2.0 Round 2 Day 61: Coping With Real Life

I have been completely absent this past week and have not exercised all week either. My father in law has been in bad health for a while but at the beginning of this year he suffered several bad strokes that left him incapable of living on his own and was moved to nursing home care. 11 months later on November 3rd his suffering ended as he passed peacefully and quietly to the other side. We had been able to stay with him, by his side for several days and say good bye, and the kids were able to be there for a short while. He had long since lost his ability to speak and had become mostly comatose those last few days and before that for several months he had not been very cognitive, but on the last 2 days of his life he was able to come back a little. The old dad was there more than it had been in a long time. He recognized my husband, his only child, and myself and was even able to whisper a few words. My husband decided to bring the kids to see him since he was doing so miraculously well. He recognized the kids when they came in and something that took all the effort he had, he smiled at them. Only a few hours before his death, having not been able to do more than faintly move his fingers to squeeze our hand and mouth a few short words without sound, the very last person he smiled at was my little girl.

His grandkids have always been his joy. I know he was sad that his bad health prevented a lot of things, including doing different things with his grandchildren, but he loved them so much. It makes perfect sense that he would manage a smile for them on his last day on earth. We all treasure that moment, such a beautiful parting gift from someone you love, knowing they gave all they had left. I’m crying a little as I’m remembering it just now. He will be so missed.

So with all that’s gone on this week I was unable to do more than run back and forth between the nursing home and where the kids were staying with their Meme and then all the funeral arrangements and trips back to our home an hour away to get needed items. It has been exhausting. I did take my measurements this morning and predictably I have gained inches in my waist and love handles where my belly is growing but all my other measurements are either the same or down, and my weight is the same as day 45. So I’m confident that my habits that have been formed over this year of work have kept me in good stead. And I continue to be a little sick at the thought of junk food. Halloween candy has been no problem, in fact all those cakes and desserts at that down home country meal after the funeral were not even tempting at all, which you have to know a Pleasant Grove Baptist Church funeral pot luck. They are insanely full of delicious things that are not BBMC meal plan approved, including a vast array of delicious desserts. I have to be the only pregnant lady who doesn’t want to gobble chocolate and ice cream. I won’t complain though.

I plan to get back on track next week as my hubby returns to work and life carries on with that illusion of normalcy that comes after you lose someone you love. It can never be the same, but life marches forward. I have mountains of laundry to do and a week’s worth of house work on top of an already messy house. Looks like I’ll be staying busy.

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My BBM Journey: Day 9

Day 9’s workout is in the books. At the end of each workout I typically do a little something extra. Today I did some modified planks and wall sits, but for these, since I’m trying to go as long as I can and they are tedious as all get out, I put a favorite song on Youtube and sing at the top of my lungs while holding these rigid positions. I’m happy to report that I’m up to 3-4 minutes or more for each pose and especially the wall sits have gotten easier – well, a better way of putting it would be it is possible to hold them longer and I feel my legs are much stronger, nothing is really easy. I still drip sweat as if someone turned a hose on me.

Usually it’s my little guy who is all about doing the exercises with me, but my daughter can’t resist anything that has to do with music or singing and today she was by my side while I sang and sweat my way to a stronger me.

faith planks

My sister captured that one and posted it to Instagram. Super cute! I’m so lucky to have this little ball of sunshine energy. She is definitely the chocolate syrup to my sundae. She’s constantly moving and singing and dancing and smiling. She’s the life of the party.

And my little guy is my strong and steady, my calm and cuddly.

023I am just so blessed to be mommy to these great kids. They make me want to be the best mom I can be. And that’s what this whole thing is about, being the best version of me for my kids.

And there’s another little girl I do this for. I’ve been thinking about it a lot this morning after finding out about the passing of an old friend yesterday. You see, he lost someone dear to him several years back and he was never the same. He had always been a heavy drinker, but after he lost his best friend it was like he kind of gave up on life. I’m not here to judge anyone’s grief journey, that’s not what I’m about, grief is very personal and it should be.

