Monday, October 31, 2011

I Miss My Ignorant Bliss

I just watched Rachel's video and made it through the first 9 minutes fine.  The last 3 the tears started and now they won't stop.  I see myself holding her, I remember what that felt like.  I remember touching her hands and feet and trying to memorize her every inch.  I remember the days following and the pit in my stomach that never went away.  I remember the weight on my chest as if my heart was literally breaking and I was trying to breathe with a ton of bricks on me.  I've spent hours upon hours over the 11 months analyzing her photos, my face as I looked at her, the people who got to meet her and what they looked like while they were looking at her.  I wonder how we made it through those moments.

I've watched her birth video over and over (It's about 30 secs long) and I stare closely to try to see if she looked at me when they held her up for me to see her, if her chest moved on it's own, if I could get a glimpse of her body moving at all.  Any bit of life in her.  What I missed while she was over on the table and I waited for to finally hold her.... I would give anything to go back to that day and hold her again.

I have watched the funeral video, looked at the pictures, remembered every detail of the cold December day I had to walk away and leave her in the cemetery.  I am just left speechless and the tears flow as if it was still that very day. 

I do this all in an attempt to not forget her.  To remember everything I possibly can.  I don't want to look back and not remember a single detail of what I knew of my daughter, even if it makes me cry.  And I have cried so much lately.  I still can't understand how I can miss someone I hardly knew so much.  She is my baby, but the truth is, if I didn't have these photos and the videos I made, I probably wouldn't remember her so well.  She was here such a brief time in the midst of my greatest pain and I was in shock.  Without the photos, I just don't know how I would keep her memory in my head and that scares me.  But the truth is that my pain would not lessen one bit.  She is a piece of me that is gone and my heart knows it - no matter how much my mind remembers.

I've spent a lot of time lately looking at the kids' baby photo albums.  When I see the ones of me holding a new baby at the hospital, my face doesn't look any different then when I was holding Rachel.  It was full of love.  Yet when I look at them, I can't help but ask "how does it feel to hold a live baby?"  It's not like I've never held one before, but I can hardly remember it.  My most vivid memories of holding a new baby of mine consist of a silent, still baby, waiting to hear the official time of death so I know how many minutes she lived and posing with my dead baby for the only photos I'd ever be able to get with her, while trying to etch the short time into my mind forever all while feeling intense emotional pain.

A baby that you have after the loss of a baby is referred to as a "rainbow baby".  Here is a definition that I found on a group I'm in that my friend Josie started for people who are pregnant with a rainbow baby after losing a baby to anencephaly:
"A Rainbow Baby is the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn't mean the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope."
So Asa is my rainbow baby.  Unfortunately, my rainbow isn't doing anything to relieve the effects of my storm.  I love him to pieces, I see his beauty, I know the gift he is.  I understand that he could only exist after the rain.

But I'm still in the storm.

The idea of watching my other childrens' birth videos has seemed like something that I will never want to do again.  I was able to have natural births with them and hold a healthy baby and everyone is happy.  I just don't know if watching that would be too painful right now... and yet, I'm preparing to go do it in real life. Except at least in the videos, I know the outcome.  I know they came home with me.  I know they are ok.

I've found myself extremely irritable and grumpy lately (good sign on the hormone change, I hope) and it dawned on me that I am getting anxious to know how this is all going to play out.  I just want to go into labor so I can stop thinking about all the different scenarios and so I can just know if I'm going to get to keep this baby.  I just want to fast forward and be at home holding him safely.
It's funny how many people, after hearing about Rachel, will say to me "But this one's okay, right?"  I hate that question.  I hate the "oh good" that I get after I say "as far as I know".  I hate how they like to switch the subject to him and leave the discomfort of Rachel in the dust.  Well, how do I know?  Most people who have a baby die during birth don't expect it.  they don't know it's coming.  So, yes, right now he's fine.  Will he come home with me?  I hope so, but only God knows. 

I'm growing really tired of the "have faith" and "think positive" comments too.  I am not in need of more faith.  My faith is strong.  And no matter how positive I think, does it really change whether or not my baby dies?  I like to believe I don't have that much control.  Believe me, I don't think Asa is going to die.  I truly believe that everything will be ok... but excuse me for a moment while I'm HUMAN.  The past year and a half, I have come to know of hundreds of women who went to the hospital thinking everything was fine and left empty handed.  My innocence and naivety has been stripped from me.  I know that meeting the 12 week mark in pregnancy isn't any more a guarantee that you won't have a miscarriage then going full term with no signs of problems means that the baby won't die suddenly.  Both of those tragedies happen all the time and have happened to people I know and love. 

The idea that if I have peace about something, it must mean the outcome will be fine is crap.  I had peace about Rachel and she's dead.   That is why it is called the "peace that passes understanding".   It doesn't say we have peace when everything is great.  That's easy.  I understand to a whole new level that my ways are not His ways.  And yet, His ways are much better.  So please, if you think brushing off my concerns in order to help me be positive is helpful, don't bother.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't want you to say "you're right, he could be dead tomorrow" but my fears are real and not unfounded so please don't dismiss them.

My rainbow may be beautiful, but my storm is still raging.  That's a lot easier to brush off when you're on the outside looking in.  And I wouldn't trade any of it to not know the blessing of these two gifts from God, but man, sometimes it seems like people take a snowstorm more seriously.  You'd never hear someone say to a person who is all in a tizzy over a storm where they might lose electricity for a couple days "aw, come on, think positively... everything is fine right now, just have faith!" Nope.  Everyone gets into that... stocking up on food, buying supplies... it's all over the news and everyone wants to talk about it and it's completely acceptable to worry.  But the possibility of another dead baby??  No, no reason to worry - have faith, think positive, you'll be fine - "it won't happen twice" - storms like that only happen once in a lifetime, right?  That's what I'm told anyway...

I'm sure I will be fine.  I'm sure it's not likely to happen again.  But I know that is not a guarantee. I know people who have had more than one of these storms and even have lost their Rainbow Babies without warning.  It happens every day.  But they aren't the ones telling me to think my way to a positive outcome.  It's the people who have never had to walk this road that say such a thing.

I'd love to go back to my ignorant bliss. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Got a Little Bit Stronger

Our storm has started and it's coming down!  I can't believe this - although I'd be lying if I said I didn't find a bit of humor in it when my neighbor said something about this snow ruining Halloween...  The snow is much prettier to me.

My kids had fun playing in it tonight.  It's always exciting the first time we get snow that sticks.  Come January I won't be thinking it's exciting, but tonight, we had fun.  Sam had already gone to bed cause he had an allergic reaction to something he ate this afternoon and the Benedryl knocked him out... wish he could have been in this picture.  And, of course, there is a little girl I would love to have in this picture too.  I miss her so much.
 Last night, Des & I were out scrapbooking (well, she was playing, Jenn & I were scrapbooking) until after 10:30!  We got a bunch of pages laid out, but spending that much time thinking about the details of my baby's short life and how to lay them out in a book can be emotionally draining.  On our way home, a song played on the radio - it's actually about a break-up, but one of the verses said this:

I know my heart will never be the same
But I'm telling myself I'll be okay
Even on my weakest days
I get a little bit stronger

I teared up thinking about the truth of that through this journey.  God is still doing a work in me through my sweet girl. In the moments I feel the weakest, He is the strongest.  When I feel like I can't go on, He carries me.  When I am hurting, He holds my heart.  And I know that through all this deep pain... all these days of being let down by other humans... every tear, every disappointment, every lonely trip to the cemetery to take care of what I have left of my baby and talk to myself.... through the unending daily pain that comes from losing a child....

I get a little bit stronger. 

When I wake up in the morning, still clinging to her blanket after almost 11 months and not wanting to face my day, but I get up anyway....when I see a new baby girl coming my way and want to turn around and run, but I go congratulate them anyway.... When I listen to yet another person make a comment that's supposed to make me feel better about my daughter's death, but it just pours salt in my wound, and I smile anyway... through every anniversary, every missed milestone, every family event and picture where there is clearly someone very special missing.... every time I have to explain to my kids again that their sister is not coming back or why I'm sad again. When I feel my weakest....

I get a little bit stronger.

And as the days of the past year have gone by, God has never failed to remind me He hasn't forgotten me.  Back on Oct. 13th I posted a photo of a daisy that was still hanging around.  My daisies had been done blooming since the end of August and I found one, beautifully bloomed in my yard.  It must have been there at least a week at that point with how open it was. 

