Sunday, October 15, 2017

Infant Loss Awareness Day

October 15th has been designated as Infant Loss Awareness Day in our country.....October 20, 2011 is our Gracie's birthday. Gracie was born at 8:35am by C-section nearly 6 years ago. There were so many unknowns about that day.....Did we do the right thing? Was she going to be alive? Would I get out of the OR in time to see her and hold her while her heart was beating? Was she going to be able to be baptized? What was my reaction going to be to my first born child that was not going to be born with her skull and only parts of her brain? All those questions were answered that morning of October 20th at St. Alexius hospital in Bismarck, ND when Dr. Witt delivered our daughter. My fear for so many months would be my first reaction to her birth defect. What I first noticed on my daughter where these big hands that had to belong to her father. I noticed her defect, but it was not significant enough to be my first memory....because mother's love their children unconditionally. Unconditional love became the theme of our pregnancy with Gracie after we found out her diagnosis and we knew there was nothing we could do to "cure her" or "make things better." We decided to love her even though we knew in the end she would be taken from us. We already loved her so it did made this a natural decision. Deciding to terminate our pregnancy early would not have spared my spouse or I any pain. Instead we took this time to embrace our time with our daughter. We didn't have years to make memories once she was born, so we embraced the time we had with her before she was born and the hours after she born. Most people reading this blog know Gracie's birth and life story and I'm not going to go into details, but while Gracie was still inside of me she helped her Daddy farm. That farm year we hauled anhydrous, raked hay, rode in the combine, drove in her Dad's semi, worked cattle, went for four wheeler rides and everything else that makes up a "farm year." I was raking hay when I was 40 weeks pregnant trying to get her to come out on her own....that didn't happen obviously after reading the intro to this blog. You see, Gracie did things her way and for a great reason. Everything that happened during her pregnancy was on her timeline. She was in charge of her life and her story. We as parents allowed Gracie to tell her story as she wanted to. After Gracie's birth and death, I tried to make sense of this tragedy. I was a nurse....I made everyone else better and I couldn't help my daughter. It was a horrible and helpless feeling. Somewhere along that bumpy road it came to me that I needed to educate future nurses. I contacted the two nursing colleges in Bismarck with my idea of presenting Gracie's story to their class and both colleges embraced my idea. You see, there are some lessons in nursing you simply cannot learn from a text book. Gracie will be 6 this week and this also starts my 6th year of doing my Everlasting Grace presentations to the nursing classes. I was recently asked to present at the State Convention for the Nursing Student Association of ND......this is so much bigger than I had ever planned for things to become and I am so proud of our daughter for guiding me through these past 6 years. I am not a public speaker....and in fact it has been one of my biggest fears, but somehow she guides me through every single presentation and I know she will guide me through this upcoming presentation. I don't have a set speech when I do my talks....I let Gracie tell her story. Every single time she has left an impact. One of the colleges has started to give me the evaluation form at the end of the presentation so I can read what the students say....Anne...thank you for this as it shows my husband why I continue to do my talks. I have healed so much from sharing Gracie's story and seeing others take away from my presentation a gift they can use in their nursing career. It makes my heart feel a bit more complete every single time I impact a new class of nurses.
At 7pm this evening, please light a candle in memory of all babies taken from this Earth before their parents' hearts were ready and put it in on Facebook. It is known as the Wave of Light on Facebook and it to draw attention and awareness to Infant Loss. Help us baby loss mommas continue to squash out the taboo of talking about an uncomfortable topic. We live it daily and want it be known that our children's lives mattered no matter how long or how short.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

5 years in.....

