Leif’s Story, Day 4

It’s been almost 8 months since we lost our son and–by the wonderful grace of God– so much healing has occurred in that span of time. We’re all in a good place. However, something still compels me to share the valley we walked through because it is flooded with His grace and goodness. And so, today, the story continues if you so choose. 

8/30/17

My eyes opened to another morning. It was tough to get out of bed. Not only was I sore from giving birth, a wreck from waking up every morning thus far to a nightmare, but my chest  was starting to throb. Sunday. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. My milk was in full production. It’s too bad my body wasn’t aware that I had no baby to feed. It only stood as a cruel, cruel reminder. I had to let off some of the pressure—even though I was told not to pump. I couldn’t get mastitis. I didn’t have time to get sick. I had to plan his funeral and nothing was going to stop me from attending it.

As I stood in the bathroom, expressing just enough milk to relieve some pain but not cause my body to produce more, tears ran down my face at how absolutely tragic this scene was. Heartbreaking to watch play out. Gut wrenching to go through.

Clear tears ran down my face. White tears close to my heart.

God, please help me. I’m thankful that my body is doing what it’s supposed to, but I can’t take this. Please stop the flow. It hurts and it only serves to cause me more heartache. Please make it stop.

I walked out of the bathroom and made my way down the hall to the living room. The girls were sitting on the couch watching cartoons. Leslee had started back to his milking routine but had fed the girls before he left. I said nothing and made my way to the coffee pot. Numb. Present physically, but not emotionally or mentally. It was so hard to smile. I stood there sipping my coffee at the counter staring off into space as Taegan got up off the couch and came to stand beside me.

“Are you sad, Mommy?”

I could only look at her as new tears welled in my eyes. I nodded my head and squeaked out the word, “Very.”

“I wish Leif was here,” she sighed with the sincerest look of understanding a 7-year-old can muster. I appreciated her reaching out, her attempt to be my company in the misery. Tough- as-nails, rock solid little Taegan who rarely showed emotion was trying to meet me in the pain.

“Me too, baby….me, too.”

I walked back to the bedroom, coffee cup in hand, to put my make up on. Silly, really…knowing how much I would surely cry over the course of the day.  We would go pick up Leif’s casket from some sweet friends who custom made it and deliver it to the funeral home this afternoon.

I reflected on one of the things my OB had said before we left the hospital…that this was going to be the worst month of our lives. She knew nothing of Leslee’s past, but I was certain she was right about me. So, I found my planner, opened it to August, and crossed out the 27th, 28th, and 29th. 3 days down. 28 more to go.

 

Leslee

 

We had spent a lot of time driving, it seemed, and today was no different. We drove in virtual silence, but that was ok. No conversation was necessary. No questions needed asking when tears would well up. A pat on the leg, a squeeze of the hand, a sympathetic look was the only exchange. I would look at her and wonder what was going through her mind. How she was feeling. How she was processing. I reflected on the “stages of grief” I went through and wondered if Breauna would hit those or whether I could help her skirt around a few based on my own experiences.

I took her out to lunch after we delivered the casket to the funeral home and we talked about the coming days and other things. It was probably the first time we had a conversation without crying. We left and on the drive home, Breauna sat looking up at the sky. Her face was always turned to the window. What was she thinking about? I wondered that a lot. Sometimes, I pressed for an answer and she was always willing to talk, but other times I just left her alone with her thoughts. I had a pretty good idea.

A song came on the radio and she reached to turn it up. I remember the song—“Wild West” by Runaway June—a current favorite of hers. It was the first time since Leif left us that I’d heard my wife sing. I just sat there and listened. To say something might have caused her to stop and I didn’t want that. I sat there and let the low, rich tambre of her beautiful voice wash over me while I rejoiced in my head. She loves to sing. She’s singing! My grieving, heartbroken wife is singing.

The song ended and I couldn’t hold back. “I’m so in love with you,” I told her. “And I’m so happy to hear you singing.”

She turned to me and gave me that little grin she does.

That was my first indication that she was going to be ok. That we were going to be ok. If she was ok, I was ok. I would walk with her through every stage of what she was going to go through in the next month and more, but she was singing… It reassured me. Amidst the brokenness, I held onto the beauty of that moment.

