My BBM Journey: Day 38

Yesterday I had morning errands to run that required me NOT to be a sweaty mess, so I started my day by postponing my exercise. Well, that set the tone for the day. By the time we got home it was time to make lunch, and nobody likes to workout on a full tummy. Then naptime, and I didn’t want to wake the kids with stomping, right? Then after nap time it was time to make dinner and I promised myself we would run that evening when my husband got home, but began feeling like I was making another excuse. So 30 minutes after dinner I forced myself into my workout garb and forced myself to begin the BBM workout. By the end of it though I felt so good!! I was so glad I didn’t let the day defeat me, I got it done. Then, while still feeling the momentum, we did our run around the loop while my daughter watched Wild Kratts and little man got pulled behind me in the wagon. It is hard to run while pulling him in the wagon, but I was so proud of myself for just getting it done. Especially since this morning’s run was put on hold because of this….

023And this…..

018

No, not the coffee! The little booger who was supposed to drink his early morning bottle, cuddle up with his dad, and go back to sleep for another hour. (The coffee is my consolation prize.)

Anyway, not the worst things in the world to wake up to, coffee, a cute baby, and typing out a blog post in the quiet, mostly sleeping house while listening to the rain. In another hour or 2 we will do day 38 and probably get that run in, rain or no rain. I’m committed people! Why? Because after a discouraging week with the weigh in, I took these at the beginning of this week….

The first picture is 15 days after having my third baby. I had already dropped 20 initial pounds! And the second picture is from just the other day. 18 Months later, most of my progress happened this year with this challenge.

The first picture is 15 days after having my third baby. I had already dropped 20 initial pounds! And the second picture is from just the other day. 18 Months later, most of my progress happened this year with this challenge.

 

My sissy did my hair and makeup, and that dress is a MEDIUM! I still don't feel comfortable enough to wear it out, but with the right camera angle  it doesn't look to shabby for a photo.

My sissy did my hair and makeup, and that dress is a MEDIUM! I still don’t feel comfortable enough to wear it out, but with the right camera angle it doesn’t look too shabby for a photo.

 

Has the scale moved in the past few days? I doubt it. But that doesn’t matter. I put that same dress on a week ago and didn’t look nearly as good in it. Proof that if you just keep going, you WILL make progress, and it can happen almost over night.

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What is BBM?

Bikini Body Mommy, a movement led by Briana Christine, and you can find out more at http://www.bikinibodymommy.com

Did you miss my first post outlining my goals? Find it here.

https://natasiachampion.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/my-newest-project-an-overview/

Looking to find some inspiration on Pinterest? You can follow me there too.

To get my daily posts through the  90 day challenge in your inbox, hit the subscribe button at the top left of this page, right under my profile picture.

And finally, has this post delighted, inspired, or amused you? Feel free to share it with your friends.

 

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Vanquishing Fear – An Epic Tale

My mom had 8 children, 7 naturally drug free and one (me) a classical incision emergency C-Section. (I was breech, and her second child.) The first 3 were hospital births and the last 5 were unassisted home births. That’s right, 6 vaginal births after a C-section, 5 of those at home with only my father and I helping. So you can imagine I had a very strong back ground in natural birth and a woman’s body being able to bring her child into the world.

When I became pregnant with my first child I originally planned a hospital birth, but used midwives for all my prenatal care. When I was 8 months along we moved from Colorado back to Kentucky and near our family. Rather than try to transfer to a new doctor so late in the game and with my mom now available to support me along with my husband being a licensed paramedic, we chose to have an unassisted home birth. All my prenatal care had been normal and the baby appeared healthy. My last appointment had been at week 35 and every thing was great. I went into labor on my own at 5 days before my due date and labor progressed normally and in a timely manner. However, I had experienced a nagging fear from the early part of my pregnancy that something would go wrong at birth. It was irrational, with no reason to believe it, and I tried to chalk it up to first time mom fears and fear of having no family support out in Colorado. Even after I moved home I still had this nagging, unexplained fear, even with my mom to support me and telling me there was nothing to worry about. So I labored at home for 12 hours before my water broke on its own around midnight. All night I labored and since this was my first baby I mistook pressure for the urge to push and started pushing too early, which wore me out. By the next morning, other than being tired, there was no reason to believe anything was really wrong, but I just couldn’t explain it, I was afraid something was wrong. I said we needed to go to the hospital.
Long story short, about the time we got in the car, the real urge to push came and for the 15 minute drive to the hospital I was holding back from pushing and was afraid I would deliver there in the car. I kept trying to take my pants down because I was sure that baby was coming, but I had to stop because the contractions were coming fast and furious. We got to the hospital, they wheeled me to a bed, the doctor barely got there in time to catch the baby, I was nearly crowning on arrival. 2 pushes and out came my baby girl, 5 lbs. 10 oz. But something was wrong with her skin. She was very red, not bloody, but her skin was fire engine red. The top layers of her skin were coming off over her whole body, but other than that her APGAR scores were perfect.

Our first Daughter Skye, minutes old.

Our first Daughter Skye, minutes old.

They didn’t know what was wrong with her, so she got transferred an hour away to the Children’s hospital where there was a NICU and that is where she stayed for 17 days enduring every test imaginable, being kept in sterile isolation and wrapped in gauze like a mummy, we weren’t able to hold her because of the risk of infection. Her case went to 10 different states, over 100 specialists consulted on her case, but nobody could figure out what was wrong. She passed away barely an hour into day 18 most likely from infection that had set in because without being able to attach a traditional I.V., they had to use her umbilical vein much longer than was recommended and then finally had to put a direct line into her chest.
We were so devastated. Our first and only child was gone.
I tortured myself thinking about what had I done to cause this, or what could I have done to prevent it. Every doctor reassured me that this was just an unexplained mystery, that there was nothing I could have done that I didn’t do. They ruled out skin diseases, infections, and various genetic defects. To this day nobody knows what was wrong. Genetics seemed to be the most promising avenue to research, but since they didn’t know what to test for (having tested for all known genetic disorders that fit her various symptoms) and since she was no longer living to positively confirm, we were left in the dark.
I no longer felt even remotely strong or empowered. I looked around at all the happy mommies and babies and they mocked me. I had been told that women had been doing this for ages, that it was perfectly natural. I had seen it over and over with my own eyes, yet I had failed. I had not brought a healthy baby into this world. I did not have a baby. Despite a strong desire to birth naturally I had to give my baby over to every intervention imaginable and in the end, those did not work either. I was the very picture of fear and disillusion and defeat.
I became pregnant with my second child by what I consider divine intervention. We were actively preventing pregnancy as well as not in any state of regular intimacy (or intimacy at all, it was more like just going through the motions in order to have the illusion that life would go on and we could somehow recapture what we had lost, which of course, we could not.) However, about 6 weeks after we buried our daughter, I found out I was pregnant again. I was a mess, I didn’t know what to feel. I wanted to be happy, but mostly I was so afraid. What if it happened again? What if it was some genetic thing they had not picked up on? Calling one of my first daughter’s doctors did not help, he told us flat-out we should terminate the pregnancy until we could have more genetic testing done. So you see, from the very moment I picked up that positive pregnancy test, my second pregnancy was wrought with fear.
Because of the outcome of our first birth, my husband and I knew we would not be able to have a home birth. In addition, I was treated as high risk and underwent test after test. I saw a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist and had more ultra sounds than I can count. The last 10 weeks alone I had 1 ultra sound each week where they took 10 different measurements each time and if baby was not in the right position they worked until she was. The whole 9 months was amazingly stressful. By the time my due date arrived I was literally begging them to induce me even though I didn’t believe in that, it’s just that I was a bundle of shot nerves. Thankfully, I went into labor on my own 2 days before my scheduled induction. I labored at home all day and by 9 pm we decided to go to the hospital since  transition with my first baby had gone so fast and because I was worried about getting hooked up to an intravenous antibiotic as soon as my water broke. I arrived barely dilated and the nurse was going to send me home after the token hour of monitoring, but 30 minutes later my water broke. I didn’t know until after the fact that they hooked me up to some pitocin once I was officially admitted to keep things moving along and that made my labor very painful and the contractions very intense with almost no time in between them. By the time I hit 5 cm I gasped for the epidural. I could not imagine half a night of this pain, strapped into a bed, not able to move or get out of the bed, and barely able to catch my breath. The contractions were 40 seconds apart and I had no ability to focus and breathe. The nurse went out to call for the epidural, and as soon as she stepped back in about 5 minutes later I was beginning to bear down. She checked me and I had gone from a 5  to a 7-8. She told me it was too late to get the epidural and called for the doctor instead. It was the same doctor who had delivered my first daughter and once again he entered the room with barely enough time to throw on a gown and catch my little girl – my perfect, beautiful, healthy 7 lb. 10 oz little girl. We were over joyed!  At that time I didn’t care about how the staff had trampled over my wishes on many points, that the doctor stuck the needle for the numbing agent in my clitoris for a SECOND time (he had done so with my first birth also) to sew up the same place I had torn with my first delivery, that the nurse who had been attending me during labor was almost rude the whole time, and that the doctor shoved the scissors into my husband’s chest and demanded that he, “Stop crying and cut the cord,” and then almost did it himself before my poor hubby could wipe the tears out of his eyes at the sight of our dreams being fulfilled. It did bother me that even though I had been promised time with the baby on my chest, that turned out to be 30 seconds before they whisked her away for long minutes and brought her back to me wrapped and capped, all of which I promptly undid to be able to look at her perfect body and skin and hair. There was no way I was going to keep her tightly wrapped up, not after what I’d been through with my first daughter.

