Monday, May 27, 2013

An Unexpected Blessing

Life has certainly been turned upside down these past couple weeks.  In the midst of remembering Grace through my 18 Days of Grace series, we received devastating news that my uncle Connie had passed away while my aunt was in the hospital recovering from her fall.  I know several of my family members read my blog posts and so I wanted to show respect and take a night off from writing about my loss when my aunt was going through so much.  Well, one night of not writing turned into several due to visiting my aunt, taking care of family needs, celebrations (Mother's Day, many birthdays, confirmation)  etc. I mean truly, the list of events could go on and on.

Because there have been so many moments this past month where God hasn't forsaken me (as always) and has carried me through many difficult days throughout the month of May, I will back track and share some of those wonderful occurrences. 

Before going back to Mother's Day, I wanted to share something that happened last week that made my heart fill with joy.  I've been having several of these moments lately where I look up and know that blessing was from God. This occurrence was one of them.  

During my prep hour at school, I turned on my computer and waited patiently for it to load.  The windows were open and a soft breeze came through the window.  While waiting, I looked up at the picture of Grace with the dandelion taped to the frame and reflected on how much peace I experienced on her one year anniversary celebration on the 18th (I'll write more about that later).  I thanked Him over and over again the strength he provided me and calmness I felt.  Once the computer loaded,  I clicked the internet icon so I could access my school e-mail and looked up again while it loaded.  The moment I looked up, the wind picked up and out of the corner of my eye I saw something float my way and land on my nose.  I titled my head down and began to bring my my hand up to sweep it off my face when the object fell onto my lap.  The second my eyes focused, I realized what had kissed my nose and fell...a dandelion seed.  

Now what I find to be a blessing from this was the fact that my office is situated on the third floor of my school and a ways away from the grass (that is covered in dandelions) that the children are not allowed to play on. What are the odds that this little seed would fit through the tiny opening of my window and land precisely on my nose? As Yer, one of my student's said, "It was Grace kissing you on your nose."  

I couldn't help but giggle.  In fact, I giggled so hard that it reminded me of when I was a kid feeding the seagulls that would dive bomb me while on vacation.  The moment I took the picture, I tried to scoop up the tiny seed with my hand.  As time would have it, a gust of wind blew it right off my leg.  I quickly hopped off my seat so that I could potentially grab a hold of my sweet surprise.  It floated safely into my hand where it now sits in my see- through phone case.  Every time I turn my phone over, I get to see the unexpected blessing from God, my little dandelion seed that brought a great deal of joy to my heart.

The theme for Grace's celebration of eternal life on the 18th was centered on dandelions and Romans 5:5 (Hope does not disappoint us).  I don't view dandelions as being weeds. I see them as unstoppable flowers that grow and thrive in the harshest conditions.  These flowers add such vibrant color everywhere you look.  It doesn't matter whether they are yellow or a fluffy white, they leave a lasting legacy of color.  

I remember from when I was a little girl playing in a sea of dandelions while at recess.  My friends and I would run out to the open field with smiles on our faces, dancing and twirling among the flowers. Pure innocence was upon us as we'd pick the dandelions and blow the seeds in hope.  We'd watch the seeds get tossed and carried in the wind to an unknown destination, wondering if the seeds would uproot another flower and if our hope would be heard and answered,  

I feel like I've been carried like a dandelion seed in a soft breeze through this entire journey by God. He has held me with His sweet embrace and I have never in my life felt so much peace and continual strength. 

I continue to wait with a hopeful expectation that I will be united with my sweet pea and the One that laid down His own life for her, for me...and for you. I have been given such an amazing gift in her and I'm so thankful He is using her life with such purpose.  I will never forget those precious two hours God allowed Grace to be in our presence. I will also never forget watching her drift away into her eternal life either, like a delicate seed blowing in the wind.  And although my ways are not His ways, every day I will commit her life to His hands and trust in His mighty plan for her and for my life.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

18 Days of Grace: Culver's

Since I was two days behind in my posting, I thought I better get caught up.  Sunday was a very busy day for Paul and I and we spent the evening at my parent's enjoying Cindo de Mayo with my family.  By the time Paul and I arrived home, I could hardly see straight from being so tired.  I didn't have the energy to post yesterday because I wasn't feeling that well.  I was slightly scared thinking that I may have a virus that was going around.  Towards the end of my work day, I had such an upset stomach with sharp pains, so I decided to take the night off of writing and to rest up.

Feeling slightly ill didn't stop me from remembering my sweet girl, however.  Besides pizza, Culver's custard was another staple food in my diet.  I think I could have eaten it for all three meals of the day and would have been satisfied every single time.  I started my maternity leave two days before I gave birth to Grace.  During the day, I laid on the couch and ate an entire pint of custard in one sitting.  No wonder it's taken me so long to get back into shape.  Gulp

I truly enjoyed my FREE kids scoop with vanilla and Oreo topping; the same kind I always ordered with Grace.  I enjoyed it just as much as I did with her!

Love you, my sweet girl! 


18 Days of Grace: Downtown Delafield

One of the most wonderful opportunities Paul and I were blessed with while carrying Grace was the opportunity to have maternity photos taken. I didn't think they would provide as much joy as they do. In fact, we really weren't considering getting them done at all.  We wanted to be smart with our finances and didn't know what Grace's cremation and services for the funeral home were going to cost us.  Plus, Paul really does not like getting his pictures taken (who does) and so he didn't seem to keen on the idea anyway.  

