A Belly Full of Jelly

If there is one thing that we learned through getting to be Brooklyn’s parents it was how to celebrate in the face of the unknown.

At that 20 week ultrasound appointment in July of 2012, we had no clue how to do this. We definitely lived our lives with an undertone of dissatisfaction, but we believed that we were just on the brink. If only, the new career would work out. If only, the possibility of buying a home looked less like a fantasy. If only, we would finally have enough money and time off for that summer vacation. We were really good at looking at the things we didn’t have. The “If only’s” that would finally send us into a place of satisfaction. If we couldn’t have the typical DINK (dual income no kids) lifestyle, then maybe it was time to just have kids? In no way was this an actual part of our thought process when we decided to trust Him with growing our family, but sometimes I wonder if it was swimming around our subconscious?

“Your ultrasound results came back abnormal.”

My brain had to catch up with what my ears just heard. We had a pretty jovial relationship with our doctor, could this be a joke? When she mentioned the words “heart defect”, I thought even harder about the ways this could play out for her to be “messing with us” and her still be our doctor. The reason this felt so absurd to me was because her youngest son was born with a heart defect. He had actually just had a surgery to replace his aortic valve and many of our conversations in the past 4 months were peppered with updates on how he was doing. I heard the silence following her initial statement louder than I had heard her words. And the reality of what I was hearing settled into this dreadful weight in my chest. Then there were words like specialist, cardiologist, surgery, difficult first year of life. But, I couldn’t keep up with the sobbing my heart was doing on the inside. Then shortly after the actual sobbing came.

We were supposed to be on the brink. And, we were. But, we were on the brink of something completely different than I had hoped for.

We still had hope of a long life with Brooklyn then. Specialists gave us the hope of surgery dates, but no matter how many hours of ultrasounds scouring her tiny heart they ended every conversation with, “we will know more once she’s born.” That kind of hope kept us looking for the positives, anything that we could hold on to to justify and cling to our hope for the future. Yet, even in that we were whispering the “if only’s”.

Once she was born and it all became clear. Her destiny. Our destiny. It chased every ‘if only’ we ever knew away, crushed our hope of a future, and painfully drew our hearts to look at this very moment in time. That was all we had. It slowed everything down and sped everything up all at the same time. When moments are all you have, you have a decision to make about how you want to live your moments.

This is how we learned to celebrate. This is how we learned to give thanks. This is how we knew any peace, at all. This is how the Lord showed us how to look at what is and allow that to be enough, and sometimes more than enough.

Yesterday we had our 20 week ultrasound appointment with little Squirmy-worm. We were pretty anxious about going through all of those same motions that we walked through a year and a half ago. As I envisioned walking into that ultrasound room, I thought of my heart racing the entire time. I thought of how I would probably be trying to analyze everything the sonographer was saying and doing as her eyes carefully searched my second little miracles body. I thought of how it would be hard to breathe until it was all over. And my thoughts were interrupted with, “Look for another way.” And, I thought of the moments I have been given. How did I want to live these moments as we would get to peak into our new baby girl’s body? Her big sister had taught my spirit that new way. I wanted to celebrate them! So, we did. And, we did that with Jelly Belly Beans. What better way to celebrate the unknown than with a mixed bag of jelly bellies? Every time we heard our sonographer say, “looks good” as she worked her way down the check list, we celebrated with a jelly bean. We even brought some for our sonographer, nurses and doctor to celebrate with us.

We are thankful to report that Squirmy is growing just fine, with the exception of a smaller than average head measurement. So, that specialist word did come up again, but only to go and have an expert fetus scour-er say, “Yup, just a small head.” As a Mama hoping to have a VBAC, a small head doesn’t sound like the worst thing in the world.

In all of this, He has been faithfully showing me my fear and anxiety does not have the final say on how I live my moments.

Jelly beans do ūüôā

-Brooklyn’s Mommy

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My Greatest Fear

Corrie and I have always enjoyed candid conversations.  It’s one of the things that attracted me to her, and it’s always been a component of our marriage that can be difficult and incredibly rewarding.  I love that our marriage is a safe place for us to share our struggles, joys, dreams, and fears.  I’m confident that these conversations need to happen.  We can’t bottle them up and hold them in.  An incredible amount of freedom and connection occur in our relationship when these honest conversations happen.

Corrie and I were having one of these conversations sometime in the first couple years of marriage.  The topic:  What is your greatest fear?  For some reason, I had carried around but never vocalized my greatest fear to anyone until that day.

