is she your first?

We all have our own personal stories.  When a question from a stranger, seemingly harmless, challenges our story…we are forced to question how much we actually want to reveal.  What’s appropriate, what’s not.


In my case, now that my little baby is truly a toddler, she doesn’t just attract attention when we leave the house.  She commands it.  Pointing, laughing, yelling, and babbling in the language that she has created that sounds really similar to German.


When we are out at the grocery store, park, or another errand and she has managed to indirectly introduce us to a stranger, the first typical question is “How old is she?”  After answering, the next question is usually “Oh, and is she your first?”

img_5654

This question always make me pause.  This well-meaning stranger, often a parent and just looking to swap stories, doesn’t know what they are asking.  How could they?  And yet, I still pause.  No, I think, but I can’t tell you that.  I can’t wreck your day.

I want to say: You see, kind stranger, I’ve been hurt.  This charming toddler, she has an older sister.  One that would likely have been equally as charming, and someone that she will never get to meet.  Someone that I was blessed to know for minutes, and somehow those minutes have shaped the rest of my life.  This little girl has a sister who is not here.  They will never get to run and play, tell secrets late into the night in the room they share, play dress up with all of my old clothes, fight over toys that they both don’t even like that much…because her sister couldn’t stay.  The doctors said that she wasn’t compatible with life; I say she was too beautiful for Earth.  And so, I’m not sure how to answer your question.  If I say yes, she is my first…am I dishonoring Darla?  If I say no, is that fair to Gracie?  Is that fair to you?  Is that fair to me?   

Processed with Snapseed.

I could tell you that no, she is not my first child.  There was one before her.  However, she is my first in so many other ways.  She is my first baby to cry.  She is my first baby to laugh, and she has the best laugh I’ve ever heard.  She is my first baby to smile, and sing, and ask for a hug, and give me a sloppy, open-mouthed baby kiss.  She’ll be my first to potty train, sleep in a big girl bed, start kindergarten…so many firsts.  But when she eventually hurts me, as all kids unfortunately do at one time or another, she won’t be the first to break my heart. 

And it’s because she isn’t my first baby that I am so abundantly thankful for every single first.

img_5733

And yet, I can’t say all this.  Not to a stranger.  It’s too much to unload, especially to someone who is looking for a friendly exchange; I don’t know if they also have lost a child. And so, I smile and say “Yes, she is.”

img_3692

I pray she is the first of more.  Now that I have experienced all these new firsts, I don’t want them to be the lasts.

img_0353

three years ago today

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬


Three years ago today was both the best day and the worst day.  We said “hello” and “goodbye” to a beautiful little girl that wasn’t meant to stay here, on Earth, with us.    

Some people only get minutes together, some get years, but we got hours.  Yet, I am so thankful for those hours. I’ve never felt so helplessly in love, elated and devasted all at once.  

We spent our precious hours as a family of 3 holding and loving our sweet Darla Jane. I told her I love her constantly, because even though she couldn’t understand the words, I knew she’d feel them.  Even though we lost her, those precious hours live on in my heart.  A mama’s heart doesn’t forget.

People can be so amazing.  One friend told us that you don’t have to live very long to have an impact on the world. That quote never left me.  Other friends gifted us this beautiful oak tree, in her memory. It lives on the banks of the river in the arboretum in Ann Arbor, MI, where Jon and I met and went to school.  



And so, even though Darla doesn’t live here on Earth, this beautiful tree lives and thrives because of her. Her daddy and I live and love and parent better because of her. And even though Darla doesn’t live here on Earth, she live enjoys perfect, whole, and peaceful eternal life in Heaven.  
I couldn’t have her here, and to this day, that still stings. But as a parent, you always want what’s best for your kids. It’s hard when it’s not with you, but in the end, she got the best. She got what we all strive for. In the end, what else could any mama hope for?

I love you, DJ.  I always have, and I always will.

the day I wanted to blog, but then I didn’t do it

I have had this window open on my phone since SATURDAY.  I haven’t blogged in far too long, and I really wanted to sit down to write.  It’s something I love to do.  So why did an entire Saturday go by without me taking 20 minutes to sit down and write?  I decided to take an inventory of my day.

