Holding Our Angel

Loving After Loss


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Breathing

Sometimes, just breathing is an accomplishment.

Officially diagnosed with PPD (who’s surprised? Bueller?) and I’m on medications. It will take a few weeks for the meds to take full effect. Kenny is very relieved I’m finally on meds, I think he was starting to feel a little helpless in dealing with my emotions. Can’t say I blame him too much for that, my emotions have been rather intense lately.

Artie wouldn’t take a bottle the last time we tried, so I’m still exclusively breastfeeding. We’re trying a bottle again next week. I think he’ll take it, as I finally got him to accept a pacifier earlier this week (I think it was this week, I have a terrible sense of time right now). I’m really looking forward to Artie using a bottle. I’ll no longer feel trapped at home, like I can’t go too far away in case Artie gets hungry. I do bring him out with me sometimes, but there’s not a lot of places that have convenient nursing areas. The mall and baby stores are just about it. Which really surprised me, considering this is California. 

Artie has been having some reflux. Mostly I feel awful that my baby is in pain and he can’t sleep, though sometimes I feel frustrated at him when we have difficulty putting him to bed. And then the guilt sets in, because I know how much worse it can be and I feel like I should just be grateful he’s alive (which I am!). And then my anxiety kicks in, as I start to imagine Artie dying. Imagine isn’t really the right word though, it’s more like I’m forced to watch a movie of him dying. I can see it happening before me, and I’m helpless to do anything.

A couple of weeks ago, Artie began smiling at us–and not just when he poops. He has such a beautiful smile, I love it. He smiles the most in the mornings, when he gets up for the day. But, like everything else, soon I start to think about how I never got that with Theo. I bet he would have a beautiful smile too, but I can’t say for sure and that kills me.

I think this is what I feel most guilty about–these thoughts of what I’m missing with Theo after everything Artie does. I don’t want to be constantly comparing my kids, and I really don’t want Artie to feel like he’s living in Theo’s shadow. Or that he has to “fix” our grief or be responsible for our happiness. But how can I make sure he doesn’t feel any of that when I’m constantly comparing them?

I found something I think I would like to do with Theo’s clothes. I’m thinking of having a quilt made out of them. I’ve been searching Pinterest for ideas, and I’ve found a few patterns I like. I am so not crafty though–and especially not good at sewing. I think I’m going to see if someone local would be willing to make the quilt for me (for pay of course). I do have some time to find someone-Artie won’t outgrown Theo’s clothes for a few more months at least. Though I’m still unsure how I feel about Artie wearing Theo’s clothes, I at least want that option, hence why I want to wait. 

Artie and I are now officially on Kenny’s insurance (my insurance used to be through my job but it’s considerably cheaper to have the three of us on Kenny’s than to keep us separated now), and Artie saw his new pediatrician today. I was filling out the new patient forms and they asked about siblings. So I wrote Theo’s name and then deceased in paraenthesis right next to it. Though I obviously write that Theo is dead here many times, writing it out in the “real world” was different. I wanted to scratch it out, or more like stab the paper with my pen. I was bracing myself for this part of the form and it was still sucky. 

I’m not sure if I like this pediatrician though. She was very friendly and seems very smart, but I felt rushed through our appointment. Maybe I just got used to getting extra time and attention during my pregnancy, and need to get used to a doctor who is treating us as normal. I don’t know. I wish kenny had been able to come, so I could bounce my impressions off his.  Artie is getting his shots in a couple of weeks, so I’ll see how that appointment goes. 


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Baby Shower

Kenny’s coworkers (at his full-time job) really wanted to throw us a baby shower, and Kenny really wanted to have one with them, so we ended up having a small baby shower at his work. I thought it would be just his department (about 6 people), but way more people showed up to it and we were both surprised by how many people showed up. It was very sweet, his work has been very supportive of us since Theo died. I was able to attend the shower, and it was nice to meet so many of his coworkers I hadn’t before.

We got a few gifts, all clothes, which I am grateful for. We have all the baby stuff we need for Steam Bun, so we’ve been telling people to just get us clothes for Steam Bun. I’m so conflicted over Theo’s clothes and whether I want to see Steam Bun wearing them. I go back and forth, and I know there’s no right answer, I’ll just have to take that moment by moment. So having more clothes for Steam Bun is going to come in handy.

Though as I was cutting the tags off everything and tossing them in the laundry basket, it occurred to me that soon, way too soon, there will be a point where I don’t have the option of using “hand-me-downs” for Steam Bun. We only have so many clothes that were brought for/given to Theo, and they only go up to about 1 yr old in sizes. At some point in the very near future, Steam Bun will outgrow all of the clothes originally belonging to Theo, and we’ll have no choice but to buy new clothes for him. Same goes for toys, now that I think about it, and everything else he’ll need past infancy. The “hand-me-downs” we have now for Steam Bun are all baby things, and we’ll never have the hand-me-downs from when Theo was a toddler, pre-teen, etc.

What a crappy realization to have.

