Having a Girl After Losing A Girl

Having a Girl After Losing a Girl // Pregnancy after loss

I Won't Give Up by Jason Mraz on Grooveshark

This is hands down one of the hardest posts I’ve ever written. It’s been one that has been stirring in my heart for over a year now. One that often sends me crashing and burning, wondering how I’ll ever explain some of the things I might be writing here, to Evelyn one day as she gets older, but somewhere deep down inside I know it needs to be said. It’s our story. And it’s messy. But above everything else, love is in the center of this mess. And I hope that in my clumsy attempt to put this part of my heart into something slightly more tangible – that LOVE is what reigns when all these words fall from my heart and through my fingertips, and glows through someone else’s screen.

Since I decided to let a lot of my work in the baby loss community go, and embrace this change in my path… (a focus on art and writing), a few well-meaning friends have wondered and asked me if I would be where I am today (healing-wise, I think), if it weren’t for Evelyn Jane.

The truth is, I wouldn’t. And I was honest each time those piercing questions came. I am not bothered by the question – I think being in the baby loss community, being highly involved and then one day nearly walking away completely from that line of work raises a few eyebrows, maybe a few critics, but definitely questions. Letting Still Standing Magazine slip out of my hands was one of the hardest choices I have made since starting my online work. I struggle with even calling it “work” because none of this ever really feels like work. Sometimes I write, and that helps my heart and soul and mind process life… sometimes I create and I love to share what happens with my creations whether they are messy, ridiculous or something that I am actually happy with. And sometimes I connect with some of the most inspiring, amazing souls. It’s hard to call what you love to do… work. I am very blessed.

But a few months ago, I felt an urgency to leave the baby loss community behind… not so much the people – in fact not the people at all, but the environment. The constant reminders that we are casting on ourselves. The label of being a baby loss mom. I don’t want to be remembered that way. For a while, I was afraid of not being known as a baby loss mom, but I never wanted the death of my first daughter to define me. I just didn’t want to lose her anymore than I already had, if that makes any sense at all. I’ve done a lot of different things since losing her to keep her memory alive. Most of those things I’ve shared at one time or another on this blog, and on facebook. I think it became an obsession. But it was the kind of obsession that was born from fear. I became so afraid of losing her memory, that I felt like I needed to keep doing something. But it has never been enough. Not once. At the end of the day, she’s still dead. She is still the one I had to say goodbye to, and no matter how many journals I donated, or how many memory boxes were sent out, or how many candles I burned, God never changed his mind and let this all become one really cruel nightmare. It’s always our reality that we lost our first child. It never stops being real, or true, or infinitely devastating.

One of the biggest ways I honored her life was by founding Still Standing Magazine. It started on the day she would have been three. It’s going strong, and it is a tragedy really that something like it is even needed, but when I felt that urgency to distance myself from the baby loss world, I knew that this resource needed to live on.

Surrounding myself with articles talking about fresh, raw grief daily left me feeling like a hypocrite, honestly. Because there were many, many days when I could remember relating to any given article in the past, but my typical day now does not involve tears or anger over our daughter’s death. My typical day feels quite normal, whatever normal is these days. But the bottom line is, I’m happy again. And I’ve been shying away from that fact, even shamed myself into thinking, what will people think when they see how happy I really am? when it came to writing for this online space – my blog and Still Standing.

After we announced that we were having a girl, when I was pregnant with Evelyn, I started getting mixed signals from a few people in the baby loss community. Most were overjoyed for us, but some felt inclined to let me know that I needed to be more sensitive about how I shared our pregnancy/our joy over having another girl. I have to say, that it kind of broke my heart reading those latter responses, because before ever sharing *any* bit of happiness or joy over Evelyn (even to this day) I always, always think about the ones who will never get their “rainbow”. It’s almost like this silent guilt I keep carrying around for getting a girl. At the same time I know that the person(s) at the other end were not speaking out of malice, but from a wounded, broken heart – who might not have the privilege to carry life again, and get that “rainbow”, or perhaps they have been trying for some time now. It’s always bittersweet, and I’ve been holding back on the sweet… a lot here.

Sharing the joy over Evelyn isn’t the same as it was with Joseph. With Joseph, he was a miracle. He was the baby that filled my arms and warmed our hearts. He made me smile again. And I never knew I could fall so deeply in love so quickly after losing Jenna.

Evelyn came with a whole different set of circumstances and heart-expectations. The truth is, I never ever dreamed or dared to imagine that I’d have another girl one day. It was a dream I was scared to fantasize about. I had my boy. I could hug him. I could love on him. Give me another boy, something about boys feels safe. I thought, maybe God just doesn’t think I’d be a good “girl mom”. He’ll probably let me keep another boy, but watch me get pregnant with a girl, he will probably take her from me.

I didn’t want another girl, because I was afraid of so many things. What if I compared her to Jenna? What if I couldn’t love her? What if she died too? Would her death mean as much? Would I be capable of mourning or would I die of a broken heart this time? What if I called her Jenna?

And then… BOOM.

She was a girl. I didn’t cry. I don’t know if I can even articulate how it felt to hear Pete say when he opened that gender-revealing envelope that we were going to have another girl.

I thought I would burst into dramatic, happy tears, but I didn’t. All I remember doing is… freezing. This was real though. She was a girl! And then when it started to sink in, all these things came flooding over of me again…

The bows! The ribbons! The pink! The ballet slippers, and sweet Sunday morning dresses… all the things I had shunned away from because they were too painful… these little dreams could be ours again. That day I made our second daughter her first set of headbands.