I remember contacting Kelly from Illustrations Photography shortly after my sister-in-law, Jamie, informed me of the non-profit organization called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. You see, Jamie has been a RN for roughly 11 years in the NICU.  She has definitely seen her fair share of families suffering over the loss of their precious babies.  I give these nurses so much credit for the strength it takes to care for this children and the sensitivity they possess.  God surely has blessed each of these women with such a special gift. I was so thankful she mentioned this to me because I would have never of known about this organization.  Through various conversations on trying to understand how her services work, she felt it in her heart to offer Paul and I the opportunity to take maternity photos out of the kindness of her heart.  

Kelly met us in the beautiful downtown Delafield area on an absolutely beautiful day.  I particularly loved the fact that Kelly asked me what I liked about different pictures that I have seen in the past.  I noted in an e-mail that I loved different textures (stone, brick etc) in the backgrounds.  When we pulled into the area, I was in awe to see how receptive she was to my suggestion.  Not only that, but she came with her different lenses strapped around her body and a bag filled with the little blocks that spelled Grace's name.  

Paul and I had never met Kelly before.  Besides e-mailing and talking on the telephone a couple of times in between her daughter's nap time, I had no idea what she even looked like.  I was so nervous to meet her.  I didn't want the interaction to be weird for her because of Grace's condition.  I also feared that Paul would be a total pill and huff and puff about the different poses and what not.  Thankfully, God heard our prayers because I have never felt so at ease with someone taking my photos.  She was extremely outgoing, tender, and complementary.  I've never felt comfortable in front of a camera before, but boy, did she change that for me.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the two of them.  And to think, our sweet Grace was there the entire time we giggled and smiled.  It was such a blessing to have her be apart of that.   

After having a couple of friends taking classes on editing, I have a pretty decent understanding to the amount of time it takes to edit pictures. When I went to the mail a couple days later, Kelly had sent the CD with tons of perfectly edited pictures. I was in awe to see how devoted she was to finishing this session with us and so that we could enjoy the pictures as soon as possible.  

As part of my 18 Days of Grace series, Paul and I went back to visit the spot Kelly so graciously took us to.   I am a very sentimental person and so I thought this would be a perfect way to remember her.  As we pulled into the area, I began to get emotional remembering the last time we were there, it was just wasn't with Paul...Grace was there too.  When we stepped foot out of our car we saw this beautiful rainbow above our heads.  I couldn't help but turn my frown into a smile.  I remembered that a rainbow is a promise from God that he will never flood the earth again.  God's promise.  He never breaks His promises.  I found great hope in the fact that God promises eternal life to anyone who believes that He sent His Son to save us from our sins. That made me think of Grace surrounding the throne, praising Him.  I can't wait to join her!

We walked the same path and sat on the same tree branches we did when Grace was with us. We laughed and made funny faces because we know that she would want us to happy and to enjoy the life we've been blessed with. And even though we wished that she were with us more than anything, we are just thankful we get to be her mama and daddy.  

Here are some pictures from our day remembering our sweet pea.  You will see that I've included Kelly's pictures of our maternity session as well.  

We ended our walk listening to another Cardinal singing away and capturing this beautiful picture with a  rainbow reflection from the sun.  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

18 Days of Grace: Grace's Cousins

My nieces and nephews mean the world to me.  It still amazes me how much joy they bring my soul every time I see them.  When my brother, Matt, called me Wednesday to watch his two kids this week, a huge smile popped onto my face.  It isn't often that Paul and I get Emily and Owen to ourselves, so I jump at the opportunity when given the chance.

My brother's family had to attend a birthday party for his niece on his in-laws side of the family.  They didn't get home until 8:30, so unfortunately, we didn't get much time to spend out with Owen.  In fact, in a matter of ten minutes after his mama and daddy left, he passed out on the floor.  Paul carried him upstairs and I tucked him into his big boy bed.  I'm not sure where the last two years have gone, but it's been such a blessing to watch him grow and develop into a loving little boy. When I look at Owen, hold him in my arms, or kiss his sweet lips, I think about what a blessing and good gift he is.  He steals my heart every time he says, "Jeshie" or when you give him a kiss, he makes the muahh sound. He even says Grace's name just like mine. It's adorable! Ugh, I love him to pieces. Ladies, watch out.  He''s going to be a heart throb.

Owen is their rainbow baby.  What that means is he is their child born after a loss.  Unfortunately, it wasn't just one loss that my brother and sister-in-law suffered through.  At the time I didn't understand the pain they...well, mostly what she was going through.  In fact, I said all the wrong things to her at time and didn't know how to be there for her.  I'm just so thankful God entrusted them with another child, even though I know they haven't forgotten about their babies awaiting their arrival in heaven.

Emily wanted her nails painted and was determined to have me paint them.  She went ahead set up her little nail salon in the living room.  She had a manicure and pedicure station, an instruction center, and a payment booth.  After I pained her nails, she wanted to paint mine.  She took me through her salon, explained all the prices, and gave me time to process what I really wanted done.

