Monday, October 6, 2014

3 Years later......

Three can that possibly be? Why is the third year so difficult? All questions that most people don't have to think about (thankfully) except for a group of very tight knit friends that all faced their babies' third birthday's this year. These "sisters" of mine are a blessing along this bittersweet journey that God sent my husband and I on three years ago. Our babies all live together in heaven and one day we will see them again but for now, we have to finish our work here on earth. Every single one of my "sisters" have chosen their own way to honor their child...whether it be like my Everlasting Grace project of blankets and hats for the NICU, to foundations to help families that encounter similar situations, to making hats and so forth for parents of children that have been given a fatal diagnosis, to having runs in honor of their little ones to donate to the Duke University research program on anencephaly. All of us "sisters" have had little rainbow babies since our heartbreaking losses 3 years ago as well....we truly share every step in each other's lives.
   So why is this year so much more difficult for me....I can't exactly put my finger on it. It may be because I wonder so often what she would look like at this age after watching Anna and Sarah change so much since birth. I wonder a lot what she would be doing and what her personality would be like and so does her daddy. Jeff thinks she would be our brown eyed/brown haired little girl and that she would have my's his best guess. We obviously won't have a clue until we meet her in heaven one day. Sometimes I think a lot of my struggles this year come from the fact that I don't know how to show Anna and Sarah just how important and precious their sister's life is to us and just how much her presence impacted us all. Most days it's hard for me to wrap my mind around everything that happened over the past three years, so how do I have a child understand that? I know we can show them pictures and videos of her and her time we had with her on earth and do the obvious things.....but for some reason this year nothing seems......enough? I don't even know if those are the correct words to explain how I feel but it's the best I can come up with at the moment. Her birthday is coming up in a few short weeks and I want it to be filled with her family and memories and laughter....I know she would want it that way. This time of the year is always when my mind starts to wander back to those last few weeks I was pregnant and the turmoil that was going on in my head. At this point I was physically and emotionally tired of being pregnant but the immense guilt I felt over wanting to have her was long as she stayed in me she was ok...once she was born, she was not. That was a horrible feeling I dealt with for a long time. After we lost Gracie, a part of us seemed to die with her. We knew we wanted a family and knew since we were older than the average couple we should start trying and we did. When we got pregnant with the girls, we were obviously excited but of course terrified! Once we found out there were two babies then the fear was even greater that something was going to happen. It was hard to enjoy the pregnancy as we waited for something to happen because surely we wouldn't be able to have not one but two healthy babies right?! As the weeks slipped by, I asked Gracie to keep her sisters safe and prayed that we would get to 24 weeks (as that is "viability" age)...then 30 weeks...then 32 weeks...and 34 the weeks went by my mind told me that I better be ready for two babies, but my heart was cautious. I prepared because I knew I had to, but it was hard. I kept thinking...what is some fluke, weird thing happens and we don't end up with these babies....and there was ALL of this STUFF!!! Well 38 weeks came and Anna and Sarah arrived...healthy and full term. Two days later we went home. As we were waiting for our discharge information Jeff kept saying....they better hurry before they don't let us take them. Our minds still didn't believe they were ours....this lasted a long time! In fact, Jeff still says every now and then, "Can you believe they are ours?" Anna and Sarah were certainly hand picked by their sister in heaven and were sent here by her for a very specific help us live again. They have opened our hearts to that special kind of love we had only felt for their sister, Gracie. Gracie makes me a better mom in so many ways. Anyone that knows me, knows I am not the most patient person....well let me tell you, after losing our first born it changes you in ways you didn't even realize. I have more patience with Anna and Sarah (thank goodness!!!) than I ever would have had if it had not been for their sister. Despite the madness of the first 1 1/2 years of the girls' lives, I managed to take only about a zillion pictures of them and I am thankful for that because frankly...neither of us remember a lot of it! I feel the need to photograph them a lot (as my facebook friends all know!) and share them with our friends and family. I take time to be with them and play with them and frankly...just enjoy them. My house is a mess BUT I have my time with my girls and that is what I find important now. Jeff finds reasons to stop by the house on average 4-5 times a day when working outside and plays with the girls....the girls LIVE for these visits. The world literally stops in it's tracks when he walks through the door. It's all fun and games for those few minutes and the girls need and crave that time during this busy time of the year on the farm. Jeff used to leave in the morning and if I wanted to see him I had to track him down and I might have gotten a few minutes of his time. HA! His girls have made him realize that there are many more things important in the world besides work. Of course while he's gone I video and snap pics of the girls doing new and funny things so he doesn't miss anything. Our time with Gracie made us realize you never know when time is up with the ones you love. So we cherish our moments with our kids...reluctantly I will admit, even at 2am during this wonderful period in their lives where they are competing in who will cut the most teeth at one time (fun game I tell ya!). I realize that in the not too distant future I will be losing sleep at night for a whole different reason and frankly I will take teething over the impending teenage years that will probably cause the rest of their father's hair to fall out and mine to go completely white!
  So three years later, the ache in my heart is the same.....the hole left by Gracie leaving us at such an early age is still deep and raw.....the absence of a three year old in the house is ever so noticeable. A mother doesn't ever "get over" losing their eventually learn to live with the pain by default....because frankly the world doesn't stop when yours does. Eventually we dust ourselves off and with the help of our little one's love from heaven we start to walk down life's path again. At some point you walk out of the "fog" you lived in since your baby's diagnosis, and you learn to live again. At first we are like a newborn calf and we are wobbly on our legs...scared to do things because we might fall down, but we keep going because we have to survive in this crazy world. In our case our Gracie gave us Anna and Sarah to help us learn to smile, laugh, and even trust that happiness is out there yet after having our lives turned upside down. For that we are ever so grateful to Gracie....we feel her presence with us daily and she gives us signs she is with us in our every day lives. That brings me strength in it's own....having our baby girl here to watch over us and be part of our family. Three years later the hurt is still there but Gracie managed to put a band aide over our "boo boo" and helped to make us better.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014's precious at any age or stage....

