Monday, December 9, 2013

Three and One

Since 2013 is winding down, I thought it would be a good time to post an update about my girls. My, how they're growing, as little ones tend to do! We've been busy at our house with birthday season this Fall. Lily turned three in September, my hubby's birthday is in October, and Anna turned one in November - on Thanksgiving Day this year. It has been a crazy, fun, and special time!

It's hard to believe that Lily is three. She's truly a joy, this special girl. She's just the right mixture of silly and sweet, girlie and dainty but not at all a diva, clever and smart. She absolutely loves Peter Pan (the old Disney cartoon), so that's what we did for her party theme. In fact, it also provided the theme for our whole family's Halloween costumes this year (more on that later).

Here are a few pictures from her Neverland-themed party in September:

Next came October, and we continued the Peter Pan theme with our costumes. Lily wanted to be Captain Hook (love her imagination!), so we dressed Anna up as Smee. Their daddy was Peter Pan, and I was Wendy. We had a blast!

November was a special month, as it was Anna's first Thanksgiving and her first birthday, all on the same day. Anna is a little Mommy's girl (quite a change from her big sis). She loves music, loves to dance, and loves to eat. She adds so much joy to our family!

We chose a theme of butterflies and pinwheels for her big day. Here are a few photos from her party:

It has been a fun year of firsts for Anna. She is quite a bundle of energy! Having two little ones close together is fun, but it's also more challenging than I ever imagined. Of course, we're still joyful every day for the opportunity to be parents to these two precious gifts.

To wrap up, here's a collage of all of Anna's month-by-month pictures to show how much she has grown and changed:

What a year it has been! I hope this time of year finds you counting your blessings as well, as you celebrate the holiday season with family and friends.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Beauty For Ashes

Writing about the babies we lost helps me to deal with the continued grief that is always there. There are things, like the passing of time, lessons learned, and the births of my daughters, that have helped to ease the burden of those losses, but nothing can ever take the pain or the memories away. And I've come to terms with that. Remembering them is important to me, and the process of giving each of them names has been part of my healing process as well.

Revisiting those experiences, one by one, felt like something I needed to do. Recurrent pregnancy loss has been a huge part of my life. I've been married to my husband for 15 years, more than half of which were nearly consumed by miscarriage and infertility. There was a lot of pain there, but we've come a long way. For that, I am thankful. And I'm constantly amazed and grateful that, by the grace of God, our story didn't end there.

After we lost little Aaron Joseph, our sixth baby, we experienced a new form of anguish: unexplained infertility. The weeks and months and, eventually, three years went by with no changes. After six pregnancies in six years, it seemed there might be no more chances. While we had some renewed hope and a new doctor, we still didn't know exactly why the first six pregnancies had ended too early. I wanted another chance. I hoped and prayed for another chance. But I was also terrified. Those three quiet years gave me some perspective. The fog had cleared a little bit and enough time had passed for me to realize that I never wanted to go back to that horror again. I knew, however, that it was a risk we'd have to take if we were ever going to see that dream realized and that longing fulfilled.

Above all I always trusted that my God was in control, even when my circumstances felt totally out of control. He's in the miracle business. That's what He does! Beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of despair. (Isaiah 61:3)

He had something wonderful in store, and it was just around the corner. I'm just thankful that I held on for it.

Twelve years after we were married, nine years after we started trying to conceive, and eight years after the first positive pregnancy test, we finally looked upon the face of our daughter.

Two years and two months later, we held another daughter in our arms.

I don't know why it all happened the way that it did. I don't know why there was so much pain before the beauty, but I suppose that's what makes it all the more beautiful.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Aaron Joseph

This is the sixth and final post in the series I've been writing about the babies we miscarried. The time felt right to give them all names and to revisit the experience one by one, as a way of remembering and as a memorial. I appreciate the opportunity to use this blog as a step in the healing process, and I'm grateful to those who have faithfully read along, commented, encouraged, and prayed. These precious ones will always be part of our lives. I'm honored to call them by name.
Emily Grace, Callie Elizabeth, Luke Daniel, Adam Louis, Agnes Faith, and Aaron Joseph

Just four months after we lost our fifth baby, I discovered I was pregnant for the sixth time on December 11, 2006. It was really soon but we felt like we surely must be close. We'd had dozens of tests run, discovered a uterine septum and had surgery to correct it, and were planning to try the progesterone supplements and blood thinners again. Since our specialist was an hour's drive away, we were working with my local OB/GYN for lab work and treatment in the early stages of the pregnancy.

Pregnancy number six would be another roller coaster ride. We spent a long time with things up in the air, not knowing whether it was going to work out or not. It was hard and it was emotionally exhausting. And it was all happening right around the holidays, which seemed to make it harder.

Early signs showed that the pregnancy was going well. The first HCG results were higher than my previous pregnancy, and the progesterone was high. I started the nightly Lovenox injections in my stomach right away. A week later, on December 18, the HCG was rising as it should be. We scheduled an ultrasound at a local imaging center on December 21 but were only able to see a gestational sac. It was a start, but we had to leave that day knowing we would spend the Christmas holiday with the big question hanging over our heads. Oh, how we'd been hoping to spend Christmas with the knowledge that our baby was okay and growing.

We decided to go ahead with our travel plans. Spending that time surrounded by our family seemed like a much better idea than staying home alone and worrying. We packed up a basket full of injections, put the progesterone suppositories on ice, and headed for Louisiana and the comfort of home and family. As soon as we got back home and the office was open, I called to schedule more blood work on January 2, 2007. HCG came back: 95,000! After a week and a half of waiting, it was wonderful news! We planned for an ultrasound and the doctor told us that we should be able to get a look at our baby with numbers that high. We knew better than to let ourselves start celebrating but we felt sure that we would at least have an answer, one way or the other.

The ultrasound on January 4 didn't go as we hoped. There was a yolk sac this time but still no growing baby. We knew it wasn't good but we continued to hope and pray for our miracle. Later that evening I had a little bit of bleeding. My heart dropped into my stomach as I thought it was the end. To my surprise, though, the bleeding tapered off and then quit. I had another lab appointment on January 9 to be sure the numbers were still rising. They were. It was ultrasound time again. It had now been a month of injections, desperate prayers, and worry. And hope. Always hope.

We returned to the imaging center on January 15. At ten weeks along we knew we should be seeing our baby. As soon as the image of the yolk sac was visible on the screen, we could see that there was still no growth. No flickering heartbeat. Just an empty sac. This pregnancy had been a blighted ovum, which is when a fertilized egg implants but doesn't develop into an embryo. Conception occurs and your body prepares for pregnancy, but the yolk sac remains empty and the baby does not grow.

 I had a D&C on January 22, 2007. It was three days before my 30th birthday. There was no party, no big celebration. My sweet husband had arranged for many of my friends and family to send special cards and letters, which he gave to me in a big bag on my birthday. My mom came and made my favorite cake: chocolate with chocolate icing. We spent a quiet day at home as I recovered.

