When your friend wants a baby

When your friend wants a baby

If you have a baby, or baby news, and your friend doesn’t, and wishes she did, here are some thoughts / ideas / tips to help your relationship arrive safely on the other side:

Know that she IS happy for you and your news. Know also that she will cry so hard into her husband’s shoulder that her whole body will shake. But do know that she IS happy for you and your news. At this time you will want to feel many layers of guilt and possibly avoid this friend. Don’t. “It will be for her own good, I don’t want to make it worse for her, I don’t want to rub it in.” You will tell yourself. Don’t let guilt cloud the situation. That makes it all about you, and you already get to have a baby when she would do anything to be in your shoes. Instead, just understand that she IS happy for you, and that this is also very hard for her. I always appreciated when friends told me ahead of the public, or online extravaganza that they were having a baby. I thought it was nice to receive the news via text (or email or some messenger app du jour), so that I could cry it out (as infertility is a cycle of grief, little monthly deaths where you wish there was life), take a deep breath, and respond sincerely, telling my friend how overjoyed I truly was for them.

Know that it may take her a minute, or a few days to respond. You’re going to be pacing the living room with your phone in hand, wondering if you did the right thing by telling her that you’re pregnant. You did. I want you to hear this: you shouldn’t have to apologize for your joy any more than she should have to apologize for her grief. Just know, too, that it’s her deepest and most painful desire to get pregnant, to hold their baby, to not need to endure one more shot, so when someone is presenting her with this sweet news, it’s hard for her to not look down at her own belly and wonder why not her. It’s not just the momentary announcement that stings either. It’s everything: she’ll soon get to go shopping for maternity pants and experience the phenomenon of a growing and soon to be kicking fetus, she’ll soon get to act surprised when her husband brings her chocolate cake because he caught on to her (not-so-subtle) hints that that’s what she’s been craving. She’ll soon get to know the gender, scribble down name ideas, decide how to decorate a nursery, experience the surreal experience of childbirth, look at a face they created, and hold and raise their own. It’s all of that. It’s everything she wishes she could have, and experience. So if it takes her a minute to see past all of that, and respond by saying how happy she IS, that’s okay. She’s earned it.

Know that maybe the baby shower will be too much for her, so she’ll choose to sit it out. Please, please still invite her. Know that even when she stays home she’ll wish she were there. She’ll want to be there for you, not home crying into the crook of her arm on the couch. She’ll know that everyone’s dressed up and laughing over an assortment of little donuts and “momosas”, having fun while she’s not. Normally she’s the social one, but this social circle comes with the warning of a sharp pain that starts in her stomach, right where she wishes a baby would grow.

Know that not only is Mother’s Day hard, the weeks leading up to it are hard. There’s so much hype. Women are honored, they get little pasta necklaces made by little hands, and they get to pick where they want to go for lunch. They get showered with confetti and cards for something she’d feel special enough just to call her own, even without the celebration. They carry a title and a child that she dreams of carrying. Know that she feels isolated on a day like this. She stays home from church to avoid having to face what has happened for others and not for her. It’s hard to stand in a room full of mothers at church on any given Sunday, singing of the goodness and faithfulness of God, let alone on a day where the beauty of motherhood is center stage. And for the record, struggling to sing of the goodness and faithfulness of God does not mean that she doesn’t believe it. It just means that her faith is growing and it hurts. Maybe it will be stronger than it ever was. Trials tend to have that reputation, if we allow God to use them.

I was blessed more than I even realized at the time, to have a friend like Kari (5,418 miles apart) who didn’t push, beg, or plead for me to come to her baby shower. She understood that it would have been too hard for me to be there, surrounded by the hope and excitement of a baby, and unable to fake or hide how I felt. She cared about what made me cringe, what made me feel left out, and what made me cry over and over again. She wanted to understand the place of grief we were in, having gone through many years of infertility and failed embryo transfers. She and her husband weren’t shy about asking how we were doing, or to inquire about what was next for us in our treatment plan. That meant the world to us.

It’s okay to not understand someone else’s grief. There are people who hold scars and who are in places of pain that I can’t imagine. And I don’t have to pretend to understand. In fact, too many words can sometimes cloud good intentions. Sometimes just saying, “Thinking of you” or “I’m so sorry”, or sending yellow daisies goes a really long way.

Maybe those daisies are for a friend who wishes she had a baby, or maybe they’re for a friend who just took the risk and told you, even in your own season of pain, that one is coming for her. Let’s work hard and go above and beyond to love one another in our grief, and in our joy, and even when we can’t even imagine what that must be like.

