A Letter From God

I’ve attended church twice since Estelle passed away. This is not because I am protesting the church or blaming God for her death. We just don’t go to church often. Prior to Estelle’s death, my faith was mostly, “God is probably real. I mean, if I die and it turns out he isn’t, I guess there isn’t much left to do about that.”

After Estelle died, my faith changed. It became, “God better be real. Heaven better be real. If I don’t get to see my child ever again someone is going to pay!” Hell hath no fury like a bereaved mother. I have way more thoughts now than I ever did before about whether or not I am living a life that will get me into heaven. Thoughts like, “What if I die, I make it all the way up to pearly gates, I see Estelle on the other side waiting, and Saint Peter is like, “Ufdah, you just missed the mark. Sorry, but no heaven for you.”

Seriously, grief anxiety is real. So so real. I’ve never thought more about what life means, why humans are on earth, and what my life’s purpose is more than I have in the last seven months. It is a bit exhausting, but I will continue to try to figure out. I will try to figure out if God is real or not, if Estelle is in heaven, and if she can see me, hear me, feel me.

I’ve written about signs before, and I feel like I continue to search for her. Seeking her out in everything I do but falling short. I dismiss many signs that could be from Estelle because I can’t really prove they are from her. Sure, I think about her when I see bees, but believing that every bee in the summer, around a flower pot, is Estelle, feels desperate, even though I am, indeed, desperate.

Driving to support group a week and a half ago I saw a man on a bike wearing a tiger helmet. Random, sure, but Estelle? Later that same evening I looked out the window as we drove by Tiger Supermarket. I wondered, but thought, well sure, that supermarket has probably been there for years. It isn’t like God and Estelle got together and built it right before I drove past.

There is this tree in our front yard that looks as if the yellow sun is shining directly on one branch. I saw it, smiled, and walked into the house. A day later I noticed it again. It just looks so strange…the only bright yellow spot on the whole tree. I looked at it for another day or two until I finally took out my phone to take a picture. The patch of leaves hangs directly above my forsythia bush.

Today at work I was thinking more about this patch of yellow leaves and was trying to make sense of it. Should I be accepting these things as hellos from Estelle or am I just being delusional? I started to draft a post on Instagram, as one does, about these leaves. I quickly became frustrated. I came to conclude that these little signs just aren’t good enough. I don’t want to live the rest of my life seeing a bee and thinking of Estelle. I don’t want to wear yellow toenail polish that makes it look like I have a toe fungus just because yellow reminds me of Estelle. I just want Estelle. It isn’t fair and I don’t like it and I don’t want it. So in my post, I wrote, “Why can’t I have tangible proof? Why can’t I get a handwritten note from God that says, ‘Estelle is with me. She is safe. You will see her again.'” It doesn’t feel like I am asking for too much.

Fast forward to later. I discarded the post because I was like, well this will only lead to tears and went on and had a productive work day. Piper and I stopped by Estelle’s library on our way home, as we often do, and then went home. We did our usual routine of letting out Selby through the garage, we brought up the garbage can from the end of the driveway, gathered the mail, and then went inside to start dinner. When I went to let Selby out again, this time through the front door, a pamphlet went flying into the air and landed right in front of me on the step. On the cover, “Will suffering end?” I laughed a bit. Of course, I would get this.

I opened it up, thinking, “Nice of my JW friends to be looking out for me,” and read,

“God…will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, suffering, crying, or pain.” Revelation 21:3

So, that is a bit spooky.  BUT, it isn’t exactly the handwritten note that I asked for. And it might just be a coincidence, but I also hear the words of a grief friend and fellow bereaved mama saying, “There are no coincidences anymore.”

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Tahlequah

I’ve been wanting to write about this Mom for over two weeks now, but it has been hard to put my thoughts and feelings into words. Tahlequah, also known as J35 to scientists, is a Mama Orca who lost her calf shortly after birth. She became a global phenomenon as the world watched her grieve so openly.

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When I first heard of Tahlequah I felt instantly connected to her. I told my husband that I wanted to fly to Seattle to try to be with her. I wanted to climb into the ocean to hold her. To tell her I knew what she was feeling and that she was not alone. She was showing the entire world what I’ve felt inside for last 6.5 months.

I checked daily to see if she was still carrying her calf and to see if she was ok. Ok meaning, still alive, because I don’t think anyone who loses their child is really “ok” in the typical sense. She continued to carry her calf for 17 days and traveled 1,000 miles with her.  The female members of her pod started to take turns carrying her calf for her so she could rest and eat. They surrounded her and supported her for over two weeks.

I knew that when she eventually let go of her calf that it would affect me, but I wasn’t entirely sure how. This morning I was waiting for our Starbucks order when I saw the headline, After 17 days and 1,000 miles, mother orca Tahlequah drops her dead calf. I took a quick screenshot to send to my husband as I tried to not break down in Starbucks. Once our drinks were ready I rushed to my car and let the tears out.

