To read the story of our precious Harlynn Renae, start here and follow the "next" links at the end of each post. Thank you for coming and sharing with us in this journey.

Friday, January 31, 2014

You'll Remember

I woke up this morning feeling off. I laid in bed trying to figure out if I was getting sick, if I had slept wrong, or if maybe it was something indeterminable. I got up and began to get ready for my day, trying to shake whatever this cloud was, hanging over me. I did what I could, which was everything. I showered. I got dressed. I made Haley breakfast. I put make up on. I tidied up the kitchen. I got Haley dressed. I loaded up my own breakfast and my work materials, and we got in the car. I drove to my home-away-from-home, my new office (which is the home of our friends, and my new bosses). I sat down and ate my cereal watching the kids play. I went upstairs and set up shop. I started working. I did everything I could to distract myself from that looming "off" feeling that was determined to follow me around.

Eventually I couldn't concentrate anymore and decided to call it a day. I loaded up my materials, bundled up my daughter, made plans for next week, and drove back home. I made Haley's and my lunch and I longed for nap time in a way I've not longed for it before. Once Haley was tucked away in her bed, I drifted off to sleep in my new napping roost on the sofa. If I sit a certain way in a certain corner and cover up with a certain blanket, I sleep really, really well.  Except for today. I kept waking up. Whether I snored, or just couldn't get to that deep sleep, an awesome nap eluded me. 

Haley soon awoke, as did her daddy. He was home napping because of his wonky work schedule today. After a few snuggles from his special girl, I started peppering him with questions as I worked on our new budget. He wasn't helping, and I was getting too flustered too easily, so he got to work hanging the new curtain rod and curtains I purchased for our living room. After almost seven years of living in this house, we finally hung curtains you can't see through. As he was drilling the wall above the window, I happened to look outside.

I don't know what it was. I still don't. Something about the way the setting sun was hitting the trees as they swayed in the bitter cold wind. I started to well up. Then, Rufus Wainwright's cover of the song "Hallelujah" came on our Pandora station. The tears spilled over. I blinked, hard, trying to contain them, but the floodgates had opened. I broke down.

Brent caught sight of me and tilted his head to the side. He thought I was in a mess over the budget. No, it's not pretty, but it wasn't the cause of my tears.

I miss my baby girl. A lot.

I look around our home and I see things that aren't. I hear sounds that will never be audible. I hold a weight I can't ever hand off to anyone else. It's her. She's here....she's in every room of our home in some fashion. She's in every corner of our hearts. But she's gone. 

Haley heard Brent asking me if I was okay, and came over to investigate. The look on her face....oh my lands. She saw her mama crying, and she knew. She just knew why. With her own face turning red and splotchy, she asked me why I was crying. As I looked at her big blue eyes, I thought she might spill over with sympathy tears of her own.

"I miss your sister. Can I have a hug?"

If I hug her, she doesn't have to see the ugly cry. And who wouldn't want that little sweetie wrapped up in their arms?  She hugged me tight. She patted my shoulder. She asked, "Why do you miss my sister?"
"Because she's supposed to be here. Mommy didn't want her to die."
"I didn't want her to die either. When I went to the hospital, I cried."
"Yes. We all did."
"Even Daddy?"
"Even Daddy."
"I didn't touch her. I just looked at her."
"I know. I'm glad you got to see her."
She leaned forward to hug me again. 

That was more than four hours ago, and the tears are still flowing. I can't turn them off tonight. 

Maybe I am getting sick. Maybe I am just having an off day. It doesn't matter. I still miss my Harlynn. Sometimes it sneaks up on me just how much, and the wave of grief overtakes me without warning. 

If you find yourself walking this road, you will hear people tell you that you're not alone. The truth is, you aren't. There are people who know this, who know what you're up against. You're not alone. However, you'll never feel more alone than when these moments creep up. There's no one to call because there's nothing to say. There's comfort in the silence at the appropriate times with the appropriate people, but it's not often you can call someone to choke out, "Can you come over and just sit in silence while I cry?" So it's better just to cry where you are. In the middle of whatever you're doing. And you'll feel alone. You'll feel it intensely. But you'll remember you're not. You'll remember you have people praying for you. Thinking about you. Loving you. You'll remember you know other parents who have this same hell in their life. You'll know they have these same moments. You'll remember you're not alone. And in that solitude, you'll remember you're being carried every step of the way. You're not alone, because no one can make it through this alone. No one.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

I carried you your whole life, straight into the next.
What I wouldn't give to carry you again.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Operation Stay-Warm-Sunday

Last night, Brent, Haley, and I went to some friends' house for dinner and pinochle. We drove home (all dozen blocks of it) through some fresh-fallen snow. We knew Sunday would bring another blizzard (the fourth in ten days) and were thankful for the night out with warmth, friends, and laughter. (And winning both games of pinochle didn't hurt, either.)

