Saturday, December 31, 2011

Stuck in the Middle

I've been at a loss for words lately.  I keep thinking I should write, but have no idea what to write.  Never a good sign for a writer like me....

It's been a hard week.  Had my 6 wk check yesterday and it was a total sob session.  Through this whole journey all I wanted to do was prove to people that carrying Rachel to term wasn't a mistake... that having another baby soon after her death wasn't a mistake... and that my God planned it and is capable to carry me through all of this, good and bad....

And I feel like I am failing miserably at all three.  The doctors (among others) probably think I've made my own struggles with these choices.  I know they think I can't make it through on God alone.  And I'm not even convinced they are wrong anymore....  well, that's not true... I KNOW they are wrong, I just don't always FEEL like they are.  And so I'm struggling to not feel like I've been my sorrow, by my circumstances, by the ways of the world.

It's about to be 2012 and my sweet girl was born in 2010.... the distance in time is making her feel further and further away.  I want to just stop the world and get off. 

But then there is my other beautiful children....waiting patiently to get their mama back...  I look at them and know that I'm missing it.  I'm missing their lives.  I know I will look back with regrets over how emotionally and physically unavailable I have been for them... and I can tell myself that kids are resilient and they will be ok.  But kids NEED their mamas.  They need their mamas around physically, but they need them emotionally too.  A while back, my kids were learning a lot about leaning on God through hard trials by watching me and so while it was tough, I know it wasn't bad for them.  But lately, they aren't seeing me with a whole lot of hope.  And that is not what I want for them.  Knowing this is one thing, but I have no idea how to do anything about it.  I've tried to make myself feel, think, act, be different.  I've tried to be pro-active in my healing.  I've tried waiting on God and just holding on by a thread...  but time is not my friend here.  The minutes in my grief feel like decades, while the rest of my life flies by me.  And I'm stuck in the middle of this all, paralyzed with heartache.

How can 2011 have already come and gone since I held my baby girl?  While every single second since the minute she died has cut like a knife in my heart, my other kids have grown inches, met new milestones and laughed and played....and while those things bring a smile to my face - and I've had times of laughter and fun...even moments where I feel like myself again - the sting of what's been lost along with Rachel is never far behind.

Oh Dear Lord, I was not prepared for how this would hurt.  Please restore my soul and bring me back to a place of Hope and Comfort.  Help me to not miss out on the blessings I've been allowed to keep.  In the midst of my pain, God bring me joy.

John 16:20 & 22
I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy....So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy

John 16:33
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Photo Contest

I'm totally cheating here, but Erin Moore from Mercy Street Sudios (she did Asa's newborn photos) is doing a photo contest and the photo with the most votes wins a free photo shoot and a metallic print.  And I need to get the other kids' pictures taken....

See where I'm going with this?  I would never ask you to vote my way for elections or anything, but could you go to this link and click on Asa wearing his owl hat and "like" it?   The photo with the most "likes" wins!


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Alone in Missing Her

The week leading up to Christmas went fairly well.  I felt the joy of the Christmas season and was, for the first time in I don't know how long, actually looking forward to seeing people.  I even took the first step at getting a couple of the relationships that have been hurting since last year back to good, as the Holy Spirit was leading me to.

On Christmas eve, My mom, sister & her kids came over to open gifts together.... we were in the living room and I mentioned that the one thing I wanted to buy still that I didn't was a sled ornament for Asa.  I told them how my friend Ruth had bought one for each of the kids last year, including Rachel and I wanted Asa to have a matching one.  (I have one from 1981 that my Nana bought me too).  After they left, I sat down to eat lunch and saw a package on the table that Matt had just brought in while I was visiting with my mom & meg... I saw Ruth's name on it and I knew.... She remembered.  Thanks, Ruth ♥  She sent Asa's sled and a beautiful card remembering Rachel.

Christmas eve service went okay - I hardly shed a tear (thanks to my anxiety medicine...)  I was really feeling like Christmas was going to be easy this year.  That night, Asa threw up on his blanket as we were getting ready for bed.  I put it in the washer around midnight.  He was laying in his little hammock sleeper next to the couch.  I walked in to the living room and sat down next to him.  As I sat there staring at him, it hit me like a ton of bricks.... She was my Christmas baby....  It's Christmas and she's not here.  I picked up my boy and laid him on my chest.  I covered him with her blanket and cried myself to sleep.

I woke up Christmas morning so thankful to hear my boys playing in the kitchen.  Des was still asleep and I laid there to nurse Asa, who was still wrapped in Rachel's blanket.  The morning went pretty well.  I managed to make my quiche (a tradition that I wasn't able to get myself to do last year) and we opened presents and had a good morning.  I only got 2 letters (random acts of kindness) for her stocking and so I read them to everyone.... but keeping anyone's attention for things like that is hard and it just left me feeling alone in missing her.  So I guess it was a blessing in disguise that I didn't get more. 

I had come up with the idea of driving up north 2 1/2 hours to see Matt's family Christmas day.  (a result of the week before going well cause that day, it was the last thing I wanted to do.) Before we went, I took a ride to the cemetery by myself.  It would have been too much to drag the kids 20 minutes in the opposite direction and then for the long car ride, so again, I was alone in missing her.  I tried to tell myself it would be okay to go another day.... that I should just focus on our plans with my living family....but I just couldn't leave this area without stopping there first.  I needed to go.  I cried on the phone to my mother the whole way there over the fact that Rachel's gone and how hard this journey has been on my marriage.  I hung up as I pulled up to her grave.  I flopped on the cold hard ground in front of our stone.... the grave next to ours newly dug and occupied... I looked at the fresh dirt next to me and the dying flowers from the top of his casket... I looked at Rachel's name.... Is this seriously my life?  Did this really happen?  I could have cried the day away sitting right there, but there was traveling to do and in-laws to visit.... I cried harder and longer than I have in quite a while, but my times of grieving are always cut short by my obligations.  I went home and got ready.  We left the house 2 hours late.  Drove forever, visited for a couple hours and made the drive home.  Got home at 9pm, just in time for everyone else to go to bed.  I sat on my couch with Asa and thought about what it would have been like to have a one year old little girl running around here that day.... 

It's not that nobody remembered her.... Someone left us a couple of pretty candles with Rachel's initials on them at her grave, I got the sled for Asa, a couple of cards and two RAOK's, My mom and Matt's mom both made me something special that took time and thought for Rachel.  I see that there are people who remembered her and was so blessed by that....but why doesn't it take away the hurt?  I want to feel better....I want to feel normal - to have a clue what to expect from my emotions.  I'm so tired of this journey and it's only been harder since Asa was born.  I wouldn't change having him so soon at all, but I wasn't prepared for what the mix of baby blues and grief would do to me.

I wish I could write something about all the places I see God in this.  For the first 6 months after she died, I used to have a million stories like that... I wish I could tell you how raw my emotions are and then follow it up with a truth about God that will fill my emptiness.... that used to come automatically.  I wish I wasn't finding myself angry so often... I wish this pain would go away.  I wish I was still honestly praising God for all of this.  But the truth is that I wish this wasn't my life - and I wish I wasn't so alone in missing her.  And honestly, I'm more disappointed with His plan now than ever before.  I want her back - and I'm struggling to understand what I even believe anymore. 

I realized that while I thought I was making it easier on me with this stupid blog, I haven't.  What I did was throw myself into helping everyone else right from Rachel's diagnosis....answering hundreds of emails every week about other people's struggles and losses and their questions about faith.  I stayed up almost all night for months after she died answering emails... I felt like that was what I was being called to - and still do really, I don't regret it.  I'm honored that so many people opened up their hearts to share with me... But at the time when it would have been totally 'normal and acceptable' to not want to be around anyone and to not talk to anyone and to cry all the time, I was going to other baby's funerals and answering emails and phone calls to support everyone I could.  I was building a playground that I never step foot on cause it's too painful to look at now and organizing a walk to raise money in Rachel's memory for other people's benefit and shopping for other babies on Rachel's birthday instead of her. 

