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Guest Post: Holiday Coping: Dealing With Infertility or Adoption Process During The Festive Season

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I distinctly remember sitting through Thanksgiving and Christmas after the loss of my third baby. The sense of hollowness. The sense of having to put on a happy face. Guilt for laughing. Guilt for not laughing. Going through the motions. Pretending to be okay. When I received this short guest post on coping with infertility during the holidays, it brought back those memories of tension, strain, and grief.

Executive Director of The Adoption Consultancy and BeyondInfertility.com Nicole Witt–remembers a personal story of “holiday coping” years ago during the festive holidays:

Early on in Nicole’s marriage, before anyone knew that she and her husband were having fertility struggles, Nicole was at a family holiday gathering.  A family member started showing her pictures of a recent get-together she had had with her college girlfriends.  As she showed Nicole each picture, the only information she gave to her about each woman was what children she had.  Such as, “Here’s Susie. She has a 6 year old boy and a 4 year old girl.”  “And here’s Jodie who’s a stay-at-home mom to her 5 year old twin girls….”  It seemed to be how she defined each woman and it left Nicole wondering how this family member would define her to others.  Was Nicole nothing without kids?  This is just one scenario that someone may have to cope with this holiday season.

We all have that crazy cousin, drunk uncle, overly-concerned parent or blunt friend who might say or do something this holiday that will make us cringe, but here are some tips on how to cope from Nicole Witt:

  1. Think Ahead: Make a plan ahead of time.  This can include practicing responses to probing questions that you know you’ll be asked.  Or it can be a signal to your partner that it’s time to fake a sickness and leave.  It can also be recruiting and educating trusted family members on how & when to redirect inappropriate dinner table conversations so that you don’t have to.
  2. Take “Me” Time: Step away.  This was the most effective tip for me.  I would just take a few minutes in the bathroom to myself for some deep breaths and refocusing.  Once I had gathered myself, I would have the strength to rejoin the group, at least for a little while.
  3. It is OK to Say “No!”: Say ‘no’ to invitations that will be too difficult for you.  It’s OK to not accept every invitation you get.  Even if it’s for your family’s traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  Maybe create an urgent trip that you need to go on that week.  Although it may be difficult to do, if it’s easier than attending the event, don’t hesitate.

During the holiday season this year, The Adoption Consultancy and BeyondInfertilty.com along with Nicole are inviting others to share their holiday coping stories via @AdoptConsultant and @BeyondIF with the hashtag #holidaycoping.  We would love to hear from your readers this holiday season to share their stories, whether they are funny, sad, frustrating or heartwarming.  Everybody needs a place to vent to an audience that truly understands.

Happy “Coping” Holidays.

Six years ago (warning: miscarriage/pregnancy loss)

October 2015 017I can’t let November 7th pass unacknowledged, even though our house is very busy right now packing up orders, visiting with out-of-state company, and more. On this day, six years ago, I was plunged into the depths of grief. Today, our house is full with our four energetic, demanding children, but we never forget the one who didn’t get to stay. The kids asked me this morning how old Noah would have been and what he would have looked like and how our house would feel if he was here now too. We talked about whether or not Alaina or Tanner would have been born without him and we thought how sad it would be to have them not exist, so we are grateful to Noah for making them possible for our family. I can hardly believe it has been six years. It is hard to remember sometimes how it felt and what is was like to be brought so low and to feel so sad, broken, and despairing. A lot of beautiful work came out of the death-birth of my little third son.

We remember you, little one. Happy Birthday!

Tuesday Tidbits: Ceremonializing Loss

When I am asked for resources for women experiencing miscarriage, my go-to link of choice is Stillbirthday, specifically their information on how to plan for a baby’s birth at any gestation and in any setting: How to Plan – Still Birth Day. I also recommend the resources available from The Amethyst Network, specifically the section on When someone you know miscarries » The Amethyst Network (my own thoughts on Miscarriage is a Birth are shared there as well).

This week I appreciated reading a detailed article on how to hold a ceremony for an unborn child (though I would prefer not using the term “unborn,” since the babies are still born!)

Shortly thereafter they induced her. Three hours later she changed her mind. She wanted a full naming ceremony. Could I come visit her right away? She held my hand tightly and said she was so glad I had dared to visit. Would I be there as soon as her baby was born? Before I left her husband shook my hand so hard I thought it would break.

