She’s here!!

Newborn hospital photography  |  nextlifechapter.com

Photo by Helen Horstmann-Allen

I’d like to formally announce the birth of my second daughter, Juniper Love. June was born at 3:01 am on Tuesday, January 13. She was a surprising 9lbs 4oz and 20.5″ long. (Birth story coming soon!)

She looks like Adelaide’s twin as an infant, with the exception of a lighter hair color. Big sister is doing well. Adelaide was a little apprehensive when first meeting her at the hospital, but she’s now full of hugs and kisses. It melts my heart when she calls her “sweetie” or “sweets” (pet names I often use for Adelaide), and “my June.”

We’re completely exhausted in the newborn survival haze, but I’m trying to enjoy the newborn snuggles and squeaks and sighs. June is nursing like a champ, and she not only gained her birth weight back but she’s now up to 9lbs, 8oz–gaining 13oz just this week! (Makes me feel less guilty about those biscuits and gravy I had for brunch today.) Since we’re nursing on demand, I’m constantly at the ready and not spending much time in front of the computer. If it was easier to create blog posts from my iPhone I’d be posting more, but for now I’ll settle for checking email, Instagram and Facebook, even if in the middle of the night.

Tim’s parents have been visiting from Florida for the last week and have been very helpful in entertaining Adelaide and keeping us well fed. I know we’re in for a lot of changes in the upcoming months, but I’m feeling so blessed for our family of four. I know it’s cliche, but I feel as if our family is now complete. It’s incredible how even a full heart can expand when a new love enters your life.

Newborn hospital photography  |  nextlifechapter.com

Photo by Helen Horstmann-Allen

Newborn hospital photograph  |  nextlifechapter.com

Photo by Helen Horstmann-Allen

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We’re on full-fledged Baby Watch 2015, and in honor of my pregnancy that is now 39 weeks 1 day, I’m publishing a post from September that’s been sitting in my drafts folder.

The lasting affects of miscarriage  |  nextlifechapter.com

I can see my feet if I’m sitting down and I swing them way out.

 

After I wrote this post back in March I intended to write an entire series on my experience with miscarriage, but then, I got pregnant. (Maybe part of it was that I didn’t feel emotionally ready to talk about miscarriage and “out myself” until I was able to start trying again.)

Since I had a history of miscarriage, my midwifery practice let me have an early ultrasound at seven weeks. This is about as early as a heartbeat can be detected. When I was pregnant with Adelaide I didn’t get that reassuring ultrasound until 12 weeks and that’s one of the factors that made my first miscarriage so devastating–I didn’t find out the pregnancy wasn’t viable until 12 weeks into it.

For those of you who haven’t been pregnant before, you’re considered about four weeks pregnant when you miss your period (depending how regular your cycles are) and that’s about the time you can get a positive pregnancy test. Doctors and midwives usually track your pregnancy by the first day of your last period. Most women don’t know the exact date they conceived, but the first day of your last period is a date most women can figure out (especially those actively trying to conceive). So, when you ovulate, you’re already “2 weeks pregnant”–at least for tracking purposes.

Anyway, I say this because between the time of getting that positive pregnancy test and then getting that early seven-week ultrasound, is about three weeks. Three very long, anxiety-ridden weeks. Weeks where you figure out your due date and think about all that would mean, while at the same time trying not to get your hopes up, trying not to think too much about the future, trying to stay “in the moment.”

During those three weeks I thought a lot about mindfulness. Primarily I thought about how little I know about mindfulness and how much I’d like to learn. During those three weeks I told very few people about the positive pregnancy test. Of course, Tim knew. He has been at my side through it all. I even made Tim and Adelaide take photos with the positive pregnancy tests. Adelaide didn’t know what she was holding up for the camera, so no harm done. I also made them do this for the two miscarriage positive pregnancy tests–I’ve kept those images, but they’re hidden on an external hard drive because they just make me sad.

