Thursday, December 15, 2011


Dear Luke,

We've all been sick around here - nasty little colds. But I just can't seem to shake mine. It's more than just a sore throat or stuffy nose. I have absolutely no appetite - everything sounds gross. Every smell makes me gag (at least the ones that my stuffy nose doesn't block). And then there are a few other suspicious symptoms.

I was contemplating how sick I feel as I was eating crackers and cheese (the only thing that tastes good to me) and I was flooded with memories of the last time I devoured these foods as if my life depended on it - I was pregnant with Sam. NOTHING tasted good to me back then. Nothing, that is, except crackers and cheese.

But don't worry. I'm not pregnant. I know I'm not because I've taken 2, yes 2, pregnancy tests within the past week. Each time I knew I wasn't pregnant. It's not even possible. So why does my body act as though it is?! And why, WHY, when I know I'm not pregnant do I insist on putting myself through the torture of taking a pregnancy test and crying when it confirms I'm not pregnant.

I've only heard of 2 cases of women getting pregnant with an IUD - one had a tubal pregnancy and the other had her IUD removed but ended up losing her baby anyway. So I know I can't be pregnant. And I know that, even if by some chance I did get pregnant, there is no chance the baby would live. So why is it that I want so desperately to be pregnant anyway. Loosing you was without a doubt the most painful thing I've ever experienced. So why would I want to do that again? Maybe just so, for even a few weeks, I could remember what it feels like to be pregnant. I miss feeling a baby move inside. I miss watching my belly shift from side to side. I remember once being able to hear Sam experience the hiccups while I was being monitored in the hospital. I miss the miracle of life. Oh how I miss that!!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Dear Luke,
I am well-aquainted with the stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. I've been through them all, at times getting stuck in the anger phase, but I feel I've landed solidly onto the grounds of acceptance.

But what no one tells you is what to expect after acceptance. Where does a person go from here?

I love the movie Tangled. There is the line where Rapunzel is telling Eugene that she is scared to see her life-long dream turn into reality, because she doesn't know what she'll do next. He tells her that's the best part - she can make new dreams.

I suppose that's a little how I feel. I've had the same dream all my life - to be a mom. I've now fulfilled that dream, just shy of one baby that I thought I'd be raising, and I'm not quite sure what my next dream should be. The dream I want most of all - my dream of holding you - can't be mine right now. So now what?

I fill my days up with countless activities. I love our new house and conjure up thousands of projects I'd like to do to make it our own. I love to listen to Halle's kindergarten antics and watch her learn to read. I focus a lot of my energy on fun activities Sam and I can do to not only keep us entertained without Halle around, but also to help him learn all the things a kid his age should know. (Sometimes I think he might still be behind developmentally. After he "graduated" from early intervention they suggested I might still want to have him tested for an early intervention preschool, but the thought of having him gone several times a week and leaving me home alone frightens me. After all, I'm a professional teacher, I should be able to help him myself, so I'm trying to spend more time helping Sam catch up to others his age.)

My life is good and I am happy. But sometimes the memories of past dreams will come back and haunt me.

Thanksgiving was one of those times. We spent it with Dad's side of the family this year. We spent all afternoon out at Aunt Carolyn's house and had a fabulous traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but after a while the warm house and the conversation of pregnancy began to suffocate me and I needed to get out in the fresh air. So I went for a little walk.

Dad and I would clock that "little" walk later on and discovered I walked over two miles. I love the scenery out there - all the farm land. I walked passed a few new houses - gorgeous ones with wrap around porches. I always dreamed of having a house with wrap around porches on the outside and a stunning staircase and catwalk on the inside. I got my dream staircase and catwalk, but our front porch is non-existant. And I felt a small pang of sorrow over my lost dream house.

I thought of other dreams too as I walked along. I thought of how there was a day when I thought my dream of being loved by some amazing man was never going to be fulfilled. I was almost 25, and in the culture in which I live, that is considered an old maid. All of my friends were married and had at least 2 kids by this point. And I was still looking for Mr. Right, and failing miserably. And then I met your dad...

I remember sitting in a tractor with him one day over seven years ago. We were ripping one of Uncle Dennis's fields and listening to Kenny Chesney on the radio. I was madly in love with your dad. And it was clear the feeling was mutual. We nonchalantly talked about the future, trying to act like we weren't as thrilled and terrified about the topic of conversation as we really were. Somehow we began to talk about how many kids we wanted. Our hopes were the same - no less then three but no more than five.

It all seemed so easy then. We thought all you had to do was proclaim how many kids you wanted and they were suddenly yours. We stare at pictures of us back then, particularly our engagement and wedding pictures, and marvel at how innocent (and naive) we were. Little did we know that there would be times when our dreams would become nightmares.

I would be lying if I said that I didn't sometimes feel guilty that Dad got "stuck" with me. Our pregnancy problems and sick babies are wholly my fault. He could have married someone else and fulfilled his dream of 3 to 5 kids. Living kids, that is - for he does have three. But the thought of not being with him is the worst thing I can possibly imagine. And the best part is that I don't think your dad has ever even let this thought enter his mind. He lets me know in countless ways that he would rather be with me and only get to raise two kids in this life, then be married to someone else and have half a dozen big, strong, healthy boys. Our family, no matter how undesirable it may seem to others, is his greatest joy and he wouldn't trade it for anything.

Dreams are funny things. Some never become reality, but we don't mind, for we look back and see how childish they were in the first place. Others are fulfilled and replaced by new ones. And others still are compromised. And then there are those that will remain forever in our hearts though we know they are not reachable in this life.

God has granted me some of my most precious dreams - my Mr. Right and two children to raise here. But you, Luke, are the one dream that I will never stop yearning for, or striving for. I miss you tonight. My arms feel empty without you. But I cling to that hope, that dream, that I will someday be holding you again and smelling your sweet little head and kissing your adorable button nose.

Perhaps that's the step after acceptance - hope. Hope in our dreams. I sincerely believe that there will come a day when, if we live the life God intended for us - if we reach our potential - that every dream we've ever dreamed will come true.

Sweet dreams my little one,

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Another Christmas Season

Dear Luke,

When we first heard that you were due at Christmastime, I knew this holiday would forever be different because of you. When I'd tell people our due date, they would rave about how amazing it would be to have a brand new baby in the house for Christmas day - particularly a brand new baby boy. We knew you wouldn't really be born then. My history of preterm labor had us convinced you'd arrive by Thanksgiving, but, again, if history repeated itself like our two previous babies, you'd be home with us before your due date, and we would indeed have you in our home for Christmas morning.

It never occurred to me that you'd arrive much too soon, nor did I ever think that you wouldn't make it home for Christmas.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

We decided to put up our Christmas tree today since we will be out of town for Thanksgiving. I've heard so many other grieving mothers say they are dreading another Christmas without their little ones, but I hadn't felt that same grief. Not yet anyway. And then we got out the tree...

Actually, it wasn't the tree that reminded me that you won't be here for yet another Christmas. No, it was the Christmas music. A friend had given me the CD of "The Christmas Box" by Paul Cardall last Christmas. I listened to it constantly back then. It made you feel close, so very close.

It's been months since I've heard those songs. And as I heard the first few notes played today I felt that overwhelming desire to curl up in a little ball and cry until no tears were left. It hit me like a ton of bricks. You are gone and this isn't just a dream. And I miss you desperately.

But as I continued to listen to this beautiful piano music, my sorrow quickly passed and I was overcome by that same strong feeling I had last Christmas season - that feeling that you are so very near. I sat down and closed my eyes while listening to the music. And then, with the rest of the world shut out, I could feel you. It felt as though I could literally reach out and touch you. The rest of the evening as I dressed the kids for bed, read them stories, and sang them lullabies, I felt as though you were right there with us. It was such a tangible feeling - one of those tender mercies from God that I have come to cherish more than anything.

I was right, Christmas will never be the same because of you. Never. I once thought it would be different because it would be a time for us to celebrate your birth. But now I see it as a time that we celebrate your life and the light that you have brought to us. We are better people because of you. Our love for eachother is stronger. Our determination to return to God is unwavering. Christ's life is not something we celebrate merely on Sundays and Christmas morning only, but rather every single day.