6:45: Earlier than normal, Gracie wakes in a ferocious fit of tears; she is seriously regretting chucking her paci out of her crib.

6:46: Mommy rescues the paci.  Mommy tries to put Gracie back to bed.  Mommy is so silly to think that would work!

6:47 Mommy realizes that today is a Saturday free of plans.  Mommy realizes how long it has been since she’s blogged.  Mommy vows to make time to blog.

7:05 Persuaded by the all-too-familiar sounds of Disney Jr, ,Mommy decides that today will NOT be wasted in front of the TV.  It’s a gorgeous day, it is necessary to get outside.

8:30 Mommy texts friend to arrange a mommy-baby park date.

9:46 As usual, Mommy is late.

10:30-12:30 Mommy and Gracie meet our friends for some park playtime.  During this time, Mommy decided that TODAY is the perfect day to make Chex mix.  Mommy texts Daddy to ask him to pick up the ingredients.

12:30 Mommy and Gracie head home; Mommy is hoping for an excellent nap from Gracie, so that she can blog, edit photos, make Chex mix, and maybe even nap a little.  Mommy has jinxed the day with these naïve hopes.

1:30 Mommy puts Gracie down for a nap.  Mommy thinks about blogging, but decided to fit in an impromptu yoga session.  Why not?  Gracie will likely nap for hours and hours and hours!  Sweet freedom!

1:50 A huge, earth-shattering poo wakes Gracie far too early.  Mommy rescues Gracie from the poo monster.  Gracie is so happy to see Mommy, she won’t even consider letting Mommy put her down.  Mommy realizes she is pretty wonderful , but this turn of events does thwart her plans.

2:00-3:15 Mommy rocks Gracie, tries several times to put her down unsuccessfully, and Mommy ends up falling asleep in the rocking chair while Gracie watches her sleep.  Sweet irony.  At least one of us napped.

3:17  Mommy throws up the white flag and surrenders to nap-resistant toddler.  Time to make Chex mix.

3:30-7:00  Mommy spends the afternoon making Chex mix, cleaning, vacuuming, and getting ready for out night out with Daddy.  In the meantime, Daddy and Mommy try to occupy the increasingly cranky toddler.  Maybe she should have napped.

7:30 The babysitter arrives, and the most over-tired and goofy toddler on planet earth is persuaded to sleep.  Finally.

8:00-11:30 Mommy and Daddy leave for a much-needed night out in Boston.

12:00 Bedtime arrives, and suddenly, Mommy realizes she did not blog.  Shame on Mommy.

Chronologically outlining my Saturday isn’t depressing so much as it is eye opening.  I’m a list nerd; I find myself looking at how I spent my time and being proud of some moments, while questioning others.  The hour and a half I spent snuggling my cranky toddler was priceless.  The Chex mix could have waited.

I love to write, even if no one reads it.  Each day has a finite amount of hours.  If I spend just 15 minutes a day doing something totally out of the ordinary, totally independent of the daily demands of life, I’m pretty sure I’ll feel pretty awesome.

And if you must know…the Chex mix turned out awesome.

i’ve just been thinking

I haven’t blogged in a while, and the only reason I can think of (besides being busy) is that I’ve been digesting everything that’s happened.  So much has changed in the last month, it’s been a lot to take in.  Gracie turned one, I turned 30, we celebrated Mother’s Day, and I ran my first half marathon since baby.

Photo by Laura Wagner Photography

Almost half of what I was looking forward to in 2016 happened in the span of a few weeks.  And yet, although change is often scary, I truly feel relieved to slow down.  I’m glad to have taken time to take it all in.  I feel relieved that the build-up is over.

I just turned 30, and I already like this decade more than my 20s.  I feel settled,more confident, and I care less about a lot of stuff.  It’s almost like someone flipped a switch. It’s refreshing.


