Stella's Story: Part 1

Here is the beginning of Stella's Story: Stella's Story: Part 1
The rest is coming soon!

Life Magnified

Experiencing one extreme makes the other extreme equally as intense for me.  Holding death in my hands has helped me see life so precious, so beautiful.  I can't voice or even describe how incredible it is to hold a healthy, perfect baby. I don't even know how to express in person how overwhelemed I am because I've been given this wonderful gift.  I feel like a first-time mom again.  I only wish that more of my friends were just as excited as I am.  It's so important to me that those who are close to me rejoice over the birth of my son just as much as they sympathized (or at least tried to sympathize) with me after Stella died.

Of course, I can't expect others to feel the same way, although sometimes it would be nice to have cupid-like powers.  :)  But, I've honestly been kind of surprised at how few of my friends, even close ones, have celebrated Finn's birth with me.  I'm sure it's routine for them - a the birth of a baby, but it's not for me.  There was no ignorant bliss associated with carrying and birthing a new life for me.  There's only the painful understanding that there is no taking life for granted.  Ever. 

I don't know if all baby loss moms feel the same way, but I know many who do.  It is so, so important to them (and to me) to acknowledge both the baby who was lost and to celebrate the baby who is here now. 

Is it too much to ask for friends to take just a little bit of time out of their busy lives to celebrate with me, or at least to say congratulations?  I know people are busy with their own lives - with health issues, adoption journeys, their own children..etc, but it is so hard to take a few moments to just "be there?"

I feel this joy of my new son and the pain of being separated from my daughter equally with a migraine-like intensity.  It's as if my head is pounding and every tiny sound is amplified as I'm laying there, exhausted. Except that it's not my heading pounding; it's my heart pounding.  The neverending migraine.
Life.  Magnified.  The joys and sorrows of life are now intensified to me.

I wonder if this is the way we're supposed to experience life.  Jesus felt deeply, loved fully, grieved with his entire being.  And since Jesus is God personified, doesn't God feel even more deeply than I do?  The pain I feel so intensely because of the death of my daughter isn't even 1/1000th of what the Father felt when His son suffered on the cross. The joy that I feel over the birth of my new son isn't even 1/1000th of what the Father felt when His people were redeemed. 

I am realizing that I dehumanize God in ways I shouldn't.  I have tended to think of God as distant, unfeeling, like a stoic ruler who sits on His throne calmly making decisions about the universe He created.  Now, I don't think that's what God is like at all.  In my grief, at times I think I understand God less and less, but I may finally be starting to understand Him more.  He is the only One who has fully felt what it's like to watch His Own Flesh and Blood suffer and die.  If this is true, why can't I feel closer to him than I do?

"Your Love, oh Lord, reaches to the Heavens, and your Faithfulness, oh Lord, reaches to the skies."
Psalm 36:5.  That's a heck of a lot of love...more than I can even fathom. 

Life is now magnified for me, but God's character, even more so.  If I feel deeply, He feels deeper.  If I grieve with every fiber of my being, He has experienced greater grief than I can even imagine.  And, I really can't imagine much more emotional pain than I've felt.  What does that say about God and His the sacrifice of His son? 

For Real?

Finn is four weeks old today.  And I'm incredibly sad.  While I feel like I've spent every possible second with my new little boy, four weeks have vanished like a vapor. 

The reality of Finn's presence still doesn't sink in sometimes.  I watch him snooze on my honey's stomach, and part of me still can't believe he's here and he's mine.  I fall asleep snuggling him close and awake to his sweet breath and close-to-hungry wimpers.  I blink and do a double-take, and I realize that he's real. 

At the same time, I fear that I'm losing my grip on the reality of knowing Stella.  I know so many baby loss moms who would have done anything for five days with their little ones, but the time I had with her still felt so short, so fleeting.  One of the ladies in my Bible study lost her husband a little over two years ago, and she said to me one evening, "You know, the second year is harder."  Just what I wanted to hear.  She explained that the actuality of what happened sinks in more, yet is easier to accept.  I'm not sure I agree entirely, at least not today.  Today, I feel like carrying Stella, meeting her, and watching her die was all a big nightmare.  I've had a hard time grasping reality today.  It's kind of a weird feeling.

Yet I know it was real because my heart really hurts.  Still.   There are reminders everywhere.  A coworker of mine's wife just had their first child, a baby girl, and her middle name is...what else...Rose.  A good friend tells me the other day that she's giving all her baby girl clothes to another friend at church who is having a girl.  No big deal, right?  That's great that she's helping out a friend; I just don't want to hear about it.  It hurts my heart because she was saving those clothes for my girl.  The list of the little things that remind me of her absence goes on and on...

My grief is so real that I know Stella was real, but there are days and moments when memories of being with her are fuzzy.  There are other times when the time with my girl seems so fresh and recent that having Finn seems unreal, or maybe surreal is a better word. 

I wonder if I am crazy for feeling like this...but I know no other way to describe it.  This "for real?" feeling happened after Stella passed away.  I would wake up in the middle of the night, and I didn't know what was real and what wasn't.  My subconscious told me she was still with me, and I was jolted into reality upon waking.  This time with Finn, it's the opposite.  I almost can't believe he's here with me.  I wake up and realize "he's for real."  This time, it's a happy reality.  An almost utopic reality, really.  The problem is that I now have a better understanding of the value of time, and my time with Finn is an excruciating reminder of my lack of time with Stella.  Spending time with Finn also reminds me that time passes so quickly, and that every moment I am blessed to spend with my rainbow is gone too soon. 

Routine Emotions

My heart is heavy today. 

It's not because anything really bad happened.  It is the normal routine events that make me think, and thinking makes me sad.  I guess that's why I've tried not to deal with my feelings for awhile now.  I'm realizing, though, that there are so many unresolved emotions that I haven't worked through.  But I need to, so I am.

Finn had his two-week checkup today.  It was kind of comical how excited Mike and I both were to take him to the doctor.  We had a bet on how much he would weigh.  I won.  Again.  (I also won how much he would weigh at birth).  I guessed 8lbs 5oz, and the scale said 8lbs 4.6oz. Victory! Finn's head also gained three-and-a-half centimeters.  Wow!  No wonder his hats are already getting small. Finn has his first chin roll, and he's smiling randomly.

When I think about our visit and how well Finn is growing, I get all choked up.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but I take absolutely nothing for granted.  Nothing.  "Routine" growth checks and milestones are anything but.   I want to shout from the rooftops that our son is healthy!

And at the same time my tears of joy flow freely, they are mingled with tears of sorrow.  Every little routine event with Finn is a painful reminder that our daughter isn't here with us. 

Sitting at McDonald's tonight, I watched an adorable one-year-old girl with feathery flaxen hair, fluffy from the static electricity of the slides, toddle around in her cute little pink-embroidered jeans.   My heart hurt. 

I heard a dad call out "Finn," from across the room, and I did a double-take.  Was there really another boy with the same name as my son in the same place when I had never met another "Finn"?  He was there with his sister.  His sister.  My Finn has a sister, too.  But he'll never know her, only of her.

I glanced at my sweet boy sleeping soundly in his carseat, and having him felt surreal.  Sometimes, I still can't believe he's here, and he's mine.  But, because he's here, she isn't, and she isn't coming back: quite a heavy reality for a mother who's lost a child. 

I have friends who have offered this reality as a comfort of sorts...that Finn wouldn't be here if Stella hadn't died.  I try not to get upset at friends who say this, but I don't find it comforting AT ALL that Finn is here because Stella is not.  If your parents were in a fatal car crash and your mom survived because your dad died, I wouldn't say, "Well, at least you have your mom."  Sure, you will be thankful that your mom survived, but NEVER at the expense of your dad passing away...It's the same situation with my Stella.  Logically, Finn wouldn't be here as a  newborn right now if Stella hadn't passed away when she did, but even still, I imagine her as a wobbly one-year-old babbling away and discovering her world as one-year-olds do.

