Wednesday, December 21, 2016

An Open Letter to Myself, In Case I Fail Nursing School

Dear Jenny,

So, you failed. That sucks. I mean, truly. Sucks. There are very few things as devastating as putting your heart, blood, sweat and tears (not to mention someone else’s cuz, ya know, nurse…too soon?) into something only to end without the results you had hoped and prayed for.

But you’re no stranger to that. This isn’t the first time that you’ve failed. This is not your first rodeo, girl. Your heart has been broken. Your best efforts have fallen short. You have set goals and failed to reach them. But before you berate yourself for authoring this abysmal version of a pep-talk, let me remind you of something…you’re still here.

You’re here because failure is inevitable. Heartache and disappointment and fear and sorrow, they are all a part of this great and terrible, beautiful mess that is your life. The dark threads are as needed and this, this is just another dark thread in the incredible tapestry of this time you’ve been granted on Earth. You, my friend, are a lucky, lucky bird.

See failure doesn’t define you as a person, neither does success. Who you are, your value as a human being, is a gift. You didn’t earn it, you were given it. You are a child of God and that is your inherent value. You can choose to use your time on Earth to strive for goodness, for success, for joy but your worth is predetermined. You are not earning it and you are not losing it. He loves you. And that love is not contingent upon whether you succeed or fail.

I know you’ve wanted this for a long time…a super long time. But there has been great joy, joy beyond description, in your life. It was there before nursing school. It will be there after. You’ve lost people you love. There were times you felt like you’d never be able to feel happiness again. But you did. And you will. Oh, you will.

I don’t know what you’ll decide to do. I don’t know if you’ll keep going and graduate and become a nurse. I hope you do. But, if that’s not what happens, if you don’t become a nurse, please remember that it’s okay. There is happiness to be had. There is love to give and to receive. There is work for you to do.

I know you’re worried about your kids. You want so badly to show them that you can accomplish your dreams and that it’s okay to follow your own heart, even if takes you in a different direction than the masses. Please, don’t worry about the kids. You’re showing them something just as important. You’re showing them that it’s okay to fall down and it’s okay to mess up. You’re teaching them that joy is a choice and that their worth is unchangeable.

After all, if there’s anything you’ve learned in your life it’s that the best boots have some mud on them.

Chin up, girl. You’re going to be just fine.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Human Fear of Average

A few days ago, I was having a conversation with my eleven-year-old. In their school, they have a behavior system. Everyone starts on green and they can “clip up” for good behavior or “clip down” for bad behavior. And every day, without fail, the first thing my children do when they get in the car after school, is give me the clip recap of the day. They tell me what color they ended on and then they tell me some story about so and so who is always clipping up to red, which essentially inducts them into the Royal Family, seventh in line to the throne I think, and then they tell me about that one kid who ended on purple. PURPLE! And can they please take some rotten produce to school tomorrow to hurl at all the other kids who landed on purple? There will be a public flogging in the square during recess. And every day (except for three days this school year), my son hangs his head as he tells me that he stayed on green…again. And every day I tell him about how he is such a great kid and that no clip chart can tell him his value and all that other mom-stuff we spout to our kids. It doesn’t help. Every day he is just as dejected and frustrated because, in spite of his efforts to be exceptional, he ends each school day the way he started it, as an average kid.

This has all made me start to really think about how we view the average in our society, particularly with the element of social media making our lives so public. We post when our children make the Honor Roll. And we might even post if our child is diagnosed with a developmental delay or a learning disability because it’s okay for your child to be unexceptional if there is a medical reason (for the record, I think it’s incredible that we are breaking the stigma on things like ADHD and Autism and that we are having open, honest conversations about the way we treat childhood development, absolutely incredible). We do not, however, typically post that our child made mostly B’s and C’s on their report card. We share pictures of the pan-seared tilapia with bruschetta made from our organic-garden-grown tomatoes, and we will share pictures of the grilled cheese and baby carrots because #survivalmode #nailedit. What we don’t do is post pictures of the spaghetti or the oven pizza or the chicken and rice. Average is not funny or inspiring or special. In our publicly viewed lives we are either running for two hours a day or we are binging on Netflix, either inspiring the masses, or making a joke out of the opposite, but we are rarely, if ever, candid about our very average lives.