In a way, after six times, I'd gotten used to dealing with the tough news and even the surgery and recovery. But you never ever get used to the pain and devastation of loss. Each and every time brought such overwhelming sadness and disappointment. And guilt. You name it. There were so many emotions and unanswered questions. We had to accept that we would probably never have those answers this side of heaven. Our specialist told us with regret that even she didn't know what else she could do to help us. We knew we'd reached the end of the road with her. The call came from the OB/GYN who told us she didn't think we'd ever have a baby. I felt like I'd hit rock bottom.

There's a familiar expression that I think applies here: "Don't put a period where God has put a comma." That's how I felt. I wanted a second opinion. And honestly, if another doctor looked at me and said no, and if we felt God leading us to stop, then we knew we'd need to find the strength to put it all to rest. But I just couldn't let go until I knew for sure. One thing was certain that even I in my weakest times never doubted, though. We were going to be parents. We just didn't know yet if our family would grow through a successful pregnancy or through the gift of adoption.

The weeks and months (and eventually, years) that followed were hard. We found a new doctor in the big city and had our first visit with him on July 16, 2007. For the first time we truly felt that we'd found a doctor who had the knowledge and experience to help us. The best part was that even after all he knew about our history, he didn't think we were a hopeless case. After six pregnancies and six miscarriages in six years, we had hope again. And it would keep us going as we faced something we didn't expect -- three years of infertility. But that's a story for another day.

I love the name we've chosen for our sixth baby. Aaron is a boy name that we've both loved for years. Joseph is my father-in-law's middle name, and was also my maternal grandfather's middle name. While getting ready to write this post I looked up the meanings of these two names we'd already picked, and what I read confirmed that they were right. It's one of those things that forms a lump in my throat and brings tears to my eyes.

Aaron means "mountain of strength."
Joseph means "God shall add."

This pregnancy holds a lot of meaning for me. Looking back at it now I can see that it was in some ways both the end and the beginning. Of course I didn't know it at the time, but praise the Lord, it was our last miscarriage. It was the end of a very long and painful chapter in our lives. But it was the start of a new decade of my life -- my thirties -- and while one chapter (well, it felt like an entire book) was closed, another was opened. I can look back on it years later and remember the sorrow I felt while at the same time appreciating that the old was gone and we were right on the edge of a new, fresh start. There were two beautiful miracles right around the corner. God shall add. And He had been my mountain of strength.

Aaron Joseph,
We had so much hope for you, precious boy, but we know that you are safe with Jesus right along with your brothers and sisters. Thank you for keeping hope alive within us and for showing us that the Lord would be our mountain of strength. We love you and miss you so, so much.
Love, Mommy

Monday, November 11, 2013

Agnes Faith

This is the fifth post in a series about our babies in heaven, all miscarried in the first trimester. The first four can be found here: Emily Grace, Callie Elizabeth, Luke Daniel, Adam Louis. Thank you for remembering them with me.

Every single loss is hard. Each one broke our hearts. It took a while for us to pick up the pieces after we lost our fourth baby. We thought surely, after finding out about the uterine septum and having it removed, we had figured things out and would be bringing home our baby. Instead we had another unfulfilled due date, in February 2006.

After the miscarriage we'd kept ourselves from the doctor visits. We didn't return until February, seven months later, for a consultation. Our doctor gave us a few suggestions that we could look into. It was good to have options, but it definitely felt a lot like grasping at straws. Try seeing a urologist for further sperm testing. Talk to a high-risk pregnancy doctor. Consult with a geneticist. Have lots and lots more blood work. (It's a good thing I'm not afraid of needles.)

My husband saw the urologist and was tested for sperm fragmentation. That turned out fine. No worries there. The high-risk pregnancy doc did some tests and thought we could try using blood thinners with the next pregnancy. My doctor was on board with this and we were willing to try it. The geneticist, after looking over all of our history, determined that she didn't think a healthy, full-term pregnancy was completely out of the question for us. Although we knew these were all just ideas and medical opinions, that was particularly nice to hear since our former OB/GYN would later call me on the phone and tell me that she thought I had a genetic problem that would prevent me from ever having a biological child. Wow. Talk about having the breath knocked out of you. Looking back I realize what an inappropriate opinion that was to give a patient, over the phone, when you aren't even qualified as an infertility specialist. Some days it truly felt like everything was working against us.

We knew the odds didn't look good. But we weren't ready to give up yet. There were many, many days when I thought about it. I felt incredibly weak. I was tired and discouraged, and depressed. It became increasingly harder for me to go anywhere and to face all of the questions about why we didn't have any children and what we were doing about it. Everyone had an opinion, a suggestion, and just the right answer for what we should be doing. They said we weren't thinking positively enough, we were worrying too much, we needed to take a break and relax. They said that this was all happening for a reason and that God wouldn't give me more than I could handle. And I began to hate hearing all of it. All of those words made us feel like we were doing something wrong; like it was my fault that our children couldn't survive in my womb. Or that God was trying to teach me a really hard lesson that I was apparently too dumb or had too little faith to grasp.

And so I started keeping it all inside and sharing as little information as possible with those people I knew didn't really care and were just curious. I stopped going to baby showers because it was just too hard. Even going to church was becoming almost unbearable. While I never turned my back on God, I definitely began to question His plan and wonder why this was happening to us, and why it happens to anyone at all.

Even in this state of mind, though, there was a determination inside of me. The desire to be a mother had grown, moving me forward and helping me to take another step, even if it felt small. I had a husband beside me who never gave up hope and always believed that we would have children. And through all of it, God really was teaching me new things about my weakness and His strength. He was teaching me about waiting and trusting and resting and hoping, and above all, about realizing that I serve a God who is infinitely bigger than my circumstances, my fears, and even infertility and miscarriage.

And so, after a new round of tests that revealed no obvious problem but with a few new options to try, we found out about our fifth pregnancy on July 27, 2006. With this pregnancy I began using daily Lovenox (blood thinner) injections in my stomach. Even with no fear of needles, it was a hard thing for me to get used to at first but became a bit easier as time went on. A blood test confirmed the pregnancy and we were back to waiting and hoping for good news. A few days later things were looking pretty good. The HCG levels were rising and progesterone looked good.

We were feeling confident. So much so that we made the (just over 2 hour) drive to Louisiana to celebrate my mom's birthday on August 6th. On Monday the 7th I went for more lab work. I felt hopeful as I waited to hear more good news, but it was not to be. The call would come later the next day, but before the phone ever rang I already knew. I woke up the morning of August 8, 2006 with cramps and bleeding, knowing I was losing the baby. I had been only about 6 weeks along.

It surprises me today to read what I wrote in my journal in the days after our fifth miscarriage. Somewhere inside I still believed it would happen and knew at that point that we would give it at least one more try. It might sound crazy but we suddenly had the feeling that we were getting closer. At that point it felt like we'd been climbing the mountain for so long that we must be near the top, even though we still couldn't see it. We had to be closer.

