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These Shoes Are Made for Running

This is a post that comes from a deeper place than my post the other day. But … first … let’s start with shoes.

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These are my work walking shoes, my “second string” because they’re old and worn out. The big toe on my left foot peeks out at me as I lace them up. And the heel on my right foot is pretty much rubbed through.

I keep these well loved shoes under my desk — a tool for my lunchtime walks, when my (super-casual-cuz-I-don’t-do-heels) dress shoes won’t do. They’re also a reminder to myself to use my lunch hour for my health. Mental. Physical. Emotional. I’ve found that making myself/my health a priority has been really tough. And some days, my lunch hour is all I have.

Take this morning, for example. Mr. B moved my spin bike upstairs for easier access. (Which, by the way, was no easy task — have y’all ever tried to lift a remarkably heavy spin bike up two flights of stairs?) I was so excited for my 4:45 alarm so I could get in a ride before work. But, as soon as I rolled over to turn off my alarm and get out of bed, Little Man also rolled over — and attached himself firmly to my nipple. So … no workout for me since I was busy serving breakfast.

That’s why my work shoes are so important. Some days, that’s the only Kimi time I get and the only exercise time I’m able to make for myself. At least in this season.

“So, Kimi,” you ask. “What’s the real deal with the shoes?”

These shoes are a reminder of something else for me, too. They’re a reminder of “when I used to be a runner.” Most importantly, these stinky, worn-out, probably-shouldn’t-be-wearing shoes are a reminder of Penelope Joy.

You see, I wore these shoes in the last half marathon I ran. In April 2013. I was three months pregnant — and clueless about the path we would soon be asked to walk.

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Crossing the finish line at the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon in Grand Rapids

I had spent several years getting myself in the best physical state I’d ever been in for my entire life. I had run a number of half marathons; I had happily trained for and completed a full marathon; and I was working out regularly.

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Three months pregnant and just starting to bust out of my running jacket — about 7 miles into the race

Then the bottom dropped out. And we heard the worst news any expectant-parent should hear: “I have bad news.

Soon after that, I was told not to run. I was told to keep my physical activity more limited — walking and swimming would pass, but that was about it. Because to do anything more vigorous could risk the baby’s life. So I stopped.

And, I never really laced up my shoes again. I tried. I really did. I tried to find my legs and I tried to get back out there. But it never stuck. It became increasingly clear that it’s more than a time issue — although, as I’ve said before, I’ve pretty much been pregnant or nursing since January 2013.

In the years before getting pregnant with Penelope Joy, I had spent a lot of time and effort getting myself healthy enough to carry a baby without risks. And my body betrayed me and I was classified as “high-risk” with a baby who was given a pretty low chance for survival. In a small way, I blame myself. I blame my body for not providing a healthy growing environment for Penelope Joy. Even after therapy and two very healthy, happy babies, I’ll probably always carry some guilt — warranted or not — for what happened to Penelope Joy.

To be honest, that mental barrier has been really hard to get over. And something as simple as running carries with it some painful emotions. For anyone who says your mental, emotional and physical health aren’t linked, gimme a call — I have a lot I’d like to share with you.

I will tell you this — I’m getting the itch again. My legs want to run. My heart wants to run. I just need to get my brain on board. I know it’ll be a long, slow road back. I am in no shape to hit the trails like I used to. It may not won’t be tomorrow — or even next week — but I’ll be back out there. Because, inside, I’m still a runner.

But I think I’d better get to the shoe store first.

 

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My Self — Myself

Mr. B and I were talking last night after Little Miss and Mister Mister went to sleep. We don’t spend a lot of time talking talking. I mean, we talk, but we don’t talk like we used to — you know, before kids, when we used to have time to sit and discuss the big things like dreams and wishes and goals and … well … life.

So, last night we did that. And it was nice. We talked about our life and the chapter we’re in right now and how life is with two (three) kids. And it was a great conversation that ended with some tears, as B.I.G. conversations sometimes do. (My tears, of course, it’s always my tears.)

They weren’t sad tears. They weren’t happy tears. They weren’t mad tears. They were … contemplative … tears, I suppose.

Because as we were talking, I shared with Mr. B how hard things are some days. It is hard balancing it all: work, family, friends, “self-care,” home, responsibilities. Mostly, it’s hard because I feel like I haven’t been myself since before I was pregnant with Penelope Joy.

I really, truly love the chapter of our story we’re living right now. But, if you think about it, I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding since January of 2013. There was a 3-month break between Penelope Joy’s death and when I got pregnant with Dottie Lou. But that was filled with fresh, terrible grief. And now, some days I’m left feeling like my body, myself, has not really been my own for four-and-a-half years.

Now, please don’t get me wrong: I love being a mom (way more than I thought I could). I love being a wife. I love every choice and sacrifice I’ve made that has brought me to where I am right now. I look back with no regrets, and I look forward with no doubts. But, man, this chapter can be hard.

Sitting here, staring at the screen and listening to myself type, I don’t really have a solution — or know if I really need a “solution.” I don’t have any deep thoughts about it. Actually, I don’t really know the point of this post, other than both kids are sleeping and I haven’t really made time to write for a really long time. And, for me, writing is one of the first steps to feeling like myself again — to feeling like I belong to me.

Now, please enjoy this picture of my family or, as Dottie Lou says, “all the silly monkeys.”

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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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