A Sign

First day back to work…check! The day went well, but I’m exhausted. I sure missed my daily nap. Before I turn in for the night I wanted to share a more hopeful moment in my grief journey.

On one of my more recent hard days, the day that would have been her second month birthday, I began pleading for a sign. I needed God, Estelle, or anyone who would listen to send me sign. I needed a sign that Estelle was with me. I needed a sign that loved ones looking down on you isn’t complete rubbish. I needed a sign that I wasn’t alone.

I wasn’t sure when I’d get this sign. I figured it could be hours, days, or even years, but I clarified my request to have it not take too long. The next day I was heading to support group alone for the first time. Justin had been gone for a few nights already at an oddly timed drill weekend. My biggest fear about going alone was having to speak our story aloud. Usually Justin does that for us. As suspected, the story of Estelle came out in bits and pieces as I failed to sound coherent, but in the end it was ok and I made it through. As our time together was coming to an end, one of the facilitators gave us each a gift—forsythia branches.

They looked like random branches she picked up on a walk, but she explained how she brings these branches into her home because it’s one of the first plants to bloom every spring. She loves to garden as a way to honor her daughter and when winter gets long they bring her hope.

We joked about what it would mean if our branches never bloomed, but she insisted they would when we least expected it, and that they would bloom yellow flowers. Yellow. I stopped dead in my tracks, and thought, yellow. I was so happy to hear the blooms would be yellow. I can’t explain why, but yellow is the color that reminds me of Estelle. My first sign. (Side note: The Forsythia plant is named after William Forsyth who was royal head gardener and a founding member of the Royal Horticultural Society. Take that for what you will as well!)

Fast forward a week and a half later. I’m writing and tubbing and of course, crying. I’m worried about my first day back to work and settling back in to “normal.” I worry about what it will be like for all of us to be getting back into a routine that was once so familiar but now felt strange.

After getting the words out, and the tears, I started to feel better. I was making dinner, prepping for the next day, when Justin let out a little gasp. He said, “Look! The branches are starting to bloom!”

And just like that, the night before I returned to work, Estelle sent a little message to let me know she’s still with me.

Advertisements

The End of a Chapter

The sentence that I have been given, a childless maternity leave, is coming to an end. I am unsure if I will feel a sense of freedom since I will no longer be alone in my quiet home, or if I will feel unsafe since I will no longer be allowed to move at my own pace or cry so freely as I can do now.

To say my leave didn’t go as I had planned is an overwhelming understatement. I remember sitting in a meeting at work when I got an email sharing that Justin would be allowed to take six weeks of paid paternity leave. I was so excited and emotional. The thought of having him home as we adjusted to life with two kids brought tears to my eyes. We could keep Piper home more often if there were two of us. We could sleep in shifts. We could watch Parks and Rec and enjoy six blissful weeks as a family.

I was finishing my MBA when I was on maternity leave with Piper. I hoped this second time around would allow me to be more present to enjoy all the cries, the late nights and early mornings, and the freedom of not having an agenda. I wanted our house to get messy, for visitors to come over gradually, for me to probe about vaccinations and to push hand sanitizer, and most of all, I wanted to neurotically watch my baby sleep all night just to ensure she was still breathing.

Instead, I slept through the night. I worked out almost everyday. I took baths, sometimes more than once a day. I received many gifts. I napped, a lot. We took a family vacation to Disney World. It appears as if I had a bomb staycation. In reality, most of those activities were done out of necessity and not for enjoyment. Each workout was to clear my head and to hopefully look less pregnant. Each bath was spent crying, connecting with other loss Moms, or aimlessly scrolling Instagram and feeling irritated that it was still serving up living infant ads. I received each gift with gratitude but longed to trade it in for my baby. Each nap was a temporary refuge from my thoughts. And, worst of all, I never got to see my baby take a breath. Not even a single one.

