Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Old and The New

It's nearly 11 PM, three nights before Christmas. Lily is nestled all snug in her bed (and so is my husband, in ours) and our bags are packed and ready for us to leave early in the morning for a week of traveling to see family in Louisiana.

I'm quite used to being the last one awake in the house. I've always been a night owl. Tonight I'm thankful for a couple of hours of quiet before we begin a fun but busy Christmas week. It's allowing me a little bit of time to reflect on some things about the year and about Christmases past.

There are so many things that are different in our family now, things that have changed quite a bit in the past couple of years. The obvious one, of course, is that we have a child. We have a daughter sleeping down the hall, which, when I truly think about it, still amazes me. Before last year we'd had eleven Christmases together as a married couple without children, and now we're approaching our second one as parents. Last year's Christmas felt so foreign as we were adjusting to life with a three-month-old. It was beautiful and very special too, but it's nice this year to be able to feel so much more settled. And this year we are back to our old driving route, making a big circle (or more of an oval, I guess) from SE Texas up to N Louisiana, back down to SW Louisiana, and home again to Texas.

The year 2010 brought other changes as well, though, besides the birth of our long-awaited baby. In February of that year, my mom, stepdad, and younger brother moved from the little house in the country that we'd bought just a couple of months before my twelfth birthday. It was a kind of sad little wood-frame house that had lots of quirks from the start, but we were glad to have found a place we could afford that was back in the town that my sister and I called home. We had left all of our friends at school a few months earlier and moved in with my grandparents while my stepdad worked a job up in New Jersey, with the intention that we would all move there eventually. We didn't, though, and I was delighted when we moved back "home" and I was able to re-join my sixth grade class and, more importantly, my friends.

It had been a very tough transition for us girls at a new school and in a new town (my mom's hometown), although Mom would have loved to have stayed, I'm sure. My sister struggled at the new high school, not popularity-wise but with keeping her grades up. I felt completely isolated and didn't make a single friend at the elementary/middle school, and it was hard to be away from my sister for, really, the first time in my life (our previous school had grades K-12 all in one building, so we never were very far apart). And so that little house wasn't much to look at, but it was a way for us to move back home and back to the small school and friends that we loved.

The little house in the country did improve a tiny bit over the years. My mom and stepdad had the bathrooms remodeled after a few years, and when my sister and I married a couple of handy guys, we began to help out with improvements here and there as a family (painting the old, dark-paneled walls, changing the flooring, etc.), but always dreaming of seeing our mom in a much more comfortable, sturdy home someday. Mom had done her very best to make that house a home, but it required lots and lots of work. It was poorly insulated, which made it very hot in the summer and quite chilly in the winter. Mom had to clean the walls a few times a year because of mold and mildew, and the ceiling boasted some pretty interesting designs due to water stains from a leaky roof. The house was becoming much more of a burden and we began to start looking at options for them to finally move to a new house. Mom doubted it would ever happen, but lo and behold, a buyer appeared and after much work to get the house inspected and make necessary improvements, it actually sold. We helped them move during the early months of my pregnancy with Lily, and I have to say that we all felt like a weight had been lifted when they spent their first night in a brand new, beautiful home.

I never, ever thought I would miss the little gray house in the country. But it turns out, I do. I would never want to change their living situation back to what it was by any means, but it has been strange to realize that I actually miss turning at the only landmark in that tiny town (the little white post office), driving down that old dirt road, sitting on the porch swing, and listening to the familiar, soothing sound of trains rumbling down the railroad tracks at night -- a sound that lulled me to sleep nearly every night from my preteen years until I left for college. I miss that small bedroom right off the front porch that I shared with my sister until she moved out to attend college. And I miss that same room after we painted it blue for my baby brother, who took down our frilly curtains and our posters of cute boys and filled it up with dinosaurs and little boy things instead.

After they moved out I used to think about what it would feel like to drive by the old place and see what changes the new owners would undoubtedly make. I thought that, if my pregnancy was successful this time, it would be fun to take our child by there someday and show her the little house where we used to live and where her aunt and I spent our formative teenage years. The house wasn't full of all good memories, definitely, but we did have some good times there. And as you know, my baby arrived safe and sound in the fall of that year, but she'll never be able to see the house. We won't be able to show her anything except photographs and the land where it once stood because just four months after they moved out, there was a fire at mom's old house. Fortunately, no one was home and no one was injured, but the house was eventually torn down completely. It's all gone now: the wooden porches that Mom swept clean almost every day, the windowsill of our old bedroom where two of my friends carved their name (they had the same name -- James), and even the big sweet-gum tree that stood right beside the front steps. All gone.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the old and the new and gradually realizing that change is really okay. Sometimes it's great, but sometimes the changes take some getting used to. "Going home" still feels pretty different and new to me, but we're already making new memories in Mom's new house and it's kind of sweet to know that Lily will only think of one place when she looks back on going to visit her Granny. It'll be a place that holds lots of special memories from her childhood, memories that we're in the process of building for her even next week as we gather under that new roof, in a house that is only about a year older than Lily herself.

So there are lots and lots of new things for our family these days, but we're settling into some new routines and enjoying the changes. Having a little one around is helping us to see things from a new perspective, too, and it encourages us to roll with the changes and make some brand new traditions as we go along. Chuck and I were recently discussing how, even though we've been married for more than 13 years now and even though we were always a family even before we had Lily, this family of three thing is a new dynamic. In a way it feels like starting over.

Sometimes starting over can be a very good thing.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Catching Up

Hello friends! It's been a while but I'm finally taking a few minutes to update the blog. November and December (so far) have been their typical busy months for us, but things are going well and we are anticipating the Christmas season. I have only a few gifts left to buy and the house is cozy and decorated, so those are things that are making me smile these days.

Speaking of things that make me smile, Lily Rae is doing great! She continues to be our joy and answer to our heartfelt prayers. In lieu of a long, detailed update, I'll just hit the high points in this post:
Our girl is 14 months old and weighs 23 pounds. She just cut tooth number five, with the sixth one soon to follow (that's 3, almost 4 on the bottom and 2 on top). The little stinker is still not walking, although she can stand independently and "walk" pretty well when holding on to things. She can even climb up onto the couch all by herself, but she won't take steps unless she's holding onto something. It definitely could happen any day now, or she could decide to tease us for a few more weeks/months!

Lily has always been a champ when it comes to eating. She loves fruit and vegetables and chicken and ham. Her favorite food right now is mandarin oranges, and she squeals with delight when I give her her sippy cup of milk.
Her sleeping patterns were still fairly unpredictable at night (meaning she was waking up several times a night and generally pretty restless) until about a week ago when something finally clicked, thank the Lord. She has been sleeping through the night again for about a week now and all three of us are much happier people.

Personality-wise, Lily is one of the most affectionate children I've ever met. She is incredibly sweet and loves to give hugs and kisses. This is one of the many things that I love about her. She truly has a way of making people feel loved and special. For many months now her daddy and I have prayed that, most of all, Lily would grow up to love God and love others, and we really feel like those seeds are being planted early in her little heart.

As Christmas quickly approaches (our second one as parents), I'm overwhelmed and humbled and joyful all at the same time. After so many years spent waiting and wondering while our hearts were aching, we are grateful to God for the healing that has taken place through the birth of a child. Appropriate thoughts for this month as we reflect on the true meaning of Christmas and the birth of our Savior.

