The Only Lullaby

I was recently watching the movie Philomena, when I felt it. The sadness boiling up again, threatening to spill over and burn every part of me.

In the movie (spoiler alert), Philomena’s 3 year old son is taken away from her, against her will. She watches as he is crying and fighting and driving away with his new family.

I couldn’t stop the tears. Although I have never had to watch my child being adopted out to someone else, I have experienced the raw grief of having a child taken from me against my will. Her child was taken from the monastery where she lived; mine was taken from my womb.

I have recently started going to counseling (highly recommend it). Between the loss of Salem, the shooting an murder of our neighbors, and a couple of other huge things that have happened this past year, it seemed it would be foolish not to seek some outside help. Praise Jesus for professional counselors. Anyway, at one of my recent sessions, we talked about the loss of Salem for the first time. My therapist pointed out how my body was physically responding as we spoke. That I looked like my body was trying to pull itself into fetal position, but I kept fighting it.

A year and a half has passed, and to most of the world he has probably been forgotten. The world, after all, never got the chance to know him. I never got the chance to know him, although I have been changed by him.

Sometimes when I’m holding Copeland, I think of Salem. Copeland has my blue eyes, light hair, and fair skin. What would Salem have looked like? Copeland has my laid back nature and shares my love for sleep. What would Salem be like, as a 4 month old? Would he be a good sleeper or would I be up with him all night? Would he be laid back like his mama and his brother, or more proactive and ambitious like his father and his sister?

And sometimes I feel guilty, thinking of Salem while I’m holding Copeland. After all, if Salem had lived, Copeland would have never been born. It’s such a tricky thing and you just cannot follow all the feelings down their own paths to sort it all out. It’s just messy and mucky and it doesn’t fit together in a tidy way that can be explained. I wish I didn’t lose Salem. I wish he was here with me right now. I also cannot imagine my life without Copeland. And I want him with me right now too. They are both mine and both loved.

But I’ve started to notice that thinking of Salem while I hold Copeland doesn’t take away from the sweetness of the moment. On the contrary, it makes me realize just how much of a gift my little rainbow baby is. My appreciation for Copeland is even richer and deeper, because of his brother who I never got to hold.

In this time in our Western world society, we don’t know what to do with grief. We treat it as something we need to just eventually get over. A hurdle that we are meant to get over. Something that eventually has to move into our past, as a faint memory. That is so sad to me, and so wrong.

No, grief is not an obstacle. It is an end in itself. It is not something we must get over, but a pure and beautiful expression of love.

So I want to embrace the grief that will remain with me for the rest of my life. It may feel different as each year passes, but it is a part of my life from now until eternity. It is my love for my son. The ache and cry of my heart is the song I sing to him. The only lullaby that will exist between us.

This is a painting given to us by dear friends, that made them think of "peace" - the meaning of Salem's name.

This is a painting given to us by dear friends, that made them think of “peace” – the meaning of Salem’s name.

KM.

Joseph Copeland Maroon – The Name

copelandOn January 3rd, 2015 at 3:39pm our son, Joseph Copeland Maroon (we will call him by his middle name) made his grand entrance into the world! 7lbs, 11oz and 19 inches of pure cuteness and joy. I know I was getting antsy (to put it mildly) at the end of my pregnancy and having a hard time with the waiting each day that I went past 40 weeks – but the timing of Copeland’s birth could not be more beautiful. It was on January 3rd last year that we found out we had lost our second child. God sure had a very specific time picked out for Copeland’s birth for His own glory – January 3rd one year later. What an incredible glimpse into our God’s redemptive nature! We are so in awe, humbled and grateful.copeland 4

So, how did we choose the name Joseph Copeland?

Joseph – Our little guy is named after his grandfather (Jordan’s dad), Joseph Maroon. We pray that he grows up to be like his grandfather – a man of love, integrity, courage, strength, humility, wisdom, gentleness, a hard worker, a great dad and husband and grandfather.

Copeland – We knew for awhile that we wanted “Joseph” somewhere in his name, but we had a tough time choosing the name that we would call our son. And by “tough” what I mean is that I would come up with names and lists of names I liked, and Jordan would veto them ;). I even made a bracket once (like you would for March Madness) thinking it would help Jordan narrow it down or find something he liked. All it did was make him realize that he didn’t like any of the names. So in the end, Copeland was simply the name that we both agreed on and liked the most. I came across it online once, and it was the first name that I threw out there to Jordan that immediately received a positive response. For awhile we went back and forth as to whether or not we were going to choose it, but as our pregnancy neared the end we realized that there was just no other boy’s name that we liked more than Copeland. It’s very unique, and yet it doesn’t sound terribly unique (like “Rain” or “Fire” or something. No offense if that is your child’s name). To me, it sounds like a name that could be categorized with “Camden” or “Cole” but is less common. We have always liked names that are a little different. And we thought it sounded cute with Riley.