Why are we so scared of the average? Why are we envious of the name-brand hand bag that cost the same as our groceries for the month or the major steal found at a thrift store but equally disenchanted by the JC Penney hand bag purchased at 30% off? It’s either designer, thrifty or...what else is there?

This is especially true when it comes to our children.  It starts when they’re babies. By show of hands, who has heard the words, “oh he is in the 95% for his height and the 97% for his weight”, either from your own mouth or the mouth of another mother? Yep, that’s everyone. Now how many have ever heard, “oh she’s in the 35% for height and 40% for weight”? Bueller? Bueller? Not too many hands there. Why? Because even how much your four-month-old weighs is now either exceptional or not noteworthy. How many thigh rolls your precious baby has been able to accumulate in his short life is now the measure of whether or not he’s special or just normal. 

And it only gets worse from there. Every day someone’s child:

·         Walked at eight months
·         Knew their alphabet at one
·         Read “War and Peace” in second grade…and loved it
·         Was delighted with the kale and beet smoothie they were fed (Seriously, does this really count as impressive? Yesterday my kid ate grass and a booger so I’m not sure their palates are really that refined.)
·         Decided they wanted to donate all their allowance to help the needy
·         Is gifted
·         Is athletic
·         Is practically perfect in every way

Is it wrong that we should celebrate these victories, particularly in public forums? No, I don’t think so. Is it wrong that we should make light of the times when we totally drop the ball as parents? No, I think that’s okay too. What worries me is that we are so flippant about everything in between, as if it doesn’t hold any value. What does it teach our children that we are only celebrating the extremes and not relishing in the small but significant ups and downs or day-to-day living? Our children come home feeling like sub-par people because they stayed on green all day, forgetting about the jokes they shared with friends at lunchtime, the awesome thing that happens to plant cells when exposed to sunlight, the funny voices their library teacher used when she read to them. Later they feel like failures if they don’t make straight A’s or miss a note in their piano recital. As adults, we are all winning or failing, but never passing.

But, in reality, shouldn’t we be celebrating the average? Isn’t there a great sense of comradery in sharing the middle ground? Isn’t that where most of us are? Most of us aren’t going to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Most of our kids won’t either. In fact, most of our kids will end up being perfectly wonderful, perfectly average human beings. Most of our kids will be potty-trained by the age of four, able to puke in a bucket by seven and capable of pushing a lawn mower by eleven and honestly, ISN’T THAT VICTORY ENOUGH?!?!

I hope I can teach my children that there is nothing wrong with living the average life. There is nothing shameful or boring about finishing the race somewhere in the middle. I hope I can show them that they don’t have to be the Prince or the Pauper to be important, that just because they aren’t the ones that everyone reads about, doesn’t mean they aren’t part of the story. More than anything, I want them to realize that being compassionate, forgiving, generous and genuine, filling their lives with faith and goodness, choosing love over anger and gratitude over jealousy, that is what will turn their ordinary lives into extraordinary ones. That is how the average become the exceptional. 

And their mama loves them. I want them to know that most of all. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Day My Rowdy Kids Taught Me Compassion