You may not believe this, but a unique fear became a permanent resident in my subconscious around the age of 10. ¬†I‚Äôm not sure where or how it began haunting me but the possibility of personalizing the fear scared the crap out of me. ¬†When I try to think about its origins, I always think about the kids with special needs in my elementary school. ¬†I would pass them in the hall or see them in the cafeteria, and their daily struggles scared me. ¬†I¬†couldn’t¬†imagine being in their shoes.

As I got older and my desire to have my own kids grew, the fear was still there. ¬†But now, the fear had a unique component and became personal. ¬†I¬†couldn’t¬†imagine having, nor did I want, one of my kids to have special needs. ¬†So I told Corrie…

My greatest fear:  Having a child with special needs.

Based on many metrics¬†I’ve¬†lived a comfortable life, so the thought of not getting to enjoy my child through ‚Äúnormal‚ÄĚ interactions and development was very uncomfortable and disruptive to my ecosystem. ¬†I would find myself thinking about this possibility and the myriad of ways that these special needs would impact my life. ¬†I was confident I¬†couldn’t¬†handle the perceived stress of providing acute-care for my child…every day. ¬†The fear was real, but I still believed it would never happen.

Enter Brooklyn. ¬†My sweet, beautiful, miracle daughter. ¬†It became very clear in her first couple days that she had special needs. ¬†She ate through a feeding tube, was continually on oxygen, had seizures, didn‚Äôt look like ‚Äúnormal‚ÄĚ babies, and her body was continually fighting against itself because of her extra copy of the 18th chromosome. ¬†She had many special needs.

My greatest fear was realized. ¬†This reality didn‚Äôt settle in until several months after Brooklyn passed away. ¬†While she was with us, I never looked at Brooklyn as a child with special needs. ¬†Of course she needed acute-care, but I loved taking care of her. ¬†In fact, I ‚Äėquarterbacked‚Äô her medical care. ¬†I learned everything about her diagnosis, needs, meds, medical equipment, etc.

Although taking care of Brooklyn was disruptive and uncomfortable, I would gladly take it all on again in a second. ¬†This would mean Brooklyn was in my arms. ¬†Through Brooklyn‚Äôs short life, I learned that special needs don‚Äôt define a person. ¬†God used Brooklyn to show me the unique beauty that is underneath the ‚Äúnormal‚ÄĚ or uncommon exterior. ¬†Her medical needs, diagnosis, etc. don‚Äôt define her nor do they define anyone.

I feared special needs would prevent me from connecting with my child. ¬†God shattered that fear. I was able to connect with Brooklyn in ways I could never have imagined and in ways that¬†wouldn’t¬†have been possible apart from her unique needs. ¬†God proved he is bigger than any fear, and Brooklyn changed me forever.

-Adam

Company

The tears have came with company today.

Company that doesn’t come around as often as it used to,

but when they do I’m always surprised at how they bring the hurt that feels so fresh.

Could it have been the memories of watching the Superbowl with her last year,

that told them it was time for a visit?

Or, the calendar bringing us closer to the retreat

where my wounds will be exposed in a way that even I might be a little frightened to see?

Was it the color of the sky? Or the smell of her skin in my minds’ eye?

Has my brave run out?

Has my heart caved in?

Maybe the hurt just couldn’t keep quiet;

It just needed to be let out, given a voice to float away on the wind.

Jailbreak

The fence!

I had absent-mindedly given into Maggie’s scratching and whining at the backdoor while on the phone. Finishing up my phone conversation I put the phone down, took a big swig of my coffee, and remembered the hole in the fence where the rotted boards had started to fall away again. Our jimmy-rig hadn’t held up to the wind from the previous night.

Still in PJ’s and robe, I ran outside looking in all four corners of the yard, “Maggie! Maggie! Come here, Maggie! Treat? TREAT!”

She was nowhere in sight.

I walked over to the hole in the fence and called her for a few more seconds and then waited to listen for the jingle of her collar. Silence. I had forgotten to put on her collar this morning. It’s official, I’ve now turned into crazy, panic-ed lady in the red striped pajamas, blue robe and slippers. It’s noon by the way.

At this point, I realized the only hope I had of finding her is driving around to the other side of the neighborhood to see if she had gotten out from the neighbor’s front gate. I flung off my robe and pajamas and tried to yank a bra over my head and suddenly felt my head yanked back. The hook was caught in my mop-of-hair, bed-headed mess. Insert repetitive whispered expletive of your choice, here.

PJs back on, robe slung over my shoulders, bra dangling from my hair I grab the car key. I have never noticed how incredibly slow our garage door opened before? Priorities in order, call out-of-town husband and when I can’t stand the beeping anymore, fasten seat belt. Frantically fill him in, omit the part about being in my pajamas with my bra dangling from my hair. He calmly reminds me to roll down the windows and start calling for her and check to see if all the gates are closed in the neighbor’s front yards. After driving back and forth by the same four houses 5 or 6 times, I finally realize that all the gates are indeed closed and theoretically she’s still in the neighbor’s back yard.

