Friday, February 28, 2014

I am the Face: My Personal Story of Miscarriage

I was 9 weeks + 3 days pregnant with a little life I already loved with a love only an expectant mother could understand.  I was feeling great, with only a few moments of queeziness, and was thinking "wow, this pregnancy is already so much different than Lucy's". Matt and I wondered if this could mean we might be having a boy.  In hindsight, it probably meant that Baby #2 wasn't developing properly.  
Our early ultrasound with my midwife at 6 weeks.  I remember thinking that Lucy seemed larger at this point. 
My midwife told me my uterus was in a position such that it was difficult to get a decent angle
 
The spotting started on Friday, January 3rd, but I was trying not to get too worried about it.  It was very slight, and I know this can be completely normal in pregnancy.  However, I also had a very early miscarriage (1 week after a positive pregnancy test) in September 2013 that started with spotting, so I couldn't help but worry since I was further along with this pregnancy. 

I spoke to my midwife over the phone, desperate for a remedy; something that I could do to stop this from happening.  But it was too late.  She told me that unless the pain was severe, there was no need to go to the emergency room.  There was no mistaking what was happening, and I also now knew there was nothing I could do but ride it out and let it happen.

The spotting increased through Saturday and Sunday until it turned into heavy bleeding accompanied with cramping.  Throughout the course of Sunday night I was up often with severe cramping which was reminiscent of contractions, accompanied with a heavy amount of uncontrollable bleeding. 

It was intense. Although it was nowhere near the pain of childbirth, the emotional pain was terribly immense. 

I felt helpless. 

To make matters worse, Lucy was up all night so very sick.  In the thick of the miscarriage, Matt was preoccupied with taking care of her, so he didn't even know what was really going on with me at the time.  I felt scared, alone, and extremely heartbroken as I cried out to God to give me peace and for this to just be over as quickly as possible.
 
Around 1:30 a.m., January 6th, after it really started getting intense and I felt the passing of my baby, I crawled back into bed with Matt and Lucy.  "I just lost the baby".  It felt like moving a mountain as I forced the words out of my mouth before starting to sob.  He wrapped his strong, comforting arm around me, and with our Lucy tucked in between us, we cried together as a family.  In that moment, I felt so overwhelmed with love for the family I have been blessed with, yet I also felt such a deep sadness and emptiness for the child we already loved so much, and who would have made us a family of four.



The next day, I saw my midwife.  She confirmed my miscarriage via ultrasound, gave me my shot of Rhogam since I'm Rh- (CLICK HERE for more info about that), referred me to an OBGYN, and gave me a big, loving hug.   In her gentle, wise way she told me "Well, honey, sometimes we just need to remember that God knows best."  It's one thing to know and believe this, but it doesn't make the news any easier to take in the moment, still raw with emotion.
 
I would now be in my second trimester.  I would now be excitedly showing off my Baby #2 bump.  We had been brainstorming clever ways to announce my pregnancy to our wider circle of family and friends.  Instead, we were stopped in our tracks and left to try to wrap our brains around the fact that I'm no longer pregnant.  
Our attempt at getting a picture with Lucy in her "Big Sister" t-shirt; which is how we announced the news to our families.
It has been almost 2 months now, we are doing ok, and trust that God is good and his timing is perfect.  At first, I was mostly coping day-to-day, but sometimes, it was more like moment-to-moment.  I feel so much more at peace about the loss now that I've had a couple of months to process and heal.  I hesitated with the decision to share my story on the blog, but decided that if my story could help even one mother cope with her loss, it would be worth it. 
www.facesofloss.com

Statistics estimate that 1 in 4 women will miscarry, but the OBGYN told me it's more like 50%.  I have painfully watched so many friends struggle with infertility and pregnancy loss, and prayed that it would never happen to me.  But I am not immune to suffering and pain.  I want that mother who may be reading this, who is trying to cope and heal from her pregnancy loss to understand... "you are not alone".  
 
I personally believe that life begins at conception, so I wasn't just mourning a pregnancy. I needed to find a way to mourn my child I had not yet had the opportunity to meet. Each grieving mother will find her own way to mourn her loss and try to move on, but will never ever forget.

I don't want to forget.

