The Fifth


If you told me five years ago that I would be looking forward to Annie’s birthday, I would have collapsed into a giant sweaty pregnant pile and cried until you were so uncomfortable you ran away. If you would have told me 4 years ago, I might have done the same thing because I was pregnant again and a hot anxious mess. 3 years ago? I might have punched you because I was on my own with a deployed husband. 2 years ago I might have punched you because that’s when I got super angry about loss and was drunk… a lot… Last year I was doing ok, but I still probably wouldn’t have believed you. This year, it’s so very true.

I have such a sense of joyful anticipation about Annie’s upcoming birthday celebration, because this year it’s finally going to be what it’s SUPPOSED to be. I’m going to share a bit today about why and how Shine came to be.

Before Annie was even born, I KNEW I was supposed to host a fundraising event for her birthday. It was this feeling that captured my heart in a way that I can’t even explain. At the time I didn’t even know what it was going to look like, or who the funds would be raised for, but the seed of the idea was there while Annie was still in my belly.

Annie was born, she lived, then she left. The next year was messy, hard, and so so sad. There was not a lot of planning or really that much living going on with me. Her first birthday came and went. My husband Robert’s family has a beautiful Thanksgiving tradition where we write 3 things we are thankful for that happened in the past year, and 3 things we are prayerful for in the next year, and we tuck them away to read at the next Thanksgiving. For 4 years how I have felt guilt and shame at Thanksgiving because another year had passed and I read where I had written “Annie’s birthday party” on the previous year’s card, and it hadn’t happened. It didn’t happen because I wasn’t ready. I knew I wasn’t ready.

Last Thanksgiving when I wrote “Annie’s birthday party”, I had a renewed sense of hope. I have FELT all the feelings that have come my way these past 5 years. I know so much more than I did then. I am equipped. I have supporters. I have experience in asking for help, emotional and physical. I am crying as I write this, because I just realized that I am looking forward to reading my Thanksgiving cards this year. It’s happening. I’m ready.

I am writing this to tell you that Annie’s birthday party is going to be fun. It’s going to be special, and joyful, and meaningful, and for me, monumental.  Romans 8:28 tells us “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” I love this verse for what it says and what it doesn’t say. It says “God causes everything to work together.” It doesn’t say only the #blessed things that happen. Everything means the good stuff, and it also means the really really SHITTY stuff. I am a believer, but I in no way claim to have all the answers. I don’t know why some babies die. What I do know is that I have SEEN babies who have lived only for precious months, days, hours, and those who never even took their first breath change this world for the better. That’s everything. I have also met their mommas who smile after losing those babies. That means something. Yeah, that’s everything.

I want to celebrate. I want to dance. I want to laugh. I want to cry (because I cry when I’m happy). And I want you to join me.

Happy Birthday Annie. Momma’s doing her best to spread your gorgeous light.


-All proceeds of Shine go directly to our friends at The Spero Project. I hope you consider joining us to celebrate Annie and contribute to the life changing work at The Spero Project!

Buy your tickets here today!!!


Frankie Pop

On the morning of August 18 Robert, Iva and I went in for my 37 week checkup. I had been feeling bad all week, and by this time I was completely over it. The week had been so hectic already because it was the big girls’ first full week back at school. Getting back into that routine is not for the faint of heart, let me tell ya. We already had experienced one of those moments at breakfast (I think it was on Tuesday) where one daughter looked at me and said that today was her day to bring snacks for her whole class and she was going to bring goldfish. I actually laughed in her precious naive little face. We had no goldfish, or any food for that matter. I hadn’t been to the store in 2 weeks because NOPE when I was that huge and miserable. We live a good 20+ minutes from a grocery store (in the opposite direction of the school) so she got to learn an important life lesson that day about preparation and notification.

