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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Parenting after a Loss

     The beauty of a rainbow, the brilliant color after a storm. Hope shining through the dark sky.

     My heart has been all over the place this past month. Mostly I have been filled with intense feelings of thankfulness, of gratitude. My heart has been so full, as I have the opportunity to watch my sweet rainbow baby grow up right before my very eyes. It is truly such a privilege that at one time, I was not sure I would ever be able to experience. Yet here I am, watching my little Noah discover the beauty of this world. Some days, when I see his bright eyes light up in wonder, I just catch my breath, wondering how I am so blessed. Seeing the world through his eyes, has made me look at everything from a whole new perspective. I think back to this time two years ago, when we were facing our very first Christmas without our daughter. It was the hardest holiday season, filled with grief beyond anything I had ever known. That year I skipped Christmas, because it just hurt too much. I did not want to celebrate, did not want to watch others celebrate, I just wanted to cry and be alone. I remember writing in my journal that all I really wanted to was to go to sleep, and not wake up until the middle of January. I just wanted it to all be over. It felt like a cruel joke. It felt like my heart was being sucked right out of my body, and even breathing was difficult. It was all I could do to get out of bed each morning, and I couldn't wait to get home each night, and just lay under a blanket and cry. That season was also filled with eager hope, and bitter disappointment. Josh and I both knew that we wanted another baby. I knew that I wanted it, needed it, to help heal my broken heart. But as much as I wanted it to happen right away, we had to wait once again. So in the midst of my intense grief during the holidays, I also experienced the very clear sign that my body was not yet growing that precious rainbow baby my heart so longed for. It was a very, very, tough season.
     This month, as I anticipate the holiday season that is now upon us, I have been crying out to God to speak to my heart. I have felt a longing, deep in my heart, to continue to minister to others. I have felt God calling me to continue sharing Caroline's story, our story, and Noah's story. There are so many ways that God has woven these stories together, and so many amazing miracles that take place in each of them. It is truly such an honor to watch how God is writing each of these precious stories. I just feel like He has taught me so much, and through that I want to be able to reach out to others. I still do not know exactly what He is calling me into yet, but I pray that He will make it clear in the right time. For now I am praying for an open heart, an open mind, and that I will be ready to answer His call when the time comes.
     Throughout this past 14 months, I have been learning so much about what it means to be a mom to a baby who comes after a loss. This is an area where I was completely unprepared to face before Noah was born. I expected it to be emotional, and to be full of joy and healing. And do not get me wrong, it has been all of those things and so, so, much more! But at the same time, it has been incredibly challenging. I never anticipated the ginormous amount of tears I would cry over his sweet baby head, as I thanked God over and over and over again for allowing me to be his mom. I never anticipated the worry that would flood my heart at the smallest details. I never anticipated the happy tears, and the sad tears that would mix together as I watched Noah experience the precious milestones and "firsts". I never anticipated how my body would handle both the trauma of losing Caroline, and the intense relief of holding my very healthy, much alive, baby boy. I never anticipated all the parenting fails, that leave me feeling full of guilt. I never anticipated the way my mind would wander to worst case scenarios. I never anticipated how not being able to breastfeed my daughter would impact my 13 month breastfeeding journey with my son. I never knew. I never expected. I could not have fully prepared.
     Being Noah's mom, and being able to raise him each and every day, has been my greatest joy and privilege. There are not even close to enough words in the English language to fully express how much this little boy has healed my heart, and brought so much love and laughter into my soul. He is such a gift from God! Noah's story, and the amazing way that he entered into our lives, is truly orchestrated in beauty. I hope to share Noah's story, in full, with all of you in the soon future! As I look back over these past 14 months, where we have been able to hold him here in our arms, I am just filled with such gratitude. God is so good! We love our little boy so much!
     But our journey to parenting Noah has been tricky too. In the same way that my pregnancy with Noah was so different, because of what we went through with Caroline, our parenting is different because of our experiences as well. I have realized that there are not many resources available for parents who are expecting/ parenting a rainbow baby. It is an area that could use more support, and especially more research. I know that personally I had to battle through many tough issues, some of which I am still struggling with each day. Some days I just felt so alone, and wondered why, when I finally had a healthy baby in my arms, was I feeling this way, or that way? I am beyond thankful for my friendship with a dear friend, who was walking down the very same journey. A friend who stood beside me, listened to me, and understood exactly what I was feeling. In so many ways, I wish there were ways to be able to offer that unconditional support to others. I would love to be able to help other moms realize that they are not alone in this parenting journey. Because truthfully, parenting a child after losing a child, is so different. It is SO SO SO GOOD! But it is different.
     I do not know what God has in store for my future. But I do pray that He will continue to give me opportunities to minister to others. To share some of what He has, and is continuing to teach me. I know that this world is a tricky place, and often it is easy to get down with all of the sad news surrounding us. I know that entering into this holiday season has already brought up a flood of emotions for me, and I know that it is only the beginning. It is just a clear reminder that in the good times, and in the bad times, we must cling to the One who holds it all in His hands. May we focus on that truth as we anticipate the joyous coming of our King! May we enter into the advent season with bright eyes, like those of a child, filled with eager anticipation and excitement for the arrival of the True Gift, the tiny baby, the One who entered into this world, our world, as the most helpless babe. Yet through His story, His life, we are able to watch the most beautiful unfolding of this true Gift, the sacrifice, that was given for you, and for me.