This Thursday, October, 20th at 8:35am it will be 5 years since our beloved daughter, Gracie was born. The old saying is, "Time heals all wounds," right? Well maybe.....I can say there isn't a day that goes by where she isn't in my thoughts. I don't cry like I used to, but my heart still has the same palpable hole in it. In fact I hadn't cried in a very long time (honestly cannot remember)...until last evening. It has been a chaotic farm year to say the least around here and I had just completed a vendor show Saturday afternoon and was driving home. For whatever reason, the gravity of everything hit me all at once. I found myself sobbing and driving which is not the best combination of course. Five in the world has five years passed since we last held our daughter???? A lot has obviously happened in the last five years, mainly her twin sisters arriving 3 1/2 years ago, which has been life altering to say the least. No matter how insane our lives become, my mind finds time to drift back to our first born. My eyes find her pictures on the wall and mantle. My eyes find the keepsakes scattered throughout the house. In our room we have a beautiful canvas with her hand and foot prints on it with the bible verse,: I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I have a beautiful framed piece of art a friend made of her toes with butterflies around it that hangs above my husband's desk. There are memories that surround me everywhere....even the car. Jeff's sister had a vinyl decal made for the side of the car in memory our daughter. I don't get in our car too often without looking at it as well. I do many things to keep Gracie's memory alive for many reasons....I don't want her to become a distant memory to people around me, which is my biggest fear. I continue to do my talks at two local colleges about our experience in having our daughter and I also continue to do our blanket and hat project for the NICU at St. Alexius hospital. These two projects keep Gracie's memory front and center and that as a mom is all I can do for her. She will always be my first born and my first experience at being a mom. It wasn't your typical "mom" experience by any means but it was a very significant and special mothering experience. She change my husband and I in ways that no other child would have ever changed us. We grieve her every our own way. Some days are more significant than yesterday was for me. Jeff came in shortly after my "sob fest" and looked at me and asked if I had been crying and I replied, "yes," He then said, "about Gracie?" I replied, "yes." He was silent....this is how he responds typically. We grieve very differently and I've grown to accept that completely. He said to me, "Five" Now, my husband is a man of few words, so these words are quite profound because for all that I typed, he summed up into one very short sentence. To top things off, our 7 year wedding anniversary is this week. Since Gracie's birth/death it has changed our anniversary as the days are 3 days apart. We've gone out to eat and "celebrated" our marriage but it's not the same. I think we both travel back to 2011 and what we were doing leading up to Gracie's birthday. I knew there would be certain "milestone" years that would be difficult and this is one of them. Gracie should be in the very first preschool class in McClusky. I helped a friend with getting things started for a preschool in town and so it is extra bittersweet as I'm so very excited they have their first class, but there should be an extra chair in their desk area. I wonder often what her personality would be like since her twin sisters have polar opposite personalities. Would she have more of Anna's personality (God help us all) or be more like Sarah? Would she have brown hair and eyes like her mom, since she looked like me? What would her giggle sound like? Would she have liked Anna or Elsa more? (this is an important debate among toddlers these days) The list could go on and on and one could play the "what if" game over and over and it would get you no where but really crazy after awhile. Most of us infant loss parents adapt and learn to live a "new normal" so we can cope with the world around us. We are forever changed. We lose some friends because they don't get the "new us" and we gain new friends from the baby loss community who tend to get the "new us" because quite frankly they are in the same boat as we are. Most folks think when you have your rainbow baby(s) it should "fix" us and we shouldn't hurt anymore. While they do help us learn to live again, by no means can anyone or anything fill the void of a lost child. Quite frankly if you haven't gone through this loss it is hard to comprehend and that is ok....we do not wish this pain on anyone.
Every year that passes, the surreal feeling of the situation does not lessen. There are some years or milestones that are more profound than others and it seems that year five has brought a whole new set of emotions with it. It's hard to put my finger on what exactly is so profound about this year but I think it's because she should be in preschool and writing her name and learning all sorts of wonderful things. Her art work should join her sisters on our fridge and it's not. There is just so much that hit me last evening when I finally broke down and sobbed my heart out. So much emptiness and so much hurt and ache.....just a vast space in my heart that is so unbearable. This year will be the first time Gracie's birthday falls on one of my work days which is very difficult....maybe in a way it won't be a bad thing as I will be busy with the clinic coming to see many of my residents. I guess we will see in a few days how it all goes.
To commemorate Gracie's 5th year I encourage you all to remember her and our family in your thoughts and prayers that day. Do something special with your family/children and be grateful for the life you have been given with them. We are not guaranteed any amount of time with our children. We are not guaranteed to see them grow up, graduated school, get married, etc. Those are all privileges that many take for granted, so please take a moment to acknowledge the blessings you have been given in your lives. Five years have flown by way to quickly for us, but as they say, the world doesn't stop for us. We must keep going and keep living for those we have left in our lives.

