Just a small rant...

When birthdays or anniversaries pass, it is good to not feel like another (insert preferred period of time here) has gone by. No one wants to feel like another year has passed. No one expects to feel any different from yesterday to today's special event.

I, however, am waiting for that anniversary when I can truly say that I feel different than I did yesterday. Today, it has been ten months since I last saw my daughter and I don't feel any different than I did yesterday... or six months ago for that matter. This gaping hole in my heart seems to have teeth some days and the emptiness gnaws on my spirit. She has been gone for twice as long as she was here. She has been gone long enough for me to have given her a sibling (and Heaven knows we've been trying to do so).

I like to fix things. I like to have a solution to a problem. I like to be able to make a difference. I can't fix this. I can only keep putting one foot in front of the other. We can only keep trying, keep praying, keep hoping, keep walking...

Walking With You

Walking With You--The Sea of Grief

I don't even know where to begin this post. My grief started the day we found out that we might not get to keep her, two weeks before Raelyn went home. I first grieved for the loss of the dreams. I didn't know whether the nursery would be pink or blue. I didn't know whether I would be trick-or-treating with a superhero or a princess. I didn't know whether we would be buying a gown or renting a tux for senior prom. I am a planner--any interaction I have has been meticulously planned out in my head (complete with expected responses) before it comes out of my mouth. To find out in the same breath that you are having a daughter AND that she will not live is absolutely horrifying. This is not what I had planned. Those first days were about the intangibles. It wasn't that she wasn't real to me--I was the only one she was real to--but I had never felt a kick or real movement before. I had talked to her but I was just talking to my belly. It took a few days for it all to hit me and it wasn't until she was born that I was truly consumed.

I naively thought that since I knew that she would be going to Heaven to live happy and healed that it wouldn't hurt so badly. I thought that since I knew she was going to be gone, the actual death wouldn't affect me that much. I thought I had already cried all my tears. It was like watching an instructional video of a surgery and subsequent recovery. All of the action, all of the suspense, all of the blood, all of the technicalities and skill, all of the pain, all of the rehab, and then finally a few weeks later the guy on the table is walking and smiling again. There were very clear definitions of what I was going to experience, what I was going to do, and how long it was all going to take. However, when I got in there to perform my first surgery nothing happened like that video told me it would. Turns out I was not the surgeon, I was the guy on the table and I'm pretty sure the surgeon used a rusty hacksaw instead of a scalpel.

I found out very quickly after I got home from the hospital that I couldn't stay at home with my own thoughts bouncing around in my head. I went back to work two days after I was discharged and then I considered myself lucky that my desk faces a wall because I could sit there and cry and no one would know. A few people expressed sympathy, a few said nothing, and a few gave me harsh looks. (I work in the pharmacy in the same hospital where I delivered Raelyn and every time I received medication, the people in my department knew about it.) It was there at work that I discovered this world, that I was not alone in this grief. One day the following week, I looked up and realized that life had moved on without me and there was no way I was ever going to catch up. We had no memorial service because at the time, we thought that it would only cause more pain and prolong the process of grief. Little did we know...

I felt forsaken by God and then slowly I began to belive that it was my fault that I was forsaken. There are so many things that I have done and not done, said and not said and I felt like I had hit my quota of forgiveness. I had used it all up. I struggled with guilt and regrets on top of the grief. There were a few people in my life who cried with me--my husband, someone who has been there, someone who has no children by choice but who has the tenderest heart--but there were so many others who I thought would be there for me but were conspicuously absent. Pillars of leadership in my church who had lead public battles through infertility and miscarriage said nothing to me--not even a word of sympathy. My husband and I were very involved in the Praise and Worship team and our worship pastor told us during that first week, "Never let the congregation see you broken." Looking back, I realize that I should have just stepped down, but I came and I was there every service trying in vain to lead people to worship the God that I felt had left me in the pit. I cried through every service--sometimes with the tears rolling down my face, sometimes locked away in the depths of my soul--but I cried, and no one said a word.

This only added to my grief and confusion because now not only was I living (barely) through the loss of my only child and the destruction of the dreams I had for our future, but I was also trying to deal with my own salvation and faith with absolutely no support from the ones who should have been lifting me up. I know now that there was a bigger issue (an abuse of trust) behind the silence and I have forgiven those to whom I felt so much anger, but I don't think I can face them again without asking why. I cannot fathom how anyone who has walked this road can remain silent when another couple, one so close that they can touch them, is thrown into this valley.

