Monday, February 27, 2012

Uncharted Territory

Benjamin Steven Wilson
February 23, 2012
12:42 a.m.
7lb. 6oz.
19 inches long
37 weeks gestation
4 long days in the NICU
Arrived home on February 26, 2012 at 6:30 p.m.
more details to come
thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and love in getting us this far

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Review: The Rules of Inheritance

I was lucky enough to snag two book reviews for BlogHer this month! You all know I have definitely needed the distractions and the two I chose to read were definitely up my alley. This particular book is a memoir. I just love memoirs. There is something absolutely captivating about reading through someone's life and the journey they experienced to get where they are as the writer of their own life story. When I was fresh into my grief journey after losing Andrew, I read both Elizabeth Edward's memoir, Resilience, and Elizabeth McCracken's memoir about losing her baby and picking up the pieces again to find joy in her life.

Memoirs are rich. They provide so much insight and allow you to carry on the shoulder of the person as they re-evaluate and contemplate their heavy life decisions while inviting you in to celebrate in their victories. Like any good story, there is almost always tragedy and struggle-- and this particular memoir written by Claire Bidwell Smith is no different. Girlfriend experiences tons of grief. She loses her mom and dad to cancer and is left to deal with the grief as a single individual with very little family left to support her. I was immediately drawn to this memoir based on the description about her funneling back and forth in the land of grief while still living. The stages of grief are present and mentioned as her story moves in and out of the five stages.

The story of Claire's life is written in pieces throughout the memoir as she travels back and forth between specific points in her life and back to the land of knee-deep. Grief can sometimes make a person irrational, as I know firsthand. It can make you do things or say things that aren't always with best intentions or thought. She battled through her fair share of relationship struggles and alcohol abuse. She was honest about these accounts, as damaging as they were. I found so much of her story relate-able as I've obviously been rocked to my very core in losing my son. So many of her thoughts have been at one point or another, my thoughts too.

It will be months and months, possibly even years, before this isn't the first thing I think about when I wake up. (In speaking of her mother's death.) Boy can I relate to that.

She disappeared the night my mother died and I was never going to see her again (talking about herself). Losing someone you love can change you. It forms you into a new person.

I've learned quickly, though, that this is a conversation stopper (speaking of death). Unless the person I'm talking to has been through something equally terrible or sad, they don't know what to say.

There's something incredibly lonely about grieving. It's like living in a country where no one speaks the same language as you. When you come across someone who does, you feel as though you could talk for hours. Hello my BLM blogger friends!

...the single most powerful healing mechanism I've found is simple presence. The opportunity for a person to feel seen and heard in the middle of one of the loneliest experiences in their life can have a profound effect. Something I wish more strangers understood. I don't want answers or explanations that justify my son's death.

Claire's memoir was quite powerful and incredibly heartbreaking. In many ways, every love story is. You may shed a few tears, but I do recommend Claire's memoir. In her words: When I talk to grieving people, it's like looking at a negative image-- the deeper the grief, the more evidence of love I see.

It's not that loss goes away. It's just that you learn to live with it. I'm still working on that one, Claire.

I was compensated for this BlogHer Club book review, but all opinions expressed are my own. If you'd like to check out discussions on BlogHer about the book, go here. I'll be discussing there.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Gratitude Project: Days 21-30

Day 21: Where You Sleep
Just keepin' it real here, folks. We do not make our bed. I know... for being such a neatfreak, one would think that would be important to me. Alas, it is not. Especially not when we wake up early and I'm 9+ months pregnant.
Day 22: Clothing
Attempting the creativity on this one. Insert the Ikea dresser from Ray's bachelor days.
 Day 23: In Your Closet
Pretty basic.
 Day 24: Gratitude
Pretty self explanatory here. Ordered from Three Sisters. Totally overpriced and totally worth every penny. My mom also bought me a necklace for my boys ready for Benjamin's birthstone and name... depending on which month he's born in. We're still assuming February, but sometimes nature has its own ideas. I have no problem owning two necklaces as they are different styles/designs. Can't get enough of my boys anyway. And in case you're wondering, "Benjamin" would not fit so I had to go with Ben. And no, I haven't decided if that will be his nickname as I just assume it probably will be.
Day 25: Artwork
This beautiful piece was created by Ray's cousin Helena a few years back. I believe it was right around the time we married. I've kept it since because I just love it. In California, it hung on our refrigerator but now that we don't have anything on our non-magnetic fridge, I just look at it from time to time.
Day 26: Transportation
Trusty Honda. We <3 you. We don't love the grimy, salty mess that Chicago winters coat you with, however.
Day 27: Daily Routine
Breakfast on-the-go is often Eggo waffles.
Day 28: Nighttime
On our street around 6 p.m.
 Day 29: Lights
I didn't really have a clue on what to choose... but figured I could use a little practice shooting in the dark with minimal to no light... aside from candlelight, of course.
 Day 30: Self Portrait
Obviously that mirror could use a wipe-down. :)


