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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Caroline's Butterfly



     I just had to share this beautiful story with you tonight...
  

    I was taking a walk tonight around the neighborhood. It was a perfect summer evening. Not too hot or not too cold. The breeze blew softly around me as I walked. But I was lonely, oh so lonely. I cannot even tell you how many times I dreamed about taking my baby for a walk. In fact, the very first thing that I wanted to register for was a stroller. I could not wait to push my baby in a stroller.
     But tonight, and every night, I must walk alone. 
     Tonight as I was walking, it hit me so hard that she is not here with me. I do not get to push Caroline in a stroller. She would have loved going for walks. When I was pregnant I knew she LOVED being outside. We went outside every day together, and she always knew when we were out there. I would feel her start to kick, and move and wiggle. Often I would sit outside on our deck and just watch as my stomach moved up and down in response to her kicks and wiggles! I would talk to her about everything I could see and feel and hear as we were sitting there. And I know that Caroline would have loved going on walks with me.
     While walking tonight I started to let myself dream, and to go into the land of "what ifs". I started dreaming about what it would be like to have her with me at that moment. What would she be doing on our walk? Smiling?  Laughing?  Watching wide eyed?  Sleeping?  However, allowing myself to dream, and to ask "what if,"only brought pain to my heart, and tears to my eyes. But just as the tears began to fall, something amazing happened. 
     Out of the corner of my tear filled eye, I saw something flutter.  There right next to me was a beautiful butterfly.  It flew right around my head, and then floated right next to me as I continued to walk forward. That little butterfly continued to fly right along side of me until the tears were wiped away, and a smile came to my lips. The pain in my heart faded, and was replaced with joy. And then, the butterfly was gone. It flew away. But the pain and tears were gone, the butterfly only left me with happy thoughts and beautiful memories. 
       I truly believe that God sent me that butterfly tonight. He knew how much I was missing my baby. He knew how much pain was in my heart. At my weakest moment, God sent a butterfly to remind me of Caroline. I know that she was there with me on that walk tonight.  I may not have been pushing her in a stroller, but she was right there beside me. She was enjoying the beautiful evening along with me. Caroline's butterfly reminded me that I am not alone. My precious little girl is always here with me in my heart. She will always be my heart.
     Tonight also reminded me of God's promise that he will never leave us. When I was walking alone, he sent a butterfly to turn my pain into joy. That butterfly continued to fly right next to me for over three minutes as I walked. Never has a butterfly stuck around by me for so long!  I am so thankful for that sign tonight, which reminded me that Caroline is still so very close to me.
     

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Blessings in Disguise


                 Blessings by Laura Story

 We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near?

What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

And all the while You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near?

And what if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near?

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can't satisfy?

And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?

     This song, without fail, brings tears to my eyes each time I hear it. This morning on my way home from the dentist, I heard a short interview with Laura Story, who sings the song.  During the interview she talked about how we often believe that blessings are answers to our prayers. When God gives us what we ask for, or when he provides exactly the answer we wanted.  But often, she said, God does not answer our prayers the way we would like. Sometimes he responds in a way that we did not expect our anticipate. Our answered prayers do not always turn out the way we had hoped. 
     This rang so true in my heart this morning. As I was driving alone in my car, I realized that so often when we pray, we just expect that God will hear our request and then make it happen. I remember praying even before we knew Caroline existed, that he would bless our home with happy and healthy children. I remember once we found out she was growing inside of me, still so very tiny, that we prayed constantly for God to help her to grow strong and healthy. We prayed that he would form our little baby into a beautiful child of his, and that he would bless her with a long and happy life. We prayed with eager anticipation that God would prepare our hearts with wisdom to be her parents. However, looking back now I realize that those prayers did not get answered in the way that we had hoped. Even though we prayed diligently, and with strong faith that God would grant us those things, we did not get the answers we desperately wanted. 
     Yet this morning as I reflected back on the past year of our life, I realize that we have truly been blessed beyond measure. God did not answer our prayers in the way we had hoped for, but that does not mean he has not answered our prayers.  As the song says...

                            Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
                            What if Your healing comes through tears?
                            What if a thousand sleepless nights
                            Are what it takes to know You're near?

                            What if trials of this life
                            Are Your mercies in disguise?
    

   My blessings did not come through the exact answers to my prayers. But I have learned that a blessing does not have to be an exact answer to my prayers. Sometimes God chooses a different path for us to walk. That road is not always the happy and sunny road. Sometimes we must face the storms, and the rain. Sometimes the path God chooses for us brings countless days filled with tears. Sometimes the path God chooses for us includes night after sleepless night. Sometimes the path God chooses for us seems like it will never end, and that we are constantly trudging through the dark shadows, unsure of where our next step will lead. I wanted so badly to be a mom. I wanted so badly to carry her in my arms as we left the hospital. I wanted so badly to hear her laugh, and see her smile. But those are not the blessings that God choose for me.
    But let me never fail to say that I am blessed. Although I never would have said this before, I have learned that God has used my tears to bring healing. He has used all of my sleepless nights to remind me that he is near. I have found above all else, that in the midst of the most heartbreaking pain, God does fill me with his blessings. In fact, his abundant blessings have become so real to me throughout this entire journey. 

