Friday, March 29, 2013

Dear Baby #7,

Amanda's drawing of Baby #7
Dear Little One,

We only knew about you for three weeks yet you were making you presence known a couple of weeks before that.  Like the day that Amanda first went down the 10 meter ski jump.  I was so sick and queasy by the time I climbed up that hill to send her down. And then a few days later, at Amanda first ski jumping competition. I felt so sick that day too. I thought I just had virus. But the queasiness continued on through the week. It was the week before Amanda's skating show.  I was thankful for the nights Mike could take her to practice.  I was feeling very sick the day of the show. I was sitting in the bleachers with all the little girls in their cute little costumes.  I actually looked around to find the quickest way to the bathroom. Thankfully we got through the show without any trouble. After that, I finally decided to take a pregnancy test.  The little plus sign developed immediately. I couldn't stop smiling. I was so excited to have the chance to be your mom.

Your dad was so surprised too. He couldn't believe it and he couldn't stop smiling either.  He had such a good time telling people you were on the way.  I wanted to keep you a secret. I was afraid people wouldn't be happy for us.  But he said that we were happy and that was what mattered most.

We waited until your daddy's birthday to tell your sisters.  We had your big brother Tyler tell them the news. Tyler was on speaker phone and we said, "For his birthday, Daddy's getting a new...."  Before Tyler could answer, Amanda yelled, "Boat?!"  When she found out he was getting a baby she said, "What if it's a boy?"  She was worried about having a brother.  They were very excited for you to be born.  They didn't understand how long it takes for babies to grow.  Amanda asked, "What if the baby is born when Daddy's in Denver?"  We told her not to worry. You would be born long after Daddy got home from Denver.

I thought about you often.  I had to make sure I was eating frequently. Daddy's been having us eat more plant-based meals but you wanted MEAT!  My friend Mikki thought for sure that meant that you were a boy.  You should have seen Daddy's eyes light up when I told him Mikki's prediction.  He was hoping you would be a boy.  I thought about how we would fit your car seat into our van. I thought about what kind of car seat we would need to buy since the one we have been using would expire shortly after you were born.  I thought about where you would sleep and considered large-scale remodeling to make room for you in our house.  I wondered if we really would get to open that box of baby boy clothes.  I thought about who would take care of your sisters when I had to go to the hospital since grandma would be off hunting. I wondered if you would arrive late just like my last two babies. I wondered what your doctor would be like.  I considered having you at home and even contacted a mid-wife who works in the area.  I ordered some maternity clothes.  I thought I could get some good deals of clearance stuff for next fall. I wondered just how much extra weight you would insist that I carried.

We had a lot of fun together.  You were there on the day I skied almost to the top of the "mountain" with Amanda's ski class during a blizzard.  Six inches of snow fell during the two hours of class time. Amanda was scared but I told her we would never forget the day.  I was scared about driving home safely but we made it.  You were there the following week when we skied all the way to the top of the mountain.  We had so much fun skiing with Amanda and her class.  You were there when Amanda and I skied in the dark after watching her cousins do some ski jumping. You were there when Amanda started ski jumping.  You were there when I first tried ski jumping.  You were there when Amanda, Grandma and I skied on a cold, windy day and met five deer on the trail.

You came with us on a trip to visit Cousin Elisa at her new house.  You made me feel a little queasy on the trip but I thought it would only get worse so we made the drive shortly after finding out that you were there. Elisa and all the cousins were very excited to hear you were expected.  They love new babies just as much as we do.  They also love books and asked me to read to them moments after I walked in the door.  You were there when Joshy was having me read books about cars and engines and saying, "Isn't this fascinating?"

We are so sad that we will not get to see your face on this side of heaven. We are thankful to know you are safe with Jesus.  We have decided to name you James Francis.  That was my grandpa's name.  I'm sure you've met him already. You were due right around Grandpa's birthday in November.  We live very close to where Grandpa is buried and can easily bike there.  That is where we will place your remains once the ground thaws.  Francis is also an important name because it is the name of the new pope.  You were our Lenten baby and the new pope was chosen during Lent. That seems significant and important.  If you turn out to be a girl, we can change it to Jamie Frances.

