Friday, December 12, 2014

One month

One month...I can't believe it's been a month. Some days it feels like it just happened.

One month...other days it seems like a lifetime ago.

The days that feel like a lifetime hurt the worst. I would think they would hurt less. But on days like this all I can think about is how long it's been since I've held my daughter.

One month...I miss Ted when he takes a nap. The thought of not holding my daughter for a month is absurd to me. 

I miss herI miss her with every single ounce of my being.

This may sound strange to some, but I loved her funeral Mass. It was a celebration. I cried, but I also smiled and I may have even laughed. I sang and I rejoiced. It was the first time in my entire life I know with 100% certainty I did something right. I knew from the moment I received her diagnosis my life would never be the same. I knew it would be the hardest journey I would ever face. I knew I would experience pain and heartache that no one should ever have to endure. But more than all of that, I knew it was going to be worth it. I gave her life, and although it was short, we lived it together, and we lived it to the fullest. At her funeral Mass, I could rejoice because I did something right. I can live the rest of my life knowing with 100% of my being that my daughter is in Heaven. Her entire life on Earth was perfect.

A very good friend was gracious enough to take some pictures at Lily's funeral. She just sent them to me...perfect timing. I really needed some new pictures. Bittersweet as always, but I am so thankful for these pictures.

One month...I don't want to think about the day when there won't be anymore new pictures. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Polar Express

I have the best family in the world.

Truly, they are amazing and I am so tremendously blessed.

My family has given us so much love, prayers and support since we first learned of Lily's diagnosis. Every single one of them sent us a card, a text, or an email. They have spoiled us with donations and gifts. They would send a message or text randomly just to let me know they were thinking about us.

When we went to Iowa this summer, they were there for love on us and to ask about Lily. The very greatest gift they've given us is remembering Lily with us, and loving her just like everyone else in our family.

I really didn't think any of them could top it...

But then they did!!

They all got together and surprised us with an amazing care package!! They sent us gift cards, house cleaning certificate and the best of all...

A trip to the North Pole!!

We traveled to Williams, Arizona to take a ride on the Polar Express.

It was magical.

My sister bought Ted some adorable Christmas jammies. Seriously...I can't even handle his cuteness.

He loved every second of it.

He got to meet Mrs. Claus and write a letter to Santa.

He loved waving to everyone when we were on the train.

He loved dancing to the Christmas carols and eating his cookie.

He was mesmerized by the lights and loved seeing Santa.

He loved to ring his Christmas bell.

It was a moment I will never forget.

But with these sweet, tender memories we make, comes the sorrow and grief of missing Lily...always. As we reached the North Pole, seeing all the lights, the "Believe" song and seeing Ted's face light up, it just hit me like a ton of bricks - through smiles and laughter come so many tears... 

I want my daughter here too.

I feel like this is just the beginning of these bittersweet moments...moments that fill you with so much joy you could burst, and then so much grief you can barely breathe. I spend much of my days smiling, laughing, and then just like that...once again, something happens - or nothing happens, and I am reminded my daughter is not here

I miss her so much.

I know I use this word a lot, but it truly is bittersweet. So sweet that my family would provide such a bitter to think of why.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Perfectly made

I hate the word stillborn. I hate that it means my daughter does not have a birth certificate or even a death certificate. It makes me feel like to some her 42.2 weeks of life were invalid or insignificant.

But what others don't know is this...she wasn't just alive, she was thriving inside of me. 

She was strong. I felt her kicks more than I ever felt Ted. 

She had a strong, steady heartbeat that sounded like music to me. 

Our midwife was in awe of Lily's strength as she liked to show off at our OB visits. She would ask if I've been feeling Lily move at all and Lily would answer for me with a big flip or kick. 

She would often say, "Now that's a strong heartbeat" or "Nothing wrong with that heartbeat at all".

I've mentioned before how bittersweet it was to hear that. Sometimes it felt like a slap in the face. Her heart was perfect and strong, but it wasn't enough...

But she was still perfectly made. Her organs were all perfectly formed. She could swallow and hiccup. She had ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes. She had perfectly kissable, squishy cheeks. Her nose was a perfect button nose.

