Eight Months

I am currently in the eighth month of pregnancy. Yowza! Only about three weeks to go until we meet Branch in person… I almost can’t believe it. Here I am with Kimberly yesterday, for those of you who like to see what women look like who are eight months pregnant — although I will say this doesn’t make my belly look huge, but it’s the only shot I have of the WHOLE belly, so I’m going with it. We are doing “selfie face” with Branch. He’s pretty hip.

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As I was organizing and updating my calendars the other day,  I realized that I had purchased a little customizable desk calendar eight months ago. When I bought the calendar, I decided I would add a verse to it each month, and attempt some sort of artwork that went with the verse or month.  For some reason it just struck me that I had bought the calendar right before I found out I was pregnant on April 1st, so the only months I have a verse and drawing for are months I have been carrying Branch.  I found it interesting to look over the verses I had chosen for each month, and maybe you will, too.

April

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May

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June   *the 27th of June was the day we received Branch’s diagnosis*

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July

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August

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September

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October

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November

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I don’t know what December will hold, or what verse God will put on my heart for that month, but hopefully I will remember and share that with you all, too.

May you each have an evening filled with good things.

~Kristin

 

Failure — Day Three

I technically didn’t complete the challenge Glenn issued me — because I didn’t blog yesterday. Instead, I am blogging today, and will also publicly humiliate my spouse by posting a picture of him when he was a little boy.

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I am sure I will be mandated to remove that photo sometime in the very near future, so if you get to see it, consider yourself among the privileged few.

Today I will answer the question that everyone asks, and I never know how to answer :: How are you?

As the months have gone by, I am a little less fragile and taken aback when people ask this question, or any variation of it {How are you feeling? How are you today? How have you been this week? Etc.}, because there really is NO OTHER WAY to ask what they are asking. The problem here is ME. I have no idea how to answer. I really like talking about Branch, about my pregnancy, about anencephaly, about grief. It’s therapeutic and makes me feel like people care. I just don’t know how far to go, or what EXACTLY the person asking wants to know in the moment when they ask “How are you?”

Here is my list of potential answers. Depending on my relationship with the asker, the circumstances or location in which they are asking me the question, and how volatile I may be feeling at the moment, any of these answers could come out.  It should also be noted that these are the answers that I would give to someone who knows me/Glenn or at least knows about our current pregnancy and diagnosis. If it’s a stranger, I smile and say “Great!”

“HOW ARE YOU?”

1. Halfway authentic smile. “Good. I mean, yea… pretty good.”

2. Halfway authentic smile. “I am ok, thanks. Riding the waves of grief. Taking things as they come.”

3. Halfway authentic smile. “Ummm… it’s interesting.”

4. Halfway authentic smile. “We’re kind of a mess.”

5. Attempt at smile through tears. “Pretty rough. This is really hard, and I don’t know how to not be sad.”

The truth is, at every moment I am feeling all of these things. I am really good, especially considering our current circumstances. I am riding the waves of grief — and boy is it an interesting ride. I am a big flipping disaster, and very well may have had a breakdown ten minutes before you asked how I was doing. This process is really hard. So hard that I wonder if I will ever experience a time that I am NOT sad again.

I think it’s ok to be feeling all of these things. The mental-health/grief professionals say everything is healthy as long as there is movement and you’re not stuck in one area for a long time. They also say that time heals. It doesn’t make it all go away. It won’t make me forget Branch, or pretend like this never happened, or be “ok” with his death…but it will make the waves I am riding less drastic, and make it so that sadness isn’t the primary emotion I feel every day.

I feel good things, too. Especially this week. In two days, my best friend is flying in to spend time with us. This coming weekend, my sisters are throwing me and Branch a shower and I am really really really excited about it! There are big rain clouds headed my direction, and the cool breeze is making it possible for me to sit here in a cashmere wrap I have had for ten years and still look forward to snuggling up in. My grief candle flickers, reminding me of God’s presence. He is always good.