We've named this sweet baby Agnes Faith.

I know that Agnes isn't exactly a trendy name these days. While I consider it a classic, it's not one of those that is enjoying a big comeback. It was, however, my great-grandmother's name, and she was truly a treasure. She was the most precious, sweet, kind, gentle, French-speaking old Cajun lady that you could ever imagine, and we all adored her. My mom was particularly close to her grandmother, and Mom was always so pleased to have Granny's name, Agnes, as her middle name.

August 8th, the day I miscarried, was Granny's birthday. She passed away in 1999, but I have so many fond memories of her. There were exactly 101 years separating my Granny and my little Agnes. I'm incredibly honored to name my daughter after her and after my sweet mom as well.

My mom is amazing and has been such a huge supporter and great influence in my life, teaching me about faith and modeling the kind of mother I always hoped to be. When I think of the name Agnes, I have two wonderful and strong women who immediately come to mind. I like to think my sweet little Agnes would have followed in their footsteps.

Her middle name is pretty self-explanatory. Faith. It's something I can't imagine my life without and it's the number one thing that helped me through this struggle. Without my faith in God I don't want to imagine where I'd be today.

Agnes Faith,
Oh sweet girl, your name is very special to us and we love imagining what kind of woman you might have grown up to be. We miss you, sweet one, and love you so much! I can't wait to wrap my arms around you.
Love, Mommy

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Adam Louis

This is the fourth of six posts I'm writing about our babies in heaven. Thank you for continuing to remember them with me as we go through the process of naming each of them. They are all loved and missed! You can find the previous three posts here: Emily Grace, Callie Elizabeth, and Luke Daniel.

The year 2004 had brought our third miscarriage in three years. It felt like we'd been through so much, but we had no idea what was still to come. Our fourth pregnancy would be one of the most difficult and darkest times we would face. (And I'm sure this post will be a long one as there are a lot more details about this pregnancy. Thanks in advance for sticking with me.)

While we had begun some initial testing, it was at this point that we realized it was time to really investigate what might be going wrong. The first step was exploratory surgery, which we scheduled with our specialist on November 12. During the hysteroscopy, the doctor could not see both of my fallopian tubes at the same time with the scope, suggesting that my uterus had a different shape or an obstruction.

The next step was an MRI and and IVP test, which we scheduled for December 2. The tests came back showing the better of the two scenarios that the doctor suspected -- I had a septum (like a wall) dividing my uterus. She told us it's a congenital deformity and that it was likely to be the cause of my miscarriages, considering it can create concave areas in the uterus, making it difficult for a baby to grow. The really good news was that it could be corrected with outpatient surgery.

I wasn't excited about hearing that news, but it definitely gave us something to hold on to. This could be the answer! Maybe we finally had a REASON, medically speaking. We started 2005 with a renewed hope and on January 21, just a few days before my 28th birthday, I had surgery to remove the uterine septum. The doctor also looked for endometriosis, which she didn't find. We felt like we were in good shape to start trying again after some time to heal. I didn't have a regular cycle until March, and then I decided to have my wisdom teeth pulled in April. After all of that was done we were ready.

The positive pregnancy test came on June 9, 2005. It was the start of a roller coaster of emotions, with the biggest ups and downs we had experienced yet. I had still been using the progesterone and following the routine that I explained in my last post, so on day 30 I took a home test. It was negative. It was my fourth time around, though, and I had a feeling otherwise. Four days later I took another one. Positive. I went that same day for blood work. HCG 1266 and progesterone 41. Great news, they said. Things looked promising.

We went in for the first ultrasound on June 20 but saw only a gestational sac. This did not devastate us. We still felt very positive and thought we needed to give it some more time. When we saw the doctor that day, though, we were surprised (unpleasantly so) to discover two things: first, our regular doctor was gone. She wasn't working there anymore and we did not like this new doctor. Second, the new doctor (whose bedside manner was lacking all sensitivity) abruptly told us that the sac looked too large and the numbers were too high. She didn't think the pregnancy would last.

Folks, I don't need a doctor to coddle me or try to make me think things are okay when they're not. But her delivery was awful. I had more blood drawn and we left feeling frustrated, confused, and lost. We had a real connection with the other doctor and she was gone. We went there that day thinking our baby was okay and left thinking we'd lost another one. The news came that night: my HCG and progesterone were still looking very good. We scheduled another ultrasound. In the meantime, we decided to try calling our other doctor, the one who had left. We felt funny about calling her at home but we were so unsettled and didn't know where else to turn. She answered, and she was totally great about it. Even better, she told us she had moved to an office in Houston and that we could follow her there if it was what we wanted. It was.

We kept the ultrasound appointment that we'd already made (June 27), and we went in praying that we would see a yolk sac this time. We did! We were relieved... until Dr Doom came in to tell us again that it wasn't going to work. I know that a big part of the anger and frustration we felt at that time was out of sheer denial, or refusal to accept more bad news. We weren't doubting the doctor's ability to do her job, but we couldn't understand why she did not seem willing to let us have an ounce of hope. Things WERE progressing, and until they weren't, we were going to have some HOPE. After some persuading, she agreed to do another ultrasound in two weeks.

July 11 finally arrived. We had prayed our hearts out. We'd even decided to tell our church family this time so they could be praying with us. And after all that hoping and all that praying, there it was: a heartbeat. Our baby looked amazing. There was the little head, the body, and the arm and leg buds! The baby was measuring 8 weeks, 2 days, and even the doubting doctor seemed surprised. She said that aside from a bit of a fast heart rate, the baby looked fine. Today as I write this eight years later, I'm looking at the cherished ultrasound pictures, paperclipped in my journal, of that sweet little baby. He was our dream come true. Our hearts were so full of love for that miracle.

After that visit, we made the decision to make our next appointment with the doctor with whom we felt more comfortable. Even if the news was going to be bad, we preferred to hear it from her. We informed the doctor and had our records transferred to the new office. A week later, on July 18, we made the hour-long drive to the see our old doctor. We were excited to have the ultrasound and get another look at our growing baby. And the baby HAD grown, measuring 9 weeks. And there were the chambers of the heart... but the heart wasn't beating. We saw it as plainly as she did. Our doctor was surprised. We were shocked. It had been only a week -- just 7 days -- since we'd seen the heartbeat, and our baby had died.

After we talked to the doctor for a little while, she checked again just to be sure of what we saw. I appreciate that she did that for us, but we knew it was over. It felt like she was giving us a moment to say goodbye as we took one last long look at the screen. She asked me if we wanted her to print a picture and I said yes. I have that picture here with me now, too, that last precious image of our baby. He looks perfect to me, even though I know his heart wasn't beating and his soul was in heaven. It breaks my heart to see it, but I'm grateful to have it.