Me and our second daughter Faith, a few hours old.

Me and our second daughter Faith, a few hours old.

As time went on and I had months and then years to review my 2 birth stories, I just felt disappointed. Obviously my first daughter’s birth and entire life was traumatic, my second daughter’s pregnancy was extremely stressful, and then the birth was definitely lacking. As someone who had originally wanted an unassisted home birth, my second daughter’s birth was gravely lacking in so many ways. By the time I became pregnant with my son this past year, I had long since decided I wanted something different, yet I wondered if I could ever really have what I wanted. I was more confident about my pregnancy and birth since having my second child, who remains one of the healthiest children I’ve ever known, yet I knew my husband would still never go for a home birth and honestly, I didn’t want to go that route either. We were now living in Tennessee and a friend referred me to the Vanderbilt Nurse Midwives. They are very hands off when it comes to interventions and amazingly supportive of empowering women and providing the most meaningful birth experience possible, yet they deliver at Vanderbilt, one of the leading medical centers in the nation, located in Nashville. It seemed like the perfect match for me. My entire 9 months of prenatal care just confirmed it more and more, and by the time I neared my due date I was down right excited to give birth, something I had not felt with my first 2.
I went into false labor on my due date. It was just strong enough for me to drop my daughter off with my friend, but after a few hours it stopped. Normally I would have been disappointed, but I was very calm and I knew my baby would come when he was ready. I was in and out of false labor the next day, my 40 week appointment, and I had my midwife check me and she asked if I wanted my membranes stripped. I was ok with that, but she said that while I was dilated a 2, I was only 50% effaced and she couldn’t really strip them. However, that night I began having some really good contractions. I was sure this was it. They continued until around noon the next day. My husband had decided to stay home from work and we dropped my daughter off at my friend’s again. As soon as we did, they stalled again! I was ok with the baby coming in his time, but I was anxious about all the false alarms and putting my friend’s life on hold and having my hubby miss work unnecessarily, something we could not really afford. So I called my midwives and they recommended that I try a castor oil cocktail. Within 2 hours of drinking that I knew we were really going to have a baby.
Vanderbilt is about 40 minutes from my house and since it was the middle of rush hour, we decided to go on to the hospital even though I normally would have waited a little longer. However, knowing how fast I tend to progress, I was more comfortable with being in Nashville even if I had to take a walk in the parking garage for a few hours. We checked in and they took us to a triage room in L and D to check me and monitor me for an hour. I was still 2 cm, but I was 90% effaced. My pain was still very manageable and my midwife (it just so happened my primary was on call that night, out of several that could have been) was reluctant to give me a room. I was sure that it wouldn’t take much monitoring, they would see I was in labor for sure. Apparently the monitor was not on my belly correctly because even though my labor was definitely progressing, after an hour the nurse came in and said, “I guess they’ve slowed down, huh?” I shook my head, “No, the exact opposite, they are getting stronger for sure.” She adjusted my monitor and checked me. I had dilated to a 3 and was completely thinned out, but my midwife wanted to monitor me a little longer since they could not see my contractions on the monitor. Another 30 minutes went by and the contractions had gotten pretty intense. I had to focus through them. After a really strong one I told my hubby to tell them I had to pee.
The little triage room didn’t have its own bathroom, so they helped me across the hall. My hubby went in with me to help me with my gown. I will never forget what happened next! I sat down to pee and he was casually scanning the bathroom interior. A hard contraction began, making him glance in my direction and his eyes got big as saucers and he said, “Oh my god!!” in such an intense manner that I completely forgot the pain and looked at him. “What??!” The look on his face and his pointing finger made me look down, afraid that I might somehow have started crowning without knowing it. Turns out I had passed a ridiculously large amount of bloody mucus, a rope almost as long as my fore arm. I started laughing just as the contraction peaked, which made it sound more like a hysterical sob, and my midwife knocked on the door urgently and asked if we were ok, which only made me laugh harder.
Needless to say, they quickly helped us gather our things and head over to a room. I got one of the 2 delivery rooms that Vanderbilt offers with a labor tub and between that and actually getting to have my primary midwife deliver me, I already felt this birth was a success. This was enhanced as I met the nurses who would be attending me. I was almost surprised to find each of them happy and energetic, a glorious relief after the non chalent, almost rude nurse who had been present while I labored with my second child. One nurse bustled about filling the tub while another walked me through paper work, being very sweet and patient while I stopped to have contractions. Another nurse was reviewing my birth plan with Claire, my midwife, and the whole air was nothing less than joyful, like everyone was my personal friend and they had been waiting 9 months just for me to have my baby. It was amazing.
As soon as the tub was full I was helped into it and allowed to get in my zone. They dimmed the lights and very quietly and almost with an air of sacred went about their tasks, allowing me to labor on my own, breathing through the contractions. I had never taken a class on child-birth, but I had self-educated and with every breath I focused on relaxing every muscle in my body, not even scrunching an eye lid, embracing the pain, taking them one at a time, envisioning a portal opening in my mind, slowly, easing my son into the world. It was just me in my zone, in the tub. My hubby was resting and checking Facebook, my doula, who I had originally planned on having there, was not able to come at the last second, and Claire was checking on a few things while I labored, my mom wasn’t even there. She had been present for the first 2 births, but wasn’t able to come all the way down to Nashville from Kentucky. But everything was as it should be, I felt calm, I felt powerful, I didn’t feel lonely, I just felt like I was the only one who could birth my son and I was ok with being in the tub, alone, laboring. Time ceased to exist. It was just one contraction at a time. There was no before and there was no after. (I later realized I was in the tub for just over an hour.)
About the time my breath got wavery during the contractions, Claire appeared and sat with me, gently encouraging me, telling me how wonderful I was doing, how I was so strong, bringing my baby down. She very gently stroked my arm and even though I had not directed her to do any of this, it was perfect timing and perfect support. At one point she had me move from a sitting position to leaning over the side of the tub. I went through maybe 4 more contractions like that and then my body began to push involuntarily. I knew I was very close. That was a very familiar sensation. My husband had just put a music CD on and we were barely into the second song when I told them I needed to get out of the tub. (Vanderbilt policy is that you can labor in the tubs but you cannot deliver in the water.) When I got in the tub I was dilated to 4, and upon checking me when I got out I was only a five. I saw what looked like doubt cross Claire’s face and she quietly said to the nurse, “She’s only a five….” I think she was thinking I may have gotten out too soon, but my husband spoke up and said, “No, you are going to see, it is going to go very fast from here.”
Unlike the doctor and nurses who had delivered my second child, Claire nodded and started getting things ready for a baby to be born even though I was only half way dilated. I was starting to lose control. I was told to breath through and focus, but it didn’t matter what I tried to do to focus, my body was trying to push with every contraction. I was told that my cervix was swelling, to not push, but my body continued to take over. Claire quickly asked the nurse for some Litocain and I barely felt the sting of a needle way up high and knew she was numbing my cervix. Then she began to apply counter pressure through 3 or 4 contractions. If I hadn’t requested my very own self to have no I.V. inserted when I got the room I would have sworn someone had secretly slipped me some pitocin. My contractions were so intense and no time in between them. And then I was given the green light to push. Oh, how I pushed! 2, 3, 4… a nurse grabbed one of my legs and pulled it back when my brain couldn’t register Claire’s command to pull my knees back. My husband was directed to pull the other knee back. Another great push and my baby’s head was out. I think they told me not to push for a second, then I was allowed. It took a few more and out he came, his shoulders had gotten stuck for a second, that’s why I had needed to push so much more than with my daughters. From 5 cm to baby out took no more than 15 – 20 minutes, I know because the song that was playing on the CD was maybe the 4th or 5th track. Everyone was surprised at how quickly that had happened, even me!
And then, bliss. That moment of relief when my baby was out, screaming in indignation at the world he had entered, on my chest, all 7 lbs. 15 oz. of him. He stopped crying when he heard my voice, looked at me for a moment, then, as if becoming aware once again that he had been ejected from his warm home, he began wailing his lamentations once more. He was precious, every screaming bit of him! And my wonderful birth experience didn’t end there, I was able to hold my son on my chest for at least 20 minutes, nobody rushed me. Everything they did to check him over was done with him in my arms. The only reason they finally took him when they did was because I got curious about how much he weighed and told them to take him. They weighed him and brought him right back to me and I nursed him.

The moment of bliss, captured by one of the nurses for me.

The moment of bliss, captured by one of the nurses for me.