At 37 weeks and a day of this pregnancy, as I got pregnancy photos taken for Asa, the first snow of the year started falling - but it didn't stay. The first snow last year fell on the night Rachel was born (at 37 weeks and a day of pregnancy), but it didn't stay.  She was in my arms as I watched it out the window from my hospital bed surrounded by daisies that we had brought for her, but she didn't stay.

While the kids were playing outside, I went around the front to see if that daisy was still holding on....  and sure enough, it was.  I've never seen a daisy in the snow before.  Let alone one that has been bloomed for almost a month, 2 months after the rest of the flowers have died.
I knew that by morning, this pretty flower would be dead with 6-10 inches of heavy snow on it, so I cut it in order to bring it inside and protect it from the storm... I felt like I was doing something for my girl, even though she's already been taken from the storm to a place where she can bloom much longer.  I could almost picture God picking her up that day and carrying her home to keep her safe. 

And as I shut the door behind me, knowing that this flower had just shared another piece of God's heart with me... another truth about how much God loves and cares for me and for Rachel,

I got a little bit stronger.

Here are the lyrics to the song I have playing that you should turn on if you have it off...
In Me by Casting Crowns

If you ask me to leap
Out of my boat on the crashing waves
If You ask me to go
Preach to the lost world that Jesus saves

I'll go, but I cannot go alone
Cause I know I'm nothing on my own
But the power of Christ in me makes me strong
Makes me strong

Cause when I'm weak, You make me strong
When I'm blind, You shine Your light on me
Cause I'll never get by living on my own ability
How refreshing to know You don't need me
How amazing to find that you want me
So I'll stand on Your truth, and I'll fight with Your strength
Until You bring the victory, by the power of Christ in me

If You ask me to run
And carry Your light into foreign land
If You ask me to fight
Deliver Your people from Satan's hand

To reach out with Your hands
To learn through Your eyes
To love with the love of a savior
To feel with Your heart
And to think with Your mind
I'd give my last breath for Your glory

Friday, October 28, 2011

I Can Handle This

I got through our photos last night....made it to another Friday at the Rachel's tulips for the spring in the ground by her stone (and some in my Uncle & Nana's grave too)... and am going to eat dinner (if my last freezer meal that I put in too late ever cooks through!) and then I'm off to work on her scrapbook. 

I was too lazy to take off my make up last night (before Rachel, this NEVER happened!! I always wash my face before bed and for good reason!) and ended up with a HUGE zit on my face today, I got pulled over for not having my stickers on my plates - the nice cop put them on for me.  (I'm not sure if he was just really nice or felt bad for me when he saw my black mascara smudged all over my face and Isaiah still wearing PJ's at noon) Sam refused to nap again and ruined my plan of an afternoon nap, I just discovered my first stretch marks ever and after 4 other full term babies I thought I had excaped them.  I have so much to do and figure out that just thinking about it makes my head spin.  My back pain has me walking like I'm in my 90's - and you should have seen me try to stand up after being on my hands and knees in the cemetery.

I'm tired, I'm grumpy, I'm REALLY not impressed with this snow (we're supposed to get a storm tomorrow too!) or the gross Halloween stuff I've had to look at all over the place.  I didn't like it before, but when your baby is in the ground in a graveyard, it kind of makes your stomach turn to see people making skeletons and graveyards in their front yards as decorations.  There are caskets, dead people, skeletons all through our neighborhood and towns and people have a bunch of reasons why they find this enjoyable, but I'd rather skip the evil stuff and buy a bunch of candy myself.  Call me the party pooper.  My kids unfortunately have to be subjected to it too, which since they also have a sister in the ground, isn't any more fun for them.  And I'm 100% ready to have this baby any time, but it appears that he's comfortable in there and isn't coming as soon as I would like - and while he's there, he's going to also ruin my skin and give me horrible indigestion that I actually choke on while I'm trying to sleep at night...ugh. 

But I'm pushing through.....and have certainly experienced much worse than this, so I'll take it.  I'm still at 37 weeks and 2 days pregnant and I'm still carrying a live, healthy baby.  I can handle this.  This is easy.  Today was good.

Playground Touch-Up Cancelled

Well, we got our first snow last night.  Unfortunately, that came just before our scheduled day to put the sealant on Rachel's Playground before the winter.  The sealant requires certain temperatures that I don't think we'll be getting any more of.  So, we have to cancel and will work something out for the spring.  Thanks to those who were planning on coming. 

For Grace members: they are still going to be doing the fall clean-up and will need help with other things tomorrow if you can make it!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

37 Weeks And A Day

37 weeks and a day....  that's how far along I am today - and it's also how long I was blessed to have Rachel in my womb.  I feel so ready to have this baby.  I know by this time with Rachel, God has brought me to the place where I was ready to meet her too, but when "hello" means "goodbye", it's just not the same. 

I have been thinking back to these days with Rachel...  I can't help but wonder how in the world I kept going.  Right now, I'm struggling to not want to quit everything and take a break until Asa is a couple months old!  We had music last night and I just want to quit.  We have photos tonight and I just wanted to cancel.  I'm supposed to scrapbook Rachel's book (that I desperately want done before Asa comes) with my friend Jenn tomorrow and I have already warned her I might back out.  Not to mention all the places I have to get the kids to and from with homeschool and Isaiah's pre-school.  I am so worn out that I just want to check out of life for a while. 

How did I keep going with Rachel?  I was in more pain physically.  I had just as much - or more- going on.  I was really busy with birthday and funeral plans.... And I could hardly keep a thought straight because I was so overwhelmed with the reality of what was about to happen.  How was I still at music that very week, just days before I had her?  Well,  I wanted her to go to as many places with me as possible.  When I sat on that stool last night playing Amazing Grace on my guitar, I knew that Asa could hear me and that not that long ago, Rachel sat on that same stool with me listening to me play music for her.  I actually have a picture of it! :o)   Rachel heard me perfect The Old Rugged Cross.

My friend Lisa Borders has been re-touching some of Rachel's photos for me and so these past two weeks I have spent hours looking at photos from the hospital, the funeral home and her funeral.  I have cried a million times.  I also read through a bunch of my posts from last November the other night and my heart ached as I did.  It was as if I was reading someone else's story, it felt so surreal that I walked the path I did.  I think that is because I was actually being carried by God.  But these trips down memory lane are painful, yet necessary. 

One of the first photos that Lisa edited for me was one of Rachel without her hat on.  I wasn't expecting she'd edit this at all and it took me by surprise when I opened it.  We only took those photos for the Duke University study we participated in.  Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have them.  She wrote above her picture "All of God's grace in one sweet little face" - and it was there.  As much as some would look at it and say it was a tragedy - and believe me, it hurts like crazy to see my baby missing the top of her head, God's amazing grace is all over that photo... you know why?  Because as I held her that day, I was smiling at her.  She was my baby.  God's miracle.  Not a mistake.  She changed the world.  He uses the weak to shame the strong.  And for a little girl who was so 'imperfect' to some, she was the most beautiful thing I've been blessed to know.  I'm thankful to have that photo now.  I probably wouldn't remember her looking like that, but I think in a way it's good for me to be able to remember clearly what I experienced that day.  The good and the bad.

As I sat down to write this, I looked at the clock.  It was this time in the morning that I was being operated on and waiting to lay eyes on my girl.  She was born at 10:27am and born into heaven at 11:10am.  Just not long enough for me. 

Today is another reminder of how short my time with her was and yet the unbelievable bond between a mother and her child before they even officially 'meet'.  I cannot imagine having to say goodbye to my sweet Asa today and I'm so thankful I don't have to... but I won't deny that I woke up this morning (and have done the same for the past couple of days) and when I noticed he wasn't moving, shook my belly to make sure he was still alive.  There are just some things that I can't help - and one of them is the fear that comes along with knowing how little control I have over my children's lives.  I gave Rachel my all and it wasn't enough to keep her here.  You can do everything 'right' - you can hope, pray, beg for healing and safety - you can have peace in the midst of a storm and it doesn't mean you will have the outcome you want.  That is scary.  And at the same time I'm reassured that it's not my lack of faith, the presence of fear, my failure to pray hard enough or hope fully enough that will cause 'bad' things to happen to me.  But instead, it's the sovereignty of my great God, Who knows the story all the way to the end and every detail in between, working all things together for my good and His Glory. 

37 weeks and a day....  what a journey it's been.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Through My Eyes

Yesterday at my appt, the nurse gave me a new patient folder.  It wasn't one I got with Rachel - apparently most of it doesn't apply to babies that will die.  I smiled that I got one this time, recognizing the gift of my healthy baby.  But at the same time, I felt sad that I wasn't a recipient of 'the folder' with my last precious child.

