You lose a baby. Then what? Life doesn’t just stop. Your grief doesn’t just go away. Days pass. You somehow keep going. Things get easier. Your grief comes up every day but it doesn’t tear you down the way it used to. You’re stronger. You’re braver. You’ve grown to know your grief. You manage it better than you did at first. But just when you least expect it, every now and then it will still bring you to your knees.
New hope emerges. It seems like it’s been forever. Forever since you felt that feeling. The feeling of hope and excitement and giddiness, and all that comes with the thought of a new baby.
You see those two pink lines again. God is telling you to hang in there. You are scared to death. With each doctor’s appointment there is so much anxiety. So many nerves. But with each month that has passed, you start to believe this could actually happen.
You really don’t truly believe this baby is real until you hear that first cry… or until you feel that first latch. Everything about this is different. You notice every moment. You feel every touch. You take in every smile, every milestone. This baby is real and here and you just can’t get enough. You notice every little crevice and roll in those chunky baby legs. Every diaper change. Every bath. Every time he wakes you up. Every giggle. Every smile. You don’t have any other care in the world when he’s looking at you with those big round eyes.
There is something truly special about a rainbow baby. This baby isn’t a replacement. The memories of before are still there.. but this baby reminds you that there is hope. There is joy again. And it’s that much sweeter.
I write this as I sit here waiting to go into labor. It could be any minute or it could be days. My impatience and anxiety are growing yet I am trying to treasure every last moment. I have all of the third trimester things right now… my body hurts, I spend most of the time going to the potty, I can hardly breathe anymore, and don’t even think about asking me to bend down! But through all of that I am constantly reminding myself how lucky we are and the road that brought us here.
It was the fall of 2018 when we decided maybe another baby was in the cards for us. We have a big family and we wouldn’t trade it for anything. We are literally made up of his, hers, and ours. Gene (my husband) and I each had two children before we got married and in 2015 I gave birth to our son Brady. That pregnancy was a dream. It went by fast and everything about it was easy until my placenta wouldn’t deliver. My ob had to manually remove it but that was the worst thing that happened during our entire pregnancy and delivery so hey, not bad for our first try at babies!
Fast forward to December 2018. I saw those two pink lines on a pregnancy test that told us we were going to be parents again! I called and made the confirmation appointment a few days later, only to be let down later that same day when I started bleeding. They told me it was a chemical pregnancy and if I hadn’t been tracking my periods I wouldn’t have even known the difference. There was no sac. No baby.
I was heartbroken. I had gotten super excited already in just the few days that I thought I was growing a tiny human again. December came and went and with it we lost our beloved pet shih tzu of 8 years as well. December was a whirlwind of emotions and sadness but wouldn’t compare to what was coming.
We got pregnant again on our next cycle. Wow! We started telling ourselves all the things you say when something positive comes after tragedy. This is meant to be! God works in mysterious ways! There’s always light after darkness! We just needed to be patient! All the things.
Later in January, we went for an ultrasound at 9 weeks. There was our little bean on the screen! My palms were sweating. Gene looked like he was going to pass out. Something wasn’t right. No heartbeat. To say we were devastated is an understatement.
I had birthed 3 babies with no complications. How could this be happening now? Was something wrong with me? Were we only meant to have Brady and that was it? Should we just be grateful for the beautiful family we have? So many unanswered questions. So much doubt. So much guilt. So much heartache.
I chose to get the D&C because honestly I just couldn’t bare to go home and sit and wait for my dead baby to literally leave my body.
Just when I thought my body was starting to recover, two weeks later on Valentine’s Day, I was in my classroom having a Valentine’s party for ten bright eyed third graders when blood started gushing down my legs. This is graphic so if you don’t want to know the details, skip over this next paragraph!
I went to the teacher bathroom and was passing softball size blood clots. I managed to waddle outside of the bathroom to the phone to call my mom who also works at school to come to me. We ended up going straight to the Women’s Center where I was admitted to (of all places) the Labor and Delivery floor for the next three days.
