April 22, 2014

The Laundry List


Recently I caught up with a friend I haven't spoken to in a while. It's been a busy year or two for each of us, and I felt a catch in my throat at her simple, "What's been going on?" question.

What hasn't gone on? Ardent list-maker that I am, the inventory is easy enough to trot out:

1. Had Mary Brooks.
2. Almost lost Mary Brooks.
3. Almost lost my mind.
4. Finally came back to life.
5. Ran a half-marathon for charity and, decidedly un-pregnant, rode every rollercoaster at Disney. Thanked God hourly for the chance to start fresh. 
6. Found out I was expecting. (Surprise! And sorry for those loop-de-loops, baby.)
7. Lost our baby at 15 weeks. Had surgery. Stayed in bed for approximately a century.
7. Got (as we gallows humor-types like to say) re-pregnant.
8. Thought I was losing that baby.
9. Hospitalized more than once. On sporadic bed rest. Alternately terrified and in denial.
10. Unexpectedly delivered our son six weeks early.
11. One-week NICU stay.
12. Survived a sinus infection/ear infection/mastitis combo.
13. Thought that was the worst we'd handle this year.
14. Back at the Children's Hospital with a preemie and his fractured skull.*
15. Earned ourselves a three-day vacation right next door to where Mary Brooks fought for her life.
16. Nearly re-lost my mind.
17. Ran out of the hospital and swore we'd burn it down before we set foot there again.
18. Came back with a baby who wasn't gaining weight. 
19. Fielded daily questions as to why our newborn was "so insanely small." (Y'all, please don't do that to a girl. No one's baby is insanely anything, besides cute.)
20. Brought in a team of experts: a pediatrician, nurses, lactation consultants, occupational therapists, a hospital-grade scale and one manic mama.
21. Took a deep breath. Began to enjoy what is, in truth, a beautiful, blessed life. And a sweet peanut who may just be getting the hang of this weight gain thing.

Amidst all that, we felt called to have Bradley leave his job*; it was slowly sucking the life out of our family and our marriage - the last thing we needed after MB's ordeal. Bradley's quitting was a tremendously brave act of obedience, one that both humbled and scared the pants off of a planner like me; we saw absolute confirmation at every point that it was the right decision for our family.

One side business and eighteen months of a job search (!) later, Bradley began a new full-time position just before Chapman was hospitalized. The pressure, waiting, healing, constant change - it was heavy and unrelenting. We were refined by fire once again, and no matter how I tried to look at it through a lens of faith and God's will, there were many nights I just wanted to opt out, to be passed over, to fast forward to the easy part.

When you write it all out, that laundry list looks like a lot. (Maybe I've outlined a fabulous memoir in these bulletpoints?) I wonder, as people have often asked, how we did it. In each moment, though, you don't philosophize or quit - you can't. The only option is to push on through.

You laugh with your husband the morning of your D&C, you shuttle yourself (and your milk supply) from home to NICU and back again, you remind yourself in the Children's Hospital that "this isn't that" and your son isn't fighting for his life - even if you're fighting for your sanity. You thank God for good sleep, sweet babies and a family who drops everything for you.

You feel the promise of the Gospel and know without a doubt that the Holy Spirit's presence in you is why you're still vertical, still putting one foot in front of the other.

You wonder if you've gone through this particular whirlwind to carry other people who are fielding harder, even more painful fights. You wish you never knew about any of this and desperately want your white-picket-fence, never-had-a-panic-attack, "perfect" life back.

You want your "what's new?" laundry list to be first movies, snow days, pigtails, park trips, holding hands, post-bath snuggles and birthdays. Your story is partly that, but the heart of the matter is a whole lot more.

And when someone asks what you've been up to these last two years, you don't know how to tell her you're not the girl you were before.

"Two babies, six dozen new gray hairs and an extra-large SUV. That's what we've been up to."

(What else can you say?)

When you hang up, you ask God to use this laundry list of chaos, this hard-fought battle, this big, ugly scar on an otherwise-smooth history for His purpose. And you know, more deeply than you've ever known anything, that He's in this with you.

What comes after this laundry list, Lord? (And, not to prove I haven't really learned my lesson, but can this season be finished? Please? I'd hate to see Bradley arrested for arson, and I'm pretty sure he's serious about burning that building down.)

*These are stories for another day. Promise.

April 7, 2014

Party of Five

First things first: meet our baby boy! 

Our son, Chapman Collins Smith, was born nearly six weeks early on January 6, 2014. He was a healthy 5 lbs, 7 oz and transitioned home beautifully after a one-week stay in NICU.