Adam says, “Go home. Get treats, her collar and her leash.” I decide to take the robe off and put a sweatshirt on over my pajama shirt instead. It matched my new hair accessory better anyway. Running through the backyard to the hole in the fence, jingling her collar this time, I saw her through the neighborhood’s wooded backyard.

Expletive, “Stinkin’ dog.” I didn’t know whether to give her a fresh slap on the rear-end or hug her and let her kiss my face all over? I decided a confusing combination of both was appropriate.

After my heart rate had decreased and had a chance to warm up my coffee in the microwave I sat back down to finish my devotions that were interrupted with that distracting phone call.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.”

It had been at least 7 minutes into really asking, what do you want to show me here, Lord? How do I respond when I am afraid? I mean, I was really thinking hard. Suddenly I felt the bra hanging down against my back, and it all came flooding in.

Ohhh. Right. Got it. When I am afraid, I respond like a frantic, crazy person.

God bless my husband.

Enough

The holidays have come and gone and I’m finding the pace of life to be a little refreshing. As scary as it was to step with both feet into 2014, a year that won’t hold any new memories with Brooklyn, there’s something about a new year that brings hope even in the aftermath of heartbreak and loss.

A few months after Brooklyn died I carried around her passing like a secret mark. Not in the sense that I didn’t want people to know, or that I was hiding it from people, but in a way that I felt afflicted by my story; I felt marked by it. I was a 27 year old woman who had loved and cared and lost. I had a baby, but she died. The truth of it didn’t really make it any easier to accept. And, I felt a strange sense of shame when I talked with strangers or met new people. I’m sure this sounds absurd to many, but maybe some of you out there know the feeling. I am still reminded so often of the bitter truth that marks my life, my story. But, I’ve noticed there’s a different tone in the voice that whispers and reminds me of my loss. It’s no longer wrapped in the question of whether or not I can really survive this pain. It doesn’t leave me feeling ashamed of this sad story that is now part of me. It sounds more like, “I have lost a baby, and I have survived.”

I guess I’ve let it in. I hate to use the word acceptance, because I don’t accept and will never accept what happened to Brooklyn. I don’t know if I’ll ever come to a place of making “peace with it”. All of those phrases make me cringe. That’s not what this is.

I believe, this is learning to live in light of hope.

And for me, that hope is that this world is not the end.

It’s just like after those first few tries on your bicycle without the training wheels. In the beginning it’s pretty rough, full of shaky handle bars, feet that feel a pull to be planted back on the ground with every wobble, and a face marked with worry. As the wobbles and falls become fewer and farther between, the tension in your face begins to ease, and you can feel the confidence in your legs as they more firmly and confidently push your feet on the pedals. There’s even a chance for a smile to break through.

I had to learn to trust that the living hope inside of me was enough.

My hope was enough to keep me steady when ‘the goings’ felt wobbly.

Maybe that’s why it’s listed last in the progression of attributes our suffering brings us in Romans 5…perseverance, character, and then hope. I had to practice walking into new situations and answering the question of whether or not we have children many times before it didn’t completely take my breath away. I had to force myself to engage other kids and babies again in order to let myself have a chance of feeling joy with kids, instead of it only reminding me of the future I would never have with Brooklyn. I certainly haven’t done this perfectly. I have “bowed out” from many baby showers, neglected relationships, and opted to sit on opposite sides of the restaurant than the family with a newborn. But each time I allow myself to look down into the stroller that passes me, or stop and tell a Mom or Dad how cute their new baby is, I feel stronger. In those little moments I’m practicing being the person I really want to be; a woman of character. Broken, but strengthened by a living hope.

Before I got pregnant with this new little one, it felt like the only thing that would make me happy again was being pregnant, or having some promise that I would get pregnant one day, and that our story would not just continue on this despairing storyline. But in reality, getting pregnant has not done any of that for me. If anything it has made me realize how unsatisfying anything circumstance can bring us really is. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly thankful for this gift and know that that’s exactly what this is, but I know that nothing about this new baby girl will take the pain of losing Brooklyn away. At times I can imagine, it might even make it feel worse. Because when, Lord-willing (I hate this phrase, but I don’t know how else to communicate the idea that I realize I have no guarantee of a healthy baby), I am nursing my new baby girl I will be reminded that I never got to do that with Brooklyn. Or, when she starts to respond through a smile, or a giggle it will make me stop and wonder what Brooklyn’s giggle might have sounded like. And, the depressing thing about this, when I really sit and think about it, is this could be endless. This could be a part of motherhood for me for years and years to come. Will my joy be ¬†paired with grief and longing forever?