At 2 a.m. my pager went off. It was a beautiful ceremony. They claimed this baby as their own, honoring her short life and what she had given them. They named her and prepared to let her go. The moment was tender, raw and love-filled.

via How to Hold a Ceremony for an Unborn Child | One Chosen Family.

Additionally, from the website Spirit Babies, there are some tips on organizing your own Spirit Babies Ceremony.

This article explains how friends helped “see” this mother in her miscarriage experience:

I reached out to other women who had miscarried and asked them to share their experiences. What emerged was not only a beautiful testimony of the power of friendship, but insight on how to be a better friend myself.

via When We Remember: A Story of Miscarriage | Kansas City Moms Blog.

When I lost my baby in 2009, my friends sent beads for a necklace for me (like those made for a mother blessing ceremony). It hangs on my wall above his birth certificate. One of my personal “ministries” or outreach efforts is to keep footprints-on-my-heart charms available for women in need. We added twin footprints charms to our etsy shop towards the end of last year as well. Each time we sell one of these charms, my own heart experiences a sinking feeling. I wish no one needed to buy these. It was especially sad to mail out the orders for them that came in around Christmas.

Miscarriage Memories Footprints on Heart Charm, Pendant, BabylossMiscarriage Memories Twin Footprints on Heart Charm, Pendant, Babyloss, Stillbirth, Twins, multiple losses.

When we have leftover casting material from our larger figures, Mark quickly pours it into one of our pendant molds, making rough “scrap” birth goddesses or other pieces. We sell these at bargain bin prices in our etsy shop. We occasionally have “baby spiral” and “baby in my heart” scrap pieces as well and they are only $1 (they are rough and best used as a component of creating your own project).

TINY Baby spiral, birth labyrinth birth art sculpture (birth altar, mother blessing, doula, midwife, childbirth educator)And, finally, I had a student this week who needed to help a grieving parent ask me about my booklet, Talking to Someone Whose Child is Dying. I wrote it quite a few years ago when I worked at the Ronald McDonald House and I’d almost forgotten that I made the booklet available as a free download here: Free e-Booklets | Talk Birth

Tuesday Tidbits: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Many of us are all too aware of the face of pregnancy loss and the 1 in 4 women who will have this experience as part of their journey through the childbearing year. When my third baby died during my second trimester of pregnancy in 2009, I found the image of tiny footprints on my heart to be a very significant symbol. Since that time, I always keep footprints charms on hand to share with other mothers. I’d hoped to create a new sculpture in honor of this year’s awareness month, but didn’t manage to do so. Instead, in honor, we created a new memorial bracelet for mothers impacted by babyloss. A portion of the proceeds goes to benefit the local pregnancy loss support group in making jewelry items for memory boxes.

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Footprints on My Heart Memorial Bracelet by BrigidsGrove on Etsy.

Our shop also picks one organization a month for a donation to a nonprofit organization. Our October donation went to Brittany’s Blankets for Tiny Babies. We sent footprints charms and forget-me-knot charms:
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My Sacred Postpartum class started on October 1st and our first week’s assignment was art journaling about our birth experiences. It has been almost five years since my first miscarriage-birth and while sometimes I feel like I seem weird or like I “shouldn’t” keep counting it, I’ve always given Noah’s birth equal weight as a birth experience in my childbearing life.  So, I included a page for his birth story in my art journal as well.
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(Side note: I have been seeing a chiropractor recently to make sure I’m in good alignment for my upcoming birth and it means a lot to me that she remembers and counts Noah’s birth experience too, saying things like, “well, since you’ve had four births before,” even though I’m in her office with only three kids.)
I’ve mentioned before how powerfully I needed other women’s stories after my own miscarriage experiences. My two favorite books for this are:

I’ve also shared the link to my friend’s miscarriage-birth story in a past post. It is one of the most powerfully written miscarriage stories I’ve ever read. October also marks her due date with that baby and so I want to honor her memory by sharing the link to their birth story again today:

…Three words. It only took me three words to tell you, friend, acquaintance, or stranger, what happened to me. I wonder how many more words it will take to tell myself — the MAMA, the bearer of lost life — what happened.

