Ta Da! Normal is the new Weird

My little imp
Koliva for Jordan’s Memorial

Jordan passed away three years ago, Tuesday. It is strange how quickly time has passed. I still miss him almost daily and memories hit me at random times resulting in a smile, longing, or tears. In general, I don’t feel as raw as I did in previous years. I suppose that is why they call it healing. People still say stupid things sometimes, but I try to forgive them for their lack of understanding, because that is what it is. How could they possibly understand if they haven’t lost a child? Thankfully, I have a group of women I meet with every couple of months. Everyone one of them has lost a child, mostly older children but it doesn’t seem to matter. The grief and the acceptance of that pain is common among us all. I am thankful for that group which would not have happened without my neighbor who, unfortunately, lost her son in a car accident. That loss brought a lot of lovely mothers together. Life is weird.

Speaking of weird. I’m 19 weeks pregnant! And, yes, absolutely, there is a mountain of anxiety I try to tame daily. Plus, the comparison to my pregnancy with Jordan which adds another level of strange. But so far, according to doctors and tests, everything is going on in a normal, average fashion. Thanks be to God. We found out around Christmas and survived the first trimester fairly well. Probably because I didn’t tell anyone, and I wasn’t showing, so it didn’t feel completely real (except for the daily naps). Now with the growing baby bump, we’ve told more people in our lives and I thought it was time to make it official here.

Although the big, official Growth Ultrasound happens next week, we got a glimpse of the little bean last week. I think most moms might feel this way, but it is surreal to see a little growing alien in your stomach. I wasn’t exactly sure what I felt after I saw its head and spine, and its little fingers as they waved us away. And the little bean was hiccuping, which apparently is normal. So yeah, weird.

People ask me now how I’m feeling or how are things going, or is everything alright. All I can answer is, as far as I know, yes. Since I haven’t had your average pregnancy, it’s hard to tell. What is normal? It just hasn’t been my world. The best I can do is focus on the next milestone. And if that goes well, then I’ll focus on the next milestone. Despite the myriad of things to worry about (like truly a long list) I vow to try to stay calm and think good thoughts. It does helps to think that Jordan is already watching and praying for his sibling and for us. In fact, there are a lot of people: friends, and families, monks, and nuns, that are praying for us. When they tell me that they’re praying, I do feel a moment of relief. We are not alone.

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Wait for it…

If anyone was a fan of “How I Met Your Mother” maybe you remember one of Barney Stinson’s catchphrases “Wait for it…” usually interjected between Legen- and -dary. This is the voice I hear in my head right now. Telling me to just hold on a little longer, that a change is coming.

When Jordan passed away, a chaplain visited us in the ER room. I was holding my son’s body in my arms and just balling. And the chaplain, clearly uneasy, said something to the effect of “Many families find that having another child helps them get over the loss.” Uh, what? Strangely I wasn’t angry at the time, nor am I really angry now. I just think it was a super stupid thing to say.  For one thing, dude we JUST lost our child! For another, there is no way we were emotionally prepared to struggle with the unknowns of pregnancy and the worry of having another child so soon. And as Jordan’s three year memorial looms in April, I realize how hard this journey has been and how you cannot force yourself to be ready, whether that is to be a parent again or to make some other kind of change to your life. Even as I look back at our experience, last year, when we tried to conceive, versus how we are coping now, there is a vast emotional difference.

We’ve been praying for almost three years for help and for guidance and there have been definite times when I was frustrated with myself and with God. But little tweaks to my soul and to my mind were, in fact, taking place. And all those little changes needed to percolate and to simmer.  And ,God-willing, in this new year we will see the fruits of those changes.

My friend sent me an brief article called “Redeeming Time and How to Wait.” by Faith Eury Cho. She writes, “The waiting season is an active season. It is not to be mistaken as as a time when nothing happens.” Then she summaries a story from Acts of the Apostles:

In Acts 1, Jesus appeared before His people after His resurrection for a period of 40 days. It’s glorious. I am sure the disciples were hyped. However, over a meal, Jesus gave them a strange command. He told them to wait, to wait in Jerusalem, and to wait for a gift. And of course, they wanted to know when and how.

