Guts over fear

I think in some respects I thought hoped bringing Margs into the world would heal me. I mean, why wouldn’t it? We tried to bring a living child into this world for years before we were blessed to finally meet her. Her birth should have repaired those millions of broken pieces of my heart. But, it simply didn’t.

I often tell people who are facing a fresh loss that they’ll adapt somehow and find a “new normal”. That “new normal” is different for everyone but once you get to that place, it’s essentially existing in a space of acceptance and continued living by simply putting one tiny foot in front of the other. My new normal does not mean I’m always okay ( I doubt I ever will be) nor does it mean I’ll ever understand what has happened. But, I have accepted that I’m powerless to change my past and that however tragic- this is what the universe decided to hand me.

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Parenting after loss is hard. I’m so incredibly grateful to have been blessed with the opportunity to even be facing these issues and I know all too well that there are loss-mommas out there who are still fighting to meet their rainbow and get the opportunity to step foot into my reality. But nonetheless, parenting a rainbow is far more difficult than I ever imagined because some days it tests me in ways I never thought possible.

“Is this your first?” asked a fellow play group mom.

“What an incredibly loaded question” I thought to myself “what do I tell her – do I tell her the truth?” and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. That all too familiar feeling – flushed face, heart pounding out of my chest, forehead beading with sweat despite feeling freezing cold. I was having a panic attack.

You see, being put in a situation where I either have to tell the story or have to lie makes me uncomfortable. There’s no grey area here folks; my options are limited to truth or lie. No in-between exists when faced with these types of questions.

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I could have told her that Margs was my first. I could have saved that woman the burden of being forced to face the enormity of my grief. I could have kept it all to myself and pretended it never happened sparing myself the emotional energy required to broach the topic again. But, I decided to be honest regardless of how difficult it was to do so.

“No, Margs is my only living child” I replied.

Such a simple response made me realize that all those times I’ve lied (and yes, I’ve lied far more times than I’d like to admit) were fueled by the fear that my story would inconvenience and burden others. I’d lie and then agonize over denying the existence of my 5 other babies which forced me into a guilt cycle that was difficult to shake.

The truth might be uncomfortable to hear. It might very well be scary to some. It might not be the response a curious individual was expecting but, it’s my reality and the reality of an astounding number of women who for a plenitude of reasons lie just like I did.

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It took guts to face my fear of telling the story to a stranger. In that moment something finally clicked – my journey to motherhood albeit atypical and stained by heartache is a story worth telling. This precious baby girl that I get the honor and privilege to tuck into bed each night is my miracle – she is my rainbow after a very long and dark storm. Her earthly presence is cherished in ways that words will never adequately express but regardless, her presence does not heal the heartache and void created by her heavenly siblings.

I opted to make a vow that day – a vow to tell the story honestly anytime I’m faced with those types of questions. For the first time, I faced my fear head on and proudly came out on the other side.

I’m a proud loss mum and this is my story to tell.

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Loss mommas, have you lied? Why or why not?

Friends, would you want to know the truth?

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How to show support to a child loss survivor

I’d like to preface this post by touching on 2 separate but very important points.

First, I was somewhat reluctant to broach this topic. Although I’m a repeat loss mom and I’ve lived through child loss a number of times my opinions on the topic are my own and they are very much shaped by my political, religious and spiritual beliefs. As a result, what I perceive as supportive may not be comforting to everyone and vice versa. So, please, when reading this keep in mind that there is not a one size fits all approach to supporting families facing loss – it really really really depends on the person and their unique belief system.

Second, within this post you’ll find examples of things that were said to me over the years. I do not believe for one second that any of these statements were said with any malicious intent yet they were painful and hurtful to me while I grieved and so I will explain how they were perceived by me. I doubt (I’d like to believe anyway) that hurtful, malicious and ill meaning things would ever be said intentionally to a grieving family and as a result please do not be offended if you’ve ever uttered these words yourself. I do not for one minute believe that anyone means to be anything but supportive in these situations – sometimes though,  words can be perceived far differently than they were intended.

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Do Say: I’m so sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: I’m sorry for your loss. At least, you know you can get pregnant.

This statement was repeated to me more times than I can count and every time I heard it my heart would break open again. The thing is, getting pregnant doesn’t guarantee a baby. In my case getting pregnant wasn’t the hard part (until that became a problem too) – staying pregnant was. The odds were not in my favor and I was very open about my issues so attempting to comfort me by reminding me that I was fertile served only to remind me that my body was very efficient at ending pregnancies.

The at least part is also important to mention. There really isn’t any “at least” when talking about loss. “At least you lost this pregnancy early”, “at least you weren’t full term”, “at least you’re still young”. All these statements are loaded and quite hurtful – there is never an at least.