Gracie turned 1, and I didn’t turn into a pile of nostalgic mush.  I only cried like twice.  In fact, I love having a one year old.  I love saying “my toddler.”  I love feeling proud as I look back at the highs and lows of the past year.  I love watching her toddle around on her one-year-old legs, taking steps like a champ.

Photo by Laura Wagner Photography
Photo by Laura Wagner Photography

I ran my first half since baby (on my birthday), and my legs didn’t fall off.  In fact, it went even better than I had hoped.  Not only did I gift myself a shiny new PR, but I enjoyed the race so much!  While I still love running, I love a lot of other stuff now too.  It was nice to see that I could focus more on life, less on running, and still accomplish my goals.


I celebrated my third Mother’s Day since Darla, and it was still emotional and wonderful and beautiful.  I felt the slight pains in my heart when I remembered my lost daughter, and I felt the unbelievable feelings of wholeness when I got sloppy kisses from my Gracie Kate.  I felt special, appreciated, and loved by my little family.  More than last year, when I was so unsure about caring for a newborn, I felt confident in my role as Mom. 

 

When I look back at this last month, I feel like pinching myself.  This season in life has been bountiful, sometimes challenging, and always beautiful.  It’s not perfect, but who would want that?  As things quiet down, it’s the perfect time for me to just sit back and be thankful.  I’m just so thankful.

Hello, Summer!  Let’s do this.

 

on your birthday eve

Gracie Kate, where has this year gone?  I still remember the feeling of your newborn body cozied into me, sleeping the day away.  They say “Don’t blink, you’ll miss it.” I tried to drink it all in, and yet, it passed just the same.  
These days, I have to chase you down for a kiss!  I have to hide anything with buttons.  I cannot vacuum alone, and anything with a cord is the best toy you’ve ever seen.  You are in love with the world, and I have a front-row seat.

I don’t know how I am so lucky to be your Mommy.  I’m blessed that you grew inside of me for 9 months, and that now, you are experiencing the world with me.  Everything is new again!  I haven’t looked so closely at a leaf/my hands/the floor/door hinges in ages!  Sticks certainly are awesome, and daddy’s glasses ARE fun to throw down the stairs!

You are bringing out the best in me, the best in dad, and the best in everything you touch.  I may not get to snuggle you quite as much anymore, but I love watching you grow.  I love watching you take risks and try new things.  I’m here when you need someone to cushion your fall, or tell you why the cat is not a toy (“She has sharp fingers”), or rock you to sleep.  As long as you’ll have me, and even after you don’t need me, I’ll always be here.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss your tiny snuggles, but I love your sloppy big-kid kisses.  This past year has been different than I thought it would be: more challenging, more smelly, more confusing, and yet, more perfect than I think I deserve.  

Keep shining, sweet one!  You have the brightest soul I know.  

Our Midwest Adventure

Although we currently reside in New England, Jon and I are rooted in the Midwest.  I grew up in Michigan, and Jon has lived in both Minnesota and Michigan.  Since Gracie has been born, we have been excited to take a trip back.  These past few weeks, we finally were able to do so.

Our trip started in Minneapolis, with a visit to Jon’s parents.  Gracie’s first plane ride from Boston to Minneapolis was fairly uneventful.  We spent a week touring the twin cities, and we loved every second!  Here are some of our Minnesota memories:

IMG_4284-001
Gracie met her Great Grandma.
IMG_4334-001
She also met her Great Grandpa.
IMG_4344-001
Gracie got to meet lots of Jon’s extended family.
IMG_4397-001

 

Gracie loved seeing all the animals at Como Zoo.
She road her first ride at the Mall of America.  Pardon the picture quality, she was going too fast!!
Gracie couldn’t get enough of the water tables at the Minnesota Children’s Museum.

On Good Friday, we continued on to Michigan to visit my family in Bay City.  It had been a while since I’d been home, and I was so excited to visit some of the new places in my growing hometown.  Easter was also the first holiday that Gracie was able to spend with extended family.  Here are some of our Michigan moments:

IMG_4431-001
Gracie found her first Easter basket and celebrated in the house I grew up in.
IMG_4503-001
She also got to meet a lot of my extended family.

