Not You Too: A Hope for Marriage During Loss

 (A note on this blog post: I have read a lot of blogs and books about loss and one thing that I seemed to have missed the most and craved deeply is the hard truth about how loss affects your marriage. I didn’t want the story after everything was fine and things were edited out because that made me feel even more lonely. I wanted the raw reality so that I could even just imagine that we weren’t quite so alone. Justin and I have experienced incredible healing individually and in our marriage this year, especially in the last few months. I would even venture to say it’s miraculous, knowing how hard it once was. But there was a time when all I had was hope. I couldn’t even pray for it because my spirit was too silent. I couldn’t even get the right words out to explain how devastating it felt. All I had was hope. I wrote this piece about THAT time. If you are there now, oh my friend, you are not alone. Lots of love. xoxo)
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I may lose my smile for a little while. It might not come as quickly or freely as it once did. Most days I may feel too tired for smiling; too tired for much of anything at all. I may lose my smile, but I hope I don’t lose you too.

I may lose my faith. Or at least versions of it as I shed the parts that are heavy in search of the ones that are light. I may feel lost and unteathered for a time, as I grope and struggle and strive to find peace again. I may lose my fast and gutsy answers, laden with confidence and surety. I may choose doubt instead of certainty. I may choose fear instead of freedom. I might get swallowed up in the waves for a time. I may lose my faith, but l hope I don’t lose you too.

I may lose my grit. I might decide that it all feels too hard and too sad. Inside, I may choose to cross my arms and sit this one out for a little while. I may lose my motivation, determination, and inspiration. Life might feel like much more like a plight instead of a dance. I may lose my grit, but I hope I don’t lose you too.

I may lose the girl inside that I once was. I may lose my interests, my passions and my dreams. Those all might get tucked away in a box on and put on the highest shelf for a time. I may forget that I was strong once and I may forget how to lift up my chin. I may turn into a ghost for while, feeling much more like a shell than a soul. I may lose that girl, but I hope I don’t lose you too.

I may lose the ability to see you. I might forget to listen to your laugh and really look into your eyes. I might start seeing you as a defeated battle partner. Really seeing you might make it even harder, because you were there too. You were with me and your heart broke too. I may lose the ability to see you, but I hope I don’t lose you too.

I lost them. All those babies with no names and no faces that came and went so quickly. I lost the chance hear them call me momma. I lost the chance to hold them. I lost the chance to feel beautiful and strong as I carried them to term. I lost the chance to scream and yell and fight to bring them into the world, breathing, wailing and filled with new life. I lost them. We lost them. But I hope I don’t lose you too.

I lost her. I sat in an empty nursery that used to be hers. I sat alone, my arms empty in a chair that for many nights, I once rocked her, sang to her, and snuggled her. I packed up her clothes. I boxed up her baby toys. I said goodbye and I let her go. I lost her. We lost her. But I hope I don’t lose you too.

I hope.

I hope.

I don’t know.

I hope.

I hope I learn to smile again. I hope smiling feels easy and light and natural. I hope I find my faith again. I hope my soul once again feels tethered to something solid and strong. I hope I find grit and motivation and determination and inspiration. I hope it propels me to remember my dreams again; to remember the girl I once was. I hope I learn to dance. And I really hope I learn how to see you again.

I hope.

And I really hope I don’t lose you too. I hope we can find each other again. I hope we can walk off the battlefield and I hope I remember to take your hand in mine. I hope we learn to smile together again. I hope we remember how to believe and how to dream. I hope we find our legs again and we learn how to run; but more importantly I hope we learn how to dance.

I hope.

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These Are Mine

I am reading a book right now.  It chronicles the lives of a few families over three generations.  It is making history come alive for me and by sharing the intimate stories of these people, it makes it so much more personal.  I am watching them live and love.  I am watching them die. It is reminding me that so many quiet lives have been lived out for centuries.  Most of these people will not be remembered.  But they lived with their people.

Out of all the generations and human souls that have ever lived, I realized how incredible it is that I am living out my quiet life with my people.  I was born into a family with my mom, Mikki, and my dad, Dennis.  Those two people shaped much of who I am.  I grew up with my David, the funniest guy I know and I fought over clothes and whispered under the covers with my Wendy.  They all could have been born in a different time and I would have never known them.  But they are mine.parents

View More: http://heatherpepin.pass.us/volzfamily

 

Every day, I talk with my amazing girlfriends about our quiet lives.  About diapers, PTA meetings, marriage, our dreams, moments of celebration, and times of grief.  I hear their stories and share mine. We walk hand in hand through mountains and valleys and everything in between. They could have lived in another country and I would have never met them.  They could have been flappers in the twenties.  But they aren’t.  They are here with me.  They are mine.