You were born on Palm Sunday.  That was a day of celebration that turned into sadness and soon we will be celebrating again.  Holy Week is a week of intense emotion and that's what your short life has brought to our family as well.  There was great celebration when we found out you were growing inside me and then great sadness when we found out your heart was no longer beating.  Some day we will be celebrating the blessings that you will bring into our lives. Blessings that we can not even imagine today.

You were always loved. You will be always missed. And you will be always remembered.


Your mom, dad, sisters and brothers

Life, Loss and Trust (Part One)

I had been feeling really good.  I had been able to stay active; skating, skiing, even ski jumping. In the back of my mind I wondered if everything was okay but experienced just enough times of nausea to put my mind at ease.  I actually even thought this easy pregnancy might be a reward for still trusting God with our fertility despite all challenges and disruptions pregnancy causes.  I thought maybe if I wasn't so sick and could remain active and in shape I might avoid some other the other problems like the uterine prolapse and pubic separation things that makes it so hard to move during the last trimester.  Maybe I would avoid putting on 50 lbs. this time around. 

Then I saw a little bit a pink. Not much. But there was more a couple days later.  I called for an appointment and was anxious to see the baby and find out how far along I was. Since I had been nursing Julia, I only had a guess based on when I started feeling sick.  The doctor said that she wasn't too concerned about the spotting since it's common around 8 weeks but she arranged for me to have an ultrasound to determine the baby's due date.  She wasn't sure if I could get in that day because it was late and she thought all the techs may have left.  I was so thankful that I was able to have one that day and I couldn't wait to see the baby.

I was disappointed when the tech couldn't see the baby via external ultrasound but was thankful the internal ultrasound wasn't as horrible as I thought it would be.  She quietly looked at the baby and did measurements of the baby and the sack.  The numbers that came up on the screen said that the baby was about 7 weeks old.  I was disappointed.  I was sure I was farther along than that.  I was thinking about how that put my due date right around hunting season when everyone in my family pretty much disappears for two weeks. She wasn't able to find a heartbeat but said that the baby just might be too little yet.

The doctor had told me that she needed to leave because her son and husband were at home sick. She said that if I needed labs she would order them and I could go there when I got done. So, I was a little surprised when the tech said that the doctor wanted to talk to me.  The doctor told me that the baby was big enough that they should have been able to see the heartbeat.  She told me that she thought I was beginning to have a miscarriage. She reminded me how common they are and that there was nothing that I did to cause it.  She said she was actually surprised to meet some one who has had five pregnancies and not had a miscarriage.  I was in shock. I was expecting to hear a due date much farther out then I expected. I was not expecting to hear that I would be delivering a baby in the next few days. I tried to listen to what she was telling me to do. I needed to get labs to get a baseline for my beta numbers and come back in two days.  If they were falling, I would most likely miscarry.

I tend to be a bit careless with ultrasound pictures but I carefully folded these ones and tried to put them in my purse because I had this thought, "These might be the only pictures I have of Baby #7." 

 I had brought one of my green smoothies in case I started feeling queasy and needed to eat.  The nurse who took my blood commented how my baby was getting a good start. Um, yeah.

After calling my cousin who I had been texting through out the appointment, I drove home in a daze.  As soon as I pulled in the driveway I got a text from my friend whom I had just told that we were expecting, "Congratulations!!! I'm so excited for you."  I told her what was happening. She told me to have Mike pray over the baby because miracles have happened when dads pray.  I didn't want to sound faithless but I really had no hope. I believed it was over and it was only a matter of time.  I tried to hold on to a possibility but I was already grieving.  We had big plans to go skiing in the morning and then have friends over to play. I figured nothing was for sure and I didn't want to spoil the girls' fun so I kept the plans. Thankfully, it was too cold to ski in the morning and with massive amounts of chocolate and coffee, I got through the visit.  I didn't want to tell the girls, and so I didn't tell my friend. Occasionally she would mention something about the baby. That was hard. Especially when she said she hoped they would have a baby the same time as us because two of our girls already match closely in age.  (They are waiting to be matched in adoption.)

