July 2, 2018

A Letter to Conor


Dearest Conor,

Saturday  you were 11 weeks old and you've been in the hospital for 77 days. How has it been that long? I met a mom last week whose baby was born just a few days before you, and I asked how many days he'd been in the NICU and she knew how many days on the nose. And I asked if he was her first, and the answer was of course yes! And she turned the days question back to me, and I only knew because I had just counted for someone. If I'm honest, I lose track of the days. I know you've been there for over two months, sometimes I know the week, but again that's even rare! What I do know is that it's been two months too long for my heart, but not too long for yours. And what I do know is that my heart breaks for any mama who has to leave the hospital without her baby in her arms, regardless of the length of stay and regardless of the baby's age. I also know that I've done that with all of my babes, and I don't know if that makes it easier this time around or not? It's never easy, but it's not unfamiliar either, and I'm thankful for that!

I remember when Jack was in the NICU, I knew exactly how many days he'd been there, and I suppose it's easier to keep track when it's only 20 days. And I was so eager to get him home and truly begin my journey as a mama. And with you, I'm so incredibly eager to get you home, but I now know that my journey with being your mama doesn't begin when you get home. It's already begun. And I also know I don't want you coming home till you're good and ready to come home! I feel no need to push you beyond what you're capable of. And maybe it's because you've already been there 77 days, so I figure what's another week or two?

And I know that so much can happen in a week. This last week has been a big one for you! Just 1.5 weeks ago you took your first bottle, so at 38 weeks on the nose. I loved watching you as you tried to figure out just how to suck your food out of that nipple, and you caught on so incredibly fast. I couldn't believe it. They started you off with just 10 ml and then upped it to 20 ml and within the week they were giving you your full feed of 55 ml through the bottle. Some feeds you'd take the full thing and some feeds you'd just do part bottle, part feeding tube, but I was just in awe at how quickly you were progressing.

And Saturday when I went in to see you, the nurse told me you'd pulled out your feeding tube and she was going to leave it out unless you needed it for a feed. I was there to feed you two bottles and you did both on your own. And then the night nurse put your feeding tube back in, which is fine by me as long as you're still doing a good amount of your feeds by mouth!

And Sunday just days before your due date, they took you off all oxygen support. Feels like a monumental moment to be honest as you've been hooked up to oxygen support since your first day of life. I can't believe we've overcome that hurdle, and now it's just feeding and maintaining your endurance for that! And now comes the time in your hospital stay when your dad and I truly become your advocates, when we start making our voices and opinions truly known, when we start checking in more throughout the day.

Monday, you have a hearing test and they'll do an ultrasound of your heart to see how your PDA is progressing, has it closed entirely? will you need surgery? etc? One of the nurses said she couldn't hear it at all, so if it's still there it's really small.

And when I was with you on Satuday, I just sat with you in my arms just reveling at how far you've come, at your growth. I can't help but wonder if I'll forever do this with you. I think I do it with your brothers too, but I know your birthday will be a monumental moment for me as I sit and reflect back on the past year, on your physical growth and my emotional and spiritual growth.

So much growth, and I love that growth, but I'd be lying to you and everyone else if I said I don't sometimes question as to why we have to endure what we have to endure to get to that growth. Why has the Lord chosen us to carry out this story? Why has He chosen us to endure this pain and these trials over the last year? It definitely brings me to my knees and reminds me that you are not mine. He alone writes your story, and I'm just here to come alongside you through the pages of that story. And what an incredible gift that is!

I can't wait to see what this next week holds for you! How many more days till we buckle you into your carseat and take you home with us? How many more days till you feel the fresh air on your skin? I'm so excited to just sit with you and snuggle you on our bed as your brothers crowd around you. What a sweet homecoming it will be!

And until then, I'll just sit here filled with gratitude to the Lord for your life!

Love your mama


July 1, 2018

A letter to Conor



To my littlest man,

Today as I felt the weight of you in my hand, I just marveled at how much you've grown in two months and how sturdy and stable you are. And I just sat there filled with gratitude as I breathed you in.

You had a few episodes due to reflux where you stopped breathing, and I knew it was coming, the beeping of the machines, the nurses coming in to check on you. I know what to do now, and you were back to your normal self in no time.

But it got me thinking, I'm just starting to know you. A nurse asked me today if you liked your hands tucked in your blanket or left out, and I hesitated to answer. The truth is, I don't know yet how you like your hands. I know sometimes you like them tucked in and sometimes you like them out. So that's what I told her, and she said you're still getting to know each other, and I thought that's so true.

I'm still getting to know you and your likes and dislikes. I know you like your pacifier and I know you run warm. I know you like bath times, but you don't really like having your diaper changed. 

