Every time I sit down to share changes we've made to our family, I can't help but think nearly 3 months ago my whole world came crumbling down. I never told you exactly how it happened because I couldn't gather the right words. Gosh, I still don't have the right words, so bare with me. Before I can move forward I need to pay homage to my poor Dad who recently lost his life, after a ridiculously short 6 week battle with cancer. Seeing that all of these changes wouldn't have happened if I wasn't grieving him.
So let’s start from the beginning… grab your cup of coffee, a box of tissue, and lets dive right in...
The photo below was taken on November 4th, only 4 days before we found out that my Dad had cancer. The baby was sick, the boys were naked, the lighting was all off (a photographers nightmare), but for some reason I had this weird feeling to snap a quick photo before he left our home that night. If you ever have that strange urge, just go with it! It's better safe then sorry. This will be the last photo that my kids have of just them with their grandpa.
This past summer we noticed that my Dad was starting to look a little thinner, we thought he was just aging, never in our wildest dreams would we think he was deathly ill. This guy was the healthiest man we knew -he exercised everyday, ate clean, and was still so youthful! He did have this lingering cough that started in June and we noticed it was getting worse -to the point he couldn't get a word out without having a coughing attack. Doctors had been running tests for months, and finally approved a CAT scan. On November 8th we received the news, he had cancer. We wouldn't know for certain what type or what stage until a Biopsy was taken the following week.
We were all in total SHOCK! Even so, we remained hopeful that the cancer would be in a early stage to fight. We know many survivors and we knew for sure he was going to be a survivor!
Those 2 weeks of waiting were the longest weeks of our lives! My Pops health took a quick turn for the worst. He was in excruciating pain, to the point he had to be bedridden. Things weren't looking good. He was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer (gastrointestinal), it had already spread to his lungs (causing his cough), and was quickly taking over his spine (leaving him unable to walk).
This was all happening too fast to process! How could it already be at stage 4? Since when is a cough a symptom of cancer!?!
But wait, there's more... the following week we received news that it was TERMINAL, and they predicted he'd only have months to weeks to live!
Within a period of 5 weeks my Dad found out that he didn't have much longer in this world!
Imagine being told you have less than two months to live. What would you do with the time you have left?
Now imagine you were in too much pain to get out of bed and can't do any of those things!
Pretty shitty, right!?!
The days were long and the weeks were short. My Dad was a warrior through it all. He was given medications to manage his pain so he could live the rest of his days in peace. Oh how I wish they had worked for him sooner than later! When the CBD didn't work, we turned to Morphine. After that kicked in, so did the insomnia and hallucinations! This was the scariest thing I've ever experienced and unbearable to witness. The Fentanyl Patch was our final option, it seemed to finally ease his pain for the last week of his life.
Yep! That’s really how fast it went! My Dad’s battle with cancer lasted a whopping 6.5 WEEKS! Exactly 46 DAYS!
He never got to "live like he was dying"! Check off anything from his bucket list!
This man worked his butt off his whole life and never got to retire and enjoy it!
He celebrated his last birthday in bed surrounded by his family.
And just like that he’s gone! Leaving behind his family who'll miss him more than he’ll ever know!
Somehow through all of this... I’m thankful.
Thankful I had the chance to grow closer to my Dad in the last 6 weeks of his life than we’d ever been.
Thankful I got to see a beautiful patient, loving, forgiving side of my Dad that I never knew.
Thankful that he held on just long enough for ALL of his children and grandchildren to be together for one last Christmas celebration together.
Thankful that I got to tell him how much I loved him, and appreciated the valuable lessons he taught us.
Thankful I got to kiss him goodbye and hold him for one last time!
So there it is... our story in a nutshell. It definitely doesn’t do justice to the nightmare we lived. There were so many things that happened in between. It was the shortest and yet the longest thing I've ever experienced. It sounds confusing because it was! Like slowly ripping off the most painful bandaid, but never wanting it to end because that just meant he'd be gone. Movies never prepared me for this side of cancer.
He never lost any of his hair. Never had a chance to get chemo. He never had a chance to fight.
This whole process has totally changed my perspective on cancer and how fast it can take away a life. It leaves everyone feeling so helpless as you sit there watching your loved one lose every ounce of strength till there's nothing left.
