feeling alive

Shortly after Reece passed away, I had this deep desire to go rock climbing.  I’m talking about the kind of rock climbing where you need ropes and spiked shoes and you basically hang off the side of a cliff.  This goes against just about everything that feels natural and normal to me.  I’m pretty risk averse and camping for me includes our backyard and the ability to go lay down in my own bed after everyone else has nodded off…I don’t like waking up in dew.  This rock climbing idea was borne out of a need to have a larger-than-life sensory experience; to feel alive when many things inside of me did not.  I also did not feel nearly as concerned for my safety.  I wasn’t reckless, I just wasn’t as worried about the “what ifs” in my daily functioning.  As life began to pull itself back together, my desire to hang off of rocks still remained, but it didn’t seem as important.  There were other ways I found to feel alive again.

Strangely, I have always told Terry that if he goes to Heaven before me, I know I will feel great peace about the two of them being together.  I have never thought Reece needed one of us to be there.  But there is something about knowing that one of his earthly parents is there with him again that gives me some sort of resolution about the transplant here.  I don’t know how else to say it.  I can honestly say that I was right, though–I do feel strangely at peace.  It is so right and so odd all at once.

I have spent some time reading through my posts on Like Olive Shoots and have found myself sick and tired of it.  Not of Reece or Terry, but of the situation.  I don’t want to read about it, wallow in it, or live in that any more.  After Reece passed away I felt this need to preserve him.  As time went on, I began to understand that Reece was separate from all sorts of emotions I had about his transplant and passing.  In the process of understanding this, I have been able to appreciate my relationship with him.  I certainly don’t mean to minimize his struggle with BMT or how incredibly strong he was during that time.  But I recognize that my relationship continues with him and I celebrate the memories I have and the future I look forward to with him again one day.  I already feel this way about Terry.  I’m already so sick and tired of the whole situation.  I don’t feel any need to prove anything to myself about him or our relationship.  But I’m tired of the garbage of this world and how it impacted our lives.  I’m just done with that.  I’ll figure out what to do in the wake that was left behind from his passing and then I’ll look forward to seeing him again one day.  But in the middle–the rest of my life here–I need to move forward.  It’s not unhealthy or too soon.  It is what it is.  I’ve been through a lot and I’ve seen a lot.  I need normal, dammit.  I’m going to find it again.  It won’t be what normal used to be and that is fine with me.  I’m not looking to go back to anything that was there; that’s not even a desire buried in my heart.

I did have the notion a couple of weeks ago that I would like to go skydiving.  Ok, let’s be honest–it’s probably not going to happen.  I’ll never say never about it.  However, I’ve realized that I again have a deep need to feel alive again.  This time I recognize I need to reclaim my life.  It will happen, but it won’t be as quickly as I would like.  I’ve had so many discussions with people who have said, “I just want to fix this for you.”  I can tell you truthfully, no one wants to fix this more than me.  There is no fixing the loss of Terry, but there is a way to repair the other things that are left behind.  I’ve been through enough life and grief to know myself in the midst of them.  Many people have told me to just slow down and take some time for myself.  Trust me, taking time for myself doesn’t include sitting around.  I am not a crazy person, despite living through very difficult circumstances.  (Or maybe I should say I am no crazier than I have ever been at any other point in my life.)  I’m not shuffling around in a bath robe or hiding out in my house.  Truly, I’m a pretty typical person, just trying to live life.



life with the littles

It’s been about a month since I last posted and I just can’t seem to get things on here more frequently.  I really enjoy writing and hope that I can figure out a way to make it a more regular event.  It is a true reflection of how busy things have been around here and how much time I have to myself these days. I’m not complaining–nope. It’s just a fact of life.