I waddled into my doctor’s office and grunted as I stepped on the scale. I rolled my eyes when I saw the number on the scale had jumped 11 pounds since the Friday before, because I knew what was coming. The lower half of my body had become so ridiculously swollen over the previous few days, I was surprised it wasn’t more than 11 pounds. Then the nurse took my blood pressure, and Robert and I looked knowingly at each other when we saw the reading. My BP had been creeping up during the 3rd trimester, but had stayed in the safe range until that morning. As soon as my doctor walked in and asked me when was the last time I had had anything to eat or drink, I wanted to cry, dance, do a herkie, and of course, eat a burrito because now I couldn’t. I’ve had several c sections, so I know that question means it’s baby time. He told us to go home, pack a bag and come back to be monitored so we could officially diagnose me with preeclampsia if that was the case, and possibly deliver that day.

I was so beyond relieved. I’m a lot older now than when I was pregnant with Dylan, my oldest, and this baby is my fifth. My body is weary, and I’m a lot more cranky and loud about it than I was in my twenties. This pregnancy was hard on me and I wanted this kid out. I was 37 weeks so we were in the safe zone to deliver. Both Rob and I knew there was no guarantee our baby wouldn’t need help, heck Iva was born at 41 weeks and needed 4 days in the NICU. We just prayed and hoped for the best.

We went home and packed, took and posted a final belly pic (I cropped out my terrifying marshmallow feet), made childcare arrangements, then we headed back to the hospital. After a period of monitoring it was clear that I did indeed have preeclampsia and delivery was the best course of action. I went back to the operating room alone for the part of the procedure I hate the most. Getting the spinal is not particularly painful or difficult, but having to do it without my husband while in a chilly and sterile environment where everyone is wearing masks and all you can see are their shifty eyes counting all of the shiny sharp things just skyrockets my anxiety. I laid down and got prepped, and Rob came in. This was when I had the “holy crap, we’re having a baby!” moment. Whether it’s your first or your fifth, there is something totally overwhelming and humbling about bringing new life into the world.

Surgery always seems to go super fast, and suddenly it was time to drop the blue drape. (C section mommas, if you don’t know about the clear drape option, ask your doc if it’s available! This was the first time I was able to see my baby pop out, and it was fantastic. Your belly + operating drapes obscure all of the sketchy stuff, FYI) I peered through the clear drape and saw a ticked off little face and shoulders rising up, and I looked at my husband and he said “It’s a girl!”

Of course it is. Our fifth little lady. I started crying of course, and they took the baby over to the table for her assessment. It was supposed to be super quick and we were planning on doing skin to skin, but I noticed Robert had stopped taking pictures. He was looking at two nurses as they were explaining things to him, and he was nodding a lot. I kept asking “is she ok?!” and was reassured that she was fine, but she needed help. I strained to listen to what the nurses were saying and I heard what I had been dreading. She was having trouble breathing, her oxygen was low and respirations were high, and she needed to be transitioned to the NICU. CUE ABBEY’S GIANT SOB FEST. (God bless my doctor for his ability to finish operating on my belly while I was bawling. That can’t be easy.) The nurses told Robert that we had to wait for a transport team to come and take our baby. Robert asked them if I could hold her while we waited, and they brought her to me. They laid this tiny precious baby on my chest and covered us with warm blankets. She had her tiny eyes open and we just stared at each other. I was lost in those eyes until I heard the nurses commenting how her oxygen level was rising. They also noted that her respirations were slowing. Transport showed up and one of the nurses said “let’s give her a few more minutes, she’s doing better.” God bless THEM for giving us time. We apparently just needed each other. She stabilized, my doctor finished my surgery, they moved me to a bed and took me to a room. WHILE I HELD MY BABY. 😭😭😭😭😭 I still can’t believe it. The whole time Rob and I were asking each other, “is this for real?!”

We named our sweet girl Margaret Francis. Daddy calls her Margie, Iva calls her Frankie Pop, and we are all just beyond obsessed. All of her sisters touch and kiss her from the moment they wake up (even when she’s nursing so that’s awkward). She sleeps fairly well at night as long as I’m holding her, and I’m not even mad about it because I binge watched Narcos on Netflix and it was awesome. With 3 big sisters she had to hit the ground running, so she’s already spent a day at the zoo, a day at Silver Dollar City, and been on her first road trip, so she’s the best baby in the whole wide world.

