Friday, May 23, 2014

what loss looks like, six years later

This week there's been this underlying current of something going on within me. I'm just feeling "off." While I can't put into words what that exactly means, I can assume the source. I think it's part of the grief walk... even six years of being on this path. This week, six years ago, my family experienced a huge shock, a heartbreaking loss. However, with this heartbreak, I simultaneously experienced a peace that passes all understanding and the sustaining grace needed to keep going, both gifts from God alone, acknowledging that while He takes away, He also gives. And gives.

Here's (part of) my Nathan's story...
Six years ago, on a Thursday - May 22nd, like it is this year too - I had my 36 week pregnancy check up to measure progress on the little one inside of me. S/he was measuring fine and all appeared right on track. I had a month to finalize his/her coming and things were humming right along. My husband and I were still trying to figure out a boy name and a girl name, as we hadn't found out what this little one was (neither had we done that with our first - truly the most fun surprise ever).

Memorial Day weekend was upon us and we had a few things to do around the yard to get ready for a picnic that weekend. My husband was off on that Friday, so we worked outside all day. Nothing too strenuous, just normal weeding/ gardening type things on my end. By the end of the day I realized that I hadn't felt the baby move much that day. No problem, s/he's just sleeping, I thought. I figured I'd feel baby when I went to bed, as it had a habit, as most little ones do, of wiggling when momma stops moving. Clearly zonked, I was out within minutes of my head hitting the pillow. 

I awoke the next morning (Saturday, the 24th), ate breakfast and called the doctor's office... I still hadn't felt the baby move and wanted some reassurance. The nurse on call had me drink a soda and count kicks for an hour. Hyper-focused on every little possible movement, I thought I felt baby move once. Sigh... hindsight's 20/20, as I still shake my head at how naive I was at that moment in time. No urgency on my end, although the nurse told me to go to the hospital to get monitored. My husband was finishing up an oil change on the car that he was doing himself and I called around to find someone to watch my then-four year old daughter. Finally all ready to go (not even having thrown an overnight bag in the car, as I figured this would be quick), we headed to the hospital.

After spending a ridiculous amount of time with Admissions (even though I had already pre-registered and my obgyn supposedly told them we were on the way. I digress...), we were ushered into the triage area of the delivery floor. As I was getting settled, admissions called up and requested my husband to come back down for a few more questions (?!). At that point the nurse put the doppler on my belly to monitor baby's heartbeat. She couldn't find it. "Don't worry," she tried to reassure me, "I'll page the doctor on call to do an ultrasound." Choking back a hundred unanswerable questions, I said "ok" and asked for my husband to be sent back up to me asap. He arrived, as did the doctor with an ultrasound machine. About two minutes later we heard the words, "I'm sorry. There is no heartbeat."    

What followed was this beautiful, sorrowful intertwining of earthly despair and heavenly hope. During the next eleven hours (of labor), my hospital room was flooded with church family, desperate to extend their love and support to my family, although as shocked as we were over this loss. A little after 10pm, a perfectly formed 5 pound, 2 ounce baby boy entered this world lifeless. We named him Nathaniel, or Nathan for short. Gift of God.

My son himself wasn't the only gift we received that night. What was also "gifted" to me that weekend was a glimpse of the limitless power of God. Sound backwards? I mean, His power could have been put to use by saving my baby boy's life. But instead, His power was perfect in my weakness. Simply put, He carried me. He gave me words of comfort to extend to those that came into my room during the labor of my lifeless child, when they themselves were so torn they had none for me. He filled the room with His presence so tangibly, He was almost touchable. He sustained me physically through a delivery with no other complications. He revealed Himself through the love of family and friends caring for our needs the following days and weeks. He carried me through returning dozens of unused diapers to Walmart, when I had to tearfully tell Nathan's story because the associate's manager told her not to take them back (and she issued the refund anyway). God's power is even present today, as I hug my daughter and my subsequent son in my arms and talk about their brother in heaven.

This weekend we will remember Nathan with a breakfast quiche for dinner (I craved eggs during his pregnancy) and a birthday cake to celebrate the delicate, beautiful miracle of life. I don't think that anyone who has ever experienced a loss gets off the path of grief, but I do think that the path gets wider and it's when we let others in and acknowledge the continued power and sovereignty of God that we find it's not so narrow and overwhelming.