The nurse left me sitting in there for 35 minutes while she called my last doctor to verify I had in fact had a test that I told her I did.... seems she could have done that after my appt, but whatever.  I guess she thought there was a chance I was lying??  While she was gone, after staring at my cute little boy's ultrasound for 15 minutes, I decided to look through the folder.

On the outside it has a picture of a baby and above that it said:
"You may only be here for a couple of days" 

OK, so I was all confused... why does it say the baby will only be here a couple of days??  Did she give me the wrong folder?  Maybe this is a new one for people who know their baby will die.  And why do they say 'only a couple of days?'  I would have given anything for a couple of days.

Then I opened it and on the inside it says
"But the experience will stay with you always"

I realized it wasn't talking about the baby and how long he would be on earth,
but me and how long I'd be in the hospital. 

I sighed with discouragement...  my perception of every day things is forever changed.  Nothing will ever be as simple or straightforward as it used to be.  I will always see things through the eyes of a mother who lost her baby.  And a lot of ordinary things hurt through my eyes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More Pictures of Asa

I had my 37 week check up today in Maine.  My ultrasound went awesome!  The tech got some good pictures.  I did buy a DVD too, but for some reason it stopped recording half way through :o(  I was going to post a part of it where he smiled... it was SO cute, but when I watched it, it wasn't there.  bummer.  She measured him at 7 pounds 11 oz!  I had guessed he'd be 7 1/2 - and I do have big babies - so not a total surprise, but being 3 weeks away from due and trying for a vbac, knowing that babies can gain a pound a week the last month, I'm hoping to go before my guessed day of the 11th!  The week before would be great :o)  Desirae says she thinks it's going to be the 5th.  Not the 3rd because she has gym and not the 4th because she has art, but the 5th would be good :o)  That's my little planner! 

So, after the last pictures I posted of Asa, everyone said they thought he looked like Isaiah.  I thought Sam from the beginning - but take a look at all my kids and you tell me what you think!



Asa - LOVE this one!  It looks like he just ate something he doesn't like...
although since he smiled right after, maybe he was just entertaining us!

Asa - Awww....cute baby :o)
I'll admit they look pretty close, but Samuel has that crease on his nose that Asa definitely has too!  I think he's going to look like Sam, but there's no way around the fact that this kid looks like an Aube :o)  I love my family.  Looking at these pics, I think Rachel actually looked more like Desirae than I realized and the boys are almost identical!  As soon as his chubby face came on the screen, all I could do was smile and say "awww... I love him"  - and do I ever.

After my ultrasound, I had my visit. The appt went pretty well, minus yet another doctor with horrible bed side manner - but hey, I'm getting used to that. He practically tried to schedule me for a repeat c-section for 39 weeks because I asked a question concerning a VBAC. (when doctors say 'do you have any questions, they don't actually want you to ASK any!)  He said if I'm 'concerned' about the baby then I should just schedule a section. Um...what mother isn't worried about her baby?? How about just answering my question? (which by the way was "if I get nervous that something is going wrong while laboring, can I change my mind and have a c-section?")  Is that a dumb question or something?   I mean, they did just make me sign a paper saying they aren't responsible if my baby DIES, so don't I have a right, if I'm responsible, to decide at any moment a c-section would be needed?  Do you seriously do this for a living and get paid for it, Buddy? OK, that might give you an idea of how much I enjoyed the whole 4 mins. he was in the room with me... loved it. But the rest of the visit was great. Nurses should get paid the big bucks. They tend to be a lot nicer, not so prideful and actually do most of the work.  I'm not sure how that guy makes it through the day with his head that far up his rear end. I would think that would be dangerous.  Sorry, this might be hormones talking.....maybe I should eat some caramel (which thanks to my friends, I have a steady supply of!) :o)

Sooooo anyway....  My fluid was a little high today (?)  Probably explains my new back trouble.  They weren't concerned since it's just over 'high' but I can't help but worry after that being such a big problem for my girl.  The nurse started going over the ultrasound with me.  She went through the report and said "so, the baby scored 8 out of 8".  I got a lump in my throat and my eyes filled with tears.  You can read why In this post from last November - actually, I just read through a bunch of stuff from last November, and I honestly don't know how I did it.  Thanks to God I didn't fall apart....  I cried reading all of it.  I miss her so much and wish she was here every single second of the day.  every day.
Cyndie went with me today and brought me to Longhorn's afterward.  That was where Matt & I ate on the day we got Rachel's 2nd opinion.  Seems like so long ago.  I got home and Matt had gotten out of work early so I was able to nap for an hour.  I felt very blessed today and am so looking forward to adding another little Aube to our nest.  Please continue to pray for a safe delivery for me and him. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

After Asa's Born....

So, my last post was where I'm at physically - here's where I'm at mentally/emotionally, if I can even put my complicated thought process into words.  I finally was able to with Matt the other night and ended up in tears, so we'll see how this goes...You may want to drink your coffee before reading this, it's gonna be a messy one!

To start with, I'm not a private person and never have been - as you can probably tell if you follow my blog or have had conversations with me.  I've also never considered myself an introvert.  I've always been the one who loves to find a reason to have people over and hate to miss out on things.  My children's birthdays - both the day they were born and the years after - have always been big celebrations for me and I have always liked to include as many people as possible.... until Rachel.

During my pregnancy with my sweet girl, I learned really quickly (through pain) that I had to be very careful who I surrounded myself with.  I knew that the people who hurt me through this trial were going to be hard to forgive and pretty much impossible to continue relationships with.  (which ARE two different things)  I knew that because I know me.  So, I made a point of being as open and honest about my feelings as I could be with everyone in my life. (for which I've been called critical and ungrateful)  For some relationships, that has made them stronger - and others, like I suspected, are severed and will probably never be the same.  The outcome of course, depended on if they responded to my feelings with love or in defense and judgement.  And I can say in all fairness, I warned everyone of this repeatedly back in August last year.

Rachel's birthday was the same way.  We had a room full of people there after she was born, but they are not the people you would expect to be part of such a celebration...  Instead of family members and old friends, we carefully picked people who had been in our lives currently and who we knew loved and supported us.  People we could trust to celebrate Rachel and not make the day about them or disrupt the peace in the room - for us and for our children.  And that definitely upset some people who were not invited.  And honestly, I was okay with that and still am.  I had to do what was right for me & my family.  I couldn't be worried about others in that situation, and the couple of exceptions I made, I regret.

All of a sudden, I felt like a completely private person - an introvert.  And I've remained that way since last year.  I know some of it is just my grief - but I believe some of it is that I am not the same person I was before.  I've learned that no matter how full a room is, it doesn't matter if the ones in it are not really on your side.

Now I'm approaching some new decisions to be made.  And the hard part is that I don't even totally know what they are because I've never done this before.

This is what I know:  I know I'm going to have a baby and I'm hoping the delivery will go well and safely.  I know that I will stay at the hospital a couple of days.  I know that I will eventually be at home trying to take care of (hopefully) 4 little ones - possibly after a surgery if I need a c-section.  I know that people are going to want to meet our new addition.  I know that having a new baby is going to make me grieve Rachel in a whole new way, a way in which I have no idea what to expect.  I know that people giving Asa attention, especially those who did not/do not support me through my journey with Rachel, is going to irritate the crap out of me. (I know that sounds so wrong)  I know that people are going to say things to 'rejoice' over Asa that will dismiss my 'mourning' over Rachel- and all with good intentions.  I know that he is going to be viewed as her replacement by some and that some will expect me to be 'all better' now.  I know that when I'm not 'all better now' people are going to judge me.  And I know that some of those people are related to us.  I know that I am not going to want to let that baby out of my arms.  I know that I have no desire to share him at all.  I know that sounds selfish and I know I don't care. 

You're probably really confused what I'm trying to say.... so am I.  That's the hard part.  What I guess I'm getting at is that, just like I had to do with Rachel, I need to allow myself the freedom to set boundaries and do or NOT do whatever feels right regarding me and my new baby.  It seemed easier and more 'acceptable' to do this for a baby that was going to die.  I can easily feel very guilty over not doing what others want me to or get really self-conscious about what people will think of me if I do what is right for me.  It feels wrong for me to even want to do what's right for 'me'.  But somehow, I need to let myself. 

Unfortunately, I have learned the hard lesson that some people attack when you set a boundary.  That is why we haven't spoken to one of my in-laws since last December. Another boundary I set started a disagreement that caused a so-called 'Chirstian friend' to bad mouth me to everyone and even contact a lawyer against me in August and other boundaries I've set have caused people along the way to stop talking to me.  Some people take it VERY personally when you set boundaries.  I may not always say things the right way or have the best approach, but I have never asked anything unreasonable of anyone.  So, my past (and even very recent) experience tells me that if I tell people what I need or don't let them do what they want, I'm going to get punished, abandoned or attacked for it - and maybe even sued!!  ugh. 

