I've been contemplating this post for awhile. I'm really freaked out about publishing it, and butterflies (buzzing bees?) have been in my belly all day. Maybe there's no one left out there who still visits here, and I'm scared for nothing! :) But I'm compelled to post for many reasons, and I thank two bloggers, a longtime favorite, Holly Mathis, and a new discovery, Linsey of Bravehearted Beauty, for their brave and honest writing that set examples for me.
I was talking with a friend recently and remarked that if your life looks perfect and "put together" on the outside, people will naturally assume that you have everything together on the inside too. I know that's generally how I operate. It got me thinking about my blog. Can you believe I've been writing here since 2008? Almost seven years! It used to be that I was more candid with you all about my "real" life. I let you know when I was heading to the hospital to have our baby boy in 2009. I told you honestly when I was really struggling with homesickness and loneliness after our move to San Francisco in 2011. But soon after that I went into hibernation, as I called it, cut way back on my blogging, and basically stopped the personal sharing.
I know many of you just visit me here for the decorating stuff, and I totally get it! That's mostly why I read blogs too. :) We crafty girls have to stick together! (And I'm still mostly all about decorating here.) But I've started noticing that I really love knowing more about the person behind the cute window treatments or fabulous garage sale find. Somehow it makes me feel like I know her, and then I become even more interested in what she's up to in her decorating schemes. I suspect you all are like me in that way. And, since some of you have been with me for almost seven years...or maybe just for the past seven minutes...I wanted to let you in on what's really been going on.
The photo below was taken in November, 2011. It was my husband's first half marathon, one he had trained extensively for and, unexpectedly, got injured for, a few weeks before the race. He crossed the finish line, but due to his injury he had to walk a decent bit and was really disappointed with his performance. Because of some of the info on his race "bib," the spectators in this race could easily discern what had happened to this young(ish!) guy hobbling by with obvious disappointment all over him. The bib gave away his age category, his first name, and the "corral" he started in. Anyone who knew the unique lexicon of reading a race bib could tell that this guy was having a rough race. He'll never forget the calls of encouragement - very personal and specific sometimes - that got him through those 13.1 miles.
That really got me thinking. I mean, how many of us are fighting very real battles in our personal lives, ones that don't allow for cheering spectators? Right before this race, in early October, I had undergone a D&C for a miscarriage late in my first trimester. I was incredibly far from my midwestern home, living in San Francisco with two little ones and very little support system, family and friends multiple time zones away. I was already really bad off, as some of you may remember. I was still raw the morning of my husband's race, and as I watched all these athletes reaching goals and crossing finish lines and slapping high fives, alongside my struggling husband, I said to myself "What would the stats on my race bib say right now?" Reeling from Miscarriage. Crippling Loneliness. Homesickness and Depression. Loss of Hope. If they made such a race bib for everyday life (and maybe they should), I wonder if we'd all benefit from the honesty.
Ironically, it was that miscarriage that forced me to be honest within the fledgling friendships I was creating in California. I was amazed at the outpouring of love I received from people who barely knew me. I had started telling people about our pregnancy because, let's face it, by baby #3 it kind of announces itself before you're necessarily ready to announce it! So there were quite a few people I had to "untell" when they couldn't find a heartbeat at 12 weeks. I hated every second of that forced transparency. I know that if I had had my own choice, I would have dealt with my grief in private. That's why I dropped off the face of the blogging world, and why no one in this space ever knew what happened.
A few months later, at my husband's office Christmas party, someone snapped this photo. I guess we look happy. But when I look at it, all I can see is the utter misery inside, and I'm exhausted even now just thinking about how hard it was just to look like I wasn't about to fall apart. But it's a cute photo and looks like we're happy and fun and lighthearted. It's so easy for us to let people think we're OK.
The next year was rough. We encountered unexplained infertility for over a year after our miscarriage. Living in a beat-up, non-pretty house with a highway in my backyard affected me more than I'd like to admit, compounding the homesickness. My dad was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. (Thank God he is cancer-free today after surgery and six months of chemotherapy.) Then we had two more early miscarriages. I started undergoing tests to figure out why my pregnancy "record" was a heartbreaking 2-4. (I had also had a miscarriage before the birth of our oldest daughter, bringing my total at the time to 2 living children and 4 losses.) We discovered I have a blood clotting disorder called MTHFR, as well as a genetic condition known as Mosaic Turner's Syndrome, which, as best geneticists can tell, damaged the chromosomes in some of my eggs, but not all, so that each month became a roll of the dice: good egg? or bad egg leading to unavoidable miscarriage? It felt like every single thing in my life needed help, grace...fixing.
Finally, we were able to move back to Ohio, to my hometown, surrounded by family again, in June of 2012. We went from this (a small snapshot of the scary carpet in our run-down rental home in California):
And in November 2012 we discovered we were pregnant again. The doctors couldn't say for sure if this baby would be healthy or...not. It wasn't until the 20 week ultrasound that they said with any degree of certainty that we were out of the woods. After our losses, though, there was not a single minute of that entire nine months that I believed I was going to get a baby out of this. Not a single "we're pregnant!" Facebook post. In fact, I cried in fear when my mom brought me a baby gift when I was 38 weeks pregnant. I had gestational diabetes, scary blood clots in my legs, and "high risk" fetal monitoring all the time. My doctor tells me that during active labor in the hospital I was still asking if the baby was alive. Fear can be so crippling, can steal so much joy.
But Vivian Frances did come into the world on August 9, 2013. My words can't describe my feelings of relief and thankfulness.
Vivi's birth didn't fix everything. I am beyond thankful for all that God has given me, my precious husband, beautiful children, and forever home in Ohio. But this post is not meant to be a "Hey, I had it real bad but look at me now!" kind of thing. I have anxiety every day and things are not perfect, never will be. We all walk around with scars and wounds that have changed the core of who we are. I share my story partly because of what I said earlier, that I like to "get to know" other bloggers and after seven years here I'd like to get back to making this blog more of a community. I am full of ideas for future house posts and have some major projects on the horizon. I'll be posting more regularly for sure!
But if I am going to be posting more regularly, I want to start clean. Let you in on where I've been, so you're getting more than just the shiny, pretty finished product. Lately this blog has made both my personal life and my home decorating look effortless, showing a lot of befores and afters, and not a lot of durings, if you know what I mean. If someone presents a pulled-together exterior, we assume the interior is just as pulled-together. And I'm done with that. Honestly, if I had all the money in the world, I still think I'd love the thrill of the project, of bringing something from ugly to beauty, the junky Craig's List castoff being sanded and painted and buffed into something new. (I think God in His grace loves that too.) I like the process. And I thought you might like the process too...both in life and in decorating. So I'll be showing you more of both, I think.
I'll be back with some fun new house stuff next week! I'm still the Queen Bee, and I am still (my husband might say, unfortunately) always looking for the next new project! :) In the meantime, though, thank you for your kindness, and for reading.