And as I sat with you today, I just thought, there's so much I don't know about you yet. 

But what I do know is that today you are the same size as Ryan when he was born. 

And for some reason that feels strange to me, to hold you and feel the weight of your body in my arms, knowing your current weight matches your brothers and you're just a day shy of his gestational age at birth, but you're two months old. I found myself looking back at photos of Ryan at birth to see if I could spot similarities and if I'm honest, I think you look more like Ryan at that age than you do Jack.

And I found myself daydreaming about what your birth story would have been had things gone differently. The plan would have been to get me on blood pressure meds before my numbers got too high, probably right around the 30 week mark and to induce me around 37/38 weeks. I think my Dr. is on call on Thursdays, so I most likely would have been induced Wednesday night or something, which would have been two Wednesdays ago. I had scheduled all my Drs appointments up until 37 weeks, and I remember telling the scheduler, I don't need to go past that as baby will be born by then. I remember the funny look she gave me as she thought I was just willing your exit, and then I kindly informed her that we were already talking an induction date that would most likely be before 38 weeks, little did I know just how early we'd be meeting you!!

And if I'm honest, this past week has felt painful as I just envisioned I'd have you in my arms by now. I assumed your birth date would be the middle of June, right before Father's day, and then after you were born early, I was holding out hope at the beginning that you'd be home by Father's day. Wishful thinking, this I know. 

I never in my wildest dreams would have envisioned this would be your story. If someone was to ask me about my thoughts for your birth story, I'm sure I would have said well I imagine it will be like Ryan's. I never ever would have said I imagine it will be like Jack's!!! That thought and that birth story was so incredibly far from my mind. 

And as I held you today, I just thought, you are your own person, with your own story, and I can't wait to get to know you more, to discover who you are as a being apart from me and apart from your brothers.

And what I do know is that you are strong, you are resilient, you have already come so far and accomplished so many things, and my heart swells with pride for you sweet boy!!

I love you so much!

Love,

Mama


June 21, 2018

Letter to Jack {5.5 years}



Jack,

Your last day of preschool is today. It still blows my mind you're going to be in Kindergarten in the fall. You had your kindergarten orientation yesterday and you asked why it was so short, and later that night you said mama, I don't want to go to Kindergarten yet. The truth is, I don't know if I'm ready for you to go yet. I can't believe it's time for that already, to launch you out into the world, to truly set you free, to watch you fly. I don't know why kindergarten feels so different to me than your 4 day a week all day preschool. Maybe it's because I can't drop you off late or pick you up early, maybe it's because I can't just keep you home with me because I feel like it, maybe it's because it feels like the beginning of the end, and each passing school year will be a reminder that you're one year closer to leaving the house. This is all assuming you leave the house at 18, but who really knows as you keep talking about living in a tree house out back when you grow up and getting a dog and having a family. Or maybe it's because it feels like I'm launching myself out, setting myself free, spreading my own wings to fly.

You originally didn't get into our neighborhood elementary school, the one we live like .2 miles from, and you were on the waitlist. And I laugh thinking back to the day we got the news that you didn't get in. It was a major mama bear moment for me. And you better believe the principal heard from me as I kindly stated I understood the system, but it didn't mean I was happy with the system.

I already know I'm going to miss you terribly, and Ryan's going to miss you so much. I've kept you home from preschool a few times over the last couple weeks just because I wanted to spend time with you and it probably didn't help that you woke up declaring that you didn't want to go to school and that you wanted to spend time with me and baby brother.

I find myself just shaking my head and asking myself where the time has gone. And with Conor in the NICU, I've been reminiscing over your time there, looking back at old photos of you in your first few days. You were so small, and I was so young! Neither of us had any idea what this whole parent/child thing was going to look like or how it was going to be, but we knew we'd figure it out together.

And I had no idea just who you were going to be.

And now that we're five years in to this parent/child thing, I'd like to think I know you pretty well. And if I'm honest, I'm dying to see how your five year old self compares to your 15 year old self and your 25 year old self. I always wonder how much of your five year old self will carry into your future self.

So let me tell you about your five year old self.

I think this age might be my favorite.

Just this past weekend we went away to the hood canal, and you packed your bag to go and unpacked your bag and everyone else's bags and put all our things away in the drawers. And then you lined up all your shoes! You are so diligent in your packing and unpacking and so determined to get it all done before we can enter into our time there. And I just laugh as I look at you because that is EXACTLY what I do. So I wonder nature vs. nurture? What will play out?

On that same note, you do love putting things away. Everything has its place, and this is what I've taught you, but you like having all your things in order.

