Sunday, December 21, 2008

Marley & Me

Greetings from the mountains.

We are already enjoying our time away. This afternoon we spent time lunching in the local town, then perusing the local art galleries trying to secure some last Christmas presents.

We arrived to the house late this afternoon and have been relaxing ever since. My book of choice for the next few days is Marley & Me.

I was reading another book that I just couldn’t get in to, when Marley & Me sucked me in. The book is written by John Grogan, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Page three he writes about his childhood dog, “My mother would later tell me, ‘In fifty years of marriage, I’ve only seen your father cry twice. The first time was when we lost Mary Ann’ – my sister who was stillborn. ‘The second time was the day Shaun died.'"

Nothing like connecting with me in the Preface. He goes on to chronicle how he and his wife secured the newest member of their family, Marley. And how Marley goes through the highs and lows of their marriage with them. Marley for me is a cross between our two cats, Cierra and Kenzie. All the weird, quarky Marley moments attributed to Cierra and the sweet, tender moments attributed to Kenzie.

I’ll digress for a minute to say those girls have been my lifeline these past nine months. I read blogs of women of have experienced the loss of a child and say how they couldn’t go on without their living children. I feel similarly about my cats, to the point I said to Tim last week, how do people come home with nothing to love on…no child, no animal. Let’s just say our girls have gotten their fair share of attention these past few months.

The similarities between Grogan’s story and ours are uncanny, down the murder that occurred feet from their home right before they moved into their first house. A murder which no one, the seller, the agent, or the inspector, spoke of until they moved in. Our story involved a young girl. Sparing the details, I’ll share that I used to look out our back window those first few weeks and become very upset. It was February and Tim would always say to me, “You’ll plant some flowers in the spring out there as a way of honoring her.”

Grogan goes on to tell of the excitement of their pregnancy and how Marley rejoiced with them. And then how Marley grieved along side them when they lost their precious baby to a miscarriage. Animals are uniquely sensitive to our emotions. Recently Kenzie had a lot of bloodwork done. The doctor said, “I want to check her blood levels against what we saw in March [their bloodwork following the plant consumption after Cara’s death.] It showed that Kenzie was very stressed.” “Yes,” I said quietly, “that’s when we lost our daughter.”

I remember those days following Cara’s death. At one point with a room full of people, Kenzie, who under those circumstances would normally have made her presence scarce, climbed in my lap, as if to say we need each other now.

One more Kenzie story before I sign off. Our beloved cats are banished to the laundry room in the evenings, because their hyperactivity seems to display around 2:00 am. On the weekends, whoever wakes up first, will let the felines out for their breakfast and morning frolicking. Kenzie, who is not content until both of us are up, will go upstairs to meow at the bedroom door until the sleeping spouse arises. A spouse who is greeted with a glimpse of Kenzie’s tail flying down the stairs which communicates, “we are all up now, let’s play.”

In the months following Cara’s death, we noticed something strange about Kenzie. We will both be awake, and yet Kenzie will still be upstairs crying. A couple of times I have gone up there to tell her that everyone is up, and I find her outside the nursery.

As we sit in our mountain cabin each devouring our books, we occasionally stop to reflect how we are ready to know our next chapter. We have lived some beautiful chapters already, the story of a pregnancy filled with love and anticipation followed by pages of heartbreak in burying our daughter and finding life without her. She is very much a part of our lives. We are three. But we are ready for the next part, the story that continues to unfold for our family. What does it hold? When will we have some direction? Some indication of that which we so desperately long to have?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

9 months

Hard to believe. My stomach drops when I let it sink in. We had 9 months of life with Cara, and now we're living into 9 months of death. It shouldn't have been this way. We miss our baby girl so much.

Cynthia and I were talking last night about how over the past couple of weeks we've been moving into an acceptance stage in our grief journey. We shared this last night and I share this now with so much reservation. Because here's what acceptance doesn't mean. It doesn't mean "we're over it" or "we're moving on." It doesn't mean that the grief and pain is over. It doesn't mean that our grieving and mourning stops here. It doesn't mean that we forget.

But it does mean that we are starting to accept and live more into our new reality of a life forever marked by Cara. It means that each and every day we'll wake up and think of what could have been with our firstborn, baby girl. It means that the pain and grief from life without Cara will be present the rest of our lives, but it just won't be quite as raw. It means that Cara will be an integral part of all our family traditions for the rest of our lives. It means that Cara's brothers and sisters, and extended family and friends will know Cara, and hear many stories about how she changed us forever.

I said to Cynthia last night that I feel like this past year will be big blur when we look back. Cynthia quickly corrected me and rightfully so. She said that she thinks we'll remember this year more than ever in the years to come. She described this year as the richest and fullest year we've ever had...

We experienced our first pregnancy and the birth of Cara. And even though there is so much pain from her death, her life brought so much richness into our world. 9 months later Cynthia and I can say that because of Cara our marriage is so much stronger. Because of Cara we have taken better care of ourselves emotionally (through counseling) and physically. 9 months later, because of Cara we have slowed down the pace of our life so we can enjoy the richness of hikes, bike rides, birdwatching, gardening, quiet moments in our house, vacation trips, our church community, dates together, and visits with family and friends. Because of Cara, I'm pursuing a vocation that is closely linked to my passion for music. Because of Cara we're starting a Healing Ministry at our church. Because of Cara life is rich and full of more purpose, hope, peace and love than we've ever known.

Because of Cara...
Cara will continue to bring many more wonderful things into our lives. It doesn't stop here, it doesn't stop at 9 months.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Call

Cynthia and I watched Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia recently and were both touched by the song at the end of the film, "The Call" by Regina Spektor.

