How do you challenge motherhood?
Challenge Motherhood. Because motherhood is so much more than cooking and cleaning and playing chauffeur. Motherhood is laughter and love. It’s the season to make memories to treasure for a lifetime. Motherhood is inspiring awe and wonder and cherishing the little things.
- Take the time today and every day to recognize that you are enough. You are not defined by your ‘To Do’ list or how clean your house is. The kids won’t always make those messes and the clothes will always need to be washed.
- Now is the time to step outside and explore with the kids. Learn something new about them and in return, you’ll learn something new about yourself.
- Schedule time in your day to dance. Dancing and singing allows you to express yourself. Have a dance party with the kids before breakfast or when you start to feel stressed.
Share with others how you Challenge Motherhood. Keep yourself accountable by adding your goals and new habits into your daily planner. Share on social media using #challengemotherhood to inspire other mothers.
October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. I wrote my story as part of my healing process and thought I would share it with the hope that it will help someone else during their grieving process. I wrote this about 2 weeks after my loss. This is our story.
It’s hard. I cry everyday. Although now I feel like I can move forward and begin the healing process. Losing a loved one is hard, but losing a child seems to be the hardest. This isn’t my first, I experienced a miscarriage at 13 weeks gestation with my third pregnancy. This, was my fifth pregnancy. I heard the heart beat loud and strong several times. We were so excited to see our family growing again, and I was already making sure things were in order for our postpartum experience. But at 19 weeks, the ultrasound showed no movement and no fluttering heartbeat.
I think I was numb at first. And it felt like I was expecting to hear this awful news. I guess I really was, or I should say that I wasn’t surprised. I had an ominous feeling walking into the ultrasound that day – I actually felt it for a few weeks. (It’s the same intuitive feeling I had when I miscarried my third pregnancy, and the same feeling I had before my son was diagnosed with hydrocephalus). So I whispered several prayers that morning – for peace, comfort, guidance, and as always, for a healthy baby and good news. My prayers were answered in a way. It definitely wasn’t the answer that I wanted. I wanted a living baby to hold, to smell, to snuggle, to kiss, to mother. But I do have peace and comfort knowing that this baby was loved dearly by many already, and whatever the cause, at least the babe was safe in my womb, never to experience heart ache, pain, or suffering – only love.
I made the heart wrenching phone call to my husband. I could barely form the words as tears streamed down my face. I’m so lucky to have him as my partner in life. He’s weathered many storms with me and is always unwavering, stoic and calm. He came home early from work to grieve with the kids and I. Explaining this to them has not been easy. We’re open with them about life and death and we have a firm foundation in Jesus, Christ, which has made these transitions easier it seems. My 7 year old understood and accepted it. She and I wept for several minutes as she embraced me so tightly. She’s such a trooper. But, how do you explain this to a five year old boy who continues to ask to kiss and talk to the baby and was so hopeful for a baby brother? We did our best. It wasn’t until after I birthed the baby that he truly understood though. Our youngest didn’t quite understand that I was pregnant, so its been an easy transition for her.
I had to wait a week. It was such an emotional week, filled with anxiety and uncertainty. The risk of infection increases as each day passes and there is a greater risk for hemorrhage at this late stage of miscarriage. I didn’t know what to expect or where to go. I choose to birth out of hospital under the care and guidance of a licensed midwife. My birth team was extremely helpful during this time, however, this was out of their scope of practice. So I called around to a few local OB providers, my midwives and their staff called around too and we couldn’t get the answers and help we were needing. Everyone simply recommended that I head to the ER once I experienced abdominal pain or bleeding. So, I waited. I was told that at 20 weeks I could walk into the hospital Obstetrics Emergency Care Center for help, regardless of pain or bleeding. It just so happened that at the 20 week mark, I began experiencing light cramping as well as a slightly elevated temperature (which turned out to be of no concern, I was probably overheated from the afternoon sun and just a little paranoid about infection, because my temperature was normal at the hospital).
