Saturday, December 30, 2017

Beef Bourguignon



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Darkness of Grief at the Holidays



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Letter to My Littlest



Sweet baby,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mommy

Monday, November 13, 2017

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Monday, November 6, 2017

Baby HJS the Third


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

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

Let me back it up a bit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

October


It’s here again. October.

A month that was my favorite month for a long time. It was an exciting month. It was typically my busiest month. College football season in full swing. I always feel most inspired by fall cooking and decorating. It's a month full of events that I either attend or manage through work. It had become the new wedding season. There were costume parties for Halloween. The weather would become the perfect kind of perfect. 

And then 2015 rolled around. That year I had became a statistic and the month of October took on a new meaning. One that made that particular October dark and difficult. That year, I was one in four women to experience pregnancy and infant loss. I was 1% of women whose pregnancy resulted in stillbirth. I was 5% of that 1% (that’s a thing? yes, it is a thing.) whose baby died because of an umbilical cord accident. October is an awareness month for many things, Pregnancy and Infant Loss included. 

In October of 2016, we gave birth to our daughter, our blessing after loss, a baby that the Pregnancy and Infant Loss community term a "rainbow baby." My grief that followed Hudson's death was very much a storm. It was tumultuous and scathing. In the throes of it, it was like a hurricane-tornado-tsunami super storm all in one. To be clear, Hudson was never the storm, but the aftermath of his passing very much was for me - more so than anything I had ever experienced in my life. The hope of new life through our pregnancy with Hadley was that light needed, the faith needed, the redeeming love from loss needed. To me, the term rainbow baby is very indicative and symbolic for her and one I use.

So now October takes on a new meaning again. It is a month where my grief and my joy live together intertwined. See, she wasn't just born in October, she was born on the International day of remembrance for Pregnancy and Infant Loss, October 15. Last year in the hospital, it was such a bittersweet, beautiful testament. We were completely exhausted, emotional, and relieved to have a living, breathing baby in our arms. This year, as we celebrated her birthday, it was a little difficult. I wanted to honor him, but it was her day. I don't want her to grow up in the shadow of the brother who came before her but who didn't get to stay. There is his memory that we honor, but she is her own little person. While he is and will continue to be ingrained in our family through special ways of acknowledgment, I struggled with how that will look on her day that shared a meaning in the pregnancy and infant loss world that we were apart of. I struggled with the guilt of if I didn't acknowledge it and that of if I did.

The Wave of Light is an International movement that takes place across every time zone on October 15 at 7 pm. Throughout the day, I didn't think about it, the focus was all on her. Then her bedtime rolled around and that happened to be 7 pm. All day we had fun with her and made special first birthday memories. In the 7:00 evening hour, she was in bed, the house was quiet. With her day drawn to an end, it was time I could allocate to my firstborn. In my mind, I feel like that's the way it would have been if he were here. Little sister to bed first, a little more time with him before his own bedtime. In 2015, my coworkers at the time had made special candles and gave them out to people on the team, surprising me with it as a way to recognize Hudson together. One by one I saw their photos pop up that night on social media, or received texts of a photo with their candle lit. That candle inspired us to create special One Wing Foundation versions made by our Hudder Putter Classic volunteers for our Care Boxes for parents to personalize to their child. I keep that original candle close and with his hospital blanket bunny, lit it in a quiet space in the house. We had finally experienced the first birthday we had so longed for, and there was a lot of emotion attached to that on this particular evening. We had completed a year full of firsts and reflecting on that was really difficult to do because it was a reminder of everything we didn't get to have with him, while still radiating in the thankfulness that we did get to have it with her.