The summer has been flying by and I–unlike so many Midwesterners–am not at all sad that this is the case. I’ve never been a huge “summer person”–whatever that means. Mostly, I am antsy for this baby to get here and to be finished with the chapter of life entitled, “Pregnancy”. I’m trying my best to savor it, but it is getting harder and harder with each passing day. Pregnancy alone is fine, but combined with an active one-year-old who gets into just about everything, it is brutal. Pregnancy is one of those events in life, where you simply forget about all the ins and outs of it after you get through it.  I get to certain stages and have very little memory of what I experienced in previous pregnancies.  Additionally, I was so stressed out and distracted during my last pregnancy (plus, my parents and aunt were primarily chasing Britta), that I don’t recall many of the normal pregnancy-related happenings other than the crazy monitoring at the end.  I really can not remember back four years ago (or seven, in Reece’s case) to remember all the nitty-gritty details I experienced with Britta. Plus, I think I was spared (mercifully) from some of the aches and pains during the last pregnancy.  Even the fourth time around has its own set of surprises.  Still, one thing that I have experienced in all four pregnancies is this: I get tremendously excited when I see food expiration dates on packages that are either my due date or even beyond!  I’m not talking about cans of soup and boxes of Uncle Ben’s wild rice.  I’m talking about milk, cheese, and anything that, should you eat it past that date, it could really get your tummy turning.  That’s right–every time this gets me super excited.  You should have seen me buying milk at Target with the family the other day.  Terry just stared at me in bewilderment when I enthusiastically shouted out that the expiration date was only a day before our due date!

Since my last update regarding my pregnancy (found here), things have calmed down a bit as far as our doctors’ monitoring of the Little Dude (Britta affectionately calls him, “Pineapple”).  My follow-up ultrasound showed that he was measuring at the 40%–a bruiser in this household–and that they had originally had the wrong due date in radiology.  Basically, he was never as small as they originally thought and he made up for lost ground in the month between ultrasounds!  I go back in for what may be my last ultrasound prior to delivery (assuming all growth has held steady) in another week.  We’ll see what’s happening, but right now they are treating this as a, “boring, normal pregnancy.”  We’ll take boring and normal!  This baby is quite active and while Scarlett has no clue how her world is about to change, Britta loves feeling him kick around and is always proud to tell everyone that she is having a baby brother.

As one can imagine, these last few weeks are full of baby and house prep.  We have not become more efficient at front-loading our baby prep work with each successive pregnancy.  We must be clutch players or clutch parents or clutch whatever.  Actually, I am not a clutch kinda gal at all, so while I await the upcoming dates set aside to get this stuff done, I find myself nesting like crazy to try to control something…cooking, cleaning, and making lists of things for Terry to get done.  Which always goes over really well.

We haven’t been the epitome of health this last month either. Between colds, sinus infections, and reactions to medications, we are thankful to be a healthy foursome for the time being.  We spent one entire Saturday in the ER with Britta.  She had a fever the day before and woke up complaining of head pain.  We were advised to take her to the ER for fear of bacterial meningitis.  In the ER they initially suspected strep throat, but when the initial test results came back negative and her CBC revealed elevated bacteria levels, they felt there was enough ambiguity that they needed to do a spinal tap to rule out anything serious.  So, we immediately clicked into hospital mode and it fit like a glove.  We naturally began silencing beeps, finding supplies, understanding a disturbing amount of “hospital-speak”, and engaging in our regular, light-hearted, distracting hospital banter which is our joint way of coping with various amounts of stress, depending on the circumstance.  As the doctor was prepping us for the procedure she was apologetic and kept telling us she wouldn’t want her own child to have a spinal tap.  Confused as to what the procedure actually entailed and trying to gauge how worked up I “needed” to be in my own mind, I looked at her and said, “Is this as invasive as a bone marrow biopsy?”  She replied, “Oh goodness, no!!!”  Terry, as he always does, stayed in the room for the procedure (I rarely opt to do so).  Again, as the doctor was discussing the procedure Terry asked, “Do I need to gown up?”  She looked startled and said, “Oh no, it’s only me that needs to use a sterilized surface.  You guys really have seen a lot.”  The difficult part for us was the partial sedation she was placed on that lasted for hours afterwards where she was in an awake-but-somewhat-vegetative state.  We had never experienced this with any other child (full sedation is more like going to sleep and waking up normally).  Thankfully, the spinal tap results looked great and were negative for meningitis.  We were released in the evening and given a call the next morning saying that the overnight culture for strep came back positive!  We were humbled with the actual results and grateful it was nothing more.  The doctor was apologetic that we had to do the spinal tap and I was thankful we did it so we could be released of the worry.