After dropping our three kids off at a very dear friends house, my husband and I headed to the hospital on a Thursday evening, still not fully knowing what to expect. The doctor and nurse gave me two choices, to stay and get induced that night, or leave and come back another day – either way, I would be birthing the baby. My anxiety immediately deflated and my pride beamed. The first thing I thought was ‘I know labor and birth. I can do that. That’s no big deal.’ But then the doctor started talking about induction with meds and the various pain medicine that they can give me, and my anxiety returned, tears streamed down my face. I tried to explain to them that I have no fear about an unmedicated birth, but medical intervention scares me. I started thinking about all of the herbal and homeopathic remedies that could help promote induction and thought about going home to start those and coming back another day. But then, if I ended up needed medical intervention, how would they effect each other? I took a deep breath, prayed silently, and looked at my husband. After a few minutes of discussion, we decided to stay for induction. The doctor and nurse explained what could happen – so that I felt better prepared and aware of what my body would experience, both emotional and physical.
I was able to sleep for the 5 hours after the Cervidil was placed. And I awoke to the nurse coming to check on me around 6am. I was only experiencing mild cramping. Luckily, that’s all I ever felt during this labor and there were no complications. I birthed my baby, en caul, at 7:30am on Friday, September 1, 2017. It was silent and quick. We were unable to determine the sex at this stage of development, although I’m pretty sure the baby was a boy. We decided on the name Kyrie Conrad Sexton. Kyrie is greek and means ‘Lord, have mercy’ and Conrad is my maiden name which means ‘brave counsel.’
My husband had to leave to get our other three kids, so I was able to spend some quiet time alone, just me, God, and my baby. I saw how intricately developed he already was. Everything was formed just perfectly. Psalms 139 was on my heart “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” And I wept.
I feel at peace. I have closure. I am healing. There will always be a place in my heart for both of my heavenly babies. I will always remember them.
Motherhood is raw and real. There are so many ups and downs on this journey. It’s important to me to be present, optimistic, and accepting. Right now I’m mourning. And it’s okay. I’ll stay here as long as I need to. I’m trying to be optimistic, but it’s hard. I already had so many hopes and dreams for this little one and our family. I have no choice but to accept this and continue to be present for my husband and children who need me and love me unconditionally. God is on my side and walking with me every step of the way. I don’t have to bear the weight of this alone, and that is comforting. I know others are supporting us and we all mourn together.
Ready to share
I wanted to write about this right away, but I stopped myself. Instead of writing to process my feelings, I reached out to my support group. I was overwhelmed with their responses and reactions to our diagnosis. The continued prayers and random check ins to see how I was coping was so incredibly encouraging. Now that I have had a follow up visit with a specialist, I am ready to share our story.
A little history
Let’s begin with a back story. I have three living, beautiful children. Two girls and a boy. My son is sandwiched in the middle and has a diagnosis of Hydrocephaly. He was officially diagnosed when he was five months old and underwent three different brain surgeries before his first birthday. The first was to place a VP shunt to drain the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), the second was a revision to make sure it was working properly, and the third was decompression of the brain to drain a cerebral hemorrhage (brain bleed). He has multiple food allergies (some that he has successfully outgrown which I attribute to our diligence in healing his gut) and he some learning disabilities (that we are patiently working through). Regardless of my anxiety surrounding my son, he is growing into a strong, vibrant and happy boy who loves life to the fullest.
November of 2014, about two and a half years after my sons birth, I experienced a pregnancy loss at 13 weeks. A year later I birthed a beautiful, healthy girl who has been an answer to my prayers. Two years after that in September of 2017, I experienced another pregnancy loss, at 20 weeks. (I wrote about it here) And yet one more early loss in 2018. During each of these pregnancies, I felt that something was “off” or just not quite right. I also had this feeling while I was pregnant with my son, and my intuition ended up being right. We never learned the sex of the babies that lost, but I have a strong feeling they were all boys. I told myself that I just can’t grow a boy without complications, and I believed it to be true.