For a very long time, I struggled alone under the weight of anger and bitterness and the sheer exhaustion of pretending that I was okay. I am only now beginning to release some of it and it surprises people when I mention Raelyn or my pregnancy. I am starting to bring her out of the deep place in my heart where I had hidden her away for safekeeping and integrate her back into my everyday life. The God of Grace still waits for me as I claw my way back to the surface and I have learned that He can handle my anger. He can handle any bitterness I can fling at Him. He gave me the ability to experience a full range of emotions and for me to fully trust in Him, I have to believe that He can handle the worst of them along with the best. I have to believe that He would rather have me honest than not at all.

Psalm 22
A psalm of David.

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.
4 In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.
5 They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
8 "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."
9 Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother's breast.
10 From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
19 But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
22 I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

Walking With You

Walking With You--Naming Our Babies

Like most women (I think), I had names picked out for my children by the time I graduated high school. However, my step-sister-in-law got to my girl's name first so when we found out we were pregnant, we started thinking. We had three boys names picked out but we couldn't agree on a girl's name. I don't like names that can arbitrarily be shortened by anyone you meet--it really bugs me when someone introduces themselves as Christopher or Jonathan and the other person immediately says "Hey Chris" or "Hey John" just because they assume it doesn't matter. Anyway, my husband just decided to quit worrying about it until the time came when we knew what we were having. I have always felt that I would have a daughter first so I kept suggesting names anyway.

I work in a hospital so I see names all the time--fun names, traditional names, names with entirely too many vowels or consonants or 'z's' or apostrophes. I wanted something that the baby wouldn't have trouble pronouncing or spelling since our last name is frequently mispronounced and misspelled. I have always loved the name Elise for a middle name because it flows so well and sounds very elegant to me. We just couldn't come up with a first name that we both liked.

One day, I was going through charge slips at the hospital and I saw two patients back to back whose names together gave me Raelyn. I liked the sound and I had never heard it before (although if you google it, it is fairly popular). My husband liked it instantly, but I still had my reservations because of the spelling. I told him we would just wait until we knew which gender we needed a name for.

On the day of the ultrasound, we were very excited and deep down we both thought that we would see a girl. The moment I saw her face on the screen, I knew that was her name. She was Raelyn. I knew her name before I knew she was a girl! I didn't say anything though because the tech still had not found out the gender yet and we all know what happened for the rest of that visit. When we got to the car after my amniocentesis and talking with the genetic counselor, I told my husband through my tears, "Can we still name her Raelyn? I think her name is Raelyn." He agreed and it was settled.

I looked it up later and discovered that Raelyn means "beautiful lamb" which I thought was very fitting. I can't think of a more precious and yet vulnerable reference than a lamb, and we are all called to follow the Shepherd. Even more interesting is her middle name Elise, which means "Promise of God". That really touched me and I took it two ways. I believe that a "Promise of God" is that she will have brothers and sisters here on Earth. Also, Raelyn was a promise to me--she was the firstborn and left behind a promise in that brief glimpse of the love that I have for my children. I have never been around children much and I have always had a very deep, hidden fear that I would not be able to love my children enough. She showed me a love that I never thought I could possess.

My husband and I use her name when we talk about her, but no one on my side of the family has ever spoken her name. I know no one wants to dredge up old feelings or grief, but it's not old to me. I smile everytime someone spells out her name in the comments. It still makes me so happy to hear her name spoken out loud--to know that someone remembers.


I met my boss's less-than-24 hours-old baby boy today. I apparently have a kind of love-hate relationship to all things baby right now. I wanted to go and see him. I wanted to know how he and the family were doing. It isn't a totally terrible thing for me to see newborn babies, but when I got up there, my heart started pounding out of my chest like I had just been asked to give a nationwide speech on the differences between Nascar and drag racing (or something else equally irrelevant to my life).

The baby was beautiful and perfect, but I couldn't speak, much less hold him and talk to him. One of my coworkers who went with me said "Oooh! I've never held anyone as small as you" and the first thought that came to my mind was "Oooh! I've never held anyone as small as you... that was alive." Then, my fight or flight reaction intensified as my boss began to talk rather flippantly about the fact that his baby (who was almost a day old and didn't have a name yet) had a true knot in his cord that was also wrapped around his neck when he was born. I really wanted to tell him to Google "true knot in cord" the next time he wanted to feel thankful for life. I really wanted to tell him about the countless babies whose mommies only have blogs with newborn pictures because there aren't any more opportunities for pictures. I really wanted to pull out my own newborn pictures of Raelyn and proudly boast that at 23 weeks, my Raelyn was a 1/2 inch longer than their unnamed son! I really wanted to bust their bubble of naivete and happiness with my own tragedy... but I didn't. I stood there silently nodding as they complained about taking this new life home to live with their other (four under the age of ten) children and how hard it was going to be.

