My Ornament.

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“Every true cross-bearer learns to carry his cross as if it were an ornament rather than a burden, and finds after a time that it carries him. It gives more strength to him than he gives to it.”

 - Mrs. Charles Cowman

The other day a dear friend texted me this quote. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. It feels so strange to be able to resonate (on any level) with comparing our loss to an ‘ornament’. When I think about an ornament, I think of something that is adored, cherished, and put up for display. It is something to be admired – it might even hold significance, special meaning or precious memories.

Sure those days hold some of the most precious memories of my life, but I will never forget the feeling like my chest had been ripped open. The precious memories, they came at an incredible cost. And the only thing I could see about this whole ordeal was that I had been forever changed. I missed the person I used to be, the old life, the innocence. More than anything I missed my daughter. None of it made any sense, and out of frustration I became angry. So angry in fact that my heart became hard.

To say my loss was an ‘ornament’ those days would have been a stretch of the wildest imagination. It was a heavy, heavy burden (understatement of the century) that quickly defined everything about me. Who I was, what I talked about, who I talked to, what I cared about and how I spent every last minute of my life. I was becoming grief. The problem with that, is we were never created to become a single emotion. We might live in a single emotion for a while, but life is too grand, too big, to fill your days with just one. But I almost feel like that’s what had to happen.

When I finally realized and accepted that something had to change, the anger dissipated as quickly as it had come. It didn’t matter who remembered what, who still thought about our girl, who was afraid to say her name… because we did all those things. And we were the only ones that mattered. Every one else would have just been icing on the cake. And I do have to say, we have some icing on this cake, even three years later.

Over time I could think about our girl without so many tears, or any tears at all. I could smile about her. I could thank God for every single day she was with us. Every day that I got to carry her and enjoy feeling those amazing kicks. Over time, this loss – the unexpected twist that morphed our lives into the today we are living – became something I was proud of. Not just something I was holding onto for fear of forgetting her existence, but something I was holding up high because thisthis thing that happens to one in four… we were chosen. This was our ornament, and the truth is she only makes Heaven that much sweeter.

So yes, today… I can honestly say our loss isn’t something I would have ever picked for our family, but it is something I am proud of. This is our story. The way God wrote history for us with my firstborn’s birth and death. And all the ways this ornament continues to affect our lives.

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My Not So Political Post

If I was honest I’d tell you more than anything it breaks my heart that our country is so… divided. Facebook and twitter were spewing with so much hatred and ugliness and over a matter of difference in opinions on Tuesday. I don’t and I just won’t get into politics here – hopefully ever. If you read here enough, you can probably guess where my heart lies. In the end, I think we all want the same thing though. The best possible future for us and for our kids.

I worry a lot about my son’s future. What might be left for him. Will he still live in a country that is proud to wave our beautiful flag when he grows up?

So many other things.

I woke up Wednesday morning to my baby girl kicking like crazy. I knew that now more than ever, it’s so important to just be thankful.

Value the little things. 

like Christmas music…

baby kicks…

the way my son says “I luuuv you, Mommy” and gives wet, sloppy, little boy kisses…

peanut butter…

the magnificent pink in the sunset tonight that seriously only lasted for moments…

friends…

getting baby girl’s mattress half off, and knowing you snagged the last one…

watching this belly of mine outgrow more than 80% of my wardrobe…

strawberries in November…

Days Like These

I could tell you about the anxiety that is slowly building for tomorrow’s doctor appointment (and glucose test)…

and I could tell you that the closer the book is to being done, and the time to share it with a few special people is drawing nearer, the more nervous I am about handing a huge piece of my heart over…

and I could tell you that we found out that moving might not be in the cards for a while after all…

but today… the only thing I really feel able to share in full detail… is this truth.

The cold weather that has allowed me the privilege of wearing the boots and scarves I so craved, the Pandora Christmas music flowing through my kitchen while I work on canvases and bake cookies for my little family, the few cups of hot chocolate I’ve had these past few days…

they’re wonderful. Just like the day at the pumpkin patch. And watching my almost two and half year old have. a. blast.

From There to Here.

So you know that moment that overcomes you when you realize this is what life is all about…

and the sunset is somehow painting a breathtaking backdrop for this epic moment…

when your son runs up to you holding a fistful of otherwise weeds, but today – precious flowers - as you happen to be holding your camera for a completely different purpose…

and love overwhelms you so much you could cry…

that the little boy you carried for months and months and months is still here today…

bringing you more joy than you ever imagined possible… smiles… a glimpse of what you lost…

and a glimpse of more to come.