     

   
     One of the ways that I have been blessed by God is through the beauty of nature. I recently stumbled across a website of a lady who used photography as a way of healing as she dealt with the loss of her daughter. I am by no means a photographer, I do not have an eye for that kind of thing! But her journey inspired me to try it for myself. I have taken my old camera outside as I go for walks, and I snap pictures of things that catch my eye. The picture above is a rose that I watered over and over when Caroline was still with me. I remember talking to her about the color of the roses, and how the water felt on my hot feet. Now as I took this picture,  I smiled.  This rose was a blessing then, and it is such a blessing now. The beautiful pink color reminds me of how beautiful and delicate my sweet girl was as I held her in my arms. It also reminds me of the happy memories that she and I shared together. God truly does give us beautiful blessings! This journey has taught me that often the blessings from God do not always just stare at us right in the face. Sometimes we have to intentionally stop and look for them.
     Another way I have been blessed by God is through music. There are so many songs that speak directly to my heart. But some of the songs are incredibly difficult to hear. Many times they bring back memories that are so painful. I have found myself changing the radio station multiple times, when the pain is just too great. I have not been able to listen to the song "Overcomer" yet,  because that was the song that I sang to Caroline often, and she loved it. But sometimes when I just need to cry, or hear words that describe how I am feeling, I love to listen to music. I find that it is not only healing,  but it also brings me comfort. Often I have found myself pulling over in my car because the tears are falling so heavy that I cannot see. There are so many songs that I can relate to, because they are able to put words into what I am feeling. I believe that God has blessed me with music at this time, to help me process the pain, hurt, and grief that I am feeling.
     God has also blessed me with so many amazing people in my life. I just continue to stand in awe of the cards, flowers, phone calls, messages, gifts, prayers, and words of encouragement that continue to flood over us. I cannot even begin to express how much it means to us. God has truly blessed us with the greatest support system, and we can never say thank you enough. As difficult as it continues to be, we would have never realized just how blessed we really are, until we have gone through something like this.


     As real and as true as God's blessings have been in my life, it is not always easy to see them. Some days I cry out to God, asking him why he would take my baby away from me. I ask him why he could not just answer my prayers the way I had asked.  I question why other moms get to keep their baby forever, and I am left alone. I get angry and upset. It hurts more than I can ever express. It is not fair. It does not make sense. And most of all, I question why God would not even give me answers. As the song says...

                              We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
                              We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
                              We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
                              As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

                              And all the while You hear each desperate plea
                              And long that we'd have faith to believe

     I do understand why God would choose to let us face the cruel reality of losing our baby. I do not understand why I must cry more tears than I ever thought possible, and then cry again some more. I do not understand why I must lay awake in the darkness of the night, while my mind fills with guilt and sorrow. Those are all things I never would have prayed for, and they are certainly not things that I would consider to be blessings. But. ..

    I believe that God heard each and every prayer. He heard the prayers of my heart from before Caroline even existed. God just chose a different path for us to take, and although the blessings I have received are not necessarily ones I would have ever asked for, they are enough for me.
     I am so thankful that God has been able to strength my faith in him, and that he has used this journey to show me blessings that I never would have seen before. He does not promise to always give us what we ask for, but maybe that is not what a blessing really is. I believe that God gives us blessings as we face the journey he has placed before us. He does not expect us to walk through the trials of this life alone.  When we are facing the darkest moments in life, God uses them to reveal his mercies and his blessings to us.

     The most beautiful part of the song...

                                When darkness seems to win
                                We know that pain reminds this heart
                                That this is not, this is not our home
                                 It's not our home

     The pain and the heartbreak that I am feeling truly does remind me that I will not be here forever. One day, I will be reunited with my precious little girl! One day I will hold her in my arms once again. I do not grieve without hope. Because I have hope, deep down in my heart, that one day I will see my Caroline again. It will be a glorious day! I long for that day with every breath that I take. There was a sign that I saw recently which read, Hope Can See Heaven Through The Thickest Clouds. Even though I am walking down this journey with aching empty arms, and even though I wonder if my life will ever be okay again, I do have hope, which gives me the strength to keep pressing on. I know that the pain I am suffering here on this earth will only seem like a moment,  compared to the joy I will have in heaven with my daughter forever. And that... is God's blessing to me!


                                          To Caroline,  my greatest blessing from God!