11 weeks. Saturday night. Walgreens bathroom. By myself. Cabernet Sauvignon in the public toilet. Doughnut-sized clots of tissue that just kept coming. The sensation of birthing jellyfish. Sticky red hands from trying to clean myself up, pulling red chunks out of my underwear. Staring into the toilet and wondering how in the world I could possibly flush it I did, after a long time and many tears. Drips running down my legs and polka-dotting my feet. Telling an employee there was a bloody mess in the bathroom. Walking out of Walgreens in blood-stained jeans.

Did you like it better when I had only said three words? I liked it better when I was still pregnant.

via Losing Susannah | Peace, Love, & Spit Up.

I did note in an article I just read this week via a different friend who recently experienced miscarriage, that personal stories can also be unhelpful to others though, especially when they redirect from the woman in front of us to our own experiences (though, I would venture to say that is because so many of us feel as if we have to hold our own stories close to our hearts, and therefore somewhat unresolved, because of a lack of cultural permission to talk about them normally):

I am left feeling more alone than I ever thought possible. Solicited or not, countless women say to me, “Why is no one talking about miscarriage. No one talks about postpartum depression either. All of these things women go through that nobody talks about. Why are we not talking about it if everyone is going through it?” It’s only now that I realize why I don’t want to share my experience as openly anymore. The more I talked about it, the less understood I felt.

All I yearn for is the simplest of engagement, “How are you feeling?” Four words. Nothing more.

Instead, I am bombarded by horror stories of women losing their longed for dream in a pool of blood or heroic war stories of women whose histories in no my way resemble mine and go on to have healthy children. Are the details of someone’s sister’s friend’s friends’ 4 consecutive miscarriages supposed to be heartening?Women use my openness about my loss as a springboard to delve into their reproductive aches and pains, recent or decades old. The sharing feels tinged — needing to be less this, more that, better than, more than, and most definitely triumphant in achieving their desired family size. I propose that we simply listen to one another, with presence of mind and heart, no matter the level of uncomfortability.

via Grand Losses: Musings on My Miscarriage | Christy Turlington Burns.

This article is extremely powerful and I highly recommend it. The author goes on to explore how women blame themselves for their reproductive losses:

Miscarriage is simpler than all of that. It is loss of life that wasn’t sustainable.

I have fantasies of shouting this from rooftops and tweeting random cryptic notes containing the facts about pregnancy loss in the hopes of galvanizing women’s perceptions of themselves. I daydream about pleading with women not to blame their beautiful bodies for their reproductive devastations. I wish I could dare every woman who has at some point or another wondered if they were somehow the root cause of a reproductive disappointment to turn that question on its head. “What if you are not the reason that this happened to you? What if it just is?” I can’t help but wonder if this would illicit more anger, more grief, more relief, and/or more hope. Or maybe something else completely. I am confident that it would engender less competitiveness, less perfectionistic strivings, and more self-love.

via Grand Losses: Musings on My Miscarriage | Christy Turlington Burns.

Related past posts:

Tuesday Tidbits: Miscarriage Care | Talk Birth.

Tuesday Tidbits: Miscarriage and Story-Sharing | Talk Birth.

Tuesday Tidbits: Miscarriage | Talk Birth.

 

 

 

Tuesday Tidbits: Miscarriage

In the book A Silent Sorrow, the authors quote a responsive reading from the book Bittersweet…hellogoodbye (a book for creating memorial services for miscarried or stillborn babies). The responsive part of the reading from the other people assembled can be unique to your own spiritual path, so “Be with us [divinity name]” or “Hear us, [divinity name]” or ‘[divinity name] grant us healing and strength. Personally, I would simply leave off any divinity name and use plain old “Hear us” or “grant us healing and strength,” because then each person present is able to attach whatever additional meaning to the words they prefer, rather than having it represent any sort of specific belief.

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Some “seconds” of our baby in my heart design were added to our etsy shop this month.

Leader:

For the time of unending tears, pain, and struggle;

times of not being understood by family, friends,

times of longing and emptiness,

times of not being in control,

times of searching within and without.

We pray…

(response)

Leader:

For all the memories of our baby;

for any brief moment of being with our baby,

for those who walked the journey of mourning with us,

for each time of remembering.

