It feels so good to sit down and write again. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve found the desire to post on the blog. With that being said I feel the need to play catch up with my life and recap a few things before I move on or get back to the task at hand of sharing my life recipes and inspiring people through food.
Healing can be a long process and one that you can never really calculate how it will happen or what it will look like. It has taken me a good year and a half to even feel a little normal again much less heal. Although I would hardly call myself a writer, I do enjoy stringing a few sentences together now and then to flush out that inner hunger to share. I’m more of a science and math kinda gal at heart and writing makes me squirm. Be it so, the idea of sharing life’s experiences inspires me and I figure it’s worth the agony of possibly having a few grammar mistakes and improper syntax to share what’s on my heart. I quite prefer verbal communication, I like to talk. For those of you that know me, you know that I can talk for hours and hours about anything and everything. Some call it a gift, ha! I just call it easier than writing and it seems to come more naturally for me personally. Maybe it’s the fact I’ve been an educator for more than a decade now, or possibly because I talk to myself…… a lot.
I’m also a reluctant writer because it’s very likely that I’ll have several grammer :) mistakes in this one post. If you find them let me know. I’ll make sure they are punished and sent to bed without supper. Then we can have a chat about organic chemistry and algebraic equations which I’m much better at. Regardless, here it goes. This is me…….. and this is my story.
I started this blog in the fall of 2012 right before I became pregnant with our fourth child, a little boy named Riley. I know a few bloggers and work frequently in food media so I figured what the heck…… I’ll give it a shot. The worst thing that can happen is I’ll hate it and then delete the whole thing in a month or two. My sweet husband came up with the name “Gastronomy Mommy” because of my love for the science and the fact that I talk about it all the time. Luck for me, there were no other weirdos out there like me and the domain name wasn’t taken yet.
I had planned on talking about kid friendly food, gastronomic adventures, taste and sensory training, my new food truck and our adventures here at the bed and breakfast where I live with my family. I’d planned on sharing tips and techniques from my decade of experience as a culinary educator and professional chef while encouraging others to get in the kitchen and create fun memories with their kids and grand kids.
Little did I know that the next year and a half of my life would be the most challenging and yet most joyful I had ever experienced……….. Little did I also know that today when I sat down to write again after months and months of avoiding this place, that it would be so painful and yet so healing to strike each key. I had hoped for these pages to be filled with happy joyful recipes, colorful pictures and tales of cooking with kids. Stories of how I juggle being a wife, mommy, chef and business owner while sharing advice on how to create and live out your own “Life Recipe”. Instead I’ve avoid the conversation and remained content to busy myself with life’s details and tasks. Afraid I guess of getting real and sharing the story that has been going on between the projects and happy faces.
I have been dreading this time, the time when I would share the details of how I really felt and what it’s really like to have your world turned upside down. Unfortunately I can’t go on and share the rest of what I have to give until I get this off my chest, until I have a bridge to join the chasm of where I was and where I am now. Part of being a mommy is learning how to flow through the seasons of life without loosing pulse on your family and staying true to yourself. Part of being a mommy is also letting go. Until now it has been too painful to reference, too personal to bring up, but I know my heart can’t fully heal until I share the story of my little angel, the story of my son Riley…….
I promise if you read my story it isn’t all sad and believe me, there is a happy ending to every fairy tale. I made a decision a long time ago that my life wasn’t going to be defined by what happens to me but instead by what I make happen. Yes, there are tears, yes there is joy and yes today is brighter than yesterday ….which in turn will be even brighter tomorrow. I’ve decided to stop worrying about everything being perfect and instead throw some mud on my wall. Everyone deserves a chance to get a little messy, to share, to heal……… I have to be honest, I’m a little afraid to do so. I’m not much for being vulnerable. In fact I avoid it at all costs.
It’s strange how life will sometimes throw you a curve ball. You don’t see the curve coming, just the ball. It looks as if it’s going to be another straight shot and if you swing properly, you can hit that sucker right out of the park. Then…… all of a sudden…… wham!!!! It curves and hits you like a freight train, knocking you down. You stumble and fall but somehow you don’t cry. You can’t really let yourself because you don’t believe you are even hit, let alone bleeding or bruised. Your brain tells you “don’t let them see you cry, you are okay….. just power through this”. You remind yourself……. you are tough and the game must go on. You manage to pick yourself up and while rubbing your arm remind yourself that you still have to finish the game. So, you stand up, wipe yourself off and windup for the next hit. Then later, after the adrenaline wears off and you are by yourself in the locker room, the pain sets in and it’s evident that you were hurt………badly hurt.