It's been a while since I've is crazy (putting it mildly) these days between the kids, harvest time, work, appointments and so on. I have been dwelling on the topic of life in my head for some time now and needing to write my thoughts down. Those of you that know me, know that I am strictly a pro-life person....and when I mean pro-life, it goes beyond the hot topic of abortion. The society we live in has become so calloused to life that it sickens me. Because a baby or an elderly person isn't considered "perfect" then they are disposable and are treated with complete disregard. I've worked in healthcare for nearly 20 years and have seen it older person comes to ER with complaints and the complaints are disregarded because they are "old." Why would we spend money on a 90 year old? They have lived their life. What, do they expect to live forever or what? Oh yes....I have heard it all. Same goes for a baby that receives a diagnosis inuteral like our Gracie did and are deemed incompatible with life. We chose to carry our baby to term because how could we turn our back on a baby we had tried so hard for? She was ours....God sent her for a reason. Was it Would have terminating her earlier in the pregnancy made it easier to deal with the loss of her??? fact I think it would have been worse. How do you not play the "What if" game? Well when carrying her I met a whole community of "sisters" with babies that they had either given birth to or were carrying with the same diagnosis of anencephaly. The things people said to them were horrifying....they were told they were going to make their babies suffer by carrying them to term. They were asked, "Why are you doing this to yourself?" (in regards to carrying to term) I can tell you I have not met a single mom who regrets their decision to carry to term. Now I can tell you I have met moms that chose to terminate and they are the ones that live with regret and a lot of the time guilt. Why does society deem it acceptable to "dispose" of someone that is not considered "normal' or "perfect" by the standards of society? Why has it become so acceptable to "not care" about these people (of any age)? One mom I met from the east coast said that babies that received prenatal diagnoses of Down's Syndrome or a cleft lip/palate are aborted out there because they aren't "perfect." I was shocked.....maybe I live a sheltered life here in rural North Dakota and was completely horrified at what was going on elsewhere. This mom was the first patient her doc had that carried a baby to term with a diagnosis that made their child incompatible with life. That little girl changed that doctor's perception of "these babies" and changed a lot of other minds along the way as well....I believe that was her mission that God sent her on.
  Over the years as a nurse, I have worked in several positions in the rural health field. The hospital, the clinic and now in basic care. All of those positions had me in direct contact with the elderly. The elderly get overlooked in our "in a hurry" society. I feel if people would slow down and take a minute to "discover" this generation of folks, they would realize what they have been missing in their life. These folks are living and breathing history books. If you take a minute and think about everything they have seen in their life and how things have changed it is mind boggling! Just recently one of my residents who is in their mid 90's was hospitalized with a bowel obstruction. She laid in a bed for 7 days and had nothing to eat or drink by mouth (just IV fluids) and had a major abdominal surgery. Now....she was expected to be up and doing everything for herself after two days of physical therapy. Of course when she wasn't up to par, they wanted to send her to a nursing home. Well I fought my case with them and she did make it to the rehab unit. She has had a rollercoaster ride thus far and I pray she can come home to us soon. The medical staff saw her age and their actions spoke for their thoughts...she was disposable...send her to a nursing home. NOW....I pointed out to them that this gal as not your average 90 something year old lady and went on how she did all her own cares and was a feisty one. They were looking at demographics and not the patient...a common problem in our medical community.
  No matter what the person's age is...0-100+ their life has a value and God made that life for a very specific reason and when he decides it's their time then it is not up to us to determine that. It's plain and simple....not rocket science by any means. Now of course people out there will argue with me and that's ok....we are all entitled to an opinion...doesn't mean that it's right. :)
  A story I read yesterday was very disturbing to me. An alarming increase in numbers for selective reduction in a pregnancy have been noted in twin pregnancies! People are choosing to kill one of their babies for convenience. The woman they interviewed for the story was 45 and had tried for YEARS to become pregnant and went through numerous fertility treatments to finally become pregnant....with twins. Well she had three school aged children and prided herself with being a "good mom" to them and felt that twins would inhibit her in keeping up this status. So at 34 WEEKS she chose to have the doctor kill one of her babies....for convenience sake! It floored me that someone that tried so hard to have a baby can just so callously could dispose of a perfectly healthy baby just so things would be hard for her? I had to quit reading at this point because it made me sick. I looked at my beautiful 18 month old twin girls and wondered how could I pick one of you to not have in our lives? At 34 weeks that baby was pretty much a full term and there would have been thousands of parents lined up to take that child and loved them. I cannot wrap my mind around her thought process. Is having twins a challenge...heck ya?! The first year was a blur..a sleepless blur. Any twin parent would admit to that, but at 18 months the girls are a lot of work but a LOT of fun. I honestly couldn't picture one or the other not being in our lives. It makes me very sad that this mother chose to end one of her babies lives so her life wouldn't be too inconvenienced.
   I thought long and hard about how I wanted to write this today and whether or not it came out "perfectly" or not I don't know....but it's my thoughts. I'm not known for keeping my opinions to myself so this is a topic that has been eating at me extra hard these past few days and I had to get it out there.
  If there is one lesson that Gracie taught me is that life is precious. Life is a gift. Life is not to be taken for granted. Love crosses all ages. Love is unconditional........