Friday, February 17, 2012

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Some fellow BLM friends and I used to write very detailed emails about conception and our future children before we were pregnant again with our current babes. We'd include information about ourselves as parents to these babies before they were even conceived. We'd often joke about putting the cart before the horse in already planning for a life that didn't yet exist.

As we near the birth of our second child and still hold to being wildly hopeful about his life standing the test of time and far beyond our years as parents on this Earth, we're experiencing some cart-before-horse scenarios.

For one, I've been receiving lots of unsolicited child rearing advice from a large number of (hopefully well meaning, but not babyloss) people. I'm sure it's just so enticing to want to share with a super pregnant chick all about what you know related to raising kids, but honestly, stop. I am a perfectly capable, intelligent being who even spent years in the professional setting around none other than children. Real, in-the-flesh children. That's not only what I consider putting the cart before the horse (hello, my kid is still gestating), but it's offensive and rude. It tells me that my experience carrying Andrew and spending all of my pregnancies lovingly pouring over safety manuals of the latest baby gear and child-rearing practices and whatnot was in vain. I refuse to believe that my entire time as a mother (started circa March 2010) was in vain and I'd appreciate no one else express that inadvertently either. Lady in the grocery store, people I work with, and people I consider friends, please just think before you open your "helpful" mouths.

Chances are I've heard of all the baby items you want to address in your advice, as I do have a nursery bursting with baby crap. This has been mentioned many times and I even have pictures of the nursery and baby crap on this very blog. I've also likely spent a hell of a lot longer researching than you, as I've had nothing better to do than obsess over baby crap and the prospect of being a parent and using said crap with my own child for over two years straight. I read books and researched as well. I took classes and spent hours and hours on the Internet just to make myself more informed and familiar with what is out there for safety, user-ability and the like. I'm no idiot and I don't take unsolicited advice lightly. I've never really appreciated it, actually. And when I get baby advice, it's just about the worst kind... because it shows evidence that people aren't really attempting to understand my reality as a babyloss mother. In providing advice, it expresses to me that my child either did not have purpose or did not exist. And he did. And I deserve credit. I am a mom and I deserve credit.

Please let me peacefully complete this pregnancy and raise my child as I see fit. Case in point: unless I am conversing with you and include such things as a question mark (implying my interest to learn more about your experiences), I am not asking for them. I bet you're excited to share and it's a natural thing to do-- but not to a babyloss mother. And honestly, even before we lost Andrew, I didn't appreciate the unsolicited approach to sway my opinion. If I write a post on, say, strollers, I have no problem with comments or conversation related to your favorite strollers, etc. But if I am not discussing such things, I don't want the assumption to be made that I'm ignorant on the subject or want to be discussing such things. After all, my son did still die. These things are still triggers for me-- as I think I've made it clear in discussing how hard it has been to "prepare" for Benjamin in the wake of losing Andrew. It's hard. And not the regular kind of hard, either. And just because I'm carrying around this big, fat, loved baby, it doesn't mean I'm not still totally brokenhearted about losing Andrew.

Thanks for allowing the PSA. A bit longer than I expected... but quite necessary as my emotions are through the ceiling. Pregnancy after loss is probably the hardest decision I've ever made. I'm thankful with everything in me, but still so scared and sensitive.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

So Close I Can Almost Taste It

Motherhood, that is.

But we've been here once before and I know better than to allow myself to believe that there is any guarantee in bringing home baby. Like my friend Brooke mentioned in a recent post of hers, we're still wildly hoping Benjamin will be coming home with us.

I've been asked lots of questions lately as we approach baby day (other than questions about my irrelevant due date).

