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I went to the eye doctor today and ended up spiraling with confusing PTSD. I was sitting in the exam room waiting for the doctor, and I kept expecting her to come in with bad news about the baby. However, I was completely aware that I was at the eye doctor and that there is no baby. But my body didn’t care. It was in full anxiety-mode, and I was terribly sad.

During the intake, they asked if my medical history had changed. I said yes, that I’d had a D & C. She said, “We have the one from 2019. Was there another?” I answered, “I had one on Monday, and I had one on November 9.”

Monday. I had surgery on Monday. And today is Thursday. And I’ve worked the last three days and now I’m at the eye doctor and it’s like none of it even happened. But it did. I thought I’d be better emotionally this time because the initial grief of it all has passed, but simply being at a doctor’s office triggered me terribly.

Then the eye doctor comes in and asks, “How’s the family? How are the kids?” Plural. She didn’t mean anything by it. But my heart was grieving and I was trying to convince my body that I wasn’t at the OB receiving bad news, and all I could think is that we have one, single living child.

And then I cried the whole way home. I was not prepared for today.

The Loss That Never Ends

I’m still “pregnant.”

Oct. 27- 8 week ultrasound with a yolk sac and no baby
Oct. 29- Follow up ultrasound and a baby appeared.
Nov. 5- Follow up ultrasound. Baby hadn’t grown and had no heartbeat.
Nov. 9- D & C
Nov. 23- Post op appointment and positive pregnancy test
Dec. 7- Another very positive pregnancy test
Dec. 8- Ultrasound to check for residual tissue and hCG bloodwork
Dec. 10- hCG bloodwork
Dec. 17- hCG bloodwork
Dec. 20- D & C #2

It’s been almost six weeks since my D&C and tomorrow morning, I’ll have another one where they’ll go in with a scope to look around my uterus.

At my post op appointment, I tested positive for pregnancy. Two weeks later (one month post op), there were still two bright red lines. I was brought in for an ultrasound to see if there was any residual tissue. The ultrasound showed many blood vessels clumped together in my uterus that is not typical unless you’re pregnant. No actual leftover tissue was found.

That day, I learned that when I had Jaclyn, they tested the placenta. The results showed that a tiny piece of the placenta had grown into / was stuck in my uterine wall. Something called placenta accreta. It obviously passed because I knew nothing of it.

The theory now is that my uterus has a natural tendency to absorb things. This baby didn’t have placenta but perhaps whatever was growing is stuck in my uterine wall now.

My two options were to do regular bloodwork to see if my hCG levels (pregnancy hormone) decrease and let it all pass on its own or do another D & C procedure with a scope to check out the uterine wall.

My hCG levels are going down. 313 to 242 to 104, but not pregnant is 0-5. I’m still a long way off. I don’t want to be fake pregnant anymore. My hormones are all over and affecting many areas of life. My deductible is met. There really isn’t an ideal choice here, but ultimately I decided to continue with the procedure again. This scope is a common exploration for folks who have the accreta history and who have had recurring loss. Plus, regardless of if they’re able to remove anything else, I’ll know we did all we could to try to get closure.

The continuation of this loss is very isolating. When we learned our baby hadn’t grown and had no heartbeat, it was a shared loss. Now that the baby is gone, this is only related to my body, and I feel very lonely in trying to cope with it. I don’t know anyone else who’s gone through these little details. Emotionally, I feel terribly alone.

Throughout this never ending loss, we received my genetic test results back which initially caused more anxiety than relief as I am a carrier for Tay Sachs, a horrific children’s disease. Praise the Lord, Seth is not so Jaclyn and future babies are not at risk. I also learned that I’m mildly mthfr deficient, which could be a factor in our losses, so I’ll need to up my folic acid intake in future pregnancies.

There were also several moments of false hope, that there was still a baby. In my head and in my heart, it was our little pumpkin. One evening in particular I was convinced that maybe there was some miraculous mistake through it all, and I sobbed for 45 minutes. From the doctor, there was suspicion that it could be a new pregnancy as she looked more closely at the ultrasound.

