Needing some prayers

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Here I am again, staring at a blank page. I’m not really sure how to even begin because that’s exactly how I feel; BLANK. On the morning of August 2, one year and two days after my last positive pregnancy test, I finally was staring down on two little pink lines. This time was different than the last three times I received a positive result. After two losses and months and months of negative tests, those two little pink lines instilled a great fear in me. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a tad bit of hope, but mostly I was terrified. What if I lose this one too? Will Annie ever really get to be a big sister? I think I feared most because after so long, there was finally some hope that she would, and I wasn’t sure how I’d survive if that hope was yet again, as it has been every time, crushed. 

Why can’t I be one of those women who pees on a stick, calls her husband to share the news, and goes on in excitement not even thinking that there could be anything other than a baby at the end of nine months? I would love to be that girl. I never will. Whether or not I am ever given the great gift of becoming a mother for a second, or hopefully fourth or fifth, time, I will never get to face a pregnancy without fear. 

It’s been a very, very difficult year for my little family of three. Adjusting to a move from abroad. Starting that year with the loss of a pregnancy. Endless fertility appointments and treatments. Our basement flooding three times. I have distanced myself from friends. I have let myself become bitter in this endless obstacle course to fulfill my dreams of another child. I have lost my faith, regained it, and lost it again. I have felt broken and helpless and at fault. The obstacles and loneliness of infertility are impossible to describe. It weathers a marriage. It controls your life. It crushes dreams. Friends stop calling because they don’t know what to say and are probably tired of hearing the same sad news. 

This weekend I lost this pregnancy. After my first miscarriage, I went into a state of complete sadness. After my second, a state of anger. Now, probably because I was so scared this would happen, all I feel is numbness. I feel like I am drowning in hopelessness. 

When we found out I was pregnant, all I could do was pray that we were starting this year out differently than the last. A year ago I was experiencing this very same thing. I have no words to describe my pain. All I know is that I don’t want this year to be like our last. I need to find a way to move forward without fear, without bitterness, with hope. 

Infertility has brought so much sadness and negativity into my life, but it has also taught me so much and brought along some positive things too. I never for one second take Annie for granted. She is my greatest gift and my miracle. Having such a hard time giving her a sibling, has made me more grateful than ever that she made it here. I squeeze her harder and treasure every second knowing I might not get to do this again. When you lose something, it makes you appreciate the things you have that much more. A friend once said to me as I was crying to her over the phone about how hard the infertility has been, “I am so worried about you, and I am so worried that Annie has to see you so sad all the time.” This is something no one in my life should ever worry about. My daughter brings so much joy, it would be impossible to shed a tear in front of her. When I am with her the sadness disappears. I sometimes get sad playing with her or watching her play and picturing her playing with her siblings I can’t seem to get here for her, but that’s about it. Annie has been my greatest rock, she keeps me going. 

My experiences with infertility have deepened my friendships. When you share hardships with someone, it is amazing the support that is provided. The understanding that nothing can be said, but sometimes a silent moment on the phone can mean so much. When overcome by loneliness, these friends let you know you are not alone. I wish my friends and my sister that have experienced this, and some of them for so much longer than myself, didn’t have to. I wish I could wish every single one of their losses and struggles away. But knowing that I am not alone and that I have someone to talk to who really understands, gets me through the hardest times and helps me to move forward. I am forever indebted to their support and love and deep understanding. 

Though infertility has brought great challenges to my marriage, it has also brought me closer to my husband. Mike can attest that over the years there have been plenty of times that our infertility has caused great distance between us. But it also always brings us back, and each time it brings us closer than before. We share everything. And sharing heartache and devastation and hopelessness builds unbreakable bonds. We are able to move forward by also sharing dreams and hope and the joy of Annie. We hold each other up and give each other the strength to keep going. Michael, I love you so much, I don’t know what I would do without you. 

My goals this year will be different than the last, and I hope this helps to bring a better year and future. My number one goal last year was to get pregnant, to give Annie a sibling. Our due date would’ve been April 8, 2015, one week after Annie’s 4th birthday. I can’t focus on what’s not happening and what I have no control over. I will survive and move forward focusing on all the gifts that are already here, and there are so many.

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Thank you for reading, thank you for your support, and, as always, accepting all prayers.