After putting Little Miss to bed, Brent and I decided to get our money's worth for our Amazon Prime account and catch up on a few episodes of Downton Abbey. I don't know what season we're in, but I know we're way behind. I had no idea how late it was when Brent's phone rang. Brent has been on call this week for work, so although he was puzzled as to why someone may need help so late on a weekend, he answered the call.  I was surprised when I looked at the clock to see it was 12:25 Sunday morning. I heard Brent say something in disbelief, then he got out of bed and went to the thermostat. There was a natural gas pipe explosion somewhere in Canada. Our utility company was calling to encourage its customers to conserve the natural gas, as there was now an unexpected shortage, and turn their heat 60*.  

At first I was none too pleased. We were supposed to get a blizzard and now we have to adjust the be cooler?! The more I thought about it, though, the more grateful I was. We have a home. A warm home. We have the means to keep it heated. They were calling to ask us to conserve, not to tell us we would be without much-needed warmth. We still had heat. We were fine. Thank you, Lord

I walked in to put another blanket over Little Miss as she slept in her bed, put a sweatshirt on, and made sure I was as close as could be to Brent under our own covers. He is usually heat enough at night time. This time, though, the sweatshirt definitely helped.

This morning it was notably cooler in the house. I put on socks and slippers, and set out to brew a piping hot pot of coffee.  I made half-caff this morning, so Brent could enjoy some too. After a short, but hot shower, I put on my hand-knit kerchief and long-sleeved layers. I started a roast in the crock pot. I baked eight mini-loaves of banana chocolate chip bread. Haley helped me bake eight mini-loaves and one full-size loaf of pumpkin chocolate chip bread. I've been doing laundry all day and flipped the dryer vent flap so it would pump the warm dryer air into our basement rather than outside. Until I can think of something else I can bake, I'm leaving the oven door open as it cools. That 350* feels pretty toasty. We all implemented lots of snuggle-time on the sofa under some blankets. 

And wow, was all of that necessary. The wind is roaring outside, visibility at times is nil, and there are all sorts of things blowing in all sorts of directions past our windows. The temperature is far below zero as a result, and at times it's hard to see across the street. This winter has made quite a nasty reputation for itself. Plenty of snow-days, plenty of cancellations, and plenty of time spent inside dreaming about the warmer weather to come.

With the productivity I've managed today, and the bonus snuggles Little Miss has all too willingly requested, I think us having to turn the thermostat down was far more a blessing than an inconvenience. Maybe we're pretty spoiled keeping the house at a steady 70* through the winter after all. Maybe turning it down a couple degrees, and turning up our time spent in meaningful interactions and productivity, should be our new winter "thing". (Maybe compromise on 65*, though...)

While we've been enjoying our time snuggling together as a family, I do pray for those who are even closer to the explosion, having to work to repair it in the frigid temperatures, and those who were even more adversely affected, and don't have heat at all. This time of year, that's a dangerous situation, period.

I'm praying a prayer of thanks today for our home, our health, our family, and our creativity in the midst of the cold. As frigid as it is outside, we're full of warmth and comfort today.

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

Baking Bonding

Princess Story Time (Best Daddy Ever)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

Saturday, January 25, 2014


Little Miss is sleeping soundly next to me, holding tightly to my arm. Her faint, but audible, snoring is music to my ears. Little Man is having a dance party in-utero, and its visible from the outer boundaries of my ever-growing belly. The wind is howling outside as we're under our third blizzard warning in a week, with another to come on Sunday. I can tell you, though, there is no way I would rather be spending a Friday night. Snuggling, admiring, and reciprocating the love of my little ones. 

This week marked a new beginning for our household. I started my new job that allows me the flexibility to work from home and be a mother first, while still providing the challenges I need to feel like a contributing member of society. Haley has only mentioned daycare a couple of times, and mostly wants me to read to her, or dress up with her. Her number one priority is listening to the Frozen soundtrack 30490915 times a day. The good news is, it's a wonderful arrangement and she is a delight to watch in action singing along to the songs. The bad news is I wake up with the songs already playing in my head, and it's only a matter of time before my only capability to communicate is limited to singing one of the songs as it relates (or doesn't) to any given circumstance. 