One funny story came about from that night after we returned home.  As Britta came out of the sedation further, she acted almost drunk.  The doctor warned us about this as it is usually what happens.  (My gut reaction when the doctor mentioned this was to ask, “So you mean she’ll get slightly cocky and demand to sing karaoke?”  But I refrained.)  Sure enough, as she further awoke, she began to slur her speech when she started chatting with us and needed lots of help moving around.  It was a two person operation to take her to the bathroom.  So as Terry and I crouched down about eye-level with her sitting on the potty, she looked at me and said, “Mommy…Mommy is mean to me.”  (Again, sounding like a very drunk person and wobbling as she tried to maintain her balance.)  Terry, feeling badly that I was getting accused of being mean, chimes in and begins to say, “Britta, why would you say Mommy is mean?”  But she cut him off mid-sentence when she pointed to him and said, “And thaaaat guy!  He is mean to Scarlett!”  We couldn’t help but sit there and laugh.  She finally disclosed that we are mean for putting them in time-outs.  No, we do not put our one-year-old in official time-outs.  But Terry did use the verbiage with Scarlett recently after she maniacally crawled across the floor to bite Britta.  Just another day in the life with The Littles.

The week of July 4th (and 5th, of course) went really well.  We ended up spending those days at my parents’ home.  On July 5, we took the girls strawberry-picking.  It was fun and fitting as Reece absolutely loves strawberries!  They are one of the few things he ate on a regular basis–even in the hospital.  The girls enjoyed the time and we did as well.  As predicted, I did feel a sense of relief after that week passed and yet I found I was met with heavy, heavy feelings about a week later that continued throughout the month of July.  But I’m not going to blog about it today.

We are so thankful for the many people who reached out to us over the month of July and mentioned Reece to us.  People from many different facets of life reached out to either share a memory or let us know they were thinking of us and it means a great deal.  I continue to feel a sense of gratitude for what we are given and hopeful in the direction life is taking us.

“The people who make a difference are not the ones with the credentials, but the ones with the concern.”

~Max Lucado

my year in genesis

We finished our year of BSF on Tuesday and we reflected on what we had learned through studying Genesis.  I will admit, I was a little hesitant about studying Genesis and it was mostly due to not really wanting to learn anything further this year.  I was “learned out” from a practical application standpoint, but decided that it would be good to be studying The Word with other women again and indeed it would be good for the girls to go to the children’s program.   When I left partway through Acts last year, most of my answers to the study questions were theoretical to me.  I had lived a pretty cushy life and while I had some challenging things happen, nothing had been so big that I couldn’t muscle my way through it.  Coming back to study, after living through the isolating, pain-filled, God-dependent ordeal we had lived through was entirely different.  I mean, where was I to start?  It seemed so many questions needed several pages to answer and depending on the day, I simply did not want to go there.  I’ll admit, about halfway through the year I thought about not continuing, but it really didn’t make sense to quit and I knew if I didn’t face some of these challenges now, I’d face them in the future and have to work through them all over again.  I reminded myself again that I could not deny the girls the opportunity to attend and learn from the loving, caring women who faithfully teach them the lessons every week.  And ultimately, I knew I had to do something “normal” in regard to social interactions.  I decided to stay.  So reflecting back over the year was an important exercise for me; to see where I came from and where I am now.  Here are my big takeaways from a year in the Book of Genesis:

God is purposeful and good. 

He made everything purposefully.  We are purposeful beings.  We have ups and downs and they mean something to Him.  Because they mean something to Him, it then changes the way that I view it.  I can rest when I know that He has purpose for what we endure and the hardships we face.  Nothing feels worse than to go through something difficult and feel like it happened for no reason.  This is NOT the case with God.  When things feel senseless and meaningless, I can rest in knowing that He will use it all and it will ultimately be good, because He is good.   According to Google, “good” means something that is morally right; righteous (noun) or to be desired or approved of (adjective). How many times have we prayed that meal blessing at our table, “God is great; God is good.  And we thank Him for our food,” and not really let the words sink in?  I realize that when watching the news it is hard to believe that things will be used for God’s purposes or that any good could come from them.  The world is full of things happening that seem senseless and terrible. I don’t desire the circumstances Reece lived through or that others endure, but I know in my soul that it will be well.  It’s a matter of trust in God that He is faithful to what He has promised.