My Dad took his last breath on Christmas Eve morning. Even though we knew this day was coming, there was NOTHING we could've done to prepare us for the pain we were about to endure.
I completely checked out from the world, crawled into my little shell of a home, and grieved.
Oh boy did I grieve!
I felt ache in places I’ve never felt before! Physically, mentally, emotionally. I lost complete control over my feelings, my family, my home, my routines, my health, you name it! I felt lost, empty, and alone (even though I had everyone around me). I learned you can never really prepare to live without someone forever. To never hear their voice, feel their warm embrace, smell their scent. Breaks my heart over and over again. But I have faith that we’ll meet again!
Wow that was intense! My shirt is drenched in tears and snot! Yuck!
I'm not trying to get your sympathy, y'all have shown me more than enough love during this hard time! I'm just hoping that sharing my heart can allow us to connect on a deeper level than just the snippets you see on social media! If you've been feeling shitty lately, dealing with hard times, feeling like your life has fallen apart -this is for you! Please know you're not alone! It will get better. I felt like I was losing my mind, I'd be in mid conversation, then BOOM! I'd break down into tears out of nowhere! Thankfully these outbursts have reduced over time. The hurt may never completely go away, but eventually you'll be able to function again. I could sugar coat it, but grief is a B*tch! There's no way around it! The pain is so intense! It’s a process and I know I have a long road ahead.
Here are 5 ways I was able to grieve in peace...
If you made it to the end of this very long post, you're sooo AWESOME! Thank you so much for your love and support!
I don't know how I got so lucky to have this little girl of mine! She has been an absolute dream come true! I always felt extremely blessed with my two sons, but this little lady is the cherry on top! She has filled every nook and cranny left in my heart. I was going through photos from this past year and it's crazy to see how much has happened in the last 12 months. Exactly one year ago today I was pregnant for the very last time (that's right, the baby-making shop is closed for good --tied, snipped, burned down!). I remember anxiously waiting to meet my baby girl in the hospital bed, not knowing that this would be my quickest delivery yet. I wasn't even admitted into the hospital for an hour and then... there she came --right before the epidural had time to kick in! I can't remember all of the pain, I just remember holding her in my arms for the very first time and breaking down into tears! I finally met my lifelong best friend!
Life is good my friends and I make sure to count my blessings each and everyday.
I promise to love, protect, and raise you exactly like your big brothers. To make sure you know your strength and worth! Help you find your voice and passion for life! You have such a sweet and spunky personality, I look forward to seeing who you become! I just know you are going to do great things! But until then my love, stay my baby for a little while longer. I'm not ready for you to grow up just yet!
I've never been good at taking monthly photos of my babies, but I'm so glad that I stuck with it this time around. Third times a charm, right!?! -even if it was only with my crappy camera phone. It's so cool to see how much she's changed! Her eyes were so small at 1 month, then they sprouted at 5 months! She started losing her hair at 5 months so we buzzed it all off, remember!?! People thought we were totally crazy, but look how fast it grew back --in only 3 months! I love how you can see her different moods in each photo. She wasn't always a happy camper, thats for sure!
The photo below is her first photo on the growth chart, at only 2 weeks old, and the bottom photo is on her first birthday :(
Its so crazy how much changes over a couple of months! I took these photos when our little peanut was only 1 month old! Gosh she was such a wiggle fart that day! Escaping from her swaddle, causing blurred arms and her face expressions... oh those face expressions! This is exactly why I don't recommend waiting longer than 2 weeks to take your newborn photos. You're less likely to get those sweet peaceful photos. Oh how I wish I could take these photos all over again but this time in my studio where the lighting is way better. With the bad lighting and all these are very dear to my heart! These are my first photos of my babies all together! Waaahhhhh!!!!
I'm super excited to share with you a tutorial on how I tried to replicate this gorgeous watercolor flower wallpaper for my baby girls nursery. I came across this wallpaper on pinterest and was completely set on having it, but didn't want to pay an arm and a leg to cover only one wall. When I was searching for tutorials, I wasn't able to find much online. So I tried to make it as simple as possible for myself...
Here's a before photo of the wall color in the bedroom, it was tan for my son's vintage sports themed room. It seems like only yesterday I was painting and decorating Maxx's nursery! Wahhh!