              My baby had a doctor’s appointment today and I woke up dreading it. This is atypical for me. First of all, my pediatrician is the bomb diggity. Seriously. A fellow patient once described her as being “your best friend with a medical degree”. And it’s absolutely an accurate assessment. I usually look forward to doctor appointments, if for no other reason than I get to chit chat with our awesome doctor.
                And this is hardly my first rodeo. I have been taking babies to the doctor for a while and though some circumstances may give way to some anxiety on behalf of my children (Please let the nebulizer treatments help. Please let that mole be normal. Please let it be strep throat and not a stomach virus.), this anxiety wasn’t for my children. It was for me.
                You see, I knew that in addition to the baby, I needed to take her two older brothers. Again, taking siblings to the doctor? Not new. I’ve been dragging my gaggle (no, y’all, I legitimately have a gaggle. A gaggle is defined as five or more. Did you know that?) of children to appointments of varying sorts for over a decade. It is not something that typically causes me stress. I don’t pack a bag of books and snacks and Amazon gift cards to keep them happy. We go, we survive, we come home. And it’s always been okay. Until the last year.
                Almost a year ago, my sixth child became a legit toddler. By the time he hit fifteen months, it was clear he was going to be a handful. His personality is a perfect storm of amiable qualities (he is intelligent, focused, determined), amplified by a thousand. If Beethoven and the Incredible Hulk had a baby and then that baby ate a radioactive spider, the personality of that baby would likely be similar to my son’s.
                Now imagine, in this scenario, that there is a walking, talking catalyst, following this brilliant, explosive little creature around ALL the time. That’s my other son. Oil and water are not a suitable analogy. These two are more like baking soda and vinegar. You can probably see why the idea of sticking the two in a tiny exam room for thirty minutes, while simultaneously trying to hold a wiggly infant, seemed somewhat comparable to a stroll through the seventh circle of hell.
                And guess what? It was.
                The boys were unruly and loud. The baby was fussy from her shots. For the first time in my twelve years of parenting and hundreds of appointments, no one got a sticker. No stickers. None. This resulted in me dragging a miserable baby, two wailing toddlers and an unsightly diaper bag through the parking lot to load into our van covered in dog hair, cracker crumbs and more than one dirty sweatshirt. By the time I got everyone buckled, the sleep deprivation tugging on every nerve of my body, all I could do was sit in my van and cry.
                I can only imagine what the casual passerby could have thought of the sight. “That woman is a hot mess.” And they would be right.
                Later, as I was cruising through social media, I noticed a post someone had made on Facebook about her own experience in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. Her experience was not like mine. She sat with her well-mannered, eleven-year-old son and witnessed the deplorable behavior of several younger children. Her post scolded these parents, citing the reason for this behavior as a total lack of discipline. Obviously, she mused, these parents didn’t understand the concept of “the belt”. My heart broke in that moment. She was not talking about me, but she could have been. She could have been talking about my babies. Because in the ten minutes she spent with them in a waiting room, she thought she knew them. She thought she knew me.
                To this woman, and any who have shared her views (and I, in my shame, am among them), may I offer a simple plea? Stop judging other parents.
                I have been there. I get it. I still do it. It is as easy as breathing, to point that finger, to say, “I would never let my child act that way.” Ever been in a restaurant, an airplane or a grocery store and thought to yourself, “Why don’t they DO something about that kid? Spoiled brat.” I have. I have thought those things. Ever seen that kid wandering the neighborhood kicking a mailbox and turned to your spouse to huff, “Where are his parents? Don’t they even care where he is?” I’ve done that one too. I need to stop. We all need to stop.
                There is no way that a five or twenty minute view of someone’s life can possibly qualify us to determine what kind of parent they are, or what kind of child they are raising. It would be like watching five minutes of a movie and trying to write a synopsis of the plot, or walking into a hospital and wanting to perform open heart surgery after taking BIO 101. We are not qualified to judge each other, nor should we make it our goal to become so.
 We need to stop the mentality that we are only succeeding if someone else is doing worse than we are. My failures do not make you a better parent and your failures do not make me a better parent. We only succeed when we love, support and encourage each other and ourselves.  We need to be more patient with the children we encounter, including our own. We need to be more patient with ourselves. Chances are, we all just need a graham cracker and a nap.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

If You Can't Say Something Nice...

As a mother of more than two children who are not at least four years apart in age, I have grown pretty accustomed to getting comments regarding my family whenever we go out in public. I've talked about this, I know. It's nothing new. And it's nothing unique. If you have three children, "you have your hands full". If you have two children who are not separated by half a decade, your hands are full. If you have four children, you obviously don't know what causes pregnancy ( It's sex, by the way, in case you have four children and you didn't know. You can stop having kids now, I've solved the mystery. Enjoy sex too much? Never fear, evidently the solution is to buy a television.).

