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.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Whatever, Wednesday. What. Ever.

I know you all realize I have it all together, never get bent out of shape, and that the reason I blog is to encourage you all on how to do life "right".... and I've got some ocean front property for sale right here in North Dakota.

Hold on to your hats, folks, cause I'm about to take you for a wild ride recounting my day. And it's not even 1:00 as I'm starting this blog, so this is gonna be a good one. 

Little Man has been switching it up lately with his eating routine, which is draining us of all energy awesome for us. He was eating about 11:00, then sleeping for 4 1/2, sometimes even 5 hours, at which point Brent would wake up with him for feeding. Lately, he has reverted to every three hours, which means I feed him late at night, later at night, super early in the morning, and then pray he sleeps long enough to justify waking Brent up to feed him before he has to get ready for work. Last night was no exception. I have no idea what time I love-shoved Brent to alert him to the fact it was his turn. I knew I had fed Little Man from 2:30 to 3:15, and so it had to be an appropriate time to switch parents. When I know Brent is up and taking care of Little Man, I enter the sleep-of-all-sleeps where I am completely dead to the world. I hear nothing. I dream nothing. I don't move. I barely breathe. I am so far gone from consciousness, it's ridiculous. Such was my rest this morning. At some point after being fed by Daddy, Little Man decided he was too good for his bassinet and wanted to sleep while being held. I was the only one in the room at the time, so I awoke from my hibernation and obliged to his whim. 

Usually at that point (and it happens that way just about every morning), I can sleep until Little Miss gets bored and comes in wishing to rouse me. This morning, however, I couldn't do that. I had to get up and get going because we had an appointment for Little Man at the early hour of 10:00 a.m. I'm not even being sarcastic there. With a preschooler and an infant, anything before 3:00 p.m. is way too early. I was up just after 8:00 - that would give me an hour and a half to get us all three ready, get Little Miss dropped off with a friend who lives just around the corner from the clinic, and get checked in for the appointment. Game on.

First thing's first: I had to pump. Pumping is supposed to be "Mommy's private time", but apparently in preschool-speak, that means nothing at all. I sometimes hang my head in realization I will never get private time ever again. Ever. Hanging my head causes me to need to see the chiropractor every other day, to adjust my neck. (I'll be calling soon, Dr. Mat...) Seventeen ounces lighter later, and after repeated failed requests to let Mommy have her private time, I was asking Little Miss to get herself dressed in the clothes we had laid out for her the previous night. That only took three trips upstairs to her new room (we moved her and she is so excited), and 1,945,349,324,234 times for her to check herself in our full-length mirror.

I snuggled Little Man and took him to the changing table to get him in a fresh, dry diaper, and some adorable Little-Man-Newborn clothes appropriate for the summer weather we've been having. He was a total rockstar while I changed him, completely content and very alert, taking in his surroundings. His big sister gave him a butterfly sticker, strategically placed on his outfit to later fall off and affix itself to unknown areas of my personal wardrobe, for his good behavior. I got a sticker too, for being so good while changing him.

At some point I walked into the kitchen to get myself some breakfast. However, Little Man was beginning to act like he might be getting hungry (read: inconsolably screaming), so I left the kitchen to feed him, and never did get myself any breakfast. Score one for unhealthy living. By this time, if we were going to get Little Miss dropped off, and get to the appointment in time, I had about thirty minutes in which to shower and get myself put together. I called Little Miss in for backup to feed her brother. She loves to hold the bottle for him, so long as it doesn't take him more than five minutes to eat. I figured if I could just get five minutes, I could put on eyeliner and mascara, forego the shower, and pretend to be put together. She took over feeding duties, and I went to work applying makeup so it would look like I had showered - save for the baseball cap, "comfy pants", and t-shirt I was sporting. I threw on some deodorant, and began to brush my teeth while packing bottles, diapers, and any necessary items into the diaper bag. 

