give a little grace…

Grace upon grace. That is what I needed this morning. Because before then sun hit the horizon, it was all aboard the hot.mess.express at the Hummel household…

Daddy was out of town for work, so Murphy’s Law y’all.  Before we dive into the good stuff, here’s a little rundown of the first four hours of our day…

Little woke up like clockwork for her 5:30 AM feeding. She typically ALWAYS goes back to sleep for a couple of hours after this feed. So this mama was planning to have a solid hour of independence before big sister’s 7 AM wake-up call – which meant big plans for real clothes, fixed hair and at least one cup of coffee circulating through my system. N-O-P-E. Lakyn Lee had no interest in going back to sleep today.

The rock-n-play pacified her for a moment – almost long enough for me to wash my face. Which, thanks to @msrachelhollis, we all know is important right?!

Then it all broke loose. Baby wailing from the living room. Big sister calling out for “MAAAAMAAAA…” from bed because baby was being “too noisy” for her.  I glanced at the clock…6:30 AM. I didn’t even get to brush my teeth in peace.

Very, very contrary to my belief system surrounding screen time and meal time, I appeased said toddler at the kitchen counter with a bowl of cereal and PawPatrol on the iPad. Desperate times, friends.

Much to big sister’s dismay (because it was clearly a distraction from the adventures of Alex and Chase) I let the little continue to cry just long enough to pull on yesterday’s stretchy pants and a sweatshirt. So much for making myself semi-presentable for school drop-off…

Got baby changed and dressed and put in the carrier. Screaming continued.

Argued with toddler about her clothes (see picture below). Argued with toddler about her hair (see picture below). Argued with toddler about watching another PawPatrol (Ummm…that’s a no). 

Lopsided pigtails. High-water overalls. But she looked exactly like she wanted, and to a three-year-old that’s all that matters.

Meanwhile…baby still screaming.

Got everyone out the door and realized it was 35 degrees and no one had a coat. Opened the car door for toddler to get herself loaded into her carseat and buckled the baby into hers before heading back in for coats…and more coffee.

Got halfway down the driveway and realized I had not a) taken toddler to the bathroom or b) bushed her teeth. Kept driving because…baby still screaming. And there was a potty and a toothbrush at school…she could make it 30 miles.

Pulled out onto the highway. Toddler yells, “Mommy, LOOK!” While she had done the top clip of her seatbelt as she always does, I had neglected to buckle the bottom part. Probably my biggest #momfail of the morning. Pulled over. Got her buckled.

Got to school. Baby asleep!! All the praise hands. Unloaded everyone and got to the classroom. Toddler had a meltdown. Ran out the door and wrapped herself around my legs screaming. Teacher pried her off and I walked out the door with her yelling for her mommy. The definition of pure torture.

Got the baby in the car. Got myself in the car. I started crying. Then baby started crying. Every Hummel girl at that moment was crying.

Drove to Target. What else was there to do?

Baby cried all the way back to the nursing room, but after her mid-morning snack, all was right in her world again. Mama got herself a latte and headed to amble aimlessly through the throw pillows, blankets and candles…because can you really have too many?? For a brief moment, all was well…

Mama’s happy place.

The tranquility was short lived. One of us was crying again. Surprisingly, it wan’t me. Defeated, I walked toward the exit. But on my way out, a chance encounter completely changed my attitude and outlook for the day. A friend was walking in with her now 8-month-old daughter. She took one look at me and my screaming babe, wrapped her arms around me and said, “You’re doing great mama.”

It took everything I had to hold myself together. Four little words brought such reprieve and solidarity with another human. Another mama. Another warrior. She didn’t just say it, she meant it. 

The details of my day are really irrelevant. The point is, one kind gesture…one moment of grace…completely turned my day around. The rest of the day wasn’t easy. But the five minutes I spent with that friend reminded me that even in the moments I feel like we’re all falling apart…I’m still doing great at this mama gig. 

So give a little grace. To yourself, and to others. Because a little grace goes a long way.

Answering the hard questions…

“Mama, why did Emmy die?”

The question came completely unprompted and entirely unexpected. We were on our way school last week, having the kind of conversation you have while driving with a toddler. I think just before that, we were talking about her “babies” at home, when she matter-of-factly mentioned that I had three babies. Then…that.

I caught my breath as the first tear fell down my cheek. I quickly wiped it away and told her… “Emmy’s body was really sick baby.”

And that was the end of it. It was over as quickly as it had begun. As if she totally understood my answer, and there was no need for further explanation.

This wasn’t the first time we’d had this conversation.

In fact, quite often our little girl is inquisitive about death or has incredible insight about heaven or shares the sweetest sentiment about her sister that completely blows us away.

