Sisi the Flower Girl (again!)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

I absolutely treasure these pictures captured by Orange Turtle Photography of my dear friends Helen and Jordan's wedding.  I am having a hard time picking which ones to frame.   Orange Turtle is so so so good.  They also photographed my friend Kim's wedding (which was featured in The Knot Magazine!)

This dreamy sequence of me getting Sisi ready makes me daydream about the day when I'll be buttoning up her very own wedding dress and creating a special bridal bouquet just for her.  I'm sure the time will fly by faster than I can even imagine.

Helen wore a Petal and Thorn cathedral length veil, sprinkled with handmade hydrangea blossoms.  She looked beautiful!

I also got to put together some bouquets for the wedding in soft dusty pinks and purples.  It really was a joy!  The only stressful part was waiting for Joe to inch his way to San Diego in crazy traffic with a truck full of flowers on a very hot day.  I was worried Helen would have to walk down the aisle holding Sisi's flower girl wand :/  Thankfully, Joe made it just in time.  Thank you hubby!
juliet roses, blush lisianthus, blue scabiosa, lavender, hydrangea, eucalyptus and brunia

Sisi's walk down the aisle didn't go nearly as well as her first walk back in May.  She was pretty worn out from the drive down, and just wanted mommy to hold her.  But I was a bridesmaid, so I couldn't hold her. Then she had a meltdown during the entire ceremony and Joe had to lock themselves in the bathroom so as not to disrupt the ceremony.  Sheesh.

Luckily, the reception went pretty smoothly.  We toasted, we boogied, and we watched the cake cutting with great expectation. 

"mmmm cake!"

"mmmm cake!"

Thank you Helen and Jordan for sharing these images with me!  Helen, you have been the most supportive, loyal and protective friend these past 12 years. We are total opposites in many ways, but we have formed a lasting and true friendship.  I know you guys don't like your faces plastered all over the internet, so I tried to keep it vain and posted mostly pics of Sisi and me.  Just in case anyone is wondering why there are no pictures of the darling couple.  They are totally darling, just take my word for it. 

Such a happy day!  Thanks to Orange Turtle for capturing it so perfectly!


Diary of a Miscarriage (edited)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Warning:  This post contains material that some consider taboo or disturbing.  Please skip this post if you need to.  

I removed this post a few weeks ago because everything was still too raw, but now I'm putting it back up. I am ready to share my experience, not only to show I am not ashamed of my miscarriage, but to encourage any other moms out there who are going through the same thing.  I remember the first thing I did when I got home from that sad ultrasound was to trawl the internet for others' stories.  Friends' blogs, strangers on forums, anything I could find.  To read through teary eyes the stories of sadness, grief, strength and resilience was exactly what my heart needed, even before I was ready to talk to anyone, even Joe.  If anyone reads this and feels less alone, then I am super grateful...

Sisi the night we told our family the good news about baby #2.

Day 1: 
 I went to the ultrasound today with a seed of worry, but mostly expecting to see a healthy baby about the size of a fig. Or else I wouldn't have brought my 2 year old with us. Instead, I saw big black womb with no signs of life.  No baby at all, just a sack measuring 9.5 weeks.  I remember when Sisi was 7 weeks, her tiny gummy bear sized body leaped off the screen.  I could spot her beating heart immediately.  This time, as the ultrasound tech searched and searched over every inch of my stomach, I saw nothing, and that awful dread came over me.  The transvaginal ultrasound revealed the same thing... a blaring nothingness.

I cried and cried while the ultrasound tech offered condolences.  I tried to hold it together for Sisi's sake, but couldn't stop from wailing.  Scared, Sisi buried her face into Joe's pant legs. I don't think she's ever seen me totally lose it like that.  "Mommy's really really sad, honey, but we'll all be okay," was all I could muster.  Her response, "I think I want to eat plantain chips."  Hehe, 2 year olds often change the subject.