So, are your bags packed?
If you count the ones we had packed for Andrew that are still sitting, untouched upstairs in the nursery, then yes. But otherwise, nope.

Is the nursery ready?

Is the laundry done? 
It's been washed since November 2010. It remains clean and again, untouched in drawers and strewn around the nursery. If B does make it home with us alive, I will be re-washing it all. But y'all, baby clothes are small and take very little effort to clean. I have no shame in pulling his laundry out of the dryer and sticking it right on his baby body. But the nursery? The room is a mess. And I cannot, with any fiber in my being, bring myself to touch any of it. Nor do I find any of that important. He won't even be sleeping in there for the first 6+ months of life. We have, in our possession, everything B will need if he comes home with us. It may not be super organized, but I hardly care about any of that.

My husband mentioned to me the other day over dinner that we're getting down to the time where we should really consider "getting things in order" for B-man. But I can't. Here's my mentality: This kid will have everything he needs and will be totally taken care of. I'm being induced (and may very well be having a c-section if this baby who decided to turn breech last week remains that way) and I know my schedule. I highly doubt I'll be going into labor as I'm scheduled to be induced before 38 weeks. Could I? Sure. But I've been in labor before and know that I've got a few hours to "handle" things before heading to the hospital. But again, I highly doubt that'll occur. I'll most likely find the willpower to get my act together and re-pack my hospital bag after my amnio and before I'm admitted. I have way too many hours in between that time anyway and may drive myself nuts without the busywork.

Also, I have a husband who's fully capable of tending to things. And we live 3 miles from the hospital. I'm way less concerned with packing slippers and robes and all that stuff that will make my hospital stay more luxurious. I'm way past caring about all that jazz. My current birth plan is as follows: birth and bring home a live baby. All the rest shall fall into place. back to book 2 of The Hunger Games.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gratitude Project: Days 11-20

This has been more challenging than I imagined. My days usually go something like this:
1. Rush in the morning... grab breakfast on-the-go.
2. Work all day (unless it's an NST day in which I am at the doctor's office half-day and then coming home)
3. Get home around 3:30 and start my kick count which lasts anywhere from 3 minutes to 20ish minutes.
4. Rush to grab my camera to capitalize on the last remaining bits of daylight in the middle of winter.
5. Emails and dinner...
6. Husband time and collapse on the couch or in bed, likely with a book in hand.

Here's what I managed to scrape up for the second of three installments:

Day 11: Something Old
This Cloisonné vase given to us by Ray's grandmother in 2010. The picture is of General A.W. Vanaman, Gramie's uncle, approaching Lt. General Rawlings. The vase came from his military travels and Gramie inherited this piece and gave it to us as a family treasure. I wrote a bit more about this when we received the vase.
Day 12: Hands
 Another family piece. Ray's Aunt Ceil is a clay sculptor/artist and teacher. She created a beautiful piece for him of two hands. This is one of the hands that is displayed in our living room.
Day 13: Written Words
An encouragement card from my sister-in-law. She's amazing and seems to know just when I need the extra boost. This month has been super hard.
Day 14: Movement
Wow, I'm really craptastic at these movement shots. In my defense, it was dark out, we had terrible lighting with shadowing everywhere... and I didn't have any ideas.
I also made another one... with an inanimate object and some camera movement instead.
 Day 15: Technology
Ray took the reigns on this one. Weekend assignment.
Day 16: Animals
You all know we aren't really animal people. Well, scratch that. We're not pet people... but love wildlife. Unfortunately I couldn't get a cool shot of animal prints on our deck because the snow was fully melted and it was a challenge trying to find any squirrels or geese that are normally everywhere we go! We were also in Michigan and chose to utilize the lakefront and the copious amounts of birds. I added three here even though I really should've just narrowed down my options.
 If you can't have snow... sand is the next best thing!
 Not too terribly artistic, but the v-formation is something spectacular.
 Day 17: Memories
There are so many ways to go about this day's assignment. I chose a dish full of random shells, rocks and coins we've accrued in our marriage thus far. Surely the collection doesn't include all of our artifacts, but some fun items that come from our many hikes, beach walks, and adventures. The sticker is from Tahiti when we visited the French Polynesia and the islands within (Papetee, Morea, Bora Bora) on our honeymoon. Others are from hikes and various other adventures we've managed to find ourselves on. Being pregnant for nearly 18 of the last 24 months has really made me itch for a good, long hike up a really beautiful mountain. Alas, Illinois is flat as a pancake. The dish was given to us by my MIL-- it's Wendell August. She has lots of WA items and gifted us with a piece around the time we married.
 Day 18: Something New
New Woolrich mittens. My first pair!
 Day 19: Best Friend
That would be my husband.
 Day 20: Seasonal
Actually a "holiday" that doesn't make me all baby-sad. Of course I do get all worked up about making cute little valentines with my children... but it's not like Christmas or anything. Thank goodness that's over.
 Final installment coming February 19.