I miss her. Not because it's the holidays. I miss her because it's been almost a month since I've held her. I miss her because it's Wednesday or Saturday or Tuesday. I miss her because she should be in my arms right now.

I can still remember how she felt in my arms. I can still feel her cheeks on my lips. I can close my eyes and still see her perfect button nose. And I can look at my finger and still see how perfectly her fingers wrapped around mine. 

I pray with all my heart I never lose that. As much as it hurts, it brings me so much joy when I think about how much love and grace filled that room when I held her. All I saw and felt was my daughter, fearfully and wonderfully made...


Monday, November 24, 2014

Loving Lily

On Thursday we buried our daughter. No one should ever have to say that, but we have to. People keep saying how strong I was through it all, but nothing about what I feel right now is strength. In the days following her birth (I'll write about it someday, but for now, it's still too raw), whenever I thought about the day of her funeral and never seeing her again, I honestly couldn't breathe and would immediately start to cry.

I've had many fears leading up to her birth and all the moments after. I was terrified to see her, until I actually saw her. She was and is breathtaking. I didn't think it was possible to love her more than I did before I saw her, but I did and I still do.

I was terrified that she might not be born alive, but just as fearful that she would be born alive and I would have to watch her stop breathing. I feel like God knew my fears better than me and she was born sleeping.

Mostly, I was terrified for that moment...that moment when I knew I was never going to see her again. That moment when they would close her casket and I would have to rely on my memory of her sweet kissable cheeks, her perfect fingers and toes. 

That moment is the one that reduces me to sobbing tears again and again.

I miss her. 

I miss her kicks. I miss holding her. I miss her cheeks, I miss those perfect fingers and toes. I miss seeing Jason kiss and hold his daughter. 

I honestly didn't think it was possible to love her the way we do. Maybe I was trying to protect myself...knowing that loving her the way I do would lead to the greatest heartache of my life. A heartache that will never go away.

But more important than anything is this...she is worth every second of heartache that I will face for the rest of my life. I would have given anything to heal her, but I also would not trade her for anything in the world.

Loving her makes me a better person. Loving her makes me a better mom, wife, friend, sister and daughter. Loving her is the greatest honor God has ever bestowed on me. If given the choice, I would do it all over again. 

My love for her surpasses all understanding.

This was read at her funeral, the first adapted from something a dear friend shared with me this summer. The second written by me about what it really means to love Lily. My words are still inadequate, there are no real words to describe this love for my sweet Lily. She has stolen my heart forever and I will spend the rest of my life missing her, loving her and hoping to meet her in my dreams.

To Love a Person - Adapted from Kathleen Dean Moore

What does it mean to love a person? 

To love - a person - means at least this:
One. To want to be near her, physically.

Number two. To want to know everything about her -
her story, her moods, what she looks like by moonlight.

Number three. To rejoice in the fact of her.

Number four. To fear her loss, and grieve for her inquiries.

Five. To protect her - fiercely, mindlessly, futilely, and maybe tragically,
but to be helpless to do otherwise.

Six. To be transformed in her presence -
lifted, lighter on your feet, transparent,
open to everything beautiful and new.

Number seven. To want to be joined with her,
taken in by her, lost in her.

Number eight. To want the best for her.

Number nine. Desperately.

Loving isn’t just a state of being, it’s a way of acting in the world. Love isn’t a sort of bliss, it’s a kind of work, sometimes hard, spirit-testing work. To love a person is to accept the responsibility to act lovingly toward her, to make her needs my own needs. Responsibility grows from love. It’s the natural shape of caring.

Number ten.
To love a person is to accept moral responsibility for her well-being.

What does it mean to love Lily?

It means everything on this list and so much more.

It means knowing that labor will hurt and you go through with it anyway even though you don't get to keep your reward.

It means knowing that your heart will be broken for the rest of your life, but holding her for even five minutes makes up for it.

It means watching her lift her big brother off your belly with her amazingly strong kicks.

It means you will be filled with awe, wonder and sorrow as you watch your belly dance before you go to sleep every night.

