You will be so tired, they say

You will be so tired, they say.  Sleepless nights for months, they reminisce.

You will be tired like you’ve never been tired before, they warn.

I listen, I nod, I smile.  They mean well, they want to share their experiences, relive those precious moments of their pregnancies with me as I experience mine.  It’s a sweet gesture and it’s one part of pregnancy I am enjoying more than I thought I would.  I have always watched that bonding occur between mothers as an outsider, and now I enjoy being part of the celebration in a whole new way.

But in the back of my mind I can’t help but think of other sleepless nights.   Of days I fell asleep at my desk at work from sheer exhaustion.  Of lying in bed with my hand on my husband’s chest all night so I could be sure he was still breathing. Of sleeping on the floor next to him when he could no longer get up the stairs.  Of sleeping whenever he slept, waking to his murmurs, rubbing his back and holding him as he fell back asleep.

It’s a strange parallel, the last few months of life and the first few.

The summer of 2011 comes to me in flashbacks, vivid and strong, sometimes attacking at inconvenient times.  It’s been happening a lot these past few months, as I anticipate the birth of my child.  I suppose I am comparing this life changing event to the other most significant event in my life, the one that changed everything forever, as I know my son’s arrival will.

During the darkest time I wrote this in our Caring Bridge journal:

You know, I’m almost 32 years old.  I spend my days taking care of someone I love so much it hurts.  I feed him watermelon and bits of popsicle.  I tell him the nutrition shake is chocolate milk so he’ll take a few sips. I wake up every few hours each night to rub his back and soothe him back to sleep. I’m trying to rest whenever he does, because I’m just so tired.  I have a hard time leaving him with anyone because I just don’t think they will take care of him the way I would.  I always thought I would be doing all these things as I cared for our child, not for my husband.   

I will be caring for our child in a similar way, but I have to keep telling myself it will just be similar.  Not the same.  This is the beginning of a life. I have Jeff beside me and we will watch him grow together.  God has our boy in His hand, and knows the days He has planned for him.  This experience will change and evolve as he grows and I have to remind myself that this time it’s not the end of something beautiful, it’s just the beginning.

Ask me in a few months if I feel this way still…but right now, I can’t wait for that exhaustion.  It was so worth it to be present for every moment while Jason was dying, and it will be worth it again to be there for my son as he grows.  I can’t wait for the lessons I will learn from him.  If death taught me so much about life, imagine what I have to learn from being a mother?

For now, I will smile when they say it.  You will be so tired.  Yes, I will.  I will be so tired, and I will be so grateful.  I will listen to him breathe, I will soothe him back to sleep in the middle of the night.  I will rest whenever he does, and I will have a hard time leaving him because no one will ever care for him like I will.  This time though, Jeff and I will do these things together.  We will do this for the child we will cherish, the child we are so thankful for.  This time it will not be the end of a beautiful, well lived life, but just the beginning.

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Prayers

I didn’t pray for a baby.

A few months after Jason died, I stopped praying for things to happen.  For life to go a certain way. Part of it was a little bit of lost hope.  Most of it was a sense of surrender to the larger idea that my life is not mine to control.  It’s mine to care for, and enjoy, and puzzle through.  But my plans and God’s plans may be different.

Around that time I started praying that line, in The Lord’s Prayer, Thy Will Be Done.  That’s what became my constant prayer.

I’ll be honest and admit that sometimes I came from a unique angle with this prayer.  I remember sitting on an airplane about 6 weeks after Jason’s death, praying that if it was God’s will for the plane to crash and for me to go to heaven that He would let that happen.  I can’t explain what that felt like, but it wasn’t hopelessness that drove that prayer, it was that sense of complete surrender.  Do what you will, Lord, it’s not my life, it’s yours.

He did His will that day, and the plane didn’t crash.  Instead, He placed in my path relationships that helped me rebuild and refocus my life. He continuously opened doors over the next few months to remind me- Amy, you are alive for a reason.  Your heart is still beating so go out and be a blessing to others.  

About a year later I decided I was ready to see what the dating world might hold in store for me.  I prayed again, Lord, Thy will be done.  If You have someone out there who would make the right partner for me, who I can bless with my love and will be a blessing to me, I am open and ready for what you have in store.  If not, and I am meant to be Amy on her own for many more years, I will live that life to the fullest, too.  Thy will be done.

And then I met Jeff.

We fell in love.  We built a life together.  We got married and promised to love each other forever.  We decided to see if a family might be in our future.  And that’s when I realized, I wasn’t praying for a baby.  Again, I was praying for His plan, whatever it might be.

