Thursday, December 1, 2016

The littlest Clare

About six years ago I attended the funeral of a five year old girl from our church. I remember thinking I've never seen such a small casket. A few years later someone spoke similar words when our friends' buried their one year old son. Honestly, at the time, I didn't even think they came any smaller.

A little over a year later we buried Lily and I remember the funeral director actually saying, "This is the smallest casket we have," and it was smaller than the one I had seen the previous year

But he lied.

There is one smaller and it's the one we used to bury another child seven months ago. 

Our littlest Clare Therese.

We won't know until Heaven if she is a she or a he. I didn't have any premonition until they told me she no longer had a heartbeat and then girl names started to flood my mind. Maybe it's because I associate death with girls now. Or the thought of losing a brother for Ted was just too much to bear. 

It does give me a sliver of peace to imagine Lily with her sister in Heaven, so maybe that's why my mind assumes girl. 

Anyway it doesn't really matter. Our baby is dead. Boy or girl. Dead.

I went into the ultrasound nervous. I wasn't nervous until that day. I had felt nothing but immense peace since the moment I found out I was pregnant again. Because this baby's story was perfect. From the day I found out (Good Friday), to her due date (today) two weeks after Lily's 2nd birthday. She was my redemption song.

But on the way there, I started to get more anxious. For some reason tears started to threaten my eyes. And then I heard a whisper, "It's ok. I'm here for you mama." My Lily. Whispering in her mama's ear. 

It's so surreal when you really think about the reality that your daughter's wisdom at 18 months surpasses your 37 years. 

I thought she was whispering it me because I was anxious and nervous. I thought she was whispering to me because she knew my mind always goes to her ultrasound when I found out I wouldn't get to keep her. But now I know, she was whispering it me because her sister was right beside her.

I knew before the nurse said anything, but I didn't want to say. I wanted to be wrong. I wanted to keep pretending we were finally getting redemption in the form of a new life. I know what an 8 week ultrasound should look like. And I was hoping eight weeks was far enough to see a little round head to give us some reassurance. Not seeing a heartbeat wasn't even close to my radar.

I knew I should have seen a flickering heart. But it wasn't there. I knew even more when she asked, "Are you sure about your dates?"

My words, "Yes," with a sinking feeling in my stomach and the tears remembered this place. Even if I was off two weeks there should have been a flicker

And then she said it. "I can't find a heartbeat." Despair immediately washed over me. The same despair I was met with almost two years before. The same sinking feeling that leaves you gasping for breath and crying out in agony. The same feeling I had when they said, "Anencephaly."

I honestly never thought it would feel the same. But it was...the exact same absence of hope that I will never forget. It didn't matter that I was only eight weeks along. Maybe it did to other people, but it didn't matter to me

I had dreams for this child.  

And I dreamed those dreams again last night. 

I dreamed of her all night long. Even when I woke up and kept trying not to, I fell back asleep dreaming about her. I dreamed how different this day was supposed to be. That she should be in my arms for the world to see, instead of just in my heart where no one can see her. I dreamed that Ted would finally get to wake up on Christmas morning with one of his siblings. I dreamed that he would pick out the sweetest little stuffed animal for her instead of another ornament for his dead sister's tree.

I had the same dream nine months ago before I even knew she was mine. 

Some days there are just too many uncertainties this side of Heaven and today they just feel like too much to bear. 

I'm weary and I'm tired. I'm tired of hoping, tired of trying, tired of begging for this month to be different. Tired of surrendering the will I want for the will God apparently seems to have in store for us.

I'm tired of people telling me it will happen. I'm tired from all the pregnant bellies and announcements of new babies that aren't mine.

I prayed and wished and hoped and dreamed for this baby...probably more than all the rest and it just didn't matter. People want to tell you to just keep hoping or to pray harder, and part of me just has to laugh at that. Because there is no prayer stronger than a mother's prayer for her children.

And if there is a stronger prayer, it's the prayer of a grieving mother. 

When I first looked at my phone this dreaded morning, a friend had shared this on Instagram. And I know it was meant just for me. I needed this reminder on yet another day that triggers deep grief.  

My sweet Lily Frances and littlest Clare Therese...please pray for your mommy, I miss you so, so, so much.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

30 weeks not pregnant

That's where I am right now. Counting the weeks and months of what should be

I have a 3 year old. 

But in a few weeks I should also have a two year old and a few weeks after that I should have a newborn. 

The world gives you permission to miss your newborn...for awhile at least. Not nearly as long as you really need, but still, most certainly a lot longer than they give you permission to miss a child you lose through miscarriage. 