 

Family

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Today we found out, for what seems like the umpteenth month in a row of fertility treatments, that we are once again NOT pregnant. I was supposed to test this morning, and because I knew it was Annie’s birthday, had decided earlier in the month that I would wait until tomorrow. But I had been experiencing what I thought were pregnancy symptoms the past few days and thought, “What a great birthday present a pregnancy would be?”  So at 6:30 a.m., I rolled out of bed and headed downstairs to take a pregnancy test. After three minutes of anxiety and desperate prayers, it was confirmed that we are still not pregnant.

For those who have never experienced infertility, it is impossible to understand the grief that each month brings. For 2 1/2 years we have been trying for a sibling for Annie. For the past six months, I have let my world revolve around it. Praying to God each month not to let me get to what would have been another due date without a pregnancy. Our last loss was in August. Our due date was April 6. So this morning I faced this year’s greatest fear. I sat on the floor in our bathroom and let myself feel the warm tears stream down my face. I didn’t sob, I just let my tear ducts do the work. And for the next five minutes I let myself be numb to everything else but those tears. I composed myself, disposed of the little white stick with only one line, (I am starting to hate those little white sticks) and headed upstairs. I wasn’t planning on telling Mike. Not today, not on Annie’s 3rd birthday, a day that should be filled with nothing but celebration.

So I crawled back in bed with my husband. Our morning routine started and before long Annie was in bed with us. We sang her “Happy Birthday” and gave her birthday kisses (well, we give her kisses everyday, so not really different to her than any morning). And then I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I couldn’t bare the weight of my sadness, the hopelessness on my own, not today. So I told him. There is no word to describe the disappointment and despair that instantly appeared on his face. We have gone through this monthly, so each month seems harder than the last. I told him I was sorry I told him, that I couldn’t bare not to tell him though, and said we needed to focus on all that we had to celebrate today, an amazing three-year old! But still the sadness hung over us both.

Here’s the thing: For months and months and months, I have been obsessing over giving Annie a sibling. SomeONE that will love her, teach her, and want to be just like her. SomeONE that will admire her, play with her in the park, and share a room with her. SomeONE that will be there to look out for her when her parents aren’t around anymore. SomeONE to laugh with her, someONE for Annie to make smile and to bask in the joy that Annie brings. ONE person. I have let something I cannot control affect my life. I have obsessed over the fact that I can’t bring ONE person here for her.

And then this morning something miraculous happened. This next sentence is going to make me sound totally insane. I opened Facebook. There were already twenty something messages and posts from others dedicated to celebrating Annie, to wishing her a happy birthday.

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1511088_10100679545407460_1740393927_n“Happy Birthday to the coolest kid I know”

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I can’t believe this little nugget is THREE! Miss that smile and her infectious giggles! Happy birthday, Bean!!

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Happy Birthday to my main squeeze!”

The outpouring of love that we have received on our daughter’s third birthday has been overwhelming. On a day I started out feeling so helpless, you made me realize that Annie already has so much. She may not have a sibling YET, but she has touched so many lives and so many have touched hers. She has only been here three years. Just three years! And I never imagined she would be so loved by so many.

My husband posted the following message today.

Today, Colleen and I celebrate our daughter, Annie, on her THIRD BIRTHDAY.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KIDDO! THREE YEARS OLD?!?! Incredible how quickly time flies! Unending thanks to all who have sent birthday wishes today and for the unfailing support that you have given over Annie’s lifetime. Colleen and I are so fortunate to have such a loving family – and Annie also fortunate for having so many aunts and uncles!

Oggi Colleen ed io festeggiamo il TERZO COMPLEANNO di nostra figlia, Annie!
TANTISSIMI AUGURI TESORO! TRE ANNI!!! Quanto vola il tempo! Mille mille grazie a tutti voi che avete mandato gli auguri oggi. Vi ringraziamo di tutto il sostegno che ci avete sempre dato nel corso della vita della pupa. Colleen ed io siamo fortunatissimi di avere una famiglia che ama e che dà così liberamente – e Annie è anche fortunata di avere così tanti zii!

In just hours 178 people liked it. My phone has been buzzing non-stop since the moment I woke up, with messages, texts, emails, voicemails. You didn’t let an hour of our day go by without reminding us of the love that fills our daughter’s life.

I’m still praying for that ONE little person to add to our family. I have been blessed by five bonds that only siblings share. But today you made me realize that Annie will never be alone. She will never be without love. When she was born I was so scared of what the world would think of my daughter. Would they include her? Would they bully her? Would they turn away from her? Would she ever be loved by others outside of our families? I am not scared anymore. One of my friends posted this today, “celebrating the birth of a child that is the source of so much happiness makes me feel so lucky to be part of this extended family. love u 3.”  It brought tears to my eyes, but what really struck me was “family.” And as soon as I saw this, it clicked. I have been burying myself in stress, sadness, and hopelessness that I can’t give her the family I have planned for her. But our Annie has been like a magnet for love, and because you all share in her joy, because you don’t turn away, because you have embraced her in a way I never knew possible, I am confident she has the most incredible family already.