I was just thanking the Lord tonight for so many amazing answered prayers in my small corner of the blogging community. So many of my long-time blog friends have welcomed their miracle babies in recent weeks and several others are getting ready to have their babies, some through the miracle of adoption. My heart swells with joy and my eyes fill with tears when I think about, collectively, how far we've come. I know the heartaches that have led to this point and I can't help but rejoice with those of you who are rejoicing this year, while always, always praying for those who are still waiting and hoping.

To close this little update, here are a couple of recent pictures. The first is a family pic taken last month that we're using for our Christmas cards this year.

And one more of a happy little girl who's all ready for Christmas!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It Never Goes Away

I am the mother of a twelve-month-old little girl. I wake up each morning and rescue her from her crib when she cries. I feed her and change her and play with her and rock her to sleep every day. I snuggle her and read to her and count her little toes.

I am also the mother of six little ones in heaven. I've never seen them face to face. I've never held them in my arms or kissed them on the cheek. I've never smelled their hair or tickled their tummies. I miss them, and they are missing from me.

That feeling of loss never goes away.

I think there are a few misconceptions about having a baby after recurrent pregnancy loss. One is the idea that finally having a child erases all the pain of past losses. It doesn't. Having my daughter has helped my heart to heal, but one child never replaces another. Besides that, the 33-year-old woman I was when I gave birth to my daughter last year was not the same as the much younger woman I was when I lost my first pregnancy in 2002, my second in 2003, my third in 2004, my fourth in 2005, my fifth in 2006, and my sixth in 2007. Just as each of those children was unique, the loss of each and every separate baby affected me in a different way. Each came (and went) at a different time in my life and carried with them their own individual hopes and dreams. They don't get all lumped together in a section of my heart labeled "loss." Each one occupies his or her own space.

I think another misconception is that once you've had a healthy baby after loss, all of your fertility issues must have been solved. If I'm being completely honest here, this is one of the things that I feel still separates me from the "fertile world." Even though I finally carried a baby full-term and I've looked at her face every single day for over a year now, I still don't walk around feeling like a "regular" mom. Granted, I don't really know what a regular mom might feel like, but I imagine she might not think too much about her fertility. I imagine that she and her husband decide they want to have a baby and... well, they do. No, I don't know what that feels like. So when friends casually say things like, "Oh, the next time you have a baby, be sure and do such-and-such," I'm not sure how to react. I guess I appreciate that they're thinking positively about my chances of doing this all over again. And, trust me, I sincerely hope that they're right. But it doesn't change the fact that it took six failed pregnancies and three subsequent years of infertility -- nearly nine years total -- to bring home my baby. I cannot and will not forget about that. It's my reality and my story. It's part of who I am now and it won't ever go away.

Trying again just isn't that easy, even after a successful pregnancy. I don't know when I'll be ready to start all over again. And really and truly, I don't mean for this post to be negative or pessimistic. I just mean for it to be honest.

October 15 is a special day for pregnancy and infant loss awareness, but these feelings are with me every day. Today I'll hold my daughter closer, I'll remember my babies (and yours) in heaven, and I'll pray for those who are hurting.

Because I know it really never goes away.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Twelve Months

The big day has come and gone. My sweet girl turned one year old last Wednesday, on September 21st! We had her birthday party, in the theme of the Very Hungry Caterpillar, at our house the Saturday before. It was a great day of celebration and we were surrounded by many of Lily's biggest fans. We had 12 adults and 6 children (including the birthday girl) and it was really just right for a first birthday party. It was very special to have our parents and siblings here, and we were only missing my husband's brother, his wife, and their son, who couldn't travel because they're getting ready to have our brand new little niece any day now!

Even though it was a relatively small party, we worked very hard the week leading up to it to get everything ready. The night before the party felt a lot like the night before Christmas. We put Lily to bed and tiptoed around the house setting up decorations and putting out presents, and when it was all done my husband and I looked at each other and had one of those "can you believe we're doing this" kind of moments.

Early the next morning we put out balloons and picked up her cake (which turned out so cute -- the bakery copied it perfectly from a photo I found on the Internet years ago) while welcoming our first party guests.

The day went so well and I think Lily really enjoyed herself. I wasn't sure how she might react to it all, but she couldn't have done better! She was happy and excited and in a sweet mood despite all of the activity around her. She got several new toys and lots of new books and clothes.

Every morning since the party she seems so excited to play with her new things. All year we'd been trying not to fill up the house with an excessive amount of toys, so I think she was really ready for and excited to have some new ones. And as far as eating cake goes, our girl acted like an old pro! You'd never have known it was her first time to try it. She loved it!

On top of all of that, my mom stayed the entire week with us and was able to be here to love on Lily for her actual birthday as well. We had a great time together.

Now, since this is probably the last detailed month-by-month update I'll post, here's what life looks like for Lily at age one:

Eating: The big news this month is that Lily has made the switch to cow's milk. We began gradually introducing it about 2 weeks ago and she likes it a lot, but she won't take it cold. I run her sippy cup under warm water and then she gulps it right down. We've said goodbye to formula for good and I haven't nursed her for over a week. The transition has gone more smoothly than I even imagined and I think that's because it was the right time. I'm beyond grateful that the "right time" for both of us coincided with my overall goal to try to breastfeed for the entire first year. I hope you can read my sincerity in those words because I truly mean it. I know quite a few precious moms who would have loved nothing more than to have been able to breastfeed their babies, and I know that it just doesn't always happen that way despite every possible effort. So I don't take that privilege lightly by any means.

Breastfeeding was one of the more challenging things I've ever done. In the beginning it was pretty close to hell on earth for me but we made it through some rough patches until it was WAY better, and I'm feeling overwhelmingly thankful and satisfied that we did it. I'm not at all ashamed to say that even though overall it was a great experience which I wouldn't trade for anything, I'm happy and relieved that it's done.

Sleeping: Nothing much new to report on sleep schedules. Lily's still napping twice a day, around 10 AM and 2 PM for about an hour each, and she goes to bed around 8:30 PM. It seems that our night-time pattern changes frequently, though, as any new thing works to disrupt her sleep. Last week was a stellar week as far as sleep went and we all felt happy and rested for about 6 days in a row... but we're back to waking up 2 or 3 times a night now and I think it's because Lily is cutting her top two front teeth. That's just my guess, but I'm sure it could be any number of other things! At any rate, she wakes up for the day around 7 AM (and this week it's been more like 6 AM) no matter how rough the night was. I don't know how she does it but you could truly set your clock by her!

Milestones: We still have a little "scooter" and I don't think she'll ever crawl in the traditional way on all fours. She gets around in her unique way very well, so I guess she sees no need to change it! She's cruising all around the furniture but hasn't taken any steps independently yet.

Like I mentioned above, Lily is cutting 2 new teeth and will soon have a total of 4. It's so funny to me when I see other children her age (or younger) with a mouth full of teeth!

Lily learned a new word about 2 weeks before her birthday. She started saying "Dada" and that's pretty much all we heard from then on. I like to joke that she finally learned the name of her very favorite person. That girl is still all about her daddy! "Dada" makes the fourth word in her sweet little vocabulary (along with uh-oh, Mama, and hi).

This month has been a big month for learning new things. Lily surprises me almost daily with things that I didn't know she knew. When I ask her if I can kiss her toes, she picks up her foot and puts it to my mouth. The other day I asked her where her hair was and she patted her head, and we did the same little game with her ear. I had no idea she could do that! I know it's not rocket science, but it's fun to watch her grow in her comprehension and other skills. This week we've been working on eating with a spoon -- what a mess! :)

Speaking of growing, at her one-year checkup today Lily weighed 21 pounds and was 30 inches long. She has gotten quite tall in the past couple of weeks and a few people have been commenting on it when we're out and about.

