Sunday, November 12, 2017

Little sisters

Last November, I was 32 weeks pregnant with Case's second little sister and was experiencing contractions.  With a cerclage in place, I didn't think much of it.  I told my doctor about the contractions and we agreed to a check up a few days later.  She wasn't too concerned either.  

I had my appointment at exactly 33 weeks and found out I was a centimeter dilated and had torn through my cerclage.  I was told to go straight to the hospital to have it surgically removed and also warned that removal could cause immediate labor.  

Back track to when we were trying for this sweet baby... It was March 2016 and I was upset we hadn't conceived.  I thought having a November baby would be wonderful... something joyful to look forward to in November, something to balance out the pain we will always feel in that month.  But when March came and went without seeing two lines, I knew that November baby wasn't going to happen.  We did conceive the very next month and that little one was due December 30th.  There was NO CHANCE I'd have that November baby.  Once my cerclage was placed, we were told it wouldn't be removed until 37 weeks which was December 3rd.  Once again, no chance of having that November baby.  Except....

During the early days of my pregnancy, I talked with others about how I wished things would go.  More than once, I said that I WISHED this baby would come a month early, around 34 weeks, so s/he would be born in November, be old enough and strong enough to not need NICU help, but be early enough to have to go to the NICU.  I thought that would be a healing experience, to be back in those walls.  

Fast forward once again... It's November 11th and I was told to go to the hospital to have my cerclage removed.  After arriving, we sat in triage for hours and hours.  The nurses kept apologizing.  I kept hearing comments about how my contractions were picking up or were pretty regular.  And yet, it was a busy day in Labor and Delivery.  Quite a few babies needed to be born via c-section and so the operating room wasn't available.  I wasn't an emergency situation and I was thankful for that.  

Eleven hours after arriving at the hospital, I was finally brought back for my cerclage removal.  The doctors weren't sure how to go about this.  Cutting the stitch would likely puncture the sac and our baby would have been born right away.  They ultimately found a solution and were able to remove to cerclage.  I was dilated to 3 centimeters by then and was sent to the bed rest unit with antibiotics in an IV drip for 4 days.  I was finally released on November 14th.  At this point, I thought our baby would stay put until December 3rd.  All of my babies come on the third!  I had kind of forgotten about my "wish" of an early baby.

I had an appointment with my doctor on November 23rd, the day before Thanksgiving.  She asked me if I wanted her to check me and I said no, that we should just let the baby be.  I also told her that she'd come on December 3rd.  My doctor laughed and said that was too early, that she needed to stay a bit longer.  Later that night, two weeks into bed rest, my water broke.  We went to the hospital in shock.  This baby was coming... in November... at 34 weeks gestation!

Birth was extremely fast.  At the time she was born, I had only been in the delivery room for 3 minutes and the triage nurse was the only one in there with me, having just pushed me over from triage.  Our second rainbow was born pink and screaming.  I didn't know it at that time, but their NICU cut off is 35 weeks and she just missed that by 22 hours.  She was born on Thanksgiving morning, November 24, 2016, at 2:13 am.  

We had a perfectly healthy preemie.  She was breathing completely on her own.  She was able to regulate her own temperature.  She could nurse and drink from a bottle.  Essentially, she didn't NEED the NICU.  But because she was early, she had to go.  She developed jaundice and we ended up staying for 9 days.  9 days of seeing other babies, of seeing other moms of preemies, of seeing 24 weekers going home, of seeing 28 weekers thriving, 9 days of hearing the beeps of machines, of seeing the joy and fear on NICU parents' faces.  It was incredibly challenging for me but also incredibly healing.  
She wasn't born on December 3rd, but that's when our sweet little one came home.  

Right in the midst of our grieving season, November 6 - 16, we were dealing with the prospect of having another preemie.  I didn't want her to be born during that window of time.  That time is precious to Case.  I had four days in the hospital to think about my last 4 days in the hospital.  This time though, I left with my baby still on the inside.  

It's amazing how the timing of all of that worked out.  This November, we do have something joyful to look forward to.  While preparing for Case's birthday, we get to prepare for his littlest sister's birthday as well.  I find it so ironic that November is premature birth awareness month, and we've had two preemies in this month.  I'm also in awe that having another November baby seemed impossible, but somehow, it happened.  I'm so thankful for all of our little ones.  


Monday, November 6, 2017

4th Birthday

Sweet boy, how has it been four years since we first met you?  I really don't know how time flies by so quickly.  It seems like just a week ago that I was in the hospital, meeting you for the very first time.  And yet, it also feels like my arms have been yearning to hold your once again for far more than four years.