Perhaps it's because someone, somewhere, somehow has decided my grief should be measured by how long my children were with me, but in my reality it's measured so much more by how long I am without them

I miss Lily with every ounce of my being. And I miss Clare too. Just as much

Some days it seems like more. Some days the pain of missing Clare is magnified so much more because of all the "things" I don't have. I don't have pictures or outfits or a memory of holding her that I can cling to. I don't have a huge trunk full of memories of Clare like I do with Lily. I have one tiny box with a handful of cards and one ultrasound picture.

Some will say this is a blessing. Because you can't miss what you never had, right? 

Then why do I miss this baby so much? Why did it feel just like losing Lily all over again? Why has my grief been multiplying over and over these past five months?

We've emptied our house of everything baby. I've given away clothes and toys, only holding on to a few sentimental items. The infant car seat has been stashed away and the crib has been lent to a friend. Because keeping baby items for 3 1/2 years seemed practical, but keeping baby items for 4 plus years seems foolish. Wishful thinking that I just don't have in me right now.

It's hard to truly believe that this is our reality. So many mornings I wake up hoping it's all been a dream and I wait for a second to see if I will hear the two sets of feet that should be running into our room and another set that should be kicking my ribs. But instead, I look down, and my belly is flat (or rather flabby), and just one set of feet run to greet me in the morning. 

It's only September and I am already dreading this holiday season. Desperately wishing for the holidays that should be. The Thanksgiving where I should be nesting and hoping for labor to set in. The Christmas that should be with two excited toddlers giggling in excitement for Christmas morning and a newborn who should be snuggled up in Christmas jammies. The Christmas card that should be sent out late because it would be a birth announcement too. The New Year's Eve with three kids in bed by 8:00 and a toast to my sweet husband for all this goodness that should be.

Everything that should be. And yet, every single day I still manage to find hope in what is, in this reality of life amidst loss where we find ourselves. Every single day, I beg and plead with God for all that seems impossible. I ask for faith that surpasses my understanding and can hope against hope. And I pray over and over and over, "Teach me Lord to pray with my whole heart, 'Jesus, I trust in You.'"

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lily's dad

The most memorable part of my wedding day was the moment I walked up the aisle towards my soon-to-be husband. I had been anxious all morning, but seconds before I walked down the aisle I was filled to the brim with peace. I took my dad's arm and he kissed my cheek. We walked down the aisle to one of my favorite songs. As we got closer to Jason, I noticed he had a huge smile and tears streaming down his face. It was the first time I ever saw him cry.

We planned and planned for months, but nothing prepared me for that moment. Nothing prepared me to see the emotion of that day on his face. In that moment, and so many that have followed, I continue to learn how sensitive and sweet he truly is. And almost four and a half years later, one child here and two in Heaven, it was very telling of the journey we were about to embark upon.

I saw that smile with tears streaming down his cheeks again when our son was born. And just over two years later I saw him cry again. Only this time there was no smile. This time, with a sick and somber face he asked the question I was too scared to, "Is there something wrong with our baby?" Then the answer, and suddenly seeing him bury his face in his hands and weep for our unborn daughter. 

Every dream and hope we had for her stolen from us in that moment. He will never get to take her to daddy/daughter dances. Never coach her in softball or watch her twirl. She will never ride on his shoulders or squeeze his face with her hands. He will never walk her down the aisle to meet her husband.

I grieve and ache for my daughter, but when I think about what my husband has lost too, it's almost too much to bear.

Shortly after Lily's diagnosis, we met with our pastor. He offered his prayers, the support of our church, and two pieces of wisdom I will never forget. 

The first: He told us that we need to remember that we will each grieve differently and that is okay. He said the most important thing is to be aware that we will go through this differently. 

The second: He looked directly at my husband and told him, "You need to talk about this."

We don't talk about child loss nearly as much as we should and we certainly don't talk about the dads much. So often the attention and focus is on the moms, after all we are the ones who carry our babies and for the most part, we may be the ones who visually show our grief.

The dads generally go back to work sooner. They may need to shut off their emotions in order to get through the day. They may put up a strong front to be able to take care of their wife. I'm even guessing people rarely ask them how they are really doing. More often than not, they hear people asking about the moms. I imagine they don't feel like they even have permission to grieve for their child.

The grief of missing Lily didn't really hit me until several months after she died. When the pain meds were gone the fogged finally lifted, and the shock wore off. The waves were washing over me and I could hardly catch my breath. 

And I was mad at my husband. 
Because he wasn't going through it like I was. He seemed fine. He could function. He could go to work. He had normal conversations. I was lying in bed one night while Jason was reading and I just started crying and I couldn't stop. Jason leaned over and held me and these four words he whispered was all I needed to hear, " I miss her too." 

We grieve differently.

I am a writer. I write my pain. I write it down and share it with the world in hopes that it reaches the right people for the right reasons. I get it out of me. Sometimes it pretty and sometimes it's not. I close myself off from the world who doesn't understand me or even tries to. I cry. A lot. 