The result?  Now, when I 'should' be feeling better... when I 'should' be crying less... when I 'should' be wanting to be around people again, most of the requests for support from others has dissipated (when I would love to be able to focus on others too)  and it feels like I'm stuck at square one in my grief - I didn't take the time I needed for me and it's showing.... except now everyone else is over it and moving on.... and I'm alone in missing her.  But as Ms. J so eloquently put it, I can't expect endless support from others, now can I?  I guess I couldn't expect her to know how much support I was GIVING too, but most people who have had a lot to say to me, do so without much real knowledge of what is actually going on in my life.  People tend to think my blog is like a reality show for my life and trust me, it only scratches the surface of both the joy and the pain.

I'm trying to remember that I was walking in the way I felt led at the time and that God was in those decisions... and I'm trying to remember that I did just have a baby and am not sleeping much so things can feel bigger than they are at times like this.... I know how hormones affect me after every baby (never mind with grief mixed in) and I try to not underestimate them.  I'm trying to be patient and trust God for my healing.... but I've got to be honest, I'm starting to really feel like something is wrong with me.  I can't handle feeling like this much longer.  And while it's all good to say "you have every right to grieve however you need to" (which I SO appreciate from all of you) I'm still sick of feeling like this and wondering if I'm EVER going to get any better??

I wrote all this and decided I wasn't going to post it....I told my sister that I feel like at this point people are expecting something from me that I can't give...they want me to be better.  I feel like I'm a mess and because I'm a mess openly, people tend to like to analyze what they think I could be doing differently to feel better.  You know, how they would do it....  Admit it, you've probably thought it too....  and quite honestly, I'm tired of feeling like I am a failure.  My sister's response to my concern was this:

"You didn't start writing your blog for the people who judge you.  You started it for the people who need to know they aren't alone if they feel like you do - even if that's just one person.  Helping people is what Rachel's life was all about. _(beep)_ the people who judge you"

So I'm reluctantly posting this.... if you're that one person tonight that no longer feels alone in your grief, could you send me your email address or something cause so far, I've yet to find a friend who really gets me and can help me not feel alone.  And I am so tired of being alone in my grief and in missing my girl.  I don't want to hear another "don't worry, it will get better and some day you'll be good like I am"  I need to hear "I'm there too and you're not alone"  I can write out all my feelings on this keyboard, but at the end of the day if all it does is bring out the critics, what good is it?  If all I get is sympathetic notes and cyber-hugs and "you'll see her again someday" what's the purpose?  I want to see her NOW.  And I can't.  Heaven is too far away to make me feel any less of a loss now.

I want to be that girl that I was back in the full of hope and with complete trust in God's plan.  But right now I'm not.  I'm sorry.  I have no doubt that God will eventually lead me out of this pit, but right now I'm in the thick of it.  The timing sucks, it doesn't seem to line up with what people think 'should' happen (and I'm not just talking about the ones who say so... I'm talking about the people who say nothing and silently judge as well) and believe me, I'm not sitting in this because I like the smell of poop.  I want out more than you want me out.  I want to just think of her and smile more than anyone on the planet could possibly begin to understand.  She is my daughter.  I HATE the fact that when I think of her I want to scream because I'm totally pissed that she's dead. 

Can somebody, anybody, please tell me I'm not the only one?

prayer request for Asa

The Aube's have all been hit with these bad chest colds the last couple of weeks.  Asa's been fighting it too and so on Christmas I didn't let anyone hold him.  I really don't let anyone hold him usually anyway, but was more adamant about it and I'm so thankful I was because last night he started having trouble breathing. 

Today I brought him to the doctors and he's now on a steroid nebulizer twice a day and albuterol nebulizer 3-4 times a day.  Too bad I can't give him breathing treatments while nursing cause I don't know how much I can do if I'm always sitting on the couch nursing or medicating my baby boy. 

I'm not overly worried about him (thank God) because Sam is on both of those medicines daily for his asthma so I'm comfortable with this stuff, but I'm hoping he'll be breathing easier in a day, because if not he'll probably needs an antibiotic.  Please pray that he'll get better fast.  It's nerve wracking to watch him struggle to breathe and I am nervous that if it doesn't clear up quickly, it could turn into something worse.  He's too little for this :o(

Sunday, December 25, 2011

2nd Christmas without my girl

I've heard that 'they' say the 2nd year of grieving is harder than the first....I didn't think that was possible.

I was wrong.

Really wrong.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Asa's Heart

Asa had his cardiologist appointment today.  They did an EKG and then a really long ultrasound of his heart that took over 45 minutes.  He was so good, he laid there staring into my eyes the whole time nice and still.  The appointment was well over 2 hours all together, but uninterrupted time with my boy is hard to come by around here so it was nice to hang out, just me & him.  I can't get enough of him.

His murmur looks harmless, but they did see that he has "PFO" which is short for a really long name that basically means his flap between the right and left side of his heart that should have closed after birth, didn't.  The doctor said that is most likely why he turns so blue when he cries. (blood goes through the opening, which it's not supposed to do because it should be closed, but pressure from crying hard could cause that)  He also recommended I not google it because there was a school of thought a while back that PFO's caused strokes, which he said is not correct - UNLESS he goes scuba diving.  No joke... if he ever wants to scuba dive, he needs to get another EKG first.  Strange, but I think that buys us some time. 

Strokes run in Matt's side of the family so this isn't the best news I've ever gotten, but it's not the worst either... and although I really didn't think they would find anything, there were moments during that visit as I waited - and I watched her scan his little heart - that I thought; what if today is the day that I get HIS diagnosis??  What if I'm sitting here thinking it's all fine and not taking it seriously enough when he is actually really sick and I just don't know it yet.... like the day I had Rachel's ultrasound....What if the doctor reads this and tells me he has heart problems?  What if this is the first of many appointments here and he dies from a bad heart?  How could I handle that??  Please God, let me keep him....

A nurse held him for me while I went to the bathroom.  I asked her if she minded and she said "are you kidding, this is my Christmas present!"  To which I replied: "He's my Christmas present, too" - if only she knew.

I would have been happier with no findings at all, but I'm glad that today was not a life altering doctor appointment for me, my boy and our family....unless he grows to have an intense desire to scuba dive.

I'm not going to google it....yet.  Tonight I'm just taking it all in....and I do have confidence that a doctor from Boston Children's Hospital isn't going to misguide me on this.  But someday I may dare to see what Dr. Google says about it. (if you feel the need to look it up, please don't tell me about it - good or bad)  For now, I'm counting my blessings....

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

She'll Be Home For Christmas

I bought this picture frame set on sale on Black Friday when I went to Kmart. It was marked down to $6 and really nice, so although I had no idea who I would give it to, I decided it made a good gift and picked it up for "someone". Soon after I bought it, I redecorated my living room and started thinking it would look good on my wall. so here is the problem...

It only has 4 frames... I have lamented over this for days. Every time I sit down to nurse, I've looked at it and thought; I can't put everyone but Rachel in it... Or maybe I should do family pics - but I will never again have a family pic that has my whole family in it, or I could use pics of me & Matt... This isn't our "home" anyway, our real home is in heaven, which is where Rachel is. Ugh... Maybe I should just give it away...

