Capture Your Grief, Day 14 – Express Your Heart

I have an interesting confession for you. I never really thought about having children when I was younger. I was not one of those girls who always knew or hoped she would have children. I did not babysit. I did not take Home Economics in school. I was an only child, and nearly the youngest of all of my cousins (which are not many to begin with). I never disliked children, I just never gave the idea of having children a particularly great quantity of thought.

How funny then, that Mother would be one of the words which I hold on to most dearly, when examining my own identity. My own journey in first becoming a step-mother, having a child of my own and then losing my unborn daughter have been defining moments of my life. Where once I was a girl who never thought about becoming a mother, I am now a Step-Mother, Biological Mother and Bereaved Mother. I am a mother, thrice over. I am a woman who writes about being a mother. I am a woman who gets on stages and speaks about being a mother. I am a woman who uses my own experiences to advocate for other mothers.

Mothers are my people.

It is rather cliché to say, but you just never know where life will take you. Something never considered, could one day become defining.

Here’s to staying open to whatever may come, friends.


December Reflections, Day 31 – My Word For 2016

Here we are, the last of the December Reflections prompts. I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and expansion of using these little nudges to write every day. I know I said that I’d be going back to my regular posting schedule when these were through, but I’m already looking at at a new daily prompt exercise that I plan to start mid-January! So if you wanted to hear less from me… sorry. I do plan to take the first few weeks of January a bit slower (I will still be posting, just not every day).

Last year was the first year that I participated in Susannah Conway‘s 5 day journaling exercise to choose a word for the year. My word for 2015 was Linger, because I wanted to learn to slow down and savor life. I had the word as my phone wallpaper, and it was a constant reminder to stop and enjoy, to linger over life. Mid-way through the year, I found myself more frequently turning down plans, in favor of quiet but impactful, time at home with my family. I found myself saying yes to requests for train track building, even when laundry was piling up. I began to enjoy pulling weeds, because it gave me time to linger over the garden. I indulged in reading and knitting without guilt, because I knew that I was lingering over things that I enjoyed. I plan to continue this slow appreciation of life, even though it is time for my word to change.

Going into the journaling exercises this year, I thought I already knew what my word would be. After so much pain and heartbreak, I thought that I needed to nurture myself. I found myself initially drawn towards self-care words like nurture, tend and soothe. However, as I went through the exercises, exploring what I wanted out of the year to come, I realized that I needed a very different sort of word. A word which is often underrated. I realized that in 2016, what I want most of all, is JOY.

Initially, I dismissed JOY as being a weak word. I felt that it lacked the substance that linger had, and it lacked the comfort called up by words like nurture, tend and soothe. But JOY is more powerful a word than I think many give it credit for. It has been stitched onto one too many Christmas stockings, and is now a word we tend to pass over. However, if you consider what JOY actually means, it’s so much more than a simple Hallmark go-to. JOY is unbridled happiness. It is glee, without restraint. In order to feel JOY, one must be fully open, one must be free of emotional burden. You cannot be JOYFUL and dismayed. You cannot be JOYFUL and afraid. No, indeed when one is JOYFUL, that is all they are. Hence the saying, “pure joy”. JOY is pure. It is all encompassing.

I may find myself calling upon the comforts of tend and nurture as I move through 2016. It will be through taking care of myself and lingering over the things which make me happy, that I expect to find my way to JOY. But find my way, I will.

And so, from the bottom of my heart, I wish you all a very Happy New Year. In 2016, may you find exactly what you’re looking for.


P.S. – The fun little grouping of items you see above is my Word of the Year Alchemy Kit, from WishStudio!

P.P.S. – It’s not too late to choose a word of your own for 2016! If you’re interested in following the same path that I did, find Susannah Conway’s free course here.