We pray…

(response)

Leader:

For the times of letting go.,

for the times of reaching out,

for each new day and each ray of hope,

for the gifts our baby left us:

in giving us new eyes with which to see,

new ears to help us hear others,

a new heart to love more deeply,

and for new values in our lives.

We pray…

(response)

[p. 233]

I’m also letting go of the book Avoiding Miscarriage by Susan Rousselot (see previous post for bookshelf reduction currently in progress). In it, she acknowledges the depth of the experience of miscarriage:

A miscarriage is, by its nature, a life-changing event. From the moment a woman knows she is pregnant, she wonders how that pregnancy with change her life—she imagine the future with that child. How will this impact my work? What changes will need to be made to the house? And what sort of mother will I be?… That unborn child can turn out to be anything, and because of that it is a dream of the future. When that dream is shattered, we don’t just lose a few weeks or months of pregnancy; we don’t even just lose a ‘fetus’ or a ‘baby.’ It is as though we lose a whole lifetime—the lifetime we were going to share with that child. We didn’t mean for the idea to take on such huge proportions, but it did because we are human, and as humans we think about the future, and we wonder.

Like any traumatic event, there is no ‘right way’ to deal with a pregnancy loss. Some women will grieve as intensely as they would the loss of a full-term birth. Others will feel they are doing okay. Some women will react by resolving to take life less for granted. Others may harbor a lingering distrust of their own bodies. Some women may want to take a long time to grieve. Others may want to put the experience behind them by redoubling the pace of their lives…

…Many women who experience a miscarriage feel a powerlessness stemming from the fact that they couldn’t control what was happening inside their own bodies. This feeling is often exacerbated by the good, but often misplaced, intentions, of doctors or others who take charge of the miscarriage—or dismiss it—in an attempt to spare the woman further distress. (p. 67-68)

Regarding the use of the word “worse” in categorizing grief and loss, I shared with a friend recently that one of the things I learned from my own losses and working with other mothers through the organization I co-founded (The Amethyst Network), is that there is no hierarchy of loss and grief. They are all real. They are all valid. There is no prize for the worst experience. And, we can hold the experiences and feelings of each as valid without needing to categorize by who had it worse. Each is hard and “worst” in its own way. It is okay to let the pain hurt and to take as long as you need.

Last week I read this very raw and real miscarriage story and shared the link on TAN’s Facebook page:

“As glad as you were to tell who you told about the pregnancy, you are exactly a hundred thousand times as unglad to bear this news. You call your boss first, because the primary impact on your immediate life is that you will need to be off work for at least a couple of weeks. This is what they call a “missed miscarriage,” where the fetus lived to perhaps eight or nine weeks of gestation, but your body stayed pregnant all the same, put you through that nightmare of sickness and stress for nothing. Less than nothing. That anger comes a little later, not just yet. In any event, you won’t be back at your desk until the material of the pregnancy is gone, one way or another…”

How to Have a Miscarriage | The Hairpin

And, I received an announcement of a new book from a woman who previously emailed me to talk about my own miscarriage memoir. I look forward to reviewing her book soon.

At 33 weeks pregnant, Amy is certain something bad will soon happen, it had too many times before. Deep down she fears it’s only a matter of time before the baby she’s carrying will die. Despite the fact that Amy had been repeatedly slapped in the face with multiple miscarriages, she still can’t seem to quiet that tiny voice in the back of her head that’s screaming at her to not give up hope. Follow Amy’s true story as she stumbles through her journey with humor and warmth, all while dealing with the neuroses that came along with getting her hopes shattered time and time again. All she has to do is close her eyes and she’s lurched back to the memories of her losses; on the floor in her bathroom, in the hospital, and even at her place of work. No one knows what the internal mind of a woman who’d lost five babies and suffered so many let downs goes through. Can Hope ever truly survive memories such as these?

Chasing Hope: A Mother’s Story of Loss, Heartbreak and the Miracle of Hope

Last week, we decided to design some new European charm bracelets to honor the experience of babyloss, whether through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. Half of the profits from these bracelets will be donated towards a scholarship to help a local bereaved mother attend Stillbirthday’s Love Wildly event in Kansas City in December.