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At first, we didn’t choose the name based on their meanings. However once we had already picked his name, it was cool to learn what each name means and how perfect they are for our little guy. As I mentioned, right before getting pregnant with Copeland, we lost a baby in miscarriage. It was an incredibly difficult time for us, and we still mourn the loss of that child. On Easter Sunday, we found out that we were pregnant. Joseph means “The Lord will add” and Copeland means “The ability to cope.” Praise God that, in His undeserved grace, He added this sweet child to our family and Copeland sure has helped us cope during our difficult year!

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copeland 3

Copeland 5

copeland 6

copeland 7

So, that is the story behind his name. I will blog about his birth story soon! 🙂

Until then,

KM.

10 Tips for Surviving the End of Pregnancy

end of pregnancyYesterday I found myself typing “Surviving the End of Pregnancy” into the Google search bar.  I clicked on several different links – blog posts, articles from pregnancy or parenting websites, etc – and found them largely unhelpful.  Most of the advice I found fell along the lines of “Keep yourself busy!” “Deep clean your house.” “Prepare a bunch of meals to stick in the freezer so that you have meals for after the baby arrives.” “Start new projects.”  Whoever these women are that are writing these lists, they must have had very different final weeks of pregnancy than I am experiencing.  I would imagine these things would actually be very helpful, if you were feeling somewhat mobile.  As a matter of fact, I think they would be helpful things for me to do – were I not in so much pain these days. But they just weren’t the “survival tools” I was hoping to find in my search.

So for women who experience the end of the pregnancy more in the pain/can’t do much category, I figured I would compile my own list of ways to “survive” these looooong and final weeks!

1. Don’t worry about looking cute.
Up until the last couple of weeks, I actually enjoyed trying to look cute during this pregnancy.  I liked treating my bump like an accessory and was having a lot of fun with the box of cute, fall maternity clothes that a good friend let me borrow!  But now?  Now that is way too much work, my friends.  Now is the time for a daily uniform – which for me means yoga pants or leggings (only one or the other.  No exception), some sort of athletic top (you know, just to trick people into thinking I’m being athletic), perhaps a puffy vest if it’s cold, and many days I end up throwing on a baseball cap so I don’t have to worry with my hair.  Also while we’re on the topic of looking cute – can we just talk about the fact that it is HARD to get socks and boots on when you’re 9 months pregnant?  My husband finds it comical.  I consider it my workout.

2. Don’t worry about cooking.
If you are normally the one who cooks the meals in your home, you have two options for how to avoid this now:
(a) Recruit your significant other to start doing the cooking for your family.  If guiding them through the process of cooking is almost just as much work for you as doing the cooking (ahem), then:
(b) Talk to your significant other about shifting the monthly budget a little bit to add more money to the food category (for eating out, takeout, pre-made, and super easy meals).  Keep your eye out for coupons/groupons/living social deals to local restaurants.
If he is not on board with either of these, then just throw out the most unappealing options that you feel up for making (for example: the cups of Ramen noodles you have had in your pantry for 3 years in case of an emergency… canned beans that you can toss together with some rice… Greek yogurt mixed with that Gluten Free rice granola… pb&j sandwiches) and he is sure to reconsider ;).

Or it’s possible that you have much more money than us and you can just eat out whenever or hire a personal chef in which case, DO THAT.

Here is an example of my meal plan for this week:

pregnant meal plan

3. Don’t worry about trying to be super healthy anymore. As a matter of fact, stuff your face with chocolate.
Up until the past couple of weeks, I had been doing a pretty good job of trying to be healthy through this pregnancy.  I stayed active, tried to eat well, and kept an eye on the scale to keep myself on track.  I would budget my eating – meaning that if I got on the scale and was doing great with where my weight gain was at, I would eat that milkshake I had been craving.  But if/when I started gaining a little more than I should, I would hold off more on cravings and try to add a few more salads or something.  I was just determined not to gain 55 lbs like I did in my first pregnancy.  But once you get this far – I give you (and myself) permission to count ANY movement as your workout (like, getting out of bed, for instance).  I give you permission to not worry much about what you eat.  As long as I don’t have to make it, I will eat it.  And that does not normally lend itself to the healthiest of meals.  Who cares.  Soon the baby will be here, and you can start focusing on eating well again.  I also give you permission to eat your feelings.  I actually highly recommend stuffing your face with chocolate.  I have found Trader Joe’s dark chocolate caramel with black sea salt candy bars VERY helpful in managing my feelings lately!  Or Aldi’s European dark chocolate with a hint of sea salt.  At least for me, eating is one of the very few ways of experiencing any sort of pleasure right now, so I am going to embrace and enjoy it.

If you are one of those pregnant women who eats super clean throughout her pregnancy and is working out until you go into labor – way to go!  I am proud of you, I really am.  I just may not want to talk to you right now ;).  Don’t take it personally.