December Reflections, Day 30 – Thank You For…

I owe thanks to a lot of people this year. I hope I have done a good job at telling you all (at least I have tried), but in case I haven’t, here’s a big list, in no particular order, of all the things I want to thank you for. If one is meant for you, hopefully you’ll know it. ❤

Holding my hand.
Letting me feel crazy without judgement.
Sharing my pain.
Sharing your pain.
Believing in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.
My very first surprise party.
Inviting me to speak.
Seeing me as a human, and not just another patient.
Believing so strongly that things will be okay, even better than okay, that I begin to believe it myself.
Her quilt.
Pushing for the blood work.
The books.
Organizing a ninja friends support network. Holy shit, seriously.
Just being there, and making sure I knew that you were.
The way that you hug my neck.
Talks at the breakfast bar.
The art.
The statue.
Talking me through.
Keeping me accountable.
Shopping and drinking in Haight-Ashbury.
Sea Lions on the pier.
First class.
Dim sum.
Anchor steam.
Actually, just ALL THE food in San Francisco. Oh my god, that Thai place.
In fact, just all of San Francisco. All. Of. It.
Fancy beer.
Seeing me.
Saying “Mom, you know, I love you.” at completely random moments.
Sky diving.
Toilet humor.
Family jokes.
Finders keepers, smackie boy.
Being sensitive to my feelings.
Your shoulder.
Persistently complimenting me, even when I’m terrible at receiving them.
Trying something new.
Teaching me to see.
Opening a well of gratitude within me.
Babysitting, again.
Being strong when I wasn’t.
Being available, at the drop of a hat.
Getting me outside.
A present for no reason.
Being so mature.
Checking in.
Your perspective.
Letting me cry.
Being okay with repeating yourself when I need something hammered in.
Lifting me up.
Reminding me to stay open.
Being proud of me.
A picnic on a warm, Fall day.
Reminding me to play.
Tolerating my yarn hoarding.
Tolerating lots of other stuff, too.
Unconditional love.
The beard.

I love you guys. All of you.

Thank you.

December Reflections, Day 29 – Home

I was born in Oklahoma, and I have made my grown-up home in Illinois. However, between the very formative ages of 2 and 19, I lived in Texas and so I will always consider Texas to be “home”. In about 6 years, I will have lived in IL for as long as I lived in Texas, though I am not sure it will ever feel the same way. I can still picture the wildflowers in my mind. Highway medians and grassy slopes painted in orange and purple. I can feel the August heat on my skin. I remember the way it feels to dip your feet in a Texas lake, when it has been warmed day and night by the summer sun. Quite different than the frigid (but beautiful) gargantuan lake that I am nearest to these days. My love for Texas is a purely geographical one however, since I stick out like a political sore thumb in my very much “red” home state.

In fact, if we lived in Texas, our experience with Clara would have been even more difficult, something hard to imagine. This is because Texas is one of several states which currently bans abortion after 20 weeks. The thought here is that, by 20 weeks, a woman should have already “decided” to have her baby or not. *deep breath* This line of thinking is so wildly misguided that it makes my head spin. I’m not going to break down all the reasons that I believe a woman has a right to choose, today at least, and instead I will focus on what happened to me. 

I decided to have my baby. I decided to have my baby before I was even pregnant, because my baby was an on-purpose baby. My baby was very much wanted. I went to the doctor appointments, watched the ultrasounds with bated breath and even bought a home fetal heart monitor because I was just so excited about this baby. At around 20 weeks, a woman with a routine pregnancy will undergo her anatomy scan. This scan is done specifically around the 20 week mark because that is the best and earliest time to check for very important anatomical development milestones and defects. It is also at this ultrasound where a woman usually finds out whether or not her baby is a boy or a girl, if she chooses to find out. We had our 20 week ultrasound right on time and were delighted to discover that we were having a girl. Our first daughter. We had exactly 3 days to dream about what it would be like to have a little girl, before we got the call. They found something and we needed to do a follow up, more detailed, ultrasound. Sick with fear and panic, I immediately called the high risk OB to schedule, but was unable to do so right away because well, insurance in America (we can get into this another time, I just don’t have it in me today). So, I had to wait for a bunch of yahoos who don’t know me from Joe to unwrap my future from all the red tape that they had wound around it, before I could even schedule the appointment for the follow up ultrasound. I think it took 2 days. On the 3rd day, approved referral in hand, I called the high risk OB that we’d been sent to, and scheduled ourselves for the following Monday (which was the earliest they could get me in – ugh). This would be a total of 6 days after the phone call, 9 days after the initial anatomy scan. I was now 21 weeks pregnant. In case you aren’t paying attention to the dates, that’s already too late for a Texan to receive an abortion, and I hadn’t even gotten my diagnosis yet. At the high risk OB appointment, we received the devastating Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele diagnosis, which you have probably already read about. If not, you can read that story here.

