When One Month Remains

one month remians - pursuing pearls blog

Yesterday was a big milestone for our little Trio – we are just 4 short weeks from our due date. Knowing that our sweet Cannoli will be here in the next month or so is indescribable!

Honestly, I have absolutely loved pregnancy – the growing, the changing, the learning, even some of the not-so-pleasant parts have brought me joy as Stephen so faithfully reminds me, “this change just means progress – and that’s what we want!” What a treasure, that man.

But yesterday. Yesterday was HARD. Actually, probably one of the most difficult days in pregnancy so far. Between lack of sleep, shortness of breath even just in conversation, my hips and back cracking every time I stood from my desk, and constant Braxton Hicks, my emotional stability felt as if it was hanging by a lone thread. I was a bit of a wreck.

While I physically feel better today, I realize there is no guarantee of ease in the days ahead. Yet, my heart feels restored as I ponder how each of yesterday’s complaints truly have blessings tucked within:

{ Lack of Sleep }

Cannoli is moving all the time, even at night when I am attempting to snag a few consecutive hours of coveted sleep. As disruptive and uncomfortable as this can be, I am going to miss our time together in this special way. My heart could burst when I imagine holding our baby in my arms, locking eyes for the first time, and falling in love in yet a whole new way! But this time as our Dear One’s physical home? We will never share this again, which leads me to firmly grasp every last second that remains…even at 3:00am when the party in my belly is still going strong.

{ Shortness of Breath }

Two tiny feet and knobby knees are exploring the space below (and in) my ribs, space that is steadily decreasing as baby packs on those wonderful rolls of chub. Cannoli has been head-down for several weeks now, which is right where we want him/her to be! As my organs continue to shift, causing a variety of uneasiness, I am comforted knowing our baby’s organs are mostly developed now. It is just a matter of growing bigger and stronger, and readying to face this new world! It is so exciting!

{ Creaking Hips and Back }

Thanks to the release of the hormone relaxin, my ligaments are loosening as my body prepares for baby’s entrance into the world. I am sure I will be especially thankful for this once labor comes!

{ Braxton Hicks }

These “practice contractions” really are a blessing, because I need all the practice I can get! But in all seriousness, they have been directing my mind toward labor. What an incredible, unknown, and beautiful experience that stands before us. We have practiced breathing through and timing contractions, in addition to pain management and mindfulness as the anticipation builds. I know I could never imagine what labor will be like, but am confident knowing that my body was made for this, and that even in the darkest of moments I will never be alone.

{ Wavering Emotions }

Learning to take captive every thought is such a challenging discipline, yet one I will lean on all of my life. I have been turning to Philippians 4:8 for guidance whenever I need to be redirected:

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

It is easy to become overwhelmed with worry, comparison, discontentment, or fear when I am placing my focus on things other than those above. When I feel my emotions beginning to get away from me, I remember to practice taking captive those runaway thoughts.

Regardless of what the next few weeks may hold, I am determining to remain thankful for it all with the knowledge that each hurdle is just a thread in the tapestry. These days are so precious, and they are numbered.

 

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Pregnancy After Loss: Choosing to be Fearless

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I sat in the examination room waiting for the midwife for my bi-weekly appointment. Being in my third trimester, I knew the routine well by this point: the weighing, the blood pressure, the Doppler, the questions. Everything was as usual, when the nurse asked, “This is your second pregnancy, but first baby?” I replied with an awkward and hesitant “yes”, knowing it was the answer she was seeking, but in no way the one inside my heart.

Pregnancy with our little “Cannoli” has been an absolute dream. Each milestone magical, softening my heart and bonding Stephen and I more than ever. But this sweet pregnancy has not been free of grief. Grieving for the time with our first sweet child. Grieving that I never got to see her grow or feel her kicks. Grieving to hear the rhythm of her little beating heart. That seemingly simple question struck a chord in my heart that had not be played in quite some time. And once I was alone, I wept.

This pregnancy has also not been free of fear, particularly in the early months when physical signs of our Dear One were scarce.  I did not feel the first “kicks” until nearly 20 weeks – and while assured that was perfectly normal, it felt like a lifetime of hopeful (or anxious, if I were to be honest) expectancy. I wrote of my first trimester: “After our miscarriage last year, I have found myself fearful of the endless what-if’s looming over my head and heart…as I realize my lack of control over this sweet life within. My first pregnancy was filled with unadulterated joy (despite my lack of control then as well), and I so long to experience that again. I have been asking God to lead me through fearless motherhood as pregnancy is just a small part of an even bigger – lifelong –  journey.” 