As you can see below, choosing a wall color was harder than I thought. After going through a million samples, we ended up painting 3 walls Iced Cherry by BEHR and had the attendant at home depot cut 70% of the color out to lighten the pink. I used a white eggshell finish on the wall that I was going to paint the flowers on. You want to stay away from the glossy finishes because the diluted paints will just drip right off and wont give you that watercolor effect.
After I painted my white wall, I sketched a plan (on a piece of paper) of where I wanted to arrange the flowers on the wall. I'm obsessed with sketching out my ideas for E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G from redecorating to planning our next party and arranging where the tables should go. I get a new notebook every year for all my sketches. I know, I annoy myself too, but it totally helps me narrow down my thoughts and stay organized.
You'll notice some green painters tape in the center of the wall, I wanted to make sure to leave that space empty so I can hang her name decal. I also marked off where the crib was going to be so that I could practice those flowers first just in case they came out awful they'd be covered by the crib. Then I got foam board from the Dollar Tree and cut out large shapes for flowers and petals for the larger flowers. Next faintly trace them with pencil on the wall. You want to draw faintly because you will be painting over the markings and if its too dark they will show through. My markings are light and some still show through if your standing super close to the wall, but I don't mind at all.
Please forgive all these dark phone pics - my 4 year old Maxx was my photographer! -8 months prego
After you trace everything out, the fun part begins... PAINTING!!! I bought sample paints from home depot (3.99 each) for all the colors. I used 3 different shades of the pink wall color mentioned above for most of the flowers, a darker pink for the rose looking flowers, a yellowish orange for some of the centers, brownish black for the others, and a forest green for the leaves. I ended up only using less then half of the sample sized containers. I realized I bought way too much paint because remember you dilute the colors with water. I recommend going to Michaels Crafts Store and purchasing the small tubes of acrylic paints in the colors you like.
I started with a black foam paint brush but later switched to a large soft pointed tip paint brush that I found in my kids art box. I prefer this paint brush because it gave those imperfect paint strokes that I was going for.
First dab the brush in the water then into the color and start painting the outline of the flowers.
Then I dip the brush in the water only and started filling in the center of the flowers giving it a gradient effect.
Remember I was going for the imperfect watercolor look so I was carelessly going outside the lines, smudged here and there, and left some empty streaks.
Keep a paper towel on hand just in case you need to wipe up any drippage. You want to wipe it up immediately so that it doesn't mark your wall. If I felt that the paint was too dark then I would use the paper towel to wipe and blend.
You'll notice that I painted one color at a time. I started with the smaller light pink flowers and did all of them before moving on to the next flower. Start with the lighter colors and work your way to the darker ones. This way your able to use one paint brush and simply rinse in between.
For the center of the flowers I diluted the dark brown color and smushed an oval, then dipped my brush back into the paint and speckled some spots. Haha Oh all the technical terms.
It was night time when I finally finished! But below is what it looks like in the day time.
Overall I think the wall cost me around $30 . I was super intimidated to try it but I'm so glad that I did! The prep work was pretty time consuming because of tracing the stencils to make sure the wall was well balanced. Surprisingly the painting was the easiest and fastest part. If you decide to try it please leave me a comment below, Id love to see how it comes out!
Click HERE to see the full nursery.
I hesitated sharing this personal post in fear of being too vulnerable online and looking ridiculously silly, but I've gotten tons of questions from other moms if we tried anything different this time around to conceive a girl, and we actually did. So for those of you mamas that want to get silly with me and give gender swaying a shot, this is for you... I honestly don't know if these steps really worked or if it was by the grace of God, but I like to think it was both. Lord knows I was praying my butt off ! First and foremost let me just say that we are very thankful that we have been blessed with two healthy sons! I know many people who have struggled with conception, so I don't take this for granted for one second. Deciding to have a third child did not happen overnight, it actually took us 4 years of going back and forth! We thought we were completely done with having more children (because our boys are pretty awesome and my pregnancies totally sucked), but there was always a tiny tickle of doubt lingering around that kept us from making that final decision. Snip. Snip. However our baby making window was coming to a close and if we were going to try for another, it needed to be now or never -as dramatic as that sounds. Even though my heart yearned for a baby girl, I was also ready to welcome another boy to the wolfpack, or be totally okay if we didn't end up getting pregnant at all. But ya better believe that since this was our last attempt that I was going to do everything in my power to gender sway for a girl, without freaking my husband out.