Parenting after loss has been full of a lot of moments like that. Experiencing something together as a family, or with Hadley that we'd been looking forward to doing, or didn't realize how much we had missed doing by not having him here. It's meeting people who have kids that would be in his class and thinking how our lives would have already intersected by now. It's doing family activities and attending events we never did previously because they were family-centric and now we have a little one to take to things, or one that will garner the invitation. It's in the life celebrations, now adapted because of a baby/child in the family. It's all the wonderful ways our lives have been enriched because of her. It's all the little things she does, how she learns, and develops, all the little milestones we experience with her. As we experienced those things, it was so exciting, but there was the thought - every single time - that I missed the chance to see him do it. Some of those light bulb moments are harder to swallow than others. Those times as parents that have been more challenging, my mind says this shouldn't have been the first time you are experiencing this and learning how to handle. Then people say, you are a first time parent, you'll figure it out and the next one will be a breeze. I hate being categorized as a first time parent - though okay, yes it is our first time to experience this - but to a Parent of Loss, most of us feel like we shouldn't be, this should be our second time around.

I have struggled to find my writing voice since early this year because I know that my writing is strongest when it comes from a place of pain. The pain that I had drawn from previously hasn't been as prevalent. Sure it has been there, but I have wanted to stay in the happy because we had this baby that had been so incredibly yearned for. I didn't want to seem ungrateful. Unappreciative. Like I was dwelling in the pain. That I couldn't enjoy the now. However, there is a truth to this side of it and it's okay to shine a little light on it. Especially for others who are walking this path and know they aren't alone in those moments that make them catch their breath a little bit, the things that can trigger the broken heart of loss, or the times grief could take hold for no reason other than because that love will always exist for the one who isn't here, too.

October represents a lot. For me, it is now my month where I can celebrate how hope was restored from the ultimate pain of loss, through the most beautiful gift of our daughter.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Best Year


My sweet baby girl, 

One year ago today brought us the greatest sense of accomplishment, joy and pride that we had experienced to date - it was the day you entered the world as our daughter. All yesterday, at any moment, I could think back to that day one year before and relive each moment. I remember everything about it from the time I woke up, to feeling contractions, to heading to the hospital wondering if we'd be coming home with you, to almost exactly 24 hours later when I got to hold you against my chest for the first time.

Your brother made us parents, he taught us a depth and understanding of love that we hadn’t known before, of sacrifice, of humility, of finding beauty through pain.


And you, my precious one, you made us full again. You gave us the meaning of redemption, of hope, of answered prayers. There was an all new depth and understanding of that love Hudson first brought into our hearts. It was amplified with you and one that we could live out through every moment of every day.

You are loving. You may not love to snuggle and prefer to wiggle around, but you love to give and get hugs and kisses to anyone you can, including Georgie Pup and Hudson Bunny. You touch everyone's faces and smile. 


You are curious. To observe how you take in the world around you is fascinating. To watch you begin to understand how things work, how they sound, how they move - it is a gift you've given us. 

You are strong-willed. You are a girl who knows what she wants and are determined to get it. Your teachers call you independent and strong. While it can make parenting a challenge at times, I hope this never leaves you and I'm proud that it is apparent so early. 


You are happy. You are such a happy child. Sure you can pitch a really great fit, but you are a smiley, giggly, cheerful girl. You sing more than you try to talk, you squeal to show excitement. You are expressionate and animated. You exude spirit and joy. 

All of this in just your first year of life. I want you to know how incredibly cherished you are, how adored you are. You have made our lives far better than they’ve ever been and you will continue to do that as you grow. You are everything we could have ever hoped for, and what you have brought into our lives is greater than what we ever imagined.


Our hearts are so full. Happy birthday Hadley Jane, we are so thankful you are ours. 


Monday, June 5, 2017

BBQ Brisket Enchiladas



This past weekend we had some friends travel in for our Foundation's annual golf tournament in Hudson's memory. It was a jam-packed few days but by the end of the weekend, cooking a delicious meal was exactly what I wanted to do to decompress. I hadn't made enchiladas in a long time, and wanted to give the Californians the best taste of Dallas, so I thought a shredded brisket enchilada would be a tasty treat. I looked at a sour cream sauce, a tomatillo/avocado sauce, a ranchero sauce, but nothing jumped out to me. Staring in the fridge, I saw our favorite bottle of BBQ Sauce and that's when the aha moment occurred. The combination using the creaminess of a sour cream sauce with a punch of that tangy, smokey BBQ flavor was exactly what was needed.