I guess this post is my forewarning...  I've had a lot of people tell me they would come visit me when I have him and I know that you all just want to be supportive.  I know that everyone is excited for the new baby.... but I'm thinking that I am not going to be ready for a lot of attention or to be trying to entertain everyone else's needs, desires, excitement, whatever.... I may change my mind, but the way I feel right now, I think I may just want to be alone with my baby and the rest of my family while I figure out how to grieve my girl and celebrate my boy.  It feels so complicated.  I'm hoping that everyone will be patient with me and be willing to follow my lead and not take it personally if I don't want to visit or show Asa off.  I also hope that everyone will allow me to feel however I feel without telling me how I *should* feel, according to them.  Oh, and don't be surprised if nobody else gets to hold him :o)

I am not saying that I'm not open to phone calls, emails and other ways of letting me know you care - please don't take it that way.   I'm only asking for no drop-ins and no expectations.  If you call and I'm up for it, then that's great... but I want to feel comfortable saying I'm not, without worrying about hurt feelings or angry people.  And if you're thinking that sounds like crazy behavior and most people won't do that, well, I could tell you some stories!  And you're right, it is crazy, but I had to deal with it right after Rachel had died from people who supposedly *knew* how I felt, yet couldn't understand why I wanted to be alone with my family for Christmas and aggressively let me know that it was unacceptable to desire such a thing.  The exact words (amongst a bunch of other nasty ones) were "this isn't about you, it's about celebrating with family for the holidays".  yep.  fun times.  Just what a mama needs a week after she puts her baby in the ground.  So, I'm assuming this year won't be any easier, espeically with a new baby, which always seems to bring our long lost family (and friends) out of the woodwork.  This never bothered me before, but after this last year of being criticized by the same people who have abandoned me when I needed them most, I've lost patience for it.  And if I'm completely honest, my heart still hurts from it all and I don't feel like I can (or should have to) handle any more pain from them.

I have no idea how to handle Isaiah's birthday, Thanksgiving, Rachel's birthday, Christmas and then Desirae's birthday, which will all happen between now and the beginning of January!   My head spins trying to figure out what to do in all these situations with a new baby, lots of emotions, and complicated relationships in our families - and all the "joyful" people who are going to want me to just be happy.  I feel so protective over Rachel.  I feel possesive over Asa.  I feel like I'm failing my other kids (this is where I start crying) by wanting to do a low key birthday, even though they really could care less, they mostly just want to do something fun with their cousins (my sister's kids).  And although I pretty much already know how I want to handle all of these situations and Matt's on the same page as me, I feel this pressure to do what I know everyone else is going to want from me.  I guess this is where it all comes back to me... and trusting God for the outcome of decisions made prayerfully.

Well, welcome to my complex mind!  Not a fun place to be sometimes.  But there it is.... Please don't use this post as an excuse to avoid me.  Believe me when I say I'm not talking about everyone I know here. The downfall here is that, as usual, the people I want to understand this stuff most likely aren't reading this and won't and so my 'forewarning' is probably a waste of my time. Or worse, they'll read it and buck against it anyway.  However, I do hope that it helps at least one other mama to know they aren't alone if they have had similar feelings.....

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Need Prayer

Today was extremely hard for me physically.  I have been in a ton of pain every night for weeks (mostly in my back), but usually feel better during the day. So, while I may not be sleeping very good, I am still able to function during the day.  Yesterday, after doing 'too much' (which wasn't a lot!) in the morning, I started having trouble walking without hurting.  Today, I didn't do anything but get up and I was in pain - it was taking my breath away it hurt so bad.  In comparison to what I went through during my pregnancy with Rachel, it doesn't compare - this is easy... but the reality is comparing any kind of pain never made anyone hurt less just because something else hurt more.

Ugh... what am I trying to say...??  Basically, I'm desperate for prayer.  I am already totally worn out and being in pain wears on my emotional state too.  Please pray for the remainder of this pregnancy to go well and for my pain to be relieved, at least some.  I know the end of a pregnancy is always uncomfortable, but I need to be able to take care of the 3 children I have here with me and my house - and preparation for a baby takes effort and energy.  There is SO much to be done around here and I can't keep up.  And of course, everyone else who lives here is oblivious to it all. 

I went to buy some bulbs today that I want to plant at Rachel's grave and my Nana & Uncle's grave (they share one) before it's too late in the season to plant them.  I managed to get in and out of Walmart with the bulbs and then I stopped at Home Depot to get a bulb digger.  I was in each store for very minimal time, yet when I got out of home depot, I just couldn't get myself to go do the planting.  I was having a hard time walking and even sitting in the van hurt.  There was NO way I was getting on my hands & knees - not if I expected to get back up anyway!  And so I had to come home without getting it done.  I was heartbroken, but I had reached my limit.  Hopefully, I can make it happen on Friday. 

I'll be 37 weeks on Wednesday, so although I really think I'm going to have this baby on the 10th or 11th, I'm hoping for earlier.  Anytime after 38 weeks is fine by me, if you want to add that to your prayers, too :o)

Friday, October 21, 2011

He's Waiting for Me at the Hospital Check-In

At the conference on Saturday, she started off by calling our attention to a typo in the schedule... she had accidentally written 2010 instead of 2011.  Everyone laughed as she said "I just gave you an extra year of life"... everyone but me because an extra year of life in 2010 would have meant something completely different for me.

I'm getting really close to having Asa.  I'm finally excited and ready to meet him.  I knew God would get me to where I needed to be when I needed to be there!  He never fails.  I'm glad I didn't buy into some peoples' opinions that I needed to let go of Rachel and focus on Asa or else I wasn't "recognizing my new gift" or "being grateful for what I do have."  I NEEDED that time to continue to grieve Rachel - and Me, God, Rachel and Asa were all ok with it.  I was never not able to recognize the gift Asa is, just having a hard time not being detached and believing that this pregnancy would end in a live baby.  I could have felt really guilty about it and tried to fake my way to feeling how others' wanted me to, but I'm so glad I just trusted God with where I was at - with where I AM at, because I'm sure I'm still not up to some peoples' expectations or approval.  It can be hard to not worry about what others think, with so many opinions floating around and being in the spot light through the hardest days of my life.  But God has been so gracious to me - and my girl is worth it.

So now that I'm getting ready for delivery, I've been thinking about the hospital a lot more.....

I guess when I rolled down that hallway in a wheel chair empty handed last December 6th as I left the hospital, I thought I'd never step foot in there again.  Getting prepared to go back has had the hallways, the rooms, and people all on my mind again.  Details that I have pretty much pushed aside and forgotten about as much as possible.  And one of the big parts that keeps coming back to me is the check-in.

On the first floor of the hospital, early in the morning on December 3, 2010, Matt & I stood in a long line waiting to check in for my surgery.  I stood there knowing it was only a matter of time before my baby would die.  To everyone else, it appeared as if I was there to have a baby and I'm sure that brings the assumption that I would *have* a baby, especially since I walked in there myself as apposed to being rushed in by emergency staff.  When I checked in and gave the security guy my list of people allowed in and not allowed in, he looked at me like I was just high maintenance.  I asked for a copy of the newspaper for that day - and again, he reluctantly gave the 'pregnant lady in labor' what she wanted.  I'm sure he didn't assume I wanted it for my baby's memory box.

I know nobody in that line had any idea that just a couple hours later I would be holding my baby dead. 

I had no idea.  I thought for sure that I would have more time.  But time wasn't in my hands.  Thinking back on this, knowing now what was just ahead for me, makes those moments seem so surreal... I cannot believe I really had to go through all that.

I went up to the labor and delivery floor and they brought me into a beautiful labor room, where I would end up staying for 4 days.  I couldn't handle being moved down to the post-delivery floor with other woman and their babies - so they made an exception for me. (and they were really busy too, so this wasn't something they had to do for me!)  And I actually asked to stay an extra day because every time I thought about leaving without my baby, I would have a total anxiety attack.  Actually, I was having anxiety attacks if Matt even walked through the room too quickly as he was packing our stuff.  It was the hardest time of my life.

So 4 days after I had her, pumped full of pain meds for my incision and anxiety medicine to help me get through the hallway without having a breakdown, they wheeled me out to the car and we left.  I still can picture, clear as day, opening the trunk to put in all our stuff and seeing the car seat in it.  I had hoped and begged that we would need it.  When we closed the trunk on top of it, a pain so deep went through my heart.  I was really leaving without my baby.

