Why We *Heart* Chicago

This time last week, we were en route to the city that will always hold a piece of our hearts. For me – if Emmy “is” anywhere this side of heaven – it’s Chicago. And of all the things that little girl brought into our family, the tradition of this trip has to be one of my favorites.

For me, Chicago feels strangely like home. It’s where we spent weeks planning for and protecting the two little lives God had entrusted us with. It’s where we watched those two little lives come into this world, one of them only for a day . It’s the only place on earth we were ever physically a family of four.  For us, it’s a place that holds the very best and the very worst life has to offer – but each year that we make this trip, we’re adding to the “very best” category. And that feels so good.

I’m not sure why I’ve never written about these trips before – if for nothing else at least as a way to look back. So now, I’m packaging three years into one.

On each trip we try to do something new, with our adventures based loosely off the book Max Explores Chicago that we bought (and started) while we were “living” there. But, we also have our traditions within the tradition…our mainstay stops…the ones that are gut wrenching and soul shaking, but also peace providing. The people and the places and the things that take us back to the way we were before we were broken in this way – before we knew life as bereaved parents.

We always visit the hospital where the girls were born and Lurie Children’s Hospital where Emmy lived the duration of her short life under the most incredible medical care we could have hoped for. There is something about just being in that place that makes me feel so close to her. It could just be the memories. It could be my imagination. Or it could be a God thing. Whatever it is…she’s there.

Lurie Children's Hospital 2016

Lurie Children’s Hospital 2016

Lurie Children's Hospital 2017

Lurie Children’s Hospital 2017

Lurie Children's Hospital 2018

Lurie Children’s Hospital 2018

Lurie Children's Hospital - Aquarium 2017

Lurie Children’s Hospital – Aquarium 2017

Lurie Children's Hospital - Aquarium 2018

Lurie Children’s Hospital – Aquarium 2018

And of course, right around the corner from the hospital is our favorite donut shop, Stan’s (Chicago was really into the donut thing when we were there)

Stan's Donuts 2016

Stan’s Donuts 2016

Stan's Donuts 2017

Stan’s Donuts 2017

Stan's Donuts 2018

Stan’s Donuts 2018

Nom, Nom, Nom

Nom, Nom, Nom

We typically try to hit a Cubs game, because that’s something we did with the girls (and it may be the only thing that keeps daddy tagging along)

Cubs Game 2016

Cubs Game 2016

Cubs Game 2018 (BOB)

Cubs Game 2018 (Oh hey there, BOB!)

And there is always, always time set aside for a visit with our favorite neonatologist on earth, Dr. Meghan. My attachment to her my seem unusual, as she was the first doctor too look me in the eyes and tell me the likelihood of “Baby A” surviving was slim to none. Up to that point, it was like no one had been brave enough to say it out loud. It broke me. But in some ways, I needed to be broken. She encouraged us to start thinking about the best thing for “Baby B” as not to jeopardize her wellbeing. But then she learned their names. And she heard our story. And as the days turned into weeks and we made it further into the pregnancy than anyone thought we would, she and her team began fighting for both of our girls. They provided options and information and most of all – hope. And in the end, she carried the devastation of loosing Emmy right along with us. To this day, she shows love and compassion to both of our girls and has become so much more than just a doctor.

Visiting Dr. Meghan 2016

Starbucks with Dr. Meghan 2016

Playing with Dr. Meghan 2018

Playing in the park with Dr. Meghan 2018

A daddy/daughter snapshot always makes the “best of” list. On these trips I do tend to make some space for myself to just be alone and breathe. It’s what I need, but it also gives these two some unique opportunities to bond in ways they might not otherwise. It’s truly a win-win for us.

Lexi & Daddy Cubs Game 2016

Lexi & Daddy Cubs Game 2016

Lexi & Daddy Post-Cubs Game 2016

Lexi & Daddy Post-Cubs Game 2016

Lexi & Daddy Do-Rite Donuts 2017

Lexi & Daddy Do-Rite Donuts 2017

Lexi & Daddy Navy Pier 2017

Lexi & Daddy Navy Pier 2017

Lexi & Daddy Cubs Game 2018

Lexi & Daddy Cubs Game 2018

And of course, there is lots of family bonding time and some prime opportunities for family selfies, too…

Family at Cubs Game 2016

Cubs Game 2016

Family at the Navy Pier Centennial Wheel 2017

Navy Pier Centennial Wheel 2017 (clearly Lexi is impressed…)

Family at Gino's East (favorite Pizza in Chicago) 2018

Gino’s East 2018 (Favorite Pizza in Chicago!)

And our trip always ends in the same same way (in the best way) with everyone exhausted, but our family cup overflowing until we can do it all again in the next year…

Snoozing on the way to the airport 2016

Snoozing on the way to the airport 2016

Snoozing on the way to the airport 2017

Snoozing on the way to the airport 2017

(You will just have to trust me that this was her exact position on the way to the airport this year as well…I am literally kicking myself for not snapping that shot!)

So, as they say…This Is Us. It’s us allowing ourselves to experience and re-experience the best and worst parts of our story. It’s us allowing ourselves the grace and the space away from everyday life to remember. It’s just…us.

Thanks for continuing to give me grace in sharing our story, as I continue learning how to give that grace back…

Jen

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Bittersweet…But Mostly Sweet

Today was a very bittersweet day….but mostly sweet. We had a friend flying into Chicago and also needed to take care of some birth certificate business at the Cook County Vital Records Office, so we just decided to make a day of it in the Windy City.

