Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Faith Over Fear: Take Two

31 week sonogram on February 19

Just like that, we are well underway with our third, third trimester. Given that I've been pregnant during the busiest time of year for us, I knew it would feel quicker, but this has truly flown by. The third trimester represents such a simultaneous composition of excitement and preparation, but for me it is also coupled with an impending fear of the unknown and the memories of what has happened before.

I haven't done a lot of writing this pregnancy because when I write, I go to a place that can conjure a lot of emotion. It can bring on all kinds of thought trails that at this point in time, I don't want to go down. I was in a different point of my healing process when I was pregnant with Hadley. It was a time that I needed to go to that place because I was still working through so many facets of grief and the expression helped in the release of the build up of fear and stress. I need to share through writing because it helped me and in turn, it was helping others who were also walking the same path, or those who just wanted the insight to better understand. This pregnancy, I have tried to silence my fears and anxious voice. I've viewed myself as someone who embraces my grief, wasn't afraid of it. However, throughout this pregnancy, I have tried to ignore my grief - unsuccessfully. I haven't wanted to go to that place of emotion in an effort to control my stress and anxiety, but I don't feel that it has done me any favors because it very much exists, just as much as my first pregnancy after loss with Hadley.

I had actually started writing and readying a post that was what this experience has brought the second time around. What is the same, what is different. I was waiting to get through our 30 week appointment last Thursday to finish it out. Now, it's changed a bit to include what is going on with this baby right now and how it is impacting my second pregnancy after loss.

I think a common thought to most people is that once you have a living baby after a pregnancy after loss, you are "back to normal" and the fear that was once there is now gone, or that you are no longer at risk, subsequently meaning that another pregnancy is easier. To address that, yes - I guess you can say that I am one and one now. I've had a stillbirth and now a live birth. But - I've had a stillbirth, I've still had a baby who has died, so that will always overshadow the fact that I've had a healthy live birth. We will always err on the side of caution and that fear is still very much present. I am high risk, I am at-risk, and that hasn't changed.

One of my soul sisters - a friend who I've met because we are both mothers of loss - is also pregnant with her second baby after loss and we are due within a few weeks of one another. In a text recently as we updated on our current states, she gave the perfect example. She said that she tells people that this is like surviving a plane crash that happens at landing. You'd be terrified of every other flight you are on, and the anxiety of ever experiencing turbulence while on the flight. The stress doesn't ever go away, but you just find ways to cope with it.

I think because grief is evolving, I'm in another heart and head space than I was in that first pregnancy after loss with Hadley. I know more, I've seen more, I've experienced both, certain things still trigger, others don't.  This time I've faced a different set of triggers because there are a lot of similarities to life circumstances between this pregnancy and when I was pregnant with Hudson. They trigger those memories that take you back to the dark place. There's a trauma that exists and a fear that takes hold after you've experienced a loss like we have. That's "our" normal.

In my pregnancy with Hadley, I celebrated each week that I was still pregnant, I checked the box on each step and milestone. I had high anxiety, my pregnancy with her wasn't completely carefree, we had scares, every sono caused me to hold my breath until I saw or heard the heartbeat. I had to shut down the fear with faith, and that was my mantra faith over fear. Through it all, deep down I felt like she would be in our arms, living and breathing. She had to. We couldn't do this again. Faith over fear. That feeling drove the confidence in our medical team and in that end result of her getting here safe and sound.

Faith over fear. 

Now let's talk about this pregnancy.

This time the fear set in almost immediately for many reasons that I discussed in my first post about this baby. It wasn't until almost the 21 week mark, when I started feeling legit continuous fetal movements, that I felt much more at ease. To be honest, I was very at ease up until about three weeks ago. What changed? We entered the third trimester, we started getting closer to our week of loss mark (32/33 weeks), and movement has been stressing me out. This little one's patterns of movement have changed from when I first started feeling them and are not as continuous, but more so, they are different than Hudson's and Hadley's. This one moves mostly at night and in the morning, and if doing a kick count, I get to the 10 kicks within an hour at those times of the day. Yet during the day, more often than not, we are very quiet and still. So quiet and still that it has really freaked me out at times. Some days are an exception to that but most days the fear creeps in and I wonder if everything is okay. It quickly escalates past wonder and goes to action mode. I grab a little Dr. Pepper or a handful of chocolate covered almonds to try to get some movement started. Sometimes it will work, but a lot of times it doesn't. Truth be told, I've had a lot of sugar the past few weeks - and not out of craving this time but necessity in my mind for sanity, sugar actually gives me heartburn - just to get some movement going and feel like everything is fine. Until 29 weeks, I hadn't used my fetal heart monitor since 21 weeks, but now it is in my bag with me at work. One afternoon I raced home to use it because I had a Dr. Pepper to try to get some moves, and then an hour later a chocolate chip cookie but nothing had happened in two hours. So now, it comes to work with me, that's how in my head I've gotten, in case I just need to know now and can't wait to get home later. Waiting isn't an option when you've been through what we've been through.

Enter the mantra again.
Faith over fear. 

So, let's talk about our 30 week appointment last week on Thursday. Our appointments have been every 2-3 weeks since 16 weeks. By this time in our first pregnancy after loss, we had started going weekly, but I've been doing okay with the current set up. However, it had been a busy and stressful two weeks since my last appointment and on top of what's been going on in life in general, my anxiety has been building as we inch closer to the week of loss mark from Hudson. At that 30 week appointment, I had planned to go ahead and ask for us to start weekly appointments going forward if she didn't suggest it already. It was just getting to the point that I wanted to be monitored more closely and needed that weekly check in.

Last Thursday, I took my mom and grandmother to my appointment with me because Max was in New York for work. After the sonogram, we met with my doctor who shared that the blood pressure levels within the umbilical cord were elevated - just like Hadley's were at this exact point in my pregnancy with her. There is not a black and white, clear-cut reason for this. Just a lot of it could be's. It could be due to a compression, restriction, or some kind of stress on the cord. It could be due to cord placement and size. It could be an issue with the placenta and not pulling enough oxygen. It could be my stress levels, even though my blood pressure is fine. The latter is what my doctor had concluded with Hadley and what she leaned towards again with this baby.