         Oh Come, Let Us Adore Him!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Seasons Change

     It is that time of year, when the weather gets cooler, the leaves change into brilliant colors, and glittery frost begins to appear on the grass and the rooftops in the early mornings. Fall has arrived in Michigan! To be perfectly honest with you, I am not a huge fan of cold weather, and I truly get so sad at the thought of winter arriving in just a few short months. If I could have summer all year long, I would be a very happy camper. But we live in a place where the season change. We go from hot to cold, to really really cold, to cold and then hot again. Living in Michigan for my whole life, has taught me that there is so much to learn from each season. There is a beauty that comes along with each change in the weather.
     This morning as I was drinking a cup of tea on the couch, I glanced out my window. Looming above the tops of the houses, I saw the beauty of the trees. They are no longer just different shades of green, now they are filled with leaves of many colors. The reds, oranges, yellows, and browns all blend together to create a beautiful picture. A picture that makes even me, start to love this season. If you just take a minute to stop and admire the beautiful trees all around you, it is nearly impossible to not find yourself loving the change.
     As I sat there, gazing at God's masterpiece outside my window, it hit me with a sudden rush. Oh how much changes within me during each season as well. I reflect back on how far I have come since I began writing this blog over two years ago. In just six short days, I will have reached yet another day that has so much significance in my heart. The day that three years ago, I took a pregnancy test that changed our lives forever. The day that I discovered for the very first time, that we were going to be adding a little one to our family. It never ceases to amaze me at how those dates will forever remain imprinted in my heart, my mind. I will never forget that feeling, when I saw that positive sign slowly appear on that little screen. So many emotions. So many thoughts. So many prayers of thanks. We had waited so long for it to finally happen, and then it did.
     But now, reflecting back on that day, three years later, oh how much has changed. How many seasons have gone by, with that missing piece of my heart still gone. Sometimes I just long to go back to that one innocent moment, when I stood barefoot on that cold tile floor, gazing intently to be sure that I wasn't just seeing a positive sign, because I wanted it so badly. Back to that season of my life when innocence was "normal". Back when I didn't know that anything could go wrong. When everything finally just felt right. When after months of trying to get pregnant, we finally were!
     Yet here I am, in 2016. This morning I had to flip my calendar into the month of November. That day, the 8th day of November will come and it will go, with nothing visibly changing. It will be just another day. But so much in my heart will change, just as it has during the course of the past three years. I know that I will experience thoughts of what could have been, what should have been. I know that I will experience sadness, and the longing to hold my sweet girl just one more time. I know that I will experience joy, at the thought of the 35 weeks I had with her. I know that I will reflect back on all the ways that my life has changed since that day.
     In the months following that cool November afternoon, we experienced excitement, disbelief, eager anticipation, and even a little bit of fear, all the normal feelings that most everyone faces at the thought of becoming parents for the first time. But then we entered into anxious worry, as the snow and cold of the winter months bit sharply at our faces, at the initial news of something not being right with our much loved, much wanted little baby. Our hearts were stunned, shocked, and completely numb at the news that our baby was not going to survive outside of my body. News we NEVER EVER NEVER expected to hear. The months following, as we watched the winter unfold into the blooming of spring, we walked down the journey of the shadow of death. Knowing fully that our chances of holding our baby alive were slim, and that our time as a whole family was going to be very short. We felt the bitter cold turn into the warmth of the spring sunshine, as we grieved each day at the anticipation of having to say hello and goodbye. Each day was torture, as my heart so desperately begged me to do something, anything, to save our beloved baby. Yet even with the greatest technological advances of our day, there was nothing that we could do. My heart pleaded with God to save our baby, to heal her, to fix her. All the while we waited, unsure of the unknown future. Somehow, in the midst of the chaos surrounding the changing of the seasons, I felt joy, deep down in my heart. I felt joy as I watched my belly grow and expand. I felt joy as I felt those first fluttering kicks. I felt joy as my sweet baby grew and moved around inside of me. I felt joy as I sang to her each morning, and before bed each night. I felt joy as I read to her, all the many books that I had been so eagerly collecting for my first baby. I felt joy as I talked to her about her daddy, and shared the depth of my love for her through stories and whispered words. I felt joy each time I got to experience all the fullness of this life, and knew that she was right there inside of me. I felt joy in knowing that she was safe, and cozy, and alive right below my steadily beating heart.