I went home, baked a cake, and called my best friend who cried with and prayed for me. I called my midwife who explained that it's not my fault, and it's best to let the body "do what it needs to do" instead of make this a medical emergency.  In other words, we need to wait for my body to push out a 9.5 week sac, along with tons of blood and tissue.  I'm so excited :/

And now, I sit in confusion. I feel tricked.  I feel like a fool.  This whole time I've been dreaming and gushing about baby that wasn't really there.  My list of boy names that end in vowels is still on my desk.  We really had to wrack our brains.  Leo. Theo. Tony. Cody...

Since my midwife hasn't seen the ultrasound yet, I still don't know exactly what caused my miscarriage.  Why was there no baby?  Why was my body holding onto this empty sac for so long?

This didn't come totally out of the blue, which is why we were having an ultrasound in the first place. My hormone levels tested lower, but still in the range of normal.  I had very minute spotting, but none of the telltale cramping or bleeding, which we thought was a good sign.   I experienced absolutely no nausea like I did with Sisi, which made me nervous, but I chalked it up to a healthier diet this time around.  The few pregnancy symptoms I did have (fatigue, intense hunger) went away at about 9.5 weeks, exactly when the sack stopped growing. The spotting happened right after I told all my closest friends about the pregnancy.  Figures!  Now I need to write that sad follow-up email.

I know I'm not alone in this.  I know God has a plan and it's the best one.  I'll grieve this loss in the same roller coaster way I grieved my dad three years ago.   I still have my sweet girl Sisi to cuddle and cherish.  I have my wonderful husband who is out buying me sushi right now.

Day 2:  Last night I woke up several times and couldn't get back to sleep.  My stomach twitched a few times, kind of like braxton hicks contractions, but no bleeding. I've been feeling these twitches for weeks now, and naively thought my tiny baby was just a really strong kicker. Now I know my body was preparing to expel it.

In the still of the night, I kept telling my body it can let go now. For a few minutes I even felt proud, just thinking about how hard my body has tried to hold onto this pregnancy.  A for effort.  But you can give up now, and let it go.  God saw fit to take this one away.

 Sisi woke up a few times, too, sobbing in her sleep.  I know that this miscarriage is affecting her, it's just hard to know on what level.  In the morning, I lay in bed for a long time, not wanting to get out. But when you have a toddler, you have to grieve on the inside, at least until nap time.  On the outside, it's business as usual.  We went to the post office, Trader Joe's, I made her lunch, and tucked her in for a nap.

She was really clingy today, and asked about the baby.  She said, "Now I can squish it??" I had to hold my laughter in.  She's been asking if she can "squish it" since we told her about the baby weeks ago.  I used to tell her, "No honey.  Baby is tiny and fragile.  We need to be gentle with my tummy."  Now my response is, "I thought there was a baby in there, but there's not.  So yes, you can squish it. But not too hard."

Now that the house is quiet, the tears are flowing again.

I spent her naptime doing exactly what I shouldn't do.  I googled "natural miscarriage at 11 weeks: what to expect".  Horror story after horror story.  I'm in agony waiting for the inevitable.  I know I'm capable of handling a "mini-labor" at home, because I handled a "mega-labor" at home. But this time there will be no reward for the pain.  No precious baby to hold.  On the other hand, I'm glad I will only be passing a sac, not a baby.  My midwife said it will be a bit easier since the sac is soft and there won't be as much to pass.  Like a very intense period.  She also said many of her patients consider home-miscarriage "empowering."  Hmm, we'll see.

 I wish it would just happen today.  Now.  Let's get this over with.  I want my body to be empty and ready to heal.  I'm already thinking about another pregnancy.  Is that crazy?  Is that like buying a new puppy the day your dog dies?

Day 3:  My midwife gave me a diagnosis- "blighted ovum".  The fetus either never formed after implantation, or died early on and was reabsorbed.  She called it a "trick pregnancy" because the body thinks it's still pregnant and is continuing to nurture an empty sac.  That's why the blood tests often come out normal, and the mother might not find out she's miscarried until the doctor can't find a heartbeat in the second trimester.  I'm just glad I found out now instead of weeks from now.

I'm doing okay today.  Just constant low-level sadness.  We made it over to a neighbor's house for a playdate, and I only teared up twice.  Once when my neighbor asked how my pregnancy was going, and again when Sisi started feeding a little baby doll a bottle.