While I was waiting, she enticed her uncle into getting a mani and pedi himself.   My mouth literally hung open when he explained what colors he wanted  on his fingers.  Paul typically lets me play with the kids and doesn't interact a whole lot with them late at night.  He held his hand out and Emily's face lit up. She was more than shocked herself. She quickly grabbed the polish and began to work her magic.  She made us belly laugh with the amount of polish she used and how she didn't exactly paint only his nail. I don't think I've laughed that hard in a long time.

It was a complete blast to share that alone time with her.  I even enjoyed that I got to snuggle with her while putting her to bed. While we laid together, she explained that she wanted to name her daughter Grace so that she can always remember her cousin in heaven.  She did make sure to tell me though that her middle name would not be Annmarie because she didn't like that name very much (ha ha ha). Her bluntness always cracks me up.   I've always appreciated the fact that she's had such a connection with Grace since she was in my belly.  I truly believe God is using her to help me in my grieving and I'm so grateful for that. She always brings a smile to our faces and fills our hearts with pure joy.  Just as Owen, she is growing up way to fast and is wise beyond her age. I can't wait to see her continue to grow into a mama herself someday. It was wonderful to remember Grace today as we watched Emily and Owen.  We are so thankful for their family and the support they have blessed us with through our journey!


Saturday, May 4, 2013

18 Days of Grace: Za

There were many foods that I craved while carrying Grace, and Jet's pizza was definitely one of them.  I think we ate it nearly once a week in my last trimester with her.  Certain foods always got her movin' around like crazy, and this was one of them.  I loved it!

When I got home from work yesterday, Grace's daddy was sitting on the couch, relaxing after a hard days work.  I could tell he was hungry because besides giving me a kiss, he was already talking about what we were going to eat for dinner.  Without skipping a beat he suggested that we order some Jet's pizza since that was our staple food while I was pregnant.  I was shocked that he had remembered how often we ate it since it was almost a year ago. I'm even more surprised that he had an appetite for it after eating it so much.

Without any hesitation, I picked up the phone to order take-out.  I'm not gonna lie, I was excited that I didn't have to cook too.  =) After we drove to pick it up, her daddy and I relaxed and enjoyed some greasy pizza in remembrance of her.  And boy, was it good!

The only thing I wished I could have felt after eating the za were those sweet little kicks on my right hand side.  They made me smile from ear to ear.  She did always make me smile.  She still does!

Friday, May 3, 2013

18 Days of Grace: Love

If you have ever tried to call me after school hours, 9 times out of 10, you will most likely receive my lovely voice mail message.  Since my phone is always on silent while I am teaching, it never registers that I need to change the setting until I need to make a call. That is when I will finally realize that someone has attempted to get a hold of me.

That is exactly what happened yesterday. I came home from work and began making dinner because Paul and I were going to head to the gym, run some errands, and spend time remembering our sweetie pie together.  I never bring my phone with me when I work out because I don't want it to get taken when I place it in our "day locker."  I took my phone out of my backpack and was going to place it on the charger while we were gone.  As I plugged it into the charger I saw that I had a missed call from my aunt.  I quickly dialed my voice mail and listened to her message.  In an instant my stomach dropped.  She was hysterically crying and explained that she was in the ER at the hospital I delivered Grace.  I erased the message and called my dad to see if he heard what had happened.  He understood that while she was getting the mail, her next door neighbor's Lab pushed her down and may have broken her hip. 

Paul was working on a bid in his office, so I yelled up to him and told him what had happened.  I said that I was going to go to the hospital so she had someone with her before my dad and mom arrived.  As I turned onto the road that led to the hospital, it dawned on me that I had not stepped foot into it since I had Grace.  Thankfully, my postpartum visit was rescheduled to a different location so I didn't have to go back or to the OB/GYN office where she was diagnosed. It was also the first time coming back to the emergency room after my miscarriage.  I had such a heavy heart pulling into the parking lot and I fought back he urge not to turn around and go home.  With tears pouring down my face, I closed my eyes and prayed.  This wasn't about me.  It was about being there for my aunt.  Someone who has always been like a second mom to me.  Someone who was badly injured and needed support and love.  Someone who doesn't have any living children (she's a baby loss mama too) or a husband that can be by her side.  

I entered the sliding doors of the ER, received my visitors badge, and was told my aunt was in room 17.  I walked through the secured door and as I lifted my head, my eyes met the nurses station and room 4.  The room I was told that I had a "spontaneous abortion" and that I was no longer baby was gone.  I remember being so tired from the amount of pain I was in that I didn't even let out a single tear.  I felt numb to what I had just endured.  I was just so thankful that Paul and my dad where their by my side.  It was such a scary thing to experience.  Seeing that room again brought me back to my first broken heart and all the lost hopes and dreams we had for our child and for our family.  

When I walked into her room, all of her belongings sat on a chair, but she wasn't present.  I assumed that she had been taken to get x-rays of her hip to see if it was in fact broken. So, I sat there, in the empty room, while fighting back the temptation to listen to the voice in my head that told me to run. To run from the remembrance of carrying out a box of my daughter's keepsakes, instead of carrying out my daughter and buckling her up into her car seat.  To run from the pain of handing her dead body over to a complete stranger knowing that I'd never, ever see here again here on earth.  I was letting the devil win.  He was crushing my spirit and bringing me down in every way possible. 