Every loss is hard. This one was particularly hard for us. We felt more heartbroken than ever. There had been so much hope and so many prayers -- so many of them answered in those 9 weeks. We were learning to trust a God who loves us and cares about us, and who sees the bigger picture and knows all of the answers to our questions.

I'm thankful that we got to spend as much time carrying this child as we did. We got to see him on an ultrasound screen more times than we had with any other pregnancy. We watched him grow and saw that flickering heartbeat, reassuring us that he was here and he was real. He had lived longer than any of our other babies had to date. And I'm thankful that we got to stick with a doctor who was sensitive and considerate of our needs during that time. On the day of the D&C, she invited us to her office to do a final ultrasound so we could be certain. Again, I know she did that just for us. There was no lingering look this time, and she did that for our benefit, too. Even though I know he'd already gone to heaven by then, we said goodbye to our fourth baby on July 22, 2005.

We've named our second son Adam Louis.
Adam is a name I've come to love in recent years. I considered it for Anna if she'd been a boy. The last name Adams is a family name on my mom's side. Louis is my husband's middle name, and had been his paternal grandfather's middle name as well. Of course I love having a son named after both of them, and I also really like that Louis is a French name. It reflects our heritage and is part of our home state, Louisiana's, name, too. Louis means "famous warrior," and we certainly felt that our little guy was a fighter. Our Adam Louis's name was chosen with lots of love and from a long line of family names from both sides of our family.

Adam Louis,
Your daddy and I are so grateful for the time we got to spend with you. We never got to hold you, but we knew you and loved you so much while we prayed and hoped for you for nine weeks. Thank you for giving us that hope and for teaching us to keep holding on, no matter what. You were worth it! We love you and can't wait to see you again one day.
Love, Mommy

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Luke Daniel

This is the third post in a series about the six babies we miscarried. Naming these precious ones has been an honor as well as a healing process for us. The previous two posts can be found here: Emily Grace; Callie Elizabeth.

In March of 2003 we found ourselves at a crossroads. In less than a year's time we'd had two pregnancies and two miscarriages, both at 11 weeks gestation. Both times we found out that our babies were no longer living when ultrasounds revealed that they appeared to have stopped growing around 7 weeks and their little hearts had stopped beating. We were heartbroken, and now we were scared.

My OB/GYN at the time recommended that we go to a local Center of Reproductive Medicine to have some initial testing done. We talked and prayed about it and decided we had nothing to lose. It was definitely worth a try. Our first appointment there was in August of 2003, and we began with lots and lots blood work and a semen analysis. Our blood work came back pretty normal and hubby's tests were stellar. Because my results showed the MTHFR mutation, I began taking extra folic acid along with my prenatal vitamin and a daily aspirin. We also tested my progesterone and came up with a new plan. Each month I would start taking extra progesterone on cycle day 17 and go in to have blood drawn 4 days later to check the level. I would return for another blood draw on cycle day 31 to check for pregnancy. This continued for several months. It was frustrating to see the days and months pass with no change, but we continued on because at least we felt like we were doing SOMETHING.

After a while when it appeared that my progesterone levels were staying nice and high, I continued using the supplements but didn't go for blood work each and every month. Every few months we'd go in and talk with the doctor to check on things and talk about the plan. We knew there were more aggressive things out there but we felt sure that another pregnancy would come, and we felt good about taking these steps and monitoring things to try to give the baby a better chance. We were stressed. We were nervous. It hadn't taken us this long to get pregnant before but we tried to remain as patient and calm as possible.

More than a year passed before we saw our third positive pregnancy test. It was September 24, 2004, and we were so very hopeful and anxious to find out if things would be different this time. They were different, but not in the way that we'd hoped. My first HCG check on September 27 came back at 349. On October 1 it was 666. We knew these numbers weren't looking good. We checked again on October 5 and it had dropped to 49, and I lost our third baby on October 7, 2004. We'd hardly had much time at all to even let it sink in, just a few short weeks, and just like that it was over at 6 weeks gestation.

We were so sad. So disappointed. In an effort to hide ourselves from the world and try to find some peace in the situation, we quickly planned a getaway to New England, just the two of us. We spent the next week surrounded by beautiful fall foliage, cozy bed and breakfasts, and gorgeous lighthouses on the east coast. It was a wonderful, comforting trip, a place we'd always wanted to go and at just the right time of year. We needed it so badly and we both look back on that time as a very special memory.

I love looking back at the pictures we took on that vacation, but I can still see the sadness on our faces. Of course we realized that there was really no escape from what was happening in our lives -- to us, and to our babies. Immediately after we returned home, I had one final blood draw to confirm the HCG was negative.

We decided to name our baby, our first son, a name that was at the top of our list for favorite boy names: Luke. Luke is a name we always liked. It's a good, strong Biblical name, which is true about every single boy name we've chosen, and true about his middle name, Daniel.

The name Daniel has special meaning for us, since it was my husband's grandfather's name. The name had meant something special to his mother as well. It was after studying the book of Daniel in the Bible that Pop's mother had given her life to Jesus. She said then that if she had another son his name would be Daniel, and she kept that promise. Her Daniel, our "Pop," was one of the most amazing men I've had the privilege to know. He was a missionary, a preacher, a pastor, a carpenter, a WWII veteran, and truly the kindest, gentlest father and grandfather I have ever met. (I wrote a post about him here, after he passed away in 2009.) We certainly looked up to this man of faith, as we do his Biblical namesake. I know he's with Jesus now, just like our sweet little boy.

Luke Daniel,
What a special boy you are to us! We hope you know how loved you are. Part of your name came from a man who was very special to us, too, who lived his life to honor his Savior. We can't wait to see both of you in heaven one day. You were with us for such a short time but are no less loved. We miss you so much.
Love, Mommy

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Callie Elizabeth

This is the second post in a series about the six babies we lost to miscarriage. We made the decision earlier this year to give each of them names as a special way of remembering them. You can follow this link to read about our first baby, Emily Grace. I hate that it's been so long between posts, but this week's Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness/Remembrance Day brought all of these memories back up for me again. Thanks for reading.

After my first miscarriage in July of 2002 I was in shock. It rocked my world and I wasn't sure how to continue. I was so hurt and I wanted to grieve, yet I wanted to quickly move forward at the same time. Never before had I actually wanted to be a statistic -- I was desperate to be one of those people everyone kept telling me about when they said that miscarriage was very common and that it would all work out fine. Everyone had a story about someone they knew whose first pregnancy ended in miscarriage before they went on to have a healthy pregnancy right after. All I could do was hope that might also be me.

My sister, who had been due with her second child a month before my first, gave birth to a beautiful baby boy on December 3, 2002. I was thrilled to be in the delivery room when he entered the world. Being an aunt is such an incredible joy to me, and I was nothing but happy on that day. It was only later, after a family member pointed out that it must have been hard for me after losing my baby, that I let myself grieve my loss again. It had been an experience I was eager to share with my sister, but I felt hopeful that soon my time would come. Instead of making it more painful, loving on my brand new nephew was like a balm for my aching heart.