And another seed of joy started blooming in my heart. More impossible joy after impossible loss.

For a long while I balanced this unforgiving beam of grief and joy. I founded Still Standing right after Evelyn was born. It was what my heart needed. I needed Jenna in my world in a very big way, because strangely – having Evelyn here with us made Jenna feel that much further away.

There is something about having a rainbow baby, and then there is something about having the same gender rainbow baby. Maybe not to all, but to some, yes. To me… most definitely.

When Evelyn was born I hardly ever talked about it, and if I did I glazed over it because it was too painful to admit but I fell into depression. I fought for four months with what a lot of doctors might write off as postpartum depression but to me, I knew it went much, much deeper (not to undermine postpartum, because I realize that that can be a very real, and serious matter). Mine went three years back, into that room where I held my first daughter as she took her last breathe… and none of it was peaceful. It was all horrific. Death was as real as the buttons my fingertips are pounding on that day. And he stole her from me.

Every time I held Evelyn, my heart was this impossible mix, like oil and water, of the purest joy and rawest grief. I had been here before, but never with a living girl. Something was different with Evelyn. And I hate myself that I could not separate grief and joy those months of her life. Without meaning to, I distanced my heart from her. I had a hard time bonding. I never saw this coming. I pleaded with heaven, I begged God for help. I talked to a few trusted friends about this. Everyone said it’s to be expected, but it didn’t make any of this easier.

I kept wondering when it would be enough. When would I stop letting death steal more of my life?

One night I can still remember the tears flowing… the breakthrough. I can’t even put it into words, but I knew that we’d be okay – her and I. That love that I was so afraid of giving her poured over her one night as I breastfed her, in months and months of heldback tears. I watched her falling asleep, both of us soaked with tears, and love. All this bundle of joy. So much richness. So much sadness. So much possibility. But the change in my heart that took place that night, it’s led me here.

Where I choose love. And choose joy. And sometimes I need to hang out with sorrow and pain too because they hold hands with the thief that took our first daughter from us. I’m comfortable with them though. They are like familiar foes, and we choose to get along. It amazes me how peace can exist even in the most impossible circumstances.

I don’t know how you go from writing a pretty narrow “baby loss” blog to writing a story all of it’s own. I’m willing to lose “followers” or “fans”, whatever facebook is calling that these days. I won’t think less of you if cannot read this part of our story right now. But there comes a time where you have to be you. You have to know what that means, and follow through. You have to know your limitations, and trust your instinct. And if anything, don’t let fear call the shots. Let love reign. Let hope persevere, and compassion rule in your heart.

I guess the great part is, I don’t have to choose between them. I choose them all. Jenna, Joseph and Evelyn. They each hold my WHOLE heart. And each of them have filled our story what it is today – chapters of love, tear stains, fear, impossible loss, followed by impossible joy and more impossibleness (yes, I just made up that word!) sprinkled everywhere in between. It’s just one big mess, but I guess (hoping?) you’re used that that around here…

A Year.

2013 the year of letting go, and beginning againThis year had some pretty neat and unexpected adventures.

Pennsylvannia, New York City, Destin, West Monroe, the rodeo, concerts and… many, many trips to the farmer’s market, local dairy farm and Target. The moments that fill the very, very large gaps between those “big ones” are the real life ones. The moments that don’t own any geographic coordinates, but rather landmarks of your heart and soul. The moments of tired babies, embarrassing trips to the restaurant or shopping strip, and sleepless nights. The moments of watching your babies discover the world around them, watching your two babies connect with one another that first year together. The moments of letting go that leave your heart racing and the guilt seeping in. The moments of creating, and misfiring your creation in a way you wish it didn’t go, trying again and again and again… and finally getting that “aha” moment… and actually liking what you create. Moments of a strained relationship with husband or God, and realizing that the only thing left to do is fight for them. Over and over and over. Lots of grace. Lots of forgiveness. Lots of prayer. Lots of tears. Lots of hard heart work. Heart work is possibly harder than any other type of work there is, no? Moments of feeling like a complete failure and wanting to give up. Moments of wanting to walk away from faith because it requires the most intense vulnerability. Moments of falling in love with God all over again and realizing he’s the only chance I have in this world at peace and true happiness – and hope for my family. Moments of sadness, and longing. And moments of sitting on the edge of this cliff with timid dangling toes, anxious to dive into a new year of possibilities.

I am so thankful for the adventures that were set before me this past year. This past year was a year of letting go. I started out this year by talking about how welcoming Evelyn was like “beginning again”. And it was. It was learning to be a mom all over again. It was learning who I was all over again. This year was intense, in so many ways.

Finding grace in new places. Friends in the most unexpected places. Love in the midst of the most fragile and bittersweet time of my life. Hope under failure. And on it goes.

I suppose that is what the years do to us. They grow us in certain ways, and cut off dead wood for more growth and more light… and hopefully one day more fruit.

This coming year I have chosen my “word of the year” to be “held”. I want to remember that no matter how things pan out for my work, or how many things I get to cross off (or leave unmarked) next December, or how much I want to quit, or lose hope or get down at one time or another – that I am held by the one who holds everything in his hands. This past year has been the year that I began to trust God again, like for real. Not the makeshift trust I fabricated during my “rainbow” pregnancies to just get through them without totally losing it, but the kind of trust that finds real rest. I don’t want to forget this landmark because to be totally honest, I never thought I’d live to see this ground again.