Matthew 28:20b {ESV}

“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Much love, and thank you for reading along.

~Kristin

Baby Murdock Fund {THANK YOU to those who have donated! You really have no idea how your kindness and generosity has impacted us!}

My Mom’s Blog

Challenge – Day Two

Today I will write of good things. Fun things. Things that made or make me happy.  Things that happened today.

1. Glenn and I went out for Clairecakes.

2. Two of the sweetest little kids in my life, Nathan and Reagan, wandered around a Fall Festival and got to hold baby animals. They were both so excited, and their joy was contagious.

3. A long nap happened.

4. Jessica lent me a bunch of cute fall maternity sweaters.

5. Lobster tail at the family birthday dinner for Jill.

6. The Bible and a Beth Moore Bible study. Always good.

Hope your Saturday brought joy.

Until tomorrow,

Kristin

 

 

 

Challenge — Day One

At some point in the past twelve hours, I am not exactly sure when, Glenn challenged me to write blog posts a few days in a row. He said he thought it would be healthy, and interesting, to see the ups and downs of a few days. I am choosing today as day one, and have no idea what I am going to write about so this may turn into some sort of To-Do list.

 

It’s Friday. The last Friday in October. I remember at the beginning of July, when Branch’s diagnosis was so new and every day felt like it was covered in a thick fog, how I wished for the months to fly by. For December to already be here. The waiting seemed like the hardest part, and I prayed every day that God would make it go quickly.

Now, with November only a few days away, I don’t even know what I wish for. Every day seems to zoom past me, like I’m on a train with no stops, headed toward a cliff and ravine that leads to even more unknown. Will I make it through the ride? What will the drop feel like? Is this part the hardest, or is the worst yet to come? Is the ravine filled with flowers and hummingbirds and butterflies? Will I live there forever? Who will still care, after the drop?

Grief. It’s still not fun.

We saw Branch last night for the last time until his birthday. He was all snuggled up inside of me — as he has been almost every time. He seems to be quite cozy in there, and covers his sweet face with his hands every time we see him.  He has a strong heart, every internal organ he would ever need, excellent blood-flow, and his little fingers and toes are perfect. He has long legs. I hope our future children have long legs, too. I will tell them they are just like their brother in Heaven.  The only thing Branch is missing is his full brain and skull, and so he can’t live. In some ways I wonder if it would be easier if there were something else wrong. If it weren’t just that ONE little neural tube issue that happened at week six, before anyone except for us knew I was pregnant.  I am sure it would not be easier at all, but sometimes I just wonder.

It was just Glenn and I who went to see him last night, and the ultrasound tech was so sweet. She has been our tech for our last three ultrasounds, so she has gotten to know us and Branch a little bit. She gave us hugs when we left, and told us she knew she would see us again in the future. We left with smiles on our faces, and burst into tears in the parking lot.

Sorrow mixed with joy.

We are making basic burial plans, and arranging meetings with the hospital and social workers. I looked at black fascinator  veils on Etsy. I want the burial to be fairly small and private, and I want it to embody mourning as much as it can. I know we have hope, and that we would choose to do this again if it meant we got to spend this time with Branch, but I just want to be sad, sad, and nothing more than sad, for one day. For all in attendance to wear black. For there to be a moment where we stand together, knowing our sweet little boy is in Heaven and healed, but weeping for the losses we experience while here on Earth.

Darkness comes before the Light.

I have a new candle. I call it my grief candle. It is beautiful, and makes my whole house smell warm. It is gold and flickers for hours on end, reminding me of the changing seasons, of the beauty that is to come, of the kindness we receive. My Mom wrote a really lovely post on trees and seasons last week. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, I would highly recommend it. It reminded me that although winter is going to be dark and scary, spring will always come.

Thank you for reading along. For caring about me, Glenn, and Branch. For letting me have a place where I can just write and feel and be whatever it is I may be today. What I know for sure, through all of the grieving, is that we are not meant to walk this road alone. So thank you.

