Laura Rennie

Motherhood

Dear Chloe (4 months)

MotherhoodLaura RennieComment

Dear Chloe,

I've always been aware of how quickly time passes, but it seems to pass even faster when you have a baby! Each week seems to fly by. It saddens me that I haven't written more over the past four months (four months??!!), but the truth is I'm simply too busy to write because I snuggle and kiss you all day long! This post was written in five to ten minute increments over the course of several weeks. You are now 19.5 weeks old! WHAT?

Girl, I love you to pieces.

Since the day you were born I've noticed a new feeling — I can't describe it properly, but it's a rush of joy that kind of hurts a little and makes my eyes well up with tears. (I think they call it love?) It's a mix of pride and bliss and also bittersweet-ness, because I know this season of you being tiny is fleeting. I get that rush when you giggle, when you wrinkle your nose because you think something is funny, when you coo at me... really, nearly everything you do causes that feeling! I can't believe you're my daughter, and I get to be your mom.

Everyone that meets you comments on what a sweet and content girl you are. You are generous with your smiles, and you beam especially big for your mom and dad. (Please never change!) We've taken you everywhere — shops, restaurants, a baseball game, the pool, the beach, church... you're a champ! 

Other than being in our arms, you are most happy to play in the bassinet attachment of your pack 'n play, or sit in your rock 'n play and watch me cook or do dishes. I put on little shows for you and my off-key singing and terrible dancing don't seem to matter to you one bit!

Some of your favorite toys are: Sophie giraffe, crinkly book, your lovey and the star on your play mat. You also LOVE your wubbanub and can occasionally get your pacifier back in your mouth. You now pull and grab at toys and put everything into your mouth. You get a crazed look on your face, open your mouth and shake your head really fast. It's hilarious. You sometimes turn the pages of your books. You blow bubbles with your mouth and make noises that sound like someone is passing gas. For a few weeks you stopped being chatty and only blew bubbles, and it nearly broke my heart. I think your brain was busy learning new things. You started talking again last week and haven't stopped since! In fact, you talked so loud during church that I had to take you out into the hall. :)

You started laughing around 3.5 months. Getting you to chuckle is SO rewarding! You especially enjoy the phrases "baby beluga" "blue-eyed baby" "babies on the bus" and "are you a poopy (or pukey) baby?" You clearly love the "b" sound, but you seem to like all forms of alliteration. You are the most likely to giggle right before your bedtime, or right when you wake up. The other night your dad was playing with the dog and out of the blue you began cracking up at them! Your dad declared it the "best family moment EVER."

Your daddy is usually the one who puts you down for the night after giving you your last feed of the day. I'm often reading in bed when you go down and I always set aside my book for a bit just to listen to you talk to yourself. I creep into your room when I hear you go silent and give you a back rub and a kiss, and I say a little prayer over you.

You started rolling over around 15 weeks and we (as in me—your dad sleeps through everything) had a couple weeks of rough sleep because you would roll over, get your arm stuck and cry out. You eventually figured it out and now you enjoy being on your tummy. I struggle with anxiety at night because you sleep on your stomach, but I am daily choosing to trust God with your life and with my heart. 

Waking you up in the morning is one of the best parts of my day. Before you started sleeping on your stomach you would often have your arms up over your head and you'd squeeze your shoulders in and puff out your lips when you were starting to wake. Now you stare at me through the slats in your crib, slow blink and bust into the sweetest grins. I know you're thrilled to see me. *Cue that feeling I mentioned earlier!* You somehow scoot around in your crib at night and your head is often right up against the wall of the crib, or you have an arm sticking out of the side. 

Your daddy and I can't get enough of you. Currently dad's been singing you "Rainbow Connection" and "Alouette" (which sounds lovely in French but is actually a terrifying song) and I've been singing "Moon River" and "Top of the World." Dad walks you around the house when you're fussy and points things out to you. He lets you mess up his hair and squeeze his nose. I take you on long walks in the park and sometimes nap with you in the afternoons — you, me and Casey will all snooze on the bed together. I love taking baths with you and squeezing your cute little hiney. Yes, I'm talking about your hiney on the Internet. 

You are growing so fast. I have to remind myself that you're still a little baby! At your 4 month appointment you were 14 lbs and 13 oz and 25.59 inches. You won't fit into 3-6 month footed pajamas for much longer! You also cut your first tooth recently (at 18 weeks)!

I know the next stages of your life will be fun too, but I'm REALLY enjoying this stage. Can it last a little bit longer, please?

You're my Sweet Georgia Peach, my Chloe Mae, my Chloe Belle, my Bunny, my Sweet Cheeks, my daughter. You are loved.

