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The Eclipse of Anxiety & My Good Father

We made it safely back from Disney and what an amazing trip.  I promise to share more details later, but for now, there’s something eclipsing everything else in my mind. That crazy overdrive of anxiety, that hits you like a semi truck and simultaneously feels like subliminal messaging that you have to decode. Because panic attacks are known and noticeable, but the all consuming thoughts of what if and what now  come on with more gentleness and invisibility. 

Tomorrow we meet this baby. We see for the first real time what’s going on in this womb. Healthy baby? I hope so! But imagining and playing through the memories of our last anatomy scan can’t help but take precedence. Chances are really good this baby is totally, 100% fine. But I can’t just sit in that, because our last baby wasn’t. Blissful ignorance is gone, and in its place is recognition that this world is deeply broken. And that means that sometimes babies aren’t healthy. Sometimes expectant mamas and daddies have to face the worst case scenario. Would you please pray with us? Cover this overly anxious mind and longing heart with the protection that can only come from God? 

Tomorrow will be hard. The waiting leading up to the appointment. The long, likely breathless moments in that cold dark ultrasound room, as we wait for the news; while the technician meticulously records all the precious parts of this baby. The tense minutes as we wait for the tech to return from speaking to the doctor. The hopeful sigh of relief when we get the all clear. And the hours after when we process the thought of actually bringing this baby home, while mourning and grieving the baby that never did come home. 

But until then, I wait in this nervous state. I get to wonder what it will be like if we have to tell our almost 5 year old that this baby won’t be coming home either. I tell myself this is a different pregnancy, a different baby, a different outcome. I pray. I cry. I give it to God. I try to sleep. If I weren’t pregnant I’d have a glass of wine. Or two.

I know that because of my God, we will survive whatever is thrown at us tomorrow. I know it. I’ve lived it. He really is as kind and sustaining as He says He is. I’m honestly not worried about that at all. But goodness, am I ready to have answers and information. And with a deep sincerity, I’ve longingly prayed for a healthy baby and an easy pregnancy - free of anxiety, but alas, here we are - where I can try to enjoy this process and not dread the next appointment or the possibility of bad news. As I prepare my heart for what tomorrow holds, I want to just sit in the lap of my Father; and not worry today about tomorrow. Would you join me in praying for that peace that only comes from being in the very real presence of God?

I cannot wait to share this baby with each of you. And I will get to that. Eventually. For now, I’m just happy to get through tomorrow and take the space I, we, need in learning about and loving this baby. There is always hope, and even in the darkness of anxiety, we can rejoice because of our Good Father.

Matthew 10:29-31 (NCV)
Two sparrows cost only a penny, but not even one of them can die without your Father’s knowing it. God even knows how many hairs are on your head. So don’t be afraid. You are worth much more than many sparrows. 

Romans 8:15 (NIV)
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

Photo by  Taylor Smith  on  Unsplash

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Halloween & the Gates of Heaven

Today is Halloween and its hard not to miss our sweet George. It feels weird to say that… but sometimes, I almost have to remind myself that those 9 months and 16 hours weren’t just a bad dream. Because as we get further from his day, those memories fade. But on days like today, his absence in our family is obvious. It makes me wonder what kind of crazy costume his big sister would have dreamed up for him. At 2.5, would he like the experience of trick or treating? Would he be ok going along with whatever his sister said? Or would he break the mold and be his own man?! Audrey has chosen to be Ariel this year. She’s even (still, day of) trying to convince me to dress our dogs up as Sebastian and Prince Eric. I’m pretty sure she would have jumped at the opportunity to make her little brother the perfectly striped flounder to accompany her frigid candy walk this evening. And wouldn’t he have been the cutest little fish you ever did see?!

I think that’s where days like today are so hard. When George died, we lost his entire lifetime of experiences. Mostly, just our dreams for his life - at least in those first days and weeks - because he was too little to have his own plans. But now, now that we are living forward without him, each new experience gets imagined and mourned because he is not here. This year, we mourn our little flounder (or spiderman, or paw patrol, or dinosaur… or whatever a 2.5 year old McGough boy would be interested in). When Audrey gets her costume on she will be missing the sweetest side kick. Those are the moments that this pain of his loss hurts the most.

To add to the complicated emotions of today, we are leaving tomorrow morning for a family trip to Disneyland. Something that I have dreamed of sharing with my kids since before I even had children. I’m a Disney kid through and through. Growing up only an hour away from Disney World in Orlando, we went ALL THE TIME. It really is the most magical place on the planet. And so, as I imagined my life as mama, it most certainly included some wonderfully magical experiences with Mickey Mouse and all his sidekicks. Well, Audrey is finally big enough that I think her experience is going to be perfect. So we are going. And yet, I can’t help but feel the sadness of only bringing one child with us. I know George would probably be a little too young to really appreciate all that Disney has to offer, but man, kids love Disney, and I think George Mason would have found his own little niche of Disneyland magic.