Until tomorrow,

Kristin

My Mom’s Blog

Baby Murdock Fund

 

Livin’ the Life

In the past month we have had lots of fun and adventure as Branch continues to grow grow grow. I think my womb must be offering karate classes, because he has turned into quite the little maniac in there. I have heard that it is sad for some Mom’s who are carrying babies with a fatal diagnosis to feel the baby kicking, but it has been pretty fun for me so far. This is my first pregnancy, so everything surrounding it is new and kind of exciting, even though the grief is still there every day.  In just a couple of months I know I may have moments where I miss feeling his little kicks, so I am trying to enjoy them now — even if he is destroying my insides with his long legs.

On to the Murdock Adventures! Our first, and biggest, adventure was a trip to Kaua’i — one of our favorite places, and an island we have had the great privilege of visiting multiple times. We stayed on the North Shore, a part of the island we had only taken day trips to on previous visits. It is the most lush and rainy part of Kaua’i, and therefore absolutely stunning. I am sure tourists who come from other parts of the country are irritated with the daily tropical storms of the North Shore, but we absolutely loved them. Rain, to Southern Californians, is like manna from Heaven.  I could post about 200 pictures from this trip, but I will spare you the details and just put up some highlights.  {BIG thank-you’s to the Brett & Becca Murdock’s for letting us borrow their timeshare, and to Delta Airlines for offering flights for miles instead of cash. You made this awesome trip possible! Yay!!}

We “hiked” {have you ever taken a woman who is 7 months pregnant on a HIKE?!?!} and walked around Waimea Canyon. It rained on us and we were not prepared, but it was still fun.
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We treated ourselves to shave ice with mac-nut ice cream on the bottom. A must.
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We lounged in the hammock.
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We went to the beach………Glenn carried everything.
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We went to a local hot spot and had Loco Moco for breakfast. Looks horriffic, I know, but it was seriously soooooooo good.
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We celebrated our last night on the island with a fancy dinner out at my favorite restaurant on Kaua’i – The Beach House. Here we are on the lawn in front of the restaurant, right before sunset. A stranger, who had evidently never used a camera before, took several pictures of us. Blurry but it works!
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And finally, we flew home separately {we booked our tickets with miles, remember?} which gave Glenn a few hours alone on the island. He was a stud and hiked down a waterfall.
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I was planning on updating you on ALL the interesting things this past month brought, but this post is getting kind of long already, so I will wait until next time to do that.

Hope you are having a lovely day!

~Kristin

Promises and Baby Names

The other day, while heading home from a day full of appointments, lunches, and meetings, God gave me this sunset.

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Every day He reminds me of His deep love.

Every day He shows me that His heart breaks over great loss.

Every day His promises are new and real and true. For me, for you, for our baby boy Branch Lionheart Murdock.

Isaiah 65: 17 and 20a
“Behold, I will create a new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. … Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years.”

Isaiah 4:2
“In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel.”

Much love to you all today,

Kristin

P.S. Yes his middle name really is Lionheart. Roar!

Celebrating Baby Murdock :: Gender Reveal Party

As I believe I have mentioned before here on the blog, even in the midst of our grief and sadness, we have chosen to celebrate the life God has given us while Baby Murdock is still alive and well in my belly. Our community of friends and family have been awesome at helping with this — they even offered to throw us a “gender reveal” party a few weeks after the diagnosis. We got to see people we hadn’t seen yet, had a chance to speak about our decision to carry Baby Murdock, and were encouraged BEYOND MEASURE by the kindness and grace of our loved ones.