The songs plays as Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy leave Narnia.
Watch and listen to it here. (Just listen if you don't want to see the last scene of the film).

This song struck a strong connection between Cara and us. It seemed like Cara was saying these words to us...

I'll come back
When you call me
No need to say goodbye


The Call
It started out as a feeling
Which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought

Which then turned into a quiet word

And then that word grew louder and louder
Til it was a battle cry

I'll come back
When you call me

No need to say goodbye

Just because everything's changing

Doesn't mean it's never

Been this way before

All you can do is try to know

Who your friends are

As you head off to the war

Pick a star on the dark horizon
And follow the light

You'll come back

When it's over

No need to say good bye

You'll come back
When it's over

No need to say good bye..

Now we're back to the beginning
It's just a feeling and no one knows yet

But just because they can't feel it too

Doesn't mean that you have to forget

Let your memories grow stronger and stronger

Til they're before your eyes

You'll come back
When they call you

No need to say good bye

Friday, November 28, 2008

A gift from Australia

Last week I found Carly from Australia's blog - To Write Their Names in the Sand. I wrote to her, and this morning we received a precious gift...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Silver Lining

I had a really beautiful experience last night driving on the freeway to visit with a friend. I was listening to a mix Tim made with the lights of the city all around me feeling the excitement of going to a place I love.

And yet still in that beautiful moment, my grief consumed me. I was listening to River of Love, a song we sang at our last church which was in this city. It was there I met the friend I was going to visit.

River of Love
Recorded by Leslie Phillips

There's a river of love that runs through all times
There's a river of grief that floods through our lives
It starts when a heart is broken into
By the thief of belief in anything that's true
But there's a river of love that runs through all time

There's a river of love that runs through all times
There's a river of tears that floods through our eyes
We fight through the night for freedom as it fades
Into a jail where we fail everytime we make a break
But there's a river of love that runs through all time

I had to run before I knew how to crawl
The first step was hard but I have had trouble with them all
But now the night grows darker and the day grows dim
'Cause I know I never will see you again
And I almost made you happy

There's a river of love that runs through all time
There's a river of fire that burns with no light
The flame is the pain of dreams gone up in smoke
From the lies we deny and breathe until we choke
There's a river of love that runs through all time

My thoughts were centered around the bold words and some feelings I have been trying process but haven't been able to reconcile. The first step was hard but I have had trouble with them all...I was transported back to the hospital, wheeled down the hallway of the maternity floor, sitting in front of the elevator, no baby in my arms. I was leaving her there.

I had to walk to the car, into my house without her and collapse on the couch. A belly, days before filled with life, deflated in front of me, a symbol of my broken body and it's inability to care for my baby.

At this point last night, I was sobbing, driving down the highway, trying to figure out how to get it together. I didn't want my friend to know I was this upset, I want to be able to enjoy my time with her, I didn't want other people to think I had been crying. I longed to crawl up in a ball on my couch and even considered turning back.

Thankfully the next song on Tim's mix came through at the perfect moment.

Heart of Life
John Mayer

I hate to see you cry
Lying there in that position
There's things you need to hear
So turn off your tears and listen

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
No, it won't all go the way, it should
But I know the heart of life is good

You know it's nothing new
Bad news never had good timing
Then the circle of your friends
Will defend the silver lining

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
No, it won't all go the way, it should
But I know the heart of life is good

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
Fear is a friend who's misunderstood
But I know the heart of life is good

I know it's good

From 2,900 miles away in Seattle, I felt like Tim was speaking to me. Telling me to stop crying and go be with my friend. I reflect on how all of my friends have "defended the silver lining" and reminded me that there is still joy in life. Hopefully one day I'll find it again...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

All Saints' Day

Dear Cara Grace,
Life is so incredibly painful without you. I found myself sobbing hysterically today over your absence. I miss you so much, sweetheart. I hate how my body, my awareness, the doctors - we all failed you.

I wanted to dress you up yesterday, my little pumpkin. Instead, Daddy and I hid away in the house with the lights off. Still one dark haired little princess found her way to our doorstep and reminded me of you.

I long to know who you would have become and the joy you would have brought us. Yet even in the one day we had you, you brought us so much joy. You were a marvel of a baby. Seven and a half months later the finality of your death is still setting in. I can't believe you are gone.

You are the first baby and the first saint for our church. It's a horrible honor. I can't fathom that tomorrow we celebrate you, my little wonder of a child. Honey, I miss you. I long to know you and to hold you. All around me my friends have children and are having children. You will always be missing in those friendships.

Tonight we went to Ms. E's house. We celebrated All Saints' Day with a feast of wine and good food. The table was set in fall colors, a sign of the harvest and celebration of the spirits. Mr. D offered a prayer of remembrance for those who have gone before us and missing from our gathering.

Cara, you are my greatest joy and your death is my greatest heartbreak. In you is wrapped up all of my emotions, all of my being. I'm slowly deconstructing my life and rebuilding it. Your daddy and I live our lives very different all these months later. Our focus is on enjoying life through activities that are life-giving like bike riding and playing games and watching movies together.

Tomorrow we celebrate you, that you have drawn us closer to our faith. We are still discovering what that means and will always be. There are so many things I don't understand about God - when he moves and when he doesn't and what it means to pray through that. I find myself stronger in my faith when I don't have the answers than when I do. Faith is just that, trusting in what I can't understand.

Cara, we long to have another child with us. We have all these lessons we learned that we want to put into motion and pour into your brother or sister.

I love you, my beautiful angel, gone far too quickly. Make yourself known to us. I'll be ever watching. You took a big part of my heart when you left us too soon.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Peace of Christ

Remember this post, about my friend who I had to break off communication with. Yesterday we met for the first time since June 7th. On Wednesday I sent her an email inviting her to my home. Friday when I opened the door, we both fell into each others arms. Four and a half months is a long time to not see or speak to one of your closest friends.