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Someone recently asked in an online support group that I am in what the hardest moment for each of us has been as it relates to the loss of our child. Many said how quiet their deliveries were as they wanted so badly to hear their child cry. Others said the stillness of their babies. No chests moving up and down. For me, I said, was placing my baby into her coffin knowing I’d never hold or see her again.

For Tahlequah, choosing to let go of her calf, or simply not being able to carry her any longer due to to the physical state of her child’s body, must have been one of the hardest moments for her. As I sat in my car it all rushed over me. I was back at the funeral home laying Estelle down for the last time, but wanting to hold on to her forever. I told Justin and the funeral director that if I could run away with her I would. I watched the funeral director place the top of her casket on and seal it.

I thought about asking him to take it off because I needed more time, but I also knew we had people waiting for us in the chapel. Our circle of support was waiting for us, just as Tahlequah’s pod always waiting for her. Our oldest brothers would come in soon to walk her casket to the front of the room and we’d spend the next 30 minutes talking about her short life and the entire future that was taken from us. When it was over, our other two brothers would walk her out to the car so we could bring her to the cemetery.

At the cemetery, Justin asked if we wanted to stay and watch them lower Estelle into the ground. I said yes. We watched as the machine slowly put her into the ground. Piper would say, “That is my baby sister. Where is my baby sister going?” And we’d continue to watch until her casket reached the bottom of her grave. I imagine that Tahlequah watched her calf slowly drifted away from her. Knowing that she was the only one who felt all of her child’s movements and was the last one to ever touch her child’s skin. Just as I was with Estelle.

Now that Tahlequah is no longer carrying her calf doesn’t mean her grief is over or that the hard part is past her. It doesn’t mean that a weight has lifted now that she is no longer carrying the physical remains of her calf. Instead, it is almost like her journey is just beginning. The longest road is ahead of her, as it is for every mother who has lost a child, as they continue to somehow move forward carry the greatest weight but with the emptiest arms.

To read more about Tahlequah, visit the following:

The Seattle Times

I Will Carry You

Let Us Be the Whale

‘It’s heartbreaking’: Killer whale continues carrying dead calf for ‘unprecedented’ length of mourning

 

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.

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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!

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Happy “Due” Date

Well, we have been talking about March 1st since June 24, the evening I found out I was pregnant. We’ve been prepping and planning for this date. Lately I’ve been working more than 40 hours each week to help prepare my teammates, I have worked to stay ahead on homework assignments, and of course have been organizing and making room for all of the baby stuff in our home. Everyone tells you the likelihood of your first baby being late is high; however, there is so much focus on “when are you due” that it is hard to wrap your head around going past that date.

Luckily I’ve had a pretty decent pregnancy. I don’t think I am overly uncomfortable, just as comfortable as one can be with a full-term baby still cooking away inside. I am still working and walking on the treadmill but have found that with every move, especially if any core engagement is involved, I am a lot more vocal. Sorry to those around me, it is probably annoying to hear me grunt so often.

But overall, I am thankful that my blood pressure thus far has stayed in a normal range, my canckles and overall swelling appear to be of no concern, and the baby still moves around plenty and jams herself into my ribs if she feels the need for a real good stretch. Each uncomfortable movement is a reminder that she is doing well in there.

I don’t want this post to be a woe is me since tomorrow I will officially be “overdue” (although, I know with each date they provide it is simply a guess and a benchmark) so I thought I’d share some of my favorite things that have helped me enjoy the final trimester of my pregnancy.

1. Our Treadmill – Since a Minnesota winter typically involves plenty of cold air and ice-covered walkways, all of my walking has taken place inside. Luckily we have a treadmill so it hasn’t been too hard to still get a walk in 3-5 days per week. Not only has this helped with my energy, but it has also helped me somewhat manage my pregnancy weight gain. Hate treadmills? Plug in a Friends DVD and the time flies!

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2. Tums – Lets be real. If you know me at all you know that you can count of me to have some Tums nearby. However, since going gluten-free I have relied on them less and less each day. That was until I learned about pregnancy heartburn. Pregnancy heartburn is not like normal heartburn. It can sneak up on you without notice or cause and travel all the way up your esophagus in about .5 seconds. It is actually kind of impressive. For me Tums have been enough to manage it. Thank goodness.

3. Friends and Family – We have been showered with a lot of love over the past three months. Lots of gifts, well wishes and support from all of those around us who already love Baby B. We can’t wait to introduce her to everyone.

4. Starbucks – I know, I know. Probably not the best source of nutrients for growing a human but sometimes a girl just needs to start her day with a decaf latte. Especially if it gives her the kick in the rear that is needed to focus through a working day and homework at night. So Starbucks, thank you for existing.