On a side note, when I walked in the door, Ana said, "Where's the baby?" They thought I was going to be bringing the baby home that day. I showed them the pictures.

Friday, Mike was supposed to be out of town but he stayed and took me to my appointment and then waited for them to call with the results.  I was so thankful for a driver.  I had a massive headache (perhaps from the chocolate and coffee) and generally was in a daze. We went the grocery store after the appointment. I pondered how rarely we get out together and that our alone time usually revolved around having a baby.  My beta numbers had gone down.  And I was having real bleeding and some cramping not just pink spotting.  I still didn't tell hardly anyone because it seemed so uncertain and often the response was an encouragement to have hope.  For some reason, that really bothered me.  I was very sad and people responded with hopefulness. I felt like they were trying to stop me from feeling sad. But I couldn't stop it. I was so sad. I am so sad. I was actually surprised by how sad I felt.  "This happens all the time. I have six other kids. I know so many people who have been through this before and some who've had multiple losses." It didn't matter. I felt awful.

Mike left to go to the buying show but planned to come back early instead of staying overnight.  It turned out that one of his contractors won the four-wheeler and trailer so it was good that he was there to haul it back for them.  We just laid low on Saturday. Mom came and got the girls for ski jumping. I wandered around the house in a daze.  Saturday evening was the Daddy/Daughter Dance.  Mike took Amanda and they rode together with Mike's brother and his daughter.  The little girls were so excited.

While they were gone, one of my Facebook friends posted this video on her wall.

It was from a talk she gave in June of 2012.  She had just finally uploaded it to YouTube.  She had written a book, Love Letters to Miscarried Moms. I watched only a portion of her video that night.  She spoke about delivering her baby in the bathtub and knowing she was no longer pregnant.  She also spoke about how God doesn't show favoritism, i.e. it was not scriptural to think that a nausea-free pregnancy was a reward for obedience. I really hadn't been saying much to God at this point. I didn't know what to say.  I had been holding on to the verse, "Jesus wept." and taking comfort in knowing Jesus was sad with me.  But after hearing part of her message, I prayed, "God, I just want to know clearly when this baby is born and I am no longer pregnant." I had no idea what to expect. Would I bleed for days?  Would I see a baby?

That night when I laid down with the girls, I started having more painful cramps. Real cramping.  I got up when Mike and Amanda got home to help her get ready for bed.  I wanted to lay my own bed so we just had Amanda sleep on the floor in our room.  I knew she would need some time to decompress and I was tired of laying in the bed in the girls' room.

When Mike came to bed with me, he rubbed my back and I could finally feel myself start to relax.  I must have dozed off for a little while but woke up with a very sharp pain and then felt something very large pass. I leaped out of bed and went into the bathroom. The placenta and the sack had passed. Presumably the baby was still inside the sack.  I was so thankful for that simple answered prayer. I knew that I was no longer pregnant. I knew I had not flushed my baby down the toilet. I would be able to save the remains and bury the baby with my grandpa. It was 12:30 am on Palm Sunday.  Tali was born on Ash Wednesday and Julia was conceived during Holy Week. I was also very thankful that Mike was home.  He was scheduled to leave for Denver Sunday afternoon.

To be continued in Part Two...

Life, Loss and Trust (Part Two)

Continued from Part One...

I woke up later on Sunday morning with a fever.  I had visions of having to go to the ER but was pretty confident I just had the cold that had been bothering Julia. I felt much better than the previous days. I didn't have a headache but I still had some cramping.  Not bad. I've had worse periods. We had planned to stay home from church since Mike had to leave to catch his flight. I really wished he could have stayed home.

I was dreading telling people and talking about it.  I just didn't want to hear the well-meaning comments, "It was part of God's plan. Maybe it was for the best; you do have your hands full. Maybe it was just too soon and your body needs a rest." Ugh!  I also found fielding texts and phone calls very stressful.  I felt like I needed to respond but the girls are so needy.  I didn't want to tell them because I was struggling to manage my own emotions and really wasn't prepared to handle their questions and emotions too. I didn't want them to worry and couldn't figure out the right words to tell them.  And the headache came back.