 

 

 

 

Three months a mother

MotherhoodLaura RennieComment

I was talking with a friend the other night, and she asked me about my grief. "What's it like, to grieve John and Jane while having a new baby?" she wondered. The short answer is that my grief isn't as sharp as it used to be, but it's still there. The long answer...

The season of all-consuming grief has passed (though it may resurface, because grief is like that). There is joy where there wasn't before. I can talk to people more easily. I don't dread being asked how I'm doing. I have happy things to share.

There is a feeling of being more like the "old" me, though the truth is I'm forever changed. There are still shower-cries and daydreams of what my babies in heaven would have look liked if they had stayed on earth.

John would have turned 3 this summer; Jane would be 2.

Twice I was a pregnant mother who threw up non-stop, craved bagels and hot fudge sundaes and proudly took weekly pictures of my bump. Twice I was a pregnant mother whose world was shattered and who delivered dead babies. I never heard them cry or saw them smile. I never got to experience their personalities outside of the womb.

Now, I am a mother of a baby who I didn't carry. I missed the first nine months of Chloe's life in utero. I don't know what her kicks felt like or what cravings she caused.

But she's alive. She's here. I watch her curious eyes take in the world. I see the rise and fall of her chest as she breathes. I hear her sweet baby babble and my eyes instantly fill with tears. 

I can't believe I get to be her mom.

I love our adoption story. I love how this unexpected turn of events was not only a huge answer to prayer for my family, but to hundreds of people around the world who have carried our pain in their hearts.

But it wasn't long ago that hearing crazy miracle stories like "she thought she couldn't ever have babies, but then she had twins" or "my friend adopted a baby whose mother was in jail" caused me pain instead of hope. I was still so deeply hurt and sad that no amount of cool stories could make me feel better. I wasn't able to see outside the scope of my own pain.

It's interesting timing, that Chloe was born in April — the same month we found out our first baby wasn't growing properly. Spring and summer have always been the toughest times of year for me. There's so much to remember. Little things give me that feeling of being hit in the gut— seeing my maternity bathing suits in my drawer, taking pictures of Chloe on the same stoop that we took belly bump pictures on, putting outfits on Chloe that I bought for Jane, pushing a stroller after spending three years walking next to friends who pushed their babies in strollers. I'm reminded every time I fill out medical forms. I'm reminded every time someone asks me how many children I have. (Not that I need reminding, but it's still hard.)

Now I have new memories to add in with the old. Happy memories. And interestingly enough, my heart can now handle going back and remembering my pregnancies with a bit of fondness and not 100% sorrow. My pregnancies were HARD, but man, did I treasure carrying those sweet babes. I loved resting my hand on my belly. I loved when Andy would kiss my belly and sing to his babies. I loved the anticipation of meeting my children. I can't wait to meet them in heaven.

Chloe, it sure feels good to hold you in my arms.

Lord, let me keep this one.

 22 weeks pregnant with John (the last belly pic we took)

22 weeks pregnant with John (the last belly pic we took)

 20 weeks pregnant with Jane (the week before she died)

20 weeks pregnant with Jane (the week before she died)

 holding John Andrew 7/13/13

holding John Andrew 7/13/13

 holding Jane Louise (Janie Lou) 6/20/16

holding Jane Louise (Janie Lou) 6/20/16

 holding Chloe Mae 4/14/16 (our first family selfie, taken shortly after meeting her)

holding Chloe Mae 4/14/16 (our first family selfie, taken shortly after meeting her)

The Great Big Chloe Post

MotherhoodLaura R.2 Comments

How do I begin? These past seven weeks have been like living inside of a dream. I hold my baby and marvel that she is mine.

This one is growing. This one is healthy. I don't have to give this one back. 

Preparing for Chloe

After receiving the call that changed our life forever, I went into supersonic speed mode and had to juggle wrapping up work projects, packing for our temporary move to Virginia, figuring out what we'd need for the baby and finding a lawyer and adoption agency. On top of this, I had a bunch of friends and family members to call with our happy news! We immediately begin receiving gifts — a delicious meal, a stroller and carseat, baby clothes, generous checks... so many kind gestures! We are even receiving breast milk from kind friends! (I tried to nurse the first few weeks — yes, it is possible — but I did not produce.)

Chloe's birthday (April 14)

I hope to write a blog post solely about this special day soon. I had planned to be in the operating room with J, but she had to go under general anesthesia and no one was allowed in surgery with her. We were able to meet Chloe shortly after she was born. It was MAGICAL! We had a private room that we spent the night in and our nurses took incredible care of our girl. We received a 24-hour discharge and I walked out of the hospital with a living baby in my arms! Thank you, Jesus.

