Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Still Small Voice

Well, I've had two people today alone tell me they miss my daily posts...  I have had some major writers block lately.  It's not that I have nothing going on to talk about or that my pain has diminished at all.  Those are both far from the truth, but every time I think about something I should write, I have a hard time putting words to it.  And since I'm a words girl, I'm pretty uptight about how things sound when I write them. (or read them!)  All that being said, I had a conversation the other day that I wanted to share, but have been at a loss for how to really show you the impact it had on me.  I'll try anyway... 

I was passing this girl when she stopped me to tell me that she recognized me from my blog.  She told me how she's laughed and cried "with me" and how Rachel has touched her life.  She mentioned that she really hasn't followed our journey since Rachel was born, which is always sad for me to hear, but that she had read everything else from the beginning. 

As we talked about Rachel's birthday, I mentioned that I was really sad that I never heard her voice.  I could tell she was puzzled by that statement and she asked "but she was alive, right?"  (Which is the exact question that I was trying to avoid in December when I decided to not share these details with people.)  I couldn't have taken it then.  It's bad enough she had to die, but to have people question me about the legitimacy of her 43 minutes could put Mama bear into attack mode.  I've been starting to be a little more open about the issues I had with how the neonatologist handled things and what he did wrong.  I truly believe that Rachel would have lived longer had he done one thing differently and I find peace in that ONLY because I know that my loving God knows exactly what I can handle and what I need... and He must have decided that what I got was just that...what I needed.  (although the way I yelled at the nurse that next day would have proven that it's taken me MUCH prayer to get to this point)

So anyway, I explained to her what that issue was and how Rachel managed to live for 43 minutes despite Doctor-in-Training's mess up.  (because she was a fighter with a strong heart!)  And when I did, she said "she might not have made a sound, but her voice roared through this world."

I started crying because it's so true and I hadn't considered the word picture of that yet... but all I could think of was how we refer to God's "still small voice" and how Jesus is referred to as "the Lion and the Lamb".  Well, Rachel's name means "innocent lamb" and apparently without making a sound, she "roared". 

Throughout my pregnancy and in the weeks following her death, I frequently said that Rachel Alice Aube was more like Jesus than anyone I have ever met... and I get the privilege of calling myself her mother!  Her life and death (and my willingness to share it) has led people to repentance and brought new believers into the kingdom of God.  The day I held her in my arms, I knew I was holding something very special... regardless of the pain I endured to have those moments, I knew that it was beyond anything I could experience any other way.  I was holding a piece of heaven.  She was gentle in spirit, danced like an angel, and her still small voice roared like a lion.

1Kings 19:11-12
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire
a still small voice.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Becoming Strong

I feel like even when I slip into another rut, God is always pulling me back and helping me to rebound even stronger.  I have been so discouraged and overwhelmed with Rachel's Race among other things that the other day, I wanted to quit it all.  I cried a lot and if God would have made me different, I would have called the whole thing off.  I would have quit... but I'm so not a quitter.

After I got done crying for a couple hours on and off (and blogging about it), I prayed about it, wiped my eyes and got back in the game... cause quite honestly, I don't have time to waste.  My girl still has lives to change and she only has me to help her.  I mean seriously, what kind of mother quits on her kid?  Not this Mama!  I told her I was going to do it and I am... no matter what the outcome looks like it may be.  I don't think Rachel thought she had a perfect mother anyway so I'm sure she's fine with my best effort :o)  And I'm positive God can cover over my shortcomings.

So, Saturday morning, Matt & I went to another local 5K that my friend Vanessa's husband was helping with to see how a 5K even goes since we've never been to one!  It was POURING and I felt bad for the runners, but even in the rain, watching them made Matt & I both decide we want to start running.  I'm obviously running nowhere soon, but next year...  It looks like SO much fun!  When the rain let up a bit, we got out of the van with the boys and walked around and handed everyone we passed a flyer for Rachel's Race.  There were moments as I heard us both echoing "We're having a 5K in memory of our daughter in August" that I had to shake off my instinct to cry... "in memory of our daughter"... ugh.  But I will say it felt really good to have Matt helping me this time.  I do a lot on my own because of his work schedule and stuff. We talked to quite a few people about anencephaly and about Rachel.  This is an anencephaly awareness event and with each person we tell, one more person knows.  So maybe "success" in this event looks different than I might have originally thought....

The one thing I know is that I am determined to make this happen.  I know God is in it and He doesn't need corporate sponsors, good weather, early registrations, or even announcements at churches to make it happen...  see, the amazing thing about God is that He can do anything and He doesn't need anyone, not even me.  So, as inadequate as I feel for this position, it doesn't matter.  He built an ark at our church too and I had never headed up a playground build before either!  Now I'm not trying to lie and say that I don't care how the day goes... I do care.  I want it to be a HUGE success with lots of people there and financially as well so we can give something in Rachel's honor... for her legacy.  But if it's not, Rachel will have been remembered, anencephaly heard about, and I will know that I've done my best which is my job as her mother.

One of the last people we gave a flyer to took one look at it and recognized the picture of her hands.  She said "I've been following her story in the paper... God bless you" and gave me a big hug and a kiss on my cheek.  She said she would be honored to help spread the word.  It just amazes me... my sweet Rachel... she's touched so many lives.  Thank You Lord.

I want to share a poem that I have had on my fridge for years...  I read it today after church and realized how much God has changed me through my journey with Rachel.  The things I used to think were strengths, have proven to be my weaknesses and vice versa.  I used to think being strong meant never being afraid or unsure of myself and so when I felt these things, I felt weak - in myself and in my faith.  And unfortunately, there are a lot of believers who think that if you're not "thinking positive" it means exactly that - that you're weak in your faith.  But through this past year, I have learned to a whole new level what it means in 2 Corinthians when it says "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in (your) weakness, therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (paraphrasing here)  I have to keep reminding myself that it is NOT in ME that I will find strength, but in Christ alone...

Strong Woman vs. Woman of Strength

A strong woman works out ever day to keep her body in shape
But a woman of strength kneels in prayer to keep her soul in shape.

A strong woman isn't afraid of anything
But a woman of strength shows courage in the midst of her fear

A strong woman won't let anyone get the best of her
But a woman of strength gives her best to everyone.

A strong woman walks sure footedly
But a woman of strength knows God will catch her when she falls.

A strong woman wears the look of confidence on her face
But a woman of strength wears grace

A strong woman has faith that she is strong enough for the journey
But a woman of strength has faith that it is in the journey that she will become strong!

~Author Unknown 

And so I continue to hold on to my great God as I walk this journey through my pain, fear, intimidation and uncertainty...through my falls and failures...knowing that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Believing that He is enough and that Rachel may be gone, but she isn't done here yet.

Please pray with us that Rachel's 5K will go well and that God will use this for her honor and His glory. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Damaged At Best

We went to celebrate Rachel's friend Rose's birthday last night with her family.  It was special.  I almost didn't feel worthy to eat her cake.  She's been with Jesus for 2 years... long years for the people who love her, but I'm sure they've gone by like the blink of an eye to her.  I can't wait to meet her and find out what all our babies have been doing up there without us... I bet it's amazing.

This afternoon Des left for JAM (Jesus And Me) Camp for the weekend so I had to get her ready for that.  I had a rough morning and it's hard to believe it's already another Friday...  another week without Rachel... another trip to visit my baby at the cemetery.

I finally signed the final draft on the changes we're making to Rachel's stone.  I'm praying I'm not going to wish we would have left it alone.  Picking out a stone was hard enough... getting it to be good enough for her is impossible.  I know I'll be looking at it for the rest of my life so I want to like it - unfortunately to start over would have cost over $1000.  These changes don't fix the major things I didn't like, but they make it "better" - for a headstone.  Still, if money wasn't an issue, I'd start over and do it right.  I'm also getting really tired of pulling up to a mess when I go see her.  Her flowers are always knocked over, the grass is REALLY long around her grave (they have to mow away from it) and then all uneven on her grave.  Her bench is still broken.  It's all just a mess.

I left there today really upset about her stone and the details I can't change on it.  If I would have been able to think straight while making the decisions on it back in December, I NEVER would have chosen what I/we did. 