     Then the seasons began to change again, the clock continued to tick, and the calendar continued to flip. As we entered into the month of June, I knew that we only had one month left. One month left of her knowing the safety and security of my body. Each day the sun began to get warmer, the sky turned a more brilliant shade of blue, and the smallest buds began to poke out on the rose bushes. Summer had now arrived. Just 17 days later, the time had come. Nothing could have prepared me for that moment. I wanted more time. Needed more time. This was not suppose to happen yet. My body was failing me. Failing my daughter. It was not July 22 yet. But somewhere in the midst of the pain, as I lay in bed late that Monday night, wishing, hoping, praying that the contractions would stop, I felt God's peace surrounding me. I felt God's hand lifting mine as I made that emergency phone call to the doctors office. I felt God's strength filling me as I whispered "okay" when I was told it was time to go to the hospital. I felt God nudging my heart as Josh and I sat on the cold floor of our laundry room, holding hands, and pleading with God for the life of our baby. In that moment, we once again committed the life of our sweet baby into God's hands. The peace that surrounded us throughout that night was beyond anything we could have asked for. As I lay in that hospital bed, listening to the incredible sound of our baby's heartbeat, laughing with Josh about the  ugly hospital slippers on my feet, we knew that God was there. Throughout all the season changes that had occurred during my pregnancy, never once had our God changed. He always and forever remained constant. He was there with us that Fall afternoon when I took that pregnancy test, He was there with us that freezing snowy morning when we first heard the diagnosis of our baby, He was there with us each windy spring day as we grieved, hoped, and loved our precious baby that was growing inside, and He was there that early summer morning, on June 17, at 5:16am, when they pulled our beautiful, oh so loved, first daughter out of my body. He was there beside us as we said hello, as we admired and loved on her, and He was there as we whispered goodbye 19 minutes later. He was there as we held her in the hospital, soaking up every moment. He was there when I kissed her perfect little cheek for the very last time, and stroked her baby soft hair. He was there holding up my arms as I handed her over, the very last time I would ever hold my baby on this earth. He was there as Josh and I drove the streets of Grand Rapids, making our way back home, alone. He was there as I walked into my house, fully feeling the weight of what was missing. He was there in the long, sleepless nights. He was there through the shuddering tears, and the desperate pleas. He was there as we lifted that tiny white casket, and placed it in the ground. He was there as we kneeled in the cold wet grass, and said our goodbyes. He was there in the days that followed, as we tried to continue moving forward with our life. He was there. He was there. He was there.
      He was always there.
     Now today, as I once again embrace the changing of the seasons, I find that there is hope rising inside of my heart. This hope that I had lost, and often wondered if I would ever find again. The hope that had been dimmed the day I heard those life changing words. I remember wondering so often during those long days after saying goodbye, if I would ever feel like myself again. I wanted to hope, desperately wanted to hope, but it was so hard to see around my pain, my heartbreak. Yet I smile today when I think about the hope that is now much more clear. It is a hope that has far greater meaning to me than ever before. As I watch my little boy eating, with a sparkle in his eye, I see that hope. Even though nothing will ever be the same, and we will forever have that missing piece of our family, I can start to see the shadows clearing when I watch to see how our story continues to unfold. God has given me a reason to smile again, a reason to sing, and a reason to laugh. God has restored hope into my heart. I am ever so thankful!
     The changing of the seasons brings so many memories to my heart. So many happy memories, ones that I will cherish and smile over forever. But it also brings about sad memories as well. Memories that bring tears to my eyes, memories that hurt my heart, and some that I wish I could forget forever. Yet they are all a part of me. They are all a part of who I am, as a wife, as a mother, and as a child of God. They are proof that through the storms and through the calm, God is there. Although our lives change so much, and we go through the good times, and the really hard times, God's love never fails. And that my dear friends, is something that we can rejoice in, and something that we can cling to. My hope for you today is that no matter where you are at right now in your life, whether you are experiencing the chaos of a raging storm, or enjoying the peace of a calm of a quiet day, that you can rest safely in the arms of our Father, who promises that He will love YOU always.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Noah News