Now I find myself praying that same prayer for my son.  I pray that he will be driven by God’s will for his life.  That he will have a relationship with the Lord so he can be open to where he might be led.

It’s hard to explain, but I feel good when I pray Thy Will Be Done.  I feel comforted, reminded that I am held close by a great and loving God even in my most hopeless moments.

And now, when I am living so completely filled with hope and happiness, I just thank God for where His will has led me.  I am so glad I chose to surrender my life to His will during the darkest time of my life.  And I will continue to pray, Thy Will Be Done.

Dear Baby #4

31 Weeks

Dear Baby,

I want to tell you a little bit about your dad.

He can be a quiet one, your dad.  I wonder if you’ll have that characteristic, too.  He’s sweet, and kind, and I can’t wait to see him bonding with you.

When we first met I didn’t know if there was going to be a romantic attachment for us…I just knew I enjoyed being with him.  I liked him, I wanted to be his friend. We had such an easy time talking together.  We laughed and we shared about our lives for hours.  He intrigued me and made me feel comfortable at the same time.

Your dad is organized and pays attention to details.  He is great at his job because of those characteristics.  He takes pride in what he does, and I love that so much about him.

He’s a family man.  He loves his parents, his brothers, and his extended family, and he has a sweet openness about him whenever we are with them.

Your dad doesn’t open up for everyone.  We’re both kind of like that now…we are a little more picky about who we invite into to share in our lives.  The friends we have are closely held.  It’s been great to watch your dad develop relationships with the friends I hold dear.

He loves his dog.  I always tease him- if he loves you and me only half as much as he loves Bella I will be incredibly happy for the rest of my life.  He’s so sweet with her, and it gives me a glimpse into the kind of dad he is going to be for you.

He also loves Batman.  And Superman, and Star Wars, and Seinfeld.  I have a feeling as  you grow you will love some of these things, too.  I can’t wait to see the two of you enjoying superhero and Star Wars toys together.

His nickname when he was a little boy was ‘Mr. Clean’.  He didn’t like being messy, and there’s 935982_10201592156622466_2138073858_na cute picture of him covered in mud that inspired that name.  On our third or fourth date I had the great idea to carve pumpkins together, because it was just before Halloween.  He agreed, and that’s when I got a glimpse into his Mr. Clean persona.  We have carved pumpkins every year since then, but now I’m the one who scoops out the slimy stuff while he does the neat and clean carving. 😉

I love his sense of adventure, probably because it’s the same one I have. We want to seize every opportunity we have in this life, say yes whenever we can.  In o10171214_10202730549281571_453144535_nur 3 1/2 years together so far, we have done a great job of living that belief.  We traveled to Boston and Nantucket, Paris, and all around Greece on our honeymoon.  We are looking forward to taking you with us as we explore this country some more soon.

He also loves to be at home, too.  We share a love of quiet nights on the couch, watching tv, with all of our animals.

He’s so good at loving me.  He makes me feel like a treasure, which is one thing I hoped for when I thought about getting married again. He makes me laugh, he laughs with me and at me when I need it.  He is my true teammate, and definitely my best friend.  I am so grateful for the way he takes care of me.  He is a blessing from heaven, I am sure of that.  11891488_10206411976514951_7441635112935823525_o

That’s your dad. ❤

Dear Baby #3

27 Weeks

Dear baby,

You are a little jumping bean inside me now!  I can feel you moving around all the time.  I can even see my belly move with your kicks and pokes, especially after I eat.

Your dad painted your room this past weekend.  It was fun to watch him do his part to make you a place in our home.  He can’t feel you every moment like I do, and it’s nice to see him get excited about the things he can do to bond with you before you come.

I like to put his hand on my belly when you’re wiggling around so he can feel the little kicks…he doesn’t like me to push too hard because he’s afraid of squishing you.  He put his ear to my belly yesterday, trying to hear your heartbeat.  No luck there but you did kick him a few times!  It’s cute and fun for us to have these moments together.

We just had Christmas and New Year’s and now I am back to work until you come.  It’s getting more and more real now that the holidays are over, we are calling this time between Christmas and Spring Break the march toward the baby…next year the holidays will be so different!

You’re not making me crave anything fun, just citrus fruit and milk on occasion.  This makes me think you are going to be a healthy eater like your dad.  I still feel pretty good, sometimes my back hurts and I definitely have some raging heartburn at night.  It’s harder and harder for me to bend over or get off the couch because you are growing!  But overall I’ve enjoyed being pregnant, I love feeling your movements and I find myself just setting my hands on my belly often.