   

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Choices






     I wanted to share the quote above with all of you. It has been playing over and over in my mind each day, especially early in the morning. This quote reveals such a beautiful truth for all of us. We do have a choice, each and every day. In fact, I have learned that we have a choice each and every moment of the day. What attitude will you have when you open your eyes and begin your day? What attitude will you have in each situation you face? It truly is up to us to decide how we will approach the new day. 
     Each morning as I wake up, I can already feel the reality sinking in. It takes only a moment to realize that my greatest nightmare is very real. My daughter, my heart, is not here with me. I am alone. When Josh leaves for work I am left completely alone, with only my thoughts to keep me company. 5:30 in the morning gives me plenty of moments to feel the intensity of my grief. The darkness and silence only fuels my pain. So in those moments, I must make a choice. I must decide right then and there, how I am going to respond. It is not always easy. Sometimes I wish I did not have to choose. Often I wish I could just lay there forever, not moving, not thinking, just existing. It would be easier that way. It would not hurt so much. 
     But in those moments where I just want to stop, and where I wish that I never had to interact with the world, I find myself in prayer. When I feel the darkness washing over me, the grief is sitting tightly in my throat, I have no strength left to breathe, I cry out to Jesus. 
     This journey has taught me something so valuable. I have found that it is in our darkest moments of sorrow and grief, where we feel the presence of God most deeply. He has made it very real that when I call on His name, He draws near to me. Even in the moments where I have no strength to call on His name, He comes near to me. I have always had moments in my life where I have felt very close to God. But I have never felt His presence more closely than I have right now. 
     Before going through this journey I could always rely on myself. No matter what happened in my life, there was always something that I could do to help make the situation better, or easier. I did not need to rely fully on God, when I felt like I was partly in control. But losing my precious baby was completely and totally out of my control. There was nothing, absolutely nothing that I could do. I was not in control. Therefore, I needed to make a choice. Since I had no control, I gave it over to my God. The God who gave me life, and who holds my life in His strong and mighty hands. It was only when I could no longer rely on myself, when everything was so far above my understanding, that I could put my complete trust in God. And He has been faithful! 
      But on those mornings when my heart begins to race, my thoughts become cloudy, and the pain is beyond my control, I feel God draw near. Sometimes I can feel Him through the words I read in the Bible. Sometimes I can feel Him whisper His promises in my ear as I pray in desperation.  Sometimes I can feel His arms around me as I cry. But no matter what, He does not leave me alone. He does not just watch over me as I cry.  He does not ignore my pain and heartbreak. I have a God who loves me very much, and He hurts when I am hurting. He holds my tears as they fall, and I even believe that He cries along with me.I cannot even begin to explain what a comfort that comes from choosing to trust in God.  
     On the day that I had to give away Caroline, my daughter, I knew that I had to make a choice. That day I was left as a mom with no baby, I could have chosen to be bitter and angry. I could have searched out someone to blame for this terrible place that I now found myself facing. Or I could choose to look to the one who offers indescribable peace. I could choose to cling to my God who offers hope, even in the darkest of moments. I could choose to accept the strength that He provides when I feel so weak. I could choose to accept that I am not alone, and that everything I am suffering right now in this life, will one day be redeemed. Those promises bring light into my darkness. It does not promise that there will be no more tears, no more pain, and no more sorrow and sadness. In fact, I am walking through the scariest and darkest moments of my life. But by choosing trust rather than anger and bitterness, I have found that there is hope, peace, comfort, and strength that could only come from a God who understands. 
     The truth is that no one is exempt from suffering. We must all face struggles in our lives. In fact, the Bible says that in this life we can expect pain and suffering. What that suffering looks like is different for each person, but it does not make it any easier. Sometimes it can feel like more than we can bear. Sometimes we have nothing left to hold on to, because the pain and brokenness consume our every thought and action. Sometimes we wonder how we will ever be able to move forward. 
     But in that moment of suffering, we have to make a choice. In the middle of heartbreak, at every dark, lost, and lonely moment, we can choose to accept The Truth. Because especially in those moments, we can choose to be held up and held together by the one who has walked here, and who knows the pain. He has always held my story, your story, and every story in His hands. He truly is the author of the Greatest Story. I can choose to trust that He will continue writing my story, and you can continue to choose that He is writing your story. If we chose to accept the voice of truth, rather than the bitterness and anger in our suffering, we will slowly be able to catch tiny glimpses of the hope He has woven into our stories.
     But it all begins with a choice. How will you choose to respond to the pain and suffering in your life? What attitude will you embrace for the day, for the moment?  We can choose to let hatred, bitterness, and anger control our live. Or we can can choose to cling to the God who promises to hold us close, to fill us with peace that cannot be explained, to offer us strength when we feel so weak, and to fill our hearts with glimmers of hope. When we make our choice, it does not mean the road will be any easier. If does not mean that our heart will no longer be broken, or that we will no longer experience intense sadness and pain. But it does mean that we will be filled with exactly what we need to get us through the day, and even the moment. 

