Friday, August 26, 2016

Confessions of an Anxious Mama: Pregnancy After Loss Edition III

30 weeks: she's weighing in at 3 lb 2 oz and is the estimated size of a cantaloupe.

I feel like this pregnancy is flying by. I didn't think it would entering a Pregnancy After Loss and all that comes with it, but just like that, we are now a few weeks into the third trimester. At the 28 week appointment, we sat down with my doctor, like we have at 7 weeks and at 14 weeks, to plan out what this specific trimester is going to look like for us. We've had the 30,000 foot view of what the pregnancy would look like as a high risk classification in general. As many other high risk mamas who I've come to know and because I've had a cord accident, my doctor plans to always induce as early as 37 to 38 weeks. For us specifically, the reason for that is due to the fact that cord accidents are more likely to happen later in a third trimester when baby is running out of room and you are at risk of having a cord accident again if you have already had one. I'll go into more detail on that below. So when I talk about my anxiety surrounding this pregnancy, yes it partially stems from a third trimester loss from the only pregnancy experience I know, but also from this chance of history repeating itself with another cord accident.

If I'm being completely transparent, I really love being pregnant. I love the basketball belly that sticks out of my clothes. I love when it starts dancing around when she moves. I love when my husband leans down and talks to her just because. I love when my dog rests his head on it. I love after every time I wake up in the middle of the night to relieve my bladder, she starts wiggling around and the lack of sleep I get because I don't want to feel her stop moving. I love feeling her within thirty minutes of having food. I appreciate every pound gained, the swollen legs and feet, the cracked heels. I'm exhausted easily, the pressure of her can be a little uncomfortable when walking and standing, my back doesn't feel so great, there are times I think I just burped up a fire ball, times I feel cranky or overly emotional, but - I love it. I'll take it all, all the time, to be able to have it, as many times as I'm able to have it, because I honestly love every bit of it. However, it is difficult when what you love is encapsulated by risk and fear.

For the majority of my pregnancy, I feel like I have been pretty good to my heart and my mind. I have stayed away from WebMD and all things Google in an active effort for calm and peace, trying to disbar the what if thoughts from my mind. However, since entering the third trimester and becoming closer to that doomsday mark (the 32/33 week point), I kind of accidentally, may have slipped on avoiding the world wide web and what it says about cord accidents. It started out so innocently. A special person in my life did something to garner a naming right for Hudson at a large annual conference for medical professionals and individuals in bereavement care for pregnancy and infant loss. They sent me the speaker information and asked me to look at the different sessions and choose which resonated most. There were two talks specific to stillbirth and so I decided to research the speakers and what their messages are in stillbirth research, and see what they say about cord accidents as well. In doing so, I got a little carried away and before I knew it, I was falling down the rabbit hole. 

I have met a number of other mamas living in this Life after Loss world, but I've only been put in contact with one who experienced a cord accident as well. As she was going through her Pregnancy After Loss, she had told me about the Pregnancy Institute, a non-profit organization lead by OB/GYN Dr. Jason Collins, who is a national leader in cord accident research. Last summer, I read a bunch of his findings and studies, in addition to others out there, but his were the most dedicated to strictly this type of stillbirth cause. Jumping forward to the present, while conducting this recent google search, I came across his name again and found myself re-reading Dr. Collins' research on cord accidents. This time I was reading with a different perspective, honing in on the findings of what it can mean for subsequent pregnancies. My inner Jiminy Cricket was chirping, it was telling me to stop and just let it go, but no. I decided to be an emotional masochist. 

I read the research again and again and again. All things I had read a year earlier, but because I was pregnant again, in the third trimester with this precious child who has restored our hope, clearly that meant I had to read it from this current perspective and all of its emotions. Following the research articles, I then read a blog post summarizing everything in more simple terms. I read through all the comments on the post. I sobbed reading the words of these aching moms, their hearts I know all too well. Some were from the grandmothers writing their accounts of watching their own daughters say goodbye to their babies and having to lay them to rest, how unfair and angry they were that there had to be coffins made that small and why more isn't done to prevent this? I read testimonies of women who have had multiple stillbirths due to cord accidents. I know I should have stopped but I was frozen and my eyes wouldn't stop scrolling. I sobbed with the mere thought of our experience and reliving that again in my mind. Then the panic of oh my God I just can't do this, I can't do this again. When I was pregnant with Hudson, most of the mommy friends I had were having boys as well. We lost Hudson and while it was hard to see any newborn for a very long time (honestly, I had a hard time with it through June of this year, I've just now come to be able to hold and see them), watching all those baby boys enter the world absolutely broke me. This time around, most of my mommy friends are also having little girls and it is just scary to be back here, in the same kind of position. I am terrified of something happening again. I held my belly and rocked back and forth, pretty much just wailing until I couldn't catch a breath and my head felt like it was going to explode from pressure. 

I find it important to share some of his research because we shouldn't be living in the dark about this. It shouldn't be something we fear to hear about. That increases the stigma. We should know our risks and what can happen, what to ask our doctors, what to look for, because maybe then there can be a change. This isn't meant to drive fear into pregnant women, or those thinking about having a baby. We should know these things. Just like we try to take precautions to cancer and knowing our risks for other health-related issues. This information specifically pertains to cord accident deaths.

Essentially, there are various ways the cord can cause a fetal demise. According to Dr. Collins:

"There are many types of umbilical cord issues.  The more common issues include true knots, velamentous or marginal insertions, hyper or hypo coiling, lack of Wharton’s jelly, 2-vessel cords, and compression." 

What is most common is a nuchal cord accident and that is classified in two types. Research states:

"Type A is a wrap that can possibly be undone with movement or delivery of the baby. Type B is a hitch that is impossible for the baby to release. If a type B loop around the neck, ankle, or other body part is pushed off the body, a true knot is formed.
With umbilical cord issues, the factor that determines the risk is the amount of slack available. For this to be determined, the cord location, cord structure, placenta, placental position, cord length, insertion site, and position of the baby must all be evaluated and considered. Short cords have been associated with an increased risk of neurological insults and long cords have been associated with an increased risk of fetal death."

Yes, it is true. There are babies born all the time who have had a cord wrapped around them or are tightly coiled and they live. It is interesting to share though that there are studies taking place to see the impact of cord babies born living, to see if the compression which would have resulted in a decreased blood flow and oxygen in utero had an effect on brain development as the child grows. Some researchers are looking for a link to ADHD and the autism spectrum, as well as other cognitive developmental disabilities. 