We celebrated your birthday with a lumberjack theme.  This is your cover photo card.  I wanted something with a tree on it and when I searched, this theme came up and I figured with your birthday being in the Fall, it would be perfect for you.

This is your cake which is made to look like a log.  I made the chocolate bark which didn't go as well as I had hoped it would, but I'm also no professional, haha!  It was a chocolate fudge cake with chocolate fudge icing and chocolate bark.  
It was decadent and delicious.

At 3:34, the time you were born, I lit your candle.  This candle holder was a gift from a friend and I still adore it.  I'm so thankful she thought to get it for me.

We had pizza for dinner because Hadley thought your favorite food would be pizza.  She's probably right.  Would have preferred plain cheese or pepperoni?  

Here is your cake with your bear and your candle set up right by it.

We sang to you and then blew out your candles for you.  The cake was delicious!  We had a piece on a plate in front of your bear, and once our pieces were gone, we split yours up between daddy and Hadley.  

I wanted to get another Case tractor for you this year and it totally slipped my mind until Saturday.  I bought it but knew there was no way it would get to us by Monday.  Even though it had to travel all the way from the West coast to the East coast, and even though Sunday is a no-mail day, it somehow made it to my hands on Monday, your birthday!!! This is the second year we've had a birthday miracle involving your gifts and I'm absolutely sure you have a hand in that.  
We think about gifts we can give you every year and it's always a challenge.  This year, we were invited by a fellow loss mom to join her at a 
March of Dimes Gala just a few weeks ago.  We donated some money to 
March of Dimes and I consider that to be somewhat of a birthday gift to you, although it was also to honor Violet.  As a side note, Violet's mom and I think you two are probably best friends up there in heaven.  We assume you two keep your eyes on us and since we're often together, you two probably bumped into each other a few times.  I bet she's like a big sister to you.  

We also chose to get a tree for you this year, which is where your birthday theme came from.  We went to a nursery and daddy picked out an 8 ft dogwood tree.  It's a beautiful little tree and I love that we now have a memory tree of yours in our front yard.  I am looking forward to seeing it bloom this Spring.

Last year, two of our friends brought us gifts to help us celebrate your life.  This year, they both did that once again.  I cannot put into words how thankful I am for them and for the love they show to us, and therefore to you.  

One of the friends brought us a few things which included a buffalo plaid hat ornament to go with your birthday theme this year.  She said she saw it and knew it was perfect.  But at that time, she didn't realize how perfect it actually was because it happens that it fits your bear's head perfectly!

Some day this hat will be taken off, but for right now I just love it and so it's staying on your little bear's head.  Your bear is holiday ready!  

This birthday had a different tone to it than past birthdays.  During your first birthday, we desperately wanted it to be a celebration and tried soooo hard to be happy that day.  But with where we were in our grief journey, that literally just wasn't possible.  Your second birthday was a mix of grief and joy.  Your third was really hard once again.  But this birthday, we were able to focus on the joy your birth brought to us and had a beautiful day of celebrating you.  I am incredibly grateful for the healing that time has brought to us, but also want to make sure you know that you're never far from my heart.

Happy birthday, sweet baby Case.  
Even though you would be such a big boy now, you'll always be my baby.  
I hope you could feel our love for you reaching all the way to heaven.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Little signs

I tend to look for things to remind me of Case as I go through my days.  Recently, I saw a car with Case's birthday as the license plate.  I took a picture and sent it to the one person I knew would think it was a beautiful coincidence.  NOV6TH

The thing I see most often is Case tractors.  To be honest, I didn't know Case was the brand of anything before we had our little boy.  To later find out that tractors, a standard "boy" thing, was branded with his name was really sweet.  I used to picture telling him that one of HIS tractors was in view.  I can only imagine the joy a 2-3 year old boy would get out of seeing a tractor with his own name on it.  I forgot about that with the bustle of life.  I have been looking for those tractors as pick-me-ups lately.  I see the other brands and feel disappointed.  A few days ago, I saw a CAT tractor and my mind played out the scene as I wish it was.  I leaned my head to the back seat and said, "Sorry son!  That's not one of your special ones.  Maybe the next one will be."  I think the almost-four-year-old would be expecting all the tractors to be "his" nowadays.