There was no memorial service for our little life but we gratefully received a few condolences; not too many people knew I was pregnant.  As a believer, I know that I am not guaranteed a pleasant, pain-free life, but I am guaranteed guidance and peace as the difficult circumstances of life are navigated. 

What I also know, is that I feel great peace when I imagine our precious, tiny baby being lovingly cradled in the hands of our Heavenly Father until the day we can finally meet.
 
*          *          *
 
I will be focusing on the topics of infertility, pregnancy loss, and miracles for the month of March,
as the next Momster of the Month, a dear friend of mine, will be sharing her experiences with us. 
 
 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Raney Day Photography - Photo Session {{Giveaway}}!

Hello Momsters!  I hope you are all getting plenty of sleep and eating your vitamins.  I am typing this from my couch as I'm home sick from work for the 2nd day.  My throat is on fire, my nose is running a 5k, and my head is full of cotton, so if I make absolutely no sense in this post, I apologize in advance.
And since my eyes feel like they're on fire, this will be quick, but I needed to let you all know that our Momster of the Month, Jessica with Raney Day Photography, is offering one lucky Momster Mash reader a photography session!!  This is amazing friends, and I am so excited for the winner of this one.  Jessica takes some breathtaking pictures, and I can't wait for my family to be in front of her lens for the first time this Spring. 
Is it time to update your family photos?

 Do you know someone who would love to receive an engagement photo session as a gift?

Would you like to document your pregnancy like it's a fairytale?

Jessica can do that all, oh so beautifully, for you!  Here's what you need to know before entering:
  • One family session of up to 5 people
  • Photo session length is 1-2 hours
  • 2 outfit changes allowed
  • You will receive 20-30 high resolution prints
  • Winner will have printing rights
  • Winner must be willing to travel to Snohomish County in Washington State
  • Winner will need to provide at least 2 weeks notice before their session
Sign in to Rafflecopter below and follow the prompts to enter.  Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, February 21, 2014

MOM Jessica Part 3: A Stronger, Better Version

Catch up with MOM Jessica:
To anyone who may be able to achingly relate to Jessica's story, she has some words of encouragement specifically for you,
"YOU CAN DO IT!!!! If I can, you can!  It's all about the first steps and letting whatever it is you want in.  If you want it, go get it...Let the challenges help you grow and become part of your story."
When Jessica is not busy working her magic behind the camera she is the "first one out the door heading to the mountains for a hike, snowshoeing, exploring, or driving back home to Forks to go fishing or hunting.  We also travel a lot to Westport to surf."  She is really happy when life opens up free time to do anything outdoors, "or anything that allows me to wear sweatpants!".  Gosh, I hear ya.  I love my sweat pants too!

Jessica, husband Chris and dog Roy at the Ice Caves
I love talking to others about books; it's the best way to add new reads to my list.  So of course I asked Jessica what she is currently reading.  Right now she is reading the Hunger Games Trilogy, which I have read and enjoyed.  New perspective can be gained from reading anyone's story, even Katniss Everdeen's.  Jessica reveals that she has learned a great deal about life through getting to know the main character, Katniss. 
"[Katniss] is strong, independent, yet still deeply cares about her family and friends' well being more than her own. Even in a time of great sorrow, and even death, she grows as an individual.  It's so easy to break down and give up in times of darkness, I have been there myself.  But if you can power through and believe in yourself, you can not only come out alive, but get out a stronger, better version of your yourself.".
Although I am getting to know Jessica right along with all of you, I can definitely see the resemblance between her and Katniss! What a great reminder from Jessica (and Katniss) that in this life, we are guaranteed to face troubles.  In order to find an improved-upon version of ourselves, it would be wise to endure our obstacles with grace and patience...and a good dose of tenacity and perseverance go a long way, too.    I am so happy for Jessica and the life she worked so hard for.  She set her mind on her goal, trusted in a door to open, and found the courage to fight through her fears and make it happen.  For that, I greatly admire you, Jessica.
To each mother reading this, my desire is for Jessica's story to bring you encouragement in whatever battle you may be facing in this moment.  Whether your personal battle requires a tiny dose of courage or more than you think you can muster, dig into those nooks and crannies of your heart, rely on the fact that God's timing is perfect and His love for you is steadfast, and have faith that your final destination will be worth the wait and the struggles along your journey.