Do Say: I’m so sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: Take comfort in knowing it was God’s plan.

This is a very controversial one. I was raised between the worlds of orthodoxy and Catholicism. Having one parent from each faith meant that although they held very different beliefs they each believed that God was our creator. I was never (still am not) very religious but I do believe in God and as a consequence I struggled with my own belief system a lot over the last few years. I was angry and questioned why God would punish me in such a horrible way? Why would He bless me through conception only to take my precious babies away? As a result, when family and friends tried to comfort me with statements about it being God’s plan I was often quite angry because it was hard to understand why I was chosen to suffer this way while others were not.

Do Say: I’m so sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: It’s for the best! Clearly there must have been something terribly wrong with the baby.

Often times pregnancies end for no known reason. In my case my losses were caused by structural issue within my uterus. My condition is actually considered a müllerian defect which I was born with so my 3 losses had everything to do with me and not the babies. Having said that, a child lost to issues like mine or to chromosomal anomalies is still a a lost child.  I cannot speak for those parents who’ve lost children to genetic issues but this statement is so incredibly difficult to digest. Even IF there would have been something terribly wrong with any of my babies, losing them would still never be okay.

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Do Say: I’m so sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: I know how you feel. I lost my dog who was like a child to me.

Pets are members of the family aren’t they? We’ve got a total of 3 cats and a dog co-habitating with us here at TTBH and although I love my furbabies dearly losing a child is simply not the same thing. I don’t for a second believe that a statement like this is made with the intention of comparing the losses. Instead, I feel like it’s an attempt to find a common ground by sharing grief. Yet, every time this was said to me (and yes it was said more than once) I couldn’t help but wince – losing a child is just not the same as losing a pet. Period.

Do Say: I’m so sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: You’ll have another baby and it’ll make the pain go away.

At some points on my journey when I was deep in depression facing more bad news than good I naively thought there might be a little truth to this statement. Sadly, having Margs has actually amplified my grief for my lost babies. As I watch her grow I catch myself questioning what the other babies would have been like. Would they have similar personalities? Enjoy the same things? Look similar? Each baby is unique, loved and special and as a result having another child does not fill the void left by a lost baby.

Do Say: I’m sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: Everything happens for a reason.

What possible reason could justify so much heartache? Why are some families blessed with children while others are fighting to bring one into the world? I never quite understood the meaning behind this statement and unfortunately it’s probably the most common one I’ve heard over the last 5 or so years. There is no justifiable reason to make loss okay. Losing a baby is never okay. Never.

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A few tips for showing support to grieving parents:

  • Just say “I’m sorry”. That’s truly the only thing you can say.
  • Don’t burden yourself with trying to make the parents feel better. You simply can’t. Acknowledging the loss and the grief is enough. You can’t fix this – only time can heal.
  • Grieve with mom and dad. Fathers are often forgotten when it comes to pregnancy loss. They grieve too.
  • Offer to help if you can. Cook a meal, drop off groceries offer to babysit older children. Every lit bit helps and is so so appreciated.
  • Give the family time. Child loss is incredibly difficult and it takes time to find a new normal. Your friend or family member will likely never be the same but will eventually find a new sense of normal. Be patient – they are battling and living one of the most traumatic experiences life can offer.

 

 

 

What surprised me most about being a stay at home mom

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When Margs was born I felt like it was the first time I could really breathe in a long long time. I spent my whole pregnancy holding my breath and crossing my fingers for just one more day, one more week and one more month. By some miracle my cerclage kept me pregnant and we welcomed a 40 week (!!!!!!!) miracle into the world on her due date.

I spent so much time focused on getting her here that I never considered what being a stay at home parent would be like- I didn’t care really, my only focus was getting that precious baby here alive.

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15 months later I’m reflecting on being a stay at home mom and I’m realizing that I don’t necessarily love it all of the time. I wish I did, but, I just don’t. Actually, there are days that I’m angry and resentful and frustrated and tired of it.

I feel horrible even writing these things because I’m a rainbow mom. A rainbow mom shouldn’t ever complain about anything parenting related because well, she’s a rainbow mom. I’ve struggled, I’ve faced repeat loss, I’ve had my heart broken in ways that only other loss mums understand and yet there are days that I struggle with being at home with this little girl I prayed and pleaded with the universe to have.

Some days I resent that my husband can head out into the “real” world and socialize with people and have adult conversation. Some days I resent that he gets a mental break from the constant attention, stimulation and energy Margs demands. Then, I snap myself back to reality and realize that he likely resents me for being home with her and getting the privilege to experience all those moments that he misses while he’s away.

