Not just a Stay-at-Home Mom

Over the past 4 years I have heard my fair share of comments about being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM).  They vary in niceties and come from both sides of the working mom/SAHM spectrum.  There are so many misconceptions about those that stay at home.

 “It is a luxury.”
“Can you help with {task} since you just stay home?”
“I don’t understand why {SAHM} won’t volunteer more.”
“You are so lucky you don’t have to balance a job and kids.”
“Your husband is so lucky he gets to come home to no chores.”
“There needs to be more SAHM that take the initiative to offer affordable in-home daycare.”
“Oh sorry, plans changed. I figured it wouldn’t matter.”
“You are so lucky you don’t have to worry about losing your job because of sick days.”

Over the next few weeks I am going to do a series of posts about my real life as a SAHM.  I want to share just what happens while I “just stay home”.  There are so many hats a SAHM wears.  We are responsible for many, many things.  While some SAHMs fit some of those stereotypical molds, I refuse to be defined by them nor is our home run to fit them.

Be on the lookout for some fun reading… and some real life tales.

A Piece of My Heart Smiles

Seven years ago I held you for the last time.  Your body perfect, your eyes closed, your heart no longer beating.  I will be forever grateful for the nurse who called to seek permission to remove your breathing tube and the staff that wrapped you snuggly in a warm blanket.  It left me with the memory that you were simply napping rather than the limp body that I held.

May 12, 2009 is a day burned into memory.  One with many tears and lots of questions.  It was a day we got the call, not to receive an organ but to give one.  We later learned that your heart valves went to two children.  More tears.  That day it took courage to get up and go on.

Today it takes courage to say, I don’t always cry when I think of you.  I didn’t cry today on the anniversary of your passing. My grief isn’t always expressed with tears anymore.

Grief is so different seven years later.  I used to feel ashamed that I don’t cry as often as I once did.  Ashamed that while I do think of you, it isn’t every single day.  Does it mean I love you less?  Am I forgetting you?  Never.

Instead of crying, I smile when I see pictures of your smiling face.  I smile when I get to talk to others about you. I don’t dread people asking me about the number of kids I have.  I don’t worry about upsetting someone by sharing you are gone.  I know that others will simply share their sympathy and sometimes, when I am lucky, they will ask more about you.  Not about your passing but about you.  Things like which sibling looks more like you or if we got to see your smile.  Today people even ask to see you in pictures.  They want to know know more about this little life that made such an impact on our lives.

I find my heart filled when I meet children who were born in January 2009.  I find myself watching them with a smile knowing you probably would be doing those same things.  Rather than remind me of what I am missing, I find they give me a glimpse into the eyes of a seven-year-old.  Their play, their hugs, they make me smile.

I will forever watch your tree grow in our yard.  Watch as the pretty pink flowers bloom each May reminding me of you. I will always feel a little pang of sadness as the flowers change to white and blow away in the wind.  A simple reminder of the shortness of your life in our arms.

It takes courage to admit that today, I am okay, happy even. I am so fortunate to have held you. I am thankful that your life has helped others. You were loved and you are still very loved.

We miss you baby girl!

Clara2016#WhatHealsYou

Brave Enough to Say Goodbye

BraveEnoughToSayGoodbye

One of the toughest things about newness is the desire to look back.  How many times has God given you a new path, a do-over, an answer to a prayer and, instead of looking forward whole heartedly, you look back?  Why do we look back?  Often it is because we can’t help but compare.  We want to see positive improvements, right?

What happens when looking back interferes with moving forward in our newness?  Ask any pastor and they will tell you that one reason they leave a church, when their time as pastor is done, is so that in the newness of the new pastor there aren’t comparisons made and discontent created.  You can’t experience growth in newness if you continuously look back.

Chris and I have experienced this first hand in our own lives.  Moving to Iowa last year came with some pretty big changes for us.  We left behind our support system, our family, our church, and lots of material things.  God asked us to take on a new path with a smaller paycheck, higher rent, smaller house, no church, and no support system.

Our society would call that a recipe for disaster.  We weren’t immune to the naysayers who didn’t hold back on reminding us that, “people don’t willingly take a pay cut when they switch jobs.”.  For us, our “new” meant stepping out of the cultural norm and out of our comfort zones.

Like all new things were weren’t immune to the urge to compare. We got caught up in the looking back, especially once the newness factor wore off and the reality of everything came into play.  I distinctly remember the first couple of months when we weren’t staying under our budget and rushing to find people to watch the kids during Lincoln’s appointments and surgery.  It was tough and we caught ourselves looking back and thinking “man, we miss our support system.”