I know this has been a rather long post, but thanks for indulging me tonight and this entire year as I've written about Lily's growth and development. It's been quite a departure from my regular blogging but, frankly, it's been a welcome change for me. I've done a lot of healing this year, and we continue to be humbled and absolutely in awe of the fact that we have a child to raise, love, and hold here on earth. Thank you for celebrating her with us, dear friends.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September Girl

In the days and weeks just after I had the baby last year, I found that there were lots of things I wanted to write about that never got written. Even with the extra help (my mom stayed for three weeks) I just couldn't pull myself together enough to sit for an hour and do it. Sure, it had a lot to do with the sweet, hungry baby who now lived under my roof, but mostly it was because of the way I felt. My c-section recovery was difficult and I really didn't feel remotely normal for probably the full six weeks. Because of all of that and all of the doctor's visits and running around I had to do when all I wanted was be home with my newborn, blogging was one thing I couldn't seem to get done in the rare, quieter moments.

It's still a struggle even though I think about at least once a day. It's hard to take the time to sit still and write out what's on my mind in any form that's longer than a facebook status (and, trust me, I'm not one of those who "puts it all out there" on facebook). And so today since my daughter, who prefers to be held and rocked for her entire nap time -- which I don't mind, by the way -- is actually napping in her bed, I want to share one of the stories that almost got lost in those early postpartum days last September.

A couple of years ago I wrote about a little figurine that I have, a keepsake from my childhood that my mother bought for me. It's a sweet porcelain girl in a yellow dress with January, my birth month, written across the front of the skirt. I'm not one of those people who has every toy she ever played with as a child or boxes and boxes full of fond memories from my childhood. There are just a few things I've managed to save, and January Girl is one that I truly treasure. I'm sure she wasn't very expensive, but we didn't have much when I was a child. Feeling nostalgic, since I first wrote about her I've been searching the Internet for the eleven others in the same line of Lefton china figurines. I can usually find them for around $15, and that's 30 years or so after they were made.

In the past two years I've collected nine in addition to the one I've had for as long as I can remember. They're not super easy to find, so it's been fun to search for them every few months when the thought crosses my mind and try to snatch one up when I see it on an eBay auction. This isn't something I'm proficient in, by the way. I'm not a big collector of things in general. I usually have my husband do my bidding (literally) since he's the one with the eBay and PayPal accounts in the first place. To date I lack only February and March and then my sentimental little collection will be complete.

Now, back to the story...

Almost a year ago I went in for my scheduled c-section early on the morning of September 21st. If you're reading this you probably know my story. We'd been praying for and hoping for the baby we were about to meet for nearly nine years. Seeing her face for the first time in that ice-cold operating room at 12:27 PM was a dream come true, my longing fulfilled.

Later that evening when we were finally alone, just the three of us, and still feeling swept up in the emotions of the day, my husband gave me a precious card and a small box. I couldn't imagine how he'd had the presence of mind to get me a gift in the midst of all of our preparations for the baby, but I wasn't really surprised. It's completely in his character to do such a thing. I opened the package and inside was the sweet little September Girl figurine, with a yellow dress just like my January Girl. He had searched and searched for her and paid more than three times what I normally pay after finding himself in a bidding war with another prospective buyer. He did it because this one, the September one, was important to me and he knew it was. It was one of the most thoughtful gifts he has ever given me.

I know that ultimately it's just a knickknack, but I love that he knew it would be special to have our daughter's birth month. And somehow he knew that sharing that simple childhood memory with her meant something to me. Lily will grow up seeing the same figurine on her dresser that was always on mine, and it's those kinds of things that work together to gradually fill the hole that recurrent miscarriage left in my heart during all those years of waiting, wondering, and loss.

I love seeing our matching January and September girls together at last. Each year as summer turns to fall, she'll have a place of honor in our home as we celebrate the birth of our real-live September girl.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Letter to My Daughter

Dear Lily,

In two short weeks you will be one year old! It has been the most wonderful, challenging, beautiful, and chaotic year of my life. Sometimes I still can't believe that you are real, that you are here, and that you are ours.

There are so many things I want to tell you and teach you. I pray that we'll have a lifetime to try to cover it all, but for now I want you to know how special you are. Your daddy and I waited a long time for you. One day, when you're a little bit older, I'll explain to you how you weren't the first baby that God created inside Mommy's womb. There were six other precious ones who, just like you, were fearfully and wonderfully made and were so loved and wanted in our family. For reasons I won't understand here on earth, those babies -- your brothers and sisters -- went to heaven before we could meet them. That makes us sad, but we trust the One who made us and loves us and understands it all. And we know that one day there will be such a sweet reunion when we're all together again.

Lily, God made you in His perfect way and in His perfect timing. Even though Mommy and Daddy got married in 1998, you weren't supposed to be born until 2010. Despite everything that happened before and despite our odds, you lived longer than 6 weeks and 9 weeks and 12 weeks. You lived and grew inside for 39 weeks before you were born all pink and chubby and healthy. Now you've grown from 8 pounds to 20 pounds and it's going by so fast that we can hardly keep up.

A few times in my life I've seen a beautiful wildflower growing and thriving in some crazy place where it shouldn't have made it, like in a tiny crack in the middle of some concrete. That's what I think about when I imagine how God allowed you to grow in my tummy. Sometimes He does things that seem impossible to us and leave us totally in awe of His power and goodness. I'm reminded of that when I look at you.

I wish I could tell you that, because of all of that, we are going to be perfect parents who never get tired or frustrated. Even though we had to wait so long for you and even though we love you beyond words, we're going to make mistakes and we're going to fail sometimes. You'll have to be patient with us because we're still new at this and we still have so much to learn! We are aware, though, that you are a very special little girl and for some reason God chose us to be your parents. We plan to keep trying to do the best job that we can, and most of all, to pray for you and remind you every day with our words and our actions how much we love you and are grateful for you.

You didn't come to us by accident or mistake! You are here as a result of many years of praying, pleading, crying, hoping, trusting, and believing (and yes, sometimes doubting). Daddy and I will always, always give God the glory for giving us you, our little miracle girl. He is so much bigger than our plans, our doubts and fears, our worries, and our hurts. I hope you'll always remember that, and always take the small things and the big things to Him -- knowing that He's got it all in His hands.

I know that we can't protect you from life's disappointments forever. All we can do is pray that God will use the difficult times and the trials that I know will come to teach you and help you to grow in your faith in Him, just like He has for us. It's easy to trust Him and find joy when times are good, but it's a whole different thing to do that when they're tough, and I know that's something you'll have to learn on your own. We have lots of stories to tell about the lessons we've learned while waiting for you.

It has been a remarkable year! As much as we adored you the very first time that we saw you, our love has increased substantially as we have watched you grow, learn, and change. I can't imagine how our hearts could hold any more love in them, but I know that somehow, with each passing year, they will.

I love you with all of my heart, Lily Rae!


You and me: together at last! 9/21/10

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eleven Months

Could it be true that eleven months have come and gone and next month we will have a big one-year-old?
Here's the rundown of all that's new at our house:

Eating: I think the biggest change in the food department this month is that Lily now loves her green veggies. I don't know when or how the change happened, but I'm grateful for it! She never cared much for them in puree form; I always had to mix the greens in with other veggies to trick her into eating them. These days when I put cooked carrots, peas, green beans, or even bread on her tray, she always goes for the green veggies first. I love watching her little fingers pick up sweet peas one by one and get them into her mouth. They are definitely her new favorite food.

