You Were Mine, Angel Baby

02.14.2015

Today is Valentine’s Day. A day to celebrate Love. Oh, how I love Love.

How I love the simple sweetness of spoiling my children with forbidden chocolate donuts at breakfast. I love helping them trace and cut and paste red paper hearts covered in silver glitter that you know I will be finding everywhere for the next week. I love the gleam in their eyes as they turn clumps of cold dough into warm, gooey chocolate goodness. And, oh, how I love the joy in their giggles when I tickle and chase them as we play. Yet, today, amidst all the love, my heart is sad.

Today my heart grieves the loss of a life that wasn’t meant to be.

Just over 5 weeks ago we discovered we were expecting what would have been our fourth child. Excited at our news, I eagerly created this announcement and sent it to our family and closest friends.

Aren't they precious?

Aren’t they precious?

I knew it was against tradition to announce my pregnancy so early. In fact, with our first 3 children we didn’t let the world in on our secret until we were clear of the first trimester. But this time, somewhere deep inside me, I felt this urgency to share our happy news with our tribe immediately. I rationalized that the reason most people refrain from spilling the beans so early is “just in case” something were to go wrong with the pregnancy. The way I saw it, if something did go wrong, I would need as much support as I could get. Funny, how the universe works.

Last week, at my first ultrasound, I learned that something had in fact gone wrong. I was measuring at only 6 weeks when I should have been (according to my meticulous calculations) over 9 weeks along. And while my gestational sac was fully formed, it was missing a crucial component – an embryo.

When the ultrasound technician first shares this information with me, I’m confused. I tell her I don’t understand what she’s saying. I’m not pregnant? But I took a test and it was positive. My period is late and there have been other signs, too. Sure, my morning sickness has paled in comparison to the first three, but I’m still getting it. This just doesn’t make sense.

The tech glides the wand over my bare belly…top to bottom, side to side, spreading the warm goopy gel over my abdomen as she shows me an empty oval on the monitor. Nothing’s there. There’s no white blob on the screen. No flicker of a heartbeat that should have been there weeks ago. Nothing but a big empty black hole. I was pregnant, alright, but there was no baby.

As the realization of what this means hits me, a single tear runs down my face. “Don’t cry just yet, dear, perhaps your dates are just off,” the well-meaning technician assures me. I feel the heat flush over my face as she finishes my exam and wipes my tummy dry. My dates are not off, I think to myself as I feel myself grow numb. This baby had not been an accident. This pregnancy did not happen by chance. Together, my husband and I had discussed this baby and planned its conception and we were excited to complete our family. That’s how I knew we were expecting before I even missed a period or felt that familiar sourness in the pit of my stomach.

You see, ever since the birth of our third child, I have felt as though I’m missing a child. I know it sounds strange and it’s rather difficult to explain, but it’s a feeling I’ve had since the day I brought her home – that our family is not yet complete. I remember sitting at the kitchen table that first week and having to re-count how many kids were seated with me about 3 or 4 times. I kept feeling like I was short one child and even imagined I heard a fourth one crying in another room on more than one occasion. (Now, before you start questioning my sanity, I’m well aware that these hallucinations were purely figments of my mind and more likely than not, the result of sleep deprivation. After all, I did have a newborn and 2 other children under the age of 3!) So I confided my feelings in my husband and after considering our children’s present ages and our future life plans, we decided that now was the time to have our last baby. I watched the calendar, I charted my cycle and I even kept track of our love-making for a spell. That’s how I knew.

I knew that my dates were not wrong. I knew that when I returned to the doctor’s office the following week, the technician would not find anything new.

I knew that we were going to lose this baby.

