Thursday, May 31, 2012

Walk the Talk

Tonight Matt & I went to a wake for a friend's son.  He was only 22 years old and got hit by a car while walking.  When I walked in, she walked right up to me and hugged me for a long time.  She pulled me to the side and said "I have to tell you this cause you'll understand and nobody else will"  And as she shared her heart with me, I cried with her and I totally 'got it'. 

I hate that I get it.  But at the same time, I'm so thankful I can be there for someone in a way I could have never been before Rachel.  I'm so thankful for my daughter.  I'm so thankful for the way God has carried me and taught me and lifted me on wings like eagles....  For His provision, purpose and protection.  For His plan, His ways, His sovereignty.

I hate what sin in this world does.  I hate that mothers and fathers bury their babies - no matter how old they are.  I hate death.  But I serve a God who hates all those things too.  He knows our pain and cares about it.  And this was never what He wanted in this world.  He is good.  And one day He will wipe away every tear for those who trust in the name of Jesus.

I look forward to that day.

But today, reality is here.  Pain is real.  Loss is suffocating.

I sat there tonight and looked around at the beautiful flowers that surrounded his casket.... through my tears I cried to Matt " I don't ever want to have to do this."  And I was full of fear that I may one day have to bury my child.  I recently said "When Des gets married, I'm going to be thinking about Rachel" and tonight I was ashamed.... who am I to assume I will get to see Desirae get married?  Just because she is here doesn't give me a guarantee.  One day I could be standing by her casket.... the thought is paralyzing. 

I went to the bathroom before we left and as I washed my hands I felt my milk let down... I looked into the mirror and thought "Oh my gosh, I HAVE done this before..." as I remembered the feeling of my milk 18 months ago at Rachel's funeral.  It's as if I had temporarily gone back into denial.  And again, reality bit me.

What choice do I have but to rub the sting and keep going?  I  beg God to help me be His hands and feet in this woman's life as she endures this deep loss and buries her baby.  To be quiet and pray... to give hugs... to let her be right where she help in practical ways and be there in thoughtful, simple ways.  To bless her in all the ways I've learned are helpful and spare her in all the ways I've found not need to have all the answers to all her questions... to trust God to show her the way.

I'm so thankful for every detail of my walk with Rachel.  Thank You Jesus for letting me be her Mama - for changing me through her so that I can better serve those who hurt like I've hurt.

Blog Changes That Include You

A couple of weeks back I had tried to switch my blog to the old one, but ran out of time and never went back.  Last night I heard there were problems with my other one so I went for it.  It's far from what I would like it to look like - Dear my perfectionism, you will have to get over it. - but a strange thing happened to me as I set it up....

This is the layout I used when I first started blogging right after Rachel's diagnosis...  I changed it shortly after she died to the other one.... and when I looked at the old one, memories flooded my heart.  It's strange what a picture can do.  But I guess it makes sense since I spent so many hours pouring out my soul onto that screen while she was still alive inside me.  Many of you first began walking this journey with me to that screen and the I Will Carry You song. (I think I'm going to switch it after I right this)  I spent so many moments staring at the dandelion at the top and thinking about how her life was seeding everywhere... in places I have yet to know.

I miss her so much and as her 18 month anniversary approaches, there is a part of me that would do anything to be back there - when she felt closer, even if it hurt more then or was harder.  I hate getting further away.... I miss my little girl.

So, I'd like to draw your attention to a new 'interactive' part of my blog :o)  I added this for a little fun and also because I think it will encourage others too.  I can see on my end how many people view each post, but I thought that if you all could see how my posts were affecting people - without everyone needing to leave a comment - that it might be kind of nice.  So - at the bottom of each post there is now a "Input?" section... Just click on your response (multiple choice!) after you read each post if you could!  And please contact me if it's not working properly.  I'm sorry, I tried to put a "I'm about to send you a mean e-mail" option, but there wasn't enough space. haha. :o)  Oh well, I guess we'll have to skip those from now on!!  Shucks.

Thanks & Love,
Stacy & Rachel ♥

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Does This Hurt?

At the retreat, My friend Naomi's baby girl found her voice - and she looked right at me and squealed.  I'm not kidding, I felt LOVED :o)  I think she likes me!  Apparently she hadn't done that before and hasn't really since.

At the next meal time, her Mama came over to me and asked me if that was hard for me watching her baby.  I thought for a second and told her it hadn't been... but I honestly was really humbled that she cared enough to ask.  To not be afraid that she might be bringing up something that would hurt and just see where I was at.  She took a risk in order to have a chance to show she isn't unaware of the things that could hurt and to know my heart more.  And the truth was, I had asked myself the same thing when I caught myself smiling at her little girl... 

"Does this hurt?"

It didn't 'hurt' right then, but I definitely thought of Rachel... I'm thankful that I am still able to rejoice with others even in my loss. That has been the case since the beginning and is straight from God.  I was also very grateful that I wasn't the only one thinking of her...

All weekend long as I sat in the sessions with Asa - I was holding him and loving him and I could not stop worrying that someone in the room might be struggling with infertility or having just lost a baby and that me & my baby could possibly be hurting them.  I felt the same way leaving the hospital with him.  What if someone else is leaving empty handed today and sees me??   I can't love him any less or kiss him any less or play with him any less over it - and I've never expected anyone else to do that for me either... but I won't lie, it was so encouraging to know that I'm not the only one worrying or considering how my healthy baby might affect someone else. 

And you know, some days it might hurt.  Some days it might not.  I will probably always look at other little baby girls (hopefully some day my own) and wonder if it hurts.  But the fact that I have to 'check in' with my heart tells me something amazing.... it won't always hurt so bad. Because there was a day when I couldn't imagine it not hurting for even a minute.  And it wasn't that long ago.

I thank God, my Healer, for mending my broken heart a little at a time - and although I know I will never be the same as I was (nor do I want to be), I can see a shimmer of hope that healing is happening, even when I can't see it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

She's Known

After our meeting for Rachel's Race yesterday, Nicole and I went to Dover and hung a bunch of posters...I had to use the time when Matt could watch the kids so I could get stuff done.  At one of the stores, the lady looked at the poster and said "Did you have a yard sale for this baby?" referring to the one we had to raise money for her playground.  I felt like a bit of an over achiever when I said "yes, for the playground we built for her" since I was in there to advertise about a race for her.... but they didn't seem to think that  and they hung the sign so it's all good. I on the other hand, walked out and started crying.

I said to Nicole... "I should just be happy that people know her...  but I just hate it"

I am glad she is known - but I'd rather have her here and unknown.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

My Biggest Strengths are My Biggest Weaknesses

I've been pondering my post about the retreat I went on last weekend.  I have an idea of what I want to share, but the words haven't come to me... the problem being this is what happened last year and I never shared about the weekend cause too much time passes and then I forget.  So, here I go....

First of all, my sister (Meg) came with me again this year.  To some, that might not sound like a big deal... but it is.  For a number of reasons.  If this was the only good thing that happened to me all weekend, that would have been good enough for me... but there was more...

The weather was beautiful.  In the 7 years I've been going on this retreat, it's only ever been sunny 1 other time.  It usually rains all weekend. 

I got some alone time with Asa.  And some alone time without Asa... Matt came and picked him up for the afternoon on Saturday so I could have some time without worrying about what he needed.  We went for a ride with my friends Sue & Belinda with the top down to the next town and sat on the dock.  It was SO relaxing.  Me & Meg finally got some updated pictures together and had fun doing it...

I also had lots of moments of memories - ones that hurt, yet at the same time helped me to see the healing that has come to my heart in the last year.  Two years ago, I was asked to share my testimony at the woman's retreat.  The message of that weekend was 'Hope' and based on the Romans 5 verses that I used to get through my pregnancy with Rachel.  I had just found out I was pregnant with her and was pretty sick that weekend - so that is where I shared with everyone that I was expecting again.  I looked down at my name tag this year and it still had the Hope sticker on it from that year... made Rachel feel a little closer.