They checked a few different places of the umbilical cord and the level they want to see is between a 2.75 and 3, the spots that were checked were all 3.75 and 3.9, which is enough of an elevation to warrant caution. We talked about stressors, the last two weeks there have been a lot going on - our dog having sudden surgery to remove cancerous tumors, construction project in our house, Hadley's been sick, I've been sick. As she told me that this was an issue again, I was strong, but I cried. My doctor said moderated bed rest until Monday and I'd come back on Monday, and we would now begin appointments twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays.

We left, I felt okay, everything turned out fine with Hadley when this happened, we were going to monitor twice a week and I know the drill. I know the plan. If it gets to a point where it is more risky for baby to stay in than to live on the outside, we would take baby then and there. Following the appointment, I had lunch with my mom and grandmother. I texted Max an update. However, leaving lunch, things weren't sitting right with me. I called my nurse and said that for peace of mind, I want to see the specialist at the hospital's Fetal Care Center like we did last time when this happened with Hadley. Because lack of movement has also been a heavy thought on my mind for two weeks now, in order to stay as stress free as possible, I'd like to have this additional layer of assurance using their advanced imaging to be positive there is no restriction in the cord causing this. They tried to get me in between patients but it wasn't happening, so I was sent home to rest and landed an appointment time on Friday at 1:30 PM. I know from last time that this is a gradual issue, it isn't over night. If there had been restriction or compression of any kind, baby's size would be impacted and there would be more signs, like fluid on the brain. These things were not present, I could wait 24 hours.

Max had come home from his work trip and was able to head to that appointment with me on Friday. The specialist was very thorough and we were able to conclude that there did not appear to be any pressure on the cord, it wasn't knotted, wrapped or a cause for distress. Levels had lowered from the day before but we still needed to watch them. We will focus on my rest and try to keep stress down as much as possible because that's the only answer I am given. She said we needed to monitor twice a week. She suggested we induce at 37 weeks this time. She was the same specialist who last time said that we could wait until 38 weeks. The fact that she is willing to go a week earlier this time had me a little off kilter. What wasn't I being told?

Faith over fear. 

The fact that the unthinkable happened to us once before and that anything can change in a matter of seconds is not at all lost on me. The previous trauma is always in the back of my mind, the fact that I've been down this road of having a seemingly perfect pregnancy only for the lightening to strike and have this teeny tiny percentage of a tragedy occur. When my mind is overcome with that, I have to remind myself the really unfortunate difference between then and now, as another way to calm myself.

With Hudson we had the first sonogram to confirm the pregnancy, we had another quick one at 14 weeks because my nurse had a spare machine and we were waiting for my doctor to return so she did it for fun as we waited, then we had the anatomy scan around 20 weeks. That was it. I wasn't high risk and 3 years ago, in my doctor's practice at least, for a normal pregnancy, it wasn't routine to have another sonogram if you didn't need it. Maybe I would have received another with a 3D/4D option if we had made it to the 34 week appointment and beyond, I don't know. But between 20 weeks and 33 weeks, a problem developed that wasn't seen at the 20 week anatomy scan, couldn't be traced through simple blood tests, belly measurements or listening to the heartbeat. I didn't have a fetal doppler at home to listen to his heartbeat to see if something wasn't right. I didn't get the attention we receive now where I get a 2D then a 3D/4D sono at each appointment and look at everything in immense detail. We didn't know the umbilical cord was a problem, but we would now. So in that, I have some peace but I'll never forget that anything can happen at anytime and because we've experienced it, you just feel more susceptible to it and it's always a tender point, sometimes a downright raw patch.

That is where this fear and stress derives from. But again, we channel faith over fear. 

Part of that is getting ready for a baby that you have faith will be here, even though the fear of what happened once is etched in your heart and mind. But even after the loss of Hudson, I didn't let that stop me from readying Hadley's nursery. His things were comforting and therapeutic for me to be around. In my heart, if something happened to her, I would still have this space that I could be close to her. By 22 weeks, we had the majority of her room ready and just finishing touches to complete until she arrived.

Compared to the other two pregnancies, I feel very far behind on getting ready for this little one's arrival. In some ways, we already have so much of what we need because we will be able to reuse a lot from Hadley. If it is a boy, I have things from our preparation for Hudson that I will use for this baby. Before last week's appointments, I conquered a little PTSD earlier in the week briefly mentioned above. At this point with Hudson, we were a few weeks into a large home renovation project, one that involved his room. In our new house, we needed to do a little reno project for this new baby's room and it was the sole reason for the work we are doing. Back then, we added a door to Hudson's room. Now we are removing doors and adding a wall in this baby's new room, taking it from an open office to a private space that better converts it into a bedroom. I've had some questions in my heart like, should we do this or just wait until the baby is here and safe in our arms? But trying to do a home construction project with a newborn and a toddler seemed like a terrible plan, so I put that fear on the shelf with my grief and we decided to get this done now. The fear was if something were to happen, that room would be very much a bedroom. I love the office the way it was, it had beautiful french doors that opened to the dining room. If we closed that off, turning it into a bedroom, it was now that baby's room. It would haunt me if this baby didn't come home. But, the estimated 2-3 day project took 1 day. It's done and we concentrate on moving forward and the optimism and happiness  to bring this baby home to his/her own space. I see it all in my mind and it helps my fears to begin preparing it.

We started the nursery this past weekend. I stuck to my orders of rest and monitored as Max built the crib and Hadley tried to "assist". Monday's appointment went well and levels had dropped back in the range we want them in, just like with Hadley's. Sunday marked 31 weeks. Next Sunday will be 32 weeks and that is a very emotional place in a pregnancy for me to be. That was the last week I was pregnant with my first baby. Reaching it brings sadness, brings the memories of tragedy, bring the fear that you are trying so hard to overcome with faith. I'll take it gladly and be thankful every single second of it, even through the challenging times that pregnancy after loss brings but I'll tell you it is defeating. It is defeating to not have answers for this cord issue that has happened with Hadley and now this baby. It's defeating that there's something your body is doing or not doing that creates risk or warrants caution for your baby. It's defeating that it is happening in a space that is supposed to nurture, grow and protect but for me, I worry my body will fail me. I worry it can betray me again and harm my baby. I want reasons but there aren't any they can give me that are a sure thing, so what's left?

Faith over fear. 

And that's what we hold onto to get this baby in our arms safe and sound.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Sweet & Sour Chicken Fried Rice



There's something about the new year that makes us crave Asian comfort food. We've loaded up on all the traditional holiday food so we want something totally different. Or maybe we are just looking for a different kind of carb and sodium source, who knows? On this night in particular, what we really wanted was our favorite soup dumplings but that's just not something I can make, and they were too far away to go get. However, we had the contents to combine two of our other favorite dishes, a fried rice and a sweet and sour chicken, which created a tasty little hybrid. 

