Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Eve!  Despite the difficult times we've had over the past week, I've done my very best to stay in the holiday spirit... I refuse to let the darkness get in the way of the magical-ness of Christmas!  Which is easier to do when you have a wild little girl running around.  This is our very first year staying "home" for the holidays, rather than traveling "home."  While it'll definitely feel weird waking up on Christmas morning in OUR house, not sitting at the top of the stairs with all my brothers and sisters, waiting on our parents to snap our yearly photo -- I have to say it's pretty nice NOT having to travel over the holidays.  It's a lot less stressful and forces us to focus on our little family of three.

Because we're home this year, we've officially started some of our own family traditions.  Now next year will probably be even more special, as Cameron Kate becomes more and more aware of the magic of Christmastime; however, I do think she recognizes when there's something special and out of the ordinary going on in the Peele household.

So, we began our traditions a few weeks ago with a trip to Boone, journeying up the mountain to pick out and cut down a Christmas tree for the very first time!  It was a much better experience than the ol' Home Depot parking lot.  Cameron, of course, loving every bit of the outdoors, had a blast!

We finished our Boone trip with a HUGE meal at the Daniel Boone Inn (I may or may not have had to unbutton my jeans for the drive home).  Once we got our tree up, we cranked up the Christmas music and got our house in the holiday spirit!

Another tradition I was SO excited to start with CK was the good ol' Elf on the Shelf.  Obviously she's a little young for all the shenanigans, so I wasn't very elaborate this year.  But she definitely fell in love with "Eliza" and had to carry her around and play with her everyday.

Another tradition we will always continue (even though this year I knew it'd be a disaster) was getting Cameron's picture taken with Santa.  So she got all gussied up in her Goat and Lulu dress...

And was even in awe of Santa from afar...

 But, as I suspected, putting her on his lap didn't go so well!

There's something about the obligatory screaming-toddler-on-Santa's-lap picture.  You just HAVE to have it.  Here's the official shot:

And just for comparison's sake, here's what we were working with last year:

And just because these pictures are hilarious... a little side-by-side (I guess she's always been a little wary of ol' Saint Nick!):

Our traditions are JUST beginning as we start putting our own spin on the holiday season.  There is SO much I want to do as CK gets older and understands what Christmas is all about.  But for now, I'm relishing in the little things I can do with her to make each moment count.  Like this morning, we started our day with a full-on Christmas Eve dance party.  I was panting, and sweating, and Cameron Kate was giggling those deep-belly laughs that make my heart want to explode.  It was perfection.  It made every tear from last week fade away for a little while, and reminded me of the many, many blessings I have to be thankful for this year.

Later today, we'll decorate cookies for Santa, which is sure to be the best kind of messy, delicious disaster.  Tomorrow morning I cannot wait to wake up at home, listen to my favorite toddler babbling in her room, unaware of the magic that has taken over our living room.  I will capture the expression on her face when she sees all of the excitement of tomorrow morning, and I will never let that memory escape from my mind.

But first, tonight we'll head to a candlelight Christmas Eve service, where I'll be sure to thank God not only for His son, but also for His plan for us.  Even though it can sometimes be confusing, I know His timing has purpose and is perfect...

Merry Christmas from the Peeles!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I am a Miscarriage Survivor

One of the main reasons I write is because it is incredibly therapeutic for me.  And as I wrote this, I was unsure of what I would do with it – keep it in a private just-for-me file, share with family, post to the blog?  And if I posted it to my blog, when?  Tomorrow, next week, next month when the pain was a little more dull?  Ultimately, I decided to go ahead and put it out there.  Because for me, this process has been about dealing with it all head on.  Grieving, praying, trying to understand – and putting one foot in front of another.  But I will warn you that it may include too many hard-to-read details.  But this is for me.  So, here goes nothing…


I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, granddaughter, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, friend…

And I am a miscarriage survivor.

I had hoped to escape my lifetime without ever having to say those words.  And even typing them out still feels so surreal, so raw. 

But, these are the colors I’ve been given.  And we can only paint our lives with the palette God provides.

This Thanksgiving, T and I found out we were expecting number two.  We were shocked at how quickly it had happened for us this time, but absolutely thrilled at the prospect of having another little one, especially one so close in age to our sweet Cameron Kate.  She was going to be a big sister!

We immediately told family and a few very close friends, thanked God for our new blessing, and included the nugget in our nightly prayers with CK.

The pregnancy was immediately completely different than it had been the first time around – while it made me nervous that I wasn’t being debilitated by nausea, everyone assured me that every pregnancy is different.

Around 6 weeks I started having some concerning symptoms, so they brought me in for an early ultrasound.  Though the gestational sac was there, the fetal pole was not… which led to them rescheduling another ultrasound in 48 hours to check for progress.

It was a long two days.