I knew as I sat in that little waiting room, waiting for the ultrasound technician to give my doctor her report. I knew as nurses walking past stopped to hand me a tissue or try to offer their assistance. I knew as a doctor that was not my own pulled me aside, told me my results were “not promising” and advised me to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. I knew as they scheduled my follow-up appointment and as they drew my blood to check my hormone levels. I knew I had to tell my husband; that he was going to be sad and disappointed. I knew there were others to tell after that, including my son whose face had lit with joy at the news of our impending new arrival. All of this, I knew, and so I wept.

I wept for days as I waited in suspense for my next ultrasound. My mind began to toy with me again and signs of postpartum began to show once more. I felt as though the impending miscarriage was my fault. That I caused it; that I could have prevented it. I felt like a failure for losing the life that was beginning to grow inside me. I felt as though I didn’t deserve another baby; that I was being punished for being a bad mother. I felt angry. Sad. Hopeless. Confused. Angry. “It’s not fair!” I pouted to myself. And the tears began to flood again.

{To be continued…}

Nutrition & Fitness – Week 1

I have a terrible diet, high in processed foods, caffeine, sugar and salt. My workouts mostly consist of juggling an infant with chasing a toddler. To correct this, I need to address a couple of different issues. My first challenge is to change the way I think about what I am putting into my body. Instead of merely eating whatever I feel like, I’m looking at food in terms of its nutritional value. Food is energy. Water is hydration. I need to make sure I am consuming the right types of foods in the right quantities to meet the demand of energy I use throughout the day. This is going to require making a lot of small changes to the way I eat.

Usually when I start a “health kick,” I clean most of the junk food out of the house and replace it all with food I think I should be eating. My logic is that when I am hungry I will reach for one of the better options. But the truth is that none of the healthy options are appealing, so I wind up leaving my good-for-me food in my organized and pretty kitchen and head to the nearest drive-thru. And if I won’t eat the healthy food in the house, you can be certain my husband won’t! This is clearly not setting the right precedent for our children. So, instead of trying to do a massive overhaul of our pantry and refrigerator in the beginning, I am slowly incorporating more “clean” whole foods into our meals, watching how much of the “bad stuff” I consume and increasing the amount of water I drink. My hope is that over time I will begin to acquire a taste for some healthier foods.

My second challenge is to use these better foods to make meals both my family and I will actually eat. Right now I am doing this by creating healthy “junk” food options. Basically, I make the same meals I normally do but replace some of the unhealthy options with healthier choices. For instance, this week I have made stir fry for dinner using brown rice instead of white and making my own sauce instead of a store bought sauce high in sodium and MSG. For breakfast this morning, I made omelets with coconut oil instead of margarine, real cheese instead of processed cheese product and had a whole-wheat pita instead of white toast. I know I’m not eating perfectly, but I also know I am eating way more nutritiously than I was last month!

Tools can be incredibly useful if you find the right ones. To help me get on the right track with healthy eating, I have started to use the Fooducate app for Android phones. I love this app! Simply scan the barcode of any product in a store or in your kitchen and the app will give you a grade from A to D. The grades are based on the nutritional content of the food as ranked by scientists, doctors and nutritionists. It also lists nutritional information, ingredients, alternate options, and reviews from other users for each food item. And if you scan an item that is not in the database, you can take a few pictures and send them on their way to Fooducate headquarters in an automatically generated email. It’s definitely a fave!

On top of eating better, I needed to start moving! I purchased a membership to my local park district and now have access to a swimming pool, gym and on-demand fitness classes. I also borrowed the P90X system from a friend. While I am certainly far from being able to complete the program in its entirety, I really enjoy using some of the DVDs in this collection to guide workouts at home when I have trouble getting to the gym. My goal is to spend at least 20-30 minutes a day, 5-7 times a week doing some sort of physical activity.

In addition to paying attention to the foods I’m eating and how much I’m moving, it’s crucial to have motivation and a good support system. My family has been amazing in this journey so far. My husband, younger brother and toddler son have taken to the changes in our eating habits with minimal resistance. My mom has been awesome at encouraging me to stick to eating healthy. In fact, she has even joined in on the journey with me! It has been fun seeing the whole family become a bit more active, too. All the boys have been to the gym at least once or twice this week, including our little guy.