Here’s another exchange that happened while we were talking about baby sister a week or so before she was born…

L: Is my other sister in heaven?

M: You mean Emmy, baby?

L: Yeah…

M: Yes sweetie, Emmy is in heaven.

L: Can I give her lots of hugs when I get there, because I miss her?

M: Silence…dying inside.

October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. In light of that, this week I’ve been thinking a lot about these conversations and why they happen so freely in our family. Our daughter is not quite three-and-a-half years old. And while I do truly believe that she has a implicit and eternal connection to her twin sister, I am also certain that she would not recognize or express those feelings if we had not made the conscious decision to make Emmy a very real and normal part of our lives. We don’t limit our conversations about infant loss to one month of the year. It is engrained in who we are as a family.

We openly acknowledge that death is painful. We honestly believe that heaven is real. And we truly think it is ok to talk about it. Even when…especially when…it hurts. With tears rolling down our cheeks, we answer the hard questions.

I know “our way” is not the only way. I know not every family who has experienced this type of loss wants to talk about it the way we do. But the number one thing I hear from my brothers and sisters in bereavement – whether their loss was suffered during the pregnancy or after birth – is that they want to feel seen. They want their loss to be acknowledged. They want their baby to be recognized – called by name. They want to hear from you. Not just during the first year. Not just on special occasions. And not just during a month that is set aside for this purpose. But always.

Yes, it can be uncomfortable. Yes, there might be some tears. But those tears, the ones you see when you ask a bereaved parent about their baby…those aren’t tears of sadness. At least in part, they are tears of respite. Tears of joy. Tears of appreciation for your courage in speaking about what many treat as unspeakable.

If you know a family who has suffered the loss of a child, don’t look away…see them. Ask the hard question. I promise, through the tears they will appreciatively answer.

 

 

One month.

One month. 30 days. 720 hours. 43,200 minutes.

One trip to the ER. Two trips to the doctor’s office. Three visits with a lactation consultant.

20+ hours of doula services that have saved mama’s sanity.

Over 5,000 minutes of nursing (but really, who’s counting…) Seven days (that felt like a decade) using a supplemental nursing system. 120 ounces of milk pumped and frozen.

One church service wrapped in a blanket because of an en route blowout. Mama didn’t pack extra clothes. #rookiemistake

Number of diapers…don’t really want to know.

One case of HF&M for big sister. Followed by a respiratory virus, which led to a three-day / two-night hospital stay. Five total days and nights completely segregated as a family in the first two weeks.

One K-State football game (plus one tailgate) every weekend since birth. Because #futurewildcat.

Approximately 832 daily meltdowns. Because THREE girls under ONE roof.

An embarrassing number of decaf lattes for mama. Because they’re cheaper than therapy.

Long days. Short nights. Countless sweet newborn snuggles.

Sweet baby snuggles.

 

However you count it, we are 1/12 of the way through the first year. Just like that. 

Lakyn Lee Hummel, you are loved. Beyond measure.

This is Thirty-Two

Yesterday was a good day. Yesterday was a HARD day. Yesterday, I turned 32.

Yesterday — My sweet husband had to work, so I kissed him goodbye in a sleep-deprived stupor long before the sun came up. He got home just in time to jump in on the nightly bedtime routine and fall back into bed completely spent. I missed him. Not because it was my birthday, but because it was an ordinary day. And ordinary days are better with him by my side.

Yesterday — I spent the majority of the day at home alone caring for my 5-day-old baby (formal introduction coming soon). Which means all of the good things (like sleepy snuggles and afternoon snoozes) and all of the hard things (like an explosive baby blow-out all over the bed, which then meant the sheets needed washed).

Sweet baby snuggles.

Yesterday — I was essentially isolated from my older daughter (for the third day in a row) because she was diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth earlier in the week. Explaining to a 3-year-old why she can’t stay at home with her mommy and daddy or give her newborn sister hugs & kisses is nothing short of brutal. My heart hurt for her this week in ways I didn’t know it could.

Yesterday — I was separated from my family who is in town because…well…a 5-day-old baby and a toddler with HF&M. And, my poor parents who took the brunt of caring for said toddler came down with their own case of the ick. So…no birthday hugs for this girl.

Yesterday — I ached. Physically, mentally and emotionally ached. Everywhere. Partly childbirth recovery. Partly sleep deprivation. But mostly a hectic, stressful week that looked absolutely noting like I had imagined our first week home with baby would look.

But yesterday — it  was so good. Because all of these really hard things….they are rooted in good things. Really good things.

Coffee and diamonds.