Early today, my sons "routinely" wrecked chaos when told to play in their downstairs playroom.  Well, they were supposed to be in their playroom.  Apparently, they got bored of playing with their toys as intended (a hot wheels race track) and decided to get creative.  They snuck into the downstairs kitchen; Milo found a pair of scissors, and Ely found some fresh eggs from our feathered ladies.  I can just see the wheels spinning in Ely's head.  His train of thought probably went something like this: cars can roll down the track...that's boring...eggs can roll...let's see what happens when we roll eggs down the track...oops! egg's broken...I wonder if that will happen again...let's try it...oops!...two eggs broken...Daddy!  I didn't mean to... 

Sure, it's hilarious now, and it makes a great story, but my sons' "creativity" is quite a common occurence.  After hearing all the details from Mike, I looked at Finn and sighed.  Believe me, I'm head over heels in love with my little guy, but sometimes all the shenanigans (both present and past) serve as a painful reminder of the reality of boys, boys, and more boys.  And no girls.  No Stella. 

I am overcome with the fullness of my heart..full of the joy and wonder of a new baby boy and at the same time equally full of sorrow because I miss my daughter.  My heart feels heavy and ready to burst.

I Give Thanks

I don't take a single moment with my precious Finn for granted.  Not a single detail of his existance, either. 

I give thanks for every cry.  As soon as Finn was out, he cried. And cried.  And cried some more.  And I smiled.  I couldn't stop smiling. 

When Stella was born, she let out two tiny cries, and that was it.  I never heard a peep from her again. 

I give thanks for pee.  Minutes after Finn was born, before I even saw his precious face, he peed all over the nurse.  It was quite funny (and in the middle of a C-section, much unexpected comical relief), but even more than that, it was a sigh of relief for us.  His kidneys were working! 

We weren't sure Stella even had two kidneys; it turned out she did, but they were half the size they should be and were functioning at less 50%.  She hardly peed at all in her short little life. 

I give thanks for every diaper change.   Before Finn was born, Mike told me quite a few times that he was looking forward to changing diapers.   From this simple statement, I knew that my husband was just as grateful as I for a healthy baby boy and wouldn't take a single thing for granted, even something as mundane as diaper changes.  We are so grateful that all of Finn's parts work. :)

It probably sounds strange, but one of the regrets I have is that I never got to change Stella's diaper.  Mike didn't either. 

I give thanks for Finn's perfectly formed round little head and his adorable little ears.  These were the first two parts of Finn I examined when they handed him to me. 

Stella's head was lopsided, and her ears were malformed and low-set.  Not that I didn't think she was beautiful anyway, but these features were a constant reminder of her (fatal) genetic condition.

I give thanks for every little baby sigh, grunt, and coo. 

And I'm reminded of how very silent and still Stella was. 

I give thanks for being woken up at night by cranky squirms and lip smacking.  Seeing clear, bright dark blue eyes staring up at me as he nurses. 

What a comforting difference from half-open hurting eyes and tiny squirms of agony. 

I give thanks for being able to cuddle my newborn, warm and soft and content, against my chest. 

When Stella's tubes were removed on the last day of her life, and I lifted her to snuggle her close to my heart, she was swollen, stiff, and growing cold. There was no nuzzling of her tiny face or scunching up of her tiny legs beneath her belly. 

I give thanks that I can feel Finn gaining weight, outgrowing his newborn sleepers. 

The first outfit Stella wore was her last.  I had no beautiful gown for her to wear; only a preemie sleeper I bought secondhand at a consignment store "just in case."

I give thanks to God for our new little one.

Phineas Jude

For thirteen days now, I've been more than blessed by the seven-pound-eleven-ounce sweetheart that I've anticipated for so long. 

We agonized for months over what to name him. 

For sixteen weeks, we had the perfect girl's name picked out, and we were 100% agreed on what to call the much-prayed-for, much-hoped-for "her."  Our dreams were dashed even before the twenty-week ultrasound when our sixteen-week growth check showed the unmistakeable turtle between our baby's legs.

I struggled for months with the disappointment of carrying a third son while I watched friends rejoice over the births and anticipated births of healthy baby girls.  I missed my daughter, and more than anything, I wanted another daughter.  Even still, I can't fully reconcile my heart's desire with God's choice to bless us with another son.  Today, I again felt the all too familiar pangs of heartache when a facebook friend announced (after her twenty-week-ultrasound), "Our prayers have been answered! It's a girl!" 

What about our prayers?  We prayed for the same thing...a healthy baby girl.  Were our prayers not answered?  Of course I know little about the ways of God, but I really thought if anyone deserved a baby girl, it was us. I believed God would add another daughter to our family to help us in our healing process.  Why did God not answer our prayers?

I think He did answer our prayers,  just not with "our answer."  One of my Dad's favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 16:9 "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."  I still have no idea why God didn't agree with our "plan" to have another daughter, and He chose not to bless us in this way.   During my pregnancy with our little boy, I wrestled with God's determination of our steps.  More than anything, I wanted to be fully accepting of this wrench in my plans...another son and not the daughter I longed for.

And so, I was determined that this little boy scheduled to arrive on November 9th would have the perfect name.  His name had to have a deep meaning which reminded me that his presence in our lives was planned, predestined by God, and not something I could argue with. 

We chose the name Phineas because it means "oracle."  If you look up the meaning of oracle, one of the definitions is "God-given message: a message believed to come from God in response to a request, plea, or petition."  We believe that our little Phineas is God's answer to our prayers.  Was he the answer we would have chosen?  No, but God did answer our prayers.  I don't think it is fair to say that God answers our prayers only when it's the answer we wanted.  I don't pretend to understand why God didn't feel that another daughter was in our best interest, but one of God's many lessons to me over the past year has been to "lean not on your own understanding."  Our baby boy's name reminds me that his birth was not an accident, not something I should regret; nor should I daydream about a different outcome. 

I saw a vinyl quote that I plan to plaster on my wall.  Since I first read it, it has stuck with me, and I purposefully remember it every day.  It says, "Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have."  Amen. 

What I have is a beautiful baby boy whose seven-pound body has been perfectly formed in my womb.  THAT is incredible.  There are no words that can express my gratitude for the gift of this little boy's life...that God has entrusted him to us to hold, to love, and to raise in His ways.  Phineas' middle name is Jude, which means PRAISE.  I chose Jude as a reminder to me to praise God daily for my third son.

Phineas Jude...a message from God, an answer to our plea, and for whom we give God PRAISE.  God who answers prayer.  What better name could there be for our little boy?

Even his nickname, Finn, reminds me that God's plan is better than my own.  Finn means "fair."  Yes, I supposed the connotation of "fair" could refer to color, but I am reminded that God didn't even have to give us another child after losing Stella, yet He did, and our baby boy is perfect and beautiful. 

Thank you, God, for answering our prayers and giving us Phineas Jude.  We praise you for him.

For My Baby Girl - Your Birth Story

Happy 1st Birthday, baby girl! 

It's been a long a painful year here on earth without you.  Today, I look back on October 4th, 2010 with joy and sadness, knowing now that your birth meant that we would have such a short time to be together.

I realize now that I've never told your birth story.  I've relived it so many times in my head, but I've never written it down.  I guess there couldn't be a more perfect day to tell your story than today, huh?

By this time last year, you had already graced us with your presence.  Daddy and I were up at the crack of dawn to prepare for your arrival.  I'm not sure if I slept at all the night before you were born.  I remember laying on my side enjoying every tiny movement, knowing that you were healthy and safe inside of me.  My belly was only as big as it is now, 34 weeks pregnant with your baby brother.  Did you know that you're a big sister?

When Daddy and I left the house, it was dark, rainy, and cool-the first cool morning of the fall.  I held hands with your Daddy; we hugged and prayed.  I remember your daddy pleading with God to let us keep you, for miraculous healing so that we could take you home. 

We arrived at the hospital so early that the nurses weren't ready for us yet.  It was so quiet and still in the prep area, and the nurses were drowsy since they were at the end of their shifts.  It took three nurses to get my IVs set up.  I'm thankful for the third nurse who knew what she was doing.  Somehow, I got to talking with her about the births of your brothers, telling stories of the crazy nurses in Cape Coral, FL, and by the time I was prepped, we were both in stitches.  She was a blessing to me; I was so in need of the comic relief.  I was so scared, but much more for your health and safety than for mine.

Dr. Tag visited to tell me why I had two was "just in case" my placenta got stuck in my scar tissue, and they had to do a hysterectomy.  But even though Dr. Tag gave me this scary warning, she also reassured me (like she always does) that she would take her time and take care of me.  I asked her again if I could hold you before going to the NICU, and she replied that as long as you were stable, that was a very reasonable request.