Some moments in life are truly perfect.

I sat in wonder after this little boy made me smile inside and out. I watched him play to his little heart’s content in the backyard this evening. He kept babbling about airplanes, ants (he calls everything ants these days), and rocks.

He pointed out the peeking moon once or twice. My heart is so full.

I wondered how I got from there to here. I’ve been spilling so many details about the events over the past three years concerning both my babies birth stories for the book. So much rehashed. So much fresh on my heart. So much I can still remember, and so much I’d honestly like to forget sometimes.

But the memories linger on for purpose. They bring me to this place of complete wonder that makes me love life even more. Love the little moments like crumpled flowers, quick hugs and giving in to holding my son’s hand when he is lying next to me, half awake, at five in the morning after daddy leaves for work.

Today is for You.

Over time I didn’t find as much comfort spilling all the details about our loss with every stranger, and every person I happened to talk to.

Over time I realized her story, our journey with her… those words… they are gifts that God gave us to share. And not just anyone can handle such love and such grief in a single story. I envy them, but I pity them too.

Over time it became clear that life would never ever be the same. Life would become sweet again. Sweeter, actually, than ever before – but it would be different.

Over time I began to talk about her less and less in real life. I ache to use her beautiful name. Call her from her room, whisper her name as we play hide and seek. Bring her up in conversation with other mommies, to spill some amazing or silly thing she did.

Over time I have found peace with our loss. Not to be confused with being ‘okay’, but peace. Peace is like a song that helps you to sleep at night. And like a wave that overcomes you, when you know you should be far from this place of bittersweet serenity.

Over time I have let a lot of things go. Hurtful comments, mindless accusations, and words that were spoken in haste rather than in thought. Over time they just weren’t worth the space in my heart.

Over time I’ve kept a lot of her stories, and the last few moments close to my heart.

Over time I have learned that it’s okay to smile again. Live again. Breathe again.

But in all the lessons time has brought me, being her mother has never changed.

And as her mother, I’ll speak her name today.

Today is for you, my sweet Jenna.

Brother + Sister

I was pleasantly surprised at yesterday’s ultrasound appointment. In a matter of minutes the technician flipped the screen from the 2D ultrasound that I can hardly ever make out, to the fun 3D one.

My first impression? Tears. She looks so much like Bubby did at this stage (bottom one is Baby Peach).

In a flurry Dr. A came in, did her measurements and quickly but steadily assured me all was well. I could sense urgency on her.

Down the hall, before the ultrasound began I could hear muffled, concerned tones. You hear that quite a bit at this office. As I was leaving I heard one of the nurses say the baby’s heartbeat was dropping.

I’ve been in that other room, been that other woman hearing horrible words like that.

I felt so much guilt for being the one with good news yet again, and so much sadness for what the other family is no doubt enduring right now.

I walked out of the office with so much emotion. Mostly I just wanted to cry. Somedays I’d still like to know why. Yesterday was one of those days.

I called Pete and shared the good news. I got quiet and just gushed after he asked what was wrong. I said something like ‘baby aspirin could have saved her life!!’ Of course, no one will ever know that for sure, but it’s helped both subsequent pregnancies keep the blood clots to a minimum. I can’t help but wonder…

It shouldn’t be this way. Yesterday was such a gift. I got to see Baby Peach’s features. Her big eyes, forehead, nose… the petiteness compared to her big brother.

Maybe, just maybe this bittersweetness is a gift in itself though. It keeps pain close. It keeps the possibility of loss real. I don’t ever want to take the beauty of good news for granted.

Thoughts on Moving.

The past few days have been futile.

As we prepare to put this house on the market – our home - nostalgia is setting in. I remember bringing Joseph home. I remember sitting next to his sleeping, breathing little body on the big green couch and thinking what will I do without his nurses?

I guess I figured it out;)

But the memories are hard to let go of. The bringing home of hope, love and joy. Restoration and healing.

This was our first house.

We have shoved all personal photos in boxes. They say to detach yourself from your home makes the selling that much easier. I hope they’re right, because it’s all kinds of painful.

As I have been tearing through drawers, cabinets, closets and rooms one thing has constantly had me smiling though.

Jenna-things.