So I’ve been very vague with people about my due date and when the repeat c-section (RCS) is scheduled. I’ve been vague about when we want people to visit. I did this because I wanted to avoid making plans and having to answer everyone’s questions on this, and my vagueness has been successful so far. But as we near the end, it’s obvious that I now have to tell people what I want in regards to this. Damn.

Kenny pointed this out to me, that if I don’t express my desires in regards to visitors, etc. clearly, I’m likely to be frustrated at people because they won’t know what I want them to do. I really hate it when he’s right. 😉 So I spent some time today texting and calling people to clarify when I want them to visit and what I will need from them. Everyone took it really well, which I mostly knew they would. I don’t want visitors at the hospital, and a lot of people wanted to visit us in the hospital, so having to tell them no was hard for me. I was so hesitant to clarify my wishes in this area because I hate disappointing people, and I already feel like I let so many people down with Theo dying and my grief. I feel like my grief is a burden on people for many, many reasons, which just sucks.

So, as a way for me to practice expressing my wishes for the delivery and visitors, I’m going to go over my plan here. I’ve already told this to most of the people who will be visiting us those first couple of weeks, but goodness knows I need practice in saying this.

We will let family and close friends know when he’s here, but we will not be having any visitors in the hospital. We’ll be telling them when I am expected to be discharged so they can arrange to visit us after we are home. It’s important to both Kenny and myself that we have the days in the hospital to ourselves, and we’ll probably keep our phones off for most of the stay. Kenny and I both are expecting those first few days to be rather emotional, and we want to deal with that in private before everyone sees Steam Bun. Once we’re home, people can come visit us whenever they want and they’re welcome to stay during the day as long as they want, as long as they leave at night and sleep somewhere else. Kenny and I want to make sure we have some privacy at home too and a chance to relax once all the visitors leave for the night.

Ugh, it was much harder for me to make these plans and vocalize my wishes than I expected. If Steam Bun doesn’t live… it’s just more we have to undo and disappoint people all over again. I really hate all of this.


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It’s complicated

I took a short break from blogging because I needed to reevaluate if being so open about grief and child loss was still helping me. I think being honest and real about these topics is so important, but it also has some challenges and I wanted to make sure there were still enough benefits for me. Especially as we near Steam Bun’s birth, I expect there to be so many emotions if he lives. I can’t predict what I’ll feel, but I am prepared to face whatever I am feeling head on. That will make some people uncomfortable, because the truth and life can be uncomfortable, and I needed to make sure I was up for dealing with that.

Kenny and I have gotten very specific in our prayers over Steam Bun. We prayed every day for Theo, always asking God to watch over him and keep him safe. Which, technically God is doing, but so not what we meant (obviously). So now when we pray fro Steam Bun we say things like “Please let Steam Bun continue to develop properly, be born alive and screaming, and be born healthy. Please make sure his worst illness isn’t something over-the-counter medicine can’t fix, and make sure he lives on Earth for at least 60 years, dying only after we die. And make sure we don’t die until we are at least 60 years old, and only if we die together”. I used to also throw in something about not going into premature labor, but I’m not as worried about that now. It’s still hard to trust that God will answer our prayers regarding Steam Bun, and I think I’ll be struggling with that for awhile, even if Steam Bun is born healthy.

So I’m on maternity leave now, at the end of my second week actually. It feels like it has been forever already! I’m already ahead of my schedule in terms of completing projects, apparently I work more quickly than I realize (when I want to, lol). Kenny teaches at a university part-time, so I volunteered to do all of his grading and everything for the rest of the semester. Gives me another project to focus on. Lol.

My first project was to remove the koala decal from the nursery and put up the new decal I bought for Steam Bun. It unbelievably sucked to take down Theo’s decal. I cried for most of that, I felt like I was giving up on Theo in a weird way. And there’s no graceful way of removing a decal that size, so many of the koalas and parts of the tree ripped as I was removing them, which made me feel worse. It’s just awful to have to change your child’s room because they died, even if it is to potentially welcome another one home.

Putting up Steam Bun’s decal (owls in birch trees), was easier on me and fun, but part of me thought, “This is going to be a huge pain in the ass to remove if he doesn’t live”. This actually made me laugh, as I remembered Kenny commenting that the koala decal would be a pain to remove when Theo decided he no longer liked koalas. And it just seemed so morbidly funny to be making almost the same comment, a year and a half apart, and yet the comments be so very different.

Putting together Steam Bun’s nursery has such a different feel than when I did it for Theo. With Theo, there was no doubt he would come home. We were past the “safe point” in the pregnancy and naively thought a healthy baby was a given at that point. We naively believed healthy pregnancies end with a healthy baby, that SIDS and childhood cancer were the only threats we faced. And those were things that happened to “other people”.

Now it’s a weird tug and pull, torn between wanting to prepare and be excited for this baby, but knowing that every additional thing I do is just one more thing I’ll have to undo if he doesn’t live. I think we’ll have to move if Steam Bun doesn’t come home. And preparing for Steam Bun has brought up new aspects of grief I didn’t know before. I mourn the rose-colored glasses I used to have regarding pregnancy, but mostly I mourn what Steam Bun is missing out on. As I change the nursery, I’m keenly aware that it’s not changing how it’s supposed to be changing.