I had torn in the very same spot as the first 2 births, but this time, instead of screaming louder than I had while giving birth, I didn’t even feel the needle that numbed me because, apparently, female midwives must know more about the importance and sensitivity of the clitoris, as well as its location, something my OB had failed to grasp in his many years of patient care, considering he stuck me there not once, but twice. I barely felt the four stitches I received. My entire experience was perfect, just as I had always imagined, everyone respected my wishes, my baby was not once out of my sight with out my direction, he roomed in with me and only went to the nursery for his hearing test and PKU, which I was welcome to be there for. I could not have wished a more perfect experience into existence, and since this is the last baby we plan to have, it was an amazing ending to such an important chapter in my life, my child-bearing. And even though my first 2 births had been natural with no pain medication, this was the very first time I felt truly amazing and confident and powerful – and it is a beautiful thing!GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

The Make It and Break Me Moments of 2012

In the spirit of new beginnings, I thought today, the first day of 2013, was a great day to write my first blog post of this year. Ironically, I’m a big believer in needing to look at the past to gain some perspective on the present and future, so I’d like to review 2012 a little and share some of the “make or break” moments from last year.

SOME BACKGROUND

When 2012 began:

Josh and I had just relocated, after an enormous amount of prayer, thought, research, soul-searching, prayer, exhausting other avenues, and prayer, to Columbia, Tennessee to open and run his second original concept restaurant.

We had been trying for a baby since July of 2011, after we suffered an early miscarriage.

My dad had been sick and unable to work for several months and his condition continued to decline rapidly.

Skye Blue began its 3rd year and I had just started working with clay as a brand new medium.

JANUARY

Making it moments:

I was excited for a fresh start in a new place. We determined once and for all we were going to get a handle on our finances and pay off debt we had accumulated mostly in 2008. (Whole different timeline review for another day.) We were nervous yet excited about the upcoming opening of Sano, it seemed like everything was falling into place for 2012 to finally be the year we clawed our way out of the hole that 2008 had created in our lives, but mostly in our emotions and psyche.

I was on a great track to getting fit and healthy. We had just gotten our juicer for Christmas and Josh and I both were excited about living and eating healthier. I had discovered my new home had an amazing park so getting exercise and keeping Faith busy was easy and soon became a daily lifestyle as our “temporary” apartment was very small with no yard and sat above an insurance agency that conducted normal business hours. I was anxious that my energetic 2-year-old was making disruptive noise above their heads, so this helped motivate me to get out every day, packing a healthy lunch and fresh juice.

Breaking me moments:

My dad’s health had declined drastically. In addition, since he was unable to work and my mom had always been a stay at home mom and still had 5 teen and preteen children that she home schooled as well as needing to care for my dad, they were dependent on Social Security Disability. The problem was payments would be delayed 6 months. So Josh and I, my 2 grown brothers, and mom’s church family rallied to help make up the needed funds to keep them going. (Helping is actually one of the making it moments, but the need to help is the breaking me part.) I began making the 3+ hour drive to Kentucky quite often to help my mom care for my dad and to lend emotional and moral support. This strained our already tight finances, but I would not have had it any other way.

The stress of everything began to take its toll on me and I began to develop a very strange rash on my neck, subtle at first, but slowly getting worse, and while not itchy or painful, it looked awful and stressed me even more.

FEBRUARY

Making it moments:

When ever I was home (which was not much) I worked through my emotions in sculpture and the “Every Tree A Soul” line of sculptures was born.

I continued to get fit while living between 2 state lines, walking and juicing with mom when I was up there.

Sano opened its doors to the public and months of my husband’s hard work were realized as Columbia tasted his food for the first time.

Breaking me moments:

My dad was nearing the very end. Ironically, the one thing that had been his defining trait, his sharp and unique mind, was leaving him. He was not himself at this point, most of the time he could not even talk. When he did, he went on and on about his sons, which was good, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt that here I was daily, disrupting my entire life to be with him and mom at the worst moments, wading through their emotional crisis, financial mess, relational issues with their daughters still at home, and physically helping to care for him. My brothers weren’t able to, my older brother had a family to care for in North Carolina but was able to visit a few times in the last months, and my younger brother had a very demanding full-time job and worked a lot of hours, he came over whenever he could, every few days for several hours. At one point dad over heard a conversation between mom and I about my plans for that week to stay a little longer than I’d originally planned (he could not at this point put everything together, so he didn’t know it was because I didn’t have the gas money to go home that week, I barely wanted to burden mom with that knowledge at this point.) and he just started hollering at me to “Go home! I don’t want you here, I can’t take it any more!” Yes, he was a man losing his mind, yes he was sick – YES, it hurt like nothing else could at that point. He later apologized, of course I forgave him, but you don’t forget something like that. The boys he incessantly talked about and praised did not have to receive that from him. Thankfully.

My rash got worse and continued to spread from my neck and inner arms down to my wrists and chest and I still had no clue what it was.

MARCH

Breaking me moments:

On March 8, 2012, my dad passed away. I didn’t realize it, but the moment he did my world began to shake. It is hard to explain because you have to know my dad, but he literally believed he would be alive to see the world end and Jesus come in all His glory. He believed this so fervently he had based his entire life, lifestyle, and that of his family around it. I cannot begin to go into it here, but my entire childhood, teen years, and young adulthood before marriage and even a little after marriage was consumed with the world ending and preparing for that. Even after I gained a little perspective as an adult and began forming my own beliefs and lifestyle, my dad dying had a huge impact on me in that feelings of anger at the futility of it all began to surface almost immediately. At 61 years young, after a life full of health, physical activity, vitamin taking, preparing, living in poverty because of belief that at any second the economy was going to collapse and it was better to have lots of food and gear rather than possessions and savings, my dad died. Just like that, gone. It did not matter at that point how many of his beliefs were true, that the hardships I’d gone through as a young girl made me who I am, he was gone and all the crap I’d been through began to look very useless and I began to get very angry. (Word is still out on those feelings, check back later.) Even more, he’d left my mom, 5 sisters, and nothing but a very unstable social security system to take care of them. Obviously, whether it was my job or not, whether it was requested or not, whether or not my mom and sisters felt they needed my help, I was left with an overwhelming sense of duty as a burden to bear.

Making it moments:

I finally broke down and went to the doctor about my rash. He diagnosed it as an auto immune condition most likely brought on by severe stress. The best remedy was to reduce stress, which I did, and 2 days later (no kidding!) it was almost completely gone.

A few days after my doctor’s visit, I found out that we were pregnant. After 9 months of trying, we were finally pregnant.

APRIL

Making it moments:

Despite some routine kinks, Sano was doing fairly well. Everyone who ate there said the same thing, “The food is fantastic!”

Breaking me moments:

I began figuring out the new normal with my dad gone. I found the relationships with all my family changing at a rapid pace, a few for the better, but mostly on the darker side. I was prepared for losing my dad, I was not prepared for these other relationship changes.

MAY

Making it moments:

I chanced upon an auction being held on the Facebook page “United Through Pregnancy and Infant Loss” and was able to include one of my tree sculptures. From that point, everything at Skye Blue changed. I found an amazing supportive group of moms who had lost babies too and I did not know how badly I needed them and still needed to grieve until I found them. I also found an amazing support of my art, a jump in Facebook page likes, admirers, and Etsy sales. Most of all, I found purpose. Skye Blue had been kind of floating in an abyss of creative and emotional outlet without any structure or channeling. Through my connection to UTPAIL and all the wonderful loss moms I suddenly had purpose and vision for my art in memory of my baby girl, Elizabeth Skye.

Breaking me moments:

My relationships with my mom and sisters continues to morph into something new. Much like the cocoon stage of a butterfly’s morph, it was ugly, confusing, and appeared rather lifeless, and yet I knew something beautiful would eventually come out of it, it’s just that the change was hitting me very hard.

JUNE

Making it moments:

I launched an ornament donation program that had been on my heart since Skye Blue’s beginning. I had been wanting to make and donate ornaments somehow, knowing how much the one I had been given in memory of Skye from a stranger had meant to me at a time when every one I knew had seemed to forget her, or was trying hard to. I just hadn’t known how to go about it, or who to donate them to, then again, because of a connection at UTPAIL, the final idea came to me and “In Memory Of” was launched and very quickly gained momentum.

Breaking me moments:

A trip to North Carolina with my mom and some of my sisters to visit my brother and his family and my grandmother who I had not seen for 6 years ended in the culmination of something I had felt coming since April. Anger had built. Anger at my dad, anger at the futility of my raising, anger that somehow so many roles were reversed between my mom and I, anger that he was suddenly a saint to her and that I hated him most of the time, anger at myself for not being able to get a handle on it all, anger that my world was upside down once again and could not be fixed. Just anger. No sadness, no grieving and crying, just more and more anger. I won’t go into details, but that trip ended with me realizing that I needed to distance myself, that I couldn’t save anyone from any hardship, and nobody had asked for me to anyway. At that point, I realized I was stretched far too thin and it was my own fault, I was putting it all on myself. As wrong as it sounded, it was time to take care of myself and focus on me. It was something I had never really been able to do, even as a child I was constantly worrying about everyone else, their reactions, anticipating their needs automatically – it was time to let go.

