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.