July 17

July 17. The day our first baby was due.

During the days and weeks following the loss, I thought about having to face this day. How would I feel without a huge belly or a baby in my arms? It felt like this day was so far off, and yet I wanted it to be here quickly so that I could just move past it.

Today’s the day I dreaded, and rather than the intense sadness I that expected, I feel peace and gratitude. While I wish we never would have had to experience the pain of miscarriage, I can now see it as an opportunity for growth. Yes, I’m sad that we will never watch our baby grow up, but I’m thankful for the way we grew through our grief. My husband and I both took the time to grieve before being ready for our current pregnancy, and I think that time made us stronger, both individually and together.

As I sit writing, I can feel the kicks and wiggles in my belly. To my right, I see an ultrasound photo of our beautiful, healthy, growing baby girl (“Little Miss T”). My phone just buzzed with a notification from the “What to Expect” app, informing me that this little one has entered into a new week and she can now distinguish between light and dark in the womb. With every milestone, ultrasound, doppler measurement and movement, I feel a deeper sense of joy and thankfulness, knowing that these aren’t things to take for granted.

Perhaps today would look different if we weren’t currently expecting. Maybe it would be more difficult without the hope and joy that our daughter has already brought. Maybe not. Everyone has a different journey, and I know that for many people who’ve experienced a miscarriage, they are still in the waiting process when they reach their child’s due date. I think our hope goes deeper than the existence of this new life, and I’d like to believe that I’d still be thankful for the darker season(s), even without any hint of light ahead.

July 17 will remain in my heart, and Mark and I will never forget Baby K. We will allow ourselves the freedom to grieve as necessary, and we will always be thankful for the impact that our tiny baby made on our lives.

Happy due date, sweet one. We love you ❤

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Faith Over Fear

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I have this wooden sign above my kitchen sink that says “faith over fear.” I found it at a cute shop in the middle of nowhere and had to buy it to remind myself that every day, I have this choice. I can choose to live in a place of fear, or I can choose to let my faith shine brighter than the fear and focus on the good that can happen.

The past few months have been both exciting and challenging in my little corner of the world. Mark and I have made some major life decisions and there are still several unknowns. We are watching this new chapter unfold, sometimes unsure of what’s next. At times, I’m tempted to focus on the “what ifs” that fear throws my way, but then I remember that faith says “even if,” not “what if.” Even if things don’t go in the direction that think they should go, they can and will turn out exactly how they’re supposed to.

This pregnancy has been a test of the whole faith vs. fear concept, especially after losing the last baby. During the first few weeks of knowing about this growing babe in my belly, I lived in constant fear.  Thankfully, I’ve been able to shift over to a place of faith, knowing that no matter what, God’s got us. It’s all going to be okay, even if everything doesn’t go according to plan.

Mark and I both left our jobs last month, and I definitely had my moments of fearing the unknown. We could have stayed where we were because that was familiar, but that wouldn’t have been healthy, so we had to step out in faith and see what was up next. We couldn’t have even planned the amazing things that have already come out of the decision to get out of our comfort zones, and I’m so thankful that we didn’t let fear win that battle.

Looking back, I can see many times in which I let fear take the lead. I missed out on so many opportunities and adventures, just because I allowed the “what ifs” to have control.  I’ve never regretted the decisions made by faith. Many of the most significant things in my life have happened as a result of silencing the fears and choosing to let faith take the lead. We always have a choice, and at times, one may seem easier than the other. Faith over fear. What will you choose?

A Year of Change

In January, my husband and I changed locations and bought a house.
This month, we are both changing jobs.
And in November…we’ll be changing a lot of diapers!

My biggest dream throughout my life has been to become a mom. When I was younger, I played with dolls and picked out names for my future kids. As I got older and faced several health challenges, I began to doubt my ability to ever conceive or carry a child. After our miscarriage in November, I worried about whether or not I’d ever make it past the first trimester.

I went to the doctor this past week, one of many appointments I’ve had recently, and was relieved to once again see a beating heart and wiggling arms on the ultrasound. The nurse congratulated me on entering the second trimester, assuring me that I’d gain back some energy and leave behind most of the nausea in the coming weeks. Every time I hear about my healthy baby or read about the milestones we’ve reached, my heart swells and I thank God for carrying us this far.