I took a major short cut with this recipe to save on time and energy. We did not smoke the brisket ourselves, instead I called the spot who has my favorite shredded brisket - Taco Joint - and they sold it to us by the pound. After allowing the onions to properly caramelize by cooking on low for 30 minutes, they had shrunk down so much, combining them with the brisket stuffing didn't seem right anymore. I decided to top the enchiladas with them instead - that way most were covered, but I left them off a few in case people didn't want onion. Doing it that way also allowed the flavor of them to stand out a bit more, rather than being hidden in the brisket.

As soon as I finished sauteing, saucing, stuffing, smothering - I told Max to prepare himself because this may be in contention for best thing I've made. Consensus agreed with that and this thrown-together dish is one I wanted to share! All in all, this was not a very time consuming endeavor but I would recommend the time preparation for a weekend when you have more time. I was able to prepare it while Hadley was down for a long nap, so it happened without interruption. This is a great meal to make in bulk - this recipe made 2 pans of enchiladas (16 total).

Ingredients:
(makes 16 enchiladas)

  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced in rings
  • 4 tbsp. butter (divided - 1 tbsp. and 3 tbsp.)
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. flour (I used wheat flour for no other reason than that is what was in my pantry)
  • 2 cups of low sodium broth (I had chicken broth - beef or veggie broths would work fine, too)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2-3/4 cup BBQ sauce (our favorite is Austin's Own brand in medium heat)
  • 1/4 tbsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. garlic granules
  • 2 lb. brisket
  • 10 - 16 Tortillas of choice (I prefer to work with flour tortillas when it comes to enchiladas. The fresh out of the oven whole wheat from Central Market are my favorite)
  • Lots of cheese. Get a big bag, or two small bags. Monterrey Jack or Cheddar. I used both. 
  • Green Onion, for garnish
  • Avocado, for garnish
1.) To start, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. 

2.) Sauteing: In a saute pan, heat the olive oil on medium high heat, then add 1 tbsp of butter. Once melted, add the brown sugar and mix. Add onions and move around with tongs to try to coat. Turn the heat down to medium low. Some people cover and that does make them cook faster, I do not because I feel like covering just steams them, makes them soggy from condensation, and doesn't truly caramelize the onions. Make sure you can come back to the pan a few times to toss the onions for a more even cook. 

3.) Saucing part I: As your onions caramelize and your oven heats, start the sauce. The first best practice of sauce making is the roux. This will allow your sauce to hold a thickness and coat your 'ladas with flavor rather than a runny liquid. In a shallow sauce pan, heat the 3 tbsp. butter. Once melted, add the flour tablespoon by tablespoon, whisking together with a smooth consistency before adding the next. You should have a thick base - if you do not, add a little more flour. Slowly add the stock/broth, about 1/4 cup at a time, continuing to whisk over medium high heat. Let the combination rest on medium-high heat to thicken up a little if needed. 

4.) Saucing part II: Remove the sauce pan from the heat, then add the sour cream. Whisk well to prevent curdling. Then add the BBQ sauce. Take a taste test - if you want to add a little heat to the taste, then add the cayenne. My BBQ sauce wasn't spicy enough and my sauce was missing that kick, so I used cayenne to achieve it. 

5.) Stuffing: Once your sauce is ready, spoon about 1/4 cups worth over a large glass pan to provide a thin base to keep the tortillas from drying out. Taking a tortilla, use the spatula to swipe sauce down the middle then fill with brisket and top with 2 pinches of cheese. Fold one end up to close off one side, then roll the stuffed tortilla up. Place in the baking dish seamside down. Continue process until your baking dish(es) are full, or you are out of stuffing. 