These daisies are for you, Kari.
The storm and the hospital

The storm and the hospital

The storm is raging outside my window. Or at least, that’s how it feels. It feels and sounds intense, when really it’s just now starting to pick up. There’s talk of hail. There’s talk of a tornado. All I hear is some heavy rain on the window, and beating down on those giant roof fans.

I remember the very first night with Noella, just the two of us in our hospital room. It rained on a hot summer night, and I saw it from fresh eyes. The eyes of a new tender mom holding her baby, whispering quietly that it’s God who sends the rain. And little blessings wrapped in pink and white striped blankets.

21 months later, and here we are in room 321 with our second daughter. She’s 14 weeks old and she’s struggling. The nurses are concerned. When someone who is in charge of caring for and helping your daughter, someone who has more answers and experience and knowledge than you, looks concerned, you panic. It’s that deep pain and nausea mixed together in the pit of your stomach. It’s raw fear and worry is what it is.

It’s 3am and I stand at the window, pacing back and forth, back and forth, in my pajamas, watching the rain, unsure of what else to do. I feel so helpless seeing Shilo in her baby jail crib, in a very deep sleep, not wanting to move or wake. The little orange and white striped pjs with the pineapple on the front, that she was wearing when we came into the ER the night before, are now tossed aside and she’s wearing nothing but a diaper and lots of wires taped to her body. “A baby should be in comfy soft pjs”, I think to myself, trying to get out of the way as nurses come in and out.

I watch the rain pick up, and I plead with God to help her. One of her airways is blocked and her numbers blink orange on the screen. I learn that ICU is also monitoring her, and they call from a different floor. “Open her airways, God!” I beg. Her oxygen just keeps dropping, and her breathing is very labored.

I begin to pace even faster, expanding my circle 8 path so I can cover more ground in my state of anxiousness. I hear the nurses talk as they try different things. I start to cry but I try not to let them see. Now is not the time to distract them. Shilo needs help right now. I’m aware how fast things can turn, and I’m vividly aware of how bad things can get when little lungs struggle. I pray. I cry. I text Shawn who’s at home with Noella, and I wonder how they’re both doing in this storm. Did they lose power too? Is Noella afraid? I know I am right now.

Because of the storm, and not knowing how bad it could get, there’s talk of trying any and all necessary manipulations on Shilo in case they need to send her to Cook’s Children’s hospital. My mind really starts to spin, because to me this is them preparing for the worst case scenario. Cook’s is 3 hours and 38 min away from here. What would that mean? How would we get her there? What would they do there that can’t be done here? Pace. Cry. Beg. Text Shawn. Pace. Cry. Beg. Text Shawn. Someone mentions the word ventilator and I feel like my throat is closing.

It’s now 4:30am. I wish morning would come. Things seem less scary in the daylight somehow. Concern is still there. Shilo is still struggling. I have a long talk with Shawn on the phone once the team of nurses leaves the room. Her doctor has been called, surely awaken from deep sleep.

Shawn’s scared too. He wishes he was with us. We pray together. He has asked me this before in scary situations, “Can God be trusted?” and while the answer is always “YES”, it’s a hard, hard question to answer when you’re in the middle of it. Whatever “it” is at the time. Yes he can be trusted, but the deeper question comes to the surface of my mind, “What if I trust him and he still allows my greatest fear to come to pass?! WHAT IF.”

How do I trust? How do I occupy my mind? How do I not obsess over the low and lowering numbers on the screen? It was a long night. But God was gracious and Shilo’s home now and doing really well. She’s wearing fleece zip up pjs again (as babies should), and trying so hard to roll over for the first time.

I realize I’ll probably spend much of my life knowing that “YES!” I trust God, but still, in my humanity, I’ll go back and forth battling the “WHAT IF?!” he allows the unthinkable to happen.

He’s still faithful, and that’s what we will cling to.

The storm is over, Shilo’s home, and we’re so very thankful.