After family and friends, the media is a wonderful resource for finding motivation and inspiration. Blogs, such as The Healthy Diaries and Thrive Style, are awesome places to learn great tips, spark your creativity, ask some questions, share your experience and/or just connect with similar minded people. And while it may seem like media is all about sex and violence these days, it is in fact still possible to find some positive messages out there, too. One such movie I’m watching on Netflix this week is called Hungry for Change and it has really inspired me to continue following the healthy eating path I’m on. I am also utilizing some nutritional knowledge acquired from watching Dr. Oz on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

I know these are only baby steps and I have a very long way to go, but I am feeling good that this week, I at least got started. It’s my life, and I am making things happen.

 

Determining where and how to start this project has been quite a challenge itself. I decided to begin with what I felt I had the most control over, my body. As the first week progressed into the second, I realized that I am not going to be able to isolate different areas of my life anymore. The idea of ‘holistic’ healing is that I am taking my whole being – body, mind and spirit – into consideration. Any change I make in one area of my life is going to affect me in other areas as well. If I am truly going to heal, I need to learn how to accept and acknowledge who I am on all levels, at all times. 

A Wife’s Prayer

Dear God,

Please help me to win my husband’s affection every day. Show me what I can to do remind him why he fell in love with me and why he loves me more each day. Help me to be the woman of his dreams, the woman he married, the woman he wants. Grant me the confidence in myself that I know he has in me. Guide me as I strive to make him happy every day. Please grant me patience in my thoughts, words and actions when I interact with the man I love. Help me find the strength and courage You have given me when I need to be his anchor.

Thank you for his love, support and encouragement. I am blessed to have found something so genuine in what we share and believe that what we have is truly sacred.

Lord, please forgive me when I sin against Our covenant. May I speak sweetly, love earnestly, fight fairly, and forgive always.

Amen

“God is what we need!”

The following was copied from a Facebook posting. The speech is attributed to Darrell Scott, the father of two victims of the Columbine High School tragedy. According to snopes.com, Mr. Scott did make this statement before a House subcommittee, but additional claims in the email that circulated this speech in 1999 are false. Still, it echos what I’ve been thinking and how I’ve been feeling on the subject of God and public school lately, so I have re-posted the statement here:

Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado, was invited to address the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee. What he said to our national leaders during this special session of Congress was painfully truthful.

“Since the dawn of creation there has been both good & evil in the hearts of men and women. We all contain the seeds of kindness or the seeds of violence. The death of my wonderful daughter, Rachel Joy Scott, and the deaths of that heroic teacher, and the other eleven children who died must not be in vain. Their blood cries out for answers.

“The first recorded act of violence was when Cain slew his brother Abel out in the field. The villain was not the club he used.. Neither was it the NCA, the National Club Association. The true killer was Cain, and the reason for the murder could only be found in Cain’s heart.

“In the days that followed the Columbine tragedy, I was amazed at how quickly fingers began to be pointed at groups such as the NRA. I am not a member of the NRA. I am not a hunter. I do not even own a gun. I am not here to represent or defend the NRA – because I don’t believe that they are responsible for my daughter’s death. Therefore I do not believe that they need to be defended. If I believed they had anything to do with Rachel’s murder I would be their strongest opponent

I am here today to declare that Columbine was not just a tragedy — it was a spiritual event that should be forcing us to look at where the real blame lies! Much of the blame lies here in this room. Much of the blame lies behind the pointing fingers of the accusers themselves. I wrote a poem just four nights ago that expresses my feelings best.

Your laws ignore our deepest needs,
Your words are empty air.
You’ve stripped away our heritage,
You’ve outlawed simple prayer.
Now gunshots fill our classrooms,
And precious children die.
You seek for answers everywhere,
And ask the question “Why?”
You regulate restrictive laws,
Through legislative creed.
And yet you fail to understand,
That God is what we need!