But, two days later, the ultrasound showed our tiny nugget of a baby with a tiny heart flickering away.  We even got to hear it!  We were thrilled, and relieved.  They decided to keep my 8-week ultrasound scheduled, just to check on progress.

I tried to maintain a positive attitude that all was well in there with our new growing family member, but truth be told, I couldn’t get that nagging something-is-off feeling out of the back of my head.  But I’m such a worry-filled mama, I couldn’t decide if that nagging feeling was just me worrying, or my mother’s intuition letting me know that something was wrong.

Unfortunately, it was my intuition, and it was right.

Before I knew it, I was at the 8-week mark and we were back in doctor’s office.  As soon as she started the ultrasound, I could tell something was wrong, as I could barely see the flicker of the heart that I knew at this point should have been strong and obvious.  When she measured the size of our nugget, it was only 7 weeks.  She didn’t have to say it.  I already knew.

We were losing the baby.

There were lots of tears and lots of quiet moments, T and me squeezing each other’s hands as we waited for the doctor.  He came in and confirmed the news with another scan.  He did a lot of talking that I only vaguely remember, because all I could hear was my heart breaking into a million tiny pieces.  All of my dreams came tumbling down, dreams for my tiny nugget of a baby and his/her big sister, being so close in age, growing up as best buddies, how fun the summer would have been… 

The doctor said things like, “Miscarriage happens in 20% of pregnancies,” and “It’s nothing you did,” and “There’s always still hope, I’ve see stranger things…” – At which point I asked him to please not give me false hope.  It was very obvious what was going on, and I didn’t want false hope.

Unfortunately, my body had not started the miscarriage process on its own.  Also unfortunately, since the baby’s heart was still beating, there was nothing we could do, but wait.  They decided to bring me back in on Thursday for another scan, and if it showed that the baby’s heart had stopped completely, they would proceed with a D&C.

They led us out of a side door, straight to the parking lot so we didn’t have to walk through the waiting room and pass other couples who had the same anxious/excited gleam in their eyes we’d had only an hour earlier.

As soon as we walked out of the doors, we embraced each other.  Apologized to each other.  Squeezed each other tight, both so incredibly sad, so empty.

I’m sure that any woman who has experienced this can tell you that it takes you to a dark place, a place where you blame yourself, wonder what you did wrong, what you could’ve done differently to save the life that was growing inside of you.  Because a doctor can tell you repeatedly that it was totally out of your control – except that when you’ve been carrying the baby around, and all of a sudden it loses its life, who else is there to blame?  And I know deep in my heart that the truth is that it WAS totally out of my control.  But it still feels like I’ve failed as a mother.  Like my body failed us… me and my little nugget.  And to my nugget, and my husband, and my daughter who would’ve been such a wonderful big sister this summer – my fault or not, I am so, so sorry.

The days passed with lots of tears, lots of conversations, lots of heartache, lots of prayers and well wishes from our friends and family members who knew about the tough road we were traveling on.  And those days were horrible for me.  Knowing what was inevitably going on inside of me… Trying to put on a brave face, go to work, put one foot in front of another.  Trying not to hold on to any false hope, even praying that Thursday’s ultrasound would be conclusive so that we could finish grieving and move forward.

And the ultrasound was conclusive.  We’d officially lost our baby.

There were obviously more tears, but also moments of thanking God for letting us experience finality, rather than having to continue to wait.

We had a long talk with my incredible doctor – the same doctor who came in on his day off to deliver Cameron.  He put me at ease as much as he could in the situation I was in, and got us into the hospital right away for a D&E, which is a little more invasive than a D&C.

Without going into the details and dramatics of the rest of that day, the worst part of it all was the anticipation.  But I was incredibly blessed to be surrounded by the love and strength of my amazing husband, a man who never showed a chink in his armor, a man who never let me see him worried.  A man who made it all about me, when it was really all about us.

My older sister also jumped in the car and immediately came to be by my side.  As soon as she walked up to my hospital bed, I lost it.  There’s just something about having someone by your side who’s connected to the depths of your soul.

The best part of the whole day was when I got home, and my little girl walked in the door.

They say the best medicine is laughter.  And I agree, except that I’d add the best medicine is the laughter of a child.  My sweet, wild, full-of-life Cameron Kate has allowed me to grieve in only short spurts, because she’s a toddler who demands attention and wants to be thrown around upside down so she can giggle ferociously.

However, my mind is still full of what-ifs.  What if I’d done something differently?  What if this happens again?  What if it keeps happening, and we aren’t ever able to give Cameron a sibling?  And other questions, like how am I EVER going to keep calm during a pregnancy again?  When is the right time for us to even try to get pregnant again?

Even moreso, WHY did this happen?

But, it’s not up to me to know the answers to these questions right now, or why this baby wasn’t meant to come home with us.  It’s up to me to grab a paintbrush, and today’s palette of colors, and keep painting.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Don't Know What the Title of This Should Be.