Yesterday, Joe tried to give me my magnesium supplements to take, and I snapped, "What's the point?  I don't need them now!"  He gently corrected me, "Everyone needs magnesium, not just pregnant women."  So I took them.  I'm finding it hard to nourish myself now.  

Still waiting for the mini-labor to begin.  I keep having painless "practice" contractions, and each time, my heart jumps and I think, "It's happening!" And then nothing happens.  I've stocked up on pads (I despise pads), advil, epsom salts and raspberry leaf tea.

Day 4:  I've lost my innocence about pregnancy. I am now having a hard time trusting my body.  After all, my brain has known about my miscarriage for 4 days now, and I'm still waiting for my body to get the idea.

Previously, I liked the minimal intervention approach.  No ultrasounds, or maybe just one to find out the sex if you're impatient like me.  I liked that my midwife typically holds off on using the doppler at every visit because, in her words, "It sounds like a freight train to your baby."

But you better believe next time I'm having an ultrasound at 7 weeks.  And next time I'll be requesting the doppler at each and every visit.  I'll do progesterone testing the MINUTE I get that positive pregnancy test.  I will probably do progesterone supplements before I even get pregnant. Judge me if you will crunchy moms, call me paranoid, but I will never go through this again.  I don't mean that I won't go through a miscarriage again, because only God knows what's in store for me. I  mean that I will never walk around at 11 weeks lovingly patting my baby bump... only to find out it's empty.  That will not happen again.

I was planning on surfing tomorrow morning. It's one thing I always miss when I'm pregnant. I think the cool ocean spray and salty water would be good for me.  Then I realized there have been great white sharks spotted recently, and what if I started bleeding during my surf session?  Would they go for all the guys out there, or the one lady who is bleeding profusely?  I told Joe, "I am already dealing with a miscarriage.  The last thing I need is a shark attack."  And we both started cracking up in that moment, because it sounded so absurd.  But I'm serious, I'm not going surfing tomorrow.

I took Sisi to the mall to admire the Christmas decor and ride the carousel.  I got choked up anytime I saw a pregnant woman.  I got even more choked up if she had a toddler in tow.  "That should be me!" I thought.  Then it hit me- there must be women who see me with my beautiful baby girl, and maybe they get choked up because they lost a child or could never get pregnant. It made me both sad and grateful.  You just never know what someone has gone through.

Day 5:  Farmer's market trip.  Actually in a decent mood (the sunshine?), and enjoyed picking out ripe produce.  

Grief is interesting.  Is it possible to get better at it?  I feel like I'm getting better at it.  I think I submit to grief a little faster now. I don't arm wrestle with it anymore. I've walked through nightmares that I never thought imaginable, my dad's suicide being the worst.  I realize that anything can happen, ANYTHING, and I'm no longer that surprised when trials come. Trials are a part of life.  In fact, God ordains them, not as punishment, but as a means of growth.  I do understand that in my soul.

I don't try to bargain with trials, because there is no bargaining with God.  There are no take backs.  Nothing I do or don't do with bring this baby back.

I *try* not to get angry or take my grief out on others, but I find this is the hardest part. It's easier to get angry at the people around you than at God, or the person you lost.  I've tried so hard to treat Sisi kindly and patiently, but I have been snapping at Joe and feel some resentment.  This baby was both of ours, but I have to carry the physical burden. 

Day 6:  Late last night I woke up at 3am with very mild cramping.  I noticed the cramping was coming in waves- contractions.  With each contraction, a fair gush of blood.  Needless to say, I didn't sleep much last night.  I read Vogue in the bathroom and tried not to wake Joe up.  No pain (thanks to a steady stream of advil) just some fear and anxiety that I tried to breathe my way through.  Breathing really helps.

I got flashbacks from Sisi's birth. I remembered how at 3am, I woke up to my water breaking, and then mild cramps, just like these.  And then everything accelerated so quickly that I found myself pushing just a few hours later.  What an amazing experience that was.  It was the hardest thing I'd ever done, but I felt like superwoman after.  Like I could do absolutely anything.