4. Go out to lunch with girl friends.
This may not be as possible if you have other kids, but I tell you – it has been one of the biggest highlights in my life lately when I have been able to do it!  I have a 3 year old daughter so it’s not always feasible, but it makes it that much sweeter when Jordan can stay with Riley and allows me to go catch up with good friends over food (that I don’t have to make!)

5. See people, but don’t feel like you need to entertain.
I admit, I have been in total hibernation/anti-social mode lately.  I usually just want to hole up at home and forget that the outside world exists.  And with how uncomfortable and grumpy I’ve been, I always assume I would not be great company anyway.  But thankfully my husband has more of a social itch, so he has been pushing a little more for us to see friends.  I have found that whenever we do, it actually turns out to be a helpful and welcome distraction! A couple of nights ago, we invited some friends to come join us for our dinner at Med Deli.  The next day, a couple of friends came over and brought us breakfast and we made a huge pot of salted caramel coffee (are you sensing the salt theme here?).  Both times were rich and watered my grumpy soul.  At least a little bit ;).

6. Avoid big stores & errands (when possible).
You may be different from me in this way.  Perhaps going to Target is helpful for you to survive these final weeks.  But considering the whole “it hurts to stand or walk” phase I’m in, paired with the fact that I am super indecisive and get overwhelmed easily in big stores (I am hyper sensitive to things like lights, sounds, displays, etc) – it is pretty much one of my least favorite things in the world right now.  Especially this time of year!  I feel so bombarded and overwhelmed by all of the holiday stuff.  I find myself grabbing all sorts of things that weren’t on my list and then talking myself out of it, which means I have to walk back to the other side of the store to return it and by then I am sweating and hurting but as I’m waiting in line I second guess myself again, so I walk back to the other end of the store to pick it up again only to decide “No.  I do not need this thing” and I start peeling off layers of clothing because I’m sweating and feel like I am going to pass out which makes me start to cry.   <– and that run-on sentence is pretty much what it feels like for me when I go to big stores like Target these days.  Whew. So, it’s good to avoid that, when possible.

7.  REST and take it easy.  Sleep whenever you can.
I know that this kind of advice is always easier said than done.  Resting is not so simple when you have other kids, or work full time, or have a long running to-do list.  That’s why I’m saying “whenever you can.”  When opportunities present themselves, don’t feel bad choosing rest over productivity.  Don’t feel bad fighting for rest. I’m thankful that Riley still naps (most days), and usually try to lie down and take a nap during that time as well.  If nearby friends or family offer to help so you can rest, take them up on it!

8. Fill your mind with Humor. 
I really do believe that laughter is the best medicine.  Whether you’re depressed or anxious or uncomfortable – anything challenging in life can be helped with a little bit of laughter.  At the end of pregnancy, I have found this to be one of the most helpful survival tools.  I recommend the book “The Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy” by Vicki Iovine. Anything with or by Tina Fey or Amy Poehler.  I’m currently reading Amy Poehler’s book “Yes, Please” and I especially enjoyed the chapters on pregnancy and childbirth :).  Watch funny shows. Search funny GIFS to shows you watch. Read funny articles about pregnancy – like this one that my husband sent me (I apologize for some of the language).  It’s also fun if you have a couple of girl friend’s you can text about how you just ate a second doughnut, or peed your pants a little in Barnes & Noble, or that you can’t let your husband sit on the couch because he ate garlic chips and you can’t handle the smell (Hi Michal, Justina and Megan!).

9. Allow yourself to get grumpy about stupid things. Or meaningful things.
If you’re feeling as grumpy as I am, it is helpful to have an outlet for your frustration.  Songs with stupid lyrics on the radio.  TV show characters who are being dumb.  Marketing ploys, especially around the holidays.  The cart at the grocery store that has the stuck wheel.  It feels good to take out your grumpiness on these things.  You can also see this time as a good opportunity to get angry about things that matter – oppression, poverty, injustice, racism, sex trafficking.  We can pour our pregnant “grumpymones” into things that matter.

grumpy pregnant

10. Meditate on Romans 8:22-25 and John 16:21-23
Finally, this has been the most helpful survival tool for me lately.  Turning to God’s word and being reminded that this is a temporary pain that ultimately births so much joy.  It helps me to understand the gospel more deeply.  It helps me to reflect on and experience the way that our world is broken and the excruciating pains of it.  It points me to the longing for the joy of the coming of Christ!  It leaves me aching deeply for the joy that will one day erase all of the pain.   Especially during this time of year, there is an opportunity to press into this painful time of pregnancy, letting it lead me to a richer experience and understanding of Advent.  This pain is not without (good) purpose, and neither is our pain in this broken and fallen world.  I want my longing for the arrival of my son to pull me deeper into my longing for God’s Son.

 

Fellow pregnant ladies, is there anything else you would add?

 

KM.