I've said this before too, most of the time these comments don't bother me. In fact it's sort of become a game. I reward myself with treats for every silly comment or question I get. I have perfected my list of comebacks for the most frequent remarks. 

"Are they all yours?"

"All except the brunettes." 

"Do you know what causes that?"


"Are you having more?"

"Thanks for reminding me, I'm late to meet my husband."

I've been responding to questions about my family size, structure and planning for so long, I could probably do it in my sleep...if I ever got any.

It's pretty rare for anything to surprise me or offend me. If anything, I'm just jealous that anyone would have the presence of mind to notice other people and their kids in the grocery store. The fact that they can take the time to add my children is, in and of itself, impressive. 

But every once in a while, it happens. Someone says something that leaves me speechless. This happened to me the other day. I had the four youngest with me, the three boys and our new baby girl. I have had plenty of comments lately about how exciting it must be to finally have a girl. I get it. Everyone thinks that's ideal, having both genders. And I'll be honest, it is fun. I love having a girl. Those comments don't bug me. 

The other day, however, as I was walking out of the store with the three boys and baby girl in the car seat, a lady stopped me and said, "Three boys! What do you have in the car seat?" I told her it was a girl. A look of relief washed over her as she looked me right in the eyes, in front of my sons, and said, "Thank God."

For the first time in a long time, I had no comeback, no witty rebuttal. I was speechless. My jaw literally fell open and I stared for a moment before simply turning and walking away. 

By the time I got to my van, the back of my throat was burning and tears were filling in my eyes. I wanted to go back and find her and tell her all the things going through my mind, the good, the bad, the ugly. I wanted to scold her. How dare she say that to me in front of my sons. Who on Earth did she think she was?  I wanted to hug her and cry on her shoulder and stick a bar of Ivory soap in her mouth all at the same time. 

I didn't go back to find her. I loaded up  my babies and I drove home. But if I could ever sit down with her, here is what I'd want her to know, what I wish I could have told her that day:

1. I do thank God, every single day. I thank Him for my precious baby girl and for her six amazing siblings on Earth, and for her big brothers in Heaven and her incredible dad. I thank Him for my family with every breath I take. I thank Him that  I have the opportunity to be a mother, that I was able to conceive and bear children with my own body and that I have had the awesome privilege of creating a family with my husband. I don't give extra thanks for my daughters. I give extra thanks for health, for kindness and occasionally for good sleep. Sleep doesn't care about gender. Neither do I. 

2. My boys are not the dirt I had to dig through to get to the buried treasure. I didn't have another baby so I could "finally get to the good stuff". I got pregnant knowing (and expecting) that the baby could be a boy. Were we excited to have a girl? Of course we were. But please, please don't mistake that excitement for relief. There is nothing, I repeat, nothing about a healthy baby that I don't celebrate.

3. Children hear you. Did you realize that? My little boys with the dirt in their hair and sandals on the wrong feet are listening. They hear you saying that they are somehow inferior because they are boys or because they were born first or because they share a gender with a majority of their siblings. You want these boys to grow into men who will respect and treasure women but you just told them they aren't special because they are boys. How can you ever demand the respect from them when you don't show it? I know you'd probably say the same things if I had three girls in a row. It wouldn't be true then either. Children are a gift and every last one of them is precious and worthy of love.

4. I have had some time to calm down and collect myself. I'm not angry at you anymore. I am not upset or hurt. I do, however, now have a bar of Ivory soap hanging out in my diaper bag. Make another remark like that in front of my children and it's going straight into the upper opening of your digestive tract.

Monday, February 2, 2015

I bought cheap strawberries and I will NOT apologize

Social media has done some really good things for our society .I can keep in touch with my family members who live far away, see pictures of my best friends kids on a daily basis, follow updates from my favorite authors and know who in my circle of acquaintances has the barfs so I can avoid them.
All good things.