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5. Prenatal Yoga – Justin signed me up for a 5-week prenatal yoga series as part of my Christmas present. Unfortunately it ended two weeks ago but showing up every Sunday was the best thing I could have done for myself during my pregnancy. I only wish I would have started sooner instead of waiting until the final stretch. Ps. Yoga is hard in general. Yoga while pregnant is even harder. Ufdah.

And without being too mushy, I have to mention that without my husband none of this would have been possible. Haha, obviously. But he has been patient and supportive and has even helped me with my compression socks a time or two. And why those aren’t on my top 5 list is beyond me. They are my favorite things ever right now, right behind the husband. 🙂

With all that said, I am going to throw on my compression socks and hit the treadmill. Until my next post, I will leave you with this picture from this morning because I think it is funny.

My feet are still down there.
My feet are still down there.

Certified to Parent

Yesterday Justin and I spent all day in the classroom. The teacher shared a story with us about her almost eight year old daughter and trying to explain the test you take in order to receive your driver’s license. The little girl was intrigued and then wanted to know what type of test her Mom’s students have to take at the end of her class. Well, her Mom teaches prenatal parenting classes, and crazy enough, there is no test at the end.

We attended an express, all-in-one day, preparing for childbirth class. We took the class through Amma Parenting and had a great registered nurse, Meggin, as our instructor. Amma was recommended by our provider and they also contract with the hospital we plan to deliver at. After looking at their course offerings and realizing we really don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to more classes since I am still in grad school and Justin is wrapping up his thesis we decided to do the all-in-one.

The all-in-one is more high level, touches on a lot of things, but doesn’t go into great detail about everything. I found this to be just fine for what we were looking for, and Justin was happy with it as well. The first half focused on labor and delivery and the second half was about nursing and newborn care. The only thing I question now is whether or not we should look into a labor and delivery class that teaches more coping mechanisms since after watching the labor and deliver video I was like, “Hells no.” And if I am being honest, the video wasn’t even that bad and was only 12 minutes long so I probably need to buck up here pretty quick.

I thought our instructor did a great job keeping things light and exciting as I am sure most couples looked confused and terrified at different times during the class. She also did not push any opinions or objectives on us. She did share personal stories from her births when asked and what she has seen as a long time labor and delivery nurse but always stressed that there is a pattern to labor but not one is the same.

I know Justin said he is feeling a lot more confident especially now that he has some ideas of what he can do to support me through labor and learned more about new-born care. I am not so sure my confidence is any higher yet but I am more informed about what we have gotten ourselves into. Haha. Just kidding. Sort of.

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Proof that we are certified to parent!

I also thought I’d take this opportunity to briefly share some other resources we have taken advantage of throughout the pregnancy as well.

Bump Club and Beyond – Twin Cities
Justin and I have attended two paid Bump Club events together and I have attended one free one by myself. The paid ones can be expensive depending on what type of tickets you buy. For instance, the first one we attended, Gearapalooza, cost $130 total for us both to attend. Our ticket included a Beco Carrier retailing about $130 and a swag bag worth $150. I also won a Baby K’Tan which retails about $50. The second one we attended was for expectant parents that was a dinner and presentation all about sleep! Such an important topic. We paid about $160 total for us both to attend. Our tickets included a Motorola Video Monitor retailing about $200, another swag bag, and I ended up winning a Skip Hop Duo Baby Bag retailing about $60. The information was awesome as well!

The free ones are about an hour-long, held at a Target in Minnetonka and also offer great information. I went to a car seat basics one and learned more about car seat safety…which is always important since I think about 80% of people are using them incorrectly! :/ I didn’t win anything but they do offer 10% off in baby for that night so it is well worth the trip for the education and the discount.

This is almost all Bump Club swag.
This is almost all Bump Club swag.

Everything that is included in the gift bags is legit, useful stuff too. It isn’t just a bag full of samples and brochures. Totally worth it in my opinion!

Sacred Pregnancy Retreat
I also attended a Sacred Pregnancy Retreat in November hosted by Moon River Wellness. I didn’t learn about how to care for a baby or survive childbirth, but it was an awesome opportunity to connect with myself & baby, as well as other pregnant mamas. It was a day retreat with three other woman, and we did multiple activities and rituals to help us connect and understand that being pregnant can and should be a sacred journey. I really enjoyed it and left feeling a little less anxious about the process. I still think about it today now that I am in my final trimester, and when fear starts to creep in I light the candle we made and spray the essential oils we mixed and just reconnect with myself. I would highly recommend you look into this if/when you are pregnant…and it is not just for first time Moms!

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I’d love to hear if you found any resources particularly helpful during your pregnancy. Comment below!