Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Rachel's 2015 Race Info!

I've been really behind for a few different reasons, but am finally starting to pull together details for this year's race.

We have decided that I'm in no condition and have not nearly enough time to put on another large scale event.  Even though I always have enough help that day, leading up to race day, I spend at least 30+ hours a week working on race things, and I do most of it alone.  Last year, my health went down hill fast the very week following the race and I spent months in a downward spiral and I do believe that was, in part, due to what the whole thing takes out of me.

I have all these little people counting on me who need me more than anyone I might help through Rachel's Legacy, so I am putting my priorities in order and praying and trusting that God will bless that.  Unlike 2013 when I decided to not do a race because I was pregnant with Ezra, this decision has not been as hard on my heart.  That year, it was excruciating to say no.  I felt like I was failing... and although I knew that I was actually saying "yes" to God, and eventually saw that there would have been no way I could have done it physically, I struggled a LOT with it hurting in my heart. I missed it so much.

This year, I feel really at peace with not doing a race - and since at this point, I would have already spent MONTHS preparing and have MONTHS left to go - I'm also really thankful because I'm so busy I can barely keep up as it is!  Not to mention, I now have another little one I'm carrying and this pregnancy is not going well. (prayers appreciated)

The issue lies in that the race is the sole provider of the money we use to run Baby Rachel's Legacy all year long.  The first few years, we donated over $9,000 in PROFIT to the organizations we supported.  Last year, I didn't do any pre-race solicitations as I waited for our 501(c)3 to go through and so our profit was I believe under $4,000.  It's still excellent for one day, but the day costs over $4,000 to put on - so while we actually took in over $8,000, a lot was spent on the event.  All that to say, I have been trying to come up with a way to raise money for the non profit that doesn't have as much overhead and doesn't require so much out of me and take so much from my living children.

What I have decided to do is a "Virtual Walk/Run/Dance".  This will be something you do from where you are, any time within the first week of August to memorialize August 4, the day we got Rachel's diagnosis.  You can run or walk any distance you choose - with your friends or alone - on a treadmill or with your kids to the park - or you can follow your own route, use our certified route (shown on our website at BabyRachelsLegacy.org) - count it in another race you are running that week - or if that isn't your thing, you can DANCE... or if you can't physically do that, do something, anything (swim, spend time with someone who needs help, make something for someone...??) for 43 minutes and remember her with us.  I do not have the registration site open yet, but will soon and will post when I do.

I also hope to still set up a baby remembrance ceremony where the local baby loss mamas and I can get together and remember our babies together.  I have absolutely no idea what that will be yet, but my mind is working on a vision for it and will probably make an event page where I can coordinate that.  It's really important to me that I can still support other moms that walk this hard journey.  That's my heart... now to find the energy!!  If you are local to me and this is of interest to you, please email or message me and let me know if Aug 1 or 8 would be better for you!!  It will probably be 1-2 hours total... maybe including some ice cream together! (pregnancy talking, I think! lol)  But more details on that coming soon too.

For now, I have set up an online shirt fundraiser with this year's logo on it.  The shirts are green for the color of Anencephaly Awareness and the logo reminds us how Rachel taught us how to dance in the hard times, rather just waiting for the storm to pass.  I also read the verses in Ecclesiastes 3 that say:
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 

(True story: I didn't highlight that above... I went to preview it and it was highlighted!! Godwink!)

And I feel like my time of weeping and mourning have finally ended... I finally don't hurt every single day.  I never thought that would happen, but it has.  It took YEARS longer than I was told it would or expected myself, so my encouragement to anyone still in the trenches is allow yourself to be there while you are.  It's ok.  One day, it will start to shift, believe it or not.  But it's OK to be in the weeping and mourning times.  It's healthy to feel your way through it.

I do believe my time to laugh and dance is now.  And I know I do it with Rachel just as much with me as before.  It's got nothing to do with moving on without her or "moving past this".  And it doesn't mean I'm done crying over all I miss with her.  Just this morning, I found her pregnancy announcement and cried... what a long, hard journey it's been.... but grief has become more a part of who I am and not so much a piece of what I do, if that makes sense.....

