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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Vanquishing Fear – An Epic Tale

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

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

Our first Daughter Skye, minutes old.

Our first Daughter Skye, minutes old.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.