Last year I went and cried all weekend long.  I was in so much pain I could hardly take it.  I was pregnant with Asa, but had no desire to bring any attention to that.  But it seemed that's all anyone wanted to talk about and I was DYING to talk about Rachel, but nobody wanted to.... I endured many "you've got to focus on the positive" lectures and I just wanted to crawl out of my skin - and far away from the retreat.

But this year, I felt free to talk about her, free to love Asa without anyone assuming he was a good replacement, free to cry and free to smile.... for the first time in a long time without feeling like I was being sized up or judged.  I *really* needed that.  I smiled, I laughed, I cried, grieved, and I missed her... like I do every day - but something felt different - and maybe that is just because people don't think I do smile or laugh (and last year I wasn't ready to and they didn't understand) so they didn't feel the need to force their 'silver lining' on me anymore??  I don't know, but part of me doesn't care.  I'm just glad it felt better.

The thing I have really been wanting to share is that on Saturday, we did this exercise where we took pieces of frayed fabric and marked them with what they were calling "non-negotiable" - basically something about us or our personalities that could be considered a strength if used properly or a weakness if used poorly.  Then we made them into bracelets to wear.

It was not a new idea for me.  I've often said that my biggest strengths are also my biggest weaknesses... but I've never related that to my journey with Rachel.  We were supposed to pick 3 so we could braid them.  I wrote down the things that came to mind.... perfectionist, sensitive, and grief.  They are all part of who I am today.  But I couldn't help but wish that they never had a negative effect in my life.  Or on the legacy that I am trying to leave for my girl.

And so I resolved to be mindful of how these very things that God gave me as a way to glorify Him could also be a way that Satan works against me.  Wanting to have everything 'perfect' is good if we're talking attention to detail... not so good when it comes to going with the flow (or accepting God has a different plan than mine).  Being sensitive is good when it comes to being there for other people, showing compassion and love... not so good when I replay a hurtful comment over and over in my head.  Grief (or the pain that comes with it) can be a good thing if I let it drive me closer to God and to do greater things in her memory... not so good if I allow it to pull me from God or lose sight of the eternal Hope I have in Him.

And so while we were doing the exercise, we had talked about how these things really were not 'non-negotiable' and joked that they should be called 'negotiable' because we all have a choice... but what I realized is that these things are non-negotiable - it's how I use them that is negotiable... 

So I made another bracelet for Rachel.  I wore it for a few days to all the places I go... during worship, work, home, in the van, in my yard....
Ironically, Rachel's is the one less frayed.....

Then I brought one to Rachel and left it there for her.  And when I did, I recommitted myself to her legacy and God's glory.... to use the parts of my character - that God put in me for a purpose - in ways that would make her and our God proud.  He made me strong, determined, loyal - and even a sensitive, grieving perfectionist. (you may call this your 'strong-willed child'- look out!!) All of these things can be used for His eternal purposes and I am determined to do that.  For God, for Rachel... even for me.

So I will keep going through my pain....continually surrendering my will for His... and my life for hers.  I'm honored to be able to - and I know I'm not alone as I learn how to die to self... to become more like Him... trusting in His plan and waiting on eternity.  He is still catching every tear.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Complicated Yard Sale

We had a last minute yard sale today to try to make a little money.  I told Des that whatever she sold, she could keep the money for.  She had this really cute little baby bed and highchair set that we bought her when she decided to give up Barbies (I know, I say it like it's an addiction, but have you seen the toy isle?  I was REALLY proud of her)  So, I never wanted to get rid of these doll toys.  I wanted to save them... and I was saving them for Rachel....  But I decided it didn't make any sense to hold onto them anymore.

Everyone who came was looking at them.  I was inside getting a cup of coffee when I heard someone talking to her about them.  I looked out and saw the lady peek past them, over the top of our fence and into my garden, where Rachel's bench was.  And then I heard it....

"Oh, you're Rachel's dad?!"

I went out, delivering Matt his breakfast, and she said "I was one of the many people praying for your family."

Every time, including this one, that I have thought about this today, I have cried.  The tears start out as a ones of a proud mama.... I actually said out loud today "I did it pretty girl, you're known"  That's all I ever wanted was for her to be known... not overlooked... not forgotten.  And it's happened.  People know her and love her.

But then my tears turn to sadness....

Isaiah kept asking to sell things and I kept saying no, we have to save that for Asa or for Sam.  He argued "But Desirae gets to sell stuff!"  And in that moment, it hit me... she could only sell it because she has nobody to pass it down to.

The girl who ended up buying it was here with her little girl who was turning 2 tomorrow (she was wearing a ballerina outfit - tu-tu an all! - no joke) and the little girl was in love with it.  $7 changed her world and revealed the empty spot in mine.

So, I had to let it go with another little dancer instead of keeping it for mine.  And as I did, I cried.  I remembered the day I moved that to the attic to 'save it in case we had a girl' and I reminded Des about how she had made the choice to dump Barbie and how proud I was of her.... and that made me cry too.  And as she ran inside with her money, I smiled knowing that neither one of my girls was sad to let those toys go.  Yet cried as I realized how fast Des is growing and how much I'm missing with Rachel.

The next person pulled up and asked "Are all of these kids yours?"  Matt said yes and he said "We have another little girl named Rachel too."  He said "Oh WOW."  and Matt said "She's as happy as can be."

That guy left without knowing she died.  But that's just a minor detail compared to the fact that we have a little girl named Rachel who is alive and is happy as can be. 

And these are the times when I realize how complicated everything is.....even a yard sale.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I'm a Mama ♥

10 years ago today, my life changed forever....

I found out I was a mother.

I woke up at 23 years old at 6am to a corrections officer kicking the bottom of my bunk and yelling "Macomber, wake up call!"  I rolled out of bed, got dressed, brushed my teeth with my half-sized tooth brush and combed my hair.  I signed out for work release and drove to work, feeling nauseous the whole way.  I called my lawyer on the way and told the receptionist that I needed a pregnancy test but the jail wouldn't give me one.  She went and bought me one and dropped it off at my work.  Wearing my Dunkin Donuts uniform, I stood in the dirty public bathroom on my break.  I had taken tests before I went to jail in hopes that I would have something to be happy about... but there was always a missing line.

Until that moment.  Immediately I had two lines.  I stood there smiling like a deer in the headlights.  I looked at myself in the mirror and knew I would never be the same.  I tucked the test in my pocket and went back to work.

I was a mom and I loved it already.  To this day, that test remains in a drawer upstairs... with a new one for each baby, numbered accordingly.

I wasn't supposed to have contact with anyone or stop anywhere else while I was out for work, so I had to go back to jail that afternoon and keep my secret to myself.  The joy was so intense I wanted to die not being able to tell anyone.

I took my chances and sitting next to an officer who monitored calls, I called my parents and then Matt.  Collect.  From jail.  "I'm pregnant" I whispered.  I remember telling Matt's mom and saying "I hope it looks just like Matt" - and did she ever. 

That day I traded all my cigarettes for other people's crackers with peanut butter and other snacks and never touched one again.  (10 years!) Desirae gave me a reason to live... a reason to do a lot of things - and to NOT do a lot of things.

And since that day, I have cherished being a mom.  I've taken the role seriously and loved fiercely.  I have never, not once, wished I wasn't.  Each and every time I've been blessed beyond measure to accept the title to a new baby.  Mama.  That's what I am.  And I love it.  Thank You Lord.

Yesterday at our appointment, Isaiah was 43 inches tall and weighed in at 43 pounds.  And this morning, I found myself reading Isaiah 43. (v.1-7)  His promises are another treasure I cherish....

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Since you were precious in My sight,
You have been honored,
And I have loved you;
Therefore I will give men for you,
And people for your life.

 Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your descendants from the east,
And gather you from the west;
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’
Bring My sons from afar,
And My daughters from the ends of the earth—
Everyone who is called by My name,
Whom I have created for My glory;
I have formed him, yes, I have made him.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Still Waiting....

This is what I saw at the Deli yesterday while grocery shopping.... every detail of my day had to line up "just so" in order for me to be standing in this place at this time.... 

And I suppose it doesn't actually mean anything....