We have a lifetime of vacations and experiences without our George. Thats a reality that will never get easier to face. From first trips to Disney to college graduations to weddings and grand babies - George Mason will forever be missed. Its hard to think about this new baby joining our family and never having met it’s big brother. So many people in our lives only know George through our stories; stories that are few and not very full of detail to begin with; our third child is going to be one of those people. I’m sure they will know their brother, because Audrey will make sure of it (not to mention Adam and I’s stories and sharing of love), but it won’t be the same. Especially 20 years from now. See, I told you today was a hard day. A day full of all the what could have beens and what will bes. I’m sure Disney will be a wonderful distraction, while being equally triggering, of our reality. This family of ours is made up of 4 people and a little one on the way. But the pictures only show 3. And outsiders wouldn’t know the difference.

George Mason, sweet boy, we miss you. That’s all there is to say. And all that we can do is rest in the peace of God, as we move forward without that precious little life. Knowing and trusting in God’s goodness as we finish out our earth-side work until we meet again at the gates of heaven.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. - Revelation 21:4

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Counting Down To Anatomy Scan

Today marks 17 weeks. Almost halfway through this PAL. Honestly, it hasn’t been nearly as hard as I was expecting for it to be, but it has definitely not been without its challenges. With each passing week we grow more attached to the tiny, pomegranate-sized, human in my womb. We plan a little further into the future. We imagine life with 2 kiddos at home. Yet, we also grow more weary of all the things that might be wrong in there… When people ask how I’m feeling or how baby is doing, I have no choice but to answer something like this: “we have no reason to believe anything is wrong, but we also had no reason to worry about George either…. so, there’s a lot of desire, and honest need, to get to that anatomy scan. Simply so we can know. Something”

Most often, the response is along the lines of “don’t worry about it, everything is going to be fine” and while I don’t take that to be offensive, its not very helpful. I can’t just tell my nervous mind to stop being nervous. I can’t rewrite our history. Our son was perfectly fine until he wasn’t. And in one 45 minute sonogram, our baby went from healthy and happy to dying. I can’t erase that experience. I can’t void that transaction and just forget that our baby was healthy until he wasn’t. So for now, the two or so weeks that we have left before we take a good look at the baby growing inside me, seems like forever away. Because at this point, this baby is both healthy and not. There are so many things that can be going right. There are also so many things that can be going wrong. The difference this time, is that no matter what news we get on November 7th (and I truly pray that its all good news), we KNOW that we can and will survive. Because no matter what happens in that ultrasound room on that day, God is with us and we have already lived through the worst and survived.

All of that being said, this baby is so very likely healthy. And we are hoping and praying and believing that this baby is healthy. When Audrey expresses her desire for this baby to come live us, we agree with her. Because we have loved and lost. And now we are cautious in our assumptions. Not because we don’t trust our great Father, but simply because trauma has touched our lives and it cannot be forgotten as we experience this new pregnancy. We are acutely aware of the brokenness of this earth since Adam and Even took those bites of that fruit. We are also intimately aware of the presence of our God in this brokenness. That is the hope we can carry with us each day. That is the source of our optimism when we find ourselves in those fleeting moments; moments where we briefly forget that the worst is always possible, and just cling to that hope that comes only from our Father in heaven.

I love that worship song, “Reckless Love” and how it talks about all the places that God will go to fight for us and show us His infinite love.

There's no shadow You won't light up
Mountain You won't climb up
Coming after me
There's no wall You won't kick down
Lie You won't tear down
Coming after me

It reminds me that even when I don’t trust perfectly, God still loves me. He still wants me. It points me to those moments when I’ve been so so broken and felt that totally reckless love that comes completely over me and fills those cracks and soothes those scars, because He is so GOOD and so good to me. I try to be very diligent and intentional about bringing all of these fears and worries to His feet. I can say without question that I’m pretty good at laying them there for Him to take up. Its the next step that gets me: leaving them there and not trying to pick them back up. Often it feels like telling Audrey to pick up her shoes and then picking them up for her because I’m tired of waiting for them to get put away. Its so easy to fall into the routine of just trying to do it myself, because that seems so much easier than resting in His timing. So I’m going to keep reminding myself that His timing is actually perfect, whether it makes sense to me or not. And in those times when I have to remind myself of that, I’m going to give that lack of trust right back to God and tell myself that no Jillian, you don’t NEED to pick those things back up, you simply WANT to. But who actually wants to carry all those burdens on their own? Not me. So why do I try over and over?? Because I’m not perfect. But I am deeply loved and fought for. And that’s all I need. Every day He is my portion.