I usually like to make my own sauces for a number of reasons. You know exactly what's going into them, you can make them to taste, and it allows for some flexibility and creativity. However, if you have a jarred sauce already, there's the convenience factor that sometimes cannot be beat. I had planned to do a sweet and sour chicken recipe coming up and grabbed a jarred sweet and sour sauce on a recent grocery run thinking that perhaps this would come in handy rather than making my own - and so it did. It also helped to have pre-chopped onions and chopped carrot sticks that Max had done for his daily snacks. From a prep standpoint, I just had to chop the carrots a bit smaller and the bell pepper, which were easy to do as the chicken was cooking.

You will only have 1 pan to clean afterwards and it takes just 5 simple steps to make. With the time saving helpers of pre-chopped veggies and jarred sauce, this meal took maybe 20 minutes to whip up and it definitely hit the spot with our family - even our pickiest eater, Hadley. If you want to turn up the heat and don't have small tot taste buds to consider, adding in some red pepper flakes or Sriracha would be a fun way to give it some heat!

Ingredients
Yields 5-6 servings

  • 1 lb. chicken tenders, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 6-8 oz. sweet and sour sauce (I used this brand) 
  • 1 cup onions, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/2 -3/4 cup edamame, deshelled (okay to use frozen, they cook quickly in the pan!)
  • 2 eggs, lightly scrambled
  • 1 microwavable Garlic Quinoa/Brown Rice blend (we use this one, add a second if you like your dish to be heavy on the quinoa/rice)
  • Tamari or Soy Sauce to taste
1. In a large chef's pan, cook your chicken on medium high heat, doused in the Sweet and Sour sauce. When no longer pink, about 8-10 minutes, move chicken and scrape leftover sauce from the pan to a plate and set aside. 

2. With some remnants of sauce left in the pan, add your onions and carrots. Once onions are translucent, add the red bell pepper and the edamame. Once all veggies are soft, move to the plate with chicken. 

3. Now add your eggs to the pan surface and scramble until cooked to your liking. 

4. While your eggs scramble, cook your quinoa/brown rice package according to directions (90 seconds in the microwave) then set aside. 

5. When eggs are done, add the garlic quinoa/brown rice blend to the pan with the scrambled eggs and then give it some flavor with the Tamari (a gluten free, low sodium version of soy sauce) or Soy Sauce. Next add your veggies back in, followed by the sweet and sour chicken chunks. Mix it all together and you have yourself dinner ready to plate. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Beef Bourguignon



I don't know about you but this December has been full of all things congestion, respiratory ailments and fever. After traveling for the holidays, our family came back a little more under the weather and in serious need of a home-cooked comfort meal. I have had a go-to pot roast recipe I rarely deviate from but decided to change it up and finally try a beef bourguignon.

I'll tell you, I thought I was saving this recipe for a nice dinner or a hosting opportunity. There's something about the name alone that just sounds all Frenchy and fancy. But when thinking of something to make and feed our family, it felt like a perfect sick-day-feel-better-pajamas-on-the-couch meal too, so it can go either way, dressed up or dressed very down! I look for dishes that are robust with flavor and this did not disappoint. It is important to reduce the wine to the point where it is syrupy, then slowly add in the other ingredients for the sauce, a little at a time, continuing to reduce, so that the flavors are very poignant in taste.

I followed this recipe as a baseline, but also took my own liberties. For example, I don't do mushrooms. Someone once looked at me and said how can you call yourself a foodie if you don't eat one of the most delectable flavors there is? Well, I have tried, it's not for me, and I get by. I just hate the texture of them and can't do it. They are a umami, so I know the flavor elevates a dish. I've cooked with them before if it's an easy discard but this wouldn't be that. I decided to use onions instead because that is my "umami". Instead of full on soy sauce, I did part soy, part Worcestershire for more diverse flavor. Finally, I used butter to give it that final kick of dimension for rich, velvety goodness.

I also like to shred my meat rather than cook it cubed. I feel like it is more tender and flavorful that way. However, this method can also soak up more of the juices or sauce which depletes from the final result when time to serve. Making this for the first time, I used potatoes in the cooking process and the amount of sauce in the pan worked well. If I were to omit the potatoes when cooking and save them for a cauliflower/potato mash or polenta, I would have wanted this to have a bit more sauce to it. If you plan to serve over a starch, I would go heavier on the liquids by about 1/4 a cup each so you have plenty of sauce to serve with your dish.

I use a dutch oven when "slow cooking" because the flavor to me is better, but many prefer to use the crock pot. For crock pot instructions, refer to the linked recipe above, but come back here for step-by-step cooking directions.

Yields 6 servings
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 2 hours

  • 5 slices of bacon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 lb. beef chuck roast, cut into large sections (about 5 for that size)
  • 1 cup red wine (I used a Pinot Noir which is a Burgundy and perfect for this dish) 
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 tbsp. thyme
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup baby potatoes, chopped (I used smaller pearled potatoes and cut them in fourths)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped in larger chunks
  • fresh parsley for garnish
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. On medium-low heat, add the bacon to the pot and allow to crisp. As it does, it will create a nice pot of grease for you to use in the next step! While bacon cooks, season beef with salt and pepper. When bacon is crisp, remove and discard. 

Next, turn up the heat to medium-high and add your sections of beef to the pot to sear in the bacon grease, about 1-2 minutes per side. This locks in the flavor and will make your beef even more tender. Once all is seared, remove beef to a plate and set aside. 

Next, add in the wine and turn up to simmer to allow the wine to reduce. Scrape the brown bits from the sides of the pan from the bacon and the beef. Reduce by about half and it should look a little syrupy, then add in the beef stock about 1/2 cup at a time, keeping the heat high. Next add in the tomato sauce, then soy sauce, followed by the Worcestershire. Let this all simmer together for about 5 minutes, then stir in the butter until melted. Final step for the sauce is to thicken it with the flour. Turn down the heat to medium and add the flour, about a tbsp at a time, and whisk constantly until all combined without lumps. 

Add the beef back in and settle around the pan, then add the garlic, carrots, potatoes, onion and finally the thyme. Give it all a big stir, put the lid on and place in the oven for 2 hours. 

When the timer goes off, remove from the oven and using tongs, remove the meat to shred on a plate, discarding any additional fat, then adding meat back into the pot. You can allow this to sit on the stove over low heat until ready to serve! 