I walked the short but surreal path to the OR.  Dr. Tag hugged me while the anesthesiologist took two tries to place the epidural.  I could still feel my legs as they swung them up onto the table.  It was very creepy having tingling in my toes, and I was concerned that the epidural wasn't working.  But I was told that I was already "nicely splayed open," so apparently it was working just fine.

Just born
Dr. Tag kept her promise and took her time.  She found the source of the pain I had been having since Milo's birth (tons of scar tissue), and cut it out.  It took her nearly 30 minutes for her to get to you.  Lying there, helpless, it seemed like an eternity before you were born.  Finally, at 8:05 AM, Dr. Tag pulled you out, and you gave two perfect little cries.  You didn't wail like your brothers, but your lungs were definitely working.  Those two cries were the only time I would hear you make any sound at all.  How I wish I had recorded that moment so I could hear you once again. 

Daddy holds you for the first time
Daddy grabbed the camera and started snapping away so I could see all your first moments later.  He did a great job with the camera.  I am still impressed when I look the pictures of you right after your birth. After the nurses finished their initial assessment, they wrapped you up and gave you to Daddy, all four pounds six ounces of you.  For a brief moment, I got to see your beautiful little face.  I was overwhelmed with incredible love for you.  Daddy and I kissed you on the nose, but we weren't allowed to hold onto you.  The doctors swept you away to the NICU.  Daddy went with you while I went to recovery.

I can't even begin to explain how hard it was to go to the recovery area without you.  At first, I was by myself there, but then other mommies were wheeled in holding their newborns.  I could hear their squeaky cries and suckling noises as I waited anxiously for Daddy to return from the NICU and update me with your status.  Daddy came back and told me that Egleston had already been contacted, and a bed was open, so you'd probably be leaving today. This meant that I wouldn't be able to be with you until I was discharged on Wednesday.  The doctors told us that this scenario was the best case for your survival. 

Nana meets you
 Granddad, Nana, and your brothers were on their way to the hospital to meet you.  Nana got to meet your when your eyes were open, when you were fresh and new and full of life.  She held your little fingers and felt instant love for you. 

Ely meets you
The photos of you with your brothers right after your birth are some of my favorites.  Ely and Milo were SOOO excited to see you.  The looks on their faces were ones of absolute joy.  It was very hard for them to understand why you were so sick, though, and why they couldn't hold you.   I wish they could have spent more time with you and gotten a chance to hold you, but you were too fragile.  Even still, I am so thankful that your brothers got to meet you right after you were born.  One of my fears was that they wouldn't have the chance to meet you alive.

Daddy went back and forth from the NICU to my room until it was time for you to be transported.  I was so worried that they would take you away without me getting to see you. Gazing at you from flat on my back during the C-section didn't exactly allow me to take in all the details of your tiny face.  After waiting in anticipation for hours, the transport team finally wheeled you into my room in your isolet.  I remember losing my breath for a second when I first saw you, so small and helpless and uncomfortable.  I just wanted to scoop you up in my arms and hold you forever and protect you against all the harm in the world.  It broke my heart saying goodbye to you. 

In your transfer isolet
 Daddy followed you to Egleston and stayed with you for most of the day on Monday, your birthday.  Daddy wasn't allowed to hold you, but he was there with you, holding your hand.  That night, he brought me pictures of you.  I saw that you had been hooked up to a ventilater since you had stopped breathing in the ambulance.  It was so heartbreaking to see you, a tiny little baby, hooked up to so many machines when hours before, you had been breathing on your own, a sweet littleborn who deserved to be held and cuddled and kept warm by her Mommy's skin. 

If I could turn back time, I would have fought harder, baby girl.  I would have fought harder to have given you a better quality of life for the little time we had with you.  I'm sorry you endured so much and suffered so greatly. I wish I could have had you in my arms for the entirety of your short life instead of you having all that medical crap hooked up to you. 

I knew you weren't meant to be here long, little Stella.  I only wish I could have spent your birthday, October 10th, 2010, with you in my arms, just like I wish I could spend your birthday with you today.  In my heart, you'll always be my baby girl, no matter how old I become.  It was indescribable joy to meet you, see you, and touch you, and I was always ache for you on your birthday AND every other day that I am separated from you.  I love you, baby girl, and I miss you more than words will ever express.

Happy Birthday.


I understand why people do drugs

When I was younger and much more naive, it was easy to declare "I would never ________..."  I would fill in the blank with something I considered completely horrific - everything from calling someone a ***** to murder to doing drugs.  Okay, now don't panic.  I'm not doing drugs, unless an occasional Tylenol PM counts, but life's experience has taught me that there is NOTHING I'm not capable of without the grace of God restraining me.

Even though I'm (thankfully) not resorting to substance abuse, I understand better now why people do drugs.  When you've lived with pain, whether it be physical or emotional, for a long season in your life, you naturally want the pain to stop! Even a temporary dull doesn't seem half-bad sometimes, especially when there's no end in sight.

Some days, I'm still living in a fog when it seems surreal that my daughter was conceived in my womb, lived for nine months and five days, and was gone as quickly as she came.  Other days, I'm struck head-on at 60 miles per hour with the reality that an incredibily imporant part of my life, my Stella, is not here.  Today was one of those days. 

The reality of my daughter's absence tends to hit me harder on Sundays than other days when I'm sitting in church trying to reconcile God's goodness and grace with "why did this happen?"  Yes, I know that there are reasons and that God is sovereign.  There is a lot of good that has come from meeting Stella and watching her slip quickly from this life. But, there is no ignoring that there is joy and comfort in the MIDST of this pain, not instead of it.  And there is no ignoring the tears that still flow (uncontrollably at times) as an outpouring of this pain. 

Today I was once again ambushed by the misunderstanding of friends as I was overcome with the sorrow of desperately missing my girl.  I don't know why I have to explain that yes, even after ten months without Stella, there are still moments when my heart is still extremely tender, and how I act has nothing to do with them and everything to do with being blindsided with grief.  After an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile with someone who hurt me while I was hurting deeply, and even trying to apologize for my emotions coming across the wrong way, I feel like shouting, "IT"S NOT ABOUT YOU!"

Why is it hard to understand that hurting people don't behave in a way that makes sense?  I'm a forgiven, but yet still very fallen, child of God, and the very real acquaintence of my pain sometimes causes me to act in a less-than-lovely manner.  Do I wish I could change this?  Yes!!  And I wish I could change the fact that I'm STILL mourning the loss of daughter, but I can't, and yes, I'm going to act crazy sometimes. 

With the exception of a few friends, this grief-stricken craziness makes me feel so very alone.  Like Job, I just want my supposed friends to see that I'm hurting or at least not assume that I'm acting emotional for a stupid reason (like hormones), be there for me with comforting hugs, and not give me any advice.  This must be too much to ask for, and even more ridiculous to ask is that they not take it personally that I'm upset and create more stress and drama for me.  Yes, that's exactly what I need.  More stress and drama while I'm desperately missing my daugther and terrified of giving birth to another baby that I can't bring home with me.

So, I'm sorry.  Sorry that I can't always act the way a normal friend should.  And I'm sorry that I'm not "normal."  I won't be...probably ever.    I feel bad for expressing my pain in a way that made my friends feel awkward, but is it impossible to conceive of the fact that maybe I have a reason for acting that way and overlook it in love and MOVE ON?  Of course it's easier to ignore someone who is upset and get angry at her instead, but real love isn't about what's easy.  Boy, do I know how true that is.

Maybe this is life's way of showing me that friends really can't always be relied upon.  I know that only God can really be my ever present help in trouble, but my heart wrestles with my head to fully take hold of His help.  I just want the pain to be taken away or at least dulled for awhile.  Isn't that what people say when they take drugs?  Oh God, somehow, I need you to be my drug, because I certainly see why people resort to that...

Not just my baby...My DAUGHTER

The word daughter still brings terrible pain to my heart when I think it, say it, or hear others say it.  You see, I didn't just lose my baby, I lost my daughter - my only daughter.  And no, having another son is not going to make it all better.  Because I didn't just lose a baby that can be replaced with another baby.  I lost my daughter, my child, my Stella.  There is a Stella-shaped, daughter-shaped hole in my heart, and the hole feels even larger now that I will not have a daughter in my life.