 

***

That evening, after milking, I walked up to the house. All the lights were on and it was dark outside, so the fact that I was simply standing in the yard staring into the windows went unnoticed. It wasn’t my first time to enjoy watching my life—my family—without them knowing. I actually did it quite a lot.  It never failed in giving me a sense of awe. The stunning woman in that house is my WIFE! Wow…speechless. Those beautiful little girls were MINE to shepherd. I definitely didn’t deserve any of this privilege.

I enjoyed taking a moment to stand here and be outside of it. Outside of myself for a moment just looking at my life and reflecting on where I’ve been. Where I am now. What I’ve seen…and the sadness overtook me out of nowhere. What I’ve seen…

I couldn’t help reflecting on the weeks following Luxe’s arrival. Starting at 5 p.m. every single night, she would start screaming and crying and it would last until exactly 8 p.m. I, of course, was always milking most of the evening, so Breauna would have to walk up down the hall and in and out of our bedroom bouncing, swaying, and pacing to somewhat calm Luxe. She wore a path through the house until Luxe grew out of the colic. I would see this each night as I walked up.  Well, actually, I could hear it, too, so I didn’t stand there very long. I’d walk in ready to relief pitch…even if it was only for about 20 minutes.

I remember all that. And this moment looked a lot like that. We’d come home from the hospital. The girls were in the living room. My wife was standing in the kitchen. Hair piled on top of her head. Sweatpants. T-shirt. Everything looked like it should have. Like it would have. But, there was no baby in her arms. There was no Leif… and there never would be. Empty arms was the distorted image I saw through my windows and the pain washed the moment in gray. Even my house seemed to sag from missing something it knew it was supposed to contain. I did my best to pull myself together before I walked in the door.

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Conversations Between the Farmer and His Wife, Part II

We’re in the second week of the farmer’s low-carb, high protein, no sugar eating adventure. I chuckle as I type the word “adventure…”

This has not been an easy feat for my grains and starch and sugar loving hubs. In fact, he’s been quite cranky. And I get it. It’s only been  two weeks. You do a lot of conquering what your brain is telling you you’re craving in that period of time. Your body has to remember how to pull energy from fat storage instead of just burning carbs. You get a little lethargic and moody sometimes when your body was used to counting on something it’s not getting now. He’s had great days where he’s thought this isn’t bad. And he’s had bad days. I think the phrase, “My life is no longer worth living” comes up periodically. (Dramatic, anyone?)

However, he’s stayed the course like a champ and looked fiercely forward to the one cheat day he gets a week where he goes completely off the rails and has whatever he wants. On the non-cheat days, he can have whatever he wants as long as it’s meat, eggs, veggies, beans, and nuts. And ya know what? He is very visibly shrinking. While he loves that, he still has to complain just a bit because he feels like he’s eating the same things over and over again. (He kinda is…but ya know what? That right there is part of why he’s been so successful).

This afternoon was a bad day. It didn’t help that I’d let our supply of foods he can have dwindle. It also didn’t help that I was within earshot–he’s gotta play it up for that.

Farmer (as he stands with the fridge doors open): “I am so SICK of lettuce! This fridge looks like a stinkin’ vegan lives here. My options are green, green, green…and green.”

Me: “Oh, come on now! Look at what’s in the crockpot for dinner! STEAK! And you’ve liked every meal I’ve made all week.”

Farmer:  (grumble grumble…something about how they’ve been alright, but not his first choice. )

Thanks, honey. Thanks a lot.

Me: “Really when you think about it, I’m not even cooking much differently than I usually do. I mean, what is missing from our meals that I used to make?”

Farmer: “HOT ROLLS! POTATOES!”

Me: “I NEVER MADE HOT ROLLS! And potatoes? We hardly ever had potatoes!”

Farmer: (more grumbles…something about at least he could have had them if he wanted to)

Because of his lack of choices and apparent desperate hunger, he settles on some refried beans mixed with salsa. And continues to be the curmudgeon to my positivity and bubbliness. But, see, this only eggs me on because it’s my greatest pleasure to make him smile and laugh in these moments.

