's how many hours I spent wondering if we would ever come home.
If he would ever get better.
Wondering, why him? Why me?

It started off as a stuffy nose, that escalated into a slight fever, that turned into a high fever and a baby that wasn't responding to my voice. I made the decision to take him to the ER, and then I doubted myself when we were sitting there for hours and he seemed perfectly fine. But over the next few days, his fever got worse, some nights going above 103. Tylenol only helped so much and we were starting to exceed the 5 doses per day maximum. I didn't know what would happen once we reached that point.

But we never found out, because his fever disappeared overnight, just the same as it appeared in the first place. I though, that's it. We're going home. Then he stopped being able to breathe. Nurses came in and other, more specialized nurses were called, and words were thrown around like rapid response and PICU and intubation. I cried. I was confused. We were getting better! I said, though no one was listening. I was convinced they were exaggerating. But watching Rory struggle to take a breath convinced me that everything was not okay, that maybe it never would be. There were breathing treatments and steroids ordered, respiratory therapists visiting every three hours of the day and night, nurses checking his temp and status every hour. No sleep, no privacy. A baby that would cry and cry and couldn't nurse and therefore couldn't be comforted. Me, completely unable to soothe, to help. My mom, strong for the both of us because I sure as hell couldn't be.

Blood was taken everyday, numbers coming back too low or too high and meaning absolutely nothing to me. A blood transfusion was suggested, and I agreed, because what else could I do? Except his IV started leaking and they tried to find another but his veins were so small inside of his tiny little body and there wasn't one single nurse in the whole hospital who could find one. We know- they all tried. While I paced the halls and listened to him scream, I cried, and I'm sad to say that I didn't pray- I yelled at God, inside of my head, of course. I asked him why he couldn't just cut him a break. As it turns out, that night was the best night in the hospital. Despite the fact that his arms and hands were covered in failed attempts for an IV, we got to snuggle together completely wire free. We had a whole 9 hours with nothing between us. He slept on my chest, in one of those terribly uncomfortable pull out chairs, but it was the most peaceful sleep either of us had while there.

Then morning came, and it was time to try for an IV again. An angel nurse got it on the second try and all I could think was, where were you last night? I was prepared for a bad day, for more of an inconsolable baby, but at some point during the night, Rory had made a turn for the better. I didn't want to get my hopes up- it had happened once before and we were thrown back into the fire quick. But he seemed to stay better all day, and the transfusion only helped him even more. Then I heard the words I'd been wanting to hear all week.

"If he stays stable, you can go home tomorrow."

I almost didn't believe them. Even the next day, when the discharge papers were in my hand, I still didn't believe it. I was afraid that I'd step out of them room and into a trap- just kidding! We need more blood! But we made it downstairs and outside, and we both got our first breath of fresh air in five days.

And I thought to myself, It's over. We made it.

Simple as that.

Except, I can't help but be afraid that we're not out of the woods just yet. I'm full of fear- afraid that he'll get sick again, afraid to let anyone touch him or hold him or get too close. I'm afraid to leave the house with him. I sleep with one eye open, afraid that he'll stop breathing. I don't know when I'll be able to get over everything, or if it's as easy as that. I can't help but wonder if maybe this isn't just a one time thing. If maybe we'll spend our lives worrying about Rory. I don't know how to convince myself that he's okay, and I don't know how to stop seeing him the way he was in the hospital.


After we got back to the house, the skies opened up and covered everything in a sticky, warm fog, and as the sun broke through the clouds, it set the world on fire. The clouds were glowing in hues of orange and pink, gliding across the sky in puffs and swirls. We went outside and breathed in the wet air, the four of us finally together. I could still feel the fear inside of me- I think it'll always be there, festering, begging to be remembered, but Aubrey was running in circles around me and Rory was snuggled up in his daddy's arms and I thought to myself,

It's over. We made it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Be Alright

Today while Rory and I were sitting in a wheelchair, being pushed from one end of the hospital to the other, I could feel the stares. I could hear the whispers.

That poor baby. 
Such a little thing. 
I wonder what's wrong. 

I don't blame them. When I saw sick babies or children, I would try to out myself in their parents shoes. I would think, I don't know what I would do. Well, now I know.
I know that I would cry, a lot. I would hold my sweet baby and touch his little cheek and ball my eyes out because it just hurts. I know that I would be angry and say, why me? I know that I would think about the what if's. I would think about how people pray for their babies to get better all the time and sometimes they just don't. I would wonder if we'd be them, or if I could believe everyone when they say he'll be just fine.

The worst part of it all is the not knowing. The well, it could be this, but it could also be that. When you don't know the problem, you don't have a solution. Right now they're just throwing everything at him and hoping something works/gives us answers.

Heel pricks
Blood draws
Urine samples
Breathing treatments
Blood transfusions

There's talk of PICU's and pulmonologists and hematologists and all of these words that I don't quite understand. There's information on top of information and so many possibilities that it's hard to wrap my mind around one single thing.

And then, at the end of the day, there's the chance that it's just the biggest, nastiest cold on the face of the planet. I'm praying really hard for the latter. And thank you everyone for your prayers and thoughts. I've honestly felt them, even though this whole situation feels helpless. His fever has gone down and stayed down, which was one of our main concerns, but then a wrench was thrown into the mix when he stopped being able to breathe properly. Then something like this happens


And even though this is far from the way he's been feeling, the rare smiles are made all the more precious because of it. But this is the picture I'm choosing to show you because to me, it means hope. And I have to hope everything is going to be alright.