We struggled through the next couple of days. I was definitely not a stellar mom. :(  I had my own list of nagging questions.  No matter how much people tell me there's nothing I did wrong or could have done differently, I wondered, "Was is the green smoothies?  Was I too active? Was is the skiing, ski jumping, skating, exercising at home?  Should I have gone to the doctor sooner? Is my progesterone low?  Will I need more testing?  What is my body going to do now?  Is this like having a baby or like having a period?  What if I get pregnant again? Should we be trying to avoid that? How I am going to tell people? How I am going to tell the girls?"

My mom brought over some pro-life materials that showed a baby at different stages of development including this picture.  I asked the girls if they thought the baby was alive.  I showed them the pictures of our baby. I told them that it's heart should have been beating but it wasn't. I could hear Amanda's voice getting wavery. She wanted to sit on my lap. Amanda and Tali both wanted to know why the baby's heart had stopped beating. I told them that the baby had been born like the babies in the picture and talk to them about the placenta and the sac. I told them that I didn't see the baby though but I knew it was there.  Amanda wanted to see it. I had just put it in the freezer that morning to wait until we could bury it this spring. (I don't know what the protocol is for this kind of thing. Sorry.) They each took their turns looking through the little booklet and asked me to read it several times.  Amanda and Tali kept asking, "Why?" I wish I knew too. That night Amanda prayed that God would tell me why the baby's heart had stopped beating.  The next night she asked God to tell me why and then said, "Now we're going to be quiet and listen."

After I told the girls, I began to panic a little. The following day was dance class.  I had agonized about telling the moms at dance that I was pregnant. Three of the moms are also adoptive moms. Two of them also have older bio kids but I assumed they all experienced some loss and infertility that brought them to adoption. The teacher had had a miscarriage a year ago and I knew it was a great loss for her.  I wanted to tell them about the pregnancy in a way that was sensitive to their situations.  Telling them that I had lost the baby seemed even harder.  I thought I should tell them personally and not have them hear from my mom or Amanda (I had not planned to bring Amanda. My mom was going.)  But that would mean telling six more people.  Three Facebook messages, one email and two texts. And then fielding the responses and inevitable questions.  In the end, I just didn't have time to find the words so I just had to let it go.   I don't think Amanda mentioned it to anyone.

I have been really struggling with the right terminology. To me, the whole pregnancy was a "miscarriage." But when I started to spot, would I say, "I'm beginning to have a miscarriage?" If so then, how do I describe what happened on Sunday morning?  Was that the miscarriage?  Was that when the baby was born? Delivered? Passed?  Nothing seemed right. Just saying, "I had a miscarriage," doesn't seem to do the process justice.  Perhaps, it was just my own lack of experience with miscarriage that lead me to think that having a miscarriage seemed so casual. It had always sounded just like having a period. Now I know differently. I've gone back and talked to several friends who've had miscarriages and said, "Okay, now tell me the whole story."

After hearing how quickly my body may return to "normal," I began to have great anxiety at the thought of becoming pregnant again. Not only because of the fear of suffering another loss, but knowing that I would have to be sick in order to have a healthy pregnancy. There was also all this competition with all the thoughts that are trying to see the positive side of not being pregnant any more. Now I can...lose that extra baby weight, travel without fear of nausea, get the girls in swimming lessons, wear normal clothes this summer, continue nursing Julia, etc.  Thoughts that I feel guilty for even having and thoughts that compete with the primal desire to just be pregnant again.

Mike and I had talked a lot in January about whether or not we were ready to have another baby.  We never really came to any conclusion and I really didn't have any idea that my fertility had returned until I found out I was pregnant. I was so happy because that decision was made for us.  Now we're back in that decision-making mode again.  But we had decided a long time ago that we would trust God with our fertility and the only option for us for avoiding pregnancy is abstinence.  We just really aren't very good about that one. ;)  It is so rare that we find ourselves in bed together when we're both awake and no children are awake.  Do we really have grave and serious reasons that we should interrupt that time? Not really.

In the end, I'm hearing God asking me again, "Do you trust me?"

"Do you trust me through infertility?"