Friday, May 27, 2016


It's been far too long since I've blogged and the one topic that keeps creeping up on my mind and nagging at me to be let out is Mom-shaming. Those not familiar with this term; Making a mom feel like crap for any reason you can imagine. It really should be an Olympic sporting event for how popular it is in this day and age. Frankly, no matter what you are are doing it wrong and by all means your children are going to suffer for your costly mistakes. Some examples of my personal Mom-shaming experiences shall follow.....

1. Breastfeeding. When I was pregnant with the twins I was going to be a die hard breast feeder/pumper come hell or high water. In the last trimester of my "delightful" pregnancy it was discovered my iron supply was low...well no, it was nearly completely depleted as my girls had literally sucked the life out of me. Oral iron tablets were not a friend of my stomach so I was to start Venofer (IV iron) infusions weekly that would last through my pregnancy and for a month after the girls arrived. I started out breastfeeding in the hospital but frankly my children were born starving and the whole theory that they can survive on the little bits of colostrum that you produce apparently bypassed my children, so I went home to pump and supplement as needed. Since you can imagine the pure chaos that twins brought to our lives I didn't get to completing my Venofer infusions until they were 3 weeks old......yup, hematologist (blood doctor) didn't think about the Venofer passing into my breast milk and frankly I was just happy if I could stay awake to do the 23 mile drive to Turtle Lake to the hospital and back, so I did not think of it either. The gut issues began in the girls from the "iron bomb" as I refer to it as hit their systems. Horrible tummy aches that resulted in two little babies to be beyond miserable. Well after a week of hell, it dawned on me and I was so tired I looked at the breast pump and told it good bye forever and started to feed my girls formula....yes, I am a monster! So this is topic #1 that seems to be in the Mom-shamers  world. Frankly if you can breastfeed then good for you, but don't chap other mom's butts that cannot or could not do it for various reasons. Why assume you know some one's story and jump on the shaming wagon? Why throw every breastfeeding fact and photo in other's faces? If it works for you great.....leave the rest of us alone. I support breastfeeding 100%, but it's not always a feasible option for everyone.

2. Sleeping through the night. Oh topic #2! So God bless everyone that was given children that sleep through the's not that easy for every mom and it's not because of anything we did or did not do. I was blessed with one very crappy sleeper and one that was just a few hairs less crappy. So my girls didn't sleep through the night until they were 2 1/2...yup...that was a blur of 2 1/2 sleepless years, but I'm still alive to tell about it. The "Cry It Out" (CIO) method is highly debatable in the Mom-shaming world....really it either works for your home or it doesn't. Why can't it be left as simple as that? If your kids don't sleep the users of CIO throw it in your face (yes, this did happen to me). Those that don't use CIO tell the parents they are cruel....what? We didn't use CIO and that was our choice as it wasn't a fit for our family. Yup...I was awake a LOT and I did whine about it, but that is life. Some people have children that are born sleeping through the night (you all know them) and I had one of those moms say to me when my girls were 18 months, "So what do they want when they get up?" Let me tell you this much......self restraint of my mouth was pretty high that night. Why we all can't just do what we want is beyond me but this is definitely hot topic #2 in the Mom shaming world as we know it.

3. Picky eaters. I have one twin who is by far WAY more selective in what she eats then the other. Why? Can anyone tell me this one? They are twins! They grew up eating the SAME exact food! Once the fabulous age of two rolled around, everything went crazy in the food department. Every meal has been a battle since. It was to the point that when the very picky eater decided she would actually eat a hot dog, it had to be brown....the other would only eat red. Oh yes! And kids eat hot dogs....and they eat chicken nuggets! This is a whole new topic right here. Some folks only eat a "clean" diet...good for them. Once again...why can't people just do their own thing. I have read some very ridiculous comments about how horrible of a parent you are for feeding your, what's a good term, "unclean???" food. So nope, not even feeding your kids can be done correctly in the mom shaming world. This does go back and forth by the way...parents that let their kids eat "unclean??" will badger parents that feed a "clean" diet too. Neither side is safe, so should we just not feed them or what?