Two weeks…

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:24

Reckless Love - Cory Ashbury

Photo by  Laura  on  Unsplash

Photo by Laura on Unsplash

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Trusting; Timing.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about family pictures. There are many reasons for that, some are good and others are just dark and awful. But most recently, I’ve taken my critical eye to every picture our family had taken in the last 3 years. Why do I hate them so much? Why do I force myself into them even though I’m just going to stare at them and notice the flaws? Well it dawned on me, as I’ve been praying through pregnancy and infant loss month, that the biggest reason I don’t like our pictures is because there’s a critical member missing. Even though his absence isn’t totally obvious (we haven’t included teddy bears or pictures or any other items in memoriam) to outsiders, my arms are empty. So it’s not that I hate myself, the hormonal weight gain, the awkward smiles, the crazy faces of our living child... I notice and mourn the empty arms. The awkward ways that our family of 4 takes pictures as a family of 3. When I look at pictures from when Audrey was little, there’s a comfort there. An ease in our body language. There is nothing I would trade to have that ease back, because it would mean we wouldn’t have George Mason, but it also means that even in the invisible, our grief is visible; at least to us.

We have family pictures scheduled for later this year. It feels important to document this pregnancy. To celebrate all of the many facets that make it special to this baby. When I was pregnant with George Mason, I was so torn about how to handle pictures. Would I want to look back on a pregnant belly when there was no baby to show for it? Would I look back on that time with misery or fondness? I didn’t know what to do. And when I couldn’t push it off any longer, I asked a friend to snap a quick photo so I could continue our tradition of sending a Christmas card. That year, the card felt more important for its normalcy than it did as an update to those we love who are near and far. It was only a few weeks later that we welcomed our sweet boy and it is one of the only pictures we have of those months he spent nurtured inside my womb. It’s still hard to look at those few snap shots of our family, but I’m glad we have them; and honestly wish there were more. If there’s anything I can share with a mama’s heart who is facing the same question: take the pictures. You can hide them when it’s hard, but you’ll be so glad you have them.

I think that’s why it feels especially important this time. Even though we have no reason to suspect a similar outcome to the last time, we need to celebrate this little life. And we will. And I’ll also try not to be so critical of the invisible. But man, it will feel so good to place a baby in those arms this spring. It won’t take away the pain of not being outnumbered by our tiny humans, but it will give these mama arms a purpose - even for a short time - and that will feel so good. To hold a baby and not cry over the good bye that is coming, but instead to long for the years of experiences this baby will have, will be wonderfully healing; and I imagine equally difficult. I suppose our family pictures will forever be tainted by the missing person that should be in them. Perhaps with time the awkward body language will dissipate, and the smiles will reflect more joy than sorrow, but I want to document all of it. The entire journey of our family. The very depths of our pain - those black and white hospital NICU pictures - to the very height of our joy - when we meet our Savior, and our son - at the gates of Heaven, and every moment in between.

Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. – Ecclesiastes 11:4

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Avocados & Oceans

Sweet Babe,

We’ve made it to 15 weeks! It feels so special to start thinking about who you are and actually planning on bringing you home. I’m thankful for that optimism, especially in light of all the various nerves that come with the lack of knowledge about you in early pregnancy. I’m still pretty nauseous and would greatly appreciate the energy to get up and do more than the absolute necessities each day. But you, my dear, are now the size of an avocado, and that means in that in no time at all I will be feeling your sweet kicks and punches; I say sweet now, but I’m sure I’ll be thinking otherwise as we close in on bringing you home. If you’re anything like your big siblings, you’re going to be pretty active in there. Lets just hope you sleep more than your sister did!

We’ve scheduled our anatomy scan, which is the first time that we get to take a good look at you. November 6th can’t come fast enough… although Daddy and I are still having a difference of opinion over your name, so maybe 11/6 really isn’t all that far away! The last few weeks have seemed to go by so slowly, but I know that time is going to speed up as we enter the busy holiday season and then it will be time to start gathering things for you and putting together a nursery.

I’ve been thinking about your nursery for a long time. After your brother died, I spent a lot of time in the Psalms and one stuck out to me, as a perfect place to start the nursery planning: Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea - the Lord on high is mighty! Psalm 93:4 You see, no matter what happens, no matter the outcome of any experience or season in our lives, God is mighty. And you, sweet babe, are proof of that. Because when your brother died we were broken. Deeply and forever broken. But the amazing thing about God is that He took those broken pieces and He put them back together. The scars of the wounds are still there, but we are together and living and excited for what our future holds; for what your future holds. I honestly can’t think of a better inspiration for the place where you will come home and call your own. Plus, its all about oceans and you know your mama has a strong love of that wonderful salty water.

We cannot wait for you to turn our lives upside down, precious little one. So keep on cookin’ and we’ll see your tiny little face in just a few weeks!