Kade and I have very different feelings about Chicago on many levels. He’s not much on the city life in general, but now he has very strong negative emotions tied to what was once just the home of his favorite sports teams. I, on the other hand, find the city streets to be invigorating. I’ve always easily transitioned between my love for country living and lust for the city life. And when I think of Chicago now, I feel more comfort than sadness. Our time there, while difficult, was full of wonderful memories for me. I was carrying both of our baby girls, listening to their heartbeats and feeling their kicks every day, and learning what it means to persevere through a difficult season in life with my husband by my side. It taught me so much about myself, strengthened my marriage and ignited my faith. Chicago made me a better human, and I love it for that.

One of the things we did today was go back to visit the hospital campus. I was irrationally excited all morning to see some familiar faces and give some well deserved hugs to people who did so much for us. But walking across the skybridge into Lurie Children’s Hospital…seeing the front desk where we checked our family in to go up and meet Emalynn for the first time and in the same breath tell her goodbye…it nearly took my breath away. I wasn’t prepared for the way it made my heart ache for her. I had to will my legs to keep walking. It was as raw of an emotion I’ve felt in a while.

Mama & Little Bit at Lurie Children's Hospital.

Mama & Little Bit at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

We are so grateful for what the doctors and nurses at Lurie did for our sweet Emmy, and our entire family as we cherished out last few hours with her on earth. It is a top-notch medical facility with the most compassionate and caring staff you can imagine.

We are so grateful for what the doctors and nurses at Lurie did for our sweet Emmy, and our entire family as we cherished out last few hours with her on earth. It is a top-notch medical facility with the most compassionate and caring staff you can imagine.

But the joy…the honor of hand-delivering birth announcements to the nurses, doctors, social workers and staff who became such an intimate part of our story…it was well worth the heart ache. Kade even stopped to give an announcement to the women who works at the front desk handing out day passes to visitors. She got to know his face well during our time there, and after a few weeks when she’d see him each morning she would tell him she was praying for us. People are so good.

We spent some time talking to Little Bit about her sister, as we often do. I hope and pray that Emmy is always a name on our lips, and that Lexi grows up with a love and reverence for the sister she got to share a womb with for 8 months. That is so, so important to me.

We plan to continue trips to Chicago, making it a priority to spend special time there as a family. It is good for us to remember – to cherish our memories there and to make new ones as well. It will always be a city of bittersweet emotions for us…but mostly sweet.

With Grace,

Jen

Week 3 “In Pictures”

It has been three weeks since we “relocated” to the Windy City. Some days it seems like we’ve been here for months. Kade and I are definitely missing home, and looking forward to when we get to do all those seemingly mundane things that, truthfully, we took for granted before all of this. Things like mowing the lawn, cooking real meals (including eating with real utensils!) and sleeping in our own bed. Honestly, I can’t wait to get home and spend just a few peaceful minutes on our porch swing taking in a summer sunset. But in the meantime, we are truly trying to make the most of our city living….knowing we’ll look back on this time some day and smile at the memories we made.

One of the things we are trying to do is take in as much of the “local” scene as we can – little places to eat, city events, etc. And to help us remember these things I am, of course, taking pictures of everything. So here’s a look back at Week 3 captured through the lens of my iPhone…

Celebrating 33 weeks with a pretty incredible brownie sundae at a little place called Timothy O'Tooles. Very, very yum.

Celebrating 33 weeks with a pretty incredible brownie sundae at a little place called Timothy O’Tooles. Very, very yum.

Thursday, we made our way to Grant Park to take in the festivities of the first day of the NFL draft. This event hasn't taken place in Chicago in…well…a really long time. The city was CRAZY! I guess there were like 200,000 people who attended over the course of the three-day event. And to think…we accounted for four of those!

Thursday, we made our way to Grant Park to take in the festivities of the first day of the NFL draft. This event hasn’t taken place in Chicago in…well…a really long time. The city was CRAZY! I guess there were like 200,000 people who attended over the course of the three-day event. And to think…we accounted for four of those!

One evening we went out to Navy Pier and just spent a little time walking along the water. It was finally warm enough to not be in coats, and we were sure as heck going to take advantage. I loved looking back at the city skyline.

One evening we went out to Navy Pier and just spent a little time walking along the water. It was finally warm enough to not be in coats, and we were sure as heck going to take advantage. I loved looking back at the city skyline.

We'd been eying Stan's Donuts for days. It is on a route that we walk quite a bit, and well…we are donut people. So yesterday morning, we walked through the revolving door that had been beckoning us. And we definitely don't regret it.

We’d been eying Stan’s Donuts for days. It is on a route that we walk quite a bit, and well…we are donut people. So yesterday morning, we walked through the revolving door that had been beckoning us. And we definitely don’t regret it.

Whether I like it or not (and really...I do) I am growing little Chicago sports fans in my belly. Daddy will make sure of that. So with gorgeous weather in the forecast and the Cubs closing out a home series against the Brewers, we ventured to Wrigley for an afternoon of brats and baseball. Best decision we've made in three weeks, hands-down.

Whether I like it or not (and really…I do) I am growing two little Chicago sports fans in my belly. Daddy will make sure of that. So with gorgeous weather in the forecast and the Cubs closing out a home series against the Brewers, we ventured to Wrigley for an afternoon of brats and baseball. Best decision we’ve made in three weeks.

And that’s pretty much a wrap! Of course, there are a lot of hours between these snapshots that are a lot more…ordinary. But, those moments are wonderful too. Because we’re here together, waiting on the two most precious little gifts. And they are busy teaching us the patience I’m only sure we’ll need during their teenage years…

With Grace,

Jen