I know friends are trying to help, but I realize more and more that I have very few friends with enough compassion to be sensitive to the fact that I am still very much broken-hearted.  The excitement of looking forward to a new baby (as surreal as it still seems) does not cancel out the pain I feel from losing Stella.  Several friends have asked me, "Don't you think you'll be filled with complete joy once you hold your new baby boy?"  Joy, yes, of course, but complete joy, no.  I expect that I'll be overwhelmed with emotion, but conflicting emotion.  I can't help but think that when I gaze into our new little one's face, I won't be able to help thinking about my little girl in heaven whom I never got to hold the day she was born.

I went into the office today for the first time in a month.  As much as I enjoy my work, going to work still makes me so sad.  I am reminded that I can go to work because my baby girl isn't here, and I'm not caring for her like I should be.  The two hours commuting time gives me way too much time to think about Stella and about my boys. 

Every time I miss a day of my boys' life because I'm in the office, I feel depressed because I can never recreate the ten hours I was apart from them.  Yet, when I'm at home, I'm still sad, and I don't feel up to playing with the boys. I can't win.  I know my boys want their mommy back.  I don't know if or when they will ever get their mommy back.  I feel guilty because I want to be the mommy my boys need, but I can't be, and then I feel even more guilty.  A terribly vicious cycle. 

Taking care of my boys reminds me that I'm not taking care of my girl.  So, I guess really everything reminds me that she isn't here. I miss my daughter, and my insides still feel turned outward.  I know that my daughter was only here on this earth for five days, and I know that she was "only a baby," but she was (correction, IS) my daughter, my child.  I birthed her, living and breathing, and there will forever be an enormous chasm in my heart that can only be filled by her. 

I do believe that God's plan is for us to have another son, but I am still honestly struggling with understanding His plan.  Trust without understanding is the hardest type of trust.  Why God? Why didn't you give us another daughter to at least fill a tiny bit of the hole in my heart?  I am wearied by fighting to believe that He knows best even though the path He has chosen for us is filled with pain.  Please pray that I will daily chose what I know to be true over what I feel so intensely.

Still Need to Write, Still Need to Mourn

The past few months have actually been the hardest yet for me due, in part, I think, to my hiatus from writing.  Writing, along with lots of prayer and turning to scriptures, has helped me to work through the continual emotional battles that characterize my everyday life. 

A lot of why I haven't been writing is because so much of what I  feel is embarrassing to admit.  I've been afraid to share the full depth of my pain; I don't want to be judged as seeming ungrateful or trivial.

God has used a  new friend to help shake me out of this funk and encourage me to write again.  I hope you won't mind, Stacy (who authors the blog "Baby Rachel's Legacy"), but I'm going to quote you, because what you said to me really sank in, and there's incredible value to the advice from another sister who has travelled a similar road.

"What I have realized, although I have slowed down a lot on how often I write, is that the enemy does not want me to get through this in a healthy way.  He doesn't want me to grow closer to God and others, he wants the opposite... he wants to get me alone and wear me down.  He will succeed if I fall for the lie that as Christians we can't show pain, disappointment with God's plan, or mourn to the depth that I need to.  It's not true... God gave us the feelings we have and as long as we continue to hold onto Him, I think sharing those mixed emotions is not only helpful for us, but for others as well.  "  

Thank you so much for this advice, Stacy!

Unlike alot of my baby loss mom friends, I have not shared on my blog the news that we are expecting another baby.  I am 21 weeks along and expecting a boy.  I realized now that the news of the pregnancy marked the beginning of my time off from writing in my blog.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I was excited but really shocked.  I felt like I was on you know you're there, but you can't really wrap your head around being there.  A disconnect from reality. 

Then the more being pregnant sank in, the more I began to sink into a deep despair.  It was like deja vu, but with a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.  There's a baby growing inside of me, but it's not my Stella.  Many questions flooded my mind and still do: How am I ever going to love this baby as much as I love my Stella?  Is this baby even healthy?  What if God asks me to give up another child? Am I ever going to be able to stop calling the nursery "Stella's room?"  How am I going to feel if this baby isn't a girl?  And on and on...

I have discovered the answer to one of my questions:  The news that we were having another boy was absolutely devastating to me.  And to be honest, I'm still having a really hard time with it.  But, I don't really feel like talking about it with anyone, because at face value, it seems kind of stupid to be as upset as I am.  I can't help it, though.  Every little girl that I see brings sharp pains of grief...not only because I so desperately miss my daughter, but because I am now also mourning not having a daughter at all.  And the proposed solution to "adopt a daughter someday" may seem like a simple answer (and may friends have suggested it), but my heart is not there right now.  It's easy for people who have daughters and have not lost a child to offer this advice.  I fully believe that God has the power to change my heart in this matter if he wants to in the future, but I want my own flesh and blood daughter.  I yearn to see Stella's clothes on our own baby girl, to see my boys' hearts healed by witnessing a new baby sister wear the sweet little sleepers they picked out for Stella.  I dream of pink ruffles, princess dresses, and polka dots...painted fingernails and prom dresses.  I dream of everything girly.  All those dreams have been shattered.  My heart is still breaking, and it breaks over and over again.  I miss my Stella. 

And I feel guilty.  I feel guilty because I'm not happier that we're having another boy.  That I'm not thrilled by more blue, more matchbox cars, more craziness.   I pray all the time that God would help me to be happy, to truly love this little boy, and he would know nothing but love.  But, I'm not there yet.  And I need to work through this.


I am TERRIBLE at sending thank you notes.  I know, I know...and I'm so sorry to the wonderful friends and family members who have showered our family with blessings over the past nine months.  The generosity of those who have given to us (whether in word, deed, or gift) has helped carry me through the hard days-the days when I have lost track of the date, the day of the week, and sometimes even the month. 

Friends, the effects of your thoughtfulness have not been fleeting.  I know that I must not seem grateful, but I really am.  I often feel that thank you notes just don't "cut it." They seem so trite and just not enough to express the real intensity of gratitude I feel. But, I also feel TERRIBLE for not sending some of you the thank you notes you so rightfully deserve.   So, here I am wanting to write a HUGE THANK YOU note to everyone I can possibly think of.  I'm sorry this thank you is not conventional, but it IS HEARTFELT.

I still think of every meal that was lovingly prepared and brought to our home before and after Stella's birth.  Thank you, thank you, thank you (!!!) to Tiffany, Robin Haas, Stephanie, Pam, Angela, Kellie, Diana, Mandy, Barbara Smith, Nikki Corn, Kim Krakowski, North Cobb High School, and anyone else I forgot for all the yummy food!

I remember every special act of service provided by our caring friends at NWCC, by family, and by friends. (In no particular order)