It wasn't my number... it was hers... He called us out of order - and I'm still waiting.

Waiting to see her, hold her, touch her, tell her I love her again...


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Setting a Goal

I've been posting on facebook forgetting that not everyone here sees that... 

So, I've set a goal to have 43 people signed up for Rachel's Race by her 18 month birthday.  Which is June 3, just 12 days away.  I had set it the day after her 17 month birthday, and already have 14 people signed up!  THANK YOU!!!  14 doesn't sound like a lot, but last year at this time I had not even started planning yet, so I think this is a good start.  But in case I sound like I'm begging (which I kinda am!) let me tell you why I've done this - there are a few reasons... 

1. Because I'm a goal setter.  I've set a goal of 300 participants for race day and we're just 2 months away at this point.  I actually hate sharing my goals because if I don't meet them I feel like a failure, but last year my unspoken goal was 200 and we were just under that - It seemed unrealistic for our first race, but if you don't aim high, you never reach it - so I'm praying that God will bring the people!!  I also have to just say that my financial goal last year was to be able to donate $4300 - but after all our expenses, we were able to donate over $9,200!  I was blown away and still am.  But I'll admit, I'm a little fearful that this year people will have moved past Rachel's story and that will show on the day of the race.  I'm trying to let God be God, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about what that would do to my heart.  I'm a goal setter, not a risk taker, and with Rachel the two usually go hand in hand which stretches me more than I like. *sigh*

2. Because we didn't hold on to any funds from last years' race as we should have and we need income in order to purchase things as we approach event day.  Early registration and sponsors is how we do this.

3. Because it gives me something else to focus on besides the fact that her 18 month birthday is coming, which is a very hard one for me for multiple reasons - not the least of which is that it's my favorite age ever and I bet she would have been so cute toddling around.  But in addition to that, it's just so hard to know that so much time has gone by without her - it feels like it's been forever and yet was just yesterday.  As soon as I felt my heart stinging at the idea of this anniversary coming, I set my goal... some will say it's bad I 'throw myself into other things' - I say what's the other option?  Sit around and cry in fetal position?  I'd like to do the latter, but what good does that do anyone?  Believe me, setting goals and working towards them and 'throwing myself into things' to distract myself does not keep me from feeling... it's not my way to avoid, it's a way to turn something very difficult that makes me cry into something very difficult that makes me cry - and smile too.

So, if you are planning on coming and are able, would you consider signing up early to help me meet the goal for her birthday?  I know planning ahead is risky in case something else comes up - and I've never had to do it, but I'm sure there is a way to get a refund if you needed to....

CLICK HERE to see the race website - the current sponsors, the race info (including course map - walkers have a different one), how to register or donate, how to register a baby you lost to be recognized (free and you can do this even if you aren't coming), and even the sponsors and race winners from last year.

The next 29 people to sign up will get a little gift from me in the mail! :o)  I'll keep you posted on how it's coming!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

The publisher has been calling here... they told me months ago they would check in in May to see how I was coming along with my book.  I've been avoiding the calls because I'm failing miserably at writing my book. 

I decided I would read some of my old posts to help set the tone for me to get back to writing.  And to be completely honest, I'm ashamed and confused. 

I wasn't faking it and I seemed to be so full of faith and trust and hope.  I feel like it was someone else writing....and it was. What happened to me??

I know part of it was my drive to share Rachel and God with others - In my protective Mama way, I was making sure people didn't pity me for having a girl like my Rachel.  I didn't want anyone to think of her as a problem... but as a beautiful gift.  And in the middle of the trial...or what I, at that point, thought was the 'middle'... I focused all my energy on showing people who my God is.  These things gave me purpose.  And that purpose got me through.

And so what about now?  Well, I don't really have an excuse good enough.  All I can do is share my heart again.....

This is way harder than I ever expected it would be, even while carrying her.  The pain has lasted way longer than I ever thought it would.  I've gotten much less long term support than I thought I'd get from people closest.  I've had to defend myself way more that I had hoped.  I guess I fell for the lie that grief doesn't last long and then you go back to your 'old life' with just a little new bit of history... "I lost a baby once". 

I guess I thought that God would stay just as close and continue to carry me.  And I'm not denying that He is still with me, but if you've ever had a serious trial, you probably know what I mean when I say the closeness of God in that valley was like nothing I had ever experienced before.  He was so real and so present that every moment of the day I was overflowing with joy from His provision.  It was still terribly hard, but I never felt alone.

And so as I continue to walk this road, it's hard to not get a little upset with Him that He seemingly has moved on just like everyone else. 

I never would have believed while I was pregnant with Rachel that I would ever feel so much anger over this situation.  If you told me that I was going to struggle like I do at times, I would have said no way... why?  Because that was what happened to other people... the 'other people' who didn't rely on God as much.  And that wouldn't ever be me.  So there you have it, I'm judgemental too.  And maybe I'm being taught my lesson...  Because here I am... angry, disappointed, and even bitter at times.... and I struggle to be positive when it comes to Rachel.  I struggle to find that silver lining that used to come so automatically.  And at the same time, even though I used to think the same thing in my pride, I get extremely hurt by the people who think they'd do such a better job if in my situation. 

What I'm discovering is that the valley of the shadow of death is darker and deeper than I ever imagined - and for as much as I grieved while I was pregnant, I had no idea what I was in for when she was actually gone.  And it's lonely too because I'm guessing I'm not the only one who likes reading my posts from last August more than my recent ones.  People don't like heavy and they prefer to ignore hard feelings.  I have a lot of blog readers who really do love me and support me (even if just in their hearts and I'm happy with even that), but in all my life I never imagined I would get hate mail.... and as my sister so kindly pointed out to me last night, I said it doesn't bother me, but it sure sounds like it does.  I guess my definition of 'bother' has been reduced to one where I have a physical reaction to it.  And since my blood pressure didn't rise, I didn't cry and I didn't want to puke, I thought that was good. 
I got an email yesterday that said this:

"THANK YOU for putting into words what so many broken hearted moms are feeling but don't think they can really say.

I don't have words that will fix the pain or make you feel better- but I'll share some words that were given to me once. They've changed how I see a lot of things.
...the pain will go away when God has used up every single ounce of it for His purpose. The pain sucks- but it's not in vain. He promises that He will turn every tear into something good. That's so hard to imagine. So hard to even want. So hard to understand. But so true. He desires to take your tears and heartache and use it."
And so today, I'm begging God to break down the shell I've formed around my heart - in an attempt to protect it from pain that, ultimately, I can't escape - and allow me to continue to FEEL my way through this.  No matter what anyone thinks about my tears.  No matter how I'm judged.   No matter if I've gone into 'overtime' with my grief according to someone else.  I'm begging Him to help me to not care about useless opinions and harsh words.  I'm asking him to use every tear for His purpose, to help me continue to be driven by my pain to positive things.  That my heartache will not be in vain, but used for His eternal purposes.  I'm pleading that He makes Himself real to me and reminds me of the beauty that Rachel's life brought into mine.  And not because anyone else thinks it's 'about time' but because that's what I want for her legacy. 

Someone sent me a link to a blog the other day that described grief as the 'realization of what you're missing' - that is going to happen to me every day for the rest of my life because she was my child.  That is the exact reason losing a child is so different from other losses....every day you realize another thing you're missing.  You don't grow past that with a child's death because with your child, there is always something new that 'should be happening now' well into when they would have been adults.  And as each of my other children grow and do new things... sit up, learn to ride a bike, tie their shoes, win drawing contests (Go, Des!), get married, have children, come to my house for Thanksgiving.... I will always know there is a little girl in heaven I didn't get to watch grow.  I will always wonder what she would have been like and how much joy I'm missing without her.  I'm happy for her, but it's hard for me.