I heard the song (I used to hear all the time on the way to the cemetery) today on my way home..."Barely Breathing".  It says:
"I'm still here waiting, I still have my doubts, I am damaged at best, like you've already figured out - I'm falling apart, barely breathing, with a broken heart that's still beating, in the pain there is meaning, in Your name I find healing, so I'm holdin' on, I'm barely holdin' on to You"
I felt the heaviness of those days right after Rachel's death come back to me.  I can see how my pain has changed.  The line that used to get me was "a broken heart that's still beating" cause I couldn't believe I was living through my pain, as dramatic as that may sound, it was true.  Today the line that spoke to me was "I am damaged at best, like you've already figured out" because that's how I feel: damaged.  And I also feel like everyone already knows...what more can I say about it?   My pain does feel less intense now, but it doesn't take much to bring me right back there.  The difference is that now this has become more of what my life is and who I am than something I'm going through.  My life will never be the same as it was before.  I'm no longer a mother going through the birth and death of her daughter... I'm a mother who will never hold her baby.  Nothing will change, there's no hoping for the best or expecting a miracle.  She's dead.  The story has already been written and read.  I've tried to keep Rachel's Legacy going in a few different ways and they all leave me wanting.  None of it compares to coming home and snuggling with my baby those first few days...watching her grow, nursing her, seeing her smile... oh God how I miss her.

And on that note, this entire 5K thing is making me wish I wasn't such a go-getter.  I'm discouraged... trying to do most of the footwork with minimal help... and the biggest problem... I'm not a "non-profit".  I had started the paperwork for it, had a bunch of random people sign the form, decided I wanted to be more responsible than that and started over getting new signatures... can't even come up with 4 people I know that aren't related that I trust enough to put on something for Rachel...only to find out that there's more to it all anyway and I just don't have the energy to attack this right now.  I have a "business acct" for something that isn't a business, which carries all sorts of issues, not the least of which being that people who donate want a tax receipt and I can't give them one.  I'm ready to call the entire thing off... but we all know that isn't my style.  So instead, I cried a lot this most of it.  This afternoon I tried numbing my pain with a king size Symphony chocolate bar, didn't work.  Not to mention, when I went in to buy it, the lady behind me abrubtly yelled "Is Rachel here" to the guy ringing me up - he just shook his head no... my heart sank into my stomach.  nope, not here I thought...

Trusting God is in control is easier when I'm not the one who has to do the footwork.  I tend to forget He's with me when there's so much to do, not enough time to do it, and only a couple people helping.  I just don't want this to be a flop - for Rachel and for my heart.  So many people said they would come, but the registration wouldn't prove that.  I've emailed our families about this and nobody responds.  My church feels like they've already approached the congregation about enough for me (plus other recent fundraisers they've done) so they don't want to announce it there, but were willing to let me put something in the bulletin. This race is going to cost me around $2500 to put on and I've got nowhere near that and I might have mentioned before that we're broke.  I want to be able to donate money in Rachel's memory... I can't afford to have this cost me money in the end.  The thing that really stinks is that Rachel has $1900 sitting in an acct at church for her playground that is finished.  If I was smart, I would have specified that the money collected would transfer to the walk after if not used.  But apparently I'm not smart - so there it sits to pay for future upkeep.  I should have just stuck to walking in someone else's race.  Why do I always have to be the one who goes big?... I've done it my whole life - even with my arrest! 

OK, that was my vent for the day.  I hate that I have to plan a memorial anything.  I hate all of this.  I hate Fridays, I hate cemeteries, I hate it when people don't do what they say they will, I hate headstones, I hate tax receipts, I hate feeling alone, I hate that everything seems to be so difficult, I hate that I'm a grieving mother.  I hate that I'm damaged at best.

But my love for my girl helps me to overlook all that - all my disappointment, frustration and fear - and keep going - even though tear-stained eyes.  Sometimes I wish a mother's love wasn't so strong.  I'm thankful that my Father's love is stronger.

God, please help me do this

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Space Called Hope

Today, my friend Carrie came down with her friend Sandy and their children to play on Rachel's Playground. I love watching kids experience her playground for the first time. "this is AWESOME" usually comes out of their mouths, and it did today. They also brought us some freezer meals, which is a huge help. I'm continuously blessed by friendships I have received through my girl.

Des & Isaiah had their first day at summer camp today. I know I've said it before, but Tri-City Christian Academy is an amazing school filled with amazing people. I go there and I feel like I'm surrounded by family. They have been so supportive to us this year and Des doesn't even go there, we homeschool - we just use their extra-curricular classes. They aren't getting any money from us... they just love us and love Christ and it shows in their actions. They might not be the prettiest school around on the outside, but they're the prettiest on the inside.

So anyway, my point is that my kids have been invited to go there two days a week as a gift this year. This is a blessing beyond words. This would never be an option for us financially, but we all really need it right now. The funny part is that I had a hard time leaving Isaiah today... he was nervous and they were going on a field trip (his first!) to play mini-golf (a first too!) and as much as the kid drives me wild trying to keep up with him, I love him to pieces. I'm also not used to my kids having their "firsts" without me...except that is kind of hard for me.

I had a long list of want-to-do's for today and none of them got done, but I did take an afternoon nap while Sam napped. Spending alone time with him has been sweet too. I feel so blessed today, even though in my heart, I still hurt.

Today is a strangely difficult day for me... It's not an anniversary, a birthday or a Friday...

It's my 19th Wednesday with our new son. When someone asks me how far along I am and I hear the words "19 weeks" come out of my mouth, I can't help but remember the thousands of times I have said "At my 19 week ultrasound" in the past 10 months.

"We found out at my 19 week ultrasound that our daughter had anencephaly".

And so as I sit here with a baby who is now 19 week old in my womb, I can't help but relive the first few days of after we found out Rachel was not going to live. I've just recently started to feel him moving daily and with each little kick, I think about my dancing girl who never let me forget she was there. I was so thankful that by the time I got the news about her, I already could feel her liveliness inside me....something to make me smile... something to help me get to know her personality... something to remind me why I was doing what I was doing. She was amazing.

I'm sure this little guy will be too. But getting the two experiences to mesh has been a struggle for me. I'm trying to slowly work my way towards preparation for this baby. I've started doing some stuff to get the house ready. Turning his bedroom back into a nursery means taking out Rachel's stuff. And I refused to do it until I had a proper place to put it. I couldn't just throw her stuff in a box and she has too much of it to fit in the other memory boxes alone. (she has two beautiful boxes that people made for her)

On Saturday, my mom gave me a beautiful hope chest that was Alice's. (if you don't know who Alice is, read about Rachel's name above) I'm nervous to put her stuff in it cause right now, her clothes still hold a bit of her scent, which sadly really just smells like a hospital and A&D ointment, but the chest is cedar and it won't take long for her clothes to take on that smell. Still, it's something that I feel good putting her things into... and so I'm preparing myself to do it.

On the way to get the hope chest, I stopped to get Sam some diapers and the Walgreens brand was on sale, plus I had a coupon, so I bought them instead of Huggies (which I never do, but discovered they actually work better for my skinny boy right now) but I had 2 coupons and the shelves were cleared off, except for one size 4 (Sam's size) and a size Newborn. I debated for a few minutes if I was ready to buy my first item for baby boy... and decided to do it. I got home and opened them up to show the kids how small they are (ok, I used the kids as an excuse to look myself) and what do you know...

♥ They have "Rachel" written all over them. ♥

Every time I feel like I'm going to die trying to move forward, God reminds me that she isn't in my past, she's in my future. That's hard to wrap my mind around cause as a mama, all I want to do is hold her. And there are many days when "you'll see her again" does NOTHING to make me feel better. I don't want to see her later, I want to see her now. But that's because I'm a human and my mind and heart have a hard time understanding eternity. You know what would be worse than this? Worse than this would be one of my living children deciding NOT to follow God and knowing that I won't spend eternity with them. That would be worse than having a dead baby in heaven any day.

So in a way, I feel like Rachel's new Hope chest represents my heart... a beautiful space just for her, filled with memories of her. She might not be there, and sometimes looking there might make me sad, but the name of the space is still HOPE.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

♥ My First Love ♥

The last few weeks at church, our pastor has been working through each line of the Apostles Creed.  Today we were on "I believe in the Holy Spirit".  Pastor Doug talked about how one of the Holy Spirit's purposes is to comfort us.  I've known this for years... heard it a million times... believed it in my heart...

And yet, when I find myself in the deepest of grief, I still look to humans for comfort that they are not able to give - instead of relying on the only One who can comfort such deep agonizing pain... the Holy Spirit.