The job itself, however, has proven amazingly fun and engaging and I can't believe I wasn't doing this sooner. The bosses aren't so bad, either. That's another story for another day, but these people are dear to us and I'm thrilled to be in contact with them on a daily basis. They will grow tired of my sarcasm and "drive" (read: control issues), but for now they seem pretty fired up to have me.

It's been a week of mothering delights, challenges, and new milestones. It's been a week of career successes, adventures, and new goals. As it winds down and we enter the weekend, I can't help but feel blessed and filled with a sense of peace and - dare I say - contentment, that I haven't felt in quite some time.

I caution to share my excitement and enthusiasm, however. I always fear when people see me happy, they'll think it is synonymous with being fully recovered. Over it. Beyond my "previous" despair. Losing Harlynn is a life-altering event. Her loss will always grieve me, deeply. However, losing her has also taught me a new perspective, how to enjoy things more thoroughly, and in a nutshell, how to feel everything to the absolute extent to which it can be felt.

I have thought of Harlynn several times daily during this week. Would she be trying to crawl? Would she be sleeping through the night? Would she have a craving for chocolate-covered donuts, since that was all I wanted while pregnant with her? Haley always wants pancakes, and that was the one thing I wanted, and could tolerate eating, during my pregnancy with her. If that pattern rings true, I imagine Little Man will be a big fan of chili dogs and chips with guacamole. What would Harlynn's personality be, as a middle child? Would she try to get her siblings in trouble? Or would she be their scapegoat? I'm grateful to know you the way I do, Harlynn. I long for the day I can know you in eternity.

The time at home, and spent with Haley, has allowed me a lot of reflection. I've kept up on my Bible reading, tried to be a more engaged mommy, and have enjoyed even the frustrating moments of parenting. Just yesterday morning I told Haley she had to let Mommy enjoy her "pretend coffee" (decaf) before she could continue telling incessant stories. But oh, how sweet it was that she was so excited to talk to me. I don't do mornings. Haley is most active in them. I'm going to have to shift my waking up practices, I can tell.

One week down. Many more to come. God has answered a prayer we started praying a very long time ago, and has once again shown me that His timing might be a little better suited for us than our own. 

Even through consecutive blizzards, even through the lumps that still rise up in my throat, and even through the challenges that seem to knock the wind clean out of me, He is there. He is leading. He is helping to keep me stable.

Trust in the Lord forever,for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.
~ Isaiah 26:4 ~

      Haley watching her reflection in the stove window, reenacting Frozen....

Sunday, January 19, 2014

As For Me

After we first lost Harlynn I had a lot of people send me a lot of links to read experiences of other parents who had lost. Some of them were quite helpful and informative. Most of them made me feel like more of a failure. They were written by people who appeared to have it all together, who appeared to rely solely on their faith and who let that quench their grief altogether. As I read their words, I became angry. I felt judged for being completely broken. Not just heartbroken, but every piece of me was completely broken. I couldn't function. I couldn't complete a thought. A sentence. I couldn't do anything, let alone worship. Yet here were these people who seemed to bypass all the ugliness of loss and go straight to the flowers and frills of resting in absolute certainty of joy. I couldn't handle it. I decided I would journal my feelings as I felt them, so I wouldn't ever be able to gloss over the intensity of what I feel, when I feel it. That's not to say I don't believe or feel God's peace, or even joy, but it's a bumpier road for me to get to that point than I was finding along the journey of some of the resources I was presented with. I am a mess. And I need you to understand that.

In my daily Bible reading, I've once again come across the story of Joseph. His brothers sold him to slavery, and presented a blood-soaked cloak to his father so he would believe him as dead. Jacob thought his son was dead. His immediate reaction was one that we might expect, but as I kept reading I came to the realization that God's word spoke to the depths and the length of the grief a bereaved parent experiences.  

"Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. "No," he said, "I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave." So his father wept for him." 
(Gen 37:34, 35)

Genesis 37:35 said something my heart related to immediately. "I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave." Any validation any bereaved parent is looking for in how this grief will remain with you for the rest of your life is summed up in that verse. We will carry this grief until the day we die. It is and always will be a part of us. Until we join our children in the grave. 

And it doesn't stop with grief. Later when the sons told their father they needed to take Joseph's younger brother, Benjamin, to Egypt in order to secure more food for their household during the famine, Jacob displayed the ultimate protective papa bear role. 

