Monday, November 28, 2011

Soundoff: Cord Blood Debate

I spent my morning at the OB's office for gestational diabetes screening and the hemoglobin check. Passed with flying colors and only gained 1 pound in the last month. I don't suppose that makes up for the 20 I gained in the first 20 weeks, right? We talked about my crazy-lady tendencies and how we ended up at the L&D ward yesterday. And then she left us with something to think about: cord blood. My OB highly encouraged banking our cord blood for this baby. She went on to talk about the technology and stem cell research and cerebral palsy and how amazing things are being done to save lives and improve the quality of life with this stuff.

And of course she's probably getting a kickback from CBR, as it's the only company I had memorized myself from the mass amounts of marketing they do. If you've been pregnant in the U.S., chances are you've held their pamphlet in your hand at least once. Or a bag they print to hold your pregnancy magazines and swag from your OB's office. You know the little girl staring down at her belly button on the white and purple brochure. I am not endorsing them. As a matter of fact, we almost certainly will not use them ever because there are other, cheaper companies that are also accredited and reputable. Just mentioning them because they attack you with their brochures.

Now, I know that other than the possible kickback my OB might get from endorsing them, she also is looking out for our well-being and the well-being of this new baby. She is endorsing anything under the sun that might give us a fighting chance if we do end up a very small statistic again. But also, she likely feels an obligation to endorse something that could mean we don't lose another baby. She feels as though her success as an OB with our case of loss and hopefully life again is contingent on her giving us all the options and encouraging we do everything in our willpower (and pocketbook) to see that things pan out differently. She also wants the success of a healthy baby and wants to ensure that happens because she is a good person.

While pregnant with Andrew, we were bombarded by the blood banking companies and their mass amounts of paraphernalia. It turns out that no matter what, banking cord blood was out of the question-- obviously. But if we had a normal birth with a live baby as the outcome? We would've probably declined the opportunity. Why? Because it's so stinking rare to be in that tiny, itty-bitty percent of people who actually need the cord blood ever. This technology is relatively new anyway and as I've written before, we are were the minimalists. Who needs a video baby monitor, let alone to bank cord blood for something so statistically rare anyway?

Yeah, well now we're the statistic. We weren't convinced in all our research that cord blood was the way to go anyway-- as you can read all over the web and in print that cord blood may not even help your child even if they were in need of it. That certain races don't benefit as frequently as others in the use of their cord blood. That it will likely be a huge waste of money. 

And here we are now. We have lost our firstborn and his entire life. While it had nothing to do with our decision against cord blood before (like I said, didn't matter anyway), it sure did place us in a minority. A tiny statistic that doesn't happen to over 99% of people. But it happened to us. So this whole cord blood talk has found new meaning to us. I'll tell you now that we are almost certain to go for it this go-around. We wouldn't want that (still) slim chance of cord blood being helpful to inhibit this child from having a full life that continues on way past we are in our graves. We don't want the prospect of $3,000 (give or take) to be the reason our child cannot have critical stem cell research if needed. I guess that opens up our political views on that subject a bit. Try convincing a couple who lost a child not to believe in stem cell research. I scoff.

I've been reading a blog over the years of a woman whose son has cerebral palsy. He had a stroke at birth-- but his family saved the cord blood. They're thankful they did, because stem cell research may be the key that helps their child speak more clearly and live a more "normal" life. 

Advantages that I can see:
- potential life-saving possibilities
- potential sibling support
- stem cell research leading to better quality of life and/or saving life

- cost (upfront and annual)

When you've lost it all, you hardly want to let something so trivial as a few thousand dollars prevent you from having the best care and chance to survive for future babies. I'm not sure we'd be able to forgive ourselves if this baby was born and needed the blood at some point and we didn't based on cost. Plus, who needs new furniture anyway? Someday we're all going to die and leave it all behind. Perhaps though... it could mean our children will live a little longer or enjoy life more fully.

So here's where I open this to you... if you're not comfortable sounding off by name, please do so anonymously. We'd love to hear your opinion on the matter. Did you bank cord blood? This question is open to all and not just baby loss parents. Would you bank it again? Any stories to tell or companies you've researched or recommend? Do you still disagree completely with the process and want to sound off on that? This might also help fellow pregnant mothers/fathers who are interested or considering the same thing.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

And We Were Doing SO Well...

I woke up this morning and no more than 1.5 hours later, I was in a triage room on the Labor & Delivery floor of the same hospital we delivered Andrew. We'll be delivering this baby there as well, but I do not want to be anywhere near that terrible room for as long as I live.