As we studied the life of Joseph–who was sold (by his brothers, no less) into slavery, believed dead by his family, and thrown into prison for being (falsely) accused of attacking a woman, he ultimately became a powerful man in Egypt and he trusted in God and His plan.  Told near the end of Genesis, the story of his life is more than the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat–it is worth your time to read it.  But here’s my other deal with it.  I’m so thankful that Joseph had things happen later in his life where he could see some, I repeat some resolution here on Earth.  He could see how his turmoil resulted in something great.  However, there are many people who never see that resolution here.  It doesn’t mean that the same promise of God doesn’t hold true or that He is only good when He demonstrates the resolution here.  It just means it will be resolved and revealed in Heaven.  I don’t think of Reece as losing a battle or not being healed.  False.  He is perfectly healed.  Being delivered into Heaven isn’t a consolation prize for not receiving healing here.  Terry and I agreed even on the day he passed away that we would not ask for him to be back here, even in his healthiest, normal state.  If we truly embrace the promise that Heaven is our home, I can’t ask for him to come back here.  I remind myself often that Reece is doing something today that far exceeds what his day or any of our days would look like here.  It’s awesome to think about!  Nevertheless, I don’t get to understand how that all plays out for probably quite sometime.  I didn’t get the chance to see it resolved here, but resolution for him did happen and I will understand it all one day.  Likewise, God knew we would suffer the loss of Reece.  This will not be resolved for us here.  We expect that we will suffer this until our own bodies give way; we will endure lifelong suffering.  But my soul is at peace here when I know deeply that it has purpose and that God is good in it.  He made the earth and everything in it and declared it good.  He is good.  He is good even when it doesn’t turn out the way we want it to turn out.  This year, in particular, I needed to see that He is purposeful and good.

My walk with God won’t be easy. 

I knew this to be true already, but it was powerful to read about the lives of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) and Joseph and to see how while God chose these men to establish His people, they struggled in life.  They made poor decisions, they endured hardships, they wrestled with God (Jacob, literally), they struggled to trust God, yet God was faithful to them.  He showed his love for them through it all.  While I already knew life here would be tough, it was oddly reassuring to read through it this year and realize that these struggles have been going on since Creation and will always be while we are here.  It doesn’t mean that God is necessarily punishing us (although at times, it might).  It means I am guaranteed suffering here, but that shouldn’t be falsely interpreted as God not caring for me or loving me.  God’s love isn’t solely demonstrated by what He spares us from, but also includes what He helps us endure.  Since the beginning of time, God has persevered with people by His love and mercy–The Fall, The Flood, The Patriarchs, slavery, the death of Jesus, and so much more up to the present day.  It really gets back to my first takeaway.  Even when life feels raw, when we suffer, when we are hurt, when we make bad choices and suffer the consequences, God cares and He is faithful to us.  I needed to see that come through the lives of the men in Genesis.

I should preface this next part by saying it has been an ongoing process to discern what is laid on my soul by God/stirred through the Holy Spirit, what is produced in my mind as a fear or protective, innate response to something, and what is just my mind wandering.  It’s one thing to look backwards and sort through things to see God’s hand, but I have been paying attention to try to understand, at present, what the Lord is trying to communicate to me.  I will never know God’s plan for me or my family in full until I get to Heaven and God reveals as much as I need to know.

With this in mind, I had something laid on my heart a few weeks back that has been aided by my learning in Genesis and that I feel God specifically pointed out to me one day.  Scarlett, our third child, has always been a mystery to me.  She is the one child of our four that seemed to come out of nowhere.  I love her so much, so this does not reflect any sort of negativity towards her.  However, we were quite surprised to find out that we were pregnant with her about six weeks prior to Reece’s blood work.  As the pregnancy continued on, it limited my ability to help with Reece (picking him up, doing overnights at the hospital, etc.).  I felt frustrated with my lack of ability to do things with him and often had to tell him I couldn’t do what he wanted.  I felt torn between Reece’s many needs and Scarlett’s baby needs after she was born.  I felt somewhat resentful that pregnancy should be a happy time and instead my pregnancy with her was full of stress and tears.  I have felt anger over having to tell Reece “no” to anything at all in his last months with us.  There were many times I felt I had to choose between the two kids and it felt so wrong given the serious nature of the situation.  Also, I struggled with knowing that Scarlett’s birth and Reece’s passing were only 9 weeks apart…forever associating the two in that way.

