Thursday, March 27, 2014

It's a Forever Journey

I think this might be the longest I've ever gone in between blog posts.

It's not that I have nothing to say.  I have all sorts of things that come to mind, that pull at my heart...

I just haven't had the words.

I want to share the daily ways that God reminds me that He is still with me and that she is safe with him.  There are many.

I want to share the struggles of year 4... the way grief still hits me out of nowhere... the sadness I feel when I look in her younger brothers' eyes and wonder about her.  Or the heaviness in my heart when I'm in a group of people who insist I only have 5 kids.  I want to share about the huge gift it is to my heart every time someone says I have 6 children without me having to correct them.

I want to tell you about my very tangible God who still makes times and places fit together in ways that only He could do and how that builds my faith.

I want to share how deep and unending my yearning for heaven is since she's been gone.

But somehow my days feel long and yet fly by.  These guys keep me amazingly busy and before I know it, I look at the clock and it's after midnight again.

I put off writing because quite frankly, I don't know how to do it quickly.  My blog posts have always been where I have worked through my thoughts and pain to a place of surrender and reliance on God.  Like the Psalms...

It's not something I can do in just a few minutes.  But tonight, to make it realistic for me, I wanted to take just a few minutes and just write.  To break the silence and get my fingers moving again.

It's been 3 years and almost 4 months - and while I'm not even sure you call what I'm going through 'grief' anymore, whatever it is is still here... I don't feel like I'm 'grieving' necessarily, but I just know it's not over - it's not my past - and I am positive it never will be.  I'm also completely okay with that.  I will be going about life and feeling like I have made it past the hard part and then it will hit me out of nowhere.  So while I cry less often, when I do cry, I cry much harder.

I do feel myself feeling a little more ready to be around people and talk about surface things, which for years I have had absolutely no patience for.  I would all but jump out of my skin trying to sit through a conversation on the weather type topics.  I am seeing some of my journey through all of this more clearly now and have had some conversations with God about the places that I messed up and what I should do to fix that.

And so I've made a lot of apologies and I'm sure I have many more to go... I'm thankful for the forgiveness I have been granted and I continue to work on forgiving where I need to as well.... that's a hard process for me.

On the other hand, I have also seen more clearly just how incredibly hard this has been and I am amazed that I have lived to tell about it.  Rachel was an amazing gift, but she really did come at a very high price for me and I am still completely confused why God chose me for this position.  Some days I honestly hope He will just take me home because I feel so overwhelmed and inadequate.  And as I write that, all I can think is... Jesus must have felt those same things ten fold.

And I guess I'll stop there because I can feel my mind starting to busy up and I can tell I'm about to change the course of this post.  Mostly, I just wanted to say that I am still here.  We're all doing pretty well.  I still miss her like CRAZY pretty close to every minute of the day.  And there is a ton going on in the Aube house that we could use some prayer for... so here is a little prayer list if you could remember to bring us to the foot of the cross....

- Rachel's Race is planned for Aug 2.  I have made a commitment to my family that this will NOT consume me this year.  There are many costs and I will be doing no pre race soliciting of funds.  PLEASE pray that God will bring a lot of participants and that He will bless my obedience to follow Him in how I am going about this race this year.  Pray for donations - both monetary and of items for the auction.  And most importantly, Pray that I will be a blessing to the other families who have lost babies who will participate in our baby remembrance ceremony.  The plans for this have been going through my mind non stop, I want this to be healing for my fellow baby loss friends.

- We have moved out half our our stuff to get our house ready for the market. We have a few finishing touches to do with painting and organizing (this place looks AWESOME!!)  but we are praying that God will bring a buyer and line something up for us to go to quickly.  We have no set plan, but are hopeful and trusting that God knows and we just need to take this next step.  Pray for my heart, as this is where I lived with Rachel dancing around in me - it's very emotional for me.

- Continue to pray for my niece Jailyn and her mom (my sister) Meagan - as well as my mom Rachel who they are living with.  Jay has come very far but this is a very long and difficult road.  My heart has been so sad for her lately.  Pray that she will get use of her left arm back and for her heart as she gets back into school.  We are praising God that we will get to see her turn 10 soon.  So thankful she is still with us.