I usually feel this little guy so frequently and with such tenacity. But this morning, he just wasn't budging. I tried it all and after the laying in multiple positions, waffles, and orange juice, we made the call. I was able to pick up the heartbeat on the doppler, but in case the baby was in distress due to slowed movement, we weren't taking any chances. The on-call OB told us to head down to L&D. We made that same drive on a similar Sunday morning as we did almost exactly one year ago. Luckily, we left just hours later with assurance that he was still alive and growing. Emotionally taxed to the max, but with our child still living.

Ray dropped me off at the door. Same thing happened last year. I sat in front of the elevators (this time not in labor) and was just paralyzed. I felt a few nudges, but nothing significant or as strong as they normally are. Ray came in and we sat there for a few minutes contemplating our decision. Do we head into L&D where they're expecting us and get hooked up to monitoring for peace of mind... but risk the flood of emotions and possibility that all is fine anyway and we were just overreacting? Do we wait awhile and just hope that he starts moving a ton and walk out without having to deal with the floor?

We mustered up the courage to enter the elevator. As soon as we were checked in, they ushered us into the triage room where they told us Andrew had passed away. Where we physically saw his heart completely lifeless almost exactly one year ago. As soon as we walked in and the nurse started talking about the gown and bag for my belongings, I lost it. I couldn't be in there. The walls were closing in on me and I knew triage room 101 so vividly. I saw the clock on the wall that I stared at as they were trying to find Andrew's heartbeat when I just knew we wouldn't ever be taking our firstborn home with us. Ray immediately saw my distress and asked that we be relocated to a different room. I really feel like my file should have bold letters across the top that state which rooms on that floor I should never have to be subjected to again.

New triage room and a much more calm Brandy. She hooked me up and in the process, the baby was kicking like a madman. I was more at ease, but since I was already there, we were required to go through all the motions. The hookup, the talk of stillbirth and miscarriage and last menstrual cycles and EDD. I was in tears, but they were confused. I was thankful to hear and feel some very bold kicks, but uncomfortable that I just walked into the room that started all these fears in the first place. Not more than 20 minutes later, we were wheeled down to have an ultrasound that was apparently ordered the moment I made the phonecall from my sofa. A full ultrasound was done and all was well. Baby is breech, but that's not a concern at this stage in the game. As far as I'm concerned, it will never be an issue. I just want this baby out safely no matter how it happens. The placenta, cord insertion, and all the baby's organs look great. He was moving nonstop and it was quite difficult to get all his measurements. He was measuring in at 1lb 12 oz. at this stage in the game. We're still in the second trimester but past viability. I think that's what makes us so on-edge. We have the potential to call some serious shots. If the baby were in distress but still alive (as we figured worst-case from the kicks we felt at the elevator), we could've saved him since the chances of his survival at this point in the game (albeit not the best chance) is possible and likely.

I was just beginning to think of how proud we were that we hadn't cried wolf or ran into the OB or Perinatologist's office yet. Hah. So much for being calm. Let's just hope I can keep it together for the next few months. Pregnancy after loss is so hard. He moved hardly at all this morning, and then in about 2 hours, he moved about 150 times. No joke. Made us feel like complete freaks for making the L&D visit, but when you've been to the depths of despair for the very same issue, there's no way we'd be too sure all was well.

As we stood in the elevator to head back home, I couldn't help but feel this huge urgency and sadness that we weren't back "making things right" just yet. We weren't delivering a baby that we could take home just yet. We still aren't guaranteed that. We're still waiting for our chance to parent our baby. Nothing will ever be "made right", but talking about an experience in Labor & Delivery, I just wished that time was on fast-forward and we were going there to be induced and take one of our babies home, finally. This wasn't the time and obviously I know it was not a suitable time since he has a lot more growing to do. But my heart was just aching and yearning so much for that experience to really anticipate and look into the eyes of my own child. The time will come. But man... why does it have to go so slow?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What a Difference a Year Makes

You already know. But reading this post makes my heart skip a few beats. I'm sure I don't have to do any explaining on that one.

At the very least, I am absolutely thankful to have been pregnant with both of my boys on consecutive Thanksgivings. Little baby kicks are always a great reminder that although life may suck sometimes, it could be worse. There are some diamonds of happiness amidst the gloom and doom it's felt like over the past year. This weekend was definitely evidence of that.