I don’t know why I chose that analogy to describe what I’ve gone through, I don’t even really like baseball. I guess it strangely gives a small picture inside what happens when you walk through the unexpected. When you are blindsided by life and it leaves you with a wound that you don’t quite understand how it got there.
I was having a wonderful pregnancy. I absolutely love being pregnant. I know, some people think I’m crazy but I truly cherish each moment. As a woman, for me, there is nothing more feminine, more fulfilling than carrying your babies. I love being a mommy.
If you know me, you know I’m a busy bee. I was working, running the B&B with the hubby and cooking with the kids. Everything was going smooth. We were all enjoying being together, looking forward to the new baby and truly living life as if there was no looking back and the future held nothing but positive outcomes and happy times.
Steven and I have always wanted four children. Two boys and two girls to be exact. We had always hoped for one with each having different attributes of the two of us.
One boy that looked like him: Macpherson (our first born)
One girl that looked like me: Zale (our oldest daughter)
One girl that looked like him but with my dimples: Lillian (our second daughter)
And, one boy that looked like me but with daddy’s completion and attributes: Riley (our second son)
So that is where the story begins. I was on the last leg of my child bearing season. I was working and on the homestretch of a long project when we went in for the routine 36 week check up with our mid-wife. I had been feeling really well with the exception of the occasional indigestion, and was looking forward to hearing Riley’s heartbeat again. “Only 4 weeks left” I kept telling myself. “I’ve done this before”….. “I can make it again” my inner voice chimed.
We showed up at her office and went through the normal procedures. Everything looked good, normal blood pressure, normal sample, normal weight gain. She put on her stethoscope and started listening for his heart beat. At first reaction, she didn’t seem concerned. Babies will move into the birthing position and it sometimes becomes difficult to get a good reading. She tried again, nothing. I started to see a more discerning look come over her face. “Let’s try again”, she said. Still nothing……. I looked at Steven and began to panic. She re-assured me not to worry, but wanted to go to the hospital to get an ultra-sound done just to look and see what was going on.
The ride to the hospital was the longest quietest ride I’m ever had in a car. It was as if time was standing still and all I could do was wait with no assurance or peace. Upon arriving we were taken to the OB/delivery center and I was hooked to a monitor and ultrasound machine.
The technician came in and asked me a few sterile questions that I don’t even remember. She scanned my big beautiful belly but said nothing. Steven was standing beside me watching the screen intensely. I couldn’t, I was just filled with a scared and sick feeling. I did manage to look up and see the screen when she found his little heart. My stomach dropped and I wanted to scream but couldn’t……. there was no heart beat, no movement.
The technician quickly moved the sonar away from that area and slowly reconnected the scanner. She turned and walked out of the room without saying anything to us. The nurse in the room said, “the doctor will be here in a few minutes”. I looked at Steven and burst into tears. When the doctor came into the room, all she could say was “I’m sorry…… I’m so sorry”. I felt an emptiness that I cannot describe in words……. a sense of loss that is almost unbearable to acknowledge. What had happened to my healthy precious baby? My strong little boy?
Steven held me and the kids gathered around. We all sat there in the hospital bed and cried. The hopes, the dreams, the joy, the happy expectations all left our world. There were no words…… only tears.
For those of you that have lost a child, whether early or late in pregnancy or in their years as a child or adult……. you know that there is no other pain on earth that comes close to the one you feel. It’s like being robbed and left with no consolation that what was taken will ever be recovered. It’s the kind of pain that you just want to cut out because it hurts so badly, yet it’s in your own heart and you have to feel the pain with every beat. There is no comfort and nothing anyone can say…… just an emptiness that aches and a hole that leaves you wounded and alone.
As we left the hospital, my mind and emotions were so full of questions. How could this have happened? What did I do? My mind just raced……. What in the world has happened? I can’t believe this…….I just wanted it to all be a bad dream and I kept trying to wake up. The weight of the world was on my heart and I had never felt so empty, lost and afraid.
We had planned a home birth and wanted to follow through with the birth plan. We proceeded to tell close family and a few friends as I became mentally prepared to give birth. I have always chosen to labor naturally with no medication and deliver without intervention because the baby is so alert when they arrive and recovery is so quick. I decided to labor naturally again, even though it was hard to convince myself why. For those of you that don’t know, delivering a baby that has passed is the same as any delivery…….except, the mental agony is unbelievable and unexplainable.