I was crushed with each moment of hope that quickly came crashing down that there is still no baby. I’d worked really hard during our initial two weeks of waiting to not believe that our baby would be okay because I knew it would be harder if we got bad news. I didn’t anticipate needing to keep my guard up for the next month after the D&C. So my heart has been quite achy. There is no baby in there; I just need my body to realize it.

The Balance of Justice

In therapy today we looked at the balance of justice scale as we were talking about my tendency to go to the worst case scenario due to high anxiety. That instead of only considering “what if” this awful thing happens, I also consider “what if” this awful thing doesn’t happen. This is HARD.

I reflected in that moment to the exact time that the worst case scenario became a familiar tendency. After our home was broken into while we were sleeping 4 and a half years ago, I asked multiple police officers, “What if they come back?” “Statistics show they don’t come back.” I asked other friends and loved ones, “What if they come back?” “They won’t come back.” They came back 2 weeks later. And my mom and I ran.

Two years ago, we lost our first baby and we’re told 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss. Today, we’ve lost three.

The statistics have failed me in my safety and in my ability to grow my family. Of course the “what if” terrible things don’t happen more often than not. But significant ones have and they’ve changed my brain and my heart forever. And this is all just very hard.

My homework is to consider situations in the past when I was worried about the worst case scenario and it didn’t happen. Feel free to share any of your own examples to help me believe it.

Answers, Trauma, and Therapy

Jaclyn would’ve had a little sister.

The genetic testing returned last week in time for my post op appointment. Our baby died because of the Trisomy 16 chromosome which is incompatible with life. This particular test also shared an unexpected gender reveal that I’m still in shock over. In fact, I missed it completely until I got home and was reading over the paperwork better that evening.

We’ve never known this detail of our other babies. Knowing it now makes my heart ache even more. I really wanted another girl, so Jaclyn could have a sister close in age like me and Hannah. If you know me well, you know how much I love my little Herman and how I’d love for Jaclyn to have that relationship with a sibling.

My doctor feels hopeful with this result, that we were unlucky once again and that there is no inherent risk moving forward. That is an answer, but to be deemed unlucky three times feels stupid. The word fluke has become a trigger word to Seth. The answers don’t feel sufficient.

So I asked them to go ahead with some blood work. At this point, I’d just like any more peace of mind, clarity, or ruling out as possible. We’ve been given the green light to try again as soon as we’d like once my body gets back to its regular cycle. We shall see.

I started therapy this week with a woman who specializes in pregnancy loss and anxiety. It was only our intake session but I feel pretty hopeful. I hope to have more tangible support through grief and learn any coping skills that can snap me back into reality to be present in my day to day life. I hope to be able to work through and release the anxiety and worry that I hold every day. I hope to be able to overcome my PTSD again. I hope to not feel so broken.

Before we knew of our loss, I told Seth that I don’t know if I will ever not feel broken again. Even with as far as I’ve come since the burglaries, it broke me in a way that feels like I can’t fully come back from. I feel this to be even more true now as my PTSD from the burglaries has resurfaced since this third miscarriage. I don’t understand the details and nuances of the brain, but I can only guess that the brain can be triggered from any trauma and then reopen former trauma.

I’ve had a terrible time sleeping the past couple of weeks in fear that someone will break into our home and specifically get Jaclyn. I have difficulty falling asleep. I hear any tiny noise and fixate on it. I check her monitor countless times each night. I really just want her to sleep with us but then none of us would get any sleep.

Most of my anxiety now revolves around Jaclyn’s safety specifically. Every night I plead for the Lord to keep her happy, healthy, and safe. I’m terrified that she will get COVID again and that we’ll have no control of how it affects her. I know I take social distancing and masks to the extreme even after being vaccinated x3. We do not hang out with many folks due to vaccination status, consistent mask usage, etc. I am desperate to protect my girl.

This particular loss of our daughter has affected more than I realized, and it’s difficult to prioritize what to work through first.

