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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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.


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!


“Are You There, God?” Part 3

This post is for anyone struggling with questions like, “If God is good and in control, then why do horrible things happen to the people who love Him and serve Him?”

Continued from “Are You There, God? Part 2″


Many of my readers know me personally and are aware of what is going on in my life right now, but many of you don’t know about the biggest issue my family and I are facing in the near future. I haven’t really talked about it until now simply because there has been a lot of hope for a reversal of circumstances and also because the situation has deteriorated so quickly.

My father, 62 years young, a man in the utmost perfection of health all his life, strong, a man that everyone who met him said looked 10 years younger than he was, has been battling a chronic illness the last few months. This is a man who had most of his 8 children after the age of 45, a man who has never been anything but hard-working, strong, capable, a provider, energetic, hardly ever even came down with a cold. A man who did not drink, who stayed active, who ate healthy and took vitamin supplements religiously. This man has been battling liver disease, probably much longer than any of us realized, but we’ve only been aware of it for a little less than a year.

It started with an aggravating cyst behind his knee. My dad does not like to go to doctors unless he has to, part of his motivation to stay healthy. He has been a truck driver for years, so routine physicals were part of his job requirements, but he was always pronounced more than healthy and in the most recent years even his weight was great, something many truck drivers have trouble with. Of course, being sedentary for many hours at a time and sporadic sleep patterns are not the healthiest, so when my dad’s cyst lingered and became more and more bothersome, he went to the V.A. hospital to get it looked at. During that visit they took routine blood samples and ran routine tests for a man his age with his background. (He fought active duty in Vietnam the last 2 years of the war.)

What came back was surprising and a bit unsettling. My dad had Hepatitis C, they wanted to run more tests. (This came, most likely, from the immunization method back in the day when soldiers would be given their shots using the same needle, simply wiping it off with a towel before sticking the next man, back before blood born diseases were a big thing. This is what the doctor said. The disease can go undetected for years, especially in the case of my dad where he remains mostly healthy all his life and doesn’t go to the doctor very much.) This we found out about February of 2011, I can’t remember exactly.

They did run more tests, on his liver, and they found out his liver was in fairly bad shape. They wanted to do MORE tests. Long story short, as the situation unfolded, they found my dad had cirrhosis of the liver, he was in stage 3 of 4 stages of liver failure. As this information unfolded gradually over a few months of doctor’s visits and tests, my mom began to research liver disease too. She and my dad began to adjust their diets to help combat the disease and make things easier on his liver. They had never been drinkers, especially not the whole time I was growing up, but they cut out even the occasional beer or glass of wine. (We’re talking one every two weeks if that.) They began to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, drink filtered, distilled water, cut back on coffee and drink more herb tea. By May 2011 my dad had dropped about 20 lbs. and he felt fantastic. He had passed a bunch of gall stones that the doctor was amazed he had been able to pass instead of having surgery. Things were great, he looked great.

However, somewhere around September he found himself filling up with fluid. He had a strange abdominal swelling and swelling in his legs, it was harder and harder for him to get in and out of his truck. For the first time in 62 years he realized he would have to quit working – indefinitely. The swelling was all fluid from his malfunctioning liver, the liver was unable to process toxins normally and an acidic fluid was leaching back out into his abdominal cavity and swelling his legs.

At first, being more active and getting adequate sleep improved his condition, but soon he went back on the decline. The first time he had to go in to the doctor’s to have the fluid drained with a needle was very upsetting and traumatic for him, but this has since become more and more frequent and is now a weekly routine. His weight has kept dropping and except for the weird swelling, he is very thin. You feel his bones when you touch his back even while he is wearing a heavy coat which he needs to stay warm since his temperature stays a couple of degrees below normal. His mind is beginning to be affected now, something the doctor said would happen. In fact everything he is experiencing is something the doctor warned us about and is part of this chronic disease at this stage, but nobody could prepare us for how quickly this has unfolded. Really, September, when Dad quit working, that is the first time where we all realized this was very serious. In less than 6 months it has just been a downward spiral and we are all left trying to catch our breath.