I thank God for you every day, too, Luke. I miss you, but I know that you are here with us tonight. And that fills me with a joy that words cannot express.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thoughts on Miracles

Dear Reader,
I know I haven't posted in a while. Don't perceive that to mean that I've forgotten about Luke or that I don't like to talk about him anymore. It's quite the contrary actually. I still love to talk about Luke, to think of him, to feel him close. But I find myself becoming more and more protective of him and his story.

I've found that this blog is getting hit by inappropriate websites. That makes me SO angry. I'm considering going private with my blog. I'm not sure that it does anyone any good besides myself anyway.

I think I started this blog as a way of letting people know Luke existed. It was so important to me that people know about him, that he mattered, that he was loved. I felt that if his story changed just one person's life that his life was now somehow validated. If not, then what good came from this painful trial?

It has taken me awhile, but I now see that he has changed lives. Ours. Boyd and I, our children, we are much better people now. We live with greater purpose. We love deeper. We have a greater desire to follow Christ. What a miracle, that one little tiny baby could completely change the lives of his family!

I volunteer at the NICU and have just started going back regularly. I still struggle with going around to the babies' bedsides, but that is another story for another day. So I merely go to get presents ready for each baby and to chat with the other volunteers. Just last week a topic of conversation came up that didn't settle well with me. It was the topic of miracles.

One mother talked about her son and his struggle at birth. He had a very risky surgery performed during his first few months in order to save his life. The doctor, finding that things were much worse than anticipated, developed a new method for performing this surgery right there on the spot. He told the mother that the idea just came to him in the middle of the surgery. She told him she felt it was given to him through divine means. He now performs this surgery successfully on dozens of preemies a year now. This mother got all teary-eyed as she proclaimed her son a miracle and that she feels he has some great purpose in this life.

Another mother related a similar experience - how her daughter's NICU stay taught doctors new ways to deal with certain health issues. She too feels her daughter's life is a miracle and that she has important things to do in this life.

Then both looked over at me and quickly apologized. They said they didn't understand why some children made it and some did not. Why some babies were allowed to miraculously live and others to die. And, like always, everyone ended up sitting in awkward silence. If I was a more eloquent person I would have explained to them that their stories of their miraculous babies did not upset me. What upset me was that they would seem to think that because my son died there was no obvious way that he could be a miracle or that he could have some great purpose in this life.

Over the past few months I have come to accept that others' probably don't love my son like I do, nor are they as affected by him as I am. At first that really bothered me. But now I'm okay with the idea that Luke and his life belong solely to our family. What I'm not okay with is people thinking that we don't see him as important as they see their children. I do not need my NICU friends to be affected by Luke's life, but I don't want them to think that he doesn't affect my life positively. A person doesn't have to live to be a miracle - for which I have found the definition that a miracle is NOT something that goes against the natural order of things, but rather something that shows the divinity of God. Keeping that definition in mind, Luke therefore is indeed a miracle. In fact, all of my children are. Their very existence has brought me closer to our Heavenly Father. They teach me that He loves me and is aware of me. Perhaps their births did not teach doctors new ways to save babies. Perhaps no one but me and their dad will ever be affected by their lives, but to me that is enough.

A person does not have to change the lives of thousands to be important. All that matters is that one solitary person is affected for the better. Perhaps that doesn't seem like such a big thing, but to the one person whose life has been changed, it is a very big thing.

I echo the words of Albert Einstein "There are two ways to live life - as though everything is a miracle or nothing is." And like Albert Einstein I have come to believe that everything is. Even the death of a child can be a miracle - for that child has taught his parents and brother and sister that God truly lives. That He is aware of us and wants nothing but our happiness. And that He is always close by to comfort us, to cry with us, and to carry our burdens when they are too heavy for us to bare.

Believe in miracles, dear reader, for they do exist. Don't let other's stories of miracles discourage you and make you wonder why miralces like that don't exist for you. Remember, a miracle is anything that brings you to our loving Heavenly Father. Today it may be something as simple as the fast beating of a tiny bird's wings or that delicious smell of the earth after a rainstorm that reminds you that God does exist. And for me, it just may be the fact that I have three living children. One may be somewhere just beyond my sight, but I know that he lives all the same. And I will cling to my miralce with all my might until the day I am reunited with my Lukie.

All my love,

Friday, June 3, 2011

Even Now

Dear Luke,

Everyone told me this would happen - life would move forward. It was impossible to imagine at the time after your birth/death. In fact, the very thought of life continuing on without you was offensive to me. But here I am , nearly 9 months later and for the most part I feel that I have been able to press forward without you. That's not to say that we don't think of you each and everyday. In fact, there is not one prayer uttered by Dad, me, or Halle and Sam that does not include you in it. We are constantly thanking God for you and asking Him to send our love to you. You are all around us, we feel it, and so we are able to wake up and continue on each day.

But even now there are days that I am overcome by loneliness and heartache. I miss you.

Memorial Day was a very surreal time for us. This holiday for me used to hold memories of visiting the graves of grandparents and great-grandparents - people who had lived long fulfilling lives. And then it was topped off by a BBQ and a celebration of the end of the school year and the official start of summer. This year I spent each and every day of our weekend and holiday sitting on your grave. Who knew that this holiday would turn into a time that I would dedicate to my baby boy, gone before his life ever began?

One day I went over without the kids in tow. I sat on your grave, thinking of you and feeling the cool breeze blow all around me. Other mothers were visiting the graves of their little ones. One mother and I began sharing our experiences. Isn't it funny how connected and close I feel to complete strangers like this. After this mother left, another approached me. Her little one had passed away 21 years before. I was touched by her words of encouragement and even more by her willingness to just let the pain and sorrow be present. Before she left she gave me an enormous hug and we cried together. I left shortly after that. I sat in my car and cried. Not for sorrow, but for the blessing of these sweet women. I know God knew what my heart needed at that moment - another mother to share my joy and grief - someone to fully empathize.

It turned out to be a lovely weekend. One where our little family took a break from "normal life" and choose to dedicate our time and thoughts to your memory. A few of our extended family members and friends came to visit your grave. It means the world to mean when others beside Dad and the kids and me come to see you. It's very validating to know that others acknowledge you as a true member of our family and feel a small sense of loss over your death (though I have come to accept that no one mourns your loss like Dad and I do and that is okay).

But now today my heart is aching for you. It all began Tuesday night when I did a very dumb thing...

I have started volunteering at the NICU again after many, many months away. I wanted to be around the other NICU volunteers who have become such dear friends. I wanted to ease myself back into volunteering because I loved doing it before I got pregnant with you. So I started going to simply get presents ready for the babies and then I would leave while everyone else delivered them to the bedsides of those little miracles. This was the part I knew I couldn't do. So I skipped out on this for a few weeks. But this Tuesday I decided to give it a try. As Dad always says "the first time doing anything without Luke will be hard, but if you take one little step at a time it will eventually get easier." So I took a small step forward and into the actually NICU to hand out gifts. (Turns out it was a huge step backward in my healing process.)

I was okay at first. I simply kept my mind busy by talking to the other volunteers as I passed them the presents to place by the babies' beds. I used to love to "oo and ah" over the babies, but that was long ago. Now I stayed away from actually looking at them. But then we stopped to talk to a mother and one of the nurses and my mind began to wonder. There was the bed that Halle slept in during her stay. Right next to it was Sammy's. I started feeling sentimental and missing those times when Halle and Sam were tiny and wondering how on earth they grew up so quickly. And then I decided to take a gift to the bedside of one of the "micro-preemies" (that is a baby born under 2 pounds like you). I made the mistake of looking at the baby. Oh, his toes where so tiny. He looked so peaceful snuggled in his incubator with the sound of the ventilator rhythmically pulsing. And that's when I lost it. I left the NICU, presents still waiting to be delivered, and drove home crying so hard I couldn't see the road and unable to catch my breath between my sobs.

I miss you!!

When I look at my friends' babies, all around the age you should be, I don't miss you. They are big and fat and they bare no resemblance to you. But that baby at the NICU, so tiny and sweet and miraculous, made my heart yearn for you. After first seeing that baby I felt a tiny bit of jealousy and longing to have you be that sick little one in the hospital. My next reaction was to yell at God and utter how unfair it was that these 24-weekers were still alive and were going to go on to live relatively normal lives. Angry because He took my 24-weeker. But in the end I knew that my real heartache was stemming from the fact that I miss you. I miss you more than words could ever express!