Over the summer, my church walked through a series on the book of Ruth. While this little gem of the Old Testament is often romanticized for its themes in faithfulness and love, it is founded on a journey through heartbreak and loss. Naomi tragically lost her husband and two sons, leaving her a childless widow in a cultural context in which such an identity meant that she had absolutely nothing. All of this while trying to convince her two widowed daughters-in-law to return to their roots while they still had a chance to start over. 

Through this study, I was blessed with the opportunity to share my own story as part of the church’s video series, Ruth – Stories of Grief, Commitment, and Unending Faithfulness:

October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, and October 15th Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day – it has been one year since I first shared about our journey through miscarriage. We are on that journey still, as the memories and pain do not simply disappear when a “new” child enters the story.  But Jesus has wiped away any potential guilt or shame I have experienced amidst my struggle for full surrender and limitless joy. I was already a mother; I am already one, and praise God that through Him I can be one that is fearless.

 

 

2nd Trimester Reflections

second trimester reflections - pursuing pearls blog

T h i n k i n g

  • { Time is Flying } I can’t believe how fast pregnancy is progressing! Only about three months remain – though, I’m sure the days will feel longer as the Big Day approaches.  I am determining to not dwell on our due date or any sort of countdown, knowing that baby will come at just the right time. I keep telling myself, our Dear One will be here for Christmas! What a beautiful time to be making an entrance into this world.

F e e l i n g 

  • { Hungry Again } My interest in food returned, which makes me oh-so-happy! I have not had many particular cravings or aversions, and my appetite feels rather normal at this point…which may in fact be dangerous because the “normal” me can throw back a pint of ice cream…
  • { Tired!! } Naps are my favorite pastime, as sleeping at night has been fairly challenging and unfulfilling the last several weeks. I have learned to use peak times of energy and motivation to the absolutely fullest, and to have guiltless-rest when needed. Listening to my changing body is an ongoing lesson in humility and grace.

C h a n g i n g

  • { Growing Pains } It is surreal that the little person inside of me is already over a foot long and two pounds! I am beginning to feel the aches and pains from the recent acceleration in growth, which makes me all the more thankful to have had my prenatal yoga classes throughout this whole trimester! It has been helping me cope with symptoms, learn useful breathing and relaxation techniques, and meet other lovely expectant mamas! Such a blessing, and I highly recommend it. I supplement yoga with long morning walks (before it is too hot!) and short pregnancy workouts on YouTube, wanting to remain strong every step of this journey.
  • { On the Move } Our little Cannoli is busy each morning and night with lots of wonderful kicks, jumps, spins, twirls, and front handsprings (or so it seems!), as well little thumps that seem to say “I’m still in here!” all throughout the day. I cherish our family time in bed each night, as baby is active as ever, and Stephen reads our favorite stories.

P l a n n i n g

  • { Boy or Girl? } We opted out of learning the baby’s gender, something I wasn’t sure I could do but now am so glad we did! This hasn’t affected our planning, and if anything, has saved me money by not buying an exuberant amount of baby clothing. (; So far, the guesses rolling in consist of dozens for boy, and only one guess for girl. I do enjoy hearing everyone’s predictions!
  • { Nursery } The last few months I have worked on my vision for the nursery, though there is not much to show for it yet. I have a rocking chair that will eventually have cushions and that is almost it! But I’m trying not to stress about it because let’s be honest – how much “stuff” does an infant need anyway? (Not much.) Is little Cannoli really going to care how their room looks? (No.)
  • { Appointments } Just one more 4-week routine visit before we start seeing the midwives every other week. This milestone is making things more real than ever. I have had such a positive experience with the medical staff so far, and leave each appointment feeling more reassured that I am at the right place for us!

P r a y i n g

  • { Smooth Transitions } Right now my prayer is for a smooth transition back to school and wedding season. Our fall is booked with photography and events, with only one free weekend before baby is here. ONE. Honestly, that does intimidate me some. Asking for wisdom to know when I need to rest and for opportunities to do so. Also thanking God for my ever-supportive husband who often meets my needs before I even realize I have them – he is living out fatherhood and husbandhood so wonderfully.

 

1st Trimester Reflections

first trimester reflections - pursuing pearls blog

T h i n k i n g

  • { Pregnancy After Loss } The first trimester was truly blissful, but not always free of fear. I have been wrestling a lot with pregnancy after loss, and will share more on my experiences as the months go by. God’s presence has been so evident through it all and I am thankful that my struggles can be free of guilt and shame. We are absolutely over the moon in love with this sweet babe who He has entrusted to us!