Christmas

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I’m finally getting a chance to go through the Christmas pictures. As you can probably tell, I have no idea what I’m doing with my camera in the dark, early morning :) Blurry pictures do tell a story though, don’t they? The hustle, the life, the work or lack thereof put into a photo and the immediate necessity to just capture it already – regardless of it’s quality. #herestomorecrappyphotos

In all seriousness I put “learn to take better pictures” on my 2014 list of goals. We’ll see how that one goes. I get bored reading about ISOs and whatever else it all involves, but I’d like to get better.

Back to Christmas. Christmas was so good. It was actually more like a week of festivities, and we’re right near the end of it. Saturday was Christmas at Pete’s mom’s house, Monday was our seventh anniversary, Tuesday we spent some times playing games and watching the cousins tear up my sister-in-law’s house, Wednesday was a day of travelling, cooking, relaxing, presents and catching up, tomorrow we hopefully get to celebrate the seven years (that actually feel more like two decades) of marriage (yay!), and Sunday… our baby turns a whopping ONE. First of all, that isn’t happening. I’m in denial. Something about her party in two weekends from now will help it feel more official. I think. Second, I just want a break from my break :) I’m exhausted, but a good and full exhausted. The kind of exhausted that makes you want to take a super long nap just so you can jump up and start all these ideas rolling around in your head. And then hug and squeeze life and be okay with a few things slipping out of your hands just as long as the important things stick around.

So somehow we survived Christmas. And when I say “we” I’m actually talking about myself. My family rocks and rolls this time of year. Evelyn has learned their ways. I was holding my breathe and just waiting. I thought it might catch me by surprise. Grief, you know? Christmas Eve I decided I wanted to go down to Texas Children’s and donate a parking pass for another NICU family in need. A family member did that for us when Jenna was in the NICU and well, that gift brought me to tears. I hope it touches someone else. It made Christmas feel more complete and special being down there and doing something in her honor. I won’t get to meet that family but I was able to write them a little card of encouragement and I got to use one of my own cards for it :) I went to visit Jenna afterward at the cemetery. I felt completely inadequate because I didn’t have any flowers or gifts to bring her but I wanted to see her. I talked to her. I feel so strange talking to her, but after a few sentences of awkwardness I started to feel a connection. I doubt she can hear me but something tells me she knows more about this life than I can see. Something about death, it is so silent. You beg in tears and heartache that you might feel a nod of agreement or a hesitant reply or a whisper in love. But the cars keep rolling by in the distance. The leaves keep rustling and falling and the sun keeps beaming on and lighting up this planet as if chaos never visited your doorstep. The world keeps turning. And then one day you find yourself turning again with it. I felt that surge right there on the ground with her. The full circle my grief has made these past four years. I have to assume it will continue to grow and learn and take on new formations.

Christmas felt like Christmas again. And it feels strange to admit it, but it’s true. I’m not leaving her behind, I am bringing her into this new world of light and peace with me. I’ll remember her in new ways and this year we really did.

Christmas felt like Christmas again. I don’t know how that happens. Do you arrive in this place of acceptance? Do you seek it actively or does it just happen? Does the full plate of raising babies water down grief for a while? The biggest question for me is, will it last? Someone once told me (in another context), that you might want a lot of good things in life, but it is what you want the most that will be yours in the end. I don’t know if that’s true for grief. I really don’t. All I know is that this place is a good place. And I will keep chasing this. The place of real pain, real peace and everything in between.

Fantasy Flight

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A few weeks ago we had the chance to join the Fantasy Flight, hosted by United Airlines. Apparently it’s something that the whole country takes part it. It’s such a neat thing! We got an invitation last year but I was all kinds of pregnant and couldn’t think about taking any extra trips, anywhere, I remember it hurting just to walk right around! Anyway, we got an invitation this year again, and it was such an amazing experience!!

We drove up the airport and from the moment you get there, everyone involved (all volunteers from what I understand!) make it feel so welcoming and real – like we are really headed to the North Pole. We even had boarding passes that had “North Pole” as the destination printed out, so neat! The airplane ride took a little over an hour, where we could watch basically anything and enjoy on a light snack. When we landed the terminal was decked out like the North Pole. There were just so many surprises, but we really didn’t know what to expect! From what I’ve learned about Fantasy Flight, it’s mostly for patients but I am assuming they extended the invitation to us because I volunteered in the Family Centered Care for the NICU. I like to think that this was one of Jenna’s gifts to us, especially her siblings. We wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for her.  I kept thinking of that the whole time and how she continues to impact our world in some of the neatest, unexpected ways. And I welcome and smile over the fact that it is more than sadness. I couldn’t have believed that even a few years ago, but I do now.

A Letter

Dear Jenna,

I’m going to go one living. Because that’s one does. Live.

For a while there I never imagined this would be possible and even if it was, that it would be something my heart would want.

But I do.

I’m here. Living. Loving.

This life.

A year or so ago I hit rock bottom, even with the “rainbows” and the blessings that God continued to poor over our lives. All I could see was what I didn’t have. I was so thankful, yet so empty.

I am looking onward, upward. It is a shift in perspective and one I wasn’t ready to take until now.

Time does that you know. It doesn’t heal. Healing is something that will only be accomplished in the next world. When we see Jesus, face to face.