Now, I will say that part of the job I've taken on as Rachel's Mama, as well as being in this new club we call the "Baby Loss Community", is one of advocate.  There are plenty of times I have been hurt or let down by others that I have walked away and cried, but said nothing (I know you find that hard to believe, but be me for a day and you'd know)  But I've also put my heart on the line in order to share about things that I know all of us in the BLC have experienced along this path that has caused us pain.  (I've received some criticism for this)  I do this not to "get it out" or "make others look bad" but in hopes of helping people better understand how to grieve with those who grieve - and also so the other mamas like me know they're not alone.  I'll admit, I have not always done this perfectly, but this journey with Rachel has brought to light my own past failures in the area of compassion, and with that is has also made it so painfully obvious how mean people can be without intending to be.  I find it disappointing and God probably does too.  I know that my pain has been real and people have done things, or not done things, that justifiably caused my heart to hurt.

That being said, I feel like I need to apologize and even repent over the fact that I have at times expected people (you) to comfort me in a way that only God can.  There have been days and weeks where my pain has been so great, that I walk around like an open wound hoping someone will act like a medic with first aid kit and come to my rescue.  I have felt invisible, unloved, uncared for, and even abandoned when nobody comes running yelling "call 911" - I mean, can't you all see I'm dying here?  Doesn't someone recognize that I need assistance?  Does anyone see that I'm broken?  Does anyone have time to stop and kiss my boo-boo or offer me a bandaid?  With each attempt at helping me "move forward" by offering things to be positive about or trying to divert my attention from Rachel, it's been like pouring salt in my wound.  I was not prepared for how lonely and deeply personal this road was going to be... or for the fact that so many would lack compassion and concern.

I know everyone thinks I'm just so strong in my faith and I'm never doubting, but I'll tell you what - over the past 10 months (especially in the last 3 months, satan has repeatedly attacked me in the form of unmet expectations from God's people.  I tend to expect the same from others as I would give - things that seem so obvious to me - and when I get something less, I've questioned if any of this is real... I've wondered why God isn't providing for me through His people?  I wonder if He's really with me...  I wonder if He really cares...  I wonder if He really sees me... Does He know I'm broken?  Does He see I'm dying here?  Does He have time to stop and kiss my boo-boo?  I've felt abandoned by God.

Based on the actions (or lack thereof) of His people, I have questioned God's character and doubted His promises - If I would have stopped trying to talk to people and get them to understand me and instead relied on my Comforter, maybe I would have felt comforted. 

The other night, while looking at another baby's blog, Des mentioned that their baby looked more pink like a "regular baby"... "more like Sam" she said.  I told her that Rachel was pink at first too, but by the time they got done stitching me up and I got her bathed and dressed, she hadn't been breathing for a while and so she was blue.  She was really upset that I didn't let them take Rachel out right away so she could have met her while she was pink.  I explained that a Mama never lets anyone take their baby right after their born, unless they absolutely have to - And how I didn't let anyone take her or the boys from me either. 

I told her I could show her Rachel's birth video (we only have about 30 secs on film, but you can hear Matt & I both say "awe" with happy voices filled with love when we first laid eyes on her)  but I warned her that she wasn't wearing her hat yet and it could be scary.  My amazing girl said "I don't mind, I think she's cute anyway".  And so I let her watch it while praying for her heart.... relying on the Only One who could comfort her through the reality of Rachel's condition - the same One who comforted me that day.

Out came Rachel, they held her up for us to see and my sweet Desirae said "awe...she's so cute" just like we did when we saw her.  Unconditional love.  Her sister was pink and that was the proof, that was all she wanted to know.  She didn't see what she wasn't or what was missing... she saw what she was.

I'm telling you this because there is not a person on the face of the planet, not even me, who could have made Desirae's heart accept that with so much love and grace... Only God.  I could have sent her to counseling or sought advice on how to talk to her about it all in a way that she would be ok and tried to use human techniques or human knowledge... but it all would have fallen short.  God alone has directed me on what to tell her and share with her and when - and following His Spirit has not failed me where she is concerned. 

And yet, I still doubt His Spirit is enough for me.  I still seek human advice, human comfort, human love... I know God made us relational for a reason.  I know I need that stuff from humans too.  But I need to remember my first Love.  My one True Comfort.  The only One who can reach into the depths of my heart - see where I'm at without me saying a word, love me anyway - and help me to heal. 

Tonight, I'm calling my first Love and I'm going to pour out my heart and ask for His advice.  I bet He won't change the subject or tell me he has to go... I bet He won't tell me I should feel differently about the blessing in my womb... I bet He won't tell me it's time to move on.... I bet He won't get uncomfortable with the silence when I don't know what to say or can't stop crying... I bet He won't judge me or get upset with me that I've doubted His character....

If I know my God, He will be glad I called and ready to listen... He will know what I'm saying, the groanings of my heart, when I'm not even saying a word... He will pour out His love, mercy, understanding, compassion and comfort until my heart feels at peace and my soul at rest.  If I know my God, He is right there waiting for me to call....waiting patiently for me to come back to His amazing love - to let HIM comfort me in my time of need - and since time is not the same in heaven, I'm sure He doesn't feel like this is old news.  Plus, He's the only One who knows my girl better than I do. 

And maybe that's what this time of hurt from people was meant to show me... that I need more than a fallible human right now.  I need my infallible God and His Holy Spirit.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Belly Shot

Finally, a belly shot... I'm sad to say this is the first pic I've done since I've been pregnant with this little guy.  I usually am a week to week girl when it comes to watching my babies grow.  Minus Des of course, cause they don't let you use a camera in jail...I was 5 months when I got my first pic of her.  So anyway, here it is...

As you can see the daisies I got for Rachel's 6 month bday are still beautiful!
And, a pic from last night... on our way out for our date :o)

Hope you're all having a good weekend.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Never a dull moment.

6 1/2 months without my girl here... miss her so much...

This morning was one of those days that I wondered how I'm going to make it through my career as a homemaker alive.  I should get paid for this...

From 7:30 until about 9:00 went okay.  Then the kids started bickering and Sam started hanging off my leg whining over everything.  And then I made the big mistake... I took a shower!  When I came out of the bathroom 15 minutes later, I found Sam with a poopy diaper, no pants.  Des had brought down half of her dolls and their accessories and they were scattered all over the house from the living room to the mud room.  Isaiah had torn the cushions off my HUGE couch again and gotten into the mop bucket I never emptied yesterday.  They were arguing and hitting each other and Sam was chasing Des around screaming cause he wanted to push her doll stroller and she wouldn't let him - cause although she's seems really big, she's still a little girl who doesn't always like to share.  As I was getting stuff together to leave, Isaiah opened the door and him and Sam decided to make a run for it to the neighbors yard.  I finally got them all in the van and went to get an ice coffee as my "paycheck" - after all it IS Friday! 

I got to the corner store, rolled up the windows, turned on the AC and got my spare key out so I could leave my van running and the kids in the car so that I didn't have to try to take care of them while making my ice coffee.  I've had this conversation many times with people over whether it's okay to leave your kids in the car or not while you run in.  In my ENTIRE LIFE I've only left the kids in the car a handful of times to go into a store and as I walked up to the door (which I'm parked right in front of, kids watching me go in) out walks a cop, and as he held the door for me, I imagined he'd be waiting for me when I got out.  My "stress free" coffee making turned into a panic attack.  I must have made that coffee in about 5 secs. and cut off every person who even thought about getting in front of me.  I came out, they were still there and he wasn't and all was good.  Should have just brought them with me!

We went to Rachel's Playground to play and saw that some of the Rosy Returns are blooming - just in time for Rose's birthday next week, which made me smile.  We ate lunch there and I noticed that along the tree line there are a bunch of wild daisies...

Then we headed to the cemetery.  I was so exhausted from the previous 2 hours that my goal was to go visit and relax a bit at her grave while the kids ran around getting was my plan for a quiet afternoon when we got back.  Well, on the way there it started to rain, so much for sitting on the ground.  It cleared before I got there, but then I pulled up to find my first husband (I hate that term) standing at the young kid's grave right by Rachel.