You are so tenderhearted and honest and true, and I think just a few days ago, you were quiet in the kitchen, and then you came to find me to confess that you'd eaten a marshmallow! I still laugh about that.

You are so incredibly patient with your brother, it truly blows my mind, and drives me crazy sometimes. Ryan could be banging on you or stealing a toy, and you just patiently ride the wave out. We've been teaching you to take a stand for yourself against Ryan as he tends to bug you till you reluctantly give him what he wants.

You are so brave and determined and it's been so fun to watch you now plow forward with things that would have scared you just months ago.

You love your family time, when we do things with all of us, it just makes you so happy. And you love your one on one time with your dad and I. We call it "special time", and it most certainly is special! And it could be something as simple as going to the grocery store with one of us or making a stop at the library or going to the hardware store or going to get coffee or lunch. I love our one on one time together, and I'm realizing just how important that time is and how important it will continue to be especially with 3 kids in the home! The time to just sit and focus on one child and revel in who they are as an individual and what it is that makes them uniquely them, set apart from their siblings. Like I've said before the sibling dynamic is a beautiful thing, but I can see how kids can get lost in it. And birth order, don't get me started on birth order as you are definitely showing the oldest child tendencies, but then I think, how can you not right? Your dad and I try really hard not to put too much pressure on you, but we still find ourselves saying, Jack you're five, set a good example, Jack you're five, your brother watches everything you do, Jack you're five, you can get yourself dressed. So maybe it's okay because we focus more on your age, than your birth order position? But sometimes I do feel we put too much pressure on you to be a certain way, or to fill a certain role. So we try to be conscious of that. 

And you love your dada, truly. Last night you hit your head on the doorknob or something, and I was sitting right beside you, but you bypassed me, cried for dada and made a beeline to him. I chuckle every time this happens, and it's been happening alot lately, because it use to be me. I use to be your person, and now it's your dada. I mean don't get me wrong, you definitely still come to me to be snuggled and comforted, but you're definitely not a mamas boy anymore!! And while one part of me aches as it's another sign of you growing up, the other part of me rejoices that you find security and comfort in your dada, that you know he will wrap his arms around you and embrace you and your tears. It's beautiful really.

You really love playing family - the mom, the dad, baby brother, etc. And you and Ryan and your friend Noelle could play that all day long! It's so interesting hearing you guys walk through the different family dynamics and roles.

Just yesterday, during your dinner prayers, you thanked Jesus for all of us - for Mr. Funny man (Ryan), for Mr. work man (dada), for Mr. clean up man (me, little do you know it should be Mrs.), for Mr. Hospital Man (Conor), and you most certainly didn't forget yourself, Mr. School man. And I just laughed as I thought this is how you see us. These are the labels you’ve given to each of us based upon your perception of us. It's all so good.

And last night during our bedtime prayers, you prayed that you would get to be a dad, and my heart burst as I just thought this truly is the desire of your five year old heart. You talk about being a dad all the time...when I'm a dad, I'm going to...when I'm a dad...etc. And I just think how cool that that's your prayer, that you would get the opportunity to be a dad, to possibly have a son or a daughter someday. And son, I hope and pray your wish comes true, not only for your sake, but for mine too!

And lately you’ve been wanting us to share with you stories of when we were kids...mama tell me about when you were a kid. It's the cutest thing. Too bad I have a terrible memory and I'm definitely not the storyteller in the family! 

But you my child have a great memory and I love hearing all the things you already remember at the tender age of 5. Remember mama when we did this? Remember mama....so much of your memories involves one on one moments and you're always asking for those connection moments. They truly are so important for you to have, and I think it's because you love having our undivided attention, so you can talk without interruptions as Ryan always interrupts you and then you get annoyed by that interruption. Who wouldn't though?

Sweet boy, keep paving the way, keep putting on your brave pants and standing in the face of your fears, and keep reaching for the sky. May God grant us the wisdom as to how to encourage you to live fully into who He has created you to be! I love you so much! And I'm so proud of you!

Love,

Mama

June 19, 2018

The Loaded Question

We all know there are a few loaded questions in our lives, and the one we've been getting alot lately is ...How are you?

It's one of those questions when you survey the context and the situation and the relationship and maybe reply back with another question...How much time do you have?

That's how I feel right now (I started writing this post last Monday).

People have been so kind and gracious and concerned and they want to know how we are.

I appreciate that, truly.

The problem is, it's a tough question to answer and I want to answer honestly, but sometimes I don't know if the person asking can handle the authenticity and vulnerability that may come with my honest response.

And the truth is, you may get a different response depending on the day.

