7.15.2014

On Losing What I Never Had


We found out back in May that baby #3 is a girl. Just like when we found out about Layla, we videoed the opening of The Envelope with this baby as well. Unlike with Layla, we decided not to publish it. I'm going to tell you why.

WARNING: Where my heart was during this is such a hard and complex and delicate thing to describe without feeling like an ungrateful bitch (hello? you have a healthy baby growing miraculously inside you!) or some medieval jerk chauvinist who only wants to produce male heirs to ensure the purity of the Tudor line. So if you're feeling angry at me, or like you need to tell me to shut up because some women would kill for ANY baby, please just pause and give me some grace and know that I've felt that way about myself already, and turns out it's basically just piling on more poison.

If you havent had this same experience (or have walked a path that would make this struggle seem like a joy to you), I totally see how it could be hard to understand how I was feeling, but please go ahead and assume I am a pretty grateful and loving mom and a general non-asshole, and would cry right there with you if I knew your stuff.  I am praying no one goes to the place of "how dare she struggle with this when...[fill in the blank with something 'worse' that someone else deals with]."  When we compare or one-up someone's pain or attempt to shame them for even feeling it in the first place we are being incredibly immature and unchristlike. When has that ever worked? At best the struggle isnt gone, it's just shut up or stuffed into the darkness. Let's let people be where they are! Your tough stuff doesnt offend me because it's about you, not me. Ditto for mine: it's not trying to beat yours or even play on the same ballfield; I just want to be open about where I am. CAN YOU TELL I'M NERVOUS TO SHARE!?!

Here goes.

For months, rather predictably, Layla had said it was a girl and Judah had said it was a boy. But neither seemed obsessed either way. Layla was characteristically kind of blase about the whole thing and just breezily certain that she was right (what an enjoyable outlook!). Judah also didnt seem to have his heart completely and utterly set on a brother, but did say a few things that maybe should have tipped us off that a surprise/ambush reveal like this wasnt the best idea for him (including praying to Jesus to "make the baby a boy"). 

When the four of us left the office after the ultrasound, we got in the car, turned on the camera and opened the envelope to find GIRL!!! Jesse and I immediately turned around to see the kids' reactions for ourselves. Layla was smiling and be-bopping around. Judah sort of looked frozen...maybe a little confused and angry.

And then he roared. Loudly. Which was weird but, whatever.  And then the poor little guy broke down crying. 

I know that videos like this where the boys all want a brother and the parents say they're having a sister and they all freak out and start bawling have straight up won monies for how hilarious they are, but in that moment, as it was happening to us, nothing was less funny. My heart was breaking for my son AND for the new baby that he seemed to be rejecting on really unfair grounds.

On top of this, I am processing my own reaction.  I had completely expected it to be a boy, so I was just downright floored on my own, but when the extra mix of Judah's emotions got thrown in on top of my shock and hormones and the buildup of the entire morning/pregnancy to this moment (and some as-yet-unconfessed feelings), I started crying right there with him.

Poor, bewildered Jesse sitting in the middle of this whack-storm.

AAAAAAND CUT! That charming home movie is complete. Call Bob Saget.

One aspect of this is what I described back before we ever found out. For those first 4 months, the baby is BOTH sexes in your mind. You get to walk out your weird little parent dreams for 2 different kids: a boy AND a girl because both possibilities are 100% alive in your heart and mind. You are mentally having twins and everything you imagine has a boy version and a girl version because both versions are equally real and possible.

Therefore, when we found out that the baby is a girl--has always been a girl--it was like the little imaginary boy version from our minds had been lost. Yes, he never really existed, but it still feels like something of a loss.

Usually (for us), the loss of this phantom other-version of our baby is overwhelmed by the hooray! and solidifying of the ACTUAL baby. With Judah I was one million percent dying for a boy and that's what we had, so I almost didnt even feel the loss of "but what if it had been a girl?" because I was crazy pumped (thank you, Lord for not pulling a gender uber-surprise on a much-less-mature-than-now 26 year old Keight who would not have handled that gracefully):

[IMG_9671.JPG]
December 2008. Leaving the OB after our gender ultrasound.

When we found out about Layla, we were so freaking out of our minds surprised and giddy and HOLY CRAP A GIRL! That we just acted like lunatics.
.


June 2010 

But later on, there was a twinge of sadness to realize this meant Judah would never get a brother who was incredibly close in age. It was a very distant sadness because of how jacked out of our minds we were about being girl parents, and it almost didnt even register since Judah was barely a year old when we found out and had no clue what was going on anyway.