I should know how to grieve by now

I keep thinking I should know how to grieve by now. But goodness, what a foolish thought. Tonight, I was anxious to turn off the lights because I knew I wouldn’t sleep. Instead I tried to lay there and cry quietly but my sobs overtook me. I’m not sure if I woke Seth up or if he hadn’t fallen asleep yet. I’m not sure, he might’ve been crying too. So we laid here in sad silence until this wave passed.

Tonight the word disappointed keeps coming to mind but it’s not the right word; it’s not strong enough to describe what I feel in my heart. We had so much excitement for this little babe. Jaclyn would be a big sister at 2 years old. We thought this one may be a girl too. We just really felt positive and hopeful this pregnancy, and this whole journey really blindsided us.

In the hardest moments, it feels like there’s nothing to look forward to now. I know that’s not true, but it’s hard to fight when grief hits. I told Seth we should decorate for Christmas this weekend because it’ll bring some extra happy into our home. Then we’ll have the whole holiday season ahead of us.

Yesterday, 24 hours post D & C, everything felt back to normal, and that devastated my soul. My maternity clothes are packed away. I asked Seth to throw out our family of four pumpkins from the front porch. The new shadow box is on the wall, and my new miscarriage jewelry has been ordered. I really haven’t been in pain or had much bleeding since my procedure. It feels like I should physically hurt more. I know that sounds weird, and I’m thankful for an easy recovery so far; it’s hard to explain. I guess I kept saying how I wanted closure but when I actually feel it, it breaks my heart.

One of my coping strategies is to talk it all out. After publicly sharing three miscarriages, I’ve mostly accepted that people mean well, they just don’t know what to say. What may be comforting to some folks, may not be helpful to others. Just some of my own thoughts below.

Everything happens for a reason. Not everyone believes this to be true 🙋‍♀️

-You’ve had a successful pregnancy, so there’s hope that you’ll have another one. True. And miscarriage is traumatic on your body, heart, and mind. It’s terrifying to think about more pregnancies right now.

-You’ll have another baby some day. This may or may not be true. And, babies aren’t interchangeable. We wanted THIS baby that we created.

Be thankful for your beautiful daughter. Well of course I am. I call her my tiny queen because I can’t think of any higher title on this earth. And again, babies aren’t interchangeable. We wanted THIS baby that we created.

Below are some of the more helpful responses to our losses.

I’m praying for you. And then pray, right then, where they can hear you or read the prayer.

-This sucks. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

-Let me feed you. When can I bring you a meal or send you a gift card? Seriously, I don’t know how we would’ve eaten these last two weeks had it not been for the generosity of friends and family.

-Let me cover you at work so you can take some time off. I was able to take this entire week off, and it has been such a gift.

-Several friends told me how strong and brave I was, and then the night of our D & C, Seth told me that I’m strong as an oak. Miscarriage makes you feel like your body failed you and your baby, like you’re weak and helpless. It is very comforting to be told that that isn’t true.

-Finally, I will never forget what Carrie Coaplen texted me. “I don’t know what else to say except the world needs more mommas like you.” That was the best response anyone has said to me in our three losses.

I really love being a mama.

Our Little Pumpkin

One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. But for us, one in four pregnancies produced a baby. Today I made a shadow box for our fourth baby, our Little Pumpkin.

One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. But for us, one in four pregnancies produced a baby. Today I made a shadow box for our fourth baby, our Little Pumpkin.

Soon I’ll have my second D & C at a little over 10 weeks, and my body will begin getting closure on this loss. This pregnancy has been a very wild journey.

8 weeks and 3 days

We walked into a familiar nightmare during our 8-week ultrasound. “This is the yolk sac,” she said as she pointed to what I thought was our baby’s head. “Then where’s my baby?” “I don’t see it yet.” There was no baby. We’ve already experienced a blighted ovum miscarriage before and couldn’t believe it was happening again.

The yolk sac

The measurements of my gestational sac were very close to the determination guidelines, so we returned two days later for a follow up ultrasound.

8 weeks and 5 days

THERE WAS A BABY. The ultrasound nurse showed us our tiny jellybean.