A random conversation recently revealed that an older lady in our community lost her first baby to prematurity, but randomly enough, also at 10 days old.  I'm hoping to speak with this woman about her life after that.  She had three more kids (her loss was her first born) and her kids are all grown now.  The greatest gift for me is being able to connect to other mothers who have experienced loss, and I feel she would be able to offer a lot of insight.

Another loss-mom friend of mine once told me that 3 years was a breaking point for her.  She was "better" in that her life was churning along and she was coasting, but her mental state began to suffer. I didn't understand it at the time.  I felt like I was doing fine and more time meant more sanity.  Every month was a little better than the last so how could it get worse?

Almost 4 years out, I'm feeling what she felt.  It's not worse right now than it was months ago, but the chaos of life in general plus the immense stress I've been under due to unrelated incidences has led to me truly feeling like I've lost my mind.  I think back to the last time I truly felt sane and it was before Case.  October 31, Halloween 2013.  I had every reason to believe the future held nothing but joy for us, and then experienced the most tragic heartbreak.

I probably should have sought out counseling when we lost him.  We had two losses before him and I felt like a new baby would fix things.  The heartache kept piling up and I hit the bottom.  After digging myself out for nearly 4 years, I am now fully aware that I need some help sorting through life in general.  I need help with the anxiety caused by my losses.  I need help dealing with the stress of life.  I need help to learn how to honor my son's memory or being joyful without feeling guilty for not doing it "right".  I took a big step last week and sought out a counselor.

We all have our struggles in this life.  I have slowly allowed my struggles to steal my joy.  I miss the woman I was before my losses.  I am hoping that counseling helps me find that woman once again.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Case is 3!

It's always hard knowing how to celebrate the birthday of someone who isn't with you.  I worry about doing too much or too little, never really knowing where to draw the line or even knowing what feels right for us.   But birthdays come and we roll with them.

Case would be 3 years old today.  If he were with us, we would have had a big birthday party yesterday.  It's impossible to know what he'd be in to, but after some googling on boy's 3rd birthday party themes, I thought a race car theme was pretty cute.  If you know me, you know I go all out for birthday parties.  I love a good theme and I love making things like the invitations, a birthday shirt, cake, and decorations.  But again, how much is too much?  Why make a card when no one is going to come?  So instead of a "card", I decide to make my facebook cover photo into a card for him every year.  This year was a vintage race car.  

I absolutely loved the look of the banner and the car.  I imagine most of our decor would be in these colors and that little car... so perfect even down to the #3!

The cake was the next big thing.  His first birthday, I just made a basic cake.  His second birthday, a close friend brought a cake for us which was just beyond sweet.  But this year, with a theme in mind, I decided to make him a cake.  I spend a lot of time on the cakes I make for my other children's birthdays so it was kind of nice to do the same for him.

Our oldest actually made the cake herself.  I baked it and decorated it, and my husband crunched up the oreos for the road.  He also helped me figure out how to pour the oreos on without making a huge mess of everything!  A 3-shaped race track with 3 cars... <3  

One other thing that was new this year was I got him a present.  I wasn't sure about doing that... what do you get for someone that you know will literally never use it?  But then again, my SON is turning 3.  How can I not get him a birthday present?  But what could I get?

One thing that's happened this year is I've seen a lot of construction vehicles, specifically Case brand.  Seeing them always put a smile on my face so I knew that was what I needed to get for him.  At 3 years old, Case now has his first birthday present.  I am going to put it in my craft cabinet to display, and I have a feeling I'll be getting him a new piece for the collection every year.

His big sister is old enough now that she understands this day is special to us and really misses her brother.  On Tuesday, 5 days before his birthday, she decided to make him a card.  My heart melted.  She made a book for him this morning but I did not take any pictures of it.  She makes me smile through my sadness.

We decided to make this day as normal as possible, basically making it a day like it would have been if he were here.  We went to church this morning and I broke down into tears a few times.  It's hard knowing what today could have been instead of what it is.  He would have been running around to all of our church friends saying, "It's my birthday!  I'm 3!!!"  

After church, we came home to pack a lunch and went to the lake to have a family picnic.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day.  We brought his sweet little bear with us which helped me feel a little more connected to him.  

After our picnic, we had been invited to a group barbecue and I wasn't sure if I'd be emotionally able to attend, but I was holding up a lot better than I expected to be.  We decided to go and it was really nice.  Other people there acknowledged him and the event helped me keep my mind preoccupied.  