Then, I told my sister (she lives far away but provided moral support over the phone). I also told my friend Brooke. Brooke has been my pregnancy confidant. She is the little sister of my friend Amy who died of cancer a few years ago. Brooke is the same age my sister, and we became friends when Amy got sick and Brooke moved to Philly. Although Brooke doesn’t live here anymore, she has been a great email pen pal. She has been through more than her share of heartbreak and loss (both early and late pregnancy). She was also pregnant this summer and a great voice of positivity–staying positive and thinking about the end result. The mantra: This is the perfect pregnancy. I’m so blessed for my two happy, healthy children.

So, we had that early ultrasound at seven weeks. Unlike my miscarriages, all three components were there. There was 1) a gestational sac 2) something in the gestational sac, and 3) that something had a heartbeat. It was one of the most nerve-wracking days knowing that after the ultrasound we would either be devastated once again or completely ecstatic. The news was good, we were flying high and the next day I had a doctor’s appointment where the midwife said now that a heartbeat had been detected, my chance for miscarriage went from around 25-30% to only 1 or 2%.

Fast forward to now and I’m 26 weeks pregnant. The genetics testing is over, even our 20-week anatomy scan showed “nothing of concern.” Each month at my midwife appointment they check the heartbeat and it has always been great.

Still, I worry. The result of having suffered miscarriage is that I no longer have the naivety of not knowing any better. I know first-hand what loss feels like, and I have witnessed stillbirth once removed as it happened to my dear friend.

A couple of weeks ago, at 24 weeks, I found myself worried to tears over the fact I didn’t feel as if the baby had been moving as much as the several days prior. I know you’re not even technically supposed to be tracking kicks as early as 24 weeks, and I assume that’s because it’s unpredictable. Still, I worried. I worried something was wrong. I worried I would lose her.

 

Now that I’m 39 weeks and anxiously awaiting “the day” at any time, I still worry. I find myself stopping my excitement and holding back on wanting to fill the empty drawers with Adelaide’s hand-me-down newborn clothes. I want to meet this little girl as soon as possible because while pregnant I feel so completely out of control. I want to hold her in my arms and know that she is okay.

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Christmas update  |  nextlifechapter.comWe had a great day spending our first Christmas in Philly and our last Christmas as a family of three. Tim’s brother and sister-in-law came over in the afternoon for dinner. It was a relaxing day, and Adelaide had a great time playing with her new toys, reading books and wearing her new Elsa dress.

For those of you on baby watch, no news yet. I’m officially off work for two weeks while the University is on Winter Break. We have been getting ready for the holidays, and unfortunately I’ve had a cough for weeks that’s caused me to pull a muscle on my right side. I want to use this time to nest and get caught up on some projects around the house, but I’ve been feeling very tired and not up to as much as I had hoped. I’m only 38 weeks as of tomorrow and I’m hoping baby girl holds out a few more days, but I’d love to meet her soon.

Merry Christmas!

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$250 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

 

$250 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

This week, 24 friends and I have been sharing our best recipes, printables, crafts, decor and holiday traditions. If you missed the posts, check them out below! Then scroll down to enter the giveaway.

 

My friend Steph, from A Grande Life, gathered a group of us together for a fun round up of Christmas recipes, decor, printables, crafts, traditions AND an awesome giveaway! We are giving away a $250 Amazon Gift Card! Who’s feeling lucky? Join us for ‪#‎25BlogsofChristmas‬ and who knows YOU may be the lucky winner of the Amazon Gift Card! Good Luck! $250 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

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Pickle Ornament Christmas Tradition  |  nextlifechapter.comChristmas 2007 was my last Christmas as an unmarried person. Tim and I became engaged that summer and although we had already taken turns spending the holidays with each other’s family, we decided that for our last Christmas as single people, we would be apart. Tim flew down from Philly to see his family in Tallahassee, Florida. I flew to central Illinois to spend Christmas with mine.

