Thursday, December 26, 2013

All Mine

Christmas is still not the same.  I don't think it ever can be again. 
Christmas Morning Sleepy Faces.
I wonder what today was like in heaven...

Since I've been at this grave decorating thing for a while now, there isn't much I need to do to make things pretty for her.  I'm thankful for that, but at the same time, it leaves me feeling like I have nowhere to direct my need to take care of her.  I put a few things in her stocking, but can't see spending a lot on things for a child who isn't here.  I try to incorporate her where I can, but it's hard to find something that feels good enough and yet makes sense.

For the first time in 4 Christmases, I arrived at Rachel's grave to find not one Christmas gift there for her.  The young boy that died recently and is buried not far away had 4-5 visitors in the 30 minutes we were there - all unaware that they weren't the only ones.  I wondered if that is what Rachel's spot was like the first Christmas she was gone.  I believe it was - and maybe even the 2nd one as well.  I knew it wouldn't go on forever, but it's hard to know that her spot is less and less traveled upon.  I found such comfort in knowing that others stopped by to check on her and to remember her too.  This year the space felt empty. There was a card hanging in a bag, I excitedly opened it and was disappointed to find a thank you card from a nearby griever who we shoveled for.  Not that I didn't appreciate the card, but I so was hoping it was for Rachel.  This is by far the hardest thing for me to swallow... people move on much faster than I ever will.  And even for all the people who grew to love Rachel in the early days, there are few still on the journey with me.  This year has been revealing that more each day.  It's very hard.  Thank you if you still remember her with me... I need you more than you will ever know.

I had received one Christmas card in her PO Box from my friend Lisa.  I got it the day before and waited to open it and I put it in her stocking.  I brought it to her grave just in case there was nothing there.  I opened it and read it to her.  I was thankful for that.  I don't know what else I would have done there if I didn't have that.

We didn't leave the house to visit her until after 4, so it was starting to get dark.  We stopped for hot chocolate and were blessed to find it was free all day!  So we each got one and I grabbed an extra cup for Rachel.  I hung her stocking (I usually bring it on Christmas eve, but wasn't able to and was heavy hearted about it) and left her a cup. 
 I stood there and tears started to fall - as one vehicle after another came and went behind us, their headlights all shining bright on Rachel's stone for me.  I could see my shadow over the stone and my heart broke.  I can't believe I've been standing on this spot for 4 Christmas days.  I remember the first one clearly - the overwhelming nature of early grief mixed in with the world's celebration of Christmas and all the pressure to pretend like things were the same as always.  Getting in a fight with Matt over batteries and a frozen ground as I tried to get her lights lit back up (after the cold had killed the batteries) because I couldn't stand the thought of it being dark there on Christmas night and he didn't see the point.  So much pain that first December.  It was almost unbearable.  It's been such a long road.  And now we start our 4th round of 'withouts'...  it seems impossible it was that long ago that I kissed her sweet face.  I miss her so much. 

I guess what I notice these days is that although every instance isn't painful anymore, I can feel her woven into every single minute I breathe.  I spent some of the afternoon snuggling with Ezra in my chair.  He had blown out in his outfit, so he was just wearing a diaper and he was so snuggly.  He was fast asleep and reached up and wrapped his arms around me.  I'm not sure I can put into words for you what that moment did in my heart, but I can tell you that besides being so unbelievably grateful for a live baby in my home on Christmas, every thought I had brought me back to Rachel. 

His soft skin, his warm breath, his grunts and wiggles.... his relaxed hands that lay flat on my shoulder like Rachel's did... some of it made me miss what I didn't get with Rachel and some of it made me miss what I did.  I relished in the life I hold now, while I mourned the life I lost until eternity.  Simple things hold such deep and difficult, complicated feelings... intense love... unquenchable thirst for God's comfort and grace... and a yearning for heaven I never knew existed. I've never wanted to be in two places at once so bad as I do when I am holding my living children.

And what I noticed the most about my life - especially on Christmas - is that I'm the only one who knows.  Nobody around me would ever know the extent to which she envelops my every moment.  I did family get-togethers and our own Christmas day celebration - and nobody knew.  I watched so many people acknowledge the other kids and forget about her and I didn't fall apart.  I thought about her a million times.  Nobody could see what I felt.  Not even Matt and the kids.  Each week I run errands, go to church, bring my kids out for things...she is in my every move and always on my heart - and nobody knows.  I'm not sure if it looks much different than the first couple of years without her, but it feels different and I can't really explain why, other than to say that I guess I'm starting to accept the fact that this pain is all mine. 

And that's okay because so was she.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

He Has Been Seen

A few days before Rachel's birthday, I got a package in the mail from a blog reader in Switzerland. Although I've never talked to her in person, I've never met her and likely never will, and she knows me much more than I know her... I call her my friend. 

I sat here looking at the package that had taken almost 2 weeks to travel from her to us and I wondered how I can call someone a friend that I have never met.  And then I realized it's because she knows so much about me and loves me anyway.  I'm not silly enough to think I'm easy to love.  I know I'm a complicated girl with heavy feelings and strong opinions - and so when I know that someone can read all of my feelings and thoughts and still love me, I feel like it's God's love coming to me through them... I can see Jesus in it.  He has brought me love through this in the most unexpected places.  For every person who has let me down in the last 3 years, Jesus has given me a dozen who have shown up in big ways.

 I opened the package and we all sat around, having so much fun with how the labels were in a different language.  The kids were so excited for all the little toys and I was thrilled with the Lindt chocolates :)  And yes, I hid them and ate them all myself...  well, I shared a couple.  But when I saw the main gift, I was amazed.  It was a huge and beautiful banner with Rachel's name and dandelions sewn on it.  The kids held it up so I could see the whole thing.

I had to bend it so it would fit in the photo - it's big!  The other side is all pretty girly fabrics.
you can see one of them folded up in the middle
I began reading the card and was blown away.

My friend in Switzerland started 2 years ago working on a banner for my sweet girl.  She said she originally thought it would be hung at Rachel's Race - yet when I announced that I wasn't doing Rachel's Race, she continued making it.  She has worked a little at a time on it, in the busyness of her own life, for 2 years!  I started to cry.  I can't believe someone would spend 2 YEARS writing out my girl's name for me. 

But as I read - and re-read - her card, her words about Rachel and how she came to know of us were such a blessing to me.  I had no idea when I started writing here a week after Rachel's diagnosis that my words would even be read across the world, let alone the idea that I'd get packages from new friends there!  But,  I read words that will forever remain the biggest blessing throughout this journey... the words that keep me going when I wonder what the point is or when I'm being criticized by people who think that good Christians don't cry... the words that were my first and only hope with this blog and will be my last and only hope with anything I ever do for Rachel and through her story... 

I literally cry every. single. time. I read this.  And I read it often.  I am unbelievably humbled that in this heartache - with as imperfectly as I have walked through it - that Jesus has still been seen here.  When I first signed onto Blogger in 2010, I wrote the words at the top of this blog.... "Our hope is that she will leave behind more than a few short memories, but that she will leave a legacy of what it means to hope in Jesus."

This is the best gift I could ever be given.  For me to see Jesus in others and for others to see Jesus through me.  I'm so thankful for friends taking time to let me know.  It doesn't stop the pain, but it does give my pain purpose.