Our baby

The embryo measured at 6 weeks and 1 day, but I was almost 9 weeks. Several other measurements and timelines were not in sync and didn’t make sense. There was no heartbeat but we were told that’s okay because it’s so small. Time to wait another week and come back to see how our baby is doing.

Waiting blows.

9 weeks and 5 days

The ultrasound nurse was quiet as she measured various things. “Can you tell us what we’re looking at?” I asked. “The baby is still measuring at 6 weeks and 1 day, and I can’t find a heartbeat. I’m sorry.”

10 weeks and 2 days

We officially say goodbye to our Little Pumpkin as I opted for a D & C.

You see, I’ve had a baby bump. I’ve been in maternity clothes since 5 weeks. I regularly wear nausea bands because I feel like I will vomit all day every day. I am constipated. I often fall asleep before 8pm because I’m so fatigued. I need this physical part to come to an end as quickly as possible.

For the first time in three miscarriages, we have the opportunity to test the embryo to give any insight into the causes of our losses. Beyond that, there are options to do some more blood work on me. And even with these options, we still may never get answers.

I’ve been pregnant four times in two and a half years. I don’t have a hard time getting pregnant; I have a hard time staying pregnant. I cannot express how difficult the entire process is on my body, my mind, and my heart. With babies, no matter how tiny, I don’t think there will ever be full closure.

A few more closing thoughts as a I speak my peace:

I love my doctor and am beyond grateful to be in her care through this. I chose for her to be my regular OBGYN after she did my D & C with our first loss because of how caring and compassionate she is.

I appreciate when people acknowledge and honor this tiny life.

I need time to feel everything— sadness, anger, guilt (yes, I know, not my fault), confusion— I need to ride it out.

Grieving with a toddler is very difficult. Jaclyn can sense when Seth and I are sad. She tries to help me blow my nose when I cry or play peekaboo when my head is in my hands from crying. It’s hard to let out all the feels when you’re constantly taking care of a tiny human.

I do not believe this happened for a reason. I believe we live in a fallen world and it is what it is.

I believe the Lord has a plan, and that plan may or may not involve us producing another biological child.

Thank you for everyone who has been so uplifting in words, prayers, and in deed through feeding my family the last couple of weeks. We love you all.

Seth and I love being parents. With Jaclyn, we are the three amigos. And we’d also love to add to our family.

We will always remember you, our little baby pumpkin and the excitement we had anticipating your arrival.

Feeding My Tiny Human

There is so much to learn about feeding a tiny human. Throughout the first year, there’s breastfeeding, pumping, formula, transition to whole milk, solid foods, weaning off the bottle… every time I got the hang of one thing, it was time to do something new.

There is so much to learn about feeding a tiny human. Throughout the first year, there’s breastfeeding, pumping, formula, transition to whole milk, solid foods, weaning off the bottle… every time I got the hang of one thing, it was time to do something new.

When I was pregnant, I read a lot about breastfeeding. I even paid for an online course about it. But goodness none of that prepared me for how difficult it is. I was impressed by the way Jaclyn naturally wiggled her way from my chest down to my breast shortly after giving birth. But beyond that, nothing about breastfeeding came natural for us.

Our troubles with breastfeeding actually kept us in the hospital longer than planned. Her incorrect latch made me bleed and hurt; she wanted to feed constantly because she wasn’t full. She wasn’t getting enough milk and before we realized it, she wasn’t having enough output. The nurses said she needed formula supplements, which made me feel like an absolute failure. How did I not know she wasn’t getting enough milk? How were we already switching to formula when I hadn’t given breastfeeding a fair shot? I laid there, crying and apologizing to Jaclyn for failing her already but I ultimately knew she needed to eat.

Within the first week of her life, we worked with five different lactation consultants. By the end of each attempted feed, Jaclyn and I were both crying and frustrated. So I decided to breastfeed via exclusively pumping, not nursing. I spent 2-3 hours each day pumping, storing, washing, and organizing my pumping supplies. I needed to pump every 2-4 hours for 20 minutes each time. I was an over supplier and after three months, I had almost 2,500 ounces of frozen breast milk in the deep freeze.