Happy Third Birthday Kiddo! We are so proud of you, love you so much, and can’t wait to see how you make our family grow in the next three years!

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Moving Forward

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It feels like eons since I last sat down to a blank page on this blog. And for those of you that enjoy my posts and have been urging me to get back to my writing, I apologize. However, I see the fact that it has been over four months since I’ve opened this page as a blessing. You see, writing is my therapy. And when I am not writing it usually means that things in my life are really great and busy and there is no time to stop and write because I don’t want to miss a second of all that greatness. It’s when I am feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or worried, that I sit down to write and it makes everything better. It gives me the perspective I need, helps me find my way.  Today I really need some perspective. And furthermore, am not sure how I’ll find my way. Let’s see where this goes.

The past four months have been incredibly amazing. We witnessed the election of a new Pope. We had tons of visitors to Rome in the Spring and made lots of memories with really great friends. My husband was promoted to a job with the University which has taken us from Rome back to Chicago. Our Annie was kissed by the Pope. (I promise to share the story of this incredible day soon.) We traveled to Atlanta, Kiawah Island, and Charleston for an amazing family vacation. Annie got to be a flower girl, again. We packed up our life and sent it on a boat.  (I’m pretty sure our things are floating pretty close to the Atlantic shore line by now, at least I hope so.) We spoiled ourselves and splurged on a last trip before our move. We spent an entire week in Sardinia, just the three of us. It was the most glorious and relaxing vacation of my life. We said some really hard goodbyes. We welcomed a niece and a nephew.

Saying goodbye to Rome was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Leaving the home where you first nursed your firstborn, where you experienced your first bouts of morning sickness, where friends smothered you with support and love when family was thousands of miles away, can only be described as bittersweet.  And even though we have so many blessings coming with this move, it still feels more bitter than sweet. Annie’s first home.  How do you say goodbye to that? Another post for another day.

For most of the past year I had been obsessing over the fact that I wasn’t getting pregnant. I had lost the last pregnancy a year and a half ago. We didn’t understand why it wasn’t happening for us. Our Ob/gyn started us on clomid, a hormone therapy to help with ovulation, in February. It made me sick and wasn’t working so after three months, I stopped taking it. I had a long talk with our campus minister. And decided to “let go and let God.” He told me to just give it up to God. And so I did. I stopped stressing, stopped even thinking about it. I took in every moment of our last months in Rome. And feel completely blessed that I can say we lived those last months so well and completely. We made more memories in those last three months than in the last three years. I was feeling good, calm, and relaxed. It had been a while.

The morning we left Rome for our big move home was filled with lots of emotions. After a sleepless night in our tiny apartment, we packed a few last things, said a few last minute goodbyes, and found out we were pregnant. Literally an hour before the car came to take us to the airport. I couldn’t have been more elated. And I couldn’t have felt more confident that things were going to be great. A new start with an expected new addition. It couldn’t have been more perfect, or made more sense. We found out we were pregnant with Annie practically the day before we moved to Rome. And now we found out we were expecting again hours before our move back to Chicago. Another April baby, I already have all the maternity clothes for these seasons. What amazing luck!

We arrived in Chicago and moved in with my parents. Mike and I were on cloud nine. Mike started work the very next day and things began moving entirely too quickly. A car purchase, 33 house showings in three days. I was feeling overwhelmed. We weren’t finding what we wanted or could afford in the areas we wanted. I was stressed and you would think having to pee every five minutes would have only agitated me more and added to the stress. I got to check the plumbing in 30 of 33 of those homes. But we had waited so long for a pregnancy since our last loss that my frequent visits to the bathroom only brought me giddiness and joy. After three days of serious house hunting, we found a home we are pretty excited about. We decided to take a break from the hunt and slow down a bit.

On Friday morning I had some light bleeding and made an appointment to immediately see a doctor. (Oh, yeah, we’re starting over in this department too. And I’m not super happy with the care I am currently receiving, so if anyone has some great recommendations of Ob/gyns in the western suburban area, please send them my way.)   My HCG (pregnancy hormone) levels were normal and the nurse practitioner didn’t seem too concerned. The next day I was put on progesterone and by Monday I thought maybe we were in the clear because my bleeding was pretty much non-existent. Monday’s blood test confirmed my biggest nightmare. Another miscarriage. Tomorrow I will be going in for another D&C, hopefully to avoid a repeat of any complications that didn’t seem to end after the last miscarriage.

