Dear Emmy,

Yesterday afternoon, I posted this picture for the world to see:

I shared it because it filled my heart with joy. We were all at church, and as I looked down our row I thought to myself, “We are so abundantly blessed.” Papa was holding Lexi, your daddy was holding KK, Auntie was holding Lakyn and the older girls were proudly performing every song the worship team played.  My heart was truly overflowing. I was so, unbelievably happy.

Later in the day, I was feeding Lakyn while listening to the older girls playing downstairs. Sister fell asleep in my arms, and instead of laying her down, I decided to just pause and enjoy the moment. But in the stillness and solitude, the sadness washed over me….

That picture should have six little girls in it.

And just like that my joyful, happy heart was shattered.

We should have needed on more seat when we sat down at church.

 Nana should have had one more little girl shaking sprinkles on the Christmas cookies.

 There should have been five sleeping bags on the floor at bedtime.

 There should be presents under the tree with your name on them.

 When people look at our crew and say, “That sure is a lot of little girls!” …what they don’t know is there is another one missing.

 3 Gillespie girls. 3 Hummel girls. Even playing field.

There should be six.

Sometimes A lot of times, grief hits me this way – in the happiest moments. Probably because it’s those moments I most feel your absence. I feel the hole that is left in our family with you not here, and I wonder if anyone else feels it, too.

Tonight, as we have every Christmas Eve since you died, we will light a candle in the center of the table that will burn in your memory. Your stocking will hang in its spot above the fireplace. A crystal angel that your Papa gave me our first Christmas without you will sparkle with the lights on the tree.

We do our best, sweet girl, to make you a part of who we are as a family. We are a family of 5. A family of 12. Without you…we are not full us.

On these days, I feel your absence in the depths of my soul. My heart aches for you. But when the sadness threatens to consume me, I remember how lucky I am that you were mine at all. I remind myself that God knit you together perfectly and wrote your story flawlessly. And even though you are not here, He is still writing.

He is the master author of each of our lives, and in the final chapter there is a common thread: death. But that is not the end. Because on the first Christmas, He gave the world a baby. A baby born humbly, who grew into a faultless man – God’s son, who died so the rest of us might live. So that even if when someone we love goes before us, we can hold to the hope of a heavenly reunion.

This Christmas, while I wish you were here to decorate cookies, sing in church, unwrap presents, and add one more little girl to our family photos, I will remember that God is uniquely using your story to write mine. That He gave you life with a plan and purpose – just like His own son. God gave His son’s life so that you and I would not be separated by death. And in the waiting, I never want to lose sight of that promise.

So for now, know that I miss you. And when I look at that photo, I know there are six little girls in our family. And one day, we will all be together again.

Miss you most,

Your Mama

You got this, mama.

This afternoon, JUST as I got the little to drift off to dreamland in her carrier, big woke up from her nap…almost an hour earlier than usual. Like L-I-T-E-R-A-L-L-Y as I was snapping this photo and about to IG-brag about getting both girls to sleep at the same time, the first “Moooommy!” rang out. With daddy gone and only AM childcare today, I just had to make it work.


Did that mean answering e-mails from my phone while I fed the baby? Yep. Did that mean more Paw Patrol than I’d like to admit so I could get #justonemorething done? You bet. Did it look like the perfect work / life balance? NOPE. Because honestly, what does that even mean??

It was a hard day. It was a looong day. Like, a mama needs an iced latte and a little This Is Us on Hulu kind of day. My job sacrificed for my girls. My girls sacrificed for my job. And I sacrificed for both. But…we made it. And tomorrow is a new day. A new day with 8 hours of childcare — Can I get a AMEN?!

Mamas, this is hard stuff. It’s a hard season. We know it. We feel it. Babies and toddlers are H.A.R.D. Whether you’re a WAHM, a SAHM, a WOTHM (is that even a real acronym?), a bio mom, a foster mom, an [insert anything here] mom — IF YOU ARE A MOM IT.IS.HARD. But you got this, mama. WE’VE got this. If you had a hard day today, remember tomorrow is a new one. And you were made for this.

Bearing our Blessings

  • something that is carried; a load
  • a duty or responsibility
  • something oppressive or worrisome
  • that which is borne with difficulty
  • an obligation

These are all definitions of the word burden. And today, I felt each one of them in one way or another. Today, I allowed myself to become burdened. By nothing in particular, but everything in general.

This narrative is not a novel one: that we should reframe our burdens as blessings. And for good reason. Because while there are certainly burdens in life that are so heavy it’s hard to see the good…most generally in our first-world culture, burdens are the product of abundance.

Nonetheless, today I felt it all. Overwhelmed. Anxious. Crushed under the weigh of expectations (albeit mostly my own). I was just…burdened. So for myself (and for you) I thought I would unpack and try to appreciate these burdens for what they truly are.

Burden: I had a work call that didn’t come in when I thought it was going to and then ran way later than expected. // Blessing: I have a job that is flexible and allows me the freedom to work from home. And I have bosses who love my kids and wanted to say hi when they heard them in the background.

Burden: I had to dig out our checkbook to pay our water bill because the rural water district doesn’t do auto-drafts or online payments. // Blessing: I have clean, potable, running water in my house. In. My. House. I have lived in places that do not have this, and trust me…it is a blessing.

Burden: I was tripping over the open suitcases on the floor of our mudroom, still laying around unpacked from a trip we got home from three days ago. // Blessing: We have the means to travel to see family and friends who live over 500 miles away.