In addition, while I don’t regularly struggle with this line of thinking, it is difficult to not feel at times like Reece suffered for something we did.  In my pursuit to try to make sense of Reece’s failing health, many things have run through my mind and certainly one of them is that we are somehow punished by this circumstance.  The Bible discusses punishments–even punishments for sins committed generations before.  I don’t get mentally stuck there, but it of course has come up in conversation.  However, as we continued to study Genesis, it highlighted how blessed people have been with children.  Certainly, we know we are blessed with all four of our children.  Children have been a source of blessing back to the Creation.

Keeping all of this in mind, I had this moment of peace and understanding one morning that touched me so deeply, I believe it is from the Lord.  It occurred to me that Scarlett was given purely as a gift of life at a time of earthly death.  This might seem obvious and when I read it, it seems obvious, too.  But on a deeper level, I thought about it in terms of such a contrast of blessing with both the beginning of life here for one child and life in Heaven for another.  I feel like Scarlett was, among many other things, a way for me to understand that God’s purpose for us is parenting.  He continued to show His love in such a powerful and joy-filled way through the obvious blessing of her.  The joy over (well, all three children at the time) Scarlett and Reece are so vastly different, but bringing life into this world at such a time is, to me, a sign of God’s faithfulness to us.  It really overwhelms me to think about it.  It doesn’t mean we will be spared from other suffering or loss, it just means to me that God is faithful to us.  He would be faithful without having given us Scarlett, but He chose that for us, just like He chose to take Reece away.  He didn’t have to give us a child to show His faithfulness, but He reassured me that He indeed has chosen a path of parenting for us and that we are blessed with this path.  I don’t believe He is punishing us for something we are doing or something we did.  It seems affirming in our decision to parent as though He is saying, “I’m going to take one child from you physically, but I am going to entrust you with another, so you understand that I trust you with these children and that I love you.  This is about my plan for Reece and your lives, but it isn’t about your punishment.  You need to trust Me.”  (He didn’t audibly say that, but that is what the message felt like to me.)  He blessed us in the middle of it all.  So many of the blessings felt like they had to be wrung out of that circumstance, but Scarlett was poured out over us.  He didn’t have to do that for us.  Now, what seemed so frustrating in the midst of it all has turned into a completely different realization. It doesn’t change our longing for Reece.  However, He knew our desires before we even knew them ourselves and worked it out for our good, so while in the midst of our suffering we can also literally see our blessings.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

a body never forgets

There hasn’t been a ton of time for blogging lately, mostly because I tend to blog on Thursdays when I am out of the house for a while sans children.  As time has passed this year, it seems my Thursdays fill up pretty quickly…it turns out that coffee with a friend is actually relaxing when you aren’t chasing little ones!  As of late, my Thursdays are booked with PT appointments to manage an old running injury from grad school.  This is only the third time in 11 years it has reared its ugly head, but–wow–is it painful!  It is actually an SI joint injury I managed to achieve during my ridiculously-obsessed-with-running years in the early 2000’s.  It isn’t related to pregnancy, but the last two times I have had to go to PT I have been pregnant…the pregnant part only makes it worse.  I’m hopeful that I’ll be back running and active in a couple of weeks, but it has made life interesting, considering I have a one-year-old that demands I carry her most places.

This injury is timely in light of one of our recent bible study questions, “How are you suffering the consequences of a former sin?”  When I got to this question, I immediately thought of my body–both physical and mental.  I could point out many things that I “carry” with me that have been a result of some form of sin–things that ail me either physically or in my own thinking and memories.  I really hadn’t considered this injury as a result of sin before this week, but the reality is, it likely is.  I got it at a time when I was glorifying myself and body over everything else.  I obsessed over my weight and I planned everything around when and how I would work out.  It is no wonder that an injury occurred.  Yes, I have been able to manage it so well that I am unaware of it for the most part.  I’ve reworked my running gait, changed my posture, changed my exercise habits, and have mostly been healed of the obsession–the root of the problem.  But every few years it manages to resurface and keep me humble.  I think without some of these ailments, I would forget how I have been dealt with mercifully–I would become self-reliant in an even bigger way.  I need to be reminded that sins have consequences.  Paul speaks of his own circumstance with a thorn in his flesh:

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”                            2 Corinthians 12:7b-9