7.) Now we Smother: My brisket had a lot of delicious juices left over, so I brushed that over the tops and edges of the tortillas for flavor and again to help from them drying out. Next I poured the sauce over top, making sure to get down on the sides and edges. Next, top with your caramelized onions, followed by your cheese. 

8.) Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes to keep moisture in and prevent cheese from browning/contents from drying out. 

9.) Remove from foil and cook another 5 minutes uncovered to allow that cheese to bubble and slightly brown up. 

10.) Remove from oven, garnish with green onion and avocado if you choose. Serve and enjoy! 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Two Years





Hudson,

Baby boy, today is your birthday. Somehow two years have come and gone. I sat with a friend the other day who asked me - doesn't it feel like it's been ten years and only five seconds all in one? I thought I'd be better this time around. I thought I'd have more peace. I thought having lived this loss after one full year and now a second would have given my heart more resolve on this day.

I thought wrong.

I've avoided my emotions for a while now. I've felt them building, the anxiety that can come with it, but I wanted to stay in the happy and not go to the place where the pain that you're not here is too overwhelming to bear sometimes. In this second year, I've talked about you more freely. I have smiled through the pain when I say I have one in Heaven and one at home. I can speak about loss now without tears every single time. I can smile when I say your name. But when I'm alone with my thoughts, or look long enough at your sister in my arms, the emotions I've tried to shut out begin to catch up to me. The life we didn't get to live and the memories we didn't get to create consume me.

Up until October 15, 2016, I only imagined all the things in life we've missed without you here. But starting at 5:08 am when Hadley was born and every minute since, I have learned just how much of the ordinary, everyday life we lost without you here.  I didn't know just how fulfilling the exhaustion of parenting was, just how much love can be felt from a neck nuzzle or smile, and just how much the little hugs or tugs of the finger can mean. I knew what we didn't have but I didn't know the depth of how much it hurt not to have it, until I did have it. I look at her and if I look long enough, it rips at my heart that I never got to look into your eyes. She loves to stare at us before breaking into a smile and it is adorable. Sometimes as she stares, I can't help but wonder what is going through her mind as she looks back at me, and then I think about how you never got to see me, your Mommy. You heard me, as you grew in my belly but you never saw me. I watch your Daddy with her and I get choked up often because he's just so good at it. He's an amazing Daddy and he should have had his son to be that to as well.

I avoided it for a long period of time because there was only so much my heart could endure, but I have allowed myself to see little ones around your age. We see them often now, especially as your sister has started daycare and we see kids of all ages. Whenever I pass a little one in the 2's class, it gives me pause every time. I wonder who you'd look like. Your sister is your Daddy's carbon copy, and you looked like me when you were born, but would you still? How would you and Hadley interact right now? What would you love to play with? I received my first pieces of art work from Hadley and decided to hang it along the new staircase and grow it into the playroom. I wonder how many pictures you would have drawn for us, how many Hudson originals I'd have already hung.

Every night before Hadley goes to bed, I sit with all my loves in my lap - Hadley, Georgie and the Hudson bunny. We rock together, we read stories, we snuggle. Sometimes Mommy cries. I wish you were here with us to make our family whole. I wish our lives had been able to experience your smile and laughter these two years. I want it all back, everything that was stolen from us two years ago when your heart stopped. All of it, I want it, I miss it. My mother's heart will never stop yearning for that life with you here too.