I had to walk the halls so the clot would pass while listening to newborn babies cry and watching pregnant mamas prepare to meet their unborn babes. There are no words. It was a huge setback.
The following months we tried to get back to “normal.” Finally summertime came and we enjoyed life again, spending more time in the sunshine and with family. Time was healing us.
July 2019 was a good month. In August, I saw those two pink lines again! Only this time I didn’t get too excited. I didn’t freak out like I wanted to. I didn’t tell the world that we were expecting again.
We went for an ultrasound at 12 weeks. Scariest. Day. Of. Our. Lives. Everything was fine! Baby bean was growing. From then on I never got comfortable but I was hopeful. We found out at 20 weeks that I had a low lying placenta. They assured us it would correct itself and it did. We decided that we weren’t going to find out the gender. This was our surprise rainbow baby.
When you are pregnant after experiencing a miscarriage, anyone who has been through this will tell you that there’s always a trickle of doubt in the back of your mind. Even at 38 weeks pregnant, the moment you notice you aren’t feeling baby move will send you into a frenzy. You will be nervous for every single prenatal appointment. You will continue to think “Is this real?” You will pinch yourself just to make sure.
Time is a funny thing. When I look back on this journey in particular, I think about how I felt then. How I couldn’t see past my grief. I couldn’t believe that I could get past that empty feeling. I didn’t think I would ever feel like myself again. Grief never really goes away but it changes.
I think about the baby we lost every day. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wonder what life would look like today if that baby was here. Was she a girl or a boy… would she have had red hair and big brown eyes? She or he would be 8 months this week.
So we made it this far. We are at the end of this pregnancy. Just when we think, “We did it!,” a national pandemic hits the US. Coronavirus. One baby shower cancelled and a change in birth plans… leaves us with no birth photographer and our other children won’t be able to visit us in the hospital. This has tried to bring us down. The anxiety and fear that has set in surrounding this virus has been overwhelming. We are nervous about being in the hospital where there are known cases. We are worried the baby, or any of our kids, will get it and have to go receive treatment without us by their side. It is terrifying. But we will not let this ruin what we have waited so long for. This happiness. This joy.
We are only days (maybe hours!) from meeting our rainbow baby. We are overcome with excitement and gratefulness. Our entire story has led up to this. And I know this isn’t where our story ends and I am nervous about how our delivery will go! We are praying for a healthy baby.
Maybe it’s a “thirties” thing.. but you begin to see your life as a novel God has written for you. There’s a setting and a plot… even characters. There are chapters. There is heartache and tragedy. Love and happiness. We are starting our next chapter and it just feels right.
I’m not superwoman. I’m not a miracle worker. I’m just a mom who likes a clean home… and likes the value it brings in raising our kids!
I’m not going to lie.. there are days and times when it’s NOT the neatest. Muddy footprints. Dog hair. Spilled milk. Pencil marks on the wall. You name it.. our kids have probably done it.
So when I say I’m a mom who likes a clean home… I do… but I work my butt off cleaning up after everyone on a daily basis. (And have come up with a whole bunch of life hacks along the way!)
Here’s how I do it. I’m giving you all the secrets!
1. Make the kids help. (And hubby too!)
One day when our kids are married their spouses are going to thank me for training them so well! The truth is I can’t maintain this house all on my own! It’s a team effort. Unloading and loading and washing dishes are a daily chore for our kiddos. Laundry? Uh yea they do their own! And from time to time they vacuum and sweep for me!
2. Set expectations in your household.
All humans who live in my home know how I like my house. They know if they track muddy prints in I’m not going to be happy. They also know if I walk by their room and see dirty clothes all over the floor, I’m definitely going to stop and say something about it. They know better than to leave dirty dishes on the table. Once you set these expectations and don’t let them get away with failing to uphold them, life will be a whole lot easier. Think about how much of this you don’t have to worry about because they will just do it… without you having to ask!