In my last post I wrote about how Lily had been sick with a virus. Well, even before that she had been having some tummy problems for a couple of weeks that I thought might have to do with teething. The doctor suggested, however, that we try taking her off of dairy for a few weeks to see if that helped. We've been two weeks without dairy and switched formulas (which she hated at first... thankfully she's still getting breastmilk, too). I'm eager to see the doctor next month for her checkup so we can go over it all again and hopefully introduce cow's milk soon and see how that goes. My plan is to wean her in the coming weeks and I really think she'll do well. Although it'll be bittersweet in some ways, I think the time is right for both of us.

Again, there's not much new as far as sleeping goes this month. We've had a pretty good week despite some early wake-ups, but Lily has been getting better about soothing herself back to sleep at night when she wakes up (usually around 1 AM and 4:30 AM -- it's funny how predictable their sleep cycles become). We are still at two naps a day. She always seems very ready for both, although sometimes it takes her a while to settle down. I'm finding this to be truer the more active and mobile she becomes. Still, her preferred way to fall asleep is to be rocked... and most often by me.

Milestones: Lily cut another tooth just a couple of weeks after her first one. She now has both of the bottom front teeth. I always thought I'd miss her gummy smile -- and I do! -- but there is something very cute and sweet about seeing those two little teeth sticking out when she smiles now.

My big girl is not walking yet, but pulling up is a breeze now and she is just beginning to cruise a very tiny bit along the furniture. She'll take only a step or two sideways along the couch or from one piece of furniture to another while holding on. Occasionally she will let go and stand there unsupported for a few seconds before realizing what she's doing. I think it's doubtful that she will walk before her first birthday, but she's starting to learn little by little.

Lily's new word this month is "hi." It's not a simple "hi" though; she says it exactly the way that I say it to her, which is a high-pitched, multi-syllable "hiiiiiiiiieeeeee!" Of course, we think it's very, very cute. :)

This month Lily really enjoys simple rhymes and counting songs like 1, 2, Buckle My Shoe and This Old Man. Playing patty cake isn't new, but now she does the hand motions along with me (although she needs help rolling 'em up).

I'm not sure if I've written about how much she LOVES books. One of her favorite times of the day is between bath and bedtime when she has story time with Daddy. They sit together on the couch and read 5 or 6 of her favorites and she sits there so quietly, listening and looking. This has been our routine for 3 or 4 months now and it is precious to watch them share that daily time together. Of course I read to her here and there during the day as well and she always loves sitting down with a book. Some of her favorites are:
Brown Bear - Bill Martin Jr.
The Foot Book - Dr. Seuss
Go Dog, Go! - P.D. Eastman
Barnyard Dance - Sandra Boynton
The Very Hungry Caterpillar/The Very Busy Spider - Eric Carle
The Big Red Barn/Goodnight Moon - Margaret Wise Brown

It's almost September and we can't wait for (hopefully) cooler temperatures and Lily's big birthday month!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bullet Points

It's the kind of night when this type of post is just necessary. So here it is -- my life in bullet points:

The Bad:
  • I've been a terrible, terrible blogger.
  • We've had a very yucky week at our house that all started with a virus my dear husband brought home. He was sick for several days (sore throat, stuffy nose kind of stuff) and then my sweet Lily got sick. We took her to the doctor on Wednesday after she ran fever the night before and it became obvious that she was really not feeling well. Her fever is gone and now we are dealing with some tummy issues, but she's on the mend.
  • Unfortunately, the evil virus has now landed on me. I feel awful!
The Good:
  • Earlier this month we went home to Louisiana to celebrate my wonderful mom's 60th birthday. It was such a great weekend with family but, as weekends go, it was over much too soon.
  • Despite the excessive heat and drought conditions, this week we noticed that Lily's tree has finally bloomed! How happy we were to see those sweet pink blossoms on her crape myrtle.
  • There is a box of birthday decorations in my closet in the theme of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, waiting to be used next month for Lily's big First Birthday. Unbelievable!
  • Last Sunday we visited the big church down the road from our house. We haven't really been visiting places regularly in our search for a new church home, so we decided to just go someplace close and try it out. We aren't really accustomed to large churches, but the advantage was that they have a pretty awesome program in place for children. We had called ahead and were given a tour of the preschool area before the service started. After the tour I felt comfortable (security-wise, etc.) about leaving Lily in the church nursery for the very first time, but I took it much harder than I ever expected. Fortunately she was PERFECT and never cried a single tear, which is more than I can say for her mommy! The nursery workers were so kind: two of them had gone to check on Lily for us during the service -- one came to find us before we picked her up, and the other had left a note in her diaper bag -- both gushing about how wonderful she had been. I was so proud of my big girl! It felt good to go to church again, and although I don't know if this is "the one" for us, we like knowing that we can visit there again as we continue our search.
What's really on my heart:
  • Please pray with me for a sweet little four-month-old who is fighting for his life. I don't personally know this baby, but he is the nephew of some friends of mine back home. I am completely heartbroken over his situation and ask you to lift up little Declan and his family to the Lord. You can follow this facebook link for more info: Friends and Family of baby Declan Jace and this link if you wish to help with a donation.
I hope all of my bloggy buddies are doing well. I've been trying to stay in touch with you guys, little by little. I'm still here, still reading, and still praying for you, friends.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ten Months

My girl is only two months away from turning one year old! Many times lately when I look at her I feel like she is already twelve months and beyond. She is getting so big and changing so much that it seems every day we wake up to something different.

Here's what's new around here:

Eating: Overall I'm really proud of how Lily has done so far with learning to eat table foods. Naturally there are some things she just doesn't like, and she promptly spits them back out and then avoids choosing those things from her tray. I think her favorite so far is still tomatoes. I peel and chop them for her and she gobbles them up. Lily likes a variety of different fruits, so I try to keep the house stocked with plenty of them. This month she seems to enjoy yogurt a lot more, too. We switched to the yobaby brand and that made all the difference. Her favorite is the apple and sweet potato combo.
It's definitely a challenge to come up with different meal and snack ideas for Lily at this stage. There are always the old faithful things that she likes and I know she'll eat (carrots, sweet potatoes, breads, and cereals), but I also want to keep adding variety as often as possible while she is willing to try new tastes. I still try to introduce a new food or two every week. This week she tried plums and cottage cheese and both seemed to be a success!

Sometimes I find it completely mind-blowing that I'm nursing a 10-month-old baby. Of course it still shocks me that I wake up every day as someone's Mommy and I'm incredibly grateful and humbled for that, and for the privilege to breastfeed my baby for her first year. I was so afraid in the beginning that we weren't going to overcome some of our obstacles and be able continue with nursing for very long, but we made it through and are still going, thank the Lord. We are down to only 2-3 times a day now (morning and evening, and sometimes before the afternoon nap), and I try to work in at least 2 sippy cups of formula a day. Lily continues to not be a big drinker, so I feel like I'm offering milk to her all day long to try to make sure she gets close to the right amount.

Sleeping: Lily's sleep patterns are much the same as last month. She gets about 10-11 hours of sleep a night, usually with one or two wakings during the night, and is still taking a morning and an afternoon nap.