We made it our goal to create a massive list of random things to do around the house that would occupy the four days off we have together this weekend. We weren't planning to get crazy and tear apart more of our basement or paint any more rooms, but we sure did create a good list. We spent much of the actual Thanksgiving day hanging out together. We went for a walk in the local forest preserve, watched some football, and ate some harvest pasta sent over by my SIL. We might make Thanksgiving walks our yearly tradition if it's not icy and completely miserable outside. What's Thanksgiving really about, anyway? I made a homemade pumpkin pie for the very first time and homemade pizzas for dinner. The husband mentioned that he was only sad that he was missing out on pumpkin pie-- hence the creation. I didn't have cloves and I didn't measure the cinnamon because my husband tells me that cinnamon does not need to be measured since "you can never have too much cinnamon". Except it came out tasting like cinnamon pie and not traditional pumpkin pie. How fitting for a non-traditional Thanksgiving. I just want to comment that pre-dating, he thought it would be fun to put cinnamon in my pasta. It was d-i-s-g-u-s-t-i-n-g and I was legitimately annoyed. I've always disagreed with his cinnamon mentality. I think he finally realized you can have too much of a good thing by way of cinnamon in pumpkin pie. I didn't have any moments of what if throughout the day, although now that I type that...
Harvest pasta for lunch...
 CINNAMON pie. But look at that completely homemade (yes, crust too!) pie! I suck at baking, but I was actually impressed with the way this looked.
Taco pizza. While in the Quad Cities last weekend, I saw a taco pizza on a menu and decided I would try my hand at one. It was fine, but nothing to brag about. I guess if I used ground beef it would've been better? But then I wouldn't have eaten any. Here was the before photo.
Here's our standard BBQ chicken/black bean pizza that I love making and we both love eating. Mmm. Definitely our go-to. I've photographed it before on the blog, but it's basically TJ's pizza dough rolled out and topped with BBQ sauce, corn, black beans, shredded chicken, scallions/shallots/onions-- whatever you have on hand or like, mozzarella, and cilantro. The trick to using a pizza stone is something we have finally mastered after years of failure. Heat the pizza stone at a high temp first. Then add the already flattened dough (with a dusting of cornmeal on the bottom) and cook it in the oven for a few minutes (trick from our friend Kristi). Take it out, use a metal spatula to loosen any sticking dough from the stone, top the pizza, then cook. It doesn't stick and the dough comes out fully cooked and amazing! Also, another trick to the TJ's dough. It likes to pull back when you roll it out, so I take it out of the bag and cover it with a light amount of flour. Let it rest for 20 minutes at room temperature. Start to roll out and then let it sit for a minute or two at a time when experiencing too much opposition from the dough. It rolls out after a short break and works amazingly!
Here's the taco pizza after cooking/adding cilantro. They kind of look the same but they're definitely not! I used a refried bean and salsa base, added olives, jalapeno, shredded chicken, more onion, cilantro, cheddar/jack and a drizzling of taco sauce. Forgot the crushed tortilla chips! It was good, but I think we'll be sticking with our standard tortillas for taco fillings and BBQ chicken/black bean pizza for our homemade variety from here on out.

Friday was a fantastically perfect day. Chicago is normally in a deep freeze by this time in the year and Friday was 55 degrees! I know. I can barely contain my own excitement either. We were outside almost the entire day. We deep cleaned the interior of each of our cars, vacuumed, washed, and waxed them. It was a little bittersweet because I remember doing that while I was largely pregnant with Andrew last fall as well. Ugh. Then we swept the deck, tackled the crazy roots on our crabapple tree, picked up sticks in our yard, bagged leaves, and swept the garage of all the residual fall leaves. We also ordered new tires for my car and had Ray's tires rotated. We even called a gutter guy to come clean our very full gutters. He arrived and sat on our roof. Then he left his supplies and disappeared. When he returned, he packed up and said he'd have to come back the next day. Never showed today as it rained all. day. long. Gah. I tried a trick to clean out our oven using only baking soda and water thanks to a friend's pin on pinterest. It worked pretty darn well. We organized and cleaned and basically utilized every chance we had to be outside sans jackets.

No Black Friday this year. We all know how heartbreaking that starter train set was to purchase last year, only to have my son die and deliver him 10 days later. It didn't mean we didn't partake in purchasing some things at ridiculously great prices, but we surely weren't waiting in line at the stores. We finally purchased a ventless gas fireplace for our family room. But don't think we didn't find the best deal around! We purchased three $100 Lowe's gift cards at our local grocery store that was running a promo-- buy $100 in gift cards and get $20 in free groceries at their store! We bought 3... so $60 in free groceries! Also, we used ShopAtHome and got 6% cash back as well for that online purchase. We definitely maximized our savings.

 In addition, I finally pulled the trigger on purchasing my dreamy boots. Shoemall had them on sale for 20% off with free shipping. Then, I paired that with the 18% ShopAtHome was giving me for my purchase and it brought the boots down from $190 to about $125! I know. Sometimes I surprise myself with these amazing deals. No more big Wilson purchases... we've exceeded our limit! But man is our house super nice with that new fire. I can't wait to share what I bought the husband for his 30th birthday! Post to come in a couple weeks...

