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Clean Teeth and Some Memories

I met my new dentist the other day.

I’ve been going to that dentist’s office for 10+ years, but my dentist recently retired and I haven’t had the chance to meet one of the partners who took over the practice. As I was uncomfortably reclined back in the chair, my mouth hanging open and drool — made even more … drooly … by pregnancy — practically flowing out of my mouth, the dental hygienist informed the dentist that I was pregnant.

“Oh, congratulations! Is it your first?”

Then, my mind did what it always does when someone asks me what number kiddo is currently making his home in my ever-expanding belly: raced through all the possible responses.

“Nope, he’s our second.”

“Nope, he’s number 3.” And leave it at that, knowing the next question is how old our other two are.

“Nope, he’s number 3 … but number 1 died, so he’s like number 2. But really number 3.”

It’s exhausting to pretend like Penelope Joy didn’t exist because it makes people uncomfortable to talk about her. I love my children. All three of them. They are all a huge part of who I am as a person and as a mother. They are our family. Dottie Lou is no more important in our life’s story because she is alive, just as Penelope Joy is no more important because she isn’t. And Wink? He’s right up there with them.

Please don’t get me wrong — I know, with my whole heart, that people mean well. No one wants to purposely hurt someone’s feelings or open old wounds or be uncaring when it comes to subjects that cut so deeply.

But to ask me about my kids — ALL of them — doesn’t remind me that Penelope Joy died. Trust me, I remember that every single day all by myself. Instead, it gives me the opportunity to talk about her — to celebrate her life.

I share funny stories about Dottie Lou every day, and daily (or even more often) photos of her have pretty much taken over my social media accounts. Wink even makes his appearance — especially now that he’s making himself known (in size and full-on kicks to my bladder). But I don’t get that with Penelope Joy. There are no new photos to share; there are no new stories. All I have of her is what lives in the past. Her book has been written, and the only place it lives on is in the stories I get to tell every now and again — when she accidentally comes up in conversation.

So, I did what my heart told me to do when Mr. New Dentist asked about my kids: I told the truth.

“He’s number 3. Our first died when she was 38 days old, and our second just celebrated her 2nd birthday.”

There was, as there usually is, an awkward silence and a little stumbling as he found the “right” words to say.

“Oh! You’ll have a boy and a girl! How exciting!”

Yes, but no, I wanted to say. Instead, I smiled (drooly mouth and all) and said (slobbered), “We couldn’t be more excited.”

Because it’s so very true.

 

Family Photo

Photo by The People Picture Company

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Pregnancy Emotions

I am an emotional person. It’s just part of who I am. I can’t hide my emotions — and many of them, for better or for worse, express themselves in the form of tears. Happy tears. Sad tears. Stressed tears. Proud tears. Scared tears. All the tears. Pregnancy only makes my emotions more … how shall I say it? … heightened.

This pregnancy — my third — has been an emotional one. I mean, honestly, so were the other two. Mr. B and I were talking the other night about how amazingly unique each one of my pregnancies has been in how I feel and what I feel.

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With Penelope Joy, there was the fresh, nervous excitement of being pregnant for the first time. Everything was new. And there was this permanent feeling of complete joy knowing that Mr. B and I were going to have a baby. Even the pregnancy symptoms — as uncomfortable as some of them were — were all so exciting. And then, feeling her move for the first time?! I still can’t forget that. And the first ultrasound? Was that really a tiny human inside of me? All of the worries were new, too. Is that pain normal, or should I call the doctor? Why hasn’t the baby moved today? What the heck is the right car seat to get?

And then, after hearing that something was wrong with our precious baby, the emotions got bigger and bolder and more real. Fear, anxiety, sadness and confusion mingled daily with hope, love and joy. Every day was a state of mixed emotions and trying to remember what face I had to put on in the morning.

After Penelope Joy died, I wasn’t sure if — or when — I’d be ready to have another baby. Mr. B and I had always talked about having two kids. But, after saying good-bye to Penelope Joy, I didn’t know if I could go through it all again: the fear, the pain, the sadness, the confusion.

Six months later, though, I was ready. Because even with all those big, dark emotions, Mr. B had helped me to remember the joy and love and hope. We chose to live in the light and the hope of another child instead of live in the darkness and fear that comes when your child dies. And just a month later, I was pregnant with our Dottie Lou.

