Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The First 20ish Weeks

I haven't had anything to share on here about my pregnancy so far. I think the main reason is because I have found several wonderful women who are on the same journey that I am. I email or Facebook message with them often, which has been the better way for me to cope with this journey. I've found I'd much rather have a conversation with someone who "gets it" than send my words out into blog-land, where they will perhaps be left unanswered. Also on many days I just have nothing to say. I'm sad about Emma, I'm scared for this baby, I'm confused about the whole thing, and I'm tired of trying to come up with new ways to say that.

So, here are some random ramblings reflections on the first 20ish (I am now 21 1/2) weeks of my pregnancy:

- I felt a lot more excitement than I anticipated when I found out I was pregnant. I was prepared for immediate fear and anxiety, but I actually felt excited at this chance for new life. We got a positive pregnancy test on April 2, Emma's nine month birthday. It was also the first time of the season that I saw a butterfly. I am hopeful that these things were "signs" that Emma was saying, don't worry you will get to bring this baby home from the hospital.

- After the initial excitement, I spent most of my first trimester in a state of disbelief. It was very hard to process the thoughts of a new baby along side my grief over Emma, especially when her first birthday was approaching.

- Getting ultrasounds is hard for me and they really bring up my anxiety. An ultrasound is how we learned that Emma had died and it's hard for me to associate positivity with those appointments.

- I have had one "is my baby okay?" anxiety attack so far, which led me to the doctor to get a heartbeat check. I won't be surprised if there are more, but I hope that there are not.

- Of course the real desire is a healthy living baby, but I have to admit that I hoped we would be having another girl. I was so ready to mother a daughter here on Earth, and I hope that with this little girl we will get our chance.

- Now that my pregnancy is showing I have developed anxiety about going into situations with strangers. There is always some "friendly" person who wants to ask about my pregnancy, and often included is, "is this your first?" Please people, stop asking that question. I understand that you are being friendly and making conversation, but it is not your business and it breaks my heart every time I have to answer your questions.

- I don't like (and have heard the same from many other PAL, pregnancy after loss, moms) when people tell me: this baby will be okay, this time it will be good, or other such things. It does not comfort me, and all it serves to do is bring up more anxiety when I begin thinking about the reasons that it may not be okay. When your baby dies before birth there is absolutely no "okay" until you have a healthy living baby in your arms. I understand you mean well, but it doesn't help. When PAL moms talk to each other we say things like: hopefully, if this baby lives, God-willing. That's how it is for us now, and it is helpful to talk to someone in real terms, in a way that faces the reality that is our lives.

- Being pregnant again does not make things okay or better. I still continue to grieve and mourn Emma, and that means that this pregnancy is impacted. Yes, I am trying to be positive and find ways to celebrate this baby as a unique person, but pregnancy is just different now and always will be. If you expect me to face this pregnancy with the blind joy I had last time around, don't hold your breath.

- Britt and I ordered a onesie (a cute fishing themed one) from Zulily yesterday. It is the first thing we have bought for baby girl. I have been spending time thinking about and planning her nursery, which has been my way of embracing and celebrating this pregnancy so far.

- Every time I start to get too anxious or negative I tell myself this: If anything happens to this baby it will be for me to deal with then, but for now she is healthy and alive and she deserves my full love and attention no matter how much it scares me. Anything less is not fair to her.

- These weeks around 20 weeks are hard because I am feeling her movements often, but it is still too early for them to really be in a regular pattern. That means I can't really track her movements yet, so I'm left to enjoy the movements whenever they happen to come. As a result, whenever I am not feeling her move I get scared.

- As I get closer to delivery being a real possible event I get more anxious. I have been flashing back to Emma's birth a lot and its hard for me to face being in a hospital/birth situation again. Losing your first baby is a unique grief because I have no positive frame of reference. When I think of giving birth all I have is this traumatic experience to reflect on. This has also brought back up a lot of grief over Emma. Britt and I continue to see our grief counselor, and its a good thing we do.

Well, I guess maybe I had something to say after all. Thanks for "listening". xoxo

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bracelet Order Tonight!

We are opening up bracelet orders tonight at 6 pm EST. I will only be accepting 25 orders for now. If I get them done in enough time before school starts back up then I will take a second order. Please see the "our products" and "ordering information" tabs at the top of our website for more information. Thanks!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Statement of Faith

This is a very personal post for me to share. It has been on my heart for awhile, and I've decided its time to finally try and put words to my thoughts.