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Mental Health & Motherhood

Yesterday was mental health awareness day. Before George Mason died, I knew that things like depression and anxiety existed but I had no real idea what they actually looked and felt like. Until in July of 2017, I had a panic attack. Because our insurance was changing. I told Adam over the phone that he needed to quit his job and find one that carried our doctors, because that’s how panicked I was over this random happening in our life. Except it wasn’t random in my head. It felt earth shattering. To the point of needing to remind myself to breathe. 

I didn’t know until that moment that I needed help. I didn’t realize that the edginess I felt every moment of every day actually had a name. It came on so slowly that the odd manifestations of my anxiety just became part of my daily routine and eventually felt normal. But that panic attack jolted me. And Adam. We both agreed that it was time for help. But what did that mean? Who did we call? I started with my OB. At this point, whatever I was feeling was likely in part due to those pesky post-partum hormones. She was a safe face for me to talk to, and man was she a gift. Because when she called me back, after my frantic message during/post panic attack, she listened to me cry, and obsess, and freak out over insurance. And then she got me on her schedule. 

I walked into that appointment and wasn’t even sure why I was there. I was functioning. I was living a normal life. My so called anxiety wasn’t keeping me from doing life. Except it was touching every part of every day, and I didn’t know it. I had gotten to the point where I couldn’t go to bed at night without checking on Audrey; feeling her chest to make sure she was breathing. I was holding her hand a little tighter when we crossed the street and I was extra cautious when driving anywhere. Because I couldn’t handle losing another child. Not long after the insurance attack, I couldn’t get ahold of Adam. He was at work and I knew he was in meetings but I sent him a text with a random question. He didn’t respond. Which wasn’t abnormal for a day full of meetings. I let the first hour go. But after that hour I texted again, same type of question, this time pushing for a response. And when another hour went by, I convinced myself he was dead on the side of the road somewhere; so I packed Audrey into the car and was going to drive to his office. All because 2 or 3 text messages had gone unanswered. He finally answered as I was pulling out of our driveway. Anxiety was wreaking havoc on my mind and body.

These are the things I brought up to the doctor. These are the things that had become my norm. And it didn’t matter how much time I spent in the Bible or talking to wise counsel, or journaling through my emotions: these overreactions to normal life were becoming my every day. My grief counseling had been so helpful in guiding me through those hard weeks and months immediately after George died. I had so many outlets for those emotions and yet it completely went unnoticed that I was struggling to just do life. Those closest to me didn’t even know, and even Adam - who had talked me through my panic attacks - was taking my word for it that it was time for help. I was otherwise functioning.

It would take another several months of one-off counseling sessions and at least one more panic attack before I agreed I needed more than talking. My brain needed a chemical reset, and so I reluctantly started taking a daily low dose of Zoloft.

Reluctantly?! Why was it so hard for me to admit that there was something wrong with my brain? I don’t have a depressive personality. In a time when I should’ve been deeply depressed, I wasn’t. But man, was my mind out of control. The stigma of anti-depressants and mental health made me feel weird and icky about taking that daily Zoloft. I even remember telling the doctor that if this was something I was going to need for the rest of my life I wanted a different route. She basically assured me that the type of anxiety I was feeling/deaing with was acute and related to my trauma. And that I desperately needed chemical help with resetting those firings in my brain. She was right. 8 months later, when I was finally emotionally and mentally healthy enough to start trying for another baby, I began the process of weaning off my daily meds. And do you know what? I couldn’t tell a difference. My brain was working normally again. I wasn’t freaking out over text messages going unanswered and I wasn’t checking on Audrey’s breathing. I was even starting to sleep again. All because I asked for help.

I knew that going into this pregnancy I might start to feel those same edgy emotions. I was warned by my OB, my PCP, and just about every book I could get my hands on about grief and subsequent pregnancies. I’m thankful for my experience, because now I know what to look for. I know what anxiety looks like in my life and I can proactively battle it. It doesn’t have to get to the point of loading up in the car to search for my dead husband - because now that those reactions have a name, I can face them head on if they begin to creep in. And while I feel certain nerves when I think about this baby and all the ways that things could be wrong or perfect at the same time, I know it’s different right now. And that doesn’t mean it won’t always be true anxiety, but for now its just mama’s love in a period of waiting. My brain is functioning fine. Its my heart that is longing for answers and its got a pretty great guard at its door. When I feel those moments of worry and anticipation, I can run to the feathers of my Good Father’s wings, and take refuge in their warm embrace.

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” -Psalm 91:4

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A Beet & An Anxious Heart

14 weeks today baby is the size of a beet. We are inching closer to the anatomy scan and I cannot wait until we get to call this little guy or gal by their name. Its my favorite part, if there is such a thing, of pregnancy…. that turning point where this tiny human takes on an identity. I didn’t realize before we lost George how special it was to call him by name for 5 whole months before meeting him. There aren’t many opportunities anymore to hear his name; not unless I bring him up in a conversation. Usually stemming from comparing these three pregnancies. And so I cherish those months where people asked about him by name. Where they prayed for him by name. Where I talked to him, we talked to him, by name. Baby Jooge, as Audrey would say, was so very loved, and his name filled our home. I can’t wait to get to that point again.