“Men and women are three-part beings. We all consist of body, mind, and spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc. Spiritual presences were present within our educational systems for most of our nation’s history. Many of our major colleges began as theological seminaries. This is a historical fact.

What has happened to us as a nation? We have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence. And when something as terrible as Columbine’s tragedy occurs — politicians immediately look for a scapegoat such as the NRA. They immediately seek to pass more restrictive laws that contribute to erode away our personal and private liberties. We do not need more restrictive laws.

Eric and Dylan would not have been stopped by metal detectors. No amount of gun laws can stop someone who spends months planning this type of massacre. The real villain lies within our own hearts.

“As my son Craig lay under that table in the school library and saw his two friends murdered before his very eyes, he did not hesitate to pray in school. I defy any law or politician to deny him that right! I challenge every young person in America , and around the world, to realize that on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School prayer was brought back to our schools. Do not let the many prayers offered by those students be in vain. Dare to move into the new millennium with a sacred disregard for legislation that violates your God-given right to communicate with Him.

To those of you who would point your finger at the NRA — I give to you a sincere challenge.. Dare to examine your own heart before casting the first stone!

My daughter’s death will not be in vain! The young people of this country will not allow that to happen!”

– Darrell Scott

Please share this with your friends!

From Fluttering to FLYing

Lately I have been working on establishing better routines for myself and my family. While I have had plans for said routines drawn for months, actually implementing them has been another thing altogether. One of my secret weapons for assisting in this area has been FLYLady.

What a discovery – this website is simply amazing! Marla Cilley (aka the FLYLady) and her ingenious team offer a complete system to help you learn to FLY (Finally Love Yourself) while clearing the clutter from your home and your life. FLYLady offers suggested routines, detailed cleaning lists, motivational daily emails and so much more. It  gives tips for simplifying even the most mundane household tasks, from grocery shopping and meal planning to everyday chores like dishes and laundry.

In addition, FLYLady focuses on on taking care of yourself as a woman. It encourages us to take care of ourselves from the inside out. From drinking your water and taking your vitamins each day to finding time to pamper yourself and strengthen your relationships, it seems the FLYLady has really thought of it all!

The best part of the entire system is the refreshing attitude the FLYLady passes on to her members. She encourages us to think of housework not as chores, but as blessing our family. When you start to look at it from this angle, keeping up with routines becomes that much easier.

I am grateful to have this great tool at my fingertips. It has helped me figure out how to take my baby steps on the path to becoming a better wife, mother and woman. What’s more is that I am starting to see this spread to other members of my family (my husband recently decluttered a significant portion of our garage because “the rest of the house is getting so clean, I just had to!”) Not only is my home becoming more organized, my life is becoming simpler and happier as well.

Thank you, FLYLady!

My Merry-Go-Round

Okay, so clearly I have a problem with consistency. I feel like I’m running in circles with my fists tightly gripping the bars of a merry-go-round that I can’t quite get the hang of riding. I know that the goal is not only to be able to ride the merry-go-round without falling off, it’s to be able to enjoy the ride, too. Attaining that goal is not as easy as it sounds. There are more factors at play than meet the eye. First, in order to get the ride moving, you have to put in the effort of getting it started. This requires holding onto the bars, taking a running start and then hopping onto the platform. Then, you get to spin around and around as the circulated wind rushes over your face. Eventually, the ride will stop unless the passenger hops off, runs with the merry-go-round and hops on again. That is, unless a fellow adventure-seeker comes along and then you can either work as a team to gain some serious speed, or take turns enjoying the ride while the other maintains its momentum.

[I can see how a merry-go-round is a metaphor for a lot of things in life.]

