December 21, 2016

A Year Later

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December 15th marked one year since the miscarriage of our son, David.  Throughout the day I struggled to pin point exactly what and how I was feeling.

There is a sadness there, of course.  The details of that day are still a vivid memory for me, some parts of it being more painful than others.   

There is a sadness, and yet there is so much joy in our home right now.  Simon is our “rainbow baby”.  And while I’m not crazy about the term, I do acknowledge that there is something very special about the baby you have after experiencing a loss.  I keep thinking that Simon wouldn’t be here if we had not lost David… and I’m so grateful for this beautiful baby boy.  However, I still miss the baby I never met, the child I never got to hold.  

So on December 15th of this year there was an ache, a sadness, but also gratitude for the healing that has taken place in my heart since then, and for the gift of my son, Simon, who I believe was given to us for a very important reason.  

Over the past year, I’ve met so many women who have experienced child loss of some kind.  I’ve been connected to women who had miscarriages similar to mine, women who lost their babies even later in the pregnancy, and women who have had multiple losses.  This is not a cross any of us would have chosen for ourselves, and I think we all recognize how a loss like this changes you forever.  Everyone’s experience is different, everyone’s journey towards healing is different… but we share that same ache and longing.  

A year ago I was hurting physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I was grieving.  At times I was so angry at God that I couldn’t participate in Mass without crying.  I think part of me was also afraid of what this meant for our family’s future.  

A year later, the ache is still there.  But the pain is soothed by the joy and blessing of our son.  In no way is Simon a “replacement” or a reason to forget the baby we lost.  I think Simon is a reminder that God hears the ache of our hearts and He answers in His own perfect timing (which makes Simon’s name extra meaningful!).

I know there are many families right now for whom the pain is still very raw.  There are couples still waiting for their rainbow, and others who are struggling to find peace within the ache.  Our journeys, our stories may be very different.  But please know that I am thinking of you and praying for you, especially during this Advent and Christmas season.  

God hears and God answers.  And His timing is always perfect.

 

November 16, 2016

God Hears & God Answers: Simon Nathaniel

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He’s here!  He’s finally here!

There’s so much to say about the days and hours leading up to my son’s arrival (and a birth story is in the works).  But the one thing that keeps coming to mind every time I cradle him in my arms, nuzzle him close to my chest, or smell that intoxicating newborn scent is I’m so glad that you are here.  

I still remember, quite vividly, the night I found out I was pregnant.  I stood in the bathroom waiting for the flashing dots on the digital tests to reveal our fate.  I was having an internal conversation, my mind swirling with all the reasons why there was no way it could be positive, but everything came to a screeching halt when I looked down and read the word “Pregnant” on the screen.
I gasped.  I think I may have even said the words “Oh no” out loud.  

Unlike my previous 2 pregnancies this was not a moment filled with joy and excitement.  I burst into tears.  I was scared.  It had barely been two full months since the miscarriage and I was pregnant again.
How could I do this?

  Why would God let this happen? 
The doctor told us to wait 3 months before trying to get pregnant again… 
…did I put this child in danger because I didn’t chart correctly?  

Am I going to lose this baby too?

I’m not ready…

What if…
[insert a million different worries here]  

I walked out of the bathroom and into my husband’s arms.  His reaction was perfect.

“This child is a gift.  It’s going to be OK.”

It took me weeks to really accept the news.  I didn’t want to get too attached or too excited.  I had to protect my heart from being hurt again… Yet in those weeks of waiting to hear my son’s heartbeat for the first time, God was working on my heart.

He reminded me that this child deserved to be loved from the very beginning, just as I had opened my heart to love Alexandria & the child that we lost.  God was asking me to trust Him, to surrender all of the fear and worry over to Him.

It was a slow process, and one I struggled with even up to the moment my son was born, but this pregnancy was an exercise in surrendering my anxious heart to Christ.

Now, as I hold my son against my heart, I can’t imagine life without him.  Where there was once fear and worry, all I can think about now is how grateful I am that he is here.

I will never know why we lost our baby last December.  I will never understand why that had to happen.  But as I hold my beautiful baby boy I realize that I wouldn’t have him if we hadn’t suffered that loss first.  God said “let there be life” and here he is!

How We Chose His Name

With all of our pregnancies so far we’ve been “Team Green”, meaning we don’t find out the baby’s sex before he or she is born.  We try to come up with our top 2 boy and top 2 girl names and then wait and see which one fits the baby best.  
Getting any name on the list seemed more challenging this time around, but when we settled on the names they just felt right.  