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
                                                                                                 1 Peter 5:10
       

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”                       John 16:33


   When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.                                                                            Isaiah 43:2             





Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dear Caroline


Dear Caroline,

     Today was suppose to be a happy day. The moment the doctor gave us the official due date, I could not wait to write it on my calendar. We immediately made the phone calls to tell everyone when you would make your big arrival into the world. It was such a happy moment for me. A moment I will never forget. I could not wait for July 22 to finally arrive!
     But that was before. Before we got the news. Before we knew that you would not be ours to keep on this earth. You see dear Caroline, when we first looked at you on that black and white ultrasound screen, your mommy was oblivious to the cruel reality of infant death. It never once crossed my mind. I was so focused on the hopes, dreams, and eager anticipation of what the future held.  I never dreamed we would be facing such heartbreak in the months to come.
     My sweet little girl, I woke up this morning with a feeling of dread. I knew that instead of celebrating your birth, I would go to visit your grave. Instead of caring for all your needs, I could only bring you pink flowers. It was so very hard for your mommy to get out of bed this morning, because it was just another day without you. On a day that should have been a joyful celebration, I walked with empty arms to sit on the grass where your body is now laid.
     As I was driving early this morning, I saw a mom bringing her two young children to the park. The same park I often pictured as the place where I would bring you to play.  It was a painful reminder of how much I truly miss you. How much I wish I could bring you to swing at the park. How much I wish I could watch your little face light up, as you go down the slide. How much I wish you were still here with me.
     This morning it was so beautiful outside, as I waked over the wet grass to sit beside your grave. The pinwheel I left for you was spinning endlessly, as the wind blew gently through the warm air. It made me feel close to you Caroline. I felt like you were right there beside me, smiling as we watched your pinwheel spin together. It is hard to explain, but I feel so close to you when I am there.
     My sweet girl, I miss you so much. It has been one month and seven days since you left this earth. One month and five days that your mommy's arms have been empty. I wish I could say that it has gotten easier, but the truth is that it hurts your mommy more each day that goes by. It is so hard to move forward without you. I miss everything about you, and most of all, I miss carrying you inside. I miss talking to you, singing to you, and feeling you move. It is so hard being alone, because you meant the world to me.
     As difficult as it has been to move forward each day, your mommy feels beyond blessed. I am so honored to be your mom. Even during the short 35 weeks that you were here, you were able to touch many lives. I pray that your story will be able to continue touching others for many years to come.      
    You were the most beautiful little angel. I will never forget the peace on your face, as you laid in my arms. It gives me so much comfort to know that you are now laying safely in the arms of Jesus.
     Caroline you have taught your mommy a very important lesson. You taught me how to slow down. How to stop and to listen. I used to always be in a hurry, going from one activity to the next. But now I have learned to stop, and to just look around. Today while I was sitting beside your grave, I was able to see so many tiny miracles, that at one time would have gone unnoticed. Your mommy saw a little white butterfly, fluttering on the grass nearby. Your mommy felt the wind rustle through my hair, and it calmed my rapidly beating heart. Your mommy saw the growing bud of a small flower, staring to grow on the grass beside your grave. Your mommy saw the clear blue sky above, and I could picture you smiling down on me. All of these things are small miracles from our Father in Heaven. I am so glad that you taught me how to slow down, and to savor the beauty of the world around me. They are small reminders of you.
     As this day comes to an end, the feeling of dread once again consumes my body. I realize that another day has gone by. July 22, the day that should have been filled with such joy, celebration, and hope, is now just another day without you. But it will always be a beautiful day in my memory. I will always remember the butterflies, the wind, the pink flowers, and our talk. No matter how awful the day began, I will forever remember all of those tiny miracles I saw this morning, that helped me to so clearly remember you. They brought a smile to my face, and joy into my heart. Even though you are no longer here with me on earth, I know that you will continue to bring joy to my life forever.
     Caroline, your mommy will always hold you in my heart. You will forever be loved so deeply that it hurts. My life will never be the same without having you here with us. But I will keep moving forward. I will keep moving forward because of you. I love you with all of my heart, and I am so thankful for the beautiful joy that you continue to bring to my life.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Alone





If we could have a lifetime wish
A dream that would come true,
We'd pray to God with all our hearts
For yesterday and You.
A thousand words can't bring you back
We know because we've tried...
Neither will a thousand tears
We know because we've cried...
You left behind our broken hearts
And happy memories too...
But we never wanted memories
We only wanted You.
Author: Unknown