In Deb's recent email she told me that she could "understand why my family was growing weary of me holding on to my tragedy for dear life" - and out of every mean thing she said to me, that was the only one on my mind the next day.  I wondered if it was because there is truth to that... that maybe I am holding on to my 'tradegy' and not letting go when I 'should be'.  But here's why that *really* bothers me... because I wonder if my family really feels that way.  At first glance, I thought she was crazy to suggest such a thing, just like the rest of her email.   But are they?   Do they view me this way?   I already know some 'friends' are... I've gotten the 'concerned' emails from people who never bother to check in or call otherwise.  But with our families, I'm not sure - because nobody talks of her.  And when I do or Matt does, the other end of the line is usually silent.  Have I misinterpreted the silence?  Or is she wrong on that one too?  I just don't know.

And I guess that is the last thing I ever expected to  happen along this journey.  I never thought that people who love me and loved Rachel would ever be confused as to why this pain lasts. And I never thought I'd have to wonder if they were tired of hearing about her...if they'd prefer I stopped talking about her.  I guess I never saw the negative spin on it of holding onto my 'tragedy'  - I thought I was holding onto Rachel.  And she isn't a tragedy. 

But maybe everyone else is ready to step out of the valley but me.  Maybe the shadow of death feels different for them. It would have to be, she grew in me and I gave birth to her.  Nobody else could love her like I do if they wanted to.  Maybe I should just learn to be okay with that.

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell[a] in the house of the Lord

Pastor Dave told me this Psalm was one that my Uncle Dale found comfort in during the last days of his life.  It's also one of the reasons Asa is named Asa - it means God Restores - and they read it in church the day we decided on his name.  This journey has shown me a pain that exists on earth that I didn't know before.

Someday.... not here, but there....  He will completely restore my soul.  I love my life and I love each one of the blessings I have here - And I have no desire to leave this earth, yet at the same time I have so much to look forward to in heaven.  I've quoted the Blessings song before, but this reminds me of the line that says:

"What if the pain of this life is a revealing of the greater things this world can't satisfy"

And so that's where I'm at.  I wish I felt different, but I don't.  And I am confident that contrary to popular belief, God can and will use even this.  I am certain that as I continue to seek His face in this valley, He WILL BE with me.  And one day, when I see His face and hers... I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever and the shadow of death with be turned into light.  I take great comfort that she is already out of the shadow....and dancing in His light forever.

just saw this on facebook - it went perfect with this post ♥ Thank you Lord....

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mother's Day Weekend Recap

Friday when I pulled into the cemetery, there were so many gifts on Rachel's grave, I could see the mass of things from the road.  I was so blessed - and not by the material things - although they were perfect, but by the knowing that there were others there at her spot.  That others were thinking of her and wanting to bless my heart.  I'm so thankful. 

There were daisies (with a rose), a note 'from Rachel', a ballet shoe (now hanging in my car), a butterfly wind spinner, a pot of tulips, and a HUGE balloon - PLUS a couple of caramellos :o)  Me & the kids ate one and I left one with a daisy for Rachel... afterall, she was the one who loved caramel... I just ate it for her :o)

Saturday, I took the day off from work.  First we stopped at Rachel's Playground to play and hang another sign.  It was sunny and warm out.  I sat on the bench and enjoyed her playground for once. We weren't there long, but a fellow baby loss mama who follows my blog was there with her family to play at the same time.  We hugged before I left and although we only talked briefly, that hug was so needed...  God's timing is perfect.
Then we all went to the greenhouse to get some stuff for my garden and something new for Rachel's grave now that it's warm enough for real plants to survive outside.  I've had a couple gift cards I've been saving for the perfect time (one from after she died and one the MOPS group that I spoke at a while back gave me as a gift) and so we went shopping....

We found some annuals we liked, but couldn't decide on the color.  We were leaning towards the pink ones - until Des yelled "The orange ones are called Rachel!"  We looked, and sure enough... "Rachel" was their name - and that decided it.  I got 5 of them, one for each of the kids.  Seriously, have you ever seen anything like that?  It's crazy the things that happen.

Sunday morning, there was a mother's day 5K going on and I had told the kids that what I wanted for Mother's Day was for them to help me hand out fliers for Rachel's Race at this 5K.  I thought it was at the same location as Rachel's - so when we pulled up and there were no cars, I was bummed.  I *really* wanted to do this - not to mention we left the house by 8am to... We ended up at Rachel's grave, where I found a gift from my mom (a bouquet that matched the one I had put together the night before at my house) and a card.  This is where I had my first good cry of the day.... My mom had written something in the card about hoping I would see "Godwinks" throughout my day.  That is a word that my friend Melissa uses often on her blog and butterflies are a big 'Godwink' for her with her daughter Amelia...  well, no sooner did I read that word and there were little butterflies dancing around Rachel's stone.  I stood there and cried.  It was one of those moments where I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that our babies are not dead.  There is new life in Christ. 

We left and went to find the race and managed to give out about 100 fliers.  Pray that it will bring participants!  We did all this by 9am!  Not exactly a day of relaxation, but it was what I needed on Mother's Day.

Then we went to church - normally I go to both services.  I go to first with the kids to meet my friend Becky there while Matt teaches Children's Church and then go to second with him.  I dropped him off and decided to go home until second service, which turned out to be God's provision.  They were doing a baby dedication during 1st service.  That would have put me over the top since one of the VERY FEW regrets I have about Rachel is that I wanted to do a dedication while I was pregnant with her and a couple people said it would make people uncomfortable so I didn't.  I've always regretted that and every time I have to watch a dedication, I get really sad about it.  This is why I still haven't had Asa dedicated.... I just can't do it.  It's okay cause the Lord knows I know who He belongs to.  I'm working my way towards the outward expression of that.  When I got back, then came the second good cry of the day.... the song was the same one I blogged about on Ash Wednesday.... but the verses that got me this time say:

All the weak; find their strength; at the sound of your great name
Hungry souls; receive grace; at the sound of your great name

The fatherless; they find their rest; at the sound of your great name
Sick are healed; and the dead are raised; at the sound of your great name
Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up; that all the world will praise your great name

Redeemer, My Healer, Almighty
My savior, Defender, You are My King

I just kept hearing the same thing from God all day long... she's not dead.  It's hard to believe since what I understand of 'life' is here, on earth.  I can read all about heaven and hope in that promise, but to be completely honest, it feels impossible to me sometimes.  But for a God who some call 'intangible', He sure finds ways to help me feel His presence.  I felt it that day.

We went to my grandfather's for his birthday party and then back to the cemetery to bring Rachel her new flowers. The lilacs on the bush behind her stone bloomed on Mother's Day too. I have actually never seen lilacs this color.  They aren't purple and they aren't white... they almost look pinkish.  Maybe I've never looked at white ones close enough?  But it's a new bush and this is the first time it's bloomed since they put it in.  Matt helped me get her spot cleaned up and it looks pretty good.  We took a Mother's Day photo with Rachel's stone. 

There are times when the reality hits me.... my baby's body is under where we are sitting.  I mean, directly under.  It's just not right.  And at the same time, the fact that she is there with us in this photo makes me feel better.  It's so hard to explain.  To some, I don't have to. 
We went to visit my mom and celebrate my grandpa's 83 birthday.  Ate entirely way too much gluten and sugar and then went home to work in my garden.
Our neighbors gave us a ton of soil to use and we got the 'Rachel' plants in the ground.  Matt & the kids gave me a "Hope" garden decoration with sparrows on it so that was my finishing touch.  I stepped back and looked at it, a little discouraged with the fact that my garden's main purpose these days is to help me memorialize my daughter.  It looks beautiful and I can't wait to see how it blooms, but I'm just so sad that she isn't here. 
That angel is the first gift every left at Rachel's grave.  (thanks Donna) with her "Rachel" flower.

Right after I came inside, it started pouring... but there was a (heart shaped) hole in the clouds where I could see the sun... and I knew - there must be a rainbow somewhere.  Seemed the perfect ending considering the post I wrote that morning about rainbows....

So, that's the run down of my 2nd Mother's Day without Rachel.... I've been sitting on this post for a few days because I was hoping to add some thoughts or feelings to it...  but I think what I've come up with is that I survived it.