My unfulfilled due date passed in late January of 2003, closely followed by the suspicion that I might be pregnant again. There was indeed a positive pregnancy test on February 10, 2003. We were nervous but excited, certainly hoping we would be meeting our sweet baby around our due date of October 10, 2003. While the first loss had made me skittish and overly cautious, I had no reason to think we would have the same problem twice.

There aren't many details recorded in my journal about this pregnancy or the next one. After our first baby died in my womb, I put some of the things we bought for him or her, along with the pregnancy journal, up in the closet of what would have been the nursery in our new house. I didn't want to forget her short yet meaningful life, but the memory of her was so fresh and so raw. I couldn't let myself feel it completely just yet, so I saved it all up and busied myself with other things while hoping I would soon be holding a sweet bundle of my own.

My memory is fuzzy, but I know that the second pregnancy progressed almost exactly as the first one had. I'm beginning to recall how nervous I felt about going back to the doctor, even to confirm the pregnancy. I knew I was pregnant, but I'd fooled myself into thinking that I could keep potentially bad news away by simply avoiding it. Besides, I was just sure it wouldn't happen to me again. No news was good news to me, I thought, and I continued to hope and pray that sweet baby into existence. That sounds completely ridiculous to me now (not the hoping and praying, but the avoiding of information) but it was my funny way of dealing with it at that time in my life, I guess. I finally did go for the exam and the blood work, and a week later found out that all the numbers looked good. (Hooray!)

My joy lasted only about a week before the awful news came. We went for an ultrasound on March 25 and were again crushed to find out that the baby was no longer living and growing. Again, at 11 weeks gestation, we found out in that little room (with a little experience under our belts -- we knew what that silent, empty screen was saying this time) that I would miscarry for the second time. All my hopes again came crashing down. How could this have happened in such a similar way? Was there something wrong with me? This time, on top of my grief was a growing sense of fear.

After the physical pain of my first miscarriage, I decided to schedule a D&C. I'm still very glad for that decision, as I know I wasn't ready to face that trauma again so soon. The blood work showed that my HCG was falling. Even though I know she was already gone, I remember my sweet baby on the day she left my body, on Friday, March 28, 2003. Again, I don't know for sure that our second baby was a girl, but I know that we had envisioned ourselves with a couple of daughters in the early years when we would innocently allow ourselves to dream and plan for the future -- a future where we never imagined losing our first two children to miscarriage.

In those young married years, we had two favorite girl names always tucked away that were special to us: Emily Rae and Anna Elizabeth. I think it's special that our two daughters here on earth still carry one of those names each (Lily Rae and Anna Evangeline). We chose the name Emily Grace for our first baby in heaven.

Our second baby we've named Callie Elizabeth.

Callie is not a name I've always known. It's totally new to me. I don't personally know anyone by that name but it's funny how, much like how you suddenly begin hearing a word that is new to your vocabulary, I'm hearing it everywhere lately. I chose it as a tribute to two special women in our lives -- my sister and my husband's sister, and two of the best aunts our children could have ever asked for. It is a combination of my sister's name (Connie) and my sister-in-law's name (Allison - nicknamed Allie). Callie. I think it's adorable. And her middle name, Elizabeth, is the only one left that we haven't used from our original favorite girl names, and it's a name we've always loved.

The name Callie means "Beautiful" and the name Elizabeth means "God is my oath."

Callie Elizabeth,
Our beautiful girl, we miss you and we love you so much. Your daddy and I had so many hopes and dreams for you. We wish more than anything that we could have held you here, but we know we will have that chance one day in heaven. Oh, how special it will be when we finally see your face along with Jesus, who loves you even more than we ever could dream!
Love, Mommy

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Emily Grace

This is the first in a series of posts I'm writing about the six babies we lost to miscarriage. We never named those babies until now, so I wanted to write something about each of them as a memorial. It should be mentioned that we do not officially know the gender of each baby, but we have decided to name three girls and three boys. We feel comfortable with that decision.

We found out about our first pregnancy on May 6, 2002. When I look back on that time, what I remember is pure excitement. We were downright giddy. I'd been doing all of the charting and tracking and temperature taking for a few months and there we were. It was definitely a planned pregnancy. My period was late and I had my suspicions, so I took a home pregnancy test on a Friday but it didn't convince me. That second line -- was it there? Or not? We went out of town that weekend and I remember feeling that excitement the whole time. We attended the first birthday party of the son of some of our dearest friends. Lots of good friends of ours from our first young married couple Sunday School class were there, many of them with their own young children. I looked around the room in amazement, wondering what it would be like to have our own child, too. We kept quiet about our suspicions all weekend, even with family, and tested again the following Monday at home. It was definitely positive. My hubby was home sick with a cold and we were just in awe. We were young, had just moved to a new town (and state) a year earlier, he had a great new job (his dream job, really), and we had been looking to buy our first home. Things couldn't have felt more right.

My first appointment with my new OB/GYN was May 14. A blood test confirmed the pregnancy and over the next few weeks we began telling our immediate family members in special ways. I told my sister first. We told my sister-in-law at her birthday party and my mom on Mother's Day. We told my in-laws at a family gathering for my brother-in-law's graduation. We were on Cloud 9, and our families were so happy too. My sister and I were due just a month apart. She was expecting her second child that December and my baby was due January 21, 2003. We've always been so close and we were beyond excited about being pregnant together.

May 22 arrived, along with the much-anticipated first ultrasound. It was my first ultrasound experience and I was full of anticipation. My bubble burst, however, when it didn't go very well. We were worried, but were reassured that it was probably just too early to see the baby just yet. Maybe I ovulated later than I'd thought. I'd been having irregular cycles, so it made sense to me and it all seemed to add up. Blood was drawn and my HCG level had gone up appropriately. The doctor didn't seem worried. A second ultrasound was scheduled for a week later, and on May 29, 2002, we saw our baby's heartbeat for the first time. What joy we felt at seeing that tiny flicker! The baby measured 4mm and the doctor said she thought I was 6 weeks along. We went home with those coveted black and white first photos of our little bean, and they went right up on the refrigerator so we could see them every day. We were so very relieved that our worrying had all been in vain. It had given us a little bit of a scare -- and definitely put our celebrating on pause for a moment. In my journal I wrote these words:
"If I learned anything this week, it's how much I am really anticipating this baby and how attached I already feel to it. I also felt in a powerful way how God can be my strength when I am weak."

How true those words would turn out to be.