So today I'm going to try to answer that "How are you" question honestly, assuming the person asking the question can handle the level of real and raw that is going to be thrown at them, assuming they can handle the truth and hold space for my grief, while also fully knowing the pain and the grief do not discount my faith and trust in the Lord. He is in this story, I know He is. He has to be, otherwise I would not be standing where I am today.

But consider yourself warned, my heart feels heavy today and this is just an uncensored free write.

So here goes.

The past few days have felt rough and hard and painful, and I've found myself just questioning God as to WHY we have to walk through this, WHY has He chosen us to endure another NICU stay, WHY does this have to be part of Conor's story, part of our family's story...and my heart just aches at the WHYs.

This past weekend at church when the time came to do the meet and greet with those around you, I literally bolted up from my seat, declaring I had to go to the bathroom, which I did, but Peter asked, really? Right now? And as I walked to the bathroom, I just thought, being here feels really hard. It's hard to be in a space where I don't know every single person in the room. It's hard to see parents with their new babes, who don't know that our new babe is in the hospital. It's hard to be in a space where not every person knows our story as I don't want to pretend. I don't want to say, Hi I'm Malia with a smile on my face because in that moment I don't feel like smiling, in that moment I want to drop to my knees and cry out to the Lord instead of shaking my neighbors hand.

And this morning Ryan asked to look at photos of himself when he was a baby. So we started at the beginning with my late stages of pregnancy, to his birth, to the first few months at home, and I can't quite put into words the emotions I was feeling as I looked at those photos. It was 3 years ago, yet I'll hold onto this birth story and revel in it for the rest of my days, truly. To have a full term, vaginal birth baby after a c-section, preemie baby feels like the greatest gift, and even now after walking through Conor’s birth story, it truly feels like an even greater gift!! And I'm just filled with a tremendous amount of gratitude for that gift. To see the pain on my face with each contraction, to see the pure joy on my face after I pushed him out of my vagina (BIG DEAL people!!) and then when they placed him on my chest. The pure satisfaction and exhaustion I felt that night will stay with me forever. And then to leave the hospital literally 24 hours after having him WITH my baby is a memory I will never forget!

And I'm realizing now my experience with Ryan was a true anomaly and my normal is a c-section, not being able to see or hold my baby immediately after they're taken out of me, a lengthy hospital stay for me and a lengthier NICU stay for baby.

And I think I just figured since my second birth story (Ryan VBAC, 38 weeker) was so different than my first (Jack c-section, 33 weeker) that my third would more resemble the second.

But boy was I wrong. And what I envisioned was so far off from the reality, and that feels hard today.

My normal is truly so abnormal and that feels hard today.

Just last night the boys were asking about my owie and they wanted to see my scars. And no that is not a mistype. I do indeed have two scars, plural. Jack and Conor each have their own, lucky them right?? And I said Jack this faint one is when they cut me open and took you out and this one is for when they cut me open and took Conor out. And Ryan was like, and what about me mama? And I said, and you came out the normal way via my vagina. What a lovely teaching moment right?? Haha!

This past weekend, as we all gathered in Conor's room as a family of five, and as the boys clambered all over Conor to get closer to him, to touch him, to kiss him, to shhh him, I just thought, this is how it should be...Conor with his brothers and mama bear protecting him from his big brothers grasps. This is exactly as I envisioned it, yet this story is nothing like I envisioned it.

I envisioned I would be the one changing his diaper, feeding him (I guess technically I am, but let's be real, breast milk via a feeding tube is a little different than directly from the breast), comforting him, bathing him, dressing him.

And don't get me wrong, I've been able to do all of those things, but I'm just not his primary caretaker, and that feels strange.

And some days it all feels really unfair, yet Conor's exactly where he should be and it pains me that that place isn't in our home and in my arms.

And the truth is, sometimes I forget I have a third child, yet every few hours I'm reminded with my full breasts that my arms are empty. And every few hours as I sit down to pump, I'm reminded that my baby is not in my home.

So to answer your question, today feels hard. Today I am listening to worship music and soaking up God's promises like I need air to breathe. Today I am clinging to His faithfulness as I try to make sense of all of this. Today I am trying so hard to focus on the bigger story, on His story, as the little things like hospital visits and childcare and work logistics feel overwhelming.

Today the tears stream down my cheeks as I lift up my empty arms to the Lord, knowing that He will fill them with his love, his mercy, his grace.

And that is always enough. He is enough.

June 14, 2018

Leaning in

 


A few weeks ago I pulled all the maternity items out of my closet, well almost all of them. I did leave my maternity jeans hanging on a hanger, maybe I'm going to wear them sometime soon? I did just buy them a few months ago!

