Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Surviving the Death of Our Baby

It's been eight weeks since our baby died...I'm not really sure of a more eloquent way to start writing, so there it is. With every fiber of my being I wish I didn't have to write those words and I so desperately wish that this was not a part of our story. It was only a few months ago that I sat at this very computer to write a blog post sharing that I was joyfully and excitedly pregnant and expecting our first baby this coming June. At 39 years old, I SO surprised and grateful that I got pregnant right away and that I was having a healthy and complication-free pregnancy. Like most couples, we 'played it safe' and waited until I was in my second trimester to make our happy news public. No one really talks about second and third trimester pregnancy loss and everything we were told and have read about lead us to believe that our chances of losing our baby were very small once I made it out of my first trimester and past those first 12 weeks. So, when that milestone came, I started to relax a bit and let myself make all sorts of plans because I started to feel like we were 'safe' and our dream of becoming parents was really going to happen.

With every check up I had, our baby measured perfectly on schedule and had a very strong heartbeat, and all of the tests (blood tests, blood pressure, genetic tests, etc.) came back perfectly normal throughout my entire pregnancy. Even my first trimester was pretty easy, with mild symptoms, so I felt incredibly thankful with each passing day. Losing our baby was not even on our radar, certainly not at 20 weeks after having a seemingly perfect, healthy pregnancy for myself and our baby, which is why what came next was, and still is, so difficult to understand and accept.

The last picture taken of me, in Maui, while pregnant with our darling baby boy

The day we lost our baby started out as any other day. We had come back from our belated honeymoon trip to Maui a few days earlier, so I was spending the day cleaning and doing chores around the house. I had spent that morning putting together an invitee list to give to my mom as she was making plans for my baby shower.  Physically, I felt good throughout our trip and I also felt good that particular day. Around dinner time my lower back started to hurt, which wasn't unusual if I was relatively active during the day. Everything I had read in my various baby books and apps said back pain was a normal symptom of pregnancy, particularly in the second trimester. I laid down on the couch with a heating pad as I had done many times before when my back hurt. But this time the pain started to feel different, pulsing in and out in increments, accompanied by lower abdominal cramping. I took some Tylenol and drank a lot of water, hoping I would start to feel better. After a couple hours I started to feel some pelvic pressure and decided to call my doctor. He didn't sound too concerned but suggested I go to the hospital to be checked out just to be safe. As my husband drove me to the hospital, I started to feel what I thought were contractions in my back, coming about every 3-4 minutes. I started to become concerned while also just trying to stay calm and manage the pain as best I could. Even as we arrived at the hospital and checked into the maternity ward, it didn't even cross either of our minds that I was going to deliver our baby...everything in our pregnancy had been going so well.

After I was in our hospital room, I was started on an IV with fluids, hooked up to a contraction monitor, and the baby's heartbeat was checked. He still had a very strong heartbeat, which was a relief. As my contractions continued to get stronger, the nurse didn't seem concerned and the doctor still hadn't arrived, even after a couple hours, so my husband and I still didn't think this was it- that this was when our baby was coming. No one seemed to think he was coming or at least there still didn't seem to be a sense of urgency on the part of the medical staff that night. The nurse checked my cervix and I was one centimeter dilated. I started to get very scared and she said the doctor would check again when he arrived. At this point, I was in full on labor and the pain was unbearable and yet they weren't doing anything for my pain so I started to cry from distress. We hadn't yet gotten to the labor and delivery chapters of our respective baby books so both my husband and I were very unprepared to deal with any of this. I really thought at that point that they would be able to give me fluids and medication to stop labor and everything would be fine.

When the doctor finally arrived, he checked my cervix and he could feel my water bag (it hadn't broken but was protruding which is a bad sign). I started to cry even more and asked him if that meant the baby was coming. He said it didn't look good but they would try to give me some medication to stop labor from progressing. I asked if our baby would survive if he did come out at 20 weeks and the doctor said he would not survive outside the womb very long at this stage of development. Everyone left the room (I assume to get medication but honestly I still don't understand why we were left completely alone) and I told my husband that I really needed to use the bathroom. I got up and hobbled to the bathroom while my husband wheeled the IV behind me. While I was alone in the bathroom our baby came out so fast and unexpectedly. I screamed uncontrollably and my husband ran out into the hallway to get help.