We sat on the couch for two hours talking through every detail of the reason we had not been speaking. We shared our hurts, we cried, we apologized, we embraced, we talked about the future, we prayed. After Card died, we had not been in an emotional place to support each other.

It took an unbelievable amount of courage for me to get to this place. I had considered every aspect of the situation for weeks before pursuing this meeting. I was prepared for things to not go well, I was prepared for restoration, I was prepared for her not to show up. In the choose your own ending of the story, we found reconciliation. This is the most whole I have felt since Cara died. Part of me was missing and has been restored.

I am so proud of my friend. As her thoughts flowed, I could tell she was a completely different person these many months later. She has and continues to be one of the sweetest, kindest people I have ever met. I know that she loves me and I feel the same way about her.

There is more to the story. Tuesday I considered greatly pursuing this meeting. At 3:00 am Wednesday morning, I was awoken by a dream of us passing communion bread to each other and simultaneously saying, "Peace of Christ." It was such a beautiful picture that I couldn't fall back asleep. For the two days until we met, all I wanted to do was embrace my friend. Thank God that we were able to come to that moment yesterday.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October 15th & Stillbirth Awareness and Research Act

October 15th is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day in the United States. More than 25,000 children are stillborn in the United States every year leaving mothers, entire families and communities devastated. Estimates of the rate of occurrence of stillbirth make it at least as common as autism.

Stillbirth is not an intractable problem. Greater research would likely significantly reduce its incidence, but good research requires good data. H.R. 5979: Stillbirth Awareness and Research Act is under consideration by Congress. This proposed bill would standardize stillbirth investigation and diagnosis, thus providing more data for the needed research. Better research means fewer children born still.

On October 15th, remember the thousands of unfinished children lost and the families who remain to grieve them. Honor them by taking action. Let's help pass H.R. 5979. (See instructions from previous posts.)

Action Steps:

Step 1. Use Your Blog to Enlist Others-Copy the contents of this entire post and publish it on your blog immediately.
GOAL: Enlist 10 of your readers to spread the word

Step 2. Use Your E-mail to Enlist Others-E-mail 5 bloggers and ask them (nicely and in an unspammy way) to publish these action steps on their blog. Consider contacting celebrity bloggers, political bloggers, medical bloggers, or bloggers who are not part of your reading community.
GOAL: Enlist 3 bloggers outside of your normal blog sphere to spread the word in other online communities.

Step 3. Help Pass the Stillbirth Awareness and Research Act-By October 15th, publish a post on your blog supporting H.R. 5979 Stillbirth Awareness and Research Act. For maximum impact, title your post: "Stillbirth Awareness and Research Act."
GOAL: 1,000,000 Google results on October 15th when that term is searched for. Currently, Google only returns 20,400 pages - most of which have nothing to do with the bill.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

H.R. 5979

House of Representatives Bill 5979 was introduced by Peter King of NY in May 2008. This bill is currently referred to the Committee of Health with 13 cosponsors. The more cosponsors a bill has the more likely it is to pass. You may veiw the Bill Status page to find a list of cosponsors.

There are a few key points to the bill:
*Acknowledges that many states do not issue a Certificate of Stillbirth, but a Death Certificate.
*Creates a National Registry to track the causes of stillbirth
*Creates a standard for the information collected about the mother
*Requests a standard to define stillbirth
*Expresses the request for more funds to be allocated to stillbirth research

Taking action is easy! Your letter could make a significant impact on the number of cosponsors this bill receives.

1. Identify your Representative.
Go to the United States Postal Service to determine your 9-digit zip code
Go to the House of Representative to determine your Representative
2. Write your letter. We have included a sample letter below that was distributed by First Candle
3. Submit your letter via either your Representative's website or mail
4. Would love to hear from you in the comments section that your letter was sent!!

Dear Representative ________________:
I am writing to ask you to co-sponsor legislation that would help the CDC and researchers better determine the risk factors associated with stillbirth and convey those risk factors to expectant parents.

House of Representative Bill 5979, the Stillbirth Awareness and Research Act of 2008, was introduced by Representative Peter King of New York in an effort to address the lack of standardized data collection nationally with regard to stillbirth.

Each year more than 25,000 babies in the United States are stillborn. More than 50 percent of these deaths occur in the last trimester of pregnancy and 15 percent occur during labor and delivery. Due to a lack of autopsy/investigation and inconsistencies in diagnosing these, more than 50 percent of all stillbirths remain unexplained.

With standardized investigation and reporting of these deaths, researchers would be better able to determine the risk factors. H.R. 5979 would both standardize the definition of stillbirth and the method in which data is collected, in order to create a national repository of stillbirth data to assist researchers in conducting comprehensive studies in to the causes of, and possible preventive strategies for, stillbirth. The bill also authorizes a public awareness campaign promoting good prenatal practices, including monitoring movements during the last trimester of pregnancy, to reduce the risk of stillbirth.

This legislation is important to me because (insert your personal story here.)

Thank you so much for your consideration of my request.
(insert name and contact information here)

Preventing Stillbirth and SUID Act of 2008 (S. 3142)

June 17, 2008 Senator Barack Obama introduced the Preventing Stillbirth and SUID Act of 2008 (S. 3142). Much like House Bill 5979, the bill calls for a national repository for tracking stillbirth related deaths, as well as standardizing the collection of information related to a stillbirth. The bill currently has 5 cosponsors.

This is an election year and obviously one of the candidates is the bill originator. Regardless of where you stand with the election, we ask that you would consider the value of this legislation for the thousands of children who are born still in the U.S. each year.