To this, Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority,” (Acts 1:7). They were basically commanded to wait without knowing, without understanding.Yet, after the believers in Acts 1 diligently waited, the Lord delivered what He had promised. The Holy Spirit came, and the first church was born.”

There is a reason people say good things come to those who wait, because God has a plan and for damn sure it’s not my plan but that’s okay. Because whatever the outcome, it will be bigger and better than I could have imagined. Jordan was this explosive little gift. So, I believe the future will be blessed. It will be legen- wait for it… -dary!

 

A Sunny Birthday for Jordan

I woke up to the smell of incense, a spicy myrrh used in church services. I thought for a moment that Jordan was behind the aroma, like his mere spiritual presence had left behind, what to me, was a sacred scent. Once lucid, I realized my husband must have lit the incense in honor of the birthday boy. Despite the lack of the supernatural, it was a comforting way to wake up and start celebrating Jordan’s life.

The day itself was beautiful, warm and sunny. We did some of the usual day-off errands then headed to the cemetery to visit Jordan’s grave, sing Happy Birthday, watch some videos, and just be next to him.

There were definite moments of sadness, but by the end of the day, I felt joyful. I am so blessed to have had this baby, and he is still sending us blessings. My husband and I talked about the experience lbs we’ve had since Jordan’s repose. We’ve made inspiring connections and gotten to be near many holy places and people.

We felt that once again when we visited St. Tikhon’s Monastery outside of Scranton, PA. We arrived on Monday of the holiday week and discovered we were the only visitors. The Abbot, Archimandrite Fr Sergius, visited us and our parish as the speaker for a retreat weekend last February. We felt, in turn, we should visit his “home” as well. We were received so kindly and with amazing hospitality, it hardly felt like a monastery visit but rather a few days in the country.

We were able to have time to talk with Fr. Sergius in his office. My husband and I lounged on a stuffed couch. Fr. Sergius leaned back in the adjacent upholstered chair, his foot propped up on the coffee table. This apparent informality had an effect, instead of feeling self-conscience I found myself bringing up all kinds of things, some I didn’t even know I was worried about. What a welcome relief it was to let those seemingly small things off my chest. Fr. Sergius’s words were simple yet profound guidance and reassurance.

So with that grace and positive energy guiding us, we faced another birthday and another heap of memories. And although, I allowed myself some moments of” why” and “what if”, I returned to the one fact I know, Jordan was and is a blessing to me. Thank God for him and for this day.

The Push Back

View of Mauna Lea, Big Island, Hawai’i

I felt restless and agitated at the beginning of our recent trip to Hawaii’s Big Island. I needed something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Part of the problem may have been that my husband attended a conference during the first part of our trip. That put a cramp in my adventure plans (and this is all about me, right?)  Walking around the resort didn’t satisfy. Watching the dolphins in the Dolphin Lagoon didn’t quench the need. Once, we were able to get out of the resort, I felt better. Beyond the manicured lawns, and the carefully constructed activities, adventure beckoned. What I needed was something challenging , something where I need to push myself, something adventurous.

Lava fields and Golf course around Hilton Waikoloa

We kayaking a couple of times, once out of the bay of Puoka Bay on the Big Island where we snorkeled and encountered bright fish, sea urchins, and hono (sea turtles).  We hiked across the Kings Footpath through age old lava fields to a secluded beach. After the conference, we hopped over to Maui via the small aircrafts of Mokelele airlines. That was in fact, an adventure, which my husband promises never to take again. Once in Maui, we took another kayak trip around the boats and waves of the Lahaina Bay. Still, simply rowing through ocean waves didn’t quite satisfy. We slapped on our hiking shoes again and tramped across the ridge of Waihe’e.  Yet, the climbing and scampering didn’t hit the spot either.

Hiking the Waihe’e Ridge Trail

I encountered the SUP, or Stand Up Paddleboard, at Lake Erie in August and I loved it.  The feeling of standing up, riding the waves, and pushing my way around the water was soul satisfying. That was the missing something on this trip.  I wanted to stand up paddle!