Do you know how many Jenna things I have come across? They are scattered all throughout our home and have traveled to our little place in Texas from all over the world. I have a box or two with her things, and I’ve decided it’s easiest to just keep this one open til the big move, because I keep finding Jenna-things. I am so grateful for this community. The world of people that share her memory, without ever meeting us in real life.

Sometimes Gifts Come in Tears

 

The whole day was emotional.

I mentioned a few days ago we hit the 20 week mark with Baby Peach on the day of the release, and that morning I had a conversation with my mom I might and hope to never forget. Sometimes you just think people have moved on, but then you find out they still feel the pain. It’s not the pain that is the gift — it’s the love through the tears. I got a gift that morning that stirred my heart more than I can even begin to tell you.

And then of course, there was the forecast that had us on our toes all day long. But thank God the weatherman was wrong time, and time, and time again.

What started out with a little inspiration from the movie Tangled grew to a late night drive to the beach with some friends and lanterns a few months ago. Well that – was a disaster. I was too embarrassed to come here and admit it. It was fun, we made memories but we almost caught the beach on fire (if that’s even possible). One of the lanterns never quite took off, one actually made it into the air and the last one was a rolling fireball across the sand. It must have been a sight to see a couple of girls trucking it across the beach late at night chasing a wild fireball, passing a couple parked in a small SUV clearly not paying attention to their surroundings. ahem.

Even though our first experience with lanterns was an epic failure, it was still something all three of us wanted to do. I asked Amanda to see if she would want to come along. From there the word just spread like wild fire! Through facebook people all over the world were asking if they could include their child’s name in our release somehow. We ended up writing over 300 names.

People drove to be with us in person all the way from Oklahoma and Arkansas. It was incredible. In spite of the pending weather we had a large group of 100ish people.

I’m really not a cryer in public, but I was a bit of a mess watching Jenna’s lantern sail into the dark blue sky. It was more beautiful than anything I’d ever seen in real life to honor the life of a child gone too soon.

There were teens remembering their peer from high school, mothers honoring their children and babies, grandparents, siblings. The atmosphere was hard to describe but you could see it on just about everyone’s face. We shared a sorrow, yet none of us were ready to give up hope. We were there to celebrate the gift of the beautiful lives that changed us forever. It is definitely such a different experience being able to be surrounded in person by other loss parents. I cherish my online support, and honestly don’t know where I’d be today without it, but this experience has me wanting to be more involved in person as well.

Needless to say we hope to do it again. Same time, next year.

If you have never done a lantern release and you are able to do it in your area, it is something that really should be on your bucket list! The lanterns are about $3 each (sometimes less). You can grab just about any color on this site.

This event seriously could not have been possible without a few rockstars… one being Amanda. You might think I’m just being nice, and while I love that girl, this isn’t just a compliment. If you saw the list she was meticulously putting together over the past few weeks and answering messages on our event page wall, you’d agree. She works full time too, I don’t know how she did it!

Secondly there were a few beautiful mamas at the event that helped us write some last minute names, bring us water (THANK YOU!) and put up signs around the park. Your kindness in my forgetful stage will never be forgotten!

And lastly, we are SO thankful for the people. The families that trusted us with their childrens’ memory to come out and celebrate their lives together.

photography by 3 twenty 3 photography - more photos can be seen here.

A Friend

You know who you are.

You’ll come with me to that quiet, and sometimes awkward place – in conversation.

A place of silence, maybe a few words.

A land of tears.

A place that is now empty, only full of shadows of what could have been.

A place where we lost so much.

A place that hurts to visit, because it confronts us with our own mortality.

You won’t hesitate to travel with me there when all seems to be good with the world. Yet, I need to visit that place of sadness from time to time.

Because you get it.

That place was the only place she was real.

You let me speak her name as if she was right here with us.

She is real to me, and she’s real to you.

Do you know how rare that is?

That makes you a real friend.

Space and time haven’t removed you completely from that horrific event that rocked our worlds, and had us thinking, “I can’t believe that just happened to us.” As if we are immune, but we think that sometimes don’t we? We are human after all.

You come with me to that place because you know love doesn’t end at the grave.

Love lives forever.

Coffee Date.

It’s been a while since we’ve caught up. And if I had it my way, we’d all be sitting on big comfy couches with our pajamas and big fluffy pillows in our laps, talking over a cup of coffee, tea, lemonade… something yummy.

Talking from one loss mama to another. Even three years later it means the world to have that force behind me, that bond. A group of women who don’t freeze up when I talk about Jenna, or cringe when I bring up details about my pregnancy with her. A group of women who can deal with the ugly side of grief and love anyway, because they’ve been there.