A Review: The Weird Sisters

Upon reading the initial synopsis of this book, I carried forward cautiously in my interest to read it because of the connection to Shakespeare. The characters often speak in form as the three "weird" sisters were raised by a Shakespearean professor. While well versed and often used as one-liners in the novel, it was not overused as I assumed it would be. That was definitely a big positive. The main plot is that three women find themselves in the midst of their own crises as they all find their way back home in Barnwell, a small town in Ohio. Each one is battling their own beast while "tending" to the needs of their mother, who is undergoing cancer treatment. While never very connected as sisters, they manage to find their ways into one anothers' lives again and rekindle their sisterhood and friendship.

At about the halfway mark, I questioned how invested I was in each of these characters- Bean, Cordy, Rose, the professor father, the ill-stricken mother, and auxiliary characters that help unfold the story. Ultimately, I was swaying on the end of wanting to know more and wanting to continue, though I wouldn't say I was wholeheartedly invested in any of their lives. It's hard to invest yourself in characters that seem to have more flaws than good in them. Each of the three women has a deep-rooted issue that seems to find its way into the family circle throughout the book.

My friend Jen sent me a text message as I was 2/3 through the book and said, "It gets better. It ends well." She was absolutely right. While I can't say I'd want to befriend any of the characters in real life, I was pleased that they saw the err of their ways and came together in the end for good. Each one underwent a transformation of the heart and really started to live.

Would I recommend it? Sure. It's a quick read with an unpredictable plot. Did I enjoy the parts of deception and adultery? Meh. But in the end, life is somewhat resolved and the three "weird" sisters live harmoniously.
I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own. If you'd like to read more about this book through the BlogHer network, check this out. The real question is... Can you ever get along with your sister?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Goings On

A full calendar is absolutely necessary right now. Otherwise, I might lose my mind. Luckily, I feel quite busy and some nights I can hardly keep my eyes open until a reasonable hour. Photos of our lives for the past few weeks... all totally random.

Remember that ice cream I made for a friend's birthday? It turned out well! There were two recipes. The first one was amazingly easy to make. Literally, two ingredients (+ the two I added for extra fun). Two cups of heavy whipping cream, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, Hershey's dark chocolate, and peanut butter. Amazing. Lots of good reviews and it was less than 30 minutes of my time. The second was more difficult. Half & half, whipping cream, milk, sugar, vanilla, etc. etc. Mix, freeze, blend, freeze.... many times. It was a pain. I also added a crushed dark chocolate bar which was actually quite good. Unfortunately, I didn't blend enough times and it was a bit icy. What it all boils down to is that I'll likely never make my own ice cream again. I think that if I tried again, I would make some killer-amazing blend, but alas... I just don't have the energy for such things.
 We love this deli, Schmaltz. Super delish. They have amazing bagel chips. Love love. One of our favorite joints in the area to eat.
Two weekends ago, we went downtown to the convention center for a Travel Expo and managed to experience a few things... like seeing this camel and the unsuspecting people in my iPhone shot. ;)
Samantha Brown from the Travel Channel was sharing some of her faux pas in traveling and it was fun to listen to what she had to say...
Then we found ourselves downstairs at the Hunting and Outdoorsmen Expo. It was much more exciting than the travel expo, honestly. There was a beer vendor about every 30 feet and lots of strange things to be seen.
 Here's Ray with a slice of cow. He was very excited about this purchase.
And believe it or not... in the same building was a Lululemon warehouse sale! We waited 1.5 hours in line for this bag that I will hopefully be using as a diaper bag. It's so much better than the ones I've seen in stores and was a steal at $49!