It means you might not get any sleep at night because Lily wants to dance all night long and that's totally okay with you.

It means you never knew you could love someone so much before you even meet them.

It means your heart will be so full when you see her with her brother's chipmunk cheeks.

It means if you had would do it all over again because those brief minutes held more love than a whole lifetime does for some.

It means you didn't know it was possible for your heart to grow in so much love for your husband through honoring your daughter.

It means memorizing every single sweet and perfect detail so you can meet her in your dreams.

It means you will fight and defend her right to life until your very last breath.

It means that you mourn for your son who doesn't have his best friend to grow up with, but also rejoice in knowing the special connection he will have with her in Heaven.

And most importantly, it means you will never be the same person again, for we are the mother and father of a saint, and we walk with one foot on earth and one foot in Heaven, until we meet our beautiful girl again.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Saint Lily Frances

Heaven gained a very precious saint yesterday.

Our sweet and perfect Lily Frances was born sleeping yesterday. She weighed 8 lbs 2 oz and inherited her brother's squishy cheeks.

Love and joy...that's all I felt when I saw her. Tremendous love and joy. We didn't see anencephaly, we saw our beautiful daughter and she stole our hearts forever. 

I will share more as I can, but for right now I just want the world to know, she is perfection.

I will never be the same, she has changed me forever and for that I am beyond grateful. 

My sweet and perfect Lily Frances, please pray for your mommy, daddy and big brother Ted. 

We love you and miss you so much.

Monday, November 10, 2014

42 weeks and a day

Not that I'm counting or anything... ;)

I worried and worried this whole pregnancy that Lily would be born early. 

I worried about who would be here and now we've had family and friends come and go.

I've woken up every day for the past two weeks hopeful that it would be the day we would get to meet her and go to bed depressed that it wasn't that day.

We scheduled an induction two weeks ago because we thought we were ready, but truthfully neither one of us was ready yet. 

We needed more time. She needed more time. 

She reminds us all day of her much even our midwife comments on her strong jabs and kicks.

Her favorite time of day is early morning snuggles with Ted. She loves kicking him in the morning and Ted loves drumming his fingers on my belly. ;-)

She loves her dad and isn't shy when he rubs my belly.

I will miss every one of these moments and have cherished every second with my precious girl.

But I know it's time...time for us to meet her. It's time for us to see how God's full plan for her life will unfold. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Due Date Update

So our due date has come and gone. It's looking like our "October Baby" will be a November baby.

Just like with any pregnancy, as that date approaches you get excited, nervous, and then as it comes and goes...

Jason and I will never be "ready" for this, but we are ready to meet our sweet girl. I never thought I would be so excited to meet her. At this point (four days overdue) it completely overshadows my fear and most likely, our sorrow.

We had discussed inducing on Wednesday. We have people here and everyone is just waiting for Lily. Anxiousness doesn't even come close to describe it. And as many know, babies don't seem to come on their own when you are anxious and stressed.

On Tuesday I had been having contractions all day, so we were hopeful we either wouldn't need to be induced or I would have progressed enough for it to be successful. I woke up Wednesday morning with no contractions. :( Jason and I went for a walk and I just broke down. The stress and anxiety of everyone "watching" was just too much. And to top it all off, I just want to hold Lily. I want to give her a million kisses and soak up all the snuggles.

Jason and I stopped, sat down and I wept. Once again, I didn't think I had it in me to cry like that anymore. 

But my husband...I can't even tell you how much my love for him grew in this moment. He was not peaceful about inducing. He reminded me of what mattered most. It's not all the people watching and waiting. It's Lily. It's our family. 

We want to meet her more than anything, but we also want her to come to us in God's perfect time. We want to know that everything happens as it is meant to and when we put our full trust in God, we know we will have no regrets.

We went to Mass after we decided not to induce. We prayed a rosary before a statue of St. Therese and we surrendered our family into our Father's hands.

We have complete faith and trust that we will meet Lily in God's perfect time and it will be perfect.

Thank you so much for your continued love and prayers. We know with absolute certainty we could not do this without the love, prayers, and support of our family, friends, and even those we have never met.