3. Do something each day.
I was getting overwhelmed on the weekends trying to do everything in one day or sometimes just a few hours. It’s so hard when your weekdays are busy with work and after school activities. I was waiting to do it all on the weekends which most working mamas probably do! For me, it’s much easier to break my household chores up and do a little bit every day! Find things that will help you accomplish this such as a Swiffer Wet Jet or by keeping your favorite multipurpose cleaner out in an easy to grab spot. My biggest challenge is keeping my floors clean. I chose that to be my daily priority. The Swiffer has made keeping the dog hair to a minimum and saves me a lot of time! It’s a quick and easy way to go over the floors in the evening either with the wet pads or dry pads. Pick something that’s feasible to do every day and commit to it!
4. Have a take-your-shoes-off at the door rule!
Hands down the easiest way to maintain clean floors is by making sure no one wears shoes in the house. Our home is definitely a no shoes zone! If you think about everywhere your shoes have been… public restrooms, mud puddles, stepping in dog poop… then you would jump on the opportunity to enforce this rule!
5. Declutter often.
Don’t let things pile up! Dedicate a weekend every few months to go through kids’ rooms and discard broken items or trash and donate toys and clothes that are no longer wanted! Do the same thing with the other closets such as the coat closet, linen closet, and YOUR closet! Recognize “clutter hot spots” in your house and rearrange or change things up to force you not to leave “stuff” laying there. For us, the kitchen bar always gets piled with random “stuff,” including mail, wallets, can coozies, pens, and the list goes on. I put a cute wire tray there with a basket in it for mail and a lamp beside it to deter my peeps from piling stuff up on an empty counter. Trust me it works!
Being neat and clean isn’t just me being seriously OCD! It’s teaching our kids how to be independent and responsible. It’s also teaching them how to give things up, because having an abundance of material items isn’t necessary to be happy. It teaches them compassion when they choose which of their old toys to donate to Goodwill. It teaches them teamwork. Have you ever seen THREE kids unload the dishwasher at one time? Our kids have it down to a science! It allows them to contribute to running our home. Acceptance. We aren’t just the mean ol’ parents fussing at them to do stuff. We value their hard work! They aren’t just spoiled rotten and lazy… which don’t get me wrong sometimes they are! But they are being taught to work hard for rewards. They are being taught that we work for what we have and that things don’t always come easy to us in life. We are teaching them that life is full of “I wants” but first we have to do the “I musts.”
I’ve read blogs where mamas believe in spending less time worrying about cleaning. That the dishes can wait because they are only going to be little once. And those mamas are completely right. It’s NOT always all about keeping things neat and tidy. There are times we say “screw it,” let’s enjoy staying outside a little later than normal because it’s a nice evening. Oh, we definitely do that too! But keeping a clean home is more than that. Our time with them as kids is going to go by so fast. And we will always, always make time to enjoy them. I’m also looking at the big picture. I’m thinking about teaching them these values. I’m thinking about what they will be like when they are raising their own families.
I am proud of how we are raising our big family. So yes, my house is clean and neat… even with four kids living here!
While the Green Bay Packers are getting defeated in reality tonight, (insert crying face) I’ve been thinking about how I’ve felt defeated lately as a mama.
Mothering teens is rough. Mothering period is rough. The fact is children are going to be children. Do we expect too much from them? Probably. Do we get frustrated too easily? Definitely. Do we still love them unconditionally no matter how much they mess up? Absolutely.
The truth is while I believe that I am putting too much pressure on the kids… I’m actually putting too much pressure on myself as a mom. I am constantly worrying about whether their rooms are clean, whether they’ve done their homework, did they remember to take a lunch today, have they brushed their teeth… when really… I end up worrying myself to pieces and I STILL find myself failing at something.
I try to tell myself to let it go… they’re only children for such a short time. I read reminders daily all over the internet about how the dishes can wait and we need to take advantage of the time we have with them. I’ve read the mom blogs where other devoted mamas are inspiring women to shake it off and enjoy the simple things. I’ve read stories of parents who have lost their children and would give anything to have these parenting problems again. Tomorrow is never promised. All of that is SO TRUE.
