3 Years

It has been 3 years....

3 years since I told him goodnight for the last time.

3 years since he slept on my chest and I soaked in those sweet baby sighs in the middle of the night.

3 years, 3 months, and 27 days since he was born.  And tomorrow is the day we said goodbye.  The day we never, ever imagined would happen and at times seems like a dream.

I find myself sometimes caught in between reality and that "dream."  Was he really here?  Were we really that blissfully happy and naive?  Did we really experience the death of a child?  And then, it all slaps me in the face oh so gracefully.  I know it happened because I feel the sting of it every single day.

It hurts now like it did then.

My heart aches and breaks and shatters still.

It has been 3 years, BUT....we are 3 years closer to him.  3 years closer to eternity.  Every year without him is one step closer to being together again.  That doesn't make it hurt any less, but it definitely makes the hope that much sweeter.

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't see this smile.  I think of Ayden every single day.  I miss him every day.  And I continue to love and mother him through it all.  He has taught me so much and made me the person I am today.  His purpose in this life continues to be fulfilled.  What an amazing gift - our cherished little boy and our treasure awaiting us in Heaven.  I love you so much, sweet boy.  I can't wait to hold you in my arms again.

Turning 2!

Someone please tell me how this happened! How did my little baby all of a sudden become a 2 year old toddler?! We celebrated Collen's 2nd birthday this weekend. He doesn't turn 2 until Wednesday, so I'm clinging to my "baby" 1 year-old for a few more days. :)

 The past 2 years have been nothing short of amazing with Collen. He is absolute joy personified! He is one of the happiest children I've ever known. He has his moments that are not so joyous, but of course we all do.

 Some quick facts about Collen at 2:

 1. He is a people person. He doesn't know a stranger (which terrifies this momma, but he comes by it honestly with 2 parents who can talk to just about anyone).

 2. He is silly. Giggly, wiggly, goofy, corn-ball silly. He comes by that honestly, too.

 3. He loves music and is learning a few songs now. His favorite songs: "The Wheels on the Bus", "Old MacDonald", "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star", and "Ring Around the Rosy."

 4. He loves animals - all animals! His favorite animals at the moment are: alligators, horses, dogs, cats, and fish.

 5. He is smart! He is using a lot of full sentences. I can't even count them. And he is getting really good at saying "please" and "thank you." He knows all of his letters; he can count from 1-15 (on a good day); he knows most of his colors; he can point to almost any animal and call it by name; he can work an I-Pad like a pro!

 6. He loves his Mommy. :) He kind of has no choice. He spent a lot of the summer with me and spends a lot of time with me in the evenings now that I'm back at work. The nature of football season turns him into a Mommy's boy. Don't worry....when Daddy's home, he loves hanging out with Daddy. They're best buds, and Mommy quickly becomes forgotten once Daddy's played with him for a while. Oh, but let a boo-boo occur....no one but Mommy can make it better. All it takes is a kiss and a snuggle, and he's all better.

 He is more and more fun every single day! I love this age. I know people like to dub 2 as the "terrible twos" but so far, they have been wonderful for us! Of course, we have tantrum moments and moments of defiance, but he's a child. That's going to happen. It's our job to teach him how to respond in those situations and how we expect him to act. He quickly catches on the importance of being patient and kind in order to get his way rather than the alternative (most of the time). We haven't had to do much in the way of discipline just yet, but I know it's coming.

 Big milestones to reach in the coming months/year:

 1. Get rid of the paci! It was one of my goals this summer, but it just didn't happen. He relies on it so much to help him fall asleep. We were able to take it away until only nap time and bed time, and he has done very well at complying with that. Now, making the transition over to no paci at all....I see that as being a big hurdle. But, we'll tackle it when he's ready.

 2. Potty training. Collen has no interest what-so-ever. We got him a little potty for his bathroom. He likes to sit on it when we are in the bathroom, but ask him to use it....no way! Jeremy was able to get him to go #1 in his potty after a bath one night, but it took a lot of coaxing. This isn't one we are going to push at all. When he's ready, he's ready. I don't want to traumatize him with it. I'd rather it be something he wants to do rather than something we force him to do.

 3. Becoming a big brother! In 2 short weeks, Collen will be a big brother to a baby sister! He will be a wonderful brother! Collen loves babies and is so gentle with them. Charlotte is one lucky little girl! 