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“Miscarriage is a death in the heart of life, a death that happens inside the body of a woman. Sometimes a child just brushes the earth lightly, and is gone before the embryo is anything more than a few cells. Even so, there may already have been a strong connection, love, the beginning of hopes and dreams for the child. Later in a pregnancy, when the being has made itself known through kicks and a visible bump, a whole community may have already begun to make a place for it. Whenever a miscarriage happens, it is a loss that cuts deeply, and needs to be grieved…” –Jackie Singer (Birthrites)

via Birthrites: Miscarriage | Talk Birth.

New Baby!

While we were originally going to wait until after our ultrasound appointment on May 22 to officially Facebook-and-blog announce my pregnancy, when I visited my sister-in-law and brother in Kansas when I was 15 weeks along, we took some cute “cousins meet” pictures and decided to toss one of them on Facebook after all 🙂

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This is my 900th post on my blog and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for a pregnancy update. I’ve been saving little notes of things I want to say and so forth, but time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin and now I’m 17 weeks pregnant and still have written anything about it!

I’m due October 27th. We actually weren’t planning to have any more children, but now we are, and it is amazing to me how quickly the family opens up to make room for a new person. The kids are very excited and we plan to find out whether the new baby is a sister or a brother on May 22nd. I was surprised to learn how many “scars” I retain from my past pregnancy losses and I find myself more anxious than I’d like to feel every day about the baby. This anxiety increased exponentially as I drew closer and closer to the point in pregnancy to when we lost our tiny son Noah in 2009. After I passed 15 weeks, I did, in fact, breathe easier, but there are still multiple times a day in which I think things like, “what if it’s heart stopped since yesterday?!” I thought since I did have a post-loss successful pregnancy AND because this pregnancy was a surprise that I’d feel more casual or relaxed about it instead of daily having, “I hope the baby is still alive!” thoughts, but apparently this is just what pregnancy feels like for me now.

At first I felt very shocked to be pregnant and I was upset about assorted things like these:

  • older than I’d like to be (35! Isn’t that “advanced maternal age”? Sheesh!)
  • weigh more than I ever have starting out a pregnancy (though, now at 17 weeks I’ve only gained two pounds, so this one wasn’t so bad after all)
  • bigger age gaps between kids than I want—in my own family of origin I didn’t really like having my siblings be nine and eleven years younger than me, it felt like a generational gap that has been hard for us to bridge in adulthood (though, now that my brother and his wife are having a baby and I am having one after them, we actually have a lot of life cycle stuff in common at last after all!). Now, Lann will be eleven before this baby is born and technically will be older than this baby than I am than my youngest sister.
  • on the same note, having watched my parents parent as “older” parents I noticed that it dragged on for a really, really long time—and their time having teenagers and having grandchildren overlapped in a way that seemed like it would be kind of not the funnest. I had my first baby when I was 24 and had been married for 5 years already, but my teenage siblings were still at home, so my parents went from having their own kids at home to having little grandchildren chaotically stumbling through the house to visit without ever having a “down time” where they were truly on their own. However, I also realize that after you have kids, you will never really ever be on your own again. Kids still seem to need their parents pretty much forever. I still need mine. My mom still needs her mom (even though she is gone now). Not in a sense of dependency, but in a sense of relationship.
  • feeling really quite done with parenting small children and ready to move on to having only bigger kids
  • not wanting to experience a clitoral tear again—I really, really feel like I’ve paid a pretty high body price for my existing kids and I felt like I was pretty done sacrificing that part of my body!
  • feeling very “distant” and far away from pregnancy/birth. I’d mentally closed that chapter of my life already.
  • having given away my maternity clothes and a lot of my baby stuff already
  • being a little embarrassed to have had a “surprise”—that is just not ME to have a surprise baby. My other kids were uber-planned-out tiny people!
  • not wanting to start over with toting a baby + caregiver to class with me while I teach
  • worried about being the primary wage-earner now that we took the leap into Mark being home with the rest of us (though our etsy shop has gratifyingly become a viable second income!). I won’t be able to teach in the fall session when the baby is due and then I always have an unpaid month off from Dec-Jan, which means we’re looking at an October-February period of relying only on me teaching a single online class for our primary source of income?! Yikes! Better start sculpting more birth art, pronto, Molly dear!