I’d be lying if I said the past few months have been easy. It’s been a struggle both physically and emotionally. I’ve had to face the fear of miscarriage every day, wondering if I’d still be pregnant when I woke up the next morning. I went through a period of being simply too sick and tired to do much besides drag myself to work and plop on the couch for a nap as soon as I got home. But even with the worries and the discomfort, I am incredibly thankful for the sweetest gift that I am carrying.

I don’t know what the next few months will hold, or what this little one’s future will look like. There is so much that is out of my control, so I’m taking things one moment at a time, grateful for each day. My life is full of unknowns at the moment, but I am trusting that everything will unfold in due time. This great adventure has just begun ❤

 

Pruning

As I sit on my porch and write, I can hear half a dozen lawn mowers buzzing on our street. My husband is finally using our new mower and trimming our jungle of a yard down to a more appealing length. Spring is finally here, and I couldn’t be more excited.

A lesson I’ve been learning (rather painfully) recently is that sometimes, things need to be trimmed in order to thrive. There is a certain amount of pruning that must take place so that the weeds and unhealthy pieces of life don’t choke the healthy parts. Much like how my husband has to mow the lawn and take care of our plants, we need to take care of ourselves by pruning or removing that which is unhealthy.

This has been a season of loss and great change. Friends have left, our jobs are changing, the normalcy of life has been flipped upside down, and there are many uncertainties. I’ve had situations where I intentionally allowed things to be trimmed, and I’ve gone through things completely unwillingly that forced me to let go of the things that were no longer healthy. Neither scenario has felt particularly comfortable, but I know that this time of pruning will yield positive results in the end.

It’s hard to let go of things that are so familiar. It’s not easy to shake up your routine and clear some things out. I’d much rather look the other way every time I pull into my driveway than have to get the lawn mower out each week and take care of the mess, but ignoring the growth of grass and weeds will not make them disappear. We have to face them, take care of them, and get ready to do it again.

In the words of Henry Cloud, “Everything has seasons, and we have to be able to recognize when something’s time has passed and be able to move into the next season. Everything that is alive requires pruning as well, which is a great metaphor for endings.”

Here’s to a new season of life and growth. Thanks for joining me on this adventure.

Rhythms of Rest

I feel like I’ve been running a non-stop race for the past few months. Going and going, one thing after another. We found a house in December, bought it in January, and have been working on unpacking and making it a home ever since. Between work and the move and everything else, I’ve barely had time to even sit down…which explains the silence around here.

Looking at my schedule, I realized I could slow down if I wanted to. Sure, many days I’m booked from the time I wake up until the moment my eyes close for the night, but I recently decided that it didn’t have to be that way. I just had to make a choice to create space to rest and to breathe.

If I’m honest, I think I’ve used my busyness as a coping mechanism of sorts. The busier I am, the less time I have to think and to grieve and to feel. After our loss in November, I felt so many emotions, and I desperately tried to block them. I don’t like being angry. I hate feeling sad. I’d rather feel nothing than feel the overwhelming pain that was thrown at me that night in the ER. But, as I’ve learned time and time again, we can’t heal what we aren’t willing to feel. Now that the initial weight of the situation has somewhat lifted, it’s time to slow things down and allow myself to process it all.

I’m working on having one day a week to just be still. To rest from the things that drain me and focus on what fills me up. The laundry can wait for just a few hours. The house won’t fall down if I leave some dishes in the sink. We won’t starve if I don’t go to the grocery store. I’m reworking my schedule so that during a designated time, I can sit down and slow down. If that means making apple crisp, so be it. If it means inviting my momma over for tea, awesome. I started attending a weekly yoga class that is forcing me to focus on my breath and body. Even if I can’t block out a full day, creating some space in the week where I know I can rest is essential.

In a society where being “busy” is praised, it feels kind of awkward to take time for myself. I’m almost embarrassed to tell people I gave myself the day off to just be rather than to do a million things. When dealing with grief, being busy seems like a good idea, but it isn’t sustainable. My to-do list never seems to end, but I now know that I will quickly burn out if I race to finish everything without giving myself time to rest. So starting now, I’m taking myself out of the competition for busiest person and instead choosing to go against the grain and find balance by working hard when I need to but making sure to find times of solid rest in the midst of the chaos.