"But Jacob said, "My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in sorrow."
 (Gen 42:38)

The reality of losing your child (and it was a reality to Jacob because he didn't know Joseph was alive and well in Egypt) causes you to forever expect the unexpected. Always be prepared for the worst. Worry about any harm coming to any one you hold dear. I would be lying to you if I said losing Harlynn didn't make me even more protective of Haley. If I said I didn't worry about her while she sleeps. If I said I wasn't scared to death of anything and everything during this pregnancy with Little Man. The loss of something, someone, you love and cherish, makes you hold on all that much tighter to others.

Something else in the story really struck me, though. The next chapter has Jacob (reluctantly) agreeing to let Benjamin go with his brothers to Egypt. Jacob makes the following statement:

"And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. 
As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved." 
(Gen 43:14)

"As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved." So much meaning wrapped up in that small statement. I don't have the fortitude to pick that sentence apart piece by piece and express the many things Jacob was saying in those few words. I will say, though, the power of that statement hit me pretty hard. He was submitting to God's will. To God's provision. To God. I do want to point out - he wasn't "moving on" (a phrase I've come to despise), he wasn't discounting what he had been through and what he feared may happen again. Rather, he was submitting to the author of his faith. 

Wow.  I don't know about you, but Jacob has just become my brother in a very real, tangible way. 

A dear friend who lost her precious daughter passed this clip along to me. It took me a while before I could watch the whole thing. Then when I did, I was a mess. I still can't get through it (and I've watched it dozens of times) without crying. But I want to encourage you to watch until the end. It's so powerful. It's so challenging. It's so ugly and beautiful and true and just out of reach - all in one.  The commentary - I can't even speak of it without choking up. Just listen to the words. May they give you some restoration. I can imagine this is how Jacob felt. This is how I feel. Though you slay me, I will praise you. It won't be pretty. But it will be sincere. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Big Day

Today was a big day. I clocked out for the last time from behind my desk at the bank. The desk I've sat behind for five years.  That desk has been through two babies, a third pregnancy, a lot of tears, and a lot of laughs. I've had the same morning routine, the same hallway trek to the bathroom, the same faces each day, for five years. I turned off the light, carried my box of personal items out the door, and drove away. Yet, it feels no different. Like I'll be back through there on Monday. 

But I won't.

This morning Haley said, while moving her mittened hands for emphasis, "I am so excited this is daycare for the last time!" I'm always excited to pick her up from daycare at the end of the day, but after hearing her exclaim that this morning, I was really excited. She wasn't so excited when I actually showed up to get her, though. Lots of pouts, lots of delays, and lots of excuses to try to stay longer. Not that I blame her. She was at the best daycare in town (in my humble opinion), surrounded by fantastic people who have a real heart for the kids they care for. Once we got her belongings and signed her out, she raced me to the door (she always wins...this pregnant lady doesn't run. Even when she isn't pregnant.) and said once buckled in, "I get to stay home with Mommy now! Meow meow!" Apparently that's kitty talk for, "So exciting!" 

For a celebratory dinner, I drove through Burger King. Nothing says "new beginnings" like a strawberry shake and onion rings. Except maybe a steak and sparkling cider, but who has time for that? We sat around the table as a family, with our fast food feast, and as Brent and I chatted about our days, Haley sang over our conversation along to the Frozen soundtrack. It was pretty much the best dinner ever. 

The really big news of the day, however, was what happened a few minutes after lunch. I had my arm resting across my protruding belly, when my arm bounced up. Little man had kicked hard enough, I could feel him from the outside. From the outside! This is always a big deal for me. Haley was so teeny Brent only felt her move two or three times. Harlynn was a kung-fu master in-utero. She moved constantly and once she was strong enough to make my outer shell move, everyone could feel her at any given time. And now, Brent and Haley will be able to feel this little guy. It's a comforting, reassuring feeling. It makes me feel closer to him, of course, but also to Harlynn. I remember how much I loved feeling her kick the tar out of me. It was a sweet , tender moment today. 

When I came home I found an email confirming that not only will I be a contributor to Real Christian Wives, but also to Moms of Faith. I'm going to be writing about things I'm no expert in, and praying through somehow being able to some way encourage and empower wives and moms in their life journeys. Gracious me - this is big. 

It was far from a typical Friday. The last day at the bank. The first day of Haley and I spending all our time together. The first big kick from Little Man. A chance to write even more. As I close the books on today, I feel at peace. It's a good time for good things. I feel it. I haven't felt that in a long while. But I feel it today.