What a wonderful story you will have to tell one day!

 Don't forget, there's an amazing giveaway coming your way!  Stay tuned....

Thursday, February 20, 2014

MOM Jessica Part 2: Raney Day Photography

To catch up, or for a refresher, you can read Part 1: Missing Big Moments.
 
Just a couple of weeks after Jessica found herself praying for a door to open which would allow her to spend more time with her family, her prayers were already being answered.  
"Photography opened its doors to me and a lot of what I learned in college, came back to me.  I took refresher workshops, and my husband gifted me with a camera...I started to believe in myself and knew I could do this."
Jessica knew that her transition from teaching kindergarten, to professional photographer was going to take some time.  However, she instantly started the transition by taking steps to achieve her goal. 
"I was still teaching full-time after 3 years after I realized I wanted to pursue photography.  I would do 2-5 shoots on the weekends and after work.  I was giving away sessions like crazy just so I could practice.  I knew I needed to start at the bottom and work my way up.  I never took any opportunity for granted and I never turned down an opportunity to learn more."
There came a time, about two years into this transition, Jessica realized she was making more money with her camera skills, than she was teaching!  She had a difficult time keeping up with both teaching and her photography sessions.  Her husband encouraged her to take the leap and quit teaching if she felt like she was ready to take that on full-time, but she wasn't quite ready to quit teaching.  Jessica explains, "It wasn't easy for me to make the decision.  I felt such a commitment to my school, the kids, and the community."
 
So when and how did Jessica decide it was time to officially make her transition?  She recalls the night of her daughter's 2nd grade open house.
"I was in my classroom with my students and their families.  I was holding the door greeting everyone while they toured the classroom.  I kept thinking, 'my daughter is 50 feet away in her classroom without her mom.'  It broke my heart.  Another year had gone by and I wasn't there."
So she decided to do something about it.
"I don't remember much between that thought and ending up in her classroom.  I just remember thinking, 'I pray no one yells at me while I run through the halls! I was out of breath when I stepped into her classroom and saw her face.  We made eye contact and she was beaming when she yelled 'MOM!!!'  That was the moment I knew I needed to quit.  I was missing too many moments.  That officially was my last year teaching.  I turned my leave papers in the next few months, and prepped myself for a new life."
Jessica and daughter Mykenzie on first day of school.
Reading Jessica's emotional words brings me to tears because, as working a mother, I understand what her hurting heart was experiencing. Now Jessica works full-time for herself, at Raney Day Photography, allowing her the opportunity to do what she loves, contribute to the financial health of her family, set her own schedule, and spend all of those big moments with her family.  I am so incredibly happy for Jessica!
 
Jessica says that weddings and maternity sessions are definitely her specialty, "Both are key moments in anyone's life.  There is also an unlimited amount of emotion. I love to capture the glow the bride has on her wedding day and the glow she has when she is pregnant.  It's perfect!  I absolutely love it!" 
As you can see, her style is very "light and airy", and she loves scheduling a shoot around sunset in order to catch the glowing ambiance of the warm, evening sun.  Her passion for photography is magically captured in the quality of her gorgeous pictures.  I am personally looking forward to having Jessica take our family photos this May! 
 
You can connect with Jessica, learn more about her photography, or schedule your photo session at RaneyDayPhotography.com and Facebook.com/RaneyDays.
 

Friday, February 14, 2014

MOM Jessica Part 1: Missing Big Moments


I'm so excited about the Momster of the Month and to share why I find her to be such a brave inspiration. 
I met Jessica at a mutual friend's birthday dinner back in November, but I already knew of her, because she is also a mutual friend of a different friend, does that make sense?  She is a photographer, and I have drooled over my friends' gorgeous family and newborn photos over the past few years, photos that she has taken.  I had the opportunity to sit next to her and her adorable daughter Mykenzie at the birthday dinner and our conversation flowed like we already knew each other.  Jessica has such an easy sense of humor and a comfortable air about her!  We got to talking about life and such, and I found her career path so interesting, I asked if I could feature her as my MOM for February. 
Photography as a career wasn't her first choice, nor an easy one, necessarily.  We'll get to that, but first, meet Jessica!
Jessica grew up in Forks, Washingtion (Twilight Town!).  She lived part-time with her Grandparents, and the rest of the time with her mom in Lake Stevens.  Jessica says that growing up in Forks defines a lot of who she is, "I loved growing up next to the Ocean, the forests, and being able to have acres of land to run around on."
She is very close with her extended family.  She considers her sisters and cousins to be her best friends.  They talk daily or weekly, have weekly dinners together, and won't shy away from wearing matching outfits.  Jessica says that her family is "very loving, accepting, and loves to laugh.  I am very fortunate to have them and I know I wouldn't be where I am without them."
 