I am at a loss. I don’t understand and know I never will. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more defeated or abandoned. But I know better. Annie has taught me too much. Right now I feel like I’ll never stop hurting from this. And I’ll never understand why my greatest desire, giving Annie a sibling (or six), can’t seem to come easily. I know she deserves it. She’d be the best big sister ever. All I want to do is ask, “why?!”, and actually get an answer. But I know that is not possible. And I know getting angry with God (something I am so tempted to do right now) will do no good. If I get lost in my faith through this, my loss will only be that much greater.

If you haven’t been able to tell from my stories I share here, my husband and I aren’t really planners. We didn’t plan on a move back to Chicago, it just came. And so we are going with it.  When we travel, we usually book a hotel the night before our departure, we arrive and see where the trip takes us. Most of the time it works great, sometimes it’s disastrous. But it always works out in the end. The disappointments and let downs always make the great successes that much more wonderful.

Some people have their lives planned to the very minute. They buy a house, planning on being there five years. They plan a pregnancy for the perfect due date or age difference between siblings. And for those who can do this and it actually works, I think “good for you, do you have a secret?”

I can sit here and cry and be jealous of those who get that next step, that next baby, that house upgrade, or  job promotion, as planned. But I won’t do that, because it won’t make me better. Our path is different. We don’t plan because we find that when we do there are more bumps, more disappointments. And while planning the future we seem to miss more of the present. I never expected to see two little pink lines on July 30th, hours before we boarded a plane at Fuimicino, and it made the excitement of it all that more delightful. I know it’s been ripped from me too quickly. But we still have hope that life will take us back to that excitement with a happier ending and a sister or brother (fingers crossed, sister) for Annie.  We can’t wait to see where this trip takes us next.

Tomorrow will be tough. I am sure I haven’t shed my last tear over this, there is still lots of confusion and pain. But we are grateful for what we have. Grateful for our happy family of three.  We are ready to move forward. Ready for our next adventure. And accepting all prayers.

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Little Blue Stroller

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We recently returned from a five day get-away in Paris. While roaming the incredibly charming sidewalks, taking in the stupendous sites, and gazing at famous works of art; I couldn’t help but have to stop to catch my breath. Have you ever felt so completely overwhelmed that you can’t breathe? Usually when this happens to me, it is in times of great sadness; during my hold-nothing-back sobs where there just isn’t room for air. Like when my grandmother passed away, I just couldn’t catch my breath. Or when the three doctors and that nurse walked in to the hospital room with grim faces the morning after Annie was born to deliver the news of her diagnosis. It was as if all the air had been sucked from the room.

In Paris it was different. I was overwhelmed to the point of breathlessness in the completely opposite way. As we walked along the Seine, with the towers of Notre Dame in view, I had to stop to adjust my coat. As I looked up my new view included the Seine, Notre Dame, and Michael pushing Annie in her little blue stroller. Tears welled in my eyes, and I felt more lucky  and at peace in this moment than I ever have.

Annie’s little blue stroller. The stroller we purchased just a little over a year ago before our ten day trip to Tunisia. After trying to haul Annie’s enormous (“spaceship” as her dad calls it) stroller onto buses and trains and squeezing it through crowded alleys, we decided we needed the smallest, lightest-weight stroller available. Annie’s first stroller “system” cost almost 450 euro. (And we never use it!) We forked over 59.90 euro for our little blue one.

The stroller is just over a year used. But you would never guess it. It looks like it’s been handed down for years, like the little bums of several little tykes before her have left their imprint. The wheels are worn, the light blue turning a pukish-gray, stains from gelato and spilled milk and Polish Zurek soup.  From Tunisian cous cous and  and Baklawa. From a hot chocolate from London, and juice from a fresh Sicilian blood orange. Sometimes as I clean off the crumbs from the crackers she loves to snack on, it’s as if I can feel the sand from the Sahara or from the shores of Ischia that once occupied the crevices of the seat.