*Disclaimer: I just want to take a second to say that I understand what an incredible gift and privilege it is to go through this pain, since there is a baby.  I also understand that there are FAR worse things in life, things that people actually have to survive.  I use the term “survive” here to be intentionally dramatic for the purpose of humor.  I humbly realize that this is not a situation that requires real life survival.  I don’t want to condone complaining about things that are actually real blessings or aren’t real- life hard. And we have things going on in our life right now that are far harder than this, real life heartbreaking things.  This is just my attempt to laugh at and with myself, and offer a breath of fresh air to other women in the same boat!  These last weeks in pregnancy can be very challenging and it’s helpful to find camaraderie.

Pregnancy Update

A couple of nights ago, I spent some time going through my old blog posts from my pregnancy with Riley. That was when I first started blogging, and I would do weekly updates on how my pregnancy was progressing.

I haven’t done that at all during this pregnancy. I think there are a few reasons for that:

(1) I think you just tend to do stuff like that more during your first pregnancy. When we were pregnant with Riley, we had plans for the color and design of her nursery, and had it all set up a couple months before she arrived! With this one, well let’s see… we have his clothes hanging in the closet? That’s about it! There are no nursery plans or decorating ideas. I guess he will just sleep in our room until he is sleeping through the night, and then he will share a room with his big sister. At that point, maybe we’ll change some of the decor?

I think the same thing goes for blogging. When I was pregnant with Riley, my whole world pretty much revolved around that one thing (my pregnancy). I was constantly consumed with it. When you have other kids though, your life is consumed by other things (those “things” being kids). You are just distracted. And I’m sure it is more like that with each kid you have. You don’t love them any less, of course, you’re just busy parenting! My mom said that she has a very detailed Baby Book for me from when I was born. It even includes clippings of hair from my first haircut! I was the firstborn. My sister has a little bit less in her baby book, and my brother (the 3rd born) has a Baby Book but… nothing in it. 😉

(2) In my first pregnancy, not only was I consumed by thinking about it all the time, but I assumed other people wanted to know all about it too. Maybe they did! Or at least a few people (Hi Mom, Grammy, and Anne!). But this time around…eh, I don’t think people really care much what kind of fruit he is the size of or what symptoms I’m having. So I haven’t felt compelled to document them.

(3) This pregnancy with our Rainbow Baby happened very quickly after our loss. So it has been a different pregnancy, having to navigate it while still grieving the loss of our baby before this one. For a while I felt a little guilty for rejoicing in this pregnancy, since it was right after my loss. It felt like it would in some way invalidate my sorrow over losing Salem or would devalue his short life in some way. It probably wasn’t until our 20 week ultrasound when we found out we are having a boy that I was actually able to let myself get excited and plan as if this is really happening. After our loss, there was a lot of fear in this pregnancy. I didn’t want to get too excited about weekly updates or developments, because I knew all too well that there are no guarantees, and I wanted to protect my heart in some way. Also because of our loss, I wanted to be careful about what I post publicly. I know how difficult it is to be a woman struggling in some area of fertility and to be bombarded by social media updates with all of the healthy pregnancies. I still want to be very sensitive to that.

ALL of that being said, when I read my pregnancy updates from my first pregnancy, I felt a little sad that I haven’t documented this one at all. There was something really cool for me about going back and reminiscing, and it also was helpful being able to compare that pregnancy to this one. I realized that I want to have SOMETHING to look back on to remind me about this time when I carried our son inside of me.

So here it is. I figured I would just do 1 big summary post of this pregnancy:

1st Trimester: My “tired” trimester (actually, that hasn’t really changed in any of the other trimesters!). I remember a friend telling me that once you already have a toddler, you don’t really get relief from the exhaustion you feel in pregnancy like you did when 2nd trimester hit in your first pregnancy, and boy has that been true for me! But first trimester was definitely the most tiring for me. I napped every day, was ready for bed by 9/9:30 pm, and STILL felt like I could sleep for days straight! I was definitely nauseous throughout my 1st trimester, but it was not nearly as bad as the nausea I experienced in my first pregnancy with Riley, and I never got sick from it. It was just kind of a constant, underlying wave of nausea that wasn’t enough to make me throw up or unable to function, but it did just make the day- to- day feel slightly miserable. I had a lot of food aversions, just like my first pregnancy. I had an aversion to coffee, to meat, to vegetables, and peanut butter – which is interesting since peanut butter then became one of my strongest cravings throughout the 2nd and 3rd trimester! All that ever sounded good to eat was carbs and cheese, which is ironic considering it wasn’t too long before this pregnancy that I had cut gluten and dairy out of my diet for awhile. I pretty much started eating the exact opposite of that. I ate a lot of biscuits, bagels, mac & cheese and cereal. Hmm, it is really a mystery where those 10 lbs I gained in first trimester came from… 😉

2nd Trimester: My “emotional” trimester. Thankfully once 2nd trimester hit, my food aversions and nausea disappeared. I was able to start eating healthy again, start drinking coffee again (super helpful when you’re a toddler mama!), and exercising more regularly. I actually lost 4 lbs at the beginning of 2nd trimester, which my doctor had told me might happen if my food aversions disappeared and I started to eat a little better. So physically, 2nd trimester was just as glamorous as they say it is, and very similar to my 2nd trimester with Riley. However, one thing that was different and difficult in this pregnancy was how crazy emotional I was! I cried so much through 2nd trimester. I really wrestled with depression. I shut down. I started to shut out God, Jordan, and my community in small ways. I wasn’t a very good friend. I just kind of wanted to resort into myself and indulge in my sadness. I struggled to be an intentional mother to Riley.