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That pregnancy was marked with some big anxieties and some scary what-ifs. But what I remember most about that pregnancy? The giddiness that came with knowing we were going to be given the chance to have our second child. The pure joy that our rainbow baby brought with her. And the deep, deep love that becoming a mother — and getting to become a mother all over again — gave me.

Fifteen months after we gave Penelope Joy her last kisses, we greeted Dottie Lou with her first. And my heart grew 15, no 20, no 100 sizes that day.

And here I am, just two years after Dottie Lou was born, getting ready for baby No. 3 — our Baby Wink.

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I counted — I’ve been pregnant in every year for the last five years. It wasn’t how I had planned my maternal life. We were, after all, just going to have two kids. And we did, or we will. But we also didn’t, or won’t.

I think the biggest emotional influence on this pregnancy has been knowing this will be my last. I know — even without meeting him — that Baby Wink will complete our family. There’s a bittersweetness that comes with knowing every first we have with him will be the last time we get to experience it. The first time we heard his heartbeat. The first time I felt his kicks — and the first time Mr. B felt them. The first time we saw his tiny nose, and his giant feet, on the ultrasound.

While all of the same feelings are there from both of my other pregnancies — the anxiety, the fear, the joy, the hope, the love — there’s just something different when you know it’s the last. I find myself trying to savor everything, to remember every single detail, to not take one single second for granted.

We missed a lot of “firsts” with Penelope Joy, so we lived them with Dottie Lou. And, now, we go into our life with Wink knowing that many of his firsts will be our lasts. But it’s so exciting to think about all the firsts, too, our whole family will experience together. I can’t believe he’ll be here in just a couple of months.

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Happy Holidays!

As we pause at this time of year to look back on our blessings and look forward with hope for the future, I wanted to take a moment and wish all of you a very happy holiday season. I hope it is full of wonderful memories, lots of laughter and, always, big, big love!

Thank you for letting me share my family’s story with you — I know there will be a lot more tales to tell in the new year. Dottie continues to amaze us with her contagious laugh, astounding vocabulary and larger-than-life personality. She is what makes this world a better place — what is going to continue to make this world a better place. And I cannot wait to bring her brother into this world. If his never-stop-moving, in-womb antics give us any foreshadowing, he’s going to be just as spunky as both of his big sisters.

So, wherever this holiday season finds you, I’m sending love, hope and peace your way. I’ll see you in 2017.

Until then, my friends.

happy-holidays

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The Light Through the Cracks

I’m not a naturally optimistic person. My natural reaction is to think about the what-ifs and the worst case scenario. It takes a lot of work for me to look on the bright side of things — and it’s taken me a lot of practice.

I actually have Penelope Joy to thank for teaching me the most important lessons about optimism. I could have been destroyed by what happened to her — by what happened to us. I could have easily said: “See? I told you something bad would happen. I knew my what-if worries were reliable.”

Instead, though, I knew her life needed to matter. I knew that living in the negative parts of her story, of our story, would let too much dark in. It could have destroyed me, it could have destroyed my marriage. And, I’ll tell you what, looking at all of the wonderful about her short little life has made all the difference. It has allowed her light to shine on — breaking through any bit of darkness that makes its way in. Even when I get sad — which happens a lot this time of year — it’s a sadness haloed with light.

Penelope Joy

And that’s what keeps me working toward seeing the light in the darkness. It typically gets easier and easier — and, most of the time, I’m able to find the positive in a situation. Sometimes, like recently, though, things start to slide back to their natural resting state.

Usually, I don’t see it happening. It just … happens. This time Mr. B pointed it out, noting that my reactions to things have been more negative than positive, that I’m just not myself. My gut reaction was to be cranky about him saying that — but I realized it wasn’t judgy or mean-spirited. It was a loving husband noticing something very important about his wife: something was wrong.

What it was, I don’t know. I’m guessing it was a combination of a lot of things: Work is crazy-busy this time of year; I miss my Up North Family; Wink has been keeping me up, and I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in a few weeks; it’s an emotional time of year; I don’t have (don’t make) a lot of me time … Like I said, probably a combination of things.

So, here I sit, in the middle of a reset. Resetting my mind. Resetting my focus. And rediscovering positivity — even when the easy option is to settle in with the reactions that come more naturally to me. After all, there are countless wonderful, positive things happening in my life — and they deserve the focus light and attention. They deserve the light.