I’d by lying if I told you anxiety wasn’t creeping in on my thoughts. I suppose as I get closer to the moment where we really see this baby on that ultrasound screen I expected to be nervous. Everything was picture perfect with George until it wasn’t. I pray that this baby is fine. That we won’t face another tragic diagnosis come 20 weeks. I tell those little inklings towards fear and anxiety to go away and I fill them with Scripture mediations and prayers. But even in my most diligent attempts to fill the available mind space with good things, pointed towards my Father, those fears - from loss of ignorance I suppose - still bubble up. Its not near as bad as I expected it to be. I was really worried about the unknown of what a PAL looked and felt like. I’m thankful that I’m not consumed by anxiety, worry, or fear, but I’m also aware that this journey to meeting this little life is going to be hard. Its going to take work. Its going to mean intentional time with Jesus. Its going to mean telling my OB about the thoughts and fears. Its going to mean asking for lots and lots and lots of prayer. Prayer for this baby and it’s life as it forms in my womb. Prayers for my heart, that it not be overcome by all the what ifs and could be’s, but that it would be filled with love and be comforted by the only One who can. Prayers for Adam as goes through this PAL with me, supports me, loves me, and faces his own fears and anxieties as this child’s daddy. Prayers for Audrey, that her dedicated prayers that this baby gets to come live with us would be answered in a big way. So many prayers.

That’s what got us through those months with George. That’s what’s going to get us through to the end of the pregnancy. And while I know this baby is different, the pregnancy is different, the outcome is different, the love I already have for this tiny human is enormous - and that means I’m going to worry. And then I’m going to remind myself to give that worry to God; and try not to pick it back up after laying it at His feet.

There’s a lot of unknown in this life we live. Nothing is certain. Well, except death and taxes. We’ve already faced death. Too many times recently. It is my prayer that we don’t face it again. And that the joys of carrying a child and anticipating its introduction into our little family will outweigh and shine brighter than the shadows of the valley of death. Dear friends, I covet your prayers. Your hugs. Your generous ways of loving us from both near and far. Help me to celebrate each step of this sweet pregnancy and in the nervous countdown to that moment that baby #3 becomes a he or a she with a name and an everlasting identity in this family.

“The heart is deceitful about all things, and desperately wicked; - who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

Father, examine my heart and throw out its lies. Let me lean deeply into your embrace as we navigate these next few weeks and months. Let your Joy fill this home, this family, my heart, and wipe away every ounce of darkness that might creep in.

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Photo by FOODISM360 on Unsplash

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He Heals the Brokenhearted - PAIL Awareness Month

Today marks the start of Pregnancy, Infant, and Child Loss Awareness month. Honestly, its not super easy to get through. But all of the forced acknowledgment of this awful experience, is also such a wonderful time to pray. It reminds me that I’m not alone in losing a child; my son, whom I love dearly. It reminds me that grief is so much more common than we like to admit. It reminds me to be gentle when speaking to, interacting with, and molding friendships with those around me. Because it is impossible to know exactly what’s going on in the background of someone’s life - especially when the standard response to a greeting is “I’m well, thanks, and you?”

Last year, I committed to praying for families in this community. I wasn’t perfect and there were certainly days that I missed, but it ended up being a wonderful way to draw closer to my Savior. It made me step outside of my own grief, which in many ways can be so selfish - out of sheer survival - and truly look for the good works He has bubbling in the background. I fully intend to do this again. To pray for the people in this world of grief, that they would each feel God’s presence just a little more closely as they work through this hard season in their own life.

As I sunk deep into the reminders of loss in this broken world, I felt fortunate to have my Father’s promises of good and healing; even if not earth side. I hadn’t experienced the flip side of loss, at least not yet, of bringing new life into the world after having lost a precious life. Honestly, I was kind of a mess just thinking about that thought. The idea of PAL (pregnancy after loss) frightened the very deepest parts of my psyche. A lot of that fear helped formed my prayers for these people - some unnamed and some very close to my heart - because I couldn’t imagine carrying another child without fear and anxiety. So many of my dreams about our next child ended in the NICU, right where we left George Mason. So often, I would wake in the night, breathless, from the pain that would overcome me as I was rushed right back into that same dreary space that we said goodbye to our son. How could anyone be brave enough to try again? How did any family make it through the long 9 months of pregnancy? And every time I had those thoughts, those rabbit trail lies from Satan that would tell me not to even try; that everything was broken and I didn’t deserve to be a mama to any more than Audrey Nole - at least not living children anyway - I would be reminded of God’s promises. I hadn’t faced those anxieties yet. They were imaginary and an easy way for a wedge to be driven between me and my God. Those prayers for PAIL families would always center me. And there would always be someone in my own life that would offer much needed support, often without even knowing they were doing it.