The first few weeks

Chloe was the easiest newborn! She rarely ever cried, except to tell us when she was hungry. Even then, her cries were polite and short. I call them baby lamb bleats. She seemed to attach to us right away — especially to Andy. She would gaze into his eyes and stare at him until going cross-eyed with exhaustion. Everyone in the family (extended family included) fell in love with her right away. She fits into our family so perfectly! We all kept saying, "are you real? is this real?" (I still ask this!) My mom and I would run errands now and then and we'd take Chloe with us, and people would say, "you look great for just having had a baby!" I would simply reply, "thanks!" Haha. It felt good to get out of the house, especially because my time at home was often spent scanning documents and making phone calls. That leads me to...

Adoption requirements

Oh for heaven's sake. The amount of documents to scan, errands to run, phone calls to make... Chloe's adoption was a full time job! It was absolutely worth doing, and we had to get it done ASAP in order to have a timely consent hearing and move back to Frederick, but it was truly miserable. I desperately wanted to spend all day holding my baby and enjoying being a mother, and instead I was spending hours every day dealing with paperwork and fees. Thankfully, it's mostly over! We'll have a few follow-up home studies and we'll go back to court in one year. There is still SO much I don't know or understand about adoption. I'm hesitant to share much about our experience because it happened under such unusual circumstances (and I was in a new-momma daze the whole time). I know adoption is often a very long and hard process. Still, I'm happy to answer questions if anyone has any.

Work

Andy quit his job with Kellogg's at the end of February and took a job selling solar energy with Vivint Solar. The timing was interesting, because his new job is 100% commission and has zero benefits. (Totally ideal situation for having a baby!) Then, in March, a friend called and offered me a job with her graphic design company. As if two new jobs wasn't enough of a change, we were offered a baby soon after! I've been teasing Andy that a new job and new baby is enough — he can't get a new wife! We are blessed to both love our jobs and our coworkers. I now work part-time as the administrative coordinator for Kalico Design, doing everything from website work, social media, client projects and making a million spreadsheets and google docs. I've been commuting from NOVA to Frederick twice a week since the end of April, and Andy has been commuting to his territory in Gaithersburg. Andy's hours allow him to be home with Chloe while I'm at work, which is yet another blessing. I will be cutting back on Laura Rennie Interiors, but I'll still take on projects here and there as my schedule (and sanity) allow.

Chloe, lately

Chloe is growing like a weed! She was 7 lbs 13 ounces at birth and was 9 lbs 8 ounces at her four week check-up. It breaks my heart that she no longer fits most of her newborn clothes!

A few of her favorite things are:

- Baths! You wouldn't know it from this video, but Chloe LOVES baths! We started giving her a bath in the sink, and that seemed to help. I have her sit with her little bottom over the drain and use one hand to hold her chest while using my other hand to bathe her. She doesn't make a single peep during the whole bath, even when water runs over her face!

- Being held against our stomachs. She likes to have her face planted in our side, with her body against our belly and her legs dangling over our other side.

- The word "oblivious." It makes her smile. It's the darnedest thing!

- Tummy time

- Being sung to

- Feeling a burp cloth being tucked around her neck. She immediately stops fussing and relaxes her body. She is so trusting of us!

- Her daddy, grandpa and uncles. She loves deep voices.

Chloe has been to Winchester to visit her Meemaw (Andy's mom), Grancy (Great Aunt Nancy) and Andy's brother's family. She's also been to the movies! My mom and I went to see "Love and Friendship" the other day. Chloe slept through the whole movie. We took her to a restaurant for the first time last night, and she did fabulously. We celebrated Chloe's adoption at my family's favorite restaurant — Carlyle, in Shirlington. Chloe gave it five stars.

Us, lately

Andy formed an instant connection with Chloe and is such a natural with her. He took on feedings and diaper changes as if he'd done them a million times! He has been an amazing parenting partner, selflessly serving me and our girl. Having help from my parents has given us the ability to get good sleep and have occasional just-the-two-of-us time together. For our anniversary we were able to leave Chloe with her Grandma and Grandpa and go out for dinner at Southside in Old Town and ice cream at The Dairy Godmother in Del Ray. It was so weird to us (but fun) that we had a baby to go home to! Living in Springfield with my parents has truly been a gift. If you know my parents, you know they're the ideal people to have to live with for 7 weeks! I've only cooked and done laundry a few times. :) We miss our friends and our home and will be glad to get back to Frederick, but we will miss the love and help my parents have given to us and our girl. Once we get the go-ahead to cross state lines we will head to my family's cabin in Pennsylvania for a short vacation with my parents, brother, sister and their spouses. We hope to get the call today!

Even more praises

- We hit our $3500 fundraising goal! We also received personal checks. I haven't done the math, but I would estimate that we've raised a little over $5,000 for Chloe's adoption! These funds are a HUGE blessing, as we have three attorney fees, plus the cost of home studies, random adoption related fees (fingerprinting, driving records, etc.) and medical bills. Huge thank you to all who have donated!