At this point in my alternate life (the one in which Theo lives), we would be debating if we should even bother with buying Steam Bun a crib. After all, both the boys would have to share a room and we would eventually need to buy a bunk bed. Would we try to move Theo to a bunk bed now, and let Steam Bun use his crib? Would we keep Steam Bun in our room for as long as possible, to let Theo keep his crib for as long as possible? Would we use this opportunity to change the theme of the boys’ room to a more typical boy theme, like superheroes or dinosaurs?

I’ll never know the answers to these questions.

Instead of talking about how to prepare Theo for having a younger brother and sharing the spotlight, we talk about the best way to tell a younger sibling their older sibling is dead, and when. We talk about if we think Steam Bun will grieve because he sees us grieving, and if that is healthy or not. Instead of learning to prepare an older sibling for a baby, we talk to loss parents about how they deal with handling their grief while parenting a living child.

Steam Bun will never have the older brother he should have. He won’t have an older brother to torment him, play with him, protect him. I’ll never be able to say “go play with your brother” unless I want Steam Bun to play with Theo bear, or an imaginary Theo. And though it’s normal for kids to have imaginary friends, what if Steam Bun says his imaginary friend is Theo?? I realize I’m getting ahead of myself here, but is it normal for a kid to have their deceased older sibling as their imaginary friend? These are the things I think about.

Last weekend we were hanging out at a friend’s backyard and I got so many mosquito bites. It was a last minute thing and I forgot to put on bug spray, not that it helps me much as I am candy to mosquitos. Every time I get a mosquito bite, the bite welts and I will get hives if I scratch it. I wasn’t sure what I’m allowed to use for the bites while pregnant, so I called my doctor to double check. She also gave me a list of symptoms to watch out for (for West Nile Virus, etc.). I was not at all concerned about the bites until then, and now I’m paranoid. Lol. I’ve managed to resist googling WNV + pregnancy so far, hopefully I can keep holding out.

I had appointments with the fire department this week to have the car seat checked in both of our cars. It’s strange driving around with the car seat base in my car again. The car seat itself is in the closet, and there it will remain until we leave for the hospital. But it’s still strange, opening up the door to the back seat and seeing a car seat base. As I walk past cars, I peer in and see if they have car seats or other signs of kids in the car. I wonder what their family is like–have they lost a child? Was the road to the family they have an easy one? I wonder if people will walk past my car and see the car seat base and think the same thing. (This sounds creepier than it is: I’m not going up to each car and sticking my face against the window. Lol. I just glance in as I am walking by.)

I’ve been meticulously saving the receipts and boxes for everything I’ve bought for Steam Bun. Last time, I threw out all the boxes right away and saved receipts for only the big items or the things I wasn’t sure would work. Now I’m saving receipts for even the nightlight I bought, with all of the boxes piled up in the hall closet.

Grief, pregnancy hormones, and loss brain are a dangerous combination. It’s exhausting dealing with all of this honestly. Though I am not wishing for a preemie, I’ll be so grateful when this pregnancy is over. I think Kenny’s looking forward to it being over too. 😉

Since I know I’m having a c-section this time, I’ve been doing research on c-section recovery. My postpartum care last time was definitely lacking, and that can only be partially blamed on me discharging myself against medical advice from the hospital. At my 4-6 week postpartum appointment, I was cleared for exercising and when I asked what kind of exercises were safe to do all I was told was “go slow”. Fortunately, I soon found a loss mom who is also a personal trainer, and she was able to give me really good information on how to safely return to exercise after a c-section. I’ll also be trying a belly binder this time, which I did not know about after my last c-section.

I’ve been off facebook for a few weeks and it’s been so refreshing! I did sneak on to Kenny’s facebook and immediately regretted it. My anxiety and PTSD were immediately triggered, and this only confirmed facebook is no good for me. There is one thing I miss though, a small facebook group of loss moms that focused on mental and physical health after loss. Having that community for support in dealing with PTSD, body image after loss, etc. was so great and I miss it. The loss community is truly like no other. Maybe I’ll try to start something like that locally after Steam Bun’s birth.

This upcoming week I’ll be working on Steam Bun’s baby book. I’m so conflicted about this one. Ugh.


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Faith and joy in hard times

There’s been something I’ve been struggling related to my faith, and this article explains it very well. Specifically these paragraphs:

Feeling guilty about admitting struggles or asking for help is not from God. That guilt comes from our own sin. It’s prideful to think we can do life alone, handling all our problems without the help of others. We need community to walk alongside us in tough times, but more importantly, we need a Savior. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Rather than pretending to have it together, sometimes the best way to show how God is working in us is to be transparent about our desperate dependence on Him. Doing so puts our inadequacies on display, which can be terribly humbling. But it also shows that we’re human, and that our power to persevere doesn’t come from us, but Christ in us.