Now it was the time at which I had told my friend I would be dropping Little Miss off at her house. We were going to cut it way closer than I wanted for checking in to the appointment. Times like this, my stress level starts to rise. If I'm not ten minutes (or more, if you ask my husband) early to something - anything - I consider myself late. I threw us all into overdrive to get out the door. Then I went to grab the keys.

The keys. Where are the keys? Where are the blankity-blank van keys?

We have two sets. Two. Neither of them were anywhere to be found. Nowhere. Not on the table, not on the counter, not in Brent's shorts pockets, not in my purse, not in the diaper bag, (I know, because I dumped everything out of both), not downstairs on the dryer, not upstairs on the dresser - nowhere. Neither set. Nothing. Nowhere to be found.

We all trekked out to the van. Brent had taken it to pick up our dinner last night, so maybe he did what he sometimes does, and the keys were still inside the van. 


I texted my friend not to wait up for us. I called Brent's phone forty-five-bazillion times. I knew he was in training today, because he told me so, so naturally I would call his cell phone instead of his desk phone, because if he was in training he wouldn't be at his desk. No answer. I started leaving messages like, "We're stuck at home. WHERE ARE THE KEYS?" Nothing. No answer.

I went back inside, holding a crying baby whose meal had been cut short, still calling his phone repeatedly. I checked all of the same spots again and even some new ones, just in case I had overlooked them and they would be right there, and we could get going. No keys. No keys.

Back out to the van to unbuckle Little Miss who was SO PROUD of herself for buckling her own seat, and I had to undo it. She realized we weren't going anywhere, and she started to cry. I called the clinic and told them I had to reschedule "because I have no car keys, or any idea where they might be." As she stifled a giggle, she connected me with the person who could reschedule appointments. We got that done, then I started to cry. 

We marched back in the house, all three of us crying. Apparently we didn't just lose the keys, but we lost our hopes and dreams for the entire remainder of time. As one last ditch effort, though it was a moot point now, I called Brent's desk phone. He answered on the first ring. He answered on the first. ring.

"Where have you been?! I've been calling your cell on repeat!"

He left his cell phone at home. "I emailed you..."  Of course - because getting three of us ready for an appointment scheduled way too early in the day would give me ample time to check my email - while eating the breakfast I never got to have, and enjoying the cup of coffee I never got to brew.

"Where are the keys?! I had to cancel the appointment!"

He started naming off every single place I had already checked. He didn't know where they were. Either set. We have two sets of keys and we can't find even half of one. Through gritted teeth and trying not to let on we were all three in tears, I choked out, "Whelp it doesn't matter, we're stuck. See ya later." /phone call pleasantries.

I let Little Man have the rest of his meal, as I was texting my friend we wouldn't be there, or anywhere, because the keys were MIA. I decided it was early enough, we were all ready, and it was still below boiling outside, so we should take a walk to the gas station nearby and buy some coping sugars cold drinks.

I strapped Little Man to my front in the Baby Bjorn and threw a light blanket over him to keep the sun rays at bay, sat Little Miss in the stroller, and we were off. It's probably five or six blocks to the gas station. When you have a baby strapped to you, covered with a blanket (no matter how light), you're pushing a stroller with one hand, and you're trying to recover from being sawed in half, and it's a gorgeous (intensely sunshiny, no shade) day, it may feel like twelve miles. 

When we walked into the air-conditioned Kum & Go, I wanted to stay inside until Brent got off work and could come pick us up to take us home. Instead, I grabbed myself 52 ounces of ice and carbonation, grabbed Little Miss a tiny bottle of 100% apple juice (all about arsenic and faux-health here...), threw in a half-size container of Pringles, and plopped it all on the counter. The clerk said, "Boy do you have your hands full." I feigned a smile. I wanted to say, "Yes, but I still have room to hold some keys, if I had any!" and then laugh maniacally, because I felt like being completely loony. I stuck with a feigned smile. I paid for our items, backed out the door, and we were on our way back home.

