Tag Archives: penelope joy

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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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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Salon and More

I’ve been going to the same hair salon for, I think, about 11 years. And the same stylist for probably seven or so — I’ve lost count exactly. But, it’s a long time. Needless to say, my stylist knows me — and my story — very well.

For the most part — save a couple of years when I was kidding myself — my hair’s been short. I like it short. I feel the most “me” when it’s short. Through single-hood and wedded bliss, weight gain and weight loss (and weight gain), pregnancies and motherhood, loss and success, I’ve always felt the most confident when my hair’s as short as it can go without becoming bald.

So, I’m a regular every-four-weeker for my hair cuts and every 7 to 10 days for my eyebrow wax (I can’t help if I’m furry!). Well, lately, as the salon gets busier and my time gets more precious, it’s been harder and harder to find an appointment time that works with my schedule and on my timeline.

This week, I tried a new stylist at a new salon. It can be scary going to a new stylist:

What if she’s scared to take my hair as short as I like it? (Trust me, it’s happened a lot.)

What if she makes my eyebrows too thin? 

What if she talks too much?

What if … 

What if … 

What if …

Well, let me tell you: it was a wonderful experience! She talked exactly enough. She cut my hair perfectly short. And I am the proud owner of two neatly trimmed — but just right — eyebrows.

And the best part? She didn’t know my whole story. Because I’ve chosen to live my life in a little bit of a public way — at least some bits — and I try to be very honest in my sharing, it’s hard to live my daily routine (that’s pretty, well, routine) without someone knowing at least a bit of my tale. But, not when I went to the new salon. I wasn’t the woman with the tragic story. I was just the woman taking a one-hour break to get her hair done.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I love talking about Penelope Joy and sharing memories about my dad. And everything that’s happened to me is so very important to who I am. That story, tragic as some parts may seem, has brought me to a place in my life where I find myself happy, content and loved. But, for once, it was nice to just be another mom talking about her job, her husband and the silly things her daughter does. It was nice, for one hour, to just be … me. Short hair and all.

Family photo

Photo by The People Picture Co.

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Forgetting to Remember

Mr. B and I went shopping last week. And something happened. Something sorta big, I guess. We — for a split second — forgot to remember about Penelope Joy. About her existence and about her death.

We were shopping with Dottie Lou at one of my favorite places. And Mr. B picked up this super cute mug that he thought would be perfect for his mom. It said “Grandma. Est. 2015.” I agreed, and we started to take it off the shelf. And then, my eyes started welling up seconds later as I realized what we’d done.

You see, Grandma B was not made a grandma in 2015. She was made a grandma in 2013 — when Penelope Joy was born.

The Day She was Born

It’s actually been happening a lot lately. Well, not us forgetting so much. More like life going forward. As time goes on, we get further and further away from Penelope Joy. We’ve done our first “official” family photo shoot without Penelope Joy. And, I certainly felt the hole. I feel it every time I look at the pictures. And I have a feeling I always will — no matter how big our family grows.

Family Photo

And, as our life gets busier, our days seemingly get shorter. And there is definitely less focusing on the past and more living in the now. Life with Dottie Lou is a whirlwind — there really is no other way to explain it. She’s a lively, joyful, curious child. And she keeps us on our toes every second.

Curious Dottie

Smiley Dottie

She makes my heart leap for joy every morning when I wake up and every time I see her after a long day apart. To be honest, I was not remotely prepared for how much I could love this child. Every day she teaches me about hope and love, wonder and joy. She also teaches me about strength — because momming is so very hard. Being a mother — actually getting to BE a mother — is more than I could have ever imagined.

When I think about that statement, though, it does make me sad. Because I feel like Penelope Joy made me a mother, too. And I don’t ever want to take that for granted. And I don’t ever want to forget — not for a single second — that I am the mom I am today because of Penelope Joy. In so many ways she taught me what “Mom” means — and in ways, I suppose, that Dottie Lou will (hopefully) never make me a mother.

Penelope Joy made me a mom, and she’ll always have a special place in my heart as my first-born. And Dottie Lou? She continues to show me the way. She teaches me about the best parts of myself and, some days, the worst parts of myself. Both of my girls has contributed so much to my story — to what makes me, me.

I’ll probably always get sad when I realize that I’ve forgotten to remember Penelope Joy — even though it’s just for a fleeting second. While she’ll always live in my heart and define so much of who I am and how I live my life, life does move forward. The earth keeps spinning. Because, as Mr. B said, “that’s how it’s supposed to be.”