While visiting home, my mom took me to the C.H. Moore Homestead in Clinton, Illinois. I vaguely remembered touring the historic mansion in my youth, but it had been many years since I had been there and touring historic homes was a mother-daughter activity we had always enjoyed. While visiting the home, I remember our guide describing the Victorian-era tradition Americans had adopted from Germany of having a pickle ornament on the Christmas tree. The way I remember him explaining it, the parents moved the ornament after the children had gone to sleep on Christmas Eve. Whichever child found it first on Christmas morning got to open the first present.

Pickle Ornament Christmas Tradition  |  nextlifechapter.com

C.H. Moore Homestead as decorated for Christmas during my 2007 visit.

I came home very excited to introduce a pickle ornament to the holiday traditions of my newly forming family. When the next Christmas rolled around, I looked for  pickle ornament knitting patterns (the only ones I could find looked a little, how should I say this, un-picklelike). However, the girlfriends in my knitting group knew I wanted one, and I received a traditional pickle ornament in our gift exchange that year.

Recently, I tried to research the origins of this tradition and everything I’ve found has be inconclusive. In fact, the tradition may not have started in Germany at all. Also, different accounts say different things about the child who first discovers the pickle ornament on Christmas morning. Some reports say the child is given an additional present, or is just said to have good fortune for the next year.

Fast forward to 2014 and our daughter is now three years old. I think this is the first year she’s old enough to understand the concept of looking for the pickle ornament before opening presents on Christmas morning. Since she’s an only child (at least for a few more weeks), she won’t really be rewarded as the first to open presents–she’ll likely be the first to open presents anyway–but I look forward to introducing the Christmas pickle ornament tradition for years to come. “Hiding” it on the tree is a little something fun for Mom and Dad on Christmas Eve, and I hope our children will enjoy searching for the pickle on Christmas morning just as I imagined the children of the beautiful C.H. Moore Homestead doing so many years ago.

25 blogs of christmas button 2Looking for more Christmas ideas? Over the next week, 25 bloggers will be sharing their creative ideas with you for recipes, decor, crafts, printables, and holiday traditions. Each day 5 new posts will go live so make sure you come back to check them out! At the end of our 25 Blogs of Christmas, we will be hosting a HUGE giveaway for a $250 Amazon Gift Card!

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As promised in yesterday’s gender reveal post, here is the video of us telling Adelaide she’s going to be a big sister. As a child in the two-year-old room at school, Adelaide started to notice that all of her friends were “getting babies.” I had noticed it too. One-by-one nearly all the moms in Adelaide’s class started showing increasingly big bellies. One-by-one they started bringing babies home from the hospital.

“I want a baby Silas like Gwen,” Adelaide told us one day. She called her baby doll Silas when playing with him. At this point we were already trying, and I told her, “We’ll have to talk to Daddy about it.”

Then, a several weeks later when Colin’s mom delivered a baby girl, she told us she wanted a girl baby like Colin. We already knew we were pregnant by this point, but we didn’t yet know the sex and we hadn’t shared any of the news with her (although I did make her pose for pictures holding up my positive pregnancy tests–she had no idea).

“When you get a baby you don’t get to pick whether it’s a girl baby or a boy baby,” I explained to her while walking home from school one day. “Having a boy baby would be fun too.”

“No. I want a girl baby like Colin,” she said.

“Well, Silas is a boy baby and Gwen loves her baby brother. If we get a baby we will love the baby if it’s a girl or it’s a boy.”

I don’t think I convinced her. We decided to wait and tell Adelaide our good news until after we saw and heard the heartbeat, after the genetics testing came back okay. We told her just a couple of days before our wedding anniversary where we opened the card that revealed the baby’s sex. We tried to control Adelaide’s expectations and since she has no concept of time, we told her the baby wasn’t going to come for a long time. The baby still had a lot of growing to do, and it wouldn’t come until after Christmas, when it got cold.

Big Sister Announcement from nextlifechapter on Vimeo.

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A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |  nextlifechapter.com

I can’t believe I’ve kept this a blogging secret for so long. And to tell you the truth, I’m not really sure why I haven’t announced it before now. When I was pregnant with Adelaide, I posted about her gender reveal right away.

I was equally excited to find out the sex this time, but the second time around has felt different for various reasons.