The warning signs of cord restriction or compression are as follows:
  • There is a link with maternal low blood pressure in the third trimester. 
  • There is a link with fetal hiccups.
  • There is a link with a slower fetal heart beat. 
  • There is a link with both hypoactivity and hyperactivity in the womb. 
His research suggests that most cord accident deaths take place between the hours of 12 am and 6 am, while a mother sleeps. This is when melatonin is produced in the mother's brain, which can cause stress on the uterus. If there is a compression on the cord, the baby may not be able to continue to handle this stress. In addition, a mother's blood pressure will lower while she sleeps which impacts the flow of blood and oxygen through a cord. If there is already distress on the cord due to tight coiling, a wrap or a knot, that is when a fetus is most at risk. If an expecting woman already shows signs of a lower blood pressure, then her blood pressure decreases more when sleeping, if there is any kind of distress on the cord, it increases the chance of fetal demise.

Hudson was a nuchal cord accident type B. It was wrapped three times around his neck, very tightly and he had a very long cord. Because of this, more than likely, he became wrapped early. As he grew and didn't have more room to move, it became more compressed. I fell asleep on May 25 by 10:00 PM and he was kicking me. I got up the next morning in a hurry and didn't feel him before my appointment. This is why I never want to feel Hadley stop moving, especially when I wake up in the middle of the night. The fact that we are doing these sonograms with Hadley weekly would show by this point if her cord was restricted, wrapped, knotted, or compressed - this is one of the things we look for each week at her appointments.

Finally there's the other important piece of information. That when it comes to subsequent pregnancies, it is found that women who have had a cord accident are more likely to have it happen again. But they have not been able to yet conclude why. 

"Work at the Pregnancy Institute has identified that umbilical cord accidents are not random or rare. Women who have had umbilical cord issues with previous pregnancies, have as much as a ten-fold increased risk of umbilical cord issues in future pregnancies. These women need additional monitoring for these concerns."

I scoured but couldn't find any insight into why someone who has had a previous cord accident more at risk of it happening again? I reached out to a research assistant of Dr. Collins who penned a blog post about it to ask about. Within two hours she got back to me. Her response was this:

"Katie – I, too, wish we knew why there was a greater risk of this happening again. There are several theories and a few people studying it – but we don’t know yet. I am hopeful that additional studies and genomics work will give us some answers. I know the anxiety that accompanies this pregnancy after loss – so I also wish you peace and comfort during this time as you await her arrival!" 

So what has that meant for this pregnancy and the remainder of it?

Cord accidents are just one type of fetal death, there are various other causes of stillbirth both known and unknown. What every post-stillbirth, high-risk pregnancy can expect is additional fetal monitoring, appointments and testing. Speaking from our experience and as I've shared a bit about previously, we had a biophysical profile at 9 weeks, then 20 weeks, and starting at 24 weeks, they became weekly. This means a very in depth sonogram, sometimes involving the 3D/4D technology. They watch as she breaths both through her nose and through her mouth, they look at every organ and measure each bone, we look at brain activity. Fluid is measured, placenta is checked, cord is examined. The high risk ultrasound tech doesn't stop until she gets the numbers she needs to see to ensure that everything is the way it should be. Hadley needs to score an 8 on everything and she has done so with each appointment so far. So, being in our third trimester, our plan is that if her score were to ever drop lower, depending on the severity, we have reached the point of her life's viability that my doctor would perform an emergency c-section right away if it were needed. This gives me ease to know that she can be saved if something were to present itself and if we were to catch it. This is also where my paranoia starts to take over. If I don't feel like I felt her enough, I panic and want to grab for the heart monitor right away. It keeps me from sleeping at night if I move and she doesn't move back, which she usually will start moving whenever I wake up and change sides or get up to go to the restroom. I lay there awake until I feel it, if it takes longer, I start to panic. Then I feel her and am at ease, but I'm now wide awake.

To help combat this, I've started a "movement journal" to document the different jabs, kicks and rolls. As discussed above, both hyperactivity and hypoactivity are cited as signs of distress. So you have to think to yourself then what the heck is normal activity? What exactly is too much or too little when people say all the time how each pregnancy, each baby, is different? Now I have this journal and I'll take it to my weekly appointments to review. We can look at her pattern of behavior together along with her biophysical profile stats.

I've made sure that we've established a baseline of my blood pressure. Nurses usually are on high alert to look for an increase in blood pressure, which can be an early sign of preeclampsia, but they don't all necessarily know that a decrease in blood pressure can be an indication of anything. I had to ask for that. Now we make sure that we are looking at heightened and lowered blood pressure by the week. So far, so good.

At 32 weeks, we have it in the plan to start twice a week appointments if we feel it is needed. One appointment will be a non-stress test, the other will be the biophysical profile sono, every week. Each appointment will end with an assessment by my doctor and chance to touch base together. Each hospital varies on when they will induce. My hospital is preferring that patients be induced after 37 weeks, which she said could be 37 weeks and 1 day if we wanted, or we could go closer to 38 weeks. Basically, she said pick your date in that time frame. We have a date decided on, but will talk to her about it next week to confirm that she can schedule us then.

My days are good, I just have moments within those days that can be really hard to get through and/or move on from sometimes when certain thoughts occur. It's hard for me to have this experience of monitoring Hadley so closely and know that if only we had even just one more sonogram with Hudson, maybe things would have been different? Maybe we could have saved him and he could be here too? Why did one of my babies have to die so that I could have the monitoring needed for any others I am to carry? I want to believe that everything will turn out just fine from here on forward but I know the truth is that we don't know that. Never in a million years did I think we'd lose a baby to stillbirth, but we did. What's to say it won't happen again? These are the tough thoughts, the ones that can be paralyzing and make it difficult to move on from. The ones where you scold yourself and say don't you dare go there, but you can't help it because you've already experienced the unimaginable. 

So, because of that, we have to remain hopeful, grateful and pray hard. Each week is a celebration because we are still pregnant, our baby is still alive and we are another 7 days closer to her arrival. 

You may be sick of reading it by now, but sorry. 
Faith over fear has to triumph
And so it shall. 

We are hopeful to meet our crying, breathing, wide eyed baby girl in 7 weeks and 2 days. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Two Year Journey

August 17, 2014
The Wish Tree - Yoko Ono Exhibit
Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain

This morning as I laid in bed before getting up, Facebook reminded me that two years ago today we were in Bilbao, Spain. We were wrapping up our first week in the northern part of the country, the Basque Country, wining our way around the Rioja region, then dining our way around San Sebastian.

We had a 24 hour stop in Bilbao before flying to the second half of our trip in Barcelona and Madrid. While there, we visited the intricately designed Frank Gherry Guggenheim Museum, which happened to have a visiting Yoko Ono exhibit. I'll tell you that woman is a trip, but when we weren't giggling or scratching our head in confusion, we stood peacefully at this Wish Tree. It was standing outside of her exhibit hall on the third floor in the open. The interactive piece encouraged visitors to take a tag and write their wish, then hang them on the olive tree. 

