Wednesday, March 30, 2016


A few weeks ago we happened to drive by the hospital one night. "Can you believe it was two years ago we were going to all those classes?" I asked Kevin. When we were pregnant with James, we got a flyer about classes offered for new parents. We signed up for ALL of them: labor and delivery, caring for a newborn, breastfeeding, and infant CPR. We had no idea what we were doing, so we figured we could use all the help we could get. We were at the hospital one night a week for about three months. Even with all those hours of trying to learn something, we still weren't ready.

There were preparations at home, too. Kevin spent most nights painting the various rooms of the house we had just purchased. I insisted the baby room be done first. Three walls were a light gray, one wall was a shade darker, and the trim was white -- perfect for a boy or a girl. My dad and brother set up the crib. We had gender-neutral onesies, blankies, and cloth diapers. I packed the hospital bag a few weeks in advance based on what we'd learned in the classes, what I'd been told by friends, and stuff I read on the internet. I even had playlists on my iPod, one with fast songs and one with mellow tunes.  We were set.

Preparations are different this time around. There are no classes to prepare parents for losing a baby soon after they meet her. We're not setting up a crib, since it's unlikely we'll bring her home. We don't have adorable little pink clothes in the closet; it would be too painful to have to pack them up with the tags still on.

My hospital bag looks a lot different this time around. We have a beautiful Christening gown my sister-in-law's mom made; we are hoping to have enough time to baptize sweet Maren. We just got a baptismal candle and cloth in the mail today from a dear friend -- those are going in the bag, too. We have blankies from friends and family. We've got kits to do handprints and footprints. I've got my Bible to stamp her hand and footprints in, too.

I guess we can take comfort in the knowing. I've heard many stories in the past few months of mothers who set up the nursery, bought the cute clothes, and expected a perfectly healthy baby, only to be heartbroken. As painful as this long good-bye has been, I can't imagine how much more painful it would be to leave the hospital empty-handed when you thought you were coming home with your beautiful baby.

Maybe that's the best preparing we can do -- preparing to say good-bye.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard "you're too picky" when I was single. I could have paid for my eventual wedding. My standard response became, "I'd rather be single forever than be married to the wrong person." I can understand settling when you're shopping for a new outfit, but choosing someone to spend the rest of your life with? Yeah. I was picky. And I don't think that was a bad choice on my part.

"Shared faith" was on the top of the list of qualities I was looking for in a future husband. Being in youth ministry for ten years, I had a type in mind. Someone who played guitar and led songs around the campfire. Someone who liked speaking and teaching. Someone who loved going on mission trips. Someone who maybe got a little overly competitive during games. Basically a male version of me.

Kevin's not exactly what I pictured. Half the time when I look at him during church, his mouth isn't even moving during the songs; he's lost in his own thoughts. He gets really nervous when he has to speak in front of people, but he's taught our little guy to hold hands and pray before we eat. He's not a wild and crazy youth ministry kind of Christian. He's a quiet, deep, introspective Christian. Not the male version of me at all.

Have you ever met someone who reads C.S. Lewis, Dallas Willard, and G.K. Chesterton for fun? I hadn't either. And while some guys look forward to their mailman bringing the latest issue of Sports Illustrated or Popular Mechanics, my guy looks like a kid on Christmas morning when his monthly theological journal arrives in the mail. An uncle picked up an issue from an end table a few years ago on Easter, flipped through it, and remarked, "There's no pictures in this magazine." Nope. Just text and text and text about the church and the world and what it means to be a Christian today. Not really what I was picturing when I prayed for a guy who shared my faith.

But as we walk this journey with Maren, I am so, so thankful for Kevin. His house is built on a rock. I'm not saying my house is built on sand, but some days when the storm is really thrashing, my house seems more like the houses I used to build in Mexico with the youth group: they serve the purpose, but probably wouldn't pass inspections in the U.S. It's reassuring to be able to run next door to Kevin's up-to-code, not-constructed-by-teenagers house. He's a good neighbor on this rock.

The other night I had to go to the bathroom at 3:30 in the morning -- the plague of pregnant women. I couldn't get back to sleep when I returned to bed. I checked email and Facebook on my phone for a while, then tried to fall asleep again. It wasn't happening. I started thinking about Maren, and what we'll have to face soon. I started crying . . . quietly, I thought, but Kevin heard me and wrapped me up in his arms. He didn't say anything or make me say anything, just stroked my hair and rubbed my back while my silent cries turned into sobs and then quieted down again. My thoughts changed from being devastated about Maren to being so, so thankful that God brought Kevin and I together. I don't know how I would get through this without him. I was right to be picky.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


I turned to Kevin last night and said, "Have I thanked you lately for giving me this beautiful boy?" James lights up our lives. His little personality gets bigger every day, and it's hard to remember what life was like before him. I can't imagine the shape I'd be in right now if not for him brightening my days.

Someone this weekend said, "I can't believe how positive you are through all this." My first reaction was to twist up my face and say, "What? You obviously don't see me during the rough times." Instead I patted James's head and said, "Well, I've got to keep going for this little guy."

When I miscarried Sam, all I wanted to do was lay in bed and cry. Kevin had just left for a six-week Asian recruiting tour, and I knew it wasn't healthy for me to be alone. I called my parents and they drove five hours to be with me. They couldn't do anything to bring our baby back -- if I remember correctly they cleaned my bathroom, cooked a lot of food, and spent a lot of time being bored -- but the fact that they were there meant I had to get out of bed and talk to them, which was good.

If I didn't have James to chase and tickle and read to and keep alive, it would be tempting to slip into a pretty dark place. Instead, I'm more thankful than ever that we have him to fill our days. Knowing we are going to lose Maren, I can't imagine how I'd get through this without James.

I've worried a lot about him through this process, though. When we first found out at just twelve weeks that there was potentially a problem, I wondered if he would someday resent his sister. I knew he would love her, but he might miss out on things because of her. My 30's were amazing, traveling to several countries and all over the U.S. It was pretty much the time of my life. Being an older mother, though, there was a good chance James would have to take over as primary caregiver in his 30's. He wouldn't have the freedom that I did. Or if he married young and had kids already, he'd have added stress, having to take care of his sister. I didn't want him to be bitter.

When we got the Trisomy 13 diagnosis, my worries changed from him having to take care of his sister someday to him living his whole life as an only child. I have fantastic childhood memories that revolve around my siblings. Even today, we still get together every other month or so just to spend time together. My family was the big reason I wanted to move back to Iowa. What will James's childhood be like, growing up without a sibling? When Kevin and I are gone someday, who will James celebrate Christmas with? I feel bad not giving him what was and is so important to me.

I worry, too, that I'll be overprotective. I used to go in and check on James after he fell asleep and ask God to keep all bad people away from him so he'd never be hurt. After finding out Maren won't live, my prayer changed to, "Please, God, don't let anything happen to him because I will die." That's a lot of pressure on a kid. I fear I'll freak out when he wants to learn how to ride a bike. When he gets his license at 16? I'm not going to want him to go anywhere. And college? Hooboy. I'll be pushing for community college and living in my house 'til he's 40. As the months have gone on, I've changed my prayer again: "Dear God, please keep James safe. Don't let anything happen to him. And don't let me become neurotically overprotective so he doesn't become neurotic, too."

I know in the end it will all work out. Life isn't working out the way I planned, but that doesn't mean it can't be good. James will be okay. Maybe a little overly coddled . . . and over-protected . . . but hopefully I won't mess him up too badly. He deserves the best for getting me through this.