2 years ago on Mother's Day I announced to our families that I was pregnant again - that was with my girl.  We didn't get the best response, but I didn't care.  I was thrilled to be adding another baby to our family.  Last Mother's Day we had the grand opening for her playground.  Everyone thought it was such a 'good gift' for me for Mother's day, not understanding I didn't want a playground, I wanted her.  This year on Mother's Day, I felt more supported than I have in the last couple of years.  I had more blessings over the weekend than I usually get....and I am so grateful. 

I cried a couple times, pretty hard... but sadness wasn't the overall feel of my day.  My kids made me cards and I got a few cards "from Rachel" which I loved.  My favorite was from my sister - it had daisies and said "Thank you to the one who had to do it all....from the one you did it all for" and her daughter signed it from Rachel.  Every time Sam walked by me he waved and smiled and said "Happy mudders day Mama!" 

They were excited to celebrate me and I was excited to celebrate them.  After all, they are what makes me a mother.... Rachel included.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


I 'interviewed' a new piano teacher for Desirae yesterday.  She came to the house to test her knowledge of music and to meet us.  As she sat in my living room, she asked how old Asa was.  I told her 6 months and she looked up on the wall and said "And I see you spent time in the NICU with him?"

I looked up confused and saw she was talking about Rachel.  We have a big picture of the one of us all on the hospital bed on the wall.  You can tell by all the wires around us and my hospital gown that we're not posing for the usual family photo - and who posts hospital pictures that big on a wall unless there is reason for it? 

I said "Oh, that's not Asa, that's Rachel.  She is my daughter who passed away."  And I waited for the common awkward silence that always follows... I told her she would be almost 18 months old but had anencephaly and she seemed to have heard of it before.  Not many people have so it was nice to not have to explain.  I didn't even get into the fact that Asa had NICU at birth too... he was bouncing on my lap so it seemed unimportant - although looking back, very traumatic after losing Rachel.

"I asked because we're a NICU family" she said. "My son's alive, but we spent 3 months in the NICU when he was born.  He's 11 now.  He can't walk or talk, but he's really cute." 

I don't even know this woman and I felt so proud of her - and honestly, I was honored to have someone in my house who cherished life like that - who could see beyond what so many see as a problem and love her child like God does.  The dedication and perseverance it takes to raise a child in a wheel chair that seemingly has nothing to give is a beautiful and rare thing.  And I bet he is such a blessing.

I told her Rachel lived for 43 minutes.  She looked at the picture and said "And that was one of them... how special you all got to be with her."

I nodded, proving you don't have to speak a word to tell a lie. 

I figured telling her she was dead in that photo would be a little strange... especially since we're all smiling....  I wish we left the NICU with our little girl.  Leaving there without her was one of the most difficult moments of my life.  She couldn't walk or talk, but she was really cute.  I would take her in whatever condition she was in to be able to raise her still.

Some people don't get that.  Some people are only interested in a baby who will blend in with the rest of the world, be able to play sports and do well in college.  But after you've experienced the loss of a child, you come to realize what's important... and that's not it.  Immediately following Rachel's scan when we knew something was wrong, but didn't know she was going to die, the first thing I said to Matt was "I don't care what's wrong with her, I just don't want her to die."

And I meant it.  My idea of perfect changed before I even knew she was going to die.  And it will never be the same.  To me, when this woman said her son couldn't walk or talk, but he was alive... I didn't hear 'disability' I heard 'perfect'.  And I have to admit, I was a little jealous.

I'd give anything... do anything... endure anything... for just one more day with my perfect little girl.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

6 Months Dead and Alive

The day before Rachel's 6 month birthday, I went to the greenhouse to buy plants for a garden I was planning to put in at her memorial playground - filled with determination to not let my sorrow overcome me, I did the only thing I could think of to do for her.

The day before Asa's 6 month birthday, I played with him on my lap, listened to him laugh, smiled at him, and held his hands.  Filled with the joy and excitement of watching my baby grow, I didn't have to come up with some other way to nurture him... I got to do it for real.

On Rachel's 6 month birthday, I stood alone in the parking lot of my church wearing a Team Rachel shirt, 4 months pregnant with Asa, fighting with the hard ground, lifting bags of soil, sweating like crazy, and working hard to plant some flowers in her memory.

Today, on Asa's 6 month birthday, I fed him bananas for the first time.  He got covered, I got covered, his seat got covered.  I took pictures. We all laughed and gathered around as we watched another milestone come and go.  He held on to my wrist and grabbed at the spoon.

The simple life. 

I looked at the pictures after and when I saw his hand holding onto my wrist where Rachel's hand print is.... I couldn't help but wish that I could feel her hold on to me too. 

I can't believe 6 months have gone by since we welcomed this sweet baby boy into our home.  He's growing faster than I would like - and every day he amazes me more... and makes me miss her a little more too.  He's just 2 weeks behind where she would have been at this time last year.  It's hard not to wonder about the might-have-been's. 

I'm so thankful I get to watch him grow.  I'm thankful for smiles, laughter, chubby legs, cuddling, experiencing life with him.  But I'm also thankful for sleepless nights, poopy blowouts, spit up on my new or clean shirts and inconveniences.  I'm thankful for the every day struggles... having to bounce a crying baby, teething, gas and boredom that keep him needing me...  because when I look across the room and see him smile at me with a twinkle in his eyes, instead of looking over to see a memory box.... well, to say it makes it all worth it would be a serious understatement.  It makes me long for the bad with the good. 

As I was writing this post Asa started crying - I got up and picked him up and started dancing with him to the song on the radio... "I love the way you love me" and cried.  He put his chubby cheek to mine and just hugged me. 

I can feel her anniversary coming already.... It's as if my heart can tell time.  Why is this so hard? 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Getting Back Up

When I met Matt he was training to box.  I went to his first fight and (felt like I was going to puke the whole time) was thankful that he knocked the guy out in the first round.  I could not have handled watching him get hit or even hitting someone else for much longer than that.  The newspaper called him the "Berlin Bomber" (he's from Berlin) and said he threw a punch with conviction :o)  Yes, I'm bragging.  

We've started watching the old Rocky movies together.  Last night we were on Rocky 2, where the "Italian Stallion" has a re-match against the same guy he fought in the first one, "Apollo Creed".  At the beginning of the fight, Apollo is in one corner bouncing around all cocky telling Rocky he is finished and Rocky is on his knees in his corner praying.  They go 15 rounds, just like the first movie and at the end of the last round, they BOTH fall down at the same time.  Then in slow motion, you watch (and if you're like me, you feel like you want to puke and your entire body is tense... you may also be yelling "get up Rocky!" as if he can hear you... maybe it's just me...) while they both pull on the ropes and try to pull themselves up.  They are bloody, beaten and totally exhausted... but they have to stand up to win.  Their entire lives depend on this moment...

So, here's the thing... After our story was in the Focus on the Family magazine, I was contacted by a woman who has also lost two babies. Originally, she just contacted me because she had questions about how to start a perinatal hospice program - but God is so good to me, because we became fast friends and have emailed regularly since. And this happened at at time when I was in need of friendship from someone who gets it.   Through sharing her own experience, she is challenging me to continue to fight for my girl and our God.

I had mentioned that I was thinking that maybe blogging wasn't a good idea for me anymore - that maybe the backlash I get from it isn't worth it  - and how bad I felt that I had blogged all this negative stuff at the same time they put my blog address in the magazine.  Her response was that if I want to stop at some point, then do, but not now in a time when I am in a hard spot in my faith.  She said to keep blogging and share how God is helping me through this.... even if it's a tiny bit at a time.  To not let Satan win.  She promised to pray for me through this and suggested I ask others to as well.  She also said that she's been reading thru my blog and sees the beauty in my journey - which I really needed to be reminded of, since at this point people seem to focus on the hard things I go thru now and usually just think I'm a mess - which sometimes I am...shouldn't I be entitled to that once in a while? 

And I know it might sound funny, but at the end of the fight, when Rocky pulled himself to his feet and yelled "Yo, Adrian, I did it!"  That's right, he won! I was reminded that winning the fight doesn't mean you never get knocked down...  sometimes it's the getting back up that does it.  He started on his knees and ended on his feet - Apollo started on his feet and ended on his face.

