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Miscarriage

ANNAPOLIS AND CO: Miscarriage

Miscarriage was on my list of fears, right up there with a cheating spouse or living in Alaska. My mind simply could not grasp losing a tiny human for whom I was responsible to protect and guard in my womb. It seemed like the ultimate failure as a woman to me, for pregnancy is a time when your one job is to keep that baby alive and all your efforts focus there. What you eat, how you exercise, the doctor you pick, and the medications you treat your sicknesses with. You carry this weighty miracle for 9 months until one day it ends – in a delivery room with a crying baby.  And that cry is the relief of every mother’s heart, only sometimes you never get to hear it.

On a cold, January day I sat in the emergency room with my husband and a brown paper bag. An hour earlier I had been standing in church talking to a group of people when I felt a rush of fear and excused myself awkwardly to the bathroom. It was there in a stall with the sound of women chatting and washing their hands right outside my door that I “delivered” at 13 weeks. Your first thought is, “What is happening?” when you don’t expect anything to be happening at all. Then there is this wave of grief as it hits you all at once and you try to remember every single thing you ever read in brochures and pregnancy websites about miscarriage. I wondered how I could make it from the bathroom to my husband without crumbling into a pile of ugly tears. I wondered what I was supposed to do with the baby. I wondered what they would tell me when we reached the hospital. I wondered if it was my fault…there was that run yesterday afternoon…there was that poison ivy medication I took…I was nursing when I found out I was pregnant…

“MB! Stop. Focus. What do you do with the baby?”

I grabbed a paper bag and waited till it sounded as if everyone had left the restroom. I made a mad dash to tell my husband, but not before a group of women opened the door and began to ask me a series of polite questions, “Was I new here?” “How many kids did I have?” “Where did I live and what did I do?”

“Lose babies. That’s what I do, I lose babies. How many kids do I have? I had 3, but now I have 2.”

Awful things come to your head in moments like that.

I found my husband, we left our girls with my parents and headed to the emergency room at the hospital. There we sat for several hours. Holding hands. On a nightmare date of sorts with our little brown paper bag laid to rest beside us. If I could describe the kind of pain and hurt in my heart during those hours of waiting, I would. Maybe it would make me feel better. Maybe it would take away a little of that January day every year when it rolls around. Maybe it would explain why pregnancy is so different for me now that I know what it feels like to have life one minute, and not the next.

Pain like that is awful.

As we sat there together, I began letting out the tears I had held back while I was in public. I voiced aloud all my questions and my hurt. I looked at other people in the room and tried to trade places with them. I wished I could have had the screaming baby, or the really bad cough, or the toddler with the spiky fever…I would even trade places with the cancer patient. But not a dead baby. You can’t have my paper bag, Lord. I’m not ready to give him to You.

They finally invited us back and they took that paper bag and never brought it back. I laid underneath a thin sheet on the examining table…cold, vulnerable, and scared. The nurses buzzed around in zipped up fleeces smelling of coffee breaks and magazines and I wanted to pull them aside and demand of them to mourn. To show more respect. Act as if this was the last day of a life, and they were attending a funeral.

But nobody wanted to attend.

The doctor came in and I searched his face for any sign of hope that there was life left in my womb. But deep down, I knew. I knew that the size of the mass I delivered could be all that was left and I was as empty now as the faces that talked of nothingness around me.

He wasted no pleasantries and told me with practiced poise that my pregnancy had been “naturally terminated”. He began to tell me that I was healthy and sure to conceive again, but his voice trailed off and my eyes darted to the door. My paper bag was not coming back. I knew that now. There were no apologies or warm words of encouragement. Just sterile doctor facts. And truthfully, I hated everybody in that room for it. I hated that it had to end like this. With me on an examining table. With a paper bag in another room. With an emergency room bill in our mailbox.