For a bonus recipe, make this super easy and delicious roasted parmesan green beans side from Skinnytaste to pair with your Beef Bourguignon. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Darkness of Grief at the Holidays



In those first six months after Hudson died, the darkness had a way of always winning in most circumstances. It was harder trying to fight it than just succumbing to it and letting the sadness take hold. There were times it would come out of nowhere, and other times you could feel it, as if it were under your skin, boiling and waiting to erupt at the right time. The darkness would set in when I was alone with my thoughts, like in the car, the shower, and at night as I tried to drift to sleep.

The darkness would differ. Sometimes it would be flashbacks to the hospital, moments that were really painful and ones that I never did write about or talk about. Like the elevator ride from Labor and Delivery to the anti-partum floor. They wheeled Hudson and me through the service elevators for an attempt at privacy, yet another doctor happened to hop on as the elevator was closing and I sat there in my wheelchair holding Hudson, trying to shield him from view. The doctor was on his phone and without looking at us, simply said congratulations, beautiful baby. Nurse Katie was horrified that it happened, the look on her face scanning mine to see my reaction, let me know that. I stared at the back of that doctor’s head until they got off the elevator with a mix of horror and hatred. Or how from the moment Hudson left our arms for the last time, I could hear a baby crying constantly from down the way as we waited in that room to be discharged and go home. Little details like that would surface and replay over and over in my mind. It would also surface as recollections of emotional breakdowns I would have from triggers resulting from his passing. It would be thoughts of what would our life be like right now if he were here? These are the ways the darkness would seep in.

The darkness has a way of inserting itself when it isn’t welcome or wanted. No matter the amount of self care or proactive work you may be doing to keep it away while trying to stay happy and thankful for the blessings in your life. It just shows up sometimes and refuses to leave. 

The darkness is cruel. It has a way of distorting your feelings of sadness into anger, which can then become jealousy, and then bitterness, and back to sadness. It can make you see a situation differently far later on and become newly emotional, changing your perspective when it’s something you thought you had worked through.

The darkness still finds me. The opportunities for it to find me are fewer and farther between than they used to be to allow it to creep in and settle, but every now and then, it takes hold. Last night I couldn’t fall asleep and I was thinking about the new baby wiggling away. I flashed back to specific times I remember Hudson moving and then I became so consumed with thoughts of him and fears of something happening to this baby. Though we had just had a wonderful appointment with no flags raised. Yet there were these intense moments of my pain, and realizing I was still in a lot of pain that I’ve hidden away until it needed to come out.

For families of loss who do have a living child, either born before or after their loss, there seems to be a common misconception from the outside world of non-grievers that that living child fills the void the non-living child/children has left, or because the parents have them, it makes things better and their grief has passed. Just like putting a time frame on grief, that’s simply incorrect. Having Hadley helps the grief, but she is not "a cure" for it. She is one member of our family, just like the new baby is, but we have a child that will always be missing. If you have children, I ask you to imagine the holidays without one of them. What if your first baby was born, but you never got to take them home with you? What if one of your children was gone from your life altogether? A piece of you would be too, regardless of the others you do have. 

Our first Christmas as bereaved parents, I was living in the darkness and the week of Christmas, I remember carolers coming to our door. I believe it was the neighborhood early childhood PTA group and as they would arrive to your house, you were to join in and follow for this big group of holiday cheer door to door. Something my non-grieving self would have jumped at the chance to do! I was watching TV and cuddling George on the couch, Max was outside working in the garage. They knocked on the door and then the chorus started with We Wish You a Merry Christmas. I sat there frozen on my couch and was torn between wishing I felt up to opening the door to enjoy and then wishing they would leave. I couldn't get up and open that door because the tears were falling and I wanted to tell them there was nothing to be merry about this Christmas, my baby was dead and I didn't know when we would be blessed to have a living child. I thought if Hudson were there, how fun to stand on the big porch together, bouncing him on my hip as we sang along, and then put him in the carrier to go caroling as a family with the group. They kept singing and went onto song two which was Silent Night, a Christmas song that was now very hard for me. The windows in our front door made it impossible to get up and walk out of the room without being seen, so I just laid there crying until they moved onto the next house and I could move to the back of the house to not hear the echos of the carols on the street.

Two days later we left on a trip to escape Christmas and the pain of not having Hudson by making Christmas completely different than what we traditionally do. Instead of the normal routine we knew and the pain of his glaring absence from it, we traveled just the two of us to Quebec, only to end up lost in a cemetery on Mont Royal and our escape down the side of the “mountain” to civilization again. A dark-humored account I shared in this post.

Last year I had compartmentalized my grief and was really caught up in life transitioning from newborn to infant craziness. I had little time alone and was soaking up the joy that she brought, I did a pretty good job of ignoring the darkness and pain that was looming. Finally, on Christmas Eve, I was tired of staving it off and as I held my two-month-old in a room lit by only our Christmas tree, I was overcome by grief wishing for our family to be in its entirety, with Hudson there too.

This year the darkness snuck in and on Tuesday, December 5, I had an emotional meltdown in the aisle at Target at 12:53 PM.

I was there to pick out the Christmas gift for an underprivileged child who we were assigned through a community organization that is important to me. They have an annual toy drive and after preparing my heart for it since last Christmas, I was ready to do it in Hudson’s honor and be assigned a boy his age. I had a few other things to get at the store so I let that distract me from the true reason I was there as I moved about the aisles, checking things off my mental list. Then came time to grab that last item, the toy. I could have Amazon Primed the gift to our house, but that was taking the easy way out. I wanted to pick it out, it needed to be personally chosen for this child. This little boy’s description said he loved music and toys that would light up. He wanted a Leap Frog Music Beats Activity Table. I told myself, okay, we have one of those at home, I can do this because I wouldn’t be picking that toy out for Hudson right now. We got one for Hadley at nine months, so surely, this is something we would have already had for a long time if Hudson were here.