Today is a very special day for our little Noah! Today Noah is 38 weeks, 5 days old. This may seem like an odd number to some, but it is a big milestone for our little guy! Noah has officially been here with us, for as long as he was growing in my tummy. Noah was born at 38 weeks, 5 days. He entered this world on a Monday night, at 5:00pm. What a joy filled, tear filled, beautiful and amazing moment that was, when we first saw our son! He was 6lbs. 2oz. 18.5 inches. He is a growing boy and now weighs 16lbs, and is 25 inches long. His smile is endless, and he is very noisy! He loves to make sure his voice is heard. Noah loves to crawl everywhere, climb up on everything, play in the water, watch other kids, and listen to music. Each day has been such a gift. A precious gift.
     Each week I just stand amazed at how much Noah has learned and accomplished. He continues to impress us with all his new skills! What a joy to be able to watch him grow and develop right before our very eyes!  
     Thank you to everyone who continues to follow our journey. We are so thankful for all the love and support. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, it brings me so much encouragement. Each day as I watch Noah grow, I continue to just stand in awe at what an amazing God we serve. Because through the pain, God was able to shine a light of hope back into our hearts. I know that our story is far from over, and we never know what path God might have for our future. But I do know that when we trust in Him, He will make beauty from the ashes. It is not always the way we would like, or the way we would have planned. The story that God chose to write for me, is never one I could have expected or planned, or one I would have even chosen for myself. Yet there is such beauty in the promise of God's great plan for our lives. I continue to cling to that promise each and every day. He will bring light into the darkness. It might not happen when we expect it to, nor in the way we would anticipate, but we can find hope in His promises. Because He who has promised IS faithful!
Here are a few pictures of our little rainbow baby, William Noah.


  In honor of Noah's special milestone day, I also wanted to share some pictures that we took before Noah was born. A special thank you to my cousin (In His Image Photography) for once again capturing precious memories for us.
   We are so blessed by our precious rainbow baby. He has brought so much laughter, hope, smiles, and excitement into our hearts and home. There is not a day that goes by where we don't stop to thank God for allowing us the privilege of being his parents. We just love him so much! Enjoy!