The other day we went to Kohl's. These metal picture frames with flower accents caught my eye and I stopped to look. (can you tell I have a picture/ frame addiction?) It was a set of frames that all matched and the first one I saw was a sign with the "life is not measured" saying.... my heart sunk...(icky feeling from the recent comment). I looked down at the next shelf and saw one that had a spot for two photos (you can't see them in this pic, but there is one on each side) and metal flowers (daisies?) in the middle and it said : Life brings us to unexpected places.  Love brings us home"

I turned around a tried to tell Matt what I was thinking and started bawling. I could not stop... I walked away at an attempt at changing my thoughts.  I continued through the crowded store crying, covered in tears.  Desirae reached out and held my hand.  I knew that this frame had a different meaning for me.  I knew all of my staring at the "HOME" frame, contemplating heaven and earth and how I'm supposed to love so deeply in both places, was God preparing me for yet another reminder of how real He is. 
Her life brought us to unexpected places... and God's love brought her HOME.
I turned around and went back to get the frame. 

I never expected I would ever lose a child of mine.  That hospital room with empty arms was the last place I ever expected to be.  But, because of Jesus and the Father's love for her, she's home.

I bet she's going to have an amazing Christmas. 

Miss you sweet girl.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

5 Weeks With Asa

My little man was born 5 weeks ago today.  I can hardly believe that much time has gone by.  He's growing way too fast for my liking and I have LOVED every second of being this sweet baby's Mama.  I can feel the healing part of having a baby to hold that everyone told me would happen... and yet when I hold him, my heart aches all the more for Rachel. 

Today I had him laying on my lap... he smiles at me and his eyes sparkle when he looks into mine.  He loves me almost as much as I love him :o)  But as he went in and out of sleep, his little hands kept going up into the air and back down.  I noticed that I was playing with his tiny fingers, which he had straight out.  He's so soft, so little, so perfect.  I put his hand on my wrist next to Rachel's hand print and tried to remember what it was like to hold her soft, little, perfect hands....

On the changing table tonight, I played with Asa's little feet.  He kicked them around and I kissed them and touched them to my face.  I thanked God for him, his tiny toes and asked Him to be with him wherever his little feet take him.  But as I stood there with his feet on my cheeks (I know it sounds weird)  I wished I would have played with Rachel's feet more... I hate the fact that I don't remember her feet that well.  I can picture them (and yes, her hands and feet both looked just like Asa's) but I don't remember how it felt to touch them.

Last night as we snuggled on the couch, I kissed his warm cheeks and cozy neck.  He was all scrunched up on me, legs curled up as if he was pretending he was still in my womb.  When I put his head on my chest, the beating of my heart puts him right to sleep and I listen to him breathe and watch him squirm around and grunt.  I could live in these moments forever....and yet as I feel the immeasurable joy and gratitude that comes from being able to love my Asa, I can't help but remember the cold cheeks, straight legs, the stillness of her body and the silent night that I had with my Rachel.

I know I've blogged before about the shirt I had bought for her before we knew she had anencephaly... it said "All Mama wants for Christmas is a silent night" and how I had to throw it away, I couldn't even donate it, because once I knew she wouldn't be with us on Christmas, the thought of a silent night killed me.  Well, the other day while I was out, I saw a bib that said "There is no such thing as a silent night with me around" and I thought to myself "Thank You Jesus for my nights with Asa" and my next thought was "I wish I could've heard her cry."

And as I write this post, I'm typing one-handed because Asa is on my lap nursing....I do everything with this baby and love it.  I don't take one second with him for granted and appreciate every demand he puts on me, every inconvenience he causes, every hour of sleep I lose to be able to care for his needs. 

I love being his Mama - and I love being Rachel's Mama.  And I know that my role as Rachel's Mama is different, but still important...  but I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish it could be the same.  I would give anything to be able to be so inconvenienced by her demands on me.   But until the day I see her again, I will continue to love her the only way I humanly know how - and hold her little brother a little bit tighter and love him a little bit deeper than I ever have held and loved before.

We finally got her grave all set up - Matt went with me to help me and the kids ran around & played.  It was freezing out, but we got it done - and hopefully it will hold up in the weather.  I wanted to show you a pic when her lights came on, but we weren't there that late.  I'll get one of those later...

And as we went to leave, I found this on the ground next to the van (it's fake, and yes, my hands were that red from the cold!)  I put it on her stone under the "live" stone we have there. 

And in the same week that we set up a Christmas tree for our daughter's grave, we sent out the announcement for our son's birth....
Made by Lisa Borders - she used the tree and bird from his room decor!  Love it!
And here's a more recent pic since those are from when he was just 5 days old!  I mean, seriously, do they come much cuter?  I love this kid!
All my kids, except Rachel have worn these jammies... they have orange lines and we got them at my baby shower for Desirae.  I wish I would have remembered to bring them to the hospital to put on Rachel too. :o(  Asa has almost grown out of them now.  And since everyone asks, all my babies have had MORE hair than Asa, even Rachel :o)
 And so daily my heart continues to try to walk this tightrope of beauty and pain.... love and hurt....hello and goodbye.... a baby in a grave and one in a cradle.... and it still is more complicated emotionally than my words can describe, but I'm starting to think that maybe that's ok.  Some people will never be able to understand no matter how well I explain....and honestly, that's a good thing.  Because my heart breaks again and again for the people who read this post and know what I mean.

Thank You Lord for 5 weeks of sleepless nights, constant nursing, poopy diapers, difficulty leaving the house, and even all the reminders that make my heart ache for my girl....thank You for letting me keep him. Please God give me many more...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Humbled by His Faithfulness

On Friday,I had spent a bunch of time stringing up lights on my fence...are you ready for this... KNOWING they weren't working.  I had convinced myself that I just needed to go look at the fuse box cause ALL the lights couldn't possibly be broken.  Well, after they were all up, I figured out that the lights were, in fact, all broken.  (or at least that one of them was ruining it for the rest!)

I feel like this is the story of my life lately... I try to get something done, feel like it's going really well, and then get stopped in my tracks.  It happened with Rachel's grave, the lights on my fence, my plan for Christmas cards... the list goes on and on....

So anyway, I was out looking for lights and I found a little Christmas tree and a small strand of lights for just $2.75.  I know, NOT what I was supposed to be looking for, but Desirae had just told me that she wanted one for her room and this was perfect for her.  But the store had a $5 minimum on credit cards and so I kept looking for something else to buy so I could get the tree for her.  I was looking for a solution for Rachel's grave.  But what I came across was this sign:
I looked at it...and realized that I have been doubting this.  I immediately started thinking about Ms. J.  (and other people who have been against me recently... the woman the other day and certain family members)  It'll be easier to write out my train of thought than to try to narrate, so here it is...
Why don't I leave things up to God?  Do I not believe He can handle it?  Why couldn't I just take the 'high road' and keep my mouth (fingers) shut (off the keyboard)?  Why can't I just let Him be my defender?.... when am I going to learn?  It's like I can't get out of my own way. 
I put it in the cart and headed for the check out.  My mind kept going...
I should have just ignored it... I know the truth.... I mean, why can't she (they) see into my aching heart?  Why do I hide behind anger instead of behind God?  Does it ever really do me any good?  It feels safer to defend myself and be angry, but would it hurt any less if I waited on Him... well, He might not have done anything.... and what good has my 'solution' brought?  She (they) probably just feels all the more justified in her harsh opinion of me.  How can I be so misunderstood, even in my darkest valley?  Why do I let people's words cut so deep and bring me further down? 
I looked at the sign again as I placed it on the counter....  God is faithful....  I knew right where it would go in my house - it's going to replace the "Life is not measured" saying that I have next to Rachel's picture since "Ms. J" officially added a negative slant to it in my heart, using it to criticize me - and I wasn't even convinced it brought me much comfort before that anyway.  I thought about how much I desperately need the reminder of my faithful God right now.  Just past Rachel's 1st birthday and about to celebrate Christmas without her and our first Christmas with Asa....being pulled in a million directions physically and emotionally - and this added stress on top of it all.