Let me say that I have not talked to him one word since I was in rehab and gave my mom crap for bringing him to see me.  I saw him last at our court hearing where our divorce was made final and have never seen him or talked to him again... it's been almost 10 years.  I've wondered if I would even recognize him if I saw him.  We've lived in the same town or close to it since 2002 and have never bumped into each other.  I was so messed up back then - and for years I had a lot of anger over what he did... but over the last couple of years, my anger has faded and I've been able to recognize my own craziness in the mess.  Back then, as a non-believer, marriage didn't have the same meaning it does now.  I saw it as most people in the world see it, if it's too hard or if you're not having fun, or especially if they hurt you - you leave and never look back.  And that's what I did.  I'm thankful that God used it for my good although that is not what I deserved.

So, I find myself standing at Rachel's grave talking to him and wondering how in the world this moment came to be... not much was said and then he left, but I feel like God brought healing to us both in that couple of minutes.

I came home to find Amanda in my driveway with flowers and a caramel candy bar :o)  "It's Friday" she said... that it is.  We talked for a while about ideas for Rachel's 5K and she took some of my letters and a poster to help me get the word out and hopefully obtain some corporate sponsors.  It's so nice to have someone approach me wanting to help.  Definitely makes me feel like me & Rachel are loved.

While we were talking my kids went back to crazy mode... Sam played in the mud and since he's a kid who doesn't like to get dirty, that created a major problem for me when I said it was time to come in.  (full temper tantrum on the wet ground outside) Amanda left, I got Sam into the bath (after he smeared his muddy hands all over everything!) while Des & Isaiah fought over the TV show they were going to watch. Sam managed to dump most of his bath water onto the bathroom floor while I wasn't looking.  My kids were all worn out, just like I had planned, but never got a nap or quiet time - bad combination.  I got them dinner as Sam hung off my leg and cried and I listened to Des tell Isaiah how he irritates her.  Right back to where I started.

I got my flowers in a vase, ate my candy bar and had some tea, fed them and got them to clean the living room, got Sam in bed and I'm waiting for Matt to get home and take me out. (he planned this on his own and got us a sitter - and this ended up being one out of maybe 5 times all year he'll be this late...go figure.)  Des is in the living room reading to Isaiah the notebooks where I write down all the funny things the kids have said since they were old enough to talk and they are giggling together.

At the end of the day, there's no place else I'd rather be.  Even on a crazy, unpredictable Friday.

As I was finishing this post up, I told Isaiah to go get his pull up on for bed and he came out like this:
AND while I was posting this picture, Matt came home and a few minutes later said "where's Isaiah?"  I hate those words... What do you mean, where's Isaiah?... he was just standing in front of me covered in pull-ups.  We finally found him outside sitting in Matt's car.  Never a dull moment in the Aube home!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I Will Rise Out of These Ashes

Let me start by saying I'm totally NOT impressed that stopped our music players from coming on automatically.  (you can still listen by pressing play at the bottom, but don't do it now, listen to this song) I miss my encouragement and being able to change the songs up for you guys to go along with my feelings and posts...  but anyway...

I've been in a dark place a loss for words... I've heard this song the last two days in a row and have found great comfort in the lyrics - plus the beat makes me want to dance so I wanted to share it with you.  I've decided this song will be my summer guitar project.   

I will rise out of these ashes....  God promises to bring everything to completion.  He's not done with me yet.

Thank You, Jesus.

And, my post was going to end here until I just looked up a verse to put in the end...  I googled Philippians 1 because I intended to quote verse 6
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
That was it cause it went with my short post and "I didn't feel like writing".  God doesn't usually care about what I FEEL like doing though - I opened the whole chapter so I could read the context and what do ya know?  God had something for me in His Word, imagine that....

So, verse 3 happens to be one of the verses I chose to put in the programs at Rachel's funeral as well as the verse I put on the tiles and bookmarks that I had her flowers preserved on....
I thank my God every time I remember you.
I had opened the bible to read this to her the first Friday that we went to visit her at her grave - her 1 week birthday and the day after she was buried.  My stomach still aching from surgery, my heart in pieces at the sight of her grave... and I started reading to her.  I started there because I wanted her to know I was thankful for her.

OK, so back up to the middle of my pregnancy for a minute...  I was at one of my only points of questioning God.  It was the day after her initial diagnosis.  I was journaling and begged from the depths of my heart that He would "finish" her.  I wrote these words on August 5th:
The same God who makes the sun rise and set and hung the moon in the sky created this precious baby girl in my womb - why won't He finish what He started?  My heart aches to hear it's not real.  My poor baby. I'm asking for a miracle Lord, Please heal her, complete her.  Let us keep her. I don't want to hand her over God, please don't make me please.  I KNOW with everything I am that You are ABLE.  Please God show your power, Your healing power, and perform a miracle.  please please please please. I'm begging You.
In my mind, it seemed that He had just forgotten the top of her head.  Everything else was perfect, if He just 'finished' that part, she would be okay.  I was certain that was possible... but why wasn't He doing it??

The next day I was talking to Matt about this and the next journal entry in which I felt like God had revealed to me "I will finish her, just not here".  I was in tears over the loud way He had whispered this to my heart and just then, Isaiah came in.  He asked me why I was crying and told me I didn't need to cry because He had asked Jesus to take the baby to heaven and heal her boo-boo.  I told him, "but I'll miss her" and he said "well, Jesus will bring her back again - There's no fire in heaven, but there's light in heaven"

It was as if my 3 1/2 year old understood God's completion better than I did... child-like faith...

Back to the cemetery on December 10th...  I opened my bible and began reading at verse 3.  It was then that I realized that these two verses that meant so much to me were in the same chapter.  I guess I had never paid attention to that fact before. As I read, I was so aware of God's presence in my life.  I marked my bible with dirt from her grave to show each verse I read that day. 

Philippians 1:3-8
I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy. because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you (Rachel) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.  God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

In verse 5 when it talks about being partners in the gospel, all I can picture is me and my girl - warriors for the name of Christ and how she gave me the courage and the platform to share Him with the world as I shared her with the world. 

These verses were gifts that encouraged me over and over during my pregnancy and also after Rachel died.  Tonight, I read further and was encouraged in where I'm at right now...

Philippians 1:12-14
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,  that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.  And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

And there you have it folks... beauty from ashes... rising...  completing...  and one day, I'll see her again - both of us whole and complete.  Her body, my heart.... worshiping our Lord together.

"From this trouble I have found, and this rubble on the ground, I will rise."

Monday, June 13, 2011

We Need You!

Jen at Options had asked Anne & I to come in because she has a new idea she wants to try to get started at Options and wanted our feedback and help...I think after watching both of us go through our losses, God put it on her heart that there should be some kind of support for people like us - and of course, since both of us have lost our daughters to anencephaly, we love her idea.  Basically, it has to do with training (which is provided at a cost by another company that is already established) for people in the medical field on how to best talk to women they are giving an adverse prenatal diagnosis to. 

Many women tell their stories of the day they got their baby's diagnosis and say something along the lines of "they offered me termination".  I have heard very few stories where the women are given an equal amount of information for carrying to term and termination.  It's as if there is only one choice. At least that is my story.   The hope with this training is that they will change the way they approach these critical times in women's lives and give them a fair chance to make the decision that will be best for them by giving them ALL the information and not assuming that they will terminate.

The next part is that then, we are hoping that they will tell these women that if they decide to carry to term, Options for Women has a support program and will help them along the way.  Jen would like to be able to come along side these women and make phone calls, give them support and help them with their "checklists" for the baby's birthday as well as just be there for them... to listen and to pray.  To make sure they aren't alone.  To help ease some of the stress of the unknown so they can just enjoy the time they have left with their babies.  My sister was this person for me when I was pregnant with Rachel...  she called the photographer, did research for me and made me lists of things I needed to think about.  I had made a very conscious decision at that point that I was not going to look up anencephaly on line because I knew it wouldn't help me and so she found all the things I needed to know for me. 

I think this is a great idea, and a much needed type of support in this day and age when abortions are becoming not only a form of birth control, but also the doctors' "medicine" for any "imperfect" child. Years ago it wasn't like this. While I know they think all these early detection tests are an improvement in the medical field, I disagree, because let's face it, the imperfect children we carry are still OUR CHILDREN and we are still their mothers who are deeply connected to them from the start.  "Early Induction" takes the mothers much needed time with the baby away from them before they even know they need it.

So, I'm telling you all this because I'm excited for this to happen, humbled that I can use my experience with Rachel to be able to help, and because Anne & I have decided that we want to help fund the training day as well.  It is near to my heart that women like us get the support they need as they venture off on this scary and lonely road.