 

Mac and Mary Brooks are utterly smitten, as are we all. His early arrival may have been unexpected, but we were grateful all the same; the months leading up to Chapman's birth were stressful and occasionally scary. Having him home and healthy now is such a gift!



It's been a minute since I've popped in, and in all my busyness, I find the everyday details slipping away from me. The quirks and anecdotes and memories I just "know" I'll treasure when I'm 80 are trickling out of my brain and off to...wherever the rest of my brain cells have gone. 


So I'm back to update and record, and hopefully to encourage. It's been a tumultuous ride, these last two years, and you've all been on it with me; I want to fill you in on how we got through (and are still walking through) the unexpected. There's so very much to tell!

I promise to share details in the coming days, but most especially I promise to record the tiny, easily forgotten moments this blog has helped me preserve over the years.

There are a million blessings and a few miracles mixed in there, too. I hope you'll forgive me if I shout them from the virtual rooftops here in our little corner of the internet.

I look forward to catching up! xox

October 29, 2013

Beaufort Bonnet Blogger Showdown!

My friends at The Beaufort Bonnet Company are kicking off a fun promotion, and they've asked me to spread the word. How could I resist?

Buying gifts for babies is one of my very favorite things to do; another is supporting small businesses. TBBC is owned and run by Southern moms looking to support local seamstresses, delight their customers and raise their own little families while making them look absolutely adorable.

Here are a few of my favorite Beaufort Bonnet moments from Mary Brooks' last year:







You know what I love even more than the women behind the scenes at TBBC? The fact they're letting grown-ups in on the fun now!



I love how life-proof this monogrammed beach bag is! (My monogram iSa, for those of you itching to order me one. We'll discuss at a later time why it should probably be aSs but isn't...)

And Mary Brooks really needs this monogrammed bow holder, if just for my sanity's sake. Where do these bows keep running off to?

If you're interested in winning $200 to be the star of the next baby shower on your social calendar, or just to stock your own little ones' closets, below are the guidelines.

How to Enter:
-Write a blog post on The Beaufort Bonnet Company- your favorite items, why you love the company, anything you want! The more creative the better!
-Include a minimum of one picture of a TBBC item, either one of TBBC's photos or one of your own darling children in a TBBC item.
-Include a link to The Beaufort Bonnet Company’s website.
-Send the link to your post to Elizabeth@thebeaufortbonnetcompany.com with your name and email address by November 13.  One winner will be chosen on November 15.

Details:
TBBC will cross-promote select entries via our social media accounts including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and our TBBC blog.  The Beaufort Bonnet Company team will determine the winning blog and the winner may or may not be one of the blogs spotlighted during the promotion. Blogger does not have to be a mom to enter.
Please email Elizabeth@thebeaufortbonnetcompany.com for any questions or if you need photos to include in your post!

October 1, 2013

On the Other Side

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."
-The Great Gatsby
(source)

There have been so many balls in the air chez Smith - family, work, pregnancy, staying semi-sane, attempting to keep my children clothed despite their desires to the contrary - that I've neglected this little online scrapbook in an effort to keep juggling.

I've been touched and taken aback by the response to our experiences in the last year and a half, though. People pull me aside at tailgates, after church services, by email or Facebook message and talk to me about transparency in the face of struggle. It's inspired me, loudmouth that I am, to keep talking. And to thank each of you who've shared your story with me.

If you've landed here because you love us or you're curious about how we are, I'm happy to give you a peek into our lives besides, "We're great; how are y'all?" If you're reading because you've walked a similar path and want a window into how we're dealing with it, well, here it is.

Last Friday, September 27th, was our due date for the baby we lost in April. As it approached and friends who had been expecting alongside us began to deliver, the reality of what was missing felt weightier.

When I stay in motion, I can glide through life without processing it; sometimes that's a valuable skill. There are times, though, when you've got to face facts, and last week was one of those times.

Leading up to the due date that wasn't, I felt oddly empty - as if my arms should be holding something, someone. I don't know if it's biology, hormones or the fact that I've never carried a baby past 39 weeks, but my body knew it was time. I was waiting on a baby that wouldn't arrive; that made my heart ache.

Thankfully, as with many things in life, anticipation was worst than reality. The days before I had flashes of what would have been, of a happy ending; on the due date itself I felt peace. I'd certainly never have chosen to lose our baby, but we see the Lord's hand in the way our lives are coming together in the wake of our loss.
Happy Tiger fans

Bradley and I spent the remainder of the weekend celebrating Clemson's Homecoming and eating far too much of his mom's fabulous cooking. I tried to focus on all I'm thankful for - our little family, the incredible support we've gotten, the opportunity to help others who are hurting.