- And please pray for my friend Kaitlin as she prepares to meet her little boy who has acrania (similar to anencephaly) and isn't expected to live long after birth.  We have been blessed with 4 of us in this little area who all have had babies with either anencephaly or acrania and have had a few times of sweet fellowship together.  It's sad to me that this happens at all, scary that it happens so often when I never even knew it existed, but so thankful that God has given us each other.  There is nothing like having surface conversation with people and *knowing* that even though you are talking about the weather, each one is thinking about their baby and at any moment if I want to yell out her name, they would all smile and understand.... they might even follow my lead.

Because that is just the way it is.... it's a forever journey.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I Know She Loves Me

We're getting ready to put our house on the market and so I've been de-cluttering.  I have a shelf in the bathroom that used to have a couple of baskets on it with our lotions and things in it.  I moved them and put Rachel's Christmas cactus there in their place.

For Valentines Day, I had found this little heart decoration that I planned to leave at her grave, but I was afraid it would get ruined and I stuck it in her cactus instead.  Every time I look at it and read the "Love you" written on it, I remember how many times people have told me that they thought of her 43 minutes as symbolic of her saying "Love you" to me  (because back in the day, the code for "I love you" on pagers was 143 and it was like dropping the 1 and just saying the last two words)

So when I see the words on this heart, although I bought it for her, I hear the words from her to me.  I know it sounds strange, but I'm just sharing the way my mind and heart work. 

Then I also have this little bud vase I keep in the bathroom and I always put a single or a couple daisies in it when I get new ones for the kitchen.  I had put a daisy in there and put it on the shelf next to the cactus.

Lastly, I have a little white clock.  I had this on the shelf above the dryer for the longest time - it's supposed to help me keep track of time in the morning, which never helps, but it was a good idea.  I had moved it to the shelf because it looked cute.  Last week or so, I noticed it wasn't working and I picked it up and saw there was water in it.  I asked the kids and they told me Asa had thrown it in the toilet (this is why I never read the page in "I'll love you forever" about the 2 year old throwing his mom's watch in the toilet!!) and they didn't know what to do, so they just put it back.  I tossed it in the trash and a couple days later, I picked up a new one. (Thankfully they are only a couple bucks at Walmart)  I put it on the shelf and planned to set it later because it required batteries and I didn't have any....

So tonight, I look at the clock and I literally almost stopped breathing.  I had to get real close to make sure I was seeing it right.  It's set at 10:27.

I looked to see if the minute hand was moving... maybe Matt put batteries in it... it is right about that time... nope, no batteries, not moving....  10:27.  How did I not notice this before?!

I looked behind it at the daisy flopped over in the bud vase and felt heavy at the thought of what 10:27 meant for Rachel...  It was the beginning of her end...  she was taken from the safe and comfy place inside me and put on a cold table with people all around her she didn't know - and then placed on my chest to die. 

I looked up at the heart.... "Love you"

Be still my heart.....

I looked at the other side of the plant and saw the little plaque I have there.... "My peace I give unto you"  it says....

and suddenly I feel like without even trying, I just made the most *perfect* little memorial shelf of Rachel's birthday...

My Christmas baby...10:27...a fading daisy... that loves me... and peace He gave unto me.

That was her day.

And every once in awhile, when I'm least expecting it...that Christmas cactus blooms for me.

And I suppose it's no coincidence that as I wrap up this post, it's 11:10....

43 minutes later, Ezra now in my arms,,,,

I know she loves me.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Even Know-It-Alls Don't Know It All

I'm just going to disclose something here... I have a very serious dislike for know-it-alls.  I'm pretty sure most people do.  Nobody likes to interact with someone who has all the answers to everything.  It's annoying, mostly because it's ugly pride and actually completely impossible to know it all.  You know what I'm talking about... the people who no matter what the subject, they are an expert and can 'tell you all about it'...  drives me crazy.

In July 2012, I wrote a blog post called The Truth About Anencephaly.  I still regularly get comments on it - to date, it's been read 39,444 times with only about 54 comments...  well, the one I got today made 55, but I probably won't post it on that post.  I'm so grateful for how far her story has reached.  I was actually blown away when I went to see how many times the page has been read because I had no idea it was that high!