And even though the farmer’s cranky, his mood actually improves his natural sarcasm and wit…which I get a kick out of.

So, I shift gears as he berates the fact that I told him he could have sweet potatoes. For the love of all things good, when will I be serving sweet potatoes?

Me: (with a ornery smirk) “Now, is this how Jesus would talk to His bride?”

Farmer: (as he looks at me incredulously and holds up his bowl with what looks like brown and red mush in it) “Is this what you would serve Jesus??!!”

At that, I am in tears. Laughing so hard I’m crying at the thought of this being the straw that broke the camel’s back for Jesus. He continues on with his spontaneous skit. Passing his bowl of refried beans and salsa to  imaginary Jesus in the chair next to him and saying all kinds of more hilarious, sarcastic things as he offers him our “best” food and hospitality. I can’t even catch all of it because I’m about on the ground. All the while knowing that I in no way forced my beloved to eat what he concocted in his bowl.

However, because of how hard I am laughing, guess who’s smiling…and laughing. The more I howl, the more he cracks up.

And that bad mood takes a severe hit.

 

Jesus’ presence wasn’t so imaginary in that chair next to my husband, after all.

 

Conversations Between the Farmer and his Wife

The farmer is baling and wrapping hay all day today, but he came in for a quick bite to eat. As I walked from my desk area to the kitchen carrying a plate, he says,

“Watcha doin?”

Me: “Oh, ya know, what I do best…”

Him: “Editing?’

Me: “Well, I was thinking more along the lines of eating, but I’ll take editing, too. I’m multitasking. All while being SUPER efficient because I’m eating leftovers…therefore, no food is going to waste.

Him: “Yeah, I see you also finished off the last Clif bar.”

Me: “I couldn’t let YOU eat it!” (He’s all low carb, high protein, no sugar right now. I took one for the team. That’s sacrificial love right there, folks. In action. )

Him: “Oh, no! We couldn’t have that!”

Me: “OH, OH! AND here’s the best part, (I ignore the prior sarcasm) while I’m eating, editing, and being SUPER efficient, I’m also growing a tiny human! And that quite possibly makes me the most productive person you will encounter today! 

Him: *smirk*

Trust me, it blew his mind. I rendered him speechless. He’s a lucky, lucky man. (I’m still hungry.)

Me and My Guy

Our trip to Florida was wonderful! We couldn’t have asked for better. The girls were little peaches! Minimal amounts of whining/yelling during our drive and both of them slept all night, every night. It was the first time we had gone on vacation as a family and we’re so grateful for the memories we came back with.

There will be a couple posts about our trip, but this one’s just about me and my guy.

Here he is. Smolder-smile and all. The best part? He has no idea how charming he is.Especially when he’s got 2 adorable girls in each hand.

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And let me just preface the next round of pictures with this–we I am not great at being photographed in displays of public affection. Especially when it’s my mom behind the camera. To be honest, I couldn’t feel cheesier. BUT, these pictures did turn out pretty cute…
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This photo is symbolic for me. Funny story…Leslee was vehemently against taking a photo like this. Again, the cheese factor…but when I started going through all of them once we got back, it inspired reflection. It takes me back to 12 years ago when I stood at the altar about to embark on a whole new journey. I was willing to walk away with him into deep waters because I knew there was no one else on earth I’d rather embrace uncertainty  with than him. And the same still goes for today.

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Let the awkwardness commence…Must I stand so close to this guy??!

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I guess he’s alright. One thing that people might not know about my husband until they’ve been around him a lot is that he’s incredibly funny. I’ll admit, when I met the guy, I was drawn to him because he has a broody, kind of mysterious exterior. I liked it. So, to find out there was a goofball with a heart of gold underneath sealed the deal. I was a goner. He says I bring out the goof.

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But, it’s obvious that we feed off each other. One of my favorite things about us is how much we laugh. At ourselves, at each other, and at common things that we decide to make funny for our own entertainment. You have to. Life gets heavy if you can’t laugh with someone special.

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Parenting–some more deep water, but we’re trusting the good Father for guidance on this part of our journey. And enjoying the laughs along the way, as well.