It just has to be alright.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Baby Story

I seem to have a lot of ideas in my head that very rarely pan out the way I envision. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now, but I guess I'm kind of hard headed in that sense. My plan all along was to bring the computer to the hospital with me so that I could jot down Rory's birth story right away. That didn't happen. In fact, I hardly thought about anything other than how tired I was and how in love I was. Now here I am, boxing 3 month clothes because they're too small, and I still remember his birth like it was yesterday. It went a little bit like this...

I had been having intense Braxton Hicks contractions pretty much from 30 weeks on. It was the same with Aubrey. But unlike with Aubrey, my due date came and went and I was still pregnant. Cue the violins. I was big, it was the end of May and scorching hot, and I had a toddler to run after. Despite all of that, I was comfortable, okay with the fact that Rory was still cooking. I didn't feel the need to rush anything.

Until I went into actual labor.

My birth plan was to go natural. No membrane stripping, no drugs, no water breaking. Just let him come when he wants to come. Sunday the 25th, as I was sitting in the newest X-Men movie with the husband and having intense contractions every ten minutes, I whispered into the packed theater, "This is it." I could barely pay attention, shifting every so often to try and relive some of the pressure my too tight maternity pants were creating. They stayed consistent until we got home...and then I went to bed. Twenty minutes apart. Thirty minutes. I woke up the next morning with nothing to show for it.

So Monday, the 26th, when it happened again, I tired not to get my hopes up. I went to bed expecting to wake up not in labor. What I did not expect was to wake up at 1am and still be in labor. The contractions were five minutes apart and strong enough to keep me from sleeping. "Babe, this is it." I poked him until he woke up and talked until 3am, too excited to go to sleep. When I realized that they weren't getting any closer together, I let Todd go back to sleep and ate a peanut butter and jelly. Around 5am, still awake and very much in labor, I moved myself into the living room and sat on my exercise ball. I was tired, literally falling asleep sitting up, and I was in pain, the contractions getting stronger but not more frequent. At 6am my dad comes waltzing into the living room to leave for work. He looks at me, looks at the ball, and says, "Guess I'm not going to work today?"

We sat together for the next hour or so, him periodically rubbing my back while I tried my hardest to breathe through each wave of pain. Still five minutes apart at 7am. The husband finally wakes up, joins me in the living room. 8am we decide to call the midwife- no answer. She always answers her phone. We call her again at 9, and again at 10. Still no answer. Still in pain. Tired and hungry and nauseous and just so tired. 11am and she finally calls back, tells us to head over to her office to check me. And you know what she told me? 2cm dilated, 90% effaced, baby's still high. So discouraging to hear after 10hrs of labor.

And so I made a decision that I thought I would never make, but that I realized I was at peace with. We checked into the hospital at 12pm and told the nurse we would be needing an epidural. I was nervous, but okay. When I gave in to the epidural with Aubrey, I felt like I had failed myself and failed him. Even after the 30+ hrs of natural labor, I felt I hadn't done enough. But this time I had the feeling that I was doing what was best for us. I labored for another hour on my own, per my request, before the nurse checked me. I told her not to tell me how far (or not) dilated I was, but Todd told me anyway. 4cm, effaced, baby's still high.

So she sent for the anesthesiologist and we waited while I tried desperately to keep my hands and body from shaking with nerves. A little side note- I hate needles. I hate the idea of that giant needle going into my spine, which was almost enough to keep me from getting one at all. But as each contraction became more intense and more frequent, I knew that I'd throw aside my fears for comfort. And I'm so glad I did.

The rest was smooth sailing- Rory's heartbeat was strong and steady, my contractions were consistent with the help of pitocin and I didn't feel anything until I needed to.

8pm- 9cm, water still intact. Midwife asks if I want my water broken, since it's most likely the cause for the baby still being so high. "Let me know if you feel the urge to push," she says after it's done. I'm so nervous/excited I can't stand it, and when just ten minutes later I feel the urge to push, I almost chalk it up to impatience. "I really need to push!" I finally decide, and sure enough, it's time to push.

But of course, it's not that easy. Rory is posterior and does not want to come out. A half hour passes, and I decide I can't do it. I'm tired, I'm hyperventilating. There are too many people in the room. I kick everyone out and keep trying to GET THIS BABY OUT. I give up, more than once. I yell at the midwife that she's lying, that I'm not almost there and he's stuck in there forever. I JUST CAN'T DO IT. I see the look the midwife and nurse pass between each other. Todd's hand tightens around mine, they give me oxygen. Another half hour passes and still he's not out. I fall asleep between contractions, so physically and mentally exhausted that I don't even care what happens at this point.

And then finally, finally, I feel his head break free and then the emptiness that follows the release of his body, and then he's on my chest and everyone's back in the room and I'm crying and he's crying and my mom's crying and he's finally here. I have two babies. I hold him and I squeeze his slippery body and I cry some more because, let's face it, I cry watching Lifetime movies. And all the pain and the waiting and the pushing was totally worth it because his little body fits perfectly into mine and he latches right away and when they take him to do baby stuff I keep my eyes on him the whole time, unwilling to let him out of my sight for one second.

When he's back on my chest and Todd is hovering over both of us like a big snugly papa bear, I realize that I am whole.