Friday, October 14, 2016

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Your big brother gift to Hadley, your hospital blanket made into a special snuggle bunny, 
with the initials you share.

Sweet Hudson,

I'm writing you today because my heart is consumed with you right now. Today I felt a strong urge to need this time for you. I'm sitting in your chair, your lamb in my lap, trying to feel as close to you as I can. While October is the month of its awareness, tomorrow is the special remembrance day for Pregnancy and Infant Loss. I have your Our Bud Hud candle ready for the Wave of Light at 7 pm and it's by the hospital bag, just in case.

I know other mamas cherish the last few days with their first babies, they do something special with them before life changes for everyone with the addition of a brother or sister. If you were here we would be doing that. Maybe your Daddy would have made you pancakes today and we'd go to the park together. Maybe we'd curl up and read to you, enjoying sweet cuddles. We'd give you a bath and hold you until you fell asleep, soaking in these last moments of you as an only child before you were officially a big brother. You've watched over us, and you've watched over her. I've had rough moments throughout this pregnancy, but when I come back to you as my center, it brought me peace and comfort throughout this time because I've felt you in my heart.

We've planned to make you apart of this experience in special ways. If Hadley comes when she should, we plan to have Nurse Katie, who helped deliver you, there as our doula throughout the labor and delivery process. Just like she took your pictures, she will take Hadley's as well as she comes into the world and we can capture those first moments together as a family. We have the most special gift to give Hadley from you, one that will be passed down to each of your siblings when they are born from their guardian angel brother. Your hospital blanket was made into a stuffed bunny, then inscribed on the foot are the initials you all will share. Around its wrist is a special bracelet with your name. It is to let them know that some bunny very special loves them and is always with them.

You and Hadley will be 16 months apart and it would have been so fun to watch the two of you grow up together. My heart aches because that's not the case. I know the course of our lives changed the day you died, but I also have to tell myself that we very well could be here right now with you and with her. It is absolutely possible. My heart can't choose between the wish of having you here and the reality of Hadley or any other future babes we are fortunate to have some day.

In this world of loss, your sister is referred to as a rainbow baby. I want you to know that you were never the storm, it was the aftermath of losing you that was the greatest personal storm we could face. You were the brightest light there was, but that light went dim for a little while as we tried to wade through the waters of our grief and sadness. Eventually we found a new path to head down, one that honored you the best we could and continued to give your life meaning. Your sister brought light again of new life into the darkness that was losing you. We have two babies who are the lights of our lives and you both shine so beautifully and differently. I am so thankful for you, what you've taught me and what you've done to my heart.

I think of what you would look like now and who you would be growing up to become, your little personality and characteristics. I wonder if I'll see you in her when I look at her, or how different you two may look. I hope you are the reason she smiles in her sleep, the extra twinkle we see in her eye, and the joy she finds in her heart - always.

I love you with everything I have. My first born. My precious son.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Sweet Potato Turkey Chili


Needing an easy, low effort meal, I pulled out this turkey chili recipe I used to make. I love to add butternut squash to my brisket chili so with the sweet potato I had leftover from a recipe I didn't get to last week, I decided to add it to this instead. I also like to include black beans for additional nutrition value. I love this change up in the meal rotation and it refrigerates/freezes well too, with the spices tasting even better when you heat it up again.

Prep time will take you about 30 minutes - less if you have veggies already chopped up. Cook time is about 2 hours for the most robust flavor result, but can be less if needed for your schedule. this can be made with either a crock pot or my favorite, the dutch oven.

Yields 6 servings

  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb. lean ground turkey
  • Cumin
  • Chili Powder
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 oz. can Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Green Chiles (medium heat)
  • 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 2 cups sweet potatoes, 1 inch cubed  
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup of low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning
  • Cheese, optional garnish
  • Avocado, optional garnish
  • Sour cream, optional garnish

1.) In a skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high and add the onion. Saute until fragrant. 
2.) Add the turkey, breaking it up into smaller chunks and season with generous sprinkles of cumin and chili powder. Once meat has turned from pink to mostly white, add the red bell pepper and the garlic. Cook together on medium heat for about 5 minutes. 
3.) Move the contents of the skillet to either a dutch oven on the stove on low-medium heat, or a crock pot set on high. Add the can of roasted tomatoes with green chiles and tomato paste. 
4.) Add the beans, cubed sweet potato and taco seasoning packet. Stir to combine all ingredients. 
5.) Pour the chicken or vegetable broth in slowly, mixing well to combine as you go. 

Set your timer for about 1.5-2 hours. By this time, your sweet potato chunks will be nice and soft, with all the flavors well blended. Scoop and top with your favorite chili extras such as sour cream, cheese, and/or avocado. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Confessions of an Anxious Mama: Pregnancy After Loss Edition V - The Final Countdown

Today is Tuesday, October 11. As I lay in bed this morning, I realized at this time next week - if not before then - we will be at the hospital in labor. We've reached the one week countdown for our scheduled induction for Hadley's arrival. Immediately, Europe's Final Countdown started on loop in my head.