But Target didn’t have it. They were all out of those tables. I stood in the aisle and felt the darkness rising in the form of panic as I tried to think through what to do. I had to get a toy that day because we were headed out of town and there was a deadline to get it to them in order for his wish to be fulfilled by the volunteers at the toy drive warehouse, this was the only time I had to do it before we left. I wanted to pick this out for him, he deserved that personal touch chosen with love, I needed to pick something out for him because I couldn’t personally pick out anything special for my son at Christmas. I had this little boy I could bring joy to, one I could give to, because I didn’t have my own son to do it for. These thoughts continued as I looked around the aisle, scanning it to triple check I hadn’t overlooked the item listed on that card. He likes anything that plays music and lights up, the wish list said, offering additional hints for other gifts if the donor preferred or needed other options. I had readied myself to come pick out that specific item, and my heart was in a place to do just that, but now that item wasn’t there and I was surrounded by other toys asking, what else would this 2.5 year old boy want? Well I don’t know, my 2.5 year old isn’t here. I should have one here and I should know what else I could pick out. I stood there trying to stop the tears or to at least silent cry but unable to hold back as the darkness won.

A man in a Target red shirt tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if he could help me find something. I turned around and by the look on his face when I did, I knew it was apparent I was ugly crying. His face changed and just said softly, how can I help you ma’am? I told him I needed to find something special for a little boy who is two and a half, and I can’t find this item that he wanted, so I don’t know what to get instead. I was embarrassed and judging by his reaction to me, I knew I was visibly shaken. I wanted to explain myself but I didn’t want to say anything more at the same time. I wanted to crawl in a hole for standing in that store in the toy aisle, red and blotchy with tears down my face. I didn’t want to cry in public, I hate crying in public. I was frustrated and mad at myself because I wanted to be stronger, I should be stronger. I wanted to feel at peace with this for doing this in Hudson's memory. I wanted to feel warmth and comfort in my heart knowing what it would mean to this little boy who was in foster care to feel loved and receive something special, just for him. Yet, grief wasn’t allowing that in the moment. Now there were more people shopping the aisle and I wanted to give up and go but I felt trapped.

I held out my paper, to which he took and examined, then told me to follow him. We went four aisles down and he apologized things were out of order, they were in process of unpacking new shipments as the store was going through a remodel and they were expanding the section for the holidays. They didn’t have the Leap Frog, but this was a new Fisher Price display on an aisle that was transitioning from sporting equipment to more toys. We found a similar activity table and he handed it to me. I choked out a thank you and again tried to stop the hot tears. He wished me a happy holidays and said he hopes the gift makes the little boy very happy.

I did the self-checkout and got to my car. My car, a place that was like my sanctuary for emotion and release for a very long time after our loss. It’s where the darkness found me through a song on the radio or sudden thought that would sneak into my head. I sat in my car and gave the darkness the power again. I needed to because finishing that emotional release would allow me to get back to the normal so I could go back to work and finish my day as if nothing was wrong. Maybe I wasn’t ready to do this yet like I thought. Or maybe it will be this difficult but evolving each time, as I always wonder what my son would want/need for Christmas that year. But it was a start to something I have wanted to do to honor Hudson even though it was met with more grief than anticipated.  

With Christmas a few days away, the darkness has continued to try to creep in however it can as I carry one baby, raise another, and still long for our first. It will be our third Christmas without our son and each year is proving to be a new kind of difficult. In addition to the Target meltdown, last week we had a Christmas program for Hadley’s school. I had worked with some other parents to get the Potluck lunch organized for families of the school and wanted to be there for the whole thing, though Hadley's class was too young to really perform in it or take part in the lunch. As each age group came up to do their thing, I had to excuse myself due to the inability to calm the emotions from watching the 2 year old classes perform. The thoughts whirling around wondering would Hudson be like the kid in the red sweater hugging his teacher and crying through the whole performance? Would he be like the one on the end jumping around? Would he be like the curly head one shouting the lyrics and giving the audience big smiles? Then there was the program title, Because of a Baby Boy. I find that to be a very emotional part of the holiday for me, the various references to the baby boy. Finally, there was our sweet little girl brought in with her class dressed as an angel, to my surprise. 

The darkness will continue to seep through at times the heart is vulnerable throughout the year. It will infiltrate the holiday cheer, and weigh heavily because someone who is incredibly loved is terribly missed. No amount of other children or distraction will take the place of that. As I organize our home office containing Christmas gifts, I can’t help but picture what is missing. I see that toy aisle from Target in my mind as I scanned it for other 2.5 year old gift options and wonder what I would have grabbed for Hudson, what I'd be wrapping up or building out with Max for Christmas morning for him. I still can’t listen to Silent Night. If it comes on in the car, I change it immediately. I anticipate excusing myself early at the Christmas Eve service on Sunday because it is always the last song sung. This year we will travel on Christmas to visit family. A Christmas we haven’t done since we announced our pregnancy with Hudson. I anticipate the darkness, because that memory is still a hard one, but at least I expect it. So maybe I can prepare mentally for it. Maybe it will just find me in the quiet moments alone to myself. Maybe I need that.

For those struggling this holiday due to loss in your life - however distant or recent it took place - know that you are not alone in that. It is my hope that the magic of Christmas can outweigh or at least counterbalance the darkness that may arise, the pain that will be present in your hearts. Here's to finding tidings of comfort and joy through the darkness in a world full of light. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Letter to My Littlest



Sweet baby,

I am 22 weeks pregnant with you and had an appointment today to check in and see you. Everything about you is perfect and I’m thankful to have the ability to make sure of it, even though I still hate the reason why we do. You will be born into a family with a big sister 18 months older than you, and you have a big brother who is in Heaven. It’s because he left us before we could experience life together that we get to see you so much and make sure you are okay. Now our doctor and her team takes every precaution to ensure nothing is wrong and we get you here safe and sound.

You’ve been making some stronger movements lately and it has made me stop what I’m doing to just be able to pause and enjoy. The movements of my babies are the most special parts of my pregnancies. They are what I look forward to the most in a pregnancy and the first thing I miss when I’m not pregnant anymore. I’ve been feeling you consistently for about two weeks now, but you are strong enough to be felt by outside touch now too, so the other night, Daddy got to feel you kick for the first time. I ate a Christmas cookie while finishing up some work at home, then within 15 minutes, you started hopping around. Big bold movements on my left side. We had just been talking about your big sister’s newfound strength and how she wrestled the doctor’s ear thingy (it is a technical term) away when at the Pediatrician earlier that day and I said, speaking of strength, this baby has some if you want to come feel? He did, and then you did you thing, and I smiled. Daddy’s eyes got all big and he said whoa, hey there baby! Just like he did with Hudson, just like he did with Hadley. I remember each of the moments when he felt his babies kick for the first time and the look on his face to get to experience it too.