"Do you trust me through adoption?"

"Do you trust me in a house full of babies?"

"Do you trust me in the midst of loss?"

Yes, because You are trustworthy.  I am not willing to give up the opportunity to be blessed simply because of my fear because You will be with me. I have nothing to fear.  Because I am learning that being open to life also means being open to experience loss.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

We Love the Rink!

Minnesota winters are tough and long. No doubt about that! We try to get outside as much as we can but the unpredictability of the weather poses quite a challenge.  With so many small kids, I have found the indoor ice rink to be a real sanity savor. Not to mention the fact that I LOVE SKATING!  I'm trying to find and encourage more homeschooling moms in my area to meet us at the rink so I thought I'd do a post about why we love skating at the arena.  It a good time to think about skating next year because the skates will be going on clearance and can be found at rummage sales through out the summer.

Reason #1
Predictable weather- It's always about 25-30 degrees. I can easily plan for who needs what amounts of clothing to stay warm. And there's never any wind-chill factors unless you're skating really fast. :)

Reason #2
Predictable ice- The ice is always good and freshly Zamboni'ed. No showing up at the outdoor rink to find a foot of snow or poor ice.  The ice goes on in October and off in April. No worries about warmer weather melting or not allowing freezing.

Reason #3
Stroller-friendly warm areas and plenty of space for toddlers to roam, tables for snacks and even comfy chairs for nursing a baby.  We have been able to bring our strollers out onto the ice for our non-skaters. Although, next year, I hoping to find a mom to watch my littlest ones in exchange for teaching her kids how to skating. 

Reason #4
Reduced germ exposure-  Finding large muscle activities for kids to do in the winter is always tricky and I have NO interest in taking my kids to those large indoor playlands. Ewww! Because I'm a germ-a-phobe or something.

Reason #5
Great exercise-  Maybe this should be reason #1 but skating in wonderful winter exercise. I never realize what a great workout I'm getting until later when I lay down with the girls for naps. So tired! Even if I didn't skate and just took my kids to the rink so they could skate, the lobby, halls, stairs and bleachers at the arena offer endless possibilities for an indoor work out.

Reason #6
Life long sport- I think if kids start skating by the time they are 4-5  years old and get regular ice time, they will be comfortable on the ice for a lifetime.  We started our kids at 3 1/2 and 2 1/2 years old.  It's a lot of work to get them skating but we are laying the ground work for an exciting social activity when they get into their teen years.  

Reason #7
Affordability- We got a season pass to the arena for $90.  That was for two adults and four kids to use the rink five days a week for 7 months. Try getting a family pass to a gym for $12 a month. Walking the halls while your kids skate would be free! 

Reason #8
No crowds-  Open skating is from 11am-1pm during the week days. Most days, it was only our family out on the ice. Maybe one or two other people.  Which means there's plenty of room for new friends to join us!  They also have a second sheet of ice that they would open up if there were more people or some people wanted to do hockey.  

Reason #9
Great family activity- Kids and adults of all ages and abilities and can skate together and learn together and have fun together.

There's no avoiding winter, so it's best to learn to enjoy it! :)

See Julia in the stroller at the entrance?
Some kids need a lot of support

It's good to start when they can use the pushers
Amanda started at 3 1/2 yrs
Tristan skating with a friend 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Enjoying Julia

Everybody has a lot of fun with Julia.  She is so smiley, sweet and snuggly.  She gets so excited when Mike gets home and when Grandma comes and wants them to hold her. She so sweet when she makes kissing noises and then leans forward to let you kiss her. Lovie little girl!

  She just learned how to climb up the stairs. It's funny that she does the stairs so well and yet she still doesn't crawl on her hands and knees.  Amanda will follow her up and then put her in front and slide down with her.  There are only six steps to get to our upstairs.  However, now the really fun of multi-level houses begins.  Every time I set Julia down she heads for the stairs.  The minute I put a gate at the bottom of the stairs, everybody needs to go potty at fifteen minute intervals. Even if I tell everyone to go potty before I put the gate up. Grrr!  