But yeah, this one was different and way more complicated with older siblings involved (you want EVERYTHING for ALL OF THEM!) and with my own garbage lurking in the shadows. If i could go back and do it again, first off, I would have had me and Jesse find out first and then strategize how to tell each kid. Layla was obviously easy (and i am pretty sure would have been no matter what the outcome, she just wants dat bae), but Judah is VERY emotionally sensitive, VERY competitive (he said something like "Layla won" through his initial tearful reaction), and doesnt love when emotional situations are sprung on him. 

On top of that,  I had said that I didnt care what this child was, but looking back, I know I wasn't being honest with myself. I had wanted a boy this time. Not so much that I wouldnt be excited for a girl, but enough that I would probably need some time to work through it, and definitely enough that Judah's gut reaction could set off and expose some ugly stuff hiding in me.

Here's my stuff:

I did NOT have a great relationship with my mom growing up. Jesus has done some beautiful restoration in both of us since I've been an adult and things are WAAAAAY better, but I have always feared girls because of how hard I know my mom tried to have a great mother/daughter bond with me and how heartbreaking it was for her to not really ever get it. I figured, with just one girl--Layla--I could throw all my "make a healthy mother-daughter relationship work!" eggs into one basket. So finding out that I am going to be forging this relationship with DOUBLE THE HUMANS was a little overwhelming and scary for me. Twice the chance for total annihilation!

In addition, I only ever had a brother. The whole sisterhood thing has always been a super weird mystery of foreign WTF to me. I can remember as a teen asking some of my closest friends who had sisters to try to explain to me what that whole shebang was about, because I just didnt get it (I would also ask my black friends to explain how their hair works and come away just as clueless). So the thought of mothering a sisterhood (most estrogen-charged phrase I've ever typed) was incredibly intimidating.

In the end I think it came down to bigtime insecurity that I was afraid to own. I would much rather have the majority of my children have Jesse as their role model of what kind of adult to be rather than myself. Will my daughters be like their father? OH HELLS YES (and little Judah man has plenty of mommy up in there too), but as far as learning what it means to be a man/woman, you tend to learn that from your same-gender parent, and I generally think Jesse is a way better man than I am a woman. I hear the lie that I just kind of lucked out with Layla so far because she is a little wild raspberry of awesome good-naturedness and has gravitated towards me from the get-go, but there was no way that two girls in a row could actually feel that way (or even that Layla will continue to!).

I took a lot of these initial feelings to some of my closest friends who I knew I was safe with; even with these tricky, ugly thoughts going on, they would still love me. (WO)Man alive, they were water and life for me! They all said they could understand where I was coming from and assured me I wasnt a mommy-monster who would eat her young.  The ones who have sisters talked about how special that bond is. I heard them say how special it is to have the mother-plus-daughterS dynamic within a family.  They encouraged me about my worth as a woman and as a role model for women.

That very day, I went to Target by myself to look at tiny girly things to help me get in the mood, and I just so happened to run into a close friend who just had her 3 child--and second girl- a few months ago and who I had weirdly yet to meet. It was perfect and seeing that baby was just the sweetest happiest little wake up call I could have asked for! I came home from that entire complicated day with 2 tiny girly onesies and a growing positivity for what was to come. 

The final thing that brought me solidly out of any disappointment whatsoever and into peace and full-blown excitement for how this specific little girl is going to bless our family came as I remembered the last bible study my girl's group (girls group...not a coincidence) had done. There was an exercise where you had to list the times God hadn't given you what you wanted or what you thought would be best for you. There was an overwhelming chorus of THANK GOODNESS I DIDNT GET WHAT I WANTED from all of us! 

Whether it was unreturned crushes (in a room of girls, there were lots of examples of these!), jobs lost, opportunities that fell through, our biggest takeaway was, "I wish I was better at trusting Him when I'm not getting what I want, while it's still hard." Because almost all of these "disappointments" have led to things that were much better, deeper, healthier, and God-glorifying than those that we would chosen ourselves. How much more joy could there be and heartache skipped if we learned to FIRST exercise the faith of "okay God, what you have will be better for me. I'm just believing that even though right now seems very NOT."

When I remembered how this study had obviously been preparing my heart for this exact bit of news, the last of my baby-boy-blues disappeared. I decided to just go for it and skip the crying over the boy I didnt get (a familiar refrain to my teenage self in a new form!) and to faith-jump headfirst into a gift that I wasn't totally sure of in the moment, but that I trusted would not disappoint and would likely blow away my expectations.