Today I don't want to get out of bed. Today I want to shut everything out. I want to cry until I can't cry anymore - which there are always more tears, I've learned. Yesterday I honored you in a special way. Next week we continue to honor you by furthering your legacy at your memorial golf tournament. But right now? Right now I just want you. I hear them playing in the other room and would give anything to walk in there to see Daddy, Georgie, and both our babies - my two year old and my 7 month old, with a birthday breakfast and balloons. We'd be starting our Hudson Day, your second birthday. I imagine you and see you with brown curls that maybe we'd have let grow out a little bit. I see you with my blue eyes but your Daddy's smile, that matches your sister's. Hadley smiles at you and you make her laugh. You make noises at each other and I raise an eyebrow thinking it's started, your own little language you keep from us. If only I could have five minutes of that on this day. Instead I'll close my eyes, cry the tears and live that scene in my mind. Over and over. I'll allow the warmth it creates in my heart to carry me through today when all I have are the memories of holding you when you were born, then twelve hours later, kissing you goodbye and watching as you were taken in a strangers arms until the door closed and you were gone.

We made you a birthday card and will tie it to a birthday balloon to send you in heaven. We'll have a cake for you that a special friend made for us to have in your honor. We will visit you at the church, and go on a walk trying to enjoy the outdoors where the sunbeams are like your smile, and the breeze in the air is like you playing all around us. I'll hold Hadley a little closer, I'll snuggle Georgie a little longer, I'll love your Daddy a little harder.

My heart breaks all over again on tough days like today, but it beats on. Happy Hudson Day, baby boy.

I love you with everything I have, always.

Mommy

Friday, May 26, 2017

This Side of Heaven



Two years ago today started like any other, but it was unknowingly the first day of our new life as bereaved parents. It has been 731 days since life as we knew it for 30 years was altered and we were shaken to our core upon hearing the words that our baby at 32 weeks and 6 days didn't have a heartbeat. It was the day we learned that our precious Hudson had already left us and would not be born into this world for us to love him, raise him and parent him in our arms. The way it should have been and is for most. Instead, we would give birth to his silence, to the sound of our cries, and say a goodbye that no parent ever should. Instead of the life we dreamed of as a family, we carry him in our hearts as we live on without him and only the idea of what should have been.

Loss parents have different milestone days that resonate, we may call them different things. I call today, the day we learned he had passed, Hudson's Heaven Day, and tomorrow, the day we gave birth, his Birthday. I honestly don't know which day is more difficult.

Two years ago I entered this hospital completely unsuspecting that I'd be leaving 24 hours later without our baby. Though I've been back here again many times since, it was a different kind of experience to walk through those same doors again, just like I did two years ago. While my answer to these hard milestones has been to escape, to be "vacation us" instead of loom in the "everyday us" where he is noticeably absent the most, this time on his Heaven Day we get to see his legacy in action. Today we did the official celebration and Cuddle Cot dedication to Baylor University Medical Center, the place that holds our only memories of the time spent with our son in our arms and where we brought his sister, a representation of so much joy and hope, into the world as well.

While we never want this Cuddle Cot to be used, the sad reality is that it will be. During this month, I've been introduced to or made aware of six families of stillbirth that have occurred in May alone. Six babies gone to soon. Six parents whose lives will never be the same. In addition to this Cuddle Cot, the funds given to Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas by the One Wing Foundation have gone to provide aid for families who cannot afford proper burial arrangements for their stillborn baby or NICU infant, and to create a renovated private space in Labor and Delivery for families giving birth but will either never hear their babies cry, or they will have a short time together before that baby takes its last breath.

Guys, this just isn't the way life is meant to go, but sometimes it does. There is not a rhyme or reason. Not a divine plan when someone's child dies. It is not the natural circle of life.You may feel differently, I did before this happened to me. Now, I believe that sometimes the terrible-awful happens. It just does. While we can't change it, we can provide for it. We can be the community that catches those parents in loving arms, without platitudes, when they have faced the most difficult obstacle of burying their baby. It is a wound that may reopen from time to time, and one that doesn't ever really heal. Because that's child loss.

I know it's ugly and unflattering sometimes. I know it's not what people want to see because it's sad. I know that every time I post about it, someone cringes. But he's my child, just like Hadley is. He will be recognized too. I may not have cute pictures of him covered in food, smiling in the bathtub or grabbing his toes - because those were robbed from me when his heart stopped. This is what I have for him. This is how I parent him - my son who should be turning two tomorrow.