As she rung me up, I looked over at a box on the counter.  It was filled with rocks that all had a word on them.  I looked through it while she messed with the card machine, which didn't want to take my card!  I looked at them just out of curiosity as I waited....  Health...Peace...Joy... Forgive... I looked away, but couldn't shake it...

I felt it in my heart....forgive....  He is Faithful and Just and He can handle it.  I need to let him.  I need to forgive and let this all go.  Not for them - I'm not sure they really care since they obviously think I was the one that was wrong - but for me, for my kids, for Rachel...  I need to because God forgave me.  

She finally got my card to work...  "oh wait, can I add one more thing?"  I placed the rock on the counter and felt my heart take a big step towards God....Towards believing.... He is faithful.  And because He is faithful, I can forgive and know that He has it all under control.  He won't let my enemies triumph over me.

{I also feel like I should apologize for dragging you all through that junk with me... especially at Christmas.  I know many of you will tell me you don't mind walking through that stuff with me, but I really don't want you to feel 'icky' too as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.  I'm sorry :o(  Thank you for loving me just as I am though. And sorry "Ms J" for lashing back in anger and with avoid any more hurt, I won't open any more emails from you}

Yesterday morning at church, we sang a song called "Here in Your Presence" and the chorus goes like this:

Here in Your presence, we are undone
Here in Your presence, Heaven and Earth become one
Here in Your presence, all things are new
Here in Your presence, everything bows before You

Here were my thoughts as we worshipped, in His presence...

"We are undone" - I'm completely surrendered to Your will, Lord.
"Heaven & Earth become one" - He is with me... Rachel is with me...
"All things are new"- we buried Rachel with the verse "I make all things new"  (As we sang it, Matt looked at me & smiled.  I love it when he remembers her with me)
"Everything bows before You" - He is Sovereign.  And I need to let Him reign in me. I'm humbled by You, Lord.

I need to be in His Presence, surrendered to His will, humbly bowed before Him.

So tonight, Before I went to write this post, I looked up Matthew 28:20, the verse on the sign.  I expected it to be something about how God protects or provides or fulfills his promises - it says:

teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age.

He is ever reminding me that He is in every single detail - and once again bringing me back to the very lesson I learned through my sweet Rachel...  there is blessing in humble obedience.  How is he faithful to me?  He is always with me, patiently teaching me how to obey and leading me... He is with Rachel... He makes all things new.

And as He revealed this to my heart, I could see that while I was busy trying to find something in that store to make Rachel's grave look prettier....He was busy trying to show me that He already had a 'solution for her grave'.... Him.  He made her new.  I can trust Him.

OK, and here's one for you... I just looked up the verse we buried Rachel with so I could post it.  Desirae had only written "I make all things new" on Rachel's drawing - I didn't remember the rest, but check out the end of this verse.... 

I mean, seriously, you think He's trying to get a point across?

Revelation 21:5
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My December Babies

Today is the day I was due with our 3rd baby who we lost to miscarriage.  I miscarried at 8 weeks along in May, just a few days before Mother's Day.  It was horrible pain.  And even though I'm no longer in a place where I cry over that baby, last night I felt the disappointment of that loss heavy on my heart.  Even 4 years later. 

I had mentioned to Matt that tomorrow was my due date with that baby... He stopped to listen. I looked up at the picture of Rachel hanging on the wall above me...

"I guess December just wasn't my month" I said as I started crying. 

I think this is what my doctor was talking about a while back when he asked me if I had forgiven myself for having a baby with Anencephaly. 

The truth is that I feel like I failed both of my sweet December babies.  And I just want them back.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rachel's Random Acts of Kindness

For Rachel's birthday, my friend Lisa made up these cards to hand out to people that she blessed with a Random Act of Kindness (RAOK) in Rachel's memory. 

Then a couple of days ago, my friend Nat (Sweet Sebastian's Mama - see link on side) from Australia sent me an email asking us to do a RAOK in Seb's memory for Christmas.  She asked everyone to email or mail her what they did and/or a letter to her family or to Seb and they are going to put them all in his stocking and then read them together on Christmas morning.  Here's his, if you can find a moment to bless someone in his memory too.
(Nat, I'm hoping this is ok to put here since you had it on facebook... if you want me to take it off, just yell at me)

I love this idea but didn't think I had time before Christmas to do it.  However, then it dawned on me, that even one RAOK in Rachel's memory would be better than none - and so I'm asking you (feel free to ignore this Ms.J or her supporters - cause here comes another 'request')  to join me in this. 

Print up the card above and keep it on you.  Then, sometime over this next week, take a moment to help someone else.... lift something heavy for an elderly woman, let a busy mom with young kids go in front of you in the check out, pay for the person behind you to go through the toll....and when you do, hand them the card with Rachel (or Sebastian's) name on it - and if you're comfortable and time permits, tell them about her and our God who created her.  Then comment here, or email my home address if you have it (NOT my blog email address cause I'm not checking that one right now) or, dare I say it...send a card or a note...with what you did for someone else with her in your heart and we'll print them, put them in her stocking and read how she continues to touch people this Christmas season.

I Am Missing Someone

I've officially started my second year of Friday's at Rachel's grave.  I can't believe it's been this long.  I pulled up today with a few more decorations for Christmas and ornaments for her tree - and everything I put there on Sunday looked bad.  The lights had started to fall onto the front of her stone and her tree was tipping over.  The wind was blowing so hard today that everything I tried to set up, failed.  I'll have to go back tomorrow better prepared with rocks and floral wire in hand.  I hate that I'm learning the tricks of this trade...

I thought having her stone in this year was going to take the sting out of trying to make her spot look pretty in the winter.  No such luck.  It still stings.  Was I ignorant enough to think that a stone was going to make this hurt less?  Yes, yes I was.  Some times ignorance is bliss.

As I was driving over there this morning, I was talking to my friend Louise on the phone when I had one of those "do I have everyone with me?" scares.  I looked in the rear view mirror and counted...

1 - 2 - 3... and Desirae is at Art....

Not convinced.

I counted again...Des, Sam, Zay & the baby.... that's everyone I reassured myself.

"Why do I feel like someone is missing?" I asked Louise.
"Every time I count them, I always feel like I'm missing someone..."

My mind drifted to thoughts of this happening multiple times in the past 2 weeks as I have ventured out more and more with all 4 of them.  I've even had to ask Desirae "do we have everyone" because I count and feel like I'm miscounting.  Four kids should feel like a lot, why does it feel like I'm skipping a number?

I snapped back to the conversation...

"Cause I am" I blurted out.

I am missing someone. And I always will be.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I'm Not Judging You...Really.

Last night I tried to get caught up on my blog emails.... I apologize if you've sent me one and I haven't responded yet, I will , I promise - at this point it won't be till after Christmas.  Things are very busy around here and I need to guard my heart and mind. 

So, I went back & forth over whether or not to share this because - I'm going to be honest - I think this lady, we'll call her "Ms. J", is actually going to get a kick out of the fact that I'm talking about it.  I could be wrong...{shrug}

So she sent this to me on Rachel's birthday... no doubt she was well aware of her timing. (sorry, am I not supposed to judge motives...oops)  The subject line is "Thinking of you...." and the first paragraph is all about how she can't begin to understand the kind of pain I feel after losing Rachel.  (she's right on that) Then she goes into this....
"I've noticed over the past several months that your increasingly negative blog posts tend to highlight the wrong or "faults" of others because they might not respond with just the right words. At other times I've noticed general negativity surrounding your lack of blog readers/followers or implying the lack of financial/physical support expected for your family. I must admit what many others may have not said to you before now....your blog entries imply that you don't appear grateful for the abundance of support you have been given. I use the word "imply" and "appear" because I truly don't believe you are ungrateful, I just think it comes across that way at least until you receive a large shipment of gifts or cards.