Me and my guy…

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by the ocean feeling small and embracing uncertainty. The vastness has a way of doing that to a person. However, the sea is full of rejuvenation and empowerment, as well. It’s an amazing place to press “reset” and remind ourselves that we are part of something so much bigger than us. A place to witness something beautiful for our enjoyment and for His glory.  A place to remember that He’s got this–whatever IT is–…and He’s got us.

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How I “Unknowingly” Became a Dairy Farmer’s Wife, Part II

This is the second part of how I unknowingly married a dairy farmer. If you haven’t read the first part, you’re going to be a little confused. Here’s the link to the first part: http://the-dairy-maid.com/2011/09/26/how-i-unknowingly-became-a-dairy-farmers-wife-part-1/  When I’m reading a book and I’m smack-dab in the middle of it where you’re hooked, but you have no idea how it’s going to end, I like to go to the last page and read the very last sentence and see if I can glean anything from it. Is that weird?

(Ok, back to the story.)

My father-in-law passed away in early 2009. A few months later, the cabinet shop that my husband worked at just couldn’t continue to be sustainable in the hard economic times we were experiencing and had to close its doors. The farmer had some forewarning about this and had a little bit of time to figure out what to do. I was beside myself. I had just accepted a full-time job working at the corporate office for a national auto parts chain, but what I was going to make wasn’t what my husband made. The farmer had a very specific skill set. Carpentry is something he’s very good at and construction wasn’t an industry to be in at that point. Not to mention that finding a job anywhere was next to impossible.

We had a lot of conversations in which we racked our brains trying to figure out what the next move was. I remember one day I had come home from work and was sweeping the bathroom floor. (It’s funny how vivid memories are on the day you decide to make a life-altering decision.) He came and stood in the doorway, telling me about a conversation he’d had with his mom that morning. He had been telling her that he had applied several places, but wasn’t having any luck snagging an interest. She lightheartedly said, “Well, you could come back to the farm and start milking again!” like she knew that wasn’t on his list of options. I said, as I was crying (for no other reason than that I just randomly burst into tears at any given moment back then. Overwhelming stress and Breauna don’t go together too well.) “Don’t even say such a thing unless you’re seriously thinking about it.” He just shrugged and said, “Who knows? Maybe I am.”The funny thing was that this idea hadn’t struck me as an option until that very moment. I didn’t say that, of course, because I didn’t want it to be an option. There were so many problems with the idea. The farm is an hour and a half away from where we live. I don’t know how to live in the country. I don’t want to live in the country. Where would I work? I’m supposed to be VP of a bank someday! I have no idea how to be a dairy farmer. Being out in the middle of nowhere would make me go out of my ever-loving mind. I would seriously have a psychotic break.  It’s 26 miles to the nearest grocery store! No Panera. No mall. No Barnes & Noble.  How would I keep my car clean? It’s black and the only way to get to the farm is on a gravel road. There’s no where for us to live down there. What about my 5 year plan? We’re supposed to start trying to have a baby soon. I’m terrified of snakes. My husband and I will be separated. (New batch of tears.) No more weekends where we can just relax and do whatever we want. He may be self-employed, but dairy farming is not a job where there’s any flexibility. We’ll be slaves to cattle. I want to travel. I want some forms of spontaneity in life. I don’t know much, but I know enough to know that is something dairy farmers don’t get. Our family and friends in the city will have to let us know at least a week in advance if they even ever want to have dinner sometime! Then they’ll stop inviting us because we can’t ever come! I’ll be completely isolated from everyone!!! I am not moving down there!!! (I’m pretty sure a tranquilizer could have been administered right about now.)

That’s only a small informational tid-bit on how my mind works. You don’t want the minute details. It’s wacky in there with lots of misfires and detours and roundabouts where all I do somedays is go round and round in circles. My husband knows this, so when he dropped the bomb that he was considering dairy farming as a viable option, he knew I would need time to process, so he vanished from the doorway without my even noticing it.