THE SHETTLES METHOD
Our cousin told us about the Shettles Method, she had two boys and got her baby girl on their third try! Ill never forget her important advice was to only try it if I was 100% okay with having another boy. At the time I was terrified of having another boy, not because I don't like boys, but because my pregnancies with both boys were dreadful! I was sick for 7 months straight! H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E!!! There was no way that I could be that sick while taking care of two kids. Come to find out I'm THAT sick with any gender, so it really didn't matter lol! When we were finally ready to give it a try I turned to the internet to research this gender swaying thang. I came across these videos that explained the method and I followed them...
The first step is to track your ovulation. If you have a regular period then this step should be easy. I used this ovulation calendar to help http://www.babymed.com/fertility-ovulation-calendar-calculator . Its pretty cool because you plug in your last period and it will give you the exact dates that you need to try to conceive that girl or boy.
It also mentions implementing an acidic diet and have your husband eat more chicken and less red meat. I wasn't going to ask my husband to change his diet, but it just so happened that my husband was already eating mostly chicken anyway! I was already eating pretty healthy and juicing alot so this wasn't going to be a huge change either. I ate mostly chicken and green veggies. Green smoothies galore! I made them with spinach, orange juice, bananas, blueberries or strawberries, and protein powder. I drank Green tea and had oatmeal everyday for breakfast. The biggest change in my diet was to drink a few cups of cranberry grape juice daily. I guess the cranberry is very acidic, I chose the one with grape for taste.
We decided to only try this method for one month and whatever was meant to be would be. So the calendar suggested being unprotected on 3 specific days, and that's just what we did. As much as I tried not to stress out, these were the longest months of my life...
- Waiting to see if we got pregnant
- Then whether we should find out the gender or wait until the baby is born
As much as I wanted to wait until I met our new babe, every day seemed like eternity because we wanted to know if this method worked or not! Especially because all of my pregnancy symptoms were the same as my boys and the Chinese calendar said it was a boy too. At this point I left it in God's hands, I did all that I could do, now it was all up to him.
After 20 weeks of being on strike, my husband eventually persuaded me into finding out the baby's gender. I was Excited. Nervous. Hopeful. Terrified. Part of me wasn't ready to put all my dreams of someday having a daughter to rest. When the little baby showed up on the monitor dancing around, I swear it was waving, all those fears went away. All of a sudden it didn't matter whether it was a boy or girl, I was just so excited to see my baby in there! When the doctor asked if I was ready to know what the gender was, I looked up at my husband, with tears in my eyes squeezing his hand, and whispered yes. I said "It's a boy" as the Doc said "a GIRL"! I didn't believe him so I made him check a few more times before breaking down into tears! After crying like a big baby in disbelief, I looked at my husband, who also had tears in his eyes. He was finally getting his daddy's girl and I was getting my future best friend!
Every ultrasound that followed I was waiting for them to change and tell me that she somehow evolved into a boy! I wasn't going to fully believe it until she was born! Sure enough the first thing I looked for when she came out was her girly parts! I look at her now and I still can't believe we got our girl! She's a dream come true! All our worries have been washed away by a whole new set of worries lol! I don't know if the gender swaying worked or if it was just our time, but I am thankful that we finally decided to take a stab at it and try this crazy method.
and here she is, our little unicorn baby...
If your reading this in hopes to conceive a baby girl, Good luck to you! I know how stressful this can be and I hope you get what your heart desires! I hope you also feel at peace with whatever you get because this can be a tough emotional road. There's actually such a thing called gender disappointment, watch the video below for more info on that, and know that your not alone...
I'M JANELLE MARINA
Wife, Mama Shark, + Photographer.
Most days, you'll find me in mismatched socks and a top knot, working behind my computer with a smile on my face, listening to Zac Brown Band and R&B
--or, dancing in the kitchen with my 3 littles and hunka husband, seeing who could come up with the coolest dance moves. I'm a wedding photographer, West Elm lover, aspiring advocate for our buddies with special needs, and a Certified Dreamer since 1986. We live in a cozy city in Southern California and are always up for a good adventure. I enjoy telling stories with my camera, grubbing on spicy food, and solving the latest Dateline case.