It really shouldn't bother me this much. I should be happy for them that their son made it out alive and I truly am, but that happiness is tempered by thoughts of "Why them?" or "Why not me" or "Why not so many other countless mamas who don't have a child to hold at home?" This is the same boss that told me after Raelyn died that he believed things like that happened to people for one of two reasons. Either God is trying to make you strong enough to endure something else or you are already strong enough to handle it. Then, he actually said "Thank God I'm not strong enough!" as though any of us just woke up on whatever fateful day our losses became real and said "Well, at least I am strong enough to handle this!"

I'm really not bitter... I just think that people should be a little more sensitive. But then again, who am I to destroy someone else's innocence? Why shouldn't he be blindly happy? I would have been had things been different. There is that love-hate thing again. I want to be a part of this happiness, but my vision has forever been colored and the things that should excite my heart only pierce me to the core.

What would life be like?

What does a five month old baby look like?

What would she be doing now?

Would she be sitting up and smiling at me?

Would we be looking for her first tooth?

Would she have enough hair to put a little bow in?

Would she be trying to crawl?

Would she already love Grandma and Nana and PawPaw and Pops and Grams?

Would she have slept through her first fireworks like her mama did?

All I know is that the hole she left is huge and the love I have for her is even bigger than that.
Some days the hardest part is not even knowing what I am missing.

Walking With You

Sharing the Journey--Meeting Raelyn

Being at the hospital was a surreal experience. I hated walking into L&D still feeling her weight in my abdomen and knowing that when I walked out, I would be leaving her behind forever. The first nurse was very snippy to me and seemed to have a problem with the reason I was there until the doctor (Dr. Y was amazingly compassionate and competent!) spoke with her outside. When they came back in, she was a completely different person. I don't think she understood the gravity of the situation.

I didn’t even really comprehend what was happening enough to even cry until late that night. I knew enough from working in the hospital to understand the options that were presented, but I never knew there were so many forms and decisions and questions and choices. I chose to be induced by a continuous Pitocin infusion because it sounded easier than the tablets, but I didn't know that the Pitocin would cause it to feel like one long contraction. There were no waves once it got started. It felt like someone had twisted the lower half of my body around backwards and left me there. I had terrible back labor and I remember thinking that I couldn't believe that I was going through all of this pain and would have no crying baby to help dull the memory. I had a blood pressure cuff, and IV, and a contraction monitor, but because we were inducing, the nurses would not bring in a Doppler or ultrasound to let me hear her heartbeat or to even know if she was still alive. Looking back, I believe that God answered our prayers to take her home before the labor because I never felt her swishing around after the amnio and her appearance after birth indicated that she had been gone for more than a few hours.

Sometime after 11:00pm, we were finally able to convince my in-laws to go home because nothing was going to happen before morning and minutes after they left, my mom came back to the hospital, intent on staying in my room over night. After many tears and an utterly defeated argument, I made my mom leave my husband and me alone. I just knew there was no way I could sleep with her there and honestly, I needed time to process what was about to happen. All day there had been someone in the room with us and my husband and I needed time alone. After she left I just sat on the edge of the bed and wept. My husband asked what was wrong and when I responded with “I don’t know” he just held me, stroked my hair, and said “I know.”

I don’t really remember much of the following morning because sometime in the middle of the night, I had been given Phenergan for nausea and it knocked me completely senseless. Apparently I had entire conversations that I have no memories of. I remember flashes of faces and at one point I fell asleep while sitting up in bed. My mom thought I was going to fall over and hit the floor. I remember waking up in pain as Dr. Y broke my water and I was so angry. After he left I cried to my husband, saying, "He should have told me he was going to do that. I didn't know. He should have woken me up." to which he replied, "He did, honey. He talked to you about it, and you agreed that it was time." I had absolutely no idea. He said he stayed in there with me alone for most of the day and cried while I slept. People don’t seem to understand that, as a father, his dreams were dead too. He is such an amazing and supportive man. I never could have made it without him.

Later that afternoon, my doctor came to my room in a suit and tie. He was going to have to leave to be inducted into some kind of OBGYN Hall of Fame but he was bringing another doctor to watch over me until he returned. He had this new doctor examine me to see how much I was dilated and I remember him saying "The baby is two fingers in the vault" meaning I had been delivering and didn't even know it. My husband said that in my sleep I had been sitting up in bed and pushing my hands on my stomach but he didn't realize that I was actually pushing. The nurses had been telling him all morning that when it was time to push, I would wake up. The new doctor immediately laid me back and told me to push. With two doctors and two nurses in there, my husband couldn't even get to the bed to hold my hand.