Saturday, May 3, 2014

I survived.......

Well the twins made it to a year....I should rephrase that and say, Jeff and I made it through the first year! Every parent of multiples you talk to say the first year is the toughest and I would be no different. We have fond memories (all be it blurred memories) of them as cute newborns, but mostly the newborn-6 month stage was not a blissful time in motherhood as I had always envisioned....but hey, when you are single and don't have kids you know everything about raising kids right? HA! Every idea you every have for your children you may as well toss out the window because frankly they will make an idiot of you and your preconceived notions of what your children will be like. I have pretty much eaten every single word I every said when I talked about being a parent "in the future" and when I talk to others that seems to be the trend. Frankly, the sooner you figure out that you are not in charge the better off you are. The two little 6 and 7 pound chubby babies I brought home the hospital pretty much ran the show from the beginning....hey, they're newborns and they may be small but they are in charge. I thought I'd compose a list of things my children taught me and words they have made me eat just in the past year for this blog entry.....and try and have a sense of humor about it, because really you can either laugh or cry about it all. HA!

1. "My kids are never going to sleep in our bed." Well let's just say that got shot in the butt right from the beginning. You see, my kids couldn't be more different if they tried. Anna was smaller and wanted to eat more often and Sarah was bigger and went a little longer....BUT I was preached to about getting them on the same schedule and so I went with it. When Anna would wake, it was usually another hour til Sarah woke up so if I took her to bed with Jeff and I she would go right back to sleep.....and so did I. I was not blessed with those peaceful looking sleeping kids pretty much have a wrestling match in their cribs every night and when you go into their room you wonder how in the world they ended up in that position. They woke up a lot and Anna continues to be up a couple times a night and frankly at some point you do anything for more sleep and that means they park their little butts between you and your husband and it becomes a family bed. This has gotten a little better as Anna sleeps better in her crib so she seldom sleeps with us. Sarah usually doesn't join us for a snuggle until around 4:30-5am and mostly I think she just wants some Daddy time to herself.