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A Mother’s Day Sandwich

It’s Wednesday. And we’re sandwiched right in between two special days: International Bereaved Mother’s Day and Mother’s Day. International Bereaved Mother’s Day was started in 2010 and now falls on the first Sunday in May. Mother’s Day, as you (hopefully) know, falls on the second Sunday of May. So … this is the way it will always be — a sandwich week. And, so far this year, it’s been a pretty emotional one. I’ve been feeling the loss of Penelope Joy so much lately. But, at the same time, have been finding so much joy in Dottie Lou. Every time I think I couldn’t love her more or be more in awe of her, I wake up and it’s a new day and there’s a fresh stock of brand-new love and admiration for her.

It’s fitting, I suppose, that this week is sandwiched between two days that are somewhat definitive for me. I’m grieving our loss of Penelope Joy — I’ll always be grieving it. But I’m celebrating — both her life and Dottie Lou’s. And I celebrate both of them for making me a mother — and for teaching me so much about life and what really, truly matters.

Penelope Joy made me a mother.

Penelope Joy made me a mother.

As Dottie Lou continues to hit milestones (she’s rolling over!!) and celebrate special days, I’m reminded of the milestones and celebrations we’ll never get to celebrate with Penelope Joy. While there’s a fleeting moment of sadness (OK, some days it may stick around a little longer than others), I try so hard not to live in the sadness of missed milestones and, instead, live in today’s celebrations. Because to focus on the sadness of the “what ifs” and the “why nots” is to completely miss the gift we have in Dottie Lou.

Dottie Lou teaches me how  to be a better mother — and a better person.

Dottie Lou teaches me how to be a better mother — and a better person.

I’ve said it a dozen times before — had Penelope Joy not lived and died, we would not have Dottie Lou. That doesn’t mean that I don’t miss Penelope Joy. Because I do, and my heart hurts every time I think about her. It just means that I can’t wish her back and this is our story. And Dottie Lou is here.

So, Mr. B and I celebrate every milestone and rejoice with every new expression Dottie Lou gives us — even her pout pout face. And I share way too many photos. And I talk about Dottie Lou way too much.

Yes, I’ll always be sandwiched between grieving and rejoicing. But I can choose how I live and which one of those I allow to take root and grow.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk of sandwiches has me hungry.

While we'll never have a complete family photo with both of our girls, we will always carry them both in our hearts. Always and forever.

While we’ll never have a complete family photo with both of our girls, we will always carry them both in our hearts. Always and forever.

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Life’s Little Ripples

If you know me, you know I like to have some control in my life. I like to know what’s coming so I can have a plan A, B, C and D for it. But, if there’s one thing the last four years have taught me, it’s that life doesn’t happen like that — and it sure as heck doesn’t care what plans you have in place.

If there are two things I’ve learned in life, the second would be that life keeps on going — no matter what you’re going through.

Life Goes On

Mr. B and I talk a lot about “our story.” We recognize that so many things that have brought us to where we are today are horrible and sad and difficult. But, we also recognize that without the ripples left by those things, the beauty of who we are as individuals and who we are as a couple wouldn’t exist. We appreciate — and are so blessed — that, through it all, our life together has gone on. To amazing places.

Mr. B and I met in 2011 — after my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. My husband only ever knew the “after.” And, at first, that was hard for me — knowing that Mr. B would never get to know my dad as he was. But, I don’t think I could have gotten through that “after” without my Mr. B by my side. I know that I met him when I did because that’s when I needed him most.

Lots of smooches

Because I met Mr. B when I did — and we got married when we did, just a year after we met — I got to have my dad walk me down the aisle and I got to share a dance with him at my wedding. Before the disease stole that from us.

On my wedding day with dad

Before we got married, Mr. B and I had always talked about waiting for a while to have a baby. But, after we got married, we barely got back from the honeymoon and decided we simply couldn’t wait to have a child together. That following January, we found out I was pregnant with our Penelope Joy.

And because we didn’t wait, my dad got to meet her — and got to love her — before the disease took that from him, too.

dad and penelope joy

And, perhaps the most difficult one to talk about — both the reason I’m writing this post and the reason I’ve been putting off writing this post for so long …

It is not lost on Mr. B and me that we have Sprout for one reason, and one reason alone: Penelope Joy.

Penelope Joy

If Penelope Joy had not been born, we may not have realized the immense capacity for love we had in our lives. If she had not lived, we would not have realized how full our lives could be.

At the same time, if she had not died, we would not have considered having another baby so soon. If Penelope Joy had survived, there is no way we would have gotten pregnant with Sprout. If our Penelope Joy had not become our angel baby, we would not be eagerly awaiting the arrival of our rainbow baby.