JULY

Making it moments:

It was a month of relative calm, before the second part of the year hit, which turned out to be as hard if not harder than the first part. I enjoyed lots of little moments with Josh and Faith, my pregnancy was going well and the morning sickness was over. I was able to get outside still, be active. I was beginning to accept the new normal of the relationship changes with my mom and sisters and I began to really focus on my relationship with my husband. Mostly I was taking care of myself, not putting too much on myself emotionally, and staying creative artistically which was very therapeutic.

Breaking me moments:

A few very early indicators began surfacing concerning the restaurant, things that vaguely reminded me of 2008, little de ja vu moments that left me feeling uneasy.

AUGUST

Breaking me moments:

This is where 2012 got tough. Not only were we not getting ahead financially as I had envisioned, but we suddenly found ourselves falling behind. I won’t go into details, but basically we found our paychecks cut in half through the months of August and September, and when you are already living on a tight budget, that isn’t a good thing. Sano, as well as it was doing, wasn’t doing quite well enough to support itself due to many factors that were not under Josh’s control, his business partner made most of the final decisions and this was frustrating as he did not have prior restaurant experience, and Josh was left to look like the face of the restaurant yet had none of the power to make critical decisions that could truly help the business grow and succeed. All of this, in addition to being pregnant, as well as some other factors had me not only stressed about the current situation, but I also began to relive the trauma of 2008, an eventful year I had managed to successfully suppress into the corners of my memory and leave in vague obscurity. You see, for those of you who don’t know, 2008 was the year we moved to a new place, in a different state, away from family and friends to open our first restaurant. That endeavor ended horribly after problems with our business partner misrepresenting his ability to back us financially caused us to lose almost everything we owned and go into debt just to survive. We finally made it back to Kentucky with basically the clothes on our back, homeless, jobless, completely defeated, and I was 8 months pregnant. Then, 3 weeks later I gave birth to our first daughter, we spent her entire life in a NICU, and then at 17 days old she passed away, so we lost her too.

There are many differences between the experiences of 2008 and 2012, the main one being this time around we did lots and LOTS of praying and truly felt coming to Tennessee was the right thing to do (we still feel that way, 100%) but right about August all I could see were the similarities. I was in the throes of a desperate battle of the heart and mind and did not yet see that God was indeed giving me my year of redemption, He was just doing it differently than I had envisioned.

The making it moments:

In spite of being extremely short on money, somehow we made it. We didn’t tell anyone about how dire our situation really was, but somehow the money was there every time we really needed it to be. I would paint a picture of some of what I experienced, but I feel it would only conjure pity and not do its intended task of showing how God continued to provide for us, but He did. He provided items of enough worth to sell, sales in my Etsy shop, baby sitting opportunities, and sometimes a gift showing up in my mailbox just when we needed it most,  and while we did fall a little behind, it was not nearly the financial catastrophe of 2008.

SEPTEMBER

The making it moments:

I held my second annual Celebrating Skye Give Away on September 25th, my little girl’s birthday, and it was amazing to give so many gifts away in her honor, hand-made with love as part of her legacy, Skye Blue. Getting ready for that event kept me busy and focused on creating and had me really searching my soul. Sharing it with my community of loss families was healing all on its own.

The breaking me moments:

I continued to struggle with thoughts and feelings of anger, now against God for letting us make another poor choice (so it seemed) in spite of our fervent prayers and our careful research, trying not to make the same mistakes as in the past. I was having a hard time with my pregnancy. Since finding out I was pregnant with a boy, I not only felt out of my element, I was down right scared of the unknown, and I had irrational fears that I wouldn’t love him. I had trouble bonding with him as he was not very active like Faith had been and the uncertainty of our situation and constant reminders of 2008 made me wish several times that I had never gotten pregnant. All the feelings surrounding the loss of my dad and the memory of never seeming equal to his sons even though I was the one who most shared all his interests, that also played horrible tricks on my mind where my son was concerned. I was desperately afraid I would somehow let my baggage affect my love for my boy. (I know this all sounds absurd, but this was the battle I was fighting at the time.)

OCTOBER

The making it moments:

I participated in a project through the month of October called “Capture Your Grief”. Every day (or almost every day) I posted a picture and wrote a blog post. Each day in October had a topic and this simple project helped me do some deep cleaning in my soul and memory. I faced my memories head on, taking a new look at most of them. Instead of hiding from 2008 and its occurences, I faced it for perhaps the first time and let it all wash over me. I gained perspective, I found some things buried that were worth remembering, I worked through a lot of pain. I remembered how God had carried me and began to believe again that He could and would carry me through my current situation too.

I began to bond with my unborn son and really feel the first sparks of love and excitement for him as an individual.

Our paychecks situation got straightened out.

The breaking me moments:

I was reminded again how different my relationships were, how different everything was. The one person who had been with me on every journey through trial and grief, my mom, was not able to come with me on this journey in the month of October. While I completely understood, I still felt pain at the loss of this connection, and even more so, I felt pain that she was on a grief journey I could not really come on with her. I felt very off kilter, like a sail boat that had drifted into a dead zone without wind and was at the mercy of strange currents.

NOVEMBER

The making it moments:

This month is where the tide began to turn. On an especially hard day I sat down and opened my Bible, randomly flipping to the book of Job. I read through parts of chapters through Job, the part where he loses it all, the part where his friends are trying to advise him, the part where he says his beef to God, the part where God answers him. Then I came to this part: And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10 It was like a lightening bolt struck me, like I’d never read that verse before. Job FIRST prayed for his friends.

I began changing my prayers from asking God primarily to fix my situation. Instead, I began only thanking Him for the wonderful blessings in my life and I put all my asking energy into my friends and extended family, who ever came to mind at any moment in the day, whether a Facebook friend I hardly knew or a friend from my childhood, I prayed for them. My attitude began to change, things began to look brighter even though the actual circumstances were getting darker. I was peaceful and happier than I’d been all year.

The breaking me moments:

Josh’s business partners basically told him they were going to shut the restaurant down as it wasn’t making a profit. Once he started looking for a new job they changed their minds and decided to keep it open, change-up the concept a little, bring in a manager with minimal previous restaurant experience, and the final kick in the teeth after all the crazy hours he’d put in, the major crap he had gone through, the hoops he had jumped through for them against his own previous experience, the awkwardness of being the face of something he had no control over – the final kick in the teeth was where they changed the locks out in front of him his last day there and treated him as if at any moment he was going to empty the freezers or something. He had been there from day one, put blood, sweat, and tears into another restaurant he was having to walk away from, he had designed the menu, hand-picked and trained the team, put in 16 hour days 6 days a week, sometimes even Sundays. He had missed every prenatal appointment for that place, missed time with his family, lost sleep, forfeited paychecks to keep that place going. It was a hard moment to walk away, and it was hard for me to watch him have to do it.

DECEMBER

The making it moments:

December 2012 may have had some shaky moments, but they don’t even compare to the amazing blessings we received.

Josh started a new job that once it is open (they are moving from the old location to an even better location and should be open later this month) should bring in a substantial pay raise.

Our amazing church family blessed us in ways they don’t even know, and could not have known how big a blessing they would be. Some specific items were given to us, items I had been wanting, wishing, and praying for a long time. Yes, the items themselves were blessings, but the biggest blessing was seeing God answer my secret prayers so specifically.

The November auction at UTPAIL yielded a generous amount of money and since I was the partner organization that month, I was able to fund the shipment of more donated ornaments than I could make in time for Christmas and bless many families who had lost a baby or babies. My list continued to grow and I look forward to making many more donated ornaments in the future.

We had a fabulous Christmas, even though we had suffered such a hard year and had just lost his job at the end of November. God provided through the generosity of others and we had a really blessed time as a family.

AND, we welcomed our healthy baby boy on December 20th, 7 lbs. 15 oz., 20 1/2 inches and perfect in every way. I had an amazing natural, drug free birth, the kind I had always wanted, and the beautiful experience was shared with my hubby who had been able to rest the day of and was right there, holding my hand as our son came into the world, the son I absolutely adore with my whole heart.

My 3-year-old daughter FINALLY began to potty train, right at the end of the year and is still doing well with it!!

There are no breaking me moments for December.

LOOKING FORWARD

2012 WAS a year of redemption. It came by a very unexpected path, but I have somehow been set free from the failure of 2008, the devastation, to defeat, the loss, the fear. Because 2012 was similar in so many ways, it was like the test I needed to retake and I feel I passed it. We learned some amazing lessons this past year, we stuck it out in the hardest moments, we didn’t just quit, give up, let the fear and hardship push us into bad decisions. We matured as individuals and as a married couple. We grew closer. We grew stronger. I found a deeper love for my husband as I watched him grow by leaps and bounds this year. I found a deeper trust in my God as I watched him work miraculously in the midst of turmoil.

My hopes for 2013 are that I can maintain the trust and balance I have found in December, that no matter my circumstances I can find much to be thankful for. I hope that I can find someone to bless this year in the way that we were blessed when we needed it most. I hope that Skye Blue continues to grow, that others find healing in my artwork as I have, that Skye’s legacy stretches to the corners of the earth. I hope that we can finally get caught up and THIS is the year we start paying off debt, but that I remember that no matter what, God sees our situation and He knows. I hope I can forgive and find forgiveness because I need it given as much as I need to give it. I hope I can inspire people in spite of my flaws and because I am flawed. I hope to be the best wife and mommy I can be, to develop lots more patience and understanding and I pray God will take care of the mistakes I make and let my kids grow up happy and healthy.