So heading back to the office tomorrow brings mixed emotions. I find myself excited to be with some of my favorite people, but I fear things will be different. Of course they will, it would be silly to think they wouldn’t be. I fear my creativity will be gone and my brain won’t work properly. I fear my mind will wander during a meeting, and I won’t be able to get control over it. I fear I’ll awkwardly become emotional when I didn’t mean to or it doesn’t make sense to others. I fear for the first time someone new asks me why I was out for two months or how many children I have. But most of all, I fear that going back to work will mean I’m ok. It will mean that I’m not always thinking about both Piper and Estelle and that I’m no longer wishing things were different.

Prior to Estelle’s birth I bought her and Piper matching pants. Piper’s said Big Sister and Estelle’s said Little Sister. I had already planned, months in advance, that they’d wear those pants on Estelle’s first day of daycare. I imagined crying on my way to work just as I did when Piper first started at her school. I imagined taking a break in my day to call and check-in on her. I imagined Piper driving her teachers a little crazy because all she’d want to do is check on her baby sister all day.

I confided in a friend and colleague that I couldn’t stop thinking about these pants. Once I said it, or texted it rather, it helped. I needed to get those feelings, those words, off my chest. I hope by sharing these words today will help me tomorrow morning as I grieve the end of my maternity leaving, the dreams that I had for those first few months, for the damn super cute pants that won’t be worn, and for the employee and colleague I was before Estelle was born. I hope to give the new Elizabeth grace, I hope to be patient with those who just don’t get it but try to, and I hope to insert comedy at just the right time when things get weird.

As my work life picks back up, I’ll acknowledge my fears and remind myself that this is the end of a chapter but not the end of my story. I’ll head downstairs and pack up my work bag, I’ll lay out my clothes that don’t fit quite right, and I’ll go get a mani/pedi to try to appear a little more put together on the outside than I feel on the inside.

What’s in a Name?

I don’t think many people know the story behind Estelle’s name so what better day to share the story than on Reese Witherspoon’s birthday.

I was committed to Estelle’s name long before I was Piper’s. It just seemed right for our next girl. I pictured her being funny, strong, and full of personality like her big sister. But I also pictured her a little more feisty and having a taste for the finer things in life. I imagined her costing her Dad and me a lot of money as she grew up. So the origin of her name is two fold…

In September of 2016 our little family traveled to Sweden. While visiting we stumbled upon the Royal Family. No joke. We were like, “Oh, there is the King and Queen. Helloooo, King and Queen!!!” That day in September marked the second Royal Family I’ve seen while traveling. First ones being the decedents of the one and only, Queen Elizabeth II. Though, saying someone is the one and only when they are actually the second feels a bit off, but I digress.

After that moment I decided I should ramp up my fandom for the Swedish royals. That is when I stumbled upon Princess Estelle. She is second in line of succession to the Swedish thrown. You go, little girl! I mentioned the name to Justin, knowing he’d love the tie to Sweden.

We didn’t find out we were pregnant with our second baby until May of 2017. I didn’t think much about the name in the time in between, but I was secretly hoping we’d have another girl. Why? Because I’ve always loved the name Elle and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to use it if we had a boy.

I felt like Elle would be too silly of a name, or perhaps the reason too silly, because I absolutely love the character Elle Woods from the movie Legally Blonde. Don’t laugh. That woman is fearless and fashionable. When I need a pep talk, she is my go-to.

I started to think of names that Elle could be a nickname for. Elenor? Love the name but too popular. Ella or Stella? Again, love them both, but gaining popularity. That is when I remembered Estelle. It. Was. Perfect.

I mentioned it to Justin and he was on board, even with my planned nickname and tribute to Reese’s best career move. I then threw out my name as the middle name. Estelle Elizabeth…it sounded dreamy to me and once we found out the gender we knew it would be perfect for our next little girl.