Will you join me on this mission to incorporate a rhythm of rest into your life? 

Giving Thanks

Today was supposed to be one of the most exciting days of my life. It was the day we were going to start announcing our pregnancy to our family. We purchased gifts and had plans for how and when we would tell each person. Instead, we’re grieving the loss and tucking the gifts away. Despite the heartache and pain, I’m determined to make today a good day…and to start, I’ll be giving thanks.

I’m so thankful for the love and support Mark and I have received since sharing our miscarriage with the world. I was hesitant to talk about it because it’s so taboo, but I realized that it’s okay to talk about the hard things. As soon as I posted about what happened, I started receiving messages from people who have experienced this type of loss, and comments from people who don’t understand what we are going through, but are still sending love and prayers. It means so much to me that people aren’t afraid to go there and not only acknowledge the loss, but offer support.

I’m thankful for my warm home and the food that I smell in the kitchen. I’m thankful for the memories that I have of past Thanksgivings. I’m thankful for my faith. I’m thankful for hope. I know that this isn’t the end, and I’m looking forward to the future. I’m thankful for family and friends. I’m thankful for my amazing husband who has been so patient with me and my roller coaster of emotions. I’m thankful for the lessons that I’ve learned from each of my obstacles and experiences. And I’m thankful for everyone who takes the time to read my rants and rambles.

I know that going into this day, I have the choice to either focus on the darkness or look for the light. Before the food is even on the table, I’m choosing to find the good. Pain may be part of my day, but it doesn’t have to be my entire day.

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends. There’s so much to be thankful for. May we all find the good ❤

Darkness.

Disclaimer: This isn’t a fun and happy post, so feel free to skip if you wish. It’s been a challenging week and writing is how I process things, so here’s the raw and honest version of where I’m at.

I took the test quietly one morning. When the three minutes were up, I looked at it. “Wait, are those two lines?!” I thought. I ran to the store and picked up some more. Positive. I was so excited.

I waited a couple of days, not telling anyone. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Maybe I had only imagined the second line. Finally, I took a few more tests, different brands. All positive. I put together a gift for my husband and gave it to him. When he realized what it meant, he was so excited. 

We told just a few friends, being cautious about who knew because it was still super early. We asked for their prayers. They were so excited.

The excitement was mixed with anxiety as I wondered if things were too good to be true. The common theme in my life is having my dreams just within reach…and then having everything come crashing down. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop as it had too many times before.

I called my doctor, who said I didn’t need any additional bloodwork to confirm the pregnancy. I think a dozen positives were enough confirmation for her. I scheduled an appointment and counted the days until we would see the baby on the ultrasound.

I woke up each morning with nausea. That had become my new normal. I embraced it because I knew there was a reason for it. Mark made fun of me for my odd food choices and we started making plans for the future. We talked about baby names and nursery decorations and how we’d tell our family the exciting news. We were so excited.

Then one day, things just weren’t right. I called the nurse. She said not to worry. She told me I was probably fine. I went to work. Things only got worse. I already knew some of the signs from my endless google searches. I panicked and had my husband take me to the hospital.

On the way to the ER, I couldn’t stop crying. I sobbed as I said, “if God wants to give us this baby, great. And if not…He is still good.” It was so difficult to say those words. I just wanted everything to be okay. I wanted our perfect plan and crazy dreams to come true.

Hours passed. Tests and exams and blood work. Words from the doctors were slow and careful. “Miscarriage is something that happens a lot more than you’d think,” one said. “I’m very sorry,” whispered the other. Everything stopped. We tried to keep it together, but we were sad. No, we were mad.

We are sad and we are mad. And as much as I try to brush it off because I don’t feel like I should be allowed to grieve the loss of someone I only knew for a short time, I can’t quite let it go. Not yet. So I’m letting myself feel. I’m allowing the tears and the screams and the questions to God. Because loss is loss, no matter how early. We are now left to grieve over the hopes and plans and dreams that we had for this child. For our family.

It’s honestly hard to see the good in all of this right now. The pain and darkness are still so strong. The tears are still flowing. But I believe that one day we’ll see it. We’ll see how this brokenness led to beauty. God is still good, even when our circumstances are not.