I have had a few very mean things said to me in relation to this post so when I see a comment come through my email, my belly flips and I brace myself as I open it.  Lately, I have been pleasantly surprised to find all encouraging responses.  Today, I received one from a know-it-all that I just *have to* respond to.  It's not really that big of a deal, I wouldn't say it is mean per se, but it's got my blood boiling and so here it goes... 

This comment was in response to a line I wrote in that post. The reader writes:
" 'And so while it's very obvious looking at my girl in this photo that she has been affected by sin' 

How someone looks or what defects they're born with has absolutely nothing to do with "sin."

Important findings about some factors that affect the risk for anencephaly:

Low intake of folic acid before getting pregnant and in early pregnancy increases the risk of having a pregnancy affected by neural tube defects, including anencephaly.

There has been a 27% decline in pregnancies affected by nueral tube defects (spina bifida and anencephaly) since the United States began fortifying grains with folic acid.

Babies born to Hispanic mothers are at an increased risk for anencephaly. Reasons for the increased risk among Hispanic mothers are not well understood."
 First of all, I would like to share with you how I started and ended that thought because I hate it when people take things out of context...  I said:

"People will say things to make me feel better like "This was God's plan" - and I agree that God has all things under control, but I do not believe that God ever desired - or desires - these types of devastating things to happen to us.  Sickness and death, pain and sorrow, are a result of sin.  God never wanted us to have to endure these things.  But because of the fall of Adam, we do - and so He promises to be with us through it if we believe in Jesus.  And He promises that when this life is over, all who believe in His Son will live forever in heaven with no sickness or death, no pain or sorrow.
And so while it's very obvious looking at my girl in this photo that she has been affected by sin, I also experienced first hand what it's like to hold my child as her spirit, which is whole, went to live forever in paradise.  And who knows, maybe she wasn't really 'missing' anything... maybe we all just have extra growths on the top of our heads...  because I'm certain that she is perfect just the way she is.  And I'm proud to be her Mama."

Second of all... ALL OF US are affected by sin.  It's the reason we die at all, and it IS absolutely the reason that anything like anencephaly exists to begin with, including normal aging.  I am not saying that Rachel - or I - was being punished for our sin.  I was saying that if sin didn't exist in this world, there would be NO death or dying or ANENCEPAHLY.  Whether we choose to acknowledge this truth or not, it's the truth.  It's like gravity - you may not acknowledge that you can't fly, but try jumping out of an airplane without a parachute and you will learn that gravity wins.  God's Truth is like that.  You can't escape it and you can't change It's mind.  Gravity drags you down and sin causes death.  It's the way God created the universe and the way He punishes sin.  You don't have to like it or even agree, but one day you will have to step out of the plane.

My next issue... If anyone thinks at this point in my journey - 3 1/2 years after I watched my baby die in my arms that I have a need for more information, I don't.  That little blurb came with no heart and straight 'facts' with seemingly no real comprehension of anything I said.  I have done enough researching and talking to other moms to know more than I want to or I need to know about anencephaly.  If there are new things to consider, I'm not interested - I have enough to worry about with all I already know.  It becomes very difficult to take my thoughts captive if all I ever hear is how if I do xyz it lowers my chances of having an anencephalic baby because guess what?  I ALREADY DID and I know it can happen again. So while it's fun to think I might have some control over it happening again - say if I eat enough of these 'fortified grains' that this person speaks of - I don't want the control.  I don't want it for the future, because if I take it for the future, I have to claim it for my past and Rachel's "defect" was not my fault.  It happened - get ready for this... BECAUSE OF SIN.  Not specifically hers, Not specifically mine.  Just because sin is here and from the moment we are created, we are dying.  You've heard death is a part of life, haven't you?  Yes, that's right - but it wasn't always.  God created us good.  Perfect.  Adam and Eve sinned.  Death exists because of sin. 

But you know what else?  God has USED it for my good and HIS glory.  It's not just about her missing her brain, people.  This is the story of Rachel Alice Aube and the unbelievable legacy God has used me to help her leave.  Her life is so much more than her defect and so I don't actually desire to know what caused it.  I could literally go completely insane and die of a broken heart lamenting over why this happened if I allowed myself to mull over it and not just trust God with the why, the how, and the what if it happens again....