Today was an excellent day as well... except for the stupid rain. It was nice and warm still, but the rain was relentless. We ran some errands, Ray put together our new fireplace, I graded papers, did laundry, picked up Ray's shoes from this incredibly good cobbler in town that made them look brand-spankin' new, and watched some more football. Oh, and did I forget to mention that I met a lovely lady and her equally wonderful husband {from the blogosphere}? I'd like to credit us on both being bloggers before our lives were turned upside down, but we have a ton in common that includes losing our firstborn babies within a day of one another also. Not exactly how you want to meet people, but thankful for meeting two really great people in person and having that instant understanding only we loss parents have. And they were normal! And stylish! And adorable! I look overly bloated with baby fat (because I am), but she's pretty adorbs. Nothing like hanging out with people that totally get you. We've felt so abnormal for the last year of our lives that it was really great to feel like we actually "fit" with others.

Off to stop neglecting my husband. Oh, and someone asked for my email. If you click on our thumbnail photo on the right-hand side of the blog, it will take you to a page with my contact info or click here. :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Quad Cities Getaway + Random iPhone Pictures

We decided that another weekend trip was in order... so a few days before we left, we booked a hotel in the Quad Cities where Iowa and Illinois meet. Neither of us had ever been to Iowa before (and really have no desire to return), so we added another state to our lists. Our main reason was to get away... because staying at home can be a real drag when there is nothing. to. do. besides the ol' distraction projects that we're pretty much burnt out on. Plus, that's what the next four days off work are for. Our second piece of motivation was this show:
It just so happens that their warehouse {Antique Archaeology} is 2.5 hours from our doorstep just over the border of Iowa in Le Claire. The husband is a fan of the show so we headed out to check it out. The place was no more than 1,000 square feet and basically housed about 100 things you could buy and various pieces of fame from the show. Otherwise, it was all about the merchandise. Of course we are now owners of a hat that I sure hope my husband doesn't lose. He has a thing for losing hats.

You may recognize these if you watch the show...
Outside the warehouse
Video of the interior.

Our next stop in the Quad Cities was to check out the John Deere Pavilion. We really wanted to take a factory tour, but sadly they don't offer those on weekends. Instead, we headed into the pavilion where they have a bunch of their machines and various history about their brand. Basically, it was a madhouse of various little ones all over the place because they are able to sit on the equipment and inside the huge tires for cutesy photos taken by Mom and Dad. J.e.a.l.o.u.s.
Big machine made entirely out of canned goods! This is the back.
This is a bit out of order as it occurred last Sunday, but I'll speak to it anyway. There's a small Army Base on Rock Island, IL that we were able to drive on and check out their huge machines and museum (Rock Island Arsenal Museum). They aren't responsible for much, but they do have a working foundry and supply some of the niche items to the U.S. Government.
I saw Smokey the Bear inside the museum. Did you know that Smokey (now retired) was the longest running public campaign in United States history? He was started in the 40's and I believe ran until the late 80's/early 90's. I vividly remember these commercials and his voice.  

"Only you can prevent forest fires."
The highlight of the entire trip was our experience at a women's roller derby game. When planning the trip, Ray looked online to find attractions in the area. Not only was he immediately sold on the idea of a roller derby game, but he bought advanced tickets! I can assure you, the tickets for this game were not selling out in this lifetime. And as a matter of fact, we're pretty sure every single person in the audience (besides us) had a personal relationship with at least one of the players. So yeah. That's what you get for watching Whip It. But don't worry-- we had an incentive to purchase those advanced tickets. We saved $1.50. Hahah.  And yes, it was totally one of those arenas that served nacho cheese out of a can and various other little league favorites.

By the end of the game, we'd Wikipedia-ed all of the rules and were practically experts. Even better was our dinner prior to the game. We were wearing jeans and sweatshirts because we planned to sit on bleacher seats inside a cold warehouse for the evening watching a bunch of women trying to cut one another. I found a great Thai restaurant on Yelp in Moline, IL and walked in to find that the $10/plate restaurant had a bunch of men with sports coats and women in fancy garb. Ray told me how he felt under-dressed. We had to wait for a table because, coincidentally, there was a symphony starting about the same time as our roller derby game just down the road. We laughed at the thought of those other diners enjoying a night of pretentious music listening as we sat among the toothless and other random folk.

She's one of the more slender players, but dang are those women tough! I would get knocked around like a ragdoll with my 5'3" frame. They were fierce and it was very entertaining to watch.
A little derby action on video...