Thankfully, there was a breeze, and it kept us cool enough for me to survive the six block walk back. It took forever - or felt like forever - because my abdomen was aching and I had somehow adopted an awkward gait of turning my hip out to the right as I went along. (Like I said, I'll be calling you soon, Dr. Mat...) Once we made it home, I parked the stroller, grabbed my camp chair that had sat out all night in the rain, and seated my duff squarely in it's inviting pink fabric. I took off the bjorn, removed Little Man from its confines, popped open the chips, and we had a little late-morning snack in the shade. Eventually I realized I needed to get Little Man inside so I could change him. He smelled. When I picked him up, however, I realized it was me. I smelled. Swoob, milk, and defeat had all mixed together for a most attractive aroma. I guess it's a good thing I skipped the shower earlier, so I can really enjoy it later.

When we all went inside to grab some lunch and regroup, I was down from my crazy-train mindset, and reveling in the fact that I took both kids on a walk, had us all dressed (if you count the fact that I changed into clean "comfy" clothes from my pajama comfy clothes), and enjoying a summer morning. Enjoying, after freaking out about not having any keys and having to reschedule an appointment. 

I still haven't found Little Man's butterfly sticker he earned for good behavior, but if I had to guess, I'd say its sparkly silver self is affixed to my bottom or some other such location, acting as a safety reflector while we went on our neighborhood walk. Along one of the busiest roads in town. 

I realized I had a blog published regarding marriage advice, so of course that means Brent and I would endure some intense fellowship. It happens every single time. I also remembered to check my email, where I saw Brent's note letting me know he has left his phone at home and asking me if I could drop it by on our way to or from the appointment. Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahahahaha!

When it's all said and done, if you can't laugh (even maniacally), you can cry. And then you can laugh. And then later when your husband comes home from a long day at work, you can make him look for the keys while you cook him dinner and apologize for yelling at him. Then you can send him to the store to buy a decorative little hanger for the keys that will go right by the door so they have a place at all times and never have to be looked for again. Ha.    Haha.     Hahahahahahahahahaha!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My Hero: My Husband

It's time for my annual "Hey it's almost my anniversary, so let me brag on my husband a little bit" posts. Try to settle down, I know you can't wait to read them.

Four weeks ago, we had our third baby. Two and a half weeks prior to that, I was on bed rest and in and out of the hospital multiple times. For the previous seven/eight months, I was feeling sick, tired, and generally over-the-top hormonal. Who was there cleaning the house, cooking the meals, and caring for Little Miss, most especially by giving her baths once I could no longer bend? My husband. Prior to that, I was grieving Harlynn's death most intensely. Prior to that, I was pregnant with her, with about the same feelings of illness, bed rest, etc. So, for close to two years running, my husband has been the bread winner, housekeeper, chef, and parental control department in our home.

He's a little ready for a break. 

Too bad, though, he doesn't get one. Whabam!

Why not? Well, Monday I started feeling like total doo. I hurt all over and in one .... um, area .... in particular. I ended up with a ridiculous fever, knocked clean on my duff unable to move. Mastitis hit once again.

I say "once again" because with Little Miss, I had it nine - yes, you read that correctly - nine times. The problem blessed situation is, I produce so much stinkin' milk, that my pump and my babies can't keep up. So something somewhere gets plugged, ends up infected, and I get super sick. With Little Miss, however, I just had her to worry about. And for whatever reason, I almost always came down with it on a Friday and was better by Monday. So I was sick the whole weekend, but didn't have to miss much work because of it.