Caroline's Butterflies

    Yesterday we celebrated Caroline's second birthday. It was a day filled with so much emotion, lots of healing tears, and many laughs and smiles. I am so thankful that it turned out to be a day of remembering her life, and all the joy that she brought into my life. It was a day to miss her more than ever before. It was a day to cry, because sometimes there just aren't the right words. It was a day to talk about her, and to think about what could have been. It was a day to celebrate her beauty, and the impact her life has made on so many. It was a day of sadness, and a day of joy. It was a day to hug Noah just a little bit tighter, and whisper "I love you" just a million times more. It was a day to spend with family, and to remember with them. It was a day to feel blessed, oh so incredibly blessed, by the outpouring of love and prayers.
     From the very bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you. My phone was filled with texts and phone calls, sharing so much love and encouragement! We received beautiful flowers, which brightened up the day! Thank you for all the kind Facebook messages, and for taking the time to read my blog posts. Thank you to everyone who reached out to me yesterday, to everyone who spoke her name, took the time to pray for us, and to offer us words of love and support. I cannot even begin to say how much it all meant. Thank you to each of you! It was yesterday when I realized, that Caroline will not be forgotten. There are so many beautiful people who love her so much, and who are willing to help us remember her in the most beautiful of ways. Thank you for helping us to remember her! Losing a baby is so incredibly painful, difficult, and life changing, but from a mommy's heart who knows and understands, I can tell you that just helping to share her story, and to speak her name, makes all the difference in the world. Thank you for helping to making yesterday so special. Thank you for remembering our sweet Caroline Joy!

    Last night, as the sun started to set, Josh and I and Noah had a picnic by Caroline's special place. It was a beautiful summer night, one that makes you thankful to live in Michigan! As we sat there talking, and enjoying being together, I saw a beautiful butterfly fluttering nearby. Ever since we lost Caroline, I have always had a special appreciation for butterflies. They make me think of her, fluttering around in Heaven. I think about her every time I see a white butterfly flying around. I am so thankful that God sends those perfect little reminders to me, which always bring a smile to my face.
     In honor of Caroline, and her second birthday, we had a special plan for the night. Butterflies. Beautiful Butterflies. Lots of Beautiful Butterflies. 
One of the greatest fears with losing Caroline, is that she will be forgotten. I never want people to forget her life. That she did exist. That she did live, and that she did fight. That her life was valuable, precious. I want her story, and her life to be remembered, and honored. I know that when we first learned of her diagnosis, that she was not going to live for long,  we had to make the difficult visit to the cemetery. As I held my stomach tighter, where my sweet baby was safe inside, I remember walking through the cemetery, looking at the headstones. Such a cruel cruel moment, to feel my living baby moving inside, and yet be planning ahead for her death. It seemed terrible, like I was being tortured. But as we walked around the headstones, we noticed many small graves, with precious writing etched carefully into the stone. Babies. Children. All young. Different dates. Different stories. But precious, precious lives. Lost too soon. So last night, we placed butterflies on the headstones of those babies, and of those children. So many. It was so eye opening, to think of all the babies who never got to experience their first birthday. Josh and I, and our wonderful parents, wondered together at each of their stories. We looked at the dates, and said their sweet names. In my heart, I wondered, about their parents. They too had to face the unimaginable, burying a child, a baby, before they were buried themselves.
     Last night was tough, to think about all the sadness in this world. About all of the hurt, and of the pain and sadness. Of how unfair it all seems to be. Yet in the midst of it all, those brightly colored butterflies stood out. They stood as a symbol of hope, of love, and of peace. It felt right to honor those babies, those children, by placing a butterfly near their precious names. It felt right to think about them, to say their names, and to talk about it. It felt right to honor Caroline on her birthday, by honoring other babies who are also in Heaven.
     My hope is that if a mom, or a dad comes to visit the special place, where their baby or child is buried, that they will see that brightly colored butterfly. I hope they will realize that their baby is not forgotten, but so so loved. That they will be remembered!
     It was a perfect way to end such a special day. The day that our baby girl turned 2 years old. We pray that she had a very special celebration in Heaven, and that she knows that we had a special celebration for her here on earth as well. My heart is full, knowing that my Caroline is so loved, and so thought of, by so many. And my hope is that we can countinue the butterfly tradition, to spread some hope, the hope that we have through our Heavenly Father. Happy second Birthday Caroline Joy! We love you!

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 is 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
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe
When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

                                               By Laura Story

Friday, June 17, 2016

Two Years- Happy Birthday Caroline

June 17, 2014     
The day our family went from two to three!

     Happy 2nd Birthday to my beautiful daughter, Caroline Joy!