This year is going to be a little different. This year I’m facing that reality of PAL. One thing is for sure: I don’t take for granted AT ALL the fact that I am so at peace with this pregnancy. Satan really did lie to me and I’m so glad I didn’t listen, or this sweet life inside me wouldn’t exist. It doesn’t mean that I will be 100% anxiety and fear free for the entirety of this pregnancy. It also doesn’t mean that my own peace in this place guarantees a living baby, let alone a healthy baby, at the end of all this. But for now, what it does mean, is that as I ask for God to come along side these grieving and anxious families, I know first hand the comfort that comes with it; and I can sincerely, without doubt, ask that for them. For me. For Adam. For Audrey.

1 in 4 pregnancies ends in loss. Theres a really good chance you or someone you know has been dealing with this specific kind of grief. I hope that you will join me this month in extending a great big hug, in whatever capacity you are able, to those in this awful club. Just as those people in my closest circle often comforted me without even knowing it, you could be the light of Jesus to someone on a day that they just really needed it. What a gift. What a precious, wonderful gift.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” - Psalm 147:3

“For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground. He has made me dwell in darkness., like those who have long been dead. Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is distressed. I remember the days of old’ I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. I spread out my hands to You; my soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah

Answer me speedily, O LORD; my spirit fails! Do not hide Your face from me, lest I be like those who go down into the pit. Cause me to hear your lovingkindness in the morning, for in You do I trust; cause me to know the way in which I should walk, for I lift up my soul to You.” -Psalm 143: 3-8

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My Little Jalapeño

Hey there my sweet little jalapeño! We are officially 13 weeks and this means that the first trimester is just about over. You and me, we’re one third of the way through our journey. Help a mama out… lets kick this nausea to the curb, ASAP!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about who you are. Your big sister wants you to be a little sister SO BADLY. She’s determined that because she already has a brother, even though he’s in heaven, she needs the experience of a sister. Part of me agrees; there really is nothing like a sister. But the fact of the matter is, you will find friends in your life who can become as close to you as if you were siblings. So even if you end up being her second brother, I know she will find a sister connection with someone, someday. Your daddy thinks you’re a girl too… I’m holding strong in the boy category. But either way, you my dear, are so loved and we are so ready to welcome you HOME with us. April, get here quick.

One of the things I noticed when your brother died is that grief is really hard. And not just for me or for your daddy, but for everyone around us. Everyone deals with the trauma of loss a little differently, especially when they are just enough removed from the acute pain but still want to contribute to the healing of those who got hit the hardest. That was displayed in lots of grief books showing up in our mailbox. Books about losing children. About moving forward after such a trauma. Practical books that gave daily lists to complete. I read so many different perspectives on grief. It was helpful in many ways, but mostly it was just good to know we weren’t alone in missing your brother however that manifested for us. As your daddy and sister and I wait for your arrival, we have lots of time to think and process and prepare. Right now, a lot of that thinking is placed in the category of who you are and what you will become. Will you fall right into the routine we have of being “girl parents” ?? Or will you throw us for a loop and make us learn about all things boy?

We are already parents to a boy. I’m already a “boy mom” in a sense. No one can take that away or change that. But you see, your brother never came home. His life never left the isolette in that NICU. So I didn’t get to experience the loud and joyful noises that make up so much of a motherhood to boys. I don’t know if your life is going to bring that boyhood exuberance or not, but I do know that whatever you are, whoever you become, God made you perfectly for us; we were made for each other. Part of me hopes that your daddy gets to father a son. I think it would be a wonderful thing. Hard at times, I’m sure, but wonderful nonetheless. Part of me hopes that your sister gets the desire of her heart and you two become the best of sister friends anyone could ask for. I’m going to be fine either way, sweet little one, because your life is a blessing in more ways than if I’m to be a “girl mom” or a “boy mom.” We will probably keep debating for the next 7 or so weeks. You just keep cooking. Let those little arms and legs grow strong so they can move mountains for the Lord. Let that brain of yours develop with a huge desire to know more about the God who made you. And let that precious heart grow kind and open, that you may show love to every one you meet. You are going to do great things in your life, sweet baby, and I’m so excited to be part of your story; boy or girl, you are perfectly formed in His image.

Photo by  Nick Artman  on  Unsplash

Photo by Nick Artman on Unsplash

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Celebrating Normal

Sweet babe,

Another week has passed and right on cue your big sister wants to know how big you are. She keeps reminding me, and the rest of the world, that I’m pregnant and that there’s a new baby coming to our house. She also prays daily that you will get to come home and live with us. I suppose that’s the reality in this family. You guys have a brother. And in her mind (and the minds and hearts of lots of people around us) George is just as real and a part of this family as she is and you are. We have a big part of our family in heaven, and while it would devastate us if the same were true for you, it’s something we have learned we can live with; simply because God is God. For the record, you are now the size of a brussel sprout. 