This time, though - oh my word. I don't remember feeling this sick any of the previous times. Now, I could not remember because it was over four years ago, or I could not remember because I never actually felt this sick, or I could not remember because my memory is terrible. Regardless, I was so sick Monday night and yesterday especially, I was ready to be done with breastfeeding altogether. Done. Formula, here I come! But then, I remembered how I somehow survived getting it so often with Little Miss. I was able to breastfeed her for 11 months, and then we had enough supply stored, she ate on it for another two months following. I remembered how Little Man spit up continuously in the hospital after his supplemental formula feedings to get his blood-sugar level back up to par. I remember how much I loathe incessant spit up. (Almost as much as any amount of drool.) On breastmilk, he has spit up all of three times, they've all been minimal amounts, and all - coincidentally - on my shoulder. So there's that. Mmmm, love the new perfume, Val. Why thank you - it's called 'What Once Was Within'.

Monday night as I silently sobbed while trying to work this infection out of my body, Brent came in to the bedroom and said, "I underestimated your level of pain. Is there anything I can do?" He's a no-nonsense, to-the-point romantic. Love him. I asked him through my tears if he would refill my water jug. Not only did he fill my water jug, but then sat next to me with his arm around me, trying to provide some sort of comfort. The next morning as he was getting ready for work, I was trying not to freak out. I didn't know how I was going to survive with him gone. I was so miserably sick and I could hardly move, let alone care for two littles flying solo. He asked me if there was anything he could do, and my reply was "stay home." If you saw how sick I was, you would think him staying home might be a no-brainer. Duh. Newborn, preschooler, bed-ridden mother - yes, Dad should stay home. However, Brent used all of his time off to accompany me to doctor appointments, hospital visits, and Little Man's actual delivery and first week at home. His time was burned up on account of me already. His staying home wasn't entirely an option. I asked him if he could just wash the bottles so that would be one thing I wouldn't have to do, and I would try to wing it from there. Several minutes later, Brent came back into the bedroom to tell me, "I'm not going to work until 1:00." Thank you, God. That would put us right at nap time and then I would really only be on my own for a couple of hours instead of all day. 

Not only is he a remarkable husband, but he is an absolute example of everything a Daddy should be. He is his daughter's prince. He wears stickers and necklaces so he can be her king when she plays queen. He colors with her. On the floor. He holds his infant son and looks at him with admiration only a Daddy could have. Even when he (thinks he) doesn't know what to do, he pulls it off. He rocks. What he is as a husband, he surpasses with what he is as a Daddy.

And here, ladies and gentlemen, is another prime example of what sacrificial love is all about. Brent doesn't want to cook dinner every night. He doesn't want to be solely responsible for keeping the dishes done or the laundry washed. He doesn't want to be solely responsible for ensuring our children are properly cared for. But sometimes, he doesn't have a choice. Does he complain about it? No. He mans up, and he does it without mutterings. He even enjoys it sometimes. And at the end of the day, whether it's been a rough one or not, he can go to sleep knowing he did everything he could to provide for his family in every way they needed it.

He's a much better spouse than I am. He's a better husband than I ever bargained for. He's an amazing Daddy. I say "I love you" and he wants to know why. He wants to know why! As if there would be any reason I couldn't. 

So as I take more time yet to recover not only from sleep deprivation and surgery, but now a case of mastitis, my husband is here to take the reigns as doer-of-all for our home. God bless him. I stinkin' love this man.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Days I Fail

I could write this post every day, because every day, whether largely obvious or not, I fail. At one thing or all things, I crash and burn and make a whole big example of how not to do something. When I pray to lead by example, I usually envision doing something stellarly awesome, amazingly right, and having people reach their "aha!" moment by watching my graceful handling of any given situation. And taking notes. And saying, "Wow, that Val, she is such an awesome example!" Instead, I usually end up modeling what not to do, how not to handle something, or how to utterly flop a reaction to any given scenario.

Today is that day. Every day is that day. I fail. A lot.