Milestones: My big 10-month-old can now say "uh-oh" and "Mama." Those are her only two words with meanings (well, that we know of!). She babbles a lot these days, mostly ba-ba-ba sounds. This month she seems to really be finding her voice and she likes to use it loudly! We think it's super cute when she yells out words like "BOB," "BOP," and "WHOP."
Lily can wave hello and bye-bye, clap her hands, and sign "more" and "all done." She still loves it when I sing to her, and I think her favorite song right now is the little Bible story song Zacchaeus.

My sweet girl is really showing a lot of personality these days and it's really fun to get to know that part of her.

She is very much a daddy's girl, and if he's anywhere near you'll find her in his arms. She loves to be held and carried by Daddy, but Mommy still makes her laugh the hardest and gets more kisses. :) It makes me so happy to see Lily being so affectionate with her extended family members as well. She loves to snuggle with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins! Her face lights up when she sees those familiar faces (even though she's still sometimes shy at first).

Our BIG news this month is that Lily is mobile! I call it crawling, but technically we have a scooter. Lily is rarely up on all fours and has never crawled that way, but she scoots herself forward on her bottom using her hands and one knee while the other leg is tucked in (does that make sense?). Regardless of whether it can be called crawling or not, she sure does get herself around that way!

On top of that, she just pulled up all by herself for the first time this week. I was getting her ready for a bath two nights ago and I set her down in her bed to put the dirty clothes away. When I walked back into her room a few seconds later, she pulled herself right up as though she'd known how all along! There have been some big, big changes at our house for sure.

And one more little tidbit: Lily finally cut her first tooth around 9 1/2 months. She has her lower right front tooth (central incisor) and the one next to it is very close to erupting I suspect any day now.

It's a joy to watch this baby girl grow and change. She is less and less like a baby every day, which does make me a bit sad, but we are delighting in each new day and every new phase and skill that she picks up. We are so proud of our precious, happy girl!

P.S. Thank you all for your condolences, thoughts, and prayers last week after the death of my grandmother. They were much appreciated.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Moment to Be Thankful For

Today my grandmother, my mother's mother, passed away.

It was only a few years ago that my husband and I had six of our grandparents still with us. We had my two grandmothers (both of my grandfathers died when I was in high school), and my husband was fortunate to have all four of his grandparents still living and in relatively good health. We knew that we were fortunate, as we were nearing our 30s and had many friends whose grandparents had already passed on.

As our childless years began to stack up with no end in sight, I used to spend a lot of time worrying about having a child before we lost those precious members of our family. I used to see those prized "four generation" and even FIVE generation pictures and, as each year went by with no baby, it would weigh more heavily on my heart.

To put it plainly: I love old people. I just do. I love their memories and histories and stories. I like to visit with the elderly and just listen to them speak. And after I became interested in genealogy several years back, I really began to treasure the times when I could call or sit and talk with an elderly relative of mine or my husband's. I listened raptly, soaking up every word like a sponge and usually taking notes so I wouldn't forget a thing. I pored over old documents and photos, spending hours researching on the internet and visiting cemeteries all across Louisiana. I began to wonder if I'd ever have the opportunity to pass it all down to my own descendants, but it became an extremely interesting and satisfying hobby for me and it was a great way to fill up my time while we waited and hoped for a child of our own.

In a funny way, too, researching my family history brought me closer to having better relationships with my grandmothers (particularly my dad's mom, who will turn 94 next month). At the very least, it helped me to know and understand them a bit better while I had the chance.

As time went on and our dear grandparents' health began to decline, I realized that I needed to let go of my dream of seeing our children in their aged arms. They had lived full lives, and while we weren't ready to say goodbye (and never would be), if it was time for the Lord to call them home then it was time, regardless of whether or not I had a child. Of course, it was never about me in the first place. I needed to just be grateful for the time I'd had with them and record and cherish their stories for me. Because I wanted to know. If I would be able to one day pass them down to another generation, whether through my own children or those of our siblings, then that would be a bonus.

We lost my husband's paternal grandfather and grandmother in 2007 and 2008, respectively. In 2009, his maternal grandfather went home to be with the Lord.

Lily was born in 2010, and we made it a priority for her to meet our remaining grandmothers (my two and his one) as soon as possible. Lily had met all three by the time she was five months old, and it brought me so much joy each time. It was a culmination for me, and I know it was for these three women too, as they had also spent the past decade praying for this child of ours that we were finally able to see and touch and hold.

At long last, I was able to take pictures of my daughter with her great grandmothers. It was indeed another "longing fulfilled" moment for me.

And while I still can't say I was ever extremely close to my maternal grandmother, that is something I will always be grateful for. At the funeral on Wednesday I will be sad for our family's loss, particularly for my mom as she buries her mother. But I'll also whisper a quiet prayer of thanks to the Lord for moments like these that I'll remember forever.

Lily with my mom's mom, taken on New Year's Eve 2010/11, six months before she died:

Lily with my dad's mom, age 93, taken in February 2011:

Lily with my husband's maternal grandmother, age 84, taken in February 2011:

And again in June 2011:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

An (Extra)Ordinary Day

Yesterday was an ordinary day.

I got up early with my girl and our day was filled with playing, eating, naps, and diapering. It was a typical day around here with a nine month old who is becoming more active by the minute.

But nine years ago yesterday I lost the first baby that I carried.

I don't know that baby's gender, name, or face, but it was the first of our children that we loved, wanted, and cherished. It had been the first positive pregnancy test for a young couple who thought they would become parents nine months later... instead of nine years later. When we found out that we would lose the baby it was the first time my heart was really and truly broken, and that same deep hurt would be felt five more times in the years that followed.

I never did mark the day on my calendar, but it was a date that I always remembered. This year was no different. I was mindful of it all day long even as my hands were constantly occupied with toys and baby food. While we drove to pick up my sister from the airport yesterday I remembered our late-night drive to the hospital. She was with us then, too, pregnant with her second child. Our babies were due one month apart. My nephew will turn nine years old this December, and I wonder what it would be like to have a child that age...

July 6, 2002 is a day I've thought about often. It was the day that changed everything for us and started us down a path we never imagined we'd take: recurrent miscarriage. But God has been faithful. He was good then and He is still good today.

Here's one example of how He was good to me yesterday:

It seems incredible to me, but during my "ordinary" day, my baby girl said "Mama." She had been babbling it for about a week or so, but yesterday she said it for real. I was able to mark the date of July 6, 2011 on her calendar with the sticker "Says Mama."

She's not the first baby I loved or carried, but she is the first one I've had the privilege to hold and sing to and rock to sleep. I'm so thankful that there's someone here who calls me Mama.

After waiting nine long years to hear that word, hearing it yesterday was particularly special. And it sure turned my ordinary day extra-ordinary.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Nine Months

One of the things that people always told me while I was pregnant turned out to be true: The nine months that you spend pregnant will seem to take forever, but the first nine months of your baby's life will go by in a flash. It's amazing how true this is.

I can't believe how long Lily has been with us, and yet at the same time it's hard to remember what it was like to not know her.

Quite a bit has changed around here lately, so I'll jump right in!

Lily turned nine months old a whole week ago, and I'm kinda glad I'm late writing this post because of all the new things she has learned in the past seven days. It's like she hit that milestone and suddenly figured out how to do a bunch of new things! I'll get to that later, though. First things first:

At her nine month checkup last week Lily weighed 19 pounds 2 ounces and was 28 inches long. Month after month I'm grateful for a healthy, growing girl who has been free of any major or minor illnesses. She's doing so well and I'm so thankful. And she and I both were very happy that this trip to the doctor did not include shots, although now those four she'll have at twelve months are looming.