I don't think I'm baby hungry. It isn't any ol' baby that I want. It's you. I've finally been able to hold other babies without falling apart. In fact, at times I even feel a sense of comfort with them where at one point I felt absolutely disconnected when holding another baby as if I was holding nothing more than I sack of flour. But the truth is, they aren't you! I can't believe it has been nearly 9 months since I lost held you. My arms literally ache to hold you, snuggle you, sing to you, smell you. No amount of baby holding will quench that thirst for there is a piece of me that can never be whole again until I hold you in my arms again.

I feel I cannot say it enough; I miss you my Lukie. And while I know that this aching depression I am feeling this week will give way to peace and happiness when I think of you, like it always does, I know that this desire to be with you will never ever leave me. It is a constant part of me. There is a piece of my heart that belongs to you and no amount of time will erase my longing for you. Oh, how I miss you!!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Story

When Sam was a year old, I started volunteering at the NICU where he lived for the first 2 months of his life. I wanted to "make peace" with all the feelings I was experiencing over all that we had gone through during his pregnancy, birth, and first few months of life. I didn't think that it had been so traumatizing, but as he neared his birthday I found that I was really struggling with some issues and felt that giving back to the NICU was just the way for me to heal.

Through my volunteering, I have found that my purpose there has evolved. It started off as a place to heal, then a place to help others, a place that I was anticipating seeing my son Luke at, and finally to a place where I can find comfort, understanding, and empathy.

I have made some amazing friends while volunteering. One of my greatest strengths is a mother who is a volunteer herself and started volunteering just a few months before I had Luke. She has quite the story, which I won't share too much of since it is hers and she is the one who should share it (and likes to). But the gist of her story is that she was pregnant with identical twins. Identical, except that one of her babies had a heart and the other didn't. The one brother was keeping the other alive. She had to be monitored closely to make sure that the first baby didn't go into cardiac arrest since his heart was working overtime. When things became too difficult for him they would deliver him early. In which case, her other little boy would die.

My friend has the most amazing attitude. Her strength has helped lift me. She refers to this experience in her life as her "life story."

I often wonder what I would consider my "life story." It seems like all the volunteers up there have these HUGE defining moments. A baby that lived inutero for 11 weeks with no amniotic fluid and had to endure many dangerous surgeries to become the healthy little boy he is today. Another who was born at 23 weeks and deals with severe CP. Then there is the mother who had quadruplets (and is still sane).

I guess sometimes I hate the thought that my whole life can be packaged up into one moment - one moment that makes up my "life story". Maybe that's because I don't feel like I have that one miraculous moment that truly defines me, and therefore my life story seems like pretty weak cheese. Or maybe it's because I don't want to be known for my trials. In fact, I don't think anyone wants to be remembered for their trials. I think everyone wants to be remembered for the way they were victorious in times of trial - just like my NICU friends.

It is not the size of the story that is important. It is the simple fact that it did happen. Our stories are formed, not by what happens to us in life, but by our willingness to let what happens mold and shape and refine us. Our stories are all about letting ourselves become the person we were always meant to be.

And that is what I feel I am doing - working to become that person that God sees inside. I am truly a work in progress and so is my story.

"In this life we will encounter hurts and trials we will not be able to change; we are just going to have to allow them to change us."
-R.L. Davis

Sunday, April 10, 2011

An Angel in My Pocket

I love my children. All three of them. They are my world.

Last week I enrolled my oldest, Halle, into kindergarten for this upcoming year. I am not exaggerating when I say I had a slight nervous breakdown as I was filling out paperwork. My hands were shaky, I felt sweat emerge on my forehead, and I felt I was suffocating. After all the necessary paperwork was done I literally ran to my car and sobbed. This can't possibly be happening! I can't send my baby to kindergarten!!

But she isn't a baby anymore. And she is, in fact, going to start kindergarten soon whether I like it or not.

I just can't seem to wrap my brain around the fact that my children are growing up, and WAY too quickly. Soon I'll be left with no one at home. I always dreamed that my house would be filled with the voices of little kids, but in two years my children will all be at school. My house will be very quiet. And very lonely.

I wish I had some way of shrinking my children, stopping their age progression, and carrying them around in my pocket wherever I go. If only...

Last week I got a package in the mail. It was from my sister's co-worker who lost a baby quite tragically (although can any loss be considered anything less than tragic?) In the package was a very sweet note and a tiny little angel pin. She had been given one like it after her son passed away and had received great comfort from it. So she passed one along to me in hopes that I too would draw comfort from it.

Although I'm not much of a pin wearer, this one is beautiful and, well, it reminds me of Luke so I naturally love it. One day as I was running out the door to do whatever was on me and Halle and Sam's agenda for the day, I decided to shove the pin in my pocket so that I could put it on my shirt when I found a spare moment. I never found that moment. In fact, I totally forgot that angel was even there and so it stayed most of the day in my pocket.

When I remembered the precious little pin I felt rather guilty that it had spent all this time in my dark, tiny pocket. And then the thought made me smile. Almost laugh. Maybe I can't literally carry Halle and Sam and Luke around in my pocket, but I think I found the next best thing.

Now each day I pin my little angel to the outside of my pocket to remind me that the things that are most precious to me, whether seen or not, go everywhere with me. Boyd, Halle, Sam, Luke, and my faith are ALWAYS with me. They go everywhere I go. They are a piece of me and make me who I am. They fill up my heart and that is where I always intend to keep them. They are the angels in my pocket.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Loss of a Friend

Dear Luke,

The family went out to the cemetery today to sit by your grave. I know that you are not really there - not your true essence anyway. But there is such a special feeling at your grave site. We like to go there as often as we can.

After you first passed away, I went to "see you" everyday. I couldn't imagine that there would ever come a time when I wouldn't make my daily trips to sit by your headstone. But I have to admit, I usually only make it to the cemetery once or twice a week now. I feel you are with us in our home more than you are at the cemetery. But there's still just something about sitting by your grave. Even the kids seem to notice the special sacred feeling that we get there.

I've even made friends at the cemetery. I once wrote a post about an elderly man that I got to know while visiting you. I viewed him as a true friend. I took note of his birthday (which was written on the headstone of his wife's grave) and, knowing that he would be at her grave on that day, left him a little gift on her headstone for him. I felt a special bond with this man. We'd only talked the once and on all other occasions we merely nodded acknowledgement to each other. But he had become a part of my life, in a sense. I knew when I went to visit your grave that I would see him there, and if not, I would always expect to see fresh flowers and love notes on his wife's grave.

Today while at the cemetery, we walked over to my friend's wife's grave. I was admiring the beautiful new flowers and colorful pinwheels when I suddenly noticed that the ground had recently been cut away and the sod replaced. I stared in utter shock when I saw not only a birth date for my friend, but a death date. My friend is gone. Gone home to his wife. I am happy for him. He missed his wife deeply. But I feel a strange sense of loss and sadness at his death.

Tears welled up in my eyes and I could feel myself on the verge of crying as I stared at the headstone. Dad lovingly put his arms around me. "At least now he's happy," he reassured me.

I suppose he is. So why am I so sad? Sad about a man I hardly knew.

If you see him, Lukie, tell him hello from me. And know that, even when a person no longer lives on this earth, they are still loved. They are still thought of. They still matter.

I love you tons,


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Happy Me

Hello again dear reader,

I just got home from a movie with some of my friends. I'm not a late night person and I don't do well with less than 7 hours of sleep, but tonight it just sounded fun to go to a late movie with friends.

When I walked in the house I got this overwhelming feeling of happiness. And I realized that, I do mostly vent and complain on my blog. You know, I started this blog because I knew not all of my friends and family could handle what I was going through. It's heavy stuff. So I let those who wanted to be apart of my grieving know how I was doing through my writing. And then there are those who have also lost babies - I wanted them to know they weren't alone in their grieving. But I am suddenly aware that I am not painting an accurate picture of my life.

So tonight, before I go to bed and get a few hours of sleep before Sam calls my name and begs me to come sleep with him, or before Halle crawls in bed with us and puts her cold feet on me, I just want to let you know that I am happy.