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 11.29.31 AMThe night was honestly one of the highlights of my pregnancy so far, and certainly a highlight of our lives since the diagnosis. We are, and have always been, people people. We LOVE our friends and family and get so much from being around them. Seeing everyone that came out to support and celebrate Baby Murdock’s life with us was overwhelming. Every detail was perfectly orchestrated by a group of ladies who are excellent party planners: Sheri, Julie, Kimberly, and Mara. We didn’t have to think about anything at all, we were just told to show up and be ready to celebrate. It was marvelous.  Toward the end of the evening, our friend April, who is also pregnant and due only a couple of weeks before me, presented us with a surprise from the group: gift certificates for three ultrasounds to spend more time with and get to see Baby Murdock in the womb, and the Baby Murdock Fund, which I have linked here before, to help with upcoming expenses. We were honestly BLOWN AWAY by the generosity that was shown at this party. Knocked us off our feet!

At any rate, here are some incredible pictures done by Journey of the Lens, that should show you more of the evening’s festivities and awesome details, as well as show you if Baby Murdock is a BOY or GIRL.

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Here we are, about to tell everyone if it’s a BOY OR GIRL!

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It’s a…..

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That’s right, folks, Baby Murdock is a BOY! Obviously, everything associated with this pregnancy is a little bittersweet, but in choosing to celebrate — we are THRILLED it’s a boy! We were hoping for a little boy, and this, strangely, now gives us confidence we can make more boys in the future should God allow it. We have named him, and I will write about that hopefully tomorrow, but for now — please join us in celebrating this little boy’s life! We love him SO much and are so glad God chose us as his parents.

And, although it has been a little while now, I just want to give another shout-out and huge thank you to these ladies who worked SO HARD to make our gender reveal party perfect. THANK YOU. From the bottom of our hearts!

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Much love,

Kristin

My Mom Came for A Visit

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My family lives all over the place.  A few of us are in San Diego now, and the other few {my parents and youngest sister} are on the East Coast. This summer marked the first time we were all back together IN San Diego since they moved six years ago. My parents and little sister were planning on coming out for a week or so, but after the diagnosis, my Mom and Dad decided to stay for a full month.  My Dad had work to do {they own a home here that he needed to fix up}, and my Mom wanted to be able to spend time with me and help me with anything I may need.

It was lovely.

My Mom and Dad left just last week, and I realized, after they were officially gone, what a comfort it was to have my Mom around for several weeks with no agenda other than being my support and assistance. She cleaned my floors and bathroom every week, did my laundry, took me out to lunch, and bought me a few maternity shirts at Gap. If I said I needed to take a nap, she had no problem sitting in the living room and doing nothing. If I said I needed a day off, she found something else to do or spent time with another friend or daughter. Overall, it was a real blessing, and I am sad she is gone now. I am, clearly, not sure how to navigate this season of grief, but having someone who is grieving with you but also knows you and supports you as only a parent can, was really helpful.

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While my parents and sisters were here, we did some really fun things. It has been interesting to observe the intimacy that comes to a family when going through crisis together. We seemed to have even more fun than usual, and, from my perspective, we also seemed to be more unified as a “clan” than we have been in the past. Since Katherine, our youngest sister, was only here for a week, we tried to squeeze in as much fun as we could for her stay. We rented bikes on Coronado and spent the day riding around the island. Super fun, and something we have done for years. Word to the wise: if you haven’t been on a bike in a year or two, your bum will be sore after a couple hours of riding around. The fun outweighs the soreness, but the soreness is still a serious factor to consider.

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We also managed to get to the beach a couple of times. Once just as sisters, and then again after Katherine had already left, where both of my parents came along. We felt like this was a major accomplishment, because my Dad, despite having grown up as a surfer/swimmer, does not particularly love being at the beach or getting sandy. I am usually scared of getting in the water {hello SHARK WEEK!!!!}, but for some reason since the diagnosis, I have decided that our baby likes to swim. It could be the fact that I am 5 1/2 months pregnant and ROASTING all the time so any chance to cool off sounds amazing… but I’m going to stick with “our baby likes to swim.”

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While my parents were here, Glenn and I also had the opportunity to go with them to Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena. My Mom is *slightly* obsessed with space, so she arranged for us to do a half-day tour, and had to sign up months in advance. We enjoyed the day together, driving up through LA, spending the day at JPL, and then introducing my parents to authentic Ramen and boba tea for dinner.