The person who is the most courageous in all this (in my opinion) is my mother. My mom met my dad when she was 16 and he was 30. They were together from that time until she married him at 18 years old. This September 11th (of all days) will make 30 years of marriage. That is a long time to be with one person. She has been a stay at home mom, wife, and homemaker almost completely during that time, save for a few short-term jobs here and there over the years to help with bills every now and then, but she mostly found work from home as a baby sitter or close to home taking care of a neighbor or cleaning a house. Later, once she had my five little sisters, totaling  8 of us, she was very busy taking care of them and also being a full-time teacher as she home schooled us all. My youngest sister is about to turn 9 years old, so that gives you a picture of how much my mom still does every day. The first three of us, myself and my 2 brothers, have moved out of the house and have life and families of our own, but my 5 sisters remain at home, 16, 15, 13, 10, and 8. And now she has my dad, too.

The man who has taken care of her and his family so well and always with so much strength and vision, so much definite leadership, this man is currently dependent on her for so much. Where she once rested knowing every day that “Chuck will handle it, ” or “Chuck will know what to do,” she now finds herself having to take over and make all the decisions not only for her and the girls, but also for my dad, more and more.

We have all come to terms very recently with the fact that my father is probably not going to be alive much longer, though we still don’t know how long he has. He has declined so much in such a short time, and while we all still hope for a miracle (because we believe miracles do happen) we are preparing for the worst.

So how does this tie in with my last 2 posts? Well…

I have asked God for 3 years now why my daughter had to die, not angrily, but just searching for His purpose because I believe that all things do work together for good for those that love God. None of us have really ever had to face something like this, not only the death of a loved one or someone you are so close to, but being the family that must make arrangements and carry on after the passing. Nobody in my family was directly responsible for caring for a sick loved one and then funeral arrangements, or had direct experience with deep grief, then I lost my daughter so suddenly and unexpectedly.

Because of that I am not only sensitive to and compassionate toward my mom and other family, but I am able to have valuable first hand insight into what we will all face and be able to help my family cope, physically, emotionally, mentally. Already I feel I have been able to help my mom and sisters especially just by understanding the myriad emotions and the roller coaster of feelings they are riding. Just for myself, I am able to cope much better with the prospect of losing my dad, not that it is easy by any means, but at least those feelings of the unknown don’t plague me and scare me the way they did with my daughter.

We are still in the midst of handling all of this, I am so far away from having all the answers or seeing all of the picture. I don’t think that will happen till I get to Heaven, honestly. Still, I feel I can absolutely say from my heart and believe with the core of my being, there is a God. He cares for each and every one of His children. Bad things do happen because of mortality, imperfection, and evil, but God cares and He is able to take the most wretched circumstances and make them into a beautiful tapestry. This is not something I say just to repeat something I was taught that I blindly and naively follow. I have tried and tested these things in my own life and they are truth for me.

Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps there is nothing on the other side but darkness and ceasing to be, but living life with this thought, for me, is so horribly unbearable. With that thought, there is no hope, but with my belief, there is hope. Hope that this life has meaning, that even a tragedy has a purpose, that I will see my daughter and my father again where there is no more pain, loss, or tears. If I go to my grave a fool with hope at least I had hope and that is not foolish at all, we all need hope. Hope is why I can smile right now, in the face of  uncertainty and pain.

I am 26 years old. I am still young. I am a Christian. I believe Jesus Christ came to set the captive free. He did not come to condemn, He brought freedom. He has freed me, this I believe with all my heart. I am not perfect, I fall, I make mistakes, I don’t have all the answers, but I know the Man who does. This is my testimony, I pray each day that I be worthy of it.

Are You There, God? Part 2

This post is for anyone struggling with questions like, “If God is good and in control, then why do horrible things happen to the people who love Him and serve Him?”

Continued from “Are You There, God? Part 1”


I am far from perfect. My record, both as a person and especially as a Christian, is far from perfect. I am no better than any other human being on this planet, but God has blessed me with honesty, not just with others, but honesty with myself. Because of this, I have rarely strayed far from general morality. My conscience has always gotten the best of me. However, as I entered young adulthood, I went through a period of “breaking out”. I had been raised in a fairly strict, sheltered home. I did not get my first kiss until I was 19, and I had to go out-of-state to even make that happen. By 20 I was my own woman, making my own decisions, being adventurous for the first time in my life and quickly gaining a new-found confidence. This was not always for the better, in fact I made many mistakes and did many things I’m not proud of.