Welcome, 2013!

 

Memories in Time

I was thinking about something this morning. People who really know me know that I’m all about taking pictures. I mean, not just during the Holidays or special occasions, I take pictures almost every day. I take pictures of random, ordinary moments, sometimes just a quick snap shot, sometimes taking it to the picture editor and embellishing it a little. I post many to Facebook, but there are some that just sit on my computer for a while until I finally decide I’m ok with deleting them or I move them to a named folder to keep for good. My friends and family have varying degrees of the opinion that I’m “picture crazy”, and others who are more of an acquaintance might think I’m silly, annoying, or even a little self-absorbed.

Well, you have to understand my history to understand my pictures.

I was born in the 80’s, into a world of Polaroids, long before the digital age. It wasn’t nearly as easy or as cheap to take and keep pictures around as it is today. You had to keep the photos in album books if they were going to stay nice, and film and books cost money and you had to keep buying them. To get a good portrait shot, you had to pay a photographer and pay for copies of those photos, and then you had to buy frames and all that. This, of course evolved a little, but pretty much was the norm until the very late 90’s, early 2000. Needless to say, my parents having 3 kids at that time, and 8 by the time it was all said and done, had better things to spend money on.

In addition, when I was 9, my family moved from a big, normal house into a tiny 31 foot travel trailer to travel west and begin a new life of adventure and pioneering. (Long story for a different day.) We had to down size to the very barest of minimals to fit us all in. After giving precious items to friends and family, many things just had to be pitched, including a lot of photos. It sounds harsh, but my mom did what she had to do and a drawer full of pictures and Polaroids that had never made it into albums had to be thrown away. I remember she cried while those memories went into the trash. Baby pictures, birthdays, family snap shots – all gone. To this day, I have no pictures of myself as a baby except for the few that my aunt has shared from the ones she kept. Sometimes, and Facebook has been a great thing in this respect, a long-lost memory surfaces as a very old picture is scanned and shared by family or friends that my mom reconnected with in the past few years. It is rare, though.

Between that time and the years we lived in Colorado and then Kentucky, disposable cameras were cheap and made it much easier to take pictures, but developing still cost money, and after moving so much, we learned to travel light and we didn’t take many pictures that have survived. There is a small handful that each of my sisters and my mom have, pictures my dad hand-picked before he died of the cabin he built and the years in Colorado.

Then, in 2005, I moved out on my own and was introduced to a world of rapidly evolving digital cameras and camera phones. I was young and single, so I had very little incentive to take pictures for a little while, but then I got married, a year later we were pregnant with the first grandchild on Hubby’s side and moving a thousand miles away to Colorado to open our first restaurant. My mom in law bought me my very first, very own digital camera. Suddenly, pictures were so easy to take, and storing them on our new laptop was incredibly easy too. No more developing charges, bulky photo albums, and any “bad shots” could easily be deleted. It was life changing.

But the biggest piece of this puzzle fell into place later that year, the reason why I like to capture so many ordinary moments.

Many who have read this blog and followed it even a little know that in 2008 we lost our first baby girl to a surprise and mystery condition she was born with. She lived 17 days, all of them in a NICU unit, and while I took pictures and a few videos, I did not realize she would die and how many memories I would not make. I didn’t take nearly enough pictures, and even if I had, there would be none of the ordinary moments we take for granted. There were no pictures of her first bath, her first time getting dressed up for church, her first steps, her first birthday, her first day of school, and there certainly weren’t any every day moments to remember and smile over. What’s worse is that the time I did spend with her is missing huge chunks in my memory. I have blocked out most of the traumatic days of her in the NICU laying in pain, unable to be held by us, a blur of doctors and medicine and sterilization. Those are the only memories she is part of and many of them are lost.

We were blessed, by surprise no less, the following year with our rainbow baby Faith. From about half way through that pregnancy (the point where I begin to remember life again, the months directly after Skye died are almost completely gone, I vaguely remember very little, clips here and there) I had decided that no matter the outcome, I was not going to wait to spend time with her. I was going to make memories and make the most of her time with me, whether that was days or years. I talked to her all the time, just as you would a friend, when she was in my belly. I told her what I was doing, how things looked, my hopes, my fears, why I was doing a certain chore and how. Someone watching me would have pegged me as insane, walking around the house talking to “nobody” about needing to do the dishes and why one brand of soap was better than another.

I took pictures of my pregnant belly, but I really began taking pictures when Faith was born and I just never stopped. Over the past 3 years the picture-taking has really evolved as I found fabulous free picture editing sites to fix flaws and enhance the mood of the shot, add frames, etc. and Facebook has been invaluable for storing my pictures in albums. In fact, after my first computer crashed, I learned a valuable lesson. I lost even more of the few precious memories I had, pictures of Skye, on my old laptop, and would have been utterly devastated if I had not put pictures on Facebook and videos on YouTube. So yeah, I post A LOT of pictures on Facebook and my friends may or may not think I’m a little obsessed, but I don’t care. I know that several times I have needed to download them back off the web to have them.

Memories friends, you can’t buy those. They are priceless.

Just a Fall day at the park with my girl.

 

Every time I snap a picture of this little girl loving life, I think of another little girl who is not here. She never got the chance to go down the slide.

 

Another every day memory. One day she’ll be grown up and this picture will be all I have. I don’t take it for granted.

 

 

Capture Your Grief: Preparing For My Journey

I have recently been invited via my wonderful child loss support network to embark on a 31 day journey with a project called “Capture Your Grief”. (Here is the website with information: http://carlymarieprojectheal.com/2012/09/capture-your-grief-this-october-2012-for-pregnancy-infant-loss-awareness-month.html )

The basic idea is to take a photograph, one for every day in the month of October which is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, using a list of subjects for guidelines, then post and share my photos with short captions, like a daily photo challenge. I thought that with something like this, making it into a daily blog challenge would be helpful so that I could adequately catalog my journey with the emotions and thoughts behind each photograph.

I’m not sure why it seems I’m so much more “into grief” 4 years after my daughter died than I was that first year. Maybe I have matured enough to know this is healthy, maybe it is the loss support system I finally found early in 2012 that has helped me really open up, maybe it is that the numbness is finally gone and I can do this, or maybe it is having lost my dad early this year that has reopened my grieving on a deeper level for my daughter, or my wish to share her with the world, or my current pregnancy has my emotions cattywompus, or the fact that it’s “that time of year” when all the hard anniversaries are happening (she actually spent most of her life in the month of October and this is the month she died in, one of her 2 funeral services was actually held on October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.) or a combination of all of these. At any rate, when I saw Carly Marie’s invitation to embark on this journey with other loss moms and dads, I knew I needed to do this.

I would be honored if you would join me in the month of October as I share this little mini journey through my grief. You may subscribe by email to this blog so you don’t miss a post, but I’ll also be posting on Facebook for my friends there. See you all on October 1st.

Skye’s Story

 I know I have touched on her story several different times in this blog, but as the Fall season approaches, I have been given the opportunity to put together an article for the Fall edition Untied Through Pregnancy And Infant Loss quarterly newsletter and Skye and Fall are almost synonymous for me. I also have many new friends and readers who may not have read her story in its entirety and I find that every time I tell it, I have gained a little more insight, a new perspective, remembered certain parts a bit more clearly. Thank you for letting me tell her story again, remembering her is something I need to do. It has given me an opportunity to shed fresh tears and clean out my soul.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 Fall.

When you think about that season, the very essence of it, what do you see? For those of us in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, images of earthen tones, piles of crunchy leaves, vibrant colors, crisp air, spiced apples, great  big pumpkins – even our southern, warm weather friends can relate to these mind pictures. For me specifically, when I close my eyes and think of that fleeting, glorious season known as Fall, I see the most vibrant blue skys, the ones you see on a cloudless, late September day, the kind that are crisp and cool and thrill your senses with barely discernible scents like fresh air and crispy maple leaves, the kind that leave you with an unexplainable longing to explore, to jump in your car and drive to you know not where, it just leaves you with an itch to go and enjoy and live. Fall has always been my very favorite season.

Very early in 2008 I found out the joyous news that we were expecting our first child. My husband and I had been married just over a year and had decided we were “ready” to start a family. (You’re never really ready.) Almost immediately we got pregnant with our much-loved, much-anticipated, first baby girl. Of course, we didn’t find out until much later that we were expecting a girl, but I already had her name picked out. Finding out I was due in the Fall only cemented my choice, and being due in my favorite month, September, was the cherry on the sundae. Her birthstone would be my favorite gem stone, a sapphire, which was my favorite color, and I would name her Skye.

My husband, being the traditional type, wasn’t crazy about my pick. In fact, he tried to persuade me that it wasn’t a good name for our child, too unusual. He liked Elizabeth. I stood firmly, we fought for a while about it, then we decided we would name her Elizabeth Skye, but we would call her Skye. All this before we found out we were even having a girl! Maybe he thought we would have a boy and solve the problem so it didn’t matter if he gave in.