I chose to do the shirts this way because the online company handles all the sizes and shipping and that SERIOUSLY simplifies my life.  I won't make much off each shirt this way - but the more we sell, the more profit we make per shirt and we have to sell a certain number of shirts in order for them to even print.  If we don't reach their requirement, they will refund everyone's money and not print so there is no risk in buying before you know if we reach the goal.  They will ship directly to you within 2 weeks of the campaign closing so you will receive them in plenty of time to wear them for the event!

After the event, I would love for everyone to post their pictures on our Baby Rachel's Legacy Facebook page and say what they did to remember Rachel with us, bring awareness to Anencephaly, and support Rachel's Legacy.  It would be so awesome to also see everyone sporting their "Team Rachel" shirts with her little prints on them, as I truly couldn't do any of this without her amazing "Team" of supporters... YOU!!!

Here is where you can purchase your shirts...  event registration info coming soon!

click here for Rachel's Virtual Race Shirts!!

Here is what our logo looks like!  I absolutely love it!  It was created by LNG Digital Design who you can find also on Facebook!  Please order one today!  We only have 29 days left for this campaign!

Also, financial donations are tax deductible and can be made using our Paypal button on the side of the blog or by check to:

Baby Rachel's Legacy
PO BOX 454
Rochester, NH 03866-0454

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Step Out of the Boat

Sunday at church, I was brought to tears as we sang these words...

Oh my God
He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear
His promise is true
My God will come through always

I didn't realize I was all that scared.  But it was as if before I had the chance to identify that I was scared, He was already comforting me in my fear.

I'm not completely sure if I was crying because I'm so thankful that He is attentive to my heart in that way - or if it was because I know just how likely it is that between now and Christmas, something could happen and I could lose another Christmas baby.

I think it was both.

On Sunday night, I had a very real and vivid dream that I was miscarrying. It was so real, I woke up unsure if it had happened or not.  Monday night, as I got ready for bed, I saw that I was spotting.  Years ago, I had dreams about Rachel's ultrasound revealing she was dead 3 times before her ultrasound when we heard she would die, so it was hard not to assume that my dream was God preparing me for what was to come.

I don't know how to say what I am about to say without sounding slightly... I don't know, wrong?  So, I'm just going to lay it out.... I almost felt like it didn't matter.  I had prayed many times that if I'm going to lose this baby, to let it be from miscarriage and not because of anencephaly or some other fatal birth defect that causes me to put my baby in a box and watch someone bury it with dirt.

Anyway, I finished in the bathroom and I got ready for bed.  As I did, I was kind of surprised by my calmness and I tried to figure out if my heart would break or not if I woke up and it was obvious this baby was leaving me.  I felt confident that if I was losing this baby to miscarriage, I would be ok.  That maybe God was just answering my prayer to spare me from going through what I went through with Rachel again.  I stood in my living room lost in thought and only two things came to mind.... so I said them both out loud...

"I love you little one, no matter how long you stay."
"Regardless of how this goes Lord, I know you know best and I trust You."

I got into bed and I slept. Good.  He gave me rest.

I woke up with my ultrasound that was scheduled for later that day on my mind.  I wasn't looking forward to it.  I knew there was a good chance I would go and hear bad news.... but I also remembered the assurance he had given me in that first week of knowing I was pregnant.

Before I had seen the blood the night before, I thought that I would ask Des to go with me to the ultrasound.  It was at Maine Med, which ends up taking 5 hours + out of the day for an appointment and I thought Des would like the girl time.  After I saw the blood, I questioned if I should bring her.  I thought, if it's bad news, this could make every ultrasound SHE ever has in her lifetime hard.  But again I was reminded to not fear...and so I invited her.  I warned her that there was a chance the baby wasn't ok and that it might not be a happy trip and my brave girl said she still wanted to come.  I heard her in the other room telling the boys "I'm going with Mama to the ultrasound to see if the baby is okay." and I realized just how much she is learning along with me.  I like to think she is learning a thing or two about courage and not taking life for granted....that maybe she is learning how to step out of the boat and not fear.