I turned on my phone and clicked my Bible app to read James 1: 2-18 to remind myself that the testing of my faith produces perseverance. I need to hold onto His promise that she is whole, healed, and complete in His glorious presence.  Every good gift is from above and the verse brought light to the fact that I needed to be rejoicing over the fact He entrusted us with her, our good gift.  I praised Him for the price, his son, Jesus Christ paid so Grace, you, and I could spend an eternity in heaven, and for redeeming a lousy sinner like me.  I am so thankful He gives us rest when we feel like we have nothing left.  When we are frail and torn, He is always there, never forsaking us. 

Within moments of crying out to Him, my aunt was wheeled into the room, shouting uncontrollably from being in such severe pain.  I'm not sure how God wired us to be the way we are, but my motherly instinct kicked into overdrive.  I wanted to do everything in my power to ease her from pain, to encourage her, but most importantly, to pray for her.  My parents arrived within twenty minutes and helped to calm her worries about taking care of her disabled husband and what will happen to her in the next couple of days.  It was such a blessing to have them there to show her that she was loved.    

I don't give any credit to myself for making it the hospital that day.  I'm too weak of a person and I let my emotions get the best of me.  I made it to the hospital yesterday because I've learned that this life doesn't just revolve around me and the hurt that has come from my pain.  It goes much, much deeper than that.  Through these trials, I've gained a deeper understanding of what it means to try to love like Christ would have, even in great pain and heartache. I picture Him being beaten, scarred,crowned with thorns, and nailed into the cross for you and me.  What a true picture of love.  I want to live like that.  I want to show the world the love He gave for me.  I want my actions, my words, and my thoughts to always radiate Christ's love.  

Even though our plans didn't turn out as expected,  I am thankful for the opportunity to be there for my demonstrate my love for her and to show her I care deeply for her. Isn't that what Christ would do for us? Grace's life was certainly remembered as I relived my entire birthing experience with her.  She is certainly a loved little girl. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

18 Days of Grace: Quality Time

Yesterday I committed to honoring Grace's life in little ways until the celebration of her birth/eternal life.  Paul and I decided that since her life began with God and the two of us, we should spend quality time together while praising the One that fearfully created her.

Her daddy and I went to the gym and worked out side by side.  We discussed the blessing of her life and how God has used Grace to draw me into a closer relationship with Him.  Since it was so beautiful out, we decided to hop on our bikes when we arrived home.  As we rode down a trail that is nearby our house, we took in the marvelous views God created, smiled at the five Cardinals we came across, and laughed at one another's quirky comments and the days to come.  It was a wonderful time spent together in honor of her.  She was at the forefront of our conversation, and that made me one happy mama.

After I showered up, I spent the rest of my night getting laundry done, reading the Bible, and listening  to Like An Avalanche in remembrance of her.  I still get teary eyed every time I hear the lyrics, "And I find myself here on my knees again. Caught up in grace like an avalanche   Nothing compares to the love burning in my heart."  There were so many times that I was on my knees in my bedroom crying out to God for strength. I begged Him to heal her so that she could live a life here on earth.  Even though my prayer wasn't answered for her healing, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and came to an understanding that His plans were far greater for her than mine were.  I ended the evening by praying over her wooden box and kissed her picture that rests on my nightstand.  I marveled at her beauty while thanking Him over and over for entrusting us with her precious life.  

We are surely blessed beyond measure to be called her parents. I do take great pride in holding that title.

Thank you, God, for blessing us with her life.  We are forever grateful! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May: A Bittersweet Month

It's May. 

18 days away from Grace's one year spent with Jesus. (Sigh)

I wish more than ever that I was able to write, 18 days away from her first birthday.  For as long as I live, I will always have to say, "Grace would have been ... years old." I hate that more than ever. 

This month will ALWAYS remind me how wonderful it felt to bring a child into this world and to know joy and love in a ways that I never thought were possible. On the other hand, it also reminds me of sheer pain, sadness, and hurt. Watching my child gasp for air and shake in my very own arms because she was going into cardiac arrest has crushed me beyond belief. Having to say goodbye to a little girl that stole my heart long before she was conceived was far more difficult that I could have ever imagined

I've been dreading for this month for some time now. I always envisioned the turning of May to be rather difficult on me emotionally.  It's amazing to me that through this whole journey, I continue to assume that certain milestones will be difficult. It's as though I begin doubting God's amazing strength and courage He blesses me with every single time.  However, God ALWAYS shows me that He has a different plan in mind.  

I woke up this morning feeling so alive in Him.  I read my devotional that focused on Proverbs 3: 5-6 (Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, but in all ways, submit to him, and he will make your paths straight) and I couldn't have felt His sweet embrace any more.  I walked out my backdoor to hear a beautiful cardinal singing away.  I traveled to school with my windows down and praised Him while singing along to K-LOVE.  All of these things, among many others throughout the day, were reminders that our God is so good! He took the pain and heartache away and allowed me to look at the beauty that has come from Grace's life.  He has surely turned my mourning into dancing! 