  1. I felt much more sick this pregnancy. I started to feel better around 16 weeks (which seems like a long time ago now), but it did keep me from blogging as much as I wanted this summer. In my “free” time (read: in the evenings after Adelaide was asleep or on the weekends while she was napping), all I wanted to do was nap or go to bed early.
  2. I’ve been more worried and reserved this time around. Miscarriage will do that to you.
  3. I’m busy! I have a full-time job outside the house, and this time I have to keep up with a 3-year-old as well.

Since technology has advanced since 2011 and since I’m over 35 this time around, we had a cell-free fetal DNA genetic test when I was only 10 weeks pregnant. Apparently, DNA from the placenta is in my blood so a simple blood test was able to indicate increased risk for a few genetic mutations as well as reveal gender. In my first pregnancy I didn’t find out the gender until the anatomy ultrasound scan at 20 weeks. This time, I had the results back before 13 weeks.

During my first pregnancy there was some debate over whether or not to find out the baby’s sex. Tim won that debate and obviously, we found out. Still, until I could verify for myself, I was paranoid the rest of my pregnancy that they got it wrong. This time we knew we wanted to find out, and I knew I would feel more confident in the result since a blood test doesn’t allow for much error. I had the test at the end of June.

Last time we brought a card to the 20-week scan and had the ultrasound technician write the gender inside. She sealed the envelope and Tim and I opened the card together a few days later when we were away from the sterile hospital environment (and when I didn’t have to immediately return to work).

This time, the genetics counselor said she could call us with the results of the baby’s sex. She said she even had pdfs for, “It’s a girl” and “It’s a boy” that she could send via email for us to open together. She said she drew the line at calling the bakery for a gender reveal cake, but if we gave her the name of a friend and wanted him/her to call, the friend could communicate the gender reveal to the bakery for us.

Our parents both live out of town and we thought it a little presumptuous to think our friends would care enough about the gender to attend a gender reveal party. We decided to do the card thing again.

I purchased a cute card and inside wrote, “It’s a _______.” Then I dropped it off at the genetic counselor’s office with a self-addressed stamped envelope. Tim and I hoped the results would be back by the first week of July so we could open it together over dinner when we celebrated our six-year wedding anniversary. And that’s just what we did.

We dropped Adelaide off with her aunt and uncle in the suburbs and enjoyed a nice anniversary dinner. That morning I joked to Tim that maybe we shouldn’t open it. Maybe we should wait. He didn’t take my suggestion seriously. He said knowing would help with planning and I knew he was right. We already had so many girls clothes sitting in big rubbermaid bins in the basement–knowing whether or not we could reuse the majority of them seemed very helpful.

We didn’t tell Adelaide that she was getting a baby brother or sister until the afternoon before we did our gender reveal dinner. We knew she couldn’t keep a secret, and we didn’t want her to get her hopes up for a girl or boy without quickly being able to give her an answer. I took some video footage of us telling her she was going to be a big sister, and I’ll post it later this week.

A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |  nextlifechapter.com

The card right before I flipped it open. We didn’t even wait for the appetizer course.

A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |  nextlifechapter.com

It’s a girl!

A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |  nextlifechapter.com

We stopped at the grocery store on the way back from dinner and picked up a balloon to surprise Adelaide.

A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |  nextlifechapter.com

Big Sis!

A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |  nextlifechapter.com

And baby makes four.

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Although I had good intentions of posting every day this month, alas, it’s already a week later and I’m off schedule. I blame the fact that my in-laws are visiting so we’ve had exciting things to do.

Adelaide is growing up so fast and I was again reminded of this as I looked through Halloween photos from the last few years. Adelaide is only three, but she’s had four Halloweens already. The last three have been spent in part with her little girlfriend, Evan.

This is the first year Adelaide’s had an opinion about what she wanted to be for Halloween. I knew this day was coming. The first year she was only three months, so we dressed her as a banana. Our dog Hugo was also a banana. So, the following year, in order to dress Hugo as a banana again and have “matching” costumes, we dressed Adelaide as a monkey. Last year she was a little owl.