The beauty of this, though, is that the words that followed "I saw Jesus" were "speaking through your honest words and your life."   She 'saw Jesus' in the depths of my pain.  In my transparency.  In my doubt and struggles.  In my honest words and in my life through the loss of my daughter  How I have leaned on Him and how He has held me up.  He has always brought me through every valley along this journey and I'm so grateful... honored... humbled... that it has been seen.  That He has been seen. 

Thank you my friend(s) for letting me know and for loving me through it all.  I am so blessed.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Giving Him a Name

In April of 2008, I was given a due date for our third baby - December 18. 
5 weeks pregnant with our 3rd baby - already in love.

On May 7, at 8 weeks along, I miscarried that baby.  It's hard to believe it's only been 5 years with all I have experienced since then.

It was the most horrible pain I had ever felt in my entire life.  And I didn't live a pain free life.  I have a colorful past that came with many heartaches and tons of pain, often self inflicted, which is sometimes the worst kind.  So to say that it surpassed any pain I had ever felt was a big statement.  And it was a true one.

I didn't sleep for days.  I cried the deepest, most pain-filled cry I ever had. I felt like life had been stripped from my womb, and it had.  I was no longer expecting a baby that I had been already so in love with - I was waiting for the remains to finish passing.  It was the first time in my life that I discovered that being a mother could hurt like that.

My pain was intensified by the crazy things people would say to me in an attempt to explain away my loss.  I am sure they meant well.  But it was hard. 

I needed to do something to memorialize this baby.  I bought a Willow Tree Figurine called "Remember" and ordered a special stand that said "In loving memory of Baby Aube" and put a little thing I made with Jeremiah 1:5 on it. "before I formed you in the womb, I knew you".  Matt bought me a ring with 3 stones to represent our 3rd baby and the birthstones to represent the month it was conceived and due because just a couple days later was Mother's Day.  My first Mother's Day as a bereaved mother.

A month later, I got pregnant with Samuel.  I was told to wait at least 3 months, but you know me and rules... I had 2 pink lines 5 weeks from the day of my miscarriage. I was so excited, but I was on egg shells, afraid of another loss... and at 6 weeks along with Samuel, I started to bleed very heavily.  I went to the hospital MAD.  I was so mad at God that He would take another baby from me. (remember what I said about my blue print?) When they told me his heart was still beating during the ultrasound, and that they could see a pocket of blood next to him, meaning I had a "threatened miscarriage", I was so relieved he was still alive.  As soon as I got to 8 weeks, I felt like I was safe - and at 12 weeks, I 'knew' I was in the clear.  Isn't that the only time bad things happen to pregnant women?  So I thought....

And at that point, I stopped grieving for that baby and moved forward.  I still always mentioned that baby in our 'count' - we referred to it as "baby Aube #3" but my heart healed and eventually, it was a sad thing that had happened to me, but I didn't miss that baby or cry for it anymore.  I do remember going to the Angels Walk for Wishes at the end of summer that year and crying as they read 'Baby Aube' in their Baby Remembrance Ceremony and desperately needing that recognition.  It was my baby.

When I first got Rachel's diagnosis, I thought that I *knew* what it was like to lose a baby.  Having been through my miscarriage and experiencing that gut wrenching pain, I prepared for Rachel with that as my basis.  I remember talking to my sister about my 'next baby' while I was still pregnant with Rachel and her saying she couldn't believe I was already talking about another baby.  But I think part of that was that I really wanted another baby before I was pregnant with Rachel - and now I wasn't going to get to keep her - so I wanted another baby as soon as I could.   I think in my subconscious, though, I was expecting that another baby would help me to heal and take away my pain - like it did when God gave us Samuel....  most people around me expected the same out of my 'rainbow baby' Asa...but it never came.

If you've been with me from the beginning, you know that at about 6 months after Rachel's death, I went through a period of anger.  I read some of those posts and I ache for the me that I was because I know now that part of that was I had this expectation that losing Rachel was going to be the same as losing Baby Aube #3.  Because they were both my babies and I couldn't imagine anything hurting worse than what I experienced with my miscarriage.  But it just wasn't the same.  It trumped it a million times over.  And nothing took away the sting.  I was pregnant again, even passed the point of being able to tell that Asa was healthy and yet, I didn't feel any relief.  I just wasn't expecting it - and there is no way I could have prepared for it. 

I have definitely learned to never assume that I know how something will feel - not to my own heart and certainly not to another's heart.  Grief is such a personal and unique road for each person and each loss. 
I've spent my entire journey with Rachel encouraging other moms to name their babies lost to miscarriage.  I've encouraged them to remember and memorialize their babies.  I've reminded them that their babies matter and were real.  I've remembered them with them and for them and I've even cried a thousands tears for their aching hearts.  I can empathize and understand in a special way because I know that pain - but all the while, I never did that for our baby. 

The day of Rachel's Memorial Playground opening was on Mother's Day 2011, which 'just happened' to land on May 7... 3 years after I lost our 3rd baby.  I remember mentioning how special that day would be as an opening when I first picked it.  But I was still pregnant with her then and that was before I realized that the healing process for Rachel would be completely different and much harder for me.

And that was the last time I really recognized that baby.  At times, I've felt guilty that I don't count it in our family count anymore.  I've struggled as I have realized in hind sight that I forgot to include our 3rd baby in things... like when I did Rachel's Race and never included that baby in the Remembrance Ceremony...two years in a row! Or when I ordered my Hankie and didn't ask for one for Baby #3....I just forgot.  Even when I got my tattoo, I had trouble knowing if I wanted to include an extra seed for that baby.  I don't know, it wasn't purposeful, it just went completely by the wayside as I came to know the grief of burying Rachel and the months and years that have followed.  It's like my heart couldn't do both.

Still, I have continued to wonder and pray about the gender of that baby - as well as if I should name it.  After trying very hard to convince myself it was a girl and even coming up with a girl name I liked.. I just never felt a peace about it.  I still tend to think of it as a boy - not sure if that is from God or just because I have so many boys, but I decided rather than call the baby "it" I would say "him".  That felt better already, so I've been praying about a name.

And the other day, while driving down the road, God gave me the name.  I wanted a middle name too, but I don't have one that feels right - and I figure since it's been 5 years already, I might as well wait and see if God gives us a middle name at a later date.  But for today, we have decided to name our third baby Silas... which means "Third".  It's a perfect and simple way to keep his place as Baby Aube #3 - our 3rd gift from God.

I didn't expect to feel so excited about it, but I feel really good giving him a name.  God's timing is perfect and I know this is probably part of my healing process with Rachel as well.  I told my good friend Lisa about it and she sent me a gift to buy something in honor of Silas and I'm working with a woman on line to create a special piece for him to go next to the Willow Tree Figurine I have.  I will post a photo when I get it. 

I do know that for my earthy life, the loss of Rachel feels so much bigger - and honestly, I'm thankful for the healing that I have in relation to losing Silas... and I'm okay with the fact that it isn't the same  weight on my heart.  And I am so thankful for the friends I have that have been vulnerable with me and told me their experience is the same so that I know that this is not unusual.  But I also know that when I enter the Kingdom of heaven, I will find two of my children there waiting.  No matter how long they live inside of my womb or out, what makes them 'real' is their soul.  And they both have one.  And now they both have a name.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

By My Wounds

I haven't really struggled with the "why" of Rachel.  In the early days, I asked a few questions of the doctors, assuming they would know why she had anencephaly.  I wanted to know for much of the same reason I believe others consistently inquire about the 'why' of tragedy....