     This morning I woke up feeling sorry for myself. Sorry that I could not cover my daughter's bedroom door with pink balloons, frost a pink cake with sprinkles, and slip her into a special birthday dress. This morning I felt sad that I couldn't watch her face light up as she tore through the wrapping paper on her presents, or watch her dance around the room with a shine in her blue eyes. I felt sorry that I couldn't watch her kiss her little brothers'cheek as he woke up, and see them play with the birthday balloons together. I was sad that I couldn't hear her precious little voice, and laugh at her squeals of joy. I felt sad. I felt sorry. It hurts at how much we miss.
     But this morning, in the twinkling light of her pink candle, I remembered her life. Her most precious life. When I brushed the tears away, and allowed myself to smile, I felt that joy. The joy that she has and continues to bring into my life. The joy that I have felt ever since that first moment I discovered I was pregnant. The joy that I still feel, two years later, every time I think of my Caroline.
     She had a special way of turning my sadness into joy. There were so many days, when I was heading home from work, when I was just a crying mess. I was so sad, so angry, so confused, and so hurt. I could barely see through my tears. But it was in those moments, that she would choose to move her little body! Her kicks were few, but they always came at just the perfect moments. There was nothing else I could do but break into a huge smile. She just knew how to make her mommy smile and laugh. I still remember the moment when I felt her first kick, it was about a week after we learned that she had Limb Body Wall Complex. I was sitting at the table, working on student evaluations, the sun was streaming into our dining room window. I had just turned on my Pandora station of children's music, which I played to her often. Suddenly, I felt the most gentle, tickling movement. At first it didn't fully register to me. But then it happened again. I knew it was her, and that she was finally big enough for me to feel her move! It was a very special moment, because just days before, the doctor had explained  to us, that because of the way her body was formed, I likely wouldn't feel much movement at all. But there it was, those first butterfly flutters in my tummy! It was the best! Let me just tell you, I did not stop smiling for the rest of the day. My whole pregnancy was like that, filled with so many ups and downs, but anytime I got down, there was always something that would happen to make me smile.
     I learned during that time, just what it meant to experience joy. Real joy. Now joy is different than happiness. Because sometimes I just did not feel happy at all, usually the complete opposite.  Happiness is an outward expression or an inward feeling when something is good or pleasurable to you, it is usually temporary, and based on your circumstance or situation. But I discovered that joy comes outside of your circumstances. I did not always feel happy, but yet my heart felt like it was smiling when I thought of my daughter. Our situation, what we knew was coming, was just pain awful. Every single part of it felt cruel, harsh, and unnatural. We were walking down such a painful road, one that I wish no one would ever have to experience. But through that journey, and even now today, I have learned that joy dances right alongside of grief. I struggle with finding the words to explain how it all works, and I think that is okay. Because it is only in those deepest, darkest moments, when it completely makes sense. How you can feel so sad, so empty, so hurt, and yet in your heart there is joy?  I can not explain it, but I do know that it must come from God! Today, as I remember those precious moments that Caroline and I shared together, I think about God's blessing on me in those moments. I am so thankful that He was able to fill my heart with that joy, because otherwise the grief and the sadness would have been too much to bear.
     Two years ago my Caroline entered into this world, at 5:16am. She came into this world silently, but made a big impact on those who know her story. I remember gazing at her perfect face, and stroking her dark hair (I am still amazed at how much dark curly hair she had). The moment they laid her on my chest, I wanted to protect her. I wanted to hold her and never let go. I think that is a mommy's instinct, the need, the desire to protect her children. But as the doctor  gently placed the stethoscope on her tiny chest, and gave us a solemn nod, I knew that my time to protect her was limited. I knew that I would only be able to hold her for so long. Yet I clung to her, and held her just a little tighter. I started memorizing her face, every perfect detail. No matter the chaos going on around us in that operating room, hearing them call out her time of death, I was her mommy, and she was my baby. I was going to protect her forever, even if I had to let her go.