But grace, it has a way of making things alright. Even when your world doesn’t make sense. And behind every blessing is the shadow of pain and loss.

Next year holds some big decisions for me. Some more things I believe I need to let go of. You will never be one of them. But there are seasons, and I can feel a leading that is guiding me to a next chapter or season of my life. Sigh.

Letting go, not my strong suit.

You will live on in spirit. And your name, I will only speak to those who are willing to listen to more than the sadness that illuminates your name and life. I will speak your name and story to those that understand that you are so much more than a storm, than a sad chapter in our lives. You made me a mom. For the very first time. And life has been busting wide open, bleeding with pain and new revelations since that day, but I have to say after all these years you are still a gift.

Joseph mentions your name at least once a day right now. It might only be a seasonal thing. Maybe it’s his age, I don’t know. But I do love to hear your name from your brother.

Sometimes I think about you three together, and it is an impossible dream that captures my mind for a few short seconds.

I’m not sad anymore. Is that wrong?

I get waves of longing, wondering. Even missing those days with you. But the sadness, if it’s here, it’s not the thing I hold on to the tightest anymore. These days, I am holding onto the now.

I am sad only that you can’t be a part of the now we are living. Our life is full of adventure, laughter, love, trials, growth… but one day sweet girl.

One day.

I just don’t have words for that day, because I simply cannot imagine it.

Until that day, I am living fuller because of you. That sounds terribly cliche and I am sorry that words fail me now – but it couldn’t be more true. You’ve given me the unction to be fearless, the motivation to chase my dreams, the courage to do what I love, in the face of failure and opposition.

You’ve given me my life back.

A friend recently shared this quote with me and it describes my life so perfectly. I think it describes so many of us, walking all these different paths of life…

 

Remembering Them at Christmas Time

Remembering them at Christmas time, a list of idea on including your child in Heaven in your Christmas seasonOver the years I have read and heard of some interesting and beautiful ways to include your children in heaven in your Christmas tradition. I wanted to make a list, in case anyone is looking for ideas. I wish I could remember where I found/ read some of them, but like I said it’s something I’ve collected over the years and I want it written down somewhere. :)

+ buy a children’s book, and donate to your local children’s hospital’s NICU floor/ cancer floor in memory of your child

+ create a care package/ memory box and deliver to your local hospital

+ deliver home-baked goods (or flowers) to the nurses/staff /doctors /midwives that aided you at the hospital/ birthing center

+ include a stocking for your child in Heaven and ask family and friends to write a note, a memory or a wish and read them on Christmas morning

+ send a lantern (you can write a message before sending it off with a sharpie) to the sky

+ donate some toys to a child in need, who might be around the same age as your child would have been

+ make an ornament in your child’s memory. This idea is absolutely gorgeous.

+ decorate a miniature tree for your child

+ each year buy your child a special ornament and keep them in a special box, even if you don’t use them all every year

+ donate to a charity or cause in your child’s memory. Ask your friends and family to donate in your child’s name, if you think they might be receptive. Once someone anonymously donated $50 to the Ronald McDonald House in Jenna’s name, and it was one of the most beautiful gifts I’ve ever received. A cause close to my heart is Angela’s book campaign. She even has an option to include your child’s name in her book!

+ Decorate your child’s resting place, and if you don’t have one you can create a small space for your child in your home (maybe around the miniature Christmas tree)

+ host a meal through the Ronald McDonald House at your local hospital

+ Use his/ her handprints and incorporate them into an ornament. Tutorial here.

+ do a random act of kindness everyday in December until Christmas (or the new year!) and leave a note saying who it is in memory of. You might create the note on the computer in a Word Document and print out, or photocopy :)

+ read the Christmas Box books, so good!

+ take part in an ornament exchange, or start your own with the people in your circles

+ write your baby messages in the snow, sand (you know, if you live where it snows… or near the beach)

+ take a mini vacation to a different city and take the opportunity to escape the clammer of the holidays, when your heart can only feel pain

+ decorate a candle in your child’s memory. Tutorial here.

+ start new Christmas traditions. 

+ make a snow globe using one your child’s pictures, photo copy of hand prints/ footprints, or even ultrasound pictures. Tutorial here.

If you have any ideas, feel free to include them in the comments <3

Here’s to You, December

Christmas ornaments for Jenna's treeTo tell you the truth, this year hasn’t been as hard as all the other years of Christmas time without Jenna. The first was unbearable, the second was bittersweet in every sense of the word, so we escaped town for the second time and spent Christmas with just me, Pete and the Bubs. The third Christmas I hit rock bottom. Literally. It was a rude awakening when this post accidentally published that I had written around Christmas time went viral in early February. And then this happened. From that point on I started to let go of my withholdings. This blog became so much more than grief — because I was accepting that my life was so much more than grief.

I will always grieve, but the truth is I do not cry every day, every week or every month.

I rarely get to the cemetery, not because I don’t want to go but because life is just that crazy. And complicated. And let’s face it, sometimes I just don’t want to go. It takes me to a dark place that sometimes is better left unvisited for the time being.

Grief has been a huge, huge part of my life for the past four years. Right now my life looks and feels so different than it did even a year ago. I imagine it will continue to change. I also imagine grief will always be my companion. And sometimes it will be a monster. But it will always be there.