And so now I'm getting ready to go back to that hospital.  Again I will stand at the check in and go up the elevator to the birthing floor.  I will have a baby, and hopefully 3 days later, go down that same hallway holding him.  I might cry harder this time - as a matter of fact, I'm sure I will.  There is just something about a live baby, hearing a cry after birth, and full arms that makes the reality of a silent delivery room, a dead baby and empty arms that much more profound.  And I'm not sure I'm ready for that... 

But as I've learned throughout my journey with and without Rachel... God always gets me to where I need to be when I need to be there.  And I KNOW when I show up at check-in, He'll be there waiting for me.  In the elevator, He will be there.  In the delivery room, He'll be there.  If something goes wrong, He will be there.  If everything goes right, He'll be there.  And when they wheel me down that hallway again, with - or without - my baby boy... He will already be there.  So I know I'll be okay.

Isaiah 43:1-2
But now, this is what the LORD says-- he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Does it surprise you that this verse came to mind as I finished writing that last paragraph and when I looked it up, it is Isaiah '43'??  He's in every single detail.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rachel's Playground Needs You!!

Next Saturday, the 29th starting at 8 am we are going to be putting a second coat of sealant on Rachel's Playground and WE NEED YOUR HELP!! 

This needs to be done before the winter in order to help her playground last like it should.  It will take forever if we don't have a lot of help.  If you are in this area and can come help for any amount of time at all, we would appreciate it so much!!  Even if you can only come for an hour, it would help us!  Since I'm about to have a baby, I'm not able to do much...  Please come out and lend a hand - especially if you and your kids have had the benefit of enjoying her playground this year!

Please let me know, either comment or email me, if you can come - Thanks!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dragon Mamas

I got an email from my friend Emily today that said she read this article and thought of me.  She ended the email by saying:
"We are dragon parents: fierce and loyal and loving as hell."   Well done Dragon Mama.

I'll admit that being called a Dragon never seemed like a compliment before, but today, I feel proud to be called a Dragon Mama...Thanks Em ♥

In the baby loss community, we always just call each other baby loss mamas or "BLM's", but "Dragon Mama" is definitely more appropriate of a name for these women I have come to know and love who have all said goodbye to their babies too soon.  Here is the article she sent me, written by Emily Rapp:

MY son, Ronan, looks at me and raises one eyebrow. His eyes are bright and focused. Ronan means “little seal” in Irish and it suits him.

I want to stop here, before the dreadful hitch: my son is 18 months old and will likely die before his third birthday. Ronan was born with Tay-Sachs, a rare genetic disorder. He is slowly regressing into a vegetative state. He’ll become paralyzed, experience seizures, lose all of his senses before he dies. There is no treatment and no cure.

How do you parent without a net, without a future, knowing that you will lose your child, bit by torturous bit?

Depressing? Sure. But not without wisdom, not without a profound understanding of the human experience or without hard-won lessons, forged through grief and helplessness and deeply committed love about how to be not just a mother or a father but how to be human.

Parenting advice is, by its nature, future-directed. I know. I read all the parenting magazines. During my pregnancy, I devoured every parenting guide I could find. My husband and I thought about a lot of questions they raised: will breast-feeding enhance his brain function? Will music class improve his cognitive skills? Will the right preschool help him get into the right college? I made lists. I planned and plotted and hoped. Future, future, future.

We never thought about how we might parent a child for whom there is no future. The prenatal test I took for Tay-Sachs was negative; our genetic counselor didn’t think I needed the test, since I’m not Jewish and Tay-Sachs is thought to be a greater risk among Ashkenazi Jews. Being somewhat obsessive about such matters, I had it done anyway, twice. Both times the results were negative.

Our parenting plans, our lists, the advice I read before Ronan’s birth make little sense now. No matter what we do for Ronan — choose organic or non-organic food; cloth diapers or disposable; attachment parenting or sleep training — he will die. All the decisions that once mattered so much, don’t.

All parents want their children to prosper, to matter. We enroll our children in music class or take them to Mommy and Me swim class because we hope they will manifest some fabulous talent that will set them — and therefore us, the proud parents — apart. Traditional parenting naturally presumes a future where the child outlives the parent and ideally becomes successful, perhaps even achieves something spectacular. Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” is only the latest handbook for parents hoping to guide their children along this path. It’s animated by the idea that good, careful investments in your children will pay off in the form of happy endings, rich futures.

But I have abandoned the future, and with it any visions of Ronan’s scoring a perfect SAT or sprinting across a stage with a Harvard diploma in his hand. We’re not waiting for Ronan to make us proud. We don’t expect future returns on our investment. We’ve chucked the graphs of developmental milestones and we avoid parenting magazines at the pediatrician’s office. Ronan has given us a terrible freedom from expectations, a magical world where there are no goals, no prizes to win, no outcomes to monitor, discuss, compare.

But the day-to-day is often peaceful, even blissful. This was my day with my son: cuddling, feedings, naps. He can watch television if he wants to; he can have pudding and cheesecake for every meal. We are a very permissive household. We do our best for our kid, feed him fresh food, brush his teeth, make sure he’s clean and warm and well rested and ... healthy? Well, no. The only task here is to love, and we tell him we love him, not caring that he doesn’t understand the words. We encourage him to do what he can, though unlike us he is without ego or ambition.

Ronan won’t prosper or succeed in the way we have come to understand this term in our culture; he will never walk or say “Mama,” and I will never be a tiger mom. The mothers and fathers of terminally ill children are something else entirely. Our goals are simple and terrible: to help our children live with minimal discomfort and maximum dignity. We will not launch our children into a bright and promising future, but see them into early graves. We will prepare to lose them and then, impossibly, to live on after that gutting loss. This requires a new ferocity, a new way of thinking, a new animal. We are dragon parents: fierce and loyal and loving as hell. Our experiences have taught us how to parent for the here and now, for the sake of parenting, for the humanity implicit in the act itself, though this runs counter to traditional wisdom and advice.

NOBODY asks dragon parents for advice; we’re too scary. Our grief is primal and unwieldy and embarrassing. The certainties that most parents face are irrelevant to us, and frankly, kind of silly. Our narratives are grisly, the stakes impossibly high. Conversations about which seizure medication is most effective or how to feed children who have trouble swallowing are tantamount to breathing fire at a dinner party or on the playground. Like Dr. Spock suddenly possessed by Al Gore, we offer inconvenient truths and foretell disaster.

And there’s this: parents who, particularly in this country, are expected to be superhuman, to raise children who outpace all their peers, don’t want to see what we see. The long truth about their children, about themselves: that none of it is forever.

I would walk through a tunnel of fire if it would save my son. I would take my chances on a stripped battlefield with a sling and a rock à la David and Goliath if it would make a difference. But it won’t. I can roar all I want about the unfairness of this ridiculous disease, but the facts remain. What I can do is protect my son from as much pain as possible, and then finally do the hardest thing of all, a thing most parents will thankfully never have to do: I will love him to the end of his life, and then I will let him go.

But today Ronan is alive and his breath smells like sweet rice. I can see my reflection in his greenish-gold eyes. I am a reflection of him and not the other way around, and this is, I believe, as it should be. This is a love story, and like all great love stories, it is a story of loss. Parenting, I’ve come to understand, is about loving my child today. Now. In fact, for any parent, anywhere, that’s all there is.
This story, like Rachel's story, reminded me of a picture I saw on facebook the other day....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Beauty IN the Broken

The conference on Saturday was different than conferences usually feel to me.  I didn't feel like I was getting much from it, I felt rather disconnected.  However, there were a few moments where I saw the topic going in one direction that felt discouraging and then was given a little nugget of hope on the other side of the coin.  I'll share them with you....

At the beginning of the day, Gwen Smith talked about how one night her daughter excitedly told her what she wanted to be when she grew up.  She said how after she left the room, she realized that she wasn't just sharing a desired occupation, but instead was allowing her into her heart place... a place where what she was really saying was "I want my life to be beautiful, meaningful, to have an impact"

As I listened to how heart warming it was to talk with her daughter about her future, I was getting sad about the fact that I'll never hear Rachel say "Mama, when I grow up, I wanna be a....." and then as she talked of what that conversation was REALLY saying, I realized that Rachel's short life was all those things that a girl hopes her life to be...  beautiful, meaningful and full of impact on this world. 