To avoid it in the future.

After the initial shock of her diagnosis, I became surprisingly at peace with the not knowing.  I've never in my life ever been - or since been - so content with not knowing something.

When I tell people about Rachel, they will without fail always ask me why it happened.  In that moment, I almost always feel like I am watching the conversation from above - and I see myself shake my head and watch as they respond with a look of pity.

As if knowing why would change a thing....

This morning, church was cancelled because of snow.  I was working in the kitchen when a song came on Pandora...  I turned it up and as I listened to the words, I started to cry as God whispered to my heart the 'why'.

I know I've mentioned it before, but I'm not sure anyone really understands the depth of it.

I was completely against God until I was 24 years old.  I knew NOTHING of Jesus at all, unless you count using His name as a cuss word, which was part of my every day language.  When God first got a hold of my heart, I sat in church week after week and bawled through every sermon.  I didn't even know why I was there, I had only been to church a handful of times in my entire life. The first 3 years I went to a woman's retreat, I sobbed my way through the entire thing.  Was it because I was depressed? No, it was just the opposite.  I had never felt the unconditional love I was receiving and the one thing I continually said through those tears was "I'm not worthy of this." 

Now, I fully understand that if you have not been saved by Jesus, that last line just rubbed you wrong.  You are probably wanting to tell me all the reasons why I am worthy of love.  You probably want to give some line about having self esteem or knowing I deserve good things.  Believe me, I used to think that way too, but let me say it again...  I'm not worthy of His love.  Trust me on this one.

That's what makes it so amazing.  A Holy and Righteous God who knows EVERYTHING I have ever done/still do.  Every deed, every thought, every sin... and He loves me anyway....  I do believe that for me, knowing exactly how 'bad' I was and the dark and shameful life I lived makes this even harder to believe.  But the truth is that, to God, every sin equals death if you do not believe in Jesus' sacrifice for you on the cross. 

By the time I got pregnant with Rachel, I had been a Christian for about 6-7 years.  I had gotten married, had 2 more beautiful children and made it through a miscarriage.  We were planted in our church and I had a group of girls that I considered my friends for the first time ever in my life. I stayed home with the kids, homeschooled Des, baked and made my own wet wipes and used cloth diapers and did all that domestic stuff I always wanted to do.  I loved my life and was proud of it. And I guess maybe what happened is I forgot about where I came from... I'm not sure.  But what I know is that even though I still read my Bible every day and even though I was striving to live a 'good Christian life'... I was dry.  I was doing all the 'right' things, but not truly living for God.  And if I'm really honest, pride was taking root in my heart and I thought I needed God less and less.  I planned my life out and expected Him to follow the blue print. 

Rachel's diagnosis was not on it.

Yet in those moments, when I heard the worst news of my entire life, He was there.  He walked us out of the ultrasound room and up to the doctors office and after we heard she would die, He peeled me up out of a puddle of tears and He carried me through until I could walk again.  He didn't remind me that I had my own blue print and tell me to fend for myself.... which leads me to believe something about the closeness of God...  it wasn't Him that moved closer. 

It was me.

So this morning, as I listened to the words of this song, it hit me like a ton of bricks... 

He used her to bring me back to Him.  That's the "why".  That's why the doctors don't have it.  Because its much bigger than medical text books.  I always knew her life had purpose.  I always knew it has impacted thousands and grew God's Kingdom.  I always knew that I was revived in my walk with the Lord though my heartache.  But I guess I have kind of always thought that everyone else that has been touched by her life were the beneficiaries.  My 'benefits' always seemed like a blessing I got along the way for being obedient to God's call on my life with Rachel's life... but not something I viewed as part of the why. 

I'm not suggesting that God punished me with Rachel's death.  I believe that she had anencephaly and died as a result of sin in this world, not because God was teaching me a lesson so that I won't stray from Him.  But I've found great comfort in knowing that God says He uses all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28 - that was on our wedding favors...)  and I know that Rachel and her death have been used by God for my good and His glory - and His great eternal purposes. 

I know it sounds crazy to say that I needed God more before Rachel than after her... but what should it benefit me if I gain the whole world, but forfeit my soul?  I was a lost sheep... His lost sheep...even though I appeared as though I was with the flock... and he came after me.  He pursued me with such determination and love.  He let me experience on a much smaller scale, what it means to love unconditionally.  I love Rachel with all her 'imperfectness' more than I knew was possible... and it's just a small picture of how God loves me in all my imperfectness as His daughter.  He takes my diagnosis of being "incompatible with life in heaven" and he says My love is too big for that to be the end of your story.  He says I love you no matter what.  He says I'll do anything to bring you home.  He says you are my daughter and I will carry you to Jesus. And as He helped me to be and do all of those things for my daughter, I came to know Him much more intimately than ever before.

And it hurt.  It still does.  But I'm back.  I'm back to total reliance on Him.  My pride has been stomped on and I've been humbled.  My trust in Him deeper than ever before.  My surrender real.  My faith proven genuine.

The last 1 1/2 minutes of this song brought me to a very sweet place of worship over a cup of coffee this morning.... tears flowing out my closed eyes...

What restores our faith in God?
What reveals the Father's love?
What can lead the wayward home?
What can melt a heart of stone?

And there it was.... He led me to the cross.  I'm not sure it would have happened without my heart being so wounded that I couldn't make it through on my own.  I had nowhere else to go.  Nothing else to rest on.  He used my girl to bring me to my knees.  As I carried that cross, He restored my faith... He revealed His love... He led me home... He broke through the hard shell I had around my heart....and rescued me from a lukewarm Christian life.  By my wounds I surrendered.  By my wounds I loved again, trusted Him again.  By my wounds I clung to Him like never before.  I clung to the Power of the Cross... the Truth that I will see Rachel again...because of His wounds... and how He used mine. 
Thank You for the Cross, Jesus.....

"Mighty Is The Power Of The Cross"
Chris Tomlin
What can take a dying man and raise him up to life again?
What can heal a wounded soul?
What can make us white as snow?
What can fill the emptiness?
What can mend our brokenness?

Mighty, awesome, wonderful
Is the holy cross
Where the Lamb laid down His life
To lift us from the fall
Mighty is the power of the cross

What restores our faith in God?
What reveals the Father's love?
What can lead the wayward home?
What can melt a heart of stone?
What can free the guilty ones
What can save and overcome?


It's a miracle to me [2x]
And It's still a mystery [2x]
It's a miracle to me
The power of God
For those who believe

Mighty, awesome, wonderful
Is the holy cross
Where the Lamb laid down His life
To lift us from the fall
Mighty is .......
Mighty is.......
Mighty is the power of the cross

Thank You for the cross [2x]
Love the cross [2x]
So Powerful...... ohhhhh yeahhh
What can take a dying man?
And raise him up to life again?

Worship You Jesus
By your wounds we are healed
By your wounds we are saved
Mighty is the power of the cross [2x]
Thank You Jesus for the Holy cross

Here's the video... listen to this when you have time, it's an amazing song.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mercy for My Heart

I swear to you, I am NOT making this up...

I finished up my last post.  I got ready for bed.  I woke Matt up from the couch and told him to go up to bed.  I took the phone and walked upstairs.

I made my way through the dark hallway and as I stepped into my bedroom (which is still without lights 10 weeks later... but that's a different story) I felt something on my hand and looked down.