I don't believe judging people's responses to a clearly impossible situation makes for a positive resolution, nor does complaining about the lack of readers following your blog. People cant be expected to have all the perfect words or be able to offer their unlimited support. I understand it must be difficult to hear that some people have moved on from your blog but it also should be humbling that so many peoples lives were ultimately touched by Rachel's legacy in the first place. Which I believe was the sole intent of your blog from the beginning.

I know you are familiar with the saying, "Life is not measured by how many breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away". Well the same goes for loving support and prayer. Its not measured by the physical gifts we receive but with the sincere love and prayers we are given.

Thinking of you always and hoping you receive this email graciously and that it gives you the strength to humbly accept EACH of the "gifts" you have been given in this life."

Question:  who are you, lady and why do you feel it your place to say these things to me?  You act like you want to help, but really are just judging me harshly.

My response to her, which I honestly question if she even is who she says she is... (yep, had that one happen before too) was brief and I basically just said I thought her words were unnecessary and linked two of my blog posts for her to review... From August and From May

But today, her words are still bothering me... and although she thinks she can tell me what my "sole intent of my blog from the beginning" is - which by the way, is for me to decide - the purpose of this blog as of now is for me to have a space where I can lay down my burdens and the people who love me will come along side of me and HELP ME CARRY THEM - if just through prayer and encouragement.

Now, since she started her email by saying in the 2nd sentence:
"I started reading your blog back in the very beginning of your journey however, I must admit that I have not been reading as regularly nor do I have the means to continue to financially contribute.... "

And referred repeatedly to the "financial and physical support" that I "expect" for my family, as well as the "lack of readers" I have, I'm going to address these two things. 

I have never expected anything from people I know through my blog.  I have been very fortunate to meet some of my very best friends through my journey with Rachel and my blog and yes, through their offers - not my requests - to help me in my time of need.  I have cried tears of gratitude a million times in the past year and a half over unexpected blessings both financial and physical from my friends, family, church family, and blog readers. Rachel's birthday was an example of that.  Not because I received the "large shipment of gifts and cards" as "Ms. J" suggests,  although my girl getting birthday cards was huge for my heart (is that wrong?)... but it was because I pulled into the cemetery and saw the cars lined up all over the place.  It is the presence of my God, my friends, family, church family and blog readers that lifts my heart in my weakest moments.  Hugs... I love hugs... I didn't know what to expect for people that day since I did an open invite on my blog - and I was blown away.  The same is true of the gift cards for the pregnant woman.

Which leads me to my next topic... my expectations.  She says:
"People cant be expected to have all the perfect words or be able to offer their unlimited support."
If you read back to the very beginning of my blog and went all the way through, you will see that I have never expected anyone to have all the right words.  I've actually repeatedly told people that there aren't any.  The only thing I have ever asked is that if I let you know that something bothers me, just please be receptive to that.  If that is too much to ask, that says more about the people who feel they have so much to offer in their words than it says about me and quite honestly, that's PRIDE.

People hurt me daily with their words, usually unintentionally - sometimes with their lack of words or thought.  I offer the grace that has been freely given to me by God every single day. (the fact that anyone would think I don't based on a few "negative blog posts" shows that they don't have any idea what this journey has actually entailed for me)  Am I too sensitive?  Probably.  But I do believe that there are times when my experiences and my pain can serve as a way for people to learn how to support their loved ones through a loss.  I don't blog it all - the things I have blogged were always because I have tried to tell that person how I feel and they have refused to look at it.  Those are the times when my heart is ripped apart... and back to MY purpose for this blog...I dump it here.  And people with compassion, pray for me and write to me and encourage me.  In case you're not aware, YOU don't need to read MY blog.  Nobody forces you to come here.  You can go find something else to read, and someone else to criticize if you don't like what I write - and especially if you feel that I am asking too much of people.  This is not the place for you.  My trial is not over and you are bound to see a few negative posts, sorry to be the bearer of bad news.... but again, I can't avoid the harsh emails because they come to please remember you make a choice to read this that I don't get that luxury of making in emails I get - so if you don't have anything nice to say, don't email me.  I welcome constructive exhortation from people who have a clue where I'm at, who I am and love me...but I still prefer that to be in person, thanks.

Here's another one of MY purposes for this blog... to let other grieving mothers know they are not alone or crazy for feeling some of these same things, for struggling with these same things.  If you think it's just people I talk to that say insensitive things or are let down by family & friends, it's not... hurting mothers EVERYWHERE have to endure "knowledgeable" people and distant & self-centered family constantly.  They do the same thing I do, go away and cry alone.  But I refuse to let them think they are alone.  Obviously "Ms. J" hasn't lost a child - and obviously she hasn't read the comments from other mothers who are thankful for my willingness to share the hard topics. 

But that's right, I forgot, the "sole purpose" for this blog is for me to be "humbled by how many people were touched by Rachel's life in the first place" - which by the way, I am.  Pretty sure I've said that a thousand times.  But let's get one thing straight....don't throw my daughter's name around as if she isn't my own flesh & blood or feel you need to remind ME of how precious her life was or like you just came up with the idea that how God has used her "should" humble me.  Have you read anything I've written?  Or does Ms. Positive just like to focus on the negative??  (and I'm sarcastic too... bad Stacy) 

People are still being touched by her life, even in all my imperfection.  I'M leaving her legacy.  It's my story of my love for her and pain in the loss of her and God's provision (at times through His people!!) along the way.  But I have never twisted anyone's arm to be a part of this.  They do it because they happen to believe in what I'm doing in her memory for other people.  "Ms. J" is acting as if I kept the gift cards for myself.  "I'm only happy when a 'large shipment of cards come in'?" that's right I was happy, are you kidding??  Because of those cards, I was able to bless two mothers (and counting) in Rachel's memory.  I shared my story with them - her legacy - and about our Great God.  Of course that makes me happy.  Not because I'm money hungry or attention starved and looking for gifts for myself...but because I LOVE TO GIVE TO OTHERS in her name.  I LOVE to share about her.  yikes.  I never thought my motives could be misconstrued like that.  But just for the record "Ms. J" since you obviously have an issue with me asking for gift card donations... I didn't notice or care that you didn't send one, so no need to explain... and I don't want anything that comes from anyone who is not totally excited about it anyway.  And I'm well aware that there are people who would have sent something, but finances kept them from it...or they chose to remember her in a different way - and you know what?  I never thought twice about that either.  I am grateful for every single time that someone remembers her with love, regardless of what form that comes in.

And as far as my expectations with "physical support" - I'm not sure exactly what fits under this category??  The only thing I expect physically is that our family shows up... and THAT "Ms.J" is yet again, something you don't know about.... For well over a year (until very recently), any time our families have let us down, I have generalized so as not to single anyone out.  But the truth is, I'm referring to a select few people who ABSOLUTELY should be offering us "unlimited support".  If expecting my own family and Matt's own family to acknowledge their granddaughter or niece's birthday - if even just to say "hey, I know things are tough right now" (or maybe call once in a while and ask how we're doing) is expecting "unlimited support" and wrong - well then, you got me.  I expect too much and am totally unfair.  If hoping that the same people, who were laying over Rachel's casket last December 9th at the cemetery dramatically crying like they had lost their own child, show up or send a card a year later on her anniversary "implies that I don't appear grateful for the abundance of support I have been given." by others - well, all I can say is that looks aren't everything.  the people who know me, know that's not true.  But see, yet again, you assumed you knew what I was talking about when you didn't.  You know what they say happens when you assume, don't you?