I have a love/hate relationship with this little blue stroller. I love that I can lift it onto a bus with Annie strapped in and my enormous diaper bag hanging from the back all by myself. I hate that the wheels often get stuck making turns impossible. I love how easy it is to close and open and the tiny space it takes up. I hate that it shows every stain and ounce of dirt. I LOVE all the memories we’ve made with it. I HATE it for the guilt that consumes me for having Annie in it for too long, especially during our trips away. I LOVE it because every time we take it to explore a new city, I am reminded of all the places Annie’s experienced. I HATE it because I CAN’T go without it. Annie is still not standing on her own, which makes it impossible to put her down. This little blue stroller is essential if we are going to leave the house. I use it everyday. Rain or shine, this little blue stroller is always there, a constant in our lives. And for this, I both love it and hate it.

I can’t sugar coat it. I get sad. There are days when we’re strolling with our little blue contraption and we run into a group of children playing in the park and I get choked up wishing I could undo her buckle and watch as she runs towards all that fun. In Paris we were taking some photos in a beautiful piazza and a mother was sitting on a bench as her two children (one at least five months younger than Annie) were running and chasing each other around the fountain. My heart broke a little bit.

Which brings me to my back. It’s not easy having an almost two-year-old who can’t walk, let alone stand on her own. If we’re out of the house, she’s either in the stroller or my arms. She can’t be in the stroller for long periods without getting cranky, like any kid. And so my nights are filled with icepacks and pleas for back rubs from my husband. My back is a bit broken too.

I could sit back and say, “Enough, it’s too much, we need to slow down.” But then I catch a glimpse of our tiny folded up stroller in the corner. And we’re off.

Annie may still be extremely dependent on her little “Blue,” for now anyway. She may not be able to run around fountains, or get on a tricycle, or climb the steps to the slide. Or walk hand-in-hand with another toddler her age. She may not be able to stand as she feeds the ducks with her dad.

BUT, oh the places and things she has seen in her little blue stroller.

In a few weeks my little girl will turn 2. The time has flown. It doesn’t feel that long ago that I was in a hospital bed with her tiny body in my lap, and I couldn’t breath because I was filled with so much worry that her diagnosis would make her life harder, sadder. Everyday since her birth has been better than the last. Her life amazes me more each day. We know she’ll walk one day and that she won’t always be so dependent on wheels. But for now, we can’t wait to see where that little blue stroller takes us next!

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Thankful for BOWS

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Thankful for BOWS

Up until about a month ago, any time I tried to put a bow in Annie’s hair she would immediately reach up and pull it out. Her dad feels the same way and usually helped her free herself from the girly hairpieces.

In fact, Annie usually greatly dislikes having anything on her head. Unless of course, it is her beloved Kermit hat. She’s a super fan of the Muppets, so for Halloween we dressed her as her favorite green friend. Since then, we’re pretty sure she’d wear Kermit everyday, and often does.

As I have written before, Annie has acquired quite the wardrobe. Up until about a month ago, I don’t think the kid cared what she wore as long as I got through the painful process of getting her dressed as quickly as possible.

She’s finally reached the stage where she totally cares and loves to see herself in the next fabulous outfit. It’s a hoot and way too much fun. After she’s dressed she pulls herself up to sitting position and checks herself out in the mirror. She tilts her head to the side and flashes a ridiculous flirty grin as if saying “OH YEAH, I’m SO cute!”  Her hand usually finds the side of her face and hair as if she’s primping herself. She fluffs her dress or skirt or gently pats her top, showing that she’s pleased by her attire.

She doesn’t LOVE the process of hair ties and bows. But is super understanding of the results to come. As soon as I’m done twisting those bands around her pigtails, or clipping a barrette to her hair, she gently pats at them and then checks herself out always pleased to the point of laughter.

This morning when I was changing her diaper she kept grabbing my hand and pointing it in the direction of her bows (that are kept so neatly in the perfect spot thanks to one of many thoughtful gifts from my friend Tiff). As I tried to just finish the process of the diaper change, she began getting agitated and started to grunt as she continually grabbed my hand and urged it in the direction of her frilly accessories. “Oh, you want a bow for your hair?” So I reached up and grabbed a hot pink one and placed it in her hair, lifted her up so she could admire herself. But she kept grabbing my hand requesting another and another. If I picked a blue or yellow bow she pulled it out and threw it on the floor or pushed my hand away until I understood that today is a “Pink ONLY” day.

Here’s the results of this morning’s bow debacle.

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It’s funny, I rarely think about how devastated we were the first weeks of her life. But this morning for the first time in a LONG time, I remembered how scared I was that our little girl wouldn’t be able to communicate with us. And I couldn’t help myself from being bent over with laughter. I’m pretty sure we’ve got the communication thing down!  Annie may be grateful for bows today, but I am thankful that Annie is a pro at letting us know just exactly what she wants!