For those of you who know me well, I love a good deal! I get excited when I see those little red clearance stickers at Target just hoping I can pair them with a sweet coupon to score some huge savings. I am not a big shopper, but I can tell you that I currently own more cleaning supplies than what is currently in stock at your local grocery store. Hah. Okay, not that many, but let's just say I have to stock them upstairs in our guest bathroom now because under my kitchen sink is too full. I'm picky, too. I like the all-natural stuff and try my best to score amazing deals on those. Hence the photo. I don't know why it says "as is" because it's just a regular clearance item, but I scored ten of these bad boys for $1.26. Yeah, $12.60. I know, what an obsession, right? I just love J.R. Watkins and Mrs. Meyers. But don't worry, I have a fair share of Seventh Generation products under my sink as well. I keep telling myself that someday, someday I'll actually have a little messy one who insists on making sure we're cleaning the floor nonstop after spaghetti night.
While at Target, I scored my favorite pasta and had to take a photo so I could remember the name. :)
I made these amazing roasted brussel sprouts I found at Whole Foods in a bag and then sliced and seasoned with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, cracked pepper, and sea salt. Then I roasted on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes on each side. I love them. Finished product not shown... but you can follow this recipe if you'd like. I served them up with some amazing pasta (see above) and roasted garlic marinara with some seeded and Italian rolls from Whole Foods. I seriously love that place. Too bad I feel so broke when I shop there. Can of soup, $5? You people are cuh-razy!
Starting to get this crap in the mail and I'm not liking it one bit. :( And hey, thanks for the discount on toddler formula! Maybe I'll follow this blogger's lead and write a little letter of disapproval to their marketing departments. Thanks Geoffrey. Sometimes giraffes can be real jerks.
On the first birthday front... I have amazing friends who have offered so many wonderful tokens of celebration and have voiced them to me. Overwhelming love. I'm so grateful. 

And the final random iPhone picture I have to share is a photo from this morning. I checked my MyPanera account and saw that I had a free pastry and free smoothie! And that would be breakfast this morning:

We'll see if that was a good decision or not! Glucose test coming very soon. Gah. And I'm also proud to say that I've somehow made it 2/3 through this pregnancy and will be giving birth to a baby at some point within the next 100 days. It's still so hard to imagine him coming home with us, but I want it so bad. Keep growing, baby boy! Also, I was at work the other day and one of the ladies asked me when I planned to work until. I have no reason not to work until my induction date. I think I'd drive myself MAD if I were at home just waiting for a baby. Shoot, I already do that and I have a full time job! Her reason for asking was because she wanted to know if/when to schedule the baby shower for the three women (who are pregnant with boys and due within 1 week of one another). She asked if I'd be okay with them throwing me a shower.

I politely declined and said a forward, "No." I explained that it's very emotional for me and the very thought of sitting in a room while people talk about babies and get excited makes me super apprehensive. I explained that I am honored they were thinking of me enough to offer to throw me a shower, but that I cannot handle the emotional side of it. I told her that I wouldn't be able to attend the shower for the other women either, but that I absolutely wish them well in celebrating. All of these babies deserve the love, attention, affection, and celebration-- but it's not like I'm not celebrating this baby despite not having a shower! We talk to him everyday and praise his little kicks. We cherish every single moment we have with him and want to shower him with love and affection. It's not like he'll know about the shower happening/not happening anyway. The woman was surprised I didn't want a shower and told me she was really happy she asked because she just assumed it would all be well and I'd be fine with a shower and everything. It does just go to show that people don't understand loss on the outside. It's not their fault and they don't deserve blame, but many people just don't understand how emotionally taxing these events can be to a bereaved, hormonal, pregnant, paranoid mother. I feel so thankful that people want to celebrate my babies... but I'm still not at a place where I can handle that sort of thing.

I'm also happy to report that I haven't had any breakdowns in seeing the Christmas crap in every corner I turn. While I'm apprehensive about Andrew's birthday coming, I'm just hoping time is kind and carries on its merry way into the new year. I've got a baby to meet! Please oh please be healthy and alive, little one. I've never wanted something more in my life.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sacrifice & Dreams

First, just had to point out that my neighbor just put up 3 foot letters of JOY on her lawn. Great. Can't wait to stare at those for the next three months of my pitiful life. Okay, it's not all pitiful. But really? November 16th is jumping the gun just a tad there, lady.

Kids are trying to touch my belly now and I'm not too big a fan. For the most part, I also pretend like Andrew is alive as many who don't know me well (and newish teachers) ask if this is my first. Nope, have a son. How old his he? Almost one. In a dream, he is. In a perfect, lovely world, he's almost one.

Onto the topic of sacrifice. We're giving up a lot for this baby. Mainly a trip to Florida and Hawaii, all-expenses paid in the Chicago winter. That needed to be highlighted. Any of you who've visited or lived here know just how painful and dreary they can be after staring at the same snow that fell in December... in March. But you know, I am not even a little sad that we'd give all that up. Shoot, I'd give up 100 trips around the world if this little peach just freaking lives. Live, thrive, learn, grow, eat, jump, laugh, experience, travel, marry, procreate, succeed, fail, triumph, struggle. We'll weather the storms. We'll get through them and we'll have more opportunities to pay for trips to Hawaii and Florida.