So, I've gone a few rounds with the father of lies... I've been beaten down....I'm exhausted - and it's no surprise it happened at a time when our story was going to glorify God in a magazine. 

But I refuse to stay down.  I'm getting back up.  My life depends on it.

Greater is He who is in me then he who is in the world (1John 4:4)

I know I've blogged this video before, but it came to mind tonight...  Please, if you see (read) me starting to struggle, instead of calling in the troops on me and trying to have an intervention or something, can you try just giving me a hug and *really* praying for me... I mean like not saying you will and then not, but actually praying against satan's advances in my life?  I am obviously vulnerable and a good target since I have reason to be upset as it is and so many people (believers and unbelievers) are watching my every move.  I need your prayer, not your judgement... please....

Don't sit on the sideline and critique how bloody I am.  Pray for me and cheer me on....I am going to get knocked down sometimes.

But, I will rise to my feet again.  With God's help, I will.  I guess I've always had a little fighter in me.

*pause music player at bottom of blog first*

Mother's Day Hope

Thank you for your prayers... God has been answering. 

I have a lot I want to write - so much has happened this weekend, but will have to do it later - just wanted to share the lyrics to a song that came on the radio when I left Rachel's grave on Friday and right after we got back from there this morning....

Lord make me a rainbow, I'll shine down on my mother
She'll know I'm safe with you when she stands under my colors, oh well
Life ain't always what you think it ought to be, no
Ain't even grey, but she buries her baby

The sharp knife of a short life, well
I've had just enough time

If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song

The sharp knife of a short life, well
I've had just enough time

Today, as hard as it is and as much as I've cried already and can tell it's not done yet - I have already seen God...and been reminded heaven is real - and she's not dead.  Her life lasted exactly as long as it was supposed to.

I wonder if she knows we sang Jesus loves you to her every day in my womb and as we laid her body in the ground..... that is a love song alright, the most beautiful one there is....

To all of my friends celebrating this day without your baby or without your mother - May your hearts be blessed.  The skies hold a rainbow somewhere.....Thinking of you & praying for you.  I'm so thankful to have you in my life.

Love & Hope,
Stacy  (&Rachel ♥)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thank You

I have received dozens of messages, e-mails, and phone calls after my last couple of posts.  I just don't have it in me to respond to them all individually.  Since I started my blog in Aug. 2010, other than a couple I missed right after I had Asa, I have responded to each and every email I have been blessed to receive.

(side note: After Rachel died, I emailed Angie Smith and got an auto-response that she didn't have time to respond to emails from people and I was hurt, so I vowed to never do that and if you've ever emailed me, you know this to be true)

So, I'm feeling really bad about not getting back to everyone.  I'm hoping that everyone who sent one or called will see this and know that I so appreciate you taking the time to let me know you're thinking of me and that you love Rachel. 

Please pray for me, I can't seem to stop crying.... it's been 3 days like this.  At this point, I can't wait for Mother's Day to just be over.... hopefully that will help.  ?  who knows.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Letter to My Girl ♥

Dear Rachel Alice,

Today makes 17 months since the day I had to leave you in your casket at the cemetery. The following first few weeks, I went every single day to sit above your grave.  I read you stories, verses, even sang to you.  I don't know if you could hear me, but really, it was for me anyway...  I could not shake my mother's need to nurture and love you.  I couldn't rock you at night or feed you my milk that awaited a baby who never tasted it. And I didn't know how else to do it.  I've returned every single Friday - among other days - since then and stood on that same Holy ground...   the ground that holds a piece of my future in heaven. 

To say that I miss you...well, it doesn't even come close.  I've ached for you every day since I heard of your diagnosis.  I used to ache to hold you, for the doctors to be wrong, and for you to be able to live long enough to come home with us.  And from December 9, 2010 until now, I have ached over what I'm missing with you, I've ached as I have fought a battle in my mind that wants me to focus on your sweet little body decaying down there, I've ached to hold you, nurse you, teach you new things and bring you to church.  I've ached for you to be mine... here....not there.

And I'm sorry that I'm so selfish.  I know you're not missing anything down here.  I know that God has been so good to you.  But I hurt.  I cry.  I have nowhere to direct this overwhelming desire to love you except for on a stone with your precious name on it - and mine.

I remember that day... kissing your sweet face just one more time before I had to close the top of your beautiful box we call a casket.  I tucked your lamb up close and made sure you looked warm in case it was cold down there.  I fixed your cross necklace and your "mama" bracelet. 

Your body is wrapped in an identical blanket to the one I wrapped you in at birth. Desirae made it for you.  I never got a photo of that one.  She signed it from all of us in her 7 year old writing.  I sleep with the other one still until I wake up to feed your brother each night.  I'm careful to not let him use it - I like to keep it as clean as possible so I don't have to wash it much.  But when I pick him up at night, your blanket goes to the top of my pillow where I can still see and feel it.  I have a bracelet that matches yours with your name on it and a matching cross necklace - even a matching lamb.... and each one of the things I kept were the ones you used while you were with me - but you still feel so far away.

Missing you is the hardest thing I've ever had to do.  And often I feel like I fail both you and our God when I'm in the middle of a valley.  I'm sorry.  I never expected to feel the way I do sometimes.  I knew this was going to hurt, I had no idea how much or for how long. 

Today while teaching Desirae a new recipe, I was showing her how to cut apples and couldn't stop crying... I want to teach you things.  All I could say was "I don't know why I'm so sad lately" - but I do know, it's because you're still gone.  I don't want to celebrate another Mother's Day without you.  And most people think it's just the 'firsts' or anniversaries that hurt - and they do hurt more,  but I've come to realize that every single day without you hurts in one way or another.  I've come to realize a lot about this journey that I was clueless about before I was on it.

I need you to know that regardless of all of my pain, I still don't regret you.  I don't regret hoping for you, I don't regret giving God the decision over how long you would live, I don't regret trying.  I will never regret putting my all into you...ever.  And I'm sure you don't really care about any of this in heaven, but I just need to tell you that I still think you're perfect just the way you are.  You wouldn't be my Rachel if you were not exactly who you are... you are my 2nd daughter, our 4th child.  You made us a family of 6.  You are my dancer.  The girl who showed me what it means to love without conditions and to love without abandon.  You are the closest thing to heaven I have ever laid eyes on and knowing you has given me a glimpse of Jesus I had never known.  Waiting for you, holding you and letting you go, did not go as I would have planned.  I hate anencephaly.  The word makes me sick.  But you, my sweet girl are not anencephaly.  You are Rachel Alice and I love you.  You are beautiful.  You are innocent.  You are one of God's children.  And I was blessed enough to hold you.  You were a gift to me.

I will continue to tell the world about you...about my love for you and how you changed the world...and I will never ever forget you.  Even if the rest of the world moves on.  Your Mama will always remember, always miss you, always love you and always look forward to the day when I will see you again.  I'm so thankful that I know our Savior and can rest in that truth. 

I have to work tonight - I've spent much of the day crying again and really just want to stay home.  But maybe on the way I'll stop to visit your spot...  I wish you could meet me there.  Could you?

Love you always - Hoping in Him forever,

The last time I touched your face

Trying to explain to my heart that I had to walk away.
My first Friday at your grave - the day after you were buried.  I came across your name plate in the shed on Sunday while looking for my gardening gloves...  it looks as beat up as I feel...but your name is still clear as can be - On your marker and my heart.  I miss you so much. ♥

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Whoever Did This....

Thank you. 