Isaiah 48:18 says, “..Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.” If we had left ourselves in our comparative frame of mind we would have never seen what was being worked out before us. Our new support system was being built and a new church with hearts wide open.  We would have missed the perfect set-up in our new home and the way it has helped us re-evaluate needs.  We would have missed the opportunities and activities for our kids We would have missed so much growth.  More importantly we would have missed those times when God was building our paths in the wilderness and our river in the desert.

Our growth comes because we set out to whole heartedly embrace our new future.  We intentionally refuse to look back and compare our old and new lives.  It leaves our hearts more open to the path God is laying out before us, the changes He may have coming, and the growth He has in store for us.

**Once in a while I have the honor of writing for Heartland Community Church in North Liberty, IA.  This weeks writing was tied to our current sermon series, “Newness in Christ ~ A study of Ephesians”. This is a copy of that was placed on the church blog.**

#CaptureYourGrief – Day #30

Reflection

#CaptureYourGriefDay30

Reflection is difficult.  This project takes time each day that I am used to sharing in other ways.  It takes more time because I need to calm the life, mind, and heart to really get to the bottom of each topic.  It isn’t an easy task.  Really it is a commitment to calming the waters every single day and seeing what is really there.

This year as I look back at the month, I can tell where I was able to reflect well.  I see my heart.  There were other days when I just couldn’t/wouldn’t go more in depth.  As much as I want to share everything, there are some things in that reflection that could cause pain or hurt to others.  Those are the pieces missing from my reflection, my movements in the water.

I thought this image was fitting for today.  Taken while on date night with my husband, it is a picture of the new theater being built on the University of Iowa campus.  It is clear that the moving water doesn’t allow for a detailed reflection.  We simply get the big or brightest pieces.

I think that are times in our lives when we focus can only see those big or bright parts.  Here is the thing, if those pieces are good memories, we feel good but we might miss out on growth. On the other hand, if those spots are bad, we focus on the wrong things and we miss out on healing.  What if you could take the time to see the whole picture.  That is what the #CaptureYourGrief project does for me.

As this month of blogging comes to an end I am thankful for the topic of reflection.  That is truly what this month is about.  Reflecting on the life we held, the love we still have, and the grief through it.  Thank you to everyone who has followed the journey this year.  Thank you to Bri for posting every day to Lach’s Legacy’s Facebook page.  Thank you to my husband who has let me off on a few messy house days this month.  Thank you for letting me spend an entire month calming my heart and reflecting upon the good times, bad times, and the little life that is still so loved.

#WhatHealsYou

#CaptureYourGrief – Day #29

What Heals You

#CaptureYourGriefDay29

So I must give credit for the basis of this quote to Walter White.  While I loved his quote, it’s language maybe wasn’t quite #CaptureYourGrief-esq.  I changed it a bit to fit me and the topic today.

Letting go of fear has been helpful in my healing.  After we lost Clara we spent a lot of time scared.  Each activity, pregnancy, birth, day brought out some of the worst fears.  I remember the first time Damon and Mason rode with someone else.  I wondered what I would do if they died too.  I just wanted to control every situation.

It didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t possible.  I couldn’t let those fears rule my life.  If I did I would rob my boys of the life experiences they deserved.  We were missing out on activities and memories that could be made because we didn’t want to risk anything.  Some “risks” are worth taking!

In the image I captured this summer, I saw my hesitant daughter fall.  Did she get cry? A little.  Did she get back up?  Yes!  She tried and tried until her fear was small enough that her confidence returned.  I chose not to step in and stop her from falling.  Instead we encouraged her to keep trying and to not be scared.  Eventually she did get it and she had so much fun.  If she had given into that fear she would have missed out on an afternoon or memories!!

Grief is much the same way.  We fear how birthdays and holidays will be.  If you ask most parents the anticipation is far worse than the actual day.  Grief is never easy.  We struggle to hold on yet we struggle to let go.

We fear the passing of current or future children.  What if they make a bad choice that hurts them? We worry about everything.  The thing is we can’t do that all the time. Yes, it is natural to worry a bit but not about EVERYTHING.  It will consume you!  It robs you of making memories or allowing them to make their childhood memories.

Throughout my journey I am constantly working on releasing fear.  There are days when I fall and have to get up, brush off, and start again.  The best days are the ones where I leave worry and fear in the shower drain and let the memories be made.

#WhatHealsYou

#CaptureYourGrief – Day #28

Reach Out

#CaptureYourGriefDay28

Reaching out applies to grievers and everyone else.  I have been in the position where “let us know what you need” doesn’t get answered. I honestly didn’t know what I needed or what I needed that person couldn’t provide.  I was thankful for those who just brought food and paper plates and plastic spoons.  Someone even brought us toilet paper.  Others took the time to spend evenings with us.  I especially appreciated those who remembered us months after our loss. Those are the ways of reaching out, that were helpful to me.