Here are some pictures from Collen's birthday party this weekend. We kept it pretty small (although you wouldn't have known it with everyone crammed into our little house!) - only inviting a few friends from church and close (in distance) family members. We went with a Curious George theme this year since he is Collen's absolute favorite! It went very well, and I think Collen had a great time!

Humor me...

...and check out my sister's wedding video!  I promise it's line none you've ever seen (and it's only about 3 minutes long...you've got 3 minutes, right?)

It's just like a movie trailer.  I could watch it over and over....absolutely beautiful and captures the day perfectly!

Megan + DJ - Duplin Winery Nuptials! from Cana Collective on Vimeo.

The "perfect" family

Ever since we found out we are having a girl this time around, the #1 comment I get from people is, "Oh, a boy and a girl! The perfect family!"

Since when was having a boy and a girl the ideal family?  It just perplexes me when people say that.  I know they mean well, and I don't take offense to it.  However, it still stings a bit.  "Perfect" to our family would obviously be a 3 and 2 year old little boys and a newborn baby sister....along with a 59 year old "PaPa" laughing and transferring so much wisdom and joy to the lives of his grandchildren.

I guess because I only have a sister, I never really thought about this so-called perfection that comes from having a boy and a girl.  Just seems like a weird notion to me....maybe I'm reading too far into it.  :/


Anyway, I know I have been awol lately.  Things here have not slowed down all summer.  I've been doing my best to soak up every second with Collen since this will be out last summer....just he and I.  We've had a lot of fun. :)  Tomorrow is our last day together before I go back to work on Friday.  Sad does not even begin to describe how I feel about that.  :(  But, soon enough we will be home again with a little sister to spoil and love on.

Speaking of....

...we have an induction date set for Sept. 4.  Charlotte will likely be here before that - I'm suspecting the weekend of Labor Day.  I tend to go 7-10 days early, and that leads us to that weekend.  If she doesn't come before the 4th though, that will be her official birthday.  My doctor didn't want me to go completely full term because of the 2 vessel cord.  I asked her if there were any concerns with inducing a 2 vc baby, and she said she thought we would be fine.  If the 2 vc was inevitable, I'm glad it came with our 3rd child.  My labor is likely to be pretty short - lasting 12 hours at the longest (that's how long Collen's was....after Ayden's 36 hour labor!!).  So, my fears of her going into distress due to labor are lowering thanks to the odds being in our favor.  I'm praying we don't have to induce....because that means pitocin, which I was hoping to avoid.  I am hoping to avoid all meds entirely - except for maybe some IV pain meds.  I want to do this one without an epidural, and I feel like I can.  My epidural didn't take with Collen, and while it was painful....it was not unbearable.  I liked that I could follow my body's cues...knowing when to push and being able to anticipate contractions.  We'll see though...just have to see how it all pans out.

We've been working hard on getting her room ready and such.  Our summer projects are finally dwindling.  The deck is 98% finished; her room is cleared out...just need to finish painting; we got a daybed for her room for my mom when she stays over...have to finish painting it and put it together; Collen is all set with a big boy room...complete with a big boy bed; the fence is in the process of being replaced; Collen's 2nd birthday party (this weekend!) has been planned and prepared for...just have to make it to Saturday to get it all together; I have a sub in place and am set to be out for 8 weeks; and now that football season has started, I'm trying to wrap my mind around doing it all by myself (pretty much) with a 2 year old and a newborn.  Jeremy's first day back to work was today.  Now we face the long days and nights of football season with Daddy leaving before Collen gets up and getting home after he has gone to bed....every day.  I hate it for Jeremy because of the time he misses with Collen.  He literally only sees him on the weekends.  If he sees him during the week, it might be for a total of an hour.  :(   SO tough.

Well, that's my update for now.  I would say there isn't much going on around here, but that's not true at all.  I guess it just isn't all that interesting right now, but boy is it about to be!

Less than 3 weeks and I will be introducing Charlotte Brooke to all of you. :)  Thank you of your continued prayers!

When people "get it"

I love those moments when I feel understood.  Because so often, I feel like I'm not.

I know people see our reasoning behind a lot of our actions.  Speaking of - our protectiveness.  The fact that a "date night" for Jeremy and myself has never entailed leaving Collen overnight.  We keep it to a maximum of 4 hours away.  And that's not some "rule" of ours.  It's just because we can't stand being away from him.