Nathaniel is one of the names that we had on the boy list for our firstborn.  For me, the meaning of the name is what kept drawing me to it.  God has answered.  ‘Nuff said.

The name Simon, on the other hand, sort of took me by surprise.  My brother-in-law, Matthew, was visiting us in August and one night we were going through a name book that had some of the most ridiculous sounding names in it.  We were laughing at the thought of naming our child something strange like “Queezimus” and then Matthew started going through the S names and said “Simon”.  “Actually that’s not a bad name,” he said before moving on down the list.  Something about that name caught my attention, so I googled the meaning:

Simon: Hebrew origin. God has heard.  


Simon Nathaniel. God has heard & God has answered.   That’s the name.  My husband agreed, and it was the only boy name we put on our list.  About a week later I went to daily Mass on the feast of St. Bartholomew (whom I learned also goes by Nathaniel), so that was enough confirmation for me that we’d chosen the right boy name. 

What I didn’t know at the time was that the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude was October 28th, a week after my due date.  Simon Nathaniel Johnston arrived on Friday, October 28th  at 1:12am.  

Well played, Holy Spirit ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m grateful for the many prayers for me and Simon during my pregnancy and all of the prayers that covered us during the 12 hours of labor.  I’ll share Simon’s birth story later this week, but I gotta say God’s hand was definitely all over the labor and delivery process!

St. Simon and St. Jude, pray for us!

October 21, 2016

Dear Little Saint, I Haven’t Forgotten You

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October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month.  I miscarried at 7 weeks on December 15, 2015.  I’m due with our “Rainbow Baby” any day now, but I wanted to make sure I had a chance to get these words in writing before he or she arrives.  

Dear Little Saint,

I want you to know that I haven’t forgotten you.  August 5th, your due date, sort of came and went without us doing anything substantial, but I was thinking about you then just as I am now.  
You’d be going on three months old at this point… Instead we are waiting for your little brother or sister to be born any day now.  As excited as I am to meet the new baby, there’s still a part of me that knows that you should be here too.  
I know I never got to hold you or snuggle you.  We lost you only a few weeks after discovering that you existed, and the ache is still very much present.  You are you.  A unique creation, made from love whom I never got to meet, but a real person with an eternal soul,  You were there, and then you were gone.  This pregnancy has definitely helped me to heal, but in no way can this baby ever replace you.

Little Saint, I haven’t forgotten you.  Every morning on our drive to daycare your big sister and I say our morning prayers and always ask for the intercession of Our Lady and you, our Little Saint, in the intentions of the day.  What a blessing it is to know that you and Mama Mary are taking our prayers and petitions to Jesus for us daily!  Thank you for those prayers.  You know how much we need them!
Before your little brother or sister is born, your Dad and I knew that it was important that you, our Little Saint, had a name.  It’s a name that’s been on my heart since that cold night in December when I took my grief to the adoration chapel and God whispered your name.

And so, little David, my Little Saint, please know that I haven’t forgotten you and that I love you.  I know that we’ll meet each other some day, and that brings me so much joy and peace.

Please keep praying for us!  We love you forever.  

June 5, 2016

20 weeks along & 16 months old

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Somehow I blinked and I’m 20 weeks pregnant.  Twenty weeks!  That’s pretty much the halfway point.  How did so much time pass without me really noticing?
When I was pregnant with Alexandria I remember feeling like it took forever to get to 20 weeks.  I would check my “What to Expect” app every Wednesday morning to find out the size of the baby and to watch that very perky lady give me two minutes of insight into utero.
While I do check the app from time to time to make sure I’ve got the right week in my mind and to know what food best represents the baby’s size at this point, this time is different.  It’s not that I’m ignoring this little one inside of me, I think time just feels different because I have an almost 16 month old who is growing up fast and changing everyday!

Bubbles before Bedtime

Somehow we blinked and our daughter went from an army crawling baby to a toddler whose vocabulary and personality have just exploded over the past couple of months.  It’s like she’s not just a baby any more, she’s a little person with likes and dislikes, favorite books and toys, and is very excited about exploring the world around her.

I haven’t written down all of the words that she can say yet, but I’m pretty sure we’re well over 30 words at this point.  She has started telling us what she wants to do, putting together simple sentences like “This is a book.” or “This is a ball”.  Sometimes she just gets straight to the point with an enthusiastic “ELMO!!”

And boy is she full of personality!  She loves playing outside, especially in her new baby pool, and I’ve never seen a toddler so engrossed in books before.  She has two babies that she takes care of, and I’m pretty sure she’s already got the big sister thing down pat.  She also gives the best hugs in the world, which melts my heart every.single.time.

