I went to Hawaii and came home with a tattoo. Yes, it was planned and yes, it hurt. But it really wasn’t bad. As you probably know, I’m terrified of needles – a fear that I had to come face to face with too many times over the past few years. For some reason, this needle felt more purposeful than any blood draw I’ve ever had, so that made it a bit easier. I know that sounds crazy! The question on everyone’s mind (because I know this is all you’ve been thinking about – ha!) is why a seashell??

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So here’s the story: when Lainey was about 5 weeks old, she had her first surgery. She was weighing about 2 pounds at that point and still so teeny tiny. The surgery was fairly routine in the world of the NICU, a PDA ligation, and Bryan and I even joked that a game of Operation would take longer than the actual surgery took! It happened first thing in the morning and we got to see her afterwards and she looked good, so we went home to rest.

When we went back up to the NICU later that day, we learned that after the surgery Lainey had a lot of trouble regulating her blood pressure. Its just kept falling. Throughout the course of the day and night she would be put on 8-10 different medications to try to stabilize her, and keep her heart pumping. When we left the NICU that night, the nurse looked at me and said, “We just need to make it through the night.” Those are words I will never forget. Most of the night I was up questioning the Lord. Why were we going through this? Was He going to bring Lainey Home to Him that night? This was a necessary surgery, but maybe we should have postponed it – did I do everything that I could have done as her mother? Lord give us a sign that this will be ok!

Eventually we fell asleep. We woke up at 5am and called the nurse in the NICU. There had been no change overnight. In fact things were as bad as they had been. The nurse assured us there was nothing we could do and that we needed to rest. We fell back asleep and both Bryan and I dreamed about Lainey when she was older.

Bryan dreamed that he was walking the hills of Ireland with a 6 or 7 year old Lainey and they were picking up seashells on the tops of mountains. She looked at Bryan and said, “Daddy, why are there seashells on the top of the mountain??” And he said to her, “These seashells are here because this whole area used to be underwater. The seashells are symbols of the past. But everything looks different now doesn’t it?” She nodded her head yes.  “These shells remind us of what used to be. Just like your scar reminds us of what used to be. Its a symbol of your past. It shows us where you came from, and how everything is different now.”

That was it. And then Bryan woke up and the second he woke up, he knew she was going to be ok. We immediately called the NICU and the nurse was ecstatic to tell us that Lainey had made a complete 180. She turned a corner and was doing great! There’s no doubt in our mind that God was speaking to us through our dreams and that He rescued our baby girl that morning.

Lainey has a scar across her back from that surgery and small scars on her arms and legs from different pokes throughout her NICU stay. One day, we will tell her about her Daddy’s dream and how the Lord answered our prayers. We will celebrate her scars as a sign of where she’s come from!

And now I have a “scar” too. To remind me of where we’ve come from and of the prayers the Lord continues to answer.

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mom-ing after infertility and the NICU

The thing that really sucks about moming after fighting so hard for a baby, is that the enemy makes you feel like you can’t mess up. That you must be grateful always for everything, even when the baby is staring at you and loudly screaming for no reason. In times like that, I don’t feel grateful – I feel annoyed at the screaming baby.

The other day, I just about lost it. Bryan has been working longer hours and I have a problem with spending too much time alone (we have no questions as to where Lainey gets her clinginess…). Lainey had been screaming her head off for what felt like an hour and I knew she just needed to sleep but for the life of me, I couldn’t lull her to sleep. I was so frustrated that I had to set her down and walk away to take a few deep breaths.

Immediately, an immense guilt fell over me. This guilt is all too familiar to many mothers, but especially those who have yearned for motherhood. After years of desiring a baby, miscarriage, infertility, and then premature labor and months in the NICU wondering if my baby would survive, how dare I have any feelings of frustration toward this child?

Isn’t that such a cruel lie that we let ourselves believe? That we must feel either love for our child or frustration with our child – that we can’t feel both at the same time. It’s almost an unspoken “rule” of motherhood after a struggle. And many of us know women who would love to be in our shoes, so we pretend like it’s not hard. But it is. And the voice in my head goes something like this:

Don’t get frustrated, Rachel.

You longed for this baby, Rachel.

You almost lost her, Rachel.

How dare you be frustrated with her, Rachel.

And on and on I go until I’m crying right along with Lainey.

But what if we CAN feel frustration with our children and an overwhelming love at the same time? What if we don’t have to feel guilty because our children are humans, not God, and they will fail us? What if instead of putting all of our hope in our children fulfilling our every expectation, we put all of our hope in a Father that will never disappoint – a Papa who does not condemn us when we feel like we are doing it all wrong?

Infertility and the NICU were hard enough. Stop condemning yourself for moments of anger and bitterness and frustration and realize that they can simultaneously exist with feelings of unconditional love and grace and mercy. And anywhere you fall short, God will pick up the pieces and begin putting the puzzle of our kid’s lives together, without any of our help.

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rachel blogs about things

One of the best things I’ve ever done was to start sharing Bryan and I’s fertility journey. I always knew it was going to be an elephant in the room if I didn’t say anything about it. So I did. And then I kept talking about it. And sometimes, maybe, I overshared. But you wouldn’t believe what happened – people started coming to me telling me that they (or their best friend or their sister) were also struggling.

So I guess that’s why I’m blogging now. But I hate the word blog, so I guess I’m just getting all of this on internet paper. Hoping that someone needs to hear what I have to say. Hoping to give some validity to things that have happened. And to talk about underrated Netflix shows, baby things, and pretty much anything I feel like because this is my internet paper (blog).

Thanks for following along.