4. Pacifiers and when it's "right" to take them away. My kids turned 3 in March and they still use their beloved "nuks" at nap/bedtime. One of my twins is an anxious a very anxious child that will worry about every single thing possible in life and she uses her nuk as an outlet for her anxiety. Yup, I've heard the whispers in church when she gets overwhelmed and turns to her nuk, "Do you see that, she still uses a pacifier." Oh yes....once again judging without knowing the story isn't it great...better yet, judging one another in church. HA! So here's the deal, until she finds a way to cope with her anxiety (yes, we are working on this) the pediatrician told me not to even think of taking it away. The pediatric dentist and dental assistant said it's not even a little bit of a worry as her teeth are fine. So if one wants to not use a nuk, take it away at a year, two years, or beyond, why is this such a huge ordeal for the world? So yes, I've heard the whispers and notice "the look" when we go somewhere and she gets overwhelmed and she turns to her nuk for comfort.

5. Discipline. This should have probably been up higher on my list as no matter what you do it isn't right whatsoever. Whether you scold, yell, spank, do time outs, take away privileges, or whatever you can possible insert here, us as parents are doing it all wrong. Apparently after how many decades of spanking being used for discipline, now we are going to damage our child. We spank at our house...rarely is it needed, but on special occasions it is warranted and utilized. I don't feel a paddle on the butt is child abuse or psychologically damaging....but that is our household's view. It's not as if we have a paddle or belt hanging on the wall or in view as a threat. Most days all you have to do is mention if they need one and they are done with misbehaving. Do what works for your house and we will worry about ours. Of course it's not quite that easy, as others feel the need to place their shame on you whenever they possibly can.

So where did this all come from? Why all the judgment? I could keep listing all kinds of topics but I feel these are more the suffice to get my point across. Why can't parents support each other and lift each other up when a fellow parent is in a rough spot? Why is it that the first thing someone feels they should offer is, "Well if you think it's bad now, wait until they are teenagers!" Every parent has low points and instead of pushing them further into that hole, why not lift them up? Why not say, I totally understand where you are coming from and if you have some helpful advice then great...offer it as support. The "I told you so" or "it could be worse" or "boy they are making you eat your words" are all very un-necessary. My children have made me eat every single word I ever had said or even remotely thought of over the years. It's ok...I love them and I will continue to eat my words for years to come. I don't have the "perfect children" as some feel they have, but they are my children and I love them....even if they make me crazy on a daily basis. We do the best that we can, with whatever abilities we possess. Some days are better then others....there are lots of days I've cried after my girls have gone to sleep after a particularly challenging day. I pray for the strength to help me be better tomorrow. Parenting is hard....harder then anyone can imagine before actually becoming a parent. It's the toughest job I've ever done, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. So if you have the opportunity to lift up a struggling parent, then do it...don't tear them down. Be there for each other and help one another get over those hills....some of those hills are bigger then others.

Monday, October 19, 2015

4 years of "what if's"