On the topic of "lack of readers" - I'm not lacking readers... There are close to 300 people every day "reading."  When I speak, or "complain" as "Ms J" calls it,  of people not reading my blog, I'm not talking about the people across the country who I don't know...or even people I do know who are moving on, although that does hurt more.  I'm not stupid, I know that people are not going to read my day to day life forever.  But see, "Ms. J" wasn't around to hear my dad say he didn't read it because "it was too hard for him" or my MIL say she didn't read it because "it's all about Stacy and the baby" while I was STILL pregnant with Rachel.  (there you have it, do you feel better about my desire yet?  Does that make sense to you?  Is that an acceptable reason to be hurt, Ms. J?)  Hello??  Do you seriously think I'm just looking for a big audience?  Give me a break.  The only other thing that drives me crazy is when people stop reading and then expect me to fill them in on "how I'm feeling" only to debate with me why that's wrong.  With my blog, they know where I'm at without me having to explain and then endure their input since, like "Ms. J" most people think I simply can't survive if they don't fill me in on the "correct" way to look at things.

I'm sure that "Ms. J" (watch my graciousness here....) isn't aware that my sweet baby girl didn't breathe on her own - and I'm going to give her the (ready... here's some positive thinking for you...) benefit of the doubt that she never read the posts where I talk about how that "life isn't measured" saying breaks my heart now.  But when she says:
"I know you are familiar with the saying, "Life is not measured by how many breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away". Well the same goes for loving support and prayer. Its not measured by the physical gifts we receive but with the sincere love and prayers we are given."
I have to wonder... is she insinuating that somehow I am putting physical gifts at the same level of importance as my baby BREATHING?  Yes, I'm "aware of the saying" not sure how that ties in with your attempt at calling me ungrateful and negative.   I've heard it all now... wow.  Listen "Ms. J" ...and anyone who agrees with her opinion of me... please don't do me any favors....I will not be heartbroken if I don't see that extra number on my daily readers count, if I don't ever get a card or gift from you, if you never offer to come help me, and I certainly won't mind never getting another email from you - and you can actually stop offering me your "sincere love and prayers" cause your sincerity is mean and has caused me more hurt and my guess is that you don't care because you think you're right and you probably don't actually pray for me - but it does sound real nice, doesn't it? 

Oooh, this one is good:
"Thinking of you always and hoping you receive this email graciously and that it gives you the strength to humbly accept EACH of the "gifts" you have been given in this life."

Let me just make sure that there is no confusion here... this email didn't give me "strength" to humbly accept anything.  This email was pretty much useless.  (oh gosh, I'm receiving this so ungraciously, aren't I?)  I'm sorry, "Ms. J" but I'm going to be blunt...  You are full of yourself to think that YOU need to clarify to ME that "gifts" aren't just gift cards.  Remember me, I'm the one who carried my baby until she DIED IN MY ARMS.  I am well aware what my "gifts" are and your "sincere love" isn't one of them.

And last, but not least...Wise "Ms. J" says:
"I don't believe judging people's responses to a clearly impossible situation makes for a positive resolution"
Well, ain't that the pot calling the kettle black.  I suppose you don't think that's exactly what you're doing to me?   I guess if I added "I'm not judging you" before I wrote my judgement, like you did, it would be completely different?

Well, just for the record, I'm not judging you.  Only trying to help, you know, cause I care about you :o)  Have a good day!  :o)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Her Light is in My Heart

The kids & I decorated the tree tonight...  we made sugar cookies and had them with egg nog while we put the ornaments on.  It was a nice end to a crazy day, with 2 doctor's appt's, a dentist appt, gym class and groceries - and nursing every 2 hours on the dot....I am glad to finally be sitting and to have my sweet baby boy asleep on my lap.  I love this kid. (funny side note, Asa totally peed all over the place at his appt today - this boy can went half way across the room, on me, the floor and all over the mat they had him on.  The kids thought it was hilarious!)

As we pulled out the ornaments, Rachel was everywhere.  You all sent so many precious ornaments last year since she had just died and her due date was the 25th.  I've had many of them hanging around my house all year as decor, but it was nice to have her remain such a big part of our family during our favorite holiday.  I also decided to change up the stuff on top of her hope chest...

Harlee gave me this candle holder for Rachel's birthday - it says: Loved you yesterday, Love you still, Always have and Always will.  The willow tree is the "blessings" figurine and the sleigh, which has beautiful pink and white pearls on it was something I got last year as a gift for Rachel (I can't believe this, but I cannot remember where I got this, so if it was from you, please remind me!)  I put all these things around the picture I have up of Rachel's feet in my hands, in Matt's hand and our wedding rings around her toes.  It wasn't until I looked at the picture on my camera that I noticed the reflection of the candles in our picture....
There is a light reflecting from the candles in the palm of each of our hands. 

Two things immediately came to mind.  On our wedding favors, we had the verse from Matthew 5:16:

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and
give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

And the other was a that I thought of regularly while carrying Rachel - as well as a million times since I held her....lyrics that remind me that Rachel was put in my life for me to help her shine so that people would give glory to God:

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let (her) shine
Let her shine, let her shine, let her shine.

Hide it under a bushel? No!
I'm gonna let her shine.

Don't let Satan blow it out,
I'm gonna let her shine.

Let her shine till Jesus comes.
I'm gonna let her shine.

Let her shine, let her shine, let her shine...

Last December, we held a light from God in the palm of our hands.  This December, and every day in between then and now, I hold that light in my heart and make it a daily commitment to let her light shine before others so that they may see God in her, through me, and glorify our Father in heaven.

There is not a single day that goes by that I don't share about my little light with someone.  I tell people everywhere I go, in everything I do of the precious baby girl I was blessed to spend 9 months and 43 minutes with.  And I'm convinced when I share my heart with these complete strangers.... they see her light shining in it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

2 Adults and 5 Kids

Last Christmas eve I brought Rachel a little Christmas tree.  The lights on it were battery operated and when I showed up on Christmas night (the day she was due), not only were they not working anymore but the battery pack was frozen into the ground.  I stood there in the pitch black, still healing from my c-section, trying to chip away at the frozen dirt so I could replace the batteries and sobbing.  It was so heart wrenching....

This year, I determined that she would not spend the winter - and especially Christmas - in the dark (as if there is any dark at all where she is!) and ordered solar powered Christmas lights.  I ordered two sets and me & my friend Kim went out for the afternoon to decorate Rachel's grave and her sister's grave together.  For as much as that may sound like a less than desirable way to spend the day, I was glad to have someone to go with who understood.  I do so much cemetery stuff alone.  Sometimes that is good for me and sometimes it's really hard.  (pictures coming soon!)

I was getting ready to go and decided to check my email.  My good friend's daughter was born 3 weeks after Rachel and there it was....her first birthday party invitation.  We had talked about these types of moments while we were both still pregnant and I'm so thankful that we have the kind of relationship where we can be open with each other.  I knew moments like this would happen....the ones that made me remember that Rachel wouldn't still be that little baby I see in the photos all over my house - she would be growing...she would be a 1 year old.  Sounds obvious, but on the days when it feels like she just died yesterday, it's easy to forget that she would probably be walking by now.

I didn't know if my heart could handle it and so I decided not to open it and continued on to my grave decorating.

When I came home last night, I opened it.  The idea of going to her birthday actually doesn't bother me.  I'm really kind of excited about it.  She is such a precious girl, just like her mama and I'm glad to be able to celebrate her turning one. 