After I had a very detailed list of cons, I couldn’t ignore the pros. The farm is paid for. Everything we need is there. The only start-up cost is cattle. The farm makes my husband very happy and he’s got the knowledge to be successful. If we ever did need to go anywhere or get away, maybe one of his sisters or his mom could help us out. My husband is very business-minded and could grow the farm. There’s potential there for him to make it what he wants it to be. He doesn’t have those options here in the city. Not having to work for someone else is what he’s always wanted. The financial side of things make sense because we wouldn’t be highly leveraged, so profiting is a good possibility if input costs don’t break us. The pros were there, but I couldn’t help feeling like this choice was a trade-off. My happiness for his. Or vice versa. Those of us in relationships know that’s it’s really not even a trade-off. If one part of the couple is unhappy, the other part has a really hard time being the opposite. All I could think was that my husband needed a job and he needed one quickly.

I was cleaning the toilet when I said, “Leslee… what if you did take over the dairy farm?”

He looked at me longingly and said, “Let’s not even discuss this if you aren’t serious. I don’t want to get my hopes up. I won’t do it if you don’t want me to.”

“It’s definitely not my idea of an ideal fix, but I just feel like it’s the only choice we have. Other than that, I don’t feel like we have any other options. Maybe this is the opportunity you’ve been looking for in order to finish school, too. You can go to school full-time with the daytime hours freed up. Then you can sell out, have your degree, and be with me again.” We both knew there was no way he would be coming home every night if he went back to the farm. My heart was breaking because I knew how hard this was going to be for us. Not only were we husband and wife, but we were best friends who up until this were generally inseparable.

Everything moved very quickly once the decision was made. A few weeks went by and my husband was back at his childhood home. We renovated the loft above the dairy barn into a bachelor pad for him during the week and a place that I could come stay on the weekends. The first week that he started milking, I cried. I cried a lot. At the time, he didn’t have cell phone service and he wasn’t coming home at night. I couldn’t just randomly call him and see what he was up to. I came home to an empty house and it stayed that way. Going to sleep at night was the worst. I have an overactive imagination (you might have already gathered that about me) and if he wasn’t home, I was scared to death. However, in my state of depression, I didn’t want to stay anywhere but home.

But, as people normally do, I adapted. I was working full-time and the farmer got a cell phone with a new company. I was going down to the farm on the weekends and the farmer was here two nights a week because he had classes all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Routines started and in the late summer of 2009, I found out I was pregnant. (Planned, of course. It’s a sickness.) I grew to cherish the weekends I was down at the farm and was surprised at how much I enjoyed myself. Not that I didn’t enjoy myself when the farmer’s parents were still running everything, but there was just something different about it when my husband was doing it. Maybe a sense of pride and ownership because it was his now and I was helping him. I just felt like I left pieces of me there every time I left and I looked forward to going back, even though I knew I would work like a dog the next time, too. I guess the best word would be invested. (I’m a finance major. I can’t help it.)

Long story short, I had Peanut in the spring of 2010 and decided that I couldn’t continue to work any longer. My husband was running the farm very successfully and I couldn’t stand the thought of putting her in daycare if I didn’t have to be working. I quit my job and accepted that my purpose here on Earth wasn’t what I had planned all those years. God had something else planned for me and I still can’t be sure what that is. I know it’s not being a big-wig banker. It’s probably a good thing. It would have gone straight to my head, anyway. But, I’m content to just see where He takes me. In my experience, it’s always somewhere or something better than you would have ever thought to go or want. For the first time in my life, I’m just going with the flow and following a hunky dairy farmer instead of making my own path in the world. I couldn’t be happier, to be honest. We’re building a cute lil’ house on the place and I’ve grown accustomed to walking through manure and having a perpetually dusty car. However, I still run screaming from anything that even remotely resembles a  wasp and to even see a snake on the road while I’m driving sends me into fits of hysteria. Heart palpitations. Nausea. The whole shebang. The fact that I am encased in steel is irrelevant. There’s just no logic to it.

I don’t use my finance degree to its full potential, but I do take care of all the books and jokingly make comments about our “cash cows.” And our accountant loves me. He says I make his job really easy and, for now, that’s all the pat on the back I need.

Yours truly,

The Dairymaid