This past weekend, we found ourselves bound on the couch reading The Rules of Inheritance (me) and The Hunger Games. The trilogy has officially taken over our house and my fiction-opposing husband devoured Book 1 entirely on Saturday. He'll be starting Book 2 this weekend and I'll jump on and read the first one. We're quite excited for the movie on March 23rd. Also, my review of The Weird Sisters to come later this week along with Installment II of the photography project (which has been such a challenge due to low-light and winter days being quite the drag!).

We also found ourselves on the road about 3 hours away in Michigan. Have I mentioned before (yes) that Michigan is our favorite Midwest state? Not to be confused with our favorite state in the US, but our favorite in the flatter region of this great nation. We spend plenty of our short road trips traveling in and around W. Michigan. Wine tasting, blueberry picking, admiring the coastline.... anyway... this trip had us in South Haven (once again) and further north about 20 miles in Saugatuck. What a charming little city! Ray bought a Groupon for a cute spa-hotel and we were greeted with my favorite Aveda products, an amazing walk-in shower with multiple showerheads, and a bottle of wine (that is currently shelved in kitchen). I love spas. Scrubs, massages, you name it. Just love being in the presence of one as they relax me. Spending the night away is so rejuvenating.

South Haven, MI

Our hotel room in Saugatuck (using the big Nikon lens was very limiting and I obviously could've taken a better shot that didn't include a lazy husband in the background). :)
Pancakes made by a wonderful husband...
 Ice sculptures in South Haven (on a 40-degree day... but these fared better than most being in the shade)...
We ended our weekend with some delicious pizza at a fairly chic little joint in Saugatuck watching the Super Bowl. It was such a great weekend. Unfortunately, it had to end early with our 5 a.m. drive back to Chicagoland for an early work meeting and two OB/MFM appointments yesterday. The work week is in full force.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A is for Andrew and.... for Benjamin! We've chosen a name for our little love, set to make his appearance soon. But not soon enough of course.

So, the name game.

We generally have an easy time selecting names for our littles as we seem to have the same taste. We love strong, boy names. I'm a teacher, so I'm also all about selecting names that are respectable, yet familiar. We also loved how well Andrew and Benjamin sounded together. They have a special brotherly love ring to them that we wanted to embrace as much as we can-- which is hardly at all considering they'll never come face-to-face. :/

Our intention was not originally to have an "A" name and a "B" name, but that's just how it worked out. And we may just have a "C" name in the works for either gender if we're lucky enough to have a chance at baby #3 in our future. Now we sort of like the A-B-C fashion. Not to confuse A and B with letter grades in school as we don't wish or want for our babies to be compared in any way. We love them both and want(ed) the same greatness in life for them both. Naming Andrew with an "A" was not by any means intentional to show superiority or "first"... it was simply a name we liked. And choosing Benjamin has nothing to do with him being our second child, second son. If this baby were a girl, she would actually have a "C" name, not a "B" name at all. We just happened to love that name as well-- not contingent on the birth order. We don't want Benjamin to live in the shadow of his brother. Like many of my fellow BLM friends have mentioned recently in light of carrying/birthing their subsequent children post-loss, we want them both. They are independently loved.

As for middle names, the deliberating will continue likely until he's born healthy. We just aren't sure. Andrew's middle name is my father-in-law's first name, Steven. We love it and will always love that we chose to name our firstborn after Ray's dad (as I mentioned we promised to use a family name from Ray's side if Andrew were a boy and a family name from my side if Andrew were a girl). However, we're not sure what decision we'll make this go-around. The decision might just be made at crunchtime and won't likely be revealed until this babe is born safe and sound into our arms. We're pretty sure we know the direction we'll choose, but time will tell on the final decision.

In growth news, this babe is quite large and in-charge! He was weighing in at an astronomical 6lb2oz on the ultrasound today. He's in the 75th percentile for his growth at this stage and his head is taking the cake. He and Andrew both seem to carry that big noggin gene. Lucky for the one who gets to birth them, eh? He is currently head-down and there will definitely be an induction happening this month. A lot can change in the course of the next few weeks as we know, but as of right now, a plan is somewhat in place and the induction will officially be put on the books sometime next week when I meet with the delivering OB.

So that's what we have so far... Benjamin Wilson. Another B-Dub will be joining our family. :)