Saturday, July 28, 2012

Family Portraits

We had photos taken for Rachel's 19 month birthday and received them back today....on my birthday. ♥ 

I understand some might think it's a little morbid to take family photos at the cemetery, but the truth is that even the thought of family photos is painful since I will never own a photo with my entire family in it.  The ones with Rachel are missing Asa - and any future children - and the ones with Asa are missing Rachel.  And when I see either, my heart feels it.

So for me, I can think of no better place than where my sweet little girl's body is to take our photos.  It's the closest we can be to her on earth - and so it took some of the sting out of our first family portraits without her.

A couple of weeks back I was getting my hair cut and mentioned we'd be getting photos taken.  She asked where.  I was a little unprepared and just blurted out "At the cemetery my daughter is buried in".  As soon as I said it, I saw a look of disgust come over her face.  I can imagine she was thinking I was off my rocker and she probably felt bad for my kids.  In that moment I knew... my life is just not normal.  I was kicking myself (and crying over that) for days... "Why didn't I just say a friend was taking them outside??  Why do I always have to tell everybody everything ??" 

But you know what, I don't actually care what she thinks.  Two minutes before that she told me I needed to get my kids some socialization cause I told her I homeschooled.  She just doesn't get people like me and she never will.  I'm okay with that.  I know the truth about how 'socialized' my kids are just the same as I know that they are not bothered at all by taking photos where we are close to Rachel.  The cemetery has become a place of solace for us and I'm thankful for that.  I pray that one day, when they have to visit our graves there they will find comfort in the memories we have created there together - and they aren't mostly sad... actually, they are mostly happy.

Thank you to Luke Smith from Living Proof Studios for taking these photos - and his wife Sara for coming along to help get everyone laughing...  I can't thank you guys enough for how you have supported us along this journey though the gifts that God has given you. 

At one point, when we went to move to another location, Sara said "Oh, I gotta grab Rachel" and she reached down and picked up her picture frame.  From my pregnancy photos with Rachel (See '32 weeks' - on sidebar), to my pregnancy photos with Asa and trying to include Rachel in that - and now our first family photos... at the cemetery... they have rolled with all our needs and helped us to create memories that speak of the beauty in our often painful -yet deeply blessed - reality.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Truth About Anencephaly

This is a long one, but it'll be here for a while so take your time.....

On August 4th 2010, while pregnant with Rachel, I went for my ultrasound... the exam I used to think was mostly to find out if it was a boy or girl.  Would we need blue or pink? 

I left there with a box of tissues, a broken heart and a small piece of paper with words scribbled on it:

Anencephalic Baby.

That's what it said.  I had never heard of it before.  But, almost 2 years later, I'm not only familiar with the word, but what it means for a child of mine.


I have spent hours, days and even weeks of time telling people about Rachel and the condition that took her from us.  I have poured my heart out publicly if only to help even just one person choose life for their baby after receiving a fatal prenatal diagnosis.  I'm humbled to say that I have seen it happen.  I'm sad to say I've seen the opposite too. 

After getting Rachel's diagnosis, I shared with people that she was expected to die, but kept her diagnosis private for weeks.  I was so afraid of what people would think of her.  I didn't want people to give up on her or picture the baby inside me like a monster.

I remember seeing photos of other anencephalic babies while I was pregnant and coming across ones where the mothers were holding them without their hats on.  I was stunned.  I asked Matt "why would they do that to themselves?  Why wouldn't they just cover up their heads?"

And then I had Rachel. 

Matt and Kim (our nurse) were trying to keep her hat in place and I said "Leave it alone, I don't care".   A mother's love goes so much deeper than outward appearances.  I knew that, but I guess somehow thought I would not be 'that' good at loving unconditionally.  That I wouldn't be able to see past what was missing.

I was wrong.  I couldn't ignore her 'defect' and I didn't.  I loved her in spite of it.  I refused to let it define her.  I refused to focus on what I was losing - and instead threw her a birthday party, cake and all...  after she was already gone to be with Jesus.  What better thing to celebrate, really.  But that doesn't change that my heart was broken.  Seeing my baby in that condition was traumatic.  My life will never be the same.