We got into the ultrasound and within two minutes, there was a tiny beating heart on the screen as we peeked into the sacred space we call my womb.  I breathed a sigh of relief but was unaware of how far I was from accepting this pregnancy as 'real' until we were on the way home well over two hours later.

This song was playing on the radio and I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion... I'm pregnant, I thought... and I just cried.  I couldn't even put words to it right then, but as that moment has replayed throughout this week, I think I understand more now....

I miss being able to play music on my blog posts, and would totally have this song playing in the background if I could - so play this while you read the rest!

The video I posted on my announcement post Facing My Giants had the same theme of the ocean being too big for us to conquer - our feet fail - yet with our eyes on Jesus, we can walk on it.

Think about what it would feel like to step out of a boat and try to walk on the ocean.  If you can lose yourself in that thought for a moment, you can feel how scary and powerless - and absolutely failing - that would be.

Matthew 14:27-29 

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 

But that is what I feel like with this pregnancy.  You have to understand that until I saw that positive test, I honestly had little to no desire to be pregnant at all.  I have never felt like that before in all my life.  Other than the first few months after I have a baby while I'm healing and not sleeping at all, I have always been open and ready for another baby.  But after adding Ezra and not being prepared for how hard it would be to have 5 here with the two little ones so close in age, I have had more days than not where I felt completely content to be done.  Especially as my health declined, I honestly didn't think it would ever happen again.  I still had that never fading ache for another little girl, but not enough so that I wanted to try for her.  I still wondered if our family was really complete, although I wasn't sure if that was just because it will never feel complete without Rachel here... And in the past few months, as I have started to get better physically, with proper care of my MTHFR mutations, I was looking forward to a summer where I could play like a kid with my kids for once.  Not pregnant and not nursing for the first time in 7 years.  So this was not something I was all that ready for... 

But the second I saw the two lines, my entire desire changed.  And suddenly it shifted from wanting  (or not wanting) things for me, to what I wanted for this baby.  My big fear right off was that I was on blood pressure medicine that is not considered safe for the first trimester, but the doctors were telling me to keep taking.  High blood pressure all by itself causes major complications during pregnancy and people actually have to deliver babies at 24 weeks in order to save their own lives.  The thought of that scared the crap out of me.  How do you make that decision when moms will literally DIE for their children?  How difficult that must be...

I could see how God had prepared me for this, even without it being part of *my* plan because over the couple of months prior, I had weaned myself off of one blood pressure med and was almost weaned off of the 2nd.  My doctors still don't know and my numbers were still higher than they should be, so I don't even know why I was pushing it, other than God was leading me that way.  I had no idea it was because I was about to find out I had someone growing in me that it wouldn't be good for.  So the day after I found out, I called the dr and asked and two different doctors said to keep taking it.  But I didn't listen... I stopped.  And the strangest, most miraculous thing happened... my blood pressure WENT DOWN!!!  Lower than they have been since I was pregnant with Ezra.  Praise God!  My numbers have been awesome since!!  So during this pregnancy, I had only taken the medication 2-3 times since conception and they were all days apart!  I'm so thankful for how God provides.  So thankful that He is capable of anything - even lowering my blood pressure that couldn't be controlled even on two medications.  

It was a step out of the boat when I saw the positive test and welcomed this baby without an ounce of disappointment... It was a step out of the boat when I stopped taking my medication because it would be best for baby...  It was a step out of the boat when I announced I was pregnant again so early and in spite of the negative responses I sensed coming... It was a step out of the boat when I asked Des to go with me to that appointment...  and so far, He has helped me walk as I have kept my eyes on Him.

I have a lot of walking on water to do between now and Christmas... I have fears about this delivery I have not had with others - on top of being my 3rd VBAC, I now have a brain aneurysm that I have yet to figure out how much that affects my options for delivery.  I may have to have a c-section, I don't know.  I can no longer take the medicine I was on for my neck and back pain OR tums... so pain and heartburn without relief are probably in my near future... I will have a preschooler, 1st, 3rd and 8th grader next year and I am their teacher.  Teachers don't usually have their babies at school with them, but I will and I still need to accomplish all the same tasks.  I have 1200 sq ft and there will be 8 of us here... we will list our house again, but I'm not even sure I want to move.  I have a long line of insurance complications and no idea if I will be allowed to deliver in Maine where I am most comfortable. Matt's looking at a job change soon and it will initially be a huge cut in pay (but long term be a really great thing for us) I am still waiting on a 'round head check' and the 'routine ultrasound' at which my head knows of all the millions of things that can go wrong that my heart would break over.  And of course, I still don't know if I will bring this baby home from the hospital... something I used to take as given, I now know is just not so all the time.