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the family girls

I lived in this certain city and I joined a theater group in my teens.  There were only a pocket of people in that group compared to all the human souls that are alive right now.  But that is where I found my Justin.  That is where I found this boy who cared for my heart and me made laugh and made me fall in love.  He could have been a soldier in World War 1 and I would never have known life with him.  But he is mine .  And out of all the kids that have ever lived, we were given our Jack.  My precious blue eyed sensitive son.  And we were given our Ivy.  My sassy, funny endearing daughter.  They could have been born in the 1800’s and I would have never known them.  But they are mine.

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my people

This year has been the hardest one in a long time if I am being honest.  After living in survival mode and crisis mode for nearly 5 years, we are starting to pick up the pieces.  We are starting to talk about it.  It is messy and sad and sometimes feels like it is all too hard.  In this season, it often feels like it takes most of me just to get through the day and keep everyone alive, fed, and at the right place at the right time.  It is very easy to look at my Justin and my Jack and my Ivy as a “things to do list” instead of human souls.

A few nights ago, I was giving Ivy a bath.  Jack came in and started being silly.  He started dancing.  Ivy stood up and with her chubby toddler legs started wiggling, dancing and smiling at her big brother.  You know what my natural instinct has been over the last few months? I would have asked Jack to stop because Ivy needs to get through her bath and if she stands up she might fall. Yes, I would have smiled and of course we still have family dance parties often.  But I realized how quick and easy it is for me to be annoyed, tired and just trying to move things along.

But through God’s divine grace, I was given a beautiful moment right there in the bathroom.  I realized these kids ARE MINE.  These are mine, you guys. They are standing RIGHT THERE.  I watched clean water coming out of our faucet and my babies laughing together and I was overcome.  I was humbled and immensely grateful.  They are mine.  They are my walking, breathing tiny gifts that I am living out my quiet little life with.

My family, my friends, my husband and my kids are my people.  Mine to walk through life with. Mine to heal. Mine to cherish and hug and kiss and laugh with and worry about. Mine to pick up a heavy  pack and walk with. Mine to stumble through the dark with and hopefully find the sun. Mine to encourage and empower.  Mine to care for with tender kisses and quiet moments rocking back and forth in a dark room.  Mine to love.

Every one of you reading this could have written your own paragraphs about your people.  The ones you stay up late with while you hear their stories and share yours.  The ones who you are raising and the ones you are in love with. They are yours.  All yours.

Let’s put aside that things to do list and pet peeve that makes us irritated.  Let’s dance in the bath more and criticize less.  Let’s dance in puddles instead of having clean shoes.  Let’s remember that these people could have been born in a different era.  But they weren’t.  They are here, RIGHT HERE, walking through the mountains and valleys with you.

It matters to me how I live out my quiet little life.  And I am realizing more and more every day that my greatest pursuit is to love these specific people deeply.  I want to respect them, honor them, bring the best out in them, cheer them on, comfort them, and cherish them.

Because after all…they are mine.

 

 

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A Letter to My Future Grown Up Son About His Childhood

(Written Summer of 2016)I was watching you a few weeks ago.

We were over at Nini and Grampa’s house.  It was a Sunday during the summer, so of course we were over there.  We started a family tradition of “Swimmin Sundays” just around the time when you were born. There are 15 of us there every week- 8 adults and 7 kids.19601173_10213962686326377_2011402534603789960_n 19059726_10213707335862775_2624973211003884088_n

This day gives the adults a chance to float around in the pool and pretend they are relaxing.  In reality, we may relax for a total of five minutes.  The rest of the time is spent applying sunscreen, fetching pool toys, breaking up squabbles, preparing snacks, and making sure the kids do not drown. Despite that, it sure is fun to laugh with my siblings and their spouses.  And on the really special days, I might challenge your Uncle David to a handstand contest or watch your Auntie Wendy do a grown-woman cannon ball.

But I would bet, this home and this pool are also the stage for some of your fondest childhood memories.  While I was watching you a few weeks ago, I imagined you as a grown man- much taller than me.  You may have some children of your own, but you are certainly not a child any longer.  And I thought to myself that even years from now, I would guess that when you feel that familiar warmth on your skin on some summer day, you may be transported right back to this minute.  Right back to these days.  And you will smile to yourself.

But I am afraid with time, the memory will fade a bit.  The colors won’t be as bright in your mind and you may forget some details. And since you are four (almost 5, I know, I know!), you can’t write this all down.

