Tuesday, December 31, 2013

On The Eve of Our New Year...

Today is New Year's Eve.  

Like most families with a brand new infant, we partied like rock stars all night long.  Oh wait... that was Hope.  And that was last night.  She has her holiday dates mixed up.  It's a newborn thing.  The two of us were up much of the night and I practically slept walk through the morning.  It took us hours to get ourselves together to get out of the house.  You'd think we were total rookies at this baby thing!!

We finally made our way to our favorite deli, "Diane's Deli," to do something fun as a family to celebrate the New Year.
Our friends, Mike and Diane, made it quite special for us.  Not only did they surprise us with lunch "on the house" - but they treated Brian to something really special!  They took him into the kitchen to make a brownie sundae!  Then Diane helped him load it up with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
It was his very first sundae and he loved it!
As usual, my heart is so torn.  
It doesn't feel right to celebrate a New Year without Gavin.
Yet it doesn't feel right to NOT celebrate a New Year with Hope!

So tonight - we celebrated our family.  It's different - but in a way, because of Gavin and all he left us, it's enhanced.  We love harder...we appreciate more...and we try to stress less about the little things.
We smiled today - and took pictures of each other in front of the tree...
...and, as a special New Year's Eve treat, Daddy joined our kitchen dance party for the first time!! Gavin loved our dance parties - and I know that he got a kick out of seeing Daddy bust a move tonight from Heaven.  I bet he was even dancing with us. 
We're going to dance our way into 2014.
We're going to remember Gavin and celebrate him every day.
And we're going to put our shoulders back and bravely journey into the Year of Hope.

(Come back tomorrow for a Chasing Rainbows "Year in Review!")

Monday, December 30, 2013

Stop The Clock...

Exactly one month ago today, I gave birth to Hope.  How can that be?
We celebrate a lot around here, and monthly celebrations until the age of two are part of the deal if you're born a Leong.  Brian and I kicked it off by giving Hope a bath - something she really loves.
He was so sweet and tender with her - talking to her softly as he poured the warm water onto her body.
Hope has changed so much over the last week.  She's looking for me more when I'm holding her or nursing her.  And there are moments when I feel like she's on the verge of a smile - a real, deliberate one.  But it's too soon for that.  I do like to think that her dreamy, sleepy smiles are the times that she sees her brother in Heaven.  Whether that's true or not, the imagery warms my heart.  

We are getting better and better at nursing and I'm finding ways to manage my oversupply so it doesn't affect her as much.  I've had lots of suggestions to pump a little out before I begin.  I did that with Brian when he was an infant and that definitely helped.  But this time it won't, I'm afraid.  She could be ten minutes into a nursing session and suddenly swallow too much.  It's hard to predict when she'll be affected!  I'm starting to master nursing her as she lays on top of me - so she's drinking UP.  That definitely seems to help.  Now, if I can just help her to stop spitting up so much!  That girl requires more wardrobe changes than an awards show host!!  

Brian and I had a fun time taking Hope's one month photos today.  Hope you enjoy them!
I wish I could stop the clock.  As Hope turns one month - and we are looking into the New year - I feel as if we leave Gavin further and further behind.  We are coming up on nine months from his death.  That seems impossible.  It seems like yesterday I was taking monthly photos of him.  

During Hope's four week photo shoot on Saturday, I took the last photo on my 16GB memory card and my heart sank.  I knew it was time to empty the card.  All of my photos are on my laptop - on our home computer - and backed up twice.  Yet for some reason, I always find it hard to erase my memory card.  This time - it was even harder.  When I emptied the card, I knew I would no longer have photos of Gavin on there.  There are no more photos to be taken of him.  His photos are stored and easily accessible - but something about the finality of "no more photos" sent me into an emotional tailspin.

But then - I started to fill my card again today.  
With Hope.
Life is so unpredictable.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

When Hope Gets Bigger...