Waking up two years ago on May 26, it was any other day until it wasn't, and our path changed for good. As difficult as this road has been, can be, and will continue to be at times, I take solace in continuing to parent my son in any way that I can, and One Wing Foundation is that way. I felt him in my heart, the love and support in the room through the incredible Baylor staff, I see him in her eyes sometimes - the eyes I never got to look into.

Happy Heaven Day sweet boy. You got there before us and we know we will see you again on the other side.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The House That Built Me


"A house is built with boards and beams, a home is built with love and dreams." 
First house photo taken the week we moved in, June 2014

I remember the first time we saw it. We drove down a tree-lined street to this little blue-grey house with a front porch and a white porch swing. It donned an American flag and the blooms of a crabapple tree finished the craftsman style ideal. The house, built in 1922, was well kept and maintained its character with gorgeous original hardwoods, glass door knobs, clawfoot tub and 10 ft ceilings throughout. As we walked through, we both ditched the check list we had in our minds of our "perfect house" because truth be told, this was far from our idea of perfect and it didn't have our shared top three musts. However, it had something that none of the 20+ houses we had seen by that point had. This one had the feeling of home. 

It may have only been three years for us, but we lived a significant chapter of our lives in this little house. It was our first house together as a married couple. We painted walls, slowly finding new pieces of furniture to fill the rooms. We planted new bushes and flowers in those flower beds with our own hands. We rocked on that front porch swing countless times. We renovated and saw our ideas come to life. We adopted a dog and gave him a loving home. We celebrated anniversaries, birthdays, hosted holidays and various dinners. We found out we were pregnant in that house, twice. We dreamed a life for those babies in that house. It was where we returned home to, with broken hearts and bare arms when our first baby died. It became my sanctuary when I couldn't bring myself to face the outside world. It is where we prepared for our second baby's arrival and emotionally brought her home to. Those hardwood floors have soaked up countless tears. If those walls could talk it would tell many stories of a combination of our love and pain, deeply absorbed within them.

We don't need to move but there has been an itch. An itch for change. That little house felt even smaller once Hadley arrived, but we were content. However, as I scrolled through neighborhood listings with a friend, I saw it. I remember the house from when we were looking for our current house and loved it then. Looking at it again, it felt like us the minute I laid eyes on the pictures. When we were able to get in to see it, I walked through with Hadley in my arms. I saw us there. The birthday parties, the holiday gatherings, the space for the larger table to set. I stood in that kitchen, envisioning a busy morning scene of getting ready for work, packing snacks and lunch - lined up on the island ready to go. I could see the patio doors open with my husband on the grill, me cooking in the kitchen, Hadley and hopefully future babies playing somewhere in between. I saw the Christmas tree next to the mantle with stockings hung, the family snuggled by the fire in the fireplace. I saw the traditions we will continue and new ones we will start. We fell in love with it and decided to go for it - and now here we are. Proud owners of our new family home, sellers of our first family home.

Over the weekend, I took some time to walk through and pause in each room, taking them in before we started to pack them up and they will no longer be the way we have had them. We've done a lot to the house to make it ours, but the room I will miss most is the nursery. It is a beautiful space, in many ways, that has so much sentiment tied to it. I've written before about how the first time walked the house, we identified that room as the nursery. I thought it would be the kitchen, but its the nursery that I will remember most about that house. We put in the contract that we are taking Hadley's chandelier with us so she can have a piece of her old room in her new room - a symbol of the room that was meant for both our babies. Before there were pink lines, there was the vision of who would occupy that room. I didn't know the road we'd take to get there. We always saw that house as our starter home and we'd hope to have two babies there, then we'd probably outgrow it. I guess you can say that's where we are now, though different than we thought it would look.