Everything after was such a blur...the doctor and nurses came rushing into the bathroom to help me and our son and it quickly turned into what I can only describe as an out of body experience. They moved me to the bed to deliver the placenta while the nurses tended to the baby. I thought because he was so early that he wasn't alive but he was...he had a heartbeat and lived for the next 5 hours. The doctor and nurses said he looked absolutely perfect for his stage of development and had no signs that anything was wrong with him. As far as they could tell, he was perfectly healthy. My doctor was also stunned that I delivered so quickly because he said most preterm labor and deliveries happen over the course of several hours. I suppose this explains why it seemed like there was no sense of urgency leading up to my delivery. I still have a lot of confusion and anger surrounding how our delivery was handled but I'm learning to make peace with these feelings and to accept that the outcome would probably be the same no matter what.

I cannot accurately describe the pain that comes with sitting in a hospital bed with your baby in a bassinet across the room while you wait for his heart to stop beating. Because he was so early, there was nothing medically to be done to save him so we just had to wait. Had he been born even 3 or 4 weeks later, perhaps he could have lived, but the 'could haves' and 'should haves' and 'might haves' after an experience like this are too many to count and too painful to keep asking.

The hours that followed after his birth were all a blur- truly an out of body experience that I have not ever experienced before. It didn't feel like any of this was real...it didn't feel like our son was really here....it didn't feel like we were really there experiencing this, particularly because it all happened so incredibly fast, with no warning at all, so our brains just could not process what was happening.

In one of the books I've been reading about grief, it says that when you are experiencing something incredibly painful and traumatic, a part of your brain shuts down and either fights, flees, or freezes- and this is exactly how I felt at that time- my brain could not process the excruciating pain that I was experiencing and therefore it just completely shut down as a form of protection. I was asked to hold our baby, to take pictures with our baby, to name our baby for his birth and death certificates, we even had to contact a funeral home, all within a few hours of his birth. My brain was just not equipped to deal with any of this at the time, not to mentioned what my body had just gone through, and looking back, I harbor a lot of guilt as there are some actions and decisions made that I wish we had done differently. I try to give myself some grace now because I know that we did the best we could at the time and we were just not capable of doing anything other than what was done.  I was in an absolute fog, I wasn't mentally in my body, and it took well over a week after being home for my brain to even truly accept what had happened as real. I audibly said multiple times in the week that followed "Did I really give birth? Is our baby really dead?" and yet the answer was always the same.

We were told that they wanted me to stay in the hospital for at least 12 hours after my delivery to monitor me before letting us go home. We sat in that room and sobbed through our numbness...we just wanted to go home and wakeup from this nightmare. Once we got home, I went to our room and rarely left our bed. I got up and went to the bathroom when needed, but I dreaded showering or looking in the mirror because it meant I had to look at my postpartum body, a painful reminder that I had given birth but my baby was not here with me. I had looked in that mirror every single day of my pregnancy, excitedly watching my body change and my belly grow, and now it was just too painful to see my belly slowing shrinking. My breasts became swollen and painful as they filled with milk, with no baby to nourish. My body thought my baby was here and did what is was naturally supposed to do, but it didn't know that our sweet baby boy had died. Dealing with the physical aftermath of giving birth was just another cruel daily reminder of what had happened.

I sat in our bedroom for several weeks, day in and day out, letting the waves of grief wash over me as they pleased. I felt completely and utterly broken, a shell of my former self. One moment I'd accept what had happened as our new reality, and the next I would collapse onto the floor or into the arms of my husband, the grief so intense it was physically painful, my heart literally felt as though it was broken.  I know that the grief any mother goes through when losing their baby in any way and at any point is painful, but sometimes I think it would be easier to accept the loss of our son if he had been sick or had died in the womb or I had miscarried during my first trimester when I was 'on guard' for that type of loss. Loss is loss, I know this and it does no good to make comparisons, but my mind still thinks about 'what could have been'.

I have never experienced pain and grief so intensely, it felt, and still feels like a part of me is missing. I suppose that is in fact true...our son is a physical part of us who is gone and I don't know if I will every feel completely whole again. It's so bizarre because he was a stranger to us and yet so much a part of us. The time we had to get to know him was taken from us. We grieve the life we wish he could have had, the boy and man he would have grown up to be, the life we had already pictured for him and for our family. We envisioned holidays, his birthdays, running around on our farm, interacting with our friends and his grandparents. We not only grieve the death of our son but of the life we were going to have...the trajectory of our life and his life changed in an instant and that fact is really difficult to process and accept. Here we were, experiencing two of life's most significant events, the birth of our child and the death of our loved one, all within the course of a few hours...it's incredibly overwhelming.