It was during 2nd trimester that we passed Salem’s due date, so I’m sure that had something to do with it. It was also during 2nd trimester that Jordan hit a really crazy season of ministry and was pretty burnt out. I felt alone and exhausted and cried all the time. As a matter of fact, when I wasn’t crying, Riley would say (over and over again), “Mama all done cry! Mama happy now!” and it would just break my heart. It really made me worried about having a 2nd child to take care of soon and made me wonder if I would have postpartum depression.

Strangely though, this all disappeared once 3rd trimester hit. I don’t really understand that, but I’m thankful! I would much rather be physically uncomfortable than emotionally distraught like that. Hormones… they are some crazy things!

3rd Trimester: My “everything hurts and I’m dying” trimester. I remember my 3rd trimester with Riley was difficult and uncomfortable. For some reason though, I really thought I was going to escape that this pregnancy! I think because I have remained active throughout my pregnancy, have eaten healthier (well… for the most part), and haven’t gained as much weight – I just assumed that I would be more physically capable and in less pain. NOPE. No such luck on that one. Pretty much once 32 weeks hit (I’m 35 weeks now) all sorts of aches and pains have started sneaking up on me. Low blood pressure/circulation issues, getting Charlie horses in my calves at night, hip pain, back pain, pins & needles in my arms, heartburn, ligament pain, pelvic pain & pressure, “lightening crotch” (umm, OUCH! I mean really. It feels like Baby boy has a knife and is just driving it into my pelvis. When it happens in public, I’m sure everyone thinks I’m in labor!), swollen feet, trouble sleeping. Again, I would still prefer this to the emotional mess I was in 2nd trimester! And I’m super thankful, because Baby Boy is growing and healthy and I would endure any amount of physical discomfort for that to be the case. But still, it’s challenging. You really forget how challenging pregnancy can be until you go through it again. I had told Jordan a couple of months ago that I wanted to keep my part of the gym membership through December because I wanted to workout until the very end of my pregnancy. Umm… haha. We’ll see how that goes! I’m still trying to workout, but it’s happening much less frequently and sometimes I just can’t do it (last weekend I only lasted 6 minutes on the eliptical because it was so painful). At this point I’ve gained 33 lbs, which is encouraging to me because at this point in my pregnancy with Riley I had gained 50! But that doesn’t change the fact that I still feel about as big as a whale. This was a conversation I had with Riley a couple of days ago:

Me: I feel like a whale! Do I look like a whale?
Riley: (looks at me) Yes.

🙂

You’ve got to love the honesty of a toddler. But seriously, even 33 lbs is a lot of extra weight when you’re only 5’1″ and most of it is carried out front. I have been daydreaming about what it would be like if our condo was like an indoor pool – filled with warm water, and I could just swim from room to room. It sounds amazing! There is a reason that whales don’t walk around on land, and it’s not just because of oxygen (in my opinion).

I’ve also hit a major grumpy phase. Poor Jordan. I’m sure he’s counting down the days as much as I am! I just feel so irritable and uncomfortable, and unfortunately he bears the brunt of it.

But we are SO close! I cannot wait to meet this little person that is growing inside of me, practicing his kickboxing right now as I type. Now that I know how sweet and incredible it is to have a child, I could not be more excited! I will say, I have struggled to bond with him as much as I felt like I bonded with Riley during pregnancy. I’ve heard that is very normal after experiencing the loss of a baby, and even with a second or third child. Even so, I love him so much already and I know that once I hold him in my arms, my whole world will change. In the best way! I have a feeling that I am going to be particularly attached to this little guy, and will probably have a hard time letting him out of my arms or out of my sight.

I look forward to sharing his birth story in the (hopefully) near future!

Here are some pics of the little guy, and the growing bump (and please excuse the messy room behind me in some of the bump pics! This is reality folks.  I didn’t stage the pictures, but now I realize that maybe I should have!):

Baby Son at 20 Weeks - I think he's cute already!

Baby Son at 20 Weeks – I think he’s cute already!

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IMG_3031 IMG_3165 IMG_3189 IMG_3205 IMG_3212 IMG_3319 IMG_3377 (1) IMG_3386 (1) IMG_3398 (1) IMG_3408 (1) IMG_3586 (1) IMG_3711 IMG_3855

 

KM.