Please write to your Senator asking him/her to sponsor this important piece of legislation.

The Bill Summary page outlines the main points of the bill. The Bill Status page displays links to various details associated with the bill.

Again taking action is easy! Your letter could make a significant impact on the number of cosponsors this bill receives.

1. Identify your Senator's contact information. Go to the Senator Contact Information page. You may filter the list by State. Then follow the link to your Senator's specific site.
2. Write your letter. We have included a sample letter below that was distributed by First Candle
3. Submit your letter via either your Senator's website or mail
4. Would love to hear from you in the comments section that your letter was sent!!
Dear Senator________________:

I am writing to ask you to cosponsor legislation that would help the CDC and researchers better determine the risk factors associated with stillbirth and convey those risk factors to expectant parents.

Senate Bill 3142, Preventing Stillbirth and SUID Act of 2008, was introduced by Senator Barack Obama of Illinois in an effort to address the lack of standardized data collection nationally with regard to stillbirth.

Each year more than 25,000 babies in the United States are stillborn. More than 50 percent of these deaths occur in the last trimester of pregnancy and 15 percent occur during labor and delivery. Due to a lack of autopsy/investigation and inconsistencies in diagnosing these, more than 50 percent of all stillbirths remain unexplained.

With standardized investigation and reporting of these deaths, researchers would be better able to determine the risk factors. S.3142 would both standardize the definition of stillbirth and the method in which data is collected, in order to create a national repository of stillbirth data to assist researchers in conducting comprehensive studies in to the causes of, and possible preventive strategies for, stillbirth. The bill also authorizes a public awareness campaign promoting good prenatal practices, including monitoring movements during the last trimester of pregnancy, to reduce the risk of stillbirth.

This legislation is important to me because (insert your personal story here.)

Thank you so much for your consideration of my request.
(insert name and contact information here)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Facts about Stillbirth

  • 1 out of every 100 pregnancies results in stillbirth.
  • More than 25,000 stillbirths occur annually in the US. That's roughly the same number of deaths as breast cancer. This is compared to 2,000 deaths related to SIDS.
  • 60% of all stillbirth deaths remain unexplained.
  • Stillbirth is defined as the unintentional death of an unborn baby who has passed 20 gestational weeks.
  • Almost 50 percent of stillborn deaths occur at or near full term and often seem to be otherwise healthy babies. About 85 percent occur before delivery, with 15 percent occurring during labor and delivery.
  • Some of the common diagnosable causes for stillbirth: placental abruption and other placental problems, birth defects and chromosomal abnormalities, uncontrolled diabetes, preeclampsia, cord accidents and infections.
  • Risk factors include: advanced maternal age, maternal obesity, uncontrolled maternal diabetes and maternal hypertension.
  • Only 21 states officially recognize the stillbirth of a child by providing the parents with a certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth. Parents in the other 29 states receive a death certificate. N.C. has a bill pending on the Senate floor to provide a certificate of birth resulting in a stillbirth.
  • Kicks count!! Kick counting throughout pregnancy can drastically reduce the number of stillbirths. Visit Kick Counts for more information.

Monday, July 28, 2008

She was here.

She was here. Perfectly formed, our beautiful little girl. Ready to bring us so much joy.

I grieve not knowing her alive. To have never been able to see her little hand close around mine, or to know the life that was in her before it left all too suddenly inside me. I think that is the hardest part. Looking at her pictures and just wondering who she would have been...

I start to think about other children. In that same thought I grieve deeply, because we will never know Cara like we will know them. We shouldn't even be thinking about more kids right now. We should be the anxious first parents just trying to make it through the first year.

She was here and gone too quickly.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Love overflowing

With each passing day, I find myself loving Cara more. Tim and I started lighting a candle at dinner and setting it between us. It's a reminder that she is with us, burning love in our hearts.

Tonight over dinner I asked Tim if we should have kept Cara with us the night after she was born. He said, no, it was time to say good-bye when we did. I said, I know, but I wonder if it wouldn't have felt more full to keep her with us the night. He said (and I concur) that saying good-bye was never going to be easy. It was just really painful to be in the hospital without her. To hear the baby next door crying through the wall. To have my broken body telling me I just gave birth to baby, but not having her there in my arms. To be wheeled past the nursery out to the car bringing nothing more than a bracelet engraved with her name, a few locks of her hair, and hand and feet prints.

I miss my girl so much. There is a lot going on behind the scenes that I'm not ready to talk about, but it is making me cling to Cara's memories all the more. Her death has brought so many good things, but it has been mingled with a lot of unnecessary pain as well.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Tim and I are just coming home from seeing Cara one last time before our trip. As we started the climb up the hill to her grave, there was a roll of thunder behind us.

Cara shouldn't be outside, it's about to storm.

My maternal instinct set in. But all I could do was stand beside her grave and cry. There was a storm coming and nothing I could physically do would protect my little baby from it. She was outside, exposed, by a tree.

Tim always reminds me that she isn't really there. It's in those moments that I ask her to watch out for us and tell her mom and dad love her so much.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sometimes love...

It's early, and I'm awake. The thoughts that I try to quiet at night couldn't be sequestered any longer. Of all things I woke up with the following lyrics ringing through my mind. It's written about a jilted love relationship yet is speaking to me this morning.

But there's a danger in loving somebody too much
And it's sad when you know it's your heart you can't trust
There's a reason why people don't stay where they are
Baby sometimes love just ain't enough

Our grief journey is three months in the making. In some ways we are in a better place than we have been before, but in other ways the further we are from Cara's death, the more it hurts. We are further away from our one day with her. Further away from those memories that we still cling to and replay over and over.