I had someone cute to hang out with while I pumped.

Exclusive pumping is quite the time commitment, so I tried several ways of organizing all the milk. The pitcher method was by far the easiest. You just pour all your overage milk in a pitcher for the day and then pour it into freezer bags. Unfortunately, the mixed levels of fore milk and hind milk in these batches made Jaclyn sick… so they got thrown out. That still makes me want to cry a little. Though it seems wasteful with the breastmilk freezer bags, I found it best to use what I need and freeze the rest individually. Sometimes that was 1.5 oz. and sometimes that was 6 oz. When I thawed the milk to give Jaclyn, I would supplement whatever I thawed with formula. I ended up pumping for 3 months and was able to bottle feed Jaclyn breastmilk for her first 7 months.

At about the 6 month mark, we began Baby Led Weaning. It’s the latest trend, so I had already decided we would do it before I fully understood what it was. When I realized we’d be feeding Jaclyn solid foods at 6 months old, I panicked. But goodness, we’re SO glad we did! By the time Jaclyn turned 1, she was eating nearly everything we were and drinking out of an open cup.

Solid Starts and Feeding Littles are great resources in this eating journey. So much of the beginning weeks are simply good and texture exposure, lots of funny, grossed out faces, and adorable tiny eating utensils such as this tiny cup and these GOOtensils. We also love these bibs; we call them her treasure trove. We tried these full body aprons but we’d rather just feed her in her diaper than cover her up like this.

Jaclyn has become such a good eater. The only two foods she wasn’t a fan of is oatmeal and applesauce, but she eats both now after more offerings and exposure. She had a healthy, sugar free smash cake at her first birthday, and she just sat there and ate it like a big girl because she knows how to eat.

Now, at 14 months old, she has breakfast, lunch, an afternoon snack, and dinner. We love these suction plates and she does really well with these cups. Her favorite foods right now are any kind of bean, peanut butter, all fruit but especially strawberries, and cheese.

Our final greatest feat has been the bottle. The pediatrician said to have her weaned off the bottle by 14 months, and we barely made it! Jaclyn does great drinking water from an open cup, but she would refuse her milk in anything but a bottle. See the struggle in the photo and video below.

Our saving grace was another Mommy blog who suggested watering down the milk so it was mostly water and then slowly adjusting the ratios until it was fully milk. It worked! Within days, Jaclyn was drinking her milk from an open cup, but we still needed the bottle to start and end the day. Finally after enough exposure, Jaclyn fully transitioned to drinking milk out of this sippy cup.

I put a lot of pressure on myself through the journey of feeding my tiny human. That Mom Guilt comes in hard and often. But I have a wonderful team alongside me. My husband, Seth, is always right there with me, learning how to best feed our little Jaclyn. My mom is incredible and follows whatever routine we set up as she watches her each day.

Our feeding journey has been quite messy and oh so rewarding.

Baby Beanbag

Sunday evening- positive pregnancy test. Monday morning- positive pregnancy test. Wednesday morning- negative pregnancy test. W.T.F.

Sunday evening- positive pregnancy test. Monday morning- positive pregnancy test. Wednesday morning- negative pregnancy test. W.T.F.

The last week has been a roller coaster of hormones and emotions. I don’t always take two tests but we were surprised, and that second blue line was mighty faint. For two short days, we hesitantly celebrated the new life we created together. The pain of losing our first baby will always haunt us. Nevertheless, we were excited that Jaclyn would be a big sister and have a playmate close in age. Seth had already nicknamed this babe, Beanbag.

Wednesday morning brought bleeding and cramping so the doctor’s office quickly squeezed me in. Covid restrictions didn’t allow me to bring anyone for support so I had to go alone. I was barely 4.5 weeks pregnant so as expected, the ultrasound showed an empty uterus. I did not, however, expect a negative pregnancy test in the office.