No! Not forever! Praise the Lord.

There will be a day when my faith will become sight.

And, that is enough to carry me through the parts of life that feel really uncomfortable when you have a child living in glory. It’s enough to motivate me to keep allowing myself ¬†to experience the joy and the sorrow simultaneously, without getting frustrated about it. And trusting that the sorrow I feel may even make my joy deeper.

– Brooklyn (and Squirmy’s) Mommy

It Was Way Too Familiar

Last week while waiting for our flight to Steamboat Springs, CO in the Austin airport, I walked up after a coffee run to find my sister-in-law, Courtney, frantically elevating Corrie’s feet with luggage as she lay on the ground. ¬†Corrie had blacked out and fainted. ¬†Thankfully Courtney and a random bystander caught her preventing any injury from the fall. ¬†Corrie was awake and sorting things out when I walked up. ¬†I was confused, scared, and didn’t know what to do. ¬†At this point, an airport employee had already called 911 and we were quickly greeted by 6 firefighters and 3 paramedics…it was quite dramatic. ¬†The paramedics checked her vitals, but her blood pressure wasn’t returning to normal levels. ¬†They determined that we should take an ambulance ride to Seton for further tests. ¬†After a 3 hour stay in the Seton ER and a generous visit from Corrie’s OBGYN to check on the baby, she was released because everything was back to normal. ¬†We ended up cancelling our family vacation, and Corrie had a check-up at her OBGYN’s office a couple days later and everything is¬†OK.¬† Bottom line, Corrie ‘just’ fainted (which I learned is common during the 2nd trimester) and everything was a little more dramatic because she was in a public venue. ¬†We are very thankful for this and that the baby is doing great!

For me, this experience was way too familiar, and I hated it. ¬†After caring for Brooklyn and quarterbacking most of the medical side of things, it became clear to me that God’s grace has given me the strength to care for my family in this capacity. ¬†I’m truly thankful for that. ¬†However, I hated walking into this situation because it scared the crap out of me. ¬†We were in the same hospital that Brooklyn was born in, there was another ambulance ride, I heard the exact same alarms that told us Brooklyn’s vitals were off tell us Corrie’s vitals were off, and we were back in a hospital waiting for answers. ¬†I believe we often walk through life expecting results/outcomes based on similar experiences we’ve had in our lives. ¬†Although reality was telling me Corrie wasn’t in grave danger, history told me that this wasn’t going to turn out well. ¬†Thankfully it was different.

I’m still processing this experience and asking God “Why?”. ¬†“You know what we’ve been through. ¬†Can we please have an ‘event-free’ pregnancy?” ¬†I really want a healthy family and an uneventful pregnancy for Corrie. ¬†After walking through hell, I want a break from crisis and for life to be easy and pain-free. ¬†Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen and there will be more pain. ¬†The pain may not sting as much as losing Brooklyn, but it’ll be there. ¬†If you know me well, I’m an¬†optimistic guy…but I still believe this.

I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to avoid pain. ¬†I follow rules, am nice to people, and stay away from extreme sports…except for the time I almost drowned in a class 4 rapid on my first day of whitewater kayaking. ¬†We can try hard, but it’s clear to me that none of us can avoid pain. ¬†This is why Corrie and I trusted the Lord when we decided to continue growing our family. ¬†The emotions that flood in when pain shows up will always be real and appropriate, but we choose to stay in the game. ¬†We have to. ¬†God has given us today, we have a vision for our lives, and a hope for a time when pain is gone.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4)

-Adam

Tidings of Joy

We have something a little extra to celebrate this Christmas in addition to Jesus’ birth and the promise and hope it brings to our family. We are expecting baby Hull # 2 this June!

Humbled, thankful, apprehensive, joyful, scared, hopeful and excited are just a few of the emotions we’ve been experiencing over the past 8 weeks or so that we’ve known about this new little gift. And, more recently we learned that Baby Hull is another girl! We are excited for another girl and feel honored to get to teach her about her big sister, Brooklyn one day.

Here are some pictures from our journey so far with baby # 2.

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Here is Adam with the card I “sent” him in the mail the day I found out.

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Here I am at our celebration dinner after we learned about baby # 2.

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We opened our favorite present, finding out baby is a girl!

“…to comfort all who mourn;
To grant to those who mourn in Zion-
To give them a beautiful headdress
Instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The garment of praise
Instead of a faint spirit;
That they may be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of The Lord,
That He may be glorified. ”

-Brooklyn’s Mommy