To My Sweet Daughter

Riley,

You are about to turn 3 in less than two months – when did that happen?! It feels like I put you to bed one day, and you just woke up grown up! I cannot believe the beautiful little girl you are becoming more of every day. You are the most sweet spirited person I have ever known, and yet you are independent and know exactly what you want (enjoy that. You definitely did not get it from me!)

You are actually are a lot like your daddy.  You like to know how things work.  You like to know what to expect.  You are a rule follower and enforcer, a thinker, and a creature of habit – just like him!  You do love your sleep though, so at least I passed something down ;).  It’s so fun to watch your little personality develop and to get to know who God created you to be and who you are becoming.

You love everything girly.  You love everything pink and purple, princesses, sparkles, makeup, Barbies, dolls, etc.  But you also love trucks and cars and airplanes, Lego’s, and sports.  And anything that your Daddy likes, really.  You look up to him so much, it is adorable.  You also admire me and love to do things “just like Mama!” (so I’ll go ahead and enjoy that now, while it lasts).

Tonight while we were lying in my bed I said to you, “You’re the best Riley.” You responded,”You the best too, Mama.”

Yesterday, unprompted and out of nowhere, you ran up and gave me a big hug and said, “I love you Mama.”

When I asked you today if you wanted to feel your baby brother move in my belly you said, “Uhhh no.” The “Uhhh no” is something you’ve been saying a lot lately and you say it in such a condescending way, as if the question is the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard. It cracks me up :).

It’s been a week where I’ve been sick, so we’ve been cooped up a lot and I have felt bad that I haven’t been able to do much with you. And yet every single day you have said things like, “This is the BEST day EVER!!!” and “Today is Mama Riley adbenture day! I so excited!” and something that you have been telling me several times a day lately, “Mama, I happy!” Even when I feel like I am at my worst, you have a way of making me feel so special. You just enjoy every minute of life and your contentment is contagious. If I could take the tiniest molecule of your daily joy, put it in a capsule and give it to people to take, I have a feeling it would be quite the antidote for much of the anxiety and depression plaguing the adult world.

Earlier this week when we had returned from a walk to the playground you said, “I have fun at Riley’s house! I LOVE Riley’s house!”  You have no idea how happy that made me.  Sometimes I get so wrapped up in comparing what we have to other people and I’ll feel discouraged about how small or unimpressive our little home is.  But then I look at you and how much you absolutely love it here, and it makes me also fall in love with this little home that we have made together as a family.  You really help me when I need to keep my perspective in check, kiddo!

You always make it clear that you love your life, your home, and your family.

When I leave (even for just 15 minutes) I cannot get over how excited you are to see me when I return. You get the biggest smile on your face and excitedly say, “MAMA!!!!!” As if you haven’t seen me in weeks. And you often say, “Mama, I so glad you back.”

You’ve also started asking, “Mama, do wanna play with me?” or you’ll ask me, “Mama, do wanna sit with me?” But you pronounce the “me” with a long “e” in the sweetest little voice. It makes me turn to mush and I cannot turn you down. Your seriously have the sweetest little voice. I don’t ever want it to change! Well, I guess I do… I mean, you don’t really want to be a 30 year old with that little voice. That would be very weird. But I want it to last as much as your childhood as possible.

But even when I can’t play with you, you’re such a little sport about it. You actually do an amazing job of entertaining yourself. You’ve reached a really fun stage where you can play with your little toy figurines (like Mickey & Minnie or your little princesses) for hours at a time, entering completely into an imaginary world. You often make them say and do things that your daddy and I say and do. For example, one doll will say to another, “I have to go to work! I see you later!” or one will sing the “Baby Song” that I sing to you at bed time, as they tuck another one into the play-dough bed that you have made them :). I could watch you play like that for hours.

As much as you love me and shower me with affection, you also have a funny way of trying to get rid of me. One day we were at the pool and you met a little friend, Sophia. I was swimming right next to you. You gave me this really funny look and said, “Mama… go float.” I responded, “Oh, you want me to float sweetheart?” as I started to float on my back in the water. You kind of looked around and then said, “Mama go float… over there!” as you pointed to the other end of the pool. And a few days ago when you started dancing in the living room you gave me that same look again and said, “Mama… go hide!” I said, “But I want to watch you dance sweetie.” But you insisted, “Mama, go hide in Mama room” and continued to dance once I left. Clever :).

I can tell that you are starting to learn the blame game (your poor unsuspecting brother, who I’m sure is about to bear the brunt of it!).  Yesterday you ate the last banana Popsicle from the freezer.  Then when you saw the empty wrapper sitting on the coffee table you (literally) gasped and said, “Mama! You eat it ALL!!!!”  I said, “No Riley, YOU ate it all.”  You shook your head and said, “No Mama, you eat it all.”  Little stinker ;).