When we got home, I saw our glass door was slightly opened and I told my husband that either the B family or the J family had left something for us for his birthday.  And actually, BOTH of them had!  It's hard to have your kid's birthday celebrated alone, but how can you invite others to take part in the sadness?  Having friends that know and still want to show you they care is the most amazing feeling.  We received 3 balloons and two flower arrangements.  Case's little bear is posing with the gifts.

Case's 3rd birthday was the first one that I felt we were truly able to celebrate even through the sadness.  We sang him happy birthday, ate a little bit of his cake, and opened his gift for him.  His big sister explained to him what his gifts were and what you do with them.  

It is impossible to believe that 3 years have passed since we first got to meet this sweet little boy.  I am eternally grateful for the 10 days we were given to love on him, but I will always wish we had more.  

Love you, sweet Case.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The gift of new life

When Case died, I didn't know which way was up or down.  I was completely lost in the sea of grief and feared losing everyone I held dear.  Just 7 months after Case died, I found out we were expecting a new little one.  God gave me a sense of peace and an intuition that everything would be okay.  In contrast, I feared losing Case every day I was pregnant.  God gave me that intuition as well, but it was a blessing in so many ways because I was thankful for every day I had with him, thinking it might be the last.  When he was born, I finally breathed a sigh of relief because he was here and he was safe.  I expected to lose him when he was still inside.  I was blindsided by losing him at 10 days old.  

Exactly one year and one day after Case's due date, his little sister was born.  It took a while for me to fully realize the impact that having her had on me.  The pregnancy itself was healing.  Making it full term and needing an induction after fighting so long to keep her in was surreal.  Getting to hold a living, breathing, pink, full term, healthy little baby after holding my tiny, fragile son was impossibly hard but also very healing.  

When we had our oldest, I knew I wanted more kids.  We had agreed that 3 to 4 children sounded wonderful.  Then we experienced loss after loss and then had Case.  Right after he was born, I informed my husband that this was it.  I was done.  I couldn't go through preterm labor and hospital bed rest, the daily fear of it being the last day with that baby, again.  My husband joked and said he'd convince me to have more.  Then Case died and the tables turned.  I told my husband I wanted more.  My husband told me he would NEVER ask me to put myself through that again.  But I knew he wanted more children, and after a few months, we were both ready to try again.  I was scared.  Terrified is more accurate.  But, I refused to allow fear to control my life.  I wanted more children.  I wouldn't allow fear to keep me from my dreams.  And so we tried again and were blessed beyond measure with our sweet little girl.  

After her birth, I was once again done.  Pregnancy was smooth as far as complications but it was rough on my body and my mental state.  I had to be constantly vigilant about contractions because I wasn't going to have another preemie if I could help it!  It wore me out, and I was so emotionally drained once she was born.  But babies have a way of filling my spirit up and our second little girl healed me in a way that nothing else could have done.  

When she was 6 months old, I started questioning if we were really done.  How does one know?  We wanted three to four kids and had three.  Two on earth, one in heaven.  But I didn't know if that felt right.  We had three kids, but I felt an empty space.  That empty space was confusing though.  Was it empty because Case should be there?  If that was the reason, I'd always feel that empty space so a new child wouldn't help.  But was that the reason?  I had no idea and no clue how to sort it out other than prayer and reflection.

I decided I was done and the empty space was because Case was missing.  It would never be filled.  A piece of my heart was always going to be with him and that was what I was experiencing.  But the idea of having another baby kept creeping back in, and I knew my husband wanted to have another child.  Since it mostly impacts my body, he wasn't going to pressure me in the least.  I had told him I wasn't interested and he never brought it up again.  After 2 months of thinking and praying more, I realized I was ready to add to our family but didn't know whether that was biologically or through adoption.  I had always wanted to adopt and I knew my husband was open to adoption but more interested in biological children.  I didn't know which path was right for us.  So I prayed some more and finally told him I was interested in trying again, but only for a few months.  If nothing happened in that window, I wanted to move forward with adoption. I think that was my way of allowing God to choose for me.  Either I'd get pregnant or I wouldn't, and whether that happened or not was up to God.  

The fear that came after that conversation... oh man.  I was opening myself back up to a world of pain and heartache.  We had our happy ending.  What was I thinking???  Could I handle another miscarriage?  Could I survive losing another child?  I found myself hoping I was pregnant each month and then being so relieved that I wasn't.  I started focusing on adoption, found some siblings that I wanted to add to our family, and prayed and prayed.  We didn't have a home study, so I knew those children would be gone before we were able to get our paperwork in.  However, I knew other children would need homes and so once again, I was torn.  