I kid you not....  This purple balloon - which by the way I was up in Des' room today looking for something for over 30 minutes and never saw - literally floated INTO my hand!!!!  I looked down and the string had slipped IN my hand between me and the phone!  How?  I have no idea.  It was just there.

I looked up and saw it still high in the air....  Are you serious?  I bought these balloons on November 22nd.  I think that makes 21 days!  I brought it downstairs to take a picture.  Now Matt beat me to bed again, but I had to share....

Did you hear me when I said she was real?  Just checking. 

I'm being reminded that a heavenly perspective is necessary in order to see the worth of Rachel's life.  And so I guess Matt is right that it's just a sad opinion, because if you believe she wasn't a real baby based on her outward appearance, then you must not believe that her soul is what made her 'real'.  But it is and God makes that known to me all the time.  This was one of those unbelievable moments where I am BLOWN AWAY by how loudly He speaks to me.  I'm positive my words - and even my photos - don't do what just happened justice.  wow.  Thank you Lord for your *mercy*!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

She Was Real.

I wasn't going to write this because I don't want to offend anyone.  But it's weighing on me so heavy, sleep might be hard to achieve tonight and my eyes are puffy from crying.  And I'm guessing I'm not the only one to experience this... so here it goes... I say this not as an attack on the person who said it to me, but as a way for me to work through what is happening in my heart as a result.

It's been a long time since I've been faced with this way of thinking.  And while I handled it better than I would have 3 years ago, it still broke my heart just the same. 

Funny thing is that I just said to a friend yesterday that the stupid comments have pretty much stopped.  I guess I was wrong.  I had said "I can say this now because I am 3 years out, but I know that the stupid words usually came from a place of really wanting to help."  But now I'm not sure what the definition of 'help' is....

I was just told that there were family members who didn't come to Rachel's funeral because they "didn't consider her a real baby".  I said that they would have come if it was one of my other children and was told "of course". 

Cut my heart wide open and pour the salt in.... is that supposed to help me feel better?  To really understand?  It could never work that way because I didn't hold a funeral for a fake child.  I didn't invite people to watch me cry in front of a huge gathering of people because I like drama.  I was getting ready to put my real baby in the freaking ground.  And if you would come for my other children, but don't see the point in coming for Rachel, then that is a problem for me.  Not being able to make it, whether it was one of the other kids or a baby without a major organ, is one thing.  Not coming because what she was missing made her somehow less important or disqualified from the family... completely different.

Rachel Alice Aube was a real. live. baby. girl.  And she was mine. She was my daughter, which makes her your ______ (fill in the blank).  She has a soul and it is no less 'real' than any other human being's soul is.  I gave birth to her.  And then I had to bury her.  And it was the hardest thing I have EVER had to ever do in my entire life and I needed you all.  I needed you.  There I said it.  The funeral wasn't just about the dead fake baby.  It was about us.  Me and Matt and our living children who had just been through a tragedy. 

And you know... her birthdays are the same.  Everyone blows them off.  Only a very few family members acknowledge it, even though I've said over and over that it's important to me.  I've learned to just accept it and keep going.  I've learned to be thankful for the people not related to us that do support us and remember her with me.  And I've learned to really cherish the family members who do remember her with us.  But you need to know that it is excruciating for me when you don't.  And I mean gut wrenching painful.  Would it be so hard to just add her name to the card?  put it in parenthesis if you need to... say "And Rachel even thought she is dead"... whatever you got to do to make it acceptable to you to include her just to help mend the wounds on my heart....  but nothing.  I get nothing and then an 'I'm sorry' two weeks later or a "she's not a real baby" 3 years later.  And I'm supposed to say "OH, okay, that makes perfect sense, no problem!"  ?????? 

But you know what?  If I'm really honest, the statement hurts like it does because I get it.  I've looked at my photos of her and of me holding her and dressing her and sleeping with her and talking to her and of my children holding their dead sister and I think I must be out of my mind....she was not a whole baby... how can I love someone so much that I don't even know - who might not really know me.  I think about how deformed she was under her hat and the sting of her short life and I wonder if she was real.  I wonder if my love is real.  I wonder if it shouldn't matter like it does.  I wonder if it was really God's plan or a big mistake as the genetic counselors will tell you it is.

But just for the record, she was real.  She is real.  And her funeral was beautiful and encouraging and uplifting, even with as sad as it was, so if you didn't go or only went because this crazy newly bereaved mother battered you into being there with threats of never talking to you again... well, you missed out.  You missed out on her.  You missed out on an unconditional love.  You missed out on the Presence of God.  You missed out on our real baby's goodbye.  You also missed out on knowing the blessing of comforting people heavy laden with grief.  You missed the opportunity to show my other children how much THEY mean to you.  Because I might understand that you would be there for them in a different way, but they don't.  You missed out on a chance to be selfless. 

And those things are all the biggest blessings I have ever had in my life.  To know her and true unconditional love.  To know the Presence of God in those days.  To give her a beautiful goodbye just like I would any of my other children - OR ANY OF YOUR CHILDREN.  To learn how to comfort people and be there for them.  To show compassion and put myself after others.  To help my living children to see how important their Mama's kids are to her.  I'm thankful for those things.  I count them a privilege.

And if I can put aside my Mama bear and my anger and my offense and all of my 'points' and my expectations....

I just need you to know that I needed you.

And I still do.

I needed you to recognize with me and for me that she mattered.   That she was worth showing up for.  I needed to see the chairs filled.  I needed your presence.  I needed to know that you were there for us.  For me.  That you took your role as her _____ seriously and as an honor. 

And all pride aside and not to attempt to put a guilt trip on you, but you broke my heart. 

I will always forgive and God has helped me work through most of it to a place of acceptance.  But something happened to my heart in those disappointments that will never be mended completely this side of heaven.  I'm okay with that.  But don't ever think that explaining to me that she wasn't good enough to be allotted that time will ever make me feel better.  If anything, that just set me back.

I stood here and cried and as Matt tried to comfort me saying that it's just a sad opinion, I heard myself groan through my tears "I know it's not the only one who thinks it."

And that is just too much for me to take.  People think she wasn't real. 

Lord, have mercy on my aching heart. 

Psalm 139:13-16
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.a
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them

Psalm 73:26
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  
Psalms 147:3
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Balloon Filled with Hope

Today marks 3 years from the day I had to leave Rachel in the cemetery.

I've been so overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions from joy to sorrow and everything in between, that I'm struggling to find a direction for this post.  I actually wrote this post already... spent hours on it to be exact... and I hated it.  It was too... I don't know, dry?  Emotionless?  I'm not sure what to call it, but although it gave great detail about my day, it really didn't share my heart.  I do want to tell you about what happened in detail, but I know that what I need right now - and the reason that anyone still bothers to read my blog after 3 years - is to open my heart and let it pour out.  Hang on, because I have no idea what this will look like when I'm done.....

I've had nightmares every night.  They are always different, but pretty much always have to do with someone or something dying and the pain associated with that.  Last night it was Desirae's hamster, Daisy... I dreamed a scary, mean wild cat got into her cage and killed her.  The nasty bloody fangs still haunt my mind.  I spent the rest of the night trying (in my dream) to get time to reverse so that I wouldn't have to tell Des that Daisy died before she ever got to celebrate her 1st birthday. (She got her last Christmas so that's coming up)  I would cry every time I would think about having to tell her that Daisy was dead.  It was so real.  I felt like I dreamed this all night long... even when I would wake and go back to sleep.  I woke up with a horrible headache and my neck in so much pain I felt sick to my stomach.... and wishing I never got her a hamster because it's too painful to love and lose.