I am so excited to celebrate our sweet girl's life this month.  On the 18th, we will be celebrating her eternal life with family and friends that have walked with us during our journey.  Every other day until the 18th, I will be doing something small to remember the time we spent with her.  I will continue to update the different things her daddy and I do to honor her life.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Appreciating Every Moment

I’m not exactly sure where all the days in April have gone. Weren't we just celebrating Christ’s resurrection not too long ago?  Before I know it, my summer break will be finished and I'll be wishing for the sun to stay out a wee bit longer.  It saddens me that time flies by so quickly.  It bothers me even more to this day that not to long ago, I literally wished time away.  I never took the time to appreciate the moment that I was blessed with or value what I was experiencing. 

Grace changed that for me.

I was reminded again, while I vacationed with Paul and my parents two weeks ago that I need to live in the moment and value the time I have here on earth.  During our first full day at the beach, I sat in my chair, staring out into the ocean and was captivated by the beauty that was before me.  I turned to my left and then my right to view my handsome hubby pouring over his novel and both of my parents with their eyes shut and their heads titled back, taking in the warmth of the sun.  Tears of thankfulness began to seep from my eyes like a leaky faucet.

Here I was, in a place most people consider to be paradise, and in the presence of three people who are very near and dear to my heart.  To say that I was feeling blessed would be an understatement.   I took that moment to draw everything in… to hear the sound of the waves crashing in the distance, the seagulls squawking for food, and the laughter that filled the air.  I marveled at the crystal clear water, the white sand between my toes, and the bright sun that kissed my cheeks.  I continued to gaze at each of my loved ones, and thought about how precious they are to me.  I looked at them, similar to how I looked at Grace, and I felt an overwhelming amount of love. 

I shut my eyes, tuned out the noises, and thanked Him for the opportunity to travel, especially with my family and for allowing me to experience living in the moment...again.  I prayed for time to slow down so that I could take in every detail and appreciate the time I was given with my family. 

As time would have it, the vacation flew by in a blink of an eye.  We were blessed with gorgeous weather, time to enjoy each other’s company, and laughter that lasted well into the night.  Even though there wasn't a moment that went by where I didn’t think of Grace, I felt (maybe for the first time ever) that  I was able to truly enjoy the life I have been blessed with since her passing…to laugh and smile without feeling guilty.  And boy, did it feel good!

I’m certain Grace would want me to live this life to the fullest and appreciate all the blessings God has bestowed upon us.  I am so thankful that I have been awakened to a new way of living.  Each and every breath that I am given is a true blessing.  I have learned so much from being Grace's mama and for that, I am eternally grateful. I feel like God continues to reveal more of Grace's purpose for her short life as time continues on.  I'm praying He reveals more and more because it makes me one proud mama!  


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Her Perfect Little Patty

What an absolutely perfect little patty.

I'm so in love with those little dimples and her long, slender fingers.

She was her daddy to a tee.  Almost every square inch of her body.  It melted my heart.

I wish I had a picture of her other patty.  It was tucked snugly into her blanket, but was just as perfect as this one.

She was indeed fearfully and wonderfully made by her Creator (Psalm 139:14).

Tonight, I'm wishing more than ever that I could grab a hold of both those sweet patties and never...ever let go.

11 months after her birth and I continue to wear our Mother/Daughter (that is Gracie's around her wrist) bracelet proudly. In fact, not a day has gone by where I haven't worn mine.

She has my heart...forever and ever!

Daddy and Mama love you, sweet girl!  We send you lots of kisses today... and always.  Happy 11th months in Heaven.  We miss and love you more than you will ever know.  Xoxo

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sharing Grace's Story

I was contacted by a woman named Amanda Rose in March.  Amanda writes for a Christian women's blog called Holy Hen House.  This is a space where several women come together to inspire and encourage other ladies while shining His light through every word they write.

I didn't personally know Amanda at the time when she contacted me on my Facebook account.  She explained that she had come across my blog and was going to be writing a series on miscarriage and infant loss for her blog and was curious if Paul and I would be willing to share our story.  Through many messages back and forth, we realized we had a mutual friend in common and I had begun to understand the pain she experienced though her miscarriage as well.

Amanda sent me a series of questions to get Paul and I thinking about our entry.  There were many...many times that Paul and I sat down to write and I was flooded with such raw emotions that I had to stop and come back another day.  Amanda received several messages asking when we needed our writing completed because I literally couldn't see the keys on our laptop from all the tears streaming down my face every single time we wrote together.

There were many questions I grappled with because I felt like both of our losses were much different.  When I miscarried in 2010, I was crushed beyond belief.  I was told from countless people that, "it happens all the time," which made me feel like I shouldn't have been feeling the way I was feeling. I felt like I never was able to grieve the loss of my first baby. Nevertheless, after hours of reflection, I realized that the little life whose heart stopped beating at 6 weeks in the womb was just as important as the life that rested in our arms for those two hours.  Grace didn't make me a mama, so to speak...our first baby did.  I struggled with that thought for some time because I didn't understand why I didn't feel that way before.  After spending a great deal of time praying and thinking, I realized that I felt Grace truly made me a mother because I was gifted full-term pregnancy with her and the ability to deliver her into this world. As I was trying to understand my feelings about this thought that was held captive in my mind, one of my friends posted this quote below on my Facebook wall.  It literally brought me to tears. It didn't matter which baby made me a mother. I am a mother to two beautiful children in Heaven. Even if I can't physically see them here on Earth, I know they existed and am certain they are safe in His keeping.  Motherhood...what a blessing.  