I met and married my husband when I was 21. I had been out of my parents house a little over a year. I did not know it at the time, but this was one of the better things that would come from this time period of wild self-governing. I started to settle back down a little, at least, I was with one man and we were trying to be independent adults. We did not make the best long-term decisions for at least the first year of our marriage. Actually, I feel like this year, the beginning of our sixth year, is finding us finally starting to make good decisions when looking at the big, long-term picture. The first year, however, was pretty touch and go. I was a server, he was a chef, there was a lot of de-stressing with drinks at the bar late into the night, a little sleeping, and then starting another night shift at our restaurants to repeat the cycle.

We knew from the get go that we wanted a couple of kids, but we did have the presence of mind to wait a year before getting pregnant with our first child. Part one of this story shares the links that talk about Skye’s birth and death, but I will add here, for my readers who don’t know, that during my pregnancy, we also moved from Kentucky to Colorado to open our own restaurant. However, due to our over excitement, lack of reading the signs, and some naivety, we got involved with the wrong business partners and lost our business a few months after moving there. We had accumulated about $15,000 in debt from those few short months alone. To make matters worse, the only work Josh could get after closing our restaurant was over 100 miles away one way and gas was almost $5 a gallon in that area at that time. One more month and we were so broke, there was only one thing left to do. We sold almost everything we owned that we still had, furniture, tv, bed. We tried to sell other things like my much-loved and treasured piano that had been with me through my life crisis at 18 and had been fought for time after time when my dad and my husband had not wanted to move it on several occasions. Nobody cared though, nobody cared about the tears that had polished those keys as I wrote poetry in my old tattered note-book and poured my soul out in song there. Nobody valued my old, weathered friend, and in the end, we left it there with other odds and ends of personal treasures that nobody valued but me. We loaded the stuff that was essential, the stuff that could fit into the smallest trailer U-haul offered, pulled behind our little car. Most of it was stuff for our baby who I was due to deliver in 3 weeks. We drove back home to Kentucky to move in with my parents. We had no job, no house, we lived in one of the bedrooms that one of my five sisters vacated for us. We had lost everything, we had no money. We were about as destitute as we could be – then we lost our baby girl.

It is hard to convey these feelings that are conjured up at remembering this horrible time. What I had gone through before in life was so pale compared to this that it is transparent. There is not a term to describe what I felt as I attempted to begin living in the wake of these horrible events. I just know that it is exactly how Job must have felt.

Josh had gotten a job at a small town restaurant 2 days before I delivered. His employers were wonderful, upon hearing that he would be gone indefinitely to stay in Louisville at the Ronald McDonald House to be there for our angel in the NICU at Kosair, they said he could take whatever time he needed and his job would be there when he was ready to come back. Of course, we did not know that would be just a little over 17 days later, once the funerals were done. There were two, one for my family and friends in Willisburg, then another in Salem, Western Kentucky for his family. For almost every single one of his many family members, seeing Skye in her coffin was the first time they got to meet her. It was absolutely heart wrenching.

So, there is a lot of cloudiness. I have very little about the following months that I remember. I guess I have blocked them out as a coping mechanism. The initial time during the days following her death, the funerals, there was a lot of numbness. There was a lot of crying and numbness and more crying. When we got home to my parents house after the funeral in Salem, we both decided we needed our own place. Obviously, we had only money that wonderful family and church family gave us, so we moved into the cheapest place we could find, about 20 miles from my parents. It was an old, very small school building that had been converted into apartments.

If there is one word I could use to describe this apartment it would be “dank”. We might as well have lived in a cave. It was dark carpet, dark paneling, it had inadequate lighting for a place that had an all white interior, let alone the dark interior. It had 2 very small windows on one side of the apartment, the other side opened into the long hall. It came with an old broken down couch and chair, also in dark colors, that smelled badly. It would have been deeply depressing for a unicorn made of rainbows, let alone for two grieving young people who had nothing.