However, it's been an interesting few days. I can proudly say that I made it to 36w3d in this Pregnancy After Loss (PAL) until my paranoia got the best of me and I ran out the door, hopped in the car and drove like a bat out of hell to the hospital thinking something could be wrong.

It's no secret that PAL is scary stuff. People can tell you until they are blue in the face how everything will be fine, lightening won't strike twice, etc. However, they don't know that and for a Parent of Loss trying to do this again, every day can be a struggle to release those scary and anxious thoughts from your mind. Those going through this or have been through this, can I get an amen to that? I think almost every mama I've talked to who has gone on to deliver after a loss has their own version of this kind of story, so here's my account of the OMG, something is wrong! moment.

We had our 36 week appointment on Thursday of last week. My blood pressure was a little elevated and she had one spot in her cord out of the four checked that had umbilical cord blood pressure elevated in the 3's. All the other spots checked were still in the 2's, so my doctor was comfortable, but she just said I needed to rest. I was getting sick with my annual fall allergies, overdid myself a little bit at work the day before, sleep hadn't been great that week, so I welcomed the doctor's orders for rest.

Fast forward to Sunday morning. I had felt really crummy due to allergies since Wednesday, increasingly more by the day, and woke up feeling the worst on Sunday. My lower abdomen hurt but I thought it was just round ligament pain and overall discomfort. I posted this on instagram and decided to take a shower to get ready for the day. An hour later, I was rushing to the hospital.
Careful what you post, it could come true. 

Max had been invited to play golf with my dad and brothers. He said he didn't want to leave me but I told him to go and enjoy, it may be a while before he gets out on the course again. While the boys of the family played golf, my mom wanted to take me for my last mani/pedi before baby. After all, she had this dream on Friday night and has been saying for a few weeks now that she has this feeling Hadley will come earlier than our planned date, like I did (I came 5 weeks ahead of schedule). On his way out the door, Max joked - don't go into labor without me! I told him very funny. I took a shower and started to get ready. My lower back had been hurting so it felt really nice to just let the hot water run over it. Just before I started drying my hair, my eyes caught a glimpse of the home fetal heart monitor on my bedside table just sitting there and so I decided to take a listen, because why not? I hadn't listened from home in about a week, it gives me a little pep in my step to check in on her and hear those beautiful beats.

I found her heartbeat right away but it was fast. Really fast. Like, uncomfortably fast. Not just fast, it was rapid. During our appointment with the hospital's Fetal Care Center at 31 weeks for the umbilical cord scare, that specialist said if her heartbeat ever rose above 160, that could be cause for concern, it could mean she was in fetal distress. Now this is not in every circumstance but because we were experiencing an umbilical cord issue again, it was something we needed to take watch of and a sign for us not to ignore. I watched as the numbers kept rising and nearing 160, then over 160 and they went from green to red on the display screen. They got to 171, then kept climbing to 187. I held it there for a good three-ish minutes without them coming down at all. I took a break, trying to stay calm, and then did it again with the same result. I texted my nurse and then decided to check one more time. When they hit the 180's again I decided nope, not going to sit here and ponder this, I just need to head straight to the hospital. I was trying to talk myself off the anxiety platform I quickly scaled up in that last 10 minutes, that it could be my monitor that's messed up. The anxiety rebutted that it could also be correct because the readings have been pretty spot on this whole time. Either way, I wanted to make sure everything was okay and not take any chances. I didn't have signs that I picked up on with Hudson, I didn't have a chance to go to the hospital and make sure he was okay. If something was so much as slightly off with her, you bet I was going to take every precaution I could.

I called Max but I knew they were teeing off right around that time and his phone was probably in the cart and/or on silent. I left a message and then called my mom who was expecting me at her house by that point. I told her hey, so change of plans, don't be alarmed but meet me at Baylor. Max called back and I told him everything as of right now is okay, to stay put, mom was meeting me and I'd call if something isn't right. That I feel her, there is a heartbeat, I'm just going in for reassurance. I prayed the whole way to the hospital, even talking to Hadley telling her to calm her little self down in there, and to Hudson to keep watch over little sis and mama.

I waddled into Labor and Delivery and immediately the icy-hot feeling was trickling throughout my veins. You know that feeling? Like when you realize you messed up and did something wrong. Or when cop car lights are behind you and you think you are about to be pulled over. That's the feeling I get when I'm overcome with nerves and fear. Stepping in there again after the last time was something I was started to feel very emotional and anxious about. However, my adrenaline was pumping and I had one focus, making sure Hadley was okay, so I quickly dismissed what was conjuring inside and just concentrated on trying to find someone who could check her heartbeat as soon as possible. I ran into a nurse in the hallway and told her I was a high risk pregnancy, I'm 36 and a half weeks, my baby's heartbeat is very rapid and in the 180's, I want to make sure everything is okay. She told me to go to the ER and proceeded to give me directions.