Sitting down and discussing what the two of us were going to write was the first time I felt like we truly poured our hearts out about our losses.  Since Grace's passing, we have never dedicated solid periods of time to discuss our journey and grief.  We'd sit and talk about the topic here and there, but never set aside time in our schedules for it. It is a priority for us now because we have witnessed the impact from writing this entry.  It has in turn provided us the avenue to be more open and transparent about what's being laid on our hearts. I never knew some of the things his heart felt throughout our journey and it has helped me to better understand the differences in our coping/grieving.

I truly feel that this opportunity was a blessing from God. Although it was difficult to write at times, seeing the impact on my heart and Paul's, and our marriage has been truly remarkable.  Also, I have received several personal e-mails and messages about my blog from complete strangers that have shared how Grace's story has impacted their lives.  Some have wrote telling us how neat it is to see God written all over her life and they shared how they have never heard of anencephaly and have now been made aware of this condition.  These were some of main reasons why I started to write in honor of my girl.  What a blessing!

Please visit Amanda's series of Grief to Glory where Paul and I share Grace's story and our journey through our losses.

Thank you, God, for continuing to place others in my life so Grace's story can be shared and heard.  Thank you for blessing us with Amanda and for placing it on her heart to share the heartache and pain of miscarriage and infant loss.  I pray, Lord, that you may use the entries in her series to bring understanding to the topic, but also comfort to those experiencing a loss or having walked a similar path.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The King Of Grace's Heart

Wednesday marked Grace's Daddy's 33rd birthday.  It seems strange to think that we began dating when he just turned 25 years old.  My, have we changed since then...physically, spiritually, and mentally.  This isn't the best picture to show, but Paul actually had lush, curly hair back then! What a babe!

Looking back over the course of the years that we've celebrated our birthdays, these last two have changed me the most. I'm sure it's safe to say that Paul would probably feel the same way.  Two years ago, I received the most precious gift from my mother's friend on my birthday.  The gift was an angel with a baby in its hand and a note hanging from the angel's hand that read, "from above." You can view the gift here.  At the time I received the angel, we had not learned of Grace's diagnosis and so the meaning behind it and the phrase had not yet impacted me.  I loved bringing out the gift this Christmas because it was the first time I realized the irony behind it.  Little did I know that I'd be considering my daughter an angel baby so soon in life.  God knew this gift would touch my heart in such a profound way.

Last year at this time, I was still carrying Grace. I remember it being extremely warm out and my feet were horribly swollen.  On Paul's birthday, I had come home and kicked up my feet after a long day of work.  He was greeted by the two of us laying on the sofa with my attractive black compression socks on.  I'm being sarcastic, if you didn't catch on.  Those poor things smelled awful and made me feel like an eighty year old women.  However, they took down the swelling, and that made me one happy camper.  When we made eye contact, I smiled and said, "Happy birthday Daddy and my handsome hubby."  He walked over kissed me, rubbed his little girl, and began yanking off my socks (without me even asking) because I no longer could bend over to get them off myself.  We joked that his birthday present was the puff of dead skin cells that hit him in the face as he slide the socks off my feet.  Gross, I know!

I know it might be odd to some, but it was important to me that Grace showed her love to her daddy (and grandma for mother's day) while she was still in our presence.  I'd like to think that Grace would have been the quintessential daddy's girl.  Seeing the love that poured out from her daddy on the day of her birth was truly remarkable.  I can only imagine the bond they would have shared here on earth.

I love receiving cards and giving cards to others. When I'm selecting a card for someone, I study each and every word to make sure that they are true to my heart.  Even if the card is unbelievably adorable but the words weren't placed on my heart at the time, I won't purchase it.  I'd like to think most people are like that. When I was picking out a card from Grace to give her daddy on his birthday, I wanted it to reflect the impact that he had on her life. When I came across this card (see below) my heart filled with joy and my eyes with tears. Written in the inside said, " Happy birthday to the king of my heart." Besides Christ, I fully believe her daddy was the king of her heart.  He wanted to give Grace the life God had intended for her no matter how long that may of been. He was her protector and I'm certain she could sense and feel his love for her.

I wasn't able to make anything with Grace's hand or foot prints at this time because she wasn't born yet. Therefore, I picked some of Paul's favorite things and gave it to him as her gift.  It appeared as though it warmed his heart.  To this day, her card sits on his shelf next to her hand prints that I made for his father's day gift.

I've struggled since Christmas with whether or not to include her name on cards since her passing.  Partly because Paul said that others may think it's strange since she isn't with us physically.  I opted to sign our Christmas cards, "Love, The Morris Family."  I felt like then I was including her life, in an indiscreet way so I wouldn't make things awkward for someone else.  Over the last couple of family birthdays, I've changed my thinking and I've signed Grace's name along with ours because she is and always will be apart of our family.

I haven't received any negative criticism from it since and so I thought I'd continue the trend with her daddy on his special day.  I always wake up several hours before Paul every morning and decided that it would be best to let him sleep the day of his birthday.  Upon leaving for school, I took out a marker and wrote him a little note from his two girls. It made my heart happy to include her in his special day. Later on in the morning, he sent me the sweetest text message and thanked his two girls for the note.