If we had the chance to catch up in real life, I might be too excited to get to the details in life that really matter. It would be a surreal moment, one that many of us writers at Still Standing have dreamed about forming together one day. A retreat for loss mamas. A conference of some sort. It would be life-changing.

But if we did get the chance to sit down for a good while, I would finally get over the jitter and excitement, and the SURREAL of the moment and spill some of my heart with you. You’d get it somehow.

I’d tell you I feel guilty sometimes for being happy about having another girl. And I feel so lucky to be the mama of one boy and two girls. I’d tell you those two feelings in one heart just don’t make any sense and it makes me want to implode somedays.

I’d tell you about the calendar idea I have for 2013 for Carly’s and my card line. Excitement-CITY.

I’d tell you that I want to write a book. It’s a burning desire I have inside me that needs to get out. I just have zero clue where to start. Pen to paper, right? Or in this day and age, fingers tapping the keyboard.

I’d tell you I sewed a blanket for my little man the other day and I felt proud to be my mama’s child. She taught me a few things.

I’d tell you that my son is beginning to be a daddy’s boy and while it should be sad, it’s not. It’s beautiful to watch. He adores his daddy, and rightfully so. Pete is such a great Daddy.

I’d tell you that the evening and late night hours are my favorite time of the day. The baby flutters I feel are too much to put into words. Just joy, unbelievable, unspeakable joy.

I’d tell you that our pool closed the other day and while I know it’s silly, it made me smile. It just made the closing of summer that much more real, and the beginning of a new season and the homecoming of our baby girl that much closer…

I’d tell you we’re supposed to see Jenna tomorrow and I’ve got mixed feelings about it. I do know I want to take her something fuchsia. I think she’d like that.

I’d tell you I am more clumsy than ever and it’s almost to the point that it’s ridiculous and life-threatening. I’d ask you if that is normal in pregnancy, because while I can google statistics and questions, a friend’s opinion always means much, much more.

I’d tell you I still have a hard time praying. And I’d tell you I never thought my faith would feel so weak after feeling so close to God after losing Jenna.

I’d tell you I have a hard time with trust in this pregnancy. Trusting my own body. Oh dear, we can camp out here for a while. How does one trust their own body after the most epic let down?

I’d tell you this pregnancy is trying my faith almost more than anything I can remember. With Jenna I had a solid faith in God, even though it was the most disappointing moment of my life, that he let her die. I still had faith in him. With Bubby I began to feel frustrated. I had strange, mixed feelings toward him. My faith toward him was out of sheer desperation. If anyone could help this new child, he could.

And now, I think my faith is just tired. Does that make sense?

I’d ask you about you. Your life, your dreams, your faith. Your heart.

I Saw Love on You.

For all the times I have felt lost…

For all the times I felt my heart break in a million pieces…

For all the times I wondered what life on the other side might be like…

For all the times the sun didn’t feel right shining so brightly after death could be so real…

For all the times emptiness haunted my steps…

For all the times color seemed to leave my world…

For all the times I questioned and got no answers…

I could see love all over you.

Dear Bubby… you have absolutely no idea how much I need you. Or maybe you do. But either way, I am so thankful to be your mama, and that moment that the nurse put you in my arms for those few minutes before taking you away… that is a moment I will never forget. A moment of many, many happy tears and answered prayers.

Sky Lanterns and Baby Update

Oh goodness. How have I not seen Tangled before today? The whole lantern scene had me balling. It made me long to do something just like it for Jenna. But honestly her birthday is too far away, so I think I’m going to do something on her due date. The day that should have been surrounded by so much love, instead of so much emptiness.

That day usually doesn’t mean a whole lot to me now, three years out. It hurts. Actually it stings when I let myself dwell on it, but it’s not nearly as special as her birthday, and her death date.

Sky lanterns. I think we will be doing them on July 21. Instead of it being another stupid, empty reminder, I want to release a few up to Heaven in thanks. I am so thankful for her life. I have this board in my laundry room (of all rooms, I know), that says “Smile because she LIVED.”

I usually don’t think twice about it while I shuffle in laundry… possibly the worst and most hated chore around this house. But today I did. It made me smile for real.

So the lanterns will be an open smile. And honestly they are just so beautiful, I have to try them.