We lived in bliss for the following few weeks. I had an uneventful OB appointment on June 11. Things were progressing well, or so we thought. We'd found a house and were set to close on June 28. Two days before that, however, I began noticing some brown spotting. The doctor suggested I might have an infection. I never expected the worst. I knew several people who'd had spotting and bleeding early on in pregnancy and everything turned out okay. We signed papers for the house and I took it easy, but I noticed the discharge becoming heavier over the next few days. I started feeling crampy, and I started feeling scared. My doctor did an exam on July 1 and said everything looked normal. She tried doing an ultrasound but told us she wanted us to go to the hospital to get a clearer picture there. By now we'd been waiting all morning and our worries had reached their peak. At 11 weeks, we should have been able to see a great picture of our growing baby on the screen, but we learned at the hospital that our baby was way too small and was measuring more like 7 weeks. We returned to our doctor in tears as she told us to expect a miscarriage.

Expect a miscarriage. But the fact was, I had NO IDEA what to expect. I'd been expecting to hold a brand new baby in January and now I was devastated. All of our plans came to a screeching halt, along with our hopes and dreams for this little baby we already loved. We didn't want to believe it was true even though we knew it in our hearts. I was afraid of having a D&C and I felt a strong desire to let things happen naturally. I think it was my way of being absolutely sure the baby couldn't make it. I was trying to cling to anything I could, any hope that we wouldn't lose the baby, but by July 3 I'd begun cramping and bleeding. We passed the time by working on the house. I didn't do much working, but family members came to help out and to keep me company. We tried to stay occupied, distracted. We kept the grief just below the surface while we waited.

By Friday evening I could tell things were changing. I went back to our apartment to try to rest, but the pain was tremendous. It came in waves for hours, all during the night, as I labored with our child. Around 4 AM I reached my breaking point. I couldn't handle the pain any longer and I began passing large clumps of blood and tissue. We called the doctor and decided to head to the ER when the pain became absolutely unbearable. I don't know what I expected them to do for me, but I was too scared to stay home at that point. After I was admitted and they brought me back, a doctor came to examine me. I remember it very vividly, that immediately after I was reclined on the bed there was one last wave of pain and it was instantly over. I knew at that moment that our baby was gone. It was around 5 AM on the morning of July 6, eleven years ago.

The doctor told me the miscarriage was "complete" and did a final ultrasound. I was brought to a room to rest and recover from what felt like my worst nightmare. I was traumatized, but doing okay physically. We went home later that night feeling like we were still stuck in a bad dream. My emotions were all over the place a few days later as I wrote in my journal. I was torn between the overwhelming desire to have a baby and the absolute fear of going through such an awful experience again. I felt angry, sad, disappointed, and scared. Above all, I was truly heartbroken. I wrote in the journal:
"I know that the pain of this loss will be with us forever. It's so hard for me to think I will ever be ready to risk trying again, yet I know we want a child now more than ever. How do I get through another first trimester? Before that, how do we find the courage to try to get pregnant again? Emotionally and physically, I don't see how we would handle another miscarriage."

When I read those words now, after everything I know would come after, I can see that it was my fear doing the talking. And looking back I know without a doubt that I would be willing to endure a whole lot more for my children. That first loss felt HUGE. And it was. I didn't know that it was just the beginning. I had no way, yet, of realizing how God would see us through and give us grace for that moment and every other trial and every other miscarriage that followed.

Sometimes I think about the young woman I was then. I remember the joy and the excitement of those early days and I wonder, if I could go back and talk to her, what would I tell her? The answer is -- nothing. I would let her feel that same happiness all over again. Ignorance is bliss, and I would never spoil that for her by trying to prepare her for the hardships and disappointments to come. I'd let her live right there in the security of that moment, enjoying the feeling that her dreams were about to come true.

I don't know whether the baby we lost was a boy or a girl, but I know that we had imagined ourselves with a couple of little girls... someday. Our favorite girl name was always Emily. I can say with certainty that, if that baby had been born here on earth and had been a girl, she'd be our Emily. We thought about using the name years later but it never felt right again. While we still loved it, we truly felt like our Emily had already come. We've given her the middle name Grace, because it was the beginning of one of the biggest lessons of grace we would ever receive. Through that time and everything that was to come, our gracious Lord held us in the palm of his hands. He already knew our story -- beginning, middle, and end -- and we had to trust that he was walking right along with us.

Emily Grace
Mommy and Daddy love you so much. You are our first child and the one who began to show us how much love we had in our hearts and how much we wanted to be parents. You were the beginning of a dream and a longing inside of us. We know that you are safe with Jesus, and we can't wait to wrap our arms around you one sweet day. We love you and miss you, sweet baby. 
Love, Mommy

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Calling Them By Name

I often look back on our experience with recurrent miscarriage. I still think about those precious little babies, all six, and wonder about what might have been. Recently I've been looking at it all again with fresh eyes. It has just been heavy on my heart and on my mind a lot in recent days.

This week I found the pregnancy journal that I started in 2002 and I've been reading through it. I actually started writing in it a few months before our first pregnancy, when we had first started trying to conceive. Of course, we had no idea there would ever be any problems. It was all coming from a very sincere and innocent place. I was excited and hopeful and I took a few minutes to write my feelings down in a journal, hoping to one day share them with our child.

After the initial excitement surrounding that first positive pregnancy test a few months later, what follows in the journal are pages and pages of heartbreak, rising and falling numbers, and expected -- then unfulfilled -- due dates. I used the little notebook (ironically, boasting a cheerful floral print on the cover) to record the whirlwind that we were wrapped up in for the next several years. I wrote quite a bit about events and also about feelings at first, but the feelings began to show up less and less as the years went on. It became more of a place to record data, mostly the cold, hard facts. Doctor visits, test results, surgery dates, HCG and progesterone levels, and Lovenox injections filled the pages, with some mention of our hopes and our fears sprinkled in.

But one thing is missing from those pages and from the entire experience, and it has always bothered me. We never named our babies.

It's not perfectly clear to me why we didn't give them names at that time. I think a big part of it is because we were kind of in shock. We still talk about that time as though we were living in a fog. The grief was so heavy and so consuming. All we could do was put one foot in front of the other. We kept trying and trying and trying, and we sought help as much as we could. We were desperate to figure out what was going wrong and why our babies kept dying. It wasn't AT ALL that they didn't feel real to us. Instead, it was so very real and so very painful that we couldn't allow ourselves to take that step. We thought about dates for a while but they began to add up and we distanced ourselves from trying to remember them because IT HURT SO MUCH. It was so difficult to process all of the miscarriages and all of the due dates and so many complicated feelings when we were right in the middle of it all. I think it was just too raw. The wounds needed time to heal.

I had my last miscarriage in January of 2007 and I was introduced to the world of blogging a little more than a year later. This blog was born in May of 2008 and it helped me so much as I worked to process everything that had happened. I didn't know if anyone would ever read anything I wrote, but I wrote anyway. I finally put words to the grief and the heartache that we'd been feeling. It felt great to write out all the sometimes dumb and sometimes insensitive things that people had said to us. And mostly it helped me begin to heal as I found a community of people who actually understood what I'd been through. I found people who also felt the anger, hurt, grief, and desperation... but they also felt the hope.