I've been following a freaking balloon around for 17 days.  And I probably will continue to until it falls to the ground just so I can try to feel connected to my dead daughter.  What am I talking about?  A balloon?  I'm talking about the fact that I had a bunch of balloons filled for the kids' "Winter Baby Birthday Bash" and two of them were purple for Rachel... and even though I was told they would only float for 24-48 hours with this special 'stay float' stuff they put in, this balloon was still high in the air yesterday - long after all the rest had fallen.  And today, just as I expected, the balloon was flat on the floor at the very hour of when we had Rachel's funeral service 3 years ago. 

And I was crushed. 

I was heartbroken that a balloon stopped floating on the anniversary of Rachel's funeral.  And I'm not going to lie, I feel crazy.  But even better that that - I don't care that I may look, feel, behave crazy because I continue to grasp for anything that makes me feel closer to Rachel... closer to the Truth that she is still alive... because no matter how much faith I have, I can't help but wonder if heaven is real and if it is, if she is really there....  And I know that isn't the 'right' thing to say as a believer and follower of Christ... but it's just the truth.  God already knows so it makes no sense to try to keep it in before people... Fortunately or unfortunately, God is a lot more gracious than so many humans where grief is concerned.  His love and compassion never waiver. 

So, here I was at 9am laying on the floor taking a picture of this purple balloon and in the back of my mind, I'm thinking What has my life come to? 

I got all of us ready to go to the cemetery in the snow and we stopped to get Rachel flowers first.  I couldn't make it out of the flower shop without telling the florist... It's the 3rd anniversary of Rachel's funeral...."   OK, so it's true... but do I really think anyone cares?  For heaven's sake, more half of the people related to us don't even acknowledge her BIRTHDAY, never mind the day of her funeral (which to me is kind of like the day she officially died in my heart)... do I really think the florist cares?  Again, I feel crazy, but I can't help it... I continue "We're going to the cemetery to play in the snow..."   And I just wish I would shut up, but I can't.  It's like the overwhelming nature of the loss this day brought me won't stay off my lips.  And just for the record, the less I feel like I'm "supposed to" talk about her - the more I feel the insides of me being torn apart by the silence.  It hurts so much I have to say something. 

So I do and then I feel kind of like I did when I was in high school and bled on my pants. Do you remember what that felt like?  Like this is such a natural thing that happens as a mom who buried a baby but yet I feel horribly embarrassed.  Like I just wish I could wrap something around me and hide the blood stains on my heart.

We went and played at the cemetery.  I hung more lights because I can't get her spot light enough.  It's like I think she needs it.  And it never fails as I'm hanging lights or putting up a new decoration, I have the thought... she doesn't care about any of this....  and I just keep going - because I have to.  I can't not do it.

Lots of people walk in the cemetery and I find myself telling the kids to stop having so much fun because I feel like we're interrupting the much more serious visitors.  They were running around and screaming and chasing each other.  I was snapping photos of me & my little E and saw a guy walk by me... I wondered what he was thinking... who goes to the cemetery to play and take family photos?  That would be me.  I know it doesn't look normal.... whatever 'normal' is.... and I also always think of how awesome it will be when I am gone and buried in this very spot for them to have fun memories with me there - and even photos of us together where they will one day stand above my grave.  I hope it brings them great comfort.  But seriously, who tries to plan ahead for their kids' time at their grave?  Well, that would be me!  And I'm actually thankful for the opportunity to... because if they are anything like me, this is going to matter to them.  I love these guys to much....

Me & all my babies...

I love 3 things in this photo - 1st, E is about as cute as they come! 2nd, you can see my daisy ring.  3rd, you can see Des in the background, making Rachel a snowman. 

We left and went to get hot chocolate.... should hot chocolate hurt?  Well, it does.  The whole way there I'm wondering if I should buy and extra cup for Rachel even though she clearly can't drink it.  And then I get excited over the cups having hearts on them - as if Rachel designed them herself for me...  everything is so complicated.  Every daily thing much more significant.  In some ways that is a great blessing and in others, I wish things could be less emotionally charged. 

I've never seen Cumbies make their cups pink with hearts!
The entire day, I kept hearing the lyrics to this song that's been on the radio recently... "Hope is what we crave... that will never change... so I stand and wait....  I need a drop of grace to carry me today...  to live to die, to lose to get, to rise above, to love again...."

And I know it's true... Hope is what I crave.  Back when I started this blog, a week after her diagnosis, I wrote that I wanted her legacy to be about HOPE.  I wanted the Hope of Jesus to carry me.. and remind all of you that HE is enough.  I needed it then - and I need it now.  I needed Hope that He could heal her... I needed Hope that I might meet her alive... I needed Hope that I might bring her home.  Without Hope, I couldn't have made it through those days.  I clung to it.  But I was waiting on a much closer end.  Or at least a determined end.  I was waiting on a miracle.  It would either be a miracle that she lived - or a miracle that I survived her death. 

These days I need Hope just as much.  But I need a different kind of hope... I need the Hope of heaven, the hope of eternity, the hope of seeing her again, the hope of God meeting me in the middle of all of this pain and granting me peace, the hope of being blessed to be part of God's eternal purposes.... but heaven is so far away and no matter how much I can see how God has used Rachel for my good and His glory - and the encounters with this truth are innumerable - it doesn't erase any of my pain.  So I crave enough Hope to get me through each day and whatever they might bring my way. 

This afternoon, God fulfilled my craving.  And I do believe it will be my manna for the day - but tomorrow I'll have to start again.  But for today, he used the balloon....  actually, he's been building up to this all week, I just didn't know it.

I was doing Asa's naptime routine and he threw in a new request... "Sing to me, Mama." he said looking up at me with his big squishy face (That's what I call him, squishy face)  I started singing a song that Matt made up and sings to them at night.  It's to the tune of Jesus love me, but different words.  When I finished he said "Sing Jesus loves me..."  He has never asked me to sing to him before....

My mind went back to the days during my pregnancy when we would all sing "Jesus loves YOU" to Rachel through my belly.  Then I thought about Rachel's funeral.  We stood above her open grave, with her tiny casket at our feet and as the service ended, everyone was standing around unsure of if it was over.  Through the awkward silence, I nudged Matt and whispered "Let's sing to her." and he asked everyone to sing "Jesus loves you" to Rachel... and we did. 

I didn't stay to see her casket lowered and I've always second guessed that.  Mostly because I still wonder if she is really there and if so, if they put her there gently.  But at the time I could not fathom the idea of watching dirt be put on top of her, so I let her pretty casket with daisies on it be my last visual memory.  But walking away that day was the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life and I hope nothing ever tops it.  It was finality in it's most brutal form.

Suddenly it was as if I could hear Rachel's little voice through Asa's words... "Sing to me, Mama."  And I was so thankful that we sang to her that day... and all the days before when she was still inside of me.

When I finished singing "Jesus loves YOU" to him, he said "No, say ME!"  and it honestly felt like a big hug from Jesus.... who loves me, too....

I got Asa tucked in and closed the door gently behind me.  And as I did, I saw a balloon in Desirae's room...  I had no idea that the other purple balloon was still in the house and still flying high....