Last night, Little Man went four hours (*cue angels singing*) before waking up for feeding. It was a terrific encouragement, however, it then took me nearly two hours to fall back asleep. Once I did, Little Miss decided she was "starving" and came into my room to tell me so. She was up well before her noted wake up time we have written by her digital clock to let her know when it's acceptable to rise and shine. I very - very - begrudgingly got up and situated her requested breakfast. I all but threw it on the table and somehow, in a hazy fog, made it back to my bedroom where Little Man was writhing in his own starving despair. I changed his diaper, laden with one of the biggest baby poops I've ever had a diaper fully contain (praising God for that small miracle) and he began to cover both of us in a celebratory stream of urine. This made us both pretty upset.

Three weeks out from surgery, and fresh out of heavy-hitting pain pills, I find myself doing more than I probably should. All activity is followed with pangs of aching across my midsection. I try to favor my abdomen by sitting or standing differently, which then makes my back, legs, and feet hurt. I'm in pain almost all of the time, to varying degrees. I'm also sleep deprived. I have always loved sleep - hours and hours of sleep - and when I'm jilted of even a few minutes, I turn into a nasty honey badger of a beast. I haven't had a full-night's rest in a couple of months. You can imagine the torment I'm putting those I come into contact with through, as a result of not getting my mood-beauty-rest. Snap-Crackle-Pop, Mom's lost it.

This morning, all of these little flops came together in a beautifully cohesive bond to form a big, honking, cluster of chaos. Little Man was crying, I was crying, Little Miss ended up crying because I made her wear a neglected skirt instead of a dress, and we were all ready for this day to be done with. And it was only 8:00 a.m.

Don't let his duck face fool you...
If I wasn't holding a crying baby or preschooler, I was holding my head in my hands, muttering something along the lines of, "I can' this...." I begged Brent to come home as soon as he could. Like take-vacation-or-sick-time kind of come home.

I have an infant completely dependent on me. I love it - it's my favorite stage of babyhood. However, combined with sleep deprivation, being attached to a milking machine, and living in cluttered chaos, sometimes having my hands full of an adorable being whose survival depends solely on me makes me twitch. Add to that feelings of guilt for being so inept in adequately appreciating the little life I prayed for. Then, I have a preschooler who's desperate for quality attention from her mommy, to the point where I cannot shower, go to the bathroom, pump, blink, or breathe without having her company and hearing her bazillion ideas for the many things we can play and imagine together. Add to that also, feelings of guilt for not jumping at the chance to delve into her imaginary pleasures and instead wanting ten minutes where I can curl up in a dark closet by myself.

Any other mother would have it together, not be wanting to cry every time the words "I need a nap" cross her lips, and would be a more pleasant and more willing presence in their children's life. Any other mother except all other mothers who have days where they fail, like I am having today. And like I - we - will have many other days.

I remember one night as we said bedtime prayers, it had been a scumtastic day, and sweet, adorable Little Miss uttered, "I want to be just like you when I grow up, Mommy." Cue melting to a puddle of unworthy goo. If she can cut past the malarkey, mood swings, and tears of frustration and somehow still desire to want to be anything even remotely like the mess I am, surely I can't be all that bad.

I have to remind myself - if I feel like I'm doing this mothering thing completely wrong, somewhere in there, I'm doing it right. If Little Miss wants to be with me at all, even when I'm begging her through sternly clenched jaw to give me some space, I can't be a total monster. If Little Man is growing and snuggling and generally content, I can't be neglecting him like I sometimes think I am.

Moms, back me up on this. Sometimes feeling like a complete and total failure is the only way we can measure our success. I am living my dream life, despite the bad days. The good days, memories, and times I "nail it", will (hopefully) far outweigh their counters. I'm an example, whether it's being awesome at one thing, or displaying the importance of trial-and-error at a million things. I wanted to be a Mommy, I wanted to stay home with my kids, and as crazy as they will make me sometimes, (or as I will make myself, most likely) I can do this. I can do this.

I suck at being a perfect mom. I always will. And my kids will love me for it, because by golly, I'm trying.

By the way, she later embraced (and accessorized) her attire and proclaimed queen-hood over our home.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ten Observations

I've noticed a few things since Little Man has arrived in our lives.

