3rd Trimester Reflections

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T h i n k i n g 

  • { Meeting Baby } I have long wrapped my mind around being pregnant. I believe I’ve also wrapped my mind around the idea of a baby residing within me. But I cannot even begin to imagine meeting this sweet, sweet soul! That is one of the reasons I am glad we did not learn the baby’s gender during pregnancy – there are so many mysteries wrapped around this precious life! We are absolutely thrilled to watch and help him/her grow into the person they were created to be in the days and years to come!

F e e l i n g

  • { Thankful } As the day of our Dear One’s arrival approaches (yet another mystery), I am thankful for time spent with Stephen, family, friends, and just the extra hours to get things done. The wait can be hard, and the anticipation great, but this journey has been filled to the brim with blessings that are providing me with a glimpse of motherhood.
  • { Motivated } While some days are better than others, I still have quite a bit of drive. I planned to work as long as I could, and made it working past my due date! But my maternity leave officially begins this week (week 41) and I am glad for the flexibility this will bring as the frequency of my appointments increases. (Also, I would love to get our Christmas tree up and prepare for Advent – things I have given myself to look forward to as we continue to wait for our little Cannoli.)

C h a n g i n g

  • { New Limitations } I began to notice some very sudden changes and limitations around week 36, part of which I’m sure can be attributed to really slacking on physical activity. Braxton Hicks made exercise a bit of a pain (literally) and I noticed even with yoga, what I can do one day I cannot necessarily do the next. I’ve been trying to spend more time on my exercise ball, alleviating some sciatic nerve pain that surfaced in the ninth month.
  • { Major Growth Spurt } While my own weight seems to have plateaued, starting week 38, my belly began feeling very tight and itchy from all the stretching of a growing babe. Any attempts to scratch it are left unsatisfied, as it is numb and I cannot feel anything – it is quite a bizarre sensation! I’ve had to tell myself on a somewhat daily basis that my belly is not actually going to burst, as it feels it may (just take a look at the following picture – that is a BIG belly!).

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P l a n n i n g

  • { Ready (or Not) } We have completed our various childbirth classes, including a general hospital class, a natural childbirth class, and a postpartum recovery/infant care class. Our hospital bags have been meticulously planned for and packed. Small gifts for our labor and delivery staff have been assembled. The baby’s room is organized (though not totally decorated – I figure baby will forgive me for this). Freezer meals have been prepared. The house has been cleaned from top to bottom (perhaps the last time for while). Thank you notes are written and in the mail. Now, we wait…
  • { Birth Team } I am incredibly thankful that joining Stephen and I, my sister, Allyson, will be also attending the birth. She has had six natural births, and is simply amazing. We’ve met together to talk about our hopes and plans, all scenarios considered. I know I could not ask for better support – mental, emotional, physical, spiritual – than from these two! They really are my dream team.

P r a y i n g

  • { Birth Without Fear } When you announce you are pregnant, it is as if overnight you become a walking billboard inviting others to share their birth horror stories. While I know most of these retellings come from the best of intentions – to remind the mama-to-be that all will be well regardless of how many things go “wrong” – they are often anything but helpful. As I write these words at 41 weeks, I remain grateful that anxiety has not seeped into my mind and heart as it so easily could (and so often does). Some of this may be attributed to a form of denial about all that is to come, but I truly believe this has been God’s way of protecting me from fear. For the spirit He gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

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The next time I post, our sweet little Cannoli will be here!!

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When One Month Remains

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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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

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.