     One of my greatest struggles each day is the complete and utter feeling of helplessness. I try and go about my day, to make it as normal as I possibly can. But no matter how hard I try, there is always something missing. 
     Yesterday I came home from church to a very quiet house. Josh was contentedly playing a video game, in the darkness. He was not hungry, I was not hungry, there was no need to make lunch. I looked around for a moment, completely lost. What was there for me to do?There was nothing, absolutely nothing to give me a purpose. Josh told me that it was okay, to enjoy the peace and quiet that I have right now. But instead I made my way up the stairs, and then I cried, until there were no tears left. Then I just laid there, my body hurt too much to move. As I closed my eyes and tried to shut out the pain, I realized exactly why I was so very upset. 
     I did not get to come home to my baby. Instead of feeling wanted or needed, I just felt alone. Part of being a mom is having that sense of purpose for your life. A newborn baby relies on you, it's mom, to care for its every need. A baby cannot get up and walk to the fridge to find a snack. A baby cannot sit on the toilet to go to the bathroom. A baby cannot take a bath alone or even move alone. Being a mom requires you to give of yourself completely, to care for all the needs of your helpless infant. That is what I miss. That is what I so desperately want. That is all I have dreamed of having in my life. In the quiet and silent moments, I find myself wandering. I do not know what to do with myself. Well that is not true, I do know what to do with myself, it just is not possible. 
     Grief is a strange thing. On a normal day, when I have so much time off from work, I would have kept myself so busy. As I look around my house, I find a million and one things that can and should be done. I have junk drawers to clean, windows to wash, closets to organize, projects to complete, and letters to write. But somehow, when I wake up in the morning, my heart pounds at the thought. I just cannot motivate myself to do any of those things. Instead I find myself wandering around, staring at old memories, and feeling nothing. The grief, the pain, and the hurt have zapped away my energy and my motivation. I know I will look back months from now and regret all the time I have wasted. I mean, what person would not like 8 weeks off from work, with very little interruption?  But for now, my body cannot handle it. I can't seem to accomplish anything of value, when all I want is to be caring for her. 
     I want to hear her cry, because she needs me. I want to hear her laugh, because she loves me. I want to give her a bath, and smell her clean sweet hair. I want to feed her, burp her, and watch her sleep. I want to just hold her, for hours at a time, for no other reason than because she is mine. I just want to feel needed, in a way that only a mother can. 
     It hurts to just be alone. It is hard to sit here, and look around for something I want so badly, but I know is just not here. It is hard to tune out the cries that I think I hear. It is hard to wander around aimlessly, knowing I have plenty to do, but not what I truly want to be doing.  It is hard to feel alone. It is hard to be a mom, but not really a mom. 
       The truth is that God does have a purpose for me. He does have a purpose for my life. God did not give me this path to walk alone, even though right now it seems so dark and so overwhelming. I feel completely lost, out of sorts, and not wanted. But those feelings will pass, and one day I will find my purpose again. One day I will stop wandering. One day I may find myself being wanted and needed. But for now I can only do one thing, get on my knees and cry out to the God who hears me. I know He understands my pain, I know he sees my sad and hopeless wandering. I believe God knows that I feel so helpless, waking around with no apparent purpose in my step. He sees me wander through the dark house at night, wondering how I am going to make it through another empty day. And even though I cannot see it now, He knows exactly what my purpose is. And for the time being, I will rest in that promise.