This is why it drives me absolutely nuts when Christians say things like “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”. Or when they brush aside what you are going through and just tell you to “have joy!”.

I am not strong enough to handle my son’s death. No one is. Burying your own child is horrific, and it takes more than anyone can handle. I’m not a big sports person, but my favorite metaphor for God is baseball related. God is not the pitcher in life, He is not determining what trials and joys you experience. God is the coach, there to guide us through life and help us get through it. There is so much about life that is out of our control and more than we can handle. Good and bad things happen, to both good and bad people. It isn’t fair, it is life. And God is there to help us deal with it all.

I still believe in God, and I always will. But Theo’s death impacted every part of my life and shook my faith to the core. The anger and bitterness toward God has come and gone in waves. My anger toward God is less now than it used to be, but it is still there. I’ve gone back and forth on questioning God “why did Theo have to die?”–sometimes I want an answer, sometimes I don’t. I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, so I don’t believe there was a purpose to Theo’s death, but I find myself still wanting to know why he had to die sometimes. I believe God had the power to save Theo but didn’t, and that has brought forth a lot of complicated emotions.

This wrestling with God has brought me closer to Him though. He’s the only one who listened to me unconditionally, and loved me despite all of the names I’ve called Him. He’s been there for every moment, in a way no one else can be. And most importantly, despite the fact that I’m angry with Him for not saving Theo, I take comfort in knowing Theo is in Heaven being watched over by God. I picture God playing with Theo until Kenny or myself is able to play with him. My trust in God, while not perfect, has grown as I’ve turned to Him for help and with everything I am feeling.

Will I ever be at peace with God over Theo’s death? I have no idea, I really don’t. Maybe a few months or years from now I will, maybe it will come and go and it will be something I always have to work on. One is not better than the other, and I’m open to wherever my heart and faith lead me.

Our church talked a few months ago on the importance of joy. The idea is happiness is based on our circumstances (such as a promotion, etc.), but joy is based in our faith in God. You can be going through a difficult time, but still have joy. I guess joy can be described as your overall attitude, but it’s not quite the same. I am trying to figure out what it means to have joy in times of hardship because admitting your problems/struggles is not the same as not having joy. While it seems impossible to feel contradicting emotions at once, it’s not. I have peace in the knowledge that Theo is in Heaven, but the fact that Theo is in Heaven also brings me a lot of heartache. I see the joy and the good in our lives, but I still feel the deep sadness every day too. I think figuring this out is especially difficult considering I will be grieving Theo for the rest of my life.

It’s easy to say that having joy while you are struggling is important, but so much harder to live out. If you are honest about the “bad” emotions you are feeling, you are being too negative. If you keep it to yourself, you’re just pretending to be ok. It’s like you can’t win. Though the comments that I’m still too sad, etc. still sting, I’m learning to tune them out more and more. I’m being authentic in my faith and grief, and figuring this all out the best I can. And the moments (however long or brief they are) of sadness/anger/etc. are not my whole journey: they are one messy part. I realize that currently, this part is what I talk about most so I don’t fault people for not being able to read my mind, but it’s something to remember no matter who you are dealing with. Just because I’m talking a lot about these aspects doesn’t mean it’s all I feel. And there is still so much that is too raw and personal for me to talk about with anyone except Kenny or my therapist.

Like the article touched on, when Christians say “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” they are minimizing who God is and overestimating our own abilities. No one is perfect, we all have strengths and weaknesses. But none of us are God, and admitting our shortcomings is ok. Saying you are struggling is to see yourself as you are: an imperfect person who, while doing the best they can, needs God. God is greater than us, He can handle everything and when we aren’t honest about what we are going through we are minimizing God. I believe God will take care of me if I turn to Him for help. I wish so, so much that Kenny and I weren’t going through this, but we are, so I’m trying to lean on God more than I ever have.


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Christmas, Heaven, and Misery Loves Company

I’ve been thinking a lot about these things because the holiday cheer is waaaaaaay too overwhelming for me this year. So I’ve been mostly hiding from it, especially this last week.

I think in general, our culture is way too uncomfortable with anything remotely sad and puts way too much pressure on those who have reasons to be sad. You’re always told to “look on the bright side”, and if you are sad too long then it’s “misery loves company”.

Yes, misery does love company. Because those who are sad tend not to pressure others who are sad to “just get it over it”. One of the reasons I love the loss community, even when we aren’t talking about our children, is because there is no pressure to be anything except what I am in that moment. If I’m smiling and happy, great. If I’m sad and miserable, that’s great too. If I’m flip-flopping on my feelings or just feeling a whole lot of nothing, that’s great as well. There are moments and days (even weeks) where I’m able to focus on the blessings and good in our lives, and moments where I can’t. Or won’t. Having moments or days or weeks or more where you just need to sit with the bad is ok, there is nothing wrong with that.