Being home with a young child is difficult. Meeting her needs, caring for her, playing with her and watching over her are not the hard parts. The hard parts include the feelings of isolation, the loss of my identity outside of being “mom” and giving up my career (albeit temporarily).

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Some days I feel like I’m not “Jenny” anymore. I’ve become this version of myself that doesn’t know what do outside of caring for a baby. I’ve lost drive, passion and desire – things that fueled my life in very powerful ways before. Sadly, I’ve given up nearly all my favorite pastimes because quite honestly I’m just so tired that I don’t have the mental energy to devote myself to doing anything consistently. I used to love to read, exercise, knit and take photos – all things I’ve basically abandoned because the passion just isn’t there anymore.

In someways, I’ve lost myself to motherhood.

Life has become routinely robotic – Margs wakes – she gets fed, entertained and put down for a nap. Afternoon are the same. Evenings are the same. My days essentially look like carbon copies of each other.

I sometimes deal with an intense desire to go back to work. I was happy in my classroom. I loved what I did. I loved watching young minds analyze, interpret and question and sometimes I’m frustrated by the fact that I’ve given up so much. That sounds so incredibly selfish doesn’t it?

Having Margs was such a blessing. A blessing that I felt required me to give up my identity, lifestyle and career to cherish. We agreed early on that I’d stay home with her. Partly for financial reasons (childcare is expensive) and partly because we’re loss parents who maybe on some level feel like we have to do this to thank the universe for blessing us with such a precious gift.

On days where I’m feeling especially weighed down by it all I feel guilty. So so guilty. I should love this. I should love being home with her and love the opportunity to watch her grow. I should love these things because getting her here meant losing 5 other babies.

I hate that my perceptions of motherhood are tainted by so much grief and loss. I hate that I often second guess my own needs because somehow I’ve convinced myself that it’s not okay to be not okay and that to truly appreciate my gift I must love every inch of motherhood.

Motherhood is just hard. Staying home makes it even harder.

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I’m slowly working on being gentle with myself and acknowledge that it’s okay to feel this way sometimes.  I’m working on somehow finding an intersection between the analytic, spontaneous Jenny who I used to be and the run of the mill mom I often feel I’ve become.

Does parenting somehow alter who we are? Does it change us in ways that can sometimes make us feel unfulfilled?


Happy Maps Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to thenewmrsm2016!!!!

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Highs & Lows – Week of March 6th

Hey there! How has your week been treating you?

If you’re just popping in, here are the posts that I’ve written this week. If you have a minute please have a read. It’s also not too late to enter the Happy Maps giveaway happening here on TTBH. Contest closes on Sunday at 6pm, so if it’s something that interests you please head over and enter to win!

Highs

My mom is officially moved in. Work on the basement has finally ended and my mom is comfortable and settled in her new apartment one month ahead of schedule! We converted our basement into a 1-bedroom apartment for her to help reduce her living expenses. Her apartment turned out better than we’d expected and she’s loving being here to spend more time with Margs. Margs also realizes that bubbie now lives “downstairs” and bangs on the door to tell me she wants to head down for a visit. I’m also loving having her so close by because it’s really nice to be able to have adult conversation throughout the day.

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New blog opportunities. A few new blog opportunities have come my way over the last week and I’m excited! When I first decided to monetize the blog I really wasn’t sure where it would take me since my blog is so young and doesn’t necessarily have huge volumes of traffic. I’m thrilled that despite being in its infancy, TTBH is helping me generate a little revenue. I’m planning to write a post about my progress in the coming weeks so stay tuned for that.

Enjoying experimenting with the Keto Diet. I‘m still trudging along on my weight-loss journey. So far I’ve lost roughly 6 lbs which I’m really pleased about. I don’t necessarily feel that my weight loss is visible just yet but I do feel far more energized and in control of my eating habits. I’ve been experimenting with a really relaxed form of the Keto diet this week and although I probably wont stick to it long term (it’s far too rigid to be sustainable for me) it has been really eye opening to learn about carb content by keep track of my food choices with myfitnesspal. I really view this as a learning curve since I’m essentially reteaching myself about healthy choices and portion control.