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However, then these things happened too:

  • months before knowing I was pregnant Alaina started talking about her little sister “Lily.” AND, the boys started to say, “we think you should have another baby after all, mom!”
  • I watched the kids running up the driveway flying a kite (I have had previous driveway revelations!) and suddenly realized our family looked very small and like someone was missing.
  • a friend experienced a traumatic miscarriage at 11 weeks. I was just a little behind her in pregnancy at the time and immediately after I read her story, I went to the bathroom and there was some blood (not much and just brownish). While I now think it may actually have been “sympathy” spotting OR somehow a stored body-memory from my own miscarriages (or, just a coincidence), I knew in that moment that I want my new baby so much. I wasn’t upset about being pregnant after all, I really, really want this baby to join us.

Returning to the scars of pregnancy loss, for whatever reason from 4-15 weeks of this pregnancy, it was truly like my pregnancy with Noah was the only other pregnancy experience I could remember. It was weird. AND, what was also weird was how many overlapping “re-do” moments I experienced:

At 13 weeks I started to have symptoms of a UTI (same thing happened with Alaina at 13 weeks). My first ever UTI was during my pregnancy with Noah and what sent me to the doctor to find out he had no heartbeat. I have never stopped wondering if that UTI is why my baby died.

At 14w2d with this pregnancy I had a consultation with a prospective midwife. At 14w2d with Noah I had a midwife consultation too (and felt “scarred” from that experience too as it was a pretty unpleasant consultation AND I started to have a headache/cramping right after it). This midwife was very nice and we had a delightful consultation and a quick bond.

On May 1st, I went to the paint-your-own pottery place for my birthday because I really wanted to paint a “water bearer” figure I saw there earlier this year. As I painted with my friend, I realized I might not be going to finish it before they closed. I clearly remembered that the last time I painted anything there I was pregnant with Noah and talking with friends about pregnancy and birth. I didn’t finish that day and after he died, I could NEVER go back into that place to finish painting my plate (they sold it to different owners and it moved to a different building, so now I can go back, but not without remembering). Another friend went back and finished it for me (I will never forget that either. I don’t know sometimes if people realize how small, unusual, helpful things like that can have a big impact on a grieving mama). I use the plate, but I never forgot. This time I couldn’t not finish. It would be like a horrible déjà vu. I painted and painted, my friend wanted to leave (long drive, but she rode with me and thus was trapped!), we passed closing time, but I was almost done. So, I apologized to my friend and to the store owner and I stayed and finished it anyway. (My poor friend!) There was NO way I was going to leave that store without finishing my project…again.May 2014 048
On my birthday this year I was 14w5d pregnant. My miscarriage with Noah happened at 14w5d AND I was due on my birthday (2010 though).

For my birthday dinner, my mom made stroganoff (at my request) and it was only after I was sitting there happily eating it that I realized that is what I’d asked her to make after Noah too.

And, in one other weird overlap, his pregnancy and this current one are the only two I’ve ever been sick with. WHY?! This bothered me for weeks. Oh well, it has passed now and I’m still pregnant this time and the baby still has a very good heartbeat. I have an anterior placenta this time, so I don’t feel as much movement as I usually do by this time with other pregnancies, so I’m still relying on “life status updates” from my trusty Doppler. (I don’t even feel like apologizing or rationalizing my use of it. I’m desperately glad I have one. No regrets.)

(This may be the weirdest, illogical, many-thoughts-pregnancy-update post ever!)

Another thing I’m not interested in rationalizing or justifying is that I really, really like finding out the sex of the baby before birth. I am SO looking forward to our ultrasound this week. I can’t wait! I’m almost obsessed with it. In six pregnancies, I’ve only ever been right in my intuition about the sex once (I was really, really right though!). So, since this time I feel like it is a girl, I’m expecting it probably really is a boy (so, wait! Is that my “intuition,” which would really mean this IS a girl? LOL! ). Alaina is 100% certain it is a girl. She actually gets kind of mad when I say it might be a boy. She’s been saying it was a girl since before she knew I was actually pregnant (and, yes, if it is a girl, “Lily” is in the running for her name! It wasn’t on my radar before Alaina started saying it). Right before I found out I was pregnant, I went down to my place in the woods. I was upset with life in general—my kids were driving me NUTS, I was NOT having a good day. I was kind of talk-ranting to myself, including a mention of how nice it was that we weren’t going to have any more kids because I was SO DANG DONE. And…then I knew. I’m pregnant. I looked up and my eyes met the eyes of a raccoon sitting in the tree. Too weird. I’ve never before come eye to eye with a raccoon in the woods before! We stared and stared at each other. After I broke eye contact, I thought, I’m totally pregnant and it is totally a girl. I went inside and took an expired pregnancy test and it was positive (I bought a real one and took it in the movie theater bathroom at The Lego Movie a couple of days later). Here we go! 🙂