A few nights prior in Elciego, we had made a command decision that I talked about in one of my very first posts. We had been married a year and a half, still newlyweds, and full of things we wanted to see and do. We thought we had this large window of time before we decided to start a family someday, but as we enjoyed a Spanish sunset over the Pyrenees, toasting to our 30th birthdays, the conversation turned to discuss that desire for the "someday" to be now. We were eager, excited and ready to start our family.  

A few days later in Bilbao, we stood in front of this Wish Tree. We found tags and pens, each scribbling down our respective wishes, folding them and placing them on a branch. Before hanging it, I took a picture of my wish. Later that afternoon, as we walked around the outside of the museum, looking at the sculptures, we both confessed our wishes and they were the same. 


My Wishing Tree wish

I think back to that time so fondly. I look through the pictures on the rest of the album and our smiles are a bit bigger, our eyes are a bit brighter. It's like we had this secret and we couldn't wait to share it with everyone, whenever there was something to share. We had such a raw and pure happiness. Sometimes it is hard to see pictures of yourself from the before loss life. In the after loss life, you do learn to smile, laugh and be happy again, but it is just a bit different than before. Looking at these pictures, I can't help but feel emotional. There is a yearning for the pure happiness that didn't know the pain of what that road would look like for us. You never think you are going to be the one who struggles with becoming a parent, whether it's due to infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. You have these hopes and dreams for the happiest future, seamlessly procreating like those around you, not knowing what the road will hold. The fact that it won't go the way you think it will, and in some cases tragically wrong, is the farthest thought from your realm of understanding. 

I remember feeling silly for taking a picture of my wish, but I wanted to document that for us. I had to go through my computer files of the hundreds of pictures I took throughout those two weeks to find it, holding my breath that it would pop up. When it came up on the screen, I couldn't hold back. I stared at it for a while, with tears streaming down my face and then the sobs caught up.

It's been a rocky two year journey to get to this point and we are still holding our breath. 

These two years since have provided us with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. When we got home from this trip, it took us two more months to conceive Hudson that October. Sitting here today and reflecting on this trip, I am two months from October again, the month Hadley is supposed to join us. I'm angry we don't have him with us, as I will always believe we should. I'm anxious to get through another two months and fearful of the what if that lies between. I'm annoyed that there is, I guess you can call it, symbolism in this equation.

Those wishes are supposed to continue to hang on the olive tree as a permanent piece, even after the traveling exhibit is gone. I wonder if our wishes are still there, with now probably thousands of others, or if they were removed to make room for others. It is still our wish, and our prayer, as we continue on. We have one Baby Schlieve but he is not with us and our hearts ache to have him when we can't. All the while, we prepare our hearts with the joy and love of the little girl we anticipate and can't wait to have in our arms, take her home to become a family. The very thing that we have longed for these two years and counting. 



Thursday, August 11, 2016

Chimichurri Steak and Potato Salad



Ladies, sometimes you just want lighter dinner fare, right? This is difficult when there's a man to feed because they want hearty. Or maybe sometimes you want a light meal but WITH a little hearty. This brings together the best of both worlds combining salad greens with some meat and potatoes. Putting it all together offers you a meal full of protein, iron, iodine and folate. You get your entrée salad, he gets enough food to be full. This may look like a lot of moving parts but once you get going, in the right order, you have it ready in no time!

I've made this with regular potatoes and tomatoes (first picture) and again this week changing it up adding avocado and the purple Peruvian potatoes. I used to work with a caterer who used Peruvian potatoes as part of a passed canape recipe and I always thought they were fun. With the Olympics going on, I decided to tap into all things South America with the Brazilian meat and Peruvian potatoes! Max enjoyed himself an Argentinian Malbec while I enjoyed delicious, clean and filtered water - unlike in Rio right now.

Version with Peruvian potatoes and avocado

Special note: This recipe does require the use of a grill and a small food processor to help you plan accordingly.

Grocery List:
Yields 3-4 servings

For Flank Steak
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup Tamari or Soy Sauce
- 3 tbsp. honey
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb. flank steak, trimmed of fat

For Chimichurri
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
- 1 cup fresh parsley
- a hearty sprinkle of red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil

For Salad
- Heirloom Red and/or Green Leaf Lettuce, rinsed, chopped (sometimes I do a mix of the two, top picture is with green leaf, second picture is with red leaf)
- 1 cup fingerling potatoes, chopped (the purple ones are Peruvian if you want a fun change up on your plate)
- Red onion, sliced
- Cucumber, peeled and chopped (I like to de-seed mine too)
- Avocado, cubed
- Cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)

Every time I make this, I plan to mix up the marinade and let the scored steak bathe in it overnight. However, I have yet to accomplish that. The longest I've been able to allow it to marinate before needing to start cooking is 1 hour, this last time I made it, it was 30 minutes. All of that to say - you can marinate it for 24 hours, or 30 minutes, whatever fits your cook time. If it's on the shorter end, no worries, you will still have a flavorful steak.

1. Start by scoring the steak with a paring knife. For those that are not familiar with scoring meat, instead of me describing it to you, I found this video for you! I am a visual learner so I thought others would appreciate this instead.

2. Mix the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl. Put steak and marinade in a ziploc bag and allow it to soak up the flavors for as long as you are able to allow.

3. Within 30 minutes of putting the steak on the grill, go ahead and begin the rest of the cooking process. Start by heating your grill to 400 degrees. Once heated, you will cook it for 7 minutes and then flip to the other side to cook for another 5 minutes. Once the steak is done, cut it against the grain with a serrated knife (best cut for a flank steak). Again for the visual learners, here you go!

4. Next, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. While it is heating, cut your potatoes into bite sized chunks. Toss in olive oil and then sprinkle with salt and garlic granules. Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly browned on cut surface and easily pierced by a fork. If you decide you want to do cherry tomatoes, I roast those in the oven with the potatoes to blister them a bit. Potatoes on one side of pan, tomatoes on the other.

5. In a small food processor, add all of the ingredients for the chimichurri and then pulse until smooth. Set aside until time to serve.

For the most even salad ingredient distribution, plate a heap of lettuce first, followed by the potatoes, red onion, cucumber, avocado, tomatoes (if you use them), then strips of steak. As a finishing touch, spoon the chimichurri over all this goodness and enjoy!


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Another Year Older

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 32.


I remember last year, another mother of loss sent me a message on my birthday saying:

"Happy birthday seems like a weird thing to say because I know this is probably not at all the birthday you had in mind, so I will just say... birthday!! Hoping next year brings you peace and healing!!"

I remember thinking gah, she is so right! It took time, but this year did bring peace and healing.

Do you sit and ponder your previous year right before you become another year older? I do. Just like before ringing in the start of a new calendar year, with birthdays I also think of the past years that have lead to the "me" I am at that very moment.