Anne does a softball tournament in her daughter Rose's memory each year.  She has offered to use the money she makes this year to go directly towards this new program (which by the way, we're still trying to come up with a good name for if you have any ideas)  And then whatever is still needed after that, will come out of what we raise at Rachel's Walk/Run in August first and the rest will go into their general fund at Options.

That being said, please take a minute to check out Rose's Tournament website HERE and pray about if God would have you participate and how. Even if you could give just $5.  I know NOTHING about a softball tournament, but I know a lot about Rose and she was pretty amazing.  If you need to contact Anne, I can help you with that.  They do the softball tournament on the weekend around Rose's birthday in June each year. She would have turned 2 this year.  The tournament is on the 25th in Rochester.

As for Rachel's 5K, if you are able to join us, PLEASE pre-register.  You can do that HERE.  It will be helpful for us in so many ways to have people sign up early.  If you can't come, there is also a place that you can donate if you feel led to do so.   We also need help with items to raffle (anything that doesn't have to do with beer is great, no matter how small)  and we could use ideas on different companies that might be willing to be a corporate sponsor.  We will be recognizing the sponsors publicly so it's good press too, which everyone likes :o)  Financial donations are tax deductible.

This new training (for doctors and nurses) to help Mamas who desire to carry their precious babies to term, despite the fact that birth will mean death, costs $2500.  Last year Anne and her family raised $1500 and donated it in Rose's honor to Options.  We're hoping to help her exceed that this year!

I will say that if any of my readers are accountants or lawyers, I could use to run a few questions by you if you want to email me

Thank you so much for your continued support in helping me to help Rachel leave her legacy.  I am so blessed to have friends all over the world who care about me and my girl.  I'm so grateful that anencephaly doesn't define Rachel, but I do believe that anencephaly NEEDS to be talked about more.  These babies are amazing and so many women miss the chance of knowing their own children because of the way it is presented to them in that first visit.  Please help us do this....For Rachel, for Rose, for all the babies who are lost to anencephaly and for their mamas...and for all the mamas who will hear "your baby won't live" or "non-compatible with life" after their ultrasound in the coming years.  These women need local support.  We want to make that possible.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Trying to Fix My Tired Eyes

The worship music at church was great this morning, but I felt the hardness of my heart refusing to let it break through.  These days and weeks of heaviness are wearing me down and I'm so discouraged with it.  Things here have been tough and honestly, I feel like at any moment I could break.  I keep reminding myself of what God spoke to my heart in November when I posted about trees and how they get through the harsh weather without falling to the ground..."bend with me Stacy, bend".  But you know what, I'm tired of bending.  I'm not a freakin' gymnast.  I'm an out of shape Mama of 4 and another on the way and I have a broken heart.  I need delicate heart surgery, not more stretching.

I found myself standing there through a song that normally has me in tears and was indifferent to it... I could feel my heart wanting to let the Spirit move in me, but I refused.  I'm tired of emotional breakdowns.  I'm tired of being sad alone while standing next to my husband.  I'm tired of other people trying to their best to console me and it doing the opposite.  I'm tired of having to politely nod and smile when I want no part of a conversation.  I'm tired of this journey.  I just want my daughter back.

Since we're going to be recognizing many lost babies at Rachel's walk, I have started getting a lot of registration forms with the babies info on them. (You can register your baby here ) I've been blown away with how many have been lost to anencephaly.  But I see many of the forms with one, two, three days that the baby lived on it....  and I wonder, why did I only get 43 minutes?  I know the pediatric doctor messed up (not getting into that one) but God had control over that too... and so why?  Why couldn't my kids have met her alive?  Why couldn't I have heard her little voice?  Why didn't I get to see her kick her legs?  Why couldn't He have made it different?  I am not only grieving her death, but also her short life....

I haven't read up on anything to do with the grieving process... the 'counselor' I went to gave me some papers that I never read cause honestly, I don't buy into a lot of the stuff people write or the hokey ideas they give you to help with it.   But I've heard from quite a few people that it's "normal" to feel like things are worse at the 6 month mark.  I guess it's good that something in my life is "normal".  Nothing feels normal.

After church we went through the McDonald's drive thru... the lady taking our money looked at us and said "that's a nice playground you built".  I figured she knew Matt, but nope...must have just recognized us from the paper or my blog.  As we drove off, Des said "McDonald's reads the blog??!!"  We went to Walmart and on the way out, I sat on a bench to share some Skittles with the kids (a good excuse to give my tired feet a break) when a woman came up and knelt down next to me and said "I read your blog and pray for you every day".  We had a great conversation and she encouraged me in the purpose of my journey.  And I always love it when I get to talk about Rachel without the other person looking uncomfortable.

As I think about how far Rachel's story has reached, I am reminded of a verse that a missionary friend of ours read this morning at church while speaking about his families' ministry in another country... My mission field is different, but it's where God has me right now and it's not without discomfort.  There are many days I just want to quit and I've thought about it many times recently as you can probably tell by the number of posts I've had the last couple of weeks.   I've noticed recently that I've been keeping quiet about my feelings more cause I'm learning the hard way that people don't usually really want to know, but that in itself hurts cause I'm not one to keep things in and it feels opposite of what God wants me to do.  But I'm so tired of subjecting myself to possible pain in order to be real with people and make an impact in their lives.  I know, sounds selfish... but it's a strange dynamic since I have to talk about my personal feelings in order to do it.  Hard to explain what I'm trying to say.

In my humanness, there are many days when I listen to, or read emails from, my blog readers telling me how much I have helped them, how they love to read my story, how I encourage them or that they know Christ now because of Rachel's story and although I am completely humbled and honored to be a part of such a thing, I sometimes wonder why I have to "waste away" to bring them "life".  I wonder why Rachel had to die to bring them life... I wonder why God couldn't have done it another way.  He could have used anything...anyone.

There are also many days that I thank Him for those very same things.  I thank Him that He is using me and Rachel....That He trusted me with her... that I can encourage people even in my heartache... that people have come to know Him through our journey.  That blows me away.  I thank Him that I am Rachel's Mama, exactly how she is...even though she's gone... because this journey has changed me for the better. 

It doesn't make any of it easier.  But it renews my hope for my future in my real home with Him.  IF I can keep my eyes fixed on Him... on the eternal unseen and not my temporary circumstances. 

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I've Seen That Outfit Somewhere...

Today I went to Old Navy and got the kids each a pair of flip flops.  I was looking around the baby stuff and struggling to look at the boy stuff instead of the girl stuff.  I found myself getting disappointed every time I passed another cute dress.  Rachel would have looked so pretty in them. 

I looked at some boy stuff and decided I would go to Carter's instead for my first purchase for this little guy.  I want to buy him a shirt that says "baby brother" that matches the kids "big sister/brother" and Rachel's "little sister" shirts.  My thought is that if I get a "baby brother" one, Rachel can keep her position as the little sister.... and yes, I'm already concerned about how you take a family photo without your whole family there.  I can't just leave Rachel out, it just doesn't feel right.

So anyway, tonight I got an email from Carter's.  I never open them, I usually just delete, but since I had just decided I was going to go there, I looked to see if I could find the shirt I want.

I never made it that far.

The ad on the front page was a picture of a cute chubby baby girl wearing the exact outfit that Rachel wore the night I spent with her in my arms.  I was thankful that my mom brought some gifts to the hospital for her cause the preemie stuff I brought was too small on her.  She bought 2 newborn sized outfits that were green with daisies on them (one footed and one dress) and that is what my girl wore until the funeral home came to get her - at which point I changed her into her "love to twirl" outfit that I had to have Kim bring in a bigger size! 
100’s of styles. Up to 70% off. In stores and online.

I can't even open a junk email without my heart being ripped out these days... everything is just another reminder that my girl is gone.

A baby on the way forces me to think about baby stuff and see baby stuff that only reminds me about Rachel.  I can't avoid the topic of babies... I'm about to have one.  I go to prenatal appt's, my belly is getting big (pic coming soon), I eventually have to go through clothes and plan... and it all makes me think about the baby I couldn't plan for....the green outfit that is sitting in a drawer upstairs with blood on the neck line from my precious baby's head.  The picture I have hanging on the wall of her in her green dress that I printed in black and white so you can't see how blue her face is....