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.
Psalm 29:11

Friday, January 10, 2014

Nine Months

I about choke on the words, saying them. Nine months is supposed to mark the time one counts until their baby is born, not what I count to determine how long I've been without mine. Yet, here we are, nine months to the day of delivering Harlynn in that all too quiet hospital room. As time goes on I have various flashbacks of that night. The physical pain. The heartache. Holding her. I remember at one point her mouth opened as I moved her head, and my heart raced in that very instant, she's alive!, only to realize she hadn't come back to life. And she wasn't going to. I remember her chubby cheeks. Her dark hair. How much she looked like Haley. How I had felt her kick a mere 16 hours before. 

Oh sweet baby girl - what I wouldn't give to hold you again. 

It still is surreal to me that we have to drive to a cemetery, one I didn't even realize existed, to visit Harlynn. I remember that first spring day I was able to get to her grave site, and clutching the dirt as I wept over her. Gathering myself together to read her a children's Bible. Telling her things I wouldn't ordinarily share with my child, let alone an infant. 

These memories - these things that others find inexplicable, dark, even morbid - are what I have to draw on as experiences with my daughter. I don't ever regret thinking about her, remembering her, talking about her, or missing her. She was full of life within me one moment. She was gone the next. I remember feeling God weeping with us in that hospital room. I didn't understand any of it then. I didn't understand why the One powerful enough to change it, didn't. I still don't, but I understand enough to know why death happens, and that none of us are immune from it. Even precious babies.

Now, as I feel her little brother moving within me, I feel such a tug-of-war with my emotions. I want so badly for Haley to always remember Harlynn. Always consider her as her little sister. I want so badly for this little man to learn of and know and acknowledge he has two older sisters. Not just one. I don't want to force it on either of them, though. My desire is that they want to allow Harlynn to be a part of their lives. Not just because Mommy and Daddy always remember her, but because they want to know who she would have been, what she means to them, and that they have a sibling who is gone, yes, but not forgotten. Yet I also want Haley and this little man to thoroughly enjoy one another, and bond as only a brother and sister can. 

These nine months have been everything other than what we expected. We lost our daughter. Our home didn't sell. I've quit the job I've held the last five years. I met some incredible people I wouldn't know otherwise. I met Michelle. We started a non-profit. I'm expecting again. A boy. 

I would give anything to change Harlynn's story, and have her home with us. But knowing that I can't change it, no matter how much I miss her, long for her, ache for her, I'm blessed in how things have happened since losing her. People I needed to connect with, I've connected with. Helping others has helped me tremendously. I will now have a job that will allow me to be a mom all of the time. To all three of my children. I've developed empathy for people and situations I wouldn't otherwise have it for. I'm trying to listen to the whispers of God as He directs me in ways I never would have ventured on my own. I have relationships with dear, dear people I never would have met had we not shared this tragedy in our lives. 

As I grieve these nine months without Harlynn, I also find myself trying - ever so delicately - to celebrate the joy, people, and circumstances her short life led me to. My heart will never be whole, but without my brokenness, I wouldn't be where I am today, doing what I'm doing. Losing Harlynn devastated me, but it also ignited a passion within me I wouldn't have found otherwise. With all I've been through and continue to face, I'm constantly learning lessons. Constantly shifting perspective. Slowly, (ever so slowly) but surely, I'm becoming the woman I trusted God to create me to be. 

It's been nine gruesome months. I've said it before, and I'll utter it until my last breath: I wouldn't change being Harlynn's mommy. I'm blessed to have been the one to carry her. My love for her didn't die when she did. I'm grateful to be the one to carry that love with me still. 

I love you, Harlynn Renae Kleppen.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Am I Crazy?

Don't answer that. The answer is yes, but I'm the only one allowed to answer that.

After Monday's scare, I've been on pins and needles until today's appointment. I went in anxious, concerned, uptight, and hopeful I was working myself up for no reason. After losing Harlynn, though, I've learned regardless of appointment outcomes, I need to be prepared for anything. I will always expect bad news, and then I will always be overjoyed when it doesn't come.

Today I waited a good 45 minutes before getting called back for the ultrasound. It was the sonographer I had at my first perinatal appointment six weeks ago, and coincidentally, the same one who knocked on the door on Monday to interrupt the would-be ultrasound. She's a super nice gal, with a cute southern accent. It's hard to not like someone with a southern accent. She went through the ultrasound and because she was also aware of Monday's events, she made it a point to check, re-check, and check again on the heart rate of our little man. I wanted to hug her at least seven times, but I refrained. His heart rate was once again consistently in the 140s, save for the first time she checked when it was 129. 