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Does this mean that everything is going to make me happy? That I won’t have cranky days or get annoyed now and again? That I won’t ever have a negative reaction to something? That I won’t just need to have a big ol’ cry some day(s)? Absolutely not. Because I am a work in progress. And, mainly, because that’s not how life is. Life is meant to be lived and experienced — to its full emotional capacity.

But, taking a positive outlook on life in general and reacting positively to the people and things around me is going to go a lot further in making my world a better, more positive place. I also believe that what I put into the universe is what’s going to come back to me. Sometimes it just takes a little reminder and a slight nudge from someone who loves me to remind me of what I already know.

Plus, I think our world can use as many positive vibes as possible right now. So that’s what I’ll be sending trying to send out into the world whenever I can. Because there is light in the darkness. Because #lovewins.

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The End of Another Chapter

I woke up the other day and realized another milestone in Dottie’s life had passed: it had been a week since she’d nursed. How did it take me a week to realize there was no more breastfeeding? It happened so suddenly — without any of the pomp and circumstance that most milestones receive. There were no balloons. There was no confetti. There were no pictures. There was no cake! If nothing else, an occasion as momentous as this one at least deserves a slice of cheesecake.

But … there it was, an early morning wake-up without Dottie nursing as she woke the rest of the way up. To be honest, for a while it had been mostly just bedtime and wake-up nursing. I so looked forward to those quiet moments when she’d snuggle up close to me and nurse while we began or finished our day.

Breastfeeding and pumping was not easy for me. But I was determined to make it to a year breastfeeding. At a year, if she decided she was done, that’s what it would be. But, she kept wanting to nurse and as soon as the pressure to pump and provide bottles for her was removed, I relaxed and was able to enjoy it — with far fewer tears than the pump brought me.

If you’d have told me two years ago that I’d be nursing a 21-month-old, I never would have believed you. If you’d have told me that I’d be nursing a 21-month-old well into my second trimester of my next pregnancy, I would have told you you were crazy.

It’s worked for us, though. Most importantly, it’s worked for Dottie. I’ve always followed her lead. I nursed her when she was hungry, not on my schedule. And I promised we’d be done nursing only when she was done.

Feeding Dottie

And, so here we are again — the tears have found me once more. This time, not because breastfeeding is hard and exhausting and I don’t know if I can do it anymore. This time, it’s because I miss it. I miss that special part of my relationship with Dottie. I’m sad that that part of our story is over. Mostly, I’m sad that I don’t even remember it ending.

Don’t get me wrong, I know the bond we created while breastfeeding isn’t just going to go away because Dottie isn’t nursing anymore. And I knew, eventually, that part of our relationship had to end. It’s just another chapter in our family’s love story that will close as we move on to the next chapter.

Thankfully, Dottie is very free with her hugs and kisses, often stopping right in the middle of what she’s doing, running over to Mr. B or me and asking for “kisses, please.” Hugs are given freely, and snuggles (‘nuggles) are abundant. There is a lot of love in our little toddler. And our closeness isn’t going to end just because she’s not nursing anymore. I just wish there had been some warning. And cheesecake.

snuggles

 

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A Golden Child and Some (Irrational) Anxiety

Tonight, just as we were settling into our bedtime routine, Dottie was overtaken by fits of laughter. Serious, uncontrollable, gut-busting laughter. Brought on by the word … “seriously.” And, as laughter took over her small body, it busted out of her and right into me. There we were, snuggled into the rocking chair, unable to control our laughter. At bedtime.

Mr. B wasn’t too pleased — I could tell. But, he couldn’t be mad, either. Because … seriously … that laugh!

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Dottie is just coming to life these days. Her personality constantly has us laughing and shaking our heads. Every day is a wild, wonderful adventure with Dottie around. I laugh more now than I ever have. And I’m constantly left standing in awe at this beautiful, spirited soul who, for some reason, the universe chose to entrust to us.

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Don’t get me wrong, it’s not 100 percent laughter 100 percent of the time. I mean, there are those times that she looks at us and we just know we’re in trouble.

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But, seriously (ha! ha! ha!), I have no idea what I did to deserve this child, but I’m so glad I get to be her mom. She fills our world with so much love, laughter and joy. Every time I think I couldn’t possibly love her more, my heart grows … and grows … and grows. She is everything good this world needs — she is golden.