I am. I really am. Yeah, some days are tough. That's no surprise. We all feel that way, right? It doesn't matter what we are dealing with in life, some days are hard. But in the end, I feel as though everything is going to be okay somehow. And that's all I need to know to make me smile. And for the first time, in a long time, I feel normal. Normal, and happy.


Monday, March 21, 2011

My Apologizes

Dear Reader,
I want to apologize for a previous post. My sweet husband read it over after I had already posted it and said that, while he understood my intentions, others might not and that perhaps it came of sounding a bit harsh as if I was saying that others' lives are not as difficult as mine. Bless that man for trying to protect me from the misunderstanding of others and at the same time trying to protect others from my bitter diatribes. And so I want to apologize to anyone who might have taken my words as such. I removed the post shortly after, but have decided to re-post it, but this time with an explanation...

I wrote that post after offering to have a neighbor's children come play at our house. She thanked me over and over saying that she felt totally swamped (what with having three kids to take care of and the extra housework that comes with having that many children) and that I was an answer to her prayers. I know she meant it nicely and would feel awful if she knew that it hurt me deeply, but that is exactly what it did. It hurt. I felt as though she was saying that I was lucky to only have two children and that my life must be so easy to not have all the concerns she has.

I admit, I don't know how difficult it must be to have three children. I can imagine it is a lot of work, but that's the thing, all I can do is imagine. I am not saying that she has life easier than me or that my life is easier than hers. They are just different. Both of us have struggles and trials. Both of us feel stretched to our limits. But truth be known, I'd take her trials over mine - not because they are easier by any means, but because I miss my Luke like no one can imagine and would give anything to know her kind of pain.

Despite my missing Luke, I don't ever want others to think that I am so absorbed in my heartache that I can't feel joy or pain for others. As one of my dear friends said the other day, "Everyone has the right to complain about something." She mentioned that she was frustrated when one woman complained about how much pain she was in during the end of pregnancy and hearing another woman chastise her, telling her she was lucky to be pregnant and had no right to complain. The thing is, she was in pain! Just because she was talking about her pregnancy pain didn't mean that she wasn't grateful for her pregnancy. She was merely in pain and wanted someone to understand her pain.

I love this same friend because she lets me complain and understands that, while I'm hurting for me, I'm still happy for her and all my other friends. Likewise, I understand that even while my friends are ecstatic about their new babies, they ache for me. I guess that's what makes us friends. We can feel each others' joys and pains, even while experiencing our own emotions.

Again, I am sorry if my previous post hurt anyone. I did not mean to make it sound like I have to endure anything worse than anyone else. I was merely hurting. Hurting that I'm that lady with a dead baby, allowing me to be an "answer" to others' prayers. I hurt that because of my circumstance in life, I'm seen as the one who can and should pick up the slack for those with more children than me. I guess what I really needed was a safe place to vent for a minute and I hoped that this blog was the place that I could do that.

So please, if you are someone who reads this blog, be gentle with my heart and know that sometimes I just need to have a really good cry where my snot and tears are mingling together on my chin; that sometimes I need to pound my piano with my fists until the flesh on my hands is bruised and swollen; and that sometimes I need to turn on my "angry music" that says words that I don't approve of and turn it up as loud as possible. (Ah, the Matchbox 20 of my high school years sure does hit the spot on an angry day.) And sometimes I just need to complain and be bitter and hateful and yell at God for just a little bit. But know, dear reader, that even these strong emotions subside and I feel peace once again. And know that, even in my darkest of moments, I am still aware of the pain of others. I would never want someone to think they couldn't come to me and complain about their pains and sorrows thinking I might judge them. I also wouldn't want someone to keep their joy and happiness from me because they are afraid I don't want to take part in their joy - because I truly do want to celebrate with others when something wonderful happens. All I ask is that, after listening to your heartache and crying with you or after cooing over your adorable baby and listening to the miracle he is in your life, you will allow me to talk about my sorrows and joys as well. For that is what builds true friendships - our ability to hurt with others and laugh with others, often at the same time.

Thanks for your understanding hearts,

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Peaceful Reminder

Dear Luke,
Yesterday Dad and I went to the art museum at the nearby university to see an art exhibit of Carl Bloch's. His original art from Denmark and Sweden was sent here for a few months for the public to view. Many of the paintings were depictions of the life of Christ.

I found the art not only beautiful, but very uplifting. This one was my favorite. I like the idea that angels come to us in our darkest hour, even to Christ.

It's also a good reminder to me that, no matter how difficult life is at times, I will never come even remotely close to knowing the pain that Christ was put through for my sake (and for all of Heavenly Father's children).

I loved this one too. It made me think of how much Christ and our Heavenly Father love little children - little children like you and your brother and sister. I imagine you in Their arms, being comforted, and I am filled with peace. We are all being cared for and protected by a loving Heavenly Father and His Son.

Love you,

Friday, March 18, 2011

Refiner's Fire

Dear Luke, This week has been a tough one. One of the worst I've had since Christmastime. I thought I was doing better. Sure, I thought of you everyday. I've missed you like crazy and shed a few tears each day over you, but I was getting to the point where, more and more, I was able to think of you and smile. My little blessing. My bearer of "light". Your very existance is a miracle and that thought made me smile and feel wrapped in the arms of the love of God. But not his week. This week has been very, very dark. My whole soul has groaned under the weight of this burden I carry. I more than miss you, my son. I yearn for you, ache for you, scream for you, and yes, even curse God for taking you. I feel as though I am being tortured; tormented by my sorrow and the stark contrast of those revelling in happiness. Earlier this week I was in such a dark place that I felt I could hardly take care of Halle and Sam the way I wanted to. So I took them out to lunch, bought them a happy meal (something I rarely do), and let them play at the playground. This helped my mood for a while, but soon the despair snuck back in. Finally I sent the kids to a neighbor's house to play until their dad got home and I went out by myself, hoping to get a grip on my life. I did not hesitate on my destination - I was heading to a house of worship, knowing that feeling the Lord's spirit was the only relief I was going to get from my pain, even if only for an hour or two. On my way, I drove past another of our church's buildings. It was a beautiful building, built by pioneers shortly after settling in Utah. Around Christmastime it was all but completely destroyed by a tragic fire. It took hours and hours for the fire to be extinguished. And when the fire was finally gone, all that was left was the empty shell of a once-majestic building. No time was wasted on cleaning up and restoring the building. The foundation of the building remains strong and unchanged, most of the outer structure is intact and useable, but the entire inside was gutted out. Its remains lay on the middle of the lawn, ugly and burned and exposed to the whole world. The building looks sad. Broken. Defeated. I know how you feel, I think and then I cry a little for both of us. There is that scripture about the refiner's fire and how each of us is perfected through our trials. I feel like my refiner's fire has left me nothing but an empty shell. My foundation is still the same - I still believe in God and His ultimate goodness. I still have my husband and two living children. In fact, these things seem to have actually been strengthened by the "fire", rather than destroyed by it. But otherwise, I feel as though everything inside of me has been destroyed, painfully removed, and laid in the middle of the street for everyone to gawk at. I tell myself all of this is for the best - for both me and the building. While this building was beautiful, it while be remodeled so that its space is better utilized. The inside will be safer and made even more beautiful than before. I tell myself that the same is true of me. I will be a better person because of all of this. I will be more useful in God's hands. My soul will be better, more beautiful. But right now it is hard to see that. All I see is an ugly mess. I think of others around me. Each going through their own refiner's fire. Each as difficult as the next person's because they are designed just for them. We're each so different on the inside and therefore endure different refiner's fires to beautify and perfect our souls. But why is it that I only see smoke around other people. I know several people who have had babies over the past few months. Each came with a different set of circumstances, different concerns about the pregnancy or labor and delivery. There seemed to be billows of smoke around each of these situations with the very real possibility that a terrible fire lay within. But luckily that's all it was - a bunch of ugly smoke. The damage was quickly assessed and taken care of, and now each mother has a beautiful baby sleeping peacefully in her arms. While I would never want another person to go through what I am enduring (I would NEVER wish this hell upon my worst enemy - if I had one), I don't understand why they only dealt with false alarms and I was given the real deal. Why couldn't mine have just been a false alarm too? Why can't I hold my son in my arms right now? What have I done so wrong in life that I needed more refinement than others? I can't help but think these other women must have much better, more refined souls than mine if all they needed was the thought of a tragedy to perfect and beautify them. Clearly I needed the real deal. Two NICU experiences clearly weren't enough to teach me what God had in mind for me. He had to take my youngest in hopes of me becoming who He needs me to be. I know I'm far from perfect, but I try awfully hard to be someone the Lord would be proud of. I try to raise my children unto Him. So why? WHY all this?! I know we're told not to question God, but I can't help it sometimes. Sometimes I am just so angry! Was my soul so useless and ugly that it had to be completely removed and replaced? Did I really need a complete renovation of my life? I'll be better in the end. I remind myself of this over and over. I feel God's hand at work. He hasn't left me alone. My remodel work was begun as soon as the damage was done. But it still hurts. The pain is extruciating and literally knocks me to the ground at times. I'll be better because of this. Right? Missing you, Mom