I remember last year thinking that at 31, though it was two months after losing our son and I was hurting deeply, I had the joy of knowing the deepest kind of love. Of having it demonstrated and extended to me by my parents and family members, by my husband, and now by some of my friends who epitomized true friendship. I knew what it was like to create something so much greater than myself, another life, and then have that manifest into the most wonderful thing I've ever done.

Turning 31, I encountered the greatest loss I can imagine, one that didn't make sense and went against the natural order of life. By 31, I had given birth and then laid my child to rest. I had made funeral arrangements for my baby. I knew what it was like to say goodbye far too soon. To get a call from the funeral home 10 days after he was taken from me saying his death certificate arrived and they needed my verbal permission to go ahead with the cremation. That I hadn't checked the boxes correctly and they needed to verify if I wanted to identify my baby via in person or by picture now 10 days later, or if I waived that right. I had that sheer distraught panic of knowing that my precious baby had been on a cold slab for 10 days. TEN DAYS. I had a moment of hysterical break down when I passed that funeral home the next day on my way home from a friend's house (coincidental, I swear) and pulled into the parking lot sobbing my eyes out, knowing my baby was still in there, not with me, he was alone. Don't worry, I wasn't about to go bust down the door or anything, I just needed that moment to be as close as I could be to him one more time. I tell you, an experience like that does something to you, friends. That's something I haven't shared here until now.

Last year I remember being in such a heartbroken state thinking surely by this time next year we will have a baby in our arms. Surely. Oh the life lessons and experiences that 31 would hold.

By 32, I now know more pain than I thought possible, but I also now know redemption firsthand. I lost grace and had it restored. I've gained important friendships through a new walk of life, strengthened existing ones that taught me more than I thought possible, and parted ways with others who couldn't stand with me in darkness. I've learned how to stand with others in their darkness, to not just be there in the good times, but to show up in all times

I've learned humility, more about humanity, a truer sense of empathy and compassion.

I've learned a lot about my marriage, about my spouse, and because of that I got off cruise control and learned how to love my husband better in the ways that he needed, as he has taken the active effort to do the same for me.

I've learned to cut out and just remove the bullshit from my life. Pardon my language but that's what it is sometimes, straight up bullshit. I didn't realize how much of it I muddled in my before loss life but can now distinguish it from what is truly important.

I've learned to appreciate my family even more so than I already had. As I was laying in bed over the weekend, I thought about how Hudson will always be my first baby. He made us Mommy and Daddy. Regardless of him being with us or not, that was the most special day to Max and me because we became parents. As we prepare to welcome Hadley, that day will be immensely special to us as well, as will any of our baby's births we are blessed to have in our lives. Individuals are celebrated on their birthdays but what a special day it is for their parents and family members too! This birthday, I wanted my parents to know how it's not my day but it's OUR day. I made them parents. We had a huge family dinner celebrating all the summer birthdays in our family but in my mind it wasn't just the birthdays, it was celebrating a family unit. I've never looked at a birthday like that before.

As I enter this new year, we don't have that baby I thought we'd surely have in our arms by this point, but we are hopeful of her upcoming arrival. For more than a decade my birthdays have been a production. I've spent the better half of my professional career in event planning, so planning parties are my thing. As Facebook reminded me of pictures from birthdays past, all the themes, costumes and fun exclaiming BEST BIRTHDAY EVER, I had a moment of reflection.

This year, 32, was just us. Over the weekend, we had a dinner date just the two of us at my favorite restaurant. The following night, we celebrated as a family, with all of my family. We spent my actual birthday enjoying a day off together at our favorite spa, then doing everything and nothing at the same time. We took a nap and hung shelves in Hadley's room. We cooked our favorite meal together with a jazz playlist going in the background. Max made me a birthday cake. After dinner as I came out from our bedroom to all the lights off in the house, the only light came from the glow of birthday candles. He sang happy birthday, with George panting in the background, baby girl wiggling away in my belly. At that moment, I realized that this was the best birthday.

I know myself better than I ever have before. I have a sense of personal fulfillment, when last year I felt empty and before then I was always looking for something more. This year, I feel more whole than I ever have. So here's to another year older, and to whatever 32 has in store.



Thursday, August 4, 2016

Living on a Prayer


When we hit the 18.5 week mark in early June, I remember thinking okay, this is our halfway point. That day I was driving and I swear to you, Bon Jovi spoke to me over the radio waves. I fan-girled so hard to that song, belting out ohhhh, we're half way there, whooaa-oooahh living on a prayer, take my hand, we'll make it I swear whoooaaa-ooohhh living on a prayer. Oh JBJ, if only it were that easy. Sometimes I think I really should have tinted windows and maybe a sound proof vehicle.

Last time, the halfway point was all excitement, just another drop in the bucket. This time, leading up to it was met with fear but then it was a celebration of praise and thanksgiving making it to that point, checking it off the long list of small victories that we hope to surpass. For those enduring Pregnancy After Loss, each week is a big celebration and a relief. We know how you can go from being pregnant one day and then not the next.

When we made it to the 24 week mark, weekly appointments began. Since then, we spend at least an hour and a half on Thursdays at the hospital, first with the high risk ultrasound tech having a biophysical profile of our girl, then meet with my doctor afterwards to discuss. With Hudson we had two sonograms total throughout the 33 week duration of my pregnancy with him. With Hadley, I think we've now had ten so far? In our 24 week appointment, she switched over to the 3D/4D unexpectedly and there she was! We saw every little detail of her face and fingers, her arms are always up by her head. It is so incredible to see how she evolves each week, varying between Max's features and mine. I cling to my sonogram pictures of Hudson because it's what I have of him. I find myself doing the same with hers because it just makes me feel closer to her, allowing me to know her just that much more before she arrives.

From today's 27 week appointment.

Overall the second trimester of my Pregnancy After Loss has been pretty even keel. I have definitely had my moments, because I'm human and have experienced a traumatic loss in this arena, but surprisingly to me they have been few and far between. Each time I feel that twinge of worry, she'll start kicking as if she knows her mama needs that assurance. Then there are times I just feel the need to use my fetal heart monitor and hear her heart beating, which then puts me at ease. Starting the weekly appointments became so helpful, just to have that chance to touch base every seven days with my medical team, and to have the chance to see and hear her. It was a chance to ask questions and raise any concern if it was there. Recently, I was losing a lot of hair - like, postpartum hair loss, clumps of hair - so I told my doctor and she said, "Let's do blood work! If you are losing hair, it could be a thyroid issue or anemia. I'll test you for anything and everything!" And she did. No thyroid issue, and though this little one craves beef like, all the time, I am anemic again so we increased my iron and added more biotin. There's no such thing this time as too careful.