The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.    Proverbs 16:9

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.          John 15:16  



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

We Are Not So Different


      I read an article a few days back, and it truly made me think. I wanted to share my thoughts with you, regarding what I read. Hopefully to help you realize that the responses to early grief after losing a baby, are not so very different from the responses you may have when you become a mom for the first time, or any time afterward.
     So all those new moms out there, the first time moms, second time or more moms, and even those who have older children, I hope you can relate to this post. Because the reality is that we are really not so different from each other. Some of you may be experiencing what it means to bring a new baby into your home, and others may have to take a trip back down memory lane to remember those days. But bear with me as I try to explain. 
     Once you bring a new baby into your home, you just never look the same. Not only has your body changed, but now you look tired, worried, and worn. I too look tired, worried, and worn. But I look this way for a completely different reason, even though the truth is that we both worry. You probably worry about meeting all your baby's needs, and wake up often to check that your precious little one is still sleeping soundly. I worry just because, about anything and everything. 
     You may look exhausted from the lack of sleep that comes along with caring for a new little baby. After all, your tiny one relies on you for everything. You know what it means to provide middle of the night feedings, diaper changes, and lullabies. I too look exhausted. We both know what it means to live on a lack of sleep. The truth is that I hardly sleep at all anymore. I lay awake, forcing my eyes to stay open. I hate sleep. It brings anxiety, nightmares, and restlessness. Laying in bed only reminds me of what I no longer have. The darkness only fuels the pain, and the reality. Caroline no longer rests safely inside of me as I sleep. She used to curl up against my side as I slept. I used to love waking up, feeling her lay all warm and comfortable in my womb. Now as I lay in bed, I am only reminded that something so important is missing. I miss her so much. Sometimes I wake up suddenly, hearing the cry of a baby. Only to realize that there is nothing beside me, except the darkness. There is no precious baby crying, there is nothing there to need me. I am awake all the time. Just like you. We both hear cries in the night, but yours is a beautiful reality, mine just brings heartbreaking pain. 
    We all went through the pain of child birth, in one way or another. In some way, all babies must make a beautiful entrance into the world! You probably remember that experience with great joy. I too remember that experience with great joy!  There is nothing more beautiful and rewarding than bringing a new life into the world. I cannot tell you how many moms have told me that all the memories of pain disappear, when they gaze for the first time at the baby in their arms. I too lost all memories of pain, as I looked at my beautiful baby resting so perfectly in my arms. But the reality is that I would live that day over and over and over again if it was possible. I would give anything to go back to that Tuesday morning. I would go through the pain every day, if only to have her back in my arms again. I would go through that pain everyday, if only to have my purpose as a mom back again. You will remember that day with a smile, and many happy memories. But you have many special milestones to come in the future, and have no need to go back to that day. You will hold your baby in your arms for years to come, not only for that one day. You will have the purpose of being a mom in the days ahead, not just for that one day. 
     Do you ever feel forgetful?  We all suffer at one point or another from pregnancy brain, and then of course mommy brain. It is all a part of having babies, and raising children. But I too suffer from mommy brain, only most days it is tripled by grief. I typically do not know what day it is, they all just blend together. And just like brand new mommies, I probably cannot on most days tell you the last time I have taken a shower. I struggle to remember what I stopped for at the grocery store, and if I moved the clothes from the washer to the dryer. The truth is that we are not so very different, because even after a year of parenthood or a year of grief, we will probably both still feel forgetful. 
     Do you ever have days as a new mom when you wear your pajamas all day or at least wish you could? Do you ever have days when you just do not make it out of the house? So do I. Does it sometimes seem like a huge task to wash the dishes that are sitting in the sink, or to make a run to the grocery store? It does for me too.
     I bet you prepared yourself for motherhood during those 9 months of eager anticipation. You probably thought you knew everything you needed to know about caring for your new baby. I thought that I knew what it would be like to lose my baby. I thought I was prepared. But nothing, absolutely nothing, could have prepared me for what I am going through now. I never could have prepared myself for the pain, the heartbreak, and the grief. 
     We both have fears. I am sure you worry sometimes if your baby is getting enough to eat, or when it might be the right time to put your baby to sleep in the crib. Is your little baby too warm or too cold?  Is your baby sick?  I am sure there are many other fears that come along with being a new mommy. Especially on those first few days of bringing your little one home. I too have fears. I am afraid all day while Josh is gone to work, because I worry he may never come back. I am afraid to close my eyes at night, because the nightmares haunt my every breath. I am afraid that each day I move forward, is one day farther away from my little girl. I afraid of the future. We both have fears and worries.
     I am sure you have many days, when you just cannot make it out of the house. Things do not always go according to plan, despite your greatest intentions. It is not as easy to just up and run errands, or go out to meet a friend anymore. I am sure that there are many days when you just get nothing done. Your lucky to even get yourself into a clean pair of clothes! Well I have days like that too. Sometimes I have the best intention of leaving the house, but then the sadness hits me like a rock, and I cannot even move. There are moments when I am doing fine, but it only takes a second for those feelings to change. Some days I am just too sad to leave the house. Some days it seems like even the smallest task is completely impossible when the pain in my chest is to overwhelming to even stand.  We both have days where it is hard to make it out the door. We both have days when we just do not get anything accomplished that we had planned. 
     Do you ever gladly except help from others when it comes to caring for your baby? Help with giving baby a bath, changing a diaper, running a load of laundry, or even just an extra set of arms to give you a moments break? Well I need help from others too. Sometimes I just need someone to hold me tight. Sometimes I just need someone to listen. Sometimes I need someone to help me remember to eat. Sometimes I need someone to give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes I need a reminder that I still have a purpose, that someone still needs me. You and I both need help sometimes.
     In the article I read her words and truly felt like this author was speaking my mind. She said "People tell me all the time how they think they would be or act if this happened to them. They are assured they would be falling apart, more than I am. You must not see me on a regular basis then. I fall apart and then get it back together and fall apart again the next day. Kinda like you did as a first time mom on a daily basis." I am sure that there are times, all throughout parenthood, where you just fall apart. Moments where you wonder what you are doing, if it is right or wrong. There are probably many times where you just feel lost and confused and overwhelmed. But all that is normal, it comes along with the territory of being a mom. But in the moment, knowing that it is normal does not always make it any easier. Going through grief is very similar. There are times when I wonder what I am doing, is it right or is it wrong?  There are so many times where I feel lost, confused, and overwhelmed.  I have read that it is normal, it comes along with the territory of grief. But in the moment, it really does not feel normal, and it certainly does not make me feel any better.
     The truth is that we really are very similar. As the author of the article put it "You have heavy arms. I have heavy arms." Being a new mommy is not easy, but I am sure that it is a wonderful adventure. A day by day learning experience, filled with so many priceless rewards. Being a mommy who has lost her baby is not easy. It is a very difficult experience in so many ways. A day by day learning experience, which sadly does not result in those priceless rewards that truly make all the struggles worth every moment. 
     New mommy, You and I are going through so many things that are very similar, but the reality is that we are more different than you will ever imagine.
     I got the idea for this post, along with many of my thoughts from an article titled "We Are Not That Different: How We All Experience The 4th Trimester, Even In Grief. 
This article was so eye opening to me. I had completely expected to be on the other side of this article. I wanted to be the new mommy, experiencing all the joys and unknowns of caring for a newborn baby. But reading this article made me realize,  I am not. My journey is so much different, but in some ways, it is just the same. I think that too often, moms who experience the loss of their baby are expected to grieve, but to then move on. But as a new mom you do not just move on with your life, you create a totally new life. A life that now revolves around your baby. It is a great new purpose and meaning for your life. I am also expected to keep moving on with my life. But just like a new mom, I cannot ever go back to my normal life. I now have a new life. My new life does not have all of the fun and beautiful moments to enjoy, but I pray that those will come in the future. My new life involves so much joy, as I remember my beautiful baby. But it also involves a missing heart,  a heart that was removed from my life the day she was taken away. 
     I hope that this post has helped all of us, to see that we are not so different from each other. Maybe in this way we can help each other along the journey that God has placed before us. Supporting each other and caring for each other as we face all of the obstacles, sorrows, joys, and beautiful moments that God gives. 
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Held