1. It's far easier to change a girl's diaper. Little Man has a loaded weapon and no aiming or timing skills. There is also more area for his poo to hide and/or cover. Changing his diaper as quickly and efficiently as possible reminds me of the calf-roping event at a rodeo. After I'm done, I feel like I should throw both hands up in the air and call time.

2. There are tasks I can still perform while sleeping. I don't know what they are, I just know when I wake up, whatever was going on has been mostly resolved. The only time I have a clue as to what was happening, is when I fell asleep after starting the activity. Most notably, the task I'm best at while sleeping is turning off any and all alarms set for waking up.

3. The more times you hold your baby, the faster your arms fall asleep. Circulation is overrated, and has been compromised in other parts of my body as well. The other night I reached down to rub my foot and was surprised I couldn't feel it. It was only in the following moments I realized I was still wearing my slippers, and had been massaging a rubber sole.

4. Falling asleep at night is a far different routine than it used to be. How it works now:

  • Brent and I decide we're going to fall asleep.
  • Three minutes later:
    • Brent: zzzzzzzz
    • Val: "....and thank you for the trees, and the birds singing, and please bless our home and keep it safe...."
  • Seven minutes later:
    • Brent: ZzZzZzZzZzZzZzZ
    • Val: and we need to buy bacon, milk, romaine hearts, baby carrots, another lemon meringue pie....
  • Twelve minutes later:
    • Val: I need to go make sure the door is locked and the garage door is shut...
  • Thirty-four minutes later:
    • Brent: Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z (short breath) Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z
    • Val: Well, it's time to pump again.....
  • An hour later:
    • Brent: rolling over because I have love-shoved him enough times to disturb him.
    • Val: Wow, I got a solid five minutes of sleep just then...

5. I am tired at all hours of the day and night, except for nap time. This is a cursed anomaly of motherhood. I really want to sleep when my babies are sleeping....but falling asleep is a little harder for me. (See #4)

6. People like to give me unsolicited advice as if Little Man is not only my first child, but the first baby I have cared for ever. I really enjoy it, if you liken "enjoy" to sticking yourself in the eyeball with a hot fire poker.

7. I can't get enough snuggles or kisses. I am addicted to them, and can't go more than a few minutes without a fix. From Little Miss, and from Little Man, I have to constantly go back for kiss and snuggle hits. Little Miss is far less sloppy with her kisses, but no matter how slobbery, they're all worth it. 

8. My right eye cries tears of sorrow while my left eye simultaneously cries tears of overwhelming joy. Or vice versa. I am so in love with my kids, and that includes being head-over-heels for Little Man - while I greatly miss their sister, Harlynn. I wish she were here to meet them, and they were able to meet with and play with her as well.

9. It all comes back to you. Like riding a bike. The diaper changing, the bottle washing, the nursing, the incredible amounts of baby laundry - it's as if you never took a break in time away from it, and you remember how to do everything.

10. Have I mentioned I am completely in love with Little Man?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day

I never imagined Mother's Day could be both celebrated and forlorn. Yet that is my Mother's Day every year now. I have the amazing, incredible blessing of being a mother. I have three beautiful children, yet only two are with me this side of heaven. I cherish the moments that make motherhood the beautiful journey of sacrifice and struggle, and even more so the moments that make it so rewarding and downright fun. But there are moments when the heartache is heavier than expected. When the sadness covers me like a cloud. Regardless, there is no child I would trade. No family I would have other than my own. No children I would want more than the three I've been blessed with. Mother's Day may not be 100% "happy", but it is 100% worthwhile. A day not that I am celebrated, but that I get to celebrate the children I have, their father who stands by my side, and the fact that my heart is large enough to hold boundless love for these kiddos of mine. 

