Saturday, December 20, 2014

A grieving sibling

I had a very sweet moment with Leah last week. I was upstairs finishing cleaning up the kitchen and Jack and Dan were also upstairs doing something on the computer. I knew Leah had gone downstairs, and we were all planning on watching a movie, so I just assumed she was getting things ready. I had to bring something downstairs, and I came down to find her sitting in our big recliner with Hannah's scrapbook open in her lap and she was sobbing. I scooped her up and sobbed with her for a while. I said "can you tell me what's making you sad right now?" She said "Hannah was so small and she died." And she kept saying over and over, "I wish that never happened." 

She was just so sweet and it breaks my heart that she will never have a sister here. She was so little--not quite 2 1/2--she never really grieved. But three years later, she's obviously much more aware of things now. It's very interesting to walk through that with her now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


My sweet Hannah should be turning three today.

But she's not. And while that reality hurts, the pain has changed. It's not the despairing pain that we felt in the first days and weeks after her death. It's not even the lingering pain that followed us that first year as we navigated life after two losses.

Last week, I realized it was October 30th, which was the last day I remember feeling Hannah really kick me. And it hit me--this will never NOT hurt. There will always be something painful about this loss. This little life should be a part of our family. Life goes on and most days are filled with hope and joy.

This year in BSF, we are studying the life of Moses and we were talking yesterday about what we are most thankful for about what God has taught us so far this year. And most notably, I am beyond grateful for God's faithfulness. It's amazing to read and study about how God was faithful to Moses and the Israelites and then look at my own life and know without a doubt that he is that same faithful God today. We haven't just survived the last three years. God has carried us so amazingly through it all and has used it as an opportunity for us to grow and to lean on Him.

I love you, my beautiful girl! Can't wait for the day I can hold you again.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

one year

My dearest Will,

One whole year.

One year ago, I had no idea how much love my heart could hold.

One year ago, I didn't know the joy that awaited us.

One year ago, I laid eyes on you for the first time and fell head-over-heels in love.

Frankly, I'm not sure how it's already been a year. It feels like just last week we were heading to the hospital on an unseasonably warm September morning, assuming we'd be there all day and night waiting on you. But you blessed us with your presence a mere two hours after we got into our room. What a lovely surprise!

Your laugh is infectious. Your cheeks are practically edible. You are just all-over squeezable and delicious. Seriously, I could just sit and kiss you all day long. You might object. But I might try.

I can't even describe how you've completed our family. It's a crazy thing, actually. When I look at the way WE thought things would go, you never actually should have been a part of us. We would have been done at Hannah. And then we would have been done at Charlie. So to have you in our lives is beyond a gift. And as much as it looks to us like you never should have been here, God has always known you'd be the baby to complete our family. He has had plans for you since before creation. Big plans. Good plans. And lucky for us, plans that included life on earth with us.

One of my greatest joys is watching your big brother and sister love you. They waited a long time to have a little sibling! And the excitement they had when they came to the hospital one year ago has not waned. They still simply adore you! They love to see you when you wake up in the morning. They love to play with you when they get home from school. They want to hold you and feed you and read to you and lay with you. You're a lucky little brother. :)

Thank you. Thank you for being you and being ours. I love you to the moon and back and can't wait to see what this next year has in store.


Video of Will's first year:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

12 years

I officially rang in our 12th anniversary by waking up my snoring husband at 2:00am to let him know he'd forgotten to put on his cpap mask.

Romantic, right? ;)

Ah, how things change in 12 years. I remember celebrating our dating anniversary every month. We also celebrated every 100 emails (a pretty big deal in the pre-texting, pre-Facebook world we lived in) all the way to 2,000-something. Lots of flowers, lots of gifts. We even had a big fancy date on our 1-month wedding anniversary. Ha! Now we sneak out for a couple hours of drinks and appetizers and tell each other to please not waste money on a card. :)

Would I go back and change how we did things?

Not for a second. I love how we celebrated each other then. I love the things that were important to us. I love that I have stacks of greeting cards from those "young love" days. I love that the couple in that photo had no idea what awaited them, but they were in it together regardless of what came their way.

I also love where we are now. I love how the years have changed us. I love that we have three littles to share this day with.

It's also so great that in the grand scheme of things, 12 years is just a drop in the bucket. We look back on the first chapter of our marriage and marvel and how things have changed and how much we thought we knew back then. But I know that in 12 more years, we'll look back at this point in our marriage and think the same thing.

So my dear, happy anniversary. We've got a good thing going. Here's to the next 12 years, and another 12 years, and 12 more after that. Love you.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

two years

The other night we were at a friend's house for a birthday party and someone mentioned that the Belmont Stakes horse race was going to be on that evening. Isn't it crazy how the smallest thing can trigger grief? All of a sudden I was transported back to the evening of the Belmont Stakes in 2012. I was pregnant with Charlie and had started spotting. I was unable to get a hold of my parents for the longest time because they were having a Belmont Stakes dinner party on their deck. That stinking horse race will forever be linked to my miscarriage.