And it felt like the end of an era.

And if I’m honest, it is the end of an era really as Peter and I don’t plan on having more children, and considering my most recent history, my Dr. highly suggests we stick to the plan.

And it just felt a little painful to already be packing up the maternity clothes, taking them off hangers and putting them into bags. According to the email I got yesterday, I should still be pregnant, 37 weeks pregnant to be exact. I should still be growing that baby in utero and feeling him kick from the inside. I should still be daydreaming about his birth story, how much he'll weigh, what he'll look like, how much hair he will have, etc. But we all know Conor was born just a week or two after I'd entered into the third trimester, at 28 weeks and 4 days, and my daydreaming soon became reality. 

This past Saturday marked eight weeks of life outside of the womb for Conor Christopher. And I've spent those eight weeks just leaning into all the sharp edges, to the pain, to the empty arms.

And by the grace of God I’ve somehow mustered up the courage to show up not just physically but emotionally in various spaces.

And if I’m incredibly honest, it may have been a little too soon for my heart to enter into some of the spaces I entered into. Yet, as hard as some of those moments were, it probably made me lean even more into the sharp edges and deeper into the pain.

A few days after I was discharged I went to a MOPS clothing and gear swap event at church. It may have been a little too soon, but I wanted to show up. I had planned on going before I had Conor, and I wanted to stick to that plan as there were some items I was looking for.

So I pulled myself and my heart together and drove myself to church.

And as I walked through the doors, a part of me was wishing I was invisible. I mean wouldn't it be easier to just walk through the space, not being seen, to just peruse the piles of clothes, get what I had come for, and crawl back into my car? Wouldn’t it be easier to not enter into the grief and the pain, to just ignore it, to shove it down, to cover it with something else?

And I can’t help but wonder, is that easier or is it actually harder?

And the truth is, I think it might be harder when your pain is invisible. I mean my pain is out in the open, and those who know me at all know parts of my story if not all of it, and I get emotional just thinking about the way the women embraced me and my wounded heart and broken body that night, the way they wrapped their arms around me and offered their sincerest apologies with tears in their own eyes.

And I got into the car and just cried. It was too much.

And then a week later I found myself entering into that same physical space for our usual MOPS meeting and I thought I knew what awaited me, but I had no idea really. I wasn't prepared for just how God was going to meet me in that space, for the beautiful way He used all these woman to show me that He saw me, He saw my pain and my brokenness, and He embraced me.

I remember one friend just walking up to me and wrapping me in the tightest embrace as we both just held each other's grief and pain and sorrow as my recent birth story had brought back the pain and the memories of her own. And she just got it, and I don't know who was holding who to be honest. It was beautiful.

And then the speaker for the morning came up to me to say that she'd heard about my story and she'd had a 28 weeker of her own 20 years ago, and she wanted me to know that he's doing great today!

And baby blessings just happened to be that day, and I found myself reluctant to go forward knowing what was to come. But I mustered up all the courage I could and stepped forward with my empty arms and took my place at the end next to all the mamas with their full arms. I was the last one to introduce myself, and I felt so courageous and powerful as I stated my name and my baby's name while declaring with a shaky voice that he was in the NICU at UW. And then they prayed over those babes, and I barely held myself together as I swallowed the lump in my throat and walked back to my table. It felt so hard to be there without Conor, and even now I get emotional remembering that heart breaking moment, but I also remember just how victorious I felt to be able to step forward, to show up even amidst the pain.  

And when we went to church for the first time, I remember stating to Peter, I don't know if I'm ready to enter into that space yet, but I did. And it was hard, it still feels hard to be honest. It's not so much the Conor updates that are hard as I want to give people updates, but it's the babies and pregnant women that surround me that don't know our story. That feels hard, yet it's also a reminder that there will be another side to this story.

So I continue to show up as I know the healing happens in the showing up, in the confronting of the grief, in the leaning in to the pain. And I know there will be tears and sorrow and joy and laughter and love as we continue to lean in. 

Friends, the leaning in is hard, and it hurts, but my goodness it's so good. It's so incredibly good. And it's so healing for me to stand firm in God's goodness and His faithfulness even amidst the heart ache. 

Lean into the sharp points and fully experience them. The essence of bravery is being without self-deception. Wisdom is inherent in (understanding) emotions. - Pema Chodron

June 6, 2018

A letter to my oldest boys




My dearest Jack and Ryan,


You two have been my saving grace this past month, truly. It's been so good for my heart to be able to care for you, to snuggle you, to have you to come home to, to laugh with you, to cry with you, to just be with you. 

It was incredibly hard to be away from you for a week while I waited to be discharged and as I waited for my body to heal itself.