  • Meredith and Christian, thank you for the times you came over with chicken tenders and french fries and gave us fellowship and help.  Meredith, thank you for letting me be me and accepting me in whatever state I happened to be in.  I have enjoyed our DAC kids dates immensely!
  • Pam and Scott, thank you for spending your day off making sure our house didn't look like a HUD home and cleaning our bathroom.  You know your friends really love you when they clean your bathroom for you.
  • Tasha, thank you for checking on me all the time, for the multiple trips to Egleston, and for the mac n' cheese!  You're a truly wonderful, loyal friend.  Love you!
  • To Diana, thank you for all the prayers, encouragement, and tears.  Thank you for making the trip to meet our little Stella.  We love you, you Puerto Rican firecracker, you!
  • Megan Wright, thank you for making a difference in our lives from such a long distance away.  It was so sweet of you to pay for my house to be cleaned after we haven't seen each other in years! 
  • Megan Strader - you are such an incredible friend!  There are just no words to describe how much it meant to me that you came to GA to be with me in my grief.  You've been there for all three of my children's births, and you have such a calming, delightful presence that few others have.  It's a rare gift, Meg.  Thank you for your (and Todd's) generous donation for the wheelchairs, for paying for groceries, and pretty much just being the wonderful best friend you always are.  I love you!
  • To Shenifa, God sent me you, and your friendship has helped carry me through this valley like no other friendship.  I love you, my dear friend.
  • Allyson, thank you for being such a good listener and never making me feel like anything I was thinking was stupid.  I miss our lunch dates!
  • To Maggie, thank you so much for hanging out with me when I couldn't leave the house and for calling me to check on how I was doing! 
  • To Kim Miller, thank you for taking the time to paint Stella's room!  You're so talented, girl!
  • Tiffany and Kellie, thank you for coming to see me at Kennestone on one of the worst days of my life when I was separated from both Mike and Stella.
  • Mom and Dad, thank you for making the decision to change your schedule and be there for us through the joy and the sorrow, during the hardest week of our lives.  It was so comforting to have my parents there for Mike and I and for the boys.
  • Danielle, thank you for making your family a priority and ditching all your weekend plans to be there with us on the last day of Stella's life.  I will always be grateful that you met her in person.  Love you tons!
  • Dad and Eva, thank you for making the trip down to GA to be here for Stella's funeral and for the financial assistance.  Thank you for spending time with the boys and loving on them during the week after Stella passed away.  Love you guys!
  • Aunt Rosie and Aunt Patty, thank you for coming through for us like you always do.  It is so wonderful to always be about to count on you both.  We truly, truly appreciate the spoiling: the many meals, gift cards, financial assistances, specials treats that arrive in the mail, help with taking care of the boys' needs.  You have both made us feel so special and loved during this difficult season in our lives.  I know I don't always write all the thank you notes that I should, but we don't take one single thing you do for granted.  I think of you both EVERY DAY and how much we feel your love and love you!
  • Mom and Dad, you get a second one.  There really is nothing I can say or do to thank you enough for our new kitchen.  My heart swells when I think about the sacrifices you both have made to raise us and how you continue to represent the heavenly Father by giving us above and beyond what we could ask or imagine.  I love you both so much, and I miss you every day that I'm separated from you. 
  • To all of the people at Stella's memorial service, to Barb and Bruce Reeser, and to mom's college friends, thank you for playing such a key role in our healing by giving to our wheelchair fund.  Giving six new wheelchairs to the CICU at Egleston in Stella's memory was so wonderful on so many levels.
  • To Kari and Jeff, thank you for your sacrificial gift to ease some of our financial burden.  When I think of what you did for us, my heart softens, and I know the depth of your love for us.
  • To my flower fairy (Kim), thank you for the random bouquets of flowers you sent when I was feeling particularly low.  I especially loved the white roses.  Love you!
  • To Tina, thank you for my Heaven bracelet!  I have not taken it off since you sent it to me.  It has helped me more than you know to be reminded that Stella is in a place loftier than my most incredible dreams, and I will be there one day with her.  You have a special gift of understanding and compassion that God has given you, and your genuine concern has been such a blessing!
  • To Jennifer, thank you for living and feeling deeply the pain that I have gone through.  So many people have dismissed the extremity of the pain that I've experienced, but you never have.  I love it that you truly care.  Thank you for being faithful to call me regularly and encourage me in my faith.  Oh, and thank you for the precious foot picture and the one of Mike and I with Stella. Love you, girl!
  •  To Stacey, thank you for the many, many times you watched Milo during my perinatologist appointments.  I really appreciate you giving generously of your time to help us over and over again.  You never complained about watching the boy(s).  Thank you as well for putting flowers on Stella's grave when I couldn't bear to go, for hanging out with me, and listening as long as I've need you to!  I'm so thankful to have such a great friend who lives a few houses away.
  • To Connie, thank you for watching our boys several times during doctors' appointments!
  • To Susan, thank you for keeping up with every single thing I wrote and for always making sure I was "hanging in there."  I am so thankful I've had you to cry with during this past year.
  • To Jeanette, thank you for your thoughtfulness in sending me a "me gift" and hand-written notes now and then.  Hand-written notes are so rare and appreciated!
  • Michelle Knebel, you understood aspects of our challenges with Stella that no one else could.  I'm thankful for our friendship.
  • To Stephanie Weaver, thank you for the many notes you sent me and the prayers you lifted up on our behalf.  It has been a wonderful blessing to get to know you over the past year!
  • To Beth and John Edwards, thank you for being there for us in our time of need, for taking us out to dinner, and for your generous financial gift.  We miss you guys!
  • To Sandy, I know I've told you a bunch of times, but I'm still thankful you showed up on Saturday and took many of my most cherished photos of Stella.
  • To Bobby, Ron, and Todd, thank you for making the trip to Egleston, for being so touched by the tragedy of our situation, and for your many prayers.  Bobby, thank your genuine concern, tears, and for dedicating the wheelchairs with us!
  • To my Facebook friends who took the time to read my blogs and updates, sent encouraging notes, and prayed for us, thank you!!!  Your thoughtfulness is still much appreciated!  We have literally felt the power of prayer over these past months; it's a remarkable, indescribable gift!
  • To friends,coworker, and David at MMA, thank you for sending flowers, gifts, and for being patient and flexible with me while I healed. 
  • To Jenny Vaughan, every though we didn't get to use them, thank you for the baby clothes!
  • To the teachers and staff at Hope Preschool, thank you for thinking of us and sending snacks home for the boys!  They were thorougly enjoyed.
I'm sure I have forgotten something or someone, and if you are one, I am really sorry.  I am trying to recall as much as possible.  I will add more when I think of them.

It amazes me even now to look at this vast list of those who love us and poured out their love upon us in our time of need.  God is GOOD, and there is good in every circumstance if you choose to see it.

I haven't abandoned you!

Hello again, blog.  I'm very sorry for neglecting you, and I really have missed you.  The reason I have not visited you in awhile is not just the reason that many of my friends have assumed. 

I think I'm finally done being sick every other week, and I think I may now better luck sorting through the many conflicting feelings that have been racing around in my head. 

To my readers: I'm sorry for not the lack of posts for you to read.  I am hoping to get back on track now. :)


What a difference three days makes.  For so long, I've been lying facedown in the sand,  army-crawling blindly, looking for an end to this desert.  There didn't seem to be an end. 

Over the past week, God's touch has seemed like a heavy foot forcing my head further into the sand. But what made me seethingly angry three days ago was the push I needed to shift a few feet to the right and realize there there's an oasis.  It's God himself and the strength He provides.

The Desert Song says it perfectly (thank you, Jody!). It pained me deeply to sing this and mean it on Sunday, but I did sing it, and I did mean it. 

Verse 1:
This is my prayer in the desert
And all that's within me feels dry
This is my prayer in the hunger in me
My God is a God who provides

Verse 2:
And this is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flames

And I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon forged against me shall remain

I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

Verse 3:
And this is my prayer in the battle
And triumph is still on it's way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I'll stand

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

Verse 4:
This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I'm filled to be emptied again
The seed I've recieved I will sow

I'm not at verse 4 yet, but I can now see that the desert does not go on forever. God is leading me beside still waters and quieting my soul. 

God, please, I want to stay here experiencing this oasis.  I want to continue lying prostrate before you, but I want to be drinking from the still waters and not eating the sand.  I realize that I have a reason to sing and a reason to worship even though I'm in the desert.


I am once again back to waking up and feeling immediate searing pain.  I don't know why God has chosen to add to my suffering, but that's exactly what has happened.  It is not only difficult to watch friends and loved ones enjoy what we have lost, but now God has called me to suffer through a dear one's pregnancy in the exact same timing as my own last the exact day, as a matter of fact. 

As much as I don't want to feel angry, I do.  This is the first time I have felt anger since the beginning of this dark time in my life.  I have many other intense emotions, but this is the first time for anger.  It seems cruel to me that God has intensified my pain by answering my prayer for someone else without answering my own prayer.  And not only's the worst timing imaginable.  I will now have to relive the memories of my pregnancy with Stella as I watch, in agony, while another experiences God's mercy and blessing in a way I have not.

This is insane, God.  Really quite insane.  You want me to still trust that you have my good in mind when everything that has happened circumstancially suggests otherwise?   Well, then you're going to have to show me how to move past this anger and pain, because right now, I feel like I'm dying inside. 

No Matter What

I have not written in a week because I have not wanted to dwell on the depressing and sometimes hopeless thoughts that have been my recent focus.  God's been working on me, though, and as my baby loss friend, Shenifa, put it, "I am starting to see spring." 