But "ironically" right after my singing Rachel's song to Asa... I found it....

I told Des & Isaiah about it and she said "It's been in my room the whole time... That's so cool because it's like this balloon down here is dead... but that one up there is ALIVE!!"  And it was the exact word picture I needed to grant the Hope I was craving today.... 

I thought on December 9, 2010 when I left Rachel to be covered in dirt below the ground, that she was dead.  And she is... her body is down there and I hate that.  But today, I saw such a clear picture of the truth.  I knew this balloon had been up there the whole time, I just couldn't see it.  I knew that after 17 days, neither one of those purple balloons should have really been floating still... that's just crazy... and so I believe that God had a plan with them to comfort me,(which started when I decided to buy them last minute) And that is just so humbling.  I believe what He was trying to show me is that what I can see isn't all there is.  And He gave me such an amazingly beautiful reminder that I need to keep walking by faith, not by sight like I did while pregnant with her.  And he said it so clearly that even the kids were in total amazement and found deep biblical truths in these balloons....

Let me share with you some of what I saw this past week....
I noticed on Rachel's birthday that the purple balloon was randomly hanging out with us while we set up the Christmas tree.  This was the first time I noticed that it was still floating. 
4 days later, I saw it in Asa's room. I bought the balloons on November 22nd and this was December 7th!
I saw it starting to lose it's float last night and told Matt I was afraid it was going to fall on the anniversary of her funeral.
The dandelion that Isaiah picked for me on Rachel's bday was still alive when we went back that Friday!  I've never seen a dandelion live this long after being picked, especially without any water!  LIFE!
And so I guess to sum it up - it was a really hard day for me.  It's hard emotionally.  It's complicated socially.  It's heavy spiritually.  I feel really alone in all of this.  And I am, and I guess that makes sense.  But, she did feel closer... and she did feel alive.... and I did sense God's presence and provision for my heart today...  and no matter how much it hurts, if it has to be this way, I couldn't ask for more.  Actually, that's exactly what I did ask for today. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Sunday After

Our Christmas parade always lands the Sunday after Rachel's birthday.

It sticks out in my memory as part of Rachel's time here on earth because while I was in the hospital and she was in the funeral home, my sister brought my kids and her kids to the parade....

I haven't been able to get myself to go since she died.

Today we realized on the way home from church that it was the day of the parade.  And I felt like I wanted to go. So we did.

It was fun, but as usual, as we gathered for a family photo, I could sense the absence of Rachel.  Someone offered to take our picture all together... 

She isn't in the picture, but she is.  In so many ways. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Broken Hallelujah

I'm going to start with my day in photos and the general info first....

We were up to the last second, but we made it.... 10 amazingly beautiful care packages created for other grieving families.  Thank you to everyone who contributed either by donating or purchasing supplies.  Absolutely no way we could have done this without you... "Love beyond words" sums it up.  Thank you.

I woke up with a horrible headache this morning. Sam kept asking when we were going to go to "Rachel's Place".  He was really excited about going.  In the middle of trying to get ready, Kim (Rachel's nurse) called and said that our original plans of eating lunch with her and Dr Hunt (the dr who delivered Rachel) was not going to be possible.  On top of that, she wasn't sure if she would even be able to see us.  My headache warned me that crying was a really bad idea, so I just sucked it up and trusted God with another one of my plans falling apart on me. 
We left much later than we were hoping, I wanted to be there by 10:25 because we planned to let 3 balloons go for her 3rd birthday and I wanted to do it at the time she was born.  Another plan I had to let go of...
The balloons we have are ones from the day she was born - heart shape ones with her name and year on them.  Matt & I got out and let the balloons go from the top of the parking garage.  Just a few spots down from where we were parked the night we left the hospital without our daughter.  For me, this was very symbolic
When we got back in the car, the clock read 11:11 - so I'm thinking I "just happened" to release those balloons at 11:10 - the exact time to the minute 3 years ago that I had to release my girl to the Lord.  If you think that it is crazy that it could happen without trying, how about the fact that when I made that collage of those photos, the collage somehow "mysteriously" got saved as "Eternal Hope".... and I did NOT do that! 
When we got in to "the hall" I had everyone stop and we took a picture.  This hallway is a hard one to travel for me no matter how many times I do it.  I'm thankful that today, I was able to share with the kids about when I was walking in to have Ezra and had to stop for contractions.  God has given me some good memories in this hall too. (sigh)