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Finally, just a few days before leaving, my Mom arranged a high tea for my mother-in-law, herself, and me. Who doesn’t love a good cucumber sandwich?! We enjoyed each other’s company {at least I think we did…. I guess I never asked either of them! ha!} and the delicious food and teas we were served.

Although I am sad my Mom and Dad and Katherine left, I am also looking forward to getting back to a more normal routine. Ultimately, I would love nothing more than ALL of my family to move back to San Diego so we could spend more time together and just live normal life in closer proximity, but I am grateful that they all make an effort to spend time with me as often as they can.

Glenn and I are blessed with families and friends who support and encourage us every day. I know this is not the case for everyone faced with a fatal diagnosis, and I am overwhelmed at the ways God is protecting us from so many other hardships right now. Thank you for reading along, for being kind, and for caring about us. Coming up next on the blog:: Gender Reveal!

~Kristin

Baby Murdock Gift Fund

My Mom’s Blog

Grief :: What it Looks Like

I had a post written about my family being here for a visit, and all the fun things we did together, but decided to wait to put that up until next week, and share with you instead a more accurate view of how I am feeling right now.

This is what grief looks like, people.

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We didn’t ever buy tissues before the diagnosis, unless one of us had a nasty cold. Crying to the point of needing a tissue just wasn’t part of our everyday lives. Enter grief.

There are boxes of tissues in every room, with a couple in the hall closet as back-up. Our bathroom wastebasket is filled with tear-soaked tissue. Occasionally, after a particularly difficult night, the floor by our bed looks something like the image above.

You’re welcome ,Kleenex and Puffs, for the extra business.

I feel a profoundly deep sadness at some point every day. Sometimes — not often, but sometimes, I feel that deep sadness all day long.

When people ask how I am doing, I don’t know how to respond. I have decided to answer with “good” , as there is at least a glimmer of good in every day, in every moment.

Pretty much every song makes me cry. Not necessarily a sad cry, because I have mostly been listening to worship music  {NECESSARY! Really keeps my outlook positive!}, but an honest cry where my depravity, my wounds, and God’s gracious love flood my heart.

My clothes don’t fit. This is something that is really only part of the grief that comes along with carrying a child with a fatal diagnosis, but it is kind of lame. I DO like that I get to buy new clothes, but still, come on — if your baby is going to die don’t you think you could at least NOT have to deal with losing pregnancy weight after?!?!?! Currently praying about this one, and mapping out my plan of attack come January.

I fear the future. I am really trying not to. REALLY. I am trying to figure out how to NOT be afraid of having another child with anencephaly. Facts that I read, or people telling me that wouldn’t happen, don’t help. Hearing stories of people who HAVE had multiple fatal diagnoses doesn’t help, either. I plan to discuss it, in detail, with my therapist and I hope to get some kind of guidance/answer. This may be the apex of my mantra to not let fear control my life. I am determined to overcome it. I just have no idea how yet.

Seeing our baby during sonograms, or feeling our baby move and kick, bring a strange mix of emotions. It is so clear that the baby is SO alive right now, but that reminds me of just how short of a life our baby is living.

If I were to write a book on grief, it would be titled : Grief — It’s Officially Awful. I am sure it would start out sad and depressing, but inevitably end up talking of blessing, of goodness, of kindness and virtue, of grace and redemption, of life everlasting. What’s really incredible is how much God takes care of us. He was here when I found out I was pregnant and was ridiculously excited and nervous. He was here when we got the diagnosis. He is here with me and my box of Kleenex, every night. He will be here as I bury my baby. I don’t know how I am supposed to do that, but I know He will be with me. He loves my baby even more than I do, and created my baby to lead a life that pleases Him.

In my grief, He is here.

Zephaniah 3:17 “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will delight over you with loud singing.”

May you know He is here with you today. Have a great weekend!