As I further thought about the question from BSF, I reflected on Reece.  I don’t believe our bodies ever truly heal here.  I think of Reece’s body and how the biggest concern going into transplant was not all the germs that could come into his body, but rather what already lived there.  All the Work-up Week testing that was done included a history of what he had already been exposed to, as it resided in his blood already.  Even those tests had limits as to what they could tell us in regard to exposures.  It demonstrates that not only do our bodies record our own sin (like my injury), but also they record the world’s sin (like the common viruses we acquire and build up immunities to).  It’s pretty humbling. I don’t for a second think of Reece’s diagnosis as a result of his own sin.  I think his MDS was a result of a fallen, imperfect world.  In a child, I view it as more of the weight of the world’s sin, versus the result of things he chose for himself.  But Reece’s life on earth became–as most of us will eventually become–a casualty of sin.  Sin outweighs us, outnumbers us, outsmarts us…here; on our own.  Some of us will have to deal with decades of it and others, like Reece, will endure a short, but powerful few years.  At some point, our healing will have to come from our Maker.  A sub-standard, human, bandaged effort–albeit sophisticated in many regards–will not be enough.  But the reality is, until we are healed into Heaven, our bodies and minds do not forget what they have endured.

Likewise, our minds are subjected to ailments, including damage from what we have lived through; they also keep a record of hardships.  We routinely refer to mental wounds as “baggage” or “issues”.  Speaking of which, I was feeling pretty mentally damaged myself a few weeks back.  I hit a low spot as I was overwhelmed with the pregnancy, our girls, and the reality of Reece.  Terry and I had gone out on a lovely date night, but as dinner wore on, we inevitably started discussing Reece.  At first, we talked about happy things.  But then it turned to some of the memories from about a year ago and it ended the night on a somber note.  I just kept thinking about our life and how we would manage it all.  Like I said–I felt like damaged goods–unrecoverable.  Thankfully, the sun rises and the sun sets and there is a new day on the horizon.  As I have gotten a little distance, I realize that every time I look at the obvious hardships of losing Reece, it becomes completely defeating.  Outside of God, the grave nature overwhelms me every single time.  It’s only in the context of Eternity that my mind is freed, that I can feel hope in the larger purpose and encouragement in the ultimate healing that comes from knowing Christ and being forgiven of the mess of sin that devours our lives here.  There is no remission in Heaven; it’s the only place we can truly declare ourselves cured.

In this context, I can understand why we don’t ever rid ourselves of our past while we are here.  I need some reminders that I have messed up, that I continue to mess up, and that I’ll be messing up for the rest of my days.  But instead of thinking about it in terms of “just bad luck” or “overuse” or “baggage”, I am reminded this week that my own ailments are part of a much larger picture for my life.  They serve as reminders to myself, as lessons for myself and those around me, and as opportunities to examine my own self and how I conduct myself while I’m here.  I can’t rely on myself to be perfect, because I’m a proven failure at it.  I’ve got the bumps and bruises to show for it.

“If I’m thinking of the person I’m going to marry, I won’t be an easy target for seduction. Likewise, when I’ve meditated on Heaven, sin becomes terribly unappealing. Our high tolerance for sin testifies to our failure to prepare for Heaven. ‘Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.’ (1 John 3:3, NASB).

~Randy Alcorn, “Heaven”

this child is loved

The evening that Reece passed away I remember saying to Terry that someone could storm in, hold us at gunpoint, and I wouldn’t even bat an eyelash–I felt so numb to life.  That numbness has gradually lessened over time.  That intense period of being oblivious to sincere safety concerns was very short, thankfully.  I then went through several months of feeling a loss of interest to make decisions that would somehow re-engage us in life activity.  It has been a very slow process of taking on small things that start to integrate us back into normal circumstances and to begin trying to really “live” life.  We are still working on this on many fronts.  However, where I really struggled those first few months was in my willingness to take on anything further than that to which we had already committed.  We had our girls, our home, and our current life at the time.  I had no desire to even entertain the thought of doing more.  My thoughts were solely about caring for the girls, figuring out what God’s ultimate calling was for me (which I accept may solely be taking care of my kids and husband), and completing it.  I really spent most of the day with my head focused on Heaven and Reece and getting there in the minimum amount of time God would require.  I could not fathom making decisions that would tie us here any longer or doing things that would tie us to this life any further.  This may not make sense to you, but my thinking was to do the best I could with what we had chosen to take on and not entertain engaging in anything that might get us invested in life here any further.  It sounds strange, but to me, it makes perfect sense in the context of what we’ve lived through.  We’d witnessed so much–our innocence had been lost–and other than raising our girls, I wanted nothing further to keep me here.  In the back of my mind, I know that God doesn’t work like that, but that was where I was at and I know that He understood it, perfectly.