And so I've been crying a lot again tonight.  The nights have reverted right back to how they were in the beginning... I avoid bed at all costs cause when I get there, all I can do is cry.  I have trouble sleeping and I go to sleep sad and wake up sad.  I'm tired of being sad.... but I don't think sad is going away any time soon.  I just don't get why this is getting harder and not easier.... I miss her so much and my arms ache to hold her just the same tonight as they did the day I first had to let her go.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Different Kind of Friday's just what I do. 

I have had one goal every Friday for over 6 months now... to visit my baby's grave.  I call it "visiting Rachel" but I never get to see her.  The minutes that pass while I'm there, I consider "time with her" when I've yet to see her face since December 9th.  I use it as my time to "nurture her", but have been robbed of the chance to feed her, change her and wipe milk from the corner of her mouth.  "Nurture" holds a new meaning now- It means I pick up everything that has tipped over from the wind, I brush the dirt off her fake flowers, I bring new things for the wind and dirt to mess up - and in the winter, I fought my way through the ridiculous snow to just stand above her grave and cry.

Today was no different than every other first.  I still woke up with Rachel's empty blanket in my arms.  I still headed to Dover saying "I'm going to visit Rachel" and got there to find things tipped over and dirty.  I nurtured her by brushing off the dirt and re-positioning everything so that it looked pretty.  I talked to her and wondered if she can hear me.  I told her I miss her and can't wait to see her again as my heart ached knowing how far away that could be.  And as I got back in the car, I signed "I love you" with my hand and blew a kiss towards the ground, knowing full well, she isn't there.

The difference about today was that I made the mistake of planning a prenatal appointment for baby boy on a Friday.  I realized it on Tuesday and debated changing it and decided not to.  And so I went from the cemetery to Options for Women (we received our first donation for Rachel's 5K from Andrew J. Foss Co.!!) to pick up the check and then to the doctor's office to hear our newest son's heartbeat.  From deep sorrow and grief to excitement to joy and blessing all in an hour.

I realize as I do things like this that I really am strong in Christ.  I don't believe that I'm in a do-what-I-gotta-do mode and just getting through cause I have no choice or because in myself I am strong... I'm not.  I know that God is holding me up as I go from one emotion to the next and back.

I met with my midwife, Lucy again today.  I am SO glad I switched offices at the beginning of this pregnancy - she is awesome.  She listens and I feel like she really cares about me and what is important to me. I never felt that way at the last office, which is sad.  She has never called Rachel a "fetus" (I hate that) and she has never treated me like there's anything wrong with me because I'm still sad.  She is okay with talking about Rachel, even though she's seeing me for the new baby.  And doesn't judge me on any of my feelings that I've shared with her or try to tell me I'm depressed when I'm not.  I am so glad I followed my instinct to switch, it's been a much better experience.

She talked to me about having my 20 week ultrasound be a level 2 to better rule out any problems.  I want a better ultrasound...I am just not sure I want to know any more than I have to.  With that, they also want to do genetic counseling to see if I'm at risk for anything else... really not interested in that.  I don't need anything else to worry about.  I have enough on my mind and heart.  I told her to schedule it, but am not sure if it is the right decision.  I mean, does it seriously matter?  I guess if he wasn't going to live it could.  I also denied the AFP testing today.  I've never gotten it before, but right after we were told Rachel had anencephaly, the doctor said "that testing you denied would have detected this" (as if it mattered!!).  I just wonder what if the baby has Trisomy or something and won't live long, wouldn't I be better off knowing?  Does that show in an ultrasound?  bottom line... my new awareness makes everything more scary.  everything.  I'm so worried I'm going to make a wrong decision - things don't seem as black and white as they once did.

On the way home, I stopped to water the flowers at Rachel's playground.  I wasn't going to since it poured last night, but at the last second, I turned in.  They didn't need water, but there was a guy I used to get high with there with his girlfriend and their child.  They have followed our story and were there to check out the playground. (and of course, commented on how cool the slide is)  we talked a bit about Rachel and my other baby and randomly he said to me "so, you really changed your life just like that huh?" and it dawned on me...  after I disappeared from the drug scene, some people probably wondered if I had overdosed or was sitting in jail somewhere... I'm sure anyone who knew me didn't think I was sober, married with kids and a believer in Christ.  Some of them probably never wondered about me at all.  Rachel's story has made God's transformation in me obvious to people who otherwise would never see the power of Christ in someone they knew.  I didn't realize until today that Rachel was making God's power known in my life more than just in my journey with her, but even in how God has rescued me from my addiction and alcoholism. 

I came home and started working on stuff for Rachel's 5K.... I just keep putting one foot in front of the other through another Friday.  Today was a little less like the usual Fridays and more like the Friday she was born though - full of unexpected peace, joy and blessing....with sadness, although heavy, as the afterthought.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sad, But Okay

I'm 17 weeks along with baby boy today. I had a meeting at Options for Women and was able to sneak in an ultrasound. I got to see him sucking on his fingers... I made me smile.  it was really cute. But what Aube kid isn't? :o)

I have felt him move a couple of times.  It makes it feel more 'real', but my heart still feels far away.  I look at baby clothes and wonder if he'll ever really wear them.  I want to get the room turned back into a nursery, but am nervous to make that change without a baby here. (plus, it means moving Rachel's stuff and I have nowhere to move it and am not ready to put it out of sight)  I want to start figuring out what I need, but can't help but wonder if I really need anything at all.  He seems fine, but that doesn't mean anything.  Some babies who don't seem fine, turn out to be okay... and some that seem okay, never come home with their parents.

I've been stripped of my it-won't-happen-to-me belief where I thought if I just followed all the rules and did everything right, my babies would be fine.  I've learned that I don't have any control.  I've learned that sometimes, I'm part of a plan that hurts.  I've learned that 1 in 1000 can be me.  IS me.

I want to refuse to 'miss it twice'...  to bond with this little guy every day I'm blessed to have him, regardless of if he'll be taken from me.  I can't tell what stops me.  I really don't think it's the "self-preservation" that everyone says it is and that I'm told makes perfect sense.  I've also learned that I am not capable of self-preservation.  The only One who can perserve me is my God and I know if something went wrong with this baby, He would.  I honestly think that I'm just still so surrounded by my grief that I am just not there with new baby yet. 

I'm learning to be okay with that.

Someone told me I had to 'choose to think positive' when I said I was still sad. (not from their own experience, just their own opinion)  It sounds like a good idea, but here's the thing... I refuse to deny my true feelings, which happen to involve my sweet Rachel because I should sound more "positive".  I know that God will give me what I need for this baby.  I know that I will bond with him when I need to.  I know God's already working on that and I probably don't even realize it.  This baby is a blessing... I know that better than anyone else.  My pain over Rachel is real...  I know that better than anyone else.

I'm learning how to experience these two totally different emotions over two totally different babies at the same time.  I could feel guilty over the fact that I'm pregnant and that takes away from Rachel.  I could feel guilty over the fact that I'm grieving and that takes away from the new baby.  But I don't think Rachel, the new baby, or God care.... so if they're all okay with it, the only one left that gets a say is me....

and I say it'll be okay. 

I'm okay with being sad and grieving for my girl.  She is worth it.  I'm okay with this pregnancy being different than my others.  He is still my son.  I'm okay with the fact that I don't sound positive all the time.  I've never been accused of being fake.  My only struggle lies in other people's judgement of me because I'm not responding to their questions or comments like they think I should - or how they perceive a Godly woman would respond.  Jesus grieved, He wept, He went to be alone when He needed to be.  He understands my humanness more than a lot of humans I know - and He was perfect. 

I used to have this one liner I said in my days before God... if someone asked me if I was okay, I would say "I'm always okay".  But I never felt okay at all.  THAT is self-preservation.  I failed at it.

With God in my life, I can say "I'm still sad" and still be completely okay, because I am.  Not because I'm happy, things are perfect, or I sound positive...  but because despite the circumstances in my life or how I feel or sound, God is with me and I really am okay.
And so as I venture down these next few months of this journey without Rachel and with Baby Boy, I'm giving myself the freedom from guilt over my feelings.  I'm allowing myself this time to continue grieving my girl, even though I "should" be nothing but happy over this new baby.  And I'm trusting that God will work all this together for my good because I love Him. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Making Jesus Famous

Who else but a precious baby girl could make the Newspaper talk so openly about God?  Her short life made front page for the 6th time!  On the 6 month anniversary from the day I had to leave the hospital with empty arms...  Thank you to Conor Makem, the amazing reporter who has been following her story.  You have been a blessing to us.  Here it is: Rachel's Playground Article

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Right Where I'm At: 6 months 2 days

I'm joining Angie at Still Life with Circles and other baby loss mamas in writing posts about where we're at in our grief right now.  Her blog has close to 100 posts written by women like me who have participated in this.  You can see them at the link above.  To be honest, I feel inadequate to take part cause I feel so messy and not very positive...But I guess nobody ever healed or helped anybody else heal by denying their feelings and I know the purpose is to just say where I'm at, not to find a solution for where I'm at or find the perfect words - so here I go...