I truly believe that was a turning point for me. The fog began to clear. Around the same time, we sought help from a new fertility specialist and our hope was renewed somewhat. The next part of our story involved waiting. We didn't have another pregnancy until 2010, and that was the one that brought us Lily. Anna arrived two years later, and now she is more than half a year old. 

Time has passed. My husband and I have had lots of occasions to reflect on it all and to talk about it with some perspective now that we can look back on that time. A little bit of distance helps. And I think having our daughters has helped too. They remind us daily of how far we've come and of all it took to get here. They also remind us, in a way, of those precious six lives -- the babies who aren't here. Lily and Anna remind us how much we loved and wanted their siblings who came before them. We've just realized recently that now is the time to go back and fix something that we felt was left undone.

We've decided to give them names.

I don't know why, but the time feels right for us to do this now. A few weeks ago I asked Chuck to write down some names that meant something to him and I made my own list separately. We've compared notes and talked through it together, using the journal to help us remember details and how we were feeling at the time of each loss. I thought it would be nice, as a memorial, to write a post about each one of our babies individually. The first will appear at just the right time next weekend, if I can get it written in time, on the anniversary of our first miscarriage -- July 6. The posts won't always work out that way, but we thought it would be a good way to start. I want to share their names with you, too, here on the blog, if you'll indulge me.

It has been an emotional time to ponder all of these things. I can't remember the last time I had a good cry over all of it, but the tears have been flowing again this week as I've spent time focusing on our sweet babies and the memories surrounding our brief time with each of them. Oh, how I miss them! I wish more than ever that they could have stayed here with us but I know there will be such a sweet reunion someday in heaven, when I can finally see their faces!

And now, I'll look forward to finally calling them by name.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

All About Anna

Since Anna's birth in November, I haven't done much blogging at all. It's often on my mind, though, and I've been wanting to write a post that is all about Anna. I figured now would be a pretty good time to write out some things that are unique about her now that she has reached the ripe old age of six months. More than half a year has gone by already! Next week Anna will be seven months, so there's no time to lose!

As you know, our first daughter Lily is our "rainbow baby" -- our child who finally arrived after loss. She is the first baby we got to take home. Anna Evangeline is the second, and we consider them both miracles. I like to think of Anna as my "something extra" -- lagniappe, as we say in Louisiana. She's my icing on the cake and my precious "bonus" gift from God.

When my husband and I were newly married and for a few years after, we secretly always envisioned our lives down the road with two daughters. I don't think I ever wrote that here on the blog before and it's not something I tell lots of people. It's not that we preferred girls or would have been disappointed with boys. We had always been super close to our nephews. So much so, I think, that it already felt like we had our own sons! We were just a young couple allowing ourselves to dream and imagining what the future might hold. We had no idea what was to come. We never imagined our lives would be turned upside down over the next decade and our faith tested as we tried to have children and faced many obstacles and great loss. So, while we may have thought two girls would be our dream come true, we put that idea aside and focused on the present. We prayed and hoped for a child in God's timing. Boy or girl, it didn't matter one single bit. It never had, really, we came to realize. We knew we would have loved sons or daughters however the Lord decided. We just wanted the chance to be parents.

So when November 2012 came around and we were about to meet our second daughter, she felt like the last piece of the puzzle finally slipping right into place. We remembered those long-ago dreams of having two girls in the backseat of our car, or sharing a room upstairs, or staying up late giggling with each other just as I'd done with my sister. It felt like God was giving back what was lost. I don't mean the children we lost. No, they can never be and will never be replaced. But God restored a dream to a married couple who were afraid to hope that it could actually come true. He brought back that old dream we'd almost forgotten about and made it a reality. Two beautiful girls! We are still amazed.

And now, here are some specifics about my Anna.

There are some things that I guessed at and some things that I knew for sure during my pregnancy with her. I imagined her fairer than her sister, in coloring. It turned out that I was right about that. Anna's hair is lighter and she has the bluest eyes (which I know may still change), and her complexion is fairer like mine. Lily's eyes, even when they were blue in the early weeks, were always so dark. She has beautiful brown eyes now, which I also love, but Anna's are bright blue. I'm thinking that even if they change color, they'll probably stay lighter. (In case anyone is wondering, their daddy has hazel eyes and mine are green.)
The thing I knew for sure was that she would be strong. Mercy, is she ever. Anna was born weighing only about four ounces more than her sister did at birth, but she has consistently been bigger and more active.

At her six month checkup last week, Anna weighed 17 pounds, 11 ounces (75-80th percentile) and was just over 27 inches tall (90th percentile). Her sixth month has been pretty busy! In the last few weeks she has started sitting up all by herself and has now had a taste of rice cereal, oatmeal, bananas, carrots, and prunes. I've been fortunate to be able to breastfeed again this time around, so I still nurse several times a day and usually once during the night. This baby certainly loves to eat. Spoon feeding seems to have gone easier this time, but it may be because I started it a bit later than I did with Lily. Anna has for months carried on a love/hate relationship with her pacifier. You just never knew when she might want it and when it would just make her mad. That's kind of how she is about most things. Interestingly, she has recently decided that the paci is her friend. Silly kid!

My "Anna bear" (so far the only nickname that has stuck, besides what Lily calls her -- "Baby Anna") gives very sweet snuggles and drooly, open-mouthed kisses with her still-toothless little mouth. She likes ACTIVITY. I always joke that we need to hire a three-ring circus to keep her entertained. She is at her happiest when the house is busy with guests or when we are out and about (although not so much in the car). People always tell me what a happy baby she is, and it's true... but she's at her best when others are present! She tends to get fussy much faster when we're just at home and it's quieter. Anna loves attention and she loves being held. She has a huge smile, one of the things we most adore about her. She loves to be surprised with a "boo" or a "peekaboo" and she is very ticklish.

My baby girl is a pretty decent sleeper, but has surprised (and delighted!) us with a full night's sleep only a handful of times. We are hoping this will be part of her regular routine soon! We just moved her up to her own room and crib and out of the bassinet in our room a few weeks ago. She has adjusted pretty well but would much prefer it if we'd rock and hold her all night long. :) We never know how the night will go at this stage. Night before last she slept straight through, but last night we were up a few times with her. At six months she is taking usually three naps a day (which are now coming at predictable times).

One of my favorite things these days is watching my girls together. They love each other so much and seem happier when they are together. Anna loves to watch her big sister, and Lily has never been jealous of the new baby. Lily, who is shy upon meeting new people, will always use Anna as an ice-breaker, pointing to her and yelling, "There's baby Anna!" Of course, Anna is JUST coming to the stage where she can interact more and grab toys or cry when they are taken away, so Lily will have some adjusting to do! I hope they will learn to play well together and become good friends. Each and every night before bed we pray that Lily and Anna will love the Lord, love others, and love each other. At this stage it is incredibly sweet to see them loving one another.

