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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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Sprout Watch 2015

With just over two weeks until Sprout’s due date, things in Casa B are in baby-watching mode. There’s no sign that Sprout will come any time soon. In fact, here’s the report from last doctor’s appointment at 37+2:

  • Braxton Hicks contractions increasing daily
  • Hips are definitely feeling the pain (and the gain)
  • 2 cm dilated
  • 50% effaced
  • Head down
  • “Don’t make any plans or do any traveling”

But … alas … it could go on like this for weeks. Or no time at all. Only time will tell! The anticipation is pretty exciting — I’m finding the guessing game and the surprise to be something to look forward to every day.

I’m certain Sprout has a mind of her own and will come whenever she’s good and ready — and hopefully not one second sooner. Trust me, we know more than anyone that every second she spends developing inside of me is important.

“Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or to hatch.” ~E.B. White, “Charolotte’s Web”

That doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can to be as prepared as possible — also knowing full well that we’ll never really be ready. Our pre-Sprout checklist is pretty much complete. Well … at least the main things.

  • Hospital bags are packed
  • Maternity leave plan is in place at work
  • Daycare is lined up
  • Pediatrician is expecting us
  • Car seat is installed
  • Diapers — at least enough to get us started — are waiting
  • Nursery is all ready
  • Co-sleeper is set up
  • Pet-sitting instructions for Mom are waiting on the counter
  • Pet food is all stocked up

And, of course, the one things that remains on our list every day — and always the most important:

We do this one pretty well — but a little reminder is always nice. Love. Big. Always.

We do this one pretty well — but a little reminder is always nice. Love. Big. Always.

So, no Sprout yet. And, no matter how much people try to get us to slip up, no name yet, either. I promise that we don’t even know. We won’t know until we meet her. We’ve narrowed our list from 30-plus names to about 15. But, we don’t even know if her name is on either of those lists! We’ll know it when we see her. And then, you’ll know it, too.

Keep bakin’ Baby B — Mom and Dad would wait for you forever if we had to. We love you so big!

Sprout was very happy to help with this post. She pretty much helps with everything these days. Except tying my shoes. Mostly she hinders that.

Sprout was very happy to help with this post. She pretty much helps with everything these days. Except tying my shoes. Mostly she hinders that.

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36+6

Today is 36+6.

I’m 36 weeks and six days pregnant. With Penelope Joy, this is the day she decided to make her grand entrance into the world. To say I’m having some “feelings” would be fairly accurate.

The Day She was Born

One of our very first family photos.

You see, when you’ve been through the experience Mr. B and I have been through, you can’t help but make mental notes about how things were — and how things are. And no matter how many times everybody tells me that every pregnancy is different — and no matter how many times Sprout makes that painfully clear — my mind can’t help but think about it.

Because Penelope Joy was early. And then she died.

Were these two things related? In a way, I suppose, but not directly. She died because of an extremely complicated anatomy that included no immune system. She didn’t die because she was premature. (Actually, I like to think that her date of death was always going to be Oct. 17 — and she wanted as much time with us as possible, so she made her appearance early. I like to think she made the choice and gifted us with the additional time.)

Besides, she wasn’t ridiculously premature. But, she was early enough. And I’ve been watching this day on the calendar since finding out I was pregnant with Sprout. This day is symbolic for me. Lots of moms count to 12 weeks. Or 27 weeks. Or 35 weeks. Me? I’ve been looking at 36+6 since day one. (Though, when they pushed back my estimated due date by a week early on, I had to adjust that date in my mind, too.)

So, today is a big day for me. For Sprout. In reality, it means nothing — because Sprout’s still in there movin’ and groovin’ and because she’s not even due for another 3 weeks (and a day).

Am I eager to meet her? Heck yes. Do I want more than anything to hold her — as long as I want, without tubes and cords and the assistance of a nurse (or two or three)? You betcha. Am I looking forward to bringing her home with us (scared and nervous as we’ll be) and actually getting to be her mom — the mom I so desperately want to be? Words cannot describe.

But, I also want her to stay where she’s safe as long as she needs to stay there. Even if it means I get asked over and over again: “Are you sure there’s just one in there?” “Wow! You must be ready to pop any day now, huh?” “How much more can she grow?”

36+6 photo

As I snapped this picture, Sprout kicked me pretty hard. I think she might take after her dad by being a little camera shy. Oh well. She’ll get over it. Mr. B did. Kind of.