On August 6, 2011 we held our first Baby Rachel's Legacy 5K.  We donated over $9,200 to Options for Women to help start a perinatal hospice program and more.... I talked about Rachel, how much I love her and how many blessings she has brought.  But I still avoided her anencephaly.

I feel like it's time to stop avoiding.  To stop being scared of it and what others will think of her. 

On August 4 of this year, just two weeks away, we will have our second Baby Rachel's Legacy 5K (walk or run - to participate or donate, see the buttons on the right side of my blog)  I will once again tell people about Rachel, her life, her death and the blessings she brought us.  I will smile and cry, like I have every single day since I got to hold that sweet baby girl in my arms....  but this year, I'm going to share about her anencephaly.  I call it an "Anencephaly Awareness" race because I want people to become familiar with the condition so that if someone got that diagnosis, they would know there was someone else who had been there and survived with Hope.  The doctors tend to assume anyone who is carrying a baby with anencephaly would have no desire to carry to term and give their baby a chance to live -or to give God control over how long he or she will live for.

But in order to really share about her anencepahly, I need to tell you the truth about it.

There was nothing easy about this journey.  I actually never knew life could be so hard and I've been through A LOT in my life.  Waiting to have her was torture.  Every move she made, I felt like I should be happy about and at the same time it only reminded me she was going to die.  It was the most complicated thing I have ever experienced.  I was guilt stricken and criticized every time I felt consumed by her impending death.

Giving birth to her (I chose to have an elective c-section to raise her chances of being born alive), not knowing if she would be dead or alive and how long she would live, was the scariest thing I have ever done. 

Seeing her without the top of her head and finding out what a brain stem looks like was numbing to my soul and only survived by God's grace alone.

Watching my kids hold their dead sister and having to let the funeral home take her away have left permanent visions as scars on my heart.

Leaving that hospital with only flowers and a wound in my womb to prove she existed was the single worst heartbreak I have ever felt.  It took a lot of pills to even get me in the wheelchair to get me out that door.  The anxiety was so thick I couldn't move into reality without being medicated.  We opened the trunk to pack her memory box for the ride home and her empty carseat greeted my eyes.  That will be a vision that brings tears to my eyes for the rest of my life. 

Walking away from her tiny casket at the cemetery a few days later was nearly impossible - and I never knew I would ever have to fight a desire to go dig up a grave... but that night as I sat in my livingroom with milk waiting for a baby who would never nurse and knowing she was in the cold ground, I wanted nothing more in the world.

Since that day I have struggled with my pain, fears, disappointment and lonliness.  I have dealt with tons of criticism and judgment.  I have cried rivers of tears, fought my anger, and been beaten down over and over - by people I don't know, people I love, people I thought loved me - and even myself.

But let me tell you the other side of anencepahly.

Until Rachel, I was surrounded by people who called themselves my friends.  They quickly disappeared and my life has been blessed with real friends.  The couple of real friendships I had, have become deeper.  I have met hundreds of women on line who know this pain... because of them, I have been given the blessing of comforting with the comfort I have received as we have helped each other through hard times.  And I do it better than I ever knew I could - because God Himself does it thru me.  But I've also experienced love like I never had before... both from God and His people.

I never knew I was a 'writer'.  This journey has revealed a God-given gift in me.

My faith was proven genuine as I clung to God and His promises through the hardest time in my life when I could have chosen to blame Him and run away...   Seeing how He pursued me and held me, even when I failed, grew my faith.

I  didn't know I was capable of directing large scale events :o)

My kids have learned what I mean when I tell them I would do anything for them.  I love them deeper, hold them tighter, and appreciated them more than ever.

I have a longing for heaven like never before and have had to take a good, hard look at what I believe about life, death and heaven - and why. 

My life is richer, more meaningful.  I have felt a pain I never knew existed because I have also felt a love I didn't know existed.  And both have lasted for much longer than I expected.  I will never get over losing Rachel.  I will never move past her or beyond her.  My life will always include my girl.  And she had anencepahly.

Last week at dinner, I asked the kids if they knew what anencephaly was.  It had dawned on me that I never really explained it to them either.  They said yeah, it's what Rachel had.  I asked, but what is it?  And they couldn't answer.  I told them and showed them the diagram we have and told them I could show them Rachel without her hat on if they wanted.  Isaiah wanted to know if we'd have to dig her up to see - and I told him we had a photo from the hospital.