Eating: Our big change in eating this month has been the introduction of table foods. Actually, I just started making this a part of her regular meals this week. Lily is on the same food schedule as last month, but now I'm trying to replace some of her baby food purees at lunch and dinner with table food. She still has her oatmeal with applesauce or another fruit for breakfast and she still has cereal in the evenings, but lunch, dinner, and snacks have a little more variety. So far we've tried mashed potatoes, cooked baby carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, and a little bit of chicken. She seems to like all of it, but her favorite by far has been the tomatoes. (Of course, they are fresh from her granddad's garden and are particularly delicious!)
I have found that she likes real table foods better than the stage 3 baby foods even though she loved the stage 2 purees, which is just as well if we can just skip over a step. For example, she really likes to eat (steamed) broccoli from our plates, but she hates it out of the baby food jar.

Over the past month Lily has gotten really good at feeding herself some finger foods. She really goes to town with the little Gerber snacks (Puffs and Lil' Crunchies), Cheerios, and pieces of toast, and she enjoys eating fresh bananas and strawberries very much right now although she can't pick up slippery things by herself quite as well.

Lily still nurses about 3-4 times a day and I've introduced a sippy cup of formula once a day. She also has little sips of water and sometimes juice (she's still not crazy about it) here and there with meals.

Sleeping: I'm so glad to report that sleep has returned to our house!

It's not unusual for Lily to wake up once or maybe even twice a night, but we are just so relieved to have gotten past that awful stage we were in a little while ago that you won't hear us complain. She has started sleeping through the night again pretty often, which is a huge relief for all of us. Her nap times are now very regular -- around 10 AM and 2 PM, for about an hour each. Bedtime is still between 7:30 and 8 PM, and we start the day between 6:30 and 7 each morning (still an adjustment for her night owl mommy).

Milestones: Now for the fun stuff! Honestly, if I had written this post on time a week ago, I wouldn't have much to say in the way of big milestones. In fact, I had just been talking a couple of weeks ago about how Lily was nowhere near crawling. She really wasn't. She's still not crawling, but she is so much more mobile lately. She will pull herself all the way forward onto her hands and knees to get a toy, then she either rocks back onto her bottom or falls onto her tummy. Sometimes I think she is right on the verge of taking off.

On the day that Lily turned nine months old, she said her first word! She was in her high chair right after breakfast and she dropped the toy she'd been holding. I was on the phone with my sister, but I said "uh-oh" to Lily and she repeated "oh." We did this three times and I was pretty sure she was trying to say it. Later on in the day I tried it again and heard her say both syllables, plain as day. So, "uh-oh" is her first word! I think she is really close to learning "mama" too.

For months I've been trying to teach Lily to clap her hands and wave bye-bye. I don't know why, but they both clicked this past Sunday while we were at my mom's. In the same day she picked up both of these new skills, and it's really cute to watch her little hands move with purpose. I also use the signs for "more" and "all done" every time she eats, and today I felt like she was really trying to do the sign for more.

All in a week's time, my big girl has learned so much. This stage is a lot of fun and we're really enjoying it. As always, we're so thankful for the opportunity to be her parents.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Celebrating Father's Day

For the first time in my life I got excited about Father’s Day this year. I ordered a special gift weeks in advance and had a hard time keeping quiet about it. I couldn’t wait until the day arrived!

I don’t recall ever spending a Father’s Day with my own dad. It’s possible that I did before the age of seven (when my parents divorced), but I’m pretty sure I never have since. I usually send a card, which I’m never quite sure he receives, and almost always talk to him on the phone on that day for a few minutes. I’m not incredibly close to my dad, but of course I do love him. He’s not perfect, but he is my dad.

My husband’s not perfect either, and I know that as parents we will make mistakes. But, with that being said, he IS pretty amazing! I’ve had a lot of years married to this man to speculate about what kind of daddy he might be if ever given the chance. I knew he’d be great, and it does my heart a world of good to see his relationship with our daughter. It does make me mindful of something I’ve missed out on for 34 years, and it makes me sad for the little girl I was. My daughter, thankfully, has a dad who is sweet, gentle, thoughtful, kind, and loads of fun, and above all, loves the Lord and is completely devoted to his family.

I’ll never have to explain to my daughter why her daddy is never home to spend time with her. It won’t be necessary to explain that alcohol makes her dad do and say things that he shouldn’t. I won’t have to fill the void that has been left in her heart because he abandoned her. I’ll never wipe away tears because she felt like her daddy didn’t care about her or didn’t love her. And by God’s amazing grace, I won’t need to raise her on my own and try to explain to her at the tender age of seven that her daddy is leaving us because he has a new family.

Unlike her mommy, my little girl will spend every day of her life knowing that there is a man who considers her his precious, treasured gift from God. He’ll know her favorite color and which foods she doesn’t like to eat. He’ll know which is her favorite bedtime story, and he’ll never, ever forget her birthday. She is the apple of his eye, and she will always know it. She will go to sleep each night knowing that her mommy and daddy love each other, love her, and will be there for her for as long as we live.

I am beyond grateful this Father’s Day that my daughter has what I didn’t. I’m thrilled that we have a wonderful guy in our lives and that we get to celebrate him on this day and every day. I plan to make sure year after year that Lily Rae knows how incredibly fortunate she is to have the daddy that she does. But I have a feeling she’ll already know.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Just Lucky?

Thanks for the encouraging comments on my last post. It's good to know that I'm not alone in my feelings, but at the same time I always hate that others are struggling with some aspect of infertility, too.

We had a lovely anniversary. It was on a Monday this year, so it was a regular work day for my husband and a regular day at home for Lily and me. That evening the three of us went out to dinner together to celebrate. We weren't at all sad that we weren't able to go out alone on that day. That's nice to do, but it was really great to be together. We had 12 anniversaries without children and were so happy to have her with us for the occasion this year.

Two days later we had our follow-up visit with our RE. We have to drive into Houston to get there so we dropped Lily off with her aunt (my sister-in-law), who was very excited to spend some one-on-one time with her. (That evening Lily stayed with her aunt again for a couple of hours while we went out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary... again. We had a very nice time but we sure did miss our girl! It was so sweet to come back to her smiling face.)

It felt very strange to be back at the doctor's office. There was a couple in the elevator with us on the way out who looked nervous and uncertain, and we both wondered what kind of news they had gotten or what they were facing. We said nothing to them, though, because we know there just aren't any words that help during that time. Still, our hearts were very sensitive to those around us who were still waiting on their babies. And while I would have liked for Lily to have met Dr. G, I was glad she was happily playing at Aunt Allie's house instead of in the waiting room with us, just in case it might have caused anyone additional sadness or hurt.

As I wrote in the last post, I was unsure what to expect from this appointment going into it. I was not expecting that it would be treated as my well-woman exam. Frankly, I thought I was going to remain clothed during the visit and was a bit surprised when we were led to an exam room and I was instructed to undress from the waist down. No harm done, of course -- I'm used to those appointments by now. And I don't have to worry about having another well-woman visit for a whole year, which is always good.

The checkup didn't take long and we did have a little bit of time to chat with the doctor. My main question that I wanted to ask was whether he thought that using Femara and Ovidrel was what made the difference for this pregnancy. Did it help our chances because we started with a really good egg? I had, of course, hoped that the answer would be yes. Unfortunately, his response was that we had either started with a really good egg... OR we had just gotten lucky this time.