Then, late last Fall, I happened to watch an interview of Barbara Bush on the TODAY Show. (Click here to view this clip.)  Interviewed by her granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager, the former First Lady discussed the passing of their second child–a daughter named Robin–from leukemia; she was three years old.  I had no idea that George H. W. and Barbara Bush had lost a child and as the interview continued, she discussed some intimate details regarding watching her daughter pass away.  What she described hit very close to home in our own experience of watching Reece pass away.  Most people, including myself, do not discuss such details publicly and it was helpful to hear her talk about it.  She spoke of how she and the former President still discuss their daughter and how they felt about losing her.  She mentioned that now, as they are approaching the end of their lives on earth, they discuss her even more and how excited they are to see her again.  As I listened, it occurred to me that they had several other children after Robin died.  George Bush went on to work in many high level positions, including being the President of the USA.  They raised five children (four having been born after Robin died), including one future US President.  They figured out a way to hold it together, to heal, and to be active again in life.  They took on new challenges.  They didn’t stop having children, they didn’t let it cripple their plans in his career, they didn’t crumble as a family.  Watching this interview helped me to realize that it would be okay, at some point, to take new things on in life.

A few months ago, I posted this picture on my Facebook profile page:


I stated that this is what my dream looks like–to hold Reece again.  I’ve actually already lived and felt my dream.  It has temporarily left me, but it will be realized again one day.  In reality, it will be different from this, as you will notice, not all of our kids are part of this picture.  My dream contains this scene, but it includes more people than what are pictured.  Reece is only part of it–the entire picture is having my family reunited.  In all likelihood, that could be close to 100 years from now, but I strongly believe it will happen.  I have come to accept that I will never have a family photo with all of us together on Earth.  We won’t ever feel “whole” here, as a family.  Once I accepted that reality, I was able to better understand that we still had a strong desire of the heart to raise three kids together.  We have wanted for quite some time to have the dynamic of three children in our home.  This desire did not go away with Reece’s passing.  Certainly, I thought we would raise Reece, Britta, and Scarlett together–I really wanted that.  That will never happen for us.  So, after careful consideration and definite prompting from the Lord, we opened our hearts to having another baby.  One month later, I was pregnant.

Here we are, beginning our second trimester, feeling blessed, overwhelmed, and slightly confused as to how we exactly got here.  We considered not sharing the news until later in the pregnancy, but this being my fourth baby, it is not as easy to hide my belly this time around!  In all seriousness, I want to share that this isn’t some attempt to replace Reece or distract us from the process we are going through.  This isn’t about trying to have another boy to somehow fill his absence.  He is “The Boy” in our family.  We are excited to have either gender and excited about the prospect of potentially having the family dynamic of three children in the house…even though we are having our fourth child.  We went into this pregnancy with our eyes wide open to the entire spectrum of parenting–the wonderful and obvious blessings, the heart-wrenching moments, and the gems that can only be uncovered through trials and tribulations.  In my opinion, it has been a much more difficult endeavor to entertain having another child–considering the understanding of what it is like to physically lose one–than it would have been to not have another baby at all.  Ultimately, the blessing of loving a child–no matter how short a period we were blessed to have him with us–far exceeds the emptiness that would have been felt by not having him in the first place.  This is true for all of our kids–born and unborn.  So, we went back to the desire and calling of the heart and it was, indeed, to try to have another baby.

We talked at length with Reece’s doctors, after he passed away, about whether or not having another baby would be a negligent decision.  They assured us it would not.  There are only a few cases of siblings having childhood MDS.  We know that anything can happen to any of our children, but we did not feel that Reece’s diagnosis should be a deterrent for having further children–at least from the perspective that we would be putting future children, knowingly, in harm’s way.

Here we are, pregnant again!  We are excited and cautious; overjoyed and still fresh in grief.  This is, indeed, a blessing.  We have no expectations for a boy or girl–no hopes one way or the other.  We hope for a healthy baby, but we know no matter what, this child is loved by us and three older siblings.