And we have been soaking up so much love from our sweet Ted. He's been extra snuggly with Jason and me this week. His snuggles make everything better. :)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Day 6

It's the sixth day of our Novena for Lily and while there are many, many thoughts and emotions swirling through my mind and heart right now, there is one feeling that has overwhelmed me...


Never, in a million years, or even 20 weeks ago would I believe you if you told me in the days leading up to my daughter's birth and most likely, her passing, I would feel such a strong sense of peace.

I know with all of my heart it is from all of your heartfelt prayers. 

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

There are moments it still doesn't feel real or even possible that we could say our hellos and goodbyes in the same breath. 

Yesterday, Lily woke me up at 4:00am dancing away like she always does. But this time, she didn't stop and I couldn't go back to sleep. She danced, and kicked and flipped and my stomach was bouncing around like a bag of popcorn.

It's unimaginable that she won't be that strong when she's born. 

So our prayers continue and we continue to ask for peace as we prepare to meet our precious Lily and for all the days after. 

We pray that we can be fully present in the joy of her birth because she truly is a gift.

She is our gift.

And my sweet Ted...he seems to know just what I need right now too. ;-)

39 weeks with my dancing girl

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Novena for Lily Frances

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
― Thérèse de Lisieux

First, I just want to thank everyone, family and friends, even people we don't know, for all the prayers, meals, donations, babysitting and support for our family right now. We honestly could not have made it even this far without your support, especially your prayers.

Jason and I often feel we are just coasting off the grace. There is no other way to really describe it. I have no idea how anyone could get through this without a great support system. We are truly blessed.

We have decided to pray a Novena to St. Therese starting today (Saturday) for Lily. People keep asking what we need right now and honestly, what we need more than anything, is prayer. 

I have mentioned in previous posts that we are trying not to be too specific with our prayer requests, but as we get closer to meeting Lily, it's harder to not be specific.

If you would like to join us and pray the Novena with us, we ask that you keep two specific intentions in mind for us:

1. Our prayer all along has been for peace. We pray that God's peace would overwhelm us when Lily is born and that we will be at peace with God's will for her birth.

2. We pray for Joy. We are really trying to focus on the joy of her birth and not worry about anything after. As afraid as we are with the unknown, we cannot wait to meet our precious Lily.

Prayers to be said each day:
Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of the faithful, and kindle in them the fire of divine love.
V. Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray: O God, who have instructed the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit; grant that by the gift of the same Spirit, we may be ever truly wise and rejoice in His consolation, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Acts of Faith, Hope, and Love: O my God! I believe in Thee: strengthen my faith. All my hopes are in Thee: do Thou secure them. I love Thee: teach me to love Thee daily more and more.

The Act of Contrition: O my God! I am heartily sorry for having offended You, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend You, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance , and to amend my life. Amen.

Concluding Prayer Prayed Each Day:
O Lord, You have said: Unless you become as little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven; grant us, we beg You, so to follow, in humility and simplicity of heart, the footsteps of the Virgin blessed Thérèse, that we may attain to an everlasting reward. Amen.

Special Prayers for Each Day:
First Day

St. Thérèse, privileged Little Flower of Jesus and Mary, I approach you with childlike confidence and deep humility. I lay before you my desires, and beg that through your intercession they may be realized. Did you not promise to spend your heaven doing good upon earth? Grant me according to this promise the favors I am asking from you.

Intercede for us all the days of our life, but specially during this Novena and obtain for us from God the graces and favors we ask through your intercession. Amen.

Thought for the day: Confidence in God. We can never have too much confidence in the good God who is so powerful and so merciful. We obtain from Him as much as we hope for.
If you are nothing, do you forget that Jesus is everything? You have only to lose your nothingness in His Infinity and think only of loving Him.

Concluding Prayer

Second Day

O dear little Saint, now that you see the crucified Jesus in heaven, still bearing the wounds caused by sin, you know still more clearly than you did upon earth the value of souls, and the priceless worth of that Precious Blood which He shed to save them. As I am one of those children for whom Christ died, obtain for me all the graces I need in order to profit by that Precious Blood. Use your great power with our divine Lord and pray for me.