When we are ready, we would like to try for another baby. This decision is incredibly scary because I'm older and worried about my ability to get pregnant again. To further complicate things, we were given no answers as to why this happened. At first we had speculated that perhaps it was an 'incompetent cervix' but were told by my delivering doctor that he did not think that was the case (if/when I do get pregnant, I will be considered high risk and monitored much more closely by a maternal and fetal specialist). Doctors have studied my charts, administered more tests, had the placenta analyzed, and have gone over my medical history and there is nothing to indicate why this happened. I am in seemingly perfect health, with no risk factors for preterm labor, and so was our baby. Apparently 2/3 of preterm births have no known biological cause and if you've had a preterm delivery, you are then more likely for it to happen again. I want to choose to believe that a healthy, full term pregnancy is in our future but there's also so much uncertainty and that is tough for me to accept and very scary.

The passing of time has helped to soften the sharp edges of grief, but there are still many questions I often struggle with...why did we get pregnant so easily only to have it taken away so suddenly? Why did our son die when he was perfectly healthy? Why do other people who don't even want children have babies so easily? Will this happen to us again? What is the point of remaining hopeful, positive, and grateful everyday, as I did throughout my entire pregnancy, if it's still going to end in devastation? What did I do to deserve this? What did I do to cause this? Why didn't my body keep my healthy baby inside longer SO HE COULD LIVE???? There are no answers to these questions, I know this, but still my mind wanders there sometimes.

So what now? What do you do when your whole world has changed and you have changed in ways you could never imagine? I'm often asked 'how are you doing?' by those who care, knowing that the answer will never be a simple one. So, how am I? I am as well as I can be considering all that has happened. There is no 'getting back to normal' but there is 'creating a new normal' as best as I can.

I'm proud of myself for trying to take active steps in helping process my grief while also coming to terms with what happened and trying to look forward toward a bright future for our family. I've read books, talked to a therapist, talked to friends, sought medical advice, heard from people who've gone through something similar, journaled, worked on my physical health, cried when I've needed to, and allowed myself to feel joy when I've needed to.

Getting out of my bed and making my way to the couch was a victory. Leaving the house for the first time (even if it ended in tears in the middle of Home Depot) was a victory. Going back to the doctors office for a check up after my delivery was a victory. Laughing for the first time, even when it evoked feelings of guilt, was a victory. Going out on a date night with my husband and being surrounded by happy families and babies, then actively reframing my inner narrative to say "I don't know their stories, they could have struggled too" was a victory. Facing my grief and emotions head on to write this narrative is a victory. Even the first time I went back to the grocery store felt like a victory because the last time I was there, I was happily pregnant, chatting with a friend I ran into about my upcoming ultrasound.

I've dreaded a million different situations that I knew would be triggering for me but yet over time, with small steps, I've faced these situations and consider them all small victories in my fight against an otherwise crippling grief. It's definitely not always easy and there are still certain situations that I avoid because they are just too painful, but it has all been a practice in patience and faith like no other I've ever experienced.

Throughout this experience of loss, there has been one constant, and that has been the incredibly steadfast love and support from so many. My husband and I have only been married for 9 months, and in that time have been faced with one of the most difficult situations any couple could go through- losing a child. This could easily push us apart, but instead, it has shown just how devoted we are to one another and strengthened us like nothing else could. In the last few months he has proven himself to be everything I could have asked for in a partner, even literally feeding me when I was paralyzed by grief.

Our families have experienced their own grief as their dreams of a first grandchild were crushed in an instant, and yet they put us first, checking in while also giving us the space we needed.

I consider myself so incredibly fortunate to have curated a group of quality people I'm blessed to call my friends. These are the type of friends who become your family, who feel your joy and grief as if it were their own, rooting for your successes and holding you close to their hearts during times of pain and uncertainty, forgiving your emotional distance or lack of social graces during your darkest times.

