Thursday, June 20, 2013

Playing with Callie

I will be quite honest with you, I am dreading the next couple of weeks.  It isn’t because my husband leaves on a mission trip for a week and it isn’t because there aren’t any fun plans.  There actually are some great things on the calendar.  But the one thing that over shadows them all is my firstborn’s birthday.  Yet, it isn’t just her “birthday”, it is all the days leading up to and following that flood my memory.  It seems like another life in some ways, and in other ways I am still paralyzed there on that ultrasound table.   The memories that haunt me are almost too much to bear, and if you’ve experienced loss you understand this all too well. 

Some of you know our custom of celebrating Callie’s birthday.  We have always been determined to “celebrate” and to have a family time to continue to allow our kids to learn about their older sister.  Last year it was horribly tough.  It ended up with all of us in tears as the kids thought Callie would be coming to her birthday party.  So this year I decided we would go to Chuck E Cheese.  Am I crazy?  Yes, maybe.  But they have never been and have always wanted to go.  So we are going to go and have a good time as a family.   It helps for us to have something to look forward to and focus on and also allows for us to tell her story.  As the kids grow older, though, the questions get harder.   “How can Callie make a wish for her birthday?”  “We want to get Callie a present.”  It honestly is hard to hold back the tears at times.

Today the kids were playing in the play land at Chick-Fil-A with a little girl and her stuffed otter.  Her mother called out to her “Callie….”.  My heart stopped.  Did I hear her right?  “Callie….”.  Yep.  I heard the name that is so dear to my heart.  The kids said good bye and we got in the car to head to Target.  Corban and I began talking and he mentioned that the little girl he was playing with was Callie.  Like his big sister.  “Mommy, is Callie big or little?”  “Well, she would have been 6 on her birthday.”  The backseat grew quiet, which is unusual.  “Mommy.  I wish she would have stayed when she was born.  Then she could be here for her birthday party.”  I couldn’t hold back the tears this time, and I began to cry behind my sunglasses.  “me too, buddy.”  “Will we ever get to see her?”  I was at a complete loss, so I said “yes, honey, one day we will all be together in Heaven.”  Now he was crying.  He doesn’t want to die.  He doesn’t want to leave his stuffed animals and toys.  He doesn’t want to miss out on peanut butter and hot dogs and pop pops.  And who will live in our house then?  He was inconsolable for a good while but then Matt talked to him and somehow got him calmed down. 

I understand his feelings.  I wish she were here, too.  I hate celebrating a birthday without her.  I don’t understand the Lord and His ways, yet I know His great love.  I have experienced firsthand His grace and peace.  So while I would love to go ahead and turn the calendar page over to next month a little early, I press on.  That is what I am called to do. 

“The happiest place on earth is not on this earth.  This life is never going to fill us, is never going to satisfy our need for goodness.  And it doesn’t need to.  He is enough.”  Mended  by Angie Smith

“Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?” Job 26:14 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Well, my son, turned 5 a few weeks ago.  I can't believe how much progress he has made this year.  I was recently going through pictures and videos and was truly amazed at how his speech has improved.  I know that every child is special to his parents, yet Corban is beyond special.  After losing Callie the doctors had encouraged us to wait around 3-6 months before trying to have another baby.  We didn't want to wait and be pregnant at the same calendar time as we had been before.  It had taken a long time to get pregnant with Callie and we figured it would take a long time again, so we decided to begin trying.  I can't begin to express the joy and fear that surrounded us when we found out we were expecting again.  It was a long pregnancy and I felt as if I were holding my breath during the entire thing.  I saw my doctor weekly and had ultrasounds at each visit.  I remember the first ultrasound that revealed we were having a boy.  To be completely honest, for a second I was disappointed.  I desperately wanted to have another little girl.  But after the words came out of the tech's mouth, she showed us a 3D picture of his little face, and I fell in love.  The pregnancy was fairly routine and we scheduled a c-section for 37 weeks.  Since Callie died at 33 weeks, they didn't want to push me too far in the pregnancy and lose this baby.  Everything looked good on his ultrasounds and we were ready to have this little guy!
The morning he was born was one of the most bittersweet days of my life.  I remember laughing and joking with the doctor through his delivery, hearing him cry and breathing a deep sigh of relief.  He was here and breathing.  The next 8 hours or so are a blur to me.  A blur without a baby.  He needed to be observed...he needed this....he needed that.......and there I was stuck in my bed waiting for the spinal to wear off.  Finally, a doctor came in followed by our family and said a bunch of stuff that I honestly didn't understand.  What I did understand was that he would need to stay in the NICU for 24-48 hours.  They brought me a picture of him and I waited until late that night to have my bed wheeled into the NICU to see him.  Not hold him.  Just to look at him.  It just plain stunk.  No way around it.  It didn't look much better the next day.  We were able to go in-2 at a time--to see him but every time we talked to him his numbers dropped and his oxygen levels went down.  If you are a NICU parent, you understand that night time is often a bad time and when you awake you learn bad news.  I woke up on Mother's Day with very bad news that they were going to have to hook him up to a ventilator because he was not improving.  We made the first executive decision as his parents.  We decided that we wouldn't allow any visitors.  We knew our family and friends wanted to see him, but he was so sick and as I mentioned, he declined whenever there was any stimulation.  We agonized and second guessed ourselves, but it was what we had to do.  I didn't think about it at the time, but as I look back, I realize that this was only the beginning of the "tough calls" we would have to make. 
As time has continued and he has grown older, we continue to have to make those tough parental decisions. I mentioned that he just turned 5, which means he is old enough to go to Kindergarten next year.  However, we are choosing to keep him in preschool for one more year.  We feel that one more year to receive speech and occupational therapy both in school and through a private practice will benefit him tremendously.  It has not been an easy decision.  But we have made the decision we feel is best, after praying about it and talking about it.  So as I have gone through these past few weeks, reflecting on the life and accomplishments of my son, it has been a good reminder to me.  The things that are so big and weigh so heavy on us, will be a mere memory as we look back on their life.  I don't say this to make light of things, for I know how hard we love!  But what I am saying is this:  My prayer is that one day my children will trust us and our discernment with the decisions we made and if they don't, that they extend us grace in our short comings and recognize our love and heart above all.
Today was Corban's last day of school.  I am so proud of him and how much he has overcome!  I can't wait to see what one more year brings.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bereaved Mother's Day