Activities for Margs. Baby girl has had a busy week. After a discussion with Mer about my concerns that Margs might be bored we decided it was in her best interest to start taking part in some organized activities. She now goes to a play group on Mondays and Wednesdays and takes swimming lessons on the weekend. She really enjoys socializing with other children and has a great time playing, running and tumbling. Her excitement is just adorable and so is her tiny swim cap 😉

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Lows

Margs’ pediatrician appointment. We headed back to the pediatrician this week. Again, I left there feeling pretty defeated. Margs is a big little girl. She’s nearly 33 inches tall and weighs roughly 31 lbs. According to her growth chart she’s in the 97% for height and essentially off the charts for weight. Her doctor questioned her eating habits and made some suggestions that we think might help slow down her weight gain. Basically, I’ve been told to start giving her 2% WCM and to reduce her intake of yogurt. Her doctor wasn’t overly concerned but I’m an anxious mama and it makes me feel terrible that I’m potentially feeding my little girl an unhealthy diet. I’m doing my very best since she eats primarily vegetables and fruit but clearly we need to reevaluate and make adjustments.

Estimated Due Dates. Thursday was a rough day. March 9th was my estimated due date for my twin pregnancy and every year it seems to just creep up on me. By now, you’d think I’d be prepared for the roller coaster of emotions that come from facing a due date but nope – it hit me like a ton of bricks. I took a little break while Margs played with her grandma to have a good cry. It just feels like someone else’s life ya know? I should have 4 year old twins! My gosh, 4 years have flown by and my life is not at all what I imagined it to be. I’m insanely grateful for my precious baby girl but some days the burden of the past is just harder to deal with. March 9th was one of those days.

What are your highs and lows for this fine week of March 6th?

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A few thoughts on time, perspective and circumstance

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So, before I get into some pretty long-winded thoughts, I’d like to give you a friendly reminder that there is currently a Happy Maps giveaway happening here on This Tiny Blue House. Feel free to enter for a chance to win your very own personalized Happy Map if you haven’t already! Good luck to everyone who has already entered!


Recently, Mer and I sat down to watch a Hemingway documentary on Netflix called Papa. Have you seen it? It really is an interesting window into Hemingway’s life so if you haven’t seen it I would recommend you watch it. Mer isn’t much of a reader and although he knew who Hemingway was he really didn’t know much about him so he was especially interested in watching.  When we got to the part about Hemingway’s 6-word novel (the famous: For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn) – Mer and I just looked at each other with a blank stare and understood perfectly well what the statement was insinuating.

Or, did we?

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What ensued was an interesting conversation about time, perspective and circumstance.

Clearly, we both assumed that there was a dead child involved. But, were our assumptions based on our own experiences of time, perspective and circumstance or is there some universal understanding that when a pair of unworn baby shoes are sold there is a deceased child involved?

When I was a kid my father would tell me that everyone had “cobwebs in their closet” and that “some were thicker” but ultimately everyone had them. I think the conversation started when I broke down crying after my parents separated. It was the late 80’s and by cultural standards at that time I was ashamed of my home life. He told me not to worry about it because everyone had dusty cobwebs hidden in the very back of their closet.

Okay, back to what I was getting at here.

It’s really quite amazing how our own experiences have shaped the way we perceive things around us. Before our losses, I doubt we would have made such a heartbreaking assumption about such a potentially simple statement. We likely may have arrived at it eventually but it would probably not have been our first conclusion. Years ago, my brain would likely have wandered to ideas that the child outgrew the shoes before getting the chance to wear them or perhaps the child had more than one pair rendering this pair unnecessary or that poverty was at the root of the decision to sell them. I doubt though that my brain would have instinctively led me down the path of dead babies.

But, now it does. And, it  highlights that perceptions are altered based on circumstances that are unique to each and every one of us. Our story really dictates how we perceive the world around us doesn’t it?

To the parents who have lost children, that 6 word-novel could mean that a child died. A miscarriage, a still birth, infant loss – the possibilities are endless.

While to some it could be an example of poverty.

To others it could be interpreted as necessity – selling a child’s baby shoes to feed a habit, to turn the lights back on, to buy food, to fuel the car to get to a job interview, to make some extra cash to purchase medication. The possibilities are truly endless.

I suppose then that our individual perceptions of what that statement truly means is fueled by who we are, where we come from and what our  lives look like both past and present.

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Interpreting blog posts functions quite the same way I think. When I write something it comes from my perspective – an anxious repeat loss mom who is acutely aware of what it means to be poor, move up the socioeconomic ladder only to find herself in heaps and heaps of consumer debt years later. But, to those who don’t have those same set of cobwebs, my opinions and beliefs could potentially be misinterpreted ya know?

Perhaps, when I make a blanket statement like “I’m jealous of other women’s pregnancies” it might make me appear to be vile, envious and shallow. But, to those know me, know my story, know my struggle- I might get a little leniency.

The reality behind that statement is that getting my baby here safely was horribly difficult.  Does my statement now become less terrible? Does the meaning somehow change? Does my own circumstance change the intention?