But for those of you who don’t know, I lost my first baby girl when she was only 17 days old. It rearranged my life and remade me into the person I am today. That little girl forever changed me. She made me want to live better and bigger and follow my dreams like I never had before, because that opportunity to live fully here on earth, that was taken from her. That was taken from me, the day she died, seeing her live her dreams and grow up. And as a mother, you never recover from that. Ever. But she inspired me, and inspires many others through me, as I’m left to tell her story. And I do, every chance I get. I tell the world, anybody willing to listen, about my amazing little girl.

When I wake up each morning and get hugs and kisses from my son and daughter, there is always a little girl’s kisses that are missing, and I could let that destroy me, but I know that’s not what she would want. She would want me to smile and laugh and enjoy life and play with her brother and sister and be healthy and happy. And so I do. And I am so lucky and blessed beyond measure to be mom to these 3 amazing kids. They each have something to offer me as inspiration and I pray that I will be a source of inspiration and strength down the road for them. Every day is a gift, friends. Every single day. Don’t waste a single one in regret.

My first little girl Skye. She would have been 6 this September. This is the very first picture ever taken of her, minutes old.

My first little girl Skye. She would have been 6 this September. This is the very first picture ever taken of her, minutes old.

Note: if you haven’t read Skye’s story, it can be found here.

https://natasiachampion.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/skyes-story/

 

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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

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

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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.

 

 

Written On My Heart

As many of you know, June of this year marked the beginning of something that had been the humblest of thoughts in my heart since my daughter died. From 2008 until this year, 2012, it slowly evolved until, in one day, the final light bulb moment came and my little dream was birthed into reality.

I’m referring to my Christmas ornament donation program at Skye Blue.

One of the first, only, and most cherished gifts I got in memory of Skye came at the perfect time. The funeral was over, she was buried, the mourning visitors had gone home, my husband (and I, for a short time) went back to work, life began as the New Normal. I was anything but normal though. Nobody talked about my little girl anymore, no more cards came mentioning her name. My memories had been stolen from me before I had a chance to make them with her, and winter descended like a vulture on my soul. There was nothing to look forward to, no bouncing baby girl, no milestones, even the Holidays promised pain and tears without my little bundle to show off, to cuddle, to open presents with, and mostly just to hold and love.

And then, in November, I got a little parcel in the mail. It was from the organization Hearts and Hands. We had been connected with them soon after Skye was sent up to Kosair. At first I didn’t understand who they were and why I was being pushed to meet with yet another set of people when I could be spending time with my daughter. In fact, I don’t think I understood who they were and why we were being introduced the whole 17 days I was there. It was only in the months following Skye’s death that they became the most invaluable comfort to me. You see, they are a group of people who deal with families who have babies that have a huge chance of passing away soon after birth. I guess this is why I didn’t make the fateful connection. It never sank in that I probably wouldn’t bring my little girl home. Nobody thought they should “burden” me with the gravity of her situation.

In the blur that night, when my daughter passed away, it was the sweet ladies from Hearts and Hands as well as one of Skye’s regular nurses that lovingly prepared her body, unwrapping it, dressing it in real clothes for the first time, putting baby lotion on her damaged skin so she would smell like a baby and not a hospital when we held her for the first time without her wrappings. They made the little molds of her hand and feet, they photographed her and us holding her. And they told us that they would be in contact with us over the next few months, we didn’t have to answer back at all, but they would send us some things in the mail. I barely heard this and remembered it at that time, I was too shattered and numb.

I believe the first thing I got was that package in November. I had pretty much forgotten that they had said they would be sending anything, so when I opened it I was a little puzzled and wondered what it was. As I pulled the little tissue paper parcel out of the mailer and unwrapped it, I burst into tears. There was a little pink and white candy cane ornament and it had Skye written on it. Not Elizabeth, her first name and the name so many people used because they didn’t know her, but the name I had chosen so long ago and given to my precious baby while she was still a tiny hope.