I really wanted to put together another arrangement of “12 days of Christmas with you in Heaven” this year. It would have been the third year. But the truth is, I did not know where to even begin this year. My heart is in a different place. I suppose in a way I have found peace with the way we celebrate Jenna this time of year. I also know so many other baby loss moms are doing similar things on their own blogs (Beth’s “Hurting for the Holidays” and RaeAnne’s “12 Days of Christmas”), so it didn’t feel like it needed to be done. The great thing is that those posts will forever be out there. I’ll repost some of them on the facebook page from now until December 25th. There are some gems. Some really great ideas and beautiful words from the guest writers that made it all possible.

Today I was putting up Jenna’s tree in our living room area and a wave of sadness overcame me. Sadness, and sincere gratitude. Most of her ornaments are gifts that were sent those first two years we spent without her. I remember opening those packages and feeling completely overwhelmed with the love from this baby loss community. Her tree is so perfect, it’s decorated by some of the most beautiful moms around the world.

I so often wish there weren’t states, thousands of miles and even oceans separating us. It feels like we have been through so much together. Losing babies, trying to get pregnant again, having rainbow babies, and some of us more than one.

Life has these seasons. The seasons aren’t usually the hardest part. It’s walking away from them that is the hardest thing to do.

Sometimes.

This season is about taking back what I lost. Learning to walk again. Breathing a little easier. Dancing on what once seemed like impossible ground.

Learning to take flight. And be unafraid of what’s next.

I can’t get her back. But I can get a version of my faith back. A version of myself. A different kind of happy.

Free Christmas Download - 8x10 Print "all i want for christmas is you". Click link for full image size.Click image to download this 8×10 image for free.

Listening love.

A little bit of shop news: You can get half off of anything in the shop through midnight Monday (enter BLACKFRIDAY at checkout).

From There to Here

MAY

Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole on Grooveshark
I don’t even know where “here” is, but I have to say it’s a long way from where I started out.

I started out mostly lost, definitely confused and just plain sad. Like the kind of sad that makes your soul ache. The kind of sad that empties your tear ducts and your face hurts from all the crying.

But I’m here.

In such a different place.

A place of being a stay-at-home/ work-at-home mom. Surrounded by diapers, and messy floors and interrupted phone calls.

A place where I have the privilege to kiss my babies goodnight and hug them so many times in a day because I just can’t get enough of their littleness. Joseph is getting to the age where he doesn’t snuggle a whole lot, unless he is just plain wore out or wants a book to be read to him. So I get in the snuggles while I can, when I can.

This place is also swarming with land mines.

A step in the wrong direction can land you in a pint of ice cream, bawling your eyes out. Because sometimes the sadness – it never really leaves. You just learn to control it better over time.

I think.

But somehow you figure out a way to keep breathing under the incredible load of grief over your chest.

You don’t feel strong. You feel old, ancient actually. You feel worn. Tired.

This place also makes me smile at the thought of death. Not in a suicidal way, but in a way that I am looking forward to what comes next.

Being with her again.

Don’t misinterpret that. I’m not seeking out death, but I’m not as scared of it as I might have been before. I have something precious waiting for me on the other side.

This place.

I just don’t know sometimes. She is the turning point for me. There is a “before” Jenna, and “after” Jenna. For basically everything in my life.

Today Joseph was talking about Jenna. He told me she has blue eyes and that she’s a “big girl”, not a baby. He was so sure of himself. I smile at the possibility that I am getting glimpses of her through his eyes.

It feels good to say her name without tears. But I find that harder and harder. I’m not sure why either.

Sometimes I get carried away with life I think I forget how much I really miss her. I wonder if when the kids are older will the grief hit me at full force again? They serve as such wonderful distractions from such tremendous pain.

I don’t know. But I do wonder sometimes.

collage

ps- Today Carly + I released our Lost for Words calendars for next year. You can find mine here and Carly’s here.

To be Free

Disclaimer: this post is a heartfelt post, but it also is one that I am using to help spread the word about the Ford Fiesta Movement. The theme is still adventure, last week I posted my bucket list and last Tuesday I was able to live out one of those! :)

Mumford and Sons GOTR

I find grief a very distant friend these days.

I don’t even know why I refer to grief as a “friend” either. But after all this time it hardly feels like an enemy. It feels like the only connection to her that I have left. Not so tangible but just as real.

And even though I feel like I have exhausted myself with every thought imaginable concerning our loss, I still crave to keep her spirit alive somehow. To tell you the truth, it’s in a different way now. Yes, to always remember her and keep her memory alive… but more so to celebrate the life I feel that she gave back to me. She handed me a new set of cards when she left this earth. I could hardly imagine at the time how much would change from that moment going forward, but it did. In every possible way, life changed and has never been the same. Of course, it goes without saying I would trade it all to raise her in our home, as the eldest daughter. My goodness, I think about that everyday. What it would be like with her here.

But she isn’t. And that’s just it. Life is different. And somewhere between the NICU stays, the beautiful friendships we have made along the way, and the ups and downs life has handed us since, we made a way to be happy again. To CHOOSE joy. To somehow make grief and joy very real parts of our lives, simultaneously.

For the first time since my loss I feel like it’s okay to not dwell, without feeling guilty about it. I know grief well enough that I am positive, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that she won’t ever leave me alone for good. She will take another swing at my heart before long, and it will be good for my soul when she does. Love like this never dies. It lives on in ways most people cannot understand unless you’ve lost too.

I’ve been picking up my art pencils again. It feels good to be saturated with prismacolors and ridiculous amounts of pencil sharpenings. And to have the art process churning in your heart and mind. To be completely impulsive. To create.