Friday, March 11, 2011

Happy Half-birthday

Dear Luke,

Today you would be 6 months old. I can't believe 6 months have gone by. In some ways I feel like it's been years since you left. I feel so old, like I've aged forty years in the past six months. But in other ways it seems like it was only yesterday that you left. Some days the pain is still as raw as it was that first week. My memories of seeing your face are so fresh in my mind that I feel like it only just happened.

I remember when Dad and I decided that, despite our terrible odds and the very real chance of having another preemie, we should have another baby. I won't tell you all the details of what lead us to feel that you were meant to join our family - the experiences leading us to believe that are too sacred to share at this time - but just know that we knew without a doubt that we were meant to have another baby. We were meant to have YOU.

Along with this feeling that we were to have you, we also had a small itching feeling that there could be complications and that perhaps you would not live a "normal" life. Perhaps some would think us wrong to even get pregnant if we felt that we might be putting our baby's life in danger of extreme prematurity and the risk of cerebral palsy. But everything in our hearts told us that, no matter the outcome, this was the right decision.

Your pregnancy was kept secret for quite some time. We feared others response to our pregnancy. Not everyone felt it was the wisest choice. But mostly, we just weren't ready to share you. Everyone in the world, it seemed, was involved in Sam's pregnancy. I had to have someone in my home at all times, not just to help with Halle while I was on bedrest, but to help me so that I didn't have to get out of bed. Dad was terrified to leave me alone for fear I'd start bleeding again and not be able to get to the hospital. So that left me with family members, church members and friends at my house around the clock. And then when I was robbed of my pregnancy too soon, I had to share Sam for a couple of months with nurses and doctors. I felt that I was hardly Sam's mother at all. So while I was (and still am) so appreciative for everyone's help, I was certain that your pregnancy would take that route too and I wanted to enjoy every moment with you before the multitudes came in to take over my duty as the mother and caretaker of my three children in one form or another.

I became very possessive and protective of you. I didn't talk about my pregnancy with anyone that I didn't feel was absolutely overjoyed about your existence (I guess that hasn't changed). While on family vacation with extended family, I refused to do any sort of physical activities - hiking, four-wheeling, etc - not wanting to do anything to compromise your health. You were always foremost on my mind.

It was easy to focus on all that could go wrong during the pregnancy, but I was determined to ignore them all. We knew you'd never make it to 40 weeks and, wanting to enjoy every moment of what we felt could be a shortened pregnancy, I made a paper chain. Kind of like the ones you hang up at Christmastime to count down the days until Santa came, but in reverse. Each day we hit a milestone - 16 weeks, 18 weeks, 24 weeks (that was the big one - we felt nothing could go wrong once we hit the "age of viability" ha!) - I would record it on a piece of paper and add it to our chain. When something noteworthy happened - I first felt you kick (at only 15 weeks), the first time Halle kissed your belly, the first time Sam talked to you - I added it to our ever-growing chain.

I loved your pregnancy. It was actually a very sacred time in my life. Looking back, I think my soul knew, even if my mind didn't, that I was carrying a spirit too perfect for this life.

(As a side note, I still have that paper chain I made while pregnant. In fact, we still add to it. I added a paper for our first balloon launch in your honor, for our first "Angel Ceremony" we attended, and for the first time Halle prayed for you and Sam told me what you were doing in heaven. I'm hoping that by the time we are together again, your paper chain will be miles long and full of the moments that we thought of you.)

Dad and I had accepted the fact that, if born early, you could have health problems and possibly even long-lasting problems. We decided that it didn't matter one way or another to us. We would love you with the same intensity as we would if you were healthy and perfect. We would make sure you experienced the wonderful things in this life, even if we had to push you around in a wheelchair to do it. We had decided long before we even knew you were a boy that we would accept you in whatever form the Lord gave you to us, because we knew that Heavenly Father wanted you to be in our family and we wanted you too. More than I could ever express.

As it turns out, Dad and I were right when we had that impression that you would not have a "normal' body or a "normal" life. But we misinterpreted that as you having a body stuck in a wheel-chair or walking with a limp. We couldn't possibly have imagined that it would mean that your body would lay peacefully in the ground while your soul returned to our Lord. But we had promised God that we would love you, no matter what. And that is what we are doing. You have been given to us, perhaps in a very different form than we had anticipated, but you are ours nonetheless. And I am determined to love you just as much in the form of a heavenly angel as I would if you were a perfect little baby or even a baby with severe CP.

I think I focus way too much on what form you are in. But what I should really be focusing on is the part that you are mine and I will always love you. And nothing, not even death, has changed that.

I love you tons!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

One Small Second

Dear Luke,

Dad and I love to watch the Olympics. Winter Olympics, Summer Olympics, doesn't matter. We love them both. It is the only time we keep the TV on all day. We don't care if an American is in the particular event, we cheer for everyone.

During the last Summer Olympics, Dad and I were glued to the swimming events. We were on pins and needles wondering if Michael Phelps would win all of his events. Never before had either of us really cared much about swimming, but suddenly nothing else seemed so important. Oh, how we wanted him to win! I remember one race where he won by only one-hundredth of a second. Can you believe that?! One-hundredth of a second! Faster than you can blink. But that was all the time needed to make him the winner of the gold. That's all the time needed for the next guy to completely lose all dreams of a gold and take home silver instead. Not a bad place to be - second - but when you are that close to gold, it must really be a slap in the face to carry around that silver medal. While half of me was celebrating with Michael Phelps, the other half of me ached for the other man.

Life is like this in so many other scenarios. I went to a NICU fundraiser this last weekend. I will write more about that later, but today I want to focus in on the "miracles" the NICU boasts. I was not in the room when they spot-lighted an adorable set of twins. They truly are miracles. But I couldn't bare to hear it. They were born at the same gestation as you, Luke, but were even tinier. They had to endure a long NICU stay and many illnesses, but they made it all the same. And now, 2 years later, they are walking around with big smiles on their faces.

Isn't it interesting (or sad or frustrating or maddening) that two similar situations could end up so differently. Here are two mothers, giving birth to 24 weekers, and while one now holds her children in her arms and chases them around a roomful of people singing their praises and adoring every breath they take, the other mother sits at the grave of her son who never even got the chance to breathe, wondering how everything could have gone so terribly wrong.

One small second is all it takes for one man to take home a gold medal and another to leave empty-handed. One small second is all it takes for one mother to receive a miracle and another to receive a small box to keep her deceased son's memories in.

While reading the Bible the other day I came across this parable in Luke 16:19-25. To paraphrase, there are two men - one a rich man with anything he could desire, and Lazarus, a poor beggar. "And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom" (doesn't that sound wonderful!). The rich man dies as well and sees Lazarus being cared for and loved. He asks for Lazarus to take away his torment "but Abraham said, Son remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented".

I do not mean to insinuate that those who have children in this life will be in "torment" like the rich man was (after all, I am one of those who has two miraculous NICU babies). I gather that the rich man was a selfish, greedy man and that is why he was in torment. So, while that part of the parable does not apply here, the part about Lazarus does. Though he was denied certain things in this life, he was given it in the end. This brings such comfort to me. Perhaps I did not get a "gold medal" for all the "races" I've won, but I will not be denied my third miracle forever. I will be with you again someday, Luke.