Dr Weber said that everything with you is looking normal. Normal. What a word. Never have I been so relieved to hear such a regular, not flashy or important word. It was like hearing the most beautiful herald of angels sing when those words came out of her mouth. Normal. You my sweet child, are normal. And for now, that’s the best gift your daddy and I could ask for. Sure, there are lots of things that could go wrong, that might go wrong, but our God - your God - has given us the incredible gift of peace and calm. We aren’t worried about the what might be’s. We are just simply thankful for your little life. He did, after all, design you perfectly for the life and work He intends for you. 

I saw a verse the other day that made me think of you (and me, and this journey we’re on together). You’ll learn this one day, but scripture is cool like that. I don’t even know you, yet there are pieces of Gods word that already reflect perfectly who you are and will be.  “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him;” - Psalm 37:7a. You and I are waiting and it is my daily prayer that we are waiting patiently before the Lord. That entire psalm is filled with the things to do before the Lord. Dwell. Rest. Trust. Delight. Commit. Its going to be my mantra for the rest of this journey. Dwell, Rest, Trust, Delight, Commit. Dwell, Rest, Trust, Delight, Commit. In The Lord.

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way; over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. - Psalm 37:1-11

Photo by  Keenan Loo  on  Unsplash

Photo by Keenan Loo on Unsplash

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10 Weeks & So Loved

Dear Baby #3,

We have officially been a pair for 10 weeks. According to all the pregnancy apps, you are the size of a kumquat. Your big sister asks almost daily to see the app and track your growth. No doubt that will lead to an awkward conversation with a stranger… if I ever leave this couch.

This pregnancy with you is already so different from those of your sister and brother. I’ve eaten a lot more so far. Some healthy, some not. (Daddy and I had a very serious debate just yesterday about whether Wavy Lays or Ruffles were better. For the record, you agree with me: Wavy Lays all the way). I hope that doesn’t mean you end up being a 10lb baby… though its not looking good. Your sister was over 8lbs and I barely ate anything in those first 5 months with her. Your brother, despite everything that was wrong, was over 7lbs and 2 weeks early. I suppose your daddy probably has something to do with that. At any rate, you have basically moved me to the couch for the last month. I eat small bits throughout the day of whatever sounds yummy, and I try not to throw it back up; though I think I’d actually feel a little better if I did…

Its fun to compare these last 10 weeks, and the 30 more to follow, with the 40 weeks I spent carrying each of your siblings. Its probably the only thing that all 3 of you will get to share. That makes me sad, but I know that when you arrive and you meet your sister, she will make sure you know your brother as well. For now, I’m going to just soak in all of the moments that you can share with your precious big siblings.

We are so excited to have you join this family - the good, the bad, and the yet to come. So far, you and George are sharing a totally awful Florida State football season; and for the third time, no beer for this mama. You also share an almost identical timeline to that of your sister. You’re due to arrive around Easter, just like she was, and it makes my heart smile that your arrival will be celebrated in conjunction with the Risen King. It also selfishly makes bringing you home a little easier, as its not frigid cold anymore by then, and I won’t have to dress you in 8,000 layers just to get out of the house —> and we will definitely be getting out of the house.

We get to hear your sweet heartbeat for the first time tomorrow. Hopefully we will get a good picture of you as well. Dr. Weber is going to take great care of us, just as she did for Audrey and George. I’m so excited for you to get to meet her one day. She’s a special lady and you are a special life that I know she will be so happy to celebrate. It makes me tear up to think about that. One more thing you can share with all of your siblings… I certainly wish there could be more, but I’m so thankful for a God who has placed us here, given us Audrey & George and now you, and who has written this story so intricately that there are still things you can share with your brother. Its a gift, and I’m not taking it for granted.

Here’s to 10 weeks with this 3rd tiny human. We already love you so.

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.

Isaiah 43:1

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Rainbows & Psalms

If it weren’t for all this nausea, and general pregnancy crumminess (hello insomnia, my old friend), I’m not sure I would really believe there was a baby on the way. It’s been so long since we’ve done the newborn thing - Audrey is 4.5 - that I often forget we will have another car seat in my rear view. As I was sitting in the preschool pick up line today, alone with my thoughts, I realized how different our life will look this time next year. And how terrifying {and exciting} that is to think about. 

This is baby #3. So we’re not new at this. But baby #2 took us on the adventure of a lifetime - except it didn’t include any of the normal things you’d expect when going from one child to two. Instead of those late night feedings and zillions of diapers, I was taking unisom and Benadryl to stop my milk, and slowly going through nursery stuff that we wouldn’t be needing; deciding whether it was worthy of storing or just getting rid of all together. This time (I’m being optimistic, and very very thankful for that), we will get thrown back into the whirlwind of those newborn days: the sleepless nights, the endless diapers, the completely dependent tiny human. In so many ways I’m both dreading and looking forward to this new chapter. 