Here is where the 'problem' arose...
I clicked on the rsvp "yes"
A little box popped up and it had a space for the number of adults...
I typed 2.  That was easy.
Then it has a space for the number of kids....
I stared at it for probably 10 minutes watching the cursor blink.
Matt said something from the other room.  I replied back;
"I'm trying to rsvp for this birthday party"
He asked what the problem was.
I said it wants to know how many kids we're bringing and I don't know what to write.
"Why?" he asked, assuming I wasn't sure if we'd all go.

And as I heard myself answer, I started crying.

"because I don't want to write 4" I blurted out.

Even still, sometimes this all seems like it can't be real.  And when I hear myself struggling so much over something that should be so simple, reality feels so harsh.  I looked at the other rsvp's...  2 adults, 1 kid... 2 adults 2 kids...  I wondered how long it took them to figure out what to enter in that box.  2 seconds?  I wanted the answer to be simple.  I wanted to be able to just enter how many kids I have - and that I would be bringing them all. Or just to feel fine writing I'd be bringing 4.  But I couldn't do it.  I so wished there was a way to type in "I have 5, but can only bring 4"...  but the space only allowed for a one number answer.  I felt wrong writing 4 and stupid writing 5 since after all, I wasn't bringing 5 and everyone knows that an rsvp is all about who is going to the party, not who you wish you could bring.  I tried to come up with some witty reply I could write in the comment section if I was to write 5... how does "only 2 of them will be eating cake" sound? 

I stared at the blinking cursor some more. 

At this point Matt was standing beside me with his hand on my shoulder as I cried and fought with myself over typing 4 or 5.

I typed 5 and shut the computer.

"She'll understand" I said as I turned from my desk knowing that my friend wasn't going to think I was a freak for claiming to be coming with 5 kids... because technically I am...I'm just carrying one of them in my heart instead of my arms.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

When Hallmark Fails - take 3

I started this post days ago and never finished... then just had it post all messed up TWICE! and had to fix it...hard to do this while nursing a baby!! :o)
so here it is...I think it's right this time.

I remember when we had Rachel's baby shower people were so unsure of what to get for a card.  She was still alive then and I got a bunch of sympathy cards.  We were calling it her "Celebration of Life" party so sympathy seemed a bit premature - although I totally get why people would go that route.  I was so thankful for the people who bought regular old baby shower cards... you know, the kind you get when you're about to have a baby you can keep....

Nothing hurt more than when my sister-in-law came up to me and told me she "put a check in the basket because there were no cards for this" as she shook her head and stuck her tongue out like she just ate something that tasted bad.  (we were asking for donations for Rachel's memorial playground at her shower and were blessed with $1600 that day!)  But money was supposed to be the added blessing - not the purpose - of the day.  The purpose was to acknowledge the life inside me and celebrate her.  I wanted to say, "try a blank one... a baby shower one...a congratulations on your baby girl....there are lots of options"  but I decided to be "polite" and nod and smile as if I actually agreed - and then I felt guilty that I didn't stand up for my girl better. 

Immediately following Rachel's funeral (two days later!) I started getting Christmas cards that mentioned nothing of our loss.... we were "moving on".... next in line? Christmas.  yeah, let's talk about Christmas....Hallmark has cards for that....(and you may even find Jesus in some of them!)

Since then cards have been easy - notes of encouragement or thinking of you....  but for Rachel's birthday, we came up against the same old problem.... "Hallmark doesn't make a card for this type of thing" I've been told a bunch of times.

First, before I get into this, I want you all to know that I am NOT writing this to make anyone feel bad, to put anyone down or make you feel like you have to run out and buy a card - or apologize to me for saying Hallmark failed here.  PLEASE believe me when I say that.  And PLEASE do not go send me a card or make me endure an uncomfortable apology because you feel guilty. That's not what I am looking for or desire.  I am writing this post because I know that this won't be the last time that there is a situation in the life of someone you love that Hallmark doesn't say perfectly - especially when a child dies.  And because being on the receiving end can be so painful even when the motivation is pure.  I'm hoping by sharing this, you will be able to love others better through their trials.

All that said, I'm totally a card person.  I love getting them, LOVE sending them - some people don't care about them as much and so this may be not as important for those people - but feeling loved in one way or another always will be.

But let me be honest about how the statement that Hallmark doesn't make cards for "this" makes me feel....  It feels lonely.  It feels like my reality and Rachel's life (or the way I'm celebrating/grieving) is too unusual for words.  It feels like an excuse to not put effort into it. It shows me your complete discomfort around the topic of my baby.  It's discouraging, disappointing and leaves me feeling like Rachel isn't loved.  It feels like you would be happier if we just didn't talk about her any more and we could move on.... Christmas anyone??

And I understand that those are just feelings but I'm just being honest.  So, I've compiled some examples of my favorite cards to help in this admittedly awkward thing to maneuver through. 

Let's start with one I got from Harlee on August 4th (anniversary of Rachel's diagnosis)
 then on the inside....
And then she wrote about how she remembered talking to me the night I got Rachel's diagnosis and how, while she was scared and sad and upset....I still had hope.  That is something I would not remember about that night, if she didn't dare to share it with me.  I'll admit, this card gets 5stars, but what she wrote in it meant more.  She took the chance of reminding me about my pain (you know that I don't need reminding, I always remember it all by myself... so don't be afraid you're going to remind someone about their loss!  They haven't forgotten and are glad to know you haven't either!!)  and she let me know that she was remembering that hard day with me and that she thinks I've done good for my girl.

Then there is the card I got from my sister, someone worthy of the "Auntie" title, for Rachel's birthday...
It doesn't say Happy Birthday.  It doesn't say sorry your daughter died.  It doesn't say "be happy".  It says I love you just the way you are... exactly where you're at... and I'm here for you through it all - for as long as it takes.

Oh, and even though it is hard for her, it doesn't say "I lost a baby too, this is just as hard for me too you know, you should be supporting me too" -  Oh yeah, that's what the other side of the family says and thinks; they lost a baby too... the ones who didn't bother to send cards or even call - except the one who called on her bday and never mentioned it - cause they forgot all about her day - but it was SO hard for them, exactly like my pain for sure - I can tell.  sorry, sarcasm...and yes, they actually think that and have said that, even recently. They can't be here for us cause they're too concerned with how her death and our grief affects them. (which is how? since they don't even think about her on her birthday/day she died?) this is what I refer to as diarrhea of the mouth.  shut up Stacy. (insert smiley face with foot in mouth here)  Then we have the others that although they don't make Rachel's death about them, they refuse to acknowledge our loss at all.  Truth is, I hide behind sarcasm or anger where this topic is concerned - but what I really am is hurt and even though I've tried to address my hurt with them, they don't care.  So anyway...totally getting sidetracked here and not making any friends...more comfortable topic... Next card...

This friend did some underlining and on the inside some editing to make a "not exactly perfect" card - "exactly perfect"

No, it's not a birthday card, but it recognizes that she LIVED and that we miss her. On the inside she crossed off sympathy and put "thoughts and prayers" and then she crossed off "during this sad time" and left it like that. LOVE it.

The next one was from the place that we got Rachel's casket. This place was amazing... caskets hand made by monks who pray over it while carving it and for every casket that someone is buried in, they plant a tree as a memorial for that person...including Rachel. But seriously, even they sent a card - not our parents, but hey at least the monks care. Fr. Kenneth wrote:
Dear Stacy,
On the 1st anniversary of the death of your loved one, we want you to know that we continue to pray for you and your family. With faith in Christ's resurrection we remain united with you in prayer.

I LOVE that last line... THEY REMAIN with us in faith and prayer.  A year later...they remain.  Not our parents or the majority of our families...but we've always got the monks in Iowa.  This is what I mean about how thankful I am for all of you.  We got so many cards, emails, messages from all over the country.  Your support helps me more than you'll ever know

And this one...
On the inside it says "Sympathy and Understanding are with you" and then she wrote a little about how thankful she was that I'm honest on my blog because it helps her to know how to grieve with me and pray for me.