In other news, Baby is doing beautifully. We are definitely keeping the due date Feb 2, according to Dr. A. She has been so optimistic about this whole pregnancy, it makes me almost feel like a normal pregnant lady. I asked her if she was aiming for 36 weeks like she was with Bubby (complicated situation, you might remember if you have read this blog for a while). Her words… “we are going for the gold!”

Yessss!!!! That was like MUSIC to my ears. :)

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we waited and my body got to heal up. Now I am curious if she might let me have a VBAC. Hubby doesn’t think so, but I am at least going to ask. Something about not getting to have a child naturally makes me feel cheated (?) for lack of a better word. More than that though. Like I am the one that is cheating, getting out of the child birth experience. To some that might sounds crazy! It’s okay. I feel crazy for even thinking that, but I hear about all these natural birth experiences, and I want to feel that sort of accomplishment. Of course, more than ANYTHING I want a baby… safe and alive. So forgive me while I ramble about things that really are first world problems.

Safe & alive. Really, that is all I am praying and hoping for. The rest, well, it really doesn’t matter at the end of the day. I guess I just had to get it out.

Cocoon

Steph and I were joking about being in this cocoon, away from the internet. I promise you, these days I spend about a fraction of the time online that I used to. Somehow work is still going great. I think it’s promoting all of it that is suffering, but I won’t ever get these days back to grow this sweet baby, so I’m not sweating it a bit. Promoting the magazine, artwork, etc… it can be put on hold for this short while.

Not only that, but did I mention that potty training is in full swing? It’s a royal disaster, but we’re taking it one day at a time :) Oh, and you moms of boys- I am all ears. What worked/ didn’t work for you? We are on day #2 and I’m already pooped out. No pun intended.

And my sweet Jenna. Lately the skies have been filled with soft golden yellows. I miss the pink and purple ones. Those sunsets make me feel so close to her, and not seeing one in a while just makes my heart ache a little more. Maybe God is just mixing up those pink and purple paints right now. I’m sure one will come again soon enough.

In the morning we have our second doctor’s appointment. Dear God, please let me see or hear a heartbeat. The first time I heard my own baby’s heartbeat that pregnancy with Jenna became real. Tears rolled down my face. Life is such a beautiful gift, and we get to live it… everyday.

We were fortunate enough to see the heartbeat last time, but something about the days in between appointments are tough… especially the further away I get from that point of certainty. Ultimately, I’ve decided I was never intended to carry this load of worry. God knows it all. And I am feeling more keen on trusting him with this baby somehow. It is a little easier to trust that he will let this one make it. I don’t know. When I say it like that it sounds like he was somehow against Jenna making it, but I don’t know how else to put it. He let us take this sweet boy home, and watch him grow into this amazing two year old – full of sentences, adventure and mischief.

Something I took away from the retreat was that he really is for us.

Railroad

Lately I just don’t have a lot to say, or I think the problem is I just can’t find the words to express everything inside. My heart is full. My arms feel half empty, but somehow life is just alright, in a very complete and satisfying way.

This weekend I’ll hopefully be on my way to a the Haven of Hope retreat. A retreat for bereaved mamas, with children in Heaven of all ages.

A day in a little town I’ve never been in, but heard so much about, surrounded by a few women who get it. The bittersweet aftermath of death and love, and everything in between.

Wish me a little luck. I am supposed to say a few words, and I might be a tad nervous.

 

Home

I heard this song and it captured me instantly. At first I was convinced Mumford and Sons sang it (doesn’t it sound like them!?). I love this song.

As I listened to the lyrics, they reminded me so much of the sisterhood I found after we lost Jenna in the online baby loss community. We made this place, this safe haven of writing and blogs a home of sorts.

A home we never asked for. A home we never wanted. But a home we find ourselves in at one time or another, nonetheless.

If you get lost, you can always be found.

At first my blog was my everything. It was the place where I let my heart cry, scream, hurt, question God and remember my daughter when no one else would.

But this place has become so much more, and now it does sort of feel like a home I want to be in.

It is safe, completely surrounded by beautiful people left and right who I don’t know from Adam, whom I will most likely never ever have the chance to meet in person – but we have this bond. And it is a beautiful, unbreakable one.

Something about that life-changing, earth-shattering pain that brings you from the depths of hell to the most unexpected mountain top one day… unites like almost nothing else can.

Have I mentioned how thankful for these women?

Because I am. Everyday. And more than anything I am sorry for any woman that has entered this place, this home. If you are in the thicket of pain, the face of confusion, anger and possibly depression… we get it and you have a place here.