Dear Lexi Rae…

Oh, sweet girl. There is so much I want to say to you…

I’m not quite sure where the last 39 weeks have gone. It’s hard to believe that in the next week(ish) we will be bringing home your baby sister. Although she is already a part of our family, her physical presence will bring a whole new meaning to our lives.

When we found out right before Christmas that we’d be adding to our family, I thought we had all the time in the world…for just…everything. I should have known better.

Photo by the incredibly talented Autumn Shoemaker of we chase the light.

Time has a way of doing that – slipping right through our hands. I can honestly say, of all the emotions I WAS prepared for this pregnancy, the way I’m feeling about the impending changes to my relationship with you have totally caught me off guard. In so many ways, I’m just not ready.

A few weeks ago, I posted this:

Honestly, I have continued to fight these feelings of anxiety, guilt and fear with each passing day.  One night this week, it completely overwhelmed me. I laid on the couch, absolutely exhausted, needing just a few minutes to myself. But as I listened to you and your daddy playing outside, my heart was breaking – torn between my physical and mental need for a break and my primal desire to not waste one second of time with you.

These emotions are uncharted territory for your mama’s heart. I have trudged slowly but steadily through the grief of seeing you separated from Emmy, and somewhat learned how to handle those complex feelings. But this – I am still learning. So as we move into this new space as a family, I want you to know a few things…

I want you to know that I love you. Like, to the depths of my soul and deepest corners of my heart kind of love. It’s a love you will not understand until you become a mother. And then, it will suddenly all make sense.

I want you to know that things are going to change. A lot. And parts of that change will be so, so hard – for both of us. But it will also be beautiful and exciting, and while we will remember parts of our lives before this baby, we will never want to go back.

I want you to know that I will mess up. In so many ways as a mama, I will fall short – for both you and your sister. I will give in when I shouldn’t because it’s easier than the alternative. I will lose my temper with you because the exhaustion will have ahold of my brain. And I will fail to show up in ways I know I should because at times, there will just not be enough of me to go around. But I promise you this, sweet girl – I will do my very best. Every day I will wake up and love you and your sisters and your daddy with everything I have. Just know that some days, it might feel like it wasn’t enough.

Finally, I want you to know that your sisters will be among your greatest blessings. I am deeply sorry you have to navigate your life without Emmy by your side – that your heart will forever know the ache of that missing piece. But just because she is not here physically does not mean she is not with you – now and always. As for the baby sister you’re about to meet, you can bet she will drive you absolutely crazy. She will take your toys and someday your clothes and on many days your sanity. But, when it really counts – in life’s best and worst moments – the two of you all three of you will have each other. 

I am so proud and grateful and humbled that God chose me to be you mama. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would have the three most incredible daughters. But HIS plans for me were are so much better than my own.

Love you most sweet girl,

Your Mama

To the Woman in Waiting

To the woman in the waiting room….

As I take my seat across from you — now in my 7th month of a (relatively) routine, healthy pregnancy — I want you to know that I see you there. Right where you are.

I see you smack dab in the middle of the hardest season of waiting you could ever imagine. One you didn’t expect. One you’re still unsure how to navigate. One that’s testing you…your marriage…your faith.

I see you bargaining with God, offering up anything everything you can think of for one small piece of good news. One step in the right direction. One positive test. Praying that this time He will not only hear you, but that He will respond to your cries.

I see you pressing back the tears because there is literally no worse place to be waiting than the one place that all of the pregnant people seem to be gathered. Did they all plan to come on the same day, or is it just that everyone but you is pregnant?!

Seriously. They should have a back entrance for this kind of thing. Our kind of thing.

I see you. And when I see you, I see myself.

And I want you to know, I don’t just see you from the outside, like a spectator. I actually see you. And I feel your heart.  And I know your soul. Maybe not all of it, but at least a small piece. Because we are sisters in this battle. You just can’t see it right now beyond my now bulging belly.

I know the knot in your stomach as you walk through the doors and go to check in, knowing you’ll have to sign off (again) that you are aware — so freaking aware — that today’s appointment/test/medication/procedure is not covered by insurance. Because treatment for infertility is apparently “elective” …although, becoming a mother doesn’t feel elective. It feels essential. Like without it, it’s hard to even exist. At least at full capacity.

I know the feeling of the heat rising into your cheeks, hoping no one around you knows what you’re signing or why you’re here (again). Hoping you don’t run into anyone you know. You don’t know whether to be angry at God, yourself, the sweet girl checking you in, or every pregnant woman in the universe. But the anger is there, none the less.

I know the hurt in your heart each time yet another pregnant woman walks through the doors. And then the guilt that accompanies that hurt because it can be so. dang. hard. to be happy for those women. Those strangers. When you look at them, you see everything you want but don’t have. Everything you’re praying for. Everything you’re fighting for. And you might assume that for them…it came easy. You probably assumed that when you looked at me today. And for that, I am sorry.

I know the ache in your soul. The ache that only grows with each passing day…each missed cycle. Whether you’re hoping for your very first baby, or your fifth…the ache is there.

I know this place of waiting feels lonely…and I don’t just mean this room. It is isolating and heartbreaking and suffocating. But please, don’t lose yourself here – in the waiting. Because I promise you, in one way or another, the wait will end.

And maybe right now you want to fly this thing solo, or with your husband and family –and that’s ok. But I want you to know in the meantime, there is an entire tribe of women standing by ready to go to battle for your soul and your sanity. No one understands this journey better than the ones who have walked it before you…or are walking it with you.