I think this miscarriage is good practice for another birth, Lord willing.  I don't think I'll be scared at all next time, for this is much harder.  Not pain-wise, but emotionally.

This afternoon, as I was making brownies, I started to feel woozy.  I ditched the brownies, lay down on the couch, then instantly felt dizzy and nauseated.  I blacked out on the way to the bathroom and landed face down on the bed, speechless, sweaty and exhausted.  After that, I passed a deluge of blood and clots while sweet Joe massaged my back (I now have a better understanding of what "back labor" must feel like, and I feel so sorry for you!).  Then I stopped bleeding, and I now feel great.  Well, relatively speaking.  We shall see if there is more to come.

Day 7:  There was indeed more to come.  At 3am (apparently, that's when my uterus likes to party)  I passed lots more stuff.  Enough said.   The whole process was very similar to the early phases of childbirth, plus the afterbirth. Anyway, I think the worst of it is over. I am only spotting now, and look and feel totally un-pregnant.  I can't remember the last time my abs were this flat- all the contractions I suppose.

I'm really tired and I cry easily, but I'm doing ok.   I agree with my midwife that doing this miscarriage naturally was strangely empowering.  It was the closure I needed.  I had to watch this pregnancy literally dissolve right in front of me.  My body did what it needed to do when it was positively sure this pregnancy wouldn't work out.  It's all kind of amazing.

I'm hoping to visit my friend's beautiful newborn today, and hoping I can keep it together.  Just because I get sad when I see bumps and babies doesn't mean I'm not ecstatic at the same time. I'm truly ecstatic for my friend. I can feel both emotions simultaneously without having to feel guilty, right?

In a week, I'll have an ultrasound and blood test done to make sure everything has passed and that my body is back to normal.  If my miscarriage wasn't thorough enough, I will have to go in for a D&C procedure.  I really hope I'm all clear.  I would hate to have gone through all of that, only to need surgery anyway.  Hoping and praying.

Anyway, I'm looking forward now.  I will treasure this extra time that we now have as a family of three. Bonus time :)  But I imagine I'll always get sad around our lost baby's due date, 6/10/2014, and think about what might have been.  As the five friends I was pregnant with go on to have their babies, I will no doubt feel a mixture of emotions (but mostly joy, I'm sure!)  Once again, that doesn't make me a bad person.  It makes me a real person who has suffered a real loss.

Update: 3 weeks later.
It's kind of weird how right after I found out we lost the baby, I longed to be pregnant again.  I think it was a form of denial- just wanting to undo everything like magic.  Now, I can't even imagine being pregnant right now because I'm still grieving.  Not the intense, weepy, distraught grief I felt in the beginning.  It's a subdued, pensive grief, totally undetectable to others.  Also, my body is still grieving, as I'm not done passing everything.  I could be bleeding for quite a while I'm told.  I won't physically be able to get pregnant for a while longer, so maybe by the time my body is ready for a baby, my heart will be, too.  We shall see.

 My very wise friend Lacey wrote these words to me in an email, "Grief isn't always about sadness; sometimes it's also about the mental journey of grappling with a different life than what you expected." How true is that?  I've got a bit more grappling to do.

I also feel bad for saying "there was never a baby." Sounds so disrespectful. Blighted ovum is strange, because there is no detectable baby.   But God did form a little life in my womb, even if it didn't survive long. Life is amazing and miraculous, no matter how tiny.  


A "Quilt" for Sisi

Friday, December 13, 2013

I've always loved the idea of making a quilt for Sisi, but I can't commit to sewing a real one. I'm happy to bust  out my sewing machine for easy projects like curtains and pillows and felt garlands, but a quilt?  That's major.  That's majorly out of my league.

So, I decided to make a faux quilt which requires no sewing at all, just stamping.  Each square represents something special that Sisi and I treasure, like the ocean, flowers, our dogs, our home, etc.  

I used foam sheets from the craft store to make the actual stamps.  I just cut out shapes (the simpler the better) and glued them on.  I used the same technique for these foam and cork stamps.  

I applied acrylic paint directly onto the stamps, then I stamped each image onto a square piece of paper. The images didn't come out perfectly, but I was ok with that.  It gave the project a rustic feel, which seems right for a quilt.