Robert and I have danced around the decision of whether or not we are done having babies, but right now I’m not making any decisions because I’m crazy hormonal and exhausted and old and exhausted and hungry and exhausted. I cry when we broach the subject, because right this moment I feel like I don’t want any more children because I can’t handle the ones we have. It has been a difficult adjustment this go round because my recovery was challenging and Robert wasn’t able to take any time off of work. (PRAISE THE LORD and THANK YOU to all who took Iva off my hands and brought food. We would not have survived without you!) I do feel like we are leaning towards being finished, but I want to make that decision because we feel like our family is complete, not because I feel overwhelmed and desperate. So we’ll just kick that can down the road a bit. Plus, the van is pretty dang full…

I am so grateful that Margaret is here, she is healthy and growing, and she is so very loved. She looks so much like big sisters Harper and Annie. She is my second rainbow baby, and I praise God for that enormous gift.

I will say that my grief journey has gotten easier with time. Annie died 4 years ago, and during that time there has been so much pain, exhaustion, depression, fear, anger, growth, learning, acceptance, and healing. I’m a completely different person. I’m usually thankful for that, but lately I’ve been kinda pissed about it.

-I’m pissed that I make new friends when babies die.

-I’m pissed that I’m terrified and not excited for friends posting “tomorrow is our ultrasound! I can’t wait to see if it’s a boy or a girl!” because I know there’s SO much more they can see. Or not see.

-I’m pissed that there is no break. I catch myself relaxing in the normalcy of life only to wake up to a message about a new family with a new diagnosis.

-I’m pissed that far too many of my friends have had funerals for their children, or never even got to meet them in the first place.

-I’m pissed that my daughter is in a box on the shelf in my living room and I can’t decide what to do with her ashes because nothing feels right or good enough.

-I’m pissed that two of my daughters never got to meet their big sister.

Please know that even though I am THOROUGHLY pissed about all of these things and so much more, I wouldn’t call myself an angry person. I have realized that I am capable of feeling so many things at once, and being able to name the things I’m pissed about has helped me to sort of release them. There is absolutely nothing I can do about any of the things on the above list and I refuse to let this anger gobble me up, so the best thing I’ve come up with to do is to put it on the internet in list form for strangers to read. 🤷🏻‍♀️

To those of you beginning your grief journey, I weep for you. I also want to encourage you. “This too shall pass” has proven to be a big ole crock for me, and good. I never want the desire for my daughter to pass. “This too shall get better, then hard again, then a little bit better, then hard again, and finally you will learn to manage it” is more true in my experience. I pray so so so fervently for those of you waiting for your own form of healing. I pray for those waiting for rainbows, for those who can’t get out of bed, for those of us who struggle with guilt when we want, no, NEED time away from the children we have. I have been so thankful for this outlet. Sharing has been therapeutic for me, so I encourage anyone who has the urge to do so to go for it. It is so freeing to find that I am not alone.

Speaking of time away from children, my two oldest are at school and my two youngest are asleep, so imma bout to make a latte and find a new show on Netflix. ✌🏼


The Fifth

Overall this has not been an “emotional” pregnancy, which is super weird. Anyone who really knows me know that I cry with ALL the feelings, but not this time. If anything, I’ve been kind of an angry and annoyed pregnant lady this go round… that is, until the last week or so. I can feel the fear creeping in, and I’m fighting it with all I have.