The next few days were pure torture. I told myself that I was the cause of the death of my baby. That I shouldn’t have taken the poison ivy medicine, or gone on any runs. That I should have taken my prenatal vitamins more faithfully, and gone to the doctor sooner. My husband tried and tried to tell me that it was nobodies fault…but honestly? You don’t want to hear it. You want somebody to blame, and the easiest person is yourself.

It’s funny how the wake of death brings the strangest people into your life or maybe it just brings the strangeness out of people, I’m not sure. There were things said and done to me during those days surrounding our loss that baffle me to this day. There were the ones who listened, the ones who couldn’t wait to get a word in, the ones who ducked and hid, and the ones who got a pot of soup going on the stove. There were the ones who couldn’t empathize but sympathized, and the ones who weren’t sure what to do, but told me I could ask. Even if it was 2 in the morning.

It has been these very times in my life that I have been strangely surprised by people and the ones who stick around.

After three days of laying in bed and crying more tears than I knew I had, I told God I wasn’t mad anymore. That I was deeply hurt and wounded and a piece of me was gone with that paper bag, but that I would trust that He knew better than I did. That He saw pieces to the puzzle of my life, that I didn’t see. And I finally rested. I rested my baby in His lap. I rested my tears on His shoulder. I rested my head on my pillow at night believing there were better days ahead.

And there were.

Three months later we conceived our son, Keller. And I anguished over every doctor’s visit and ultrasound. I waited with bated breath every time they pressed the doppler to my belly…searching for a heartbeat. I sighed a huge relief when they kept telling me over and over again, “He’s growing. He’s strong. You’re doing a good job, Mama.”

I’m 30 weeks along today with our precious baby Hugh. I feel the fragility of my womb as if I had miscarried yesterday instead of 4 years ago. I can tell you, though, that life is more precious than words could ever describe when you’ve sat in the ICU with monitors and tubes, or waited in the emergency room to hear the news. Moving fingers, the rise and fall of the chest, the flutter of eyelids, and the sight of the scale climbing, climbing till it reaches a healthy weight. It is a rush of relief and a prayer to heaven all rolled into one. I fight for that. I fight for moving fingers and toes and a tiny beating heart that houses a human soul. I fiercely want to protect it. Strive to see it win. And yet, sometimes it is far beyond my own control.

People email and ask me how it feels to miscarry. How does it register with the brain when the life you are sustaining as the mother is snuffed out in a singular instant. And all I know is to say hurt. Deep hurt that courses through veins and exhales with breath. But do you know what else I know? A deep and sustaining power rushes in when you need it the most. The Lord cares. He hears. He binds up the wounds of the brokenhearted.

Your heart expands for the hurting, more than you ever thought it could.

This story is documented for every single one of you hurting women who have emailed me over the years wanting to know my story. I understand. I ache for you. I pray so fervently that you feel the love of God wrapping his arms around you because I know how much you need it.

all my love, mb

Steady Days | Wardrobe Essentials

Steady Days | Wardrobe Essentials

If you missed yesterday’s post on taking a few minutes to get dressed each morning, you should read it before reading this one. A wardrobe is just the cherry on top to a beautiful person created by God, and things like fashion are just “extra” in my humble opinion. I do believe how we dress is important, though, and effort ought to be put into it. Whether you have a big or small budget, a husband who sees you daily, classes to attend, a work environment with members of the opposite sex, or kids that spit up and mess up your clothes, I hope this encourages you to dress with modesty and class, enhancing your femininity.

Black Skinnies // $59.50

I’ve listed these first because I think they are the single most important wardrobe essential you could own. The only maternity item I’ve bought is a pair of black skinnies from Target ($34.99). You can build an entire wardrobe from a pair, so if you do not buy anything else on this list, buy these or something similar. Please, please, please trust me on this!

