Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Kate's 1st Birthday Party!

My niece Kate turned one on December 15th.  I love her.  One of my favorite parts of moving to Idaho is being closer to her and getting to watch her grow up.  It was so fun to be at her first birthday party.  We went to a really cool indoor pool and water playground at Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, and then we had pizza, cake, and presents at the Nielson's home afterward.  It is so special to be near family so we can be there for milestones and events like this.

Kate is spunky.  She has serious personality.  She crinkles up her nose when she smiles, and she gives a death glare when she is uncertain about someone.  I used to get that glare a lot, but she is warming up to me lately and finally coming to realize what I have always known--that I am her favorite aunt!  (Shh, don't tell the others!)

Here we are playing peek-a-boo:

And here she is giving me a death glare at her birthday party (not sure what I did wrong):

This little lady is teeny--she is in the first percentile for height and weight--and yet she toddles around like a champ and has a huge personality.  She never stays still--never has, even as a tiny baby.  She has always been a mover, into everything and exploring the world.  I have a feeling she is always going to be feisty and smart, and I can't wait to witness her learning and growing over the years.

Happy Birthday, Kate!  I love you and am so glad we moved to Idaho so I could win you over!

Your (Favorite) Aunt Rachel

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dear Baby Bean

Hello, Little One. This is your mother, writing to you for the very first time—which seems fitting since I saw you for the very first time today.  You were just a tiny speck on the ultrasound screen, a little seahorse-shaped bean, but I could see your heart beating wildly (144 beats per minute!), and it made my heart beat a little faster as well.  You are real.  You are really on your way.

Your dad was beside me, wrestling with your big brother Noah who was, of course, being a pill in a moment that I had imagined would be still and spiritual.  I think Noah’s squawks must have drown out the heavenly choirs that were singing, but it didn’t matter—when I turned to look at your dad, he was grinning from ear to ear watching that little heartbeat on the screen, and that was sacred enough for me.  I love him, and I love that you are a piece of him.

After that fleeting magical moment, I mostly just felt nauseated and a little overwhelmed as I lay there on the exam table.  Pregnancy and motherhood consist of a lot of feelings, many of which are not romantic and blissful—but I do feel like it’s important to capture the moments that are perfect.  As a friend once told me, the magical moments may not outnumber the hard or mundane moments, but they definitely outweigh them.

For example, I vividly remember the moment that I started wishing for you—well, I’ve always wished for you, but I remember clearly the moment that the possibility and dream of you first became real.  I hadn’t felt ready to even consider another baby for over a year after your brother was born.  Adjusting to motherhood had been difficult and disorienting for me, but one day when Noah was about 16 months old, we were playing in the bathtub, and as he squealed, splashed, and splattered bubbles on me, I felt overwhelming joy and thought, “I hope I get to do this again.”  I was surprised to realize that, quite suddenly, the thought of another baby joining our family brought excitement instead of fear.  I knew then that it wouldn’t be an easy road to get you here, and it hasn’t been—but I also knew that I would do whatever it took to make it happen.

Now that you’re on your way, I feel so many things.  I feel excited to pick out a special name for you, to have a baby bump and to feel you kick inside of me, to experience labor and bringing you into the world, to rock you and snuggle you, to watch you learn and grow and develop personality and spunk, like your brother.

But I also feel scared sometimes—mostly that I am not up for the challenge of two children.  I often feel like I can barely manage my life as it is, with one child.  After over two years, I still haven’t “mastered” being a stay-at-home mom.  Some women are naturally so good at this—at getting up and getting going for the day, planning fun outings and activities for the kids, enjoying every moment (okay, probably just most moments) with their little ones while managing their homes with ease.  Me, not so much.  I’m going to be honest and say that most days, I am still in pajama pants, unshowered, at 3:00 p.m., and we are lucky if dinner gets on the table and the dishes get done each day.  This has been especially true lately with fertility treatments and now pregnancy exhaustion, hormone-related blues, and of course, the ever-present nausea.

But what I need to remember is that I’m a good mom.  I might not be a good homemaker, but I’m a good mom.  I love Noah fiercely, and I love reading to him and teaching him.  I know that I have enough love to give to another child, even if it sometimes feels like I don’t have enough time management (or organization or motivation or whatever it is!).

I can’t wait to welcome you to our family.  I can’t wait to see how you fit and what you bring to us.   Right now, you are just our little bean, but before we know it, you will be here, fresh from heaven and ready to start teaching us.