And you’ve become quite the negotiator – it’s pretty hilarious. Recently you had asked me for a rice cake. I told you “no”. So you tried to negotiate, “juuuuuusst one rice cake?” I caved, “Ok Riley, you may have JUST ONE rice cake.” You said, “Ok thanks mama, just two rice cake!” Sneaky ;). But you really were sneaky because I found myself handing you two before I realized what had just happened! You’ve also started the whole, “Just oooonne more minute!” When I tell you it’s time to leave or turn off the TV.

The problem is, everything you do is so cute and sweet that I have a REALLY hard time not giving into you.  I say “yes” to you a whole lot and you are probably getting way too spoiled. I’m sure it’s going to back fire on me at some point. Your daddy and I are often having conversations about how I need to be more firm with you and clear and consistent with my “no’s.”

But you are seriously the most incredible little person, and I feel so blown away and grateful that I get to spend my days having “adbentures” with you! I’m not saying it’s always easy. There are days when I think motherhood might swallow me whole, and I truly don’t know what I would do without your 3 hour afternoon nap (Seriously. 3 hours! You have no idea how much your pregnant mama appreciates that sweetheart. Please keep it up.). But being with you is so sweet. Always rich. And always worth it. It sounds so cliche but you are growing up so fast and I don’t want to miss a moment!

 

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Although He was a Son

“Following Jesus is a lifelong journey, filled with glorious mountaintops and low, dark valleys.” – From She Reads Truth, Hebrews Study

Since our loss, I have found that I have become more fearful for Riley’s life.  There are many nights when I will feel completely gripped by terror, as horrific images enter my mind of something tragic happening to my sweet daughter.  It makes me feel panicky as I try to swallow the reality that God could actually let that happen.

I’ve had to ask myself a lot lately: How do I love and serve a God who could let my children die?  Who did let my child die?  Who is letting children die in horrific ways in Iraq.  It’s scary that He could choose to allow every single one of my children to die young.   That feels so scary.  I don’t feel very secure.  In most other difficult experiences in my life someone or something else has hurt me or let me down, and it has driven me into my Savior’s arms.  But what about when it is my Savior who let me down?  I don’t have a stable foundation to turn to, and it makes me feel like I have no footing.  Which kind of makes me freak out.

It has been difficult for me to not just try and hold God at arms length.  I can sing in worship, telling God to take all of me and have all of my heart and all of my life.  But the real song of my heart is singing, “All of me, except for this pregnancy.  You can’t have this baby.  All of me, except for Riley.  I can’t bear the thought of anything happening to her.  All of me, except for my trust.”

The crazy thing is, I’m acting as if I just learned something new about God.  That He may allow my children to die.  As if He deceived me somehow.  But I’ve really always known that!  I knew that God can and does allow horrible things to happen.  He allows pain and suffering and death.  And He has been upfront about that from the beginning – all you have to do is read the Bible.  That is how we learn about who He is and How He works, and the pages of scripture are chocked full of bad things that happened that God did not stop.  No, He has not ever deceived me to believe that He wouldn’t allow these things to happen.  Up until this point my theology of suffering wasn’t weak, but my experience of it was.

When I married Jordan four years ago, there were things I thought were true about him that are, there were things I thought were true about him that simply were not (wait, he’s not going to romance me and try to sweep me off my feet 24/7?!), and things I knew were true about him but I just hadn’t fully experienced yet.   In marriage, both spouses learn things about each other through the experience of doing life together.  If you see something that surprises you or something you don’t particularly like, I suppose you can walk away from that person.  But if you keep walking on in your covenant with that person, you will find more depth and beauty on the other side of the learning curve as each of you get to know more of the real person that you married and you stick by them (or so I’m told!).

So I find myself in a similar place in my walk with God.  He sure isn’t going anywhere and, by His grace, I’m not going to either.  I hadn’t fully experienced this part of who God is yet.  And I don’t know what this part of Him means for how the events of my life are going to play out. But here I am.  I’m trying to piece together the puzzle after the picture I had put together has been completely shattered.  I believe that there is more depth and beauty on the other side of this, and I thirst for the taste of it.

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. – Hebrews 5:8

Even God’s own holy son Jesus Christ was no foreigner to suffering.  He was not exempt.  As a matter of fact, he took on the full wrath of God, a form of suffering those of us who call on him will never need to know.  I take great comfort in that today.

He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.

-Isaiah 53:3-5

 

KM.

The Communal Dance of Joy and Mourning

I saw it out of the corner of my eye, one second too late. Not soon enough to stop it from happening. Riley excitedly grabbed the “Big Sister” book off the library shelf – the same big sister book that we had bought her in the fall, that we had her open at her birthday party to announce to our families that we were pregnant; the same book that we used in our photography session to take our announcement picture that we were going to post publicly in January.

She ran with the book over to a cozy little reading nook, that just happened to be occupied by one very pregnant lady and two women holding tiny little newborns in their arms.

It was like a knife through my heart.

I happen to have several friends who are pregnant right now, most of them due right around the time that I was. One of my best friends just got married. I have a nephew due to be born in September. All around me there is joy and life, while inside of me is the empty casket that held the death of my second child only a few months ago.