F e e l i n g 

  • { Nauseous } The best way I can describe it is the feeling many get when stepping off of a twirly carnival ride. Not terrible, but constant dizziness, rumbley belly, and a disinterest in food. Current aversions include marina sauce, salsa, and Old Bay seasoning.
  • { Tired } One of this biggest challenges I faced first trimester was purchasing and moving into our new home. We made our offer on the house within a week or so of finding out we were expecting, just as the fatigue was settling in. The day before we were to move, I hardly had a box packed. I am so thankful for the family and friends who stepped in and made that move possible! My mom and I were the last ones to leave the apartment, after some deep cleaning, and when we arrived at the house everyone else was there: they had dinner waiting for me and had put together my bedroom so I could take a nap while they continued to unpack and install a brand new back splash in the kitchen. We really had the dream team!!

C h a n g i n g

  • { Growing Belly } I have absolutely loved seeing my baby bump grow, though it was mostly just the “baby bloat” the first three months. I’ve definitely noticed my pants getting a little snug, but still get away with non-maternity items – thank goodness for hair ties as pants fasteners!
  • { Growing Baby } There was nothing like seeing that sweet little babe for the first time via ultrasound. And the heartbeat – it made my own skip!!! Baby is now the size of a lime and their tiny fingerprints are beginning to form. So small, but so unique, so loved, so priceless.

P l a n n i n g

  • { Sharing the News } We waited a while share our news, because my siblings were all coming to visit from out of town, and I really wanted to tell them in person. It was so worth it! I made cards for my nieces and nephews with sonogram pictures and the words “Cousin DiCarlo – coming November 2017!” We got videos of their reactions, which was incredibly special.
  • { Gender Reveal? } While there are still several weeks before our anatomy scan, Stephen and I are teetering with the idea of not learning the baby’s gender. The planner side of me is a little nervous about that, but we keep going back to the thought that there are only so many good surprises in life!

P r a y i n g

  • { Fearlessness } After our miscarriage last year, I have found myself fearful of the endless what if’s looming over my head and heart. While the first trimester has come to an end, and we have shared our exciting news, I still find myself fearful as I realize my lack of control over this sweet life within. My first pregnancy was filled with unadulterated joy (despite my lack of control then as well), and I so long to experience that again. I have been asking God to lead me through fearless motherhood as pregnancy is just a small part of an even bigger journey.

 

When Goodbye Comes Too Soon

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Shocked. Terrified. Overjoyed. These are just a few of the seemingly endless emotions my husband and I experienced when we learned we were expecting. We were having a baby!?(!!!)

A mere five weeks along, we began the planning, the researching, the dreaming, and the pile of expectant parent must-reads that sat a foot high on my nightstand. It was a time of excitement for both the present adventure and the journey that stood before us.

At about ten weeks we went in for my first appointment. Nothing looked particularly wrong with my ultrasound – I was measuring  earlier than we had anticipated (which didn’t seem to cause the midwife too much concern). However, an uneasiness began to move inside of me and right then I knew, inexplicably, something was in fact wrong. The midwife scheduled us for a return visit one week later, aiming to see major signs of growth. But we were left with a cautious hope, returning to our vehicle quietly with tear-filled eyes and fear-filled hearts. In that moment, any fear I had previously experienced in life seemed absolutely minuscule.

There are no words to explain the way I felt the days following that appointment, other than I simply no longer felt pregnant. While the pregnancy symptoms I had been experiencing were relatively mild anyway (outside of weeping over almost any and every thing), it all came to an abrupt halt that seemed flawlessly discernible: My body was preparing me to grieve. Several friends who had experienced periods of denial during pregnancy reassured me that these feelings were normal and no sign to cause concern. But in my heart, I somehow knew their comforting words did not apply to me. That wasn’t going to be our story.

Waiting…

Opening up to only a few dearest of friends, I admitted that I hadn’t any idea of what God was wanting from me in that time. Worry would accomplish nothing of value, I knew this, but if not worry, then what? Pray. But how to pray? What to pray for?  I did not doubt God’s presence or power. I felt both. Yet my desire to do something felt painfully unfulfilled, so I persevered in the few things I could – eating well, staying hydrated, getting attempting lots of rest, and staying connected to Him. We had given the nickname “Blue” a few weeks before – when baby had been only the size of a blueberry – and it just stuck. Stephen and I prayed over our precious little Blue every day that week, even more so than we had before.

God was so gracious with time, as a 7-day stretch that I anticipated would feel like eternity somehow flew swiftly right before my eyes. The day of the follow-up appointment finally arrived and the Lord in His might calmed the sea raging within my heart. But barely an hour before my appointment, I experienced the first physical confirmation my heart had been dreading, but almost expecting. Until that moment I must have been loosely grasping a handful of hope. We entered the appointment already knowing the outcome: we would not meet our precious baby this side of Heaven.