I can’t wait to hold you and to look into your eyes for the first time.  But for now, I will treasure the memory of that little beating heart—and the way that it filled and settled into mine.

I love you so much already, my little miracle baby.

Keep growing.  We will keep praying.  And we will see you again soon.


Your Pregnant Mama

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

IVF, News

I thought that I would figure out a poetic/literary way to announce this...but the truth is, I am excruciatingly tired (good sign, right?), so I guess I will just get right to the point and say it:

I am pregnant.


Several blood tests have confirmed it, and my HCG levels are doubling every 40 hours, and so although I am still ridiculously early on to be announcing this news, I thought I would go ahead and do it--because with IVF, everyone knows your general timeline anyway, and everyone is asking and wondering...so you really can't keep it a secret for long.

So there you have it, friends: I am a whopping 5 1/2 weeks pregnant and feeling so relieved and grateful and overwhelmed and vulnerable and happy and scared, all at once.

I am ever-aware that I am still in the miscarriage danger zone, and will be for several more months, so continued prayers are appreciated.  My doctor did say that with my HCG levels, the risk of miscarriage is low, but I know this is never a sure thing.  I know this life inside of me is very fragile.  It makes me feel vulnerable to announce this news so early on, but I figure that if the worst should happen, I will want to share and seek support on my blog anyway.  So I am announcing it now and praying for things to continue progressing normally.

I am also ever-aware that I am extremely blessed to have had this outcome the first time that I did IVF.  So blessed.  Most of my friends who have done IVF have not had it so easy.  It feels weird to write that because IVF is never easy, but compared to the journeys of some of my friends, my path was fairly straightforward.  Again, I am so grateful.  So so so grateful.

I know how much infertility can sting, and I hope this pregnancy announcement doesn't cause pain for anyone else.  For those of you currently struggling with infertility, I am so sorry for what you are going through and I love you.  Truly.  I always pray for those who are facing infertility or waiting to adopt--I pray by name for those whom I know, and I pray in general for those whom I don't.  So if anyone is reading this news and your heart is hurting, I really mean it when I say that I am praying for you.  Please hang in there.  Sometimes that's all we can do.

As for me being pregnant (what??), it feels too good to be true--so surreal and so exciting--this little life inside of me.  I was looking through an old photo album from Ryan's childhood today, and I decided that I hope the baby looks like him.  I mean, honestly, should this kind of cuteness even be allowed??

And speaking of Ryan, the baby's due date is August 6th, which just happens to be Ryan's 32nd birthday!  This was also Noah's due date at one point, though he ended up being born on August 1st.

And speaking of Noah, I love him.  He has these new skateboarder shoes (be still my heart), and today when a random stranger complimented them, he said, "Want to see how fast they go?"  And took off running around the room.

He makes me smile every single day.  He made me a mother.  He is the reason I found the courage to try for another baby.  Ryan and I often shake our heads in wonder when we look at him--he is the best thing that ever happened to us, and I will always be grateful for my infertility because it brought Noah to us.

When I asked Noah if he wants a brother or a sister, he said, "Both!" :)  He's probably not going to get both of them at once, because although they did transfer two embryos, my HCG levels are not indicating twins at this point.  (I know some of you out there were wondering.)  We won't know for sure until I have an ultrasound, but for now, the doctor says it appears to be one healthy and growing baby in there.  Sounds miraculous and perfect to me.

Thank you all for your prayers.  Thank you for supporting us on this journey.  Thank you for loving our family.  Thank you for sharing in our joys and our sorrows over the years.  This is another chapter which we are hoping will have a happy ending in August.

I simply can't wait.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Today I get the privilege of writing a birthday tribute to one of the women whom I love and admire most in this world: my mother-in-law, Sally.

From the first time I met Sally about nine years ago, I’ve been able to talk openly with her and share my heart with her.  It is not unusual for us to talk for hours, on the phone or in person.  Though our interests and hobbies aren’t really the same (she is a great tennis player and a brilliant homemaker, while I am neither athletic nor domestic), I feel like our hearts are very similar.  We both care deeply about our family and friends and would do anything for them; we both enjoy discussing life with kindred spirits; and we both want to be and do good above all else.  When I talk to Sally, I feel like she “gets” me, and I hope that feeling is mutual.