Social media, however, has also turned us into a bunch of raving lunatics. Everything is going to kill us. Have you noticed? The government is going to take our guns...and kill us. The chemicals in our blue jeans are going to soak into our skin...and kill us. Vaccines, antibiotics, forward-facing car seats, standing within eighty-seven feet of a microwave? You're dead. And if you want to eat non-organic produce? Well, I just hope your life insurance policy is up-to-date.

Y'all, I'm a dead woman walking.

I'm not going to lie and say I don't have my soapbox issues, I totally do. And I have been known to voice my opinions in no uncertain terms. Actually this is one of those times. I think we need a chill pill, a big one, because even though we all mean well, we have a problem. Because we are so busy trying to save everyone with our opinions, we're driving ourselves, and everyone else, nut-bar-crazy.

So, to the person who grows their own produce in their backyard, next to their corn-fed chickens, you're amazing. Seriously, you're kind of my hero. Your food is fresh, delicious and you're able to sustain yourselves. This is incredible and I am so happy for you. But the idea of having to plant and maintain a garden at this particular point in my life feels a bit like preparing for a colonoscopy.

To the person who carefully and meticulously scours the labels at Whole Foods, creating perfectly balanced menus to accommodate the nutritional needs of your family, making sure to avoid things grown with anything other than sunshine and glacier water, you also are my hero. I admire and respect your quest to keep your family healthy. My hat is off, waving and singing a song to you. I mean that sincerely.

To the person who had to buy the pesticide soaked strawberries at Kroger because they were two for four dollars, I get it. I know that you'd love to buy those organic strawberries or plant your own. But it's not in the budget. In fact, buying these four dollar strawberries might mean that you can't buy the cute sweater you've been eyeing since before your last birthday, or the mascara that you wouldn't have to wet-down and swish out of the tube. I understand. And guess what? You're still my hero.

Advocating for healthy eating? Awesome. Posting articles about the benefits of growing your own produce, making your own organic baby food and the dangers of pesticides in farm-grown strawberries? It's okay. But sharing vague and under-researched posts about how those farm-grown strawberries are poisoning our children? Not okay. Feeding my kids cheap strawberries may not be as good as feeding them ones I grew in my backyard but I am not pouring antifreeze into their cheerios (which, by the way, are also Kroger brand). I am not poisoning my kids. I am feeding them strawberries. And I, for one, don't appreciate being told that I'm killing them by doing so.

The problem with our frantic and obsessive social posting is that it could, unintentionally, lead us in the opposite direction of our goal. Maybe we should consider that some will take from our messages that nothing they do will be enough. Our health, safety and the well-being of our families is entirely impossible. Unless we can subscribe to all the guidelines posted by every article-wannabe (the accuracy of online "research-based" articles is a rant for another day) that we see in our news feed, we are doomed. So why bother trying? It's never going to be enough. Is something we post going to encourage someone to skip strawberries all together because they can't afford the organic ones from the locally-owned and operated produce market? Is a mother going to cry herself to sleep because her child refused to take a single sip of the green smoothie she slaved over and begged for a Gogurt instead? Is she a failure? Are we making others feel lazy, incapable or uncaring because they picked up Little Ceasar's on their way home one night, instead of making quinoa-stuffed bell peppers?

I hope not.

Maybe we can all resolve to think before we post, relax a little bit and try to enjoy this thing called life. As the old saying goes, no sense crying over non-organic strawberries!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Merry Christmas to Our Teachers!

Thank you for all that you do! Merry Christmas!
The Ramsey's

P.S. Make sure you click the bottom right-hand corner to make the screen full sized! :)

Friday, July 4, 2014

More Lessons From Lamb's Ears: Repeating History

Who here has seen the movie, 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure'? Please be raising your hand. You remember the time travel thing right? They have to go back in time to save Ted from being sent to military school and learn life lessons and improve their future selves, etc. Naturally they do it rocking the coolest high top sneakers you've ever seen in your life and jamming to a soundtrack that would make Brett Michaels proud.