I sat there in shock, unable to look the nurse in the eyes. Did I make it all up? How is this even possible? I quickly pulled out my phone and made her look at the pictures of my at home pregnancy tests so she didn’t think I was crazy. She kept reassuring me that the doctor would explain everything.

Chemical pregnancy. The sperm fertilized the egg but for whatever reason, it couldn’t develop beyond that. Within two days, my hCG levels were nonexistent and it triggered my body to start my cycle, hence the bleeding and cramping. Just like that, I wasn’t pregnant anymore.

I sat in the room for awhile to call Seth and my mom to try and explain. I sobbed as I clarified that we had been pregnant. And then I was confused about how I could be so upset when I hardly knew that this baby existed. I eventually collected myself and went through the motions that I’d learned from the last time. At check out, I made sure they cancelled my upcoming ultrasound appointments and that they rescheduled my annual. Despite knowing that none of this was my fault, I still felt ashamed and found it difficult to look at people in the office. At least this time my mask hid my splotchy swollen face that showed I had confirmed what I had feared all along. At least this time I didn’t have to schedule a D and C.

The days that followed have been strange. After my appointment, I spent most of the day alone sitting in shock and crying. On Thursday I tried to distract myself with Jaclyn all day but anger and confusion just built up until I yelled and cried before bed. On Friday, I decided to be productive by organizing Jaclyn’s clothes and toys. I somehow didn’t realize how triggering it was to be immersed in baby items. There were multiple times I felt my chest tighten as if I were about to have a panic attack.

Miscarriage isn’t easy on the body. Grief isn’t either. I’ve felt insane multiple times a day. But then Jaclyn crawls over to me to play. Or I remember that Cammie was waiting for me outside my doctor’s office with a donut and tissues because she insisted I shouldn’t be alone. Or I get another sweet message checking in on me. Or I remember I haven’t had to cook because Elizabeth brought us a delicious dinner, Hannah took me out for lunch today, and Ashley sent me a gift card to Panda Express.

I have so many kind, caring people in my life. My family hasn’t had to bear this alone. There are so many offers to talk when we’re ready. For now, there aren’t really words. There’s just a lot of feelings that change from minute to minute. There are other mamas who have reached out because they’ve gone through the same thing. There’s the right song at the right time to remind me of God’s goodness.

I’ve now been pregnant three times in the past two years, and we’ve only gotten to meet our sweet little Jaclyn. We will try again as we want to continue growing our family. But we will always remember our Baby Beanbag.

2020- The Year No One Will Forget

2020 is a year that will undoubtedly go down in history. Oddly enough, this is the first year in a long time that I haven’t wished away. It certainly had its challenges, but 2020 brought me so much growth and blessing.

2020 is a year that will undoubtedly go down in history. Oddly enough, this is the first year in a long time that I haven’t wished away. It certainly had its challenges, but 2020 brought me so much growth and blessing.

This year brought loss.
My Papaw passed away in February.
In February, we also celebrated and remembered the due date of our first baby.
Several friends lost their babies- big and small.

This year brought sickness.
I got the flu while pregnant.
I was placed on bedrest for the final five weeks of my pregnancy.
Seth, Jaclyn, my mom, and I ended the year with COVID-19.

This year brought virtual education.
March 13 was our final normal, in-person work day.
April 6 we returned to work virtually, creating our first ever NTI ESL program.

By the end of the first week, we had a lot of new interest from word of mouth (meaning our students are friends outside of class), unenrolled students “snuck in” to Zoom classes after getting the link from their friends, and there was a request for a student’s fiancée to enroll from Africa. We’re in a worldwide pandemic and these students still amaze me.

I was thankful to represent Adult Education with my own I AM JCPS video.

This year brought virtual socializing.
We were blessed to have three Zoom baby showers that were oh so special.

All of our major holidays were spent in quarantine because of COVID-19. Thankful for FaceTime and Zoom.

This year brought growth and pushed my physical boundaries more than ever before.

This year brought me the best gift of my baby girl.