She referred repeatedly to "sandpaper people" in our lives and also to how we are to reflect God like a mirror... Ironic after my post from that morning before I went, where I said something about reflecting God more and hoping that the "sandpaper and rain" in my life would make my heart more beautiful!  My friend Jen sitting next to me said "this stuff always happens to you" :o)  I love God. :o)  But one of the things she was talking about was friendships - and being real in them.  And she encouraged us to spend time with people who we could freely "expose the broken" with.  The ones who we didn't need to wear a plastic smile with.  And she said "there is deeper relationships waiting for you"

I guess the reason this hit me was because I'm continuously confused by how to determine in situations with people, if God calls me to just be 'out there' like a mat for people to do and say whatever they want and as a "good Christian" I will just love them anyway and let them be themselves even if it hurts me in the process... or if it's in fact a healthy thing to do (and OK with God) to protect myself from those situations and not be friends (or in relationship with 'family') with anyone who wants to be (or just because we're related).  My heart's desire is to please God and I will do whatever He asks of me... but sometimes I struggle to tell the difference between what HE asks of me and what others expect of me.  I felt relieved to finally hear someone say that it's ok to desire deep relationships and to not be concerned with the fairweather friends (and family) that I have encountered so often.

At the end, she was talking about the joy of the Lord and how when we are true believers that joy cannot be hidden.  She was saying it should just flow out of us...  Now, I'll admit, this is a sensitive subject for me because I've heard people criticize their own parents for sharing their disappointment with them instead of "just having the joy from the Lord and being happy with what they have" and so I figure if someone can say that about their elderly parents, they would most certainly say the same of me.  And they can't be the only ones who think that way... It's the buck-up-and-smile attitude. (which actually translates to: my life would be easier if I didn't have to listen to you whine- AKA selfish attitude)  That being said, as she talked, all I heard through my filter was you're a bad witness, it's been over 10 months and you're still sad and not bubbling with joy... when are you going to buck up and smile? 

She then started talking of her friend who has stage 4 ovarian cancer, her mom died earlier this year and her dad just in the past few weeks... and she talked of how she was filled with joy even still... As she told this story, I was thinking of how I have failed because I am open about all my struggles (and for the fact that I even have them and that this isn't easier for me) and how I must have been foolish to believe that I was glorifying God and honoring Rachel in this... that a person filled with 'joy overflowing' would surely be smiling more and want to be around people and not be so sad...  And then came the nugget....

She said... (I'm paraphrasing) 'But when I read her blog, she is so honest about her feelings and how hard it is and I'm so thankful for that because you can see the depth of her pain and in the midst of it, you see little strains of God's love and provision.'

And it was in that moment that God confirmed, yet again, that He never expected me to fake my way through this for other peoples' sake and that in fact, I can bless many more people by being real and honest.  I'm so thankful for that.  I'm so grateful to serve the God of all comfort and the ultimate source of compassion who understands my every tear and can use even the darkest days in my life for His glory.  I am completely humbled by His understanding and unconditional love.  He never tires of me telling him how much I hurt or hearing me cry.  He doesn't wish I would just get on with my life or stop talking about Rachel.  He doesn't EVER change the subject on me to a more comfortable one or leave me alone and then make excuses and blame me for it.  He is always there, always carrying my burden with me and sometimes for me, He meets me and accepts me exactly where I'm at and He loves my girl too. 

I don't feel beautiful yet, I'm still pretty broken. But with a God like mine, I have no doubt that this brokenness will someday be turned into a beauty that none can fathom... and I'm ok if that doesn't happen until heaven.  But in the meantime, I can already see how he had given me such a richer life... from my marriage, to my children, to the friendships I have received straight from him, through Rachel.  And so I guess the bottom line is that beauty can - and DOES - exist IN the broken.  Just like in the cross.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"I've Got Poop!"

Sam is potty training and so we have a little potty we're keeping in the living room for him.  He runs around bare bottom here and it's working like a charm... it's when we put clothes on him that we have accidents.... strange, but oh well. 

This morning, I sat on the couch with Matt having some tea.  I noticed that Sam was on the potty - he's funny, he doesn't even announce it, he just goes.  I asked "Sam, are you peeing on the potty?" in that sticky sweet, impressed Mama voice we all do when they are being know you do it too!

He yelled "I put pee in it and I got poop!" as he squatted down in front of it pointing.  I asked Matt if there was really poop and he confirmed there was.  Sam jumped up, grabbed the potty and started running towards the bathroom with it to dump it into the big one. (in case you're wondering, yes, sometimes this gets messy)  As they walked out of the living room, I watched his cute little bum and his proud stance as he carried his success to the bathroom.  I had the biggest smile on my face and was giggling like a kid.  My eyes shifted to the picture of Rachel on the wall and all I could think was I'll never see her do this or get to giggle at her bum and her cute little voice...

In the background on our pandora was a song called "prayer for the home" and it was asking for all these blessings, security, love, peace, etc... for the children who live there.  Things we'll never be able to give her since she lives in a different home than us - for now.

I hung my head as the tears started rolling and prayed that God would make my heart stop hurting.  I felt him impress on my heart that these things will hurt and that's ok.  He's right there with me through it all no matter how alone I feel.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Broken into Beautiful

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss awareness day.  Last year, I planned Rachel's Shower for October 16 not realizing it was the same weekend.  I can hardly believe it's been a year since we celebrated her life... there was 85 people that came that day...  and while I know that the group of friends I have now are more true, it's hard to look back and see how many people have dwindled away along my road of heartache.

I'm going to a conference today called "Broken into Beautiful, God Restores the Wounded Heart" - the title is perfect (considering everything with Rachel and Asa meaning "God Restores") but the timing is hard.  I really don't want to go because I don't want to be around people that I have to put on my game face for.  I'd rather be alone and that's tough to do in a place where there will be hundreds of women - some of which I'll know.  I want to be able to just soak up what God has for me and not be distracted by small talk, but I don't want to feel rude.  I just want the space to allow this to minister to my heart without the obligation of conversation.  I want to come home feeling refreshed in my heart.  Please pray that I get exactly what I need right now.  I definitely felt like God was nudging me to go - so although I waited until the last minute to buy my ticket, I'm going....

Yesterday when I went to visit Rachel I brought her a sunflower from Asa (one from his shower) and I couldn't believe how pretty her stone looked after the rain...I could see the sunflower's reflection in it and the swirls like never before - it was so shiny and pretty, the type of stone is so rare.  It was worth the wait!  It's amazing what some buffing and some rain can do to a piece of stone.  I'm hoping as I continue on this journey, my heart has a similar response to the "rain and sandpaper" in my life.  That the reflection of the Son in me becomes more apparent and that I feel a little less broken and a little more beautiful.

My heart goes out to all the other Mamas who have lost their babies.  Tonight when I light my candle, I'll be thinking of all of you. ♥  Please do this with us!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Still In Labor

Reading this post might feel like a long contraction (felt like one writing it), so please bear with me...

I mentioned to another woman at Isaiah's pre-school this morning that I went to the cemetery earlier and she asked where it was and told me where her son's cemetery is.  I don't know if she knew about Rachel already and I had no idea that she had lost a son and this was really the first time we've talked even though her grandson was in Isaiah's class last year too.  It's sounds strange to say, but I'm so thankful for people who talk about cemeteries like it's just another place instead of in an uncomfortable way.  The ironic part is that just the other day - on our way to pumpkin pick - I noticed her son's cemetery for the first time and Matt said "that's a nice little cemetery, huh?" so when she told me where it was, I was able to say I knew of it.

Who would have ever thought we'd be noticing and discussing cemeteries 5 years into marriage, let alone spending so much time in them?

I talked to this mom for a while... her son died 20 years ago at 12 years old from a bad heart.  He helped her pick out his stone and picked what he would wear and what he wanted to be buried with.  She told me his anniversary is coming up in November and how she still goes to the cemetery all the time - sometimes daily.  She told me that she felt for me and knew how hard this time was for me.  I drove home thinking only people who have been there really get it.  Talking to people who have lost a baby or child is so comforting... and when I got home I realized why.

Although I have gotten better at coping with the 'well meaning' comments from people... they still happen ALL the time.  They still hurt my heart... they still keep me up at night... they still make me want to be alone and stay away from people.  And it doesn't happen with someone who knows my pain personally.  I was reading my friend Nat's blog about her son Sebastian who had Trisomy 18 and she had a link called  How to help a grieving friend  As I read through the suggestions, I saw that daily I am subjected to all the things that grieving mothers are hurt by.  I used to blog about the ones that really hurt in an attempt to teach people what not to say, but all too often, I got attacked in defense after I did so I stopped.  People don't like it when you  say they hurt you and so I always became the bad guy.  This has happened with 'friends' and with 'family'. 