Right now, it hurts. Every post from my pregnant friends and every baby photo on Facebook reminds me of the loss. I’m angry. I’m bitter. I’m sad. I’m mad. I’m jealous. I know that it’s important to work through these emotions. I know that soon enough, the strength of the sadness will fade away. So for now, my husband and I are holding each other close as we walk through this darkness, anxiously awaiting the better days that are ahead. Because I know they’re coming.

[I’m so thankful for my amazing husband and our incredible support system during this time. Miscarriage isn’t something you can really understand until you go through it, which makes it feel especially lonely. We are grateful for those who have admitted that they don’t understand our pain but are still willing to sit with us in our grief. ]

Color The World Orange

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Even the trees were supporting CRPS awareness today with their orange leaves.

Today is Color The World Orange Day. It’s a day that was created to help spread awareness of RSD/CRPS, an excruciating condition that I’ve dealt with since age 12. On the first Monday in November, people are encouraged to wear orange to support those with CRPS and spread awareness of this nightmare of a disorder.

I woke up this morning and saw dozens of posts on social media about Color The World Orange. Several of my friends on Facebook and elsewhere also have CRPS, so I saw photos of their orange clothing captioned with snippets of their stories. My parents even posted about it. If I’m honest, this year, I was hesitant to join in.

You see, CRPS is a touchy subject for me. It doesn’t just affect you physically. While you’re dealing with the feeling of being burned alive (for real, that’s no exaggeration), you also face mental and emotional issues. From the time that I was diagnosed, this condition flipped my world upside down. I’ve had emotional scars from people calling me a faker or telling me I’d never walk, never live a full life, and never fully recover. I went through a period of dark depression when I was repeatedly told that my life would always include pain and crutches, and I seriously contemplated ending it all. I’ve had to overcome so many fears. Even now that I’m mostly pain-free (Praise Jesus), I often wake up wondering if something bad will happen, or if I’ll still be in remission at the end of the day. Posting about CRPS is hard because it forces me to confront those memories and fears that I’ve tried to push aside.

A lot of people know me as the amputee girl, the girl with a missing leg. People at work, people in my community…they didn’t know me before the surgery. They don’t know all the heartache and pain and trauma that occurred before I said goodbye to my right leg. Even people who read my blog mostly know me as an amputee, so posting about CRPS sometimes causes confusion. I did not have my leg amputated to help with my CRPS, I had the surgery as a life-saving measure to get rid of an infection. I feel like sometimes when I talk about CRPS, people try to connect the two, so there’s some clarification.

It’s easy for me to talk about amputation. I could blab all day about that topic. But CRPS? As soon as I hear those familiar letters, I feel a tightening in my chest. But maybe that’s even more of a reason for me to talk about it. To remind myself that I’m not where I was. To show support for my fellow RSDers out there. To spread awareness and encourage others to learn that this is a very real condition that affects so many people. Maybe my silence is only making things worse.

After thinking long and hard, I decided to throw on my “In the Fight to Win Against RSD” sweatshirt and I wore it on a walk downtown with my husband. I usually try to not even look at that piece of clothing because it brings back so much, but I chose to fight against the fear. I chose to prove to myself that I am indeed a Warrior. Only God knows what’s ahead for me in the CRPS department (let’s pray it’s lifelong remission), but today, I walked without crutches and I enjoyed the wind on my face and the leaves falling on my arms. The things that once caused such intense pain now bring so much joy. I am so thankful. CRPS, I may never be able to erase you from my past, but I won’t let you control my future.

{Thank you to the many people who have supported me in this battle. If you haven’t heard of RSD/CRPS before, I’d encourage you to take a moment to learn about the signs and symptoms and read about how to support those dealing with it. If you want something more personal to read, here’s a post I wrote a while ago about a day in the life with RSD/CRPS. Early diagnosis and treatment are key, and you never know who you’d help by being informed about this nasty condition.}

 

 

 

Talking to Kids About Limb Loss

“Mom, did you know that she is missing part of her leg?!”