It started the other day when my oldest asked me, “so, what do you mean when you say you want the doctor to pop your baby out and then you want everyone to leave you guys alone?” She has overheard me say this multiple times, and I understand her confusion. It’s a weird thing to want. This will be my 5th delivery, and all of my babies were taken from me after they were born except for Dylan. Harper (my 2nd) was taken to the NICU and I couldn’t go see her for 24 hours. Annie was taken to the OBICU, and luckily I got to join her, but then she left this earth forever. Iva was taken to the NICU and I couldn’t go see her for a few hours. So yeah. I want them to “pop my baby out”, give it to me, and leave. It’s traumatic to be with your baby for it’s entire existence, and then it’s gone.
I have no control over how delivery will go, other than planning a c-section. I have no control over my health post delivery, or the health of our baby. That’s what scares me so much. Rob and I were talking about this the other night, and along with the fear comes waves of guilt, because we have been sheltered and provided for every step of the way on our journey of parenthood. How dare I be afraid.
I have been fighting some dark thoughts as well, for example, even though we have had two ultrasounds and been given a clean bill of health for this baby so far, there is no guarantee that everything will be fine. Then, I read the recent articles about the musician and his sweet wife who died just hours after giving birth to her first baby. My heart shattered for them. This will be my FIFTH C-SECTION. When I think about what could go wrong, and possibly leaving Robert alone with what will likely be four little girls I just start sobbing. I know they would all be ok, but still.
I don’t even really know why I’m writing this. I think thoughts like this are given a far greater power when kept in secret, so maybe admitting them will strip them of that. I want to be free of them.
There are some things within my control, though. Robert and I have asked our families not to come to the hospital the day the baby is delivered. We have never had time alone to bond with our babies after they are born, and obviously that is something I desperately want and need. That is a very difficult thing to ask (and to be asked of, I’m sure) but we have been so grateful for everyone’s unwavering support.
This has been an “uneventful” pregnancy, thank the lord, so I know that all of these thoughts and feelings are products of an overactive mind. I am trying not to worry until there is something to worry about, and keep my hope, faith, and trust in the one who has never failed me. And God willing, they will pop this kid out and leave me alone. ❤

The News

I can’t hold it in one more second, not that I’ve done the best job of keeping it a secret… We are expecting our fifth baby in September! 

I’ll just address some things right out of the gate.

-Yes, we know we’re nuts, but I think we’re the good kind. Like pecans. ❤ My goal has always been to get a TV show like the Duggars but with beer and dancing, so we’ve still got a ways to go. 

-No, we aren’t “trying” for a boy. Our camp is pretty divided on who wants what, and I think we are going to wait and be surprised on baby’s birthday. Im assuming it’s a girl, but in the off chance it is a boy, please send brochures or manuals or something. I’ll have absolutely no idea what to do.

-I’ve already deflected too many questions about the logistics of conception while living in a travel trailer with three kids. Obviously it’s possible. 😂 We are finally living in the house, although it’s still a major construction zone, so stress levels have gone down a bit. 

-I’m personally hoping for a new hair color to add to our Neapolitan girls… Blue would be cool.

-Pregnancy after loss is just plain difficult.

The last one is the reason I’m blogging instead of just posting our news. My first pregnancy after Annie was with Iva. That time was so stressful, dripping in fear, and I was still actively grieving. I had hoped this one would be different, more joyful, and so far it really has been. Our first prenatal appointment went so well. We were able to see our tiny new one, heart beating perfectly, and I was so at peace. 

Today we had our second appointment, and the Nurse Practitioner student who is working with my doctor started looking for the heartbeat with the Doppler. We had all three girls with us, so Robert and I were trying to get them to stay still and listen, then we realized she wasn’t finding anything. My doctor took over and time slowly ticked by. My heart was pounding and Robert came over and took his comforting spot at my head stroking my hair. After a few minutes I lost it. I panicked and started crying, Iva was asking why, Dylan and Harper seemed confused and concerned, and Robert continued to stroke my hair. Our doctor sent for the ultrasound machine and was quickly able to show us a wriggly little baby with a beautiful beating heart. ❤❤❤ The baby’s position plus how small it is made it difficult (impossible) to find a heartbeat via Doppler. God bless our doctor who is so patient and kind. He has been with us through a traumatic early delivery with Harper Lou, a tragic loss with Annie, an emotionally difficult pregnancy with Iva, an early miscarriage, and now this. He and Robert are a very good and calm team during my more animated moments. ☺️

I still feel emotionally “lighter” compared to my first post-loss pregnancy, but I still feel super braced. This world is not perfect, and I will continue to pray for Hallelujah Spaghetti O’s (because of course that’s what Iva named it) and for us to be able to handle whatever comes our way. ❤🙌🏼🍝

The Chaos 

Disclaimer:: This is not a political post. This post is my commentary about the chaos I am seeing unfold on social media after late term abortion was discussed at last night’s debate. I am honestly shocked at the hate, judgement and condemnation that has spewed forth, mostly from believers, and I felt led to say something.