Two years ago I took a pregnancy test during my lunch break.  My husband waited with me in the bathroom, and when we saw that big fat positive on the stick, there’s no way that I could have imagined what life would be like a year or two from that moment.
One year ago when Alexandria was just 4 months old, I had no idea what sort of adventures we would be in for as she grew into a toddler.  And now as I watch her learn and grow I realize that there’s even more excitement, even more love, even more wonder and awe ahead of us.

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God willing, this time next year we’ll have a 2 year old and a 7 month old in the house.  At this point my mind cannot compute that information right now and I’m not even going to try to imagine what life will look like in the Johnston Headquarters.
But I do know that it’s going to be beautiful and wonderful.  There will be overwhelming days, and there will be peaceful moments.  There will be chaos and plenty of imperfection, but I’m confident that there will also be a lot of joy, laughter, and love.

Thank you Lord for the gift of this vocation!

April 28, 2016

Saints, Surprises, & Surrender

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Every morning on our drive to daycare Alexandria (1yr), and I say morning prayers.  Usually it’s just simple things like thanking God for another day, asking that God keep us safe and bring us back together at the end of the day, and for any special intentions I can remember at 8am.  We always close by saying “We ask these things through the intercession of Our Lady and our Little Saint…” followed by 3 Hail Mary’s, a Glory Be and then a litany of our family’s patron saints:

We plan on making a patron saint wall in our house and ordering these icons from MonasteryIcons.com
St. Thomas Aquinas (my husband’s confirmation saint), St. Faustina (my confirmation saint), St. Scholastica (Alexandria’s birthday saint) & St. Catherine of Siena (patroness of miscarriages).  
We go through this litany every morning, and I’ve really enjoyed starting this tradition with my daughter.  She will even throw in an “A-Muh!” (amen) at the end for us.
Around the first week of February we were going through our traditional litany when I heard myself say, “St. John Paul II, pray for us.. St. Kateri Tekawitha, pray for us.”  And then I said out loud, “Huh.  Where did they come from?”  Sure, JPII is a family favorite.  I’m a Theology of the Body junkie after all, so adding him to the list seemed appropriate.  But St. Kateri Tekawitha?  I didn’t know anything about her except that she’s the first Native American Saint and that her feast day is some time in July.  Why on earth would she come to mind?
I sort of shrugged it off , but we kept them in the litany from that point on.  Little did I know, this wasn’t some kind of fluke.  St. Kateri and John Paul II knew something that I didn’t.  
Fast forward to February 18th…
I took a pregnancy test.  It was positive.  
I’m due on October 21, the day St. Kateri was canonized a saint.  
October 22 is St. John Paul II’s feast day.  
Well played, Holy Spirit.
This pregnancy is different from the other two.  For one, this is the first time we are really and truly surprised that we are pregnant.  We had very much been planning to wait the doctor’s recommended 3 months after the miscarriage before trying again, if not longer.  So when I read the word “Pregnant” on the test, my first reaction was fear and worrywhat if I had put this baby in danger by simply not waiting the amount of time my doctor had suggested?  Thankfully, my husband was incredibly encouraging (and continues to be) and reminded me that no matter what this child is a gift.  

Any woman who experienced a loss of any kind will tell you that the next pregnancy is just different.  I hesitated to accept the news, I struggled to open my heart to the excitement and joy out of fear that it would be stripped away.  Lent was a journey of healing, rediscovering joy, and realizing that this child deserves to know that he or she was loved from the moment of conception.  Fear can’t  get in the way of opening my heart.

This Friday I will be 15 weeks pregnant.  There has been plenty of morning sickness, nausea, and heartburn… which I’m grateful for, because it means things are moving along.  Yesterday I had the joy of hearing this little one’s heartbeat for the first time, which gave me a renewed sense of peace.  While I’m not sure the anxiety or questions of “what if?” will ever go away completely, I do feel like I’m able to surrender my worries into God’s hands.

I think one of the greatest comforts of this pregnancy so far has been knowing that we have a Little Saint in heaven praying for his younger brother/sister, and the intercession of St. Kateri and St. John Paul II.  No matter what happens, God knew I needed prayers even before I knew I was pregnant, and that gives me hope!

For those struggling with infertility, hurting from miscarriages and the loss of children, and those who are longing for a child of your own… Please know that you and your intentions have been close to my heart, and I will continue to pray for you throughout this pregnancy and beyond.

For all of you who have been praying for our family since we lost our baby in December, I cannot express adequately how meaningful your prayers are to me.  Your prayers, encouragement, and this baby have helped joy return to my heart.

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid

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Jesus I Trust in You!