And I was so excited to come home to you, but the day after my coming home was pretty rough. Dada went off to work and it was just the three of us. And it was loud and chaotic and you both were seeking attention and energy from me, and I didn’t have the space or the capacity to give it to you. Pretty sure the afternoon ended in a lot of apologizing, and the second half of the day was much better!! Probably because Dada came to the rescue.

The days have gotten better as we’ve been able to spend more one on one time with each of you. And it’s been so fun to bring you to the hospital to see your baby brother. You guys talk to him and we read books to him and you tell him about our family. And you whisper to him just how much you love him. 

Dada took a video of you both a few days ago asking you both various questions about Conor and what’s happening from your point of view and it was just beautiful to hear how you are digesting the information at your own levels in your own way. 

If I’m honest, I think this experience has brought you both closer together, and I didn’t even know that was possible. In the midst of all of this, we transitioned Ryan out of the crib and into a bunk bed – talk about a huge bed change. He went from being in a tiny mini crib that was like the length of his body to a bed that’s like three times his body length! He looks so tiny in there. Honestly, it was a pretty easy transition even though Ryan did fall out a few times and even though he’s made his share of escapes. And the bedtime routine now involves finding creative ways for him to stay in his bed otherwise he just roams around the room. 

I feel like you both have grown up right in front of my eyes these past few weeks as you enter into your new roles. Jack, you've stepped up even more as the oldest brother. And when I look at you now, I see the tiny baby you once were, so fragile and dependent, and I see you now so strong and independent, and it's beautiful. And Ryan, you are now a big brother, and the middle child, but you haven't fully grasped what that means exactly, and I look at you now and you seem so incredibly big, but you still have little remnants of your baby self that your body is holding on to. And when I look at you, I see the tiny baby you once were, but I also see the fully capable 3 year old in front of me. And then I look at Conor, and I think, now that's a teeny tiny baby!

And you both ask about baby brother all the time and when he's coming home to us. I wish I had an answer for you, but right now we wait, and we visit him when we can, and we acknowledge that God is the one writing Conor's story and we are the ones that get to share it. What an incredible honor and privilege it is! Can't wait to see your little brother in your arms and in our home. 

I love you both so incredibly much and I'm so grateful God chose me to be your mama!

Love,

Mama

May 29, 2018

A letter to Conor

 

Dearest Conor,

What a wild ride these past six weeks have been for both of us, but especially for you! 

We're probably just at the halfway point with your time at the hospital and it's felt hard lately.

And yesterday felt really hard as I just sunk into the reality that is our life right now.

And as I asked permission to hold you, I just thought this isn't how it should be. You shouldn't be here outside of my body, and I shouldn't have to ask permission to hold you.

And as I picked you up from your bed and held you to my chest while all the cords and things dangled from your body, I just thought this is so hard.

Yet, this is our life and our reality right now.

And I just thought, lean into it, let those tears stream down your face, let your heart ache as you ask to hold the baby God grew inside you for 28 weeks and 4 days.

And just breathe him in.

And I found myself doing that, just breathing you in - inhaling gratefulness and thankfulness for your own breath, and exhaling the weight of the pain that comes at the end of the day with my empty arms. 

And those few hours I have to just breathe you in, to care for you, to hold you, to sing to you, to smell you are such treasured moments.

And it never feels like enough time.

But when I'm with you, I'm so present.

I can smell breast milk on your body. I can feel your breath on my chest as you breathe in and breathe out. I can see your little face and the way you love having your hands up by your face. I can feel your body underneath the weight of my hands. I can see your eyelashes and the light color of your eyebrows.

And I just sit there, with you on my chest, and I breathe you in - inhaling gratefulness, exhaling the pain.

And before I know it, it's time for me to hit the call button, and the door to your room opens, and the nurse graciously assists me in putting you back in your bed. I place my hand on you and tell you how much I love you, how proud I am of you, and that I'll see you soon!

And then I walk out of your room, down the long hallway, through the doors, to the elevator, eventually making my way to my car. 

All the while inhaling gratefulness, exhaling the pain.

And I drive home without you. 

My arms are empty, yet my breasts are full.

Inhaling gratefulness, exhaling the pain. 

And I just can't wait to have you home with us. 

I can't wait to wake up to you in our home, knowing how you slept the night before rather than having to call the hospital to check on you!

I can't wait to be able to walk into the other room to see your sweet face rather than having to drive to the hospital to see it!

I can't wait for the day when I don't feel the divide and the pull so much, the day when things are as they should be.

And I know the day will come when we’re buckling you into your carseat, walking out of your room and down the long hallway, through the doors, to the elevator, eventually making our way to the car…with you.