It takes me back to my college artsy days, but in a more confident way. Maybe because I have a few scars of my own. Some experience. Some heartbreak. Some hard-earned life lessons. When I remember my college days, I remember feeling so lost in the sea of starving art students all wanting to make their dent in this world.

She left behind so much, but one thing she gave me was confidence and courage. To just be me. To swallow it, as painful as it might be sometimes, because for goodness sake I am such a people-pleaser even though some might not think so.

To let go, and let things be.

I have been thinking about something I read a while back…

I’m letting go… so I can be free.

 

The thought of “letting go” tugs at my heart. Sometimes I wonder what it must be like for her when I am sad. Do she hurt too? It’s such a silly thought. Heaven wouldn’t be heaven if she cried. But I wonder if I’m supposed to keep letting go… not just for her but for me too…

To be free here.

And adventure.

Travel.

Sing.

Play the guitar. Hopefully, one day.

Draw, and doodle and draw some more.

Hold her baby sister’s hand.

Teach her baby brother about rainbows.

And watch the clouds go by.

Listen to the rain.

And sit under a starry sky and a howling moon, making for one of the most perfect nights in Fran-history while Mumford and Sons plays this song. And let the music pound through the grass through the souls of my feet until it reaches my heart and soul and tears flow.

But not for her, but for me.

Because now I am free.

And maybe, just maybe that’s what she’s wanted for me all along.

To be free, as she is today and has been since we said goodbye.

Rainbow babies

This is a sponsored post and I was compensated for my participation. The opinions expressed are my own. For more adventure inspiration visit here!

Light the Night With Love

I can’t believe it’s already that time again. This Saturday will be the second time we host the Light the Night With Love sky lantern release. One more day!

I know many of you follow me on facebook, but just in case I wanted to mention this here. Plus, hopefully one day my kiddos can visit this little blog and learn all about this amazing night that was inspired by their big sister.

This Saturday, my dear friend Amanda and I will be hosting a sky lantern release. It will be held in Katy, TX at Mary Jo Peckham Park at 7 p.m. We have almost twice as many families joining us as we did last year! It’s equally amazing as it is heartbreaking. There are over 700 names from children gone too soon (from around the world) that are represented on the lanterns.

We look forward to this magical night. Seeing the evening sky lit up with these lanterns is seriously one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. To me it’s like a picture of her soul going up to heaven, and letting her go all over again. It does make me sad but it also in a strange way makes me smile. I think about her in Heaven, like for real. And that is just a thought that I never get tired of. It’s what keeps me going.

Anyway-

If you haven’t already, you can join us by adding your child’s name to the lantern here. (the form sometimes takes a moment to load)

And, if you’re in the area, or up for a road trip (!!!), we’d love to have you. You can find our location here.

***Our event also has a facebook page of it’s own!

**** You can read about last year’s lantern release (and a TON of pictures from it!) here.

***** and the inspiration!

light the night with love

I’m a Weirdo, and That’s Okay.

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W A R N I N G: This is kind of a ‘ranting’ post. Sometimes I just gotta get it out.

Today a little hummingbird whizzed RIGHT past me. I watched in complete amazement as it flew off at the most ridiculous rate. It was so small, so precious and completely perfect. She flew into the gorgeous pink sun set as I was heading into the nursery to pick up Evelyn after church.

Do you ever feel like God lets something happen in your life as a way to just say,”I love you!!!” This was one of those moments. Inwardly it’s been one of those weeks.

When I walked in, someone made a remark, wondering what the heck I was looking at when I walked in. She didn’t say “heck” but her tone said enough.

I’m a weirdo. I explained it was a hummingbird, but she wasn’t impressed. And normally I guess I wouldn’t be either, except there is this little girl, and I miss her so. Especially lately. And when I see amazing little creatures flying into the PINK sunset, my heart skips at a beat, sometimes I forget to breathe and pretend to be normal. And I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God gives me these little moments to keep me assured that he GETS it. The missing, the emptiness, the void, the heartache, the wonder and the way you are left holding this empty bag that you keep trying to fill, but nothing quite fits… or stays for very long.

So forgive me while I lose myself in a moment of wonder. I’m a weirdo by nature, and after losing Jenna I for realz don’t care.

Sometimes I’m tired of trying to be normal.

Most days I look put together. And okay. But the truth is, I’m not okay. Well, I am, but I’m not. I’m both.

That is real life after losing a child. Everything magical and amazing in motherhood is haunted by the what if’s, the longing, the heart strings that are infinitely tied to each of your children, including the one you lost.

Lately out of the blue, random people in my world have been sending me little pictures, graphics and messages letting me know they are thinking of Jenna. It’s pretty neat that without me even saying anything, this community just gets it. Even four years later, those “little” things mean the world.

Most days I find myself bottling up grief. Since having Evelyn I feel like I’ve done this even more. More than ever. I’m afraid of Evelyn reading these thoughts one day and wondering, questioning my love for her. It’s ridiculous, I know. But I don’t ever want her to feel unwanted, unloved or like she isn’t just as much a miracle as Jenna and Joseph.

So the only solution I can find rather than it clumsily spilling onto this blog, is bottling it up, but lately it’s just starting to overflow in a way that I realize I cannot stop. Somehow I have to find balance in grief and this new baby as well.