     Now here I am, two years later, looking at pictures of that special day. The day that my daughter was born. I look at pictures that a nurse so graciously took for us, of the first moments we shared with her. I am so thankful for all of the emotions and feelings that come to my mind as I remember her and remember that day. After two years, I have learned that emotions and feelings are good. It is how our body processes and heals. It is not easy, in fact, I still believe that grieving is a full time job. But it is so necessary. There are days when I go about my life, feeling like I have completely adjusted to this "new normal". Days when I feel genuinely happy, and smiling and laughing are so natural and easy. There are days when I just do not feel much of anything, and that is a nice relief. But there are days when the grief is still so close, I can feel it like a knot in my throat. It is so real. The difficult part is not knowing when those days will happen. Not knowing when that next trigger is going to push that knot right down to my heart. But I have come to learn that it is all part of the journey, the journey of grief and of loss. There will be good days, and thankfully there are more and more of them as time goes on. But you also never know when something will cause you to take a step backward again, and to feel those tears just begging to be released.
    But when I think about my daughter, and her precious life, I know that she is worth it all. I would not trade my life, as difficult as it can be, for anything. Because being her mommy is the greatest gift in the world. I am so blessed to be able to love her, to celebrate her, and to share her story. I know that every single tear I have cried, is only because of the depth of love that I have for her. I know that when I get angry, or jealous, it is only because of how much I wish she could be here in my arms right now. I know that the strength that I have to continue moving forward, one step at a time, is because she fought to meet me. I know that the hope that I feel, is because of the promise that I will one day see her again!
     So today we celebrate our sweet Caroline Joy! Today we celebrate her life, and all  of the many ways she has taught us about love, joy, and strength. Today we thank God for giving her to us, and for allowing us to be her parents. Today we thank God for being such a good and faithful Father, who never leaves our side. Today am thankful for all the people who support us, love us, and help us celebrate our daughters life. Today I am thankful for all the prayers! Today I am thankful that in a world that WILL fail us, we have a God who will NEVER fail us. Today I am thankful for Caroline's little brother Noah, who even in this moment is making me laugh and smile. Today I am thankful that I can tell Noah all about his big sister, and that we can celebrate her birthday together. Today I am thankful for the 56,064 people who have visisted this blog site and read about Caroline's story (what an impact her life has made on so many people). What a blessing! I am so beyond blessed!

Happy 2nd Birthday to my beautiful daughter! You are so loved and so missed my sweet girl. We are sending up lots of big birthday hugs to you today, as we know you are having a special celebration up in Heaven today! We love you Caroline Joy!  Until we meet again...

I want to be close,close to Your side
So Heaven is real and death is, a lie
I want to hear voices of angels above
Singing as one
Hallelujah, holy, holy
God Almighty, the great I am
Who is worthy, none beside Thee
God Almighty, the great I am

-The Great I Am

A picture is worth a thousand words...and then some.

     This morning as I sat watching the faintest light beginning to peek through the windows, I remembered. I remembered these beautiful moments, when we laughed through the pain, and embraced every moment of our pregnancy with Caroline. In our heads, in our hearts, we knew that our time with her was going to be short, and there was so much uncertainty facing us ahead. Yet I remember feeling the upmost joy in those moments. Those moments when we could just stop, and take the time to cherish every second of her beautiful life. We knew, then and there, that she was a fighter. Continuing to face the odds, and growing bigger each and every day. We had so much love for our little baby, even though we had yet to meet face to face. Our hearts were so full for the baby who continued to fight each day, to meet us.
 These pictures were taken by my amazing cousin, at 33 weeks into our pregnancy with Caroline. Little did we know in those moments, that in just two weeks, we would be meeting her and then saying goodbye. This morning as I cried over each one, I sat in complete thankfulness. What a gift to have these beautiful pictures to remember. To remember the moments when everything just felt right. When everything felt normal. Never once at the beginning of my pregnancy did I dream that our pregnancy would be different than any other normal couple experiencing pregnancy. I envisioned us having maternity pictures, but only to celebrate a happy healthy pregnancy. But as I have learned, over and over again, our plans do not always go as expected. Instead, these pictures became a symbol, a symbol of Caroline's beautiful, but short life. I do not have the opportunity to fill up my phone, multiple times a month!, with pictures of Caroline. But I do have a few, very cherished, very special, very important pictures, that will forever help me remember her life. They will be pictures that I hold close to my heart forever. They hold a lifetime of memories for us. And this morning, I am so thankful to be able to hold them in my lap, and just allow myself to remember.