Dark Skinny Jeans // $29.99

A dark wash is the most flattering on any body type and the most versatile because you can dress it up or dress it down. It is important to buy a pair of jeans that fit you well and make you feel good, so even if you don’t walk out of a store buying something know that the hunt is worth it. Buy a little tighter than you think you need, because they will stretch. I love the little zippers on the back of these jeans from Target and the price is oh so right.

Black or Grey Maxi Dress // $34.99

I’ve worn this black maxi dress from Old Navy since the beginning of pregnancy and it has hung in there with me through the 30 lbs I’ve gained. I’ve worn it with a cardigan, tied a tee over top of it, or just as is. It is my go-to for running errands or when I don’t know what to wear. I usually pair mine with a statement necklace or scarf to give it a little oomph.

Pretty Blouse // $28.58

You need a nice blouse in your life for work events, date nights, or church services. Pick something neutral if you need to look dressy and have it pair with a lot of the things on this list. If not, be brave and buy a patterned blouse or one with lots of color. Either way, it should fit loosely so you can pair it with your black and/or denim skinnies with ballet flats.

Hat // $16.99

I’m convinced that a hat makes any outfit look stylish. You can cover the craziest hair and throw on a pair of sun glasses and never even bother with makeup still looking like you’ve got it together. If you’re not used to wearing them then give yourself a few wears before you feel comfortable.

Canvas Closed-Toe Shoes // $60.00

These are on the splurge side, I know. I waited a year to buy a pair, but now that I have them I wear them all the time as they translate well for almost every single season. These casual shoes take a typical weekend look or a frumpy mum look to the next level. Throw your hair up in a messy bun and your look is complete!

Neutral Sandals // $19.99

These are brown and black, so you can wear them with everything. And I do mean everything!

White Tee and or Grey Tee // $14.95

Do I need to even mention how important this one is?! You can pair a good tee over top of a maxi dress, with jeans or with anything else I’ve listed for you here. It is extremely important to buy one that you like, is flattering, and makes you feel good. Gap, Old Navy, and Target are all great stops for tees. Don’t feel bad if you take 15 back to the dressing room and only end up with one or two.

A Good-Fitting Bra, No-Line Panties & Simple, Everyday Pretty Ones //

I’ve linked to Ross Dress For Less for you and even though you can’t shop online through them, this is the place I’ve found the least expensive underclothes for the quality. I can usually find Calvin Klein there for a fraction of the price (think around $10 – $15 for a bra, $3.50 for panties). It is hit or miss, but I can usually walk away with something and as a woman it feels oh so nice to be pretty underneath. If you don’t have a Ross, the Gilligan O’Malley line at Target is another one of my favorites, just a step up in price. I want to treat myself to a robe in magenta for when baby comes and I’m staying in the hospital.

Ballet Flats // $19.94

You really need a good pair of simple ballet flats to go with your skinnies. I, for whatever reason, have picky feet and have to buy the really nice leather ones on sale at the outlets so that my feet don’t hurt with shoes. But, these ballet flats from Old Navy are super comfy!!!

Striped, Cotton Dress // $47.64

Again, a bit on the splurge side. But having a good cotton dress in your life is a game-changer. If you need a more forgiving fit, having a separating seam at your waist helps establish a good structure like this linen one or this grey jersey one. Also look for thicker fabric when shopping, as it helps with structure and not showing every lump and bump.

Chambray Shirt // $34.50

Need I say more? Chambray is classy and goes with practically everything. Own one.

Brown Leather Bag or Purse // $29.94

I owned one vintage, coach purse that I got at a yard sale for $10 for the longest time. And really, I’m here to tell you you only truly need one brown classy bag. The one from Old Navy is super cute, but if you want a splurge, go here.

Hunter Green Cropped Pants or Shorts // $19.94

Hunter green is basically a neutral. Did you know that??? It goes so well with stripes and adds just a smidgeon of color to all these whites and grays I gravitate towards. I have this linen pair of shorts listed above and a pair of cropped pants on clearance from J Crew that go with so many of my things and the color will never go out of style.