At 22 weeks we had the ultra sound that would tell us if we were going to welcome a boy or a girl. I remember that day, one of the few from that pregnancy I remember vividly. We held each others’ hands and his trembled a little – or was that mine? We both strained to make heads or tails of the tail end of our tiny squirming miracle represented by light and dark patches on a grainy screen. It took only a moment for the tech to confidently point out proof that we were having a girl. Of course, as parents you always say it doesn’t matter, you just want a healthy baby, and I was sure I felt the same until the surprising feelings of joy and relief flooded through me. I looked at my husband and there wasn’t even a trace of disappointment, only joy and surprise and was that a hint of terror? Being from the deep south, I saw him already mentally loading his not yet purchased shot-gun as a teen boy approached his imaginary door.

That pregnancy was perfect, utterly perfect. I was never sick, I was never tired, every prenatal visit was fine, every test came back normal. I lost weight and never really gained it back, but having started with extra meat on my bones, I wasn’t alarmed and attributed it to my rigorous schedule opening and running our first restaurant (my hubby is a chef) in a new state away from our family and friends. I didn’t have time for being tired, I didn’t have time to eat, and regrettably, I didn’t have time to enjoy the miracle growing inside me. I lost 30 lbs. in my first 20 weeks. My midwives didn’t seem alarmed since I had started over weight and I was eating healthy when I was eating, as well as taking my vitamins religiously. Honestly, I felt good. I felt like I would be able to recognize if I needed to slow down or take it easy, but in retrospect, even though my actions during pregnancy did not cause my daughter’s condition, I can’t help but think I didn’t know my limits.

Things were relatively ok until month 8. That’s when our life began tumbling down around us in a truly catastrophic way. Because we were young (23 and my husband was 25) and a bit naive, we had made some bad decisions in choosing business partners. Funds that had been promised never materialized, no signatures had been obtained, and a month after opening (and doing well enough to draw customers by word of mouth alone from several hundred miles away) we were forced to close due to complications from a bunch a little things, mostly inferior equipment and no money to fix or replace the items, as well as faulty wiring in the building that had not been designed to handle commercial electricity needs, something we found out a month after opening. Again, the funds were unavailable to fix the problem.

So here we were, way out in South Eastern Colorado, thousands of miles from our families in Kentucky. Our business wasn’t working out and every last penny we had was exhausted. I was 8 months pregnant and worn completely out. The only job my husband could get was 100 miles away ONE WAY and gas was averaging $4.50 a gallon. Even with our little Kia, it was just too far a drive to balance the budget on what he was making and we had another decision to make. We didn’t have enough money to move closer to his new job and we surely didn’t have the heart. We needed to be close to our families to regroup and find support during this devastating time. Of course, we didn’t have the funds to move back home to Kentucky and we had already gotten so much financial help from our families, more than they had to spare even. So I sold my furniture. We didn’t have much, but we had a very nice couch and recliner, a coffee table, a bed, a tv, a few other things. I sold what ever I could because we needed the money to move home and we had to pull a tiny U-haul trailer behind our car and all we could fit was the little bit of baby stuff we had accumulated and our clothes. In fact, after selling everything, there was still some stuff we had to just get rid of because it simply wouldn’t fit. Among these things, my beloved piano that had somehow made it with me through thick and thin and several moves since I was 15.

The plan was to drive back home with our meager belongings and we would stay with my parents until we got back on our feet. It was September 1st when we made the drive. I was due on September 30th. I had just had my 35 week prenatal appointment, the last one I would have. That drive home was so bitter-sweet. We felt like utter failures and even though our wonderful families were accepting us back with sympathetic open arms, we were depressed and overwhelmed at how everything had turned out. But, being the eternal optimist that I am,  I remember thinking as I drove, “We’ve lost everything, EVERYthing, but we have each other and we have Skye.”

When we got back to Kentucky my husband started looking for a job. He found one right away and was told they would call him with his first schedule the next day. They didn’t, for a whole week he waited on this job he had been told he had. Finally, he started looking again a week later. Being in a rural country area, there weren’t a lot of places looking to hire a chef and certainly not at the price we needed. He finally found one and started work 2 days before I went into labor. It didn’t pay much, but at that point anything was more than we had.

I went into labor on September 24th. I knew right away that I was in labor. I had helped my mom and dad deliver 4 babies at home and my mom had done wonderful mental preparation for me. In fact, between my mom having five healthy children at home and my husband”s previous experience as a paramedic, and considering everything we’d just been through and not having a lot of time to switch insurance, we had decided to have Skye at home. At that point it seemed like the most natural and right thing. I personally knew at least 20 different children from several different families who had been born at home, ranging from first baby to number 10. I knew birth to be perfectly natural, women had been doing it for thousands of years and I knew I could do it too. I still don’t regret the decision. It gave me 24 beautiful hours of closeness and perfect time that I needed for what would lie ahead. My husband was there, and my mom, who had always been my best friend, was there to coach me and help me and I didn’t see why we wouldn’t soon be holding our perfect baby girl.

I labored for 12 hours before my water broke on its own, then the labor really picked up. Through the night I labored. At one point I thought I was feeling the urge to push. It was a lot of pressure, but being my first baby, I didn’t realize I was just feeling pressure. I started pushing way too early. Of course after several hours I had exhausted myself and there seemed to be no progress. My mom had her home births with her 4th – 8th babies, it had been a while since her first, over 20 years, and she had somewhat forgotten how different a first was as opposed to your 8th. My husband had been present and helping with 2 emergency births, but he had not endured the labor part, only the delivery. I personally felt worried by this point. The whole pregnancy I had experienced a tiny nagging feeling that something would go wrong. Mostly I had been able to shake it off as first time mom fears, but as I pushed and my baby didn’t come, I got worried and said we should go to the hospital (which had always been our plan if something went wrong). My husband immediately agreed. It was somewhere around 10 am on September 25th, 2008.

As soon as we got in the car and started the 20 miles to the nearest hospital I felt the real urge to push. I know it was God’s provision, He let me get it wrong with the pushing so we would go to the hospital, I know this in my heart. I don’t know how I made it 30 minutes riding in a car without delivering that baby. It seems we got stuck behind every tractor on the 2 lane road, it was a weekday during prime harvest time in rural Kentucky. My contractions were coming fast and hard and that uncontrollable urge to push was happening with every one of them.

Everything from this point is a blur. We made it to the hospital, my husband got me a wheel chair, some paramedics at the emergency entrance were trying to stop him, he quickly explained I was in labor and shoved past them, somehow I was making it to a bed. Things around me were all blurred, like I was looking through a tunnel. The pushing sensation was horrible, trying to hold it back made all the pressure want to come up my throat. They threw my legs into stirrups, someone had taken my pants off. The nurse said not to push, that I wasn’t quite all the way dilated. (Looking back, I happen to know she was lying, trying to stall until the doctor could get in the room, because as she said it she had a scared look on her face and was hurriedly putting on a gown like she might have to catch a baby.) And then the doctor was there, they told me I could push. I did, blessed wonderful pushing, 2 in fact and out she came.

She was on my chest for only a second. I was so relieved that she was out, I was still dazed. I do remember thinking she was very red. There was something hanging off  of her, birth stuff? There was a lot of it. The doctor cut her cord and whisked her away to the little cart on the other side of the room to be evaluated. Nobody said anything. Only my mom was saying something, asking for them to let me nurse her? I was very distracted by the doctor working on a vicious tear I had received. His needle in a very tender spot, supposedly to numb me, made me let out a blood curdling scream, louder than any moan I had produced while giving birth. He told me I should be numb, but I wasn’t. Everything was a mess and a blur and where was my little girl? I remember asking my husband if she was ok. He said yes, but something on his face told me no, she wasn’t. Something was dreadfully wrong, why else would he be so pale? Nobody would say anything except, no, I couldn’t hold her, they had to take her next door, yes, she was breathing. My mom told my husband to go with them, she would take care of me.

Again, a very large chunk of this is missing from my memory. At some point a doctor came into my room and gravely explained that my daughter’s APGAR scores were wonderful, but there seemed to be a problem with her skin. The whole top layer appeared to be coming off, (what I had seen hanging from her at birth) this was serious, because she couldn’t properly keep her temperature stable and there was risk of infection.

Skye’s very first picture, just minutes old. They wrapped her in plastic to conserve moisture and heat.

“Can I nurse her?”

“No ma’am, you don’t understand,” his voice was a thick East Indian accent, ” this is very serious.” I could barely understand what he said, let alone process it.

I didn’t understand. I was still dazed. Fear hadn’t set in because I still had not seen or held my baby. At this point I was beginning to feel like the whole thing was a very bad dream, it was very surreal. They told me she would be transported to Kosair’s in Louisville, an hour and a half away. I couldn’t go with her because they could not discharge me for at least 24 hours. My husband agonized about staying with me or going with her, but that decision was not at all hard, I quickly insisted he go with my baby girl, I could take care of me, she was helpless. I begged them to let me see her. They told me she was being wrapped in gauze to protect her skin but they would bring her in for a few minutes before she left. An hour later I got about 90 seconds to see my baby. She was wrapped like a mummy in gauze from head to toe. Only her eyes were showing and her nose. She had her daddy’s nose. She was in an isolet but they allowed me to briefly touch her gauze wrapped hand, then she was gone.