So I had a little girl 4 year ago........   Some people think I should stop thinking about her....obsessing about her.....talking about her......BUT I will not. She was real! She was so very real...I have the memories and pictures to prove she existed! She was real.....some days I have to look at pictures to make sure it all happened. Logically I know she existed...but there are days I wonder..did this all really happen to me? This stuff happens to everyone else. This stuff isn't suppose to happen to ME! But is here I am trying to be a voice for my daughter and every other baby that joined our Lord sooner than our hearts wanted. People don't realize how big the baby loss community truly is, until you become part of it. I have sisters...real sisters that are bonded to me in ways that no other human being can be bonded to my soul...we share a loss that no one wants to talk about....our babies. Our goal in life is break the silence. Oct. 15th is National Baby Loss Rememberance Day. Ronald Reagan declared this a national holiday way back when...way back when I oblivious to life and all the "stuff" that can occur. I was young and innocent....oh, how I wish for those days back. Our daughter Gracie was born 3 days after our anniversary. When it fell that way on the calendar I thought...well our anniversary is going to be shot for the rest of our lives and it definitely does but a damper on things, but somehow we always make our day significant. Do I feel that Gracie's birthday is only 5 days from National Rememberance Day? Nope....this little girl carries a message....a very loud and clear message. A message I will talk about to my very last breath. Life matters! No matter how little or how long it with matters. God sent us Gracie as our first born for lots of reasons, but the first and foremost of these reasons is to show us and many others how precious life is. None of us are guaranteed a long life....we just know for this moment we are here and that is all we know. That's the thing....we all think we are going to be here until we grow old and gray....well I might look older than our wedding pictures from 6 years ago and I definitely am more gray, but that's not the picture we have in our heads. We all think we will be in our 80-90's if not older but we don't know that. Gracie was with us for 15 hours....15 hours that stand still in my mind. Some days I feel like I'm forgetting but then I stop and think to myself...I can recall everything about every single minute of her life. From the minute they showed me her from behind the blue C-section curtain to her last's all categorized in my brain. She was real.....she existed....she breathed....she had a heartbeat.....she was ours.
I'm not exactly sure why year 4 is tough, but being I have two nephews that are the same age could be why....the fact that she should be in preschool may be why. I might just be selfish for a moment and say...why can't my baby girl be doing these things? I look at how much Gracie's 2 1/2 year old sisters know and the things they say and do and I can't help but wonder to myself...I wonder what Gracie would be like? What would she be learning? I'm only human....I'm only a mom.....I want my baby just like everyone else has. When you find those baby loss mommies that you really bond with....ones that you share your heart with, you cannot help but become close to them. It's hard to find someone that understands your frame of mind. For some...they were there for you during pregnancy and the funeral process but their lives move on and in a sense ours does to, but in a very weird way....a way that no one can describe. So I am very thankful for my baby loss mommas and their support and love. It's hard to be alone on this journey.
So people tell goes on. Well yes it does....but not without a lot a big bumps in our roads. When certain events occur, milestones are achieved, it is hard for us to move on. People might think after so many years that it gets "easier." Well it doesn't get easier. Our minds our wired different than others. We think on a completely different wave length than others. Our minds always go to the worst possible scenario. Our girls are 2 1/2 and Jeff and I are still paranoid something is going to happen to them. You don't want to hover...but good grief it's hard to relax. All I can think to myself is how would you live with yourself if you were the cause of another loss of a child? It's's a struggle. It a real struggle to enjoy your surviving children. I step back often to try and regain perspective daily so I don't smother them. Would I like to put them in a bubble and protect them? Heck ya! Is that fair or realistic to So the struggle is is every day. We live on a active, working farm so the struggle for my husband is even more of an issue. He has nightmares of running the kids over with equipment. The other day he drove out of the yard in his pick up and he stopped half way down the drive way convinced he was dragging Sarah under the pickup since that girl has no fear of things. The struggle in our minds is so very real and up front, every single day. Do I hate the way our minds work....heck ya...makes it hard to enjoy our two girls....the reality is, this is how our brains work. We try....we really do try our hardest to be "normal." Our "normal" is so vastly different from everyone else's but we try. We talk about Gracie to Anna and Sarah daily. We have picture in their room. They know it's their sister in heaven's birthday tomorrow. They know we are going to have cupcakes and balloons to celebrate. They know their sister existed....and they will always know that as long as Jeff and I can breath.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