I’m happy for those who are able to have the picture-perfect Christmas this year, and who are caught up in the holiday cheer. I’m jealous of you honestly. But I will forever not be a part of that group. I’m not saying every Christmas will be as difficult as this one, but I will never be a part of that ideal Christmas holiday. Mine will forever be tinted gray, there will always be a looming dark cloud. And I’m ok with that. I’m not going to pretend it is anything but what it is. If that ever changes for me, I’ll adjust and accept what it has become. Basically, I’m just going with the flow on what I’m feeling and I’m not going to pretend to be anything else.

I’m not going to ask you to change how you are feeling either. If you are able to get caught up in the joy of Christmas, I’ll be happy for you. From the sidelines, with a box of tissues in my hand. I’m not going to try to change your mind, just like I ask that you don’t try to change mine.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Heaven lately. What it will be like, and what it means for me as I grieve. And truthfully, while Heaven is mostly comforting, it isn’t completely comforting to me.

I’ve often wondered what relationships will look like in Heaven. I do believe I will be Theo’s mom in Heaven, but will my relationship with him be one as a parent? What I mean is… will I be parenting him in Heaven? Or will we have a relationship more as friends?

I don’t doubt that Heaven is untold joy, peace, and love. That my imagination of that happiness is only a drop in the bucket to what it is actually like. But there are certain things I am confident will never happen in Heaven, and that makes me so sad.

Theo will never get hurt in Heaven. He will never fall down and scrape a knee, never have his heart broken, or a bad day. And that is mostly a good thing, but it hurts because I am missing out on those things. I am missing out on being the one he turns to to kiss his boo-boo and for comfort. I will never be able to help him when he’s upset. Those things won’t happen in Heave, because nothing bad happens in Heaven. And therefore I will forever miss a large chunk of what it means to be a parent. And I have to grieve that.

And though the joy and happiness here on Earth can’t compare to that in Heaven, I also have to grieve all the happiness I won’t be able to watch Theo experience.

Though I can’t say for sure, I tend to believe marriage as we know it on Earth doesn’t exist in Heaven. This is where I wonder about relationships in Heaven the most. Will I be able to watch Theo fall in love for the first time? Will I be able to see him have a marriage, have kids? I tend to think not, I don’t think those things happen in Heaven, at least how I know them now. Maybe they do, maybe they look different than what I expect them to. But I have to grieve that as well.

I have to grieve every part of parenting here on Earth, the good and the bad. I have to grieve missing those late night feedings, the toddler tantrums, him sneaking out at night as a teenager. Disciplining him, watching him participate in whatever after school activities we would have put him in. Him getting a bad grade, him graduating, his first job, first apartment, first time he realizes the world is cruel. All the good and the bad here, I grieve.

Heaven doesn’t fix these heartaches now. When I am in Heaven, I believe these heartaches will be fixed. How, I really don’t know. But I’m not in Heaven right now, so all I can do is deal with this heartbreak and not deny it.

We haven’t gone to church all month. Or, I haven’t. Kenny has a couple times. I’ve been watching old sermons online instead. Our church is just too….Christmas-y for me. I can’t stand seeing all of the happy people, or listen to everyone happily talk about their Christmas plans. The happiness is just too crushing, and I feel like an outsider looking in. I don’t know if our church has acknowledged that Christmas is often painful for people, but I hope they have. The holidays would be a lot more bearable if people didn’t look at you like you were an alien if you weren’t enthusiastic for Christmas.


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Faith, Politics, and More

Go to the bathroom, get a snack, and get comfortable–this is a looooong post.

I am not a very political person. I stay (mostly) informed enough to form an intelligent opinion on important issues to me, but for the most part, I just stay out of politics. I generally don’t make political comments on social media, because that’s not me. But President-Elect Trump has changed that, and I refuse to be quiet about this.

It is utterly despicable and embarrassing that Trump is our President-Elect.

I will admit I have a lot of privilege. I am white, born and raised in a middle-class family, and a college education was just assumed for me. I am not the first in my family to be born in the U.S or to go to college. I am a practicing Christian. I have a good, white-collar job and so does my husband.

But I am a woman. And I am married to an Asian man, whose parents moved to the U.S. from Taiwan before he was born. I am the mother of two biracial children, one of whom may or may not be a girl. Steam Bun may or may not be LGBT in the future (and I will love him/her no matter what).

And I am truly frightened for the safety of my family. For myself. For my friends who don’t fit the straight-(rich)-white-Christian-male mold. For those I don’t even know who don’t fit that mold.

I understand and respect everyone has a different opinion on political issues, and I do not expect everyone to be a Democrat or a Republican. I consider myself basically in the middle: I agree with the Republican party on some issues, the Democrat party on others. If you were to take a look at my voting record, you will see that I’ve voted for a mix of Republicans and Democrats and on a variety of issues. I understand and respect differences in opinions on taxes, foreign policy, etc. I may not agree with you on them, but I have no issue with you voting for “the other side”.