It may seem like I was robbed of my prize as everything changed in that one small second when I knew you had left this life, but my prize still exists - you still exist! Perhaps our moment of celebration has been postponed for awhile, but we will still get the opportunity. I will one day get to hold you in my arms and give you all the love I possess for you. God will not deny us the righteous desires of our hearts - if not received here in this life, then undoubtedly in the next.

And that moment shall be an awesome one - one that shall last for eternity and not just one small second.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Changing Everything

"Once in a lifetime, we meet someone who changes EVERYTHING."

Dear Luke,

The other day I was contemplating who in my life I would say has changed "everything".

Hm, there's my mom, of course. Without her I would not even exist. Then there's my dad who worked hand-in-hand (literally) with my mom to teach me the value of hard work, the joy in serving others, and above all, to love God.

Then there's my amazing husband. I wouldn't say that I changed after we got married. I was still the same person essentially - just better. I know I'm running the risk of sounding cliche, but he completed me.

There's also each of my children. When Halle was born, a whole new side of me was discovered - that motherly instinct and that ability to love unconditionally. When Sam was born a more spiritual side of me was opened up. My belief in miracles (ones that could happen to me and not just in the scriptures or to others around me) was solidified.

As much as all of these people and experiences have shaped and molded who I am, you are the one who has changed EVERYTHING, Luke. I am often baffled how such a tiny little boy - weighing just under 2 pounds - who never even took a breath of life, could make such a profound impact on the way I see everything.

My perspective on life is different. I cherish each moment with my family more. I try to live fully in each moment, not wanting to forget one sound, smell, or feeling.

I embrace my emotions more and apologize less for letting others see me cry. There is nothing more powerful in this life than sharing our emotions - including our heartaches and sorrows - with others. Nothing forms stronger relationships than sharing, not only the good, but also the bad with others. And it is our relationships that make life so meaningful.

I am able to prioritize what really matters in life now. When I write out my to-do list each morning I ask Halle what it is she wants to do that day and add that to the top of my list. I have made a habit of reading my scriptures each day rather than just doing it when I remember and if I have time. My prayers to Heavenly Father are more earnest and sincere rather than quickly muttered pleas before the kids come bounding in my room to interrupt me.

Oh, I could go on and on all day over all the things that have changed because of you. Your influence reaches into the very smallest of places, the most minute details of my life. I am often surprised when I look in the mirror and see that the face looking back at me is the same one from six months ago. How can that be when everything about the inside of me has changed?

Let it be known that I think the changes (except for some all-too-normal-for-this-situation anxiety issues) are for the better.

And now, a few quotes from my favorite children's book:

On the Night You Were Born
by Nancy Tillman

"On the night you were born...
the night wind whispered,
'Life will never be the same.'

Because there had never been anyone like you...
ever in the world.

For never before in story or rhyme
(not even once upon a time)
has the world ever known a you, my friend,
and it never will,
not ever again..."

I love you, Luke. Thank you for your profound impact on me. I am eternally different - better - because of you! Truly, "life will never be the same" and I thank God for that. I thank God for you.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Just Another Milestone

Milestones can be really hard. Even with my two living children...

I remember how I felt as Sam approached his first birthday. I began to relive his entire pregnancy. How one morning I woke up and went about my normal day only to realize that I was bleeding. Not just a little spotting, but tons of bright red blood streaming down my leg. Luckily it was the weekend and Boyd was home. He rushed me to the hospital as I began to go into shock.

I had a complete placental previa. I was put on partial bedrest, and after another bleeding episode, on full bedrest. As difficult as those (almost) three months were, I would have given anything for a few more weeks. I wasn't prepared to have a 30-weeker with severe health problems.

This was our second NICU experience. The first time around was unexpected and therefore traumatic. This time we saw it coming and learned to embrace the experience. I fell in love with Sam's nurses, doctors, and therapists. We became genuine friends. Even after Sam came home, I found myself wondering how they were doing (and wishing they were still around for the midnight feedings).

As Sam's first birthday approached, I found myself wanting to be back at the place where it all began. I made a phone call and joined the Parent Volunteers at our NICU. This group of women brought Sam and all the other NICU babies presents once a week. They had all had a baby (or, like me, two) who had spent time in the NICU. They knew how we felt and were there to talk us through everything. I felt that perhaps becoming a volunteer as well would help me come to terms with all we'd been through.

The first time I entered the fifth floor, smelled that sterile smell, and heard those beeping monitors I nearly had a panic attack. How could it be that I loved and hated this place all at the same time? How could it hold such tender, sacred memories, and yet be the place that haunted my memories? After gathering gifts together we went "out on the floor" to take them to the babies' bedsides. The first bed you can see after entering the NICU door was Halle's. The one next to it, Sam's. Upon seeing them I did have a complete breakdown and began to bawl. It would take several weeks of volunteering before I could finally go out on the floor.

Now skip ahead another year. Sam is approaching 2-years-old. This time I am handling the milestone much better. I love volunteering at the NICU and am even a part of an enormous fundraiser held each year for the NICU and pediatrics. After a silent auction and dinner, a presentation about the NICU is put on. The room goes dark and suddenly a movie screen lights up with pictures of impossibly tiny babies. They are so sick, and just when all hope seems lost, the baby miraculously recovers. He goes home, perhaps with oxygen and monitors and maybe even with some lasting effects, but he is home with his family all the same. I watch this movie and I begin to sob. A fellow volunteer, and friend, puts her arms around me.

"I want another baby so badly," I tell her. "I know our chances of ending up in the NICU again are high, but I would do the whole NICU experience again if it meant we could have another beautiful baby in our home." She nodded knowingly.

A month later I found out I was pregnant.

Skip ahead one more year. Sam is going to be three this month. The big NICU fundraiser is once more upon us (tomorrow, in fact). I haven't been to the NICU since a week before Luke's death. I can't go anymore. I can't stand the smell of that hospital. I can't stand to go to the fifth floor where the NICU and labor and delivery are situated. My last experience at L & D was a true nightmare. And the NICU is a place I yearn to be - watching my little boy breathing peacefully, even if while on a ventilator. I'm afraid I would covet all those adorable babies. (Let it be known that, while others may look at preemies as scrawny and baby bird-like, I have never known anything other than a preemie. Not only have I never experienced a full-term pregnancy, but I've been around the NICU so much that I am always shocked when I see a full-term baby. 7 pound babies look ridiculously large to me - the NICU has seriously warped me in so many ways.) I think I would be jealous of all the parents with babies in the NICU. I know no one wants their baby there, but at least it means they have a baby.

I've been invited to volunteer at the fundraiser. Lori, the head of the parent volunteers, is very understanding. She knows I can't even drive past the hospital without bawling, but she also knows I miss the support of the friends I have made there. And so she cautiously invited me to come. I gave her an emphatic "yes", but now I am scared.

Scared of the emotions I will feel when that video presentation comes on and the memories that it holds of one year earlier.

Scared of seeing Heather, the bereavement specialist. She is getting an award this year, which she so deserves because of all the support she has given others. I just wish I wasn't one of those people she has supported.

Scared of seeing Halle and Sam's nurses there and feeling an ache in my heart, wishing they had gotten to meet Luke as well.

Sometimes I wonder if I am masochistic. A gluten for punishment. But most of all, I wish that I didn't even have the chance to go to the fundraiser this year. I should be tied down to home and a nursing baby boy with shocking blue eyes and the cutest button nose.

Just another milestone I have to live through.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Greatest This Life Has to Offer

Dear Luke,
There are many things people say to try to comfort those who are grieving. We just can't stand to see others hurting, and so we try to say something, anything, that might help. One that I've heard a lot is that you "are in a better place." I've even heard people say that you are "lucky to miss out on all the terrible things in this world."

Hm, a better place? Lucky? I know heaven must be wonderful, but I'd also like to think that our family is too. Don't get me wrong, this life can be very difficult and cruel, no one understands that more than me right now. But there are also some incredible moments that everyone should get to live.

After you were born, we kept you in our room for almost an entire day. Dad rocked you and whispered tales of football heroes and of the wildlife he loves so much. I held you up to the window so you could see the majestic mountains overhead. The mountainsides were beginning to glow orange and red as the leaves on the trees changed colors. And I began to bawl. You will never get to see those beautiful mountains we love so much. You will never get to hike the trails with us, picking up leaves and rocks as you go. You will never get to sit in Romney Stadium and watch the Aggies play football. You will never get to throw a baseball in the backyard with Dad and Sam.