I actually made 16 squares in all, but when I found out how much it would cost to have a custom 24x24 square frame made (over 300.00 on sale!!!) I decided to pick my 12 favorite squares to fit into a rectangular 24x18 frame (on sale for about 30.00- that's more like it.)

Now I have 8 super cute stamps to use on handmade cards and gift wrap.  I'm planning to use them to add a little oomph to my plain kraft gift bags this Christmas.  

Hopefully we'll have another kiddo someday, and I am excited to get to know that little one and figure out what motifs belong on his or her special quilt.  Already looking forward to that!  :)  


Life Is Beautiful

Thursday, December 5, 2013

...Even in times of grief.  Here are some things that are making me smile, despite our recent loss.

A new picture for the photo wall... 

Pretty good, right?  

Not only do we have half a steer in our freezer, we also bought a grassfed lamb from Primal Pastures.  I LOVE lamb.  And I love how the butcher packaged the meat all old-fashioned-like with paper and string.

My herb/veggie garden is actually doing ok! Big surprise to me.  Growing our own herbs has definitely saved us a ton of money.  It's wonderful cutting a snip of this and that for each meal.  

Women's tea.  Makes me feel like I'm doing something good for my lady parts, as they've been through a lot the past few weeks.  Placebo effect? 

My precious friend Julie sent the most gorgeous bouquet of flowers.  1 1/2 weeks later, they are still blooming beautifully.  

Ok, this is the coolest toy we've ever bought.  They are called "river stones" and Sisi has found so many ways to play with them.  She pretends the carpet is the water and she has to hop across.  She also pretends they are linked trains and rides around with her friends. I have a feeling these will be a big hit at our next playdate, too.  These would be a rad Christmas gift!

Yes, she's wearing a dog collar.  Don't worry, we don't put a leash on her :)

Sisi is finally old enough to know that glue is for creating, not eating or pouring on furniture.  We have fun collecting stuff around the house for collages.  And then I throw them away.  I can't stand the clutter.  The old me would have saved every single one.

I love that it's December and sunny enough to craft outside.  

Although we started clearing out our office to prepare for the baby that we lost, we decided to keep the momentum going and finally moved our computers to the sunroom.  This Ikea kitchen island is the perfect standing desk, and Sisi can do art right next to me while I work.  It's fun working right next to Joe, like we're office buddies or something.

Sisi's "tail phase" has lasted for months now.  Shoe laces, ribbons, boas, lily grass- you name it, I've pinned it to her butt.  

I ordered this lovely banner from Joyful Joyful  because I knew it would be good for us to sit down and write out things we are thankful for, even through our tears.  The banner included those little leaf cutouts and clothespins exactly for that purpose.  

The old office is now Sisi's new room.  Soft yellow, Sisi's favorite color (probably because of her thing for ducks?)  When I was pregnant, I allowed myself to relax, sleep in, take it easy (as all pregnant women should!).  Now that I have my energy back, I decided to put it to good use and fix up our house.  I'm not a handy woman by any means, but I'm trying.  I patched up the drywall, hung a bunch of pictures, and painted two rooms in two days, all by myself. I'm super proud, even if I complained every second of the job.

I hope you're all finding things to smile about, too! 


A Simple Kind of Life Series

Monday, November 25, 2013

My ENTIRE makeup collection.

If you feel like clutter is taking over your space and your life, you definitely need to read all about my decluttering experience and how it's changed my life.

It's really ironic that I'm dispensing advice about decluttering, because I was always the most messy, sentimental, disorganized person in my family.  But I have truly changed, and I will never go back.

Check out my posts here on Hellobee!
Sisi's books. 

Sisi's toys.


Sisi's Semi-Homemade Boston Terrier Costume

Sunday, November 17, 2013

 One proud puppy!

Last year, Sisi was a piece of sushi.  This year, Sisi was a Boston Terrier.  Dogs are one of her great passions (along with fire hydrants, ducks, and snakes).  Every day, she asks to wear a tail made of ribbon or string of some sort, and begs to wear Pesto's collar.  I just knew it would rock her world to transform her into a dog for Halloween.