I took off speed waddling down the hallway and then of course, in my typical fashion, I got lost. I couldn't remember what she said after the second left turn, wait was it a left or was it a right? Not the best time to have pregnancy brain. Luckily someone else turned the corner and breathless by this point, I simply looked at him and asked ER? He said down the elevator to the basement and follow the signs. Y'all, it seemed like a mile away and the never ending hallway of twists and turns that just kept going and going and going. It was pretty dingy, walls lined with trauma beds, I halfway expected to pass a door that read "morgue" and completely lose my sh*t.

I finally made it to the ER. I was passed to three different people behind the desk before a nurse came to the window. I was able to calmly say that I was worried about my baby's heart rate being too high and feared she was in distress, that I am high risk and lost my son to stillbirth 16 months ago due to an umbilical cord accident. I am pretty sure I had one of those tooth-grit-white-knuckle moments where I said between my teeth I just need to make sure she's okay. As if everyone who worked in the hospital just walked around with a fetal heart monitor in their pocket and could pull it out to take a listen right there. Rational. This angelic woman peacefully told me that since I am so far along, I needed to go straight to Labor and Delivery. To which at that point all the hormones and emotions flooded out and I lost my composure to choke out but they told me to come to you. Tears were falling, I just wanted to hear her heartbeat right then and there, thinking if this were a ticking time bomb we are really doing a crappy job of handling it.

She immediately hopped up, got a wheelchair and a male nurse with a clipboard. They sat me down, I filled out a form in my best hand-shaking, frantic chicken scratch, and he began to wheel me back through the basement maze hallways, up the elevator and back to Labor and Delivery. It was much quicker in a wheel chair. We approached the desk I couldn't find on my way in. That desk. The same desk I checked into last time. It had an uncomfortable "deja vu" feeling. The emotions were rising again but I pushed them back down. Composure was back and I was able to calmly share why I was there with the receptionist. We started paperwork and luckily I had already pre-registered so that process was short and sweet. My mom texted that she was parking. They took me back into a room and had me put on a hospital gown, then proceeded to hook me up to monitor Hadley. Last time I did this, I was in tears, clutching my belly, trying to get one last glimpse of myself pregnant with Hudson.

I sat there on the bed, legs crossed, back straight just looking around the room thinking here it is, I'm back here again. I could hear her heartbeat on the monitor and it was just as rapid as it was when I was at home, but it was still a heartbeat and I was at a hospital so if something needed to happen, it could happen. I had been anxious about being in a room like this again, but this room was different than last time. Still a delivery room, but it was much smaller and just different than before. I was calm. The nurse came back in and had me lay on my side. She explained that they were going to monitor for a bit and in that time, her heartbeat may fluctuate but what we want is it to establish a baseline in the 150s or lower. That if we did that, all was good.

She then asked me if I was feeling any cramping or in pain at all, I said my lower back has been in pain and I've had some low crampy aches in my abdomen. She asked if I was feeling it at that moment, and I told her yes. She smiled and said that I was actually having contractions. Oh. I didn't remember what those felt like really because I was in such a different state the first time and had the epidural pretty quickly. I realized I woke up feeling them but wrote it off as though it were normal growing belly pains.

My mom came into the room. We looked at each other and kind of laughed. She said I told you she could come early. A little bit later the nurse came in and was taking my entire medical history, which helped the time pass by. A doctor came in and she let me know that Hadley was looking just fine, heartbeat was lowering - though still jumping up a bit - it increased with my contractions and she was reacting to them. She did a sonogram to check Hadley's heart, to see her practice breathing and movement. I hadn't had lunch yet and that time of day was usually a calm time for H unless I've had a meal and then she reacts to food. Her heart looked great but she was napping and not cooperating with what they needed to see. They brought in some juice and mom had a chocolate square she gave me, so about 10 min later we were able to see some practice breathing and she started moving for us. Of course, as soon as I was getting in my car later, she was jumping those legs around but just wanted to be stubborn when put on the spot and it mattered for her to move.

The doctor told me that I was about 1.5 cm dilated and contractions were somewhat irregular and at a low strength. Therefore, I was not in active labor. About an hour of being hooked up they reported that Hadley was just fine and I could head home. I had an appointment scheduled for 11:00 am Monday so we all felt good that I'd be back to check in again within 24 hours. It was the right thing to go with my gut and not ignore it. Her heart rate was high, it was too elevated, but it lowered itself and it was in response to my body preparing for a pending delivery. She wasn't in fetal distress, thankfully.