Your big sister has become very cuddly and she loves to lay her head on the baby belly. You always become more active when she does, so I like to think you two are already channeling a little sibling bond. It's like she is being protective the way she lays her head and hand where you are, then you react to that touch by letting her know you are there. We’ve been working on teaching her to say baby, but you may be called puppy for a while.

You were kind of against our odds. To learn we were pregnant with you, even my doctor was in disbelief given some issues that should have made it more difficult. You are determined and strong, little one. We thought it would be months and months of waiting again. The way you began was a great surprise, so the way you arrive will only echo that when we find out just who you are. Our time together with you on the inside feels like it is flying by, which on the one hand makes me relieved because with our history, I’m ready to get you here, in my arms, breathing and crying. However, outside of the fear and anxiety that will always exist at some capacity, I truly love being pregnant and want to cherish this time with you – my last baby. We learned at the last appointment that my placenta did move and I no longer have placenta previa to worry about, so that is one less thing to stress over during this time together. Today we saw that the cyst on my ovary has completely shrunk too! 

We have a list on the fridge with our favorite names, mixing and matching firsts and middles. It’s been a fun game and while I think the right ones are evident, I’m going to keep working on your Daddy a bit more and enjoy this little name game.

I get teary eyed every time I think about the moment when we will get to meet you. That moment I held my babies to my chest for the first time was an indescribable feeling of finally getting to see and feel that long awaited miracle. While your big brother’s was also met with deep pain because his hello also meant a goodbye, your big sister’s was a joy we hadn’t experienced ever before in that way, and one I cannot wait to experience again with you. 

I can’t wait to keep getting to know you in there, and even more so, I can’t wait to meet you out here when the time comes. Again we are trying to conquer faith over fear and though there have been moments, we are so far, so good. 

I love you Squish and look forward to seeing you again at our next appointment. 

Mommy

Monday, November 13, 2017

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie



Before this blog, I had another one solely dedicated to cooking. It started when Max and I were dating, the two of us found cooking as a hobby that we loved doing together, and I needed a stress relief from the busy world of my work life. Writing had always been a passion, cooking had become one, so blogging allowed me to creatively combine the two and share with friends who asked for recipes.

After getting married, I wanted to morph that creativity a little more into a new outlet that covered other hobbies - such as traveling, party planning, homeowner type things - and created this domain. It sat untouched until I had the true need to write again after our loss. While that is a main outpouring of my writing, cooking became therapeutic again, and I called those recipe posts that I'd share Cooking for Comfort.

At least once a week we try to challenge ourselves with something we've never made before and a lot of times it is on the weekend for a date night in, or when we have more time to devote to it. Enter this recipe for a homemade chicken pot pie. Baking is not my forte, I prefer to cook by taste - adding a dash of this and a dash of that. Baking is a precise science that I don't gravitate towards, so when it came to this recipe and making the homemade dough, I left that up to Max's expertise. I was in charge of the filling and felt like I could experiment more and do it "to taste". We enjoyed making it, we really enjoyed consuming it, and it was even Hadley approved. 

Ingredients:
Yields 6-8 servings
For Pie Crust, from Two Peas and Their Pod

  • 2.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup cold buttermilk
  • 1-2 tbsp. of water (if needed)
  • 1 egg, beaten (to brush the crust as a final step)
For Filling
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup carrot, chopped
  • 1 cup green veggie of choice (peas, broccoli florets, green beans - I went with green beans for this first attempt)
  • 2 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
  • 1.5 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup half and half 
  • 3 cups shredded chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken for the flavor)
  • Cajun seasoning to taste (Optional. I am a Tony Chachere addict and use it in nearly every dish, so this was no exception and my personal twist!)
First, make sure you have an oven rack positioned in the center and pre-heat to 400 degrees. 

Start with making the pie crust. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Add the cubed butter and toss to coat. You need a moderate in size, clean, flat surface to then dump the ingredients out. Using a rolling pin, roll the butter into thin sheets incorporating it with the flour mix. Use a pastry scraper to scrape the rolling pin and bring the scraps back into a pile to continue to roll out. Continue this process until all the butter is flattened and worked into the dry ingredients. The mix will be flaky and dry. Place back in the bowl and into the freezer for 15 min to chill. 

After 15 min, remove from freezer and add the buttermilk. Using a spoon, stir the buttermilk into the mixture, making more of a dough-like consistency. If it still feels a little dry, add the water, one tablespoon at a time. Cut the dough into two equal amounts, flatten into discs and place separately in plastic wrap or ziploc bags. Let these chill in the fridge while you make the filling.

In a large skillet or chef's pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the onion, celery, carrot and green veggie of choice to cook for about 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft/onions are translucent. Next, add the garlic. Once fragrant, sprinkle the flour over the veggies, add the thyme, parsley and salt. Once coated in flour and seasonings, add the chicken broth and Half & Half, then turn the heat up a bit to let it thicken, stirring often. Once thickened, add the chicken. Final step is to season to your liking with the Cajun seasoning. 

Remove the pie dough from the fridge and sprinkle some flour onto your clean, flat surface. Rub the rolling pin with flour as well to help with it sticking to the dough. Use the rolling pin to roll out the disc to a flattened circle of about 12 inches and 1/4 inch thickness. Transfer the dough to a 9 inch pie dish and press into the dish, patting with fingers to make smooth and stretch more if needed. If there is extra dough over the sides of the pan, trim and discard. Fill pie with filling. Roll out the second disc and repeat the process, placing it carefully over the top of the pie and trimming excess dough if it hangs over the sides. Using your fingers or a fork, crimp the dough to seal the pie. With a knife, slit some lines into the pie. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg onto the top and crust of the dough.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Let cool, then cut and serve! 




Monday, November 6, 2017

Baby HJS the Third


So, our family has a little bit of big news, we are expanding again! We are nearing the seventeen week mark and had an appointment last Friday to see HJS the Third, or more affectionately referred to as little Squish, our go-to name for baby during each pregnancy. If all goes as it should, we will induce somewhere between April 1 and April 8. I'm pulling for April 4 for 4/4. I'm 8/8, my dad is 12/12, we need to pass this onto the next generation.

But you just had a baby! I know, and she’s a year old now. The answer to the first question we are asked and I'm sure on the brains of those who haven't asked is, yes this was planned, yet we were still surprised.

Let me back it up a bit.