There’s a reason pregnancies typically last around 40 weeks — every day of those 40 weeks is important. And I will never be one of those moms wishing my pregnancy were shorter — no matter how badly I want to meet Sprout. Besides, while medical advances are amazing and save so many babies, I’d prefer to keep Sprout right where she is until she’s all filled in with that adorable baby fat and her lungs are truly ready to take her first real breaths and her brain is ready to absorb the amazing world she’s about to meet. So, we wait … anxiously, eagerly, patiently.

And yes, on this momentous — but also pretty average — day, I’m having “feelings” of all sorts. Gratitude. Hope. Joy. Sadness. Exhaustion. Lots of exhaustion. Peace. And love. Always. love.

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A Sprout Scare and a New Freckle

Yesterday morning I woke up with a bloody nose. Well, I didn’t so much “wake up” as Braxton Hicks came calling and woke me up. As I got to the bathroom, I realized my nose wasn’t the only thing that was a little bloody.

At nearly 35 weeks pregnant, a little blood in the toilet can be nothing — or it can be everything. Mr. B assured me I wasn’t overreacting and reassured me that my want need to call the doctor was perfectly acceptable. Of course, the office wasn’t open, so I had to call the after-hours nurse, who then had to page the on-call doctor, who then had to finish what she was working on before she could call me.

Anyone who says half an hour is a short amount of time never had to wait and worry for a doctor to call her back.

As I sat on the edge of the bed crying anxious, scared tears, Mr. B rubbed my back. Usually I’m the only one who worries — Mr. B is my rock and the one who talks sense into me when my worrying goes a little too far. But I could tell he was a little concerned, too.

After all, we’ve had our fair share of disappointment, fear and sadness when it comes to our experience with pregnancy. And we know very well what it’s like to lose the one thing we wanted more than anything else.

After I had calmed down a bit, we went about our business — brushing our teeth, packing our lunches, tending to the critters. When the phone finally rang, I jumped on it.

The doctor listened to what was going on and kindly reassured me that everything was going to be OK.

Was the baby moving? A little.

Was there a lot of blood? Not really.

Was I having any cramping? No.

It’s most likely the very early beginnings of cervical softening, she said. But, don’t worry, she continued, it will most likely go on for a couple of weeks. Because that’s just how it works.

She reminded me to keep an eye on myself, how I’m feeling and how Sprout is acting. She also reminded me that it’s OK to worry a little — after all, she knows our story. She knows Penelope Joy. The key, always for me, is trying not to worry too much. Because that’s often where my mind goes. But I know it doesn’t do Sprout any good if I’m worried or stressed out too bad.

Now that I’m getting a few more pokes and prods from Sprout this afternoon and evening, I’m starting to relax back into this pregnancy a little bit after yesterday’s jarring wake-up call. Though, the scare of seeing that blood has definitely left its mark.

Instead, I continue to keep my focus on some of the amazing things this pregnancy brings with it — besides, of course, the obvious Baby Sprout we get to meet at the end:

  • Today, I cannot stop laughing at my new outie belly button — and the hidden freckle I found inside! I can’t believe I’ve lived nearly 34 years on this planet and didn’t realize I had a freckle inside my belly button.
  • My body’s doing some pretty crazy stuff these days. Some of it is fantastic. And some of it … well … maybe isn’t so fantastic. But I laugh several times a day at what’s going on inside — and outside — of myself. Mr. B laughs a lot these days, too. Mostly at me.
  • Mr. B and I are enjoying getting ready to bring our baby home with us — something that is truly magical to experience. Sprout’s nursery is all set, and we feel as ready as we could ever be to bring her home. It’s scary. And life-altering. And unchartered territory. But it is our adventure to live. And we cannot wait. (Can it actually be less than five weeks until she joins us?) 
  • Mr. B and I talk a lot lately about getting to actually be parents. Yes, we are Penelope Joy’s parents — we always will be — and Sprout is not our first child. And we learned more from Penelope Joy about what it means to be Mom and to be Dad than we ever could have imagined. But this experience is going to be so, so different. Exciting and scary in a whole new way! I’m just so looking forward to watching Mr. B be the dad he deserves to get to be. (He’s gonna be so great at it, you guys!)
  • Last, but not least, I’ve actually been able to get Mr. B in front of the camera for some professional photos a few times in our relationship. And getting maternity pictures for Sprout was so much fun. I love just being with him as a photographer tags along. And I love how much our love shows.
Collage of maternity photos

I love our love.

