with Grace in my heart

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To my dear friends, Kimmie and Jason, whose beloved daughter, Grace Evelyn Smith, was born still on November 12, 2012 at 30 weeks after being diagnosed with a genetic condition called Trisomy 18.

Watching my beautiful friends, Kimmie and Jason, receive this devastating diagnosis for their baby girl, cherish their time with Grace during pregnancy, and navigate the rough waters of living after loss has been both heartbreaking and inspiring. Through a deep love for their daughter, they have found the strength to honor her memory by speaking on panels about infant loss and by sharing Grace's story on their blog.

As parents, we have an intimate relationship with fear. We bring helpless, beautiful, perfect little creatures into this world. We are charged with the heavy responsibility of keeping them safe. Of loving them, taking care of them, shielding them from pain. Grace's story reminds us that not everything is within our control. The world is a scary, but beautiful place. I am more aware than ever of the deep pain so many have experienced. That loss is part of life. That what we have is each other, right now.

I hope that by sharing a small part of their story in this space, I can further honor Grace's memory and her parent's journey. There is a long road ahead and my greatest wish is that they know they are not alone. They are loved. Grace is loved. She will never be forgotten.

I will end with the letter to Grace that I wrote her while she was still in her Mama's belly:

Dear Grace,

I’d like to start by introducing myself. I’m Miranda, your Mama’s friend. I met your mom four years ago. We started out as co-workers, but today, your Mother is one of my dearest friends. When my daughter Fiona was born and your Mom came to meet her for the first time, I answered the front door to your sweet Mom shaking excitedly with tears in her eyes. I knew in that moment that your Mother was a very special kind of friend and I felt so lucky that she loved me and my new baby so much. I looked forward to the day that I would feel that same excitement and love about your Mama’s baby. And I did!  When your Mama told me she was pregnant with you, I got to feel that joy! You were such a wished for, loved on baby right from the start.

Grace, you have brought immeasurable meaning to the life of your parents and changed them both forever. You have made them parents. The greatest gift in all the world. You have opened their eyes, and the eyes of all who love you, to what life is all about, just by being you. We have learned hard things about the world. That although your life is a perfect little piece of the universe, it will not last nearly as long as we would like. But we have learned beautiful things, too. That life is precious and delicate, and that every moment is a gift.

But, I can’t write this letter without acknowledging the hard truth. It’s not fair, dear little Grace. You should have been given more time here. You should have had time to experience what our world has to offer. I am so sorry you don’t have that time. I am so, so sorry. I can’t pretend to know the way the world works. I don’t. My one consolation is knowing that you won’t miss out on the very greatest thing the world offers. Love. You’ve got that by the bushel full.

I will always think of you, Grace, and you will forever have a place in my heart.

All my love,

Miranda

pay attention

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Today didn't start out very well. I was tired and grumpy. To truly understand why, you have to start the story four years ago when I kissed a full night of sleep goodbye forever. (Okay, maybe not forever.) Throughout this whole mothering thing, I've come to a certain peace with that. But I've also learned that I only have so much in me, and when I'm done, I'm done. Two nights ago, I had that done feeling. It was time to night wean. Elsa is doing okay with it, but as should be expected, the last two nights of sleep have been a little rough.

Naturally, this morning, I was kind of tired and grumpy. The house was a mess. I spilled milk while making breakfast. Our bank account balance seems to be mysteriously missing one of the zeros at the end. I stubbed my toe like three times in an hour. I sent panicked texts to my poor husband at work. "I can't do this. This is too much. I cannot deal. Oh my god."

But then I stopped for a minute, just right there in the middle of my living room, and looked at my children. And I realized something. They are so happy! I have such happy children! As I stomped around the house feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, they were just playing peacefully in their kitchen. When Fiona noticed I was watching her, she said, "Mama! What kind of ice cream do you want?! Chocolate? Or vanilla?! It's your birthday!"

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Thank you, my sweet girls, for reminding me daily. Life is good. I just have to pay attention to what is right in front of me.

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being their mother...

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Watching Elsa engage with her environment more and more over the past few months has been so awesome. She's so enthusiastic with each new experience, needing to see everything, touch everything, climb everything. I believe that Elsa will be my last baby, so with each new stage, I know I am saying goodbye to the last. Oh, motherhood, you are a beautiful, bittersweet, heart wrenching and amazing thing.

I've been thinking lately about how much of who we are happens in our own minds, much of our experience of life happens when we are alone. No matter how much time I physically spend with my children, no matter how much we communicate, their minds are still vastly unknown to me, and mine to them. I don't know what will stay with them from their childhoods, but I hope the memories are happy and warm. I feel so much love for them. Often when I think of them, my breath catches in my throat and my heart seems to stop for a moment. But, can they feel that? God, I hope they feel that.

