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.

April 17, 2013

Goodbye Before Hello


Our little bean.
It’s been two weeks since we lost our third baby, fourteen of the fastest days in our marriage. (We wish we’d experienced this sensation of time hurtling past us when Mary Brooks was hospitalized. Where's the fast forward button when you need it?)

I spent that Tuesday, the morning I saw our baby without a heartbeat, alternating between fog and clarity. I held myself together at the doctor and called Bradley from the parking lot, losing myself at the sound of his voice and breaking the news between sobs. I kept telling him how sorry I was. 


He thought I believed I'd done something wrong; he wanted me to stop apologizing. That wasn't it - it really just broke my heart to break that news to him: Bradley, you lost your baby, too. I doubled over at the pain of hurting my husband that way; I didn't want him to feel what I was feeling.

I got home and went straight to bed in crisis mode, propping myself up to text, email and make all the necessary calls. I felt compelled to spread the news, respond to loved ones and rest in between as I could.

Then I needed to be up, to be busy and out of my usual space. I had no idea what to do with myself; I wasn't pregnant anymore.

I left the house to grab lunch, call clients and speak with a poise that escapes me even when I'm trying my hardest. Thank you, Lord, for moments when I'm outside myself.  And for their kind, caring, far-beyond-professional reactions at the news I'd be out of pocket - and why.

I called my OB to schedule the surgery and praised God that our favorite doctor was on call to do it. She's yet to deliver one of our children, but at this point an orderly could catch my newborn and I wouldn't care - it's such a happy time. This was something I was both heartbroken about and terrified to have done; I needed her in that OR, and I'm tremendously relieved she was able to take care of me that day.

That night I barely slept; I stared at the clock, continually swallowing a growing lump in my throat, fighting back fears of a surgery I never wanted to have.

I've never been under that kind of anesthesia, never been intubated, never been in a hospital gown except to welcome a perfect, crying baby into my arms.

The surgery itself was much easier than I anticipated, and the compassion and care we received was unparalled. Our doctor teared up over us before she took me back; I knew she felt this, too. I'm not sure how Bradley managed to stare at the walls for the hour I was gone, but he did. I'd have crawled out of my skin.


I came home and slept all day Wednesday and most of Thursday, making up for lost time and avoiding the "what do I do with myself now?" thoughts that were all I could manage when I was awake.

The house was too quiet with Mac and Mary Brooks gone, which made my waking hours difficult, but I was glad for the time to focus on me. To sleep and be waited on hand and foot by a man who has been far too good to me since the day we met. We did little but talk and rest that day, skating by on the bare minimum of activities, save a mall walk (senior citizen style) to fend off cabin fever on Friday.

That Saturday we went to a gorgeous wedding out of town that reunited us with friends we hadn't seen in a while. It was a last-minute decision, putting on my gold wedges and choosing to dance (er, sip and chat) the night away. I'm so glad we did.

Sorority squat, anyone?
As for Bradley? Our loss is the same, but we're dealing with it differently - just as we did with Mary Brooks. This time around, I'm not letting that make me feel crazy or too emotional or hypersensitive. Bradley stays busy to process things, and I just process them. Full time.

 

We're both okay, though, and I wouldn't be standing if he wasn't right here with me. I wouldn't be standing without my faith, my family, and the knowledge that I've lived through something agonizing and survived to see the other side. I can do this.

The searing pain in Mary Brooks' situation (my euphemism for what we lived through last year) was watching her suffer and feeling I should do more, do something to help. It felt like dying, watching her hurt.

This baby didn't suffer. It was a delight to us from the moment we knew it was coming, even in my sickest moments. I felt thankful all the way through, and I am filled to my brim with joy at that knowledge. This baby has brought me happiness, even though I won't see its sweet face in our nursery.

What we're working through is sadness for US, not our child. 


Our baby is healed, whole and healthy. God answered the prayers we all have for our babies: take care of them, keep them safe, make them healthy, let them know they're loved. He's answered each of those, just not in the way I wanted. His ways aren't mine, but they're perfect; I'm at peace with that right now.

People ask how I am, and I don't know if anyone believes I really am well. As well as a girl can be in this situation, truly. I haven't cried since the day of the surgery, which is a small miracle given my overactive tear ducts.