Little man was moving constantly. He wasn't still for a second. I felt some of his movements, and that's always a thrill to feel him and watch him at the same time. At one point she paused on his little hand that was clearly signing "I Love You" to us. I can't tell you how sweet it was to see. Sure, he doesn't know what he's doing, but we saw it clear as day, and I can't help but think there was a little help from "upstairs" in giving us reassurance we - I - desperately needed. We saw him breathing. Breathing! We saw him moving his mouth. I saw his wide little feet that I'm sure he got from his daddy. I saw ten fingers and ten toes. I believed her when she pointed out organs I couldn't make out.  I was waiting for her to look concerned, and I was watching her face as often as I was watching the screen. She kept making comments like, "That's good." or "Looks good." I was wondering what she was keeping from me. Surely there had to be something.

She wrapped up and said the perinatologist would look at the results and be in to see me when she was done with her current patient. We waited a long while, but I didn't grow impatient, aside from really needing to go to the bathroom. I know that in these appointments, someone could be getting bad news, or concerning news, or needing to take an extra look at something to rule things out, and I certainly don't want to grow impatient waiting for my news as they are receiving theirs. So we waited, and I wiggled my toes as fast as I could to stave off wetting myself.

Eventually she came in, apologizing for taking a while. I had not met her before, but she was well versed in my history and file. Immediately I felt at peace once she started talking. Something about her. She went over the ultrasound and said all things were present and accounted for, everything looked really good, and there were absolutely no concerns at this time from a medical standpoint. She then said, "I'm going to hope and pray with you that everything goes well with this little guy." I started crying. She apologized for making me cry and Brent said, "It's a daily occurrence." Thanks, babe. As I dried my tears she said, "God is in control. Trust Him." She wasn't the only physician in that room. She reminded me of the Great Physician who is always present. I needed that reminder.

I asked her several questions, and she gave well-informed answers. She set forth a treatment plan going forward and gave us the instructions to leave at the check-out desk. I sat up and asked for a hug. I couldn't help myself. She obliged, and was very kind about it. She left the room and we were on our way.

I chucked my belongings at Brent and asked him to meet me out front. I had to relieve myself after holding it for a good two hours. It was a good appointment. It was a great appointment. I felt a sense of relief I haven't had in a while. It felt good. It felt really good. Walking out to the front, I saw my doctor's nurse in the hallway. She waved and I gave her two thumbs up and said, "Everything was good." "That's great!" she said. Out front, Brent was talking to Nurse Nicky, who was my earth-angel when we went through Haley's birth. I was smiling. She was smiling. It was a good appointment.

All that said, though, Monday's scare, Harlynn's death - all of those are with me. All of those will be with me. Stay with me. On Monday I was thinking, "I can't do this again. I cannot be pregnant ever again. It's too much. It's too traumatic." And in the very next thought I was resolving, "But I'm not ready to hang this up. I'm not ready to call it quits. I'm not ready to close the door to having more children."  The whole drive home I kept thinking, "I'm crazy. This is crazy. Who loses their baby, gets pregnant, is a complete neurotic disaster the entire time, and thinks, 'I'm not ready to throw in the towel'?" I'm crazy. Even if I am crazy, I'm not alone in my crazy. I know so many stories, so many people, who have gone through this more than once. Who have lost more than they have gained. And they never gave up. They never lost hope. They never let their fear stop them from pursuing their dreams of having a family. I know also, though, that they never fully enjoyed a pregnancy. They always worried. Always fretted. Expected the worst but hoped for the best. I may be thought of as crazy by someone who has no idea what I've been through or what I face on a daily basis. But by those who do understand, I'm no more crazy than they are. And we don't see ourselves as crazy so much as incredibly vulnerable, exceptionally cautious, and faithfully hopeful. 

I thought it was so interesting the responses I got after posting Monday's blog. Those who had been through it resonated with my struggling over having a boy instead of a girl. They related. They empathized. Those who haven't were elated, excited, and enthusiastic about a boy because it's a boy. There is a steep difference in the two reactions. I often wonder which camp I would be in had I not known the loss of my daughter. 