I went into labor on June 4th, 2013 and at 1:20am delivered a beautiful 6lb 12oz baby boy with dark brown hair and brown eyes. He was perfect from head to toe. Upon delivery we discovered why he had passed. His umbilical cord was wrapped around him several times and there was a true knot tied in the cord between his shoulder and thigh. The knot had probably been there all along but as he grew it continued to tighten when he moved until the knot became too tight and he fell asleep.
I just sat there for at least an hour and held him. Too afraid to move or think or get up. Too afraid that the moment would fade or time would force me to move on. I just sat there and stared. Brown hair, brown eyes, looked like me but had daddy’s handsome way. I couldn’t cry either. The frustration and anger of loosing the life that you so desired to see grown and become a wonderful person who could add value and beauty to the world was almost more than I could take. It numbed me like shot of morphine and I felt so cheated and betrayed.
I was so exhausted from the labor and emotionally drained that I just wanted to sleep. I wanted to wake up in the morning and have my beautiful baby there. I wanted to hear him cry and I wanted to feed him and hold his little hand. I wanted to look into his eyes and see that bright and wonderful glow that babies have. I mostly wanted to feel his warm skin and hear his little heart beat. I just wanted all of this to be over.
I wanted my little angel back.
The next day we prepared for his memorial service. We invited a handful of people and had the service at our house. I dressed him in the little gown that I had planned to put on him when he was born. It said “Riley: made with love”. I wrapped him in a little blanket I bought for him.
People were so kind. They sent beautiful flowers and both friends and family showed up to share their love and support. Our pastor shared a few thoughts and then I shared a few words from my heart. Steven is a carbon copy of my grandpa, the one we named Riley after. He would cry every time he prayed or addressed the family during a holiday. Steven has his heart and therefore does the same thing. I don’t cry in front of other people……. I cry alone. It’s not something I’m proud of.
I still felt numb from the over-all experience but I knew I had to speak, I forced my poker face and decided to share what was on my heart at my son’s funeral. Gratefully there was an unusual strength that came over me and I was able to share some thoughts about what had happened and about life. I read a poem I wrote when I was 16. It related to what I was going through in a very strange way and if nothing else gave me something to hold onto that felt familiar and comforting. It goes like this……
Life to me is not what you see for I think deep and intimate, far into eternity.
Wondering, dreaming, planning…. hoping my ambition will remain withstanding.
Wanting to know the how and why…… I can’t touch the wind or make others try.
Having the desire to excel and succeed …. but finding time and patience has gotten in the way of my need.
Being disappointed in the ones I thought would have cared…… but realizing our ignorance on the assumed common interest we had not shared.
Desiring a foresighted detailed plan……..so I can accomplish all the I can.
Praying God will grant me the wisdom to cope with challenges I face very day…… so my life will mean something to someone somewhere somehow or someway.
Because life to me is not what you see…. for I think deep and intimate…… far into eternity.
When I was carrying Riley I wrote a song from that poem and decided to sing that at the service also. It’s ironic how the song speaks into the situation. My other kids love for me to sing this to them before they go to sleep at night.
My wonders and dream, my plans and my schemes have all added up to the sum of who I am and it’s no surprise that right before my eyes, I am standing at the place, the place of no return.
Because life to me is not what you see for I think deep and intimate far into eternity and LIFE is not what you see…… it’s so deep and free.
My ambitions and what I’ve done…. I wouldn’t trade it now for who I’ve become. Now I’m waiting to see what’s next for me as I climb the mountain tops and look beyond the sea.
Because life to me is not what you see for I think deep and intimate far into eternity and LIFE is not what you see…… it’s so deep and free……. It’s just you and me.
The day passed slowly. I just wanted to be alone, to be with Steven and the kids. As everyone left, the house became very quiet and still. My body yearned to hold something, to feed something to cuddle and nurture something small. I just wanted to feel restored, purposeful, normal. There was no comfort, no relief, only a nightmare that was finally setting in as a reality. We closed the B&B for several weeks and took the opportunity to leave town.