The option of a late term abortion was something that was available to me after we received Annie’s diagnosis of anencephaly. This is obviously the option most women in my position choose (around 95%), but after discussion with my husband we decided against it. I am fortunate enough to have an incredibly selfless and supportive husband, a large and local extended family, a faith that kept me going when I wanted to fall apart, and two healthy and vibrant daughters to hug when I couldn’t stop sobbing. I was also fortunate enough that even though my unborn daughter’s diagnosis was incompatible with life (terminal), doctors also told us she was unlikely to be in any pain.

I stand firmly by my choice to carry Annie to term, and the 14 hours and 58 minutes she was on this earth were some of the very best of my life. I will tell my story to anyone who will listen, I will support any and all women who are or have ever been in my position, and I will advocate for life all the live long day.

What I will not do is stand in judgement of the 95%. I will not assume their story looks just like mine and criticize their choices. I will not hate them for their heartbreak and pain. I will not lump all women seeking abortion into a hurtful and judgmental catagory.

I recognize my privilege, and Annie’s story is beautiful in large part due to that. My husband had a terrifying near death experience in the middle of the ocean in Guam 30 days before we got Annie’s diagnosis, and we often discuss how different this story would be if he would have died. I imagine our story would be different and our decision would have been far more difficult if our baby would have been in unbearable pain. If I didn’t have more sisters than I can shake a stick at to cry with, friends upon friends to pray with, so much help with our living children, who knows what would have happened. I guess I will never know. Carrying a child with a terminal illness to term was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Each day brought forth new and unexpected gut wrenching experiences, and without my support system it would have been impossible.

This post is really just a message to the church. Last night I had a discussion with friends about those believers who are shouting condemnation (before the debate, actually) and we were talking about what to do about it. It seems so simple. We stop the judgement. We stop shouting at each other. We recognize that every story is not the same. The only way to understand someone else’s story is to stop yelling and actually LISTEN, to CARE about them, and to LOVE them. We need to be the support system to those without one. And most of all, it’s time we all take a moment to remove the log out of our own eye before we worry about the speck in our neighbors.

May the Lord bless and keep you.


The Truth

I was really convicted a few days ago at church. The kind of convicted where you stop dead in your tracks and are just like, WOAH… I have admitted from the very beginning of this blog that I don’t have any idea what I’m doing. In fact, this entire thing is basically me trying to figure it out. (“It” being grief, love, faith, life, whatever.)  Every time I have posted a blog entry, someone somewhere has either commented, texted or told me in person they admire my strength… Uh… Say what? Are you reading the same crap I’m writing about?? What strength?!

The message on Sunday was based on, in my opinion, one of the most hopeful passages in scripture.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed;”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

The passage basically guarantees that as believers, life is going to suck sometimes. The good news is that no matter what, God will not allow the things of this world to crush us, we will not despair with Him, He will never abandon us, and we will never be destroyed.

The pastor went on to compare us as human beings to tree roots. Tree roots do what they have to do to get water and survive, and nothing more. If there is water on the surface, that’s where the roots go. If the only water is down in the depths of the earth, the roots fight and dig and plunge down to get what they need to survive. The difference in these two types of trees is, the tree with shallow roots can be easily knocked over by a strong gust of wind. The tree with the deep roots, the roots act as an anchor and that tree cannot be moved.

There have been several times in my life, beginning in early childhood, where I felt completely broken. Trying and difficult times, that in the moment felt like I would never recover. Looking back, each and every struggle has guided and steered me down deeper and deeper, to where I needed to be.

My marriage to my husband is far from perfect. I am nowhere near the wife I want to be for him, and I’m sure he would say the same about himself. We have struggled from the very beginning with the constant ebb and flow of marriage. Two months after we were married there was something that happened between us that sent us waaayy off track. From here on I will refer to this event as “the incident”. I’m not super comfortable sharing all of the details, but the details don’t really matter. All that matters is we lost our trust, our home was broken, and we were lost. During that time I thought that was the lowest I would ever be. I wanted so badly to forget that time, just scrub it from my memory. No matter how distant Robert and I felt from each other, we knew we were supposed to be together. I can honestly say that was the first time I knowingly felt the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We made the choice together to dig in and do the work, reevaluate how we were walking out our faith, and start over. It did not happen overnight, but we have a level of trust and intimacy that we would have never experienced had it not been for “the incident.” Today I am grateful for “the incident” that I tried to pray away so long ago.