 She can also climb up on the trampolines and get herself into a sitting position.  She just learned to do this at almost 14 months.  She definitely falls on the later end of the developmental range.  She is starting enjoy practice walking and we've tried some shoes on her.  Amanda is actually really good at walking around with her.  Which is very nice because it's easier for her to do because she doesn't have to bend over.  She doesn't pull herself up on the couches or chairs, yet, but she will pull herself up on us of we're sitting on the floor.

We've done a version of baby-led weaning (which has nothing to do with stopping breastfeeding, only introducing solids.)  We never mashed or ground stuff up for her. We just started putting soft bite-sized pieces on her tray and letting her learn how to eat them.  It's worked out fine for the most part. It's messier.  Sometimes she does a tray swipe just for fun.  Sometimes she throws stuff on the floor when she's done.  It takes longer than shoveling a bowl full of mashed food into her mouth. Food choices are limited to what is soft enough for her to eat and yet firm enough for her to pick up.  And she refuses to let us feed her most of the time.  But she eats if she's hungry and nurses for the rest.  Broccoli is one of her favorites...this week.  We use her old Baby Legs and the cuffs from Amanda's holey socks to protect her sleeves when she's eating.

I'm trying to work up the nerve to put an end to the thumb-sucking habit. I should have done it when she was sick and her nose was so stuffy anyways. She couldn't really enjoy it then.  But everyone else was sick, too, and I didn't need one more thing waking us up.  Maybe next week...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mike's Birthday Treat

Rainbow Slushies

Red- Frozen Strawberries
Orange- Orange, clementine, one strawberry
Yellow- Frozen Mango
Green- Kiwi and little bit of kale (Spinach would have turned greener)
Purple-Frozen blueberries

I pureed each fruit with coconut milk and then frozen the cups between layers.  Next time, I'll put the green on the bottom on the purple on the top since I couldn't think of anything that will turn true blue.

These could be done ahead, frozen and taken out in the morning to thaw.  Be sure your jars or cups are freezer safe.  These are definitely a new favorite although better suited to a summer birthday. :)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Turning Point

Last week, I had gotten the that point of maximum stress.  House was a mess, the kids were running wild, the girls had all been sick and up all night.  We had skating seven out of eight days including the skating shows. I can't seem to find time to do the most basic chores much less bigger chores like organizing that closet where I keep tossing stuff that I don't want the girls to play with. I was fed up and declared, "Something has to change!"

And in thirty seconds, it did.

Thirty seconds was all it took for that little plus sign to develop and tell us that we are having a BABY!

I won't say "another" baby because that just seems to trivialize the event. It is still a big deal for us.  I still look around amazed that my little girls are here. I'm still enjoying Julia's snuggly, baby sweetness. The memories of new babies are so fresh in my mind that the thought of getting to do it all over again? Pure joy!

Now, I'm floating in that peaceful, blissful joy.  I'm going to ride this wave as far is it will go because there's a good chance next week that I'll be lying on the couch too sick to move. ;)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A couple recipes I want to try:


Here's how to make it:

2 cups macadamia nuts
1 1/2 cups cashews
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/4 cup dried coconut
6 tablespoons coconut oil melted
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup maple syrup
honey or raw agave nectar
1 sun-dried vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
3 cups mixed berries such as blueberries and raspberries for garnish

1. Soak the cashews and macadamias in water in separate bowls for at least 5 hours.
2. Pulse macadamia nuts and dates in food processor to a sticky crumb-like consistency. Sprinkle dried coconut on bottom of 8-inch pie pan. Press macadamia nut mixture onto coconut to make crust.
3. Place cashews, coconut oil, lime juice, maple syrup, vanilla and 6 tablespoons of water in a food processor and process until smooth fluffy puree texture.
4. Pour mixture onto crust, and freeze 2 hours or until firm. Remove from freezer, slice while frozen, and serve with berries!!! Let it defrost to get soft or eat it as a hard slice!

TED raw cheesecake is high in calcium, magnesium, protein, and rich in mineral copper. It's great for hair and skin, weight loss, and preventing gallstones! And the picture tells all, it is quite the delectable treat!

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Homemade Coconut Almond Candy Bars

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