Friday, December 19, 2014

Treat making

Growing up, our family had lots of fun traditions around the holidays.  We made my great aunt's cinnamon rolls to have Christmas morning, decorated cookies together, held a family bookclub holiday party and/or a New Years eve party etc.  I have tried to create traditions with our kids that I hope they will remember in the same way.  In addition to making cinnamon rolls each year we also have made these scrumptious holiday treats.  I started this when LT was 2 because they are super easy to make and a 2 year old felt involved.  They consist of melting hershey kisses on pretzels and then putting an m and m on top to squish down the chocolate.  Our kids could do something much more complicated baking wise at this point, however, LT reminds me each year that we "always make the pretzel treats."  So, the tradition continues.
I just read about a super cute tradition in Iceland where each member in a family gives each other a book Christmas eve and then spends the night reading together.  I love this and hope to start it in our family!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Life is Good

I just love this picture.  Two sweet little boys, reading a dinosaur book together, waiting for their lunch.   We have so much to be thankful for.

Monday, December 1, 2014

My baby girl

"Baby is dead" was the subject of the message that popped into my inbox as I passively and habitually checked my email during a morning meeting. Later I would see that I'd missed multiple calls and texts. How could I have missed them? As I'd been doing for days now, I'd specifically put my phone on vibrate before I went to the meeting so I'd be available. But this time was even worse. How long had Kari been alone with this?

Driving to the hospital was kind of a blur but I remember tears and anger. Mostly anger. Anger at traffic and construction detours and the parking lot with no spaces and everything that was delaying me. Kari's parents were already there and I was angry at them too for being there. That anger subsided somewhat though as I came to realize it was misplaced. I was really angry with myself for not being there in the first place (and soon enough realized how grateful I was that her parents could there when I wasn't and for all the incredible support that's come from family). Earlier that morning Kari had said she hadn't felt the baby move for a while and was going to call the doctor. We'd been though something seemingly similar with Adler and, after a long afternoon and lots of tests at the doctor's office, it turned out to be nothing. Alder was perfectly fine. So checking in with the doctor this time seemed like the right thing to do but I don't think either of us really thought (or would admit to ourselves anyway) that it was anything serious. That's the rationalization for why I went to work that morning rather than going with Kari to the Doctor. I've done a lot of rationalizing. But the guilt was overwhelming and anger was a way of trying to combat it.

I was in Jerusalem near the end of September. I am not a religious person (a self-described devout agnostic) and I am humbly ignorant of so much of the religious, cultural and historic significance of the area. I was offered the chance to pray at the Western Wall. Perhaps it was naive or even hypocritical of me but I did. It felt genuine. My intent was genuine. I prayed that all people (myself included) might find a greater capacity for empathy and compassion towards others and that they might also be more accepting and loving of themselves. I didn't pray for the heath of my soon-to-be-born baby. I didn't think I needed to. I didn't want to be selfish. I didn't think I needed to be.

Her name was Elsie Sloan Campbell.

Elsie is her name.

We hadn't told anyone her name and writing or saying it was hard. Almost as though by avoiding writing it down I could somehow escape the fact that she was gone. I left the name blank on all the paperwork I filled out the first day in the hospital. I'm ashamed to admit that there was also part of me that wanted to save her name for maybe another baby, a baby that hadn't died. But it was freeing to finally say her name, to finally write it down, to acknowledge her as a person that is, and always will be, a part of our family and our shared experience. Adler easily says what was at first so hard for me comprehend, "Elsie will always be part of our family and we will always love her."

While the words of a five-year-old sometimes bring a simplicity and clarity that escapes us adults, they aren't that always that easy or uplifting. My heart just broke as I held Elsie's lifeless little body and Adler asked, "will she grow up?"

I love you, my sweet little Elsie. I'm sorry I couldn't protect you. In the abstract, before I even knew for sure you were a girl I questioned my abilities as a father to raise, nurture and protect a little girl. Daddy's little girl. My little girl. But I never even had the chance. I failed you before I even knew you. I'm so sorry.

It's no secret that I was more than a little hesitant about having a third child. It took some serious convincing from Kari and even then my doubts persisted. The truth is that I didn't want a third. But the truth is also that I wanted her. I wanted Elsie in our family. Reconciling those feelings and the inordinate guilt that comes along with them has been too much at times and a kind of numbness sets in. But numbness takes its own toll. I don't know how to grieve for a child I never even got to know. I'm thankful for the times I can break though the numbness and guilt and just feel sad. Seeing another family leave the maternity unit with a healthy little baby wearing the standard issue blue and pink hat brought me to my knees in tears in the hallway. A few days later I cried watching Landon play gently with his almost-one-year-old cousin. So I welcome the tears. I'm thankful for the tears.

I wanted to write something about Elsie. Kari shared the news a while ago in words that are more concise and eloquent than mine. But I still felt compelled to write. I'd hoped it would help me express and work though some of my feelings. Maybe it did. It took me much longer than I'd expected. I wrote many more words than I'd planned yet feel I've said much less than I'd hoped. One more thing I need to say, however, is how truly thankful we are for the overwhelming kindness and support we've received from family and friends and school and work communities. I couldn't possibly list everything and thank everyone here but the outpouring of support in so many different ways has been nothing short of remarkable. And remarkably helpful. Thank you all so much.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thankful from A to Z

Though it's a difficult time for our family, we do also have a great deal to be thankful for and (fittingly I guess) Thanksgiving day spent with family was a nice reminder of that. Some highlights include the boys playing with their little cousin and Adler, accompanied by uncle Steve in his turkey hat, doing a performance of the dinosaurs a to z song.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Elsie Sloan Campbell

Brian and I have struggled with this post.  How do we announce the birth of our beautiful baby girl, Elsie Sloan, while also having to share the devastating news that she died?  On October 29, 2014, at 38.5 weeks pregnant, I went into my Dr. because I hadn't felt our baby move.  Adler was a similar story and I went into the Drs. office not having felt him move, was hooked up to a heart rate monitor, read my book and went home.  I naively thought I would have a similar experience.  Little did I know our lives would forever change in a way we never anticipated.  Our little baby's heart wasn't beating, she had died.  I delivered her later that evening with nearly our whole family and my oldest and dearest friend by our sides.  We held our beautiful daughter, the boys met her, we had family photos taken and then we had to do the unimaginable, say goodbye, forever.  The boys lost their sister, we lost our daughter.
We are so thankful for the community that has reached out and supported us over the past 3 weeks.  This experience, while horribly difficult, has made us see how many amazing, caring friends and family we have supporting us.  Thank you, thank you to all our friends and family!