The kindness shown to us over the passed few months has proven that even in the darkest depths of grief, in the worst situation imaginable, there is so much love in the world. Messages from social media 'strangers', cards and letters from people I haven't spoken to in quite some time, meals delivered, a garden of flowers sent to our doorstep, incredibly touching gifts arriving out of the blue, and thoughtful words of encouragement from all over...it's been so humbling and has made me cry from love, a welcome reprieve from the tears of grief. Even writing that last sentence, I find myself pausing because in the end, deep grief cannot exist where there isn't also great, deep love.

So THANK YOU... thank you for loving us, for praying for us (however and to whomever that may be), for caring enough to read this, for offering words of solace and encouragement (even when there aren't the right words), for checking in on us, for being brave in your own journeys of grief, and for continuing to have hope that this isn't the end of our family's story.

And to our darling sweet baby John, you are LOVED by so many, you were wanted and wished for so badly, and you will be part of our hearts for as long as they are beating. 

Your mommy and daddy love you so very much.

Monday, December 30, 2019

A Baby Story

A little over a week ago I turned 39. If you had asked me 20 years ago if I thought I'd be pregnant with my first baby at this age, I would never have believed it. But, as I've learned through many experiences, events in life unfold exactly as they should, in their own time, despite what we may otherwise wish would happen.

I have always wanted to be a mother and although I tried my best to be patient in realizing this dream, truth be told, there were many times when I wondered if this would ever happen for me. I've been single most of my life and as each birthday came and went (particularly into my thirties), I was becoming fearful of my ever ticking 'biological clock'. About three years ago I went so far as to consult with my doctor about options for having a baby on my own and started doing lots of reading and research on single motherhood. While this route wasn't my first choice, I wasn't willing to give up on my dream simply because I hadn't yet found the right guy. After all my research, I had a choice to make: move forward with having a baby on my own or wait a while longer and see what else my dating life had in store for me, all while my fertile window was closing (damn you biology!!!). I decided to wait...six months later I met the man who would become my husband.

pregnancy baby story
I've already started shopping for Baby R., including a thrift store cable knit sweater

After Farmer Man and I married this past summer we decided that because of my 'advanced maternal age' (which is apparently the nicer term for a 'geriatric pregnancy'), we would start trying for a baby right away. I fully expected it would take months of trying because of my age and because of so many stories I've heard of people struggling to conceive, particularly as they get older. I did lots of research on conception, bought ovulation test strips, and used cycle tracking apps all in the hopes of increasing our chances.

About a month after we started accurately tracking ovulation, I decided to take a pregnancy test 'just for fun'. I say this because even though we were actively trying for a baby, I really, truly did not think it would happen so quickly so I was expecting a negative result. Well, again, events in life unfold in their own time and I found out that day that I WAS PREGNANT!! I called Farmer Man and told him there was a very faint line on the pregnancy test and that I would take another just to be sure. We were both excited but also hesitant to believe that it was really true. I also initially felt really freaked out at the thought of this little thing growing in my body! It's such a weird experience and I really didn't know what to expect or how to react.

Could not believe my eyes when I saw the very faint lines

I wasn't really sure what to do at that point but I quickly found out that there's really not much you can do except wait and hope for the best. Miscarriage rates are higher for older women as are rates of abnormal chromosomal issues so although we were really happy and excited, this excitement was tempered knowing that really anything could happen. As the weeks progressed, I was feeling pretty good overall, with very mild symptoms. Then at around 7 weeks, I started to have spotting (light bleeding) along with cramping and low back pain and was fearful that I was losing the baby. Our first prenatal appointment wasn't scheduled for another 2 weeks so we had no way of knowing if everything was developing normally. Luckily, I was able to get an appointment with another doctor a week later and cried as we heard the little heartbeat during the ultrasound. Baby R. was measuring right on schedule and they couldn't find any reason for the spotting- all was well.

Per my doctor's recommendation, we did opt to do a couple genetic tests at 10 weeks and subsequently, the sex of the baby was also determined. I did not want to find out the sex until the baby was born as it just wasn't something that was important to me and I prefer more gender neutral clothes, toys, and decor. I also thought it would be such a fun surprise on 'birth day'.  Farmer Man made several passionate speeches as to why he felt it was important to find out the sex and because it seemed very important to him, I had the doctor write it down on a card at my 13 week checkup. We now know the sex of Baby R. but are going to keep that between us and our close friends and family. We have settled on a name as well, but we are keeping that a secret until birth day!