2 Years of Rainbow Love.....

I really need to get some time to write more often! It's have been since October since I blogged last and it is always so therapeutic for myself to write my thoughts down! There are two very good and fun reasons I never have time for "me" anymore....and they just turned TWO!  In the past (before I had kids) I always thought that when they turned one that would be a hard moment for me. Well I think I was still in that first year "twin blur" that occurs when you have two babies and are extremely sleep deprived (because one of those twins is a CRAPPY sleeper...she shall remained unnamed at this time). So about three weeks ago I was looking at the calendar and I thought to myself....holy crap, my babies turn two in three weeks! How in the world is that even possible?! So I gathered my disorganized self together to get a birthday party assembled. In today's day and age, I will agree that birthday parties have become a little over the top and I haven't at this point given in to the pressure, but what I have aimed for is a family oriented, fun party with decorations that will mean something to my kids. No froo-froo decorations....just good old store bought Disney fun. I'm not dissing the mom's that go all out...I just don't have the time and energy for it. God bless those that do! I should hire you maybe! :) One of my childhood memories I have is that my folks (especially my mom) did everything they could to make you feel extra special on our birthday. Mom decorated (which she is not a huge fan of, but she did it for us) and made us our favorite meal. When we were little she had our closest family and friends invited to our party. As a kid, your birthday is as big as Christmas...come on you all remember that feeling don't you? You are the center of attention ALL day and for once it's about you (maybe that's the whole middle child syndrome talking there?! HA!). Well for two weeks we talked about the girls' party to try and get them to understand a little bit of it and all they grasped from our conversations is a very important aspect of a birthday party.....there was to be CAKE! Holy moly and you would think the whole day revolved around this cake...well maybe it does, right? The best party of meal is dessert...I guess two year olds figure that stuff out early. As the days counted down our slide show on the computer flashes pics up from the day they were born all the way to the present and this mommy got sad. Where in the world did the past two years go? By ALL means I do not have those fuzzy memories of the newborn fact I think my kids gave me post traumatic stress disorder for that phase of childhood. Oh my...there's honestly not even words to describe those days. My mom and I stumbled around into each other in a blur of sleep. I would have an hour between feedings because I was trying to be super mom and pump and have to make bottles. We had just started calving on the farm and Jeff was trying to get things ready to get into the was pure chaos. At a family gathering last fall, one of my sister in law's baby was fussing and just not happy and I just had to walk away....I just had horrible memories of those days. The guilt of trying to split myself in two so I could "love" both of my babies equally so no one needed excessive therapy when they grew up, was just horrible. Combine the guilt feelings with postpartum depression and hormones fluctuating all over the place....oh that was an ugly time. I'm very grateful that my mom was retired and was able to stay and help like she did. To top it all kids were not those beautiful, peaceful sleeping babies....they were both crappy sleepers from the start! Sarah has finally figured out the whole sleeping thing since she got tubes in her ears last December, but Anna....I think she will be waking me up until she moves out at 18. I've just learned to sleep anywhere over the years (and most of the time it is not in our bed!). We spend parts of our nights in the recliner...even with tubes in her ears, she still has a hard time with teething. Would I change anything.....heck no! I love those two little stinkers more than I ever thought my heart was capable of loving anything. They are at a very fun stage right now. They love to be outside and feed the cows and play with their toys. They are learning so much right now too....just little sponges which is really a fun time! They come home from daycare and I swear they know a million more things then when I dropped them off that morning! We are so entirely grateful that the Lord decided to give us not one but two little girls after having Gracie. These little girls taught us how to live again....we hadn't even realized that we had stopped living after burying our dear Gracie. A piece of our hearts will be forever missing since Gracie went to live with our Lord, but the emptiness that filled our souls was filled once again with love....more love then I think we ever had thought we would experience again. They made us smile and laugh once again....we were once again alive. When you bury your child you basically die with them. To find a purpose to be in this life again is very hard. The pain is so intense your heart actually physically hurts. That pain remains with you, and somehow you learn how to cope with it on a daily basis. I can honestly say that when we found out we were pregnant 9 months after having Gracie, it filled us with a sense of hope. A hope for having children that God will allow us to keep here on Earth with raise and to love. With that sense of hope, came extreme fear of more loss and hurt and that stayed with us a very long time...even after they were born. In fact, there are days I find myself wondering how long God will allow me to keep these girls on Earth with me. I don't know if I ever have truly let my guard down. On their first birthday I remember Jeff saying to me....well we've had them for a year, so now what's going to happen to them? Crazy thing about all that, is that I was thinking the very same thing. I think after any major change in your life whether is moving, marriage, having children or losing a child, there is a new normal. After losing a child, we struggled to what that new normal was suppose to be. For 7 months we had been parents to Gracie....and after her funeral, we had no idea who we were at that point. We didn't leave the house or talk to many people because we didn't know how we were suppose to be. Of course we adapted over the months/years and I think these thoughts of "how much time do we have with our kids here on Earth" will just be in the front of our minds. We've had time with a child taken away from us once before...we have lost our ignorance and innocence in how life is suppose to progress. You are suppose to go first...not your kids. Well as with a lot of things in our lives....we are not the norm. So while I really dislike it when these thoughts cross my mind frequently, I believe they also allow me to be a better mom. Nothing is taken for granted. This is probably why I have a million pictures of my kids and why I post so often on facebook...everything they do fascinates us and is so exciting. We are grateful for getting to experience those milestones with Anna and Sarah, since we missed them with Gracie. There should be a 3 1/2 year old little girl running around the house terrorizing the cat and getting into things, but there's not...that reality is what we face daily. That reality is what has made us treasure so much of the past 2 years with Anna and Sarah. Two crazy but very love filled years......

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........