Maternity photo

You see, life is like that. You can look back with regret, remorse and sadness — wishing things had been different, wishing you could change things. But to wish away all of the bad things is to wish away the good things, too. Would I give everything I have to hold Penelope Joy just one more time? Yes, absolutely. But, I also can’t deny that a lot of beauty came out of her short little life, either.

To live in the darkness of her death would dishonor the light that was her life, too. She touched the lives of hundreds of people. And the ripples she left continue every day to change my world for the better. And, for a 38-day-old infant, I’d say that is an amazingly full life.

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On Choosing a Pediatrician

After I gave everyone a Sprout update the other day, I’ve had a few questions — particularly about how we chose our pediatrician. Let me tell you, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be.

You see, we started the search for a pediatrician one day back in September 2013 when the doctors and nurses started preparing us to take Penelope Joy home. “You’ll need to find a pediatrician right away,” they said. Because we hadn’t even started looking. Honestly — why would we? We were staring down the road of a very long hospital stay and hadn’t really thought we’d get to take Penelope Joy home any time soon. (Well … you all know how that turned out.)

Anyway …

We started by talking to the nurses and doctors. And then we went to our friends for recommendations. With all of the 24-hour care and amazing staff at the children’s hospital, we were spoiled. And not just any pediatrician would do.

Recommendations were as far as we got.

We had set up an initial meet-n-greet with a pediatrician, but Penelope Joy took a turn for the very-worst, so we canceled that appointment — promising to reschedule once Penelope Joy turned around.

That appointment never got rescheduled.

But, when it came time to pick a pediatrician for Sprout, the initial legwork was done. We had narrowed it down to two choices: one, an office very close to our house where my own OB was located; the other, a highly recommended pediatrics office about 20 minutes away from our house (whom I’d emailed back and forth while Penelope Joy was in the hospital).

The first choice wouldn’t allow us to set up a meeting before Sprout is born. When I asked what would happen if we chose that office but didn’t have a good relationship with the pediatrician, they told me we’d have to just pick another doctor. So, that choice was immediately out the window.

We set up a meeting with the second office — and, you know what? They remembered me. And they remembered Penelope Joy. She wasn’t even a patient there, and they knew her. What’s more, they asked if we’d like a personal one-on-one meeting with someone on their team instead of doing the traditional meet-n-greet that would include other expectant parents.  Because they knew our story was different and that we would have questions and feelings and concerns that were different. And, still, because even to this day, sometimes it’s hard to be in a room with other pregnant women and mothers of newborns.

When we did meet with the woman at the office, she was kind and understanding. And when I apologized (well in advance) that if we chose that office I might be a little needy at first due to our past experience, she smiled at me and said, “of course you would be, and we wouldn’t expect anything else.”

All of this aside, even if we had met with 100 pediatricians, we most likely would have chosen this office. Because they acknowledged something in Mr. B and me that 90 percent of people in our lives (doctors, family, friends) still don’t understand: we are not first-time parents.* Yes, our first trip around this track was very, very different than that of parents who walk away from the hospital with a baby.

And, no, we didn’t do the whole sleepless-nights-with-a-crying-newborn thing. But, we did do the no-sleep-for-38-days thing when we were waiting for the nurse on duty to call and tell us that, yep, we missed Penelope Joy’s last breath because she died while we were selfishly at home in our own bed.

And, no, we didn’t change diaper after diaper after diaper, wondering when she would finally stop crapping all over herself. But, we did stand by her side begging her bladder and kidneys to do something, anything. Praying to God for any amount of relief he (or she) could give to our precious, water-retaining baby.

And, no, I didn’t have middle-of-the-night feedings over and over and over again. But, I was up and pumping every three hours — my heart full of hope that one day I would get to give her that milk and give her something no one else could give her (even those doctors and nurses who were saving her life while I stood by and watched).

And, no, I didn’t stand by her crib every night with my hand under her nose praying she was still breathing — I had machines to tell me they were breathing for her. But, Mr. B and I did hold her as she took her very last breaths — knowing I’d never get to be the mom standing over a crib waiting for that next breath.

So, yeah, every time someone tells us “just you wait” or “well, this is your first time” or “one day you’ll understand” it burns. Really bad. And is still a painful reminder of everything we lost. The fact that our pediatrician recognized that we have been parents — we are parents — went a very long way in helping us decide where we’d take our precious Sprout.


*Please don’t think I believe this means Mr. B and I don’t have any learning to do. Because we do — a lot. A lot, a lot, actually. And we’ll be the first to tell you that we are clueless on many things. We’re nervous and anxious and scared — just like any new parents bringing their baby home from the hospital. (Holy cow, you guys, we get to bring our baby home!) But forgetting that we have, indeed, done this before also forgets that Penelope Joy existed — and that she made Mr. B a dad and me a mom.

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