That week, I happened to be at a meeting where people were sharing their stories and I felt pulled to share mine.  I stood up and shared my past and my uncertainty about the future.  I asked that room full of women to pray for an answer, to lead me down the path of pregnancy or adoption.  I think their prayers worked.  I found out I was expecting exactly one week later!  That same day, I checked on the children's profile that I had fallen in love with and saw that they had been adopted.  I was filled with such gratitude that they had a new home.  

Much like our last baby, I had a sense of peace that this little one was going to make it.  Also much like that pregnancy, my sense of peace was at war with my mind.  I was always scared that something was going to go wrong even though this voice in my head kept telling me to relax, breathe, it's going to be alright.  I'm happy to say that we've made it 19 weeks so far!  My cerclage was placed at 13 weeks, this baby is genetically perfect, and despite our gut instinct telling us I was carrying a boy, God planted a third little girl in our family.  I think Case likes being our only boy, and in so many ways, I like that too.  

This little girl is expected to make her debut right before Christmas, and thanks to my most recent pregnancy and birth, I am able to focus on the joy of this baby and keep the fear at bay.  Without the healing God provided through the birth of our youngest child, I never would have had the courage to go down this path again.  So in many ways, this little girl has her closest sister to thank for her life.

I'm happy to say that once I found out I was pregnant, the empty spot in my heart began to close.  Although Case is always missing and always will be, he's also here in so many ways.  My heart isn't feeling empty because he's gone.  Our family will always be one member less than it should be, but I feel God has restored a big piece of me that died with Case.  He gave me a son for 10 short days and has blessed me with two wonderful daughters and a third on the way.  For the first time since Case died, I am starting to feel whole again.     

Friday, November 6, 2015

2 years old

Birthdays are interesting celebrations.  We all grow and change a little bit every day, but it's on these big days of celebration that we can truly compare a year ago to now.  Unfortunately, we are not able to see you growing and changing as we would love to be doing.  So instead, I was thinking about how much your life has helped me to grow and change.

Two years ago, I was naive to the world of baby loss.  I knew of it, but I had no reason to think it would happen to me.  After 4 days of bed rest, things were looking promising.  Labor had stopped.  I was being sent to long-term bed rest.  I was in this for the long haul.  At 1:30, your daddy went home so your sister could take a nap.  My friend was coming to visit around 2:45.  At 2:35 p.m., I called her and told her my water just broke.  She went to our house to watch your sister which allowed daddy to come be with me.  You were born at 3:34 p.m., less than 30 minutes after daddy arrived.  In that moment, I was forever changed.  I became a mom of two babies.  I now had a son.  I was entering the NICU roller coaster.  I was no longer on bed rest.  And I had this teeny, tiny, little boy who had more fight, spunk, and spirit than any other person I knew.

One year ago, I thought I could create a joyous 1st birthday celebration.  I thought it would be a relatively normal day that I could add special elements to.  I expected to grieve, but I didn't expect to be debilitated by my emotions.  At that time, I was so fearful.  I was 26 weeks pregnant with your little sister and was terrified of losing her too.  I despised being pregnant because I should have been holding you in my arms.  If you were with us, the baby in my belly wouldn't be.  It was very difficult for me to work through.  And on top of all of that, we should have been having a day of celebration!  You were one!  One year ago was an incredibly painful reminder of all that should have been and all that we were missing.  

I was amazed at how different November 6th has been this year.  I devoted my day to you as much as I could.  I made no plans.  I chose to only do things I wanted to do and made sure all the necessary tasks were completed the day before.  This allowed me to pause whenever necessary and devote my mind and thoughts to you.   The biggest difference in me now versus a year or two ago is my compassion and understanding.  I have had two friends lose babies this year and I have been able to support them in a way I wouldn't have been capable of before.  I am more open to talking about you.  And although I hate that you're not with us, I've come to terms with your absence.  Unlike last year, this birthday was more than just motions.  We were able to have some elements of joyous celebration.

A very good friend of mine brought us meals for the entire day so that we wouldn't have to cook.  She also brought us a cake and candles to help us celebrate.  We began celebrating your birthday at the time of your birth, 3:34 p.m.  We lit your birthday candle for one minute and watched it in silence.  

After that, we bought your birthday balloon and went to your tree to release it.  Daddy and I wrote notes to you on your balloon while your sisters sent their love.    