Instead of staying in my house and becoming a recluse, I have decided to do the attack this sorrow head-on and to again submit to God and learn as much as He will teach me.  So, I started several different Bible studies/devotionals this past week, one of which is a ladies' Bible study on Tuesday nights.  It just so happens that the subject of the study is, quite possibly, the hardest topic we could tackle at this time in my life.  The topic: contentment.  Seriously, God??!!  You want me to learn to be content after losing my daughter??!!  Between studying contentment and working through A Year of Hope, I feel like I'm being clobbered over the head (spiritually speaking).  But, even so, I know that God's timing is perfect, and I am meant to be studying contentment and such a difficult time in my life.

On Tuesday night, in Bible study, Deanna said something that has really resonated with me.  She said that God has the power to either change the situation or change the person.  If I had my way, I would totally pick the situation...I would wish God to be a "fairy godmother" who would strike me with a wand, and POOF!  All the pain would disappear, AND I'd be pregnant again.  But, maybe that's not what He has in mind.  Maybe God wants me to change first.  I have already changed so much since losing Stella, but maybe He wants more.  Maybe He wants me to find total peace and contentment (yes, contentment!  grrrr) in Him again, no matter what.  No matter what type of pain I have to endure and no matter what the future holds for us. 

I find the words of Kerrie Roberts to be my heart's prayer right now:

"No Matter What"

"I’m running back to your promises one more time, Lord that’s all I can hold on to, I gotta say this has taken me by surprise, but nothing surprises you. Before a heartache can ever touch my life, it has to go through Your hands, and even though I, keep asking why, I keep asking why.

No matter what, I’m gonna love You, no matter what I’m gonna need You, I know that You can find a way to keep me from the pain but if not,if not, I’ll trust you, no matter what, no matter what.

When I’m stuck in this nothing-ness by myself, I’m just sitting in silence, there’s no way I can make it without Your help, I won't even try it. I know You have Your reasons for everything, so I will keep believing, whatever I might be feeling, God you are my hope, and you'll be my strength.

Anything I don’t have You can give it to me, but it’s ok if You don’t, I’m not here for those things, the touch of Your love is enough on its own, no matter what I still love You and I’m gonna need You."

Deeply and Profoundly Sad

I have spent this week in the darkest valley I have ever known.  There is really no way to describe how deeply I have felt the sadness of missing my Stella. I'm thankful for the strength of my God, for my husband, and for friends, because there were recent moments when driving in front of a tractor trailor in the opposing lane didn't seem like such a bad idea.

I've felt such extreme sorrow this week that I couldn't manage to do much more than pray.  For most of the week, even talking to well-meaning friends didn't help.  I have grown weary of listening to the same "consoling" phrases, so I just retreated within myself.   

I've had friends recommend books, sermons, and devotionals on sorrow and suffering, but I have to admit that I really only want advice and couseling from other women who have lost a child.  At the moment, I can't bear to hear from a man on the subject of suffering, no matter how faithful he is (no offense to the great men of the faith).    I've read several helpful books so far, including Angie Smith's I Will Carry You and Mary Beth Chapman's Choosing to See.  Since I've come to a bit of a standstill in my healing process, I decided to go searching again for another author who's been through something similar.  I came across Nancy Guthrie.

Nancy Guthrie is a woman of God who's life has been riddled with sorrow.  She lost two children to the same genetic disorder.  Since that point, she has written many books on the subjects of sorrow and hope.  I ordered two of her books on Amazon; they arrived yesterday. 

I have already begun reading Holding on to Hope.  It's awesome so far.  Everything she says has been resonating with me, and it's so good to know that I am not alone. 

In the second chapter (entitled Tears), she says that for almost the entire first year after her daughter's death, her answer to people asking "How are You?" was, "I'm deeply and profoundly sad."  EXACTLY.  That's how I feel.  I know it make people uncomfortable, but that's how I feel.  Nancy goes on to say that our culture is not at all comfortable with sadness. She says,

"Sadness is awkward.  It is unsettling.  It ebbs and flows and takes its own shape.  It beckons to be shared.  It comes out in tears, and we don't know what to do with those."

Nancy goes on to say what I've been trying to explain to people...not to be afraid to talk about Stella, not to be afraid to acknowledge her life, acknowledge her as my daughter, acknowledge the deep pain that I feel.  I want to talk about her.  I'm not afraid of crying.  I need to face this sorrow head-on.  I need my friends and family to face this sorrow with me and not pretend that it doesn't exist.    One of the best ways people can help me is to let me cry and let themselves cry.  Tears are healing to me, whether they be my own or someone else's.  Please, mourn my daughter's death with me.  I will be mourning not just today but for my lifetime.

There is a quote by an unknown author that says, "Being a mother is like taking your heart out of your chest and watching it walk around."  I believe in the truth of this statement.  Part of my heart is gone.  It's with my little Stella.  Nancy Guthrie compares losing her daugther, Hope, to having a limb amputated.  She says, "Even now, I can't say that I'm healed.  Part of my heart is no longer mine.  I gave it to Hope, and she took it with her, and I will forever feel that amputation." 

Ironically, my C-section scar started to bleed again a few weeks ago, and that was also when my heart began to again feel the raw sorrow of losing Stella.  I'm learning to live with an amputation.  I have moments of happiness, fun, and temporary relief (thank you to Megan, Tasha, Meredith, and Jennifer especially!), but my life right now is perpetual deep and profound sadness.  I long for more friends to understand this, not to be scared, and to share in my pain with me.  I'm deeply and profoundly sad...this is "How I'm Doing."


Tonight, the boys and I made ice cream with our Play and Freeze Ice Cream Maker.  Have you seen one of these?  They look like a fancy hamster ball.  Tons of fun, and a good exercise in patience, which my five-year-old lacks.

The idea is that you fill one side of the ball with ice and salt, and the other side (a metal canister) with the ice cream mixture, and then you play with the ball for 10-15 minutes.  Then, you scrape the frozen ice cream into the soupy unfrozen middle, add more ice and salt, and roll the ball around for another 10 minutes.  Ely's job was to check the time.  He couldn't help but to check the clock every thirty seconds or so.  He would announce, "It says 7-1-1!"  After stealing the ball from me and shaking it a few times, he would leap back up and announce again, "It still says 7-1-1!"  My sweet impatient Ely.

I have been so much like Ely these past few weeks.  I admit it; I'm being totally impatient.  I'm back to the spending half of each month with the dreaded two-week-wait.  Yippee. Hooray.  Can you sense the sarcasm?  This month was a dud.  All I can say is that I have to stop buying the cheapie internet early pregnancy tests.  They're worse than chocolate for me. If they're sitting around, you can be sure that I will take one. I just can't stay away.

I was so hoping that God would just be merciful and allow us to concieve quickly, but that has never happened for us.  Every time that I have hoped and begged and prayed for a baby, inevitably, we would not conceive that month.  I know God doesn't work like that, but I almost feel like I am cursing myself if I hope too much.  All I can do when these feelings rear their ugly head is hold tightly to the Word of God.

Matthew 7:9-11
 9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

God, I don't want a stone, I want bread!  I long for a new little one to help ease this terrible pain.  I pray for you not to delay too long in giving us this gift.  So much do I want to hear Milo's sweet little boy voice excitedly proclaiming that he's going to have a new sibling. Please hear our cries, Lord.  We have not turned from our faith during this time of great sorrow.  We are choosing to delight in you.   Please honor our faith and give us the desires of our hearts. 

Sometimes it baffles me that God created women to bear children, and so many women I know want nothing more than to bear and raise children.  Why does God create us for a certain purpose and then deny us that purpose?  The only thing I can figure is that he wants us not to make an idol out of our children and to love Him more than we love the children we have or the children we long for.  He wants us to depend solely on Him and sit in His lap to be comforted. 

But God, can you truly understand what it is to carry a child you love more than life itself in your own body? 

Sometimes, I do wonder how God can understand this desire.  But, I know that God made women, and that as our Maker, he understands all aspects of us.  This is one of those areas I think I just have to understand that I don't completely understand.  I don't understand why God chooses to allow so many women to go through struggles with fertility and why other women can so easy get pregnant and not think twice about it.  I guess I just need to Proverbs 3:5-6.

