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.

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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French Silk Pie

I’ve been burning through projects lately but none of them having anything to do with my 3o Before 30 list. The baby prep has really started to take over and she wasn’t even on the 3o Before 30! Thanksgiving presented the perfect opportunity for me to complete #16 – Bake a Pie From Scratch.

I decided to wait until my family’s Thanksgiving which is celebrated the Saturday after. I haven’t subjected my in-laws to my random baking experiments yet. I am sure they would be more than willing, but I know I will get very honest feedback from my parents, brothers, and sibling-in-laws.

With that said, I set out to make a gluten-free pie from scratch yesterday and settled on a French Silk Pie. I have never been a huge pie person, mainly because I am not a fan of the crust or baked fruit, so I figured as long as the filling turned out it should taste decent, right?

I did my research, and by research I mean I pinned a few recipes for gluten-free pie crust and then Googled French Silk Pie in the grocery store on a whim to make sure I had all the necessary ingredients. Then I just went for it and here is how it turned out.

I followed this recipe and this recipe for the crust. I used the Namaste All Purpose Gluten Free Flour, a stick of butter, five tablespoons of ice water and a small spoonful of sugar.

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Butter, Flour, and Sugar

 

I mixed everything by hand which made quite the mess, but I don’t think it would work very well otherwise. Especially since you are using cold butter. Most of the recipes I checked out recommended that I refrigerate the crust for at least an hour and many did it overnight. I didn’t have the overnight option (hello, procrastinator) so I refrigerated for just over an hour. Most recipes also recommended you take it out for about 10-15 minutes before rolling.

 

 

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Roll Out!

The rolling out was a little difficult and required a little more effort since the dough wanted to fall apart. I rolled it out more than once and then re-balled with my hands to make it feel like a more consistent product. Eventually, I made it look semi normal.

 

 

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Not Very Professional

I sprayed my glass pie pan with coconut oil just to ensure the crust didn’t bake directly to the pan. I wasn’t sure if I should have but did anyway. I also didn’t have a pie weight or any other fancy pie baking tools many of the recipes called for. I just rolled the crust on a counter top full of gluten-free flour.

Once it was baking at 350 degrees I watched it closely. I first set my timer for 10 minutes and then an additional 10 minutes. Once it appeared to be done (it wasn’t very golden brown but when I poked with a tooth pick it seemed done) I took it out and let it cool. Then I started the pie filling.

Following a Taste of Home recipe things came together quite well. Heating up the eggs and sugar turned out to be a longer process than expected, especially since I became nervous that it actually reached the recommended 160 degrees. Luckily I do have some  food thermometers and was able to confirm that it did reach 160, but I also don’t know if it exceeded it and was overdone. It probably was, but I get nervous about foodborne illnesses. 😉

In the end, it actually looked like French Silk Pie filling. I had Justin test it and he said the filling tasted great!

Ready to Refrigerate
Ready to Refrigerate

 

I put it in the fridge until we were ready to go to my parents and then left it outside (yay for MN becoming an outdoor fridge/freezer) until we were ready to eat it. I topped with Cool Whip and shaved some frozen Dove Chocolates over the top before serving.

Ready to Eat
Ready to Eat

Everyone who consumed it said it tasted great. I totally agreed with them too. Even my picky little brother who is also gluten-free liked it! And I think I saw my husband having one of the few leftover pieces for breakfast this morning!

If you are interested in trying a pie from scratch for the first time I would highly recommend you start here. Most of the ingredients I already had and it really didn’t take that much time to make but be sure to plan a little ahead. It will help. 🙂

Did anyone else try some fun recipes for the first time for Thanksgiving?

Operation Don’t Ruin The Nursery

I’ve often heard that parents want their children to have the best, and many will do whatever it takes, within reason, to make sure that happens. There were many times this weekend I stopped and thought, “Hmm, that must come after the baby is born, because if I really wanted Baby B to have the best I would have hired someone to do this.” In all seriousness, this weekend was a major nursery weekend. Since Justin was out-of-town deer hunting I decided to enlist the help of my parents and gets some stuff done.

I had originally set a goal to have the spare bedroom, which was to become the nursery, all cleaned out by our 20 week ultrasound. I missed that goal by weeks, but had the motivation to finish it before we had our carpets cleaned last weekend. This is what it looked liked before.

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Catch-all Room

 

I seriously went through about 15 years worth of stuff and donated about 10 bags full of clothes from my late teens and early twenties. Whoa, I wore a ton of halter tops.

I’ve been scouring Pinterest to find ideas for our nursery and came across a project I wanted to attempt that required me painting something on a wall. I am not all that creative or artistic so I went in to this project with the wall paint re-shook just in case it turned out to be a disaster. My parents came over to assist with moving furniture, painting it and hanging up shelving. Selby also tried to help but wasn’t very effective.

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The Happy Helpers.

We decided to use my old bedroom set for the nursery furniture to not only save money, but I have had the set since I was a kid, and it was my Mom’s grandmothers so it has been around a long time and was still in fairly good condition. We sanded it, repainted it white and then I repainted the trim. When I was growing up the trim was pink. Since pink has always been a favorite color of mine, but I figure we will be gifted lots of it, I decided to accent Baby B’s room with purple.

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Before & After
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Before & After.

We painted a tall dresser, a desk and a nightstand. The trim was absolutely dreadful to do and will require some touching up. For now, don’t get too close or you will see I do not have a future in furniture painting. The desk will be turned into a changing table once we get all the needed accessories for it, but we should have plenty of storage for diapers, wipes, and all the other necessary baby changing items.

And now you are probably wondering how my Pinterest project turned out. Well, I have to be honest, I am super excited and happy with how it turned out. And if I am being really honest, I am pretty proud of myself!!! 🙂

Pinterest Photo...Not Mine.
Pinterest Photo…Not Mine.
My Finished Product!
My Finished Product!

The Pinterest one looks way more professional and more like a tree than mine does but that is ok. It is better Baby B learn now that her mother isn’t perfect. 😉 Overall, I’d still say I nailed it.

It has been a labor of love this weekend trying to get the nursery started and I am definitely feeling it today. Getting out of bed required a lot of limping as my lower back feels like it fused together. Oy! Where did my core strength go? So on that note, I am relaxing for the rest of the night with some laundry and plan to do some stretching before bed. This Mama is exhausted!

 

 

 

Any guesses?

This is the week Justin and I have our 20 week ultrasound. First, are we for real halfway there? And second, I really hope the kid cooperates and shows us their goods, but of course what I am really hoping for is a child who checks out as healthy as can be! I definitely have some anxiety going in to this appointment instead of all excitement. What else is new though?

With that said, are you leaning one way? Here are some things to help make your guess a little more educated.

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1. Justin thinks it is a girl. I think boy.
2. I have no idea if I am carrying high or low because the belly isn’t that big yet and frankly I don’t entirely know what that means, but I feel like I am carrying a little more out than expanding horizontally (or is that just wishful thinking?). I think that means boy.
3. My skin has not gotten worse, except right now it ain’t so good, so that could mean boy.
4. The baby’s heartbeat has always been 160+ so that means girl.
5. Per the Chinese birth calendar, it is a girl!