I can't ignore the fact that, unlike many friends of mine who've lost babies, I am expecting another. It made the day bittersweet, realizing our future valentine wouldn't be on the way if we hadn't lost our third child.

Knowing I can't control the timing of any of this, the fact that it happened, the way it did - it could be paralyzing, but it's actually quite freeing. I have no hand in this; I'm along for the ride. I didn't create these lives, I can't control them and I believe the One who did has a plan far better than my own. (Even if there are spots that feel like nothing could be worse, in all honesty.)

I'm praying the Lord uses all of this for His glory, that He lets our family be a testament to His faithfulness, to the power of hope. I don't take for granted the promise of a new life, the fact that we can dare again to love a little person we haven't met yet.

I'm thankful we'll meet our third baby one day, that someone who is a part of us is already in heaven; it brings me great joy to imagine meeting the child we didn't get to hold here.

I'd dreamed of late September for months, and dreaded it since I saw our still baby on an ultrasound screen. September 27th came and went, and we're still here. We're thankful, hopeful, moving on.

We'll never forget this baby; I'll never wish I wasn't holding it, never stop imagining its face.

The pain of the due date is behind me, though, even if the whole experience may never quite be. I'm on the other side, and it's not as scary as I imagined.

If you're not on the other side - if you're right dab smack in the middle of the not peaceful, not healing, not putting one foot in front of the other, flat out wretched and absolutely not okay part - my prayers are with you. These verses were shared by a wise friend who's been there, too:

"Though the fig tree does not bud,
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord. 
I will be joyful in God my Savior."
-Habakkuk 3:17-18

August 14, 2013

Here We Are

(source)
I'm a talker; I narrate my way through life. I'm never at a loss for words, but I'm still terrified to type this. It doesn't make any sense, but my heart is pounding all the same.

I've been silent for three-plus months, and it's time now to say what I've been too hesitant to vocalize. It's especially time to absorb and be fully grateful for what's going on in our lives.

We're having a baby.
Baby Thumbsucker at 12 weeks

I'm fighting the urge to follow that sentence up with: "It looks like we could have a baby in February." or "All signs point to a new member of our family in 2014." or "We might hold a second baby valentine in our arms six months from now."or "Mary Brooks could have a new sibling at her second birthday party." It feels more like a possibility than a fact.

I'm not at a point where I can accept congratulations graciously or process the magnitude of the gift we've been given. I know it's tremendous, and I'm beyond joyful in theory, even if it hasn't gotten down into my bones just yet.

But I am pregnant - 14 weeks along, to be exact. Our baby looks strong and healthy, and is by far the most active little Smith I've seen yet.

I'd be overcome with sheer gratitude and exhilaration if there wasn't a literal and figurative gray cloud hanging over me (and my insides).

I have had an implantation bleed for the last three weeks. A middle of the night scare that looked something like a Law & Order crime scene led me to a disastrous early morning ER visit; I felt certain this must be what a loss looked like. (With our third baby, I never had any signs of what was to come, so these symptoms were all new to me. And I still can't quite bring myself to say the "m" word.)

Praise God, baby looked beautiful and removed from the bleeding I was experiencing, and what I continue to have. Everything baby-wise looks perfectly positive.

At the start of my second trimester, we're in a safer spot developmentally for baby, but my body still needs to get it together. This large bleed could pose a threat as things progress; it really needs to go away. As it stands, my symptoms could continue for weeks, and I'm okay with it being a nuisance or an unsettling factor to me - that's no problem.

The crucial aspect is that it decreases in size quickly, that it doesn't "take over" the space and resources baby needs. I can't think about or discuss what happens if that's not the case.

I believe in my heart that this is our "take home" baby, that it will be in our arms and in our home come 2014. It's difficult, though, to remind myself of that sometimes given what we've been through - and given the crazy things I hear on occasion from otherwise well-meaning folks. (That's a whole separate post altogether. Grieving mamas and pregnant ladies should be given earmuffs, y'all.)

While I am excited, I am also fighting a kernel of anxiety that threatens to suck the joy right out of this experience. I'd love your prayers for my peace of mind, for my body's cooperation, for the doctors' wisdom and for this "gray area" to just disappear.