Sometimes reaching out is simply reaching to your partner.  There were many times when the two of us connected and felt comfort.  I also remember reaching out to my husband and not feeling his hand hold mine (and vise versa). We were at places where we couldn’t be there for each other.  For me that was when I decided I needed to reach outside my comfort zone.

Social media has opened the doors for finding others who can help.  I liked the anonymousness.  The women I met never appeared to judge me and we grew together.  We leaned on each other in our difficult times.  Those moments are what sustained me when friends, family, and my husband couldn’t help me in the ways I needed.

The journey is long and along the path isn’t straight. As grievers we can get so lost in our sorrow that we can’t or won’t reach out.  This is especially true in the very beginning and, then again, when the world thinks we “should be healed”.  Remind yourself that it is okay to take a timeout in the trees but if you get stuck in mud, call out for help.  And friends, family, and outsiders… take the time to reach out when you are called to.  Sometimes it takes every ounce of courage we have to call to you.

#WhatHealsYou

If you have some free time listen to this song that reminds me of reaching out.
I won’t let go – Rascal Flatts

 

 

#CaptureYourGrief – Day #26

Gratitude

#CaptureYourGriefDay26

Gratitude is more than being being thankful for the people who have helped me along the way. It is also about being thankful for the situations and small things that have been found in the storm clouds.  The most helpful thing for me during my times of suffering has been finding something good in the day, focusing on that, and being thankful for it.

After we lost Clara those good things were small.  A hug, not throwing up, kind words were things I started with.  They redirected my attention when by body reminded me that it was time to feed the baby that was no longer in my arms.  It was through finding things to be thankful for that I found a way to be thankful for those “feed your baby” reminders.  It gave me an opportunity to share Clara’s milk with others babies who were in need. We sent 356 oz of her milk to the Rocky Mountain Mother’s Milk bank in Denver.  (When Lincoln’s allergies were diagnosed I experienced a similar circumstance and we knew right away we would donate.  With him we drove 2,222oz to the University of Iowa Mother’s Milk Bank.)  There was great comfort and thankfulness found in helping others instead of dumping it all down the drain.

When I went back to work finding things to be thankful for became extremely important.  People made off-the-cuff remarks or condolences that weren’t exactly comforting.  I needed something, other than these, to hold.  Each night I would sit down and find my good things to set my heart on.  I tried to focus on how thankful I was that each person thought enough to stop by and remember Clara and less on their comments.   It was through this process that I was able to let a lot of things roll off my shoulders.

This kind of being “thankful for” is one I offer to many along the loss journey.  For those who dedicate time each day for their heart, there is comfort.  It won’t fix everything but it will help set your heart on a path to let go of the bad and cling to the good.

My husband and I have turned this concept into a bedtime routine for our children too.  Each evening we sit and pray thanks for the things we are “thankful for”.  Sometimes the kids are thankful for things, other nights it is deeper.  It depends on their age and the type of day they’ve had.

We have learned a lot about our kids through the prayer time.  We see what makes them happy or sad.  We hear their pain when they ask if they can pray for someone else.  The best thing is they go to bed and wake happier.  We get to see little pieces of their big hearts.

My experience with setting my heart on the good has helped me in other situations in my life as well.  As we deal with Lincoln’s health, it helps to focus on the good things.  When we heard the news that Lincoln wasn’t ever going to be able to use the bathroom like a normal boy, it was devastating.  When we started doing clean intermittent catheterizations life was in turmoil.  By the end of the first week, we noticed a huge change in our little boy.  He was calmer and better behaved.  For the first time in his life his bladder was empty after he relieving himself.  It was in that good that we found comfort in the sadness. He was actually happier!  That is what we chose to focus on.

Today I don’t need to set aside as much time for this but I still use it to help me through so many situations of life.  I am grateful for the changes and comfort my family has gotten by actively being “thankful for” things in our lives.  Sometimes our gratitude is small, sometimes big.  Either way filling your heart with good things leaves little room for the bad to get in there and fester.

“Fill your heart with what’s important…
and be done with all the rest.”
Unknown

#WhatHealsYou

 

 

#CaptureYourGrief – Day #25

Earth Remembrance

#CaptureYourGriefDay25

Earth remembrance is geared toward planting a tree or plant in memory of the baby lost. It helps as we watch it grow in a time when we are no longer watching our children grow. I think it is a great way to heal.
 
When we lived in South Dakota, we had many flowers and a tree planted in memory of Clara, our miscarriage, and my brother. A lot of thought when into selecting just the perfect one. We had “Baby Love”, “Superhero”, and “American Beauty”. Of course, we also had her tree. It was sad when a rose bush died and had to be replanted but every time they bloomed it made me smile.
 