Lately with delivery becoming closer and closer, I've thought a lot about being back in the same place that Hudson was delivered. The whole experience and being in that same environment again. It's made me really emotional the closer we get to that. This episode broke the ice on that. It was like the practice run for it. There were times it started to feel overwhelming, but then it went away as quickly as it came on. Just like I was having the anxiety about reaching the week of loss, we had the scare a week and half before that and implemented increased appointments and monitoring, bed rest then a modified bed rest and reduced activity schedule. I entered that week with peace and more calm than I would have otherwise. I believe that Sunday's experience is helping in the same way as we are counting down the single digit days.

Monday's appointment went well, she is measuring at 6 lb and 11 oz. Obviously labor did not begin and my mom's premonition of 10/10 didn't happen. We head back to the doctor on Thursday and will be 37 weeks. We are just taking it as easy as possible until then, hoping not to go into labor before Thursday. After Thursday, if it happens, my doctor is fine with it! We will most likely make it next Tuesday and be induced, but there's a chance she will come on her time. Either way, I'm glad my body is starting to do this on its own a bit and we will just see what happens. Most importantly I'm calm going into this. I feel at peace with it. I'm ready for it. I've let go of "the plan" we have in place and I'm ready for whatever comes between now and October 18. For the time being, I do not have any fears surrounding it. These are big personal milestones on this journey and I'm thankful.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

From My Heart to Yours

Dear Mama,

We may or may not know each other by facial recognition or by name, but my heart knows your heart. We may be very like-minded individuals who would, in a non-grieving world, find common interests and share conversation over coffee. Or, in a non-grieving world, our paths could look very different without a likelihood of crossing. However now in this grieving world, we share a bond that many will never know.

A year ago at this time, I had slipped far into the trenches of my grief. I was losing my grasp on positive outlooks, I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel, every day everything hurt. I didn't want to get out of bed and start a new day that my son wasn't apart of. I was mourning him, I was mourning the life we had to learn to live without him, I was mourning the person I used to be and feared I could never be again. This was five months out from losing my son to stillbirth. It took five months to get to the bad place in my grief which shows the road is different for everyone. I've journeyed to the depths of the darkness of grief, and I've found my way back into the light of joy. It is not a smooth road and it can be all over the map, but you know what? That's okay. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to grieve.

One of the biggest lessons I learned is that you are only as strong as you are weak. When you endure a loss such as this, strength you don't know comes on in forms you may never have experienced before. For me, I felt it was a supernatural strength in those first few days and weeks. In my 16 months of grieving, strength has found me at times I didn't know I could muster it. There were other times I couldn't find it at all. I didn't want to accept the ugly pain and as time went on, I felt it was inappropriate in a way to succumb to it. Until I learned that if I didn't show my weakness, if I didn't go to that place where I let it all show, then my strength was a facade and I was flailing any way. There is no shame in hurting deeply for long periods of time, but because nothing about this feels natural, we feel like it's wrong to walk through life in this way. Know that you can have weakness. Know that you can feel anger. You can feel it for as long as you need to, but know how long to stay there and when to pull yourself out so you don't get stuck there. Find what is the most helpful way to channel the release such as writing, reading, photography, yoga or other forms of exercise, cooking, that person to talk to, whatever. Finding this activity can help pull you out if you start to spiral.

I want you to know that you are brave. You have more courage than you give yourself credit for. Your heart is broken but the pieces will come together again in a new way, in a beautiful way, though I know it doesn't feel like it possibly can right now. There is still joy to be found amidst sorrow, thankfulness to be sought in hardship. This took me a long time to get to. Most importantly, you are not alone in this, though you may feel like it. Seek out your community of both non-grievers and grievers alike. Both will help balance you out and will give you the strength you need and the permission to show weakness. Find those who will stand with you no matter what and never let go of them. They are your scaffolding, they are your people.

You will smile a true smile again. You will laugh a pure laugh. You now know how to love deeper than you thought possible. You will enjoy simple pleasures and indulge in adventure. You will live life again to the fullest. You have an outlook you never thought about previously. Take and use your strength when you have it, allow your baby to be your joy when you can, but go to them in darkness when you need. Know you will find them in all things when you're ready.

It gets better. It isn't necessarily easier, it just becomes more manageable with time. You experience the seasons and chapters of grief and the wounds heal a little more, though always there. Patience with yourself and your grief is hard, but it is key to your healing.

Know this: you are the mother of all mothers. Your heart has experienced things that most will never know. You keep going every day despite your heart break and devastation. Celebrate your child whenever you can. Cry and be angry whenever you need. Feel whatever emotions you need to feel. This is the best we can do with our grief. You are doing this right, because it is what you need to do to get through, and that's all you can do. Don't let anyone tell you differently.

From my heart to yours,

Hudson's Mommy

PS: If you need to find more hearts like yours to talk to, email me at adomestikatedlife at gmail dot com.