She wore a velvet leotard on sale from the craft store (8.00 I think?) and I sewed some white velour onto the chest.  Her mittens were from amazon, and I sewed on the little black spots to make them paws.  I bought the leather trim for the collar from the craft store, and we went to Petco to make Sisi her very own "Siena" collar.  The mask is made from starched felt and elastic. The characteristic zig zag tail is made of starched felt as well.  So cheap, so easy, and uber cute.

We had such a great Halloween!  She trick or treated about 7 or 8 houses and then was over it. We went to our friends' house for dinner, then I asked her to trade all her Halloween candy for a paleo brownie with coconut milk ice cream.  She somewhat hesitantly made the swap, but I have a feeling next year it will be really hard to pry the candy out of her little paws. I may need to up the ante even more.  We'll get there when we get there, I suppose!


No Birthday Party This Year?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Last year, in lieu of a birthday party, Sisi helped me make paleo cake with chocolate frosting. We gave Sisi a party hat, sang happy birthday, and that was it.  She totally loved it!

Contrast that with her 1 year party. I swore I'd keep it simple. Relative to many of my friends' kids' parties, it WAS simple.  Just light lunch, desserts, doggy themed decor and some baby toys and blankets thrown on the lawn.  But somehow I still ended up spending a lot of money, and hours and hours of time crafting all the little details.  Simple is very hard for me, especially when decorating and crafting is my passion.
onesie wall art

I'm extremely torn about what to do for Sisi's third birthday.  Part of me wants to throw her a small and simple no-fuss party. Part of me wants to scrap the party, and just take Sisi to the aquarium and have family meet us for dinner at a restaurant.

I need to ask myself the following questions:
1.  Am I capable of throwing a small and simple party?? 
2.  Which option is cheaper?
3.  And most importantly, which option will Sisi like better?  

Off the top of my head, my answers are "No, I'm not capable of keeping it no-fuss," "The aquarium will obviously be cheaper," and "Sisi would rather be surrounded by fish than at a party."  All signs point to the Aquarium.

Except there is something inside me that wants to throw her a party anyway.  Perhaps I want to show my love by putting time and creativity into her special day.  Perhaps I feel guilty always attending amazing parties but never throwing them.  Perhaps I just want an excuse to bust out my Silhouette die-cutter machine.  But even with harsh self-imposed rules (like no goodie bags, no more than 10 kids, no centerpieces, no massive dessert table) I still can't help but want a face-painter, buttload of balloons, clever games, pretty linens, and specialty cake.  All those things cost money and effort. Have you ever blown up 100 balloons and tried to hang them from the ceiling?  I have.  Never again.  

While I totally love and appreciate the extravagant parties Sisi attends regularly, I've come to realize they are just not for me.  First, I'm a minimalist now. I can't stomach the idea of a bunch of wasted food and decorations that will end up in the trash.  Plus, presents are so fun, but we are really trying to keep our house clutter-free.

Also, being paleo makes parties even harder.  Lots of parents can simplify their parties by doing pizzas, cake and punch. But there are really not a lot of cheap paleo options. If I'm going to throw a party, I want to feed people nutritiously.  I can only think of a few restaurants that would really fit the bill, and they aren't necessarily cheap.  Oh, and me cooking for everyone?  Not even an option.

So, I don't think I'll be throwing a party for Sisi this year. Even though this fact causes me a bit of guilt and grief,  I'm pretty sure Sisi won't care.  Joe even said we could use some of the money we would have put into a party, and go on a special little getaway instead.  Maybe a night in San Diego or Santa Barbara for the three of us?  Sounds amazing to me.

All this got me thinking back to childhood- I never chose parties for myself as a kid.  Being the introvert that I am, I always asked to take my two best friends somewhere special for the day, like Disneyland.  Then we'd go home, have a Baskin Robbin's ice cream cake, and call it a splendid day. Sisi is so much like me, I have a feeling that's what she'd pick, too.  Nothing wrong with that!  

How do you guys feel about kids' birthday parties?  Do you enjoy throwing them?  Any tips for keeping them simple and stress-free?