It’s interesting how the most common activities can become stressful and awkward when you loose someone in your family. The simple act of going to the grocery store became a dreaded task. When you live in a small town everyone sees you pregnant and then when you’re not, the common and usual question is to ask how the baby is doing. I’m the type of person that doesn’t like others to feel uneasy in conversation so I use my smile and quick whit to help them navigate to less painful waters. I think it’s a self-preserving thing teachers use to help students become more confident in communication. It became my default mode as I settled back into my regular life.
The hardest part about talking to people I ran into about what had happened wasn’t the detail of what actually happened itself, it was the look on their face. I almost felt more sorry for the person asking than the fact I had to reply, because they never knew what to say. I even avoided going to my regular chiropractor for months and months just because I could not have one more person ask me about my baby.
Whoever said that time heals all things was only partially right. Time does help to heal most things but there are some life events that are vividly burned into our hearts like a tattoo. They become part of you and no matter how much laser surgery you buy to try to remove it, you still have a scar. Fortunately for the sake of how painful it was, time did go on and there were many people, moments and prayers that helped in the healing of our hearts. Everything in our lives became more vivid, full and meaningful. Days no longer passed without purpose and even something as simple as seeing a ray of sunshine through the window became an act of healing. Our home education community was so kind to have a prayer garden installed in our backyard. It became a place of quiet healing and a very sweet comfort.
Our son’s name meant, Courage and Strength. I had his name and meaning engraved on a stone in my garden to remind me that I had to be that too. I decided to take a semester off from my master’s degree in order to gather my thoughts and reflect on my life. I stayed busy by submerging myself back into my professional work and just forging on as best as I knew how. The more I forced myself to smile and the more I forced myself to see the blessings all around me including my other children……. the more I stopped living in the events of the past, the easier it became to face life.
The questions always linger, they come in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep or when it’s raining and storming outside. “What could I have done to prevent this?………. Why did this happen?………. How could this be my reality? Is this my fault?”
It’s a very bad idea to allow this mental battle to go on inside your head for very long. It’s a dead end street and ultimately leaves you even more frustrated and angry than before. I definitely spent my fair share of time here. Without my faith in God and the love of my amazing husband Steven, I would still be in a very very dark place. Today would be a very different reality. It was his encouragement, love and inspiration, that helped me choose a different path…… a path to restoration…….. a path filled with hope.
Sometimes having to be strong really sucks…….. I’ve hit those brick walls before in my life and pushing through them literally take everything you have in you. If you can get past the wall the rewards on the other side will outweigh all the effort it took to get there……. it’s just a mental battle to overcome that wall. I started to want another baby and as Steven and I discussed the possibilities for our family, we decided that adding another little bundle of joy, was the only way to go. My wall, my battle however was dealing with all the questions, fears, concerns and hesitations that were in my mind about being pregnant again. Ultimately there was no easy decision but I had to make a choice……. It was a decision that would change our lives forever and bring a peace a healing to our family that was so desperately needed. My desire to have more children and the need to feel life growing inside of me again was greater than the sum of all the other fears,………… so I began again.
In short the next nine months were some of the most joyful, complex, healing and emotional days of my life. At the end of that journey on May 1st 2014, we gave birth to a beautiful healthy and vivacious little girl named Sophia. Her name means “wisdom” and she has blessed our family more than words can describe.
She has helped our family to heal…………
She has given us joy where we had sorrow………
She is precious and wonderful and such a sweet presence in our lives.
I love the way it feels to hold her…………
She has helped to fill that space in our lives that was so deeply wounded and empty.
Her life is so special.
On Riley’s one year birthday we went to the Tall Grass Prairie. We released balloons and butterflies to celebrate his life. We shared stories of how many memories we made with him in those precious nine months he was with us. We laughed, cried and held each other tight. It was such a beautiful evening. The world stood still for a few moments and we remembered our son and brother.
She gives me the strength to keep smiling and continue holding my head up high.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my sweet little son, my Riley. His memory will always be a part of our lives and the constant reminder of his name gives me the Courage and Strength to go on to fulfill the mission and purpose for my life.
I truly LOVE life and I am so grateful to have amazing family, friends and community to share it with. I hope you’ll return here as I resume sharing my adventures in food and my passion for life. Thank you for letting me share my story. Writing this down has in some strange way helped me to take that final step toward healing and being more whole and happy than I’ve been in a very long time.
I dedicate my food and life adventures to you my son. Thank you Riley for blessing my life and being such an inspirational ingredient in my life recipe.
I will love you for always and remember you forever.