And a birthday card for Rachel from my mom....

Simple - and kinda has two meanings... she's IN God's garden.... and flowers have always reminded me of Rachel.


And that was followed up with "Happy Birthday" - This card has "Rachel" written all over it.

 And this one.... blank.  When Hallmark doesn't make a card that "works for this", go blank.  Share your heart.  Tell them you're thinking of them and praying for them.  Sign your name.  Something.  Anything. (preferrably focusing on them - just sayin') But if you absolutely hate blank cards and prefer for Hallmark to do the writing, PLEASE don't tell them that you went without a card because their situation wasn't under one of the usual categories in the card isle.
 This blank card was filled with the most encouraging words I think I read for Rachel's birthday, so I want to share them.  Inside she wrote:

How can it be a year since your sweet Rachel was in your arms?  Happy Birthday to your little love well Stacy and I know your heart is bursting with so many different emotions as you hold your Asa and grieve Rachel at the same time.  Be gentle with yourself during this season and don't be afraid to borrow hope from those around you.  I will be looking for pink balloons in the Colorado Sky on Saturday...I will be praying for your heart to be comforted with each breath you take.  May you be surrounded with amazing peace and sweet friends who love you and your family so much. 
Sending love, L.

This one paragraph said Happy Birthday to Rachel, acknowledges that it would be a hard day, showed me that she is walking the journey along with me since she knew details from my blog, said it was ok to take it easy and not expect too much of myself right now and encouraged me all at the same time.  No, Hallmark didn't write it....but she didn't choose to say nothing because what she wanted to say wasn't already in print with a $4 price tag.  I might also add that this is not a person I have talked to before, she is a fellow baby loss mama who follows my blog and has been a big support through this entire journey.

Ok and for those of you who hate blank cards...or have no words to write in one.. there is always the option of buying a card like this: 

These are just a few of some very nice cards I got last week.  I guess what I hope to get across here is that life doesn't always follow Hallmark's idea of how things will go.  And when it doesn't, the people who find themselves in a "this" situation still need to know that somebody cares....that they aren't alone.  And if you go to the card isle and after looking around decide that there is in fact "no card for this", please just keep that to yourself and give your loved one a big hug and tell them you care.  That's all.  I understand they don't make a card that says "Happy Birthday to your dead baby" but there are many other ways to say "I know it's your daughter's first birthday and I'm praying for you since she isn't with you and that hurts your heart"  You just have to think outside the box and be willing to step out of your comfort zone in order to comfort the one who's hurting, without expecting to be able to fix them - and knowing that's okay.

And I might just start my own line of cards....lookout Hallmark, you're going down.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Missing My Gift Keeps Me Giving

Today was as long and as hard as I imagined it would be.

Asa had another breath holding scare this morning, so I had to rearrange my entire day to bring him to the doctors.  They think he is fine, but have referred us to a cardiologist to check his heart murmur, mostly to relieve my fears.  As the topic of discussion changed from Asa, to me and my anxiety, I started crying.  She is really supportive and encouraged me to bring him in as often as I need to in order to get peace of mind, reassuring me that she doesn't think I'm crazy, but she doesn't want me to lose sleep over my fears because of Rachel. (LOVE that she calls her Rachel and not a "situation")  I decided not to tell her the part where I sat up until 2:30 staring at him last night convinced he was going to die in his sleep....  I wish it was as easy as saying I'm going to choose to think positive - but right now, that's just not where I am at.  I am scared that he won't stay with me.  Last night I had to just turn it over to God and as I closed my eyes, I begged him to let me keep him.  And for today, He did.

As I walked down the hall to leave the doctors, the song by Sarah McLachlan "I will remember you" was playing... I heard the lyrics and my tears started again.  I couldn't separate whether I was crying over Rachel or my fears about having Asa taken from me - both rip my heart apart.  They tend to intertwine.  It was so hard to have to bring Asa to the doctor on the same day Rachel was buried.  It's a lot at once for this hurting, tired heart of mine.

I'm so tired but I can't sleep
Standin' on the edge of something much to deep
It's funny how we feel so much but we cannot say a word
We are screaming inside, but we can't be heard

I'm so afraid to love you
But more afraid to lose
Clinging to a past that doesn't let me choose
Once there was a darkness
Deep and endless night
You gave me everything you had, oh you gave me life

I will remember you, will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories

I left there crying and cried the whole way to Options for Women...and as I was walking in, baby in hand...I fell down - again.  I came through their door all upset, crying "I can't even walk!"  And they do what they do best...loved this woman :o)  thanks girls. 

But the reason I was at Options was because all of you were so unbelievably generous for Rachel's Birthday, that we received $843 in gift cards!  And yes, that number ends in $43 because someone sent a card in the amount of $43, which was so thoughtful. (you didn't tell me your name, which I would like to know!!)   So, not only was I able to get the girl I told you about everything she still needed, but I also sponsored another girl through Options.  She is a young, hard working mother due in January.  AND I have money left over to sponsor another person, but God hasn't shown me who that is yet so I will hold onto it until He does and I'll let you know!  Thank you for making this all possible.  You are such a blessing.

I knew this day would be hard and so I planned to donate these gifts today.  There is only one way to help my heavy heart on days like this, and that is to do something for my girl.  Rachel Alice Aube gave me an intense desire to do things to bless others in her memory.  She is my gift who keeps me giving.  And so today, I went down and ate lunch at her grave....just me & Asa (mom was babysitting so that I could go to his appt alone)...brought her some fresh flowers and cried as I remembered standing there one year ago today as we said goodbye.  Then I went to Asa's appt and then to Options.  We filled a bassinet that they donated towards this with over $500 in clothes (a few each of size newborn to 12 months!!), diapers, wipes, blankets, sheets, toys, towels, etc!   I even got the mom and big sister a little something to encourage them.  Along the way, I was able to share Rachel's story and all your love for her with the cashiers who wondered why I was buying so much stuff :o) and I wrote the mom a letter as well. 
I wish the picture showed how much is actually in this, but it doesn't do it justice!
My original plan for the day had to be changed because of Asa's appt, and so ironically, I ended up at Rachel's grave at just before 1pm - the same time we were there last year - and I got back home around 4pm - the same time I got home after our gathering last year.  The timing was hard, so many things reminding me, even the weather.  And so I sit here tonight, I'll admit, in a much better place than I was last year on this night - and at the same time, I had no idea it would still hurt this much a year later.  Tonight, I would still like to go get her and bring her home....but it's not quite so hard to get my body to stay here.  So, I guess that's progress.

Thank you for a year of wiping my tears and crying along with me.  I am so thankful for all of you.  I don't know how I would have gotten through some of these last 365 days without you.  Your encouragement, your prayers, your support of all my projects for Rachel :o) - thank you for loving me through this - for walking this journey with me and being a part of Sweet Baby Rachel's Legacy.  Some day we will know the extent to which she truly changed hearts for God's kingdom.  I'm honored to be her mama and humbled that so many people still care.  thank you ♥

Surviving Another Anniversary

Tough night tonight.  should be sleeping, but my mind won't shut off.  My heart is so heavy.  Tomorrow (today) is a year since we buried my girl.  And it's also a Friday.  I'll need extra prayers to get through this day. 

This day, unlike her birthday, holds nothing but deep sorrow and heart wrenching pain in my memory.  Her service was beautiful and I made it through the day alive, but that night I had to force myself to stay home...I just wanted to go back and dig her up.  It felt so wrong to put my baby in the ground.  I filled in the funeral home book like it was a baby book, obsessing over every detail as if she would someday read it.  And I cried all night long.

Some days surviving was all I could do.  Some days it still is.  Today is one of them.