This is the first time in as long as I can remember that I’ve sat down to write with no real plan or theme or idea of where this is going to end up. 

Truth is, I’ve been too busy living and enjoying life, which has resulted in me neglecting to post on here for my two or so avid readers.

Another truth is, I’ve been pushed headfirst into a deep pool of reflection and realization.  This push has resulted from hearing about my sister’s dear friend fighting for her life and, of course, the recent tragedy in a Connecticut elementary school.

My mind has been a mess lately – a mess of why’s, and how come’s, trying to understand why things play out like they do sometimes.  Struggling to wrap my brain around the fact that lives are ending, way too quickly, for innocent people – children.  And then these thoughts spiral me into a mom who wants to wrap her child in a bubble to protect her from all evil… a mom who cannot stop imagining, “what if it would have been her?”  A mom who has taken many deep breaths amidst many moments of deep reflection, realizing how much I take life and my innumerable blessings for granted, wondering how I got so lucky to live this life, but also realizing tomorrow is never guaranteed.

And then I wrestle with guilt, guilt that a friend fighting for her life and an elementary school shooting have caused me to take a step back and squeeze every ounce of joy out of each day.  I mean, why wasn’t I doing that before?  Why did it take such horrendous events to get me to this point?

After talking to many, many people, friends, and family members, it seems as though we’re all in this place of reflection, realization… We’re all counting our blessings, and not sweating the small stuff, because we get to hug our babies at the end of the day.  And I’m just hoping we never leave this place – this place of wow, what did I do to deserve all of this joy.  Because that’s how it usually works, ya know?  Something terrible or scary happens and we all squeeze our loved ones tight and swear we’re not going to take them for granted and then slowly, slowly, slowly… we’re back to losing our patience with our children, stressing over the small stuff, nagging our husbands for throwing their dirty socks on the floor (ya know, when the hamper is two feet away?).

And it’s still okay – to have rough days, to be annoyed when you wait an hour in line for pictures with Santa and their camera breaks (true story), to be frustrated when “the small stuff” happens.  But then we’ve got to let it go.  Be frustrated, be upset, have your moment… and move on.  Because honestly, does it really matter if the socks are on the floor?  Or the dishes go undone for another day?  Or you have to come back to see Santa when the camera is fixed?

There are people today who’d do anything to have an extra load of laundry and undone dishes if it meant they even HAD a child to take to see Santa twice because the camera broke.

I’m not trying to be all preachy.  But I will say that I am a changed person.  I’m not proud of the fact that it took tragedy to cause me to look at life differently… but I am hoping like hell that I’ll be strong enough and wise enough to keep this perspective for the rest of my days here.

To my sister’s friend, Amy, keep fighting and find comfort in all of our prayers for you.

God Bless all of the families impacted by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.  May you somehow find peace during this tragic time, knowing that an entire nation is mourning with you and praying for you.  And may the children and adults who fought for their innocent lives rest in peace.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

God is Laughing at Me

I recently had a fairly lengthy discussion with my little sister about her wedding date/location.  We were talking about the possibility of it being too cold, weighing that risk against the fact that she wants it to be during a particular time of year.

She, like me, is a worrier.

After a long discussion of what-ifs, I tried to impart some older-sister-words-of-wisdom…

“Whit, truth is, you can worry, and stress, and drive yourself crazy wondering what the weather is going to be like on that day.  Truth is, though, you have no control over it.  So it’s really not worth stressing about.”

We both know she’s still going to stress about it – hell, I would, too (and did… my wedding was also outdoors and I worried constantly about the possibility of rain).  But I hope my words can provide at least some solace throughout the next eleven months.

Anyway, you know sometimes, when you’re giving someone advice, and you realize that if you’d only take your OWN advice, your life would be a heck of a lot better?

Anyone who reads this blog knows by now that I am a type-A, over-analyzing, worry-filled control freak.  I stress about everything.  And then I stress about my stress.  And don’t get me wrong – I truly believe sometimes stress can be healthy.  But not the kind of undue stress I bring upon myself.

Especially about the things over which I have NO control.

And there are quite a few of those things going on in my world right now.

Have you ever wanted to fast-forward time, or maybe just take a glimpse into the future, just to know the outcome of something?  Just to know if it was worth worrying about?

That’s where I am right now with a few things – things for me, things for my family, things for my friends.  But in all honesty, as I sit here and think about those things, I realize that I have little to no control over how they end up.  So I guess this is where I turn to myself and offer the same advice I gave Whit…

“Hey, Jess… truth is, you have NO control over these things.  And you can worry, and stress, but you’re only going to drive yourself crazy.  And it’s really not worth it, because worrying about it isn’t going to change how it all ends up.”

Someone once told me that God laughs hysterically when I try to control the universe.

Well, then he must find me to be hilarious.

P.S.  Whit – rain or shine, cold or hot – your wedding day is going to be absolutely perfect because it’s you and your soul mate. Xo.