As I’m writing this, I remember I sort of hit “rock bottom” when Joseph was about six months old. It was a hard time. I did the same thing with my grief, of course it was much fresher… but the concept is the same, I think.

I’ve been holding grief as far away from my heart as I possibly could these past eight months, maybe longer. And my arms are getting a little weak. My eyes are leaking more than they have in a while. And even though the pain has been amplified for whatever reason, the release gives my exhausted, grieving heart a little rest. I almost convinced myself I might never cry for her again.

I will.

I know that I will.

I’m not okay, and I am.

I’m both.

That might not make a lot of sense to everyone but if you’ve ever lost a child I think you might understand.

hold the vision, trust the process

UPDATE: this is amazing.

Oils

drive inTonight I got a glimpse of something that used to happen all the time.

I used to paint quite a bit in college, with oils mostly. Before painting something I would envision the imagery that I would hope to translate onto canvas.

I would get my messy white bucket of oily tubes of paint out. And find whatever type of surface I could use at the time as a palette and start mixing. Mixing the colors was just as fun as painting sometimes.

I used to be able to see a color on something I wanted to paint in real life and be able to run through the spectrum of colors in my head and determine which ones in this messy white bucket could accomplish the color. Ask me now, I have no earthly idea.

It’s been so long since I’ve pulled out paintbrushes for something other than footprints or watercolors with Bubby. It’s an awesome trade, don’t get me wrong, but I do miss the unfortunate toxic aroma that oil painting fills the air with, and the smell of fresh gesso on a newly pulled canvas. And the way it feels to push paint around.

To create. To be still in that moment with the colors that can move an audience. Or help your heart like music.

I was thinking of Jenna on the way home and I have an idea of something I’d like to paint of grief. A picture of grief.

I don’t know what will come of it, or if I’ll even be brave enough to share it on here.

But just thinking about it, and getting the vision of something that could really be a painting again, it was refreshing.

Oils.

Oh my.

I dream in color.

And I miss her with every breath I take.

The Carousel

The birds are not singing yet this morning. It’s too early I suppose. I’m turning in earlier these nights, and enjoying early, early mornings before the babies awake. I hope I can keep this going. I ran once this week. My feet hurt for three days. Does that tell you how desperately out of shape I am? I hope to run Monday. I was sore, all over actually, but it felt so good to push myself that way.

Lately I’ve been thinking about life and how it doesn’t stand still. Instead it pushes along like the music on a carousel dances the horses and ponies, dragons and lions along, going round and round, only your carousel doesn’t go round and round. It goes on. And on. And in my deepest corner of my pieced-together, fragmented heart, I fully expect to come ‘full circle’ on this mocking carousel of life. Somewhere along the way, I have started to believe that life is not just one horribly cruel joke… but a gift. And somewhere along the way I began to  crave a real relationship with God again. On this carousel ride, I’ve stepped off the broken mustang that nearly threw me off the God-forsaken ride completely. I ventured over to the friends and family that held my hand and heart through the deepest nightmare of my life. And as the years grew on my grief, I felt a little braver and stepped out into the world, rubbing shoulders with those that know nothing about the loss of a child but know how to be a friend.

Somewhere along the way I found laughter again. And freedom in it.

Somewhere along the way I forgot how horribly distraught I felt pulling off of the broken mustang’s back. Weak. Broken. Guilty.

And here, among friends and family. Between whispered prayers and singing songs with the rainbow babies I find this carousel ride a complete joy.

I find myself curled up on the couch, beneath a whirling, buzzing fan and the dark morning hour. The wall of our lives is on the hanging  in misaligned black frames throughout our house. I catch a glimpse of the one with the three of us. Holding our first girl for the first and last time.

I ask God,”What was that?” Almost like he made a horrible mistake. Still wondering where I stand in all this. Fully questioning how that horrible moment in my life fits into the life we now lead.

THAT is your story. It’s so clear this time of day, without distractions.

I collapse in a shredded retreat. Why couldn’t my story be something easier to talk about? Something people don’t click away when they read about, and something people don’t try to make into some fantasizing fairy tale? My daughter died. That is usually such a tie breaker when we meet new people, and our conversation finally “gets” there… minutes or weeks later.

I feel a bit clumsy thinking out loud today, asking God about this. I don’t regret any of it, I just wonder at life. It streams effortlessly along, like this forever long carousel ride. Almost as if it is so sure that you will make it off the broken mustang’s back just fine. The music plays while your heart is shattering into one million and one pieces…

The music keeps playing when you feel so alone…

Until one day you wake up, and the same tune is playing somewhere in the background of this life you never wanted to love again.

But you do.

And you realize that life doesn’t wrap so tightly around this fate of grief anymore.

In fact I had a dream about her on her due date, last Sunday. It was the third dream I can remember having of her since she died. And like the rest, it wasn’t good. This one was just plain mortifying. But in a weird way it assured me that she doesn’t belong in this world.

So however jarred I might feel whenever I do share about her and the incredible way she changed our lives, it’s okay. For whatever reason God gave me this story. I don’t take that lightly.

This carousel also makes me cringe thinking of coming “full circle”, or in this case having the other shoe drop… and starting all over at square one on that broken mustang’s back that sent excruciating pain throughout my soul with every jib and jolt of this carousel ride.

Many days I can stand on the brink of the ‘what if’ and wonder how long the carousel must keep going before lightening strikes again. And there are days, like last Sunday, that it’s hard not to question it all. How on earth was I ‘fit’ to mother a dead child? I feel like I don’t do enough for her, talk about her enough? And to some, maybe too much? But who is ‘fit’? That begs me to question why not me? 