Seeing her like that was hard. Something sunk in, some of the gravity of her condition, but not nearly enough. I was scared, numb – and then I was alone. My husband went up to Louisville, my mom had to go home and attend my young sisters who were waiting to hear about their little niece. I was left alone, unable to be discharged until the next day.

This story would be far too long if I focus on every aspect of the hell I went through with fear and hospital misunderstandings that led to me having to talk to a social worker about possibly abusing my child in utero (long, ridiculous story), but instead I want to focus on Skye.

Upon arriving at Kosair’s the next day, I immediately wanted to see my baby. She was wrapped in her gauze, her color had gone from fire engine red to pink, but you could see that the top layer of her skin on her face was raw under the protective vaseline. They told me her entire body looked as bad or worse under the gauze and most of her beautiful hair and scalp was peeling off. I looked at her and cried. She was sedated with pain medication and looked peaceful for the moment. My husband was the bravest man I’ve ever seen, he managed to completely hold me together as I threatened to fall apart. He took over the task of talking to the doctors and sorting through the technical medical language that I could not even begin to process. He had arranged for us to stay a block away at the Ronald McDonald House, (the most wonderful charity ever put together in my opinion) and he spoke so cheerfully to me, so optimistically, that I was able to take a breath and keep functioning.

My function, it turned out, was pumping breast milk. In the face of utter helplessness, I could pump milk. I told myself she would need it now and for when she got better, and I pumped. I set my alarm to wake up and pump every three hours. I made myself eat because I wanted her to have plenty of milk. I made myself go to my room and rest because I needed to keep up my supply of milk. I pumped by her bed side a few times, but there were always so many doctors and specialists needing to see her or do a procedure, so most of the time I would walk back to the Ronald McDonald House and pump and then walk back to the hospital. The little bit of weight I had managed to gain in the last month of pregnancy was quickly gone. I made enough milk for twins. Tragically, she got very little of that love in a bottle that I very devotedly worked so hard to make available for her. She had eating problems and tummy upset because of her pain meds and constant problems with her feeding tube.

She had many problems. How many of them were original is very unclear.In fact, everything about her condition was unclear and remains a mystery to this day. Countless doctors in 10 states were not able to figure out what had caused her condition and her medical file, thick as a big city phone book, still baffles doctors who have studied it to consult on my second and third pregnancies. Her white blood cell count was constantly way too low or way too high. The doctors didn’t know if that was because of her skin or if her skin was because of her white blood cell problems. She got daily blood transfusions. She could not gain weight, she had trouble keeping an even temperature, she developed respiratory problems from being stationary and on strong pain medicine, yet we couldn’t really hold her or pick her up because of the risk of infection. We could only touch her with sterile gowns on and masks while she was wrapped in gauze, and only briefly at a time because keeping the door open on her isolet made her temperature drop. She had to have her bandages changed daily, then they dropped it to every other day because the 3 hour-long process left her so exhausted and in pain that her stats couldn’t recover very well before it was time to do it again. It was a very tedious and heart wrenching process. They usually did it at night when there was less doctor traffic in her room and we usually weren’t there, I believe they timed it like that on purpose, now that I look back. It was something no parent should ever have to see. They told us that several times.

Daddy holding Skye for the first time for a moment while the nurses changed out her bedding.

The only chance I had to really see her body was during a dressing change though, so I was finally able to catch them doing one after staying with my baby for several hours one day. On day 11 I was alone, my husband had not made it to the hospital that day, I think being so strong had finally caught up with him, and sensing that, I was determined to stay extra long and read to our little girl, something he did every day. So I was there when the nurses came in to do her dressing change and they hesitantly asked if I’d like to be present. I answered yes immediately, they tried to tell me it was not easy, but I didn’t care. My little girl had to endure them, surely I could be there to comfort her with my voice, to hold her tiny hand, something I rarely got to do.

That 3 hours is burned across my memory with blistering vividness. I have blocked out so much, but that dressing change remains seared in time and space within the confines of my mind. The nurses began by unwrapping her tiny body. She had weighed 5 lbs. 10 oz. at birth 11 days ago. I believe that at this point she was 4 lbs. 4 oz. As the gauze came off painstakingly inch by inch with 2 nurses working on her, I held her tiny hand and talked to her softly. That tiny 4 pound baby never cried. Even as little bits of her skin had to be separated from the gauze, she only grimaced and let out a few moans, she never cried. She looked up at me the whole time as if drinking in the sight of me. She knew my voice, she knew her mommy was there with her. She felt my latex covered finger in her hand. She had been given pain medicine, as much as she was allowed, but she wasn’t sedated. She was wide awake. She clung to my finger and stared up into my masked face for an hour as they unwrapped her. Her eyes were blue. Not the cloudy blue every new-born has, her eyes were a clear, deep blue. The only color I have found that can describe her eyes was a clear, liquid cerulean, like a September Skye when it is crisp and cloudless, so deep you could never reach the end of it. As I looked into those beautiful eyes so full of pain and trust and bravery, it was almost like I could not be looking into the eyes of an 11 day old baby, those eyes were the eyes of a very old, very tired soul. Yet they are burned into my memory as the bravest eyes I’ve ever seen.

About the time they got her completely unwrapped, one of the nurses said, “How are you doing mom?” I guess I didn’t answer. Tears were rolling down my cheek into my mask and my face must have been very gray because both nurses suddenly insisted I sit down and  wouldn’t let me say no. I remember feeling very light-headed and my world going partially black as I was pushed onto a nearby chair. Even as I tried to focus to keep from fainting I remember saying that I was her mother and she needed me to be there. They replied that she didn’t need me to faint and have them needing to attend me while she was getting sterile dressings changed. I agreed at that point, but my heart ached. Nobody else was there for her and I couldn’t even hold it physically together enough to see her through 3 hours of the hardest part of her day. The nurses let me sit for a minute, then they told me it would be best if I went and got some air. I knew the wrapping up part was even more tedious than the unwrapping, and my breasts were telling me pumping should have happened an hour ago, so I tearfully told my baby that I would be back later and went away feeling like I had completely failed her when she needed me most.

That day should be one of the worst in my memory, yet it gave me the clearest picture of who my daughter was. Skye was much stronger than I will ever be. She was much braver. As I look back on that day and remember her eyes I know that my daughter was too special for this earth. You may think I’m crazy, that I’m biased because I’m her mom, but then you didn’t stare into those eyes and experience what I did. It was as if that 11 day old baby was not 11 days old. It was as if she knew far more than I ever will while I’m on this earth. It was as if time stood still because while I was told it was an hour, I cannot remember it as an hour, a few minutes, or a few seconds. It was as if she gave me a gift that day that was meant for me alone and even though I didn’t see it or recognize it at the time, I know that on day 11 as she lay in her isolet enduring that dressing change it wasn’t me being strong for her and comforting her, she was being strong for me and letting me know that no matter what, it would all be ok. It was as if she knew that she wouldn’t have to lay there much longer and she was at peace with it. It was as if Heaven was reflected in her eyes, as if the veil was very thin and I could almost peer through her eyes into another realm. To this day that 11th day, instead of being a horrible memory, is one of my most cherished memories, one that keeps me moving forward.

 On day 17, after a week of what seemed an upward turn, my daughter took a desperate turn for the worse. She had been doing so well, in fact, that my husband and I felt ok with leaving the city for the first time since she’d been taken to Kosair’s and we went to church with my mom an hour and a half away and stayed for the noon meal. We told everyone that day that Skye seemed to be doing much better and we took the first real breaths we had in weeks.However, when we got back into good cell service about 40 minutes from Kosair’s, we both got voice mail notifications and pulled the car over to listen to them. The NICU had been trying to get in contact with us for the last couple hours, they thought we should come in and see our daughter as soon as we could.

 My heart caught in my throat as we drove the rest of the way back to the hospital. By this time I was long over due to pump and it was getting painful, so upon arriving back in Louisville, Josh insisted I go pump and rest, he would check on the baby. He called me several hours later, waking me up, and said he was going to come get me and walk me from the room to the hospital. I knew something was horribly wrong, I was just afraid to think the words. When he met me he briefly told me what the doctors had told him. Skye was a lot worse. I could tell he was trying to be calm, but there was something in his voice that made me ask if I should call my mom. He said it was up to me. I immediately dialed her and she said she would be there as quickly as she could.

 As soon as I saw my little girl, deep inside I knew she was going to leave, but I pushed the thought away and refused to process it until my mom got there. Skye didn’t look so horribly different, just very tired and very pale and her stats were not very good. When my mom got there, we cried and we talked and we prayed for an hour or so. Josh and I knew, somehow. We knew it was time to let go of her. We prayed that God would somehow take her pain away and let us hold it for her, we didn’t want to watch her suffer any more. No sooner was the prayer across our lips than a nurse came and summoned us from the family waiting room. It was time to hold that pain.