Well, for 2 days Isaiah hounded me, even asking first thing the next day when he stood at my bedside in his morning whisper.  I finally showed him and he said "She looks yucky."  I held back my tears cause I didn't want him to feel bad.  He had some good questions about why her 'brains were sticking out' and I explained that we all have a brain stem, just hers isn't covered by her scull.  (I'll admit it was much bigger than I thought it would be, too)  Sam started copying him saying she looked yucky.  I finally said "Okay, that's enough, I understand your initial response, but now you need to remember that's my daughter you're talking about and I don't let anyone call you guys yucky, I'm not going to let you call her yucky."  Des jumped in and said "Yeah, Isaiah how would YOU like it if you had anencepahly instead of Rachel and we called YOU yucky?!"  And then Sam added "That my sister, that my friend!"

And all of a sudden, "yucky" turned into something to defend and stand up for.  And I totally get that.

The next day I overheard Isaiah telling his cousin "Did you know that under Rachel's hat she had a stem?"  Caleb responded like he always responds with "I know".  And I just smiled knowing that Isaiah was focusing on what she DID have, not what she was missing.  Later that day, I brought them swimming and Sam's goggles slipped down on his face.  I caught myself smiling again at how the strap was pushing his ears down and they were curved just like Rachel's....  even the defects I was afraid of before she was born have become a precious reminder of who she is to me.

People will say things to make me feel better like "This was God's plan" - and I agree that God has all things under control, but I do not believe that God ever desired - or desires - these types of devastating things to happen to us.  Sickness and death, pain and sorrow, are a result of sin.  God never wanted us to have to endure these things.  But because of the fall of Adam, we do - and so He promises to be with us through it if we believe in Jesus.  And He promises that when this life is over, all who believe in His Son will live forever in heaven with no sickness or death, no pain or sorrow.

(Photo below! If you don't want to see it, turn back now....)

And so while it's very obvious looking at my girl in this photo that she has been affected by sin, I also experienced first hand what it's like to hold my child as her spirit, which is whole, went to live forever in paradise.  And who knows, maybe she wasn't really 'missing' anything... maybe we all just have extra growths on the top of our heads...  because I'm certain that she is perfect just the way she is.  And I'm proud to be her Mama.

This photo was only taken because we participated in the Duke University Anenecphaly Study that required a front and side photo without her hat.  I would have never taken it in that moment if not for that purpose, but I'm so glad I have this.  Still, this is not a 'real' picture because Lisa Borders edited it for me.  In real life, her neck up was dark purple and from her neck down was still pink.  I will probably never share those photos because it becomes too difficult to see past her death in those... Looking at these photos though, it still amazes me how much she looks like the rest of us.  Mama's mouth, Daddy's nose.... and the Spirit of our Lord.

I pray that sharing this does not come across as distasteful.  I think before now I always thought of it that way... even when the funeral home left with her, my instructions were "Don't let her hat fall off."  I've always felt so deeply that she needed to be protected from judgment.  And the thought of anyone looking at my daughter and saying "ewww" is almost too much to handle.  If this shocks you, I get it.  If you can see her beauty through her defect, thank you.  She is so very precious to me - and I might be biased, but I still think she looks every bit as huggable, lovable and cute as my other children do in their hospital photos.  I wish I could give her another squeeze and a kiss on her sweet cheeks.

♥ You shine like the stars pretty girl ♥
The buldge on the top is her brain stem and what kept her alive as long as she was.  Here is the diagram I found on line that helped me understand

I am so busy with her 2nd race that I probably won't be blogging between now and then...  I figure this is an appropriate post as I come up on the 2nd anniversary of her diagnosis.  I can hardly believe it's been 2 years since I first heard the word 'Anencephaly' - or how much has happened in that time.

Anencephaly occurs in 1 out of 1000 babies, but only 3 out of 10,000 live births.  95% of people who get this diagnosis terminate their babies - many times just out of fear and because they are misguided as far as their options and what the doctors say 'comes next'.  There is no known cause and no cure or treatment.  Many studies say that Rachel and her friends cannot see, feel, or hear.  They say you see reflexes and nothing more.  But I - and many other mothers - will tell you that is just textbook answers, which have no way to record what happens in the soul.  My daughter absolutely interacted with me while I carried her.  And I believe wholeheartedly that she felt my love.  I rest in the truth that today and every day forever, she will feel God's love to the fullest.