So Future Grown Up Son, let me tell you about your childhood:

Let’s start with your body.  Look down at your hands right now.  I am sure they have calloused a bit over time.  Maybe you have on a wedding ring.  Maybe even a few wrinkles.  But not right now, my sweet boy.  Your hands are small and usually carrying treasures.  These days, it is your beloved Paw Patrol action figures.  You raise them high in the sky, making the best sound effects you can muster.  You reach those hands out to share a snack with me saying, “You’ll like it mama.  Just try it,” just so you can do something “togeder”.  You use those hands and arms to give out the tightest and most sincere hugs.    It feels like you would use them would wrap everyone you love close to you if you could.hands

And your belly?  You still have that little kid belly that sort of sticks out.  You have always been thin, but I think “kid bellies” are God’s way of letting the baby years last just a little bit longer.  I am sure now as a big strong man, it looks a lot different (well I guess that depends how many times you have gone to the gym in the last twenty years!).  But for now, it still reminds me of when you were waddling across the floor with newly learned steps.
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Your little legs are strong.  A little bony in places still, but strong enough to run fast and do some pretty “unique” dance moves.  You climb up rocks and take twice as long to walk down a sidewalk because you prefer to walk on the small ledge next to it instead.  You use them to kick your way across the pool (you just learned how to do it on your own this summer!).  You are using them to learn to kick a soccer ball.  Your legs are not fully coordinated, but that doesn’t slow you down.  You run to catch up with your friends, challenge yourself to climb up higher on the playground, and shuffle them across the sand to run out to the waves.  But every once in a while, I will pick you up and you will still wrap them around my middle and lay your head on my shoulder like when you were small.  I love those little legs.
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Your face is smooth.  It is tan right now because of long summer days spent out in the sunshine.  Your eyes have a lightness in them. There hasn’t been anything yet that has caused them to dim with that familiar heaviness that some adults reflect in their eyes. You still have baby teeth.  When you smile, I can see most of them because you have the biggest smile.  I usually see it best when you see me after school or when you learn we are going to have a fun outing later in the day.
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Now, let’s talk about your mind.  The other day you asked me, “Why don’t we go up to outer space?” You asked it not from a global perspective like “Why haven’t we figured out how to travel to space yet?”  It was more in a personal sense.  It was almost as if you were saying, “Why haven’t we gone to the grocery store lately?” or “Why don’t we take trips to the dessert like my friends?”  I think there is a box that most adults settle into when they grow up.  The box is filled with all the acceptable things- the good manners, the realistic goals, the questions with clear answers, and the predictable paths. But you just haven’t closed the lid on your box yet.  I love watching the way your mind works.
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 I know someday, this will all be different.  You will be grown, my son.  But for now, I am so privileged to watch you during these first few years of your life.  I get to smile when you ask if you can marry your sister.  I get to give your boo boos “magical mommy kisses” and dry your earnest tears.  I just love watching you simply being a kid.  And I love seeing the world again through your eyes.

I would bet that some of these memories will fade when you grow up.  Sadly, they have for me. When I am very still and quiet, sometimes I can remember the feeling of the blades of grass under my feet in the park on a summer night. Sometimes I can remember barely being able to keep my eyelids open on the way home from Disneyland.  Sometimes I can remember laughing more easily and asking more honest questions.

Sometimes I remember what it feels like to be a child.

But most days, I don’t think about that.  I think about what bills need to be paid, what rooms need to be cleaned, and what kid needs to be picked up from school.  I think about heavy things like the state of the world and about the heartaches I have watched in lives of people I love.  And son, you will think about those things one day too.

But not today.

Today, I hope you just get to be a kid.  I hope you use those hands to find treasures, those legs to run fast, your eyes to see the best in the world, and your mind to imagine wildly. I hope you take a moment to really feel the sun on your skin.  And for my sake, I really hope that baby belly sticks around for just a little while longer.

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I love you always, my son.
Love, Mama

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Surrogacy Series #14- The Birth

Hi friends,

The post I am sharing with you today is a story of love.

It is the love Stacy showed us by giving us this gift of carrying our daughter.  It is the love of her husband, Justin, as he cared for her during the pregnancy and birth.  It is the love Justin and I shared as we experienced this day together after so much heartache and loss.  It is the love we had for our baby girl before we even saw her face.

And it was love that felt like home when she was finally in our arms.

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We had a “maybe this is labor” trip to the hospital around 6am on the morning of February 9th.  But after the exam, the doctor said that labor was likely imminent, but it was not time to be admitted.  Justin and I grabbed some bagels and headed home. Stacy went to breakfast with her family and headed to the mall.  After walking for several hours at the mall, her contractions increased and eventually became very painful.  It was time to head back to the hospital.  Here we are on the way….

img_0644After the exam, they said that this WAS IT!  They were admitting us now.

(more…)

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Surrogacy Series #13- Waiting for Baby…With Complications

Hi friends!

I hope you have had a fun summer full of long days in the sunshine with friends and family.  We are still holding on to the last bits of summer and have our annual beach camping trip in a few weeks.  The months seem to go faster and faster though.  I have one child starting Pre-K and another that is 6 months old!! Where has the time gone?