                      Held        by Natalie Grant

Two months is too little, they let him go
They had no sudden healing
To think that providence
Would take a child from his mother
While she prays, is appalling

Who told us we'd be rescued
What has changed and
Why should we be saved from nightmares
We're asking why this happens to us

Who have died to live, it's unfair
This is what it means to be held
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive

This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held

This hand is bitterness
We want to taste it and
Let the hatred numb our sorrows
The wise hand opens slowly
To lilies of the valley and tomorrow

This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive

This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held

If hope if born of suffering
If this is only the beginning
Can we not wait for one hour
Watching for our Savior

This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive

This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held


     This song brings tears to my eyes. I remember as if it was yesterday, Josh and I were driving home from one of our many doctor appointments, and this song began to play loudly on the radio. As I wrapped my hands tightly around little Caroline, who was still safely inside my belly, tears filed my eyes. The truth is that I forever wanted to hold her safely inside. I am her mom, and I just wanted her to know what it meant to be held. 
     Growing up I knew exactly what it meant to be loved. There was never a lack of love in my big family. It was such a blessing. I always knew that one day I would  be able to show the same love to my own children. Yet there I sat, knowing that the lifetime of love I had always dreamed of being able to give, had disappeared. I listened to the song with new ears that day. Ears that heard words of truth, but brought tears of pain. 
     Now today as I think back to that moment in the car, as my hands so loving held tight to my ever growing belly, I cry. I have nothing left to hold. I do not have my baby here to love. Just as Natalie Grant sings "how it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life, and you survive. " 
     I am still here, and my beautiful daughter is not. It is such a hard reality to face. Yet here I sit, my arms cannot hold tight around my belly any longer, and my arms cannot snuggle close my little girl. What do I have left to hold onto? 
     The truth is that bitterness and anger are all a part of grief. Our human nature wants to have answers. We want to have someone to blame. When something so beautiful and so perfect is taken away, and there are no answers, there is no explanation, we have a hard time accepting it. We want to fix it, or change the situation, or blame someone. It makes us feel better, especially when there is nothing else we can do. 
     Some days I get caught up in the anger and the bitterness. I do not want to hear that "God has a plan" or that "God has a reason why He took away my baby". Those statements, as true as they may be, make me feel so angry and hurt. I know that God has a plan, but why would his plan intentionally cause me such pain. I could be made stronger in so many other ways. Why does His plan involve ripping out my heart?  Why take my baby away? 
     One of the worst parts about the Limb Body Wall Complex is that there are no answers. There is absolutely no explanation. All I do know is that:
There is no known cause,
There is no genetic link,
There is no cure,
There is very little published research or data because it is so rare,
There are no survivors.
Our little Caroline is one of only a few who even make it to birth.