Anencephaly has rocked my world.  It has shaken me to my very core.  It has taken away one of my most beloved gifts.  I HATE anencephaly.

But my daughter.... she was worth every.single.ounce. of heartache.  She was a blessing and an honor to care for.  She deserved my love just like my other children and she got it, just the same.  Rachel Alice Aube can never be replaced - and I would never try.  She is beautiful and sweet and absolutely precious in my sight.

And my God.... He swooped me up as I walked out of that ultrasound, forgetting all my distance from him in the past, and loved me with a love so undefiled....He carried me with strong arms that refused to let go... He walked with me through the valley of the shadow of death, guiding me with the light of His Word and comfort in His promises and gave me peace in the midst of my storms.... and He is with me in the aftermath, patient and steady... calm and consistent...true and everlasting.

Anencephaly has no grip on me.  My Lord conquered the grave.  Rachel is alive, not dead.  And while I sit and wait, cry and smile, hurt and long for her... I don't do it alone and I don't do it without hope.  My God is with me - and He is stronger than any scheme of hell, even when I am very weak.

I appreciate your prayers as I come up on this anniversary and prepare for her 2nd race.  Specifically for my heart because I feel very sad and am missing her so much, for my mind because it's a lot to try to keep track of in my head and I don't want to forget anything, and that we will have a good turnout and be able to bless Family Builders with a nice donation in Rachel's honor to help her continue to leave her legacy and change the world..... I'll keep you posted on how it goes.  Thank you for walking this journey with me....even if from far away. ♥

2 Corinthians 4:6-12

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.   We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.   For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

Romans 5:3-11

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.   Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

UPDATE - 6/17/15:  It has been a HUGE blessing to my heart to see how much this post is being shared recently!!  I looked and saw it's been viewed 118,00 times since I wrote it and was blown away!  It's like suddenly Rachel's story is becoming new news to so many people and for this Mama's heart, with all the things happening right now in our lives, this is exactly what I needed as I approach the 5th anniversary of when we got her diagnosis.  I appreciate all of your kind words more than you know!  Thank you for seeing how beautiful my girl is....  I'm so thankful that her legacy is staying ALIVE!!

I realized that since this post is now almost 3 years old, and the audience for this post has grown to well over what I ever expected, that new readers might not realize we are in the process of gearing up for Rachel's Race again this year.  Because I am pregnant again with our 7th baby, Rachel's 3rd younger sibling, I am doing a virtual race instead of a local event - this means that YOU can participate from anywhere!!   If you are interested in showing your support for Anencephaly Awareness and our mission and vision for helping families who find themselves on the same journey as we have in this virtual event, please check out our website here!! Baby Rachel's Legacy Race Info

Friday, July 20, 2012

I Heard in the Silence

The other day I was at the gym and decided to use the stair stepper that looks like actual stairs.  (You know, the really scary contraption that most people stay away from?)  I set time for 15 minutes cause I figured it would be all I could handle.  Well, for the last couple of the 15 minutes, the song on my MP3 was called "Not Alone" by Jamie Grace.  It was the day after I had blogged about the 'silence' I was experiencing and when I heard the line that says "It's so quiet, but she hears in the silence" my ears perked up.  I felt like God was answering my prayer... "please God, don't let this silence be empty" is what I asked... and this is what I heard: (you've got to listen thru to the end... or skip some of the chorus to hear the end)

I got to the end of the song and the end of my 15 minute workout at the same time.  I looked on the computer to see how many floors I went....  43.  I smiled.  It reminded me of how hard I worked to get those 43 minutes with her.  And just as I looked, it switched to 44 - I felt sad.  The album ended and the first song started playing again.... It's called "Ready to fly away" and says:

"There's a feather in my hair and a wing around my neck I'm read to fly away

And I've got the wishes from all of my friends.

Hugs and kisses from my mom and my dad.

There's a feather in my hair and a wing around my neck I'm ready to fly away"

That's the whole song.  I teared up and as I walked downstairs thinking of how she 'flew away in that 44th minute" and I was being really hard on myself thinking "He wanted her... she was ready to go....who am I to ask any different?"