At 6 months and two days since Rachel's birth and death, I am not at the same emotion for very long at once.  I tend to occupy much of my mind space with either thoughts and visions from my time with Rachel or thoughts and visions of what I am missing with her now and will be in the future.  These thoughts usually bring short spurts of sadness or tears, along with disappointment about what could have been.

During my pregnancy, I had a purpose; to make the most of my time with her and make sure everyone knew about her.  After she was born, I put a lot of pressure on myself to stay strong for her and make sure everyone knew that I did not regret her.  I didn't tell people of my disappointments about her birthday, partly because I wasn't thinking about them yet (she was still too close to care), but also because I didn't want anyone to be able to say anything negative about her at ALL.  She was amazing and I didn't want to hear anything less come from anyone's mouth.  I had little or no tolerance for anyone who talked of her as if she was a sad existence or a disappointment.  In the days and weeks immediately following her death, I felt like I was still surrounded in support.  People were still checking on me and talking about her.  People were still sending cards and emails... and I got lots of comments on my blog.  I felt like others' emotions were still affected by her and it made me feel less alone, even though nobody knew the depth of my pain, it felt like they were trying to understand and be here for me.

I blogged ALL the time and have continued to do so for most of the last 6 months.  This blog has been a God-send for me.  I have never been good at talking about my feelings, but I discovered after I started my blog that I am good at writing them.  It also has given me a way to be able to talk about Rachel whenever I want without seeing any uncomfortable faces or hearing any insensitive advice.  It has helped me to help people know her.  It has given me something I can do to nurture "her".  I have spent many sleepless nights on my computer journaling my all-over-the-place feelings to people all around the world (over 92 countries!) when the people in my own home felt so far away.  I have been blessed with many new friendships and have been okay with letting some old ones go.  My blog used to provide me a place where I felt completely safe expressing my feelings; good, bad or indifferent.  Little places in my heart that would have gone long unnoticed have been healed though my writing and I am grateful for that.  Lately though, my blog has not felt as safe.  Many critical comments about what I write or 'might write' have left me feeling like my blog is no longer a safe haven for me, but a place in which people think they can give me their input on what I should and shouldn't write and are judging me accordingly.  Lately, between that and the fact that I'm running out of ways to say "I miss Rachel like crazy" leaves me feeling discouraged even with my blog. 

This is just what I see as a symptom to the problem I find myself in at 6 months and 2 days....

What I mean by that is that the world has officially moved on.  And I haven't.  And since they have, they don't get why I haven't.  That is obvious for many reasons, not limited to the fact that during my pregnancy and in the first few weeks after Rachel died, nobody would've questioned anything I wrote because they still had pity on me and therefore found me worthy of grace.  Since 6 months 2 days has worn off emotions they may have felt from Rachel, it has also worn off the eyes of compassion through which they used to view me... but I still so desperately need it.

My grief used to be able to be classified more as sadness.  I was sad all the time.  I found great joy in my baby and also in my other children, but my heart hurt... literally in my chest, it was a real physical pain.  I cried more often and my sadness came with me everywhere.  At the drop of a hat... a song, a sound, a word, a thought... I would be in tears.  Today, my sadness is not as consistent... it's more randomly placed throughout unexpected times of my days.  However, the grief is heavier than ever.  This is my biggest struggle right now.  I didn't understand before that grief didn't just mean being sad and crying.  I didn't understand how heavy it would be on my shoulders.  I was not expecting the way it would invade my entire life and every part of my being.  And to be honest, I hate every second of it.  I would actually give anything to go back to the day I had Rachel... the days when I cried, but she seemed closer.  The days when God felt closer.  The days when people felt closer.

These days are so lonely.  People thought that back in December was the part that was hard. (although I did have some in-laws who thought December was a stretch to still be grieving even then)  Unfortunately, based on the general publics' limited knowledge of this type of loss, it got harder for me at about the same time that everyone disappeared thinking I should be fine now.  The help stopped, the cards stopped, the calls stopped, the comments stopped.... exactly when I needed them most.

And so this has left me in a good and bad place.  It's left me in a place where I am realizing that the only One who will never let me down is my God, which is ultimately the best place to be... but also in a place where I struggle with bitterness, which puts a wedge between me and my Only Hope.

I find myself trudging the daily, never ending road we call "grief" wondering if this is ever going to let up.  I am now 16 weeks pregnant again.  I feel bad admitting that I am really struggling to be excited at all about being pregnant again and have to fake being interested in a conversation about this baby. Which is all anyone wants to talk to me about anymore because it's more fun to talk about then my other dead baby.  I feel like in order to talk about her, I have to force a conversation... and I don't always receive a very warming response which is heartbreaking.  When I was pregnant, I didn't want to talk and everyone insisted on it - now I want to and nobody else does. 

I planted her garden for her 6 month birthday and saw how some people looked at me like I was over-doing it when I told them.  They don't get me and I sometimes feel like a complete outcast because most people don't.  I'm glad they don't, I guess.  Being misunderstood and looked at pathetically as if I should be over this by now is sad to me.  I dug and lifted and bent over in the hot sun all alone trying to nurture a baby who is gone.  And this is my new normal.  Even though I felt completely alone, I also felt like I'm still getting stronger.  I don't feel defeated by my loneliness in my grief, but I would be lying if I didn't say it's hurtful.  I know God will bring me through this... but in the meantime, I'm still in it.  It feels like such a long road.

At 6 months and 2 days, I am still a newly grieving mama of a beautiful baby who left me too soon.  I'm sad, I'm mad, I'm discouraged, I'm lonely, I'm broken, I'm tired and weary (from grief and pregnancy).  The hard part about right now is that she's been gone long enough that I have a hard time remembering the joy I experienced when I carried her and held her in my arms, but not long enough that the pain of losing her has lessened any.  As a matter of fact, without the feeling of joy being close, the pain seems bigger.

At 6 months and 2 days, heaven feels so far away and 'better days' seem to be a name of something I'll never know.  Hearing people say "Rachel" is still something that makes me light up and smile... and hearing someone call me her Mama makes my heart dance.  She is still in my every thought and I wonder daily what life is like for her with Jesus.  I rejoice that she is there, even though my heart continues to break down here.

I could go on and on about what life is like after 6 months and 2 days without my girl, but pretty soon it's going to be 6 months and 3 days and I'd have to change the entire post.  I'll end with a quote I read once on a CD my friend Jill had in her car....

The word "loss" isn't big enough. 
There should be an altogether different word for the grief of losing a child. 
A word that takes weeks, months, years to pronounce....
It might take a whole lifetime to get to the last syllable. 
~Sy Safransky

Friday, June 3, 2011

6 Months - Planting My Bleeding Heart

It's been a while since a real post...  this week has been a LONG one.  And this post is going to be a LONG one.  On top of being so sick I couldn't get off the couch or eat for 4 solid days, I'm also just getting tired of feeling sad.  I'm not one to believe that grief should go faster than it is, but I've never been the one on this side of the fence.  Knowing it takes a long time... a lifetime even... is one thing, feeling it for a long time... a lifetime... is another.

Today is my precious baby girl's 6 month birthday... and it's the first time the 3rd has landed on a Friday.  It been a day of mixed emotions where I was on the verge of tears almost all day, and cried only a few times.  I smiled when I thought of her... and cried right after.  I miss her so much.

Let me start with yesterday - My mom came and took all 3 of the kids for the night!  Des came down wearing a brown skirt that she had tied up to look like a scarf around her hips, a green & white striped shirt, a pink vest, a gold belt, and a blue scarf.  She put on her leopard print shoes and asked "Mama, do these clash?"  I looked at her and said, "that's a funny question honey, considering what you have on...I thought clash was the look you were going for"  She wiggled her hips and put her arms out and said "this is my style."  God, I love this girl. 