For today, though, I'm hopeful. I'm optimistic. I'm thankful for a chance to see our little man once again, and to know he is viable. He is alive. He is thriving. I prayed, as I do every day, for the chance to bring him home. Because if I am crazy, I'm crazy about my kids. All three of them.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Appointment News

We've known the gender since November 27th, but today was the day of the "big" ultrasound. We were called back to the room and I got positioned while Brent and Haley grabbed a front row seat. The very first placement of the ultrasound revealed confirmation of what we knew to be true - we are having a boy. 

When they first told us, back in November, I cried. I don't know if they were happy or sad tears, I just know I cried. Then the more I thought about it, the more I struggled. It made losing Harlynn far more intense to know we weren't having another girl. Also, we had been 2 for 2 with girls - why not a third? I had heard time after time after time, story after story after story, of people having the opposite gender baby of what they lost. This is one of the "rules" of baby loss I thought we would be exempt from. I thought we would be the exception. Surely we were going to have another girl. 


Now don't get me wrong. We love our little man desperately and are excited to meet him. It's just something very real and very present in "rainbow" pregnancies - dealing with a different gender than what was lost. After having time to process we weren't having another girl, I became excited. Haley is going to have a little brother, and I think she needs someone to rough her up once and again. I hope he's up to the task.

As the sonographer moved her equipment around checking various things, we saw one of his hands giving the Bison sign. He's already an NDSU fan. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door, followed by a "Valerie?". Long story short, since I'm high-risk, I also meet with a perinatologist from the Cities, who had scheduled an ultrasound for me this week. That being the case, they didn't think I needed to have this ultrasound today. However, my doctor still wanted to see me as we had scheduled an appointment. We did get to see little guy for a bit, so not all was lost. I cleaned up and we trekked upstairs to get in to see my doctor.

After a brief wait and Haley asking 348593485 times when the doctor was going to come in, she arrived. I hopped on the exam bed so we could hear heart tones. After measuring my stomach and getting the doppler gelled, she placed it to find the baby's heart beat.


She moved it around. She found my heart beat. She reached her hand to grab my wrist to feel my pulse. In that very instant I was catapulted back to the night I was in labor with Harlynn when the nurse did exactly the same thing. I knew what that meant. I held my breath in my throat. She moved it around more and said she was going to go get the ultrasound machine.

No. No. We just saw him! He was moving all around, he was fine! We just saw him!

As she left the room, Brent turned to me and said, "We just saw the flutter. It's fine. Everything is fine."  He grabbed my hand. She brought it in and turned off the lights. We hovered around the monitor as she searched for him on the screen. I saw it flicker and saw the heart beating. I think that was my first full breath since she had left the room. She called in a nurse and had her count seconds while she counted heartbeats. Our baby's heart was beating slowly. Too slow for a baby. It was in the 80 bpm range. She had me lay on my side to see if it helped. We watched. Waited. She counted again.

Still slow.

After watching a little while longer she said, "Well it's starting to pick up now...." Slowly, gradually, his heart rate increased. She was asking me questions, I was nodding or shaking my head in reply, wiping my tears on Brent's shirt sleeve as he held my hand. She wanted me to have an ultrasound anyway, to monitor the heart. They escorted me back to radiology in a wheelchair. The nurse had covered the wheelchair with sheets to try to warm it up some (it is the coldest day in the history of cold today). As she wheeled me to radiology and Brent and Haley followed, all I could think was, "This baby won't live if it has to be delivered today. Dear God, fix his heart. Fix his heart, because my own can't take this."

After seven vials of blood were drawn, we were back in the ultrasound room, with the same sonographer. She watched, monitored, and zoomed in on the heart. Everything appeared fine once again. Heart rate was consistently in the 140s during the ultrasound. She left the room to see if anything further was required of us. Brent grabbed my hand and Haley's, and we prayed out loud that God would make this fine. That the baby would be fine. For all time. She called up to the doctor and then came back in to tell us we were free to go home.

So....we went home. Brent asked me if I was still scared, since we had seen baby moving around and everything "was fine". I told him I was. Haley piped up from her car seat and asked, "Why are you scared?"
"Because I have absolutely no control over anything." 
Brent answered, "Well, there's that."
Yes. There's that.

My next appointment is the day after tomorrow. The in-depth level 2 ultrasound. For real this time. No appointment is easy. I'm always waiting for, expecting, them to tell me bad news. It's what I know. After the scare today, I imagine the rest of the pregnancy will be just as frightening. No control. No guarantees. 

As far as we know, it was a fluke. It could have been because I had been on my back for an extended period of time. It could have been because of nothing. It could have been.....something. We don't know. So we will go on, daily, expecting this little guy to be healthy, to be strong, and to be conditioning for watching NDSU Bison football with his big sister. She is, after all, incredibly excited to meet him.