As we end the second trimester and move into the third, though the weekly appointments help more than I can express, the nerves seem to be growing. I keep thinking back to my previous third trimester and how it just ended so abruptly. We keep inching closer to that October date circled on my calendar but that doesn't really mean a thing in my book. Every day we are living on prayers. I say them on my morning drive to work. I pray for Hadley to continue to thrive. I pray for other mamas I know who are on their Pregnancy After Loss journey and those growing babies. I pray for the hearts and minds of Parents of Loss who are trying to conceive again. I pray for Parents of Loss who have their rainbow baby with them but the struggles that can bring such as guilt and sadness for not having had that experience with the child who isn't here. At night, I drift into sleep with an echo of those morning prayers on repeat and this child representing hope squirming around in my belly, so thankful for every movement.

This is my routine - hoping, wishing, praying. 

One aspect to the Pregnancy After Loss that has been difficult on the heart is navigating the question is this your first? Just like the question that was so hard to receive when I was in the trenches of my grief, do you have any kids? I reached a point of mastering that answer, finally getting to a place where I used my better judgement of when to use which practiced response in a given situation. Though it took some time to feel okay with it and separate the acceptance from the guilt of the answer, sometimes a simple no is just easier. Not every person was someone I felt the need to expand on that detail of my life with. If it's anyone I would anticipate knowing beyond an initial first meeting conversation, I can muster a smile and bravely say that we have a son watching over us from Heaven. I've learned to read people and which situations will warrant what kind of reaction. Some people are uncomfortable, some want to know more, others may have had a similar experience or know someone who has and we share a moment.

As soon as I started showing - which happened much earlier and faster this time given I had just been super pregnant less than a year before my uterus started expanding all over again - strangers everywhere were coming forward with that question. With these hormones and a still grieving heart, I found myself at a loss all over again of how to answer something that seems so similar, yet is so different. You don't want to not acknowledge the child you carried through a pregnancy and labored with, but on the other hand, sometimes it is just worth being selective with your answer. Sometimes it is far easier to say yes, this is my first and then hope that is the end of the conversation. However, I learned that is rarely the case.

The times when I choose not to share, it's usually situational but then people have advice. They tell you all about what to expect, what to do for certain pregnancy ailments, share with you about their first pregnancy. They ask the gender and then when I tell them, weigh in on how girls are just the best. I smile and know it is meant with the best intentions. They don't know that in my mind, I had the chance to have a little boy and he isn't here. That to me, having that little boy would have been the absolute best and something I had been so excited for. I still mourn not having this time with Hudson as a "boy mom" and all that I had envisioned with that. Sure I could have that chance again, but not with him. Sometimes I want to interrupt people and tell them I have done this before, to share my own anecdotes of my first pregnancy, or how my body did with labor and delivery too, or compare my post-partum recovery. However, then it feels exhausting to backtrack and not worth the words, so I let them tell me and just nod along silently.

Yesterday I was at a store and had picked up a wall hanging for the nursery. A lady behind me sitting on a bench asked if I was having a girl, and I said yes. She asked if it was my first? In that moment, I decided to respond that this is my second. She asked how old my other little one is and I felt the lump in my throat form as I told her he is in Heaven. She put her hand on my arm and said she had a son in Heaven too. She asked me if this baby had a name yet and I told her. She said she would pray for Hadley often and that is all we could do, that we live on prayers, thanksgiving and grace. She then pointed at a group of women at the front of the line and said those five are her daughters, her blessings after loss. She said she knew I would have mine too. There we were, two mothers, thirty years apart in age, sharing a moment together in line at the Sample House. Tears in both of our eyes, her five adult daughters buying half the store and gabbing in front of us, with my girl kicking my ribs. No more words were exchanged, just squeezes of the hand and smiles from one member of "the club" to another. An opportunity to share a moment with someone else like you, in a world where you feel like a statistic. While I don't believe everything is part of a divine plan, I believe that He puts special people in your life or in a situation at needed times. I look at them as angels. At that moment in time, that lady was an angel to me.

Until Hadley is here safely, we will continue to be living on a prayer, and like that angel lady in the store added, with thanksgiving and grace.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Grief: A Year in the Life



A year and a month ago on June 18 marked my first blog post. I started simple with a few posts that told our story and Hudson's birth. Finding the healing through writing everything I could recounting my pregnancy and then those hours as the tragedy unfolded. From there, I started sharing my soul a bit more through my grief and essentially documenting my journey.

July of last year is when the darkness of our loss was beginning, as we approached his due date. The original due date was today, July 18, but as we progressed further into the pregnancy, he was measuring a few days ahead and our file read July 15. Somewhere between those days is when we expected to welcome him into the world and into our lives.

Max and I just got back from an incredible babymoon to Germany and Austria. It was to conquer fear, celebrate the anticipation of our rainbow Hadley, the restoration of hope and healing to our hearts, and have some special time together doing what we love. On that trip, I had several moments of reflection. I realized how just a year ago, the darkness was infringing around me and that was the beginning of my grief struggle with "the uglies."

Every grief journey is different. Over the past few months, I've sat face to face with Mothers of Loss newer in their journey. I completely identify with the struggles of feeling like some of the deep pain will never end, not understanding how just last week, or heck, how just yesterday I was "okay" and today I can hardly function. Or today a newborn triggered me but yesterday I could be in the same room as one. The hardship of feeling the weight of society's "grief timeframe" on my shoulders and feeling like I'm going through life inappropriately adds extra stress. There were times that felt so isolating and I desperately wanted to feel differently, but I couldn't. It wasn't time yet, I had to cycle through.

Having patience with yourself to go through that cycle is excruciating and exhausting.

You want to just snap your fingers and not care about whatever the trigger is that is making you sad or angry. Each person does the best they can with their inner and outer struggles for an undisclosed amount of time because it varies. As I've said before, the loss of a child is a forever kind of thing, therefore, so is the grief that accompanies it.

This post is my reflection on a year in the life of my grief, one I've been working on since May but have had to stop and come back to several times. Today is the second milestone anniversary of Hudson's due date and I didn't anticipate it to be difficult. I thought I had come to peace with his birthday and heaven day on May 27, that July 18 wouldn't register to me anymore as a loss milestone. However, that's not the case. I found myself in tears this morning thinking that by this time, we would certainly have a one year old - whether we could have saved him last May somehow or had he come when he was supposed to without the cord accident. Today felt right to share.

This may be spot on for others, it may differ substantially, but if you are on your journey know you aren't alone, wherever you are.

Month 1 - June:

A sad fog. I've said this before but I was experiencing a false acceptance of our new reality and what it meant. I cried every day and I was very sad, but at that time it was just sadness. There were even some moments of normalcy because I was still getting used to the new reality, I almost had to ease into this new life that I wasn't pregnancy anymore and my child who I had carried for 8 months was not here with us, nor would he ever be. The weight of what was to come and how ordinary things would be so painful, had not hit. I was still positive, I gave grace to others, I assured myself and the outside world that we would be okay. I swore to myself that my joy for others would not be robbed. We saw a grief counselor and I felt like I was doing this "grief thing" well, we would be fine with time, we were strong.