In June we went to see my doctor for the 8 month postpartum check up. Max and I were already thinking that we were ready and wanted to expand our family again, but I had some mental hangups that I wanted to talk through with my doctor first. As some may recall, when we delivered Hadley, there was an abnormality with my placenta. I actually didn't know anything about it until Nurse Katie sent me Hadley's birth photos and there it was. The giant placenta blob in all its glory. Not what you anticipate seeing as you are hormonally looking through the memories of those special moments of bringing this eagerly awaited baby into the world. Baby, baby, baby, placenta, baby, baby...wait, what?

Nurse Katie let me know that she wanted me to have a picture for documentation if needed. The pathology reports came back that the abnormality was a 5 cm blood clot but that I didn't test positive for any of the blood clotting disorders that would have been a common reason for it, nor did I present with the other usual suspects such as gestational diabetes or placental abruption. So it remained a mystery and one that I was rather unsettled about. At my 6 week postpartum check up, my doctor said she had yet to find a medical reason for it, but that she was going to run a few more tests and research a few more things and we would revisit it together at the 8 month postpartum appointment.

That takes us to June and it is time for that appointment. We decided to look at my uterus and ovaries not pregnant and found that I had a blueberry-sized cyst on my only working ovary and a number of pea-sized fibroids occupying my uterus. We learned in our fertility struggle last time that my right ovary is the only one that releases eggs, and now it was inhabiting an unwelcome guest (and an unharmful one, which is important to add). Additionally, we revisited that whole placenta-blood-clot question. Something that had weighed on my mind was when we had the umbilical cord scare with Hadley around the 31 week mark, it was an unexplained issue that was chalked up to my stress and anxiety. So we initiated a moderated bed rest and increased appointments with scans to twice a week. With the blood clot coming to light after delivery, coupled with the now existing UFO's (Uterine Foreign Objects, ie cyst and fibroids) we decided I would go see a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist for another opinion. I had that appointment the first week of July and after reviewing it all, they felt that the blood clot happened either during labor or during delivery, but sometime after they broke my water. Without getting too graphic, the reasoning for this was because if there had been a blood clot in my placenta prior to that time, there would have been blood in my amniotic fluid when they broke my water - but there wasn't.

Leaving that appointment, the specialist said she didn't feel we should do anything differently or be concerned with another pregnancy, we have a good plan. We will do a blood thinner just to add another layer to our next high risk pregnancy artillery as a precautionary measure and will continue on with the frequent appointments and scans when the time comes.

The week after my eight month appointment, I had my first postpartum cycle. However it didn't return in July. For eight days at the end of July, I think I took a test every other day, just in case, but they were all negative. In late August, I still had not had any sign of a cycle and was feeling "off". I remember it vividly. It was a Monday, I had a few work related errands to run, and on my way back to the office, the thought crossed my mind that I needed to take a pregnancy test. It was very similar to the urgency I felt the morning I hopped out of bed at 6 am, bundled up and marched out the door to drive to the store. That was when we learned I was pregnant with Hudson. So, I popped into Walgreens to grab a box of pregnancy tests again. I got back to the office and at 3:42 PM, two lines immediately appeared on a stick. I laughed. I laughed hard. I couldn't believe my eyes and I was in shock. So I chugged water and did it again. I was pregnant alright!

We had started trying, but I couldn't believe we got pregnant when we did. We thought we would be putting time on the clock and go back in to see our doctor around the beginning of the new year to talk options. There was no charting this time, no acupuncture, no special herbs that people swear by, no gluten-free diet to get more hormones in check, no Clomid or other fertility help. Add the cyst on my ovary and we thought for sure that we were embarking again on a long, challenging road to another baby. I even asked myself if I would feel fulfilled with my family as it stood today - my son in heaven, my daughter here with us - as a defense mechanism against the pain of the potentially pending fertility struggle.

I was in disbelief, it was followed by overwhelming emotion and joy, but then I felt guilty. For pretty much the whole first trimester, I felt guilty. My road after loss put me in a new segment of the population of women who have a mother's heart but not a baby. Whether that is because they've lost a child or they can't get pregnant, it's an excruciating trial in life to endure. This time around, I have a number of friends who I love and care for who are walking the road of fertility struggles, others who are unable to carry a child again, those who would do anything to realize they were pregnant. It gave me intense guilt that I had Hadley, but now had been given another opportunity too, while they were still waiting for a living baby or had been trying for much longer.

I felt guilt because I then had this overwhelming fear of opening my heart again to another baby. This is a very scary road, there are a lot of what if's, and a lot of sorting through the trauma from a third trimester loss. I had a hard time connecting to the fact I was pregnant again, I was doing this again, this was really happening and it was happening now. With Hadley, though there was fear, it was hope and faith that won the struggle. Through the doubts that would creep in, I just knew she would be here with us, because she had to. We could not go through what we had been through before. Finding out I was pregnant later than I had with both other pregnancies and with my UFO's I had also convinced myself this pregnancy wouldn't stay viable. I just felt like I shouldn't get attached to the idea of it and that feeling lasted until we hit the twelve week mark. We waited longer to tell people, I struggled with if we make an announcement, but in the end, we felt this baby deserved to be celebrated, too.

Rewinding back two years, when we were fresh from loss and on the road to picking up the pieces, I told myself that, as much as it hurt while going through it, my heart needed to have enough distance between Hudson’s birth and becoming pregnant again so that it could have been possible had he lived. I struggled really hard with the feeling that I needed to know that Hudson and Hadley could have both been here. Personally, my heart couldn’t handle that the only reason she was here was because he died. That just wasn’t in my scope of understanding for my personal healing.

After Hudson, I no longer believed that everything happened for a reason and that it was not God’s intent for him to die of a cord accident, for us to give birth to him not living. That is just not a place my belief system or my relationship with God will allow me to go to. I felt like they absolutely could have been 17 months apart, it was possible, I would have them both here. Now becoming pregnant again in the time frame in which we have, it is further testament to that. But, that’s where I also started to get hung up again. I felt like if I had both Huds and Hads 17 mo apart, would we be pregnant now with this baby, making Hadley and new baby 18 mo apart? That thought circled in my mind those first few weeks, hindering me from connecting because I was grieving the son who wasn’t here and the sadness for reaching a point now that I felt like it would have been a life with Hudson, or a life with this baby but probably not both. I’ve had to make myself stop going there, and stop thinking about it like that. I will continue to see him among our family in my mind, however that looks at any given time in the future, but I had to finally set a personal emotional boundary and stop going to the other place of question. It’s just more than my heart can take anymore as life after loss continues on. 