Blog posts, and writing in general is tricky. Often times I catch myself reading and re-reading my posts because I know what baggage comes with my writing but most of the time you the reader don’t. Clearly, there are certain aspects of my life that I’ve shared and if you’ve been reading for a little while you’ll know that I mean no harm by statements like the one above but to a new reader who doesn’t necessarily understand my history that statement might be interpreted completely differently.

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As I’m growing this here blog I’m realizing more and more how perspective and circumstance influence both what I read and what I write. I’ve read countless blog posts from women who are “over” their pregnancies. From their perspectives it’s an innocent claim that likely has no intention of piercing through a loss mom like me. From my perspective, that claim makes me cringe because well you know – some women would give absolutely anything – make a deal with the devil even to bring a healthy full-term baby into the world. Perspective and circumstance.

This applies to everything really. Discussions on minimalism, vegetarianism, veganism, politics, opinions, beliefs, religion on so on and so on.

Essentially, anytime we put something out there we are opting to have our words which are inspired and peppered by our own perspectives interpreted by people and their unique worldview right?

How much effect do you think perspective has on interpretation of blog posts and writing in general?

What are your thoughts and interpretation of  Hemingways 6 word-novel?

 

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Our story of loss, hope and happiness

I haven’t told the whole story in years. I’ve somehow managed to split the journey in two – the dark period before Margs and the happy period after. There was just so much awful stuff before baby girl that on some level I needed to make that distinction so that I didn’t have to continue facing the details of what exactly happened to us and how ridiculously difficult and unfair our journey to becoming parents to an earthly child was.

I wrote a post about feeling like my family was not complete months ago without really explaining the difficulties I face. I’ve spent weeks analyzing options and scenarios and unfortunately I’m no closer to making a decision than I was before. It did however occur to me that many of you fine folks have only gotten bits and pieces of the story and probably think I’m crazy for being so scared. Again, I’ve intentionally avoided sharing the whole story because it sucks and it hurts and most days I’m perfectly content pretending it didn’t really happen (not the most effective way of dealing with grief – I know).

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So, can I tell you a story? Can I tell you about my babies?

In 2012 I got pregnant- it wasn’t a planned pregnancy because Mer and I were still sorting out our financials in anticipation of starting a family but we were thrilled regardless. At 12 weeks we found out we were expecting twins which left us amazed and terrified. We soon got to work preparing for our babies – 2 cribs, 2 car seats, 2 bouncers – you get the drift. By the time I was 18 weeks pregnant we essentially had everything in order because we were having twins and had been warned that it could be a difficult pregnancy and we should anticipate preparing for them early – if we only knew.

At 20 weeks and 3 days pregnant I woke up to spotting. I called my hospital triage who told me to take a shower and lay down but present to triage if it persisted. I had an appointment for my anatomy scan later that afternoon and figured I’d mention it then if it persisted. Later that morning, the bleeding intensified – we were scared and so we chose to head to the hospital to get checked out. The details of that day are pretty hazy now but I believe they gave me a urine test (which came back negative) and sent me home with orders to rest and that ultimately bleeding “sometimes” happens. They didn’t check my cervix which I’ve learned is standard procedure in twin pregnancies after the 20 week mark.

We headed home where we ate pogos (I haven’t eaten once since) and discussed how thankful we were that the bleeding was “normal” and nothing “significant”. I remember saying to Mer “Phew, I’m so glad they are okay – I cannot imagine losing them now”.

Later that afternoon we headed to my scheduled appointment for our anatomy scan where we were super excited to find out if the twins were girls or boys (our attitude about scans and such has changed so so much since then). Little did we know our life was about to change forever.

I remember things like “the babies looks so good”, “I want to do a vaginal u/s to check but I’d never forgive myself if your water breaks”, “it’s really too too bad”.

We had no idea what was going – we had no idea what was about to happen. We had no idea that this was the beginning of the end.

With orders to head back to the hospital Mer and I loaded ourselves into the car and drove back to the hospital that had sent me home earlier that morning with nothing to worry about. This time, they were waiting for me and put me into a bed immediately.

I spent the next 3 days in trendelenburg position, meaning I was laying head down with my feat well above my head hoping that my membranes would recede.

Oh, did I forget to tell you that part? I was 4cm dilated with bulging membranes the day of our scan.

On the second day at the hospital my doctor came to visit. She sat by my bedside and told me it wasn’t good. She explained that I had 2 choices – 1) I could opt to terminate the pregnancy or 2) agree to be transferred to another hospital facility with a neonatal intensive care unit where I’d stay on bed rest until the babies came.

We opted for a transfer.