This year, Adelaide wanted to be a “princess fairy.” Then, it was “Elsa.” We put the kabosh on the Elsa pretty quickly–I’m just not ready! When I saw this cute Tinker Bell costume at the fall CityKids consignment sale for $7, I knew Tink was the winner. Adelaide didn’t really know who Tinker Bell was when I bought it, but it fit within her “princess and fairy” request. We introduced her to Tinker Bell, and she got excited about the costume quite quickly. Adelaide is still asking for an Elsa dress, but we’ve decided to ask for it for Christmas.

How old were your children when they wanted to choose their own Halloween costume? Did you ever try to talk them out of one of their ideas?

Halloween 2012, age 1

Halloween 2013, age 2

Halloween 2014. age 3

instagramI just finished a fun “Bloggers Get Social” Instagram challenge. (Find me on Instagram @nextlifechapter.) It was a lot of fun trying to create or find a photo to represent the daily prompt. They’re doing another one for November, but I’ve decided to sit this one out. Instead, I’m going to try a blogging challenge.

The goal is to post every day this month, but I’m realistic enough to realize  that may be a little too ambitious. However, we have a new baby coming soon, Adelaide is now 3.25 years old and there are SO many things I’ve been meaning to write about–so many things I want to record before moving into our next life chapter. So, please consider subscribing to the blog, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter for new post updates. I’d like for this to be a place of conversation, so please feel free to comment, ask questions etc… I read every single comment and appreciate them all.

Happy November!

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The following is a post I wrote last October 15th, shortly after discovering it was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I wanted to publish this post then, but I chose not to. Part of me wanted to share what had been going on with me and I’m a big believer that raw, vulnerable writing is powerful writing. However, raw, vulnerable writing isn’t always good writing. I guess I just decided to write about my experience on my own terms and not post just because it was some internationally recognized day. As this post sat waiting in my drafts folder, I wrote about loss a couple of times on this blog. Still, I never shared the details of what happened.

Since this October 2013 post, I went on to have another early miscarriage in January. And then, my much anticipated current pregnancy. I’m almost 28 weeks pregnant now, and everything seems to be going well. I feel so blessed, and in some ways my losses seem like bad dreams. Still, I worry. I will worry until I hold this baby in my arms (and then I’ll continue to worry for other reasons). I’m glad people are sharing their stories on this day and every day. Here’s mine:

pregnancy loss

October 15, 2013

This morning on Facebook I discovered that today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I guess it’s a good thing, but boy if I didn’t have to close my door at work so I could cry for a few minutes. You see, the end of summer was a tough one in the Pannell household. When we should have been sharing the news of a new pregnancy–a baby to arrive in mid-March, I was instead telling the few we had shared our happy news with that it wasn’t going to happen.

At around 11 weeks, at my second doctor’s appointment, the midwife couldn’t find a heartbeat. Later that day, from an ultrasound, it looked as if the gestation sac was empty–as in, the embryo didn’t grow beyond a few weeks. I only had five weeks to get used to the idea of bringing a new baby into our family, but I was making plans, getting excited, talking myself into the idea that a March baby would be perfect, that he/she and Adelaide would be the perfect age difference. I bought a winter maternity coat (although used and very inexpensive), I was planning the way we would announce the news to our parents.

The day we found out was an awful day. When I replay the day’s events in my head, I just feel sick to my stomach.

I wasn’t expecting to get pregnant so quickly. I was thinking three years apart would be good for us, but I was kind of hoping to be due a little earlier than July/August so I wouldn’t have to go through another hot summer being eight months pregnant. I thought being due in May or June would be perfect. I figured it would take a few months of trying so we started trying in June. I got pregnant right away and was due March 15 (the Ides of March). When we were due in March I really worried that the kids would be too close together. I had wanted them just shy of three years apart and they were only going to be about 2 years 6 or 7 months (depending on whether or not this second kid was early like Adelaide). Anyway, I had spent those five weeks of being pregnant convincing myself that this March due date was perfect. I thought about a maternity leave in March/April/May and how nice the weather would be. I thought about how we would all have our own birthday months and wouldn’t have to share a joint birthday party. At first I was worried that I had so many summer-ish maternity clothes, but then I bought that winter coat and just planned to wear leggings and cardigans with my summer dresses.