Motherhood and a faithful God

Motherhood and a faithful God

Even though I’m still new at this gig, I’ve found that every day motherhood is a clash of realities, and a battle of the flesh. One minute I’m so blown away by the love I have for these girls that I could just sit on the kitchen floor and happy sob for the rest of my life. I look at the dimples on their little hands, I hear the unique rhythm in their laughter, I see Shawn slow dance with them, and I’m overwhelmed at the sheer joy of what is. I am overwhelmed that the dream came true, and that this is our life. Five-seven minutes later, I’m surprised by my own frustration and my impatience. My flesh is having to choose to keep my cool or respond the way that makes sense when someone smears peanut butter in their freshly Johnson & Johnson-ed hair and practices saying “NO”, whining, and rolling their eyes. Choosing to respond well, walk by the spirit, AND set an example for two girls that are future adults, can be mentally and physically exhausting when you’re only human. (Shawn loves to say, “Excuse me for being human. It’s a great ice breaker in many a’ situation.)

When there are days that stretch me, challenge me, make me doubt, and wonder if bedtime is near, I am reminded that miracles and hope are alive in this household. And that God is with me. Shawn and I are not alone in this feat of raising little girls, this clash of realities, or this battle of the flesh.

The other night at church we were all asked to silently say to God, “You are wonderful because _____ “. My instant response was, “Because you never fail us.” The response was so quick, so clear, and so real, that I knew that it didn’t come from me. It was like the spirit of God brushed past me ever so gently, whispering in my (sometimes-exhausted-still-a-new-mom, but-two-under-two-and-in-the-game) ear, that it almost made me cry. The goosebumps were a vivid reminder that I’m not alone, and that a faithful God is on my side, cheering for me, and giving me everything I need… if I just look to him, and stop striving in my own efforts.

Through it all – infertility, loss, heartache, adjustment, doubt, fear, failure to love like we want to, learning the hard way, God is with us. He’s there to offer comfort when needed. He’s there to offer wisdom when needed. He’s there to offer guidance when needed. He’s there to offer grace, so that we can offer grace.

And THAT is what makes motherhood, and long days with these two beautiful girls all the more lovely. Because it’s not all up to me. It’s me walking with a wonderful, powerful, live, active, real God who has never once failed.

And ps- God’s also wonderful for giving us these two girls. We asked and we asked, and he responded. How faithful he is.

Community, food, the deeper question

Community, food, the deeper question

They asked about when we got evacuated from Guinea. Nobody ever asks about that. I forgot to mention that the shooting continued every night for a few days. I forgot to mention how I wanted to hide but I also wanted to see the hundreds of people running for their lives on the railroad tracks below our building, being herded like cattle, the military shooting their guns into the air. It was hard to look away. Shawn stayed on the balcony and watched. I hid in the bathroom and occasionally looked out the little rectangular window when my curiosity got the best of me. Nobody talks much about how the culture in West Africa is so different from here, and how for six years our lives were so different. But last night they did. Last night my friends asked about Africa, and IVF, and what brought us to San Angelo as we ate nachos and guacamole and queso and little shrimp appetizers at one house, and tacos at another, and dessert at another. (Progressive Dinners just may be my love language. Food and seeing people’s houses, and riding together and visiting, and more food… yea to the yea.)

I asked about her rainbow babies. She told me about the blood transfusion. There were tears over tacos.
She told me about how she moved here knowing nobody. Not one soul. I told her I could 100% relate. And remembering those first few months and how hard they were, not knowing a soul, and now looking around and seeing friends and community just made me so thankful for the tangible answer to many prayers.

I say let’s have more parties and dinners with people, but while we’re at it, let’s ask the deeper question. Maybe ask about the loss because everyone else is afraid to. And because even though there may be tears, talking about it validates the heartbeats that were. Ask about their marriage and how they met. Ask about how their military career has been, and would they do it again if given the chance to have a do-over?
I was so, “Mehhhhhhh, idk.” About joining mops because I’m new to this mom gig, and I’m definitely not the “Wife, Mom, Boss” or “Chaos Coordinator” t-shirt wearing kind of person. And I feel like there’s more to life than talking about kids and kid stuff, so the last thing I wanted to do was talk nap schedules and weaning timeframes. Hard pass. But then I realized that it’s helpful to know what other people are doing, and what works and doesn’t. (Since we’re all just giving this our best shot anyway…) And with time I learned that all these “moms” are cool people who happen to have kids and backgrounds and that this was a community that I needed.

And when you can provide community and food: I’m all in.