Now, I know that you know that I attribute Lily's existence to God and His power. That won't ever change! I won't dwell on the whole matter of God or luck in this post because I think it's clear to you what I believe. And I don't think that the doctor was trying to discount that either. I think that, in his medical opinion, he simply can't determine medically whether the fertility meds aided in the success of our seventh pregnancy, or whether it was just the one that worked.

To be honest with you, it was the answer I feared. It would have been great to know that we could identify exactly what to do to increase our chances of another successful pregnancy. It would have been so reassuring to know that we had a solution -- a way to avoid going back to where we've been so many times in the past when we've gotten pregnant and lost the baby.

If/when we do try again, we will have to make the choice of either trying on our own or doing what we did last time. Either way, I know it will be in God's hands.

I'm thankful that we do have Lily. I'm grateful that God intervened and gave us a beautiful daughter to love here on earth. I'm confident that He knows what my future holds even when I feel scared to move forward.

And, no matter how it turns out, I'm relieved that I can trust Him instead of relying on luck.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Starting Again

I know you can read a lot into a title like that. No, it doesn't mean that we are trying to have a baby again. Not yet, anyway. I have no idea when that might be, but we would love to have another baby someday if the Lord should allow it to happen again. At this point, the thought of trying again still scares me.

Starting over is a tough thing. I've been thinking about it a lot this week for two reasons. First of all, last Sunday was cycle day one. That means that I got my period... for the first time since December 21, 2009. It was the start of my first cycle since the baby was born, and I'll admit it came as a bit of a surprise. I guess I wasn't completely shocked -- I am still nursing, but only about 3-4 times a day now that Lily is eating mostly baby food. I'd started feeling kind of crampy a couple of days before and wondered if maybe...? Then Sunday morning I woke up and there it was.

Starting again.

I had mixed feelings. Mostly I felt sad because it feels like my baby is growing so fast. But I also felt sad because of all that this monthly visitor signifies. It reminds me of months and years of heartache and disappointments. And in a way it means that my "time off" from not obsessing over infertility/miscarriage is over. Having a break from that has been... wonderful. It has been incredibly healing for my heart that the subject hasn't been at the forefront of my mind for the past year and a half. It's not that I haven't worried. Oh, I have. Being pregnant after six miscarriages was absolutely not worry-free for me. Once the baby was here, though, I was able to focus all of my energy on taking care of her, and that's what I've done for the past eight months. That's what I'll continue to do, of course, but now I feel those questions and concerns creeping back in.

The other reason that starting over has been on my mind is that we have an appointment with our RE (our fertility specialist, Dr. G) this week. We haven't seen him since the end of my first trimester with Lily. We were supposed to schedule a visit with him when she was about 3 months old, but it just never happened. Her 3-month mark was right around Christmas and time just got away from us, so here we are 5 months later, finally making the appointment. I really don't even know what to expect from this visit or what we'll discuss. It's not that I feel pressure to jump right in to trying again or anything like that. I'm fully aware that the ball is in our court here. The only pressure I feel right now is time. I know that if we do have another baby, it's best to try sooner rather than later. Certainly I realize that having this appointment doesn't mean we have to start that timeline immediately.

And maybe it sounds funny, but I even feel kinda ridiculous talking about having another baby sometimes. Not because we don't want it. We really, really do. We talk about it often and imagine it regularly. A sibling for Lily...

Still I can't forget that it took six babies in heaven before we ever had one to keep on earth. What might it take to have a second? Will we have to go through loss again before we have another successful pregnancy? And like the last time, I know that we won't know those answers until we try. That's the scary part.

But like the last time, and every time before, I'm trusting the Lord. He knows IF and WHEN and HOW. Those are the big things that I wonder when I entertain thoughts of having another baby -- If it will even happen at all, and if so, when? More importantly, how?

I don't know what the next steps are right now. I don't know what starting again will look like or whether I'm even ready to think about it yet. For now I just want to be right here where I am, looking back on how far we've come and enjoying the here and now.

Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary. Thirteen years married, and so much has happened since our wedding day. Those 13 years include 6 years of recurrent pregnancy loss followed by 3 years of infertility. And finally now, almost a whole year of parenthood. I feel so fortunate to have this man that God gave me walking beside me through all of it.

Happy anniversary to the sweetest, kindest, funniest, and most supportive man I know!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Eight Months

Lily is now eight months old… sigh. Next she’ll be going off to college! That’s how it feels sometimes because she is growing and changing so much. Here’s the rundown of what Miss Lily has been doing:

Eating: Lily continues to be my good little eater. I try to introduce one or two new foods each week and she likes almost everything. The biggest new things she’s having these days are yogurt and meats (turkey and chicken). She’s not nuts over the yogurt, either because the taste is not her favorite, or maybe because she’s not used to eating cold things.

She’s doing really well with her baby foods, and I think we’ll soon be giving her Stage 3 and chunkier foods. Right now she still wakes up to nurse around 6:30 AM. I feed her her breakfast of oatmeal and fruit at 9:30 AM. Lunchtime is 12:30, and I give her some of a meat dinner with one or two veggies. Then she usually has a mixed fruit or yogurt snack around 3:00. For dinner around 6:00 she has barley or brown rice cereal with another portion of a meat dinner and veggies. She will usually nurse again before bed around 7:30. Lily does nurse about 2 or 3 times during the day between meals as well. She will sometimes have a few sips of water or diluted apple juice after a meal, but so far she doesn’t seem to be a big drinker.

Whew! All of this eating sure does keep me on my toes. I have to pay attention to the schedule, especially because Lily doesn’t really cry when she’s hungry anymore. I pretty much watch the clock and feed her her meals regularly.

Sleeping: This month sleep has been the biggest challenge in our home. I don’t know what happened to my baby who used to sleep 9-10 hours straight at night!

Well, first things first: we made the big move to her crib in her own room around 7.5 months. It was our first night home after being away at my mom’s all week, so we thought it would be a good time for the transition. And she did really well for about a week or two. Lily’s sleep regression (if that’s what it is) started around 6.5 months, so I really don’t think it has much to do with sleeping in her crib. At first I was beside myself because she was waking up 2 or 3 times a night. That was nothing! Over the past two weeks the night wakings have increased to 6 times and sometimes more. Lily goes right back to sleep when we pick her up and she sleeps great… when we hold her. I know that people will suggest letting her cry it out, but I can’t do that. I just don’t have it in me. Instead, we have been trying to reduce the number of times we do go in (recognizing when it’s just her “sleepy cry” when she will go back to sleep on her own) and making sure to put her right back in her bed when we do pick her up rather than holding or rocking for hours. She is getting better about soothing herself when she wakes up, or requiring less intervention from us when she becomes really upset. Now we can usually just pat her or hold her hand for a few minutes until she settles back down and goes to sleep. We have also switched from white noise to some soothing music in her room at night and I think that helps.

We are much better off now than we were a week ago. Hopefully it will keep moving in the right direction. I think she is on her way to learning that her bed is a nice, cozy place to drift off to sleep. (*fingers crossed*) I have read that this is a common issue for babies this age, which makes me feel better I guess, but I’m still reading a couple of books (as quickly as I can) that I hope will help us get through this and, most importantly, help Lily to get a good night’s sleep. Oh yes, and we’re looking forward once again to the day when we’ll wake up well-rested at her normal wake-up time of 6:30 and realize that she slept all the way through!

Her naps seem to be unaffected by all of this night-time stuff. She’s taking two a day, one in mid- to late-morning and one in early afternoon, each about an hour long. And we have finally succeeded in making her bedtime earlier, usually between 7:30 and 8:00.