We didn’t tell anyone the name prior to her birth. I felt uncomfortable totally committing before seeing her face. When she was born, having just found out less than an hour before that we’d never get to know her like we had planned, the nurse placed her on my chest and asked what her name was. I looked down at her through tears and proudly said, Estelle Elizabeth.

The Happiest Place on Earth

Planning a vacation just weeks after your child has died… It felt good to be looking forward to something, but it also felt a little wrong. Two nights before we left I started to feel anxious and guilty. I started to have this dreadful feeling that I was leaving her behind. I tried to tell myself the feelings weren’t rational. I wasn’t exactly leaving my child behind when my child is buried in the ground. The cemetery isn’t even in the same city I live in, but Florida felt worlds away compared to Stillwater.

These feelings made me nervous about leaving. Could I actually do it? I knew I had to and that I wanted to, but would it be a miserable vacation? Around 4:00am the next morning I woke up with a stomach bug. Super. I spent the next 24 hours either in the bathroom, in bed, or packing. That didn’t leave much time to process my feelings about actually going.

We made it out the door and on the plane for our 7:00am flight. I was feeling better but not 100%. I felt excited and anxious and like I might cry at any moment, but overall was looking forward to the warmth of the sun on my skin.

We planned to go to Magic Kingdom first. I think it is the most magical park and since it was Piper’s first time I wanted to start out there. We were approaching Main Street USA when the first parade started. For those who know us well know we love a good parade. The music was electric. The performers were giving Piper shoutouts and wishing her a happy birthday. Her smile was huge.

Our next trip to Disney was supposed to be in the fall of 2019. Piper would be about four and a half years old, Estelle almost two, and Justin would have just returned home from his second deployment. Thinking about how things were supposed to be at the same time as feeling overwhelmed with joy watching Piper dance during her first Disney parade brought on some serious emotions. I looked at Justin and laughed cried, “Leave it to a Disney parade to make me cry.” I told him I was so happy and so sad. Moments later I looked back at him and said, “Oh good! You’re crying too!” Couples who cry during parades together…

People may or may not have noticed but we didn’t care. I saw a cast member off to the side with pins and permanent markers. As I approached she asked if we were celebrating anything. I told her we were celebrating Piper and Estelle.

It was definitely a vacation that felt wonderfully awkward. Feelings swirled inside of me. Feeling of happiness, loneliness, thankfulness, and sadness.

If it wasn’t for my colleagues and friends at work we may not have actually gone. They paid for our tickets into the parks, many of our meals, and more. Although my heart may never be whole again, part of it was healed because of them and we can’t thank them enough!

International Women’s Day

Since Estelle’s birth I have been writing a few blog posts to get my thoughts out. My fingers can type faster than they can write with a pen. Plus, when my tears hit the keyboard it won’t erase anything like tears can do with ink. I haven’t published any of the posts I have written yet, which I likely will someday, but for now they are just for me.

I was just texting a friend about some support my family has recently received and I thought, I really need to share this with more people. I thought about a Facebook post but figured that would get too long. Same with Instagram. So, here it is. My first blog post in years.

Today is International Women’s Day. I often think about the strong women who surround me each day, but I have especially been thinking about them today. As a Mom of two girls, one here and one not, I’ve thought hard about how I can be an example they are proud of. How can I live a life that impacts those around me, especially my children, in a positive way? I don’t have all the answers, and I know I never will, but I continue to try to remain open each day to learn new things and to better myself.

Part of that journey includes being a member of a Mom group on Facebook. I’ve been in a few before that ended very badly. They lived up to the idea that moms judge other moms, and women don’t support other women. Then I stumbled upon a private group only for Skimm’bassadors. If you aren’t familiar with theSkimm, read more here.

The #MomLife group has always been supportive. I’ve never seen threads get out of hand and they are always respectful even when someone disagrees with certain parenting philosophies. It has always felt like a safe place to ask questions or just vent about the journey of being a Mom.