There's also been a fair amount of post traumatic stress, and more of it will occur as the pregnancy progresses. I talked about that a lot in my posts from my pregnancy with Hadley. That pregnancy had terrifying moments, especially throughout the third trimester, because the loss of Hudson was still so fresh. There were a lot of emotional hurdles to clear, going down that path again. But even in the midst of it all, there was a peace. Like an ever-present feeling that, okay this may be scary but we are going to get her here safe and sound. Because we have to, we just do. There wasn't another option in my mind, we couldn't and wouldn't endure that loss with her. 

This time, I’m having more flashbacks to my pregnancy with Hudson than I did with Hadley and a lot of that derives from our life aesthetic. It has now been almost two and a half years. A number of the moms I was pregnant with then are also getting pregnant again now, or similar situations we were going through three years ago when we first got pregnant are present again now. When life from a time that resulted in tragedy begins to mirror the present day, it pours some rubbing alcohol in the re-opened wound because the last time some of these things were going on, our baby died. When it came to those other families, it was really hard for me to face them for a long time. It was a lot to work through to get to a point of comfort around kids within a 6 month age range of Hudson, and it's still a work in progress. To be clear for a minute, they did nothing wrong, it was all me and my heart. It was too hard for a long time and sometimes it is still too hard. At this moment in time, I’m forced to face the reality of what I’ve been avoiding. I see him in our daily family life when I allow myself to go to that place. Right now, when I see the families with kids near his age - who he'd be in class with, who we were "pregnant friends" with - I am forced to see what I've been trying to avoid. That we could’ve been raising our babies together this whole time.

We were up at the swimming pool near the end of the summer and ran into some family friends. We had grown up together and they had a son within a month of Hudson’s passing. When their son was born, I had to unfollow them on social media because my heart couldn’t take seeing him grow up. It wasn’t in malice, it wasn’t to be cruel, it wasn’t out of jealousy. It was simply doing what I had to do to emotionally protect myself because it hurt so bad to see little boys his age. Seeing them now didn’t hurt as bad as it would have a year ago, but it still took me aback quite a bit. I could manage a smile and small talk, but I couldn't sit facing them. I had to go to a different section of the pool to play with Hadley and avoid the images my mind wanted to take me to of what my son would look like, what he’d be doing, how I'd be juggling both of them. This may be something that someone who hasn’t lost a baby cannot fully understand and I don’t expect you to, but I do think it is needed insight. These are things that I still live with, things that are still difficult and hit differently. It takes me back to then and that is just a fact of Pregnancy After Loss. That’s something I have to work through in my way and I continue to, in my own time. I am still a work in progress. 

These things are the triggers that take me back to feelings I don’t want to feel. Panic I don’t want to have. Anxiety I don’t want to face. Grief I want to run from. That’s post traumatic stress derived from loss.

Being a third trimester mother of loss, I know that getting through a first trimester doesn't mean that you are safe from the unexpected or unimaginable. Anything can happen at any time. When it comes to this pregnancy, we will have the same approach as last time. The umbilical cord will continue to be watched closely. Hudson’s was very long and very thin, making it easy for him to become wrapped. Hadley’s was a marginal insertion which carried risk-factors of its own, but when monitored closely can be harmless. A marginal cord insertion happens when the umbilical cord attaches on the side of the placenta instead of in the middle (like it is supposed to). For this pregnancy, I’m praying for a normal cord placement without any issues.

At our appointment on Friday, we did learn that I currently have placenta previa. This means that my placenta has attached itself over the opening of my cervix. The good news is that this is something that has the ability to correct itself and that about 90% of the time, it does. We will go back in four weeks and find out if it has moved or not. It is a big prayer right now that this self-corrects and we can have a completely boring, uneventful pregnancy. I was told not to google placenta previa, but I did because, I'm only human and I'm not going to worry about those things unless we are faced with them. To save you the google search, it doesn't necessarily mean anything life-threatening to the baby and that is what is most important.

I’m praying for health and blessings on this little one. I’m praying that he or she will thrive.

You said you were 16 weeks, so what about the gender? That's the second question we get. This time, we aren't finding out until delivery.

From the time we got married and started dreaming of a future family, we said that if we already had a boy and a girl, if we were to have a third, we wouldn't find out the gender and would let it be a surprise. I am a perpetual planner and never really thought I could do that unless I was prepared either way. After Hudson died, I remember people who told us they felt like they "knew" Hudson. That finding out his gender, naming him as early as we did, it made me feel so connected to him, and others shared the same sentiment with us. I said at that time that we would always do that.

But, my grief continues to evolve. I'm in a different place now than when I was two years ago when I felt we needed to always know. A place where I think I need to not know, so that for once, I don't overthink and get carried away with the emotions of those thoughts. I'm in a place in my grief that I'm almost afraid to go through the emotions of knowing that I'm having a baby boy throughout a pregnancy. I imagined what life with Hudson would have brought us. When Hadley arrived, I got a good indication of everything we had missed - but it was different, girls and boys bring different things and different experiences. Planning for a boy again, I think it would bring on waves of grief and added stress that I really want to keep at bay during a pregnancy. I know myself and I would compare the two boy pregnancies and drive myself crazy with worry. On the flip side, I think if I were to know right now during the pregnancy that I was having a baby girl, there would be emotions of mourning a life as parents to a little boy after having been so close to it once before.

I don't want to cause myself more stress or anxiety than what there will inevitably be throughout a third trimester. Since we still don't know what caused Hadley's cord flow issues for sure, and it wasn't the blood clot because that came later, my stress is the top suspect. Therefore, I want to be as peaceful and calm as possible this pregnancy - especially if the placenta doesn't correct itself and I do end up with placenta previa and the complications that could come from that.

We are prepared to welcome another baby, either a little girl or little boy into our lives. We have already had one of each - maybe not in the way that we had planned, or the way that some would recognize, but in a way that allows us to hold true to the pinky promise we made on our honeymoon five years ago. I feel like once this baby arrives, regardless of gender, we will have the same reaction of relief to be holding a healthy baby, of pure joy to welcome them into our lives, and the feeling like our family is complete. I think having that moment to look forward to is what we need for this second Pregnancy After Loss and what will be our last pregnancy experience. I've heard it described as the ultimate gift and one of the last true surprises in life. Hudson is our angel, Hadley is our rainbow. This baby is our grand surprise and I think that is perfectly fitting and special for him or her.