God, it's so hard.  I am so fragile.  I don't understand.  Help me to lean not on my own understanding.

So, I wait.  I wait like my five-year-old son checking the time every few seconds.  I wait with ancipation.  I wait, undulating between having steadfast hope and utter pessimism.  And I plead.  I plead with God to please not let me go through this again.  To give me bread and not a stone, to give me the desires of my heart.

Psalm 130:6
"My soul waits for the Lord More than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning."


Fabulous faint magenta pink
so excited I could hardly speak
Two little lines, four beaming faces
over two long years of anxious waiting

Sweet baby girly frilly pink
filling the closest with special things
A heart sleeper picked by her big brother
He could hardly wait to keep buying others

Mountains of thin dull carnation pink
perinatologist receipts
Sixteen weeks of ultrasounds
barely surpassing four tiny pounds

Cotton candy bubblegum pink
Polka dots and ladybug trinkets
There for her when she comes home
an awful suspicion we'd arrive alone

The most beautiful shade of puffy fresh pink
the pink of her hands and the pink of her feet
Ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes
golden blonde hair, small mommy-shaped nose

Curly feminine letters of bright hot pink
spelling out her name in permanent ink
Written on our hearts for all of our lives
a few more precious hours until she loses her fight

Gloomy pale serious satiny pink
lining her casket for no one to see
Mementos and memories are all that remain
of my sweet miracle girl with the most perfect name

Feeling Weak

I haven't written for several days now because honestly, I just haven't felt strong enough to write.  For my friends who have taken the time to read and comment on my blog, thank you!  I cannot even begin to tell  you what it means to me to feel heard and feel supported. 

For those of you I've upset by the intensity of the emotion with which I write, I am sorry.  I'm sorry if you don't feel like you can read what I'm going through without being upset or saddened, but this is my life right now.  I need to work through my emotions, and I'm writing in order to heal and to become closer to God at the same time.  Working through all these crazy feelings allows me to better deal with life and with people who don't know what to say or say the wrong things.  Please don't feel obligated to read what I'm writing.  I don't expect anyone to read my blog, but I find it very comforting and touching if you do.

Until a few days ago, I felt like I was really making some progress, really leaning on God in every moment, whether it be sad or joyous.  However, this weekend marked three months since we said goodbye to Stella.  I make a genuine effort to forget dates, but for those who have suffered loss, especially loss of a child I think, acknowledging and mourning these milestones seems inevitable.

 For some reason, the three month anniversary of her death has hit me much harder than two months.  Maybe it's because those watching me mourn have this unspoken "time limit" for me to be sad.  After that, life is supposed to return to normal.  I'm supposed to be normal.  I think I come across as "normal" most of the time.  I'm thankful for my life (it was so fun to play in the snow today!), and I laugh heartily often.  I try not to come across as a "gloomy gus."

Although I may seem normal, I still feel very much broken.  I feel very weak.  I don't like answering the question, "How are you?" because I can still only say "okay."  Someone asked me that yesterday in church, and I replied that "I was okay."  The person replied, "So you're doing good?"  No, I'm not good!  "No, I'm just okay," I repeated, frustrated and downhearted. 

Some days, I still just don't want to answer that question.  Some days, I don't want to listen to friends and acquaintances try to relate to me or offer some consolation that just makes the pain worse.  It's not that I don't appreciate their concern.  It's just that they don't understand.  And I don't expect them to.  I just wish they'd quit trying.  I'm very, truly sorry if I seem mean, but this has been a subject I need to get off my chest. 

Frankly, it really upsets me when friends compare their miscarriages to me losing our Stella.  I've had an early miscarriage, too.  It's upsetting and there's a sense of loss, but it's not the same.  I realize that if it's the only loss someone has experienced, they're trying to relate to me, but sometimes, I just wish they wouldn't.  I do feel badly when someone says they've had a miscarriage, especially if they have difficulty getting pregnant.  I've been down that road, and it's horrible.  Awful.  But to me, there's nothing as utterly horrific as having your own child die in your arms.  Nothing. 

My husband lost his mother to cancer when Ely was six months old, and it was incredibly awful and tragic.  Although I miss Linda and often wish she was here with us, I don't have the experience (praise the Lord) of losing my own mother.  A few weeks ago, on a rare and treasured lunch date, Mike shared with me that as painful as it was losing his mom, it didn't compare to losing our daughter.  He said that it just felt so cruel, so unnatural and against the order of life to lose our Stella. 

When I see other babies, especially babies of friends who don't think twice about whether or not I feel comfortable being around their babies, it still hurts.  I'm sorry that it does.  I wish I was always strong enough not to let sweet, round infant faces affect my emotions, but they do.  I will always long for my little Stella, and it's not my friends' babies that I want, it's my daughter I want.  Even if God blesses us with another baby (and I desperately hope He does), I will still always miss and long for my Stella. 

I wish I could sit in church and not be bothered by newborns and infants in every section of the santuary.  I pray constantly for strength, but I'm feeble.  And, I have to be gentle with myself.  There's only so much I can handle.  Some days, I can handle more, but some days, I can't handle much.  I'd very much like to go to church and not see babies just so I could focus solely on what I've gained and not what I've lost.  So I can go to meet Jesus and not be distracted by the constant nagging feeling of what's missing.  I feel like an awful person because I'd like to tell the parents in the service to please put their babies in the nursery.  I wouldn't want them not to come to church because they don't feel comfortable putting their babies in the nursery, but I also want to come to church without feeling like I'm in an emotional battle for the entire hour-and-a-half.  I'm sorry, friends.  I know time will help heal my wounds, and I wish I was stronger.  But, I'm not. 

I know this post is pretty random, but these past few days have leveled me a bit.  I've struggled with a lot and have come to realize how weak I am and how I wish I was stronger.  I realize anew that any strength I have comes from my God.  I don't feel very strong right now, but I know I can be stronger with His strength.

Psalm 119:28 NIV
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.

Psalm 18:32-34 NIV
It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.Isaiah 41:10 NIV
So do not fear for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 40:31 NIV
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on the wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Philippians 4:13 NIV
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Curse God and Die or...?

When I'm experiencing grief at its worst - when my stomach bunches in knots and my lungs ache within my chest - and I'm in need of a song that truly expresses the reality of what I've been through, I often turn to "Held" by Natalie Grant. 

To say I love this song would be a little bit of an understatement.  I think there have been moments when this song upheld me and became what I sang back to God.  This song is so so heart-wrenching, yet so heartfelt, which is why it's perfect to listen to when I'm feeling like my heart is being ripped from my chest and at the same time feeling strongly the love and promises of God.

The line that "gets me" every time is this one:

"To think that providence
Would take a child from his mother
While she prays, is appalling"

Yes.  I agree.  Why God, Why?  I don't think any parent who has lost a child hasn't asked this question.  I ask this out of pain, but also out of shear honestly, not in anger or resentment.  What does He want from me?

I think of Job, who lost his children and much, much more.  I think of how he reacted and how the people in his life reacted.  In Job 2:9, his wife says to him, "“Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”  Job's own wife did not encourage him to stay faithful to God in the midst of tragedy.

Job had a choice.  He could "Curse God and Die" or "Praise God and Live."  In Job 4, Job's friend, Eliphaz the Temanite, says to him,

4 Your words have supported those who stumbled;
   you have strengthened faltering knees.
5 But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged;
   it strikes you, and you are dismayed.
6 Should not your piety be your confidence
   and your blameless ways your hope?

As awful as it feels, I see an answer to "Why God, Why?"  Who else can better give God glory than a person who professes Him, then suffers something horrible, and still gives Him glory? 

Job's wife's response to his terrible loss was "Curse God and Die."  She didn't know God, so I guess this response is expected and unsurprising.  But if I who do know God have this reponse, it would be a direct affront to Him.  Satan was the one testing Job to see if he would still praise God.  If I don't glorify God in the midst of a trial, am I instead giving in to Satan? 

My heart says ""To think that providence
Would take a child from his mother
While she prays, is appalling."

But, I know what I choose as my response:  Praise God and Live!

And, in turn, His promises will be true for me. I have felt the strength and comfort of the Lord lifting me up in a way that I've never felt before.  Some days, I literally feel held up by those praying for me in Jesus name.  Thank you so much to all my friends out there who love the Lord and have been faithful to pray for us.