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Oh, and this literally is my 900th post on this blog, in case anyone thought I was exaggerating the number! 😉

Craft Camp and Mamoo Memories

Last weekend, we were at our family’s annual craft camp event in southern Missouri. My mom has been organizing this event for the past twelve years. When we began, I was pregnant with Lann and eventually I retired as the assistant director and Mark took on the role of the assistant (primarily on the technical side). Last year, the workshop was scheduled to begin the day my grandma died and since my mom was April 2014 061in California with her, we handled it and it was hard but we did it. This year, it began on the anniversary of her death and it is the last year that my mom is planning to be the director and organizer of the event. The night before we left for craft camp, my family had a mini memorial ceremony with my parents in which we hung up the prayer flag we made as a family and then had some chocolate chip ice cream and memory time together. Zander said he really thought Mamoo would get to see him grow up ( 😉 ) and the boys talked about how much she would like the bench at the zoo by Sea Lion Cove that my aunt and other family members placed in her honor. Alaina picked violets to put by the hydrangea. We remember how much she liked interesting animals and her knitting and her dolls and her travels and stories. I took her Hitty doll who traveled with her out of the case to hang out for a while. Because Mamoo lived so far away from us, it can sometimes be easy to think she’s still there working at the zoo and walking her little Bonnie dog. We miss her a lot.

Late last year I entered a contest from Portraits by Gessell for a charcoal drawing. We had to submit a picture and story and I submitted one about my grandma. I won (yay!) and on the anniversary of our loss she gave us this beautiful drawing. I absolutely love it and am so impressed by Gessell’s skill at capturing my grandma’s essence in this way. (I gave the drawing to my mom.)

April 2014 065 Since I am still teaching Working with Families, just as I was at this time last year, this week in class I showed my students some pictures of my grandma. They just finished an involved genogram assignment which is about three generations of their family history. One of my students brought pictures of his ancestors to show the preceding week and I figured they could handle seeing a couple from my family as well. I’d picked out four favorites to show them, but they surprised me with how interested in they were and how many questions they had, so I actually ended up opening the whole file folder of pictures that my aunt so carefully collected and prepared into a beautiful slideshow for my grandma’s memorial and showing them more pictures from the folder. They would say, “wait, back up! Show us that one. The one with the hat!” And, so I would and it was fun and nice and I was really happy to share the experience with my class. It felt right.

While at craft camp, we took a little visit to Round Spring with our friends. It was lovely (though my kids were obnoxiously bored immediately and I didn’t get to enjoy it much).

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While I was internet-free for three days, I did a lot of sculpting. I made a special request new cesarean mama:

April 2014 092Some miscarriage mamas:

April 2014 121And several others just because I felt like it!

April 2014 096April 2014 123April 2014 086We also updated our Mother Blessing amulet pendant:

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And, we added some pretty Healing Hands doula pendants to our etsy shop:

April 2014 042When we got home, I was surprised to get a royalty check from Amazon for sales of my miscarriage memoir. I had no idea any had actually sold after that first month! In an uncharacteristically unsupportive remark, Mark said: “are you sure that’s actually from selling your book and not reimbursement from one of those class-action lawsuit things?” 😉

I’m in the middle of planning an LLL Mother’s Day picnic on May 10th! We’re having a photo shoot fundraiser was well as family picnic and fun times.

And, in companion to my post from earlier this week, two new baby chicks hatched naturally with our broody mama today. I think some hatched on my birthday last year too (tomorrow).

I have more to write about, but it will have to wait until later I suppose!