~Kristin

P.S. I will be sharing a couple of links with you regularly over the next few months. The first is my Mom’s blog — she is writing about our journey with anencephaly from her perspective, and it is really quite beautiful. There is a link to it at the bottom of my site, but I will also try to include it in my posts that relate to our grief/loss experience. The second link is a Gift Fund our friends generously set up for Baby Murdock and upcoming expenses.

Mom’s Blog

Baby Murdock Gift Fund

 

 

The Diagnosis

I write today, July 13th, 2013, unsure if I am “ready” to write and post this, but sure that if I don’t at least try, I will regret it.

My heart is beating, I can feel tears welling up in my eyes, and I’m kind of afraid of writing it all down. Alas, here we go….

Thursday, June 27th:

I am four months pregnant with our first little baby. I am ridiculously eager to find out the sex of the baby, but also ridiculously short on cash-flow, so my sister Kimberly groups my family together and gets them to each chip in so we can go and find out the gender a few weeks early. Absolutely, positively thrilling!

Our appointment is for this morning, Thursday the 27th, at 11am. I have heard a lot about the glorious place that is Sonohealth. How kind Sergio, the ultrasound tech and owner, is. How cute the house-turned-ultrasound-office is. What fun it is to leave knowing more about your baby. I am excited!

We wake up early, get breakfast at my favorite spot {Bread and Cie — was there any question?!}, walk around Balboa Park, and then head to the Baby Gap at Horton Plaza to buy one sweet little girl outfit and one sweet little boy outfit. We will return whichever one our baby isn’t, after finding out. As I’m walking around the Gap, holding seriously THE sweetest clothes I’ve ever seen {also some of THE most overpriced clothes… but who cares? It’s our baby’s first outfit!!}, it just doesn’t feel right. I am annoyed that there aren’t more options, and realize that our baby will be born in December but all of these clothes are for the heat of summer. Glenn suggests we wait until after finding out, or later in the fall, and says that we already got to do the fun part — looking through all the cute little clothes and picturing what it will be like to put them on our baby.

We leave Baby Gap, and Horton Plaza, and head to our appointment. We are nervous and excited. Partly hoping for one gender or another, partly just eager to finally know more about our baby. We walk back to the ultrasound room, cool gel is squeezed onto my belly, and it’s time to find out! We see our baby’s heart, beating strong. A sense of relief fills my soul. Our baby is there! It’s little heart is still beating strong! Only good things are to come! And then Sergio, with both extreme kindness and professionalism, says “There is a problem with your baby’s brain.”

Even as I type those words, over two weeks later, I almost can’t believe they are true.

Sergio explained a little bit and used the word “anencephaly” — which I recognized instantly as a friend of mine, Mara, had carried and delivered her sweet baby Julia, who was also diagnosed with anencephaly, just a year ago. I turned to Glenn, sobbing, and said “that’s what Mara had.” I confirmed with Sergio that our baby could not survive, and he said “Yes. It is incompatible with life.”

I spoke with my doctor, who showed me immense kindness and explained once again that the baby would be just fine throughout the pregnancy, but would not be able to live outside of the womb.

We were, and still are, absolutely heartbroken.

God has been immensely good to us in the past two weeks, and I will share more of the deep joy that has accompanied grief in coming days. But for today, all I can share is the diagnosis, the sadness, a verse {below}, and the questions that keep filling my mind: How do I do this? and What is my life supposed to look like now?

Psalm 42:8 “By day the LORD directs His love — at night His song is with me. A prayer to the God of my life.”

~Kristin

P.S. If you would like to learn more about anencephaly, please click here. Do not simply google it, if you can at all help it! There are some rather shocking photos, and the ones on this site are much more tasteful and beautiful. Also, in case it wasn’t clear: we are carrying our baby to term. Over 90% of people who receive this diagnosis choose to terminate, but we feel very strongly that our baby is alive, that God gave him or her to us for this season, and that we want to celebrate this little life as much as we can in the coming months.  More on that later!