I just want you to know that I love my life and you are coming into the world at such a happy time for me and your dad.  We love you, we love each other, and we love the family we are building.  We appreciate how blessed we are each and every moment.

We are just so happy.

Love,

Your mom

Bittersweet Perspective

My experience being pregnant has been greatly impacted by my experience caring for someone as they died.  The reality is, my experiences in any part of my life are colored by grief.

It’s true I work hard to keep that connection alive.  Could I ‘move on’?  Could I compartmentalize my two lives?  I suppose.  That might be how some people choose to experience grief, but it’s not what I’ve chosen.  I’ve chosen to embrace the bittersweet perspective that is a gift of grief.

When my first husband was diagnosed with cancer, we were told if he was lucky he might have 3 or 4 months to live.  The doctor said if it was him, he would quit his job.  He asked, where do you want to spend your time in these months? Before you die and are gone forever.  He didn’t say that last part, but I sure heard it in the office that day.

It was shocking, it was numbing, it was paralyzing.  That day is so clear in my head, that memory doesn’t fade.  That office, with Jason next to me, hearing the doctor ask, where do you want to spend your time?

Now that Jason is gone I still ask myself that question.  Where do I want to spend my time?  Who do I want to be surrounded by?  How do I want to fill up my life?

I spend my time more thoughtfully at work now, consciously prioritizing energy for the things that mean the most.  I’ve let go of lots of relationships, and become picky about who I let in to my life.  I take life at a different pace, try to resist the urge to fill every moment, and let myself be still more often.

Those moments are such a gift now.  Embracing this bittersweet perspective has allowed me to be fully present in my life.  As my husband and I looked at our baby on an ultrasound, I found myself thinking…BE here Amy.  Be RIGHT here, right NOW. Seal this experience into your heart, FEEL this moment for all it’s worth.

I hope I never let go of that bittersweet perspective.  I hope I carry it with me forever, especially as I add the element of motherhood to my life.

Dear Baby #2

22 Weeks

Dear baby,

We know now you are our son.  We know you are a boy, we even know your name.  When your dad and I talk about you, we say ‘What will we do when he…’ and ‘How will we know how to help him…’ and  ‘What do you think he will say about…’

There is a sweet video of your dad and I cutting into this cake and revealing your gender.  Until that moment I thought you were a girl!  I had dreams about you being a girl, and I guess because I am one of three girls, and your Aunt Jill has Blythe, I just thought I would be a mom to a girl.

But then we saw the blue, and everything changed.  With each day that passes now, I feel more and more connected to you, and especially now that I know you are a boy.  I lookIMG_3329 at your ultrasound pictures and I can’t wait to get to know you. I can’t wait to talk to you and see what your perspective is on this world.  I can’t wait to see what you bring to it, how you make an impact with your life.  I also can’t wait to enjoy the simple things with you and your dad.  I can’t wait to have our little family sitting at dinner together, or walking to the library, or running late for church.

You are a gift to us, little boy, and you don’t even know it yet.  Just like your dad was a gift to me a few years ago, now you are a gift to the two of us.  We are so thankful for the chance to get to know you, and to love you, and to be your parents.  We’ve waited a long time for you, but you are a gift worth waiting for.

Love,

Your mom

Names

I changed my name on Monday.

It’s been slightly comical, trying to explain to people who come into my life at this point that Amanda Kloese and Amy Havlik are the same person.  That yes, I am Amy and Amanda, I am Kloese and I am Havlik, and so happy to be both.

It hits me deeper than the formality of filling out a form and changing some papers.  Where does Amy Kloese go now that I am Amy Havlik?  What happens to Jason’s wife, his caregiver, the keeper of his memories?  I never want to let her go, I always want to be Amy K.

But I am more than Amy K now, I have added a few layers to myself.  I am Jeff’s wife, his best friend, his partner.  We are the Havlik family, and I cherish the fact that we get to dream together about what life will hold for us.

Maybe the most important layer I have added to my identity in the past four years is a supreme level of comfort in just being Amy.  I think that’s why I can so confidently say I can still carry Kloese with me as I become Havlik, because at the core is a strong woman capable of handling anything life throws her way.

There are still tears in my life, and there were lots on Monday.  The drive home from the Social Security office was like a journey back in time.  The office is across the street from the hospital and clinic where we spent so many days and nights.  A few miles down the road is the cemetery where his ashes are buried.  On the same route is the apartment we lived in when we found out his life would be cut so tragically short.  And then I arrived home, to the house we built together, that I still call home, where he died and where I continue to live.

Amy K will continue to live.  Amy H is living vibrantly.  And just plain Amy is the strength behind it all.