I'm not giving you a choice, little man. You're going to come home with us. You hear me? No more scares. No more issues. You're coming home with us.

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Husband, My Hero

It is yet another freezing, blustery day outside, with a blizzard on the way, and wind-chill temperatures that will be approaching -70*.  I'm filled with thanks and gratitude for having a home, having the means to pay for heat, and sharing these walls with my wonderful little family, and I'm filled with prayer and petition for those who aren't able to say they have those things and have to survive out in this weather. I've never much thought about it before now, but as Haley and I said bedtime prayers tonight, I earnestly asked God to provide for those who are without. I also asked him to keep our power on, as no power in the middle of winter is my #2 fear, following my #1 fear of anything with more than four legs.

After I tucked Haley in I suddenly found myself with motivation I haven't had for a while, did the dishes, did laundry, cleaned our basement living area and our main floor living area. I stopped myself short of taking the recycling out to the garage. No sense in freezing to get a few cans and bottles out of the kitchen.

I was going to sit down and work on my latest knitting project, but here I sit at my keyboard instead.

I've always been pretty independent and outspoken, though losing Harlynn has tamed me quite a bit. Things I used to be insistent about aren't as important as they once were. I still have my stubborn streak, however, and I'm quite confident I can hold my own in most any situation (unless it involved my #1 fear as mentioned above). My independence and individuality were traits I was always very proud of, and worked hard to maintain. After all, they were most of what made me, well, me.  

I have to say, however, that Brent - my husband - is truly my partner in life. I seek his input, I value his opinion, and I trust his instincts. That doesn't mean I always agree with him, but my independence and outspokenness take a backseat these days. We work together, in our communication and in our actions, to find common ground, compromise, and the best possible outcome for our family. Not just ourselves. Sometimes when I push for what I want, Brent views that as me disrespecting his input or wishes. It's not that all. If I push for something, I firmly believe I have a case for it - sometimes, I even feel the Lord has placed it on my heart. And when Brent doesn't always see things from my perspective, I certainly take it personally sometimes. Though I know when I stop to think about it, he's not attacking me or my thoughts. He simply has different ones. Thus is the beauty of man and woman joining their lives in marriage. Polar opposites making the world go 'round.

My husband works his tail off to provide for his family, to make sure we're taken care of, and to be the hero of Haley and his wife. He changes light bulbs. He fills humidifiers. He kills things with more than four legs. He fixes appliances. He puts gas in the vehicles. He gets things down from high places. He takes out the recycling - even when it's freezing outside. He goes to the store in ridiculous weather because his wife wants milk. He plays games with Haley. He does princess voices for her dolls when she wants them to talk to her. He looks for her every. single. time. she hides, even though it's always in the same spot. He reads her stories. He helps me out around the house. A lot. He reads his Bible alongside me as I read mine, just because I ask him to. He clears the snow from our driveway. He mows the lawn. He gives the best hugs with his big strong arms. He makes me go to church, even when I don't want to. He talks me off the ledge when I'm teetering on crazy. He sticks up for me. He never complains when I over-cook his eggs.  

This.....this is a man who, though our views or opinions on things may differ, I absolutely admire and respect. I look at myself and the contributions I make to our household as his wife. I sometimes clean. I sometimes cook. I freak out whenever I see something with more than four legs. Especially if it has eight legs. I leave clean laundry in the basket because I despise putting it away. I water the plants. I close the garage door, because other people in this house forget to. I ask him to go buy milk. I ask him to go get take out. I ask Haley to ask her daddy to give her a bath. I say "rag" instead of "washcloth" and it drives him bonkers. I look at this man God placed (and kept) in my life, and I think to myself, "How on earth did I earn that one?" 

And the truth is, I didn't. I did nothing to earn Brent's love or affection or commitment or compassion. I maybe was a looker in my day, with a cute bit of sass and wit, but that certainly didn't warrant anyone sticking around for the long-haul. Yet, here he is. Here he is, because he has let God lead, steer, and keep his heart true to me as his wife. He has turned to God for guidance, direction, and help in those moments when he wasn't sure how to be a husband. Or daddy. And then.....he listened. Oftentimes he doesn't think he's as stellar as I think he is, but I can tell you without a doubt: This stubborn, independent, outspoken gal would be an absolute mess without him. I say it often, and I hope often enough - I thank the Lord for who he created Brent to be, and I thank Brent for listening when the Lord nudges him.