I walked into the nursery to pick up the kids and as I opened the door, this little girl, 2 years old, purple dress and purple bow in her wispy blonde hair came running up to me and yelled "Mama!!"

I was so caught off guard, I didn't notice Sam had followed suit and was holding onto my leg... I started crying right there in the nursery. 

Who am I??  I'm a Mama and my girl is gone. 

That scene, from the songs that played, the number of floors I climbed and the little girl calling me Mama, has plagued my mind for days.  I've thought about blogging it a bunch, but it was so emotional, I didn't think my words could do it justice and since obviously that little girl isn't Rachel, I felt weird.

Well, I've been back on that stair stepper 2 more times before today - both for longer periods of time.  Today I was so tired and had such a full plate that I cut it short again.  My MP3 player picks up where I leave off on songs, but I've been listening to the same album for a couple of weeks every time I go. I go pretty much every day, so the music is always different and not consistent as to where I start or stop.  But today when I neared the end of my workout, I almost died when I noticed I was back on that same song...  and as I finished (AGAIN!!!) I was at 43 floors... and the "Ready to fly" song came on as I cooled off and went down stairs.... 

Except today there was no little girl who greeted me with "Mama!"

Yes, maybe here on earth, when another little girl Rachel's age calls me Mama (or I even just see a girl her age) it hurts... but I know the day I enter heaven, that will be the sweetest sound I've ever heard.  I think of His arms and I know He has her.  And I know He has me.  So, there in His arms is the closest I can ever be to her here.

I truly feel like the purpose for those two identical workouts happening, without any way for that to make sense, was so I would feel the difference....  The difference between being reunited with the ones I love - and silence.  I walked out of that gym so thankful for Jesus.  And maybe to some that sounds wacky, but to me....

Well, I can't wait to hear her voice.  See her run to me.  Feel her touch.  Answer her call... "Mama!" 

I will scoop her up and say "I missed you so much"  and I think she'll probably say "I know... but you weren't alone" 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Applebees Dinner Results!!

Last night we had our Applebees "Dining to Donate" dinner.  We had a great turnout of people coming to dine in memory of babies they love.  I got the results last night and $88 will be donated in memory of the following babies: (If you came and I didn't see you there, please contact me and I will add your baby!  These are the people who were dining at the same time as we were.)  If you dined with us and would like to share your baby's story with my readers, please feel free to post a comment below with a link to your blog or website where their story can be found!

Avery James Linteau, Owyn Michael Lent & Jaide Marie Lent

Lindsay Alice Groen

Baby Blueberry & Baby Angel

Sebastian Daniel Bamford

Kayli Kruid
♥ Her Mama's "Joy" ♥
(Yesterday was Kayli's 1st birthday so our family dined in her memory since her family lives in Iowa!)  Asa was the one getting to eat in this photo! :o) Hard to get a pic when you're the photographer!  Isaiah took both of these....

Baby Michael

Rachel Alice Aube

My sister Meagan and her family

My mom and grandparents (and Asa) - this is my Grandpa who Asa got his middle name after :o)

Vanessa is Baby Rachel's Legacy Vice President and Sue D. is our race announcer! :o)

I was so blessed to look around and see tables full of familiar faces and knowing that place was holding so much love for all these babies.  They are gone, but truly never forgotten.  Thank you all so much for coming out and for all who wore their "Rachel" shirts - everywhere I looked, I saw "Team Rachel 43" or her little hands in the heart shape.... melted my heart.  I got to tell a whole bunch of people about a little girl named Kayli who spent 4 months with her parents before going home to heaven and as always...  we represented for my girl too...

I continue to be blessed, amazed, and encouraged by how you all join me on this journey. 
Thank you. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Earth, Not Heaven

yesterday was hard.  I have so much to do and can feel the anniversary of D-day creeping up on me. 

What was I thinking scheduling the race on the actual anniversary??

In the middle of running as many errands as I could fit in while the 3 oldest were at VBS, I headed over to visit Rachel and water her flowers.  I saw that huge banner again and thought that I wanted to tell her about it - obviously immediately remembering I can't and then going into deep thought about the big question: "Does she know about me?"