For Jason, the grief builds and builds. It starts out slow and steady and he can handle it for awhile. And when it gets to be too much, he breaks. He cries. And then he talks. Sometimes to me and sometimes to one of the few people he lets in.

We are getting better at it...if that's possible to "get better" at grief. I can see now when it's getting to be too much for him and a wave is about to hit. Sometimes I know it means we need some "just us" time and sometimes I know he needs to talk to a dude. 

But this is just my husband's story, how he is living this life without his daughter. There are many, many other dads out there who are missing one of their children, or several of their children, or ALL of their children

And they are hurting. Whether they tell you or not. Whether they show it or not. They are hurting. Underneath that strong and brave exterior is a man who just wants to hold his baby again. And play catch with his son. Or give his daughter butterfly kisses.  

But instead, his arms are empty. His eyes may be dry, but his heart is weeping.

Remember him and remember all the dads who we cannot see grieving.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The story I don't want to tell

This is the story I don't want to share.

The story I want to tell you is the story where I was on a retreat, grieving Lily and still hurt and angry that she wasn't in my arms. But in the midst of all of that I heard God say, "I have a baby for you."

The story I want to share is how I found out I was pregnant, finally, after nine grueling months of negative tests and 15 months of missing my girl.

The story I want to share is how I found out I was pregnant on Good Friday...and the Feast of the Annunciation. Two feasts that will never coincide again in our lifetime. And that I read this sweet blog just after I found out. And that finding out on this day filled me with unspeakable  peace I haven't felt since I held Lily in my arms.

The story I want to share is that this baby was due around Thanksgiving, just two weeks after Lily's second birthday. What normally is such a hard time of the year for us, was going to be filled with redeeming grace as we welcomed Ted and Lily's little sister or brother. We were going to have holidays we could look forward to.

The story I want to share is where I tried and tried to put up a shield and not love this baby with all my heart, but failed instantly. A story where I was already making plans and dreaming big for this little love of mine. A story where I could already envision Ted sharing sweet moments with this sweet baby when we visit Lily.

The story I want to share is I was almost starting to feel normal again. The story where the eight week ultrasound wasn't on my radar because those always go as planned

The story I wanted to share with you includes a cute announcement on Instagram of Ted and Lily sharing they were getting a new brother and sister this year.

But this is the part of the story I don't want to share.

A story that is once again filled with despair instead of hope. A story where we were once again left with a stranger telling us we don't get to keep our precious child.

A story where I couldn't even look at my husband because I was so afraid to see the hurt in his eyes. Once again we had to beg the question WHY? And this "why" cuts so much deeper than the first.

This is the part where people tell me how brave and strong I am, but honestly, I've never felt more broken or more weak. This is the part where people tell me how my faith will carry me through things and all I want to do is scream and cry at a God who could allow this type of loss to happen twice to anyone.

This is the part where I had to once again put on a brave face to celebrate my son's birthday, all the while feeling like I am dying inside. 

This is the part where I have to learn to silently forgive every single person who says the wrong thing because they have no idea what to say. The part where I want to burst into tears whenever I hear a sentence that begins with, "At least..."

There is no at least. There is no "at least you weren't far along" or "at least you didn't get too attached" because the truth is I was...I still am. I love this little person with all of my being the same way I love Ted and Lily. 

There is no "you can have more babies" because honestly no one knows that any more than I do. Rainbows are not a guarantee of any storm, let alone the storm of child loss. And more importantly, I wanted this baby...this sweet and perfect child. This irreplaceable, and unrepeatable, unique soul. 

But even harder than forgiving an ignorant comment is forgiving silence. The painful silence when you see someone for the first time after you lost yet another child. A silence that screams you weren't that far along. A silence that screams your child doesn't matter. The silence hurts so much more than any ignorant comment. Because the truth is, if you are eager to celebrate a new life growing inside of me, then you need to be willing to mourn that loss with me too. 

A week ago I was pregnant and today I am not. It's so surreal. Usually people say that with a smile on their face and a baby in their arms. I have said it now twice with tears in my eyes and empty arms.

I wish I had some positive spin for this post to turn on, but the truth is, right now, I don't. 

I have nothing. I am empty. I am broken.

I am without two of my children.

I miss my babies.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ted the Threenager

Oh man...this kid. I honestly can't remember what life was like before he came along. He makes me smile through my hardest and darkest moments of grief. Not only does he make me smile, he makes me laugh like no one else can. Even on the hard days, the frustrating "threenager" days, I am in complete awe that I get to be his mother.

I love every. single. second.

So to celebrate my sweet, little threenager, I share some fun(ny) Ted-isms with you.