(Yes, I get it. Big whoop that I trusted that I would love my own child. This "feat" doesnt quite get me into the Faith Hall of Fame. It might earn me a few eye-rolls to even claim that it took "faith" to get me to a place of excitement about my own cherished baby. I am in no way trying to minimize or poo-poo what a miracle and blessing having ANY baby EVER is. And I definitely not comparing my painful stuff to anyone else's. Please just remember that I can only be where I am, and that even sharing these feelings is SCARY AND VULNERABLE!)

It's been two months since this charming maelstrom of THE FEELS, and man, it has been awesome. My love for this baby as MY DAUGHTER has grown beyond what I thought I was capable of.  Almost as wonderful has been the confidence that trusting Jesus' plan for me and tiny-lady has exposed and eradicated any seeds of bitterness, rejection, or disappointment that I know satan would have loved to have taken root in my heart before she was even born. I love that she is going to come into the world to parents who have already fought for their relationship with her.

Bring on the GIRLS!!







7.10.2014

vacapetion

Just when I was showing signs of rebounding from my bloggy coma, we went out of town for a week. We are officially there and back again with lots of sunny photos to show for it.


This was our yearly summer vacation. It was our 10th (!!) year of going to the same place (Cape San Blas, FL) with the same crew (The Harper family) and having the same kind of time (flawless, wonderful).  Jesse and I were fortunate enough to be asked on this trip by our campus minister/boss at Georgia Tech Christian Campus Fellowship (where we met) in 2005 so that we could help play with/supervise his 3 boys (then ages 8-15). 

After that, we called DIBS and just never stopped showing up. The whole situation has grown ever-more beneficial to us over the years as, A: the boys have grown up to be 3 of our best friends whom we LOVE being around as grown ups (now ages 17-24!), and B: they are dreamy "bruncles" (brothers/uncles) to my kids and help us out a ton while my kids idolize them. The sitted have become the sitters!

A smattering from our week (some you may have already seen if you follow me on instagram, but many are new releases). 


the first night (note her floaties). there are THREE dukes women in this photo.

 usually rolling up the trunks was enough to assuage the chafing the the ocean/sand always causes judah. and this photo is adorable, obviously


right. so this. first of all he is a tiger. this is because the flower girl from our wedding--who has since become 12 years old and kicked cancer's ass-- Audrey Arrowood (whose parents mentored us and whose entire family is BFF) snuck my kids away one night and face painted them. and SECOND, he is wearing layla's swim bottoms as a speedo because the chafing got out of control and no amount of trunk-rolling would work, and was he LOSING it and it was so sad. so we just made a swap and ended up with this moment which i am 100% will never come back to embarrass him.

right after he changed, judah felt a little bashful about the speedo. then Grayson did this to his shorts (despite tons of fellow teenagers all over the beach) and judah stopped caring and my heart just soared. jesus, please put people like this around my kids forever and let them BE people like this!


waiting for a table at the not-so-secret-anymore best restaurant, The Raw Bar. just the funniest face Judah has ever made. I have NO clue what was happening.


that's more like it.

and THAT's really like it. (note the different clothes...we go several times over the course of the week)

in order to get mommy/daddy relaxation and rest levels up to vacation-standard we had to full on sell out to the iPads some mornings. I dont regret it. and the condo came equipped with this perfect viewing cabinet!


girlfriend is a gamer in the ocean and sand. 


nerdy goggles and a lack of floaties.

Insert aside of pure joy: my mom and dad gifted Layla swim lessons this summer. Layla took 7 private lessons before we left for the trip, and had to be dragged through each one; showing little to no interest or improvement, and not a little bit of irrational fear of "draining".

I was fairly certain she'd be in a floatie until age 12 and that the generosity of my mom had been wasted. and then randomly on the 2nd or third day, she said she wanted to take off the floatie and "practice swim lessons" which we laughed at and figured would be her tip toeing across the shallows. Instead, this happened (working on higher-res versions):


and then 2 days later after we had given up trying to get her to put her head under finally stopped bugging her about it and just decided to be content with the doggy paddle, she literally out of nowhere starts doing this (trying to get a higher-res version to load):


and she never stopped. she can officially, and totally swim! the floaties didnt see daylight again after this (though they will for the baby, because we will never have another kiddie floatation device besides this kind because they rock so hard and are much safer and useful than water wings ever were!).