As I was driving up the road towards the cemetery, the song I posted recently about forgiveness was on..."Father, give me grace to forgive them, cause I feel like the one losing" was on and as I drove towards my baby's grave, headstones filling my peripheral vision, I had this mixture between anger and sadness set in...

"I've got such bigger things to worry about then what a few people think of me or expect from me"  I thought. 

I pulled in and no sooner than I saw my last name blazoned across the back of that beautiful stone, I fell apart.  I don't cry there often, minus a few tears shed here or there... I usually just go and care for her spot and then leave, but I think since the kids weren't with me, I was able to let myself feel it.   And I did.

I don't usually talk to her there either cause it feels weird.  But yesterday, I decided that I would take a chance just in case she COULD hear me - just like I did when I was pregnant with her...  and I let her know....

"There's a huge banner in town for you pretty girl...your cute hands are on it....  so many people are donating money and we're going to give it to Family Builders in your memory.... I've been working hard to make sure nobody forgets you....  your flowers look pretty.... this is a nice grave....  someday we'll be together again....

I miss you so much...."

And I sobbed and sobbed until all of a sudden I became aware that someone might hear me and looked around.  There are often people walking there and they seem to sneak up without me noticing.... nobody was around, but I became just self-conscious enough that I couldn't stay in that moment.  I wiped my face, signed her "I love you" like I do every time I leave, and drove away.

There is a piece of my heart in that grave.  And so I cry.
But there is also a piece of my heart in heaven.  And so I rejoice.

Unfortunately the tears will most likely accompany the joy for the rest of my life.   But that is why this is called earth, not heaven.  And I'm okay with that.  One day I will be where it's called heaven, not earth.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A lot can happen in a day

I figured it was easier to tell my story about yesterday in photos....

I was outside watering my "Rachel" flowers (yes, that is what they are actually named! Not by me, by the flower place!) and Isaiah yelled, "Hey, I see a rainbow!" I told him to take a picture cause I couldn't see it..... this is the pic he took.... A rainbow going right over her flowers and bench.

The night before at 1am, I sent my VP of Baby Rachel's Legacy nonprofit an email that said "I made all these pretty banners for the race but I have no idea how I'm supposed to hang the things"  I was still outside watering the flowers that morning and Donna pulled up... She called me over and said "Do you have any need for these?"  Seriously?!  8am and she is coming to my house with sticks that stand up and have holes in them that they were going to throw away??  PERFECT for banners!!  Things have been falling into place like this pretty consistently and my 1am prayers have been being answered.  Thank You, God!!

I left and went to Dover and saw this at Applebees:  This is an 8ft banner I made up that I thought was going to go to waste cause we couldn't find anyone who would hang it for us... Matt went and put it up and now it's in the busiest intersection around!  And as of today, there will be one hanging in Rochester on Rt 11 too! Thank You, God!

I went to Staples to pick up some supplies for the race and found this.... If I had the money I would buy one for every person who came that day and have it marked with her name - Are you for real?  A tiny pink sneaker?  So cute, just like my girl - and perfect with her race coming up!  Now I have something that says "Rachel" attached to my diaper bag... I feel like I can 'represent' her everywhere I go now...

We came home and gave Sam a bath... I sat Asa next to the tub and the little porker decided he wanted to see IN the tub...  I can't believe I encouraged this behavior!!  He's growing up too fast... This is from watching all those Rocky movies!  He's a tank! (add Mickey's voice here)

And then Des came down and said "My doll is #43!" I asked what she meant and she told me it had a 43 on the neck.  Remember the post from last Friday?  I took a pic of the girls holding their American Girl dolls with Rachel's grave in the distance and said "I'll always have one girl missing from my 'girly' photos"..... and the doll Des was holding is numbered 43?!  Not to mention, she has never noticed numbers on the back of any of her dolls before.  Seriously?  Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy? 

 I guess my point is that a lot of things can happen in one day....  and with how busy I am right now, it would be easy to overlook the ways God speaks to me in details.

Whether it's a rainbow I can't see, but my 5 year old can... a random wooden post drop off... a business willing to support our girl's race.... a key chain shoe....a healthy, growing, strong baby boy doing new things....or an imprinted number on the back of a doll's neck.... If I look around, I can't deny that He is there.