Once this lifts, we'll be in the clear as far as anyone can tell. In the meantime, we have more pictures of our unborn bean than my parents likely have of themselves throughout their entire childhoods. That's the silver lining, I suppose, watching every last miraculous development week by week.

We're glad for the reassurance that baby is thriving, but oh how I'd love this scary part to be over.

So there it is, all the stuff I haven't been saying. It felt very personal, like both a vulnerability and a TMI situation I did not care to share with the world.

But I needed to. I'm making my pride a concern here, wanting to maintain some level of Mary Poppins perfection and cheer when the truth is, life brings with it some less than perfect moments. Even in those, we rejoice - but we do need each other.

Each of you played a role in my healing earlier this year (and last year with Mary Brooks), so I hesitate to ask for one more thing from you. But if it crosses your mind, your prayers for our little peanut would mean everything.

xox,
The Mouth of the South, once again unmuzzled

May 22, 2013

Blog Sale!

Time for a closet clean out!


Please add $5 for shipping, except where noted. If you're purchasing more than one item, I'll just add $1 each. Leave a comment with your PayPal email address or email me with any questions!

Lilly Pulitzer Kiki Dress

Kiki and matching baby dress
Lilly Pulitzer Kiki Dress in It Can Be Arranged, retailed for $238
Size 8, worn once.
Double v-neck sleeveless dress with a waist seam and invisible back zip.
Asking $70.

Lilly Pulitzer Infant Dress with buttons up back, size 6-12m.
It Can Be Arranged pattern. Worn once, retailed for $68. No bloomers.
Asking $20.

Jubilee tunic dress

Closeup of pattern

Lilly Pulitzer Jubilee Tunic Dress in Caged Tiger, retailed for $288
Size 8, worn once, from Jubilee anniversary line.
Short sleeved, waist seam, back zip, lace detailing, pockets.
Asking $65.
Eryn Dress
Lilly Pulitzer Eryn Dress in Cameo White Swizzle Stripe, retailed for $348.
Size 6, new with tags.
Sleeveless, belt included. (Belt does not have rhinestones as pictured.)
Asking $95.

Lilly Izzie top

Lilly Pulitzer Izzie Top in Bright Navy A Little Unbuttoned.
Size M. Retailed for $98.
Crepe cotton with keyhole at front and zip back.
Asking $40.


Lilly Pulitzer Sullivan belt in Bright Navy.
One size. New with tags. Retailed for $48.
Woven raffia.
Asking $15.

Green Straight Leg Jeans

J Crew Factory Matchstick Straight Leg Jeans in Green
Size 29 with 32" inseam. Retails for $89.50.
New with tags. Asking $35.

Royal Blue Skinnies

J Crew Factory Toothpick Skinny Jean in Blue
Size 29 with 28" inseam. Retails for $89.50.
New with tags. Asking $40.


Frye Carson Pull On Boots in Black.
Size 9, worn two or three times. Retails for $368.
Shipping is $12. Asking $275.I can email any pics you need!



Tory Burch Reva Flats, size 9.5. Retails for $235.
Silver and gray snakeskin.
Shipping is $8. Asking $80.



Lilly Pulitzer Wynne Tops.
Size M, new with tags.
Bright Navy Foxy (left) and Worth Blue May Flowers (right).
Retailed for $78. Asking $35.


Lilly Pulitzer Wynne Top, Shorely Blue.
Retailed for $68, worn once. Asking $25.


Lilly Pulitzer Roslyn Skirt in New Green Bloomin' Cacoonin'.Size 10, new with tags.Slash pockets and lattice work at hem.
Retailed for $118, asking $50.



Vineyard Vines bow tie and cummerbund set in simple fish blue.
One size, 100% silk. Worn once, retails for $110.
Asking $50.


Lilly Pulitzer Maternity Dress
 Size medium. Asking $60.


(For reference: I am 5'9 and typically wear a size medium and, depending on length and cut, a 6 or an 8.)

May 21, 2013

The Last Month


Pretty much. 

I've been in full on turtle mode: pulling my head back into my covers shell when my to do list gets too long, pretending I can press "pause" on life. (The bad news: your tasks wait for you. Time keeps passing even if you're horizontal, Anne.)

It's been work from bed, wrangle a teething toddler, feed a giggling three-year-old, make the simplest supper possible, sleep, rinse, repeat. God bless Bradley.

Back tomorrow to regale you with royal gossip, life updates, red carpet chit-chat and other generally deep thoughts.

Thanks for the prayers and love! Hopefully my super artistic shots on Instagram have shown I'm alive and well - just napping.

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