This year planting a tree or flower really isn’t in the cards. I thought about planting something indoors but we just don’t have the space. I guess I had a lot of excuses for why I “couldn’t do it”. The more I thought about planting seeds to more I realized that sowing seeds and seeing them grow isn’t just an physical thing. Instead of planting something to bring me comfort, I hope to plant a seed of hope for someone else.
 
Every deed is a seed. I really like the idea of planting seeds of hope. The hardest part of planting those seeds is you don’t necessarily know where you are planting them or how they are growing. Unlike the tree we plant outside, these seeds grow in so many different ways. Often we think we are witnessing those seeds grow but so many more times, we do not.
 
I think this project is a seed of hope for many whether they are participating or simply following others through it. We aren’t all equipped to share our lives and hurts. Even if we can’t share it can be comforting and healing to read other’s stories. For me sharing helps water the seed inside me. I know from some of you that it waters others’ as well. Those reminders make this project worth every bit of extra time it takes each day.
 
We will never know how many seeds of hope have grown without our eyes seeing. I am hopeful that those participating and following the #CaptureYourGrief project find a place in their hearts for that seed. I hope they find water to grow it, and in their time, are able to share it with others. That is the seed I hope to plant today, throughout this project, and the rest of the days of my life.
 
#WhatHealsYou

#CaptureYourGrief – Day #24

Choose Your Breath

#CaptureYourGriefDay24

The topic name didn’t mean a lot to me at first glance but after reading the description I found it easier to write about. Here is the topic description for day #24:

“Many of you are taking part in Franchesca Cox’s Choosing Your Breath Grief Workshop. I love her workshop because it gives a space for people to intentionally and actively work through their grief. Conscious grief work is so important if you want to create a beautiful life after loss. Have you ever sat down and really thought about where you are in your grief journey? Have you ever paid attention to your inner thought patterns? Are you stuck? Are you comfortable? Are you peaceful, angry, frustrated, hopeful? What are you feeling? Why are you feeling that way? Where do you want to go next? How will you get to that place? Are there any changes you could make in your life that would benefit your grief journey? When you start exploring the landscape of your own mind you begin to become aware of your thought patterns and you get to understand your grief more.  Share your own grief discoveries. Do you feel hopeful for your future? Do you believe that grief and healing can co-exist?”
http://carlymarieprojectheal.com/capture-your-grief-2015

The #CaptureYourGrief projects held during the month of October have been my active work through my grief.  I am at a point where I look forward to these projects and time of reflection.  There are always topics that I would never explore if it weren’t for the project.  I know for some of you it may be hard to read some of the same posts each year.  Each year I feel things are different and even a similar post isn’t really the same for me.  There is growth and comfort and healing with each topic and writing time.

I found that starting my blog gave me a place to post each October as well as throughout the year, when the words struck.  It is interesting to look back at where I was four years ago and see where I am today.

Dedicated writing each day of the project also gives me a chance to talk to my kids, share with them how I feel, and listen to how they feel.  There is comfort in knowing where my kids are in their grief too.  This year Damon has followed all of the posts and pictures.  He has shared things I never thought of.  His eyes filled with tears as he says, “yes…” show me that, he too, is still grieving.

I am grateful for the openness this project gives. I think it has helped me work through things I most likely would have kept bottled up.  It gives me a chance to open up Clara’s special tote and spend a month deliberately remembering her life without negative comments or awkward stares. It helps me to see where I am in my grief and see where I have been stuck.  It is through this project that I have found much comfort, shed some tears, and found a little more of my heart.  It is where I grieve intentionally.

#WhatHealsYou

#CaptureYourGrief – Day #23

Love Letter

#CaptureYourGriefday23

I woke up to a lovely little text from my husband.  As the morning has passed we have exchanged many I love you’s.  It was a nice way to engage in the love letter’s theme although I am not sure he knows that was todays topic.  We have a date night planned with dinner and a theater production too.

We had only been married 7 months when we lost Clara.  We quickly found date nights to be helpful ways to reconnect each month.  We dedicate that time to less kid talking and more future planning.  Before Clara we didn’t do this much.  We worked opposite hours often and weekends were busy with work as well.  It didn’t take long to know we needed each other, to hold hands, to be a couple.  We needed to be united as we walked through the downpours of life.

Today we will take the time to celebrate making it to the other side and being there for the next storm.  Today we won’t write our love letter on paper, we will experience it together.  As I look outside, I see that we will be walking together and holding hands in the rain.  This time it won’t be a sad rain with tears and pain but one with love in our hearts and smiles on our faces.

“We can’t stop the downpour but I am thankful to hold your hand, walking through the rain.”

#WhatHealsYou