After arriving at the new facility I had a team of perintologists examine me and explain my harsh new reality. I was essentially in pre-term labor, my cervix was too weak to hold my babies in and that we could try prolonged bed rest but that decision came with risks of infection and septicemia. There were no other options because at 4cm dilated any of the emergency procedures they could have tried would have either ruptured my membranes or resulted in infection.

We opted to take the risk and have me hospitalized to basically wait out the rest of my pregnancy hanging upside down.

After two days of waiting, praying and waiting some more the twins decided that it was time.

We were escorted down to the specialized birthing unit where moms are giving birth to babies who will die (it sounds harsh but it’s the truth). I believe there were 6 of us there at the same time and by a complete accident I ended up connecting with one of the other moms a year later. The universe is weird that way.

I labored for approximately 4 hours and our precious little girls were born.

Both babies were born alive although by legal standards they are considered a “stillbirth”. Mer held them both as they took their last breaths. I remember this moment vaguely (I was sedated with large amounts of Ativan at the time) although Mer reminds me often that I held both their little hands and sang to them.

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3 weeks later I hemorrhaged and nearly lost my life and had to have an emergency D&C to stop the bleeding.

I got pregnant again 6 months later. A second set of twins. We were optimistic since I’d found a phenomenal new doctor who had an amazing plan to keep me pregnant. I found out that we’d lost the that set of twins at around 7 weeks pregnant and had another D&C because my body wouldn’t miscarry on its own.

The next 18 months were spent having surgery after surgery. I was diagnosed with a septate uterus, ashermans syndrome and the MTHFR gene.

Basically my uterus was misshapen and full of scars which I was told was likely going to leave me infertile because of the D&Cs. I was told not to get my hopes up.

I got pregnant again in the summer of 2014 and miscarried days after finding out.

By 2015 after trying to get pregnant for nearly a year, Mer and I started exploring other options. We either needed to come to terms with being child free or look into adoption aggressively. At our ages and with the wait period involved in an international adoption we knew we needed to figure out what our life path would be.

In the meantime I was working and trying to put all these hardships behind me. Then, in April 2015 I found out I was pregnant with Margs.

The world stopped and I gave up my career, my graduate program and my life in the real world so I could gestate this tiny baby. I did not believe for one minute that we’d get to bring her home and as each day passed I mentally prepared myself for it being the last. The odds were stacked against us but by some form of an enormous miracle she’s here and she’s safe.

It took me 67 days to write this post start to finish. I completely underestimated the power of words – this has been the most difficult piece of writing I’ve written for TTBH and most days I wiped away tears as I typed. Words hurt and are so liberating at the same time.

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A day trip to Montreal & a few cheap date night options

Over the weekend Mer and I were treated to a day off so we could head out on an adventure just the two of us. We’re really strange when it comes to spending time away from Margs. We often complain that we need a break but when a break is so generously offered to us all we can think about is rushing through our “free” time so we can be reunited with Margs.

One weekend a few months back we literally drove around aimlessly because we had no idea what to do with ourselves while Margs spent the afternoon with her grandparents. She adores being there because she gets spoiled rotten so we have absolutely no excuse for not relaxing and enjoying our time away. I’m embarrassed to admit that we ended up doing our weekly grocery and running a few errands that day- exciting stuff hunh?

Mer surprised me this weekend by organizing babysitting with his parents so we could do something together. He knew I’d had a rough week and that my anxiety was running pretty high so he decided we’d take a break and do something fun.

He came up with a plan to drive a few hours to Montreal so that we’d be forced to enjoy our time away from Margs and not pull our usual stunt and rush back to pick her up.

It was so so nice to spend the day exploring the city despite the freezing cold.

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Our first stop was Misoya Ramen on Bishop street. Mer had a visa gift card that he’d received from work for his birthday that we never got around to using so he decided we’d go out for lunch. We’d been wanting to try Ramen for the first time and figured Sunday was a perfect opportunity to do so since there were so many great Ramen shops around. We also rarely eat out so it was an extra special treat. We really scaled back on eating restaurant food way back when we were tackling our debt problem and we’ve gotten so used to eating at home that we rarely order in or eat out – we’ve sort of eliminated it from  our lifestyle. So, this was an extra fun opportunity to eat delicious food and catch up on non-parenting things.

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It was delicious!

We purposely ordered different bowls so we could share. I went with a Komemiso broth (savoury) while Mer opted for a Momemiso (full bodied flavor). They were both quite good although my Komemiso was a tad saltier than I would have liked so if we had to repeat this meal I’d opt for the Momemiso instead. I plan to try and recreate this meal at home in the near future – I’m researching how to put together the broth because there’s got to be a way to recreate this meal without paying restaurant prices.<—– frugal mindset folks.