Since Grace's passing, birthdays have taken on a new meaning in my heart.  Even though earth is a far cry from heaven, it's a blessing to be alive.  To live life in the presence of the ones you love is an honor for me. I appreciate rising from my bed each morning knowing that God has blessed me with another day to live.  We are all special gifts from above and I love rejoicing over each and every life that God creates.

As each year passes, I am reminded that God has granted me the perfect partner to roam this earth with.  Grace's dad continues to age with such grace.  He strives to life his life for God and always keeps our family grounded in the Word.  He continues to bless me with his gift of positive thinking, and for that, I am grateful.  Whenever I am feeling down and out about missing our sweetie pie, he always helps me see the joy that's coming and to continue having hope in Him.  I love her daddy more than the blades of grass or the sand granules on this earth. He is such a blessing to us.

Thank you, God, for the good gift of Grace's daddy in which you blessed me with.  I am eternally grateful.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Heart Filled With Love

Thank you, sweet child of mine, for helping me better understand what it means to truly love.  I know that my love will always fall short of our Savior's, but because of you, I have a better understanding to your grandma's statement, "You'll never know the true meaning of love until you have your own children."

Oh, how I'd give anything to trade places with you.

I wish I could have given you longer than 2 hours to live life so that you could have been able to fall in love, feel the sun kiss your sweet cheeks, and learn about your Heavenly Father on this side of heaven.  But all of that would be selfish because you are in the best place possible.  You know Jesus first hand, which means you don't have to feel the pain of this world, the heartache, death, and suffering.  What mother would want to take that away from their child?

I miss you Grace.

I miss you so much it hurts.

Thank you for making me a mama and for filling my heart with so much love.

Love you Always & Forever,

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Voice To Express My Heart

I've never been good expressing myself. My words fall extremely short when I'm writing and I tend to me more of a listener in conversations than the speaker.  After talking to four people this week about this very topic, all of them informed me that I'm not exactly an "open book" and tend to focus on how the other person is doing rather than how I am doing. I really don't like conversations to be centered on me, and so I genuinely try to be the first to ask a question in regards to the other person.  And when a question is brought up about myself, I brush everything under the rug and give the, "Oh, everything's okay," line to direct the attention away from me. One of my many short comings lie in the area of being able to tell people how I'm truly feeling.  Just ask my husband what we struggle with in our marriage. I know this will be the first things that comes out of his mouth.  I bottle up my hurt because I don't want to "cause drama" or better yet, allow the other person to hurt or feel down because of my struggles.  This has caused great pain in my life because of my lack of expression and opening up.  Thick walls have been created and in turn I've even pushed people away...even Paul.    

Likewise, I've never been good at telling people what I need.  Loosing Grace has complicated this even more. Looking back, I wish I would have called out to God and asked Him to bless me with a voice throughout this journey.  A voice to confidently express myself without feeling shameful or needy.  I've begun this very prayer recently because a great friend of mine reminded me this week that I'll be carrying her life and passing with me for the rest of my life and that I need to let others in because they want to help.  I know that God is my ultimate provider of my every need, but there are times when you need those closest to you to be there in support. 

After prayer, conversation with other baby loss mamas, and careful consideration to my true needs, I think many of us that have walked or are walking down this path of loss would agree that these are some of the things we need our would appreciate from our greatest supporters in life...

- I need to say her name.  
I pray that there will come a time where Grace's name does not radiate death and heartache, but an eternal life spent with Jesus. I pray that there will be a time when her name won't make other people feel uncomfortable or bring them to tears.  Saying Grace's name is extremely healing to me.  Please don't deprive me of this! 

- I need someone to ask me how I'm doing and want to know the real, honest answer. 
The loss of a child isn't easy, no matter how long he/she lived. I feel like society teaches us to move on and get on with life even though there is hurt that still resides within that person. There are times where I wish I could be "real" and express my hurt inside without the conversation being quickly changed to something else because of the topic. Contrary to what some may think, it is healing to talk about our child and the avenue to do so, is appreciated.  

- I need her life to be included in the count of children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.  
Even though Grace is not crawling around on the carpet, holding her own bottle, or learning to talk, she still was our child and still holds a very special place in our hearts.  I feel like I die inside over and over again when her life isn't remembered in the count of the living children here on earth.  Just because my grandma passed away, doesn't mean I don't count her as one of my grandparents.  Why would we do the opposite to a child? I carried her for nine months, gave birth to her like every other mama, and we held her in our arms.  Grace's life may have been brief, but it matters and counts just as the other children.  

- I need care and gentleness with announcements of pregnancies, showers, and child births.
Both announcements of my pregnancies surely didn't turn out as I had hoped and as a result, my heart is more than tattered from my experiences   Although I've learned what Romans 12:15 (rejoice with those who rejoice) means throughout this journey, it doesn't make the hurt any easier.  Instead of Grace's life inside of me being celebrated and showered, we were planning for her passing...funeral expenses, death certificates etc.  I am truly happy for all my family members and friends that are blessed to experience the journey of pregnancy, but it's hard to be around when I carried my daughter, but never was able to receive the joy and experience of being showered like a new mother should be. Perhaps that's selfish, but I wish more than ever that I got to build/set up her crib, decorate a nursery, register for baby things, and bring home a healthy newborn baby, instead of building her a wooden box to be set in for the rest of time. A "handle with care sticker" should be sewn to my chest. 