The merry-go-round in my life is a metaphor for living a balanced, happy and healthy life. In order to take the ride (or maintain balance in my life) I have to put in the work. For me specifically, this means following the routines it takes to keep up a healthy and happy life. This is what creates a stable and consistent home. My problem is that I did not grow up in the kind of home that want to create for my own family. This raises two issues. First, I never saw a positive example of what I am trying to achieve. It is hard to attain something when you aren’t exactly sure how to get there. Second, since I did see negative examples, I picked up on negative traits that are now deep rooted habits that prevent me from achieving the harmony I seek. Getting back to my metaphor, it’s like trying to learn how to ride the merry-go-round the right way when you’ve only witnessed it being ridden wrong or in ways that resulted in injury to the riders.

If I can create a rhythm of hopping off, running, and hopping on and practice until it becomes natural for me, then perhaps I will be able to maintain the consistency I’ve been attempting to reach. I am learning that I don’t always have to burn myself out trying to keep the merry-go-round moving. Sometimes, I run too fast and become short of breath, quickly wearing myself down. Other times, I am exhausted and barely move for too long , resulting in me growing lazy. Sometimes, I let everyone else crowd the ride and I try to do all the running myself. Even though the load is too large, I often refuse to ask for and/or accept help. Still other times, I stop doing the work and the merry-go-round slows to a complete stop. This is when I feel my life has become dull, lonely, and purposeless.

I am learning the tricks to maximizing my merry-go-round experience.
I’ve learned that “slow is steady and steady is fast” – there is no need to sprint; I need only keep moving. Like the Energizer Bunny I must keep going and going and going and going……. regardless of what life throws my way… rain, shine, snow or hail… just keep moving.
I’ve learned that I am going to have days where I fall off, grow tired, or make mistakes. There are also going to be days when I can run a little longer in place of someone else who needs it, enjoy the serenity of a solo ride on a warm, sunny day or help someone else figure out how to ride their own merry-go-round.
I’ve learned that it is okay to ask for help if it gets too hard to handle alone and to take my own turn at enjoying the ride while others do the running.
I’m learning it’s more fun to ride with others, and family and friends are your best co-riders.
I’m learning that through it all, God has got my back.

Personally, I’ve never been a fan of merry-go-rounds. I have never liked spinning in circles. Maybe it’s vertigo; spinning makes me dizzy and nauseous and faint. I could never figure out what it was about merry-go-rounds that people loved so much. I could not see how people get a rush from the feeling of freedom as they spin around and around. I couldn’t find fun in the hopping and running and hopping, then spinning and spinning and spinning. I couldn’t see past the “work” of it long enough to just enjoy the fun of it.

Lucky for me, I am learning to love the ride.

Discount Store Challenge

I cannot stand overpaying for things, especially for items needed around the house on a daily basis. Therefore, I typically like to make these purchases at discount stores. Of course, I also prefer quality items and products made in the U.S.A. Today I needed to stop at the store and grab a few things for the house. I ran to the local Dollar General and purchased the five items on my list.

On my way home, I found myself wondering if I should have waited to make the slightly longer trip to Walmart or if Dollar General was the better buy. This afternoon, I crunched the numbers to find out.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, the results are in!

Product

Walmart Price Dollar General Price

Savings

Febreze Fabric Refresher
Original scent

$0.18/oz

$0.21/oz

$0.81 per bottle at Walmart
Cottonelle  Fresh Care
Flushable Moist Wipes

$.06/wipe

$.05/wipe

$0.42 per pack at Dollar General
Palmer’s Cocoa Butter
Massage Lotion

$0.64/oz

$0.65/oz

$.09 per bottle at Walmart
Dial NutriSkin Replenishing
Lotion w/shea butter

$0.24/oz

$0.33/oz

$1.89 per bottle at Walmart
Dixie coated paper plates

$0.05/plate

$0.04/plate

$0.95 per package at Dollar General

Overall, I could have saved $2.32 by shopping at Walmart. Granted, this is only based on these 5 (all Made in America!) products, but it sure makes me wonder how much I would save on a full month’s worth of goods! Something tells me this experiment isn’t over yet.