Why date nights saved my marriage

During the time we were trying to conceive, Mer and I really struggled. We love each other dearly but grieving and the heartache of losing 3 pregnancies really took its toll on our relationship. Mer often felt like he couldn’t grieve because he needed to support me in my grief (disclosed to me in therapy). There were times that we felt like our lives were consumed with trying to conceive and we really forgot to nurture our relationship and focus on rebuilding and rekindling the “us” which felt lost in this world of medical intervention and timed intercourse. It was really hard and at some points I questioned if our relationship would survive. Our day to day life just felt so incredibly scheduled and forced.

It survived, thanks to our therapist who suggested we go on date nights to help refocus our energy on rebuilding the parts of our relationship that were broken down from years of heartache and loss. She suggested we schedule time to get to know each other again (because life experiences shaped and changed us along the way) and focus on strengthening our relationship by having fun which sadly really wasn’t part of our lives for such a long long time.

Thankfully, we stuck to it and we really enjoy our special time together whether that be once per week or once per month (now, we aim for once per month). We shut off our phones, we don’t check facebook, instagram or twitter and just spend time catching up on things that we might not get the time to discuss on a day to day basis. It’s really quite amazing how much goes unsaid when you’re busy tending to a house, a job, a kid and other adult responsibilities so it was so so nice to catch up.

Date nights are expensive though or at least initially they were. When we scaled back our monthly budget we feared that we’d have to eliminate our date nights altogether because spending 50$+ at a restaurant just wouldn’t work for us anymore. We came up with a few budget friendly date nights that we not only really enjoy but work well with our budget and frugal lifestyle.

A few tips to enjoy your date night without spending a fortune

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Change your date night mind set. Date nights don’t have to cost money. This is where we struggled in the beginning – what are 2 people supposed to do without spending cash? Well, we got creative and we found a bunch of fun, entertaining and otherwise awesome activities to do on date nights without spending much money. Walks, hikes, skating, swimming, free music festivals, free comedy shows, free firework displays, free cooking lessons – there are so many options out there that don’t require you spend a ton of money – often you can even find free options. We researched a ton and explored what was available to us in our area. Since moving, we’ve actually made a bunch of new friends by attending various free activities offered by our township. We love finding new things to do and often Mer will send me an email letting me know that he found something super cool for us to do together. Just yesterday he let me know that there’s a free tour of a local museum – we’ve penciled that in for our next date night.

Get moving – We were stuck in a very conservative mindset that date nights had to include dinner and a movie because that’s what we used to do when we dated before getting married. As much as I like to dine out and catch a movie, these activities get pricey and catching a movie actually prevents us from connecting and chatting which is the point of “dating” anyway. So,we’ve made a conscious effort to try things like walking, hiking, swimming and biking together. I can’t tell you how much fun we have biking through small rural towns about an hour away from where we live. We drive down dirt roads and revel at the beauty of the country side. Mer actually installed a large wicker basket on my bike so I can haul a small picnic with us – it’s such a fun and inexpensive way to spend some quality time together.

Enjoy each other – we tend to focus on picking dates that maximize the amount of quality time we spend together without distraction. Our daily lives are quite busy and leave little time to just sit and “be” so we tend to opt to do things that offer us an opportunity to talk and communicate. For us, enjoying each other can come in the form of sitting by a bonfire, sipping a beer and just chatting or taking a long walk through the forest behind our home. Thankfully we’ve been able to create a separation between the belief that spending money on elaborate evenings out is the only way to date thus focusing on quality time instead which often costs no money at all.

Plan & Budget ahead – we do spend money on dates occasionally. Although we’d much prefer to have a free date that’s just not always possible. Last summer for example there was a new restaurant opening up in our town and we decided that we’d love to attend the opening. So, we budgeted ahead and set aside a small amount of cash to allow for this luxury. More often than not, every third date costs us a little cash. By budgeting ahead and planning for it we’re far more conscious of how much we spend when out and enjoy this extra luxury so much more.

What some of our date nights have looked like

  • Walks through the forest with steaming cups of homemade hot chocolate
  • Drives to our favorite spot in gorgeous St-Donat to walk the lakefront beach
  • Watching free fireworks competitions while munching on homemade appetizers
  • Staying in and cooking an awesome meal together with no phones, t.v or other distractions (the last time we did this we experimented with different types of curry)
  • Skating on a frozen pond (I’m clumsy and can’t really skate but Mer holds my hand and we have a few good laughs)
  • Free outdoor music festivals in the warm summer months
  • Sipping wine by our homemade fire pit in the backyard
  • Renting a pedal boat at a local beach and spending hours floating and chatting (approx 5$)
  • Thrifting without actually buying anything. Mer and I are both history buffs so we love visiting thrift shops and antique shops to discuss the treasures we come across.
  • Pick your own produce in the summer. We love to spend days at a local farm supplementing our garden goods. We once spent an entire day picking broccoli rab to freeze for the winter.