Facing my fears
Fast forward to this pregnancy. After living in fear of getting pregnant, I faced my fear. In January 2020, I learned that I was pregnant again and this time I felt good about it. However, I have had a long road of overcoming fears. I opted for genetic testing, for the first time – mainly to find out what the sex is early so that I could mentally and emotionally prepare myself. At the end of my first trimester, I learned that this baby is a boy. I cried for two days. Because I was afraid. Afraid of experiencing another loss or another child who would need constant medical intervention. Afraid of the anxiety and depression that could accompany any of those experiences. And I mourned for my previous losses.
After allowing time to mourn and acknowledge my angst, I knew it was time to move forward. To overcome those fears and to live in the present moment I started to thank God for this new life growing within me. I declared hope and joy over this pregnancy instead of fear and sorrow. I could feel this baby growing strong with each movement that he made, but I still had anxiety about the 18 week anatomy scan, and unfortunately because of precautions surrounding covid-19, I had to go the ultrasound solo, without my husband.
During this anatomy ultrasound, we learned that baby was growing strong and healthy. Everything looked great – except, he has a single umbilical artery (SUA or a 2 vessel cord). Most umbilical cords have 3 vessels, one vein and two arteries. They only found one artery and one vein. Cue the dramatic music as I felt my heart sink and my fear confirmed “see, it’s true, I can’t grow a boy without medical complications.” I was already a wreck during that appointment because of my previous experience with learning about the loss of my baby in 2017 with the same Ultrasound Tech and in the same room. And I could not keep it together. I balled my eyes out the entire time I was there. (And I had no shame, the staff was very understanding and encouraging)
Prayer and support
Now back to where I started – I wanted to process all of my emotions and write out a blog post to share back in April, but I stopped myself. Instead, I reached out to my support people. And I am so thankful that I did. I researched a little more about SUA, I prayed hard, and I decided not to live in fear (again). My specific prayer was (although this is very unlikely) that this diagnosis was a mistake and that there truly were three, healthy vessels. I did recognized the reality of the situation so I also prayed for another opportunity to catch my own healthy, full term baby in my home. That the two vessels would be enough to sustain this pregnancy and nourish this baby as much as he needs and for him to not experience any complications or the need for medical interventions.
Today, May 28, 2020 (one day before my birthday!) I sat on the exam bed as the Ultrasound Tech scanned the growth and development of my baby boy. This time, I cried tears of joy as the tech announced that there are indeed three vessels; two arteries and one vein. Perfect. An answered prayer. A miracle.
So here I am at 23 weeks pregnant, experiencing an answered prayer. I have felt peace, hope, and joy sporadically throughout this journey so far – but mostly because I chose to find them. The emotions that I’m feeling today are overwhelmingly authentic and true. And it feels so good.
I’m making it a point to share my story to give others hope. So you know that you can experience joy and laughter during hardships. That life is full of abundance, you simply need to make the decision to seek for it. Lean into your support people. Pray hard. Miracles do happen. My hope is found in God.
“We have this hope as anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19
What is grace?
Grace means forgiveness. It means you have nothing to prove. You are held. loved. cherished.
You are forgiven of all of your imperfections, flaws, shortcomings, weaknesses, doubt. You are worthy.
You are lovely, pleasing, beautiful.
What is a grace-filled life?
To live a grace-filled life is to acknowledge your shortcomings but not let them control you or be fearful of them. To know you are worthy, loved, and cherished always. To celebrate your uniqueness. To respect and honor every part of your life.
Becoming a mother transformed me. I have experienced strength like never before, courage to do what I once thought impossible, and unwavering love. For a long time, I let anxiety and fear drive me. I let my insecurities define me and influence my decisions.
After years of feeling out of control and living a fear and anxiety driven life, I decided to reach for grace. I’m finding beauty in the chaos of raising kids in the twenty-first century. I seek joy and let laughter – true laughter -fill my body. I dance and sing again. Every morning is a new opportunity and another chance to celebrate grace and gratitude.
Understanding and trusting in grace and finding gratitude in all things has opened my mind and heart to the beauty that has always surrounded me. I’m finding myself again and I’m sharing those things that fill me with joy and remind me of grace and gratitude.