 As I approached her room, it was like slow motion. I was trembling uncontrollably. Nobody had actually said “your daughter is going to die” but I knew that once I entered that room, I would leave it without a living child. Thank God my mom was there, she gently pushed me forward into the room. Within a few moments they were asking me if I’d like to hold her. I could not answer, I could not move, I wanted to scream “NO!” and run away, but my mom sat me down and manually held my arms open as they placed my baby in my arms, still wrapped in gauze, but with her IVs being removed and her oxygen tube pulled away from her face and no cords or tubes tangling around her body. She had her eyes closed and her breathing was very light. She weighed as much as a feather. I kissed her forehead. It was warm and soft. This wasn’t how I had imagined kissing my baby for the first time would be. She should have been on my naked chest, her perfect naked body against mine. She should be looking into my eyes as I cried tears of joy, not tears of the worst agony I had ever felt, or will ever feel. Instead, I kissed her fading features for several minutes and told her she could go, that it was ok, mommy and daddy loved her and didn’t want her to hurt any more. Then I gave her to my husband and he held her for the last moments until she very quietly and peacefully stopped breathing and her heart stopped beating.

 It was less than an hour into day 18, October 13, 2008. We never went to sleep before the clock struck midnight, so I will always remember it as 17 days.

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 October 13, 2008 is when my daughter’s life on earth ended, but it’s where her story really began. You see, that 11th day as I looked into my daughter’s eyes, she had indeed given me something truly remarkable. In fact, she gave me many things, like a giant stocking full of many little delightful gifts. Skye gave me courage to go on in spite of unimaginable pain. She gave me a deeper love not only for my husband and family, but for other families who have gone through this agony and who continue to experience it daily. She showed me what it really means to fight, to go through pain and difficulty without complaint. She showed me how to hope, how to live, why living is so important, not just going through life, but being alive. She taught me that the unknown doesn’t have to be feared. So many, many things she taught me or showed me or gave me.

 Of course it took me a while to begin to recognize the gifts she gave me. There was a lot of grieving to get through. I still have days where I fall apart and relive the whole thing and cry buckets of tears, but that’s ok, because another thing she taught me was that remembering is the very best thing you can do.

 I take great pride in carrying on my little girl’s memory through my art. Skye Blue is named in memory of her, and so much more than a name, the meaning behind those words for me is monumental. I hope I have helped you get a glimpse of just how special that name is.

 The Christmas ornament donation program I started this year is just another way my baby girl reaches out even now and proves how special she was. She has touched more lives in her death than she ever could have in life. If I had been given more time with her, I wouldn’t know how precious every memory is, and the memories we weren’t able to make together make the memories I do have even more priceless. “In Memory Of” was specifically designed to reach out to parents who, like myself, were not able to make very many memories with their children. The ornaments I make and donate can never make up for those lost memories, but they help make new memories every year as you pull out the ornaments and hang them on the tree. They also give you the chance to bring out the old memories and dust them off and maybe even share them with family and younger siblings who didn’t get to meet their older sibling in Heaven. Remembering is healthy, its healing, it is the most tender, beautiful thing you can do for a child that has passed. I have been so touched in such a short time by being able to make these ornaments for beautiful families that have inadvertently joined me on this pilgrimage of sacred grief and beauty.

One of the “In Memory Of” ornaments from my donation program.

 Fall is still my very favorite time of year. In fact, I welcome it now more than ever. I wait with great anticipation to see those one or two perfect September days, where I can look up at the sky and see the color of my daughter’s eyes again. This September 25th my little girl would have been 4. There is not a day that goes by I do not think of her and miss her. I would give everything to have her in my arms again, but since I can’t, this honoring her memory with Skye Blue is how I carry on her gifts of peace and purpose. Thank you for letting me share her story with you.

 I love you Skye, until we reach…

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To find out more about the “In Memory Of” ornament donation program, visit Skye Blue by Natasia Champion on Facebook or email me at natasiachampion85@live.com

Long Time No Write

So, I realize it has been a while since I wrote. Believe me, not for lack of happenings! I was just remembering this morning how therapeutic it has been for me to write blog posts, so I dusted off the ol’ key board, so to speak, and here I am.

Let me see, where did I leave off? I’m not sure, especially since my life story is not written in chronological order here, but how about a few updates about my life in general these past few months?

We moved to Tennessee where Josh has opened a new restaurant where he is co-owner, it is doing great, we’re super happy about that. (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sano/256534591089142)

Faith is coming up on 3, she is a hoot. There is no lack of funny stuff that she comes up with, she’s growing like a weed and continues to be our sunshine.

“The Garden Of Optimism”

Skye Blue has really blossomed this year, I’ve been doing well with a new line of sculptures called “Every Tree A Soul”, (http://www.etsy.com/shop/SkyeBlue85?section_id=8161645) I’ve sold quite a few.

“I Cling To Hope”

The biggest surprise for me is the change in medium, I never thought I would be primarily sculpting. I’m really blessed with the response and wonderful people I’ve met. I also launched a project that has been a dream of mine, an ornament donation program for families who lost a child to miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death, or early childhood death. The response to that has been humbling and tender, hearing other moms who lost their babies expressing their joy and thankfulness for what I’m doing. It is a precious thing I am finding great joy in to honor my little girl, Skye. (http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151009575556271&set=a.10151009575456271.479378.362725131270&type=3&theater)

I lost my dad this past March after a rather abrupt and short illness. I miss him every day. It has been hard to let it sink in that he is gone, he was always so healthy and full of spunk.

Me and daddy in Sep. 2011, right after he stopped working. He passed March 2012.

And, we are expecting our 3rd child. We are really happy and excited! Of course there is always a level of scared, but so far everything is good and healthy and we believe that by the end of December we will be holding our new Tiny Love in our arms. (I’m due December 13.)  I am just beginning my second trimester, I’m 15 weeks (3 1/2 months) and we don’t yet know the gender, so I’m just calling the baby Tiny Love for now.

Having my 3rd baby is pretty mellow. Of course I was part nervous and part naive with my first, plus very stressed with opening and running the restaurant in Colorado. I was extremely nervous and stressed with Faith because of everything that happened with Skye. This time around, I feel relaxed and experienced. I have experienced the best outcome and the worst, so there is nothing I can’t be prepared for at this point. I am on a mission this time around to make the very best of my pregnancy and not just work toward a successful birth. I am eliminating stress (something that isn’t easy for this natural worry wort.) I am getting mentally and physically fit and strong and am anticipating a grand finale to my childbearing (I hope), the very best birth experience yet.

12 weeks

Still, there is always something new with every baby, every pregnancy. I doubt I will become bored. Even with my third I’m experiencing things for the first time, like explaining to your almost 3-year-old that there is a baby in my belly, I’m not just fat, and that she can’t knee me in the gut as she’s accustomed to. We’ve also been working on bonding. We’re making progress, at first the only response Faith had to the new family member was to scream “No!!” whenever we approached the subject. She has since graduated to kissing my belly and praying for the baby at night, although she doesn’t seem to completely grasp how this is all working. I think the turning point was my first ultra sound a few weeks ago where she saw baby sucking its thumb on the big t.v. She could relate to that and she was very concerned that the ultra sound tech not press on my belly too hard with the wand. She held my hand through that whole scan and kept reminding the ladies, “Be careful, not too hard on momma’s belly.”

Another mild surprise for me is something that probably shouldn’t surprise me at all, maybe perplex me is a better term. With every pregnancy I have grown a cup size. I know, I know, there are some of you who are saying, “Ok, what’s the problem?” Well, we women generally do grow in that area during pregnancy, but most of us shrink back after we give birth or stop nursing. I never did, not with my first 2 pregnancies. I went from C to D with Skye, and from D to DD with Faith. I started at generally the same weight (give or take 5-10 lbs.) with all three pregnancies. I now find my current undergarments becoming snug. I was voicing my concern to Josh last night, it went something like this.

“Babe, my bras are getting tight, I’m seriously worried I’m going to have to go up another cup size.”

Josh lowers the book he’s reading and gives me an impish grin. “Sounds awesome, what’s the problem?”

“No, it’s not awesome. These things just keep growing. Normal women get to have them shrink when it’s all said and done, mine just keep growing. It’s already very difficult to find a 36 DD, it’s going to be impossible to find a 36…… gosh, I don’t even know what the next size up is, its like the great beyond.”

Needless to say his ensuing laughter was not reassuring. Men, they just don’t understand.

So yes, even with a 3rd baby I have all kinds of questions. How will the above issue play out? How will it be to have a baby and a 3-year-old? Will Faith feel left out? Will I have to upgrade to a duffel bag to carry all the stuff? (Josh already monopolizes most of my purse.) Will my belly get any saggier? (I really hope not) If I have a boy there are a million more questions just for that, I’ve had so much experience with so many babies, but they were all girls. The thought of having a boy takes me way out of my element.

I think my point here is that this pregnancy, so far, has been mellow, but definitely not boring.

So, that’s pretty much what’s happening in my life right now. I’d like to keep the updates more frequent and shorter, mostly because it’s a pain to wrangle the cords to put the computer on my lap to type, and it’s a pain (literally) to type hunched over my growing belly for too long. We shall see, I guess.