Do you make time for dates with your partner?

What’s the most recent “date” you’ve been on?

Any cheap and budget friendly date ideas you’d like to add to the list?

 

 

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My tiny piece of internet real estate

Aaaand another week starts. Happy Monday folks! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

When I started this blog just over 2 months ago I wasn’t really sure if it would be something I’d stick to long-term. I know that I felt like I needed a place to write and that I wanted to connect with other like-minded individuals but above and beyond that I had no idea where my blogging journey would take me and whether it would even be something I’d enjoy doing.

There was fear because I’m really an open book (too much so sometimes) and I worried about oversharing. There was apprehension because I’m really just a run of the mill stay at home mom with nothing extraordinary or exciting to share since most days are fairly predictable and mundane. Yet, every time I open my dashboard to write a new post I feel myself drawn to writing about our debt-repayment journey, our struggles to bring Margs into the world, saving money and how living a simple and minimalist life continues to bring me happiness and reduce my anxiety.

If you’re subscribed to my blog – thank you. If you take the time to comment, like and email me – thank you. Thank you doesn’t seem like enough but please know that I read every email, every comment and am beyond grateful for every like and subscription here on This Tiny Blue House.

I reached 1000 followers on Friday and I’m still in disbelief because I never imagined anyone would really want to read what this stay at home mum had to say. I’m beyond grateful that each and every one of you has given me prime real estate in your reader and take the time to read my posts! Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.

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My 2 month blog anniversary is literally a nano-second in the great big world of blogging. Some bloggers have years, even decades under their belt and my tiny little piece of blogging real estate is still very much in its pre-infancy.

As my blog grows a little and starts to take shape, I’m beginning to realize that I really enjoy sharing my ideas with you fine folks. I enjoy reading other blogs, commenting and building a sense of community in this vast space we call the internets.

But what I couldn’t figure out these last couple of months was what compelled me to blog in the first place; what pushed me to register This Tiny Blue House on that fateful day in November? So, today I want to share the 5 reasons I’ve discovered fuel my desire to share my life with you lovely people.

1. I want to give my loss history a voice. I hope to share the message that although devastating a happy life after child loss is possible. I’ve grown a ton emotionally since we first lost our twins and I know that I want to spread awareness about baby loss. Lost pregnancies happen more often than we’d like to acknowledge and I’m hoping that other loss moms who find their way here will see that after the raw devastation subsides a little – putting the pieces back together is possible. It just takes time to adopt a “new normal”.

2. I want to share my imperfect experiences with motherhood. I’m still figuring out this parenting thing. Raising Margs is proving to be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I’d like to continue blogging transparently about how difficult it is to parent a child when you suffer from anxiety. I’d like to continue sharing my struggles with my parenting decisions and choices. I’ll never claim to have all the parenting answers because I just don’t. I’m figuring out this motherhood thing as I go and trying to be the best version of myself I can throughout the process.

3. I want to talk about how we live a frugal lifestyle and how we manage our day to day life on less than 1000$ per month. I’ve already discussed how we’ve gotten ourselves out of  hefty credit card debt but haven’t really touched on how we spend our money on a monthly basis. I’d love to show you fine folks that it is possible to live well, eat well and enjoy life on a 1000$ a month budget. We’re by no means experts but we’ve found a way to save money and live what we consider a relatively comfortable lifestyle for about 1000$ per month. I look forward to sharing more about that part of our lives with you.

4. I want to discuss how simplicity has changed our lives. We were once the “worst” type of consumers, living a life of gross gross excess. Scaling back our spending to pay off our debt taught us so many valuable lessons about what truly makes us happy. I’d love to share how we overcame the need to “keep up with the Joneses” and accept that we’re the happiest versions of ourselves when we have less stuff.

5. I want to give you a peak into the life of our run of the mill imperfect family, living on a lower-middle class income. I’d love to share my experiences with marriage (Mer and I argue), finances (we still worry about money), parenting (I’m just terrible at it some days) and cooking (I make a few good go-to meals on a budget). In a nutshell, I’d like to share our very ordinary life with you without creating the illusion that we’ve got it all together which we just don’t – probably never will.

So thank you thank you thank you for reading, communicating and exchanging ideas with me. I look forward to continuing on this journey and I hope that you decide to come along!

If you’d like to keep in touch outside the blog feel free to follow me on twitter, instagram & pinterest.

Why do you blog? I’d love to hear what pushed you to create your blog and why you keep at it!