We think that little punk was just wanting to do it herself and not be told by anyone. OR that seeing her buddy Neli Arrowood-- the big 4 year old-- rock the skill of swimming helped motivate her through competitiveness . I assume she got those traits from Jesse as I am super coachable and laid back about competition.



we got obsessed with catching coquina shell creatures and watching them burrow, each of which Judah named "Shelldor" and then a corresponding number. we got up to at least Shelldor 51

walking Judah out to the beach goes like this:
 he sprints way way ahead of me on the boardwalk....


and I find him waiting patiently up on the bench once I catch up. i say, "oh hello, little boy, you look fun, would you like to me in my family?" he is usually happy to join. love it.


sugar belle LOVED the dune vines and all their applications. 



the whole fam!


they slept HARD. gotta love the beach for that!

 i'm fond of them.


majestic vine prancer.


the focus. the precision. the abs.


holy sassy competition cheerleader/aerobicizer pose.


future rhythmic gymnast olympian.


sugar on top.


queen of the mountain


the queen reigns ALONE


but she is merciful in the end.

did i mention the harpers are crazy soccer players/fans and the world cup was going on? the USA vs. BEL game was tense for everyone. i got through it with lots of guacamole.


will the third possibly be as spectacular as these two are?!


he spent 20% of the vacation in flight.


4th of July night, this pre-dug hole was an amazing babysitter! (not deep or steep enough to be one of those cave-in stories, worriers!)


hahahaha classic. i dont feel bad about this because she threw sand in everyone's eyes nonstop.





he spent the other 80% asking deep questions about crabs.


catching the frisbee is important.


patriotic kite flying. a la ben franklin!



hardcore sunset bros.


i'll take two scoops of that, si vous plait. with free refills!


i think donovan is taking the blame for an errant frisbee toss here, but the damage is clearly done.


what's a girl to do when she's trying to model and her hair is blowing in her face?


obviously, she gets local teen heart throb, Bruncle Grayson, to be her stylist.  she's very posh, you see.


now we're cooking.


she is getting sleepy. verrrrry sleepy.


HOORAY FREEDOM!




so much LOL from me. i stood above the hole taking pics (for like the hundredth time) and she was so over looking at the camera. i demanded she look up and she refused. so i started the mommy count to consequence: "ONNNNNE,....TWWWWWOO...." and by three her head snapped right up to the camera like so. sheer perfection. straight busted.


the sun escapes without incident for  yet another night.


MWAHAHAHAHA not so fast, el sol! 


freedom fighters lovers. my two and the littlest two Arrowoods.


someone swears she had a dramatic burning encounter with a sparkler and only grape soda can help.

speaking of soda, we got a pair of these bad boys, "Turtlebacks" before vacation and they are awesome. I am not a sand fan, especially on my frosty beverages, and these are by far the best devices i've seen for keeping the drink upright and sand free. get a set for yo-self!





no pressure, but if Judah and Neli ever get married, this pic and exit sparklers will be mandatory.


more hang time.


layla and her beloved Garrett.

sand castle building. jesse gets super handsy and possessive when he captains one of these efforts, which inevitably ends in tears for him since the kids are hands on and opinionated...and destructicons.



more mid-air and great hair


heaven help us.



my blue eyed babes.


boys


boys


boys! great gosh i love them.


no girl could be happier with her choice of spouse. i live in swoonsville.


i just told him that he's the father!


pretty sure no one told him to hold the baby like that. heart melt!


girl time. she's tops.



her kisses are extremely aggressive. know this.


i hate my eyelids. so close to a great pic of 3 kids.


family pics were a struggle for us.


but not for these lookers! behold the Harpers!

this photo keeps getting funnier as Grayson, who first did this pose at age 8, is now the biggest Harper. we will never relent on tradition.


boys and their muscles.


another tradition pic where they point stoically at nothing. (except judah who has never smiled this cute or directly at a camera in his life, but in the one pic where it's a no-look straight face he delivers!)


gang's all here! (no one be creeped out by the awkward ordering that left a fake little family on the right side of the pic...and another on the left with my two plaid dads.)


this is the only time a pose like this is allowed by her on the internet.


almost a great shot. the best we could hope for, really.

because: true story 98% of the time.


we all felt like this on the way home (but aint nobody can look this good doing it!)

Jesse and I agreed that year #10 was probably our favorite ever. Our kids are at record-high levels of fun, the Harper boys are full on beloved peers, the weather was spotless, we were diaper-less ffor the first time in 6 trips, the Arrowoods were able to come at the same time, the World Cup was on, but not all day every day, and I was not insecure about bikini fat-rolls because my belly is rotund with uterus!

Until next year, Cape! (we'll have diapers with us, FYI).

** Several people asked about why the non-camera phone pics look so good. A: beach sunset lighting is almost foolproof. but mostly B: THIS LENS is everything for portraits if you arent a professional but have a DSLR and want a great, but affordable lens besides the main do-it-all one. it's the only other lens i own.