I had no idea what lay ahead.

 

Month 2 - July:

I would say the first part of July was still a bit in the sad fog, still trying to outwardly express strength and that we would be okay, but the anger was brewing. As we approached the week of his due date, I found myself constantly thinking would he be here now or would we still be waiting? I searched for peace but anger kept encroaching. The anger at that time was toward the situation only. I was angry our baby was gone, that he was taken from us, that he wouldn't be joining our family as we had joyfully anticipated. As soon as July 18 passed, I was in full anger mode, with jealousy simmering below the surface. In counseling we were made to feel completely normal and justified, so I thought we were just going through all the motions we needed to for healing, and we didn't really need the sessions anymore.

Month 3 - August: 

I started to become a walking guilt-ridden-anger storm. Much of this month was spent feeling guilty because our baby should have been there at this point. We would have delivered in July and we would have been adjusting to life as new parents. Everything we did in the month of August became the thought that we wouldn't be doing this if Hudson were here. I didn't want to celebrate my birthday but then decided I needed the distraction so I did what lifts me out of everything and I planned a last minute something to help what was happening in my head and heart, then had an emotional breakdown because I wouldn't have done it otherwise.

The "shadow babies" (a term in the loss world of babies of the women you were pregnant with) started coming and the anger was redirected from the situation to actual people and into resentment. I felt guilty again for resenting them because in no way was it their fault or was there any logical reason to feel that way towards them, it's just where I was in my process. There was a jealousy rising as a third musketeer to the anger and resentment. I was jealous they got to have a textbook birth experience, that they got to welcome a child into the world and experience all the joy that surrounds it, that they got to leave the hospital with their baby and take them home. I was jealous of all the pictures that suddenly seemed to be all over my social media feed of new babies and their happy parents. That joy for others that I had been afraid to lose, had promised myself wouldn't go away, well it was gone. 

At the end of August, we went on our Healing Trip and it came at the right time. I came back feeling refreshed, more at peace and incredibly thankful for the relationship I have with my husband. I felt like I was on the upswing of the grief battle and the ugliness and dark days were over. I could get to a better place now, I beat grief. After all, it had been three months, it was time.

I was wrong.

Month 4 - September:

A probable chemical pregnancy occurred to start this month and everything I came out of feeling from our Healing Trip was undone. A chemical pregnancy is defined as a very early miscarriage. We cannot be completely sure, but that was what the nurse said was probably happening. In our June follow up appointment, our doctor had told us we probably wouldn't feel normal or back on track again until we conceived. We started trying again in July, as soon as we got the go-ahead, though I can say now our hearts were nowhere near ready.

We weren't trying to replace our son, we were just trying to fix ourselves and be on the way to welcoming a baby again. To get back on the course we had been on before the unwelcomed detour. Therefore, the answer was to get pregnant again and we thought the pain would ease because we'd have new hope for a new life. We had no problem conceiving Hudson, so this started a very painful experience that lasted for eight months.

September began the strong longing for the life I so desperately wanted but was taken from us so suddenly and without warning. A life as "mom" that I saw people having all around me and had a hard time accepting that though we were all on that pregnancy journey together, they had that as their reality but we didn't get that as ours. I was really immersed in the fog again and the withdrawal was starting. Being around expecting mothers was a trigger for me and something I protected myself from as much as possible. Most of their bumps had exceeded the size that mine had and it made me sad that I hadn't gotten to that point. It was hard to be around pregnant women because naturally conversation steered toward all things baby. It was too hard to hear about. Unless they were my comfort zone of inner circle friends, and not pregnant or had a baby, I became completely withdrawn from others as a way to protect myself. In a way I was wanting to protect others too from my triggers and emotions. I didn't want to show them, more so, I didn't want to feel them so I thought hiding away from the situations and people that could bring those on was the best solution. The truth is, I felt them anyway.

Let me expand on the emotions that were bubbling up in August and by September were fully developed. In no way does a parent of loss ever want someone else to experience the same type of tragedy that they have. We just wish that without having to go through our tragedy, the outside non-grieving world could truly understand the pain we are feeling and walk with us through it, however long that takes. Grieving parents endure a lot of loss. They lose their precious child, they lose friendships when people can't show up anymore for them as they fight their toughest emotional battles, they lose a sense of the people/person they used to be. When people who you lean on as support stop showing up for you, it makes you want to retract the grace you are extending. And that's what happened to me.

By the end of September, I was losing my grace for others.

Month 5 - October:

I started to recognize my depression and this is where the tug-of-war became most intense. It was around this time I felt judged for having a difficult time in my grief, people didn't understand why I was still struggling so much at this point and more so, why certain things were really hard for me like pregnancy announcements, babies and pregnant women - these were my emotional triggers. Society was telling me I should have dealt with my grief and be "okay" by now, it made me feel ashamed.

All I wanted to do was sleep, whether I could or not. I wanted the quiet, the darkness and the solitude. I had this intense feeling of failure. I hated the way I felt, I hated the way I looked, I really hated myself because in my mind, some how I failed Hudson and because of that, I felt like I had failed my husband. I felt like I had caused him this pain and because I couldn't pull out of it, I was ruining his life and already had because our son died in my body. Therefore, it was somehow my fault because I didn't know anything was wrong. I didn't have the strength to see past that self-loathing or have the energy to make a change. I didn't have the energy to help myself. The desire to want to make a change didn't overpower the feelings of wanting to do nothing - yet. This is when I should have gone back to grief counseling. This is when I really had things to start working through, but I didn't have that will or the want to do that for myself at this time, I thought I could fight it on my own not realizing how badly I was losing that inner struggle.

Even though I thought I had made peace with Hudson's passing and there was nothing we could have done differently, I still felt like I failed him as a mother. I didn't feel worthy of my husband, I didn't feel worthy of those who were kind enough to look past the ugly exterior I was giving off when I couldn't hide it anymore, I didn't feel worthy of any of the good that was in our life. I wanted to be sad all the time because that's where I felt closest to my son. Being around other Mothers of Loss were helpful to me and I started channeling my grief energy into distractions that would give Hudson's life purpose and meaning. I started connecting with the other Loss Moms more because it was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, something I had never been aware of before but every day that month it weighed on me and with them I didn't feel alone or judged.

I had a huge project at work that rode on my shoulders and despite the way I felt most of the time, I couldn't let that flop. I had to pull it together and I did for a little bit, but when that depression creeps in, you are pulled back and forth between the high-functioning member of society that you want others to see you for and then the way you feel all the time, which is the opposite. Through the conversations I was having again with others in this Dark Sisterhood, I was feeling understood and finding hope. I didn't feel so alone and could see how some of them had made it back over to the other side of their grief. It channeled a little bit of positivity again, but not enough.