Now that the winter is upon us (with a high of 43 today), we're setting our sights on getting out of here for the most part. It's painful to be stagnant and cramped up (hah, our house is big) in the 'burbs where all of our dreams were shattered at this very same place last year. I heard a woman say today that she's due in 3 weeks. I had to take a very deep breath on that one. D-day for one couple is a joyous and monumental occasion for another. I digress. Any chance we get, we get the hell out of here. I guess our dreams were made here, too. Ray landed his dream job, hence the only reason we settled here to begin with. High taxes and bad weather sure didn't inspire or invite. We conceived our first second and third child here. We planned and dreamt and set goals and milestones and all that jazz. We bought our first house. I don't quite believe in this magical "American Dream" that's somehow been planted into our minds from the start... because I wouldn't say there is much attachment to our house in general. We only bought because we wanted our children to have a great school district, room to grow, and a safe place to call home. Otherwise, we'd have purchased a condo somewhere in a more modest zone with lower taxes. It's not really a fulfilled dream until we have little critters flooding our floorspace. I don't have to remind you all we sacrificed in our hope to have children... as any parent or wannabe parent can understand. And obviously there's the sacrifice that we involuntarily gave when saying goodbye to our little boy. Sometimes I think of that story with Abraham and Isaac and think about how he attempted to sacrifice his son. Except, I surely wasn't giving Andrew up and definitely not that soon. And Abraham didn't actually end up sacrificing his son, but a stupid animal instead. Wish I could've stole someone's cat for the ransom. Just sayin'.

Onto dreams. We're starting to dream. We've always been dreamers. We dream about the past just as much as the present and future. I think about our travels we were so fortunate to take throughout Europe and all of the places we've visited on a daily basis. Life is indeed about experiences, because nothing I own even compares to the experiences we had overseas. I was reminded of this once again today when students were searching on laptops for Transylvania. We never visited Transylvania, but we did visit Romania and were awed by the beauty of a country many people don't even consider visiting, based on Eastern European history. When a student came up in wonder and asked, "You've been to Romania? Wow!" And the art teacher commented about how she was "envious of our travels" earlier in the day. We are indeed, so thankful and so blessed with wonderful experiences and resources.

But even further, we're dreaming about this baby boy. I have to admit that many of these dreams are just the same as we had with Andrew. How can they not be? Gender is the same. Parents are the same. Home is the same. Nursery items are the same. It was only a year ago, after all. And every once in awhile I go to say Andrew's name and am quickly taken aback by the very thought. Has my mind not yet processed that this is a new and different baby? Or is it that starting a pregnancy with my first pregnancy still so fresh in memory too difficult for my brain to separate? I'm not fooled. I know they aren't the same and I won't even expect or hope that they would be. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want this baby to resemble Andrew's beautiful face just a little. His long eyelashes and gorgeous fingers and toes. His button nose and perfect lips. But I won't be fooled to assume that they are the same people. No replacement, two individuals.

Dreams of having a boy had always been in my future. I just knew I'd be a boy mom. I was worried that once Andrew died, I'd lose that chance. I know two separate women who had stillbirths for their firstborns and then went on to have three of the opposite gender to follow. I was nervous I would never get my chance to have a boy again. Not that my dream has been fully achieved-- as I'm merely pregnant, but I feel like I've been given a second chance card. Not one that replaces, but one that fulfills a fraction of my vision for messy cleats and train sets. My dreams have also changed. While I wouldn't say relief was the word that struck me when finding out this little one's gender, it was a question of how people would react (oh good, 1-for-1 type of issue) and how I would be able to process another boy. A girl would dynamically change my dreams of what type of lifestyle we'd have. It might have been easier. Maybe not. At this point, I don't think about it that much because I know that in addition to the health and heartbeat, it's out of my realm of control.

We do dream about lacing up our little guy's sneakers and taking him to the park. And we even went as far to dream that if things work out, we'll plan a long road trip and take our little guy along. Something totally out of the plan that we originally envisioned for Andrew. Our thought of family has evolved. We'll still be the family that sits down to dinner every night with one another, but also the family who really, truly maximizes our time together. I think we were always set in that mentality, but it seems to have amplified our desire considering all we've lost. The dream of two children has died and been reformed. We already, technically have two children. We're now shooting for three live children. I say that having never changed my own child's diaper in my life. But yeah, being pregnant three flipping times.

I could attempt to tie in our sacrifice and dreams, but I would prefer to see them as separate entities for now. So much sacrifice has been given so we could dream of children. That much is true.

Friday, November 11, 2011

At the Baggage Claim got a lot of luggage in your name...