The tech remained silent through the duration of the ultrasound, as did Stephen and I – the silence spoke just what it needed. We took a long weekend to be together, to grieve, to make happy memories.

It has been six months and I feel it ever so deeply.
The emptiness of my arms.
That throbbing void in my heart.
The moments I am overwhelmed by it all – sometimes days at a time.

But amidst the struggles, I’ve experienced something alongside the pain: a peace that transcends understanding.  My prayer is that this broken heart of mine will continue to soften and expand to love more deeply and freely; that when I see others with their sweet Littles, my joy for them is not suppressed, but is greater still because of the journey my own heart has traveled.

We each wear grief so differently. It is journey with no predetermined script or duration. But today if you find yourself with a broken heart from this very broken world, please know that you are never – not even for a moment – alone. I have been utterly amazed by the abundant support we have received; much coming from family and friends who’ve, priorly unbeknownst to me,  walked these very steps. On the one hand, bottling up your aching heart and guarding it out of fear of vulnerability can seem like the safe thing to do. But sharing my heart has been one of the biggest healing components for me these last months, healing I know I could not have achieved had I tried to face this on my own. Hearing how God has brought others through their dark times has filled me with a hope that does not rest solely on a hope for another child, but for a future where He is glorified in all things.

Becoming Mary in Martha’s World

sunday brunch hospitality

At first glance, I would consider myself a fairly balanced person. I try to make time for my family, my friends, myself. I exercise regularly, enjoy my job, eat well and determine to learn or create something new each day. Sometimes I look around me and see those whose schedules are jam-packed, never seeming to get a break – whether they wanted to or not. As a culture, I believe we’ve come to wear busyness as a badge. Somehow as if the busier we are, the higher the quality of our life.

I’ve found myself comparing these stories to what I believe is my own, thinking, “I’m so glad my life doesn’t look like such chaos!”

Yet recently when hosting some friends unexpectedly, I found myself in a frantic disarray – even after our guests had arrived. I wasn’t enjoying their company, by any means, just scuttling about trying to tidy this and finish that. Now I wouldn’t say I was necessarily proud of my busy state, but I was adding priority to things that did not deserve that level of my focus.

When my sweet husband approached me and quietly asked if there was anything he could do, humility overcame me as I was reminded of the hospitality of Mary and Martha.

You may be familiar with the story. Jesus and his disciples were traveling through town when Martha opened up her home to host them. She held a reputation for hospitality and this was a very generous gesture, as it was a particularly large group to entertain.  As Martha busied herself with all the preparations, her sister, Mary, sat at Jesus’ feet clinging to his every word. When Martha realized her sister was not helping with the details of the dinner, she approached Jesus out of frustration and said:

“Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I was Martha.

Though there is nothing wrong with wanting the food you cook to be a mouth watering work a art and your house to be immaculate, the dilemma arises when those things take priority over relationships…because before you know it, the Lesser Things find a foothold to achieve victory over you.

I can be Mary.

Not long ago I was challenged to write the story of my life from the perspective of 5 years in the future. In that reflection, I described our future home as “a cozy, safe, and welcoming place – the gathering spot for our family, friends, and friends-to-be.”  It was a powerful moment to compare my future dream to my current reality. But it also gave me hope that the way I was wasn’t the way I had to be. Over the last few weeks, I have been reaching out to God for help becoming more flexible and learning to show myself grace when things do not go quite as I would hope. He has provided opportunities quite generously but I am thankful for new challenges that help me become more like his loving, patient Son.

Pursuing Pearls

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…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” {Jesus}”

The list of to-dos seems to be growing at the rate of dishes in the sink, and nothing ever feels complete…
Life is far too noisy to devote time to being still in the quiet to simply listen…
So much time is poured into work, that there is no energy left to invest in meaningful relationships…

Different roads and different distractions, yet each day we all find ourselves at Crossroads with a choice to make. A choice to trade the Lesser Things for the greater ones.

What challenges are you facing in the Crossroads? What Lesser Things you find yourself grasping ever-so-tightly?  busyness? fear? selfish gain? regret?

There are Pearls you can exchange them for!

Joy.
Confidence.
Security.
Passion.
Contentment.
Peace.
Simplicity.
Fearless faith.

Not one of us is meant to walk this road alone. My dream is that this will be a place of encouragement and inspiration as we together Pursue the Pearls of Greater Price, enabling us to live a life full to the rim – the way it was intended from the very beginning.