But I have an issue with every vote for Trump. Because every vote for him was a vote for racism, sexism, ableism, and just discrimination and prejudice in general. And I do not respect that. I do not and will not tolerate that. I do not understand or respect how you can prioritize paying less in taxes over the safety and well-being of fellow human beings. Because a vote for Trump was a vote against my family-an interracial family with biracial children, one the child of immigrants, with at least one of us being female.

I have not experienced racial discrimination. I am white, it’s not directed at me. And I have not experienced any discrimination for being in an interracial marriage, though I guarantee that would not be the case if Kenny was African-American or Hispanic. (Did you know that interracial marriages were mostly illegal until the 1960’s? Had I met Kenny then, we would not have been allowed to be married.) But I have been sexually harassed and I’ve experienced first-hand sexism at college and work.

I have had to defend myself against men who felt they were owed my body simply because they are a man and I am a woman and I was in their presence. I have had to deal with being cat-called and verbally sexually assaulted. I have had to “let slide” sexist comments at work or college, made by men in their 50’s or 60’s simply because I am a woman. I work in finance, it is still a boy’s club. I have witnessed other women I work with experience the same sexism and sexual harassment. I have witnessed non-white coworkers experience racial discrimination.

Do you know what happened these incidents were reported to HR or my boss? I was dismissed and told I either misunderstood what was said or was being overly sensitive. Or my favorite, “But so-and-so is so nice! No way that could have happened!”. Same for others who have reported them.

The “locker room talk” Trump said is NOT locker room talk. Locker room talk is harmless. What Trump said is verbal sexual assault, plain and simple. If Kenny were to say those things about me or another woman, I’d be packing a bag and crashing at a friend’s place. Debating if marriage counseling can fix the very basic problem of Kenny not respecting me or women (for the record, Kenny would NEVER say those things about me or anyone else). If Theo said those things about a woman, I would be appalled and ashamed. Ashamed of him for using such vile language, and ashamed of myself for failing as a mother and not raising him properly.

I asked Kenny how he would react if he overheard someone saying those things about me or his hypothetical daughter. He said it would take every ounce of self-control to not punch the guy, and he still would probably end up punching him. (And don’t even try to say I am “lucky” to be married to a man like that. A woman is NOT “lucky” for being in a relationship with a man who has basic respect for her and women in general. THAT IS WHAT SHOULD BE EXPECTED.)

If Steam Bun is a girl, I have so much more to worry about than if Steam Bun is a boy. Why? Because our culture reinforces that women are only good for their bodies, which are to be made available to men. Instead of teaching boys to not rape, sexually assault, or use demeaning language toward women; we teach girls how not to get raped and how to let inappropriate and hurtful comments roll of your back without standing up for yourself too much.

Trump’s language toward non-whites is NOT “no big deal”. He words made it very clear those not fitting his white-mold are not welcome here and should be seen as a threat. He exacerbated the “us vs. them” mentality. He made outrageous statements that were not based on fact but fear. They were not an over-exaggeration by the “liberal” media. They were his words, they were filled with racist and anti-non-white sentiments and were vile and shameful.

As the mother of biracial children, I am so worried for them. How will I combat the message that they aren’t good enough because they aren’t “fully” white? How will I protect them against acts of hate? How will I teach them this attitude isn’t ok, when they will be bombarded with it every day? And thanks Trump, for basically saying my family isn’t welcome here! We’re not going anywhere, sorry to disappoint you.

Why does it matter that our President-Elect uses such language? You may be thinking that Trump is only one man. And he is, but as the President-Elect his words and actions touch everyone. One thing I learned while studying accounting was that a company’s culture starts at the top. If the CEO/President has a bad temper, makes inappropriate comments, participates in shady deals, etc., this will trickle down throughout the entire company and become the culture of the company. This will happen in the U.S. with Trump as our President. People will see that the President can get away with such comments and outlook, and they will mirror it. By electing Trump, we reinforced that it’s ok to demean women. We reinforced that African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Muslims, and everyone else are not as deserving as whites. This has already started–if you don’t believe me, google “Day 1 of Trump’s America”.

Trump did not create discrimination. He is not the first, nor will he be the last, to hate so many. The problem is his campaign and Presidency normalized discrimination in a way that it was not in a long time. His position of power and authority make it ok to be discriminatory and prejudicial.

And you might be reading this and thinking, “Yes, but Hillary…”. There are no buts! Is Hillary perfect? No, she’s a politician. She’s had scandals, and I agree with her on some things, and disagree on others. But she is not filled with the racist, sexist, ableist, etc. sentiments Trump is; and that in and of itself is why she should have been the President-Elect. (Never mind the fact that Hilary was infinitely more qualified than Trump to be President. But voters were unwilling to see past their hate for Hillary, while willing to do exactly that for Trump. And they instead elected a completely unqualified white man instead of a woman. Hi there glass ceiling!) You say you didn’t like Trump, but did you vote for him in the primaries? If he is hated so much by Republicans, why did you pick him in the primaries?

I’m now going to rant a little about faith and politics. This is directed at Christians, if you are not a Christian, feel free to skip the next few paragraphs.