No matter where you find yourself on the road of motherhood, I pray you have a tender day. May you be filled with the peace that transcends from a heart filled with love. May you believe and understand only you can know how deep your roots of mothering have grown, and that no storm of life, no matter how strong, will uproot you from your motherhood. No matter the struggle, no matter the pain, no matter the reward, your mother's heart will forever make this journey worthwhile.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Read This...

It's as if the author was in my head. And far more eloquent.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

He's Here.

It's a miracle he's here. It's a miracle any of us are here, really. But we could have lost him. To have him here, safe and alive, means more than you'll ever be able to understand. His arrival doesn't mark the end of our journey, but rather a new beginning in it.

Heston Emmanuel came five weeks early, April 25th.

I had been in the hospital and sent home three times already. Every time he was on the fetal monitor, he was fine. My vitals were fine. He passed every biophysical ultrasound with flying colors. Something was amiss, though. It would have gone undetected. One doctor decided to order a cord doppler, because Heston's heartbeat was "too" steady for a considerable amount of time. He spoke to us about our options and what the results meant. Heston's doppler showed his body was working a little too hard to push his blood, but sometimes these dopplers were inconsistent and not a good gauge of what was going on. He called the perinatologists in Minneapolis. They weren't at all concerned. We were sent home, but not before having another doppler ordered for the following Monday. 

That doppler showed more of the same. One more doppler was ordered for three days later. That was worse. Potential reversal blood flow. I was admitted, put on constant monitoring, and a cesarean was scheduled for the next morning. No one was going to mess around anymore. This was too much to stress over. It was time to deliver.

All this time and with every appointment and hospital admission, my greatest fear was Heston would pass away and we would be left saying, "If only we had taken him sooner." Every NST and biophysical ultrasound was fine. He was "fine". But so was Harlynn. Harlynn was always fine and then her heart stopped beating. She never had a cord doppler. The minute the doctor explained to us what this was, what it meant, and what the potential was - I knew in my heart, this is what took Harlynn's life. If we didn't act appropriately, it would take Heston's. 

The next morning I walked into the operating room. The spinal was administered, I was situated on the operating table, and the surgery began. A NICU nurse came up and said, "I didn't know it was you!" and kissed me on the forehead. Nurse Erin. She had been our NICU nurse several times while Haley was in the NICU and had become a good friend of our family. She was there to intercept Heston and care for him in whatever way he needed, since he was arriving five weeks early. She had gotten a call to come in for a 35-week c-section. She had no idea it was us. We had no idea she had been called. It was a divine appointment. Two weeks prior to this cesarean, I had gone into preterm labor and had been given steroid shots and magnesium. These would play a big part in helping Heston on his delivery day.

Delivery Under Way
Heston, being cared for by Nurse Erin
He came out, trying to cry but unable to at first. Once he was suctioned, we heard tiny squeaks and squeals. As I turned my head to watch him in the warming bed, I couldn't stop crying. He was here. He was here, and he was alive. And he was crying. Mama was too. Five weeks early, he was a whopping 6 pounds 7 ounces. And he was hungry. His blood sugar was low, so Daddy rushed off to supplement him with some formula. About an hour or so later, he was brought into my room and I was able to see and hold him. My son.

I can't describe to you the sheer relief I felt. He was here. I could hold him. See him. Watch him breathe. He was here. He was alive. Alive. During delivery, the doctor informed me his umbilical cord was exceptionally short. He wouldn't have "made it" through labor. He was here. He was alive

Is it a coincidence I was in the hospital over Harlynn's one year heavenversary, receiving steroid shots and magnesium? No. Is it a coincidence I ended up in the hospital "unnecessarily" only to have a cord doppler ordered that revealed potential threat? No. Did God hear my pleadings in getting this boy here safe and thriving? Absolutely. Do I think Harlynn helped? Without a doubt.

The moments and days following are a blur. I was drugged up. I was in serious pain. I had been sawed in half, but I was on cloud nine. I was trying to focus on my baby and getting us home to our family. Heston was in the NICU all of 4 1/2 hours. He was fine. He was coming home with us. Thank you, Lord.