I’d be lying if I told you that my life right now isn’t pretty easy. Audrey Nole is independent, communicates well, and is no longer needing of things like baby gates and outlet covers. She’s pretty well behaved (we cannot forget she is 4, after all), loves to read and color, and almost always is just as content to play alone as she is to play with me. As we went through our journey of trying to conceive another child, with every month that passed, I wondered how much it was going to affect the change our lives experience if/when we did get to bring another baby home. This new baby is due about a week after Audrey turns 5. We all know that due dates are a big guess anyway, but the reality is that life with a 5 year old and a brand new baby is going to look A LOT different than the “easy” season we find ourselves in at the moment. Not just different from now, but different from our experience with baby #1 and baby #2. A whole new season of unknowns; unique and specific to this new babe and the dynamic they will bring to our little family. 

Today also happens to be National Rainbow Baby Day; and has a million thoughts scrambled up in my head. Rainbow baby is term that is very meaningful in the loss community. As babies born after loss are considered the “rainbow after the storm.” I suppose in many ways, this new season we are entering with this baby is a calming of the last few years and the storm of grief, much like a long awaited rainbow. When I think about Noah and how beautiful that rainbow must have been after all those days of rain, and after all the destruction, my heart flutters a bit. He got to watch new life begin and know that those stormy days had a purpose. The clouds and the rain were part of God’s story. They were building His kingdom. Much like these last few years are a part of our story. They challenged us, strengthened us, and most importantly drew us closer to our Savior. I remember often calling the grief we experienced a storm. It’s such a fitting metaphor. But really, the thing I’m most excited about preparing for baby#3, is not the “rainbow after the storm” but instead meeting this unique person, knit together by a God who is endlessly caring, and with a specific and powerful purpose. He or she happens to come after a brother in heaven, and that will surely play a role in the way their story plays out, but it won’t be the only thing. Each of our kids has been made for this moment in this story, and the most exciting part of expecting again, is anticipating the things God has in store for this child. In many ways, all the nausea and yuckiness are reminding me to be thankful for that. And pray without ceasing for this little life and his or her’s story in this broken world. 

“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.”

Psalm 139:13-16



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We're Expecting!

“I really hope this baby gets to come live with us!” And with that, my sweet 4 year old summed up all of the feels that come with a pregnancy after loss. 

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We are thrilled to share that baby #3 is on its way; words I honestly wrestled with the possibility of over the last few months. But God is good. And even though this next chapter of our story has been written to include a new baby, He would have been good even if it didn’t. Actually, especially if it didn’t. 

As I sit here with my journal, I really don’t know what to say. Our family is beyond excited. Audrey Nole has told anyone that will listen that there’s a new baby coming. {apologies if the HVAC tech found out before you… 4 year olds don’t keep secrets very well} In SO many ways, I’m so thankful for her joy and excitement. It helps me realize what a big deal this really is. It also forces me to celebrate this new life growing inside me. It would be easy to fall back into all the emotions from the end of my pregnancy with George. I imagine there will be plenty of moments of terror or worry. But the daily, almost hourly reminder, that this baby is growing in my womb, and the excitement that comes with what that means, is a true gift from God. 

As we spent the last several months in debate over what God had in store for us, for our family, I found myself most often asking for one thing: that should we end up pregnant again, the pregnancy would be stress free and as uncomplicated as possible. I know that probably sounds cliche. Doesn’t everyone want that? Except I need that. And so I boldly asked. I prayed with deep desire that if God granted us a third child, that it would be able to be as normal as if we hadn’t lost an infant child. As normal as if we hadn’t had a traumatic and stressful diagnosis and monitoring. Simple, uncomplicated, and normal. 

So far, I am SO THANKFUL for the grace to be enjoying myself. For the lack of fear over the what ifs. To daydream about nursery themes and all the baby items that we have to begin accumulating.  It is not lost on me that I am excited and only slightly nervous. That is a gift from my Good Father. Because there is no earthly/logical reason why I shouldn’t be terrified. And yet, all I want is a good nap and to bask in the joy and excitement of this precious life; and maybe a slightly less nauseous first (and second) trimester. 

Just as writing was healing during those months and years leading  up to and since George Mason’s day, I think this journal will be an outlet for all the things and all the feels of this pregnancy. I’m not sure what that’s going to look like, but I’m hoping you will follow along and cover us in prayer as we wait for and prepare for this precious life. 

Baby McGough, we are so thrilled for your life and cannot wait to meet you! I promise that I will do my best to make sure your very excited big sister doesn’t smother you too badly. 

“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” Romans 12:12


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