Based on what I've read and heard about pregnancy symptoms, I feel very lucky to have had a pretty easy time of things overall so far (other than the scary bleeding incident). I had some mild nausea during the first trimester, usually setting in around dinner time and remedied with crackers and apple slices and not lasting more than a few weeks. My only cravings so far have been apples, orange juice, and BLT sandwiches. Farmer Man has been very helpful and thoughtful, always offering to run up to the store or rub my back if need be!

Crafty Teacher Lady Pregnancy

I'm now 16 weeks along and there has not been one day that's gone by that I haven't felt SO GRATEFUL for this opportunity. Because I've waited so long to become a mother and because I have witnessed grief in the hearts of some of my very best and dearest loved ones who've struggled with infertility and miscarriage, it is impossible for me to take this opportunity for granted. I've cried many tears of grief for the hurt of those who long to be parents but have not yet been given the opportunity- it weighs heavy on my heart.  I honestly don't know why I've been given this opportunity and I don't know how this story will/could end, but I feel so incredibly thankful and grateful!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

A Love Story Part 5: Our Wedding

We've now arrived at the last of my 'love story' posts, OUR WEDDING!
If you'd like to start at the beginning of our story, start here with part one!

Before I share the details, you can watch our wedding video HERE!
I'm so very thankful that I decided to spend a little extra to have this video made as it's so incredibly special and brings us so much joy!

We started our wedding plans a month and a half before we were actually engaged. To many people, this may seem very untraditional, but we decided to make our own rules and do what was best for us! We knew we wanted to get married within the year and if we were to marry in Maine (which was really important to me), it just seemed logical to do it before I moved to Virginia. Neither of us envisioned a huge wedding on which we would spend a lot of money and with our short timeline that didn't seem to make sense logistically. We liked the intimacy of an elopement but also liked the idea of having some close friends and family with us to celebrate after, so we ending up doing a hybrid of both!

I had searched 'city hall elopement' in Google and ended up coming across some absolutely beautiful photos of weddings at Portland City Hall (the building is quite stunning inside and out). Portland is were I was born and I thought it would be fitting to marry here before I moved away to Virginia...a nice 'farewell to Maine' if you will. We decided we would get married just the two of us and then have a small group of family and friends meet us for dinner afterward. The perfect blend of intimacy and celebration.

But as is the case with all 'perfect' plans, there's usually something that goes awry and our wedding was no exception. A few months before our wedding day I called the city clerk to make sure they would be open the day after July 4th to which she assured me they would be. Then, four days BEFORE our wedding day, I got a notice that said the city manager had just decided to close on July 5th so we wouldn't be able to get married there after all. You can imagine my panic after receiving this news since our wedding was at the end of the week! Fortunately, after my mom contacted the city manager directly, he kindly offered to personally open up City Hall to us on our wedding day, which meant we ended up having the whole building to ourselves- a truly private ceremony!

We stayed at The Regency Hotel in Portland's Old Port section, which is centrally located between Portland City Hall and the ferry to Great Diamond Island. We checked in on July 4th and spent that evening with Farmer Man's parents and close friends who were able to make it up from Virginia for the wedding festivities. Lobster rolls and fireworks were on the agenda!

The next morning, our wedding day, we ordered breakfast and then I sent Farmer Man to a hang out with his buddies while I got ready. I hid in the bathroom while he popped back in to our room to put on his suit before heading outside to wait for me. We did a 'first look' in front of the hotel then walked together to city hall to say our vows.

Maine Elopement

City Hall Elopement Dress

After our exchanging our vows, we walked through the streets of the Portland Old Port down to the waterfront where our immediate family and some close friends were waiting. We all took a scenic ferry cruise of Casco Bay to Great Diamond Island where we had a lovely, intimate dinner in an old brick barn on the island. The space was gorgeous enough that I didn't really need to do much decorating, which was great. I did, however, make our 'just married' sign out of a thrift store frame, sewed some simple table runners, and purchased the white lanterns for the floral centerpieces from IKEA, which all went well with our coastal setting. The Maine coast is absolutely breathtaking, particularly in the summer, and we are so happy to have had this special island outing. 

Other Details
After watching lots of YouTube tutorials, I decided to do my own hair and makeup. I'm very particular and decided to trust myself (and practice SEVERAL times before the big day). A couple of my friends came to the hotel and helped me get ready, which was really helpful.