In the beginning, the heroes seem totally superficial and focused on a single goal. At the end, however, the characters have gained perspective and maturity, having been taught lessons from their future selves who went back to teach their past selves who are actually their present selves. That junk confuses the ever loving daylights out of me. I watch the movie to absorb new catch phrases to impress my friends with. I digress. My point is that they learn things from their past that change them and help them and make them stronger characters.

Does that ever happen to you? Do you feel like you learn from your past in unexpected ways? If you have a phone booth that transports through time held together by a massive wad of chewed-up bubble gum and saliva of historical figures, send me a pm because I want in on that. I digress further. See what classic films of the 80's can do to a person?

Sometimes I get into this habit of thinking I know everything and that I have learned everything I need to from a certain experience.

A few years ago, after our first two miscarriages, I wrote a blog post. That blog post inspired an article, which I submitted to Motherhood Muse magazine. I remember reading the blog post as I was writing the article, remembering the heartache but thinking how lovely it was to not be in that place in my life anymore. One of those, "thank goodness that is over" moments. I've had a similar experience each time I have re-read that article over the years. I will admit, it hasn't been frequent. I have mostly tried not to think about that time ("the dark ages" as I like to call them). But again, anytime that I did read, I was filled with gratitude that I wasn't in that place anymore and thankful that I now had these experiences that might make me more empathetic to others. I truly, whole-heartedly believed that those particular trials were behind me. Perhaps my experiences from the past would someday be a strength to someone else, but I personally didn't need them. I was done with that. Lessons learned. Character strengthened. Check.

Insert mallet to the head and chirping birds circling over.

Yesterday, while weeding in my garden, I found myself right back in that exact place that I was in almost seven years ago, pulling up those very same lamb's ears, crying those very same tears, mourning yet another baby who should be with me and is not.

I wanted to hop in my Bill & Ted style travel machine and go straight to the future, the space where I know everything again and I don't need any strengthening or fortifying or humbling. That space where I am not filled with longing and sadness. Then I'd like to go back and give my present self a hug and tell myself that it's going to be okay. It's going to get better. There will be better days and peaceful nights.

I don't have that time machine, but I have hope that history can repeat itself in all ways, the bad, the good and the redemptive. I have to believe that my lamb's ears and my heart can heal and become better and stronger and more tender...again.

If you are interested in reading my original blog post, you can view it here:

If you are interested in reading the article that was published in Motherhood Muse, I am posting it below.

Lastly, if you know someone who is going through a miscarriage, a stillbirth or infertility, would you consider giving them a lamb's ear plant and sending them the link to this post? We are not alone in this. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to mourn one.

Lessons from Lamb'€™s Ears

"Why couldn'€™t I have been born with that infamous green thumb?" I wondered to myself. After all, it was certainly a family trait. Virtually everyone on my mother'€™s side of the family was a gardening guru. I wondered why this knowledge had not been implanted in my brain at birth. While weeding in my garden I had noticed that my lamb'€™s ears (which are my absolute favorite of all plants) were starting to brown and wither at the bottoms. I had marveled all summer at how much they had grown, now almost as tall as my azalea bushes. I had never seen lamb's ears grow that large, they were amazing! It surprised me to see that they seemed to be struggling as tall and glorious as they were.

I consulted a gardening friend who suggested to me that the plant might be getting too big for its root system to support. The only solution was to cut back the long stalks and remove some of the base plant. I am sure the look on my face expressed my feelings adequately. I'm sorry, perhaps you didn'€™t hear me?! They are as tall as azaleas! They are amazing and beautiful, how could I ever cut them back?! "€œUm, okay."€ Gulp.
 After delaying a bit I decided it was time to trim them back, knowing that it was the only way that I would save my lamb'€™s ears, which were becoming increasingly brown and withered by the day. It was a sad sight, all those beautiful stalks laying in a pile on the ground, huge sections of lamb's ear up-rooted and removed. What was once so beautiful now looked so pitiful. Ugh, what a mess. For a moment I contemplated reaching down and ripping up the whole plant, roots and all and just calling it quits. After all, the poor thing would probably die now anyway, might as well make it quick. I clenched my fists in frustration at the wreck that had once been my beautiful plant and then sighed. I turned and trudged into my house with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes. So much for Mother Nature knowing best. It seemed all that she did was pick and choose what could live and what would die and there was nothing that I, or anyone, could do about it. My interference certainly had done the plant no good; at least, that was how it appeared at the time.