When they checked us in at security, they gave us badges that said 12-3-13 on them... kind of hard for me to see for some reason.  But wouldn't you know it, our being late made it 'perfect timing' for Kim and she was able to walk us up and visit with us while we delivered the boxes!  When we got up to the room where they go, Sam asked "Is this the room Rachel is in?"  and I realized that he thought we were finally going to see Rachel.... :(   I felt bad telling him no.  I was also disappointed to hear that eventually the hospital won't be accepting packages, they are going to start making uniform ones.  So much for making this an annual project... another plan down the tubes....
We went to Friendly's after we left Maine Med and we were all wearing our Rachel shirts. (except Asa, Ezra has taken over his so he needs a new one)  and the people behind us all asked us who Rachel was.  We talked to them a bit - one of the women got teary as she hugged her little girl and told me she couldn't imagine)  and since I "just happened" to have a blog card in my pocket, I handed it to her so she could learn more about Rachel.  Her little girl came over to our table and was showing us her nail polish.  I asked how old she is and she said 3....  Rachel would be that big.... sigh.
After the woman and her 3 year old left, the waitress came over and told us that she had paid for our meal and had mentioned it was someone's birthday.  She even tipped for us.  I cried.  I swear, before Rachel, nobody used to buy our meals.  And it's not like we tell everyone about her and that's why they pay for us (usually it's because the other kids are so cute!) but this Friendly's meal was definitely a birthday gift for Rachel.  My heart needed that even more than our bank account did.  And I know it came straight from God through this generous woman who He placed behind us...
From there, we headed to Rachel' grave to set up her Christmas stuff, I felt like on her birthday (my Christmas baby!), setting up our Christmas trees (evergreen, representing everlasting LIFE) would be a nice tradition and help me to feel like Rachel is part of our Christmas.  December is an extremely painful month for me. I'm trying to find ways to make her feel closer to help my heart.
 I can't remember if I blogged this or just thought about blogging it (I'm losing my mind) but last Friday, when I got to Rachel's grave, her flag was gone.  I cried all the way home.  I'm not one to give up though so today on the way in towards Rachel's grave, I said "Everyone keep your eyes peeled for Rachel's flag, it's got to be around here somewhere!" and guess what?  It was... it was on the edge of the woods pretty far from where Rachel is, but Matt saw it!  Victory!!  I am so happy about this!
We set up her grave... it looks pretty.  Decorated her tree and made her a kissing ball, put her flag back up (have a winter one coming soon) and brought her a balloon I got her at Friendly's. 
I'm on a big kick about needing to have matching stuff here and at Rachel's grave - her tree, the kissing ball, the flag and this cute little stocking are all things I have here as well.... yeah, pretty much everything I guess. :/
Isaiah found a live dandelion while I was decorating.... he brought it to me and then propped it up on Rachel's flag holder - sweet boy.
Before we left, I stood looking at her name for a while and I cried a lot.  I don't think I'll ever get used to the idea that my baby is in the ground.
On the way home, the temperature in town read 43 degrees......
Yesterday I set up lights outside on the fence, I didn't turn them on though, I told the kids it would be for Rachel's birthday - so when we got home, I went out and turned them on... She is my bright light in the dark days.... and it is BRIGHT. 
And then we set up our tree.  I was doing okay until Frosty the Snowman came on... I hate that she isn't here to dance and sing with these guys.  I know she has it better where she is, but I'm as human as they come and very selfish - I still want her here.  I actually got angry at the song.  Who would have ever thought?
My ornament came from my friend Lisa today - she put part of Rachel's blanket in there and made her hat to match the one Rachel wore.  Hard to see all the details in this photo, but it's perfect and the timing was clearly perfect.
I got a couple other gifts that I will share in another post.  I don't even know who they are all from!  I was disappointed to see that Rachel's PO Box only had one thing in it.  I'm used to an overflow of cards.  I did kind of expect it, but that doesn't make it easy.  I have gotten a few very thoughtful and meaningful messages and a couple of cards too though.  And tonight my Grandpa called me to say Happy birthday to Rachel... so I have been blessed in many ways.  And I believe deeper ways....  But all that being said, I've really struggled today.
I haven't struggled with how the day went, everything went well.  I didn't struggle with even needing more recognition from others or anything like that.  Today, I struggle with still being broken.
I just feel so damaged still.  I can't think of a better word than damaged.
And I guess back in year one, I thought by year three, that wouldn't be the case.  But it is. 
Today went as good as a day like this can.... I smiled, we laughed, we got out and did something for someone else to use my pain for something good.  But I hurt, I cried, I felt impatient and lonely. And honestly, I wonder if it will ever let up. 
I live my 'normal' life stuff.  I do the daily grind.  I do the family get togethers and the birthday parties.  I do all the things I would do if she was still here, but I feel so heavy doing it.  We take a family photo with extended family and it HURTS that she isn't in it... but only me.  She never escapes my mind...  but I don't want her to.
I had wanted to listen to the CD I made of songs that encouraged me while I was pregnant with Rachel today - we made a CD we gave out at her celebration of life.... but I couldn't get myself to do it.  It's like I'm afraid to bring that much back to mind - I'm afraid to feel so deeply... I'm worn out from the never ending pain.  And I started to wonder if I'm not still truly praising God.  I never want that to be the case.  And even at the hardest times when I have been so sad and in deep pain, I have always been able to praise God. 
But, just because I hurt, doesn't mean I don't trust Him.... just because she is dead, doesn't mean she didn't live.   Just because things are hard, doesn't mean He isn't in control. And just because I am broken, doesn't mean I can't praise Him...
I heard this song tonight that I could identify with. (lyrics and video below)  I feel like this is exactly where I have been at -
I've seen joy, pain.... I've got nothing left to hold onto...  I need Him to make beauty from the ashes... do something with this mess.  I raise these empty hands to You Lord.  I will always sing... It might be broken Jesus, but here's my hallelujah... 
Thank you for allowing me to be Rachel Alice Aubes Mama.  Thank you for every tear you have sent my way and comforted me through.  Thank you for the beauty you have blessed me to be a part of in this journey with Rachel - and thank you for every. single. difficult thing I have endured... Thank you for always using those things for my good and your glory.  Thank you that even though you didn't need me in order to accomplish what you have and will do with Rachel's life and death, but that you chose me!  I praise you Lord that you have given me this opportunity.  It has been more than worth every ounce of pain and I am so thankful for Rachel.
Rachel, Happy 3rd heavenly birthday my pretty girl.  I have been missing you so much. I love you sweet girl. 
"Broken Hallelujah"

I can barely stand right now.
Everything is crashing down,
And I wonder where You are.

I try to find the words to pray.
I don't always know what to say,
But You're the one that can hear my heart.

Even though I don't know what your plan is,
I know You're making beauty from these ashes.

I've seen joy and I've seen pain.
On my knees, I call Your name.
Here's my broken hallelujah.

With nothing left to hold onto,
I raise these empty hands to You.
Here's my broken hallelujah.

You know the things that have brought me here.
You know the story of every tear.
‘Cause You've been here from the very start.

Even though I don't know what your plan is,
I know You're making beauty from these ashes.

I've seen joy and I've seen pain.
On my knees, I call Your name.
Here's my broken hallelujah.

With nothing left to hold onto,
I raise these empty hands to You.
Here's my broken hallelujah.

When all is taken away, don't let my heart be changed.
Let me always sing Hallelujah
When I feel afraid, don't let my hope be erased
Let me always sing Hallelujah.
Let me always sing Hallelujah.

I will always sing
I will always sing
Here's my broken hallelujah.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

On Rachel's Birthday

Well, it's officially December 3rd.  And I've already cried most of it away.  I need to get to bed, we have a big day planned for today, but I thought I'd share the responses I got to the "Can you take me back?" post...  Thank you to everyone who took the time to write - it was emotional reading some of this, but I needed it so much. I know that if you remember where you were when you first heard about her, then the moment must matter in your heart and that means a lot to this mama at this point in the journey when she feels so far away.

So here they are.... What Rachel's birthday was like for you....

"I don't remember what page I saw it on but December 2, 2010 sometime around 11 p.m. I saw a post asking people to pray for the Aube family. They were preparing to meet their baby girl the following morning and they were told their precious baby girl would most likely die shortly after she was born. I followed the link to your blog and I spent the next several hours reading, praying, crying, praying some more and wondering how Rachel's birthday would play out. I checked your blog about 20 times throughout the day hoping for an update and praying for good news...not really even know what to consider good news. I just kept praying that you would get the chance to meet her alive! I prayed for peace in your heart and mind. That evening you posted about her birthday and I remember smiling when I saw her picture and feeling so happy for you guys that you finally got to meet your girl! She was beautiful! My heart was bouncing back and forth between be being happy and excited for you guys to an overwhelming sadness for you. I wanted to know more about her and her amazing family so I kept checking in and I was overcome with emotion reading your heartfelt words for your girl and our God! I am so sorry that I had to find you this way but I am so thankful to Rachel and God because our paths have crossed and I have found a wonderful, best friend that I love and cherish with all my heart! I love you and your girl and I always will!"  -Lisa

"I don't know when I first followed Rachel's story. But I read that you had a birth plan all set up. And found a team at the hospital who would respect your decisions. I was at my brother and sister-in-laws house and asked if I could use their computer. My SIL asked "Why?" I told her I wanted to see if the baby had been born. She asked "Whose baby?" And as I opened my account, I told her the story of you finding out at your sonogram that Rachel had anencephaly. Then i had to explain that to my SIL. I opened the page and saw beautiful little Rachel Alice and was thought of how happy you must be holding her. But then it hit me that she was not in your arms. I had to quickly read on and cried and cried. My SIL cried along with me. Rachel touched everyone who "met" her. I rationalized that she was with Jesus. But it hurt. It hurt me that you didn't get to hold her longer. 43 minutes didn't seem like enough. I guess I knew that you were "prepared" or as much as a family can be when the outcome that they were told about comes about. But I was deeply sad. Sad because I knew that you weren't anywhere near as prepared as people would expect you to be. How could you be? Holding that precious little baby and saying goodbye. It took me days to come around to thinking that you met her in your heart and you held her and saw her after birth. She was and IS alive in Jesus. Though only temporarily "living" in this world. I believe she wanted to tell you "Thank you Mama. Thank you for loving me so much that you saved my life."  -Chris

I found your blog when a friend posted the link on facebook. It was probably mid September when I started reading, and I went back and caught up on the posts from the start. I was in my bedroom in my mom's house, and was taken aback by your honesty and courage to share your pain so openly to the whole world. I've since checked your blog regularly for updates.