My heart is mending; it's focused on the many splendid parts of my life. Working in yoga pants, laughing with my husband, enjoying long overdue spring weather, kissing my newly chubby daughter's cheeks, giggling as Mac tells me I'm the "sweetest sweetheart" he "ever had."

My heart is full. I am trying so hard to be in THIS moment, in THIS day. Not reliving the blank faces and sad eyes in an ultrasound room, not wondering when our baby stopped growing or if I should have noticed at the time.

My heart is with our two children here, soaking up the moments I might have glossed over or even been exhausted by a few weeks ago. It's with the baby I won't meet on this Earth;  I wonder what our family would have been like with that addition.


I cringe opening Mary Brooks' closet door, seeing the dresses I left without monograms, hoping they might be reused by a baby sister sometime next year. (Cue Bradley's logic: "Aren't they just as pretty without monograms? Do we have to put her initials on EVERYthing?" God bless that man.)
One of my sweetest blessings
I'm startled by pregnant bellies on Facebook and Instagram, by girls who were due when I was or even later. I scroll quickly past those pictures, wishing them well but knowing it's best for me not to linger on what others have right now. I have been given so much, and I need to count my own blessings.

The thing is - other people having babies has nothing to do with my loss. It's wonderful for each and every family, and we are excited for them. That spot is a bit raw for me, though, so I'm giving myself breathing room and avoiding things that cue unnecessary sadness.
The other
Happiness (and pregnancy, for that matter ) is not a zero-sum game. Someone else having a beautiful experience does not take away my opportunity to do so - and boy, am I thankful for that. I am so giddy for others' happy news, but I'm in a spot where joy and gratitude mix with sadness - that earns me a bit of grace.

I lost a baby. That's so bizarre to say, even now. It feels foreign, surreal, impossible. Empty, sometimes. I was pregnant, and then I wasn't. How could a life change so much that quickly?


But I did lose a baby, and I've got to treat myself with kid gloves, if just fora moment. Not opening MB's closet or commenting on Instagram gender announcement doesn't hurt anyone - but it might spare me a wince or two in a delicate time.

I have received support and sympathy from our loved ones, and also from a variety of unexpected sources. The further I get into this, the more I realize I've joined a club no one wants to be a member of - but many are. 


My experience, though my own, isn't entirely unique. The emptiness isn't unfamiliar to people who've gone before us. I'm both comforted and saddened by that - I want to make everyone's time in this space easier.

I've learned to show grace to people who mean well but express it poorly, even using words that hurt or sting or confound. I've learned there's no sliding scale for grief.

If never becoming pregnant is the worse thing that's ever happened to you, your loss is the same as mine. If you lost a baby the very day you discovered you were carrying it, your hurt is no less deep than this. There's no degree of grief that doesn't hurt, and categorizing losses by how far along or how deeply felt does no one any good.

If you've ever been here, I'm so sorry. I hope you never have to return. I hope none of us ever has to return.

I thank you for your prayers, your advice, your encouragement - and I apologize for not having had the time to respond.

I've devoted myself to resting, recuperating and working my way through this. There's no time left to spare to denial or "powering through" sadness; I lost nine months of memories to that and I just can't do it again.


I'm feeling what comes my way, moment by moment. Mostly I'm feeling grateful, loved and ready to get back to "normal," whatever that is. But if I have sad spots, I feel those, too. (How New Age-y am I sounding right now?)

I sure wish this hadn't happened. Or that it had happened far, far sooner than it did. 


But it did, and I'm here. I'm swimming along, pushing my way through this and hoping I can be the shoulder or ear to someone who joins this unfortunate club one day, should she need me. So many of you have been there for me; it's remarkable the bond that forms between two people who've hurt the same way.

Turns out there are no free passes for crappy things, even if feel you just put one behind you. This world is broken and this life is not easy, but we aren't alone. You've been the Lord's arms and shoulders (and bread and wine and flowers and cookies) these last two weeks; I'll never be able to repay you for that.

I awoke the day after surgery believing all this was a bad dream. It isn't, but what I'm waking up to is still beautiful.
God is good; I am carried and being made whole. 

 
This is what grief looks like when you stare it in the face; this is a do over in which I let the Lord in right where I am. I'm sad. I'm thankful.

I'm at peace. Truly, and in a way I can't explain.


It's bittersweet, but I'm not going to fight it this time. There's too much wonder here to waste.

My loves.
"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord." 

-Psalm 27:13-14

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