Some days are harder than others.... I'm so thankful for these little reprieves that encourage my heart. He is so good. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Joy comes in the morning

Me & Asa spent the evening in the E.R last night.  He had an uncontrollably high temp and was making a grunting noise that sounded like he was having trouble breathing.  After trying to console him for a couple of hours, I took him in.  About 30 mins after getting there, he was all smiles and everyone who entered the room asked me "Is this your first?" figuring I just didn't know what to do with a crying baby...

I sat on a bed in the room next to the one I went to 13 days after Rachel was born because of complications from my surgery for her.  I remembered that night... getting my x-ray they asked if I was pregnant.  I said no, I just had a baby and they asked if I was nursing.  I wanted to die answering that question with a 'no'.  The milk was there.... but my baby was in the ground.

Before Asa settled down, he was crying and I just hugged him and thanked God that he was crying.  I found myself telling him a lot about Rachel while we were there.  I told him how I never got to hear her cry and how after he was born, he didn't cry at first because of his meconium - and how I had never been so happy to hear a baby cry as when I first heard his voice.  "So go ahead and cry if you have to, it's okay and Mama isn't going anywhere.  I'll hold you." I assured him.

After we got home, he went to sleep - but in the middle of the night, his fever spiked again.  It was just under 104.  He was up constantly, he was throwing up and crying.  And I was just exhausted.  But the hardest part was that I was somewhat out of it.  I was having nightmares of him dying (except in my dreams, I think he was Rachel) and then I would wake up, completely confused as to what was real or in my mind - I couldn't remember if he was sleeping with me, in the cosleeper or in his crib and would wake up startled.  I actually wonder if I might have had a temp too because I was being tortured in my mind with bad thoughts and visions and it all felt so real.  I couldn't tell if I was awake or asleep, where he was or if he was alive or dead and the worst part... I kept thinking he was Rachel. - all. night. long.  I actually called him 'girl' a couple of times which made me feel both crazy and guilty.

I'm not going to phsycoanalyze why that is.  I guess maybe it makes sense that the first time I was at a hospital and afraid for my child's life since Rachel would bring all of those feelings and fears to the surface.... but you know, as hard as last night was and as scary as it I was living my nightmare... all that matters to me is that today, I have my cute, chubby baby here with me.  Alive.  Breathing.  Growing.  I left that hospital with his name on a bracelet they put on my wrist and I don't need to transfer it to a headstone.  I left that place WITH him.

Thank you Lord for another day with my precious son.  Thank You for Rachel.  Thank You for holding my heart as I walk this complicated path of grief and joy.  Thank You for being my hope...My rest...Thank You for carrying my burdens.

Asa Francisco, you are loved more than you could ever know.  I will always be here for you and am so thankful I get to call you mine for a while.  You are such a gift to me. 

Rachel Alice, you are always on my mind... in my heart... and continue to inspire me to love more deeply and cherish every moment.  I would give anything to have been able to hold you in this home... but, I look forward to someday holding you in our true home.  Healthy.  Healed.  I can't wait to hear you giggle.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Serious Love

Des went with my dad and niece to the American Girl store yesterday.  She was up at 4am she was so excited.  That doesn't even happen on Christmas morning.  I watched her pull away and my fears started to set in.  I dismissed them.

I went to the gym and turned my MP3 player on...  'Somehow' it had been left on just long enough to be right at the beginning of "I will carry you" on Rachel's album.  I unclipped it from me to change it, took a deep breath and hooked it back to my tank top and started singing.  I won't be afraid to miss you girl  I said in my heart.  I don't need to run from you, avoid feelings about you, or even keep myself from crying

I guess I've bought into the lie.... I 'should be' over it by now.....But avoiding Rachel will not heal my heart.  In fact, it does the opposite.

I looked up on the screen at the front of the gym as the sweat began to build up on my forehead....  One car crash after another on the news.  I kept imagining myself as I got the news that she got into an accident and was being rushed to the hospital... and then I could see myself standing in the hospital falling to my knees as I heard she didn't make it.  I pictured our spots in the cemetery and wondered how we'd all fit there.... would I need to buy another lot?  Would I just have our stone sanded down and put all our names?  What about the boys?  Will I have so many losses before I ever even die that I end up being buried somewhere else?