Thanks for sticking with me through all of the “life” that’s happened in the last year that makes this blog maybe not so fun all the time. And thanks for hanging in there even though I’ve not been regularly writing. I’ll try to do better — promise. But, mostly, that’ll depend on Sprout.

Until next time, my friends, the countdown continues …

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Having One of ‘Those Days’

Today was one of those days. One of those really hard days. Where missing Penelope Joy feels so fresh. I don’t know why it was like that. I don’t know what made today different. What I do know is that there were several times when I caught myself thinking about her and missing her. Right in the middle of a meeting. And in the middle of working on a project. I even found myself driving home with tears in my eyes as I thought about our baby girl.

I’m sure it has a lot to do with what’s on the horizon.

Christmas

Christmas was hard last year — nearly impossibly hard. This year, it’s hard in a different kind of way. We’ve settled into our grief and into our life without Penelope Joy. But there’s still a hole. And I can’t stop myself from thinking about how fun our little 15-month-old Pickle would have been — I mean, come on, that’s like the perfect age for Christmas and all its magical joy.

Maybe that’s what it is. Christmas is such a magical, happy time — or, at least, it should be — that so perfectly pairs with the magic of childhood. Don’t get me wrong: I do enjoy Christmas. And I don’t hold anyone’s happiness or joy or magical moments against them. And I think everyone should embrace those things in celebration of what this season is about. But, it makes missing Penelope Joy fresh again.

We’ve certainly found some ways to bring Penelope Joy — and her spirit — into our Christmas celebration. We have many special ornaments on our tree for her. We also buy presents from the Angel Tree for little girls who are around the age Penelope Joy would have been. These things do make her feel closer. (Learn more about how we remember Penelope Joy during the Christmas season.)

Special ornaments

Penelope Joy’s ornaments were some of the first we put on our tree. The angel baby with the star says “2013: A star is born.” The yellow star is our tree topper made by a special friend. The pickle … well … for our Pickle. (The top left ornament is from our first married Christmas together.)

Maternity Photos

After some discussion, we decided to have some maternity photos taken with Sprout. We had some done with Penelope Joy, and I loved love them. But it feels very weird. We’ll basically be having family pictures without our whole family there. I suppose it will always feel strange, knowing that part of our “us” is missing.

Sprout

I cannot even begin to tell you the joy and excitement we have in our hearts as we await the arrival of our precious Sprout. (Just under two months to go!) It’s pretty much beyond words. And knowing that the doctors have told us our baby looks wonderfully healthy — no signs of any heart or other defects at this point — gives us even more reasons to celebrate.

But every part of this pregnancy has been tinted with what happened with Penelope Joy. And as we look forward with such joyful anticipation to Sprout’s arrival, we’re reminded of our precious Penelope Joy.

We finally unpacked the 14 boxes of Penelope Joy’s things. (You know, for a little girl who never got to come home, she sure had a ton of stuff!) So much of it we’ll get to hand down to Sprout — most of it brand-new, even. Can they really ever be hand-me-downs if they never were used by their original owner?

We spent a lot of time on Memory Lane while we were unpacking those boxes and getting Sprout’s nursery ready. We were reminded of what we missed out on — but also were reminded of the amazing gift we’re being given with Sprout as well. It’s a weird feeling — being sad but oh-so happy at the same time. But, as time goes on, I do get more and more used to those two contradicting emotions living side-by-side in me.

Sprout's nursery is a mix of some brand-new things just for her — and some special items that once belonged to Penelope Joy.

Sprout’s nursery is a mix of some brand-new things just for her — and some special items that once belonged to Penelope Joy.

So, there’s a lot going on. A lot to be overwhelmingly happy about. And some things to be sad about, too. That’s probably why today was one of the hard days. There’s a lot going on — and there’s a lot coming up. And mixed emotions (combined with pregnancy) can be exhausting. I know not every day is going to be hard — and not every hard day will be completely hard. I also know that it’s OK to have hard days and it’s OK to be sad. And I know that the sadness does not — in any way — diminish the joy in my heart about Sprout. Nor does that joy diminish my love for Penelope Joy.

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