People who are due right around the time I would have been due are now announcing their pregnancies on Facebook and coming out of the woodwork. It sucks because we would have been making the same announcement to all our family and friends and people don’t even know that I would feel sad about it because very few people knew I was pregnant. (And of course, I’m happy for them, just sad for us.) This whole experience has made me more empathetic. My friend H has been struggling with infertility for years now. She finally got pregnant and then had a miscarriage at around 11 weeks. I remember her saying how hard it was as the due date approached. I totally didn’t get it then, but I understand more now. I also understand more now how hard it’s been for her to see so many pregnant women around her all the time (including close friends and co-workers). She’s a great sport and has been supportive, but I know she is hurting too.

I had only known I was pregnant for five weeks, but I was simply heartbroken. I was really starting to get used to the idea of adding that fourth someone to our family.

For two weeks I went through tests (they wanted to make sure that my hormone levels were going down and that the pregnancy wasn’t just much earlier than I thought). I waited for something to happen naturally. On Tuesday, September 3, I had a D&E.

After the procedure, things started to get a little better every day. I still got waves of sadness when I thought about the “what ifs,” and I was still bleeding a little from the surgery so that was a constant reminder. I so wanted to have it all behind me so I could start looking forward to the future. Of course, my head told me we would try again soon and I knew everything would be okay. My heart felt differently some days.

I immediately told my sister and we told our parents (although we hadn’t even told them yet that we were pregnant). I told a few close friends who hadn’t known I was pregnant either. I had to tell a few people at work because I was missing days and closing my door when I got calls from doctors and needing to cry and just not being myself. I’ve received a few nice text messages checking in with me and a couple of cards (thanks, Mom!), but after a week or two had passed it was just like everything was supposed to go back to “normal” when it really hadn’t for me.

At knitting I saw myself making jokes and talking to people about what had been going on that week and it was almost like an out of body experience. Only a couple of people actually knew what was going on, and I didn’t really feel like talking about it with the whole group. I didn’t want to be Debbie Downer, and I didn’t just want to sit and cry in front of everyone. I came home feeling like I had been so fake because there was this HUGE thing that was going on with me and I was just pretending to be okay. Tim was super supportive throughout the whole thing, but he just grieved in such a different way than me. And I think a big part of it is that since it was early in the pregnancy, it wasn’t as “real” for him in the first place. It very much felt like something that happened to “me” and not to “us.”

Now that a month has passed, I’m feeling a lot better and I’m excited for what the future may bring. I’ve leaned on a dear friend who has also experienced loss, and I’ve felt empowered by talking it out with her and doing a little reading on the topic. I thought I might wait to share my story until after we were pregnant again. I didn’t really want to break the sad news until after we had something new to celebrate.

However, I’ve also been reading a lot of personal blogs lately and like with memoir, I am the most touched by the writing that is so very real and raw and honest. I tell my students to make themselves vulnerable in their memoir writing, and last weekend I felt ready to share my story on the blog. I didn’t get around to actually writing about it–sometimes it’s hard to force yourself to bring all those feelings back to the surface when you’ve been doing so well to keep them at bay. Then today, seeing that it was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and seeing other people post articles like this one from Dear Julesy about what not to say to someone who is grieving or this one from Kathryn Catalino, I was motivated to share my story.

I know that first trimester miscarriages are unfortunately common, but I don’t hear many women talking about them. I guess it’s in part because we don’t know what to say to one another. So, for a weird day of remembrance (there’s a day for everything isn’t there?), I’m glad to share my story if not to just help one other person feel less alone. I’ll take the opportunity to break the silence and stand together to honor and acknowledge all of the lost babies and the wounded parents left behind.

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