As the days passed, Josh went back to work. I also tried to work. I thought throwing myself into a job would be a good thing. I got a job serving at the little country place Josh worked. Long story short, there was very little traffic to that restaurant for reasons that became very obvious to Josh and I, and it seemed like every table I got was a young couple with a baby girl. Needless to say, I didn’t last too long. I was a mess.

I found myself with a lot of time, after I quit working, to sit alone in that horrid apartment. Winter had set in, it was so cold. I did a lot of sleeping. The only good thing about all that darkness was it fostered sleeping. Josh would get up at 7am to be to work by 8am and I would sleep. Sometimes I’d get up and eat something then go back to sleep until he got home around 9pm. I had set up all Skye’s things in the second bedroom of this apartment, I had put the blankets and fluffy animals in her crib, I had put up her few pictures, painful pictures of her wrapped in gauze, or the ones of her the day she was born, fire engine red with pieces of her skin coming off and wrapped in clear plastic. Her room was beautiful, one of the two windows lit it up quite well, ironically. There were hours where I would sit in there cradling her pictures and weep for her. My heart felt like it was being pulled out of my body through my throat and that feeling only went away when I would sleep.

And I talked with God. Yes, even here, even now, I still believed in my God. I still knew that my God was real. I finally understood why I had gone through those tortured years as a teen. I could not have survived this horrible thing had I not gone through those anguishing moments. Even still, it was all I could do to not rail at God and once again ask Him “Why?”

I was much older and much more mature at this point. Having gone through my crisis at 18 and surviving 5 years of complete Hell, I knew at least with my heart that this thing I was going through now also had a purpose and it too would pass. My brain refused to acknowledge the things that my heart said, however. My brain wanted very badly to convince my heart that these things were not true, because misery loves company I guess. But even when my brain would get close to convincing my heart that its belief was ridiculous, my heart would always counter that without hope, life really would become unbearable. Without the hope of one day seeing my daughter again, she would just be a tragedy with no closure. Without the hope of this being a tiny piece of a bigger picture filled with greater good, my life would just become one giant tragedy of loss and waste and pain.

Like I said, most of the time between my daughter’s moment of death and the moment I found out at 20 weeks of pregnancy that I was having another girl, that time is cloudy and gone. Most of you know I have since had the surprise joy of giving birth to my second beautiful girl, Christian Faith. Her very name was a life ring I clung to during that dark time after Skye died. I named my unborn child Christian Faith, not knowing if I would hold her or if like her sister, I would have her wrenched away from me way too soon. I began to read my Bible for the first time in forever. Josh and I hadn’t even gone to church regularly since we’d been married, but I just knew that my only hope of finding comfort and sanity was with The One who had given it to me many years before. Time and again I randomly stumbled upon verses that comforted me so beautifully, verses I had read before, some I had not, but they seemed to apply directly to me, as if that verse had been written to me personally. I read the story of David and Bathsheba and the loss of their baby. How I could relate to Bathsheba on many levels. Why did this happen? She’s not the one who lusted and committed murder, that was David’s fault, yet Bathsheba, the mother of that innocent baby, she suffered. Of course, the story focuses on David, but now I was able to take this story, this person from thousands of years ago and relate and find the humanity and imagine this mother’s anguish and turmoil. Perhaps one day I will get to hear her story, but I did take comfort in the verse where David rose and said, “I cannot bring the child back to me, but one day I will go to the child.”

I feel a bit like I am rambling. It is just so hard to describe and then condense grief into these few paragraphs. However, one thing I know, it is over 3 years later and while the pain is still there to some extent and always will be, my God helped me through this tragedy. Without hope in my God, without faith to believe He has a purpose, I would have been crushed under the weight of unthinkable hopelessness, under the thought that everything I have experienced is for nothing.

God does not create pain. The imperfection of man and humanity, the flaws of a mortal body, that creates pain, tragedy, loss, etc. God allows these things, however, because He knows that we need them to become stronger. You cannot help a baby bird hatch from its egg, it needs the pain, the struggle, to make it strong enough to live. God could not help me “hatch” from my “egg” because He knew that I too needed extra strength to face what life had for me.

So I have explained why my crisis at 18 was necessary to help me through the death of my daughter, but why did my daughter have to die? What is the purpose there? Well, I’ve again run out of time and will save more of my thoughts for another post.