There needs to be a separation of church and state. I say that as a Christian. Why? Because it is not fair to expect non-Christians to follow Christian values.

You are not doing the Lord’s work by judging others and dictating how they live. Telling them which birth control they may or may not use, how they form their family or procreate, etc. is unhelpful at best. Beside the fact that not all Christians agree on these things and these stances have no biblical standing, judging someone and how they live will only drive a larger wedge between you and the person you are trying to “help”. It is unfair to have public policy reflect the beliefs of a small group of people, and force everyone to live by those rules.

Do the Lord’s work by treating others with respect, love, and kindness. Help others with no strings attached–give to help them, not to receive attention or to blackmail them into believing what you do. Do those things simply because they are the right thing to do.

Jesus loved unconditionally. He gave unconditionally. He never treated those who were different than him worse than he treated his followers. He treated everyone the same regardless of who they were, where they were from, what they did, etc. He never judged, but rather simply accepted them as they were. He forgave unconditionally.

Jesus was very strict with Christians. When Jesus saw Christians do things that were against his teachings, he reprimanded them. But he only expected his followers to live by his rules, never those who didn’t follow him. There are so many instances in the Bible where Jesus is reprimanding Christians for not being loving to others or giving generously to those who need it.

Ok, enough about faith. Back to just politics.

The repercussions of Trump and Pence in office is horrific. I lurk the 3T (trouble trying to conceive/infertility) board on a parenting forum, and learning about Pence’s stance on reproductive health is horrifying. It goes way beyond abortion rights, and into what medical treatments are available to those experiencing a loss or infertility and what happens after the loss. Pence is completely unfit to be in office, and he and Trump are a threat to so many Americans (many of whom voted for them!).

I am genuinely scared of what this means for my health insurance: will I have access to birth control after Steam Bun is born? Will I be able to do the genetic testing I want, for a reasonable cost? And if Steam Bun has the same genetic condition as Theo, will we be allowed to terminate for medical reasons if we choose that route? If we choose to not terminate, will Trump/Pence force us to keep Steam Bun on life support longer than we wish? You might think I’m being paranoid, but this is my reality. I’ve had one child on life support, and there is a (minute) possibility this child will die of the same condition (or a completely different one! Because there’s more than one way for babies to die!). And then of course, how much will all of this cost us? We do well financially, and I am freaked out I won’t be able to afford medical care. Our medical costs for Theo were minimal, I can’t imagine having to worry about money while burying another child.

If you voted for Trump, I do not want to know. Really, I don’t. But I want you to know one thing: I am steadfastly against your opinion/vote, but I am not against you. I will not pit myself against you or refuse to associate with you. I will treat you exactly how all humans deserve to be treated: with respect, love, and kindness. I will try to change your mind and have you see why Trump has no business being in politics, but I will do so in a respectful way.

I refuse to give in to the “us vs. them” mentality. People who are different are not the enemy. I do not consider anyone of a different race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, etc. against me. They are not threatening my or your way of life just by existing. Fearing “the others” is not the answer, nor is segregating ourselves. Opening yourself up to everyone is the only way we’ll make this country better. Telling them “I don’t understand where you are coming from, but I accept you as you are and I will treat you how I want to be treated” is the best thing you can do. Because they are worthy. You are worthy. I will show everyone as much love, kindness, and respect as possible regardless of who they are. Because it’s the right thing to do.

We live in scary times. There is violence and hate everywhere. But that’s always been the case. Pick any point in history, and you will learn all the ways humans had of hurting each other at that point in time. But fighting hate with hate will not solve anything; again, history has proven this multiple times.

I mean none of this to imply that I am perfect. I am far from it. I am impatient, I’ve made mistakes, and I curse at other drivers on the road. But I am always striving to be better than I was before, and I always work on treating others how they deserve to be treated.

What are Kenny and I doing about this? To start with, I signed the petition to have Hillary elected. Will it actually work? I doubt it, but it was something I can do while I figure out the next step. Both Kenny and I agree we need to get involved, with what we’re not sure yet. We’re still in shock from this election. We’ve been doing a lot of praying for our country, and praying that God uses us in some way.

Protest. Volunteer. Make your voice heard. But whatever you do, please do it peacefully. Let’s not stoop to Trump’s level and give him more ammunition.

And on a slightly related note, here’s a song I love. Casting Crowns is a Christian band, and I’ve listened to this song hundreds of times since Theo died. The words just so perfectly sum up how I feel in this grief, and now sum up how I feel about this election. Especially the first few lines:

I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining


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We’re going for it!

Aaaaaah, I can’t believe I am saying this!

I booked a space for Theo’s first birthday party!

His birthday party won’t be until February… I realized I just don’t know if I’m going to be up to seeing everyone near his actual birthday. And while everyone we plan on inviting to the party is incredibly supportive and would not make me feel bad, I am a people pleaser and would feel like I have to be “on”. And then if we push it back a week or two, we are at Christmas. And we can’t really have it any earlier, because of Thanksgiving and the fact that October is almost over and I haven’t done any planning… And somehow, our January is already pretty booked so February it is!