What gives me a great amount of peace and comfort to this process is that I feel like, if Hudson were here, we would be doing this right now, moving to this house. The timing became right for us to do this now, and I think it would have been right now if both our babies were here too - part of me wonders if that is where the itch came from, an inherent feeling that we'd be doing this anyway. As Parents of Loss, we do have our own parallel universe that we picture our other child/children in. I find that it can be painful sometimes when what is happening in our reality doesn't mesh with what would be going on if the parallel life was our reality. But when big life events happen and you feel they would be happening with or without the missing person, it's healing to the heart and soul. In that world, we are moving our almost 7 month old and almost 2 year old to a new house that will become our family home for quite some time. In our reality, we are doing the same but with our almost 2 year old as a memory of what could have been.

It is emotionally difficult to close the door, both literally and figuratively, on that little blue-grey house on Woodlawn. It would be hard even if we hadn't lost our first born, if we weren't leaving the only house he "experienced" but I know that adds to the connectivity. The time we made this house our home the most was when we were pregnant with him and preparing it with him in mind. Not just the renovation work but the things we bought to get ready for our growing family. I cried uncontrollably when it was agreed on in our selling contract that we'd leave our washer and dryer. The washer and dryer we bought with a gift card my in laws gave us for Christmas because we had just told them we were expecting Hudson and they told us we'd need a good new washer and dryer for that baby. I realized it is only a washer and dryer, but they carry a large amount of sentiment! The washer and dryer set revolved around him.

The 30,000 foot view regarding this move is that it feels like we are leaving a piece of us behind, but I remind myself that this is another part of our story as a family. It is a chapter of our book that we continue writing. While it was the only home that Hudson "experienced", I look forward to weaving him into our new family home blueprint. I envision creating a special corner in the new game room where I can maybe utilize some of his nursery decor that I've kept packed away in hopes to use again. It's a corner where his rocker will go with Hadley's books and toys. A place for her to play, hopefully with future siblings, some day. We have left our mark on our first family home, it will be a special place to us always. Come this weekend, I'll sit in our house for the last time with it empty, the way I did when I first entered it. Three years ago it I was in this empty space with the excitement of what the future holds. This time it is with tears, recounting the precious memories made there and how it went from a house to a home. We'll close and lock that door for the last time. Goodbye sweet little blue-grey house on Woodlawn. Hello to what our future holds for our family in our new home just ten blocks away.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

To My Daughter on Her First Day of Daycare



Hadley,

Today you are six months, 2 weeks and 2 days. For the last 198 days, you have been the crux of our every everything. I spent thirteen weeks with you and day by day you learned your basic needs. I watched you take in the world around you, become more alert, learn to recognize people and other objects. I watched you transform from a newborn to an infant. I saw your smiles, heard your first giggle, listened as you found your voice, and discovered different textures. I watched as you began to focus your gaze on our faces, rather than look beyond them. I held you as you cried, and soothed you to become calm. When it was time for me to return to work, your Daddy took over and he stayed home to take care of his sweet baby girl - the first person in his office to take advantage of this new benefit that I am so thankful he is given.

He has heard those little giggles turn into belly laughs. He's taught you how to enjoy tummy time and roll over, how to jump in your jumparoo, to sit on your own like a big girl, and turn the pages of a book. Your little voice has changed and you call out now, you sing to us, you babble on and on. He has watched you become this precocious, energetic, happy baby girl. Every day he took you on walks and swung with you on the porch swing. In his last week of leave with you, you started stretching out your arms big and wide, he would do the same and lift you to him for the game he calls Big Hugs. You've started reaching for our faces, touching our cheeks, and giving us kisses.