Intercede for us all the days of our life, but especially during this Novena and obtain for us from God the graces and favors we ask through your intercession. Amen.

Thought for the day: Sin. The only grace I ask, O Jesus, is never to offend Thee.
By love and not by fear, does a soul avoid committing the least fault.
Yes, even if I have on my conscience every possible crime, I should lose none of my confidence; my heart breaking with sorrow, I should go and throw myself into the arms of my Savior.
The remembrance of my faults humbles me and makes me afraid to rely on my own strength, which is nothing but weakness.

Concluding Prayer

Third Day

Dear Little Flower, make all things lead me to heaven and God, Whether I look at the sun, the moon, the stars and the vast expanse in which they float, or whether I look at the flowers of the field, the trees of the forest, the beauties of the earth so full of color and so glorious, may they speak to me of the love and power of God; may they all sing His praises in my ear. Like you may I daily love Him more and more in return for His gifts. Teach me often to deny myself in my dealings with others, that I may offer to Jesus many little sacrifices.

Intercede for us all the days of our life, but especially during this Novena and obtain for us from God the graces and favors we ask through your intercession. Amen.

Thought for the day: The Use of God’s Gifts. How much benefit have I received from the beauties of nature, bestowed in such abundance. How they raise me to Him who placed such wonders in this land of exile which is only to last a day.
O sparkling nature, if I did not see God in you, you would be naught but a great tomb.
With your little hand which caresses Mary, You sustain the universe and bestow life; and You think of me, O Jesus my little King.
I do not wish creatures to have one atom of my love. I wish to give all to Jesus, since He has shown me that He alone is perfect happiness.

Concluding Prayer

Fourth Day

Dear Little Flower of Carmel, bearing so patiently the disappointments and delays allowed by God, and preserving in the depths of your soul an unchanging peace because you sought only God’s will, ask for me complete conformity to that adorable Will in all the trials and disappointments of life. If the favors I am asking during this Novena are pleasing to God, obtain them for me. If not, it is true I shall feel the refusal keenly, but I too wish only God’s Will, and pray in the words you used, that I "may ever be perfectly fulfilled in me."

Intercede for us all the days of our life, but especially during this Novena and obtain for us from God the graces and favors we ask through your intercession. Amen.

Thought for the day: Abandonment to God. I fear only one thing---to keep my own will; take it, my God, for I choose all that You choose.
The only happiness here below is to strive to be always content with what Jesus gives us.
I can demand nothing with fervor, except the perfect accomplishment of God’s will in my soul.
O my Beloved, I offer myself to You, that You may perfectly accomplish in me Your holy designs, and I will not allow anything created to be an obstacle in their path.

Concluding Prayer

Fifth Day

Little Flower of Jesus, from the very first moment of your religious life you thought only of denying yourself in all things so as to follow Jesus more perfectly; help me to bear patiently the trials of my daily life. Teach me to make use of the trials, the sufferings, the humiliations, that come my way, to learn to know myself better and to love God more.

Intercede for us all the days of our life, but especially during this Novena and obtain for us from God the graces and favors we ask through your intercession. Amen.

Thought for the dayPatience in Sufferings. I do not fear trials sent by Jesus, for even in the most bitter suffering we can see that it is His loving hand which causes it.
When we are expecting nothing but suffering, we are quite surprised at the least joy; but then suffering itself becomes the greatest of joys when we seek it as a precious treasure.
Far from resembling those beautiful saints who practiced all sorts of austerities from childhood, my penance consisted in breaking my self-will, in keeping back a sharp reply, in doing little kindnesses to those about me, but considering these deeds as nothing.

Concluding Prayer

Sixth Day

St. Thérèse, Patroness of the Missions, be a great missionary throughout the world to the end of time. Remind our Master of His own words, "The harvest is great, but the laborers are few." Your zeal for souls was so great, obtain a like zeal for those now working for souls, and beg God to multiply their numbers, that the millions to whom Jesus is yet unknown may be brought to know, love and follow Him.

Intercede for us all the days of our life, but especially during this Novena and obtain for us from God the graces and favors we ask through your intercession. Amen.

