Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happiness and cheer

I love this little girl.

I've got a lot on my mind. Maybe a list will help? Hm.... 7 things:

1. Thanksgiving was great. I did the whole shebang and was exhausted by bedtime, but it was worth it.

2. Our Christmas tree is up now. It smells divine and is so sparkly and pretty.

3. Some nights when I put Hannah Mae to bed she blows kisses at me as I leave. Be still my heart.

4. My husband is doing an amazing job balancing school, work and home. Thank you, Lord.

5. I'm so thankful for good friends both near and far. I have some pretty great ones.

6. Every night we read the Bible together (well, the Jesus Storybook Bible) before bed (and sometimes before nap too). It's Hannah's favorite. As soon as her jammies are on and her teeth are brushed she starts saying 'biba biba biba' over and over again until we sit down to read it. 

7. Hannah Mae is rocking a mullet and we love it. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Our stories

I was 36 weeks pregnant when I walked into the hospital to be induced. The tears streaming down my face, silent sobs shaking my body. I was not a glowing expectant mother entering through the labor and delivery doors to celebrate the birth of my son. I was a bereaved mother lamenting the death of my son, dreading a labor that would not end with a crying baby.

It was not how it was supposed to be, though admittedly I had no idea what laboring for my son would be like. I was a first-time mom, anxious about everything. I had heard horror stories of long hours of painful labor, stories full of intense contractions, and epidurals gone wrong. But I had never heard the stories of women laboring for their babies after ‘fetal demise’. It is not how it is supposed to be, and I understand why it is a subject draped in silence. Stillbirth is seldom talked about in daily conversations and rarely mentioned even in childbirth education classes.
But they are important stories to tell. They are stories full of heartbreaking pain and sadness. They are stories of love in the midst of tragedy. They are a part of our children's stories.

This is our story.

I walked into the birthing suite in the labor and delivery unit and collapsed into the chair next to the bed. Women in labor, women nursing their new arrivals, and rooms full of excited visitors surrounded us. I cried, not in the throes of labor, but in the throes of grief. A nurse walked in to take my information and explain the induction process to my husband and me. He held my hand as I tried to breathe through my sobs. He held me up as I quietly asked for a c-section. Everything in me wanted to be put to sleep and to wake up when it was over. My doctor came by shortly after we arrived and I reluctantly agreed to be induced, but retained the option of a c-section if I wanted. This is not how it was supposed to be was all I could think in my haze.

After my vitals had been taken and our families had gone home for the evening, the nurse gave me a sleeping pill so I could rest. I slept fitfully. The nurses told me it could take a long time since my body was not already in labor, but less than 12 hours after I had arrived at the hospital my water broke. And it had begun.

I was given pain medication through my IV while I laid in the hospital bed and cried. My husband, holding my hand, cried with me. After a few hours, I asked for an epidural. No amount of pain medication could take away the emotional pain, but the physical discomfort felt unbearable layered on top of my broken heart. I don't remember many specific moments from those laboring hours; a fog of disbelief and incredible sadness blanketed everything. My husband brought our computer from home and we listened to the CD I had made a few weeks earlier to focus on during labor. It was a mix of hymns and in our pain we found great comfort in the words filling the otherwise quiet room.

When the time came to deliver our little boy, I honestly thought that I wasn't going to be able to do it. This was it. It was time to meet him face to face. It was time to say goodbye. Despite my fears and trepidation, the desire to see my baby was so strong that I delivered him less than 15 minutes later. The doctor held him up and asked me if I wanted him to be placed on my chest. I could only nod my head yes and motion with my arms. I scooped him up and pulled him toward my face. Owen. He was beautiful, my son. Much more beautiful than I could have dreamed. And at that moment, the love I felt for my child was more powerful and real than the sorrow emanating from my broken heart.

We spent the remainder of the day trying to squeeze a lifetime into a few hours. We held our son, admired his sweet face, and lovingly stroked his perfect chin and nose. Pictures were taken, though not nearly enough to satisfy a lifetime. My husband cradled his son in his arms and wept. There would be many more tears to come, but the tears we shed on Owen’s birthday are seared into my memory. I will never forget what it felt like to hold my baby boy, feel the weight of him in my arms and know that he was not there anymore. It was not how it was supposed to be.

Two and a half years later, our daughter was born alive and screaming. She was delivered via c-section. The labor, the delivery, the walk through the hospital doors were all vastly different this time. But the love, oh the love, I felt for her as I pulled her to my face for the first time was the same. She was beautiful, my daughter.

I will never forget the day my daughter was born. Her first cries were sheer music to our ears and her precious newborn squeaks played like a glorious lullaby in our hospital room.

She is a gift, a blessing, and a joy. But she is not our first.
I could never forget the day my son was born. Though tears of grief saturate that day, there is also unending love that flows from my heart every time I think of him and the day I held him in my arms. He is a gift, a blessing and a joy.