The concept is simple enough, but during our trip the trade winds decided to pick and and were blowing around the island. So I put off the SUP, hoping the winds would die down. That stubborn restless itch wouldn’t go away. Finally, one morning, my husband wanted to kayak, so I decided I was going to do it–I was going to rent a flipping paddleboard and do this.  We drove down to Lahaina and flip-flopped our way into an ocean-sports shop.

Sunset Kaanapali Coast, Maui

There was a decided lack of enthusiasm for my SUP adventure.  “The wind has really picked up since the morning,” the rental guy said. His face covered with dubious concern. My husband echoed the rental guy’s concern, repeatedly asking me if I was sure I wanted to this. Without much encouragement, I contemplated giving in and just renting a kayak. I’d only SUP’d once, maybe they were right and I wouldn’t enjoy it.

But, I’ve got a stubborn streak. And the more these two men looked concerned over my dainty welfare, the more I wanted to prove them wrong. I picked up the board. The wind blew hard, almost pulling the foam board out of my hands. But I got the awkward mass of styrofoam to the water, and dropped it down. I straddled the board and used the paddle to get out from the shore line.  The wind was intent on pushing me back in, but I told the wind where it could stick it, got on my knees and started using my core and counter weight to get deeper out into the bay. Once I got some momentum, I moved further down along the shore. The wind died down and the water calmed. I put my paddle across the board, pressed my palms down, and carefully stood up. The waves flowed under the board, and I felt the awesome rush just like I remembered.

In the grand scheme of things, me standing up on a paddleboard in the Pacific may seem insignificant.  But at that moment and in my remembrance, it felt profound. As I dug in my paddle over coral and blue water, I thought about struggling with the winds and how my life felt like that sometimes, like strong winds pushing against my goals. At that moment, I thought maybe I’d let life push me around just a little too much. And I think the bullying started a long time before losing Jordan.

I’ve always been a go-with-the-flow kind of girl–to a fault. If there was too much resistance to what I really wanted, then I would give up thinking maybe it wasn’t meant to be. This particularly applied to my career, or lack thereof, and, now, with fertility. Perhaps, I thought, as I traversed the waves, if I just pushed back a little harder maybe I would achieve the things I really wanted. I turned the board back towards my starting point. As I approached closer to Lahaina, the wind whipped up and almost pushed me off the board. I dropped to my knees feeling a flash of panic as the water pushed my board sideways, threatening to flip it over. I tamped down the fear and cranked my lone paddle into the water guiding the board in the right direct, cutting through newly created waves. Laughter escaped my lips. I cursed the wind a moment ago, but now I laughed. Ahh, silly wind, you’re just a bit of resistance, no big deal.

Indeed, there is resistance in my quest for a healthy baby but,  I reminded myself, I have some options and I just need to dig in and commit to them. And, too, I am afraid of rejection with my writing but, again, there are options and I just need to dig in and practice, practice, practice. This bravada to dig in and push back might all be a huge mistake. But, so what? We have an angel praying for us, what is a little failure? Plus, I don’t want to live with the “What if’s.” They’re lame and sad, and who needs ’em? Not I.

Double Rainbow Maui

Back on the Market

To cut to the heart of it–we declined this adoption match. As we progress with the match, the ultrasounds showed consistent indicators that something may be wrong with the baby. Although nothing was diagnosed, we didn’t feel comfortable continuing with a high risk pregnancy.

That’s the gist.

The long story is that is was a flipping struggle! We didn’t know about the ultrasounds until after we met the birthmother, a 16 year old girl with no interest in being a mom. It sounded ideal and we tried to be positive about the findings in the ultrasounds. In fact, it felt like we fell into familiar patterns; I was the cheerleader doing my best to look at the bright side, My husband was the investigator researching symptoms, assessing risk factors, and calling colleagues for consult.  We thought, God surely put this situation in our laps for a reason. Maybe, this is another opportunity to embrace grace. But when one more issue came up regarding the background of the birthparents, I cracked.

Psychologically, it is fascinating how the body overrides conscience thoughts. I started having chest tightness and stomach aches. I’ve had enough stress in my life to know the signs of panic. We consulted our support people: family, our priest, councilor and social worker. Although, I think we knew the answer, we needed to hear that we weren’t bad people if we turned this adoption match down. So we did. And now, our profile is back up and we are in the waiting game again. And that’s okay.