Milestones: It’s definitely true that lack of sleep has made us all a bit crazy this month, but honestly the good has far outweighed the bad. For example, Lily started giving kisses all on her own about a week ago. It is the sweetest thing EVER. Sometimes one of her precious, slobbery, open-mouthed kisses is all I need to get through a tough day! Those spontaneous kisses are so precious, and now she is learning to recognize what it means when we ask her for a kiss.

Also new this month – Lily now blows raspberries with her mouth and chews on her toes.

She babbles a whole lot more now than she used to, and we sure do enjoy hearing her voice and listening to all of her sweet new sounds. (No intentional words yet; her favorite “word” right now sounds like “abwa.”)

Her other cute new trick is that she can play peekaboo (we call it “peep eye” where I come from). If there is a blanket or burp cloth within reach, she will put it over her head and wait for us to ask “Where’s Lily?” so she can pull it down and get a big reaction out of us. It’s so cute and she loves this game, as I guess most babies do!

Lily’s looks are changing quite a bit as she grows. We used to hear everyone say that she looked so much like me, but now the general opinion is that she looks more like her daddy. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My First Mother's Day

Sunday was my first Mother's Day to celebrate.

I feel like I've been a mother before this year, of course, but this was my first one with a baby in my arms. In previous years I had the heart of a mother, but I'd never been able to hold my babies, see their faces, or even know their names. Unfortunately, no one really recognizes you as a mother in that case, besides maybe a few caring family members and special, sensitive friends.

I think it will always be a day of mixed feelings. I can't erase all the years of hurt that I used to feel on that day, but I will rejoice for the child that I've been given. I'll always miss the six little ones who aren't here, and I'll always feel a heaviness in my heart for all of my precious friends who will be hurting and grieving and dreading the day.

For a long time I didn't know whether I'd ever be on the other side of recurrent miscarriage, but I did know that if it ever did happen to me, I wouldn't care about feeling honored or celebrated on Mother's Day. For me, the gift was my daughter, my miracle, my answered prayer, and my healing heart. It wasn't a day about me; it was a day about the power of my God. Although it was a long and rocky road to get there, He finally brought the two of us together in His own time and His own way. Sometimes I didn't wait patiently. Sometimes I felt angry, confused, bitter, and hopeless. But God mercifully made a way for a baby to grow in my womb, and that's what I celebrated on Mother's Day.

I wanted to have a simple, sweet day with my husband and daughter, and that's exactly what it was. It was a beautiful day here in Texas, and although I specifically told my husband that I didn't expect gifts, flowers, etc., he did all of that anyway (which is true to form). It was really, really special. After a sweet morning at home just the three of us, we went to church in a nearby town where we'd been invited to watch my dear friend's daughter perform in a play. It wasn't a Mother's Day service at all, but the pastor did recognize the occasion briefly during the welcome. I was touched that, on my first time in church on Mother's Day in probably 5 or 6 years, this particular pastor made a point to pay tribute to all women present. He had the men and children come forward to take a flower and hand it out to mothers, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, or any other women who had impacted their lives, and I thought that it was done just right. It was a far cry from some of the really isolating, lonely Mother's Day church services that I'd experienced in the past. I'm sure it may be true that my heart is different now, but I genuinely felt that it was the kind of moment that would have left most women in just about any circumstance or stage of life feeling pretty appreciated and special. It was great.

We had lunch with our friends afterward (I was so proud that Lily again sat so well through the entire service!) and returned home to a fun afternoon of ice cream and a walk in the park. It was a perfect and lovely day.

Of course I did miss not being with my own mom on that day. We knew after being there for the past two weekends that we wouldn't be together for Mother's Day, but my mom was able to spend the day with her mother, who hasn't been doing well lately. And my sweet mom sent me a precious card that touched my heart so much. I wanted to share with you what she wrote that brought tears to my eyes when I read it.


It is with great awe of our heavenly Father that I am able to send you this card. Years ago I found this card... I kept this waiting and praying for God to give you a miracle and the desire of your broken heart. Oh, what a beautiful blessing He gave to all of us... our sweet, precious, and beautiful Lily Rae!

You are the wonderful mother I always knew that you'd be. Cherish each minute, because they grow so fast. My heart just overflows with love every time I see her. Enjoy your first Mother's Day, and to God be all the glory!

I love you,

To God be the glory!
Amen, Mom. Amen.

Mother's Day 2011, My Longing Fulfilled

Saturday, May 7, 2011

For Mother's Day

Mother’s Day has been an emotional day for me for a number of years. It’s one of those days, like so many holidays, that can bring up a lot of hurt when you’re on the outside looking in. When you are a mother without her children here on earth or are struggling with infertility, it can be such a painful, hard day.

For years I tried to handle this day not by ignoring it altogether, but by focusing on celebrating my own amazing mom and the special women in my life. I made sure that I was surrounded by my family on that day every year, as often as possible. We were almost never home on Mother’s Day, choosing instead to spend it with my family or my in-laws so that my mind wouldn’t be on all that I’d lost.

We announced our first pregnancy to my mom on Mother’s Day nine years ago. I was so full of joy and excitement on that day, and boy was I na├»ve, too. Miscarriage was nowhere on my radar. I knew some women who had been through it, including my own mother. My mom lost the baby she was carrying after she had me, and she has always talked with us about that loss. She wanted that baby and was very sad when her pregnancy ended too soon. I know she still thinks about him or her more than thirty years later, wondering what might have been. I sometimes wondered what it would have been like to have a younger sibling close to my age, but I really never thought about miscarriage happening to me. I certainly never ever imagined that it would happen to me six times, and that my body would fail to support a pregnancy over and over again.

My husband and I were talking this week about how having Lily has changed things for us. She has changed everything, but perhaps not only in the most obvious ways. I told him how this Mother’s Day feels so different. In the past, I missed the babies that we lost so much. It’s a different kind of missing, though – not the kind where you miss someone you once knew and have a memory of their face or their laugh or something you did or shared together. I missed them in the sense of feeling an absence. My life was missing them, or to be more clear, they were missing from my life, and in their place was a huge, empty hole. Lily hasn’t taken their place, but she has filled that hole in my heart and fulfilled the desire that I had to have a child and be a mother.

In a way that I didn’t expect, though, she makes me miss the babies I miscarried from a whole new perspective. Now that I have Lily, it makes me realize much more clearly what was lost. We didn’t just lose six fuzzy images on an ultrasound screen. We lost our children, each one unique and special and loved. Now that I’ve seen Lily’s round, rosy cheeks, looked into her dark eyes, and heard her squeal with laughter; now that I’ve rocked her to sleep every single day for seven and a half months, I realize more than ever before that I will always miss the babies that we didn’t get to keep with us. She makes me understand how much I did love them and how much more I could have loved them every day. As long as I’m here and they are not, they will be missing from my life. And as long as I go on missing them, I will all the more appreciate the miracle that I’ve been given.

My perspective is very different this year for Mother’s Day. I suspected it would be so, but some of the feelings have surprised me. Most of all, of course, I feel full and happy and grateful. I don’t feel that emptiness anymore. I’m profoundly thankful and humbled that I have someone here who calls me “Mommy.” Well, she can’t talk just yet, but there’s a sweet baby girl whose face lights up when I enter the room and who thinks I’m the funniest person in the whole world (even funnier than Daddy!), and I can’t believe I get to be her mother.

Flowers, cards, and gifts are all lovely things, but I have my gift already. It’s so much more than I ever dreamed, and it’s more than enough.

As always… praying for those of you who are waiting, especially on this day.