2. "Why would people take their kids to daycare so they can clean house/do errands?" Why???? Because God blessed me with two little tornados that tear stuff apart faster than I can put it away. Did you know that their toys are so boring.....until mom straightens them up and puts them away. Then suddenly they must scream to the girls, "Play with me, hurry!!!" because I don't even get to the next area and they have it all pulled out again. Also trying to go to Bismarck with two babies is a complete joke as they either need to eat, sleep, run around to burn off some energy, or need a diaper change...really doesn't allow too much time for the 101 errands you need to run when you are in town. When I do hear babies crying because they are tired/hungry/over stimulated I am very relieved my girls are at the sitters and can eat and sleep and play whenever they want.

3. "I can't believe how those kids are acting (in public)" Now.....thankfully my girls have spared us thus far by embarrassing us in public/church, etc. but we know our time is coming. I guess when it does we will just take it all in stride like we do with every other new thing that has been thrown our way this past year with two babies. I have often asked God....Why did you give a first time (earthly) mom two completely opposite babies to try and figure out? Most people have a time with trying to figure one out, much less two. Now these two girls may be twins but really the only thing they share is a birthday. NOTHING else is the same with them....they just happen to be siblings born on the same day. Sarah is laid back and happy go lucky. Anna is high energy and can go from laughing to a full on temper tantrum in a matter of seconds. We love that they are different and wouldn't change it for a minute.

4. A very important lesson they have taught me is don't try to leave the house quickly. Inevitably someone will have pooped their pants after you have their coats and hats on and your arms full to walk out the door so you can start all over again. You wouldn't think that this would happen more than once or twice...but it does, and it happens many, many, many times. Or you have one all ready and you go to get the other one ready and the first one completely undresses themselves....because why not, right? You would swear your kids are being paid off by good old Lucifer some days.

5. Another lesson...."You can sleep when you are dead." My husband and I used to make fun of this saying....well it's true when you have two babies at once. Sleep is a thing of the past. If they aren't teething then they have a cold or they have some other problem. So sleeping at night is a thing of the past (at least for me).

6. A good lesson.....You shall never eat, go to the bathroom, or do anything alone again. Now...I have a cat and a dog, so going to the bathroom alone was never really in the cards but for the most part they kinda leave you alone. Now, when a toddler is in the bathroom with you it is a whole different story. They are in every draw that they can get into. They throw anything on the edge of the tub in the tub. They feel they need to sit on your lap....the list goes on and on and really the possibilities are endless when you get two of them in the bathroom with you.

7. "I'm watching what I want to watch on TV when they are young." Do you know who is king at our house...well it isn't Jeff or is Mickey Mouse. He is my savior at getting anything done. Even after you could recite the episodes word for word and you really just want to punch that mouse in the face, you don' realize that you are nothing without the mouse. What a humbling moment in your life.

8. A good lesson to remember is that if you are going somewhere do NOT under any circumstances put the clothes that you want to wear on until you are literally ready to walk out the door. Dirty hands, snot noses, left over hidden food, or when they are little, spit up, will end up on your shirt for sure if you put it on any sooner than you have too.

9. Here's a good want to go somewhere but you have to take two babies with you, so you think to yourself, "How bad do I really want to do this?" And then you find out that you really don't want to do whatever it was at all. To get two of them changed, dressed, coats and caps on, and strapped into seats along with a packed bag outweighs whatever it was you wanted to do so badly in a hurry. Now if the hubby is available to go along it's not so bad, but I'm a farmer's wife and from March to November we essentially give our husbands up to the farm. (not complaining, it's just how we lives) So you really just end up staying home a lot. This isn't all bad either as the kids easily entertain us for hours on end and those moments are way more precious than anything else.

10. I would say the most important lesson they have taught us is how much you can love one little person (times two!). Don't get me wrong....we love our Gracie immensely and it is a love unlike any other. Loving your baby in heaven is intense and heart wrenching at the same time. I didn't know what to expect when the girls arrived. After I let my guard down (over the fear of losing them) a bit. the love that came was so much it fills my heart til it wants to burst. I never tire of watching them and am in constant awe of what they come up with. Even a year later we still find ourselves looking at them and wondering, "Are they really ours to keep?"