1.) He is such a creature of habit. We are going on six months of the same bedtime routine that includes prayers, hugs (Mommy first, then Daddy), followed by songs, "Lord I Need You", "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", and "Your are My Sunshine" and then "Nigh-night, sweet dreams, I love you!" In that order. ALWAYS. Every time. Did you catch the Rudolph song? I honestly don't even know where or when he first heard it, all I know is that I have had to sing that song every. single. night...since November.

2.) He F-I-N-A-L-L-Y gave up the Wubbanub (his "Bubbies"). On his second birthday, we went to the dentist for the first time and I thought I was the "best mom ever" because he had never had juice, off the bottle, and no thumb-sucking. Then the dentist asked, "what a about a pacifier?" So I quickly crawled back in my embarrassed mom hole because Ted was still carrying around THREE of them. Dentist said get rid of it by his next appointment. 

I tried once to take it away and I just couldn't do it. He wandered around the whole house crying and looking for it. He kept checking the washing machine, more crying and looking at me with these sad, weepy eyes saying, "bubbies, mama?" Totally caved. I just couldn't do it so I gave it back to him. That lasted about seven minutes. 

We went back to the dentist and I was humming, "please don't ask, please don't ask" and sure enough he did. I tried to make it sound like he barely used it...thankfully the dentist didn't follow my Instagram to know what a Big. Fat. Liar I was. Once again, "Get rid of it."

 So we planned to make a "beanie bear" or some other cute elaborate and Pinteresty way to get rid of it. But then magically one just broke! And he didn't want it anymore! He threw it across his room and said, "No like it!" Thank goodness, because honestly, I never could have taken it from him. I still miss hearing him say, "Bubbies."

3.) His bestie is still his sweet Lucy. We don't babysit her anymore, but at least EVERY single day of the week he asks to go over to her house. They have the sweetest relationship and you can see them sharing jokes and stories that only the two of them understand. He loves to look at her and with a deep voice say, "Luuuuuu-cy!" Seriously, it's the cutest thing ever. 

4.) He loves his sister Lily and he is the best big brother. He sees things all day that remind him of Lily and he's always quick to point them out. He loves to decorate her marker and share some fruit snacks while we visit. It breaks my heart and makes me beam with pride all at the same time

5.) He won't eat vegetables. Any of them. Ever. I try every single day. He takes whatever vegetables I give him off his plate immediately and will say, "No like it mama." They are not even allowed on the plate with the rest of his food! Luckily, he hasn't caught on to the fact that his smoothies I make are chock full of all kinds of veggie goodness and we have those several times a week. So I will still consider him a "healthy eater."

Which is a complete lie because he rarely eats dinner too. Unless it's pizza, mac and cheese, or chicken nuggets, he won't eat what we are eating for dinner. We rarely have those things, so he rarely eats dinner. I remember when he was a baby and my kid was going to be the best eater and eat all the good organic veggies and fruits. NOPE, not even close. Now he has an opinion and it changes every single day! But of course, he will always eat ice cream. ;-)

6.) He wants to go to the park every day. Or to a pool. Or on an airplane. He will look up at me and say, "Mama, I go on a airplane? Pleeeeeeease? I go on a airplane to Iowa? Pleeeeeease?" I mean, it's a wonder I haven't maxed out a credit card just to take him for the day because it's so stinkin' cute how sweetly he asks to go!

He also loves helicopters, trains, cars, watching fire trucks and school buses drive by. Seriously, he's the cutest.

7.) He has a toddler bed and he slept in it exactly...ONCE. He still prefers his crib even though I totally splurged on super cute Aden + Anais bedding. He doesn't care. He prefers being able to climb in and out of his crib with all of his animals...or sleep wherever he wants.

8.) He was so excited to pick out a costume for Halloween! We bought it weeks ahead of time. He even threw a tantrum in the store because he wanted to wear it home. He played in his costume for weeks...until it was actually Halloween. He was the only kid who was not dressed up. Maybe next year!

 not Halloween
  not Halloween

 not Halloween

9.) He loves to help me bake! I love spending this time with him, even though most of Ted "baking" is trying to eat whatever we are making. He will sneak tastes when I am not looking and say, "Mmmm...mama, that's delicious!" It is simply impossible to be mad at him.


10.) Even though he is now a big THREE YEAR OLD, he still looks up at me every night before bed and asks me to, "Hold you like a baby?" He still wants to snuggle and cuddle up in my arms and I am terrified for the day when that stops.

He still loves to snuggle. Most days he has to sit as close to me as possible or right on top of me. Sometimes he will just rest his arm on mine. It's usually when I am having a rough day missing Lily. I know he knows, even though he can't say it yet. He is so sweet and so loving.

And last, but certainly not least...THESE CHEEKS! Please don't ever loose these sweet, squishy, kissable cheeks.

Happy birthday Ted Kolbe! You are my sunshine.