One day, I cannot wait to ask God these questions that pound my head this early in the morning. Until then I have to believe there is so much more to this story than I can see. I will hold onto that hope today.

And believe with my whole heart that she was always meant to be our story.

the carousel ride

The Thing About Grief

The thing about grief is that it has no end.

Only some days it feels like it has ‘ended’.

When out of nowhere it takes you by surprise,

and makes your heart cry yet another thousand or so tears,

or shuts you up in silence, making for an awkward social gathering.

But the truth is, that grief has visited your heart once again.

At full throttle.

the thing about grief

And since it’s not like envy,

It has no color, and cannot be recognized but by those fellow grievers.

Whose hearts understand the uncompromising visits from this friend and foe.

The thing about grief is that you actually learn to love it.

Not the sadness, but the strange way it makes you feel love again.

Because the truth is grief only exists where love lived first.

So really, grief is love.

And if you could ever really convince your head and heart of this matter, you might be a much better social gatherer person.

And social events might not be so hard.

And you might do better at the most unsuspecting moments when the tears want to fall and you want to question why…

but then grief would not be grief.

It would be this Pandora box, that no one would ever open.

And while you might never hurt again,

you might forget the love too.

So you embrace every last savory and unsavory bit of this friend and foe, that the world has labeled ‘grief’.

But to you, it is not a label or even an emotion.

This is your life. Not in a box, but the way your heart beats.

And the melody to which your soul dances from tears to joy in a matter of seconds.

You wouldn’t have it any other way.

Because you know that love like this cannot possibly ever die, and you know that it will not always be such a tearful existence.

linking up here + here

Coffee Date

maxi skirt

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If I had the chance to sneak out of my house for a quick cup of coffee, I would throw on some comfy flip flops, tie my hair in a loose bun and grab my keys before my husband could change his mind about watching the kids for me. Honestly, he’s really good about it. But I hate leaving them more than I have to, so my guilt would be playing tug-of-war with my need for a little space to think.

But I’d take the opportunity and run as fast as I could to the nearest Starbucks and eagerly wait to see you.

I’d order something delicious and fattening.

I’d open up Instagram while the barista makes my drink, and gawk over the photos of prettiest beach in Florida or laugh out loud because I caught a glimpse of Angie’s Kate doing something completely awesome in the rain.

I’d squeal inside as I saw you pulling up, because even though I’m almost thirty I feel like a kid inside. I still get excited about friends. And hanging out. And laughing at ourselves and oftentimes other people…!

I’d tell you over my cup of iced coffee with a mountain of whip cream on top, that my heart is so happy that July is here. I’ve felt a movement in my soul for the past few weeks.

There are times when I have seriously questioned if there was really a God. Short lived moments, but honest nonetheless. Yet when I know my heart is searching and feeling so far away from anything spiritual, I can feel him there. I can see him in my children. I can hear him speaking. Softly. And more each day.

It encourages my heart. That even though I’ve had my own version of ‘hell and back’, he still wants to be in this mess. Maybe someday he’ll show me how to pick up all these pieces too, without injuring more parts of my soul.

I’d tell you that Bubby’s baby phase is gone… and has been for a while. But just lately I am really seeing his boyhood taking over. The way he is forming sentences… pronouncing ‘big’ words… asking questions.

I’d laugh as I told you that he asked me if we could take Jesus some cookies yesterday. He pleaded and pleaded to ‘go see Jesus’ and used the cookies as his final plea. I did the best I could to explain things that I wonder how much he really knows (more than I think, I’m sure!).

I’d tell you that Evie reached six months and that I can hardly wait to start really planning her birthday party. Yes, I am thinking ahead. I’d tell you that Pete turned down my idea to rent ponies for pony rides… but that I’m going to still check prices. Dream big, right? ;)

I’d tell you in all seriousness that even though at first having a little girl in our world again was extremely bittersweet, that today life is the sweet side of bittersweet. I think about what the three of them would have been like together… a lot. It makes me so happy. And sad. I remember growing up always wanting a big sister… and to think that Evie did… does… yet at the same time she doesn’t. That kind of breaks my heart.

I’d tell you that the other night I cried for the first time in what feels like forever. We were at the drive-in of all places. Evie was snoozing away, Bubby was watching Monsters U, and I looked up. I guess the movie wasn’t really all that, but the experience of the drive-in… priceless. Movie under a starlight sky? Yes. Please. But anyway, I looked up, and the quote about the stars being the love of our lost ones to show us how happy they are… it crossed my mind. Tears rolled off my face. I think they were happy and sad tears. I love thinking about Jenna being happy. Even though I never imagined I would want to be happy again in this life after we buried her… God has given us so much that fills our hearts. And happiness lives here. Happiness found it’s way back into our world, more than we ever dreamed. To think of her being happy… it’s a beautiful thought to say the least.

I’d tell you that I started my very two last designs. And that I am so ready to plunge head first into new things for the shop. I’d tell you that I am obsessed with gold spray paint, glitter and newspaper for projects.

I’d tell you that we need to go swimming soon, because it’s like a hundred and four degrees outside. And we could both probably use a little more sun? :)

I’d ask about you. Your dreams. Your heart. Your babies. Your world.

And I’d hope that we could do this again soon, soon, soon.

Evie

linking up here today.