I got it in the mail this afternoon.  The timing was perfect, although it did make me cry some more...I've cried all day anyway.  Mother's Day last year was hard too, but this year....well, I think I've already explained what this year is like....I needed this ♥

Monday, May 7, 2012

Life Goes On

I have spent a while now looking on different baby loss support sites - and I'm finding myself more and more disappointed with my reality - and the reality of sin in the world. The more I read... the more I identify... the more I miss the days when I could only imagine what this would feel like - but never thought I'd have to experience anymore than the pain associated with the empathy I had for the 2 people I knew of that had actually buried babies.  2 people.  That's it.  This didn't happen often and it sure wouldn't happen to me.
Today makes 4 years since I lost our 3rd baby to miscarriage.  It was gut-wrenching.  I couldn't sleep.  I would wake up in the middle of the night sobbing....  it hurt more than I knew I could hurt.  People said all sorts of horrible things in pathetic attempts to make me feel better by pointing out some insensitive 'benefit' to it happening 'now'.  I felt alone... and I was.  Nobody else understood how I felt about that baby.  Some didn't even understand why I was sad over a baby I couldn't even feel moving yet.  The following month I got pregnant with Samuel and I was nervous until I got past my 8 week mark (where I lost the other baby) and then I started to heal - and my tears came to an end.  I had a friend who was due the same time as I was supposed to be and when she started showing, I remember crying a little... and I was pregnant again already... but the connection between a mother and her baby is one that cannot be replaced. 

All that said, I thought I knew the worst pain I would ever feel.  Until Rachel.  I thought that you (I)only lost babies in the 'danger zone' of the 1st trimester of pregnancy.  Until Rachel. 
And in an instant on August 4th 2010, as that doctor handed me a box of tissues and shut the door.... my world changed.  My heart changed.  My life changed forever.  I knew I was now not beyond the loss of a baby AFTER the first trimester...AFTER birth.  Was I really going to have to do this??

I clung onto my belly as I sobbed and yelled and insisted it couldn't be true.  I could feel her dancing in my womb and she felt so strong.  She was my girl.  I begged God to let me keep her.

But He didn't.  I sit here almost 2 years after that day, still aching for my old life.  My old problems.  My old innocence.  I sit here hating the heaviness of the air, the useless chatter of small talk, and how my address book has changed. 
I sit here wondering if I will ever be even remotely the same as I was - do I want to be or are the changes in me good?  I sit here knowing HUNDREDS of other mothers who have buried babies...not 2.  Hundreds.  After holding them in their arms and kissing their sweet faces.  Gone.  I sit here with all my ideas for how life and death go, the comfort of 'it happens to other people'; Gone.  I sit here literally aching for friendship - real, unselfish friendship - from people who understand.  But there doesn't seem to be any (that aren't on line at least!) 

I guess when I first got her diagnosis, I thought that losing Rachel was going to be like losing our other baby.  If I'm honest, I thought that I would get through it, let God shine all the way and eventually have another baby who would make me smile and fill my arms - and she would be another baby I lost, but would see again.  She would be another way I could minister to others, but the pain would be temporary. Was I clueless enough to really think that a little bit of time would take the sting away?  Yes, I was.  And I miss those days. 

I'm not sure I was prepared for the trauma of this journey.  The way it would envelope my every thought.  I wasn't prepared for the loneliness; the betrayal, the judgements.  And on the other hand, I wasn't prepared for the outpouring of love, the offers for help from strangers, the many new friends I would make along the way. I also wasn't prepared for how little tolerance I would have for surface interactions with others and how she would be on my heart through every. single. thing. I. do. - But that nobody else would know - not even her daddy.

I guess in my naivety, I thought the friends I had would rally around me... my family, Matt's family would come to our sides and want to be here for US - for the long haul - and maybe grow to love the God who carried us through this and took her to heaven.  I thought our church family would have compassion and understanding...  because how could anyone NOT grasp how hard this would be, especially for me?  I thought the that they would be behind me 100% in my attempts to remember her and raise money for causes in her honor and see them as worthy of attention.

I'm still baffled by how distorted this has become to some.  Especially the ones I thought would be my best support if I ever had a trial.  But people are selfish.  I have a hard time understanding why some people have 'heard enough about my dead baby already'.  I'm grateful for the gift of true friends, and the loss of concern in holding onto relationships that don't matter.  But when I look back 2 years and see how the flies have fallen, it's sad.  When I look back to how people responded to me in the beginning of this and see how their capacity for understanding and love maxed out long ago and they just walked away.... I guess I get a little resentful that they seemingly got their emotional needs met by ME in the middle of MY trial and get to say they were 'part of that' or that they 'helped the mom carrying a dying baby'  or that their 'ganddaughter or niece died' - and now when the rubber meets the road... Gone. I know some would say I shouldn't judge motives, but if she were your daughter, you'd be judging motives too. 

And I guess, as I make my way through another day as the mother of a dead baby, I'm still trying to come to terms myself with why I still don't feel like my old self.  And maybe that's what everyone else is waiting for, too. (I know, everyone who takes medicine is shaking their heads right now wondering why I'm not on any... but believe me, I've been there and it's not the answer for me, thank you.)

 But the more I look for someone (who HAS been there!) to tell me that will happen soon, the more I keep reading "You will never be the same."  And for every person who has NOT been there that throws out some stupid remark like "God had a purpose for Rachel's life" or "You'll see her again someday" I want to scream....  You may be right.  It may be true.  It IS true.  But for some reason, a cliche' like that is only acceptable to say about a dead baby.  Does anyone say things like that when someone loses a mother, a sister, a brother, a father?  What about a grandmother?  God had a purpose??  Yep, thanks.  I know.  So happy for you that you're not the brunt of his "purpose."  Ugh.  See, what I mean............

I'm afraid for what a lifetime of feeling this loss will do to me.  I don't want to harden. But it feels like hardening is the only way to endure the lasting pain of having to bury my daughter and the continuous hurt from others.  I'm afraid that I will harden against God.  That I will lose desire to share Him because I'm so painfully disappointed in His plan... a plan that everyone else expects me to rejoice over.

I trust Him.  I do.  I can't live without Him.  I wouldn't want to.  I can't imagine it.

But I am so human.  I'm a mother.  I'm a woman who was designed by God to nurture and protect my need friends... to want to be understood by other people.  And all the things He's designed me to need, are not being provided.

Should I chase after them; seek them out?  Should I sit alone and cry?  Should I sit alone and refuse to cry? (some think that's better)  Should I just accept that life is always going to hurt?  Should I go back into the world day after day and never mention her and hope her memory fades?  I have no choice but to keep going... no choice but to forgive, although I'll never forget.  I have no choice but to be okay with the people who have left me to grieve alone or are still trying to make my daughter's death about them, while denying me any support. I have no choice but to endure small talk every day.  I have no choice but to live without her and pray that THIS is the worst pain I'll ever feel.

I know, life goes on.  That's the problem.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Rachel's Memorial Playground Video

This weekend makes a year since we built my girl's memorial playground.  We officially opened it last Mother's Day (May 7) which was also the anniversary of when I lost our 3rd baby to miscarriage. 
I had it on my heart since then to do a formal thank you and show this video.  I'm not able to show it at church, so if you came out to help, THANK YOU!  Watching this video, I'm still in awe of how many people came and how fast we got 'er done!  God was with us in a real way - I still cry every time I see the picture of us erecting the cross entry way. 
And because of all of you, not only was all the costs (after the donation of time and design from Learning Structures, which saved us tons of money!) of building it covered, but even the work we just did on it a couple weeks ago was covered and we still have money left in Rachel's account for future maintenance.  She is one loved little girl.  Thank you ♥

Love you all!  Enjoy!

With all our love & hope,
Matt, Stacy, Des, Isaiah, Sam, Rachel & Asa ♥

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Color of Her Eyes

I was curling my hair that's just gonna end up in a ponytail anyway.  No make up yet.  My neck and back making every move I make hurt.
A song came on the radio.  I heard it and took a deep breath.  The song is about a young crush never seen again, but the chorus says "Rachel" to me. My edits in parentheses...
"I can't help but wonder if you ever miss me....
I haven't seen you in ages.
Sometimes I find myself
To me, you'll always be 18. (my baby)
And Beautiful.
And dancing away with my heart...."

I decided it was a convenient time to cry without the extra effort of worrying about my mascara.

And so I cried.

I'm so tired of this.  The Fridays seem to come and go quickly, yet it feels like it's been forever.  I wish I had a good memory to hold on to that wasn't created in an attempt to not only have sad ones.  I wish I knew what color her eyes were.  I can't remember.  I think gray, but were they or do I not know because I was afraid to look into them?  Did I?  I don't know. I thought I did. Shouldn't I know this? 