When Raelyn was born, I was instantly awake! I had no more grogginess at all. I knew I needed to be awake in case she was alive. She was not. I have never heard a silence so deafening than a silent labor room with the stillness broken only by a father’s sobs as he told his father on the phone “she had the baby”. I don’t know why—maybe it was the drugs—but I couldn’t even cry. I had cried so hard the night before as well as the two weeks prior, it was almost like I had run out of tears.

We held her and she was beautiful. Her tiny body showed signs of death and was badly bruised from the delivery since I had labored for over 24 hours but she looked perfect! I knew, however; that 23 week old babies should weigh a little more than a pound, but she was only eleven ounces. Her smaller size and her clenched fists were the only outward manifestations of the Trisomy 18, but I know that her organs were not all there. She was nineteen inches long and had big feet! She would have been a tall baby. She looked just like I did as an infant. My husband jokingly called it another Immaculate Conception because her eyes, nose and mouth are all mine! September 29, 2008 was one of the lowest points in my life to date. Bringing my baby’s body into the world while her spirit was dancing with Jesus was absolutely heartbreaking.

There are so many things that I wish we had done, that I wish I had known about. We took a few pictures on our own camera, but I wish I had known about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. I also wish we had taken some time with her by ourselves before our families came in. Everyone was waiting outside and as soon as I was decent (I hope) they all came in and everyone stayed the rest of the day. We didn't have any time to just be alone and love on Raelyn. I wish we had taken hand and foot imprints. I wish we had taken a special outfit or blanket or something for her. Sometimes I wish we had been financially able to have her cremated or buried where we could go visit. Some days I really struggle with regrets and guilt, but I know that she is healthy and happy and whole in the arms of our Father. Most of all, I wish I had kissed her. I don't know why I didn't. I think I was afraid of what my family would think or say. I wish I had held her close and kissed her and sung over her... I wish I had had more time with her...


Disclaimer: Please know that all comparisons made in this post are only valid in my twisted, grieving brain. I know that they are completely irrational and I know (believe me, I know) that the two situations are not the same, but I need to get this out.

Three weeks ago, I got a phone call from my dad saying that two puppies had been dropped off out by the warehouse where he works, and he wanted to know if we knew anyone who wanted a puppy. My husband went and picked them up because his parents wanted one and they wouldn't let him only take one (because they didn't want one left at the warehouse).

Long story short, my in-laws decided they wanted the little one (the one on the left), but they wanted to give him to us to train him and then we would give him back. They were going to take the bigger one to the Haven, a shelter that uses dogs as therapy for kids. The night we took the puppy home, we decided that something was wrong and we took him to the vet the next morning. Turns out, he had parvo (a virus that is mostly fatal in puppies) and he was hospitalized for a week. Walking out those hospital doors without him brought back a tidal wave of emotions. I cried on the way home because I had just left another baby (irrational, I know) and he might not make it out.

Fast forward a week (and $650), we brought him home to stay. My in-laws were on the fence now about whether they still wanted him, so I figured that he was ours. We named him Bones because all he wanted when we first met him was Milk-bones. The first night he was home, I sat with him in my lap the entire evening and coaxed him to eat. I walked around outside with him for long periods of time, trying to get him to go. He began perking up after the second day and started playing with Selah (my other dog).

So it went for another week as we all learned how to read each other's needs. I got up with him many times in the night to take him outside and calm him down enough to go back to sleep afterwards. Now, he sleeps through the night, but I still lie awake at night to make sure he is alive in his crate. (I'm sure by now anyone reading this can see where this is going, and yes, I know that it is all crazy.)

My husband was less than pleased with all aspects of training Bones. He had a few rough days trying to get up and get out of the house with both of them there. Meanwhile, my mom has been talking to my aunt, who is a dog lover, and trying to find a home for this puppy because she doesn't think we need another dog in our small house. Saturday my aunt called and said that she had someone at work who was very excited to have the dog. She wanted some more information and pictures if he was still available. I called and asked my husband again and he said that we should go ahead and give him away

Now I am just waiting for the day when my aunt will show up and take him away and all my heart knows is that another baby will be gone from my house and my care. I know that he will be loved and well taken care of, but that doesn't make it hurt any less that he is leaving. I can't not be attached to him or not love him for the time that he is here and of course no one that I know can understand this. I just keep finding parallels between Bones and Raelyn (not the same, I know) and the emotions keep flooding back when I least expect them to. I don't know if there is anyone who will not think I am crazy after reading this (heck, I don't even believe in my own sanity right now, why should I expect others to), but this is what is on my heart right now.