My friendships and community have looked different over the years, but God has always been faithful to provide.
Write it down

Write it down

I have lots of journals, but I’ve never really been a big “journaler”. It’s too much pressure to try and think back on the day, and sum up the good and the bad, and spell things right (not even kidding, I just spelled that “write” – case in point), to find the time, and not get a hand cramp because who even writes any more anyway. And to be a “journaler” just felt a little too dorky and a little too rule follower for my personality. Although somehow being a blogger isn’t. Perplexing, I know.
But I saw a quote recently that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. “Eat Cake for Breakfast”. Nope, that wasn’t it. Well, that was one of them I guess. That quote, that life motto, I should say, always seems to cross my mind. Because I love cake and I want it always. No, the quote I’m talking about here in this journal entry  blog post was, “Write it down. You think you’ll remember it, but you won’t.” GAHHH! They’re right! (Not “write”. The English language lost its mind a long time ago.) They’re right that in the moment when you see that Noella’s toddler ankles are too fat for the zipper to zip on her boots that you could never forget anything so adorable. Or when she attempts to say “elephant” for the first time. Or when she laughed and squealed at the sight of a swing. Or when she stood by the snacks table at the birthday party, channeling her daddy’s introverted side. Or when she tried to give her sister a drink from her sippy cup. Or when she gets it in her mind for the first time ever to attempt to get on the couch by herself. You think you’ll remember something so cute and awkward. With her long lashes over her determined eyes, and her whale spout ponytail bouncing around as she hoists her leg up in another failed attempt to get up on the couch. It’s something we do a billion times all our lives, sitting on a couch, and we think nothing of it, but I bet no one recorded or remembers your first clumsy attempt to get on a couch.

I feel like I’ve been more aware than ever that life is one million Tuesdays that pile up. I say Tuesday because it’s kind of the blah whatever day to me for some reason. It’s a million comments (the good, the bad, the regrettable, and the ones that make you fall in love all over again), it’s a million “want to try that new taco place?” (<--- file under "make you fall in love all over again, amiright.), it's lots of "made baked beans for small group", "felt anxious bringing the baby out in flu season", "got a Redbox", "Shilo starting to smile", "our picky eater just wants cheese", "fed Shilo at 3am and 7am", "Shawn grilled chicken", "Noella drug a pile of toys and clean laundry around the house in a laundry basket", "apologized for being critical", "Shilo with her baby fists by her face", "Pee on the couch", "Walked with the neighbor", "Shawn playing Euchre", "Shilo hanging onto my shirt while nursing", "Shawn's day off", "beef stroganoff for dinner", and so many other little things that become big because they're your life. And those are the kind of things I'm trying to remember to jot down. Nothing seemingly big. And yet they're everything. And it's up to me if I want to jot down three sentences about the day, or write two pages. Do it because you want to remember, not because you have to. Do it because you probably won't remember Shawn smelling so good in his green dress shirt as he heads off to work and how now your pj shirt smells like his cologne, or Noella saying "down please" when she wants up, or the way Shilo has hair and cheeks for days and is the biggest snuggle bug in her 3 month hand-me-down pjs at seven weeks of age. Write about the hectic evening hour before bed, how Noella thinks she has to say a word 6500 times in a row to be heard (dear baby Jesus OKAY! HONEY! I HEAR YOU!) and how you did, in fact slay the day by doing all the laundry, but oops... no dinner. Write it down. Or blog about it. Whatever. Either way, you'll be glad you did.

Things I wanted

Things I wanted

I wanted to feel that flicker of life in my belly.
When other pains came into my life, I dreamt of a pain that would result in new life. I could handle anything, I thought, if pain had a reward at the end.
I ached to see the growth, and see it on the screen in a blurry black and grey image.
I wanted to watch his face as I felt pain on behalf of us, and our future.
I wanted to know what it felt like to be hours, or even moments away from a rush of emotion and joy and blood and tears, as new life entered the world.
I wanted to hold that fragile little being and know that they were ours.
I wanted to see what my body was capable of.
I wanted to watch him bring me a can of Dermoplast and a large hazelnut latte because he’s cool like that.
I wanted to see the pride on his face.
I wanted to experience his tenderness in helping me get up to walk for the first time.
I wanted to hold my breath as he held our baby for the first, and for the 200th time.
I wanted to feed my baby skin to skin.
I wanted to know chaos in the form of an 18-month-old asking 200 times in a row for a drink of water, while the other decides to make the ‘witching hour’ a nightly tradition.
I wanted him to watch me become a mom, not just sit by me (as sweet as that was in its own way) as we grieved the babies that weren’t.
These were things I wanted so desperately for so long. And because God is so kind and so good, these are all things I’ve experienced. Twice now.

I wanted him to hold my hand
A month of staring at you

A month of staring at you

I stare at you, and I stare at you, and I’ve stared at you for a month now and I can’t believe you’re here.