     The difficult part about this whole journey had been the lack of answers. When all I ever wanted was to hold my baby forever, I was forced to keep pressing on, knowing they're was absolutely nothing that I could ever do to fix my baby.  I was completely helpless. There is no one to blame, there is no real answer. It is just the way that it is. I could do nothing to save my baby. The doctor's could do nothing to save my baby. Nothing. 
     But in the midst of the nothingness, I do know exactly what it means to be held. It is a beautiful thing!  I was given the gift to hold my baby. I was able to snuggle with her, and hold her tiny fingers in my hand. I did get to hold my baby!  God have me the beauty of 30 perfect hours with my Caroline. Josh and I even had 19 miraculous minutes where we knew she could hear our voices and feel our arms. Caroline knew what it meant to be held by her mommy. She could feel my touch (almost constantly as I couldn't keep my hands off my belly!) before she was born, and she knew what it meant to be held by her mommy and her daddy during her short time with us. But most of all, my precious little girl knows now what it means to be held by Jesus. In his perfect arms I know that she is being held in His loving embrace. She is safe, and warm, and protected from all the pain and sadness of this earth. My baby did know what it means to be held, and to be loved, and she will continue to know those things forever. 
     But in the midst of the nothingness, I do know what it means to be held.  I am held tight in the loving arms of our Father in heaven. He is holding me so close. He is holding me so tight. He is never going to let me go. When pain, and sorrow, and bitterness consume my heart, there is no place I would rather rest, then in the arms of my Lord. He doesn't take away those feelings, but instead He overwhelms me with His peace, and His love, and His strength. In Isaiah 40:31 it says "But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." Such a beautiful promise! I continue to cling to the arms of my Savior, knowing that he is the true creator of love. Not only will He continue to hold me in His embrace, but He will provide me with just what I need to carry on. This is truly what it means to be HELD.
     

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Thank you!




     I wish that I was able to shout these words at the top of my lungs, so that everyone will be able to hear them! But since I know that would not work very well, I think it is time for another very special thank you post. Although I do know for sure that I will never be able to express the depth of our thanks in words, I am certainly going to try!
       Thank You!  Thank You!   Thank You!   Thank You!   Thank You!  Thank You!


   To all those people who have sent us cards, Thank You! Josh and I have been completely blessed by the shower of cards that we have received!  Each day we have opened our mailbox to find another handful of beautiful cards. It is so very kind and thoughtful for each of you to have taken the time to send them to us. The personal messages, thoughts, Bible verses, songs, poems, and inspirational messages that each of you took the time to write, have filled us with such hope, comfort, and peace. There are days when I have just felt such overwhelming sadness, but these cards come at just the right moment. It seems as if the words were meant for me to hear at that exact time. Please know that God has used you to bring us comfort, through the thoughtful messages in your cards. They continue to be an inspiration to me each and every day. Josh and I will cherish these cards forever, and we will keep them always as a reminder that God has filled our lives with such amazing people! Thank You!

     To all those who have brought us meals, Thank You!  Since having a c-section a few weeks ago, I have not been able to do all of the things that I would normally do around the house. It has been such a huge blessing to have meals brought to us!  I cannot even begin to say how much we have appreciated all of the delicious food that we have received. It has been so nice to not have to stress about making dinner. Thank You!

     To all those who have taken the time to ask how I am doing, to ask if there is anything we need, or just to be a listening ear,  Thank You! In this situation, the truth is that there really are no words to say. I do not even have the right words to say. But that is okay. I just appreciate the thoughts, the prayers, and the hugs. They all mean so very much to me! Please do not ever hesitate to give me a hug, sometimes it means more than any words. Thank You!

     To all those who have faithfully read my blog,  Thank You! Every time I go on my blog, and I see the the number of readers, I am completely humbled. When I started this blog back in February, I never dreamed that I would have so many people reading it. What a blessing! Thank you for taking the time to comment on my posts, and for giving me the courage to continue writing. My goal when I decided to start writing was that the life of my precious Caroline would matter. I knew her life here on earth would be short, but I wanted her story to be heard. Thank you so much for following our journey, and for honoring the life of our sweet princess by not only reading, but also sharing it with others. It makes me smile when I think about the beautiful and miraculous lives that have been touched as a result of Caroline's story. Thank You!

     A huge thank you to our families! We could not have gone through this without all of you. Thank you for standing by our side through this whole journey. You have all shown us the greatest love and support. Our little Caroline has the greatest family in the whole world! We love all of you so very much. Thank You!

    There are so many other people that I would like to thank. We have been so extremely blessed and continue to be blessed each day. However, our journey does not end here. We still face the hardest road ahead. As we walk down this road of grieving, heartbreak, and sorrow, we would like to ask for your continued love, prayers, and support. We know that we are not going to be able to walk through the pain and loss alone. Please continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers. We appreciate all of you! Thank You!

Please continue to follow along on our journey. I have had many people ask me if I will continue to write on my blog. This has been such an amazing place for me to share my thoughts and express my feelings. I have also been so overwhelmed by the beautiful responses I have gotten from this blog throughout our journey. I will continue to write! I will continue to share Caroline's story. I will continue to share my heart. Please continue to read! 


Monday, July 7, 2014

Name Time!



                                                           Is it a BOY or is it a GIRL???



Josh and I are so very excited that we can finally make the big announcement!  We got the much anticipated phone call this morning. We are so thankful to finally be able to give our baby a name! 








                                 God gave us a special baby GIRL, a gift from above,
                                 A beautiful little PRINCESS, for us to cherish and to love.
                                              You were our miracle from the very start,
                                              You will now forever be in our heart.

                           We love you always and forever our precious Caroline Joy Mulder