Two years ago began the darkest few months of my life. You'd assume my darkest days came after Hannah was stillborn. And we definitely had really hard days. And weeks. And months. But there was still hope somehow. We knew we'd make it through and that God could somehow use tragedy to restore things. But miscarrying Charlie was a whole different monster. Our grief was compounded. Having a baby after a loss should have been so redeeming. Instead we experienced such a whirlwind of hurt. It's hard enough to live in a world where one of your babies has died. Now I had lost two. Half of my children were not part of my family on this earth.

Emotionally, I was a wreck. I was still grieving Hannah and had spent 14 weeks trying to survive the most nerve-wracking pregnancy-after-a-loss experience ever. And then it was over and I had another baby to mourn. Not to mention how traumatized I was after the experience itself. I was completely unprepared for things to happen naturally before I could even see my midwife. I was not prepared for any of it--the contractions, the blood, nothing. Afterwards, I could hardly bear to look at pregnant women or babies. What had I done to warrant going through this twice, when so many people just floated along through life without ever having to experience such loss?

Physically, I was sure I was broken. After Hannah, I could tell myself that it wasn't my fault. It was a fluke. I couldn't have done anything to prevent it. But then it happened again, and I wasn't so sure. There had to have been a reason my body was losing these precious lives. The two losses had to be connected somehow. I had very little respect for my body--it couldn't do anything right. Maybe Jack and Leah were my flukes and I'd never carry a live baby to term again.

Spiritually, I was confused. I never doubted that God was with us and I don't feel like my faith was necessarily tested. And I knew that I needed to hang onto the same Jesus who had carried us through Hannah's death if I had any chance of surviving Charlie's. I thought of the line from "Held": "To think that providence would take a child from his mother while she prays is appalling." I guess I was rather appalled. I spent nearly every moment of the 14 weeks I was pregnant with Charlie so sure that something was going to go wrong, but then when it DID, I was still shocked.

My status as wife and mother were marred. My marriage was in the rockiest season it had ever seen in its 10 years. Some of it was loss related. Some of it was just horrible timing because it added to the mess of that summer. My children had to deal with the fraction of me that I had the energy to give them. It was never enough and I hate that I missed even the smallest parts of their growing up years. It was such a fine line between being grateful for the kids I was blessed with on this earth and being angry that I wasn't allowed to mother the two that were waiting for me in heaven.

Eventually, by the grace of God, the fog began to lift. I distinctly remember going for a walk on a really beautiful day in September and thinking, "Life is still good." I felt like I could breathe again. Hope slowly came back into the picture.

Steven Curtis Chapman's album Beauty Will Rise has been extremely healing, as it is the first album he released after the loss of his daughter Maria. The song of the same title in particular speaks so beautifully to the transformation that happened two years ago. It's SO hard to see anything beautiful in the midst of the ashes. But when you look back, you can see that those ashes were not, indeed, the end. God has so much more for us after the hard stuff. I love the line, "We will dance among the ruins." The ruins don't go away. We just change how we deal with them. I will never stop missing Hannah and Charlie. But we are not held down by the grief that sidelined us. He continues to carry us through it. And I think the beauty we can see now is more amazing because of the ashes we've endured.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

6 months

Hi sweet boy!

You turned six months a couple of weeks ago. You've already been with us for over half of a year?! Insane. Beautifully insane, but still--time flies.

The other day you were bouncing away in your little activity center and Jackson decided to play peek-a-boo with you. And you laughed and laughed and laughed! Jack continued to do silly things and you continued to crack up. It was such a beautiful sight and sound! Your personality is totally starting to shine and it's so fun to feel like we're getting to know you better. You're interacting more and becoming increasingly aware of your surroundings.

The last few weeks, you've been sleeping so well--like a good 10-hour stretch before you wake up to eat. Bravo, young man--that's not something Jack or Leah did until they were almost a year old! It's things like this that make it obvious how much you're growing up! That and seeing pictures from when you were brand new. ;)

You're eating real food, and it's so much fun. You love trying new things and making big messes. And since we're doing Baby-led Weaning instead of spoon-feeding, you're trying a much bigger variety of food than Jack and Leah ever did this early. You've had chicken, apple, avocado, banana, pork tenderloin, quesadilla, red pepper, cucumber, celery, toast, pancake, and more. I love watching your face when something new makes it to your mouth.

Jack and Leah continue to simply adore you. You are the first person Jack wants to see when he comes home from school. :) It will be fun when he's home for the summer and can see you all day long! Speaking of summer, we're dying for some warmer weather. We've been teased a few times, and you love being outside. Can't wait until we can do that more often! You know, until it's too hot. ;)

I love you, my delicious little man! Can't wait to see what the rest of this first year, and beyond, holds in store. Thanks for making our days so fun and for being a light in our lives!