If I had to define Sally in one word, I would say that she is a nurturer.  She loves to take care of people.  Even though her children are grown and all but one are married, she still takes such good care of us and is infinitely thoughtful and encouraging.  She told me once that she often prays for each of her children and their spouses by name, going through the list and sharing with Heavenly Father her concerns for each of us.  I cannot express how much comfort it gives me to know that Sally is consistently praying for us individually.  I know this habit of prayer has lead her to be inspired in how to reach out and help us on more than one occasion.  She truly watches over our entire family, and I don’t know what we would do without her.

It is no surprise that she is also an amazing grandma who genuinely loves having the grandkids at her home making messes.  She plays with them and reads to them, and she can’t bear to hear the babies cry.  I have to turn off the baby monitor if I ever let Noah “cry it out” at her house because she just wants to go get him up—she would willingly rock him and read him stories until 2 a.m.  (And he knows it!) :)  Sally loves to love others, and she is so very good at it.

Though we’ve always been close, my relationship with Sally has become even deeper in recent years as I’ve become a mother myself, and I treasure many of the moments I’ve shared with her in this new “role” in my life.

The day after Noah was born, I was surprised when I suddenly became totally overwhelmed by a wave of conflicting emotions—elation that I was finally a mother, but also fear that I was not up to the task; indescribable gratitude for Katie and Drew’s sacrifice, and yet overwhelming guilt that I was so happy when they were hurting; all-consuming love for my little baby, and yet inadequacy at the thought of doing everything I could to provide for and teach him.  Though I am not usually a crier, I could not stop sobbing for over an hour, and quite frankly, it scared me.

Ryan, who I’m pretty sure was completely bewildered by this uncharacteristic outpouring from his wife, insisted that I talk to his mom about it.  I remember saying, “No, I can’t tell anyone that I am feeling this way!  No one will understand!  I am just supposed to be happy and grateful today.  What is wrong with me?”  But the more I cried, the more insistent Ryan became.

So, through my tears and in a shaky, breaking voice, I told Sally everything.  I remember that we were sitting in the parking lot at Costco (Ryan had run inside to print the photos of Noah’s birth), and Sally didn’t judge me—in fact, she comforted me by sharing a very personal story from her own life about a time when she felt  overwhelmed by motherhood and by the fear that she wouldn’t do it “right.”   I felt understood, and I felt hope—because if Sally Nielson, who is such an amazing mother and nurturer, had some of these fears in her early days as a mom, then I realized I would probably be okay!  I will be forever grateful that Sally was there for me during that life-changing time when I was a brand-new mom.

A few months later, I had another interaction with Sally that reinforced her loving nature.  Noah had colic, and he cried constantly, no matter what I tried to do to make him comfortable. I felt exhausted, overwhelmed, and extremely sad much of the time.  For all of those reasons, I was overly sensitive, and when Sally made suggestions about Noah’s care, it hurt my feelings.   I finally decided to tell her how I felt, so I wrote her an email expressing my thoughts and concerns (I was afraid that if I talked to her about it, I would just burst into tears).  In Ryan’s and my six years of marriage, Sally and I had never had any sort of conflict or reason to disagree, and after I sent the email, I felt so worried that she would be offended and that it would alter our relationship forever.  A few hours later, I got the most loving reply, apologizing for any suggestions that had “overstepped” or hurt my feelings and assuring me that I was doing a great job and was a wonderful mother.  I was so touched by her compassion and humility, when she easily could have gotten defensive or pointed out that I was being oversensitive.  What a blessing that the first time we ever had to talk about hurt feelings and a difference of opinion on childrearing, it was a good experience that brought us even closer.  These types of situations are bound to arise now and then within families, and I’m so glad that Sally made sure to set the precedent that we would always treat each other with respect and empathy.  This experience made me admire Sally even more and become even more convinced that I am so lucky to have her in my life—most of my girlfriends do not have this type of open and supportive relationship with their mothers-in-law.   I know how blessed I am.

Sally has been an immeasurable support these past six months as I’ve struggled with infertility-related illnesses and complications and as we’ve undergone the process of IVF—we really couldn’t have done it without her.  Again, I just have to marvel at what a gift she is in my life!

Happy birthday, Sally!  Thank you for showing me how to be a nurturing, loving, faithful, committed, and understanding mother—and mother-in-law.  Someday, I hope to be the type of mother-in-law to Noah’s wife that you are to me.  Thank you for being one of my closest friends and confidants and for always seeing the best in me.  You have always made me feel so loved and so welcome in the Nielson family.  I will never be able to thank you enough for it.  I love you!  xoxo