But I just have to say it... do you really think I don't know about the folic acid line at this point?  Do you really suppose that I made it through tons doctors visits, dozens of ultrasounds, and multiple genetic counselors without any of them filling me in on that?  It was literally the very first thing I learned... and you know what I said when they told me? 

I said, "She's my daughter and I love her and I will not give up on her... no matter what comes our way."  I listened to them when they were saying it was probably a folic acid deficiency, but to be honest, I never gave that too much weight.

I started taking more as they recommended, but I asked for the blood test that would confirm this suspected folic acid deficiency before I started - I was told and I quote "We don't usually do that kind of test."  OK, so that begs the question... if you don't 'do that kind of test' when someone has a baby with anencephaly, then how in the world do you know that a folic acid deficiency plays a part?... Oh, that's right... you don't.  And here's something interesting for you to know...MY FOLIC ACID WAS FINE. that's right, "Normal."  And I was on folic acid before I got pregnant... just another interesting fact.  Not a guess or a statistic... a fact. 

On top of this, I have been working with Duke University in their anencephaly study and after well over 25 years of studying anencephaly, they *still* do NOT have a definitive answer.  They told me that they believe folic acid can play a part but have been unable to prove it.  Probably because of people like me who actually get tested and find that folic acid wasn't it.  Does that happen?  I'm sure it could be.  But if it was *the* reason... it would have been proven by now.  *The* Reason is the effects of sin.  It's the same reason that things like cancer, diabetes, and yes, even know-it-alls exist.

We all know someone who has died.  Tell me, which of your dead loved ones would you want someone talking about like they were nothing more than a number or result of your being deficient?  Which one of your family or friends would you like to be told could have lived if you had only eaten enough grains? 

So now that I've made my 'points', which I'm aware plenty of people could - and probably will - debate with me... and don't really leave me feeling much better...let me humble myself and share my heart.

I wrote that post as part of my grief journey.  I wrote it because I realized that I needed to stop running from her anencephaly and accept that it was part of her.  I wrote it because even after 2 years of research and another healthy baby, anencephaly had a grip on me.  It had me scared.  Sometimes to a point of being paralyzed. 

I would go to great lengths to only let people see Rachel in photos that hid all the 'imperfections' and all that was missing.  I wrote that post because Rachel was not about science.  She was not about deficiencies.  She was not about eating more grains.  And while I understand that many people who find that post do so when researching Anencephaly for school or some other scientific thing, I would hope that anyone with half a heart could see that I was not writing a textbook... I was writing the story of my love for my daughter and God's love for me as I mourned the loss of my baby and felt the deepest pain I have ever experienced. 

I wrote it to share the story of Redemption. Her redemption.  My redemption.  And if you put your trust in Jesus Christ and humble yourself before His throne... Your redemption.  It's a mystery of love and grace and mercy and although it is a beautiful thing, it's not always painless getting there.  I would go so far as to say it's never painless. 

And if I'm perfectly honest, when the anger fades, what is really there is hurt.  What's left is sadness.  Guilt.  Questions.  Uncertainty.  Fear.  Tears....

Because the only thing worse than putting your baby in the ground is being told you could have stopped it.  The only thing worse than the thought of it happening again is the pressure that comes with believing that I can do the right things and avoid it.  And the only thing worse than my daughter having the top of her head and most of her brain missing is when I do such a hard thing as share that photo with the world, to be sent cold and indifferent "findings" as if it's a photo of anencephaly and not my baby.

There has yet to be a time that someone has offered another possible thing I could have changed, that I have not felt chaos in my soul.  The *only* time I am at peace with losing Rachel is when I am totally surrendered to God's ways, believing His plan for me is better than my own, and completely trusting Him with my heart - both in what I have endured in the past and what I could come up against in the future.  He's the only One strong enough to carry me through it.  And I'm so thankful He does.

I was sharing MY truth about anencephaly.   I never in a thousand years expected that anyone would read that and see my vulnerability as a time to jump in and correct me... even if they were thinking it.  I read that comment and I wanted to jump through the computer and shake them...Don't you get it?  You don't have all the answers.  And it's okay.  God does.

Even know-it-alls don't know it all.