I often joke with my husband about hoping nothing ever happens to him because I'd be hard-pressed to find someone willing to deal with all the emotional baggage I've acquired since losing Andrew. Also, losing him would surely add enough baggage to send me on an overage and be grounds for mental ward admittance.

Take Tuesday for example. I had a relatively mild weekend with my husband away on business for five bloody days and only a few moments of the ugly cry on the 5th. Pretty good, I thought. Until he called and told me he would not be home for dinner on day five because of another business meeting. Still, okay it seemed. Annoyed, but okay. Until he finally walked in the door. You'd think I'd jump up and down or run into his arms (like I normally do), but not this time. Instead, I pouted on the couch as I cashed in my investment on Puffs tissue. None of this was his fault and call me emotional or hormonal or both, but I was a blubbering mess of tears until I could fall asleep two hours later.

Seriously, who would take me? Wanted: someone to put up with a woman whose son died and occasionally has outbursts of uncontrollable crying sprees without warning or explanation. Hah. I know I'm not the only one, as most people have baggage and have never experienced the death of a close loved one. But baby loss baggage is hard to contend with.

I never thought I had too much baggage before the winter of hell, 2010. Well, there was that time in my life, now 21 years later, that I swore off meat because my grandparent's farm of our beloved animals turned into a slaughterhouse that managed to make its way on our dinner table in the form of chili mac. That was definitely baggage that stuck the course. But socially acceptable (allowing me to claim ethics or other untrue BS stories) and not tipping the weird scale quite like baby loss does. That kind of crap only happens to really weird people who did something to deserve it. Or so I wish.

Otherwise, I was as normal as they come. Ask my husband pre-hell the number of times he'd seen me cry and he'd be hard-pressed to describe a time. Now, waterworks can be set off on a dime.

I'm better today. And by better I mean not uncontrollably sobbing to the point of lethargy. On the baby front, we're trekking along. He moves like a champ and we're just hoping these next 15 weeks or so go by speedily because my hormones are off the charts!

p.s. If you're in the Chicagoland area, Qdoba Mexican Grill is running a promo to give away $1,000 to three different non-profits/organizations if you write 500 words or less on why they deserve the cash. As a benefit to you, they'll provide a link to print a completely free entree once you're done writing. It took me five minutes. Not sure if I was allowed to select a non-Chicago based organization, but I chose Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope. Other fantastic organizations I know of are Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and Ellie's Light. All of those wonderful non-profits were started by fellow mothers who lost their children. NILMDTS came in and took photos of Andrew at 1 a.m. on the day we said goodbye, completely free and done entirely by volunteers. Those photos cannot be matched with a price, you guys. That's all I have to remember his beautiful face. If you have a few minutes, earn a free meal and write a little blurb about your favorite non-profit or mine. ;)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Celebrating Andrew

It's been almost a year. In many ways, I wonder how it's possible that my son died one year ago. One year seems like forever has passed, and in other ways, I'm reminded of all the milestones I missed during this time of mourning and grief. It's safe to say that I'm still shocked about what's taken place in our lives. But I wouldn't take back a second of my everlasting grief if it meant Andrew was never born. He is worthy of all the attention and love his parents can give him-- no matter how long he was with us.

I've never been the best at birthdays and celebrations-- partly because I lack the creativity to fully design something worthy of such great effort. Plus, I don't feel like stress should ever be part of celebrating. Andrew was not given a memorial service because we were in no state of mind to do such planning. That, and I never felt it was my style. He deserves and will always be worthy of praise, love, and celebrating. He is our son and we are not denying that of him. We love him to end of the earth. He's far more important to me than anything we could ever purchase or earn. I can't really see the what ifs in this situation either, because we've always been more private (oh, except sharing my innermost details on this blog. hah.) and wouldn't likely have had a monstrous party for his first birthday anyway. But one thing is certain: there would've definitely been CAKE.

We won't be releasing balloons because it's not our thing. But we will be celebrating. If you're interested in celebrating our son's life, we invite you to celebrate with dessert. Our children will most certainly never be deprived of the sweet things in life-- as we are two adults who fully enjoy the indulgence. The best things in life? We're convinced dessert is among them. That, and our children.

On December 5, we will be enjoying an evening out to dinner in celebration of Andrew's life on what would be his first birthday. This will likely be a tradition. After dinner, we will absolutely be celebrating with dessert! We're not sure what kind just yet, but it will be good. So, if you're in, light a candle for our Andrew and enjoy some dessert in honor of him on his special day.

Also, a fellow BLM blogger friend celebrated her daughter's first year anniversary by encouraging others to engage in random acts of kindness on her daughter's behalf. If you would like to participate in that way, we'd be honored. Helping someone to their car, treating someone to lunch... whatever you want it to be in honor of Andrew's life. I'm not requiring that anyone do both, or either. Just inviting you in the celebration if you're interested.