I felt - and still feel - a swarm of conflicting emotions. Since losing Harlynn, my inner circle of friends has grown smaller. I find I mostly only communicate with other loss moms. They get it. They understand it. They don't offer up platitudes or nonsensical solutions. They don't make the situation, or simple conversation, about themselves. I found, even in the hospital when visitors would come by, some of them were speaking only of themselves. It was infuriating. We almost lost him. He's here. His sister isn't. I don't give two shakes about your day. I was operated on to get him here. Alive. His day is the only one I care about. 

After we lost Harlynn, we had people who had been in our lives forever, slowly and eventually fade out. They stopped calling. They stopped talking. They stopped. And that's fine - it happens, and I read about it happening, and I knew - but it's still sad. It's still a loss to grieve in addition to losing our daughter. Relationships will never be the same again. Ever. It happens. It's unfortunate. It's reality. We also had people who weren't in our lives before suddenly show up with force. Trying to reckon how they could support us and doing what they could when they thought too. And it was strange. They hadn't been in our lives before and now, suddenly, they were an ever-present force. It was weird. It was uncomfortable. It was surreal. With the arrival of Heston, some of that shifted. Some who dropped out of our lives earlier suddenly tried to eke back in, so they could meet and hold our baby. Some who suddenly showed up after Harlynn, tried to take command once more for the position they had "earned" in supporting us through losing our daughter. I didn't want any of it. All I wanted was my family. My husband, my daughter, my son. My circle of loss moms who shed tears when they laid eyes on Heston. Who shook their heads in disbelief that he was here. The people who never shifted in their support for us. They were here before, and they've been here since, and never once have sought recognition or reward for standing by us. My circle. And to sleep while holding my baby. That was all I wanted.

The day we were discharged was somewhat infuriating. It took four hours to leave the hospital, then when I came home, nothing was what I expected. The diaper genie was still in it's box, in the living room. The bassinet hadn't been cleaned once brought in from the garage. There was stuff everywhere. Stuff. You know how I am about stuff. But we were home. With Heston. It was glorious. And maddening. All at once. I looked at Heston and broke down in tears several times. Those tears were a combination of elation and sorrow. Relief and sadness. Excitement and longing. I am in love with this Little Man. I still miss his sister. Knowing in my heart how she died, though medically we'll never have 100% proof positive of that, I feel a sense of relief and of simultaneous despair. If only we had taken her sooner...

I was a mess that first day. I've been a mess intermittently since. Today I would have been 37 weeks pregnant with Heston. Thirty seven weeks, and he may not have still been alive. But instead I have a two week old baby, who eats and potties like a total champ. He cries when he's unclothed. He hates having his diaper changed. He's peed on me twice. He is a charmer, and we are all completely smitten with him. Especially Little Miss. She adores him, covers him with kisses, and it's adorable. She is an awesome big sister.

No, our journey is not over. And now, ahead of us, we have the responsibility of letting Heston know about his sister, Harlynn, and how she has impacted our lives, and the lives of those we've been allowed to be a part of through Harlynn's Heart. We'll miss her while loving on Little Miss and Little Man. We're now a family of 4 + 1. 

I am forever changed. Forever changed in how I parent my kids, how I am a wife to my husband, and how I relate (or don't relate) to other people. Some don't like me. Some don't like who I've become. Some don't like how I've changed. I'm okay with that. This isn't about them. I can't please everyone, nor will I try. The only thing I can do is give thanks to God He brought my son here safe and sound. He put that doctor in the room with the whim to order the cord doppler. He didn't allow my husband or daughter to once again go through the heartache of losing another child. This isn't about other people. This isn't about me. This isn't about my kids. This is about God getting us through the worst and best times of our lives, and carrying us gently, lovingly, and truthfully, through until the very end. 

Unless the LORD had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, "My foot is slipping," your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. ~ Psalm 94:17-19