Very few people know or can even imagine the trials we went through with Jordan. At the time, it was all about survival: his and ours. Great love and God’s grace got us through. But there are scars. As we go forward, maybe those scars will heal more. But for now, we have to accept our human limitations.

Chosen Ones

We have big news, we were chosen as adoptive parents! Now just hold on there. Don’t go getting too worked up. I’ve been holding off writing for just that reason. I knew you’d get excited, then I would get excited. But let’s try to remember: nothing is definite.

The birth mother is due November 2nd, which is both a little too soon and a little too far for me to be comfortable. After we got the call, we had one evening of elation before we crashed, a mountain of emotions. There is a lot to feel and we are doing our best to hit all points on the emotional arc of adoption. We are cautiously optimistic, which isn’t as much fun as elated, but after the last few years it’s the best we can manage. In the state where we live, a birth mother has up to 48 hours after giving birth to change her mind about giving her child up for adoption. And although we feel pretty good about things, nothing is certain until then.

It is super strange telling people. I keep debating whether it would be better to just show up with a baby rather than have to explain to people about the uncertainty of adoption. Like I just did with you. But you’re worth it, right?

Then, there is the rebound of grief and guilt that happens after I’ve had a day of feeling happy or positive about having another child. The next day I feel like a mack truck slammed into me. I’m all weepy missing Jordan and walking aimlessly around the house.

I may not be pregnant, but we are getting to experience the roller coaster of waiting for a baby.  So that’s nice.  I will write soon about meeting the birth mom. Keep us in your prayers too 🙂

The Art of Diversion

I haven’t written for several reasons. Mainly, I wanted to have something to write about that did not just focus on how much I miss my son, Jordan. I had this idyllic notion that after we put ourselves out there with our adoption profile, then whisked off to the enchanted lands of Italy and Lebanon, we would come back home and we would receive a divine call that someone wanted us to be adoptive parents. We did receive a call. But it was just an update from our adoption liaison telling us the number of views our profile got and that they sent out a few of our printed profiles to potential mothers. Now, it has been almost two months and we continue to wait.

In the meantime, I am trying to gear up for another attempt at conception and pregnancy.  And I can’t decide if it is bold and strong or just stupid. I talk to Jordan about it all the time and I get the same message back, you have to try one more time. So, that is what I am doing. But as the window for trying gets closer, the thought of losing another baby is creeping in.

To counteract the fear, I am a poster child for diversion. I’ve been changing up my workouts and actually paying attention to my fitbit. I indulged in complaining and last minute desperation as I planned and directed the Vacation Church Camp. (It was actually quite wonderful and I was sad when the week was over). I have been consciously trying to reach out to friends and connect. But it is exhausting when your introverted side conflicts with your extroverted one. Pick a side, already!! I started volunteering at the local History museum. Nothing grand just one day a week helping them upload items to their online gift shop. I garden and/or obsess about my garden, A LOT. I’ve tried to jam my head with novels. Some good: The Sparrow Sisters and the sequel The Forbidden Garden. Also, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and lots not so good. Speaking of not so good, I’ve been enjoying Hallmark Mystery movies, in particular one with Jewel (Fixer Upper) and one with Lori Loughlin (Garage Sale Mysteries) which I particularly enjoy. Lastly, I’ve started listed outdoor furniture on Craigslist, which has prompted an overwhelming need to declutter. Ebay you are next!

These diversions have not only distracted from the “wanting a baby now” feeling, they also help to distract me from that chunk of my heart that is missing, Jordan. I’ve been skimming by his room quickly and avoiding looking at pictures and videos. I’ve had things to do! No time to let the hurt in. But eventually. Always eventually, I have to come in to his room and lay down on the floor next to his crib and ball. I use to sit on the floor a lot with Jordan. Using my nice long legs as a platform, I would lay that beautiful baby on my semi-bent limbs and he would look around, play, sleep. Jordan on my lap, that’s the way it was. And sometimes I have to miss him. Like full on, ugly-cry-miss-him. But tomorrow…

I go back to working on the Art of Distraction. I could teach a class.