- I need understanding and grace when being around newborns and distancing myself from them.  
I simply cannot bring myself to hold another baby in my arms.  I'm not at the stage in my grief where I could do this and not cry.  When I see a newborn, tears swell in my eyes, and I literally try to escape from the situation.  I try to run from the hurt that I still feel inside, from the aching arms that still exist, and the piece of me that will always be missing.  I pray that I will eventually get to the point where this won't be hard on me, but right now, it still is.  I pray that our friends do not take this personally.  I had no idea that when we chose to carry her, this would be an outcome to her passing.  I truly thank those that have been understanding through this whole process and are continuing to bless us with grace. 

- I need kindness and support on anniversaries and birthdays.  
Some anniversaries of her passing are better than others, but the constant support I receive from those around has been a huge factor in helping my grieving....the calls, the text messages, the pictures of dandelions, and Bible verses that are being prayed over us are constant support measures that undoubtedly help month after month.  I recently read an e-book on how to help a friend through the loss of a child, and showing support on these days have shown to help women all over the world that are grieving the loss of a child.  This has helped me significantly and after speaking to many other women, showing support on these days makes them a lot less painful.  

-I need forgiveness for not being the wife, daughter, sister, and friend I used to be. 
The death of Grace has changed me and my view on life. I'm not who I used to be by a long shot and I appreciate those who understand and have walked alongside of me in light of these changes. I also appreciate those who love me and have accepted the "new me,"  regardless of how I have changed. I'm not perfect and I fall short daily. Just as Christ has forgiven me of my wrong doings, I pray for that same forgiveness for not being the person I once was.  

A lifetime is an impossibly long time to wait to hold my child again (Jessica Watson).

Thursday, March 21, 2013

She Called Me Grace

I made a recent visit to my family physician that I have been seeing since the age of seven years.  I wanted to meet with her so that her and I could touch base about some recent blood draws she took and to discuss what the numbers actually meant.  When she entered the room, she asked me how I was doing and what I was there to see her about.  After reading her a tremendously long list of things I wanted clarification on, she looked and me a said, "Oh, we will have to schedule a follow up appointment to discuss all of these things.  Let's start with the most important to you, and work from there. I only have twenty minutes."

She looked at my records and saw that I had not visited her since 2009, so she wasn't aware of my miscarriage or the passing of Grace. She asked me to walk me through what had happened, the care I received during my pregnancy and after both losses, and how my grieving is going.  It felt so good to be able to explain both of my journeys with her and share my heartache. She kept rubbing my leg, wiping her eyes, and truly listened to my feelings. What a blessing!

After she consoled me, she began talking about the blood tests in which she tested my folic acid and homocystein levels. After joining my Anencephaly support groups, there has been a great deal of chatter about the difference between folic acid versus folate and the MTHFR gene mutation, which as been linked to this neural tube defect.  She excused herself to obtain research and when she came back, she was just as confused since the documents used the words folic acid and folate interchangeably.

She continued on throughout my list of questions and concerns, addressing every single topic with such care and the most gentle spirit.  She ordered a laundry list of blood tests to see if there are causes for concern and  to check my hormone levels since there were issues prior to getting pregnant with Grace.  I was directed to the examining table and while she did the routine ear, mouth, and heart check, she continued to ask questions about our little sweet pea, Grace.

She helped me off the table and gave me the biggest and longest hug I have ever received. I am a sucker for a good hug! I was told that she would call me within the next day or so to inform me of the results of my tests and would send my chat to an OB/GYN that she strongly recommended.  I gathered my things and headed to an area where I waited for the lab tech to call my name.  While I sat there waiting, I pulled out my phone from my purse and glanced at it to see that I had been in her exam room for an hour and a half.  My mouth hung open as I realized she stayed with me a whole hour and ten minutes over my allotted time.  I felt tremendously horrible that other patients were held up in the waiting room, but truly felt cared for and valued as her patient.  Since my mom and I share the same doctor, I immateriality called her to tell her what she had done. We both came to the same conclusion that we are truly blessed to such a loving and caring doctor.

On the 18th, I called her office to check in with the status of my referral to her recommended OB/GYN since I missed their call while I was at school Friday.  The receptionist transferred my call to the doctor and she said, "Hello Grace!"  I smiled and said," Oh no, doctor ----, this is Jessica.  My daughter's name is Grace."  She gently laughed and responded, "Jessica, when I think of you, I think of Grace. I hope you don't mind I said that. She's one lucky [blessed] girl to have a mama that loves her so much."

She called me... Grace.


My own daughter's name.

What an honor!  

It was evident that she listened intently the day she spent so much time with me. Talk about being blown away.  And I most certainly loved how she talked in the present tense as she spoke of my love for Grace. In fact, she nailed it on the head.  Just because Grace isn't in my arms, doesn't mean my love for her has ceased. In fact, it continues to grow stronger as each day passes.

My doctor inspired me that day. I will continue to speak her name and not feel guilty when doing so.  I will tell her story with love and passion so others understand how loved she is by her Heavenly Father.  Her name will be spoken out of love and with purpose to bring glory to His name.  Grace's name will be said because it's healing for me and makes her feel incredibly close to my heart.




Mama, loves you...

And your little piggies!
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