Sometimes I get paranoid about my own paranoia.  I feel like people look at me as if I'm constantly hovering over Collen....wanting to keep him in a bubble of protection....so afraid that something is going to happen.

And most of the time, Yes...I am afraid.  I talked with Jeremy about this the other night, and I was so relieved to learn he feels the exact same way.  Here is where it all stems from:

I took Collen out to school the other day because I needed to pick up a few things.  One of my dear, sweet friends - the lady who doubles as my momma at the school - walked me down to open my classroom for me.  We were just chit-chatting, and she was going on about Collen and how friendly he is.  Then she said, "I bet you are so protective of him."  And the next words out of her mouth were, "How old would have Ayden have been?"  She had made the connection.  She "got it."  She realizes the why behind my protectiveness.  Because I just can't do it again.  And I can in some way prevent it....or at least try...then that's what I'm going to do.

Now, I'm no idiot.  I know that something could easily happen to Collen under my watch...Jeremy's watch.  However, it's just that assurance (hope) that if he is with us, he's safe.  Because we know we will watch him and never take an eye off him.  Not that he isn't safe with anyone else.  We trust him with others, but really....if you're a parent, I know you feel the same way.  In your mind, your child is safest when he/she is with you.

I know people look at me and think, "She needs to give herself a break."  "Just let him go."  "You can't protect him 100% of the time."

And my response is: "When you've walked away from a healthy, smiling, happy child fully intending to pick them up that afternoon only to have to walk away from their lifeless body in a hospital emergency room...wondering how you are going to survive the rest of your life....let alone the next breath you take....then come talk to me about how easy it should be for me to step away and not live every moment in a mode of protection over the living children I do have."

If I've learned one thing at all, I've learned how quickly it can all change....in the blink of an eye.  Collen can be taken from me just as easily.  Charlotte could be taken as well.  This is the reason we haven't left Collen since he's been born.  This is the reason I spent every second with him for the first year of his life.  This is the reason he was on an apnea monitor and movement monitor and slept in our room for the first year of his life.  This is why - much to their grandparents' dismay - it will be a long time before we put them in someone else's hands for an extended period of time. This is why they do not ride in another person's car without one of us being with them.  This is why when on vacation, when they go to bed....so does one of us....right there in the room with them. And also why on said vacation, we bring the movement monitor and video monitor along with us....just in case.  This is why when they do spend time away from us, we leave very detailed instructions and check in often...just in case. This is why I may appear to be on edge most of the time or can't have a full conversation with someone when our children our out running around an open, outdoor area because my child is the one who runs off and I have to see him at every moment to know he's okay (and that's how most parents are, I've learned....which makes me feel less crazy).

I admit, this probably seems extreme.  I know it isn't good for me to be fearful.  I know that God doesn't want me to fearful.  I know that He wants me to trust Him, and I'm trying.  But I'm also going to do everything in my power to make sure my kids are protected as well.  Everything I can do to make sure I don't lose another one.  I realize that's really out of my control.  Believe me....I completely understand that I can't keep them alive.  That isn't up to me.  But....I can attempt to live without regret, and if I do what keeps me sane....which is always knowing where they are...being with them as much as possible...doing everything I can to ensure their safety....then that's what I'm going to do.  

I'm not in any way saying our way is better than anyone else's.  Believe me - I wish I could be more relaxed sometimes.  I wish I could let go a little bit and trust more.  I hate thinking that aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends might feel like we don't trust them.  It's not that at all.  We don't trust circumstances.  We don't trust the "what ifs." I was glad to learn that Jeremy also feels this way.  He put words to what I had been searching for when he said, "Because of what we've experienced, our vision has changed.  When he's out in the yard running around, playing, having a good time....yes, we enjoy that, but our vision has also become - "what if he runs to the road? what if we look away for a second as he's gone? what if a neighboring dog comes from out of nowhere and attacks him?"  We try to be prepared for anything that could possibly happen because we don't want to be hit with it again.

In talking with other parents who have lost children...and even those who haven't...I've learned that this is normal.  So, I know I'm not a crazy, helicopter mom.  It was just nice to have a conversation with someone who...3 years later...completely understands the why behind my protectiveness and even expects me to be that way. :)