How can people say you are in a better place when you have a family that would love you to pieces and show you all the good this world has to offer?

My parents offered me the happiest childhood a girl could know. I want that for my children as well. And I find myself lately trying to shove three happy childhoods into only two children. I feel like I have to give it to you, whether you are here physically or not, because I feel you deserve it too. I feel as though we need to live this life to the fullest, in case you are allowed to live vicariously through us.

So, in an attempt to create some of the happiest memories a child could want, we went to Disneyland last week. We entered those gates and I felt as though all cares and troubles melted away. Nothing mattered but our family - you and Halle and Sam. And for those three days life revolved around us.

It was a wonderful vacation. The kids enjoyed every moment of it. And Dad and I felt like kids again, enjoying even the simplest of things. We even went to the beach so the kids could see the ocean for the very first time. Halle was mesmerized by the waves and Sam couldn't keep his artistic fingers out of the sand and drawing murals.
But there was one moment, on the last day, that I felt my emotions well up inside. Maybe it was the knowledge that this fantasy world was all going to be gone in the morning. And maybe it was the reminder that I will never get to take you to Disneyland in the flesh. But whatever the reason, somewhere between seeing the Toy Story army men playing their drums and posing for pictures with Lightning McQueen and Mater, I began to sob. Yup, right there in the middle of "the happiest place on earth" I broke down and cried.

I miss you buddy. I wish you could see the tulips poking out of the dirt in our front flower bed. I wish I could take you to see the baby lambs down the rode. I wish you could feel the spring air outside and smell the newness all around. I wish you could hear your brother and sister talk of you and pray for you.

But perhaps you do see and hear and feel all these things. I feel you so near sometimes. I think that if I could just look hard enough, I would see you right here beside me.

I'll never stop living for you, Luke. I'm going to experience all the wonderful things this life has to offer in case you are here with me. I want you to know that, wherever you are, there is a family here who loves you beyond all comprehension and will never forget you. And that is the greatest thing I can offer you in this life and the next to come.

Love you,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Welcome to the "Club"

Dear reader,

I began this blog more as a journal for myself. A way to express myself and put into words all of my raw emotions. It was very cathartic. I know I could have just written in a journal, but it helped to publicly talk about Luke. It made his existence seem more real. Just to think that someone else knew that he was once alive and that he made a difference to us was very healing.

But now that doesn't seem enough. I need to do more than just tell of Luke, I need to know that others feel what I feel. I need to know I am not alone in my heartache.

6 weeks after Luke passed away, I went to a local support group for parents of pregnancy and infant loss. I was suffering from severe anxiety attacks at the time. Being in public was excruciating for me. I was a weepy mess and I was afraid of showing others my emotions. And most of all, I was afraid of leaving my husband and two remaining children. I lived in fear that something terrible would happen to them. I hoped the support group would be good for me, but it was actually very overwhelming. As we all sat in a room sharing our tragic stories, I felt all my strength leave me. I was barely able to handle my own loss and now here I was grieving over others' losses as well.

I think I was in major denial over Luke's loss. Here I was in a group of people who had all lost children. I don't belong here, I kept thinking. This can't be happening to me. This isn't how my life is supposed to be.

I wish I could just make friends with women at the park. But instead, I have made some of my greatest friends at the NICU - both with other mothers with NICU babies and with my children's nurses. I also have become friends with Sam's speech therapist. I have even made friends with women across the country through email support while they were on bedrest for high-risk pregnancies like mine.

In a sense I belonged to several "exclusive" groups - the mother's-on-bedrest club, the mother's-of-NICU-babies club, the mother's-with-a-child-in-need-of-early-intervention club, and the mother's-with-a-broken-body club. I never anticipated being in these groups, but now that I was here I might as well make the best of my situation and make friends with those who could understand me best.

But this was too much. I didn't want to be a part of the mother's-who-have-lost-a-child club. I wanted to be a part of the club that everyone in my neighborhood and church were a part of, the mother's-with-enormous-bellies-and-no-worries-in-the-world club. Okay, maybe not everyone was in this club, but about 10 women that I associated frequently with where. Most due at the same time I was. The majority also having boys. This was the club I desired to be in. But I had been kicked out without any prior notice. And no one asked if I wanted out. I had no choice. I was kicked out, never to return.

I came home from the first support group vowing to never go back. I didn't want these friends. I didn't want their lives. I didn't want to belong. But my emotions have been very raw again lately, so I finally started searching blogs in hopes of finding a friend. This was a big step for me. I've finally accepted that I am a part of this club, whether I like it or not. And since I'm here, I might as well make friends with those who can support me the most.

I still have a hard time reading other's blogs. I hurt so desperately over other's losses. But I've also found strength and great hope in their stories. It's nice to know I'm not alone. There is such power in crying with others, in sharing our emotions, and telling our stories. If you are part of this club, I'm sorry. I wish none of us were. But if you are out there and you know how I feel, I could really use your strength right now.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Thoughts on Love and Loss

Dear Luke,

I find that most of the time I am now able to think of you and smile. I love the memory of you. I feel such hope that I will see you again some day. I feel you near and know that you have changed me for the better. Your life and memory follow me where ever I go. It's difficult to feel too sad over your loss when I feel that you aren't lost at all, but somewhere very close to me.

But there are times when even my faith, no matter how strong, seems to fail me.

Today at church I was helping in nursery (with the children under 3) mostly because Sam wouldn't let me out of his sight. I began talking to a dad in our ward and he started asking about you. He wanted to know if you had been alive or not when you were born.

This, to me, is a touchy subject. I know what their thoughts are, because I know I thought it before it happened to me. They are thinking that we are lucky to have never known you, for that makes it not so painful to lose you. They are thinking that at least we didn't bond with you. Of course they think these things, no matter how wrong these thoughts are. They aren't insensitive, they just don't understand. And how could they, they haven't had to experience it.

But the truth is, we did know you. We did bond with you in a very dramatic way. And it IS painful.

When we found out you were gone, just a day after hearing your heart beating so strongly at a routine doctor's appointment, we were terrified for your arrival. I didn't want it all to be over. Once you were born all hopes of seeing you pink and healthy would vanish. But there was a much bigger fear on my mind - what if I didn't love you? After all, you were gone. I didn't know if it was even possible to love someone whom I had never seen in the flesh and was now dead.

My fear was all in vain. Of course I loved you. I still love you. It didn't matter that you were born sleeping. The minute I laid eyes on you, I was madly in love. You were so handsome! You looked just like Halle and Sam. I giggled at the scratch on your nose, scabbed over, proof that you had been living, for you had scratched yourself while wildly moving around inside me.

It does not matter what condition the human body is in, a parent's love goes much deeper than all of that. It would not have mattered whether you were big or little, a boy or a girl, alive or dead. You are mine, something that even death cannot take from me.

In my opinion, having you be born sleeping did not make it easier to lose you. In fact, there are times when I wish it had been different. I know you had to go, but I wish I could have seen you take one little breathe, watch you move those little legs that kicked me so happily on a daily basis, or feel your warm skin on my lips. I remember that horrible feeling of your cold skin. I remember trying desperately to warm you up in the soft blue blanket that was swaddled around you. You were so cold! And then I began to bawl. You didn't feel the cold and nothing I did could warm you up. Nothing.

I wish I could have had just one small moment with you in this life. The pain of never getting that chance still hurts me deeply.

This dad I was talking to asked if I think it would be harder to lose one of my other children. Meaning one of my children that actually got to live. He was not meaning to be rude. He was aware that he had no understanding of my pain and he sincerely wanted to know my opinion. I looked him right in the eye and said very honestly "No, it wouldn't be harder to lose them."

I agree that losing my four- or two-year-old would be different than losing you. I have more memories with them. There are more reminders of them in our home. It would hurt to have so much of them constantly reminding me that they were gone. But in some ways, that is what I grieve so much about your loss. I have nothing. NOTHING. No living memories with you. Just a pregnancy, taken from me too soon, and 20 hours holding you in the hospital. We spent those hours desperately trying to fit a life-time of love into just one day.