And as I wait for that day to come, I’ll just be over here breathing – inhaling gratefulness to the Lord for medical intervention, for your beating heart, for your working lungs, for your growing body, and exhaling the trauma and pain of your early arrival.

Love you,

Mama

May 24, 2018

You don't have to say you're sorry

 

I'm sorry.

This is what so many people have been saying to us lately.

I'm so sorry you're walking through this.

I'm so sorry, I'm sure it feels so hard right now.

I'm just so terribly sorry.

And the truth is, you don't have to say you're sorry.

We already know you are.

We can see it in your eyes and feel it in your tight embrace.

Obviously, we wouldn't wish our experience on anyone, and I'm sure you wouldn't either, but the truth is, this is where we are.

This is the story God is writing for our family.

This is the story He is writing for Conor.

And we're not going to wish it away. But rather, we're going to lean into it fully.

We have no idea why this chapter is being written.

I have no idea why we have yet another baby in the NICU, why I have to leave the hospital yet again without a baby in my arms, why I have high blood pressure in the first place nor do I know why it resulted in preeclampsia only this time and not the other two times. 

But we do and it did.

And quite often we never know why we go through hard things till later, or we may never see the full picture till we meet Jesus face to face.

I don't know just what the Lord is doing, but I trust that He is at work in this.

I have to trust that.

I have to trust that there is a reason for this heartache and a bigger purpose for this pain.

And I know there is as I've seen it first hand just within my own heart as I continue to lean in to the suffering, and as I continue to see the growth of character not only in me but in those around me.

We glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

And we fully believe this and have experienced it fully this past year. We have seen the growth that comes from our suffering, we have seen the strength of character through perseverance, and we have experienced the hope that comes with all of it.

And we believe in that hope and we welcome those times of suffering because we know in the end we'll be better for it, our character will be stronger and our faith more deeply rooted.

So you don't have to say you're sorry.

Because the truth is, we're not.

May 21, 2018

Motherhood Ramblings


I love that Mother's Day was a week ago, and I'm finally getting around to writing my Mother's day post! 

This is real life and this is motherhood.

Other things come up and fill the space you may have used for writing, like sick kids, evening outings, or a child who refuses to nap, primarily because you've been so terrible at honoring his nap time on other days. Let it be known said child is napping as I type, and I'm able to just sit and breathe.

Can we just say that that time to just sit and breathe, while drinking the cup of coffee I poured for myself this morning, is such a beautiful time for me to reflect and rest and sit in the presence of the Lord.

This was the first Mother's Day without my grandma, and my mother's first day without her mama. 

And I can't help but think back to Mother's Day last year and the words my grandma spoke over Peter and I as she was walking out the door of our home, "You two are the ones we really should be celebrating today, you especially Malia. You're in the thick of it. You're living it daily. All of it. And you're both working full time. And you're doing a great job."

Cue the tears streaming down my face. 

Those words were powerful and they went straight to my weary soul.

And today, they leave me thinking about the cycle of life and the cycle of motherhood, and the growth that comes with all of it.

The thing is, we are gifted these children to care for and given the title of mother, and then by the grace of God those children grow up and have children, and we are given the title of grandmother (or whatever you want to be called), and maybe those children will grow up and we are given the title of great grandmother, but never do we lose the title of mother. 

That title and that role are threaded throughout our entire life cycle.

And that's wild for me to think about. 

Hi, I'm Malia, and I'm a mother, and I will always be a mother. 

This title and role will never leave me, it will always be a part of me.

And this role has shaped me tremendously in the last six years. 

It has forced me to slow down and allowed me to see that I just can't do it all. 

It has forced me to look inward, to reflect on who I am as a being and who I desire to be as a mom. 

It has forced me to look outward, to truly see those mamas that surround me in all venues through the most tender lens.  

And to those mamas, I see you.

I see your joy.

I see your child throwing that tantrum.

I see your tired soul.

I see your bag of tricks and your bag of snacks.

I see the deep, deep love you have for your children. 

I see your heavy hearts.

I see your wins.

I see your defeats.

I see your vulnerability. 

I see your desire to do your absolute best.

I see your desire for connection with your child, with your partner, with your friends. 

I see your desire to be fully known.

I see your growth. 

I see you and I get you because I am one of you.

And carrying this title and role of mother alongside you is such an incredible honor. 

This role has also forced me to look beside me, to my beloved partner. 

You guys, I truly can't fully express just how deep my love and appreciation runs for my husband. It has been so beautiful to see the way his father role has transformed him as a being and as a partner. And he's just a better everything, growing into a better version of himself as he peels back the layers of the onion and reveals his truest self. It's such an honor to witness.