 My demolished flower bed seemed a perfect metaphor for the past year of my life. Like the lamb'€™s ears, I too had been cut and pulled and left alone. My lamb'€™s ears and I were now only shadows of our former selves. For about the eight hundredth time that year I wondered, "€œwhy"?

 As I sat on the floor in my bedroom, still donning my pair of gardening gloves, the memories of the past year came galloping back at me, uncontrolled, wild and in full stampede mode.

 It had only been a few weeks before last Christmas when I had made that first trip to the hospital. I had already take notice of the fact that my five-month-pregnant belly was not as large as I would have expected, my appetite was no where to be found and I had not felt so much as a nudge from my little belly dweller. It wasn'€™t unheard of but for my fourth pregnancy, it was strange. When the bleeding started I knew, still I don'€™t think I'€™ll ever forget the fear I felt as the nurse struggled to find my babies missing heart beat.
The ultrasound confirmed that our baby had died a few weeks earlier. I was sent to the hospital to deliver. I decided that I didn'€™t want to see the baby afterwards. I didn'€™t want to hold it. I didn'€™t want to know the gender. I didn'€™t want to know the weight or the time of---, time of what? Birth? Death? Delivery? It didn'€™t matter. I felt like knowing those things would only cause more pain.

It was almost four in the morning when my theory was confirmed. The medication I had received after the delivery had helped me to sleep soundly and I awoke to an empty hospital room. Everyone had gone home. There was not a nurse in sight. Down the hall I could hear the sweet sounds of newborn babies crying out to their mothers. I desperately wanted to rip the IV from my arm and run full speed down the halls and out the doors, miles away from that room and from the pain. As I sat on the bed crying I noticed a small table covered with the flowers, cards and candy that my friends had left for me. Next to one of the vases was an unfamiliar yellow box, with a flower on the top. I wondered which of my friends had left that for me. I went over and opened it, only to find the unwanted answers to all my questions. I curled the tiny hospital bracelet around my fingers, trying to be angry at the nurse who had left that box, after I had made my wishes not to know anything about the baby clearly known. Instead of anger all I felt was overwhelming sadness.

As I left the hospital delivery room later that day I remember thinking, "€œthis just isn'€™t fair. I should leave with an empty belly or empty arms; I shouldn't have to leave with both."€ All that came home with me was my little yellow box with that tiny hospital bracelet and a little blue card, "€œBaby Boy Ramsey, delivered December 10th."

What followed was six long months of trying: trying to heal, trying to be normal, trying to get pregnant again and finally succeeding. The first seven weeks of my pregnancy were flawless, maybe a little too flawless. I felt absolutely perfect, normal, as if I wasn'€™t pregnant at all. Then the bleeding started again, the same way it had last time

Again, I found myself on that drive to the hospital. I will never forget sitting at one particular stoplight. It was red, of course, another small delay on my seemingly endless drive, and truly the longest ten minutes I have ever spent. My stereo, as if feeling my surge of emotion, seemed to be speaking to me. All the sudden the lyrics of a favorite song, one I had heard a million times, were written for me, for this moment in my life: "€œI'€™m not okay. I'€™m not okay."€ How very appropriate I mused. I allowed a small and strained chuckle to escape at just how true those words were. I was most definitely not okay. By the time I finally reached the doctor's office I felt so dizzy I could hardly see. My entire mental energy was innately focused on keeping the room from spinning. I could hear the nurse but it sounded as if she was talking to me under water. "€œI'm so sorry dear, there is no heartbeat."€ No heartbeat. No heartbeat. Would I still have one when this was all over? Could I actually die from a broken heart?