I found myself wishing that I could get certain people to read this article I just read.  That maybe if our relatives and friends, who are so quick to judge me and think they know how they would be at this point after a loss like mine (especially if they actually think that they had as much pain as me because of Rachel's death or if they had a loss of another kind and think they 'get it' because they've experienced a loss and understand grief) - or just are simply wishing I would 'move on', 'get over it', or 'focus on the positive and have joy in the Lord' or whatever other way they have decided I'm going wrong - that maybe if they saw that other people feel the same about these things, that they would understand me better and have more compassion and be there for me.

But it won't happen.  Because the problem is that the people who say these things, do these things and treat me this way are the ones who think they've got it all figured out and so they are the exact ones who wouldn't bother reading through what I want them to know so badly...they probably won't even read this post. 

I had someone call me the other day wanting to tell me that she had read a couple of my posts and thought I'd appreciate it if she called to talk to me about it....which I did.  As we talked, I mentioned that I was surprised to hear she's reading my blog because it seems to me that most people from church and our family aren't reading it anymore, but that it's mostly people I don't know reading.  I know of a few from church and in our families who are still reading and let me know, but the majority of the people who followed it before Rachel died stopped right after because their emotions were over it.  Her birth was the climax and ending of the story for them.  That is why there were thousands of people who viewed my blog for the days surrounding her birthday and now there is 350 a day, most of which I don't know personally or have met through my blog.

I get extremely discouraged by this because it feels almost like Rachel was used for their emotional high and that they wanted to be "in" on the trial, but not for the long haul.  So anyway, in trying to help, she did what everyone else does (and what some of you are probably doing RIGHT NOW in your head) and made excuses for everyone, instead of acknowledging my feelings or trying to have empathy...  She did this because she truly believes it will be helpful and that if she can help me to know that people don't mean anything by it, then I'll feel better.  Unfortunately, I only felt worse even though I KNOW her motive was pure and right.  It still left me feeling misunderstood and uncared for. 

Her reasoning was that "the people who see me regularly don't need to read it because they see me" but I don't think she even understands how few people who see me, acknowledge me.

Let me digest that one for you...  people SEE me once a week during church service and for a few minutes afterwards.  Most people, especially the ones I would have called friends before this trial, don't TALK to me anymore or LISTEN to me or even stop to ASK how I'm doing. No emails, no phone calls, nothing.  And the ones who do, usually have one of those excuses or better-way-to-look-at-things answers for me and then change the subject if I say anything that could be considered negative at all.  So, I don't understand how that makes any sense.  People see me and therefore they know how I'm doing or are showing me they care?  Not true.  It's avoidance because it's uncomfortable and takes time and effort.  Let's call it what it is. 

Let's just say I've learned who my real friends are - and they are not the ones I thought would be here by my side at the beginning of this road.  I'm actually thankful for that though.  I am SO grateful for the people who ARE there for me and who really care about me.  The people who read my blog are the ones who minister to my hurting heart because they have taken the time to understand where I'm at. (thank you!) I find great comfort in conversations (with words and without!) with people who are reading my blog because they know me better and they know Rachel better.  I don't feel like I'm talking to a stranger.  I don't feel abandoned by them. 

I'll admit as I write this, I understand that this probably doesn't make sense to people.  I know that some people think it's ridiculous that I would feel loved because someone follows my blog - or believe that it shouldn't be necessary in order to know where I'm at.  I'm not going to try to explain it, I'll just tell you it is what it is.  And reading a post here and there doesn't count.  This is a long, painful and complicated DAILY journey for me.  If people I don't even know are interested in it, shouldn't the ones who call themselves my friends and family care too?  Especially people who acted so affected by her death?  (Just sayin')

I had a whole bunch of people read my recent post titled "I think I'm having a baby" because they saw it on facebook and thought I was in labor...the same people who don't read my blog ever and probably haven't since...  and some even commented without reading it saying they'd be praying and to let them know what happened!  Listening skills people....  So, here's where I admit that I was totally manipulating you with my blog title :o)  Asa's not on his way.  Give me a few weeks!  Sorry, couldn't resist - but glad I got your attention!  If you haven't read in a while, why are you here now?  Because you care about where I'm at in my journey with "Baby Rachel's Legacy" or because you wanted to know about Asa's birth?? hmmm.... sorry if I've disappointed you.

There were dozens of people who saw me have a complete meltdown on Sunday.  One turned around and said "so, how are you... I mean besides the obvious?"  Another asked me if I had a "bad morning".  One told me "You look tired" and I said, "no, I was just bawling"  they responded "I saw that" and changed the subject.  I hear "what's wrong?" quite often as if my daughter dying shouldn't still be an issue and there must be another.  I had a person last week tell me that someone who lost an 18 month old had it very difficult and insinuated it was easier for me because of the short time I had with my daughter.  I've had person after person tell me "at least you're having another" or judge me for the fact that I'm not into putting Rachel on the back burner because I'm pregnant again.  Or the ever-so-popular that I have heard since I was pregnant with Rachel... just keep busy... do this, go to this place or that event, hang out with these people... and you'll feel better cause you'll put your mind on something else for a while.  As if she's ever NOT on my mind or that there is something wrong or unhealthy with the fact that I'm okay with her being on my mind all the time.  Do people get criticized for thinking of their LIVE children throughout each day??  Nope.  I especially love the part of the article where it says "don't be surprised if the mom talks of wanting to die"  ARE YOU KIDDING?  I got serious flack for writing in a post about wanting to die - or even longing for heaven...  ("you need medication, counseling, fill in the blank....)  Finally!  Someone validates my feelings instead of judging me for them or projecting their need for antidepressants onto me!  I'm not crazy and alone afterall... Or how about where it says Mother's Day is especially hard... On that day, less than 6 months after Rachel's death, I was getting comments about how great it was that I got a playground for my first Mother's Day without her since that was the day we opened it for use.  I would have rather had her, but I was called negative and ungrateful for having sad emotions about it.

Blah, blah, blah... I feel like a broken record.  I just don't understand why it's so hard to get and why when someone is hurting it's excusable to run the other way and show no interest at all... to be judgemental... critical...or make it about yourself and then attack them if they tell you they don't like something you're doing.

OK, that should do me for a while... I'm done venting.  Thanks for "listening" if you're even still here.  I'm not allowing comments on this post because I know that people usually want to defend me and that's not what I'm looking for. (I assume all meanness will come in the form of email as usual, so if you're tempted, please don't)  I don't want you all to be angry with the people who hurt me and I certainly don't need anyone to spur me on, I can get upset all on my own - I want you to pray that God will open their eyes.  I have had great healing come from some of these tough conversations and have deeper friendships because God showed them that, although I may not always say it right, there is something HE expects of them and when God shows them, hearts change.  So PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE just PRAY.

And if you've read this and feel that you have been guilty of any of the above, please don't feel the need to apologize.  I actual find that really uncomfortable - I'd rather you don't.  Actions speak louder than words anyway.  Just read my blog, care about my journey,  give me a hug the next time you see me and say Rachel's name.  That's all.  I don't need a lot.  Prayer, hugs, a shoulder to cry on and no excuses.  That's all I want.  Hey, look at that, I could have summed up this entire LONG post in just a couple of sentences!  this is why I write... it helps me process things.  I've never been able to sum that up before.  *deep exhale*

I have a tough couple of months coming up with Asa's birth, Rachel's birthday and Thanksgiving & Christmas (Rachel's due date) Plus, Isaiah and Des' bdays in there too - and a whole bunch of people I have to deal with along the way and all I want to do is hide.  I don't know how to do any of this.

So, here's the article I read if it would help you to read what they say you can do to help a grieving friend.  And yes, I'm still grieving.  If you have time, I love the link they have on the book of Job along the side.  I've blogged about that before...
How to Help a Grieving Friend

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Special Delivery!

Matt got out of work early yesterday and wanted to go pick some pumpkins with the kids.  We got there and they had a pile in front that were $2.50 each, but they were little.  We asked the price and he said $.50 per pound.  So, we ventured off down to the pumpkin patch and picked the best of the small pumpkins down there.  The kids each got their own and we got one for Rachel and one for Asa, which made me smile.  The kids had fun and I managed to walk the trip without too much discomfort.