I am a Christian. I believe in God and the saving grace of Jesus Christ. I do not believe that "everything happens for a reason".

I used to believe that everything happens for a reason. That God was behind each and every moment in our lives, like a puppeteer pulling the strings. I have a wonderful family and have had a great life so far, but I wouldn't say that its been free from adversity. I have had some valleys in my life to get through, and yet those tough moments never tested my belief that "everything happens for a reason". That was until July 2, 2013, when my absolutely perfect healthy daughter died without explanation.  Certainly there is not a reason that God would make that choice for my life.

In the months following Emma's death the questions began to come. My faith and beliefs that I had grown up with were shaken to the core. I questioned everything I ever believed, and I felt like I had to start all over again. I wasn't ready to give up on my faith, and although it wasn't with a truly genuine heart, I began to seek out the word of God. I decided that going through the motions was better than doing nothing at all. I read books, participated in Bible studies, read online articles by Christian authors, and consulted my study Bible.

Through my time spent studying I developed a new, or perhaps refined, set of beliefs. To be honest, I do not share these things with you to invite discussion or debate. If your beliefs are different I respect that and will not question them. I ask you to do the same for me.

I believe that sometimes things do happen for a reason. There are cases when God uses circumstances to further his plan for us and the world. There are times when God brings us to a place where we will be forced to return to him and atone for sinful choices and behavior.

I believe that sometimes things happen that are not at the hand of God. We live in a fallen world. Satan is "the god of this age" (2Co 4:4) and his evil abounds in our world. As a Presbyterian, Satan is not a common topic in our Sunday morning messages, but the proof of his domain is clearly written in the Bible.

Finally, because we live in a fallen world, there is going to be pain, sorrow, conflict, and suffering. It's not that God chooses every bad thing that happens, but sometimes bad things just happen because that is how the world is. I think many of us go through life thinking that we should be untouchable. That we should be protected from bad things because we are good people. Unfortunately, that is not how life on Earth works. Life is hard. There will be pain and suffering. We have to persevere and make it through. When we get to Heaven is when we will finally have a peaceful pain free existence.

Now we are left to wonder, what about God's providence? The care and guidance of God in our lives, the belief that things happen because God allows them, though he may not directly cause them. Could God have intervened in Emma's death? I suppose he could have, but again, I choose to believe that the world is a tough place and bad things sometimes just happen.

I do however believe in God's foreknowledge, that God knows everything before it happens. While bad things will inevitably happen (not necessarily because God "made them happen"), God knows about them ahead of time. I don't imagine God would be taken by surprise, "oh crap, well that happened…". I think that for some people God's foreknowledge allows him to provide that person with intuition that helps prepare them for the bad things that will happen. I have talked to several moms whose children have died who say that they had "signs", feelings, or experiences that hinted at the loss they would suffer. Often times these signs are small things that only are pieced together after the loss.

I myself think back to the ten months of my pregnancy and wonder about some feelings and experiences I had. Is my broken heart and human mind just grasping to make sense of a senseless tragedy, or was God providing me with the intuition that things were not going to work out? Most days I think it was intuition. I think about the lack of reality I felt during my pregnancy. I remember saying, even at the very end, "I just can't imagine that in a few months, a month, a few weeks that we will have a baby here". I think about how I never got the nesting urge, the motivation to prepare our home for baby. I think about how at my baby shower I sat opening gift upon gift and none of it felt real to me. Like I was on the outside looking in. Was I just an overwhelmed and scared first time parent? Perhaps. I'm sure mothers whose babies come home alive from the hospital have had these feelings too. Or, maybe it was that still small voice letting my mother's intuition tell me that things weren't going to end the way they should. One last moment I think back to was late spring last year, just a few months before Emma was due. In one of our garden beds a big beautiful clump of forget-me-nots appeared. We had not planted them. Sure, a bird could have dropped some seeds. The interesting thing is that the garden bed where they bloomed is the area which would become Emma's memorial butterfly garden. This spring the forget-me-nots did not bloom in her garden. A small clump bloomed on the outside of the barrier to her garden and then they were gone.