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

Light Up the Sky

I'm so weepy tonight.  It's been awhile since I've cried, so I guess it's time. Driving home in dreary weather did wonders for my mood, too.

And I have a new favorite song that seems to bring on the tears. 

Light Up the Sky
The Afters

Light, light, light up the sky
Light up the sky to show me You are with me
I, I, I can’t deny
Oh I can’t deny that You are right here with me
You’ve opened my eyes so I can see You all around me
Light, light, light up the sky
Light up the sky to show me You are with me

When stars are hiding in the clouds
I don’t feel them shining
When I can’t see beyond my doubt
The silver lining
When I’ve almost reached the end
Like a flood You’re rushing in
Love is rushing in

When I look at the night sky, I think of my little star, my Stella, shining away in heaven.  I love seeing the stars; they bring a bittersweet comfort.  I really believe God gave us the stars as a reminder that there's hope after this life, a heavens far above us in space and understanding.  A beautiful place where my Stella feels only joy. 

Grandpa even registered a star in Stella's name for our Christmas present.  This was the perfect gift for us since Stella means extraordinary star.  Stella Rose Eber is officially a star now in every way possible!
(I'll have to post her star registry letter soon.)

Tonight, I can't see the stars through the clouds.  I don't know why, but it really upsets me.  I miss my little star so much tonight, and I miss the twinkling reminders that she is with her Creator.

God's Will?

It still upsets me when someone says that Stella's death was "God's Will."  I know what they mean, and technically, I guess it was God's will, but I don't like to think of God as being the one who caused her death.

I have struggled for much of my life with seeing God as a father who loves me unconditionally.  When I was younger, I tried to earn God's favor just like I tried to earn my dad's favor.  If I didn't do well enough, if I didn't perform, then I didn't deserve God's love.  In my mind, I deserved to be punished. 

I chuckle when I think about it now, but my mom used a fly swatter to discipline my sisters and I when we were little girls.  When I was younger in my faith, I used to picture God up in heaven with a big fly swatter ready to smack me down when I failed.  Sounds funny, huh? ;)  I'm sure I'm not the only one to have thought about God this way, though.

It has taken a lot of time, scripture, and prayer to work through this wrong view of God.  Sometimes, I still think God is out to get me, but usually, I am fully convinced that God loves me unconditionally and has my best interest in mind.  It is much easier to understand God's unconditional love now that I have children and want only the very best for them. 

My good friend Bethan (who lost her baby boy) reminded me soon after I lost Stella that her death was not a punishment from God.  Hearing it from someone else who had been through the horror of losing a child helped immensely.  Because I don't want to see God as cruel and heartless, I prefer not to think of Stella's death as God's will.  I know that theologically speaking, it was God's passive will, meaning He allowed it to happen (vs. caused it to happen), but I just don't want to phrase it this way.  It's hard enough for me to swallow the idea of my daughter's death being God's will; I can only imagine what someone without faith in God thinks.  Why would someone want to follow a God who wills for babies to die? 

The way I answer this is to think about my own children.  Do I sometimes let them experience something painful so they can learn, develop compassion for others, and become better people?  Yes.  It is excruciating to watch them be in pain?  Yes.  I think this is how God feels. 

I am learning more about the depth of God's love, and because in my own mind, saying Stella's death was "His Will" negates that, I would rather not think about it that way.

Romans 8:28

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

I've known Romans 8:28 by heart for as long as I can remember.  It's one of the verses that friends have quoted to me during hard times.  Honestly, though, it's not very consoling in the midst of heartache to hear "it's for your good,"  just like it's not comforting to hear that your tragedy "is God's will." 

But, for weeks now, Romans 8:28 has been one of the verses that has often popped into my mind.  As I repeatly recited it internally, I began to realize that this verse never specifies that all things work together for the good of the one who loves him, but for those who love him.  I began to see that maybe losing my daughter wasn't just meant for my good, but also for others' good. 

The section of scripture that starts with Romans 8:28 is called "More than Conquerors," and it ends with the verse "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,d neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."    Neato.

I can be more than a conqueror through Christ's strength, and through His strength, I can work through tragedy.   Good has already come from the tragedy of Stella's death, and good will continue to come from this tragedy, not only for me, but also for others who have been called according to his purpose.  I am meant to draw comfort from comforting others, both now and in the future.

Romans 8:28 now seems much more consoling than before. 

Easy to Question; Hard to Trust

What do I say to Ely when his friend runs up to him excitely at church and announces that he's having a baby sister?  I am wrestling with my dear friend's pregnancy myself, so it's hard for me to encourage my son today. 

It's easy to question...

It's easy to question how two friends struggle with infertility for over two years; one is given a daughter with severe birth defects who passes away a few days after birth, and the other is given a perfectly healthy daughter.  This is the epitome of "life isn't fair."  This lesson is so much easier to accept when you're a child, and the "life isn't fair" lesson comes from your mom when your sister receives what you wanted for Christmas.  This is the type of "life isn't fair" that Ely should be learning, not mourning the loss of his sister while his friends celebrate the births of theirs. 

This "life isn't fair" lesson is the adult version. If only I could shelter my children from the world for awhile and keep them away from other new baby brothers and sisters so they wouldn't have to constantly be reminded of their sister's death.  If only I could find the right words to reach the inner recesses of a five-year-old's heart to convince him that God still cares about us, that He hasn't left us or forsaken us.

It's hard to trust...

It's hard to trust that God always knows what He's doing. It is hard to see God as God and trust His ways when all I have to go on is human logic.  It is hard to trust that God has great blessings in store for our family.

With empty arms and a broken heart, I fight to cling to the promises of God's Word instead of giving in to bitterness and resentment.  Never before has the "lean not on your own understanding" part of Proverbs 3:5-6 been so difficult.  Yet, it is exactly what I need to do.  I need to trust that His thoughts and His ways are beyond my comprehension.

Isaiah 55:89
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

God, I feel the limits of my humanity today
It's not possible for me to understand all your ways
Give me rest for my soul as I follow you
Help me to trust your purposes through the pain

Giving in to Something Heavenly in 2011

For the past few months, God has been teaching me faster than I can write, and almost faster than I can process.  I heard Santus Real's "Whatever You're Doing" on the radio yesterday, and the words were just perfect to express what is going on inside of me right now. 

"Whatever You're doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but somehow there's peace
It's hard to surrender to what I can't see
but I'm giving in to something Heavenly"

2010 has been a whirlwhind, and although I have deemed it "the worst year of my life," I'm not sure I actually feel that way when I really think about it.  Maybe I should see 2010 as more of a pivotal year than the worst year.  It's been a year of pain, for sure, but also a year of growing and learning.  I'm experiencing the biggest spiritual growth spurt of my life.  In the past three months, it seems like I've grown at least ten years spiritually. 

In 2011, I am committing to record the lessons, struggles, and triumphs of my journey with God.  I am committing to take the time to consider His Words in new ways, to encourage others despite my own heartache, and to lean not on my own understanding. 

The day after our precious Stella passed away, I wrote that "God used the miracle of Stella's life to perform miracles in our lives.  We hope and pray that her short stay on earth performs miracles in other peoples' lives as well.  Nothing would honor the memory of Stella's  life more than to know that God has touched the hearts of all who know her story."  Almost three months later, I can't speak for anyone else, but God has been performing miracles in my life.  I have learned that His grace is sufficient, and I have learned what it means to choose to believe and follow.  This is Stella's Legacy: that our lives would be changed by her for His glory. 

I pray that 2011 will be characterized by the genuine on-my-knees prayer of, "What do you want from me, God?" rather than the shaking-of-my-fist yelling, "What DO you want from me, God?!"  I look forward to the answers, even though some of the answers might scare me.

 5Trust in the LORD with all your heart
         And do not lean on your own understanding.
 6In all your ways acknowledge Him,
         And He will make your paths straight

Proverbs 3: 5-6


About This Blog

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This is the story of our daughter, Stella Rose, who went to be with Jesus after five days here on this earth. Stella was born with multiple birth defects due to a severe case of Wolf Hirschhorn Syndrome. Although Stella is no longer with us in person, she has changed us forever. Stella's legacy is my journey on a new road without my daughter, and how God is working in our hearts.

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