And this mother role has forced me to look up, time and time again, to our Heavenly Father.

The depth of love I have for my children, simply reminds me of the depth of love the Father has for us. It is beautiful and so humbling and so freeing. I've spent so much time this past year, more than any other year, looking up and thanking God for where He has me. 

Thanking Him for the way He has used motherhood to sanctify me, for the way He has used the other mothers to remind me that I'm not alone and that I need to extend grace to myself, for the way He has used my partner and my children to speak truth to me, to humble me, to constantly bring me to my knees and to the feet of the Lord.

Motherhood is messy, and it can feel chaotic and really hard. Yet, in all the mess, the chaos, the tears, the trials, the laughter, the mistakes made, the lessons learned, the joy, there is so much growth. 

And I love that growth.

The growth of my being as a result of being a mother is one of my favorite parts of motherhood. 

May I never stop looking inward at myself and reflecting on who I am and who God desires for me to be, looking outward with eyes to see the hearts of those around me, looking beside me at the most handsome man, and looking up with hope to the One who is faithful! 

And may the growth never ever cease. 

(You can read my other Mother's Day posts hereherehere and here. I love rereading them as the years go by!)

May 11, 2018

The Balancing Act


How are you guys? 

This is the question we get asked all the time these days, and sometimes I don't quite know how to answer.

The truth is, we are surviving, we are alive, we are fed, we have shelter, cars to transport us, and family and friends surrounding us, and a God who sees us and loves us. In all honesty, for the most part, we are good.

But it's all relative right?

This past year was our hardest year yet, and each time we encountered something hard, a job loss, a baby loss, possible loss of Peter's life, it felt hard, but God always showed Himself in the trial, in the trauma, in the pain. He was faithful and we saw that faithfulness. 

And I think if I'm incredibly honest with myself and with those who ask the question, the answer would most likely be different, filled with pain and heartbreak, acknowledging that this feels like the hardest thing we've done yet. Yet the answer would also be laced with hope, trust, grace, and stories of God's faithfulness and His provision, all because of what we've walked through this past year, all because of what we've witnessed with our own eyes. 

And I'd probably mention something about the balancing act and how hard that feels. 

Yes, this isn't our first NICU rodeo as we've had a baby there for a few weeks before, but what feels incredibly foreign to me is navigating having a child in the hospital for three long months while also navigating having other children at home, and not just one child but two! 

And in all honesty, it's interesting as we've heard stories from other families who have had micropreemies, but all of those babes have been their first borns!! And who knows what's harder to be honest. I can't imagine walking this journey with my first and the anxiety that would most likely come from getting pregnant again knowing the journey with the second could be a similar one!!

I don't know what that journey is like. I only know mine. And I've never had to balance caring for other children and doing daily life with drop offs and pick ups and grocery runs and other random runs and making sure everyone has food to eat and clothes to wear. And oh yeah, that's right, we have a baby in the NICU. We should probably go see him. (In all honesty, we visit Conor nearly every day.)

I've never walked the c-section road to recovery while having other children in my midst. And I've never had to explain to those other children, mainly the 3 year old, that baby brother is no longer living in my tummy, but rather living outside of my tummy and sleeping at the hospital as he gets big and strong. 

And I've never had to wonder how you invite those children, Conor's siblings, into this story, into his birth story? Or how you celebrate Conor's coming home when the time does come? 

And yes, the balancing act of Conor's hospital stay and the reality of his birth story, feel like the hardest things right now, but it's something I feel like we're always dealing with right, regardless of the season of life we're in? We're always asking ourselves, how do we find time to do it all? 

How do we find the time to go to the hospital, to spend time with our other two boys, to spend time together, to spend time with friends, to spend time alone, and in all of that, to spend time with the Lord? And how do we honor each other's time in such a way that creates space for healing and relationship and laughter and joy. 

But then I think, these are questions we're always asking ourselves, maybe not so much the hospital one, but the others most definitely. And these are the questions we will continue to ask ourselves even after Conor comes home. The balancing act will still remain, and then we'll be trying to figure out a new balance and a new rhythm of having three kids under our roof. 

And who knows what comes next after Conor's coming home? The additional doctors appointments and weight check ins, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and visits with other specialists. 

There is so much uncertainty with what awaits us, but I'm okay with the uncertainty. I'm okay with the waiting and anticipating. I can sit in that space because I trust and know Conor is in good hands and he is getting incredible care! 

And I'm okay with the balancing act because I know just who is writing Conor's story. 

And I trust the author of that story will give us wisdom and peace as we lean into Him to find our Heavenly balance.