Although God may not cause all bad things to happen, he does promise to be with us and bring good from everything. So whether what happens in our life is by God's hand or not, he is there with us not only to help us through, but to bring beauty from the ashes.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 
Romans 8:28

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 
Jeremiah 29:11

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Emma's First Birthday

On Wednesday, July 2, 2014 it was Emma's first birthday. In some ways July 2, 2013 feels like decades ago, and in other ways I have trouble believing its been a year since my sweet girl went to Heaven. It's all so strange and surreal.

In the days leading up to Emma's birthday I had some pretty big meltdowns. The emotion of what was coming was hard to handle. Having all of those strong emotions ahead of time left me feeling strangely peaceful on her actual birthday. My mindset was to focus on Emma as she is to me today, and the ways in which I honor and love her now. I fought hard not to let my mind wander to July 2nd a year ago, to relive and remember what that last day was like before she was born. It is too traumatic and painful, and thankfully my mind does not really let me go back there too much.

On her birthday Britt was working during the day, which left me on my own. My instinct was to stay in my pajamas all day and curl up on the couch. However, I have some very special friends who asked if they could do something with me on that day. I know that spending time honoring the birthday of your friend's child who has passed away is a hard and probably awkward thing to do, and I am so so grateful that these special women didn't let that stop them from being with me in my time of need. In the end I'm glad I wasn't alone all day. I decided to take pictures throughout the day to record how we spent the day honoring Emma.

In the morning I went out and spent a little time in Emma's butterfly garden. We have planned on expanding it for awhile now, but haven't yet. It contains black eyed susan's, a butterfly bush that was transplanted from my Grammie's garden, a butterfly feeder, a "you are my sunshine stone" that was given to us after Emma passed away, a solar butterfly light, and a new garden stone that Britt and I made.

Some of the pretty blossoms on Emma's bush.

Some of her black eyed susan's.

Three of my beautiful sweet friends came in the afternoon and brought me Chuy's for lunch. Chuy's is absolutely delicious. If you haven't been please go. I had chicken soft tacos and loads of their amazing chips with salsa and creamy jalapeƱo dip. During non-pregnant times I love getting a margarita there. They are so delicious! 

They brought a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I loved how bright and happy these sunflowers were. They were just perfect. I have a weird thing now with certain flowers reminding me of funeral flowers, but these were just right. 

They also brought this happy little butterfly wind chime. I hung it next to Emma's wind chime, both of which hang over her garden. I love sitting out there on a breezy day and hearing their songs. 

This was the cake they brought for after lunch. It couldn't have been more perfect. I just love that my girl had her very own birthday cake, and honestly I'm glad I didn't have to go through the heartache of ordering it myself. It was a strawberry cake from Pearl's Cupcake Shoppe and was absolutely delicious.

I have a serious thing for petit fours, so my sweet friend Lauren also brought these. She may be the one person I know who likes sweets more than me!

After the girls left, Scooter and I snuggled and napped on the couch until it was time for Britt to get home. I had the perfect combination of time spent with friends and time to decompress and be alone. 

After dinner Britt and I used a kit from Michael's to make a garden stone to be added to Emma's butterfly garden. I wanted something tangible that we could do and then have as a keepsake for how we honored her first birthday. 

Our finished mosaic stone in Emma's garden. 

That evening while out with Scooter I took a picture of Emma's solar butterfly light in her garden. It changes through a bright rainbow of colors. I just love it. It is so bright and happy, and just the thing that a little girl would love to have in her garden. 

A little bit later when I was out with Scooter I caught this moth having a snack at the butterfly bush. I did see several little butterflies during the day, but none that I was able to get a picture of.

The last part of our day doesn't have a picture, but at 8:56 pm, the time Emma was born, Britt and I lit a candle and each had a slice of her birthday cake. That was the hardest part of the day but also the most meaningful. I am so thankful for my husband and marriage, and the way we have supported each other through this last year. 

All things considered I was very happy with how Emma's birthday was spent. There were hard emotional moments, but also moments of peace. I had wanted to spend the day loving and celebrating my girl, rather than being weighed down with hard heavy grief, and for the most part I was able to do that. Today was the last of the hard first year milestones, as it was this time last July when we had Emma's funeral. Now we begin the year of second anniversaries. I can't believe it. 

My wish is that each of her birthdays will receive this amount of attention and love. As a parent of a child who has passed away, one of your biggest fears is that as time goes on she will be forgotten. For everyone else life continues on, but for us these rituals are all we have of our daughter. So friends, please remember and honor with us, not just in these first few years when its so fresh and new, but always. We are Emma's parents and we love when you support us in parenting her.