Like my husband — who kissed me goodbye before the sun kissed the morning sky (after the kind of sleepless night you have with a newborn). Yes, he was gone on my birthday. On what would have been our very first Saturday at home together as a family. But…he is providing for our family with a career in an industry he loves. His passion provides his paycheck, and that’s pretty rare. Also…he made sure that I felt not only loved  on my birthday, but also known. I woke up to a fresh pot of coffee, the sweetest card and a beautiful ring — baby band #3. Did I mention the coffee? Because he knew this mama would need a whole lot of #coffeeandjesus to get through the day. That’s love.

And this newborn baby — whoa. I started my day, also before the sun came up, feeding her from my own body (which was then demanded of me again and again throughout the day). I answered every cry and met every need. I cleaned up poop and spit-up and spilled milk. Because I am her mother. And that is a miracle that’s not lost on me. And through tired eyes, I got to watch the night turn into day and then the day turn back into night with her snuggled soundly on my chest. Holymoly I am #blessed.

And my Lexi girl — she had a long, hard week. Probably the hardest of all of us. Monday she woke up and her baby sister came into this world and everything changed just like that. Add on the awful discomfort of hand, foot and mouth and several days that she couldn’t be around her mama and sister…it was enough to make any person break, let alone a 3-year-old. But she is tough. So, so tough. I saw her resilient spirit more clearly this week than I ever have before. And it made me exponentially proud to be her mama.

And then there’s my family — Y’all. There are not enough good words in the world to describe them. Last weekend they loved, supported and comforted me through three days of agonizing pre-labor. They were there to welcome our sweet girl into this world and handle all-of-the-things I couldn’t. And my parents pretty much earned their Sainthood taking care of Lexi full-time so we could keep everyone at home as healthy as possible. Their love is supernatural and sacrificial. And even though our first week at home was not what I’d hoped…I am beyond words grateful for the incredible support and love that surrounded me each day. How lucky am I to bring my daughters into a family like that?

Every discomfort, every ache, every tear this week was so worth it. Because sometimes, the most beautiful things grow and flourish in the most difficult places.

So this is thirty-two. It’s not a birthday I will remember because there were extravagant gifts or a spectacular party. It wasn’t glamorous and there are no Instagram-worthy photos to commemorate the day. But it’s a day I will never forget, because it so perfectly embodied the hard stuff and the good stuff of this every-day life I get to live. And the humans I get to love through it all. And those things are far better than gifts and cake and parties any day of the week.

With Grace,

Jen

Dear Emmy…

For the past couple of weeks, I have been in full nesting mode. At least, to the extent my “almost due” body has allowed (someone actually used that phrase to describe my ever-impressive physique recently…I just thought to myself…you should have seen 36 weeks with twins!)

In the midst of cleaning out bathroom cabinets, sorting through no-longer-worn clothes and organizing e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g I could get my hands on, I allowed myself to slow down for a couple of hours to sort through one tub in particular. Yours.

It’s hard to wrap my brain around, even now. How can your beautiful, precious, meaningful life be summed up by the contents of one large plastic tub?

It hadn’t been opened it since we moved to Kansas…almost three years ago. Everything kind of got stuffed in there to “deal with later” because the loss was still too fresh. Now, with some time and distance between my heart and that day, I was able look at things from a new perspective.

There were some things I actually took out – realizing their irrelevance. Things from who exactly I couldn’t remember and that you never actually used. Inanimate objects that once held great value had lost their power over my heart. And that felt good.

Other things, however, still made my soul ache. Like the pair of boots that matched your sisters that we used in our pregnancy announcement photos. And the little outfit your daddy and I picked out in Chicago that you didn’t get to come home in. And the book we read to you and Lexi after all the tubes and monitors had been unhooked, and we we free to just be a family of four for a brief moment.

The hardest thing to look through, though, was a box. I didn’t even remember what was in it at first, and when I took the top off, I didn’t realize the floodgates I was opening. Cards and letters from friends and family and some people I didn’t even know. Words of sorrow and grief and hope and love. Prayers that poured in over us. I read each and every one, sobbing at such raw reminders of our loss.

I needed that time, though. Time alone with you. Time before our next baby girl comes into this world to remember my baby girl in heaven. Time to re-grieve the immense hole your death has left in my heart that will never be filled, no matter how many babies fill our home.

What I realized through this time – through my lack of connection to much of the physical “stuff” but deep emotional ties to the words written by those who love us – is that your memory isn’t defined by a tub full of things at all. It lives on in how you changed our lives. In how you changed the lives of so many who never even met you. You changed lives, Emmy girl, and your memory lives on through that. 

Each night before I lay down, I go into the room you should be sharing with Lexi. The room she will soon share with her baby sister. And I tell each of you goodnight and that I love you. Because just like the little girl who is sleeping in the bed and the baby who is growing inside of me – you, my angel, very much still live here. In us, you live.

Miss you most baby girl,

Mama