Statement Scarf // $12.95

A versatile, light-weight scarf can last you through a lot of months and finish off the look of an outfit with no effort other than throwing it around your neck right before you walk out the door.

If you want to redo your closet and feel overwhelmed with this list, don’t be! Start with one or two items, like a pair of skinnies and a cotton dress and then just build from there as you are able. Let family members know that you would like gift cards to go wardrobe shopping for birthdays and holidays. Most people love a chance to help a woman feel beautiful and will happily oblige!

 

 

Steady Days | Getting Dressed

Steady Days | Getting Dressed

Clothes can be such a touchy subject for women. We all have our insecurities, our backgrounds, our limited budgets, our work environments, and personal tastes thrown into the mix. Maybe you, like several women who’ve emailed me, don’t even know what you like and for years you’ve tried to nail it down, all leading to frustrated dressing rooms and hours standing in front of your closet.

I would like to start by encouraging you. Yes, you fellow woman (and maybe some guys reading this who don’t know what to say when their wives or girlfriends ask “How do I look?”)

You are beautiful.

Period. We are all in different stages of our journey…some of us are growing babies in our bellies, nursing, working a lot of hours, trying to have children, dating, or stuck in a rut, but you know how I know that you are beautiful? Because God created you. He created round faces, long faces, tall bodies, short bodies, wider hips, narrower hips, blessed booties and not-so-blessed booties, flat chests, full chests, asymmetrical ears and pointed ears, crooked teeth, straight teeth, curly hair, straight hair, skin prone to breakouts, skin that is flawless, large hands, petite hands…

And He looks at you and says, “You are my perfect creation.”

I believe this is so important to grasp before talking about anything external, like getting dressed every day. We have to understand that clothes are just the cherry on top to a kind of beauty that is everlasting. And clothes, well, they come and go.

I grew up in a modest-conscious community, so my style tends to gravitate towards the covered-up look. There’s always somebody who would probably disagree! But I mostly like to keep my shoulders covered when it’s not extreme southern weather and wear shorts that cover my blessed behonka (translate: booty) well. I love neutrals and branch into the color world on occasion, but if you peeked at my closet it is a row of blues, grays, blacks, browns, and whites. I also like comfort and I hate ironing. I used to beg my younger sister to iron my wrinkly clothes for church and when I left for college it honestly took me 2 months to figure out how to survive without her.

When I got married and first began having children I regret that I didn’t put more effort into how I looked and dressed. Of course, my husband told me I was beautiful and of course, my kids didn’t know any different. But now that I’m a bit older I realize that how I dress and choose to take care of myself reflects the importance I place on others, and that our wardrobe is not necessarily all vanity, like I so naively thought. Dressing appropriately shows that we care. We care about the body God gave us, and the people He’s placed in our individual paths. Whether we like it or not/accept it or not, we send a message to people with the clothes we put on.

There is a lie that bigger closets are better, that more shoes are optimal, and every girl ought to be willing to splurge on a Madewell dress. That’s a myth. In my early twenties, I realized that you really only need a few staples to create a put-together look that is attractive, modest, and appropriate for staying at home or going out. All the time I hear women say that they don’t have the money, or they hate shopping, so they’ve given up on looking put together. And can I just say, I’ve been in that place. Goodwill was all we could afford sometimes. But you can do it! You can find your style in musty, thrift store clothing racks, just as much as you can find it in a J. Crew at the mall.

The point is, that you make an effort. The effort will translate differently on everybody and there will be some days where you’re cleaning the house all day, or moving, or feeling sick, or just trying to recover from nursing a baby all night, but get back up the next day.

Take a shower.

And get dressed.

 

P.S. I’m sharing a list of wardrobe essentials with links to purchase tomorrow. I’m keeping it around 15 items, because that’s about what I’m living on with this pregnancy and I think it’s totally doable. See you then!

All images via my STYLE, SUMMER, and BABE boards on Pinterest.