It’s no accident that “rejoice with those who rejoice” is right next to “weep with those who weep,” smack dab in the same exact verse of scripture (Romans 12:15). These two things often happen simultaneously in our communities and in Christian community, we are called to enter into both of them together. Even when they are happening at the same time.

The Greek word for “rejoice” in this passage means to be exceedingly glad; the Greek word for “weep” used here literally means to mourn for the dead; to enter into the pain that is associated with grief.

And that is exactly where I am finding myself.

It’s not an easy thing. Seeing women who are pregnant is a very stark visual reminder of my son’s death. But it is also a stark visual of life and joy.

As crazy as it sounds, rejoicing and weeping are meant to be together. I shouldn’t be afraid of the tears that threaten to fall when I see the joy of a healthy child growing, because those tears show the value of my son’s life. And those who are in the season of rejoicing shouldn’t be afraid of my tears either. The tears don’t mean anything about them personally. And they don’t mean anything about me personally. They mean that death was never supposed to be a part of the equation and people are not designed to handle the sting of it. They mean that the person who was lost was invaluable and there is now a hole in the world and our lives because of his absence.

Nor should I be afraid to smile and rejoice with those who rejoice. Rejoicing does not mean that my son’s loss is forgotten, something that I am very fearful of. If anything, it actually validates the pain of losing him. When we see the picture of joy – what is supposed to be, we are also forced to remember the loss and why it was significant.

When I see a friend who is somewhere around 20 weeks pregnant, I see where Salem should be right now. When I see a mom holding a newborn, I see what Salem is supposed to be this summer. When I am at a wedding, I see what Salem should have the opportunity to experience.

But that is not a bad thing to see. Why do we try to run from pain? Every thing I see that makes me sad and reminds me of Salem, it whispers of his life and significance. It says that he was truly valuable and worth mourning. It says that he was and is deeply loved.

Likewise, those who are in seasons of rejoicing should not be afraid to enter into the mourning of those around them. It doesn’t subtract from their joy, but should actually add to it.

Mourning is made validated when you are reminded of what is actually lost. And rejoicing is made richer when you realize what you have, that could be lost.

This is the sacred dance that we are called into as Christians. Yes, it is painful. But running from the pain is only hurting us more.

If we just indulge in our rejoicing without willingness to weep with those who are mourning, then we aren’t going to experience our rejoicing in as rich of a way as we could. And if we pull away in our mourning without willingness to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, then we will just become bitter and resentful.

I’ve been the one who is in a season of rejoicing before while other friends were mourning. Now it’s my turn to be on the other end of Roman’s 12:15, only to realize that I should have been there (with others who are there) all along. Here is something I’ve learned:

It’s a great disservice to those of us who are mourning when we are treated like we should just get over it and move on, or we are encouraged to find some sort of “good” purpose in all of this. It is an impediment to us being able to enter fully into community and rejoice with those who rejoice when people expect us to be the hero of our own story; to pull ourselves up, move on, and be inspirational with “all of the ways God is working through this!” It makes those of us who are mourning feel like our pain isn’t validated, our loss isn’t significant, and that the life of the one lost wasn’t valuable. Yes, God can and will work good things, even out of tragedies. But my sanctification is certainly NOT more valuable than Salem’s life. How are we supposed to rejoice with others if those things are true?

There are many days when I don’t want to see a single person, other than my family. I don’t want to mourn by myself, but I also don’t want to mourn inwardly while everything else around me seems normal and happy. I am sometimes afraid to talk about anything good that God is doing in my life, for fear that people will grasp onto it as a reason for my son’s death – as if any of it is more valuable then he was.

But when those who are rejoicing are also willing to mourn with us and validate our loss? Oh, it is such a beautiful gift. In the same way that it is a beautiful gift to those who rejoice, when one who is mourning also rejoices with them.

I was surprised by what a gift it was for me to rejoice with two friends this week who are expecting their first child. The reason that it was such a gift was not because it erased my pain; no, in some ways it made my pain more prevalent, brought it front and center. But it was the way that these two incredible women mourned with me while I rejoiced with them. With compassion on their faces and listening ears, they ministered to me by mourning with me even though they are in a time of rejoicing. And hopefully I was able to minister to them by being excited with them and listening to the ways they are changing and things they are contemplating during their pregnancies. To be able to talk about falling into a pile of unfolded laundry in tears of pain over my son in the same conversation as talking about their birthing plans and pregnancy cravings was a rare and beautiful thing.

My situation may bring tears into their smiles, and theirs smiles into my tears; but that is true friendship. That is life in rich community. That is rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn.

A few weeks ago at my friend’s wedding, I was standing at the back of the room when another friend from our church walked up to me. She is also in a season of loss. Without hesitation, we wrapped our arms around each other. And we wept. We held each other for a long time, and then we turned together and looked at all of our friends – laughing and dancing. And we smiled.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” –Romans 12:15

KM.

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