The main plan for the day was to get you a build-a-bear.  When daddy and I were celebrating our 2nd anniversary, we went to build-a-bear and bought a teddy bear.  We named him Teddy Bi-year.  Years later, your older sister was born.  I wanted her to choose a build-a-bear on her 2nd birthday and add to the Bi-year family.  Once the time came, she chose a rabbit that she named Bunny Bi-year.  Today was your turn, and since you couldn't pick out a bear, I chose one for you.  Your big sister did all of the fun stuff for you.  I'm pretty sure she would have taken the lead even if you were here.  That's just how your sister is!  We picked out the Charlie Brown outfit for your bear, partly because it was cute, and partly because the new Peanuts Movie was released today.

After we got your bear, we ate dinner and then went to see the Peanuts Movie.  It was a really cute movie and daddy said he felt you would have really liked it.  I'm sure you would have.  Your big sister brought your bear into the movie and held it the whole time.  

As time goes on, she is becoming more comfortable talking about you.  She wanted to wear her "big sister" shirt today because (in her words) "then baby brother will know that I'm his big sister, too!"  Once she saw her dresses hanging in her closet, she changed her mind, but she wore her Case memory necklace in your honor.  She told her teacher that today was your birthday.  Her teacher's response was that she wished she had gotten a card.  Very, very sweet.   Later on while we were getting the bear, the build-a-bear worker asked if it was for her.  She told the woman that it was for our baby boy that is in heaven.  She also made up a birthday song that I overheard her singing for you today.

Birthday Song
     It's a baby boy in heaven.  Boy, boy, boy.
     It's a baby boy in heaven.  
     Everyone is getting ready to celebrate
     because it's his birthday.
After the movie, we came home for cake.  We sang to you and then each had a small piece.  Last year, your sister ate your piece.  This year, she was too full so we saved it and she will probably ask to eat it for breakfast.  We may let her.  

After your sisters went to bed, daddy and I looked through your picture album together.  Then I wanted some time alone to go through your memory box.  That's when the tears started to flow.  Many days, losing you seems like such a distant memory: almost like you were from another lifetime.  But then there are days like today where losing you is still so raw.  I held each of the things in that box and wept for all that we lost.  My favorite object is the pacifier.  It was given to you fairly early on and it fell on the floor when I was holding you.  The nurse was going to throw it away but asked if I wanted it.  I felt it would be a sweet keepsake: your first pacifier!  It stayed on my dresser for months and then finally made it's way into your box.  I'm very glad I have it along with all of the other items given to me.   

I read a poem the other day from parents who just lost their precious baby girl.  It was very sweet and I want to share it with you.

They say there is a reason.  They say that time will heal.
But neither time nor reason can change the way I feel.
No one knows the heartache that lies behind my smile.
No one knows how many times I've broken down and cried.
I want to tell you something so there won't be any doubt.
You're so wonderful to think of, but so hard to be without.
                                                                                                                      - Allyson and Billy Nelson

Much love to you, sweet boy.  I loved you yesterday, I love you today, I will love you tomorrow, and will continue to love you for the rest of my days. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Meaningful sunflowers

Have you ever received a gift that wasn't meaningful at the time, but grew to mean so much more?  When Case was born, a friend gave us a teddy bear with some flowers.  It was just a small bear at the time, Case's first stuffed animal.  We assumed it would be one of many, but it is the one and only.  His ashes are in a locket around the bear's neck.  The bear means so very much to me now.  

On Mother's Day, my daughter's preschool made gifts for the moms.  I imagine it was the same for every kid.  3 sunflower seeds planted, grown for a while, and brought home in a little cup.  I didn't put any thought in it at the time.  One of the sunflowers wasn't looking very good.  I knew it wasn't going to make it.  The other two looked identical.  I asked her where we should plant them and we picked a spot next to our back deck.  It gets full sun.  The flowers would do well there.  

We watered them daily.  Pretty soon, one flower began sprouting up and the other was struggling.  It needed a little more attention.  I had to add a brace to support it so it could stand upright.  It's been a month and a half now.  The bigger flower recently began to bloom.  The smaller one is just now beginning to grow the blossom.  And as I walked by the flowers the other day, it occurred to me that they were my kids.  These sunflowers tell my story of motherhood, and how interesting is that considering it was the same gift given to each mom?

I received three sprouts.  I held three babies in my body.
One of the sprouts didn't make it.  My sweet boy passed away.
Two of the sprouts kept growing.  My girls both made it to term.
One of the sprouts did fine without any help.  My oldest was term and we had no issues getting there.
The other sprout needed support to continue growing.  My youngest needed intervention but made it to term as well.

I was given three sunflowers.  Two are currently blooming in the garden.