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Seasons of Hannah

I was talking to a friend a couple of weeks ago and told her that I am feeling very distinct seasons of grief around Hannah. Although I always miss her and wish she were here, there are some seasons when I can be grateful for the journey and for what God has done through her little life. And we really have found joy through the pain. But sometimes I'm in a season of anger and sadness, and I think that's where I am these days.

I am angry that she'll never be a physical part of our family. I hate that our family will never feel complete to me. We knew we were done having babies after Will and I was okay with that until he got here. Now it's so hard for me to know that we're done. But I also know that ten more babies wouldn't make me feel done either. There are babies who aren't here. They will always be missing.

I am sad that I'll never get to hold her and kiss her and make her smile. Having Will is such a huge blessing, but it has also made me hyper-aware of everything we have missed with the babies we lost. And that's so frustrating and unfair.

The logical part of me can identify the things that we wouldn't have if Hannah hadn't died, and I know deep down that I am truly grateful for it all--fellow babyloss friends, a different outlook on life and parenting, a stronger relationship with my husband and children, and sweet baby Will. But when the logical part of me loses to the emotional part, I think, "I don't CARE! I want HANNAH!"

Hannah should be two. I can remember what two was like with Jack and Leah. And I see two around me all the time in children who were born around the same time Hannah should have been. I can very clearly imagine what Hannah would be like right now. I can picture the hand-me-downs she'd be wearing. I can picture the Elmo cake I'd likely have made for her birthday party.

I know this will all be redeemed someday in eternity. And for now I have to trust the One who redeems things even while we're still here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

3.5 months

Dear Will,

Well, shoot. I'm debating whether or not I should tell you that Jack and Leah both got letters every month, starting with their due dates. I could just let you believe that 3 1/2 months is a perfectly acceptable time to receive your first "letter from mom." I mean, you're the third baby. You might just have to get used to this kind of thing.

The truth is, you've pretty much turned our world upside down. In a really great way, of course. In fact, you're by far our easiest baby (don't tell your siblings). But the last 3 1/2 months have been full of every emotion possible, and the time has flown by.

I often say that I could write a very long list of ways you are different from Jack and Leah, and it really started with your arrival. Your brother and sister decided to enter the world "fashionably late." So when I received a due date of October 2, I knew we'd probably meet you closer to the middle of the month. But BAM! Contractions started on September 29th and you flew into the world on the 30th, a whole TWO DAYS before you were "supposed to." And that "flying into the world"? Second way you're different from your sibs. They took their SWEET time coming out to meet us, allowing me to labor for 30 and 28 hours. You? A respectable 11 hours, thank you very much. So appreciative, little guy. Really.

Also, you were the littlest of my living babies, at a petite 9lb 3oz. :) But you STAYED little for so much longer, which was actually kind of sweet. It was as if God knew that we needed to enjoy this newborn phase a little extra long since you're likely our last baby. But really, your "littleness" was a bit of a concern for a few weeks. In the few days after you were born, you lost a little more weight than they like to see (1 full pound, or 11% of your body weight), and you were kind of slow to put it back on (whereas Jack and Leah were back above their birth weights at their one-week appointments, you took a full month to get there). But we eventually figured everything out and you started gaining appropriately. And your length was never in jeopardy, that's for sure! At your two-month appointment, you were in the 38th percentile for weight and the 86th percentile for length. Not surprising. :)

There are many more differences, but you're still a typical baby in many, many ways. You a baby. But it's great, actually. I am often reminded in the middle of the night that this will be the last baby that we "get" to do this with. And God has a special little measure of grace for sleep-deprived moms, so it's all good. And you are absolutely delightful when you are awake. Lots of smiles and giggles and "talking." Jack and Leah adore giving you hugs and kisses and holding you. You're a very lucky boy!

As you'll likely hear about as you grow up, this has been a long few years for our family. In fact, I did the math, and by the time you were born, I had been pregnant for 20 of the previous 29 months. Ha! Enjoying this non-pregnant state even more now. :) You will grow up hearing about a brother and sister that came before you. Babies that paved the way for you to have a place in our family. We wanted those babies, but God had different plans. He knew that YOU were the one that would complete us. You are such an amazing gift, Will. I can't imagine having anyone else sleeping on my chest right now.

The other day in the car, we were talking about something that happened over a year ago. Leah was confused and thought it had happened more recently. I said, "No, that was last year--Ava was a baby and Will wasn't born yet." Jack said, "Mom! Don't say that out loud!" I said, "Why? He wasn't born yet. I wasn't even pregnant with him yet." He said, "Will has always been a part of our family!" So true. You've always belonged.

Love you to the moon, sweet boy! Thanks for being ours.

And let's see how long it takes for me to write your next letter....