There are so many unknowns... and I don't assume any of them will be easy.  I don't know if this baby will stay.  I don't know if it will be healthy.  I don't know if my blood pressure will remain good until December.  I don't even know if delivery is safe for me.  But what I do know - and I have peace in - is that God will meet me outside of the boat.

And I think that is why I cried on the way home from my scan...  This is truly another faith walk for me.  And for as much of the fears I carry are from my journey with Rachel, it's exactly that same hard journey that grew my faith to walk again through unknowns without being overcome with fear.  It's that journey with my girl that makes me rest in CONFIDENT HOPE that *even if* this doesn't end with a live Christmas baby in our home this year  - or if something else is 'wrong' with him - that not only will God give me all I need to get through it, but He WILL prepare me and guide me long before I know it's coming.  Maybe He is....

I have absolutely nothing to fear with God.  Nothing.  Even if I take my eyes off of Jesus... even if my feet completely fail and I sink... He will lift me up and save me.  I will not drown because if ever I'm going under, all I have to do is reach up and His hand will be there to pull me from the oceans I fear...  He takes me deeper than my feet would ever wander so that my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.  I pray I always have a trust without borders.... to walk upon waters....wherever He may call me... 

Oceans - Hillsong

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Oh Jesus yeah, my God

I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My Journey of Motherhood

13 years ago today, I was justly and rightly stripped of my dignity when I was given my first strip search, my first supervised shower in a cement room, dressed in a green jumpsuit and heard the huge metal door shut behind me in my first cell in maximum security where I spent 5 days being slipped meals through a hole in the door, peeing on a cement toilet in the middle of a room where guards watched, and slept on a metal cot listening to the men's voices echo from nearby cells singing "Day-o, me say day-o, daylight coming me wanna go home." 

If there was ever a day I wanted to go home... that was it.  5 days later when I went into the population and faced people I honestly did not fit in with - and had to walk to the chow hall through halls lined with men yelling horrible things at us and telling us to show them our private parts, I felt even more humiliated.  That feeling was all the more overwhelming two weeks later when I found out I was pregnant with my first baby - and due before I was scheduled to be released. 

I went to jail on a Friday and that first Sunday was Mother's Day.  I spent my first Mother's Day behind bars, unaware that I was a mother.  And although most would say that finding out you are pregnant while incarcerated for a year would be horrible, somehow, it gave me something to hope for... something to look forward to... something to dream about and live for.... something to love. 

There just ain't a whole lotta love going around a jail.  And maybe it was naïve, but I really needed love.  If I couldn't get it, I needed to give it.  I had to fight for everything there, from prenatal vitamins to my asthma medicine and to be allowed doctor visits.  I swear I was constantly calling my lawyer... But somehow, as much as it irritated the other inmates because they would tell me I was going to have to go without, I always got what I needed...

The trips to the chow hall became even more difficult as my belly began to grow past the jumpsuit and they told me they didn't have a different size for me... I would walk into the chow hall and the awful smell would have me throwing up.  The food was horrible.  I asked to be allowed to stay in my bed while they went but they refused to let me and had me carry a trash bag to throw up in. 

I was given work release and I worked at Dunkin Donuts (which is also really hard while nauseous!) and every time I either went to work, or had a visitor, I had to be stripped and searched.  They had women do it, but the woman who always did it ironically was a girl I had sold drugs to in the past who was also a lesbian and had came onto me outside of jail.  But now she was in charge.... imagine lifting your arms and spreading your cheeks for someone who had more than her job in mind.  Horrifying. 