So did I (ever) receive any answers as to "why?" No. Do I need them? No. Not really. There have been twists and turns in this journey of grief, but God has been so faithful to be with me through them all. The "why"s have all been overshadowed by the "what He has done"s.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

one of each: boyishness

When I was pregnant with my Z, I received the obligatory "What are you having?" and "Is this your first?" questions all the time. It's just something that must naturally come out when someone approaches a pregnant woman. After I replied that I had one daughter at home already and that this was a boy, I also heard almost as regularly something like, "Now you will have one of each. How perfect!" I would smile politely and think that I was just glad to be having a healthy pregnancy and I'll let you know how this boy thing goes down the road. ;)

Now that he's here and I've had four and a half years with a son and a daughter together, I get where they are coming from... I confess, it is fun to have one of each. They are wired so differently. In addition to just simple personality differences, God does design boys and girls unique from the very core of their being. It's been neat to be able to witness that first-hand in my own home. With it, I think does come some extra stretching and responsibility as a mom, though. I'm navigating through how to raise a son. I want to cultivate those inner man "things," like chivalry and being a protector and the desire to fight for something (and I don't mean fight against me to get his way all the time, that comes sinfully-naturally!). I am aware that there are God-given roles and by having one of each I feel like I am even more aware of that and want to mother my boy and girl fairly /equally but uniquely when the situation calls for it.

Something that is consistently different with my son, is the way he plays. Everything has a noise associated with it... cars, bombs, and guns being the big ones. Somehow every. single. thing. he plays with becomes either a vehicle or an element of war. I have found him zooming a square block around the floor as a car and using a drinking straw as a gun. We were playing with his gears set a few weeks ago and they quickly became cannons and land mines ("bombs") of which his little army men set out to cross...

watch out for the bombs (and cannons in the distance)

one of several "cannons"

Honestly, I am so intrigued to see these differences, even just in the way they play!

Are you a parent of a son and a daughter? How has that affected how you parent - do you feel the need to parent them differently? Or, did you have a sibling of the opposite gender? Do you think your parents cultivated the unique male/female-ness of each of you?

Monday, May 19, 2014

year 2 of home educating

This is the 100th post here at the Chronicle... And as we stand now, Covington Academy has 5 school days left in the school year, with 2 of those being field trip days ;)

This year (year #2 of educating at home) has been so different from last year. Last year was all about overcoming the switch from traditional classroom to home classroom. The first six months for my then-4th grade student were spent learning the new routine, learning what it meant to respect mom as a teacher as well as a mom, learning how to work while a little brother was in and out of our work space (aka the kitchen table), and of course learning the math, science, history, etc that we were covering. After starting year two, I would say that many of the intangibles were learned successfully last year... This year, in fifth grade, my daughter has been able to work even with her brother around (although still prefers the quiet, hey don't we all?!), understands /respects my teaching (style), and has gotten into a groove of working on her own by determining her work schedule /priority when it comes to the different subjects. This year was a lot less of sitting at the kitchen table and a lot more of completing work on the couch together or at the computer or even in her room alone and/or outside.

In addition to sliding into a comfortable teaching routine with my 5th grader, I also began teaching my preschooler. I'll be honest... the first half of the year was beautiful, but the second half of the year I dropped the ball with him. Well, dropped the ball as far as the curriculum went. I did pick up some workbooks for him, which he asks for and enjoys doing together. In addition to the workbook, I usually pull out some manipulatives to play with together or some activity bags /file folder games or just building blocks. So, I guess all in all, I shouldn't be so down on the semester to call it a failure, it just looked a lot different than the first half of the year.

In planning for next year, I know it will look even different than this year and the year prior. I guess that's one of the merits of homeschooling. My children don't have to fit into someone else's idea for their best education year after year. As their parent, and even with their input, we can determine what will be the best for them each year. That might look different from one year to the next. It's been an exciting adventure and I look forward to next year as well. As the summer goes by, I will update the curriculum page with our new selections and be sure to fill you in on some of the changes. For now, I'm going to focus on these five days left! :)