That fall I was going through the pain of a broken heart from the ending of a romantic relationship and your words of constant hope through your heartbreak lifted me. (Silly, I know, but I truly loved the guy as evidenced by the fact that we're now married.) 

December 3rd, 2010 was the day I took my Utah state American Sign Language interpreter written certification test. It was the first step to becoming legally able to work in the profession I had fallen in love with. As you counted down days to the meeting your daughter, I counted down days to testing. 

All through the morning of my test, Rachel's birthday, I kept thinking of you. It was impossible not to as the two events, my test and her birth, had melded in my head. I remember looking up from my exam and thinking "I can't wait to get home and check Stacy's blog." 

I think of you often on different dates that are significant to you, as many of them are somehow significant to me as well. It's kinda weird, actually.

I don't know what my future holds, or how many children I may have, but God has used your blog to open my heart to the possibility of having a disabled child, either by birth or by adoption. I've also been made more aware of the pain and grieving that goes with losing a child: something my mom didn't experience so I didn't see growing up.
You and Rachel are always in my thoughts."
"Hi Stacy,
I still have a pretty vivid, almost tangible memory of the day that Rachel was born.  I have never experienced someone else's grief so profoundly as I did that day or in the days that followed, nor have I since.  I remember that the memory verse for my homeschool kids that week was Psalm 147:3 "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." All day long as I waited for an update I would think of you and picture meeting and losing your child all in the same day and I would pray those words for you, because I had none of my own.  As I prayed those words I would literally picture God piecing your broken heart back together.  The other word I repeated over and over to the Lord was  "joy".  It was all I could say but God knew what I meant.  That in the midst of this you would somehow have joy in meeting your beautiful daughter.  And in the midst of such deep sorrow I know that you did and that is beautiful, she is beautiful."
"Hi Stacy,
I started following you when I read about you in the Fosters. I followed your blog every day, and today still check daily to see if you  have written anything.
I have to say that at first, I would read your blog as I drank my morning coffee before getting ready for work. But as her birthday came closer, I had to switch to afternoons when I got home as I would cry so hard my eyes would be swollen. I prayed for you and Rachel and Matt and the kids daily. 
The day she was born, I sobbed .  My heart broke for you. I couldn't even imagine the pain you were in . It was amazing though  to see the grace and strength that God gave you through it all and still today as well. It was amazing to see how far your story went across the world, all the red dots that symbolized people that were reading about you  and praying for you and Rachel.
You are an amazing woman that has opened her heart and pain to so many people! You may have felt alone in the hospital or even today, but I can assure you, that you are not, at least in spirit. People following your blog may have dropped off, but I have no doubt at all, that Rachel has not been forgotten. To this day, when I see a daisy, I think of her (and you). I don't think that will ever change with me, and I am sure that will never change with others."
"Hi Stacy,
I wanted to share with you my story about the day Rachel was born.
I started following your blog after the story in the Fosters about you and your uncle Dale.  I found that the more I read the more I wanted to read, the more my heart seemed to be connected.  For some reason I almost felt like I shouldn’t be reading it so much, like it was so personal and I didn’t know you that it was like reading your diary.  Except I knew that you put it online for a reason…
The day you were due to deliver Rachel was marked in my calendar at work (since that’s where I’d be at the time), but I didn’t need the reminder.  I checked the blog all morning waiting to get some news and praying you would get to use that car seat.  And when I finally got the news of her 43 minutes, my heart sank.  It was so crazy how invested I felt in you and your baby girl and your story but it really touched my heart, even though I had never met you.
Thank you for sharing Rachel with all of us.  You (and Rachel) have made a difference in the world and have helped BLMs like me and also helped us reach out to other BLMs.
Keep me posted if you do something on her birthday."
"I was at the Nutcracker...Natalie was a bon bon. I was checking the computer as much as I could for an update (in between dances!) . I told another Mom the story..she had lost her son to cancer a few years ago. She was checking the blog too. I found out when I got home. I read your post and bawled my eyes out. I was so glad she was born alive. I had hoped for more time for you guys. But was glad for the 43 minutes you had with her."  - Jenn
"Dec 3rd, I remember all the waiting of that day. Praying all day long, not even knowing what to be praying for. I remember I spent a lot of time holding my daughter Bella (who to this day is still very aware of who Rachel is) I must have checked the computer 100 times, praying was all I could do. Stacy I prayed for you not just as a person but as a mother! Rachel did and has over the 3 years changed me as a person ,wife and especially a mother. Forever in my heart! Sweet precious little girl!"
Love always Elisha.

"I was at work, working in the Neonatal step down unit, night shift. It was 2011. A girl who is friends w/ Jill (not sure her new last name) told me your and Rachel's story. I felt drawn to read your blog, and when I saw the picture of your side profile, pregnant with Rachel, I remember thinking how beautiful that pic. was. I wanted to know your whole journey, and it truly changed my life. you and your girl."  - Lori

"I was in the waiting room at Maine Med with other family and friends who had gathered to support you and Matt. I remember walking around a lot. There's a lot of snapshots in my mind from that day. Your dad showing Jailyn and Desirae some game on the computer. The clock on the wall that seemed to move too fast and stand still all at once. The helicopters taking off and landing - wondering about the peoples who's lives were changed / saved by those whirlybirds. My bag packed with a weeks worth of "safe foods" for Sam. The clock again. Eating pizza in the cafe with Kim. The huge kick Rachel gave my hand just as you were being wheeled out of your room. Matt smiling through tears. The clock.......... Finally Meagan is there in the middle of the room. You could only have one other person in the O.R. with you and you chose her to share this moment with - not knowing she would be the only person other than you and Matt to meet Rachel this side of Heaven. She would bring the news we hoped to never hear. Looking flushed, sweaty & speaking fast as if the words hurt her tongue - she said Rachel was born alive but had already gone. I don't remember the rest of what she said. I was so sad I didn't get to hold her. My heart broke and I'm not sure I will ever be the same."  -Mom (Rachel's Nana)

"I remember my heart breaking into a million pieces again and sobbing in my living room. I know I don't stay in touch very well but you are NEVER far from my thoughts."  - Dorie

"I didn't hear about Rachel until I read it in Focus on the Family Citizen magazine in Februaryish (I think) 2012, a few months after my daughter passed away. And I wouldn't have been able to make it through 2012 without you and Rachel! " - Kelli
"I was with you and disappointed you didn't have more time but 43 has come to have such meaning-I can only believe in god's will. I never imagined I would meet such a wonderful family and make such a good friend that day. I love how many lives she has helped you touch!"  - Kim  (our nurse)

"I found out about Rachel shortly after I lost Hope, when a facebook friend commented on a photo of newborn Asa and you had posted "I Just Want Her too". I shed so many tears reading that, it was so beautifully out and poignantly eloquent and beautiful. I was only just beginning to realise how many other people had lost babies, and reading about Rachel and how God carried you through I was, and continue to be, inspired by the promise of seeing our babies again"  - Chloe

If you remember where you were when you either heard of Rachel or found out that she was born and lived for 43 minutes, feel free to share about it in the comments below, I'd love to hear about it...