Life is pleasantly full around our home lately. Motherhood continues to amaze me while also stretching and challenging me every single day. About two months ago I was (perhaps humorously to someone observing from the outside) frantically trying to balance potty training my two and a half year old and nursing my four month old, but we have settled in once again and adjusted to the new normal. After living with loss for so long, I'm humbled by this position and grateful for the opportunity.

To sum up, Anna is a precious addition to our family. We love her so much! The Lord gave us a sweet, wonderful, unexpected gift -- "something extra" -- when He gave us our Anna Evangeline. We pray that she'll always know just how special she is to us.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


It happens even when we're not paying attention, doesn't it? Growth. People grow and children grow.

Today my daughter is wearing a shirt that was mine when I was her age. It's from when my family (before my parents' divorce) visited Elvis Presley's birthplace in Tupelo, MS. I sent a pic of Lily to my mom today and she responded, "My, how time flies!" It does.

Last night I was watching a few videos of Lily from about a year ago. She has grown and changed so much that I was reduced to tears. I sat at the dining table and cried because it goes by so fast. You wait and hope and pray for a baby for so long and then realize that they're not babies for very long at all. Lately I'm trying to be more aware of this from day to day.

In March, my Lily turned two and a half. Six more months and she'll be 3.

My sweet little Anna turned 4 months old.

I know people like to say, "Enjoy every minute! They'll be grown before you know it!" There's some truth and some wisdom to that, but I know that it's impossible to enjoy every single moment. Let's face it; some moments are just not enjoyable! Certainly it takes lots and lots of practice to rejoice during difficult times, but lately during the moments when the sun is shining and everyone is happy and peaceful, I'm trying to take a deep breath and soak those moments in. Because I know how quickly they'll change. These little ones won't be little forever.

I don't think I ever had a really concentrated growth spurt when I was a kid, but my husband did. He remembers growing several inches taller during the summer between seventh and eighth grades, and he still has stretch marks around his knees from it. Most of the time, though, growth happens gradually. I believe that the Lord continually grows us and shapes us into who we're going to be. Our circumstances and experiences and choices all have an effect on it too.

Infertility has been a huge marker in my own life. I think when I look back even twenty years from now, it will always stand out as one of the biggest challenges, struggles, and yes, growth periods for me. It changed me in a way that nothing else could have. It affected nearly everyone close to me and shaped my family in unique ways. If my husband and I had had children a decade ago, I truly think we would parent in very different ways. (Lord knows, I would have a whole lot more energy!) But, as much as I would have loved to have skipped all the time we spent waiting and every bit of pain from recurrent miscarriage, that's not the way it went. We were meant to be parents right now, of these two precious girls who are in our care.

So, I'm thankful that God grew our family in His time. And I'm thankful that he continues to grow me as a person even though it hurts sometimes. Sometimes parenting makes my flaws become so glaringly obvious! But I'm learning. And growing.

Last week we visited our fertility specialist for what I'm pretty sure was the last time. It was my post-baby follow up visit and it really felt like closure to me on so many levels. In my heart, I'm just ready.

Ready to get off of the emotional roller coaster.
Ready to put that chapter of my life to rest.
Ready to let go of the pain and worry of trying to conceive.
And mostly, ready to grow with this family that we finally have without feeling grief from the past and anxiety about the future.

Infertility was never my friend. It will always be part of my life and part of my story, but it was an unwelcome guest. I'll never regret the lives of the babies who were with us for such a short time, the ones we never got to hold. They, like the lessons I learned, will be with me always.

But I'm finally looking forward to a future without infertility. It will be in my rear-view mirror from now on and...
That. Feels. Awesome.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Happy New Year (almost a month late)!

Hello friends! Thanks for the sweet comments about the birth of our second little miracle. Anna is doing great and will (already!) be two months old on Monday. She is a very sweet baby and is a joy to have in our family. We are thrilled that she is here, and that we have two beautiful daughters after such a long season of waiting.

Anna has a sweet personality, loves to be held and talked to, and loves to eat! She's a little butterball and is much chunkier than Lily was at this age. Fortunately Anna and I got off to a great start with breastfeeding and it is still going smoothly. Lily is adjusting well and enjoys being a big sister. She pretty much does her own thing most of the time, but she likes to help and occasionally asks to hold Anna or just stops by to hold her hand or give her a kiss. Having two girls is super sweet! I look forward to watching them grow together and form a special bond as sisters over the years.

Adjusting to two children 26 months apart has been a challenge for me as a stay-at-home mom. I LOVE being at home with my girls; it's just been a matter of trying to find (and being flexible with) an ever-changing new routine. Things are settling down now that we are two months in, though, and Anna has a pretty decent sleeping pattern. We have moved out of the zombie parent stage and are now just your average tired parents. :) Both girls are actually napping right now and my hubby is running errands. It still comes as a nice surprise when I have a bit of "free" time. I'm happy to be able to dust off the laptop and update the old blog this afternoon!

We had a busy but joyful holiday season and were fortunate to have our families come to us this time since we weren't keen on traveling with a newborn. Anna got to meet all of her immediate aunts, uncles, and cousins even though she hasn't made her first trip home to Louisiana just yet.

You might remember that I was diagnosed with melanoma last spring, right after we found out we were expecting Anna, and that I had surgery on my right arm last June. Just as an update, I had my 6-month checkup in December, which included a chest x-ray -- common after a melanoma diagnosis since it can spread to the lungs. My x-ray showed some spots on the right lung, so I had a follow-up CT scan earlier this month to check those out. Yesterday I heard that the spots are benign (thankfully!), but that they want to do an ultrasound of a suspicious-looking lymph node under my right arm. (Hopefully it's just due to the fact that I'm breastfeeding, but they are very thorough at this hospital and I'm glad!) I'll be scheduling that pretty soon. It's all still pretty standard and routine, but I continue to deal with this melanoma almost a full year later and am hoping to soon get the all-clear. I often remind people -- YOU! -- to keep a close eye on anything unusual on your skin and see your dermatologist for regular checkups. It's always better to catch these things early, and I'm so fortunate that it happened that way for me!

January always brings feelings of starting over, and I'm feeling that in many ways as we start 2013. We're settling into a new home with a new baby this January. And yesterday was my birthday, so I'm starting off a new year in that regard as well. Thirty-six years old, and life is looking so much different from how it looked just a few short years ago. We're sometimes stressed, oftentimes overwhelmed, but always, always THANKFUL and deeply JOYFUL for the gifts we've been given.

I wish you all a happy and healthy new year, and continue to pray specifically for those who are continuing along on the infertility journey. Please drop me a line, send an email, or leave a comment and let me know what's new with all of you!

Here are some family pics we had taken in early December to use for our Christmas cards. Hope you had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year -- even though it's almost February! :)