               Jessica (right) with her sister Liz               
Jessica (right) with her sister Amanda
Jessica attended Seattle Pacific University on a President's Scholarship, which meant she had to maintain a high GPA. 
"I was getting my Bachelors in Education as well as getting an Art Major.  While working on my Art degree I took photography courses, and thought that because my mom did photography I had it down...Long story short, I spent more time goofing off than learning.  My priorities were my friends and Facebook.  When I got my grades, I panicked because I didn't want to lose my scholarship, so as a safety net I switched majors."
Her professor told her that she could have a career in photography if she would just "focus and buckle down", but Jessica says "I just didn't believe in myself.  I was too young to know who I was yet, and what I wanted."
Jessica ended up majoring in Education because it felt like a safe route, "When you're so young, you don't understand what lies 10 years ahead.  Your priorities change, you change."
And this is where I think Jessica's story really gets  interesting.  Jessica explains how she came to a realization that she wasn't necessarily happy with her career choice, "All I knew is that I wanted to be there for my family and do something that I loved.  Teaching wasn't giving me either of those."
A few years after college, Jessica was working on her Masters Degree and had no intention of doing anything else the rest of her life.  Her daughter's adoption was complete, and she was working at the same school her daughter attended.  Jessica says "life was very busy and very full."
But then something happened.  Not one incident, in particular, but more of a shift of priorities and a realization that she wanted a change. 
"I loved my school, the people I was working with, the kids, the community, but I was not loving teaching in the way that I knew I should.  More importantly, I was missing valuable family time because I was always at school.  I missed 3 years of first day of school for my daughter, open houses, ballet recitals, the list goes on.  I couldn't take it any more, I didn't want to miss any more big moments."
It's one thing to have the desire in your heart that you need a change, but it's a completely different story when it comes to taking tangible steps to make that change happen.  So where did Jessica start?
"One night I prayed, I was ready to let go of controlling my life, and that whatever door opened for me I would take it as long as it meant more time with my family."


Here is Part 2: Raney Day Photography,
where Jessica shares her transition from teaching to professional photographer.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

I'm Not Trying

I've previously shared about "mommy guilt".  Every mom can relate to the lose-lose situation we feel in our hearts every now and again, even though our brains tell us we're doing a good job. As much as we try to ignore it, guilt seems to be a constant accessory in the life of a mother.  Friends come to our rescue to remind us just how wonderful we are as mommies when we're feeling guilty about plopping our child in front of the t.v. or the iPad so we can scramble up something for dinner, dress ourselves in clothes that don't have dried food smeared all over them so we are semi-presentable, or Just. Take. A. Shower. 
 
The truth is, these are not the things that cue the guilt for me.  I understand that my house will never be as clean as I'd like it to be, there will always be some sort of dirty dishes on my kitchen counters, and a shower is now more than just a creature comfort, more than a necessity, it's pretty much a spa-like experience.
 
I'm not trying to look like Giselle Bundchen on a bad day.  Sure, I love to have an excuse to get glammed up, but the reality is, I'm comfortable in my mommy-skin.  I met a friend for dinner last week and realized when I arrived I had dried food smeared on my jacket AND my jeans.  "Oh well!"  I was just happy to have some alone time with a dear friend whom I know loves me and does not judge me for licking my finger and rubbing food off of my jacket.  See? Not ashamed! I'd even show you a picture if I had one.  How about this one of food on the wall instead...
 
I'm not trying to win mother-of-the-year award, because in the eyes and heart of my daughter, I've already won.  I am the most important person in her 19-month-old world.  I take it as the grandest compliment that when she is most upset she only wants the loving arms of her mommy and I cherish the times I get to cuddle and soothe my baby girl who will not always be able to cuddle on my lap at 3:00 a.m.  I also rest in the fact that I have been given this beautiful person to care for by God, and He arms me with what I need to do the perfect job. 
 