This past week I have had to add a new dimension to my grief. Someone very close to me has hurt me very badly to the point that our friendship is permanently on hold. I did not enter into this grief journey expecting that I would also have to grieve the loss of other relationships close to me. I assumed those close to us would remain that way.

And yet in the midst of this journey, new friends have emerged who can accept and embrace us in our grief. For them and all those who support us, we are eternally grateful.

Grieving this one friendship is in some ways distracting me from my grief work, so I want to get back on track. I'm trying every healthy outlet I can - journaling, praying, writing letters I'll never send. Obviously, the easiest answer would be to forgive this person, but I am learning easier said than done. I have come to accept like most things in life forgiveness is a process. Just like grief is a process and loving God is a process, forgiveness is a process. I don't know what it means to forgive someone who has hurt me this badly, but I'm going to learn. Because as God loves, pursues and forgives me, so too must I forgive this person.

The other thing I have learned is that while I can forgive, it does not mean that I must be reconciled to her and spend time with her. For my own sanity, forgiving may have to be enough.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A green blankie and a red pacie

Dear Cara,
I saw you tonight. Daddy and I were on our way to an event for his work, when I looked out the window. In a little white car, nestled tight in her green and gray car seat was a baby who looked just like you. She had a head full of dark hair and a sweet little nose. She was wide-eyed and absolutely beautiful.

She was getting sleepy (it was 8:00) and kept rubbing her green blankie against her face. I could tell she liked the way it felt, because it was a repetitive motion, over and over again.

She was older than you would have been now. She kept taking her red pacie out of her mouth, a trick your seven-month old buddy, O just learned a month ago.

I watched her in amazement. I was so fixed on her that I didn't want to break my concentration for a moment to tell your dad. But he saw me watching and was quickly captured up in the moment too.

The thing that most enchanted me was the fact that she studied me in return. She gazed straight into my eyes. She saw me, and I saw you.

I love you, sweetheart. We miss you terribly, but you know this. You are around us always. I think I forget that sometimes. I get so caught up in missing you, that I forget you are still here just not in the way that I would wish.

You have been with us as we have attempted some fun things. You have been with us as we cry until our eyes are dry. You are with us when even in the midst of our grief and when life continues to deal us harsh blows. You are with us as we enjoy in the beauty of nature. You are with us in these moments, because you are with God and he forever surrounds us.

Cara Grace, you are never far from your mother's heart.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Lessons in Life

We suffered a small tragedy in the backyard today. While mowing the lawn, Tim accidentally ran over a baby rabbit. I was getting ready for our friends to come over and was wondering what was taking him so long. When he finally came in the house, he shared the story with me, his heart obviously heavy with emotion. He hadn't seen the baby bunny lying in the tall grass.

I knew how guilty he felt, and told him that it really wasn't his fault. He couldn't have seen the bunny. Inside I was reflecting on how many times that he had shared that same message with me over the past 8 weeks. How daily I have inflicted wounds upon my soul feeling that somehow I might have caused Cara's death or been able to prevent it. To have my daughter die inside of me is by far the most painful thing I have ever had to deal with. There is always this sense that in some way I or my body failed her. Was it something I ate? Did I work too hard? Did my body attack the placenta? (One theory the doctors are investigating now.) Was she moving less? Should I have noticed something? I knew what Tim felt, but I also knew it was beyond his control.

The bunny had a sibling who survived and was still hiding in the yard, so we were able to see it and see that life was continuing. And although he was frightened by our very presence, we were joyed to see this small little life nestled in our backyard.

We were outside with our friends hours later when the mother returned in search of her bunnies. She found the one and for a moment appeared disoriented, confused. She jumped around frantically searching. The surviving bunny was trying to latch on and nurse, but she kept moving about. Finally she settled down, and it was able to nurse.

It was about this point that we realized there where two other babies in another part of the yard. She did not pay attention to them, so we wondered if they weren't from another litter. After the mother moved on to another yard, the lone bunny made his way to the other two. It was as if to say, I'm going to need you guys now.

After our friends left, Tim and I were sitting outside talking. I started relating this back to our own life. I asked Tim if possibly this wasn't an analogy for our own children. We have always desired to have more than two living children. We have lost our first child, but maybe we will able to have another. Maybe the other two we will adopt. Or maybe we end up having to adopt all three.

Whatever the final outcome, there was a hope instilled with these little tiny lives around us. It doesn't make this any less painful, but lately after the huge emotional tear fests, I sometimes smile and think at least we are close to trying it all again.

Here are some pictures of the bunnies:

The surviving sibling

The mother and baby nursing. See his little feet pressed up against her belly. I thought about how if we are able to have another child, that I will hopefully be nursing, but I'll also be grieving missing that experience with Cara. While we will embrace each moment with future children, there is a sense that we will also have to grieve through missing those experiences with Cara.The other two babies

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Lab

So I was a queen for a brief 15 minutes today. At least it felt like it. I was at the doctor to have 11 vials of blood drawn. One last ditch effort to determine what caused Cara's death.

Before going into the lab, I was sitting in the waiting room having a hard time holding it together. All these pregnant women...everywhere...I wanted to scream, "just because you're pregnant doesn't mean you get a baby." It's maddening holding it in. New moms getting congratulations at their first appointment. Moms about to pop. All of them seemed so carefree. I just want to grab them by the shoulders and say enjoy it.

But of course I'm holding all this in, which leads to my bottom lip quivering and my eyes filling with tears. The lab technicians see this and pull me back to a special chair, my throne of the lab. Then they begin scurrying about the lab, reviewing, rereviewing my chart, getting second opinions on the doctor's indecipherable handwriting, offering condolences. I appreciated the special attention. It said to me this time is going to be different.