His official birthday: December 5, 2010 at 9:04 p.m.

In this grief journey, I'm learning that those who have not experienced such great loss simply do not know how to react-- whether in everyday life, just after loss occurs, or one year out. No one has given them the green light that it's okay to remember our children. As Andrew's mom, I feel like it's my duty to keep his memory alive and encourage others to feel comfortable enough to celebrate the life of a child they've never met, seen, or held. Losing our son has made us sad, but having him has made us abundantly grateful. Your celebrations in his honor are always welcome--and while I may cry-- it's mostly because someone cared enough to make an effort to remember him. I don't expect you to always remember his birthday (though I do mention his birthday like every 5 minutes on this blog), but this year I'm inviting you to.

It would be really special to keep all celebrations on that specific day, but the time is less important and much harder to coordinate, I realize! If you shoot a photo of your dessert/candle or your random act of kindness, I'd love to share on the blog... so feel free to email that to me.

It's so completely out of character for me to ask things of people that might require time/money, but this is my son and I'm willing to give it all I've got to make sure his first birthday anniversary is felt in the heavens. We love you, little buddy. To the moon.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

It's Thursday. A Random Post to Finish the Week.

Had a conversation today. Not that I don't have those everyday, but the kind that made me explain things about my dead son that I usually try to avoid with the random folks.

I was making sure a child didn't go nuts observing a child in gym today and another woman was in there with her equally interesting caseload. As we managed to dodge balls being flung at our heads for 20 minutes, we chatted. I asked her if she wanted the rest of my Kit Kat because I have serious issues with eating sweets while pregnant. The scale validated my concern at my last OB appt. Super. Fat Brandy is in full force. Anyway, I asked her if she wanted my chocolate. Nope, she's allergic. Totally unrelated to what I'm getting at here, but it was part of our conversation and I had to feel a little sorry for her inability to consume something that is practically a food group in my house.

I'm definitely showing through my clothes now and it's nearly impossible to hide like I've been doing pretty well for the last 5 months. I've given up and just threw on a maternity shirt today without the added jacket or pullover I usually add to the wardrobe to avert the crisis of having to explain that I am, in fact, pregnant. Like I'm a 16-year old teenager in high school who made a big mistake one evening or something. No, I'm a 29-year old woman who is happily married. In any culture, pregnancy is acceptable and welcomed to someone like me. But instead I've spent 5 months trying to hide myself. Today, I was over it. The game is over and I probably had about 20 kids ask me if I am pregnant today. And to all 20, I replied that I was. They were all excited. It was a weird experience. Of course they are. Why wouldn't they be? The subsequent question is always about the gender and if we've chosen a name. I pretend as though we don't have one chosen. We do... but until we are comfortable speaking it aloud, we aren't sharing.

Back to gym class and the stranger standing next to me. She asked if this was my first. Normally, I say no and just leave it be. What does it matter to explain things further if I'll never see her again? But then, something happened. Her eyes lit up and she grew excited about him and how this will be my second-- a second boy! I couldn't wait for the next, inevitable age question to follow, so I went right ahead and whispered that he died. The usual, "I'm so sorry" remarks ensued as I spent the next minute explaining that my son does not make me sad and that I am comfortable telling her about him. She apologized for assuming that all was well and I had to, once again, explain that it was okay that she asked. It's important people know that although rare, children sometimes don't come home from the hospital.

Otherwise, I've been a cooking machine over here. I recently made a few recipes I pinned on Pinterest. All of them were fantastic! I am finding that a creative outlet is really helping this pregnancy. I need something to take my mind off gestating and all the possibilities of disaster that could occur. I still feel daily movement, so for now, we still have this little guy on board. Thankful. And getting more plump by the second-- partially from my new creative outlet and Halloween candy, but also from this growing little body!

Before sharing my latest recipes, I'll explain Halloween. I spent the afternoon hours driving around to various stores and places I needed to run errands at. But after awhile and two Targets later, I needed to get home and make dinner. I managed to avoid 80% of the trick-or-treaters and definitely avoided the families that normally tote their cute littles around in wagons and drink their beers from coozies. That, I definitely needed to avoid. For all I know, they may very well have avoided me too. Instead, we got the tail-end of jerky high school kids who should really be home doing their homework and not begging adults for trinkets and pieces of candy they don't really need. But anyway... successful, I guess. Links to recipes are below.

I also made a toasted ancho-chile sauce for enchiladas, homemade tzatziki (incredible), and Lebanese Beef for homemade gyros. I made some falafel from a box and it turned out a bit dry, but otherwise tasty as well.

Random for Thursday, but it's all I could muster up. Sometimes that just has to be good enough.