I treasure every minute of every day I was home with you, and more so, I treasure the special time your Daddy got to have home with you. I hope when you grow up and if you become a Mommy someday, you will have plenty of time home with your babies without having to compromise your income, job responsibilities, or career aspirations. I hope you can have it all with cessation. I hope that all working mommies won't have to have a choice between spending those needed months (yes, it is months) with their baby, or being able to financially contribute to the household to provide what is needed for their families. I wish that a true maternity leave would be available for working moms, one that is representative of the beauty and importance of bringing a new life into the world, while indicative of what it entails to ensure the proper health and connectivity needed for a mother and a child. I hope that all Daddies will have the ability to take paternity leave and bond with their babies, taking care of them, being part of this very important time of growth and development as well, further solidifying a true partnership with their spouse in this joint venture called parenthood. I was fortunate to have 13 weeks with you, then when my time ended, your Daddy was able to spend 15 weeks with you - but this is not necessarily the norm and that's a shame.

Today is a new step for us as a family. Today I do the hardest thing I've had to do during your 198 days. Today I hand you over to someone we've never met, in a place you don't know, and trust them with your care. I wish I could explain it to you in a way you'd understand, and reassure you that everything will be okay, that we will be back for you. You've become used to Mommy being gone but you were in your own house with Daddy responding to your needs. Now everything is changing for you. My heart aches and it hurts that you are now going to be out of our daily care. That I won't be able to come home at lunch to see you and nurse you. That Daddy won't be there to make things better when you cry. It was a painful, long road to get you into this world - it is hard to put that trust in someone else to take care of you as well as we would. Will you find the comfort that you need when you cry? Will you know they love and care for you too? I'll miss those pictures and videos of what you are doing that get me through the day. I'm afraid to miss more of your firsts, for someone else to get those.

But can I tell you something? I'm also really excited for you.

These six months we've watched all these wonderful things take place with you. We've also watched as you've interacted with others. How you light up and have intrigue, especially with other little ones. You are going to love being around others your age and your teachers, learning from them, taking the world in. This is going to be so wonderful for you and honestly, it will be better developmentally than what we could do with you at home. You are going to thrive and it's important for us to let you. We want to give you this experience.

I want you to know that there is no greater job that either your Daddy or I have than being your parents. That's why, as your parents, we go to work every day - that is what is best for our family. The truth of the matter is, I love what I do, the job I have, the career I've built - I personally need that time to contribute to society and to our family. Even more so, I love what I get to come home to when that day at the office is done and be your Daddy's wife, and your Mommy. We work hard for you, to provide for you, to set an example for you. Every day, we aim to better ourselves as professionals in the careers we've worked hard to have in order to lay that foundation for you, so that you may blaze your own trail someday. You are going to have friends whose mommies or daddies don't go into an office every day and that is just as wonderful. That is what works best for their family, that is how they show their love to their littles. It doesn't mean we love you any less, or that they love theirs any less. We are all doing what is best for our own families, because each family is different with no two the same. You are going to do great things baby girl, you can do whatever you want to do. You can be a stay at home mom, you can be a work from home mom, you can be a go to the office mom, you can work part-time, you can work full-time. You can have a career, be a wife, be a mom - do them separately or all at the same time. You can take the world by storm and we are your biggest cheerleaders.

Whenever we pack you up in the car and we drop you off at daycare, know that during those nine hours we are away, it is because we love you as much as we do. You are our motivation, our inspiration, and we know you are thriving where you are. Although I cried today leaving you, handing you over to people we didn't know, it's not something I would change given the choice right now. They were so comforting, told us we could call whenever we needed, come by whenever we wanted. In my heart I feel like I should have already done this, the first day at daycare thing, with your brother. If he were here, Hudson would have been in the classroom across the hall. I think that made more tears flow and the experience that much harder. As I met other parents at pick up time, I wondered if our paths would have crossed already, if we would have been doing life together as parents but instead we meet now for the first time? While he's not next door to be there if you need him, he is always with you. When we picked you up for the day, before you realized we were there, we saw that you were happy - you were so happy - and that made us happy.

We love you Hadley Jane. We want to make you proud, and for you to know that you always make us proud. Everything we do is out of love for you.

Nosies,

Mommy