I found my dress for $120 from Lauren Bridal. The website doesn't have very good reviews and I didn't know if it would actually fit or be good quality but the price was great so I decided to take a chance and order the dress. It ended up fitting really well and was exactly what I imagined for a city hall elopement!

My shoes are Badgely Mischka via Amazon and are the prettiest shoes I've ever worn! They were also the most uncomfortable shoes I've ever worn but the look was totally worth the pain! At $123, they were the priciest part of my outfit but I have no regrets- so beautiful!

I was on the fence about wearing a veil with a short dress but ended up ordering a simple $25 style from Etsy. Luckily, one of the friends helping me get ready on the wedding day was really persistent in convincing me to wear it. It ended up completing my look perfectly and made the photos and videos that much more beautiful! My entire wedding day look cost less than $300, perfect for a budget-friendly, low key wedding.

Farmer Man wore a suit coat & pants from H&M, paired with a shirt, shoes, and a belt that he already owned. I purchased his tie from Amazon, which completed his look for under $120. He could pretty much wear anything and look handsome!

Wedding Venders/Sources
Floral Arrangements: CM Skerritt Designs
Photography: Molly & Victoria Co.
Videographer: Miles Drouin
Marriage Venue: Portland City Hall, Portland, Maine
Officiant: Janice Gardner of Hitch Maine
Reception Dinner: The Art Gallery at Diamond's Edge Restaurant, Great Diamond Island
Ferry: Casco Bay Lines
Wedding Whoopie Pies: The European Bakery (owned by one of my former teaching colleagues)
Invitations & Place Cards: Minted 

Following our wedding, we had a more casual "I Do BBQ" in both Maine and Virginia so we could invite and celebrate with a larger group of extended family and friends, both of which were really fun and relatively stress-free! Our wedding day was everything we hoped it would be, the intimacy of both our ceremony and dinner was very special and being able to celebrate with more family and friends after the fact only added to our happy memories.

Some have wondered if people were upset or offended because we got married without anyone at the ceremony and had a very limited guest list for the dinner reception. To that I would answer that the couple getting married should do what feels right to them and those who love them will understand and respect their choices, whatever they may be! Thank you for for reading our love story!

Friday, September 6, 2019

A Love Story Part 4: An Engagement

After I spent the summer in Virginia, Farmer Man and I knew we wanted to continue to be together and that I would eventually move to be with him. I was starting a new school year so we would have to go back to long-distance dating for 10 months before I could make the move. With such a big step, naturally we also talked about our shared desire to get engaged/married within the next year to solidify that we were fully committed to being together.

Fall and winter came and went and before we knew it spring was here. At the beginning of March, Farmer Man and I were talking about the move and making future plans and the topic of marriage came up once again. I knew I wanted to get married in Maine (and Farmer Man was open to that) and we knew that we wanted to get married sometime within the year. We weren't even engaged yet but somehow the wedding plans were already being made! We ended up picking the venue and subsequently the date of our wedding a month and a half BEFORE we were actually engaged!

During April vacation I went to Virginia to spend the week with Farmer Man. Since we had already made the wedding plans, a proposal was just a matter of time! I was really hoping this would be the week he would propose but really had no idea where or how he would do it. At the start of our week together we drove down to Charleston, SC to visit some friends and I thought maybe it would happen there since there are so many beautiful and romantic spots. On the other hand, I really couldn't picture him proposing in front of other people and thought maybe he wanted to do it somewhere closer to home in a place that was special to us.

Toward the end of the week, we were back in Virginia and the proposal hadn't happened yet. I was beginning to wonder if he was going to do it at all! On the day before I was going to head back to Maine, he said a couple of his friends wanted to meet us for dinner that night at one of our favorite restaurants in one of my favorite little nearby towns. As we were getting ready for dinner that night, he said his friends cancelled and it would be just the two of us going to dinner. We parked and were walking down the street toward the restaurant and I commented that it was a bit chilly so he ran back to the car saying he would look for a jacket (little did I know but he was actually taking the ring out of his glove box)!!

We had a lovely dinner together and as we were walking back toward the car he stopped me on the street corner in front of a bed and breakfast, pulled me close, kissed me and told me he loved me. Then, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! I jokingly said 'OK, how bout July 5th?' since that was the date we had already picked for the wedding. He put the ring on my finger and told me he knew how much I loved that little town and now we would have to come back each year and stay in the bed and breakfast to remember the night we got engaged! It was sweet, thoughtful, romantic, private, and understated- just very 'Farmer Man'!