But when you’re in the moment.. it is hard to remember all of that.
When you’re tween daughter gets the award for Miss Attitude of the South or when your five year old is throwing a tantrum because his Legos won’t stay together. When one of them decides to spill an entire cup of apple juice on your freshly mopped floor. Or how about when your middle schooler believes he is God and makes an argument about every little thing. It. Is. Hard. It is hard not to just want five minutes of peace in the bathroom. It is hard to not want them to go to bed at 7:00. It is hard to NOT yell and scream when they are pushing your very last button.
So how do you handle it all? Just take it day by day and one day they’ll be all grown up and then you’ll feel guilty all over again because they’re gone? The guilt cycle is fierce!
Choices. We have choices. We have to choose when to lose it… do I want to lose it in the car because they won’t stop hitting each other or do I want to lose it later when they’re fighting in their bedroom? We have to choose what to stress about.
Learn to let things go even when it feels impossible to. There are always going to be other factors that are weighing in on how you react as a parent. Parents are loaded down with stress from finances, jobs, relationships… the list could be endless! The stress isn’t going to disappear but we can control our stress levels by how we react to situations.
That is huge in parenting. Our reactions are not only shaping our children’s personalities, and teaching them values, but our reactions are also completely controlling our own happiness.
The ups and downs of parenting are just a part of it. We aren’t going to do everything perfect. God knows I make mistakes daily. We will be wrong sometimes. Just know they are children and they are not going to think or act on your level. They are going to make mistakes whether they are five or fifteen. They don’t act responsible because they aren’t yet. They need our help to get there.
When the going gets tough and the tough gets going… think about your choices. Know they will love you no matter what. While you are in bed contemplating how you could have handled that argument with your nine year old differently, she’s probably already forgotten about it. Children forgive and forget much easier and faster than we do.
Those mom bloggers are right! With each new day, know that it’s another chance to love your kiddos. You are everything to them, too. Sometimes we just forget how significant that is.
Ok confession. I’ve really been sucking lately at being a mom. No, no I know we all say that but for real. I Could sit here and list all of my “mom flaws” but what I really want to do is give myself this reminder: it’s ok to be imperfect and it doesn’t matter if you have a bad day. (Or week or month)
It doesn’t matter because these kids love us no. matter. what. Their love is so unbelievably unconditional.
I witnessed this last night. I have been a bear. A mama bear in the most literal way. I have had no patience, I may or may not be drinking too much wine, and I have snapped at them much too quickly over the little things. Last night, after all of that.. Heidi crawls up in my lap at 9 years old and lays her head down on me and begins to rub my arm.
That’s what I’m talking about. Our kids are amazing when we’re not. They will easily forgive us. What we beat ourselves up over most of the time doesn’t even register with them as a problem!
We put too much pressure on ourselves as mamas and sometimes it gets to me. I feel like I don’t do enough. I’m not as compassionate to their needs or as understanding when they’re upset. I hate that I’m sometimes dismissive when I want time for myself.
I want to be there for them and as our kiddos grow older I want them to trust that I will always protect and take care of them.
My daily flaws do not define me as a mother.
So I’ll try not to yell when they track mud in the house or don’t take a shower on the first command. I’ll try not to lose my temper when my girls almost kill each other. I’ll take a deep breath the next time Brady pees on the bathroom floor. I’ll smile when they complain about the dinner I cook (probably not as likely to happen).
I won’t be perfect but I can be better than I was yesterday. Hey, I’m just winging it over here. But the reality is this is the ONLY childhood I get to spend with them.
This is it.
One day they’ll be gone and grown and I’ll look back and either laugh or cry or more than likely…both.
But one thing I know for sure… No matter how many times I might feel like I’m failing… I will love them fiercely and if at the end of every day, my kids feel that love… I am good enough.