Burden: Lexi informed me that she got blood from a scratch on her sheets during nap. Her white sheets. That I washed less than a week ago. // Blessing: My daughter has her own bed in her own room where she gets to lay her head down at night in a warm house. And she can sleep just as soundly in sheets that are dirty as she does in sheets that are clean.

Burden: I did three loads of laundry today only to have the basket piled full with dirties again because of multiple outfit changes by my toddler and husband. // Blessing: We all have plenty of clothes to wear and machines that wash and dry those clothes easily and efficiently.

Burden: Because my work call went late, I needed to feed the baby as soon as I hung up. So my husband offered to cook, which left the kitchen looking like a war zone. // Blessing: Multiple. We have food in our fridge. And our pantry. I have a husband who cooks. And…cleans up.

Burden: All. Of. The. Pine. Needles. On. The. Floor. // Blessing: We have a beautiful Christmas tree that we decorated as a family, making the sweetest memories and the beginnings of family traditions.

Burden: There are a hundred things on the “to do” list that seems to just keep growing. Every day, it feels like I take one step forward and then fall on my face. It can often feel like there is not enough of me to go around. // Blessing: I have job where my work is valued. I have a family that needs and wants me. I have a beautiful house, a running car and more love in my life than I know what to do with.

If you’re feeling burdened today too, know that it’s ok. It’s ok to feel those hard feelings. It’s ok to acknowledge that some days are just too much. But as you sit in those hard moments, remember that you are most likely bearing your blessings.

Dear Lakyn Lee…

I don’t know how, but today marked three months since you came into our lives.

Three. Months.

I remember certain moments and particular details of the last few months so distinctly, it’s like I’m still living in them. But when I think about the past 13 weeks as a whole, it feels like a blur. Like one night I laid you down, both of us in a sleepy haze, and when I opened my eyes you were a smiling, cooing, full-of-life tiny human.

Thank the good Lord I had the foresight to get newborn photos booked before you made your (fashionably late) appearance into the world. And although we didn’t actually get these taken until a month after you were born (because what a month that was) I am eternally grateful for the incredibly talented Bethany Meysenburg who captured the true essence of this new phase of our lives.

AND, because two more months have passed by and I have yet to share these images, I am going to do so now – in celebration of your 1/4-of-a-year birthday.

 

Even in the blur that is early motherhood, I pray that I never forget the details of YOU. Your soulful eyes that make my heart skip a beat. Your bright smile that lights up your whole face. Your long little toes that are just waiting to go places. The way you unlatch and nuzzle against me when your belly is full. The way your free hand reaches up to grasp the collar of my shirt, just to make sure I’m not going anywhere. Our early mornings together before the rest of the world washes over us, and late nights alone when the rest of the house is quite.

No matter how many days or months or years pass by…no matter how many babies fill the walls of this home…there will only be one you. And even though life often demands that my attention be divided, I assure you that my heart is not.

Love you big, sweet babe – Your Mama.

The bigger postpartum picture…

Mamas, I want to take a minute to talk about all of the things postpartum. Well maybe not all of the things, but at least some of them…

There is SO.MUCH.PRESSURE. to “bounce back” quickly after giving birth… physically, mentally, emotionally. In some ways, it feels like we are expected to be back to “normal” as soon as we walk out of the hospital doors. And if we aren’t, we are weak. Or needy. Or a burden to those around us.

Not only are these [unrealistic] expectations placed on us [both implicitly and explicitly] but people also tend to assess how we are “doing” based on our physical appearance alone. Why? Because that’s the most obvious and visible way to measure people up, and looking more than skin deep tends to make people uncomfortable.

I have always been a “skinnier” person, and after both of my pregnancies I regained my figure in a fairly short amount of time. But I am so, SO tired of hearing “WOW, you look great!” Not because I don’t appreciate the compliment, but because it just feels a bit canned to me. It feels like it’s the safe thing to say. It feels inadequate…incomplete.

Today I had my 6-week postpartum appointment. I got the “all clear” from my doctor, who said everything looked great and I have healed up really well.

Almost everyone I see comments on my physical appearance…how it doesn’t look like I just had a baby.


But the thing is, I DID. And when I look in the mirror, what I see is a mama still struggling through this phase of postpartum. I can obviously see it physically — in my squishy, saggy middle, in my my weary eyes and unwashed hair. Clothes and concealer may cover those things on the outside, but I know what’s underneath.

I can also feel what’s underneath. It’s in my heart that is both overflowing with love and aching from the weight of my new responsibilities. It’s in my soul that is always slightly unsettled and often anxious. The exhaustion runs deep in my bones as I single-handedly sustain another human being with my own body. I feel the changes in my relationships…with my husband, my family, my friends. I feel overjoyed but overwhelmed. I feel blessed but burdened. Do you feel it, too?

That’s why it doesn’t necessarily feel good when someone says you “look” good. Because how we look on the outside…that’s only the frame that holds the bigger picture. It is dependent on superficial factors like how longs it’s been since we last took a shower, if there was time to put on a coat of mascara between changing diapers / feeding / folding the hundredth load of laundry for the week, and if there happens to be spit-up on the front of our shirt. I don’t want to be seen for these things or for the fact that I do or don’t fit back in my “pre-pregnancy” pants. I want to be seen for the whole picture. And sometimes…that picture is not pretty.

This phase is no doubt magical, but it can also be mundane. It is exhilarating, but also exhausting. And even when it is happy, it is so dang hard.

Hang in there, mama. There is someone out there who sees you…all of you.