- Thanks to gift cards and the many presents Chloe has received, we have not had to use our own money to pay for any baby items! I actually haven't bought Chloe a single item yet, other than things for her nursery.

- My brother and sister-in-law, who live in Korea, had planned their May/June visit to the states long before we knew about Chloe. What great timing, right?

- We continue to have a great relationship with J (Chloe's birth mom). Adoption can be a heartbreaking experience for adoptive parents, but we have had full confidence in J. I love spending time with her, because it gives me a glimpse into Chloe's potential future personality and looks. Plus, I truly enjoy her company! She's funny and independent and driven and smart.

- Chloe is a healthy, happy baby who sleeps well and eats really well. Praise God!

The end! :)

We're adopting!

MotherhoodLaura R.8 Comments
 on our last date before baby — Five Guys! (We're so fancy.)

on our last date before baby — Five Guys! (We're so fancy.)

Our wild adoption story:

Thursday, April 7th: My mom called today with the craziest news.

“J is making an adoption plan, and she’s offering the baby to you and Andy. It's a girl, and she's being delivered next Thursday, April 14th."

(I know. I KNOW. That is in two days! Crazy town!!)

Oh, the tears. I cried so hard and so loud that my dog fled from the room in fear. The best word to describe it is verklempt. I could barely speak. I managed to get out the words 

“I want her so bad."

I called Andy and asked how he felt. When he said, “I’m open to it,” I immediately burst into tears again. I’ve done a lot of crying over the last few months, but nothing compared to how much crying went down that day! The start of this year has been super emotional for me. This summer marks the third anniversary of our son John's death, and the second anniversary of the loss of our daughter Jane. (You can read more about them and my grieving process 

here

.) My heart has been aching for my babies and I've wondered what the future held for us in terms of children.

It feels amazing to be weeping tears of joy.

It turns out Andy already knew about the baby. My parents had the wisdom to share with Andy first so he could pray about it before I found out. (I think everyone knew I would be all in!) He asked me to give him a little bit more time, which was absolute torture.

The next day I woke up smiling. I prayed for Andy to make a decision by the end of the day. Before he left for work he turned to me with a grin and said,

"What are we waiting for? Do you want this baby? Let's have this baby!"

It was the absolute BEST! I imagined the angels in heaven bursting into cheers and songs of praise.

I went back and forth between astonished laughter and fits of happy tears. We kept saying over and over, 

“How is this real life? What is happening? We are having a baby in a week!” 

I called the birth mother and she was so happy and relieved to hear our answer. J is a friend of my parents and both Andy and I met her last fall when she joined our family for Thanksgiving dinner. Funny enough, I joked with my family that I was going to ask J for her baby! God knew all along. :) 

Ever since Jane died I have prayed for God to bring a baby to our doorstep. I begged Him,

"God, make it easy. We don't want to have to go through more pain."

 He heard my prayers! I've also been asking for God to restore my ability to hope and to show me His redemptive love through my pain. Through this crazy amazing experience I am learning that God wants us to dream big and pray even bigger!

Andy has been the most wonderful partner through all of this. Our shared grief brought us closer together in a sad but beautiful way. We have experienced seasons of being hermits and seasons of being social, and I'm grateful when I think of how much sweet together time we've enjoyed. (We celebrate eight years of marriage in a few weeks!) Andy has been especially helpful over the past few days as I have been an absolute wreck trying to tie up loose ends and pull things together to prepare for our daughter, who arrives in a matter of days!

Friends, we get to hold our living baby in our arms. (More tears!) God willing, we will leave the hospital with a baby instead of leaving empty-handed. We are in awe of this incredible gift!

What happens now:

Our baby will be delivered Thursday morning in a Virginia hospital. J has graciously invited me to join her in the operating room so that I will be able to hold the baby right away. We will be living in Virginia until the Inter-state compact is signed, which may take a month or two (or longer). We cannot cross state lines with our girl during that time, but we will both be coming up to Frederick here and there for work and getting our home ready. We are working with an attorney and will receive a home study and follow-up visits in the coming weeks.

While I love to share this news and tend to over-share in general, I want to protect J's privacy and our baby's story. We will not be sharing any more information about the birth parents publicly, and may choose not to share it privately, either. If you know J, please do not give her identity away. Thanks! If you're wondering, we are legally allowed to share pictures of our baby, and J has given us her blessing to do so.

A final note: hugs to anyone reading this who is bummed to hear this news via Facebook. These past few days have been a whirlwind — so much to do in so little time!

Your prayers for our hearts have carried us through such a long, dark time. Thank you! God is good and He is faithful always.

Psalm 145:3-21