I didn't realize how much I needed the break.  I spent about an hour and a half cleaning when they left and without them running behind me messing things up, the house looked great and still did today at lunch time!!  My friend Mel and I went to the greenhouse and did some plant shopping for Rachel's birthday present; a garden for the entrance of her playground.  I also bought a Bleeding Heart plant to put in at our house.  The name says it all.

I had been looking for a stone to put in the garden with a saying that fit, but all the greenhouse had was ones for dead pets....except the one I bought which said "planted to celebrate a life well lived".  It wasn't what I had in mind, but better than nothing.  And her life was short, but definitely well lived...if only through me. 

As we were driving home, we saw this small garden shop closing and pulled in (Mel promised me she wouldn't take anything out, but I wasn't convinced until we stopped safely)  They were locking the door and opened it when they saw me...we literally pulled up about a foot in front of the front door.  I told them what I was looking for and she said all they had was stones for pets.  (is there something wrong here?)  But she said I could look around....about 2 seconds after walking in, another lady said "how about this one?"  I looked and started crying.  It says "Those we held in our arms for a while, we hold in our hearts forever".  Perfect.  I looked some more and found a little stone that had a pink tulip on it and said "live".  I decided to buy it for her grave... after all, she is alive.  Then as we were checking out, I looked down and saw a ring that had a heart charm on it.  I flipped it around and the other side had an "R" on it.  My 6 month birthday present :o)  I told the cashier about Rachel and she said she had 4 children and only one of them is with her, she had lost the other 3, so she knew how I felt.  I think we were meant to walk into that place that evening. 

After I got back, Matt & I went out and used a gift card that Donna had given us months ago to the Olive Garden, which was nice. I'm not sure it was the best meal to break into eating again with though... I ended up awake in the middle of the night for a couple of hours feeling sick. But I kept it down which was the first meal in 4 days!  Both me & Baby were in need of some nutrients.  I went to bed early. It was a good night and a great start for my plans for Rachel's day.

I got up and was actually excited to get out of bed...  I felt bad that having the kids gone felt so refreshing.  At about 9 am I was wondering if maybe they could stay for another night! :o)  But the thing about having 3 kids is that they make everyone tired so I'm lucky I got one night.  I had to remind myself that one day not too far away, my kids will be grown up and gone....My house will stay clean when I clean it....I will be able to get up to a quiet house... I will have time for myself...and I will miss it all.  My children are a precious gift from God who I am blessed to spend my days with.  I won't lie, it doesn't always feel that way - but I've never heard anyone on their death bed say "I wish I would have spent more time at the office" or "I wish I spent less time with the ones I love".  It's always the opposite.  But it's just a hard job...that I can never clock out of or take a sick day...and a paycheck would be nice! 

As Matt was telling me of the next book he planned to read as he was packing to go to work, I responded enviously with "I wish I got a lunch break".  Well, today I got my lunch break.  The first 5 minutes were enjoyable.  I sat down with my delicious leftovers and enjoyed the quiet house and the breeze coming through the window.  I started reading the latest article in the paper; my girl made front page again.  The title is "40 days, 40 night and 43 minutes."  It was an article about the playground being finished.  And then I started crying cause I miss Rachel.  What I wouldn't give to be inconvenienced by her today...everyday... messing up my cleaning, yelling in the morning before I've had my tea, taking more of my energy and time.

I think I've gotten my perspective on God's gift of children messed up again.  *sigh*  Today I was reminded why I do what I do.  Because it is a gift not a sentence.  And the most beautiful gift I've ever been given at that.  But maybe we could arrange a break for me like once a month or something, mom? :o)
Okay, totally sidetracked there....

So, I got up and left the house early sporting my "Team Rachel" shirt.  I went to buy some good soil for her garden at a local Blue Seal to save time rather than going to Walmart across town.  When I went up to pay, the cashier asked "Are you Rachel's mom?"  My heart lit up... yes I am... She apparently had seen one of the other articles and when she saw my shirt, she remembered our story.  I told her all about the garden, the playground and how cute her hands were (can't leave the important stuff out)  This was another birthday present to me.

I went to Studley's Flower shop to get some flowers.  My friend Mary from church works there.  Her and her husband bought all the daisies we gave out at Rachel's funeral for us and Mary has been making us arrangements that say "Rachel" to fit out weekly budget (which is sometimes just a few dollars) regularly since that day.  It was so nice to walk in today and say "I need two bouquets, one for me and one for my girl" and she already knows what I need and what I'm talking about. I told her today was 6 months and she replied "already?".  sigh.  Sometimes it feels like it came fast but usually it feels like it's been forever.  I have officially had fresh flowers in my house every day for 6 months in Rachel's honor.  They don't compare to her or remove any of my pain.  But it's something I can do for her and so I do.

I went to the church and worked entirely way too hard putting in her garden.  Reminded me of my days gardening way too hard with her in my belly....  I planted a few plants in memory of Rose Alix too (my friend Anne's daughter who had anencephaly)  Her 2nd birthday is later this month and I planted some "Rosey Return" pink day lillies for her.  I also planted a pretty shrub in the middle and of course, some shasta daisies for my girl.  They aren't blooming yet, but I post a pic when they do.

Matt was getting out of work early just as I was finishing up so he met me at the church and we drove to visit Rachel.  We had pulled out a baby lilac tree that was growing where I didn't want it to in our yard and I decided I would plant it at her grave by the other one since it was not growing well.  We got there and the cemetery had just replaced the lilac behind her with a new one.... that made the soil easy to dig into and we planted her baby one right next to the other one. 

The one we planted in the tiny one under the small one :o)

Wondering how we got a picture together?  Just as we were pulling up, my friend Amanda was too!  You all have no idea how much it means to me to know that Rachel gets so many visitors.  Thank you.  I also left her flowers, a smaller version of the ones I have here...  6 months with Jesus - I bet it's been like the blink of an eye to her... feels like years to me.

I stopped home to change and found some flowers had been delivered on my porch - they were from Mel.  This is the good stuff... back at month 1 and even 2 people remembered Rachel's days.  Months later, it hurts to feel like I'm the only one still remembering her.  I was so thankful for this surprise.

Back when I was 6 months pregnant with Rachel, friends from our small group (bible study) gave me a gift card for a prenatal massage.  I never used it cause I was afraid it would put me into early labor and so although I desperately needed it, I needed her to stay with me more.  I finally decided to use it today.  I found myself having a hard time quieting my mind.  I kept thinking about her, how she should be there with me, and why I had picked that day to go - because she wasn't.  I told the girl about her and she seemed disinterested.  She asked if this was my 2nd and I said 5th.  She said "well, you're busy aren't you?"  Yeah, but not in the way you mean.  So, I was kinda disappointed with that experience, but I came home ready for my kids...

And about 5 minutes after I sat down, in they came.  "Hi Mama" Sam says without looking at me, holding a rock (he's obsessed with rocks right now) and Des was still wearing her stylish outfit from yesterday...except now with black boots that Jailyn (her cousin) let her borrow.  Isaiah was fast asleep in Nana's car and actually never woke up, he's still in bed now - I guess he had fun!

As I was writing this post, I thought of my baby's grave... out there in the dark, flowers laying on the ground, still just a small rectangle awaiting grass and my heart wanted to jump out of my chest.  It's been a while since I've struggled with thinking about the cemetery at night... it used to happen to me every night as I tried to go to sleep... hence the 2 am blog posts and lots of Ambien. These days it might not happen as much, but man when it does, it's as real and painful as that first night when I left her there knowing she was still a holdable cute baby.  Earlier that day she was in my arms and now she was in the ground.  I struggled all winter long with how cold the ground was and her being in it and today, I worried that it would get too hot down there and that her body would deteriorate quicker with heat.  I found myself hoping that the ground would stay cool as if I'll ever see her again this side of heaven.  This is not what I had envisioned for my sweet baby when I saw those two pink lines.

She should be sitting up, babbling and starting table food.  She's not and the only thing I can do to make myself feel any better is plant things.  Sometimes it feels good and other times it feels kinda pathetic....especially when it is so meaningful to me and I tell someone and they look at me like I'm crazy.  I wish I had more than this for Rachel and with Rachel.  I wish I had her.

I went outside to finish my last goal for the day.... I planted my bleeding heart and came inside to tell you all about it....

6 months later and it's still bleeding.