“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect."
(Psalm 18:32)
 
"For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,
so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."
(Ephesians 2:10)
 
I'm not trying to pretend I'm too good for t.v. or a good toddler app on my Android.  I have no shame in sitting Lucy down in front of an episode of Curious George so I can have a few moments to get dinner going without fear of throwing an avocado pit curve ball into her forehead (seriously though, that has happened).  I need to cook dinner because we need to eat, and it's just so much easier to cook dinner without a toddler holding onto my leg the entire time.  And if a mess needs to happen in order to keep her entertained, so be it. 
 
I'm not trying to be hard on myself.  I am thankful for the encouraging words of others, but really, I'm not trying to be hard on myself.  These feelings come from a very honest place of what the internal struggles of this mother look like.  Some women don't share my struggles, and some can more than relate to this never-ending tension.  Sometimes just hearing "I completely understand!" is all we moms need to feel better; to remind us that we're not alone.
 
I'm not trying to compete with anyone in the realm of mommy-struggles.  We all fight our own battles, big and small.  Sometimes our struggles are relevant and  relatable to others, and yet I understand that some things that bring on my "mommy guilt" seem silly to some. 
 
The truth is, my struggles with mommy guilt revolve around my job outside of the home and the constant search to find balance, rather than my job as a mother.  I'm confident in the fact that I'm doing a good job as a mother...most days :)  I am far from perfect, but I put all of my heart and soul into this mommy-gig.  I'm thankful for the important job God gave me in being Lucy's momma and don't take that lightly. 
 
I am thankful for a job that allows me to work part-time!  I am living "The Tale of Two Moms"; I experience life as a working mom 3 days a week and get the other 4 days as a SAHM.  People may never agree on what is truly "the most difficult job in the world", but I'll just speak my opinion here and say it's being a mom. Period.  No matter the life circumstances that surround our core of being a mother, we will all experience the "mommy guilt" to some extent, for one reason or another. 
 
The argument can be made that moms who work outside of the home get adult time, get a healthy break from their children, get time to actually sit down and eat lunch, get alone time in their car during their commute, and get to contribute to the financial health of their family.  Yes, but I say, the "joys" of working outside the home depend on your job.  My work is fast-paced, time deadlines all day long, dealing with people's emotions and fears, encouraging (some call it nagging) people, I'm lucky if I get a chance to sit down and eat.  On my 30-minute commute, I get cut-off by people wanting to drive 65 mph in a 50, and stuck behind people driving 40 mph in a 50, when all I want to do is make it home by 6:00 so I can have a solid 1.5 hours with Lucy before she goes to bed...the only time I get to see her on a work day.
 
From my personal experience in SAHM mode on non-working days, I find my days spent with Lucy much more enjoyable; this is where I find my JOY!  We dance and sing in the living room to Caspar Babypants, we take a walk to get the mail, we eat snacks while grocery shopping, she "helps" me fold laundry, we read, we color, we chase our dog Goose...we get to BE together.  I'm thankful for the days I get to just be her mommy. I find joy in meal planning, changing the sheets, making the bathroom sparkle, and having the aroma of dinner already in the air when Matt arrives home. And when she's upset, she gets her mommy to comfort her.
 
So shouldn't I be content that I have the best of both worlds?!  And...there's the guilt again because, yes, I should.  My mommy guilt stems from my job.  When I'm there, I miss my precious, fleeting time with Lucy .  When I'm home, I think "I really could be working". 
 
The other day while I was crying out to God in the shower, feeling overwhelmed with continually stretching myself to find contentment, I heard the voice of God, loud and clear, say

"I will protect you"

I didn't just hear it, I felt it.  In the midst of my guilt as a mother, I was given the blessing of hearing God's voice remind me that He's got this under control, so I don't need to worry about a thing.  I don't need to feel guilty, or ashamed of the guilt I do experience, because guilt does not exist in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.  I'm reminded that I don't have to try to have it all figured out, because He knows the path set before me and has a plan and a purpose for every circumstance.
 
"The Lord says, I will rescue those who love me.  I will protect those who trust in my name."
(Psalm 91:14)
 
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future."
(Jeremiah 29:11)