Now that we had a diagnosis, we had to learn. We had to soul search. It took us several days of crying, reading, talking and calling the doctor with questions before we landed on the decision that was best for our daughter, and our family. From there, it was going to take us another week or so to get our surgical abortion approved by insurance and scheduled. Unable to bear the torture any longer, we decided to schedule our procedure without waiting for insurance, and hoped that they would cover the claim later (they did, since our diagnosis was considered a lethal fetal anomaly). Even without waiting for insurance, we had to wait 4 days before we could get an appointment at the clinic, to begin the 3 day procedure. With no laziness or procrastination on our part, it took us 2 weeks from the initial anatomy scan where an anomaly was found to Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele diagnosis, to our eventual abortion. I was 22 weeks pregnant.

Due to the way a fetus develops, an anatomy scan cannot be performed with reliability much earlier than 20 weeks (some doctors will give this a 1 week swing on either side). When states put restrictions on abortion at or before the 20 week mark, they do not discourage women from ending unwanted pregnancies. Instead, they add hurdles and burdens to women ending a pregnancy for medical reasons. If we lived in Texas, we would have needed to travel out of state for our procedure. I am sure I don’t need to break down how awful that would have been emotionally, not to mention it is not ideal/medically advisable for a woman to travel and be unable to return immediately home after an outpatient surgical procedure.

In my current home state of Illinois, abortions are banned after 24 weeks. This is not much better than Texas, to be honest, but it was enough for us to be able to stay in state (though we did have to drive almost an hour there and back, 3 days in a row).

Today was going to be a simple post, an ode to the big skies and wildflowers of Texas, but as I wrote, I realized that I had bigger things to say about my beloved Lone Star State. I understand that abortion is a touchy issue. I do not expect us all to agree. However, what I hope is that people will listen, and understand that there are more reasons for abortion than just unwanted pregnancy (though I firmly believe that bodily autonomy makes that an okay reason, too). There are many assumptions about abortion, and about the kind of women who have them.

Assumption is a dangerous thing.


December Reflections, Day 28 – A Secret Wish For 2016

I suppose it’s not a secret wish if I post it on my very public blog, but here goes. I have been working on something. *cue mischievous grin* I have been quietly putting together a talk around what I am calling being a Mompostor. What is a Mompostor?  I’m glad you asked! A Mompostor is someone struggling with the motherhood version of Impostor Syndrome. Impostor Syndrome is the inability to accept one’s own success or achievement in areas of academia, creativity or other accomplishment, despite a body of evidence which indicates talent or skill. It’s an uncomfortable sense felt by everyone from writers to CEOs to, as I want to discuss and explore, Moms.

But why am I putting together this talk? Well, here’s the secret wish part – I’m going to apply for a speaker slot at Postpartum Progress’ Warrior Mom Conference 2016 in Atlanta. I have no idea whether or not I have even a breath of a chance at landing a speaker slot (because Impostor Syndrome tells me that I have no real credibility), but I do have impactful words to share and a powerful voice with which to share them.