Our little Miss Hope turned four weeks old today!
She's changing so much.  Not just in size!  She's showing more personality, nursing like a champ and staying alert and awake a little more often.  Well - except during this photo session...
...and she's back.
It's really hard to imagine that there was life before Hope - but then it's also hard to imagine that we're living life without Gavin.  It's a constant tug of war in my heart.  Part of me resents that - I don't want this tug of war!!  I want the happy to be happy - and the sad to be sad.  It's confusing to have them mixed together.
But perhaps that is the greatest lesson in all of this.  That the human heart can not only handle - but actually manage - those two huge emotions at once.  And that it's okay to feel both strongly with one not overshadowing or negating the other.
This little daughter of mine came with lessons for me, as you can see!
Brian continues to amaze me with how well he's handled this HUGE life change.  He loves Hope so much.  Tonight as Hope and I laid with him going to bed for our nightly "chat," he said...

"When Hope gets bigger, I think we should all sit together so you can tell her the story about when Gavin died."

"That's a good idea," I replied.

"I want her to know all about Gavin.  I wish Gavin was here instead, Mama."

"You wish Gavin was here instead of Hope, you mean?"  I asked.

"Uh-Huh.  But I still love Hope.  You'll tell her that, right Mommy?"

"Of course I will.  But you can tell her, too!" I told him.

"I love you, Hope..." he whispered as he kissed her on the head.
I'm trying to take it easy on myself these days.  I get very little sleep during the night so I am not pushing myself to accomplish everything I normally would during the day.  Just as I expected - I have an oversupply of breastmilk.  This happened with Gavin and Brian as well.  With Gavin it didn't matter because I exclusively pumped for him.  With Brian it was a challenge because it caused him to choke and spit up and he eventually developed reflux.  I'm having the same issue with Hope now, unfortunately.  
I don't wake Ed during the night (although I'm sure he wakes when he hears her cry!) because of this issue.  (Although I really never woke him with the boys, either.)  I'm not using the pump so as not to make my body think it needs to create MORE milk.  I'm nursing more frequently so she gets smaller amounts at each feeding - and I have her sitting up to nurse.  The position is tricky - especially at night - and I've developed carpal tunnel in both hands and wrists - which happened when I nursed Brian, too.  Even if I prop her, I still need to contort my body and my hands to hold her - and hold me for her - I'm a mess!  Anyway... all that to say, I'm not stressing about getting things done... or doing things perfectly... or even imperfectly... or sometimes even at all!  Back in the day, I would have freaked if I didn't show all the Christmas photos in the right journal entry - which would obviously be ON Christmas day - not days later.  But oh well...

I took these photos of Granny with Brian and Hope on Christmas night after I posted my journal entry.  And I realized that Ed and I never took photos of each other with the kids in front of the tree!  One day I'll have a decent hair day and we'll re-create Christmas for those pictures.  Don't be surprised if they show up on Valentine's Day.  That's just how it's gonna be around here for a while.  Ha ha!

I'm so happy with how these photos turned out of my beautiful Mother with our children...

Every day, multiple times, I see people giving their thoughts about who Hope looks like the most.  Some see Brian in her - some see Gavin.  I really think she's a beautiful combination of both boys.  I don't think Gavin and Brian looked alike that much - but Hope really has features from both of them. 

Here are some photos to compare.

Gavin at one month and Hope at three weeks...
Gavin at two months.
Brian at two weeks...
He was also a little peanut!
Hope at three weeks...
What do you think?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

What it Feels Like on the First Christmas...

I had to buy all new stockings this year.  

Last year, I had coordinating stockings for the four of us - for Dad, Mom, Gavin and Brian.  This year I needed to buy one for Hope - but they didn't have one to match the four I had.  Then I went through a period of ambivalence - wondering if hanging Gavin's stocking when he wasn't going to be there with us would confuse...or even upset Brian.  In the end, I bought all new stockings... including a brand new one for Gavin.  And it was the right decision.  For all of us.  I love that his stocking falls right smack in the middle - and hangs directly under the picture of his pier in Ocean City.
Brian and I had a fun day on Christmas Eve baking cookies for Santa!  He was able to wear his special apron that he made in school - a moose made from his hands, feet and thumb prints.  Brian took his baking duties very seriously, as you can see.  We made Raspberry Drizzle Cookies!
Granny arrived at dinnertime to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with us and I was so glad.  This was her second Christmas without my Dad - and our first Christmas without Gavin.  We all made a pact - Ed, my Mom and me - that we would be strong for Brian and for each other. 
It worked.
Don't misunderstand - the glaring absence of Gavin was heartbreaking.  Spirit crushing.  Devastating, indeed.
But as we set out our cookies for Santa... it was hard to ignore the beauty in this Christmas.
If I even attempted to put into words what it feels like to grieve one child while embracing a new child... what it feels like to watch Brian love on his new little sister while knowing that he misses his brother so much... what it feels like to watch a tear fall from your husband's eye while he holds his baby daughter and know that he's just as torn and conflicted...