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what it's really about

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I talked a little last week about watching my children play. I love it so. Self-initiated, independent play is such an important part of exploring and learning about the world around them. I am so aware that this stage won't last forever. Babies don't keep, as they say.

The thing is, since this blog has more readers than I expected, more than just family and friends, sometimes I worry about boring you. I start to feel like I should post something new! And exciting! But then I'd be getting away from what this blog is really about. A record of our beautiful family life. A place we can always visit to remember and relive special moments and everyday moments. 

So, I guess I am kind of reclaiming this space as my own. Not that I ever lost it, but maybe I felt like it should be something different. Or something more. Like I would be missing an opportunity if I didn't make it bigger and better. But, I am not a 'Blogger' (with a capital B). And I think I'm good with that. This blog is about my kids. It's about me and my family. Stuff we make or do, places we go. That's enough. That's what feels right.

I don't want to forget the everyday moments, so I am going to try to post pictures like this more often. Our life at home. These are of Fiona playing with her play silks. She wraps them around her as capes and dresses. She throws them in the air and they become fireworks. She lays them over her dolls and they become blankets.

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And some pictures of the girls at their kitchen. Fiona looking like a little mama standing on her chair to reach the top shelf. And Elsa holding her own just fine.

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Life is sweet. Remember that.

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she likes it!

I considered naming this post a lot of different things. Among the ideas were: the clouds have lifted, a new dawn and just when it felt like the world was going to end, she finally decided to like the sling. Those sounded a touch dramatic, so I thought she likes it! would suffice. Yes, the big news is... Elsa likes the Beco!

I wrote a few posts a while back about the hard time I was having (here and here). I felt overwhelmed caring for newborn Elsa while meeting Fiona's needs all day. I know I'm not alone. Every mom I talked to mirrored my feelings. No one has an easy adjustment to two. But, in the past couple weeks, there has been a shift. We are having fun again and I am getting tastes of the deep happiness that being a Mama brings me.

I owe much of this to my trusty sling, which Elsa has decided to love just as much as her big sister once did. I carry her for hours everyday. With hands free to tend to Fiona and minds free to wander, we are settling into our warm weather rhythm. We take long walks everyday. We walk by the water. We stop at the playground. We go to the book store and the science center. We run into friends. I am just so happy and I can feel that it's only going to get better. Oh yes, life is good.

Me and my girls.

a post about a baby

You are five months old today, Elsa!

You are such a happy girl—very enthusiastic and quick to laugh. You are so friendly and interested in people. Everyday, someone I'm talking to stops mid-sentence to look down at you and say hi because you've caught their eye with your smile.

You love to nurse, look around outside and play with your toys at home. You've finally started enjoying being carried in the Beco. (Phew!) You watch Fiona and Elijah intently when they're playing. I know you can't wait to join in! They can't wait either. They give you kisses, sing you songs and bring you toys. They just adore you. We all do. Your smile has brightened our world, little Elsa. We are so very happy you are here!

you are my sunshine

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I am so grateful for the privilege to be so close to you—to live my life with you and to know you so well. Everyday, I watch in awe as you become even more of who you are. Let your light shine on, my dear Fiona. I love you. Happy third birthday. We are going to have a lot of fun today!

~~~

Above watercolor of me and Fiona by my friend, painter Patricia Bennett. For me, this painting has come to symbolize those last special months, when it was just the two of us much of the time, before the amazing and life-changing addition of Elsa to our family.

you and me

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Sheldon and Miranda, 2005

You just went upstairs, on the eve of your 45th birthday, to sleep on a mattress on the floor of your daughter's room. She isn't quite ready to sleep alone. You'll wake up early with her while I sleep in with your other daughter. I am downstairs nursing her while I type this one-handed.

I still remember the day we put your 11 month old son in the backseat of the truck and drove those 45 minutes so my parents could meet you both for the first time. It should be strange that we chose to do it like that. Introducing my new boyfriend and his young son to my parents at the same time, just weeks after we met. But it wasn't strange. That's what's so remarkable.

The other day, you were looking through some old paperwork from 2005. You turned to me and said, "We weren't married then," and made a little sad face and went back to working. It was a sweet moment. I didn't say anything, but thought about it as I changed the baby's diaper, and you know what? We may not have been married then, but we were family. We've been family from the very start.

Happy birthday, Sheldon. I am grateful everyday that we are living this life together.