I tried not to look at my husband, though I would not have been able to see him through the tears even if I did. This could not be happening, not again. This had to be a dream. I hoped it was a dream.

After all of this how could I possibly be back at this awful hospital, getting ready to go home with no baby? This time there would not even be a box; there would be nothing to have of my little precious baby except the emptiness I would feel without it. How much could my one little heart really take? How were we going to tell our other sweet children at home that the baby that they were so excited for was not coming after all? Why was this happening?

 The two miscarriages were one day shy of seven months apart. For everyone around me, these two days would be entirely opposite in every way. For me, however, these days were marked with the same overwhelming sadness.

 For weeks after the second loss I tried to focus on the good things. I had a wonderful husband and three beautiful, bright children. I had been assured, re-assured and overly assured that there was nothing wrong with me, that I was, by all accounts, normal and healthy. I had been given every pearl of wisdom ever collected and stored for these very circumstances: "you are so blessed to have the children you have." "€œyou are so young, there is plenty of time for you to have more babies."€ ,€"there is a time and season for everything"€, "€œmother nature knows best". These words, spoken with love and concern, and being quite true, still they did not console my aching heart. Truly what could they have said? Nothing short of, "oh I am so sorry, there has been a terrible mistake, your baby is just fine"€ was going to ease the sorrow. Reminders stared me in the face from the cover of every magazine, every advertisement on the television, every novel and every film. Had there always been this many pregnant women roaming through the grocery store? I cringed at the image of times I had walked through the isles with my cart full of my fidgeting children, my pregnant belly a shining beacon in the eyes of some poor woman who had suffered a miscarriage, some aching heart that I wasn’t even aware of. The onslaught of emotions was overwhelming, not only sadness to cope with but also anger, frustration, envy and guilt. I was angry for feeling so sad. How could the sadness of losing two babies that I never even met be so overwhelming that it clouded the happiness of raising the three healthy ones who were right there with me? At times, the emotions felt entirely overwhelming, like trying to swim with all of your clothes on, seemingly impossible and yet somehow doable.

My mind was constantly engaged with questions that appeared to have no answers. What would happen now? Would I be able to get pregnant again and did I even want to? Would it just be followed by another devastating miscarriage?

Now, sitting alone on my bedroom floor, tears streaming down my face I mourned my babies and my lamb'€™s ears, two broken things that I could never put back together. I looked at my gloves, covered in dirt and thought of the baby that had been ripped away from me, the way I had just ripped away part of my lamb'€™s ears. My stomach twisted and the back of my throat ached trying to contain the sobs from escaping my chest. I wondered if I would ever understand why these things happened.

 It was not until a week or so later that I received an answer to that question. One day as I passed by my garden I started to notice the change in my lamb'€™s ears. They were gaining back their beautiful color; the leaves were reaching up and out, strong, vibrant and full. More startling still was what I found in the middle sections where whole parts of the plant had been removed. Little tiny buds were sprouting and reaching up for the sun. New life was forming in spite of what I had seen as insurmountable challenges. I had thought that removing part of the plant would mean the ultimate demise of its entire being. I was wrong. My lamb'€™s ear did not just decide it was not worth the effort and wither away. It did not turn away from the sun and stop absorbing water. It did what it was intended to do. It kept on growing, changing, becoming better. I had removed so much from it and yet, ultimately, it had to lose a part of itself in order to thrive and reach its full potential.

I too now felt prepared to overcome my personal tragedy. I found myself smiling again and recognizing things that I had learned. The loss I had suffered had given me new compassion and empathy for others, tender and soft like a new budding lamb’s ear. The tears I had shed helped build my root system and reminded me of what I treasured most. When I finally let go of that painful part of my life, I was able to fill that space with something new and wonderful. In the end, my beautiful lamb'€s ears grew even stronger than before, and so did I.