One day a couple of months in, a girl signed out her razor to shave her legs... and 30 minutes later, the guard realized she wasn't in the shower.  The bathroom door was busted in and there she was - this heroin addict who had no hope, on the floor covered in blood, her muscles on both arms completely exposed from her wrist to her elbows.  After they carried her out, they told us to clean her blood.  I refused.  I layed on my cot and cried like a baby... no way was I going risk infecting my baby with anything she might have had.  What were they going to do, lock me up??  The other girls started yelling things at me like "you're pregnant not disabled" and I didn't so much as budge.  I just begged a God I didn't even know to help me survive this nightmare I was in and keep my baby safe along the way.

And there began my life as a Mama Bear. 

When I was 5 months along, my lawyer brought a letter my doctor had written with concerns about my baby's health in front of the judge and he accepted his request to release me for the remainder of my pregnancy on house arrest.  On July 17, 2002, I was let out the back of the building of the jail with all of my stuff in a big black trash bag that reeked of smoke that I threw over my shoulder and carried down the long road and up a big hill to where my mom was waiting for me.  A guy I was using with before I left for rehab pulled up next to me and asked if I wanted a ride - he had just returned another friend from work release.  I kept looking ahead and said through tears "No, I'm going home."

I know probably everyone who walks out of jail says they aren't going back, but I meant it.  I was going home and I was going to stay there.  And not just because I was on house arrest!  I was a mom now and I was going to be good at it, even if all the odds were stacked against me.  And I knew this to be true because the mom I was following behind was waiting there to meet me.  She never left my side.

Desirae was 4 months old the first time I was free to leave the house with her without having permission.  I thank God for how he used the hard in my life to bring me to a place where I would never use drugs again.  A place where I had a little person I had to care for, who needed me, who removed all my desire for 'fun' (which was a notion anyway!) and gave me all the reason in the world to be better.  I thank God for the fighter he put inside of me... for the strong will that drove my mom crazy when I was a child, but has helped me to endure so much and not break... for the way He pursued me and used whatever means necessary to get my attention and ultimately to draw me to himself.  I thank God for making me a mother.

This journey of motherhood has been anything but easy.  It hasn't been glamorous.  It hasn't been perfect or gone as I've planned or how I hoped as a little girl.  This journey of motherhood has made me dig deeper and surrender completely.  It has made me admit how often I fail, how little I know, how much I can love, and how desperate and needy I am for God.  It has made me smile, laugh, cry, and ache more than I ever knew anything could.   Becoming a mother literally saved my life.  Becoming a mother changed my world.  Becoming a mother was all I ever wanted and more than I ever deserved. 

And I would have had no way of knowing back then how complicated being a mom could be.... when your child is taken from you and you can't pour out the love on them that is exploding from your heart for them.  When I went for Rachel's ultrasound, my biggest concern was what gender she would be and when I left, it had turned into meeting her alive, if only for one minute.

I know that my road with Desirae and the way having her led me to Christ was all part of God's plan to prepare me for Rachel.  He knows everything that will ever happen and time is not to him what it is to us.  I can't imagine having walked this road without Jesus by my side.  I'm thankful I didn't have to.  And as much as I want to puke reliving those memories from jail, especially being in my first trimester again right now as I do, I can honestly say I would endure all of that again if it was the only way to meet Jesus.  And for me, I think it was.

We went to Rachel's grave today after church.  Mother's Day is one of the days, like my birthday, where I *need* to stop at her grave.  It hurts too much to have a day of mine not include her in some way.  I bought her a pink plant (we got this kind last year and it bloomed through the fall!  hoping for that again!) and the boys picked dandelions and lined them up on her stone.  I took a picture with all 7 of my babies together - as close as we can be for now... and as I walked away, I signed I love you and said "I'm thankful I'm your mother."

I sit here writing and I look up to my wall... I can hardly believe that since that day in 2002, I have given birth to 6 amazing babies and have another on the way.  It seems like so many at times and at other times, it feels like so few.  But mostly when I look at them, I just can't believe I am their mother - and I'm so thankful that I am.

I didn't dress the big boys, but they both ended up wearing Rachel shirts today!

her tulips bloomed for me today ♥