Thought for the day: Zeal for souls. Let us work together for the salvation of souls. We have only the day of this life to save souls and to give them to the Lord as proofs of our love.
I tell Jesus that I am glad not to be able to see, with the eyes of my soul, this beautiful heaven which awaits me, in order that He may vouchsafe to open it forever to poor unbelievers.
I cannot perform brilliant works; I cannot preach the Gospel or shed my blood. But what matter? My brothers work in place of me, and I a little child, keep very close to the royal throne. I love for those who are carrying on the warfare.
My deeds, my little sufferings, can make God loved all over the world.

Concluding Prayer

Seventh Day

O little martyr of Love, you know now even better than in the days of your pilgrimage that Love embraces all vocations; that it is Love alone which counts, which unites us perfectly to God and conforms our will with His. All you sought on earth was love; to love Jesus as He had never yet been loved. Use your power in heaven to make us love Him. If only we love Him we shall desire to make Him loved by others; we shall pray much for souls. We shall no longer fear death, for it will unite us to Him forever. Obtain for us the grace to do all for the love of God, to give Him pleasure, to love Him so well that He may be pleased with us as He was with you.

Intercede for us all the days of our life, but especially during this Novena and obtain for us from God the graces and favors we ask through your intercession. Amen.

Thought for the day: Love of God. I will love God alone and will not have the misfortune of attaching myself to creatures, now that my heart perceive what He has in store for those who love Him.
What attracts me to the kingdom of Heaven is the call of our Lord, the hope of loving Him as I have so desired and the thought that I shall be able to make Him loved by a great number of souls who will bless Him forever.
When Christ said, "Give Me a Drink," it was the love of His poor creatures that He, the Creator of all things, desired. He thirsted for love.
Remember that the dear Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you, for you alone. Remember that He is consumed with a desire to come into your heart.

Concluding Prayer

Eighth Day

Dear St. Thérèse, like you I have to die one day. I beseech you, obtain from God, by reminding Him of your own precious death, that I may have a holy death, strengthened by the Sacraments of the Church, entirely resigned to the most holy Will of God, and burning with love for Him. May my last words on earth be, "My God. I love You."

Intercede for us all the days of our life, but especially during this Novena and obtain for us from God the graces and favors we ask through your intercession. Amen.

Thought for the day: Death. It says in the catechism that death is nothing but the separation of the soul and body. Well, I have no fear of a separation which will unite me forever with the good God.
I am happy to die because I shall be able to help souls who are dear to me, far more than I can here below.
Life is not sad; it is very joyous. If you say, "This exile is sad," I understand you. We are wrong to give the name "life" to something which will end; it is only to the things of Heaven that we should apply this beautiful name.

Concluding Prayer

Ninth Day

Dear Little St. Thérèse, by love and suffering while you were on earth, you won the power with God which you now enjoy in heaven. Since your life there began, you have showered down countless blessings on this poor world; you have been an instrument made use of by your divine Spouse to work countless miracles. I beg of you to remember all my wants. Sufferings must come to me also, may I use them to love God more, and follow my Jesus better. You are especially the little missionary of love. Make me love Jesus more, and all others for His sake. With all my heart I thank the most Holy Trinity for the wonderful blessings conferred on you, and upon the world through you.

Intercede for us all the days of our life, but especially during this Novena and obtain for us from God the graces and favors we ask through your intercession. Amen.

Thought for the day: The Mission of the Little Flower. I do not intend to remain inactive in Heaven. I want to work for the Church and for souls. I have asked this of God and I am certain that He will grant my request.
I will spend my Heaven doing good upon earth. This is not impossible, since the angels though always enjoying the beatific vision, watch over us. No, I cannot be at rest until the end of the world.
I beseech Thee, O Jesus, to cast Thy divine glance on a great number of little souls. I beg of Thee to choose in this world a legion of little victims, worthy of Thy Love.

Concluding Prayer

O Lord, You have said: Unless you become as little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven; grant us, we beg You, so to follow, in humility and simplicity of heart, the footsteps of the Virgin blessed Thérèse, that we may attain to an everlasting reward. Amen.