ralph turns one

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We celebrated Ralph's first birthday on Tuesday with a banana muffin, brunch at Blue's Egg, a trip to the zoo, presents, two baths, cake, and a little birthday dinner with my sister and her family. Ralph got so many sweet gifts and cards and phone calls and messages. There was a lot of love going on the whole day long. Ralph took it all in very seriously and curiously, like he knew something was up, and by the end of the day we were all wiped out. Birthdays can take the tuck out of you, that's for sure.

If you're interested in seeing Ralph destroy his cake and wave to some fishies at the zoo, I made a little video of the day. It took me nearly two nights to make, and I almost gave up, but now that I have the hang of how to do it, I might make 14,939 more.

Happy birthday to you, little Ralphie. We love you so!


ralph's first story

IMG_1438 Ralph Robert Markgraf was born at 5:36 on a Monday morning.

The night before, Ryan and I were watching Sunday night football and eating a pizza. We had waited all weekend for a baby to show. We nested, we went out for lunch, we cleaned, we went to church, we took a nap, and we were convinced a baby was never going to show up, ever. It was somewhere after my third slice of pizza when pop! With a strong kicking sort of feeling, my water broke right there on the couch. I stood up, waddled up the stairs, saying something to Ryan about my water breaking? and made it to the bathroom. With shaking hands I called the doctor, who told us to head to the hospital as soon as we could. I had my first contraction in the car.

For some reason it took three different nurses to determine that I was actually in labor. By the time we made it into the delivery room, we were at least two hours into the process. Ryan turned on the TV (more football) and I was perched on a bed in a hospital gown, texting my parents and sisters things like this ain't so bad. 

Two hours later the TV was off, and there was nothing but the sound of beeps and deep breaths. Deep breaths, deep breaths, deep breaths.

Right around the time I was sure I needed to vomit or get an epidural, something shifted and changed, and I knew I needed to push. It was 2am. Bed sheets were changed, lights were adjusted, there was a lot of bustling about, and I thought, this is it!

Whenever I pictured this part of Ralph's birth in my head, I saw it much like how TV and the movies portray a delivery. Bright lights, lots of shouting, lots of coaching and cheering. When it actually happened, the lights were dim, there wasn't much noise coming from me other than breathing and the occasional, "ice chips, please." I didn't have energy to waste on anything else. My doctor showed up halfway through the pushing, and instead of giving any sort of direction, he patiently sat at the foot of the bed with his arms and legs crossed, like he was watching a football game. It was all up to me, and I knew it.

Three and a half exhausting hours later, it was over. The first sound I ever heard from my baby was a tiny, "Achoo!" The doctor said, "He sneezed!" And I said, "He sneezed! Oh Ralphie!" And then he was placed in my arms, red and wrinkly and quiet, with dark eyes looking up at me. The most beautiful baby boy I had ever seen.

A little while later, my nurse told me I could shower if I felt like it. I didn't, really, but thought I might be glad to get that part over with. I hoisted myself off the bed and shuffled into the bathroom just off the delivery room. As soon as I stepped into the shower I knew it was a bad idea. The walls turned black and closed in around my eyes. Everything was swirling. I was about to faint, and I called out to Ryan. But instead of Ryan, the nurse's arms took hold of me, and somehow managed to get me out of the shower and in a seated position. After a minute or two, I had pulled myself together. A few nurses got me into some dry blankets and a wheel chair, and wheeled me back into the room. I turned to Ryan, who was walking around with Ralph in his arms, and said, "I almost fainted. Didn't you hear me calling you?" He looked back at me with stars in his eyes and with a sigh, said, "Hm?" completely oblivious to what had just happened not even 10 feet away.

That was the moment I knew everything had changed. It wasn't just the two of us anymore. It was Ryan and me, with this tiny little wonder named Ralph in the middle. That was the moment I realized we had just become a family. Nothing on earth has been quite so grand and terrifying and wonderful as that feeling ever since.


couples therapy

For some reason, it's taken me an entire year to care about what our bedroom looks like in this house. I mean, I cared a little. I cleaned it, I made the bed, I kept it tidy. But it's all the way upstairs tucked into the corner at the end of the hall, and there were much more pressing issues to tend to when it came to making this house our home. Like getting rid of the brown walls in the living room, and the (fake) crystal chandelier in the dining room, and the old, dusty, stained curtains...everywhere. And it's not like we spend that much time in our bedroom. Bedtime, the occasional story for Ralph, coffee on Saturday mornings. That's about it. The bedroom was last on my list of rooms to fix up.

And then last weekend I caught the bug. Lots of bright white bedrooms on pinterest, I think that's what finally did it. We already had white paint, and a quick trip to Target for some simple white curtains and sheets took care of the rest. We painted the entire room in one afternoon last weekend, and now I just need some art for the walls before it's all finished. 

On Tuesday I decided to really go for it, and deep cleaned the entire room. I washed all the bedding and dusted and swept. It took me all day (lots of babies in my house these days, so most things take all day now) and I didn't get to scrubbing the floor until after Ralph was in bed. I got down on my hands and knees with a bucket of soapy water and started washing when I heard Ryan come up the stairs and into the room with a rag in his hand. He knelt down too, and we washed our bedroom floor together. It wasn't much, but for some reason it felt like such a sweet and loving gesture, and it almost made me cry. Working on projects together is something we both love to do, but working together on the room where we whisper and laugh and pray and sleep and dream, side by side, has been my favorite project yet. It felt ceremonious. It felt like our marriage was washed clean and fresh, along with the floor and the sheets. Having a pretty bedroom to fall asleep in now is just a bonus.


happy birthday to you

IMG_8886 A few weeks ago my sister told me that my nephews still talk about the baby I lost. She said one night before bed they asked her if I'm still sad. They wondered if she was still little in heaven, or if she was big.

And oh, my heart.

It's been two years and my life now is so different from the one I had then, when my first pregnancy ended and my little baby died. I have another baby to think about and take care of now, and there isn't as much space in my mind to fill up thinking about my little girl all day. Or even every day. That thought alone makes me feel so sad. I can't help but feel some guilt over it. What kind of mother doesn't think about her child daily? Even one that's not here on earth anymore?

But no. I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful for the passing of time, and I'm thankful that God is giving me exactly what I prayed so hard for-- a little bit of comfort and a little bit of peace. It keeps getting easier.

There are times when I look at Ralphie and wonder if he looks like what she would have looked like. There are times when I hear of another woman going through the shock and sadness of losing a baby. Those are the times my heart breaks all over again. I'm able to mend it back together pretty quickly, but it breaks all the same. And I'm glad for that too. It's good to remember her, even when it hurts.

Of course, it's this time of year that I remember her more often. She was born on a sunny fall day, and the trees that lined the street where we lived turned a brilliant shade of yellow the week we lost her. Those yellow leaves remind me of her so much.

So I baked you a cake, little baby. Happy birthday to you.

. . .

There are a few more posts about miscarriage/stillbirth on the blog if you're interested in reading them: her birth story here, and the post I wrote last year on this day, here.