I hold you in one arm in Shawn’s big been-around-longer-than-me recliner, and Noella (plus her big teddy bear, plus her little white bunny, plus Minnie Mouse) in the other arm, and I can’t believe we have two daughters. I can’t believe this is reality, and that God aligned back to back miracles to come into our lives.

Don’t doubt God. He’s capable of big things. He’s at work when we can’t see it. He’s good beyond our earthly definition of good. He’s a miracle worker.

Shilo Hope, you’ve been with us for one month already, and we’re so glad you’re here.

Now, let’s go rock with sister and the gang in the recliner. Okay? Okay.

Love is an adventure

Love is an adventure

Living the adventure in West Africa.

Our love is an adventure. One that God orchestrated.
It began as an adventure: meeting in Bolivia, driving in a bus loaded down with luggage, leaning too close for comfort to the edge, seeing missions first hand, seeing a dense jungle, and people sleeping under tarps tied to banana trees, and eating cow utter. Yes, cow utter. It tasted like a sponge. It tasted nothing like chicken. Thanks for asking.
Many Valentine’s Days ago, you sent me a three-page handwritten letter asking if a guy like you could ever have a chance with a girl like me. You took the risk and poured your heart out. And the fact that it arrived on February 14th was all God. That letter kick started the adventure. One that in 16 moves brought us all over the world, and back again.

The adventure included long waits in the doctor’s office, wondering what the protocol would be after another failed attempt at IVF. It included nerve-wracking flights and trips on ferries to get to our home in the village, in the southern region of Senegal. It’s included “in sickness and in health”, lessons on being the first to apologize, the first to forgive, and the relationship bonding power of making fun of each other.
The adventure has included dodging tear gas, (many) language faux pas, mountains, beaches, and volcanoes.
Today it includes two beautiful daughters who you call Buddy and Spike. (Which I think is so adorable because they sound like two bikers you met downtown as opposed to two sweeties in matching heart pajamas.)
The adventure looks different now. It’s one we fought hard for. It’s showing one girl how to use a spoon, while swaddling another. It’s one of less sleep (no rest for the with kid) and one of diapers and feedings and so much joy. It’s an adventure we wouldn’t trade for anything.

What a beautiful adventure it is.
Side by side

Side by side

We’ve been side by side through a lot.
Flying over the Andes Mountains on a small five-seater airplane in Bolivia on our way to a remote village in the Amazon, moving to Quebec (and its five feet of snow) in our car and learning French, arriving in Conakry, Guinea after a 24-hour international journey, not knowing where we’d sleep or live once we arrived. Evacuating from our home in Guinea in a few days’ time, going through years of infertility and heartache together, living in an African village for a year (and all that entails…), 16 moves, welcoming our first daughter into the world, and now, side by side documenting this time of anticipation for the birth of baby girl #2.

There’s no one I’d rather have by my side.

Hope on the gloomy days

Hope on the gloomy days

Maybe darkness isn’t just in extreme sadness or difficulty, but in gloomy days, in the dog chewing up the ropes and ruining baby’s swing, in dropping raw eggs on your clean rug, on breathing treatments and nebulizers and waiting two hours to pick up your prescriptions. Maybe it’s in those moments of doubt and wondering if you’re cut out for this, in wondering why dinner isn’t planned yet. Maybe darkness is in questioning your worth. Maybe it’s in congestion and runny noses and sore throats and bills and dishwashers breaking. Perhaps it’s in those big and little inconveniences that throw you off your game.

Our culture presents Christmas time with a pressure for perfection, hallways and mantels lined with evergreen and berries. And good gosh, if there’s raw egg on your clean rug, and you’re asking God to help your baby breathe better, how can we soak in the magic of the season, with violins playing Silent Night in the background?

Here’s how: we remember that the mess never intimidated Jesus. Not then, in that dirty foreign place where he was born, and not here and now in our world. He’s not intimidated by the mess in your world, in your living room, with the laundry and the noise and the sinus pressure and your struggle to find your place. He sees our doubts and pressures and he whispers hope into our being. He whispers purpose because in him we have what we need. He came to be our joy so we don’t have to find it in ourselves or this shattered world that leaves us feeling empty. He came to be the solution. He came to save us from the darkness that we were born into.

This is the good news that makes us want to turn on the Christmas tree lights and let them shine brilliantly into the street for all to see.

No matter what the day holds, or how gloomy the day may have been, there is hope and joy because JESUS HAS COME.