I was able to take 13 weeks off to fully focus on my girl during her first three months of life. Now she is nearly 7 months old and I’ve been able to telecommute to work. So I get to have lunch with Jaclyn every day and she comes to visit me when I’m not in meetings.

This year brought us our dream home.
Our first home went on the market on a Friday evening. That Sunday we accepted an offer after 16-18 showings in 2 days and a total of five offers. The following Wednesday, the offer on our new home was accepted after another multi-offer situation.

Due to the pandemic, it took six attempts to close while I was 8 months pregnant. But we are now close to my parents, who watch our sweet baby and in a home that’s felt like ours since the moment we moved in.

This year brought SO MUCH learning about being a mama.
Baby sleep tricks and training thanks to Taking Cara Babies.
Breastfeeding is hard and not for everyone.

I breastfed but I did not nurse. I exclusively pumped and bottle fed my baby breast milk for a little over three months. We tried breastfeeding for the first week of her life with at least 5 different lactation consultants, but it remained a difficult traumatizing experience for both of us. I was an over supplier as you can see. I spent 2-3 hours each day pumping, storing, washing, and organizing my pump supplies. To exclusively pump, is to be a champion.

Baby Led Weaning for solid foods thanks to Feeding Littles, Solid Starts, and Baby Led Wean Team on Instagram. I suppose this is still new and everybody has all the thoughts that I don’t have time for. So I’m trusting my gut and talking to the pediatrician as we teach our girl to eat.

So thankful for my other new mama friends– shout out to Daphne in Texas, Sujata in New York, and Hao in Vietnam. Love you and your babies and so grateful to be in this phase of life with each of you.

This year brought an awakening of what we value, how we want to love others, and how we hope to live our lives. There’s still so much learning, unlearning, and action to be done.

As we close out 2020, I will be celebrating with my loves. We are beyond thankful for the unique opportunities of family time that we’ve been given. We are grateful for this year and excited to see what new adventures 2021 will bring.

Masked Respect

But what does it say about our society that I felt safer and more respected while wearing a mask in public?

When I first started learning more about Islam, some Muslim friends taught me about the various types of head and face coverings, specifically the niqab. They shared that it is usually a woman’s own preference to cover all of her face except her eyes, for modesty. That seemed like such a foreign concept, until today.

I haven’t been out much since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Between being pregnant and on bedrest in my third trimester and now having an infant, I’m thankful to hibernate and telecommute to work. But today I was off and had many errands to run. It was the first time I’ve been out in public to multiple places wearing a mask. And it felt different, in a good way.

When I got home, I told Seth that I think I finally have a little more perspective on why some Muslim women choose to cover their face. Today while wearing my mask, I felt less oogled. I didn’t get stared at. No one flirted with me. I was just another customer or bystander there to complete my errand. In coming to this realization, I can’t help but reflect on what it’s like to be a woman.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no damsel in distress, but it’s certainly not easy being a woman. I remember deciding to wear less makeup so as not to draw more attention to myself; and I don’t wear all that much to begin with. I remember the one time I wore a knee length skirt without leggings and swore to myself that I’d never do that again. I remember wearing a simple ring to make it appear that I was married even though I wasn’t.

I remember asking guy friends or coworkers to tell men to stop pursuing me after I’d already said no, several times. I remember my class being interrupted by other students I didn’t actually know just for them to holler in that I’m beautiful.

Thankfully, these are my only experiences; I know other women have experienced much worse. But what does it say about our society that I felt safer and more respected while wearing a mask in public?

And now, I’ve got my baby girl to consider. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on child development and though we’re not there yet, I’m pretty sure we’re not gonna be those parents who require our kids to hug or kiss someone out of obligation. So even for close friends or family, Jaclyn will get to choose how she wants to greet people.

We will teach Jaclyn that hugs and kisses are an expression of love, but we will also teach her about consent. Her preferences matter and her voice matters regardless of her age. We will teach her to love and respect herself and to command respect from others. Yep, I said command. We’re also going to teach her how to fight— physically, spiritually, mentally. We’re going to prepare her the best we can.

What a crazy time to be alive and to bring another life into this world.

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