We got up to the store to pay and he said there was a $2.50 minimum even though our pumpkins didn't weigh nearly that. Suddenly it made sense why the tiny ones were that price, but it would have been nice to know because we had no intentions on spending that much on pumpkins, which is why we picked smaller ones.  We reluctantly decided that we would have to get something for Rachel and Asa later and left theirs there and just bought 3 for the kids.  I was disappointed the whole way home, but tried to talk myself out of it.  I decided I would just go to Walmart on the way to music lessons and get two of the little $.79 ones they had there.  It's what I originally wanted to do anyway, but part of what you pay for at the farm is the experience.

We pulled into the driveway and there were bags hanging from our doorknob.  Through them, I could see what I thought to be peppers.  And then I realized they were little pumpkins!  I knew right away they were from Cyndie because the other bag had fruit in it and she's always spoiling us with fruit.  I didn't even need to count the pumpkins and I knew there were 5 of them.... and that there were.... one for each of my sweet children. 

Just when I thought I was settling for "less", I got more :o)  God is so good.  Thanks, Cyndie!

I set my pumpkins up and took a walk around the front of the house where I found, yet another, single *late* blooming daisy...  My daisies all died months ago... but this one plant (which did the worst all season long) has managed to bloom just one at a time twice now - long after it should be blooming at all.  I just can't help but think it's God's way of telling me Rachel is alive and well.  He certainly knows I'll notice it.

And then I came inside to find that my Infant Loss Awareness Pin had come in the mail.  I won it on Holly's blog and was so excited to get it just in time for Infant loss Awareness Day, which is on Saturday.  I never win anything and I really wanted one of these pins....  And it's all mine :o)  Thanks Holly!
So many special deliveries in one day...  I feel very blessed that God cares about these little details of my life enough to show me.  Little, insignificant me and my pumpkin dilemma...  nothing is too big or too small for Him.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What's There to Forgive?

I had another doctor appointment today at my current office.  That will be my last one there and the next one will be up in Maine.  Asa will be here in no time...

I was a little caught of guard by a couple of conversations there today - oh, how I miss the days when a routine check-up was just that....routine.  It seems nothing is that simple anymore.

So, my nurse is typing into the computer that I will be changing to Maine Med to have a VBAC and, while still looking at the screen, she asks "Where will your baby go?"

I fell silent for a few seconds, trying to figure out what she meant....
"Ummm.... what do you mean?"
"Where will he go when he's born?" she asked as if it was a simple question.

The first thing that came to my mind was "heaven".  I didn't say it, but the fact that it came as a possible answer showed me just how deeply I have been affected by my baby's death.  Even if the question didn't make sense, I don't believe "heaven" would be a consideration for most people when being asked where their newborn baby will go. 

After I received Rachel's diagnosis, the doctor I was seeing from the hospital in Rochester told me they wouldn't even deliver me because there wasn't a pediatrician around that would accept an anencephalic baby. She even called one while I was in her office, hung up with him and said to me "that's just as I thought, nobody will take her as a patient".  She told me if I came there in labor, that the baby would have to be transported somewhere else and I wouldn't be able to go with her because insurance wouldn't cover it.  Basically, she was trying to scare me into an abortion.  But when this nurse asked me where my baby was going to go, I immediately thought she meant either in death, or that he would be sent to a different hospital without me. I sat there without responding because I had no idea what to say....I was wishing I could ask for multiple choice. 

"ummm.... you mean in the hospital?" I asked.
"where will he go for care?" she repeated, and when I didn't respond again, she clarified...
"after he's born, do you have a pediatrician?"

wow... I can't believe a simple question like that could be so complicated....but I'm glad we have an answer. "Yes, he will go to the same doctor the others do" I said relieved.  I figured that would be the most awkward part of my appt until the doctor came in.

He had me lay down and as he measured my belly, he asked me
"You've forgiven yourself for having an anencephalic baby, right?"

Huh??  Totally confused.  I have met with this doctor a few times and I really like him....but what?! 

I said "ummm...." he interrupted me and said "you know you had nothing to do with that, right? It's not your fault." 
"oh, yeah...I don't think that."

I wanted to tell him all about God's bigger plan and how there was nothing to 'forgive' myself for because Rachel wasn't as bad as some might think...and actually, she was better than most would understand.  But I didn't think anything I said was going to be heard and before I had a chance to try, he interrupted again and said:

"You did more for that baby than anyone I know would have and you should be very proud of yourself... and I hope your husband is proud of you, too"

"sigh" is all I could do.  I was teetering between defensiveness for Rachel and appreciation that he was recognizing how hard it was for me as her mom.  I didn't want to accept the compliment at the risk of insinuating that she was a burden.  And yet, it was nice to hear that someone noticed my devotion to her.  So I just said nothing.

He told me they expect to see a picture of Asa after he's born and the nurse gave me a hug.  I know they haven't said everything "right" but they have shown their support to me and I believe that Rachel has left her little foot print on their hearts too, even through her little brother's prenatal check-ups :o)  I did mention she is amazing, didn't I?

On the way home, I thought about his question...did I blame myself at all?  The truth is yes, I've had those moments.  I've wondered if I would have done something different if she could have been sitting here with me today.  I've questioned if it was the antibiotic I was on for a couple of days when I found out I was pregnant... I've wondered if I would have suffered through that sinus infection, would my daughter still be alive?  I've wondered if it was the fact that I had been really sick for a couple of months just 2 months earlier and my body wasn't ready for her.  But I always come back to the fact that God has control over everything.

He had control over my sickness and what that meant for welcoming a baby into my womb.
He could have stopped me from getting pregnant. 
He could have protected me from that sinus infection, or made getting an appt that day impossible. 
He could have kept her safe from it, if that was dangerous for her.
He could have changed it all.  But maybe, it had nothing to do with any of that.
Maybe, just maybe, this wasn't a 'bad' thing to try to find an answer for or to wish away.
But instead an indescribable blessing,
one in which God himself destined it to be for my good and His glory.

Maybe it was the thing that would keep me from walking away from my God
at a time when my faith was so low.
Maybe she was who would teach me about his love.
Maybe her short life taught me how to trust Him like never before.
Maybe she would bring people into his kingdom
Maybe as her mother I would have the blessing of encouraging THOUSANDS of people.
Maybe she would make me stronger, wiser, more compassionate, a better mother.
Maybe on the 26th day of my pregnancy, when her neural tube failed to close before I ever even bought a pregnancy test, maybe my body was just perfect for her and yet God chose to form her that way.
And Maybe all this pain and all this sorrow - and everything I have sacrificed for her - is making me more like Jesus.

And so knowing what I know about the last year and a half and what I've learned about my God and life along the way...  Do I blame myself?  Do I think I failed her?  Do I think I could have changed it?

Nope.  It was up to God.

So that begs the question... Well then, do I blame God?  Do I think he failed me?  Do I think he failed her? 

I can honestly say that I don't believe God wants any of this.  He didn't put me through this to make a point.  Death happens because of the sin in the world and God hates sin.  I know that God could have changed this all.  And yet, the fact that he didn't only made him more real and loving to me.

You may be thinking that makes no sense.  Well, if you walked the last year and a half in my shoes, you would have felt a love deeper, higher, longer, wider than any love you've ever experienced.  True, unconditional and undefiled love.  Not what we consider love in our earthly sense. You would have felt a strong, compassionate God sweep in and pick you up.  You would have felt him carry you along, helping you put one foot in front of the other through the most horrible times in your life and at the same time filling your heart with love, peace, contentment and joy.  You would have felt your heart cradled in the hands of the maker of the universe, even as you held your womb and sobbed. You would have felt the assurance of heaven and the death of Jesus on that cross and fallen to your knees in awe and thanksgiving as you prepared your baby's body for the grave.  You would have praised God with complete trust in his plan, knowing more than ever before how REAL and how AWESOME he is.  And as your trial continued for days, weeks, months and years to come - and you were the only one still crying - you were the only one still remembering anniversaries - you were the only one still filled with sorrow over your loss - you were the only one who struggled to move on without her..... You would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are not alone.  And if there is One who loves her more, it's Him. 

And so maybe, she was just perfect. 
Maybe my role as her mother was just different than that of my other children.
Maybe I can't watch her grow, but instead will see God's kingdom grow because of her for years to come.
Maybe my crown in heaven will be more beautiful because of her.
And maybe, even through all the pain and tears and ongoing struggle...maybe my life is more beautiful than it ever could have been otherwise.

What's there to forgive?

Now all of you who are reading this on your phone or have the volume turned off on your computer... and I know you do... humor me for a couple of minutes and refresh your screen and listen to the song I put on tonight.  Think about whatever your trial is right now, and we all have them... and know that God has not forgotten you.  You cannot fathom His love for you. 

Ephesians 3:17-18
Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.
Thank You Lord for choosing me as Rachel's Mama