Why don't I know?  Or did I forget?  I don't know.

So, guess what's playing now....

Garth Brooks - The Dance
Holding you, I held everything
For a moment wasn't I a king
But if I'd only known how the king would fall
Hey who's to say? you know I might have changed it all

And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I'd have had to miss the dance

And the song that came on next....the chorus starts with:

"Her eyes were blue, Her hair was long"

Her hair was long....Maybe she did have my eyes...  ??

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"17 Months" Written By an Over Sensitive Mama

17 months...can that be real??

It's funny - last week I finally got to my pre-Asa-pregnancy weight. (remember in February when the doctor kindly said "You could stand to lose 30 -40 pounds?  I've lost 30 - See, I'm not always a defiant patient :o) But that makes 55 since Asa arrived!) And I'm right where I was soon after Rachel was born. (still more to go)  Sam pointed to my belly and said "Dat's Rachew's."  I asked what and he said "Your belly" - I smiled and said "Yes it is."

I never imagined body fat could be sentimental...  and trust me, I'm not going to try to hold on to it just for her, I'm not that crazy yet.. but my belly is hers.  My heart is hers.  My love is hers.

And 17 months later, all three feel just the same as the day I held her.  She left a mark that will never be erased.  And sometimes, time seemingly standing still for me is comforting.  I HATE that so much time has gone by.  I hate that she keeps getting further away.  I don't want my only memories to fade.  I don't want to forget what it was like to hold her, to kiss her, to look at her.

But sometimes I do.  I hate it.  I stare at pictures and try to remember.  I watch the video of her birth which is only like 30 secs long and try to remember being 'me' then.  Does that make sense?  Probably to my baby loss friends...  I'm just not that 'me' anymore. 

I miss the simpler days.  I miss feeling her kick.  I miss not knowing she would die so quickly.

I'm in a strange place emotionally.  I got the magazine the other day that our story is in.  I read it and cried.  But instead of the usual feeling of being excited and proud of her, I just felt like "I hate having a dead baby."  I bought a handful of extra copies to give to family and honestly, I almost don't even want to give them away.  And not because I want to keep them all, but because nobody seems to really give a crap anymore except the one person who keeps making it about herself and I just can't handle that either. 

I thought time was supposed to make it easier... isn't that what all the people who hadn't lost babies (and some who had) promised me the day of, and days following, her funeral?  Time has changed how it feels, but it seems to just get different, not easier.  And it's almost more complicated because people move on and expect me to as well.

Well, I just took a LONG break from writing to go find a link...  I guess I was trying to find something that could help people understand in someone else's words.  I looked on a site that my friend Nat had sent me a while back and it's so helpful.  Read it here if you have time, it's about Trisomy 18, but all the grief help applies.  I'm going to post it to the side of my blog as well.  And here is What to say as well as what NOT to say.

I guess I'm tired of trying to help people understand... although for the sake of others who have to walk this path, I will continue to share my painful experienced in hopes that it will some day, some way help another person in pain.

I have heard myself regularly saying lately that I don't have any of the same friends I had when I started this journey.  Just like our families scattered and avoided me (except for the random 'this is all about me' comments), so did most of the people I had called friends... and they are still nowhere to be found.... except maybe letting their kids disrespect Rachel's Playground... And the sad part is that some of them avoid me and say it's because I'm too hard to please instead of trying to meet me where I'm at and love me. You see, because I write about my pain here they can call me too sensitive and inappropriate.  I guess they prefer to go around hurting people and having them keep quiet about it...
Then they don't have to look at themselves, they can blame it on the 'over sensitive' mother.  Yep, been called that....

So I'm struggling at this point with some bitterness about that.  I do have new friends who have come along side me and proven to be better friends than I had - as well as some old ones who after I have been open about my hurt have made changes and chose to be there for me, but the ones who ran away have no idea how they have hurt me.  And they don't seem to care either.  I see them from a distance smiling or laughing and it's like salt in my wound.  Do I want them to be miserable? Nope.  But I would love for them to care.  To ask how I'm doing.  To give me a hug.  To tell me if they've thought about Rachel lately and let me know they think of me too. 

I guess I expect to much... I've heard that a time or two.... or 50.

So, as I read the link above, I couldn't help but cry cause I felt like my feelings made sense for once instead of this constant feeling of being a burden on others - or being judged by others for the fact that I still grieve.  Yesterday I was asked if I am depressed because I don't want to go to a certain event.  (I had said that I didn't really feel like being around a group of people.)  I couldn't help but get defensive because I thought I was doing so much better.  Not to mention I was out at work, left my house clean with dinner cooked, I was smiling and laughing, and I had not been crying or even sounding sad at all.  I feel like I'm on the 'other side' finally, back in the game and doing good. I'm not depressed, but my loss does still affect me.  But it's never enough.  I'm under the microscope.  But on that page above, it says that sometimes mothers don't want to do that kind of thing for 18-24 months after their child dies and I felt like my feelings had been validated. 

And why do I need the validation of people who have no idea what it's like to bury their baby anyway?  Why do I care?  I don't know.  I guess because I'm an "over-sensitive" mother.  I guess because nobody likes to be looked at like they are pathetic or talked to like they have a problem they can't see that needs to be pointed out.  Nobody likes being judged.  Nobody likes being labeled, especially incorrectly.

But anyway, I never intended to 'go there' in this post....  but since I yet again sit here on an anniversary that nobody has acknowledged - and probably aren't even considering, I can't help but notice the silence.  My desire to talk about her, to have her name spoken and to remember her seems to come up against a stone wall these days. 

Some will listen and not respond.  Some will change the subject.  Some will tell me not to cry as if it's a bad thing and walk away.  Some will give me a low 'awww' and silently judge me, thinking "when is she going to get over this."  Some will suggest we talk about Asa instead.  And some... some will say they know exactly how I feel and that Rachel's death was just as hard on them and be angry at ME for trying to suggest otherwise.  These things have all happened to me THIS WEEK alone and have been a consistent source of pain for the last almost 2 years.  wow...almost 2 years.  sigh.

And a very, very few will bring her up first....tell me they haven't forgotten....ask me how I'm doing on another anniversary...  some will go to her grave... some will tell me they still think of her and that they understand why this is so hard for me - even still - and tell me it's ok if I don't feel like doing x.y.z. right now.  Some will offer help with her race and share her with others....

I'm thankful for you... and you know who you are...  even though you may be few, I'd be lost without you.  Some days I feel lost anyway, but thank you for staying by my side.  Some days, like today, I sit here and wonder how on earth I can be the 'bad guy' in any of this when all I'm trying to do is survive.  All I want to do is love her.  That's all.  And I can't.  That hurts.... and will for the rest of my life.

Pass me the anti-depressants, please.  You'll see, they won't change that either. What they can help with is not my problem.  She's gone and heaven's far away - along with the people I need most on earth. 

17 months... my favorite age... I wish I knew what she would look like, sound like... cry like.  I wish I knew her.  I wish I was making memories with my child instead of trying to remember ones I had to create while holding my dead baby.

If you have been here, feel free to ask me if I am depressed or tell me it's time to move on.  If you have held YOUR baby dead in your arms, feel free to tell me you know how I feel.  Otherwise, please spare me from the frustration and pain and yourself from sounding/being insensitive. 

Rachel, I will love you and miss you every day until the day I see you again.  And you are worth every single tear, every ounce of judgement and every bit of pain along the way.  I don't regret you one sigle bit and I am honored to be able to call myself your mama.  I am so blessed to have known you and the unconditional love I have for you and God has for me.  I bet your oblivious to it, but if you do know how some view you (and me), I hope you know that in my eyes, you are perfect.  I hope you know that to me, your life mattered and still does.  I hope you know that as your mother, I will never let anyone say or do anything against you and let it slide.  I will protect you for the rest of my life just as I did while you were in my womb and in my arms and I will do it no matter what the cost.  Because I love you, my precious daughter.  My gift from God.  I miss you more than words can adequately express... and if you can't hear me, Lord please tell her.

Loving you & Hoping in Him, Mama