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I am so excited to welcome Wink to the world and introduce him/her to Dottie. She’s going to be the most amazing big sister and such a wonderful friend and confidant and role model. I couldn’t have written a better big sister for Wink.

While I know Dottie’s going to be an amazing big sister — and I can’t wait to see Mr. B with his newborn child again — if I were being completely honest, I’d tell you that there are days I worry that I’m not a good enough mom to have two kids at home (plus one who lives in my heart). I worry that I’m … simply … not … enough. How can I give as much to Wink as I’ve been able to give to Dottie? How can I give to Dottie what she’ll need while caring for a newborn?  How can I love big enough?

Now, I know that if I really spend any time at all (even a second) thinking about it, I’d have no reason to doubt what an amazing, love-filled adventure lies ahead of us. I mean, loving big — every day — is what the B family does best. Plus, when I thought I couldn’t possibly love someone as much as I loved Penelope Joy, Dottie arrived. And my heart grew with plenty of room for both of them (with even a little lot of room for a certain rescue pup).

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But knowing something and knowing something are two very different things.

I suppose this happens to all moms — all parents — when they add baby #2 or #3 or … #6 (in my parents’ case) to their families. And, please don’t get me wrong: I am beyond thrilled to have another baby and cannot wait to live this next chapter of our story. But to say there’s no anxiety would be to deny part of my experience, part of my story.

So … now that that’s out of my system, I wanted to also share that we heard baby Wink’s heartbeat last week. There were tears. And smiles. And more tears. I guess there’s not much more to say about it. (Squee!!)

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And Baby Makes … 5

In case you haven’t heard — or read — by now, our family has some exciting news to share:

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Dottie’s going to be a big sister!

I have so much to say about our family’s big news. But, as usual, I’m not sure where to start. Maybe the “beginning” …

Pretty much since Mr. B and I started talking online, we talked about our hopes and dreams for the future. And one of our shared dreams was that we both, one day, wanted two children.

Fast forward just shy of two years from the day Mr. B and I first talked, and our first baby was born. You, likely, know the rest of that story. Then, our rainbow baby was born.

As you can tell if you follow me on Instagram — or anywhere else, really — we’ve spent the last 18 months really, really living our life and enjoying every second with Dottie. She’s a spunky girl with a lot of attitude, and I couldn’t love her more.

But, Mr. B and I both started to feel a little longing for another baby. We talked about what it would mean for Dottie to have a living sibling to be by her side through life. I have five of them, and I’m a better person for each of them. I couldn’t imagine denying Dottie that.

But, for me, it was confusing. I mean, we had our two kids. But, we also didn’t.  Needless to say, it took me a while (and a lot of tears) to really say “yes, let’s do it, let’s have another baby.”

When we decided to go for it, we decided we’d take it a little easier and let the universe decide for us what was going to happen. (Was I anxious/eager every time my period was supposed to start? Heck yes. Did Mr. B have to calm me down from the lure of over-tracking everything? Yes. But overall, it was much more … relaxed … this time around.)

And, it happened.

Let me tell you, I had big plans about how I’d surprise Mr. B when the second pink line appeared. But, in reality, I told him exactly — I mean, exactly — the same way I told him the other two times: “Hey! Put your glasses on and get in here and look at this. Do you see that line? Is it there?!!!”

We kept it to ourselves for all of, maybe, 24 hours. We each had permission to tell one person. And then we told a couple more. And then … well … within one week after we found out, we had told everyone.

I was only five weeks along when we went public-public with the announcement. Is that early? Yup. Am I scared something could happen and I’ll have to make another, less joyful, public announcement? Darn right I am.

Trust me, I didn’t miss any of the shocked noises or big eyes or glances full of judgment when we told people I’m not due until early April. I get it. It’s early — very, very early. But, since Penelope, Mr. B and I decided that no matter what happened, we would share our pregnancies early — that is, if we were blessed enough to have any more. We had learned that we can’t go through this alone. We need our village around us — for happy things and sad things.

We want you to share our joy with us; we want you to celebrate at our side. But, we also need you to be there for us if anything were ever to go wrong. Because that’s how life is — it’s up and down and, sometimes, inside out. It doesn’t only take a village to raise a child — it takes a village to be a human. And you are our village.

So, yes, I’m just now going on six weeks along. And it’s still very early. A lot could happen. But, this is our story — and this is how we choose to tell it. We’re just happy to have so many people around us holding us up in hope and light and prayer.

 

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