I know the baby bump you see when you look at me can be blinding, but I beg you – don’t let it be the only thing you see. Because there is much, much more to my story. Just like there will be much, much more to yours.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

With Grace,

A Mama Who’s Been There

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The Cost, Conflict & Consideration of Joy

Photo by Wrenn Bird Photography.

Last week, we finally shared our big news “socially” – we are expecting baby girl #3. We are truly overjoyed. Overjoyed that He has answered the resounding prayer of our hearts. Overjoyed that Lexi will know that having a sister doesn’t always mean loving someone we can’t wrap our arms around. But it took us (me) quite a while to share this joy with the world. Not because I didn’t feel it – but because sharing it felt so, so heavy. I am no longer oblivious to the impact of this blessing beyond myself. I am [un]fortunately aware of how my own experiences might affect others. And that changes everything. It’s hard to explain, but let me try…

This joy hasn’t come without cost. Infertility after having children is a difficult space to live in. Pregnancy after loss is no walk in the park, either. We are so grateful for those who have walked with us through all of these things. The faithful friends and family who have allowed us to share difficult thoughts and express difficult feelings – our sounding boards and our prayer warriors. We would not be in this place without you.

This joy hasn’t come without conflict. Conflict in our marriage, conflict within ourselves, and conflict with God. It is hard not to question. Everything. It is easy to talk the talk, but walking the walk is a different story. We stumbled – several times. We doubted – each other, ourselves and Him. We yelled, we cried and once or twice we probably asked ourselves it was all worth it. But now…now we know.

And above all, this joy does not come without consideration. Consideration for my sisters who have and are walking this journey of infertility and loss with me, but have not yet received the answer they are so desperately praying for. Consideration for the mamas who have carried little souls they will not know this side of Heaven. I can no longer be joyful without consideration. To those women – I pray that you know you are not unseen and you are never alone. I see you, but more importantly GOD sees you. Hold on to the hope that He is not saying “never” He is just saying “not yet.” I will continue to pray for you in the waiting.

It took me many, many weeks to be ready to share this joy – with the cost, the conflict and the consideration that came with it. My husband and my family gave me the grace to wait. Because you don’t always have to understand to empathize.

Jesus, thank you for giving us more than we deserve. Thank you for allowing us to walk in the depths of sorrow so we may fully appreciate the joy of our blessings. Please help us to understand that your timing is perfect. Your plan is flawless. And your love is limitless. Let us always walk in your will, trust in your timing and submit to your sovereignty. Amen. 

With Grace,

Jen

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2015 Recap – The Worst-Best Year Ever

I hate using the term “bitter-sweet” to describe the last year of my life. It could not be more cliché. But more than that…it significantly undervalues the events of the past 365 days and their long-term implications for my life. This was truly the worst-best year ever. Here’s a recap:

We rang in the New Year with happy hearts and big dreams for our two tiny humans.

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We watched in awe as those tiny humans grew…and grew…and grew. (Seriously, who knew a stomach could get that big!)

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We spent AIMG_0378 LOT of time with doctors. Ultrasounds, blood tests, fetal heart echos, non-stress tests, you name it. We knew there were complications. We could see in each new doctor’s eyes their level of concern. We were heartbroken, but hopeful.

 

 

 

We spent the last six weeks of our pregnancy in Chicago, in and out of the Prentice Women’s Hospital. We learned to take it day by day. Enjoy the little things. And try not to drive each other bat crap crazy.

On May 21, we welcomed the two most beautiful souls into this world.

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On May 22, I held one of my babies as her heart stopped beating, forever taking with it a piece of mine.

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Every day since then, I have fought to balance grief and gratitude. I’ve walked the line between inconceivable happiness and inconsolable heartache. And honestly, I’m not sure I’ll ever get the balance quite right.

But also every day since then, I have had the privilege of watching this beautiful girl grow and learn and bloom. It is the most incredible thing I’ve ever been a part of.

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In some ways, I wanted 2015 to last forever. In others, this past year of my life could not come to a close quickly enough. For those of you who have followed our journey – continually sending your thoughts and keeping us in your prayers – I thank you. You had more impact on our lives than you will ever know. When we look back at 2015, you will forever be a part of our story.

With Grace,

Jen

24 / 7 / 367

That’s how long I’ve loved you. Because 367 days ago (I’m a few days behind in writing this…) I sat anxiously in an exam room and for the first (of many more times to come) I had warm gel squeezed all over my then flat and unscarred abdomen and saw not one but two little heartbeats flickering on the screen.

This appointment was preceded by a small hunch that I might be pregnant…

Yes…this really happened. It couldn't be wrong 10 times in a row, right?

Yes…this happened. It couldn’t be wrong 10 times in a row, right?

Clearly, I had trust issues with the HPTs. Turns out…they were right.

I had imagined many times what that moment would feel like…I was nervous and terrified and overwhelmingly excited. And literally the second the ultrasound tech confirmed I was pregnant…my heart was forever changed.

"We prayed for a baby, so what did God do? He smiled and gave us not ONE but TWO!"

“We prayed for a baby, so what did God do? He smiled and gave us not ONE but TWO!”

So my beautiful girls…thank you for the most wonderful / challenging / rewarding / [insert a thousand additional adjectives here] year of my life. Being your mama is better than Oreo cookies for breakfast. (I tell your dad they’re protein bars…)

You are my sunshine(s),

Mama