And having it so far out will give me plenty of time to put together activities, buy party supplies on the cheap, etc.

I can’t believe I’m doing this. I’m so excited, but it feels so surreal. It’s not the birthday party I ever imagined, but at least we’ll be celebrating him with our loved ones.

I guess over the next few months I’ll be talking about his party and what we are doing to celebrate him!


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Cooking

Today a friend is coming over to cook with me. We both love food and cooking, but both of us have been having trouble motivating ourselves to cook during the week. So we decided that once or twice a month, we’ll go over to each other’s places, cook a bunch of meals and then split the food we cook. Yay for having healthy food to eat throughout the week and hanging out with a friend!

But this also makes me so sad. Because Theo would be eating solids by now, and we would be introducing more and more new food to him. We got a Baby Bullet as a shower gift. I was so excited for it, I couldn’t wait to make all organic baby food for Theo. I was going to start cooking with him at a young age, keeping him in the kitchen while I cooked so he would have a love of cooking too.

I miss you Theo. Today, like all days and every day until I die, is so bittersweet.


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Deserving

Something I’ve been working on with my therapist is the idea of who is deserving to hear my grief.

I’ve been pretty open about what I am feeling and going through. And the majority response has been great. Most have really encouraged me to talk with them–even though they can’t understand. I joined a new church group in April and my first night there I talked about Theo’s death. I had never met these people before that night, and none had kids, but they immediately embraced my grief and cried and walked with me ever since.

But I have really struggled with a few of my coworkers. Most of their hurtful comments have been unintentional, but some have been so hurtful that I seriously doubt how the comments could be unintentional. Not all of my coworkers have made such comments, but the pain from those few have caused me to just stopped talking about it altogether at work. Doesn’t help that I’ve had a coworker try to gossip with me over how another coworker is handling a loss (I quickly shut the first coworker down and made it clear I was not going to tolerate that). That incident has just made me so wary of telling any coworkers anything.

While it is hard to share my grief, being so vulnerable and raw about something so personal, it is also hard to hear about someone’s grief. Not everyone knows how to respond to grief and child loss (or any difficult subject, actually) with respect, compassion, and grace. And those who do, I’m learning, have a special gift. And I’m learning that not everyone deserves to hear my grief.

Because despite how much I wish I didn’t go through this and I would give back every lesson for Theo, my story has valuable knowledge to give someone else. Maybe it’s hope that they can survive whatever is going on in their life, or what keepsakes to get from the hospital as their child dies. Or how to treat a loved one who is grieving.

But some people won’t take the opportunity to go real deep, for whatever reason. They won’t open their hearts to this pain, and therefore they miss out on a beautiful relationship. I’ve seen first hand how many of my friendships have deepened in amazing ways, and I sincerely doubt they would have changed so wonderfully if it hadn’t been for Theo’s death.

So I’m letting go of any obligation I feel I owe anyone who doesn’t deserve to hear my grief. I don’t have to share my story with them. I don’t have to be angry with them, though I think I will always have a little knee-jerk reaction of anger to their responses. But I feel sadness for them; they are missing out on so much, and not just with me, but life in general. And most importantly, not sharing with certain people doesn’t dishonor Theo or my grief.


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Being Defined

I think it’s safe to say I define myself as a mom. And a large chunk of my identity is as a loss-mom.

But I don’t always want to be defined as a loss-mom.

I posted in a scrapbook group I’m a part of pictures of a few layouts I made for Theo’s baby book. Because he’s hooked up to life support in the photos, I briefly mentioned he died so I wouldn’t have to answer 100 times “Is he ok?”. There were a lot of comments commenting on the layouts themselves, and several commenting on how handsome Theo is. Normal comments that a parent of a child who did not die would have received.

And there were also a lot of comments stating how sorry they are for my loss, and unfortunately a few sharing their stories of lost children. The outpouring of love from complete strangers truly touched me.

But it bugs me how I can’t talk about Theo like a “normal” mom. I can’t make small-talk about Theo with non-loss parents without the sympathy looks. I can’t talk about Theo to strangers without the inevitable coming up: he died. And once that comes up…it all changes. I’m out of their club and into a different club no one wants to acknowledge (except those of us in it).

I ran into a former coworker today and she asked to see a picture of Theo. I happily showed her and she asked who he looked like more. We chatted like that for a couple of minutes. It felt so normal, like what a non-loss mom would get to talk about. It felt so good. And then she noticed that the picture was on instagram and that the caption said “Happy 3 months birthday!”.  She commented that it’s been longer than that, and I said yes. I was about to say I could find a more recent picture of Theo and then I realized.

I can’t.

I will never have more recent photos of Theo. I’ll only have my same stories to tell about Theo, the same facts to spout off. Only guesses at where he would be developmentally right now; I can’t tell non-loss parents that I think he would be crawling like crazy and chasing the cats now…because they’ll give me “those” looks.