Our hearts have been heavy this week.  We had been praying for a baby boy named Hezekiah and he didn’t make it.  I don’t honestly know much of his story and it isn’t mine to share, but his Dad went to school with my husband, both high school and college.  He is also a youth pastor in our former city.  My husband called to ask me to be praying because Hezekiah was in the NICU (at the same hospital all my kiddos were born).  I don’t even know the number of people praying and interceding on his behalf.  In faith, his parents called special prayer vigils and Hezekiah did surpass some of the odds against him.  Yet in spite of these things, he is now in the presence of Jesus in Heaven.
Even as I write this I am drawn to tears for this family, whom I have never met.  My heart aches so deeply for them.  I grieve for them as someone who has experienced loss.   As I have gone to bed at night, I surround them in prayer because I know that night time is the worst.  During the day you can busy yourself with so many things, but at night, when the darkness surrounds you, all you can see is your baby and memories haunt you.
I want to share something with you that maybe no one has shared before or maybe you haven’t really given it much thought.  I want to share with you a few things to do and not to do if you encounter someone who is grieving. 

  • Be there for your friend if she wants you around.  Some women want to be alone and some women want company.
  • Be a listening and sympathetic ear.  You don’t have to speak.  You don’t have to have the answers. 
  • Don’t rush her to get back to normal or get rid of things if she isn’t ready. 
  • Ask her how you can help-maybe give her specific examples like a meal, cleaning, etc.
  • Make something or donate something in honor of her loved one.
  • Don’t use clich├ęs.  Most often they will end up in hurt.
  • Understand that she may be unpredictable (especially in the first few weeks). 
  • Allow her to grieve however she sees fit; there is no right or wrong way to grieve. 

I have “met” some beautiful women, thanks to Callie Grace.  We probably will never meet on earth, but I know that one day we will stand together with our children.  I am thankful for their lives and their stories.  I hurt for them and ache for their children too.  Yet I am honored to walk alongside them through their grief journey.  I want to allow you the opportunity to pass along my information to anyone who you feel would benefit.  You never need to ask for my permission or anything of that nature.  I love talking about Callie and I am blessed to be able to come alongside women who have suffered loss. If you have any additional advice, please post it as a comment! Blessings to you, my friends.  

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Choose Your Own Adventure

I love to read.  I have always enjoyed books of all varieties.  When I was young I liked to read my mom’s old Nancy Drew books, Anne of Green Gables and who could forget The Babysitter’s Club? Do you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books?  The reader would pick an ending and flip to that chapter and could essentially alter the ending.   Am I the only one that tried to buck the system?  I would read through one time, and then the next time I would choose a different ending, hoping to change the ending.  It never worked.  The middle had different variations yet the ending was always the same. 

I realized (in a way) I have been trying this with my life for the past 5 years.  In my mind’s “adventure” I was trying to find different scenarios that would somehow change the ending of my story, the story where my baby girl dies.  Yet the ending is always the same, Callie isn’t here. 

I have come to a new place of acceptance and hope.  You see, before, there was a perfect world where I could write our own story, and in it I have my 3 kids, Callie, Corban and Ellie.  But I know the reality of it is that if I had carried Callie to term, there probably wouldn’t be a Corban.  If there were a Corban down the road, there probably wouldn’t be an Ellie.  So, yes, I fully understand that I can’t have everything I want. Then I travel down another road, what if she was here and was very sick?  What if she was here and I wasn’t?  It’s quite a conundrum.  I want my 3 healthy children here with my husband and me, yet it can’t be. 

Somehow, only by the Lord’s grace and peace, I have begun to embrace this idea.  When I look at our life I see the Lord’s blessing and provision time and time again.  I see His grace of allowing us to become pregnant with Callie Grace and then I see His peace and strength during her delivery, burial and the times that followed.  I see His grace once again when I became pregnant with Corban and His power when He healed Corban and spared his life.  Again, when I became pregnant with Ellie and delivered a healthy baby girl and was able to bring her home, we were overwhelmed with His compassion.  We are truly blessed.  Does my life look like what I imagined?  No.  My life looks so much better than what I imagined.  Yes, there were heartaches along the way and yes a piece of our hearts and family is in Heaven.  But this life on earth that I’m living has been truly a gift from God. 

Are you trying to find meaning in the story of your life?  Maybe you are trying to alter the ending in your own story.  Let me challenge you with this thought:  You are not the author.  It might come as a shock, but to me it is a relief.  Thankfully, I trust the Lord’s will for my life.  I don’t always understand it or like it, but I know that what He has planned is for my good.  Embrace the life you’ve been given—every chapter of it.