Shortly after Estelle’s birth I reached out to the group. I asked if anyone in the group had experienced something similar or had ideas for her memorial service. Some people had indirect experience with infant loss and offered up ideas for her service, but all offered their condolences, love, and virtual support. It was nice to read those comments and know so many strangers were praying for me and my family.

About a week later, a local Mom reached out to me and said the group had a care package she wanted to deliver to my family. The group is made up of people from all over the country and only a small amount are from the Twin Cities. When she arrived I was nervous. Would I hysterically cry in front of this woman I hadn’t met before or would I not cry at all and appear cold? Turns out, I didn’t cry, but I didn’t feel judged either. She was just another Mom wanting to support us and meet me where ever I was on this journey.

The care package included: candles, bath bombs, books for me, books for Piper, a gift for Justin, toys for Piper, a spa gift card, lotions, cozy socks, a Target gift card, and more. What came next was an even a bigger surprise. They had collected a generous amount of money and we received a check that will pay for over half of the memorial we want to get for Estelle this spring. We’d like to put in a Little Free Library in the park closest to our home where Estelle would have grown up playing with her big sister.

Shocked, and frankly still a bit numb from everyone’s generosity, I emailed the headquarters of theSkimm. I wanted to share how this group formed off of the community they are building and how supportive they are. SkimmHQ emailed back within 24 hours. They were kind and offered to send a box of books to get our library started.

Since receiving the care package from my #MomLife friends, we have received an Angel Bear that was coordinated by another Mom in the group, I’ve received cards from women saying they were still thinking about me, Estelle, and the rest of our family, and we’ve helped support other Moms who are going through a tough time, regardless of the circumstance.

So why do I share this long story? It isn’t to brag about the gifts we’ve received, and let me tell you, there has been a TON of love thrown our way from hundreds of people. I hope to share some of those unique stories later. But on this International Women’s Day, I wanted to share how a group of women, all Moms or women trying to become Moms, came together to support a woman they have never met in person. Though they couldn’t tell me that they knew what I was going through, I knew as women and as Moms, they knew how intense the depth of my pain must be.

We’ve received tremendous support from hundreds of women (and men!) since the birth of our second daughter. I often get overwhelmed by the sadness and fear in our world, but I am going to hold on to this hope and kindness for as long as possible. And I will continue to pay it forward in whatever way I can until I am holding Estelle again.

2015: A Year in Review

Good-bye 2015. Hello 2016!

Remember me? I used to blog. I used to share my thoughts with you whether you wanted to read about them or not. And then, 2015 happened. I think I blogged three times over the course of 365 days. Seriously. I’m not going to make excuses, but baby, MBA, life. I’m going to pick back up and do the best I can in 2016. To start us off, let me do a quick recap in an every so trendy way #2015bestnine.

2015bestnine

It was a year of firsts and a year of celebrating. To highlight a few that were featured in our #2015bestnine…

March 10 – Piper James was born.
April 24 – I turned 30!
August 18 – Turned in my final project to complete my MBA.
October 1 – Celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary.
November 26 – Hosted our first Thanksgiving.
December 25 – Celebrated Piper’s first Christmas.

As you reflect on 2015 I hope you choose to dwell on the highlights and accomplishments, no matter how great or small. Feel free to share some of them with me!

Welcome!

I think it is time to break my blogging silence. I was just reading my last post and it was on my due date. Ten…yes TEN days after I wrote that post we finally met our baby girl. Today she is a fast growing, good sleeping (don’t hate me for it!), beautiful two month old.

The adjustment the past two months have kept me from blogging, but I have so many ideas to write about in my head that I hope I can get them out there soon. We are developing a somewhat predictable routine but between housework, homework, and catching the occasional nap and shower, it has been hard to sit down and just write. Especially since I tend to be long-winded and need a little more time to flush out some thoughts.

I want to keep this one short so I don’t end up going in 400 different directions and just say, Welcome! Welcome to the world my beautiful baby girl, Piper!

Piper_Newborn (27)