We didn’t even put up a tree that year, but that ornament was so precious, because somebody cared. A virtual stranger cared enough to send something with my girl’s name and a hand written card telling me how sorry they were that I’d be spending the Holidays without her at a time when everybody had stopped talking about her for fear of “ruining the season by reminding me”. As If I could have forgotten her!

To this day, that ornament and the others we have accumulated each year are among my most precious earthly possessions. Pulling them out and hanging them on the tree with my family is a cherished moment each year, remembering, and making new memories with my children here on earth, telling them about their sister they have never met and why they are even more special to us because of how special she is.

That is the story behind my donated ornaments. They are a labor of love, not to families that are monetarily needy, but to those who are in need emotionally of someone, anyone, remembering their children. I want you to know, those of you who have requested an ornament for your child or children who have passed, I am touched and humbled as I sit at my table and shape the clay with my fingers. I contemplate your child who was and is and will always be. I say their name, I marvel at the beauty of their names, I think about the dates you have chosen to record, whether birthdays, conception days, due dates, their date of passing. I think of the colors that you choose to represent your child, I think of the short stories some of you send with your email request and I grieve with you, I truly do. Sometimes, when the house is very quiet I even shed a tear as think of these beautiful little lives and the people left behind to mourn them for the rest of their lives. I consider it a great honor to have my finger prints mingled in the same clay that bears your child’s name.

I felt like all this needed to be said, and now it still seems inadequate to convey what I feel, but I will post any way. God bless you all, thank you for letting me be a part of your remembering.

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For information about my program and how to request an ornament, please visit this link on my Facebook page.

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151009575456271.479378.362725131270&type=3

 

Capture Your Grief Day 31: Sunset

I am posting this a day late as last night I was busy making memories with family and friends. I have to say, it was perhaps the most appropriate way I could have ended this tender month.

When I started this project, I had the great desire to post every single day, using every subject. However, this month has been very busy, especially the weekends, and I had to skip a few days as they got away from me.

I have taken so much away from this project. I have cried and cleaned out my soul, remembered, mourned, rejoiced, freed myself of inhibitions, made friends, reflected, found strength, discovered things inside of me I had not even known were there. Not being lost on me is the irony that as I cried for my first child, I am pregnant with my last, and the cycle of living life fully while continually grieving has been an epic journey. I suspect it will not be over until I reach the distant shore of eternity. I’m ok with that.

Last night, as I spent a carefree evening with my husband and daughter and some dear friends, I kept in the back of my mind that I needed to snap a picture of the sunset. Since we were walking outside Trick or Treating, I figured it would be easy to capture a perfect picture. The evening sky was clear with just a few clouds that added to the aesthetic value and I was once again envisioning an epic photo much like the one I had envisioned at the beginning of the project. However, when the moment came to take the picture, I realized we were on the eastern side of a hill and could not see the setting sun horizon because of houses and power lines, etc. So I did the best I could, snapping a shot of the evening sky. At the moment, it did not seem very epic at all, but I wasn’t bothered as much as I had been with my sunrise shot at the beginning of this project. In that moment, I felt happy and carefree, I had the people who mattered most spending time with me and making precious memories. Perhaps the deep cleaning done to my soul has helped me more than I realize, all I know is something really is different at the end of this month compared to when October started.

Letting yourself grieve is a good thing, friends. Don’t be afraid of the memories and the tears they bring. Let yourself feel the pain, allow yourself to be hurt, admit that you have wounds. You have them anyway, acknowledging them is just the first step in the direction of healing. Denying your wounded state just keeps the wounds festering. Don’t kid yourself, they are there whether you cry or not, whether or not you acknowledge them, and most of all, they are there whether or not others acknowledge them. Grief is not to be feared, use it as a tool for healing your soul and getting stronger.

I hope each person reading this finds peace, where ever they are in their healing process, whether beginning, mid way, well into the thick of it, or maybe even having yet to encounter deep grief in your life. My hope is that you always have blessed memories being made along the way, and that you are never afraid to pull them out from time to time, even the painful ones. Every memory is precious.