Something also heavily attributing to my depression was that I have a hard time being a "day by day" person. I am constantly looking to what is coming up, planning for the future. The holidays were right around the corner and it made me a mess to think about. The holidays were a time that I had been pregnant the previous year. It was the time we had used to announce Hudson with family and then friends. It was the happiest we had ever been, enveloped in a period of time that brings so much joy to others. And now? Well, I was in my personal version of hell.

The fact that we had conceived in October of the previous year was also doing all kinds of things to my emotional state. Since we had been trying for a few months now, not completely sure if we had miscarried or not, there was an immense amount of emotion surrounding that. My Hudson day was the 27th of each month and within that week is when I'd find out if I was pregnant again or not. Each month it became more and more of an emotional battle.

I was so fixated on my emotions surrounding becoming pregnant again, coupled with Thanksgiving and Christmas, that when the month ended with Halloween, I was shocked at how it sucker-punched my heart and emotions unexpectedly. I shut myself in our room and cried for hours. I had to put my phone outside the room so I wouldn't look at it and see all the precious kiddos of all ages and of either gender in their costumes, or families posing together in costume before trick or treating. It broke my heart that we didn't have Hudson to be in his little cowboy costume with George as his horse. I pulled myself together late in the day to hand out candy to neighborhood kids and the worst was yet to come.

Month 6 - November:

It was now officially the holiday season and I was flailing in my grief. I didn't know how to reign it in or pull out of it, I was almost always succumbing to the darkness of it. I was so inundated with looking ahead to these holidays which derived the greatest pains of not having our son with us. This was the month that I found out we were pregnant the year before so it was a whole different emotional struggle that I was pregnant a year ago, that baby is gone, we don't have our son, and we aren't pregnant again. I was desperately needing hope but couldn't find a way to seek it again. My bitterness was winning, my depression ruled everything, I was completely socially withdrawn, I was having a hard time hiding it from people and pretending to be okay. I clung to my husband. The only thing that made me happy was when I had the energy to work on Hudson's legacy.

I was realizing that I couldn't work through all of these feelings on my own, I had tried and I wasn't succeeding. I will share that Max and I had one of the first come to blows of our marriage the week before Thanksgiving. We were grieving differently and needed a big conversation to figure out how to best help each other. Compromises needed to be made, honest feelings needed to be shared, walls needed to come down. We made a plan for the holidays that gave us both what each other needed and also, allowed us to support one another in the best way possible. In doing that, something in me lifted a bit and I could breath a bit easier.

November 27 was the day after Thanksgiving, the 6 month mark, and it was the wake up call that it had been half a year since we said goodbye to our son. Half a year. I couldn't spend any more time feeling this terrible. I had become very concentrated on becoming pregnant again, every negative test fueled the depression and anger more. After five months of trying, my doctor gave me a prescription for Clomid to help boost my reproductive system and give it the additional push it needed. I thought for sure this would work immediately and we will be pregnant again in no time. I thought maybe this will be our Christmas present and end this terrible year with a new blessing.

Every month seemed to become a little bit worse than the one before it and I finally felt like I had hit rock bottom. I couldn't afford for December to be any worse than November was. The want to take action was finally there as a new month began.

Month 7 - December:

On December 1, I called the psychologist I had seen over the summer as the start to grief counseling. At that time, we were still in the "light" of grief, it was before the darkness set in and I just didn't have anything really to talk about outside of feeling sad, his birth story, and the optimism of being okay again. When "the uglies" started, I thought I could work through them on my own but by doing that, the spiraling continued further. So in December, I started going back to counseling and didn't realize just how much I needed that and how much it would help. I started mindfulness exercises when I felt overwhelmed at work, at home or when I couldn't sleep. I made it through the tough days I was dreading and while they were still hard and brought on anxiety, we made it through and were okay. Christmas was really tough but we had our plan and it was what we needed as a couple and as individuals. We spent the holidays together, just us, in a winter wonderland of Quebec. We were kept busy as needed, we had healing time as needed, we had "us" time as needed. That was the solution that was best for us.

Another negative pregnancy test ended that month, on the 7th month mark, and that was a hard lump to swallow but I had possessed a glimmer of something again that I hadn't had in a very long time.

Hope.

Month 8 - January:

The fog had really lifted a lot. It wasn't completely gone, but it was the best I had felt in a long time. I made it through everything I had been dreading. I was channeling my energy more and more into something positive to help others who would walk this road. I was doing it for Hudson. One Wing Foundation had become a reality and through the closer relationship I was building with another Mother of Loss and the warmth our hard work gave my heart, I was on an upswing. For real this time.

I had created purpose for myself again and a way to feel like Hudson's life mattered. It was never part of a divine plan, it was never the reason for his passing, but it was a blessing extended from tragedy and I was grasping to it with everything I had. We were in our second month of fertility drugs, I was creating healthier habits again, I was coming out from the social withdrawal and starting to feel an inkling more like myself. I was learning to let go of things I couldn't control, working through "the uglies" in counseling and through reflection, letting go of the people in my life who didn't need to be in it. In addition to the counseling, I started fertility acupuncture this month and swear it did positive things for my sleep patterns and anxiety. It was my highest functioning month since our loss and my social and emotional anxiety had begun to get better.

I was seeing progress but it was still a struggle. I still couldn't be around babies that Hudson would be close in age to. They were still too hard for me to see because it flooded me with the emotions of what I was missing. Not just my child at that age, but going through motherhood with that friend. For some, our kids being at the same daycare, or playgroup. Seeing a baby from someone I was pregnant with was a trigger I just couldn't do yet. Many didn't understand that and it was hard, I felt their cold shoulder but I was giving it too. I was struggling through the want to become pregnant again and feeling like everyone else around me was. It was a terrible feeling to not feel joy for those friends but it only intensified my pain. For me, trying to retreat from it and ignore it altogether made it somewhat easier.

Month 9 - February: 

Month three of fertility assistance and it was taking a toll. It doesn't help that fertility drugs can make your emotions a little out of whack. I was learning how to squash "the uglies" when I'd feel them come on but it didn't always prevail. I still struggled through certain things. I was making an active effort into being social again and putting myself in positions that had previously made me run the other way because I was afraid and anxious. I could fully control my triggers in public and release after the fact if needed. I was challenging myself to do more with people and learn how to be okay with my previous triggers, through the pain.

I was channeling positive energy into things that made me happy and that I felt could honor Hudson. I surrounded myself with the people in my life who lifted me up, not those who made me feel guilty for the grief journey.