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I am inching my way through our surrogacy story.  Even though I am anxious to finish the story, I am enjoying doing it at a slow pace.  As Ivy lives her first year, it has been special to reflect back at how she made her way into the world.  So stay tuned!  My next post will be her birth story full of some beautiful photos of the moment we held her for the first time.

But this post is all about the endless WAITING!! (more…)

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Surrogacy Series #12- Third Trimester Festivities

Hi friends! I am back to blogging about our amazing surrogacy journey. Finishing this series is on my summer goals list because I really don’t want to forget this stuff!!! I am already forgetting how small Ivy was when she was born! Time goes TOO FAST!

In my last post, I shared some of our beautiful maternity surrogacy pictures. Once our baby shower and pictures were done, time really started to fly! The sights and sounds of the upcoming holidays started to spring up in shopping malls and in our home.

It all felt a little surreal. The year before during this time in the year, we were waiting for a “I am in labor” call from our birthmom. I remember Thanksgiving especially- it was very hot and we spent it at Justin’s aunt and uncle’s house by the beach. I kept glancing at my phone.

Now a year later, another woman was carrying a baby we would be adding to our family, but this time the baby shared our genes. It was hard to grieve what was lost and to wrap my head around what was going on. It played some mind games with me if I am being honest. Everything felt so very familiar, but so very different at the same time. (more…)

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My Stint in “Rehab”

Hi friends. I am going to take a break from my surrogacy series (which I promise I WILL finish), because I wanted to share this post.

I wrote this when Ivy was nine weeks old:

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I am in the ninth week of rehab.

My daughter was born nine weeks ago. I didn’t give birth to her, so I am not healing physically from the birth. Yet, I was entitled to 11 weeks of time off with income thanks to my employer and the state of California.

I took advantage of every single hour I was entitled to.

I needed it. (more…)

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Surrogacy Series #11- Our Surrogacy Maternity Photo Shoot

Hi all!

For those of us in Southern California, the summer heat has begun!  I am ready for lazy days by the pool, beach camping and enjoying the sunshine with my two precious kids.

Meanwhile, I am trying to get my act together with my blog. I think I have about 5 more entries to finish our surrogacy story.  I am also secretly stalling so that my video editing husband will create a video of the whole thing for my final post.  But that takes a lot of time for someone who also has a full time job making videos.  So….that may need to come later.  For now….on we go!

This post highlights another event that I will always cherish!  Capturing family moments with photos and video is something that I value quite a bit.  Even though I am a little behind, I make Shutterfly books of each year in our family life. I made a book about my pregnancy with Jack, a detailed baby book for him, and plan on doing the same for Ivy. I don’t want to miss a moment!  So when something as HUGE as this surrogacy came along, I knew we needed some very special pictures.  And I knew just who would take them. (more…)

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Surrogacy Series #10- Our Baby Shower

Hi all!  Yes, it is me.  The VERY inconsistent blogger.  To be fair, I am also back at work full time and writing for fun seems like a luxury right now.  But my boys are on a camping trip and my baby girl is asleep for the night, so I made a date with my laptop.

I am making my way through our surrogacy story and this post is about our baby shower!  Aside from our gender reveal party, this was one of the top highlights for me.  I had wondered what it would be like to attend my own baby shower without my own beautiful bump, but it turned out to be just as special and perhaps even a bit more meaningful.

My parents moved into a home last summer with an amazing view! Just months after an epic move (they lived in their old home since I was 5), they graciously offered to host the event.  My mom and sisters (Wendy and Beth) and my friend Mandie started chatting over email and making plans for the big day. Other family friends offered to do drinks and extra decor.  My tribe is REALLY good at throwing parties and I was so honored to be on the receiving end of all their efforts. (more…)

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A Mother’s Day Note to Those Who Have Miscarried

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and I am already seeing the blogs circulate.  I am thrilled that we are speaking honestly about a day that is tender for so many of us.

As I sit outside on this Saturday afternoon with my laptop in hand, I am aware that I could write on many topics surrounding motherhood.  I know the feeling of yearning to become a mother and not being able to.  I know what it is like to give birth and raise a child with my husband’s eyes and my hair color.  I know what it is like to mother a child that has someone else’s eyes and hair- to watch your heart and family expand through adoption.

I know what it is like to peel the white strings off of oranges because that’s the only way they will be eaten.  I know what it is like to sleep, but not really, only then to stumble down the hall towards a baby that needs you.  I know what it is like to be utterly vulnerable and exposed because after all, motherhood is scary.  Knowing that every inch of your heart is walking around with that tiny person is risky.  And yet, we take it.  We open ourselves up to it all, knowing that it is worth it to love these precious ones. (more…)

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