As I'm leaving, I'm in the elevator with a woman probably in her seventies. She looked at both of my bandaged arms and said, "Well at least you can't say you didn't have blood taken." I said, "I know, 11 vials of blood later I need a cookie or something." To which she asks why I had all that blood taken. (Excuse me, when did people get so nosy?) I said my daughter was stillborn, and they are running some tests. (You get that personal, I'm going to give it right back.) To which she says, well at least they'll know for the next time.

*Sigh* Really? How about just "I'm sorry". Does this time not count? I'm learning so much about life through all of this.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mother's Day

For weeks I have been dreading Mother's Day. I kept thinking in my head, "Why does Hallmark get to create holidays?" I wanted to petition them to start a day for mothers who had lost children.

But then I started researching the origin of Mother's Day. It started in the 16th century with the tradition that adult children would journey back to their mother's church once a year.

I started to think about my church experience and where Cara fit into this. As we gather around the communion table, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ with the hope that those who have gone before us are also gathered there with us. I believe Cara on Sunday will take part in the ancient tradition of returning to her mother's church. She will be with me as I come forward to receive Christ's body broken for me. She has already completely received the brokenness of his body and is waiting joyfully for the day we will be reunited.

Words from my childhood..."bring them and all the departed into the light of your Kingdom as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ...Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again."

Monday, May 5, 2008

Blanket of Mourning

I did not give much thought to horse racing until two years ago almost to the day, May 20, 2006. We were having dinner at my uncle's house. After a week at the beach, Tim and I stopped at his house on our long journey back home.

We were watching the Kentucky Derby when Barbaro false started and broke three bones in his hind leg. I'll never forget watching the way he carried his leg, moving it constantly in pain. My heart hurt so badly for him. It was at that point I vowed never to watch horse racing again.

Fast forward two years later, May 3, 2008. We were once again at his hous. It was the same family members gathered as before. I was sitting in the kitchen talking with my cousin, aunt and mom. Tim went and sat with my uncle in the living room. He is in his 90's and still runs the family farm. He's a quiet man of few words. However, I could hear him and Tim talking about Cara. I wanted Tim to enjoy that moment with him, so I stayed in the kitchen.

After a few minutes, I heard the Kentucky Derby come on the TV. For certain at that moment, I was not going in the next room. Dinner was ready, but we sat and waited for Tim and my uncle to join us. Something was interesting enough that it required the huge Vizio TV in the kitchen to be turned on in order for dinner to proceed with everyone there. (Yes, he is an old man in an old farmhouse, but he does have nicer TVs than we'll ever own. I guess that's one guilty pleasure you can allow yourself when your eyes and hearing start to go.)

And there it was...another horse, Eight Belles, lying broken on the track about to be euthanized. She had come in second and collapsed. My heart hurt for her instantly. I thought about my own life, how I was running a race with all of my friends. I was the last one of all of them to have a baby. They passed the finish line, victorious, receiving their blanket of roses. I passed the finish line, only to collapse in a heap after giving birth. The very life knocked out of me. I knew Eight Belles's pain.

I'll get up. I have tried, but I still fall back in a lifeless mound. My race has stopped; theirs is still going strong.

I talked to another mother today who lost a child four years ago to stillbirth. She, a woman of faith, said people will tell you that time heals, it doesn't. I asked if it dulls the pain. She said I wish I could tell you that it did, but it doesn't. There are still times when the pain is going to be very real even years later.

And so this is blanket that I must carry. Not a blanket of roses, but a blanket of mourning covered over my broken spirit.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Perfect Storm

I stumbled across this song this morning on David Wilcox's website. The words so perfectly embrace what I wrote about in my "Deep joy in the midst of sadness" post.

"...A lightning bolt struck my heart and ignited a flame within it. Sometimes it burns angrily, other times it burns with love. The point is it's burning."

It also illustrates the desire Tim and I have to change our lives. We are currently discussing some of these changes, and they are scary. But we can't continue to live the safe life we were living before. It's time to get messy.

From David Wilcox's website: ...this song is about looking up from the yearning we feel, that voltage between heaven and earth that arcs in the human heart. When I was making my way home down a path in the dark as the storm was blowing in, it was the brief flashes of lightning that showed me where I was and where I was going. I am very grateful for those times when my heart is full to bursting with a flash of inspiration that feels like the purpose of my being here. I get quite a charge out of knowing that we are given the task of being a conduit for illumination in this world; we put our lives across that distance where this longing turns to light.

Perfect Storm
David Wilcox

Lightning cracks the darkness
And for a moment I can see
It’s just a spark to start with
But I follow where it leads
I won’t spend my whole life hiding
Where no soul could ever thrive
I can’t live with just surviving
My heart wants to feel alive

Life is change, and change looks frightening
Watch that wind I’ve been warned
But I live to feel this lightning
In this perfect storm

I see the twisting cloud that’s turning
Where the earth and the heavens meet
I feel the voltage of that yearning
For the circuit to complete
So I will feel no resistance
To the current that will strike
I’ll put my life across the distance
Where this longing turns to light


It washes me down to my soul
When a storm of these tears pours
It carries me into the flow
That’s what it’s here for


You can listen to it online here.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Deep joy in the midst of sadness

"I know you are hurting deeply, but I have never seen you this happy either. You seem so alive."

B said this to me Friday during my time with her and C. And what B reflected to me is what has been stirring deep within me. The moment that we learned Cara had died, the veil through which I was viewing the world ripped in half, much like the curtain in the temple tore the day Christ died. A lightning bolt struck my heart and ignited a flame within it. Sometimes it burns angrily, other times it burns with love. The point is it's burning.