I would say the past year has been an insane blur of memories and I quite thankful for all the pictures I took because sometimes I hardly remember those moments when I look at their pictures. I've told so many people that ask me about their first year, that I'm not sure how it went so fast given I have been awake for about 90% of the past year, but it has. It scares me a bit that they are growing so fast and that time slips by so quickly. I don't want them to grow so quickly but yet we look forward to all of their milestones to come yet. The past year has been difficult at times because as we watch the girls grow and start to do different things we can't help but think of everything we missed out on with Gracie. I sit and wonder what she would look like as a toddler and what would she be doing if she were here. It's emotionally very difficult because you wish she was here, but if she was you have to wonder, if the twins would be here then? What a tug on a mother's heart! I just keep telling myself that our girls are all where God meant for them to be, but still your heart tells you a whole other story. This past year has been filled with bittersweet memories of our precious Gracie and it's also been filled with lots of tears, smiles, giggles, kisses, and hugs with our Anna and Sarah. There have been many, many, many difficult days where I have cried with the kids because I was at my wits end and somehow here we are...13 1/2 months later and we made it. We all survived that first year together. No doubt that Gracie isn't helping from heaven and hasn't missed a step with our family this past year. I feel she helped me survive the past year and gave me the strength to go on when I felt I couldn't any longer. I am proud to say we made it.....I survived.........

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Soooooooo January's my 35th birthday. Wow....why in the world does 35 sound so much older than 34? As I was rocking one of my girls to sleep this evening, I was reflecting on what God has brought into and out of my life since I met my husband. I looked at our wedding picture and looked at that youthful innocence that is written all over our faces. I just stopped and stared at my in the world can 4 years age a person so much. In our wedding picture there is a youthful glow to my face that somewhere along the way seems to have taken a back seat. When I look in the mirror now I see a face with a story. There are wrinkles that never used to be there....many more white hairs that have decided to show up....and yes...even scattered white eye brow hairs! AH! I guess life has a way of writing it's story upon your face...well at least my face. When I look into the mirror there are not those same care free eyes glancing back at me...there are eyes that have cried many, many tears....tears of sadness and tears of joy. My eyes seems to started to look like they have a really big story to tell....and they do. In our 4+ years of marriage we have had three daughters as most of you all know. Gracie was to precious for this earth and God decided to take her home with him. Jeff and I have to wait our life times to get to know her. We've cried many tears about having to lose her so quickly and the hurt is still there...we are just a little bit better at hiding it and living with it. There are days that trigger those fresh, heartache feelings...such as January 27th that is coming up...that was the day we found out we were pregnant with was the happiest day for us! We only had a few weeks of this ignorant bliss (as I refer to it) before our world started to crash down around us....our daughter had anencephaly. So as those milestone days start to pop up again on this fresh calendar year, one can try and prepare yourself as much as possible, but there really isn't a way to do that. It seems like the feelings are different each time...sometimes they hit hard and the next time they bring a smile to your face. Having and losing Gracie made us even more determined to have our earthly family. Along came the twins....Anna and Sarah. about life altering! Our house went from being completely quiet to complete and utter chaos! But what a beautiful chaos it is! Two precious girls that have stolen more hours of sleep than anyone could ever imagine! :) Two little girls that have made us worry more than we thought possible. Two little girls that have brought us more joy that we ever thought was possible. We both believe their sister, Gracie had a hand in there being two of them at once. They have taught us that we will never, ever forget their beautiful sister, but that we have to continue to live life. We have to continue to put our hearts on the line so we can experience the kind of joy that we have. These two little girls are little balls of fire and at 10 1/2 months old they keep us on our toes constantly. I'm not going to lie....I'm exhausted. I have spent more time in our rocker recliner than in bed since they joined our household but frankly I wouldn't change a thing. Are they the cause of the extra wrinkles and white hair (and bags under my eyes!)....I'm sure they have contributed as their sister did...they are part of that life story that is written on my face.
  In a few weeks I will be starting my annual tradition of speaking at the University of Mary to the junior nursing students about our daughter, Gracie's life. As a nurse it brings me a sense of purpose to pass along what she taught all of us...unconditional love. It's easy on the outside to say..."why would you carry a baby to term that's going to die. All they are going to do is hurt themselves." That is why her story is discount those thoughts and feeling and bring recognition that every life has a purpose and lesson from God to teach us all if we stop and listen. We are never too old to learn new things.....not even at the ripe old age of 35! Every time I speak to the colleges I learn something new that is for sure. So as I start to mentally prepare myself to go back to one of the most beautifully painful times in my life, I will look in the mirror and let my eyes tell a wonderful story.