The proposal was on the street corner just behind me in Smithfield, Virginia

The ring design is something we both love- a very simple and classic style. What makes it special and unique, however, is that the center diamond belonged to Farmer Man's grandmother! It would serve as my 'something old' on our wedding day.

Before I left to go back to Maine, we took a few engagement photos on the farm so we could finally make our happy news known to the world! Our wedding was only 2.5 months away so as soon as I was back in Maine, the planning was in full swing (along with getting my house ready to sell and preparing to leave my teaching career of 15 years)! Needless to say, it was the most hectic few months I've ever experienced!

Here's the next part of the story:
A Love Story Part 5: The Wedding

Other Parts of This Series
A Love Story Part 1: The Single Life
A Love Story Part 2: Unexpected Double Date
A Love Story Part 3: Long Distance Relationship

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Love Story Part 3: Long Distance Relationship

After our awesome first/second dates in Maine, Farmer Man went back home to Virginia. I cried when he left because there's was so much uncertainty about what would happen at that point and I knew he was someone special. He called me on his drive back home and we chatted for a while but still, what was next for us?

I asked him if I could come visit him as I'd always wanted to visit Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg, both 'bucket list' places for this social studies teacher! He told me he'd love for me to visit and so I planned a trip to see him at the end of March (which was about six weeks away...an agonizing wait)!

In the meantime, we chatted on the phone every couple of days, sent funny texts, which often referenced our common love of The Office, and got to know each other more with each conversation. We discussed early on what each other's goals were in terms of a relationship because neither of us were interested in wasting the other person's time. I was very clear that I wanted marriage and kids and told him it was OK if those weren't things he was ready for, he just needed to be upfront with me.  I'm 5.5 years older than him and was definitely in a place where I was looking to settled down with 'my person'. He said he was open to both and I said that if things ever worked out between us, I'd be open to moving since he was working on turning his family's land into a farm & campground and I could theoretically teach anywhere (more on that decision in another post).

The end of March arrived and I went to visit Farmer Man for the first time. We were both a bit nervous because we had only spent 1.25 days together and hadn't seen each other in about 6 weeks. But, we had a great time together and made plans to see each other again the following month. At that point, I'm not sure either of us knew what was going to happen between us since dating long distance is complicated, we just knew that we liked being together and spending time together so we continued to make plans to see one another over the next several months.

              Our first photo together, on a ship at Jamestown during my first visit to see Farmer Man

                                                       Long weekend in Rhode Island

By the beginning of June, we decided that I'd spend my summer vacation in Virginia so we could spend more than just a long weekend together once a month. It would be our 'make it or break it' trial period to see what the future would bring for us. At the end of the summer, we would either decide to end things or we would decide we were in it for the long haul, having to endure long distance for a whole school year as neither of us were ready for me to move that first summer but I couldn't up and move in the middle of a school year so if we stayed together, we would have to wait until the next summer for me to move.

 With Baby Daisy on the farm last summer

Camping with my Farmer Man

The summer months went by quickly and by the end of August, we were both 'all in' and knew we wanted to be together. I went back to Maine to start my 15th year teaching and Farmer Man stayed in Virginia. It was really tough to go back to long distance dating after spending every day together for two months. We talked on the phone every day but some days/weeks were really tough to be apart. Our communication styles are very different, which made staying connected pretty difficult at times. We've been asked what the 'secret' is to making it through a long distance relationship and both of us agree there really isn't one- it pretty much sucks and the only way through is a common commitment to the end goal- which is the day that you will actually be together without any distance between you.

 Suffolk, Virginia Peanut Festival

 With my very handsome wedding date 
(I officiated the wedding of my very good friends)

 Our first Thanksgiving together at my home in Maine

The only photo we got of our first Christmas, waiting for our flight from Maine to Virginia in the Portland Jetport

Celebrated our anniversary in February and went back to the restaurant where it all started!

For the next 10 months, we saw each other about every 4 weeks, give or take, me going to Virginia or him coming up to Maine, spending holidays together with our families, spending time with each others friends. We knew for sure that I would move at the end of the school year and we knew that we wanted to be engaged before that happened...turns out, not only would we be engaged but we would be MARRIED before I moved that summer!

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