I am not a snuggler by nature, but Tim and I have cleaved to each other during this time. The night after I gave birth to Cara, after we had said good-bye, we both attempted to sleep as best we could. At one point, I had Tim crawl in the hospital bed and just hold me in the hopes that I would fall back asleep. The rest of the week, I awoke in the middle of the night and made my way into his arms. I needed my husband in a way I had never needed him before and he likewise.

The day after we returned from the hospital, Tim and I met with our counselor for the first time. Our initial intent was to process grieving Cara. However I said to him in our first meeting, we also want to strengthen our marriage and deal some of the junk that has found its way into our daily lives. The past two weeks we have finally be able to do that and what a blessing! Tim and I are learning how to communicate better and are in the process of discovering more about ourselves and each other. We have grown intimately in our love and appreciation for each other.

I am also not a crier by nature, but losing Cara struck a cord so deep within me, that I have cried every day for the last six weeks. My ability to feel happiness, sadness, excitement, grief have all been magnified. While I grieve life without Cara, I rejoice that I now have this richness only her death could have brought. We can not remain the same people that we were before.

We now embrace the beauty of everything around us. We desire to know more about everything. We are hoping to take classes to learn the things we always wanted to learn - photography, flower arranging, dance (ok, so that's mostly my list!). We got a book on birds from the library and can now identify all the birds who frequent our backyard (and entertain the cats.) There are cardinals, doves, robins, House finches, American gold finches, Brown headed cow birds, and White Crown Sparrows. We also have the garden to remind us of Cara, and we marvel at its beauty. All this to say, we desire to embrace the fullness of creation and enjoy it as much as possible.

So yes, B is absolutely right. I can now appreciate everything in my life that I did not fully embrace. I thought I was living my life to the fullest but come to find out there is so much more.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

She died.

"She died."

I hate saying it. I hate thinking it.

I have fully come to accept its truth, but I hate the thought that it was something she did. By saying she died, I feel like it implies that she gave up, that she wasn't a fighter. And I have to believe if she was her mother's daughter, that she had quite a tenacious nature.

One day over the past few weeks, I actually got mad at her (don't worry baby grief loss books say other moms have felt this.) I had said 'she died' so many times that I came to believe it was true, that she had given up.

But I know she was strong. I felt her kicks. You may have even saw them from time to time. My stomach would appear as a freak of nature, as though some alien life form would burst forth from it at any minute.

So yes, she died, but she was a fighter. I just wish there was another way I could say it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

To my girl...

Dear Cara,
On today your one month birthday, I want to remember your life. I want to remember the 38 weeks, 258 days of joy you brought to your Mommy and me.

I remember the first time I felt you kick. Mom and I were laying in bed. When I felt your big kick, I jumped back and couldn't believe it. Mom laughed at the look on my face and I was so proud of you.

Most nights before I fell asleep I would lean over and talk to you. I would call your name and feel you wiggle. I'd sing you a goofy song that was in my head and picture you smiling and laughing.

After being with the choir Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, I would always sing the church songs to you. "Ride on Jesus Ride, Ride" "This is where children belong..." I wanted you to know the songs at church before you even came out. I also would teach you different pitches by singing "Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol" or "Do-Mi-Sol-Mi-Do." I pictured us singing together one day.

I want to remember our family trip for Thanksgiving. Cookie day with Grandma. The Christmas Eve Service at the farm. I want to remember you.

You lived a good life, Cara. While we all feel robbed by losing you too early, in some ways you lived a fuller life than most. In your short life and entrance to this world, you brought so much to us.

You brought love; you showed Mom and me what true, deep love is. When I held you shortly before we said goodbye, I would have given anything to trade places, to give my life and my heart for yours. I've never truly felt that way for someone else, but now you've taught us to love everyone, our friend, our enemy, in this way.

You brought beauty. The minute I first saw you, I was even more in love with you. Your dark hair, your nose, your Mom's eyes, mouth and hands, your tender cheeks. Even though you were lifeless and broken, there was something so beautiful and divine about you. But even more of your beauty flowed from your heart and soul. You had your Mother's strength and dignity and I think my jolly demeanor.

I'm starting to realize that my dreams for you living here on earth, seeing you grow up, running up for the children's message at church, learning to read and write, playing outside, all fall way too short.

Because now you are living the most wonderful life that could ever be imagined or wished for you. You are in perfect peace. You are complete through Christ's resurrection.

I love you, Cara. I'm remembering your legacy on this special day.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Longing for Home

I’ll always miss you Cara, but today as the week starts I miss you even more. I’m reminded that life has to go on without you physically here with us. I’ll be able to share you through pictures with family & friends, but I’ll never be able let them hold you, touch you or make baby faces at you.

I’ve been listening to this song on my way to and from work lately, and it reminds me of the day your Mom and I had to say goodbye to you. In every way, we didn’t want to leave you but we knew we had to. Your body was getting colder and your soul was already in heaven - and even with us in our hearts at that most difficult time.

And one day, we’ll be home with you. But for now, you’re smiling down at us living a peaceful life in heaven. I love you Cara, you’ll always be my little girl.

Foo Fighters

Wish I were with you but I couldn't stay
Every direction leads me away
Pray for tomorrow but for today
All I want is to be home

Stand in the mirror you look the same
Just looking for shelter from the cold and the pain
Someone to cover, safe from the rain
All I want is to be home

Echoes and silence, patience and grace,
All of these moments I'll never replace
No fear of my heart, no absence of faith
All I want is to be home

People I've loved, I have no regrets
Some I remember some I forget
Some of them living some of them dead
All I want is to be home

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Letter from C

March 19, 2008

Dearest Cara Grace,
Words cannot express the way I feel right now. Instead of attempting to describe it, I’m going to talk about you. What I saw, what I experienced, and what I’ll always remember.