UPDATE: I ended up making a trip to Walmart anyway, so I returned the Febreze, Palmer’s and Dial to Dollar General after purchasing the same products at Walmart. It turns out I saved even more by doing this, since Walmart was running a special on the Febreze. Not only did I pay just $0.11/oz instead of the $0.21/oz I originally paid at Dollar General, but the bottle had coupons attached for $15 of Febreze products. Yay, me. 🙂

Book of the Week Review — Family

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, M.D.

With over 450 pages, this is by far one of the most comprehensive guides on sleep for children I’ve come across to date. It is organized by both sleep issue and child’s age, making it easy to find a specific topic or all topics for a specific age category. There are two things that really stood out to me about this book.

The first is that the author, Dr. Marc Weissbluth, is not only an experienced pediatrician, but also a father and a leading sleep expert. His explanations of how sleep works, the importance of sleep, and the effects of poor sleep helped clarify his reasons for recommending the sleep solutions he does.

The second thing that stood out is that the book is written with the understanding that all families are different and no one solution will work for everyone. Dr. Weissbluth describes various ways of handling different circumstances and then offers his recommendation instead of only presenting the method he believes is best. I believe that the more educated a person is about a subject, the better decision they will be able to make. Comparing everything side by side helped our family select what works best for us.

Personally, I have chosen to follow the methods the doctor suggests in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. So far, we have been seeing an improvement in our son’s sleep. Both the quality and the quantity of his sleep has improved and I expect it to continue to do so, meaning our sleep improves, too — a definite plus!

I would definitely recommend this book to all parents, from those expecting their first to those struggling with sleep issues with their last. It is chock full of wonderful advice and information, supported by numerous credible and varied sources.

Teach an old dog new tricks

As I was driving to school today, a quote I had read somewhere resonated in my head: “You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” I read this a while ago but it didn’t really hit too close to home for me. My initial thought was that pretty much the only thing I “repeatedly do” lately is be inconsistent. Not until today did I make the connection.

I am what I repeatedly do. Actions that are repeated again and again form habits. Therefore, in order to be healthy, I have to repeatedly act in healthy ways – form healthy habits. The opposite of this, being unhealthy, obviously means acting in unhealthy ways, thereby forming unhealthy habits. What was not so obvious to me at first is that inconsistent “attempts” at healthy behavior is actually just as hurtful to my cause as blatantly unhealthy behaviors.

It has been easiest for me to see this when I watch the reflection of our parenting skills in our son’s behaviors. For instance, though it was never really “decided” for or against it, after Bug was born, so was the family bed in our house. It was so nice when he was nursing to have him right within arm’s reach, to be able to feed him and resettle us both for the next short stretch of sleep. It certainly had its perks. Now, though, we’ve decided it’s best for our family to have the baby in his own crib at night. Mommy and Daddy need their space back, thank you… especially with our second on the way. This is an issue we’ve been struggling with for a few months now. I have been checking out books from the library and Google-ing various methods of transitioning him. We hate to hear our little boy cry so of course we tried all the “no-cry” methods we came across, with no success. The past couple of nights we have tried the extinction method and he actually has cried less and slept more than with the other methods. The trouble with the no-cry methods is that I would wear down before him, break consistency and give in and bring him back to our bed, thereby reinforcing the same habit we are trying to break. This goes to show how important consistency is to developing healthy behavior patterns.

As for me, the patterns that I have developed in my own life are mostly habits I learned as a child. Clearly, if I am exhibiting unhealthy behavior, then I am repeatedly making unhealthy choices similar to those I made as a youth. What I need to do now is relearn the poor habits I learned when I was younger and turn them into good habits.

Of course, philosophical revelations are lot easier had than done. This is where the trouble starts… Then again, maybe it’s where the fun begins.