Though there were some setbacks, for the most part February was a very good month. I was happier, I was experiencing things in ways I had pre-loss, I was in a better "head space" altogether. I wasn't the same person and I was okay with that, but I had come into my post-loss self and accepted it with more self-awareness and confidence.

Then on the last day of the month, leap day, a pregnancy test read positive.

Month 10 - March:

I entered March pregnant which meant I was overjoyed yet scared out of my mind. I lived every day as though I was just holding my breath and waiting for the other shoe to drop, yet there was such a huge weight that was lifted just knowing we had created a new life. It was far enough out from Hudson's passing that I could feel like this is a baby that could be here if Hudson had lived. Though I wanted to be pregnant again so badly from a much earlier point, in the back of my mind, I felt like I needed to get through some significant hurdles of grief and into a better place to go through a pregnancy after loss.

The 10 month mark without Hudson fell on Easter and that hit me a little hard. The start of the day was very tough but as the day went on, my heart felt peace. I was 8 weeks pregnant with new life and we shared with family members that we were expecting again, so it made the message of Easter just that much more meaningful.

Hope was continuing to build and true happiness was experienced again. I was finding Hudson in the joy rather than the sadness.

Month 11 - April:

I was in a great place this month. I was still working through things with my therapist, conquering more situations that had previously felt impossible or too difficult. I was regaining confidence in myself overall. I felt genuinely and truly happy again. Though I carried pain with me, the joy was pure.

There were fears that would sometimes overshadow due to experiencing a first trimester and risks all pregnant women have during that time. We continued to share with extended family, followed by friends throughout the month and our support system of prayer for this new baby was growing. As it grew, I felt more at peace. That power of prayer we had experienced early in our loss was lifting us and doing the same things to our hearts as it had 11 months prior.

I had anxiety over learning the gender, I didn't know what my heart could handle. Before becoming pregnant again I thought for sure I would need this next child to also be a boy, that I wouldn't know how to switch my mindset to a girl. However, once I found out I was pregnant again, those feelings had dissipated and almost immediately, I knew in my heart that this baby was a girl. Though I know our family will never feel complete without a little boy, a little girl is what our hearts need right now to help differentiate the pregnancies and the experiences. To help that this is a new experience, hopefully a different outcome.

Toward the end of the month, anxiety started to succeed the joy. I realized what was coming, some tough milestones were right around the corner and suddenly, they were very consuming and daunting.


Month 12 - May:

In May, I regressed a bit. I was in a much better place to deal with it, but it didn't keep the sadness and anxiety out. I found myself pining for my son. I was distracted a lot, my hormones were all over the place due to the pregnancy, and I was grieving again - hard. There was a lot going on that month to tug at my emotions. I was heartbroken on Mother's Day and I spent most of the day wondering what our life would be like if he were there. I kept thinking about how it had almost been a year and at times it felt every bit of a year but for the most part, it did not at all. I wasn't ready to reach the point of 365 (okay really 366 days, thanks to leap year) without my child. I had some really dark moments again and felt ashamed for feeling right back to that place again after all of the personal grief battles I felt I had worked so hard to conquer. However, I could also realize I was just going through another season of mourning.

Like we did for the holidays, we created a plan for getting through the one year milestone. We escaped somewhere new for us and planned to enjoy that time away together. One Wing Foundation was exploding in preparation for the inaugural events. Hudson's namesake golf tournament was around the corner and what kept me going and happy through the tough times. That was the birthday party we didn't get to have, it was how he was celebrated.

Following the big consecutive milestone days (day we found out he was gone, day we met and said goodbye, his funeral), the One Wing Foundation events occurred the next week in early June. I thought a big grief crash would take place, but it wasn't as bad as I had anticipated. It was more of a feeling of relief because we made it, we survived it, we ended it on a very high note - as high as we could given the circumstances. Anticipating all of the milestone days are much harder than the actual day itself. Yes there is sadness and heartache, but there is also a peace that comes with it as well, as if the one who is gone is embracing you for comfort.

Looking back on that first year of grief, this was my healing journey. It lasted much longer than I would have imagined and yes, there are still battles, but we made it through the darkest of times. Though I was not a version of myself that I liked for most of the year, I feel we've come out of it better people than we were before. Our hearts still ache, they will always ache, for the little boy who isn't here but hope has been restored. I can now say with pride and conviction look how far we've come. 


Friday, July 15, 2016

Sundried Tomato Pesto Chicken and Veggie Pasta



After our Bavarian Babymoon traveling Germany and Austria for a week and a half, my priorities of things to look forward to when I got home were:
  1. Baby girl's 24 week appointment (which was fantastic - the high risk doc switched from regular sono to 3D unexpectedly and all of a sudden there was her precious face on the screen. Every little feature right there - nose, mouth, cheeks, chin. We didn't do this with Hudson so it was such a special experience. This is another post for another time!)
  2. Georgie pup cuddles
  3. Our bed (and all the pillows!!)
  4. A home-cooked meal (schnitzel, spatzle, bratwurst for Max, goulash, pretzels, potato salad... it was all super tasty but oh.my.lanta.)
Most of the time, nothing tastes better than something fresh from your own kitchen and this meal was exactly that.

One thing I loved about this recipe is that through my half-asleep zombie jet lag, I was able to make a protein and fiber packed meal in less than 20 minutes to fill our bellies before climbing into bed. Therefore, I know the ease of this recipe can resonate amongst other tired out travelers, those exhausted from a long day at work, or the busy parent running the household with too much to do and too little time. This meal is exhaustion-proof! Usually I make my own sundried tomato pesto but I cut corners this time with a pre-made version from the grocery store which really helped shorten the steps and time.

Grocery List:
Yields 2-3 servings
  • 1 tbsp. EVOO
  • 1/2 lb chicken tenders
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Garlic granules
  • 2 cups asparagus spears, chopped
  • 1 cup red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup sundried tomato pesto (I used this La Grande brand from Whole Foods)
  • Linguine pasta noodles (or noodle of choice)
  • Parmigiano reggiano, grated
In a large sauté pan, add the olive oil on medium-high heat. In a small mixing bowl, combine 1/4 of the pesto with the chicken, reserving the rest for the pasta.

In a pot, boil water and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Place the chicken in the pan and cook for about 3 minutes, then flip sides and add the asparagus. Spritz the asparagus and chicken with the lemon juice. Lower the heat to medium and let cook for about 3 minutes, then add the tomatoes and season with the garlic granules. Cover and cook for 8 minutes or until tomatoes are puckered and asparagus is bright green/soft.

Transfer pasta back into a saucepan over medium-low heat and combine with the remaining pesto. As the pesto heats up, the oils will help coat the pasta for a more even consistency.

Plate the pasta, followed by scoops of the chicken and veggie combo, then finally dust with grated parmigiano reggiano and enjoy!