Underneath the stillbirth label is a story. If you dare to ask, be prepared to hear the story of deep anguish and loss. It is also a story of limitless love, the stories of our children.

In my arms, Owen and Hannah Mae.

Monday, November 14, 2011

This is your story

Last week I went through Owen's scrapbook, lingering over the weekly belly pictures, the swollen ankles, cards from his baby shower. Running my fingers over the pictures of his stuffed animals, his crib, dresser. Such joyful smiles on our faces as we anticipated, as we waited. Loving all the while.

I flipped through pictures of his first birthday, his second and third... it only took a few minutes.

Hannah's scrapbook laid only a few inches away... full to the brim. (And I'm only up to 10 months.) It's stuffed full of pictures, band-aids, flowers, shower invitations, cards, pictures....
completely full.

And his scrapbook, his is so empty, so bare that it breaks my heart.

Quite frankly, it makes me angry. It makes me so damn angry that I don't have a scrapbook full of his milestones, cards from his (happy) birth, band-aids from his first trip to the doctor, pictures of the first time he rolled over, smiled, sat up, etc etc etc.

I held his light scrapbook in my arms and I cried. His fourth birthday should have been a day full of happy yells of delight as he ran through the house, everything fun and good and exciting for a big four year old boy. Not a sad little cake that sits half eaten in our kitchen. Not a balloon release where we watch four blue balloons slowly fly away, getting smaller and smaller as they float into the distance. Not a day without its birthday boy. Not a handful of pictures for his tiny scrapbook.

But it was. And I can't change it. My tears, my longing, my anger- they won't change anything. Would I wish him here from Heaven? Would I wish his life was longer? Would I wish away my longing so I could hold him and watch him grow up? Would I.... ?

I don't know. I don't know. But my mother love misses him. My mother love longs for him.

His scrapbook may be bare, but his life was full. Full of love, joy, warmth and oh so much love. We loved him. Before we could gaze at his sweet little face, or hold him in our arms, before we named him Owen... we loved him.
And God loved him. God knew him.

This is your story, Owen. God knew you, loved you, called you by name and called you home.

This is your story, sweet little Owen. I may not have pictures of your first bite of cake on your first birthday, but I have a heart full of love just for you. This mother love will never fade. And the God love... well, you know all about that, and I can't wait to experience it with you- the way it was meant to be.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

His 4th birthday

His 4th birthday was a rainy, gloomy one. There were times throughout the day that I broke down sobbing. I cried through lunch with Hannah Mae. I cried during dinner preparations and I got so frustrated making his cake that I almost scrapped the whole thing. 

We released balloons after lunch during a short break from the terrible weather that was forecasted for the afternoon. I was worried they weren't going to fly high enough and away because of the spitting rain and the blustery wind. But they did.

We sang happy birthday to Owen and explained to HM that one day, when Jesus comes back, we're all going to fly up out our graves and meet Jesus in the sky just like the balloons are flying up and away.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ESV)

 Overall, I'm feeling deflated, but thankful for hope. 
Hope that one day there will be no more longing or separation or sadness or tears or missing ones on their birthdays, or cakes with no one to blow out their candles, or feelings of anger and frustration when your son is forgotten and his very name is taboo.

We have so much hope, even when we don't feel it. Even when we cry out in anger and sadness. Even when there are missing ones around our table. HOPE.
'And so we will always be with the Lord.'

Happy birthday, precious dear one. We love you, Owen.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Love is never love wasted

Cardinals keep coming in the shapes of thoughtful cards, an unexpected and tearful conversation full of compassion, long and beautiful voicemails, a bag full of treats, emails and messages written by caring friends remembering our son, a ballon release in honor of Owen, a single white rose and a special visit to his grave by some of the best friends you could ever wish for.

We are reminded that He never leaves us or forsakes us.

Thank you for remembering with us.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

God gives us cardinals

Winter time has its cold and wind that chills my skin
but every time You are near
it warms me deep within.
As in the winter when the birds all leave
God gives us cardinals to add color

Growing up has its days of changes filled with fear
And even though we can't stop time
its easier when You're near.
As in the fall when the flowers fade
God gives us leaves to add color

-Annie Williams 'Used to'

God always gives me cardinals to remind me of His great, unfailing, faithful and abundant love. Ever since Owen died, God has sent me cardinals when I'm feeling alone in my grief. I see them as reminder of His presence in my life.
He never leaves us alone, He never forsakes us. 

The radiant red bird always shows up... in a picture, a movie, outside my window, a beautiful handmade gift from a friend, a song... never failing to remind me of how much God loves me.

I'm wishing for a cardinal right now.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the last full day we had Owen alive and well here with us. And we miss him. So much.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

That time again

I'm not ready. I've been picking at my thoughts and moving them around.
I'm not ready.

How can it be four years since I carried my son?

I miss him.