If I even attempted to put that into words - I would fail.

But Gavin was there.
After we put Brian to bed - the most incredible thing happened!!  We heard Santa outside!!  We all rushed up to his room and woke him up so we could all get to the window.  Sure enough, we were right!  We could hear Santa's bells - he must have been headed to one of our neighbors.  He sounded SO close!!!  I'm pretty sure we heard reindeer, too.

When Brian went back to bed, I told him I was going to set up my camera in front of the tree - in hopes of "catching Santa."  He went to sleep with a smile on his face.  

Christmas morning reveal!!!

We couldn't believe it - but I somehow managed to capture Santa with my camera in the middle of the night!!  It looks like he was just finishing up and putting Brian's "Captain America" shield under the tree.  
Brian wanted to open his stocking first...

Photos from Christmas morning...
A Star Wars "AT-AT" was a TOTAL highlight of Brian's Christmas!
(And probably of Ed's Christmas, too!)
Brian was happy to "help" Hope open her gifts and showed them all to her (even though she slept through the whole thing!).
We exchanged gifts with each other, too.  Brian gave Ed a frame for his office.  One side was one of his new school photos - and the other side was a painting he made.
As we were sitting on the floor opening presents that morning, I suddenly noticed a ladybug crawling on the floor in between me and Hope.  I couldn't believe it.  How random!!  Ed loves ladybugs.  And we both feel that seeing something like a ladybug - or a butterfly - so out of the blue is like a "hello" from Heaven.  In that moment, we knew - without a doubt - that Gavin was among us.  And I'm sure my Dad was, too.  I instantly remembered the book I loved to read to Gavin - a special book between us.  "On the Night You Were Born."  (See the bottom of this post for an excerpt that will explain...)
The rest of the day we played... and played... and played.  Brian was thrilled with all of his new toys.  Ed made a super-cool fort and the three of us all climbed in and read books.
Our first Christmas without Gavin was sad.  His presence was missed more than I can even articulate.
Our first Christmas with Hope was happy.  Her presence held us together and brought us so much joy.
So what does it feel like on this Christmas of firsts?

I wish I could explain... but it's impossible.  All I know is this.  Holiday or not, every day spent without our son feels gut wrenchingly painful.  Every day we choose to find joy and live our lives in a way that will honor his - because there is no other option that is acceptable to us.

And on Hope's first Christmas - we are reminded that even in our darkest hour, there is light around the corner.  We are so grateful for the gift of this baby girl.  She is truly healing our hearts.

Merry Christmas to all.

Excerpt from "On The Night You Were Born"

Not once had there been such eyes,
Such a nose,
Such silly, wiggly, wonderful toes.
When the polar bears heard,
They danced until dawn.
From faraway places,
The geese flew home.
The moon stayed up until
Morning next day.
And none of the ladybugs flew away.
So whenever you doubt just how special you are
And you wonder who loves you, how much and how far,
Listen for geese honking high in the sky.
(They’re singing a song to remember you by.)
Or notice the bears asleep at the zoo.
(It’s because they’ve been dancing all night for you!)
Or drift off to sleep to the sound of the wind.
(Listen closely…it’s whispering your name again!)
If the moon stays up until morning one day,
Or a ladybug lands and decides to stay,
Or a little bird sits at your window awhile,
It’s because they’re all hoping to see you smile…
For never before in story or rhyme
(not even once upon a time)
Has the world ever known a you, my friend,
And it never will, not ever again…
Heaven blew every trumpet
And played every horn
On the wonderful, marvelous
Night you were born.

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