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... that's my last happy memory.

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.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

When a friend loses her baby...

This is the "year of the babies" among my friends.  When I lost Case, I was the only one pregnant in my mom's group.  Then I was the only one who had a preemie.  And shortly after, I was the only one to lose a baby.  It was an awful place to be in and I had no one to turn to.  It was foreign territory to all of the moms my age.  They were there for me in ways I can't even explain, but I was alone in my journey.  Everyone felt for me, but no one knew my pain.

It's been almost 18 months now.  Hard to believe my little guy would be 18 months!  Walking, saying words, getting in to everything...  In that time, most of the moms have become pregnant.  Most of us have had our babies.  But one mom has not.  

Yesterday, I was hit with the news that her baby had passed.  This friend has had a very difficult journey up to this point and I truly thought this would be her happy ending.  However, going in for a routine check up, they found no heartbeat.  An ultrasound revealed he had stopped growing a few weeks prior.  And so, her happy ending came to a crashing halt.  Her 22 week baby, 2 weeks from "viability day", was gone.  

I heard the news and I broke down.  How can this be?  How can someone ELSE lose a baby?  It hurts my heart when I hear of losses.  I think of all the precious lives lost and how difficult life going forward will be.  But this time was different.  Because this is a friend, I could feel her pain.  It made the emotions of losing Case come to the surface.  For the first time in a while, my loss was raw and I had no choice but to cry.  I could see our roles reversed, me weeping at her son's service versus when she was weeping at mine.  I can see her shedding tears behind the wheel of her car on every trip she takes during the next few weeks or months.  I can see her breaking down in the middle of the grocery store because she's reminded of her loss and it's still so fresh.  I know her pain.  And now, she knows mine.

I was alone and unsure of everything.  I wanted someone who understood.  I wished no one else understood because the pain was so deep.  I didn't know how people pulled through this type of agony.  Now I will no longer be alone in this.  We will both have someone who knows and understands.  We will both always be missing our sons. 

Rest in peace, little baby.  You are very loved.  

Friday, February 13, 2015

10 days...

On February 3rd, I gave birth to our rainbow baby.  I didn't know what to expect, but I knew it would be an emotional experience.  The L&D nurse knew we lost our son.  No one else in that room did.  

Labor Story:  39 weeks gestation
7:30 am.  Arrived at hospital.  My induction was set to begin at 8 but didn't.
9:50  They broke my water.  I didn't want any medications if it could be avoided because of             my previous c-section.  
11:30  There had been no change.  Contractions weren't all that strong, so I was told to take a            walk.
11:50  Got up to walk and couldn't.  Contractions were too strong.  I couldn't stand during                   them.
Around 1 pm, I got an epidural.  
Around 4 pm, I was fully dilated.  I began pushing.  
4:12 pm Eileen was born.

When I was told I was fully dilated and it was almost time to "have this baby", I broke down.  The tears wouldn't stop coming.  More doctors, nurses, random people, etc. came into the room probably expecting a very excited mom-to-be.  Instead, they saw me.  A woman who SHOULD be happy, but was instead crying buckets.  I can't even explain my emotions at the time.  

I was in shock in some ways.  I felt like I shouldn't be there.  Case should be here.  I shouldn't be pregnant.  I shouldn't be in labor.  Another baby that wasn't him shouldn't be coming into the world right now.  I felt fear because I was giving birth again.  The only other time I had been in that position, it was to have Case.  It was a time filled with fear, wondering if he was going to be okay and not having any power to stop him from being born.  I wanted to keep him inside.  My body was forcing him out.  I also feared so many other things, 90% of them completely unfounded.  I was afraid Eileen would be stillborn.  I was afraid of uterine rupture.  I was afraid of death, of leaving Hadley without a mom just because I wanted another child.  I was petrified.  But pregnancy has to end at some point.  It was a fast paced train heading for a brick wall.  The crash was going to happen.  There was no way for me to stop it.  

But pushing was short.  Thank goodness pushing was short.  3 pushes, and that little girl was born.  Same as her brother.  He was born after 3 pushes as well.  Physically, I could have done more.  Emotionally, I don't think I had it in me.  Then she cried.  And they placed her on my chest.  I had another birth experience, except this time was exactly as most women want it.  No surgery, no NICU, no preemie.  Just a mom and her full term, healthy baby.  In fact, a PERFECTLY healthy baby.  She got a 10/10 on her Apgar score which is incredibly rare.  I see it as God's answer to our prayers.  I prayed for a healthy baby and he said, "See!  I gave you a PERFECT one!"

But that's not really the point of today's post.  Eileen is 10 days old today.  Born February 3rd and today is February 13th.  Case only lived for 10 days.  Nov 6 through Nov 16.  10 days.  That's it.  Just 10 days.  

These 10 days with Eileen have been very different than the 10 days with Case.  So honestly, I haven't compared the time we've had with them.  But sitting here tonight, thinking about the end of day 10 with Case, it's hard not to merge today and November 16.  Day 10 with Case ended with me holding him as he took his very last breath.  Day 10 with Eileen is ending with us swaddling her and putting her to bed in her bassinet.  Although tomorrow isn't promised, we have every reason to believe we will get an 11th day with her.  

It's hard to believe that this is all the time we got with Case.  We loved him so very much but didn't know much about him.  We know that Eileen has blue eyes.  We never knew what color eyes Case had.  We know that Eileen likes white noise.  Case was never upset so we knew nothing of how to calm him.  We know that Eileen loves the attention she gets from big sister.  Case never got to meet his big sister.  But despite all the things we didn't know, we knew we loved him.  We knew he was our little boy.  We knew we wanted him to grow big and strong and come home soon.  We knew we wanted to get to know him.  We knew 10 days wasn't enough.  

I am grateful for this little girl.  I love that she's a combination of her older sister and older brother.  She has her brother's profile.  

But she also resembles her sister.  She is definitely her own person.  She's not a clone of her sister or her brother.  Yet, she reminds me of both of them at the same time.  It brings a mix of joy and sadness, but mostly joy.