I plan to attend the conference, even if I do not get accepted as a speaker. Let me know in the comments if you’re going, too! I will keep you all posted on whether or not I am selected as a speaker (should know in March), so send me your good vibes, prayers, finger and toe crossings and thank you for your support and encouragement. The messages that I have received since I started blogging have been integral to developing my confidence as a writer and storyteller. Thank you. I hope that, together, we can continue to build this community, fostering discussion and support around matters of postpartum mood disorders, motherhood, pregnancy loss, abortion and grief.

Thank you for all you do in helping me turn grief into growth.

Peace and love to you, friends.

December Reflections, Day 27- 2015 Taught Me…

2015 taught me…

…to stop, look up, and see.

…to feel gratitude in a way that I never imagined possible.

…to trust my support network. I would not have made it without them.

…that I am way more brave than I ever give myself credit for.

2015 taught me that the sun still rises, after even the darkest of days.

December Reflections, Day 26 – Real Life

Contrast is an interesting thing. Many people, when asked to share their primary goal in life, would likely say that it is to be happy. However, I think this is an oversimplified articulation of the truth. The truth is that you cannot appreciate happiness without sadness. So, perhaps a better way to state this goal is to say that we want to have a life of feeling. Of course no one really wants to experience sadness, loss, anger, frustration…but without them, how would you distinguish joy?

This fantasy of perpetual happiness is just that, fantasy. It is no more possible than it is interesting, and it wouldn’t be very interesting. It is contrast that makes real life, real. Our experiences, in all their great variance, add depth to our character and give our lives the richness of feeling. For me, this is the ultimate goal. I want to be happy, of course. But more than that, I want to be able to appreciate my own happiness.

Back when I was pregnant with Clara, I signed up for an expectant mother’s mailing list. Coupons, samples and the like. Unfortunately, there is no way to un-sign up. You get where this is going… Tonight, we came home from holiday festivities to a package on the porch. After so many days of joy and delight, family and fun, we arrived home to a reminder of the little girl who is not coming home.


I will donate these samples to someone who will make use of them, along with any other samples and coupons we receive. And I will remember that even the saddest reminders provide the contrast to make joy shine.

December Reflections, Day 25 – Love is…

Love is when you get each other fancy drinking vessels without having any clue what the other was buying.

Back to the beautiful chaos, friends.

Merry Christmas.

December Reflections, Day 24 – One Year Ago

I took this photo on Christmas Eve, 2014 and my kitchen does not look much different as I write this. I am currently putting the finishing touches on the 2nd thing I’ve made for the day, with the 3rd dish waiting to go into the oven, and ingredients for the 4th dish are waiting in the wings. No matter the year, my house looks much the same on December 24th, and yet in my heart, there has been so much change.

I am a creature of habit. I thrive within routine, and find comfort in the “sameness” that is the very lifeblood of tradition. After a year such as the one we have had, with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, there has been great comfort in the sameness of today. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been flustered more than once during the cooking frenzy. There have been swear words. One child has acted out and cried, the other has been camped out in his room all day, like the almost-teenager that he is. My husband has been trying to keep us all in balance, a job he always does with the dexterity of a tight rope walker. No, comfort does not always mean that things are perfect. It means that they are what we know.

I appreciate that, any given Christmas Eve, it is almost certain (because nothing is completely so), that you will find me in the kitchen, making a mess, swearing, possibly drinking. My kids will be doing exactly what they do, my husband will be helping me when he can, and building train tracks for someone small in between. It may not be pretty, but it’s what we know, and I will always find a wealth of joy in that.

Merry Christmas, friends.

December Reflections, Day 23 – Delicious

Just popping in quickly, because I am busy making up for lost egg nogs and enjoying my family today. We have been out taking in some lights and the incredible 60 degree weather that we are getting here in the Midwest. We spent a night soaking in deliciousness for all the senses and I am very pleased with the way we have kicked off this holiday break. Capping the night off with a delicious sleep seems like just the ticket.

Peace and love to you all, and Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating it.