You were born yesterday morning at 8:52 am. Your mom wrote me and told me your birth time and that you look like Tim. When I heard this, I was not surprised—I remember looking at you in the ultrasound and seeing how much you resembled your father.

So, after I heard of your arrival, I was faced with the question of “what to do.” Luckily, B’s mom gently prodded us to go to the hospital (as we were adamant to do something, but unsure that we were wanted there). I remember my sadness of the past hours being immediately replaced with nervousness—nervousness that your parents may not want us there, or even worse, may be angry that we came. The truth is, I was so desperate to see your mom and dad—to put my arms around them, cry with them, grieve with them. But in times like this, it’s hard to know what the “right” thing to do is (if there is even a right thing…).

When we arrived at the hospital, our plan was to let your mom and dad know we were there, and then attempt to see your extended family—to offer them condolences and show them that we cared about them, too, and were here to be helpful. We were surprised to discover that you were still with your parents, and that they invited us to come be with them. It worked out well that Cynthia’s family could watch Baby A and Baby O so we could go and be with your parents and meet you.

Meeting you was a precious, precious gift. I walked into the room, and faint sunlight filtered into the room through a large window. Bathed in a gentle glow, I saw your mom sitting on the bed—holding you—with your dad sitting in a chair at the foot of your bed. I walked straight over to your mom to put my arms around her (an act I had been longing for since I first heard of your passing), and the tears began to flow freely. After our embrace, I looked down at you.

You were wrapped in a soft, pink blanket and were wearing a hand-knit gown given to you by the hospital. Cara, you are absolutely beautiful. Your mom tenderly pulled back the blanket, proudly displaying your beautiful little fingers and toes. There were tears in her eyes, and she didn’t say much, but her pride and love for you were almost tangible—it was evident that this little person in her lap meant everything to her and that this moment was precious to her, as well.

Cara, you are perfect. You have a head full of dark, straight hair. It was clearly a trait you gained from your daddy. That, and your nose! I held you for quite some time. I spent time talking with your parents, and would look down at this baby in my lap and study you. Your face was reminiscent of both of your parents. Your daddy’s features were most obvious, but you reminded me of your mom, too.

Holding you in my arms, I could feel the space you took up. I could gauge how tiny you were, how light you were, how you fit perfectly into the crook of my arm. Even now, I miss that weight. That space feels empty. It’s strange, but even as I hold A, I’m aware that I have this space in my arms that only you can occupy. She’ll never fit there, and only you will. I can imagine that’s how your parents feel. That no matter how many other children they hold—even their own—there will always be this empty space in their arms that only you fit in.

I spent time studying your features, and cuddling you in my arms, I remember thinking “Sometimes it seems as if you are just sleeping.” But Cara, this wave of reality would hit me and I’d realize there was no breath leaving your body, and my heart would hurt.

I’ll always remember the time I had with you. I have told your mom this--it is among my most precious memories. I have written down my memories of that time, but I feel that was an unnecessary action—I’ll remember anyway.

Cara Grace, I’m distraught over losing you. I remember the first moment I knew of your existence. My excitement was uncontained, and throughout your mom’s pregnancy, I would delight in hearing about you. I cherished the images of your acrobatics in utero (as seen in your ultrasound). I relished the times I saw you move in your mommy’s tummy. I was so, so excited to meet you.

Just last week, I was telling your mom how I couldn’t wait until they brought you home, and how a baby changes the feeling in a home. I had so many expectations of getting to hold you, play with you, even babysit you. Those dreams have been stolen from me.

Looking at you in the hospital, I realized how generous your parents were to recognize that we were grieving, too. Your parents are incredible people… While their own grief is unimaginable to me, they gave us the chance to share it with them, to add our own to their burdens.

Cara, I love you. You aren’t my child, but I love you anyway. I’ll miss you forever. You presence has changed me forever. Your life has touched so many, and has rendered your parents different people. It boggles the mind how one little baby can affect so much.

Although I won’t get to see you grow up, to see you change, to see you live, I got to meet you. I got to hold you, to touch you, to study you. I feel blessed to have known you for 9 months. I feel blessed to have been a part of such a profoundly moving experience—to have been part of your story.

I look forward to sharing you with others—particularly, with A and my other children. I want them to know about you, to know the story of how you changed so many lives.

I’ll do my best to reassure your parents of your importance to me, to my family. I’ll show them how you affected me, how I miss you, and how I remember you. You have taught me the importance of thankfulness. You have revived in me gratitude, brokenness, and a sorrow that brings me closer to God and my own family.

Thank you for these gifts. I celebrate your life and will commemorate your death. Thank you, Cara. Your parents named you well: you are loved, and are full of grace. And you have revealed those things to those of us who love and miss you…


Saturday, March 29, 2008

A New Reality

And so we find ourselves living in a new reality. Not the reality we anticipated as expectant parents, but the reality of parents who have lost a child. The reality that became ours the moment my doctor pointed at the ultrasound and said, "There's her little heart, but it's not beating." And there it was, two small black circles that we had seen many times before, but this time they were not pulsing, pumping blood through Cara's little body. They were lifeless.

Our precious Cara Grace was born March 18, 2008 at 8:52 am, 5 lbs 15 ounces, 19 inches. She was absolutely beautiful with Tim's nose and thick dark hair.

We'll always remember the time we had with Cara that day. We held her, stroked her soft little cheeks, played with her hands. But it was only a day, and now we are discovering how to live a lifetime without her. Tim sang the song "Simple Gifts" to her the evening we had to say good-bye and later we had this song played at her funeral. We feel it completely embodies her life and death. She never had to taste a breath of this world and now lives a full, complete life with our Father. She was simple and beautiful.

Simple Gifts

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we will not be asham'd
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right