One of the kids at work made this comment to her mom as I was helping them with samples. I was wearing pants, so it wasn’t obvious, but she had noticed my prosthetic leg a while back on a day that I was wearing shorts. I rolled up my pant leg and showed the mom, who later told me how embarrassed she was that her daughter would point out something like that.

I assured the girl’s mom that I have no problem with comments and questions. I’ve gotten plenty of them, from both kids and adults, and I’m always happy to talk about my limb loss. She asked how she could talk to her daughters about the topic when they went home. Since I can’t have one-on-one conversations with everyone (although if you want to, just shoot me an email), here are some things that I’d recommend when talking to kids about limb loss.

First of all, don’t avoid the conversation. If your kid asks about why that girl looks different, don’t automatically try to switch the subject or shut down their question. Chances are, that girl can hear you, and avoiding the subject will only make things worse. Refusing to acknowledge or explain differences reinforces the idea that people who are different are weird or should be avoided. Kids learn from our reactions.

Secondly, questions are usually okay. Ask the person if your child can talk to them and maybe ask some questions. Most of the time, they’ll be more than willing to provide answers. If they say no, then you can talk to your kids about how some people just look different, but different doesn’t mean bad. I’ve talked to several kids at work who have come up with the most interesting questions about my leg. Even though it’s hard for me to explain exactly what happened, I usually tell them that my old leg was very sick and didn’t work, so my doctor gave me a new one. I’ve had questions about how my leg stays on, whether or not the foot part is real, and if I wear my leg while I sleep. Kids like to know things.

Remember that we’re all human. People may look different, but that doesn’t change who we are as people. Would you make a big deal over someone with a cast on their leg? Or maybe pink hair? The presence of a prosthesis or the absence of a limb shouldn’t change your perception of someone as a person. Remind kids that despite any outward differences, we are all people who deserve respect.

It’s hard to put all of my thoughts into a post (actually, I’ve written several posts on the topic), and I fully realize that my opinion on this subject may differ from someone else’s. But I think we can all agree that limb loss shouldn’t be such a taboo topic, and responding with avoidance or fear isn’t going to help anything.

I am an amputee. I’m aware of this fact, and so are the people around me. I don’t try to hide it, and I’m totally cool with people acknowledging my leg. It’s part of me. It doesn’t change who I am as a person. Questions are always welcomed, especially if they help educate people and show them that limb loss isn’t something to be feared.

Thank you to the kids of the world who are unafraid to ask questions, and to the parents who allow their kids to learn about people who are different. You rock.

5 Years

Five years ago, I jumped in a pond and experienced life on two (real) feet for the very last time.

Never would I have imagined all the chaos and adventure that followed.

I still have a hard time believing that the accident occurred five whole years ago, or that I’m coming up on my three year ampuversary. What?! I don’t think about these anniversaries as much as I used to, and only realized it was the 5-year mark when I looked at the calendar and saw that it’s Labor Day weekend.

It’s difficult for me to think about the 2+ years between the pond jump and the amputation. I think I’ve tried to block them out, hoping to never experience them again. The pain, hopelessness and days of wondering if I’d ever get better were unbearable. Still, I am thankful for the people who helped keep me going, and even though I don’t wish to relive them, I think those darker years made me appreciate the little things more.

The combination of a forceful jump and a shallow pond led to my amputation, which opened the door to so much life. Step by step, moment by moment, I have been re-discovering who I am and all that this world has to offer.

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My husband and I recently celebrated our one year anniversary. The year went by fast, and we experienced a lot of changes during that time. We were able to get two days off work in a row together, so we decided to make the most of it and go on a hiking trip. We booked a cabin in the woods and explored caves, waterfalls, and more. Every time I climbed over a fallen tree or zigzagged through narrow pathways and twisted roots, I marveled at my body’s ability to do such things. I went from picking out wheelchairs five years ago to walking over log bridges in the river and climbing up steep hills in the woods five days ago. What a miracle.

In this busy season of life, I’ll admit that I do sometimes take things for granted. I just expect to wake up with a functioning body and the ability to do whatever I want. It’s not until I stop and reflect that I shift my perspective and remember that I am so very blessed to be where I am today. I am thankful that my life looks nothing like it did five years ago, and I look forward to what’s ahead. Here’s to more adventure, surprises, and laughter. Thanks for joining me on this journey ❤