That is just one example of how good can come from despair, and I have several life experiences to draw from that prove this truth. During the sermon, I just kept reliving moments during Annie’s pregnancy, life, and in the wake of her death where people had told me they admired my strength. It finally made sense. They weren’t seeing me. There was very little of me to even see at that time, much less admire. They were seeing Jesus. They were seeing the Holy Spirit move through me and do things I am not capable of. “God doesn’t give you any more than you can handle.” LOL. 😂  I couldn’t handle ANYTHING that had come my way, so I completely and fully surrendered, and man oh man did the Lord do great things.

I am so unbelievably thankful for every awful thing that has happened in my life to lead me to the place where I was able to step back and let God do His thing. I am proud that He used my daughter to spread His word and bring others closer to Him. I am humbled that He chose us to be her parents because we knew that no matter what, Annie was protected and so were we. I felt hard pressed on every side, but in no way was I completely crushed. I was perplexed, but not in despair. In no way did I ever feel abandoned by my god, and I am still here. I am not destroyed.

About a year ago, I was in the midst of the worst depression I had experienced to date. My husband, even in the most difficult phase of his professional career, took excellent care of me and made sure I got the help I needed. Now that I have emerged from that fog, I can see so clearly. I still struggle, often in fact. I find that I’m not always 100% present when I want to be. A piece of me belongs to a special group of women who are just like me. They have all said goodbye to one or more of their babies and we share each other’s pain. Some of them I know in “real life,” but most of us have found each other online. When an anencephaly mom is drawing closer to her delivery date, my heart is in my throat and my stomach is in knots. I pray constantly for her. When a mom who all she knows of pregnancy is the pain of miscarriage announces she is pregnant, I worry, cry, and pray. When a mom of loss is about to deliver her rainbow baby, I’m full of every emotion possible alongside her. When a heartbroken momma is celebrating the day her baby was born or the day her baby left her, my heart breaks with her. Any woman who is just starting her journey, I weep for her knowing the exhausting and rocky road of grief and self discovery that lies ahead of her. I know there is a balance to be struck here, but I’m not sure I want to find it just yet. We are part of an exclusive club of women who really understand each other. It’s a shitty club, none of us want to be in it, but the company is divine. I don’t know what I would do without these women who know the right thing to say on those special days. I thank God now for roots that have delved into the deep, so when a new momma joins our ranks she can grab on to me for support.

This may seem like a prideful thing to say, but I’m with Paul. I will boast all the live long day about my weaknesses.

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:8-10

CAN I GET AN AMEN?!?! These past few days as I have looked back on all of my weakness, I am humbled as I see the Lord’s perfect power. I see the strength that others have seen. I get tears in my eyes just thinking about all He has done for me and mine, and I strive for less of me so I can have more of Him.

Now here is another picture of my girls because they’re adorable.

May the Lord bless and keep you all,


Home Sweet Homa

Over the past few years (yeah, that’s right, YEARS) many of you have asked me how our friends Eric & Kylie have been doing in the process of adopting their little boy from the Congo. I have always answered with a sigh, a shrug, and a shake of my head. “They’re still waiting.” It has been an incredibly long, excruciating process for them to be seperated from their son. They have had countless people known and unknown to them praying for them and their sweet boy for so long. Robert and I have felt oddly connected to them from the beginning, as two sets of parents just longing to hold their babies. 

Several of you have donated to them in the past, and as the days, weeks, and months have slowly passed by, expenses have added up. I am BEYOND thrilled to share that in less than 2 weeks they will be headed to the Congo to FINALLY get their son!!! If you would like to contribute to them and help lighten their financial load a bit as they finally end their adoption journey, it would be greatly appreciated. It has been so beautiful to watch these two rally the community around them, hold steadfast through their pain, all the while leaning on the Lord. God bless you, Eric & Kylie, and your precious boys. ❤️
UPDATE: Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to all who donated and prayed for this sweet family! My heart melts when I see Joah’s gorgeous bright smile, and watching him play with Iva was the most beautiful thing. Praise the Lord, he is home.