And I think this is bad? I wondered.... What if it gets worse?  What if my big girl never comes home?  Does she believe in Jesus?  I mean, for real?  She knows about Him, but does she have a saving Knowledge and belief in what He did on the cross?  Is He really in her heart?  Will she go to heaven like Rachel? 

Why don't I hold her hand more often?

I snapped back to reality... I'm just on an elliptical... she's okay, she's having fun, she's safe... that is "somebody else".... It's used to always be "somebody else."

She can't come back soon enough. I thought.

And then "Sing to the King" came on...  and if you are ever tired during a workout, I highly recommend this song... I'm telling you, my machine wasn't moving as fast as my body wanted to.  I was pumped. :o)  There is a part in the middle that says "I want you to picture this for a moment.... and it goes into the chorus.... 

For His returning we watch and we pray...
We will be ready the dawn of that day...
We'll join in signing with all the redeemed...
Satan is vanquished and Jesus is King!!!

In God's perfect timing, He gave me a different vision for my mind in that moment.  It was as if He Himself was saying 'don't picture that, picture this".  I'd love to say that I didn't have that thought again for the rest of the day, but it's not true.  I hate the fact that I know that MY kids' names can end up on a headstone before I die... but I do.  It doesn't mean I don't trust God, I know He would carry me just the same as He did with Rachel.... what it does mean is that I am painfully aware that His ways are not my ways and that I don't always like His plan.  But I do trust it.

I'm not sure if I've blogged this before, but every time I hear in that song "We'll join in signing with all the redeemed", I get the biggest, funniest looking smile on my face and all I can think about is singing with Rachel in heaven cause she has been redeemed. I can't wait.  This is also a song I had as the background song for quite a while on my blog while I was pregnant.  I found such hope in this - and boy did I sing..... God, I'm so grateful for how you helped me to sing and dance with her...for You.

I lifted my hand (and Rachel's handprint) to God, not even caring if anyone in that gym thought I was crazy, and all I could think was....

Jesus can't come back soon enough either.

In fact, I was begging Him to come back.

Later on I found myself in tears telling a friend about how Des being gone had affected me.  I hate this constant battle in my heart and mind.  I hate how real it can feel.  I miss the days when I didn't think any of this could happen to me.  I hate being afraid.  And I hate the reality that life here is not guaranteed to go how we hope or plan. 

But I am so grateful that life there in heaven is guaranteed for all who believe in the name of Jesus.  In an uncertain world with so much pain, I'm glad that heaven and the promise in Jesus never changes.  If that were not the case, I wouldn't even be able to let my kids leave my side.  I continuously have to turn them over to Him... Rachel included... and know and believe that He loves them even more than I do - if you can believe that.  That's a pretty serious love.

I was on the way to go visit Rachel for another Friday visit when my dad said he was on his way home with the girls, so they met me there.  There will always be one girl missing from every 'girly' photo I take. I'm so thankful for every moment I get with the ones I have.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Dinner Date Invite!

I've been looking for a way to connect with other people who miss babies they love - On July 18th we will meet at Applebees in Dover. Come out and join us for fellowship and good food, Darla (A baby loss friend of mine who is helping me with Rachel's Race too) & I will be there with our families. PLUS, Applebees has offered to donate 15% ...of whatever we spend to Baby Rachel's Legacy (the non-profit, not the race). Comment below and I'll send you the flyer to bring with you.  

 We will be there at 6 if you would like to meet up (please let me know so I can reserve space for us), but they are offering the donation between 4-9pm if you just want to go with your family and dine for a good cause, even if baby loss is not something you have been affected by.

 If you join us, the money raised will be donated in memory of the child you are dining in for! Although Rachel will be on my heart (as always), that night, I will be dining in memory of Kayli Kruid, my friend Kelli's daughter whose 1st birthday is on July 18. If you don't have a loved one you have lost, maybe you could join me for Kayli's birthday ♥ I'll have a photo of her with me can tell you her story and about how amazing her mama is :o)

 Come out and share your stories with us! We would love to see you! This is a public event so invite your friends and family! Just be sure to bring your flyer with you! Hope to see you!

RSVP Here!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Jesus Christ

Sometimes I can find no other words....

Thankfully they are the only ones I need.