IMG_4538-001
She loved the swings…
IMG_4618-001
…and the slide on the playground at our local State Park.
IMG_4659-001.JPG

 

Our little fish loved the pool at the local YMCA.

It was so special to spend time with Gracie on the campus of the University of Michigan, where Jon and I met 9 years ago.
IMG_4687-001.JPG

Traveling with a baby was not nearly as difficult as I had feared.  Sure, I started making a packing list in January and our checked baggage fees tripled.  Yet, I loved embarking on our first big adventure as a small family.  I loved sharing our daughter with the family and friends that love us.  I love all the changes I saw in Gracie this trip, and I gained a new appreciation for the brave and flexible personality she has.  I loved spending time enjoying our daughter, without worrying about work or the house…I loved being home.

9 months in, 9 months out

This post has been brewing for a while now, effectively since you were born, and definitely since you crossed the 9-month threshold.  Suddenly, you have been alive in the world longer than you were alive inside of me.  Just as the first days of pregnancy looked nothing like the last moments, life now looks nothing like it did during your earliest days.

DSC_3085
Photo credit: Laura Wagner Photography

IMG_3373

Life has changed

Things take more planning these days.  We used to be able to drop everything and go on a weekend adventure.  Now, a quick trip to the supermarket takes a fair amount planning.  When did you last eat?  When were you last changed?  When was your last nap?  We can take you most anywhere, with the right gear, but we can’t always stay long.  You’re the boss, but you’re a fair boss…your employees like you a lot.

My daily schedule makes more sense.  I used to wake up on a Saturday after 10, hang out, start some random project around the house, and find myself still in my pajamas at 2.  These days, we wake up at 7.  There is a morning nap that signals the beginning of afternoon, and an afternoon nap the signals the beginning of evening.  You have a bedtime.  I eat lunch.  Although different and chaotic at times, our days have purpose.  I have to get up, I am needed.

IMG_3403

You have changed

You used to always want me to nurse you to sleep,  Lately, you don’t always need it.  Some nights, you point to your crib, I put you down, and you fall asleep alone.  While it makes me happy to see you becoming more independent, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t having a hard time letting go of your tiny days.

Still, it’s so exciting to get to know you.  Every day that passes is like unwrapping a little present.  We learn more about you.  You know what you like, and you know what you don’t like.  Things make you laugh, and the sound of your belly laugh makes my heart skip a beat.  You are careful, yet curious.  You love to explore, and yet, you usually check back in with me after a few minutes away.  You are sweet, kind, and you try so hard to be gentle with the cat.  We will continue to work on that.

You are exactly how I hoped you’d be, and yet, I couldn’t have imagined this.

IMG_3991

I have changed 

I’v heard it described before that babies are the “great levers.”  They come into the world and completely level everything, leaving our Pinterest-perfect nurseries in shambles.  Once we are humbled, instead of including baby into our old lives, we build new lives.  These lives are simpler, and more joyful, as they include baby.  We dance delicately around the fact that nothing will ever be the same, and we feel guilty if we yearn for the life we once knew.  It’s normal to miss pre-baby freedom, yet still love your child to pieces.

As time passes and things fall into place.  I realize that I am strong, and as a couple, we are strong.  We can operate on 4 hours of sleep, we can meet your needs, and we can handle all the poop.  We can be a mommy and a daddy, and we can find joy in the simplest nuisances of every day.  Suddenly, our new life is brimming with new love, and I don’t really remember how we lived without you.

That’s where we are now.  I’ve never been loved like this before.

It’s amazing.

IMG_4096

Lately, I keep making the mistake of saying that “time is going by so fast.”  It’s not, that’s impossible.  Technically, time will always pass at the same speed.  Instead, I am just more aware of time as it passes, and I wish I could slow it down.  You will keep growing and keep changing into a little person, and eventually, a big person.

I couldn’t feel more privileged to have a front row seat.

IMG_3287