Day 31: Sunset
Mt Pleasant, Tennessee, USA, about 6 pm October 31st, 2012

Capture Your Grief Day 30: My Grief – What I Want The World To Know

There are so many things I could say here, but one resounds stronger than any in my heart. Up until this year, I was very quiet, even apologetic about my grief. If someone asked a question that inevitably led to me mentioning Skye, I felt almost ashamed that I had to answer in a way that made them uncomfortable. In turn, that left me in pain, ashamed of my own feelings, saddened that I didn’t do my daughter’s memory the justice that it deserved. For most of 3 years I was a silent sufferer, afraid to shadow an oblivious world with the fact of my grief.

Then, as I began speaking about her, a beautiful thing happened. I began meeting moms I had never suspected that had suffered a similar loss. I met dads and grandmothers who I had known for several years, but I met the grieving side of them for the first time. Like me, they felt obligated by our society to be silent about the fact that their child had died.

We are “allowed” to speak about a friend who passes, a mother, father, grandparent, public official   – any well-known person that many people have met and remember. However, if the lost loved one happens to be an unborn baby or a baby that never took a breath at birth, or even a tiny baby that lived its entire life in the NICU, so many people squirm. They don’t know what to say, so for some reason they say things like, “At least you didn’t have time to get attached,” or “You can have more children, healthy children this time,” or worst of all, they say nothing. The more you speak about your child, the more withdrawn your circle of “friends” get, so you learn to be silent.

You don’t forget though. You never forget the tiny person who touched your life so deeply. No matter how small they were, they were your’s and you loved them with your entire heart. It is a shame that our modern society makes us feel bad for loving, caring, remembering our children.

If there is one thing I want the world to know about my grief it’s that my daughter was and is a person. I refuse to feel shame for speaking about her as often as I feel the need. I now know there are so many people just like me, moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters. You don’t realize it, but you know at least one, right now, who has been deeply affected by the loss of a young child. You know them personally. She is your friend at work, your child’s teacher, a lady in your church, the gas station clerk you chat with every morning. When you find her, don’t feel bad or uncomfortable. Just let her break the silence and offer her the same sympathy you would to someone who lost their parent or spouse. Don’t change the subject quickly and make her feel like she is a terrible person for mentioning what is probably the most precious thing she has ever had.

Capture Your Grief Day 26: Their Age

Oh, how little time we had, in retrospect. At the time it seemed endless, every day seemed like it would never end, like the time we had with her could stretch on and on if we just hoped enough and prayed enough. We were so tired and weary with the not knowing, with the endless cycle of different doctors projecting a possible diagnosis that always came up empty, giving everyone more questions than answers. We wondered if we would have to make hard decisions her whole life, if she would ever have a chance to be “a normal kid” or would it be test after test after procedure for the next few years. We couldn’t know we would not even have a month with her. If we could have known how little time we had, we would have done everything differently – and yet there isn’t one thing I think I would change, except I would have held her. I would have brushed my caution aside and held her every minute I could, I would have savored every second.

At the time I cried over her skin, I cried over whether or not her hair might ever grow with the deep damage to her scalp. I wondered if she would ever be normal or if kids would tease her. I spent so much time pumping milk, away from her, pumping milk that she never got to drink. In the end, nobody ever got to use that love I pumped so fervently, somebody in the NICU threw it away even as I was trying to make arrangements to donate it to a bank. (That was yet another loss I had to mourn in the face of losing my daughter, somebody carelessly throwing away my love, my nurturing, my tears and sleeplessness and broken dreams from breasts that would never hold my baby close to them, tender mommy moments that would never be. That alone was so devastating for me when the nurse called me, tears in her own voice, to tell me what had happened.)

All of it seems so unimportant now in the face of what I know. I had only 17 days with my daughter in this world outside the womb, and I will not get one day back to do over.

A whole lifetime in 17 short days.