I ache that I will have scrapbooks full of pictures and memorabilia of Halle and Sam, and yours will remain very small. A few pictures of my pregnancy, your birth, and a few moments captured on film when our family does something to honor your memory. I feel that so much was taken from me the day you died. I had your whole life planned out and I didn't get to see even one moment of it in action. No, it wouldn't be harder to lose Halle and Sam. Just different.

As I reflect on all of this, I realize that it isn't the amount of time we spend with our baby or the number of memories we hold so dear that determines how much we grieve after a loss, but rather the amount of love we felt. Because we love you with the same intensity that we do Halle and Sam, the grief is just as real. Just as poignant.

"Grief is the natural by-product of love. ...The only way to avoid the grief would be to not experience the love; and it is love that gives life its richness and meaning."
-Lance B. Wickman

I don't care what the circumstance is, I love you, Luke. I love you SO much! And nothing is ever going to change that. Here we are snuggling close. I remember closing my eyes, trying to soak every memory in - the way you smelled, the way you felt in my arms, and the way it felt to be your mommy. I feel so blessed to be your mommy - one of my greatest reasons to smile.

Love forever,

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

That Mean Old Public Library

Dear Luke,

I feel that most days I manage life pretty well. I like the saying that other mothers like me have adopted, it's called "living with loss" or "finding a new normal" rather than "moving on". I feel like we've learned to live with this new life. But some days...

I find that my grief sneaks up on me at the most unexpected (often inopportune) times. Today it was at the public library. And I'm not quite sure why.

I've had a terrible cold and decided to pick up a new book to read so that I could soak in the tub once Halle and Sam were in bed. I've only been twice since your death. One of those times was shortly after we lost you and was a complete disaster. The other time, I took the kids to story time, under the stupid assumption that that is what I was supposed to do. My daughter's preschool teacher, an incredibly sweet lady but with no experience or understanding of what we were dealing with, told me that I should make life as normal for my two remaining kids as I could. This comment left me feeling even more guilty than I already felt (for heaven's sake, I hadn't even been able to keep my child safe in the womb, what sort of terrible mom am I?) and decided I needed to be a "better" mom. I equated this to taking my kids to story time at the library.

We entered the library, packed full of happy mommies and noisy kids. I know I should have felt happy to at least have two living children, but I was aching for my third. Call me selfish. It hurt to see that everyone else's life moved on while mine stood still. I wanted to hide from their happiness. I wanted to scream whenever I saw a woman with a big pregnant belly - the type of belly I've never had and never will get a chance at again. My sorrow and grief was outweighed only by the bitterness that began to well up inside when I realized these people were all living the life I wanted.

Time certainly has helped heal my wounds (along with therapy, medication, and the support of other grieving mothers) but it's funny how I still can't seem to go back to the library, of all places, without my heart breaking.

I remember taking Halle and Sam to story time outside during the early summer months. I was just starting to show, but unless you really knew me, you wouldn't have known, just looking like I'd put on a few pounds. I was still in the first trimester and we hadn't told very many people about you yet. Everywhere I went I was carrying around my new little baby and that fantastic feeling of having a wonderful secret. I was carrying a miracle and it was just for me. That little secret put a constant smile on my face.

We didn't go to story time for very long. Soon the weather was too warm, and although you were just the size of a little bean back then, your existence made my body temperature sky rocket. I'd never been pregnant in the summer before, and the heat was unbearable. So we stuck to doing the indoor crafts at the library while I cooled myself by the air conditioner. Halle and Sam adored this time and I would sit and daydream about how I would make this work the following summer with THREE kids. The thought was exhilarating. And also unnecessary as it turns out.

So silly that a library would bring me all these thoughts - thoughts that one moment bring a smile to my face with such sweet memories of my pregnancy and in the very next instant a torrential downpour of sorrow and deep loss.

I find it funny how these painful thoughts don't hound me as much at home as they used to. Perhaps that's because you are everywhere in our house. Your pictures, your memory box, your clothes, your room, the blankets laid out just waiting for your arrival. There isn't a place you can enter in this house and not be reminded that you exist. But outside of our home it's as though you never happened. Story time will continue at the library with or without you. Your memories there belong only to me. And that leaves me feeling sad and achy.

Just another place I'm not ready to be yet - the public library. I will add it to the long list of other places that hold memories of you, but only for me. Other places that I am not ready to return to. At least not yet.

Love you like crazy,

Doing Hard Things

Fall 2010 was a difficult one for Halle. She was experiencing some big "firsts" and required to do a lot of growing up.

The very end of August Halle had her first surgery. She needed a tonsil/adenoidectomy. The surgery was supposed to be easy and she'd be back in the recovery room with us after just an hour or so. Over an hour and a half later her doctor returned, but no Halle in sight. He explained that she had stopped breathing after they removed the breathing tube and they were keeping her for close observation. "She only turned blue for a very short time, but the medication we gave her got her breathing and 'pinked' her right up." Boyd and I giggled nervously, "Yup, that's our drama queen" we said. But inside we were screaming. "She turned BLUE?!" "She wasn't breathing?!" This was a routine tonsillectomy. How did this happen?

Her recovering went well at first, but a week into it she was in such intense pain and I couldn't keep pain meds down her. She just kept throwing it up.

During this time, when she was feeling well enough, she began her first day of preschool. She was so excited about her teacher, her class, and her new friends. But despite her love for school, it was a whole new ballgame for her, and she began to struggle with leaving me.

Not two weeks after her tonsillectomy and just a week after starting school, Halle would wake up one morning to one of her aunts in our house. Her mom and dad were at the hospital and when they returned the next day, mom no longer had "a baby in her tummy" and was crying constantly. It was clear that life would never be the same.

Halle sensed all these big changes. My confident, independent little girl suddenly became very clingy and insecure. She wouldn't even go into the bathroom without me, begging me to sit on the floor beside her. If I left her sight for even a second she would begin bawling "I'll have a hard time without you Mommy!" I soon took to sleeping on the floor in Halle and Sammy's room, partially so that Halle wouldn't be scared and partially because I was terrified something would happen to them while I wasn't watching.

It was, to say the least, a VERY hard time in our lives.

In response to what we were going through we decided to adopt a family motto for the year. We were hoping to switch Halle's attitude (which mirrored our own) from "I'm having a hard time", which we heard Halle say at least a dozen times every day, to "I can do hard things."

To help us remember our little family motto, I made a charm with this saying on it for each of us to carry around every day. Halle and I carry ours on bracelets. Sam and Boyd have key chains with our saying. Boyd attaches his to the rest of his keys. Sam's is hooked onto the zipper of his coat. And Luke, who is NEVER excluded from any family affair, has a charm that, at the moment, hangs from a Valentine's decoration on his grave.Along with our "I can do hard things" charm, each person has an angel wing charm. This is to remind us that we have heavenly help with the hard things we are asked to do.

Each Monday we revolve our Family Home Evenings around doing hard things. One week Boyd told the Bible story of David and Goliath. He draped a towel over his head and one over Sam's. He equipped himself with a toy sword and gave Sam a sock to be a "sling shot". Halle and I were dressed in more towels - our soldiers uniforms - and watched as little David took on the giant Goliath. It was so cute watching little bitty Sam (my 20 pound 2 1/2 year old) walk boldly up to his enormous dad with only a sock to help him. He threw the sock at Boyd who promptly fell to the ground. Halle and I let out loud cheers. Then we abandoned our costumes and talked about how David, even though he was very little, was able to take on a giant because of God's help. Then we explained that Heavenly Father helps us just like he helped David.
Sometimes we are lined up against giant problems, ones that far exceed our small size. The task of enduring sometimes seems overwhelming and downright impossible. But with God all things are possible. And with His help, we can all do hard things.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Lost Dreams

Dear Luke,
There were so many things I wanted to do with you in this life. So many fun things we were going to do. So many places we were going to show you. We didn't plan on doing these things simply for our own enjoyment, but for yours as well.

Last night we went to your cousin Tyler's Eagle Court of Honor. I felt such a pride for him as I watched him join the "Eagle's nest" with your Dad, great-grandpa, and Uncle Troy. I thought of what a good example he is for your brother Sam.

And then the sorrow hit. One day I will get to see Sam as a scout. I will help him earn merit badges, send him off to week long camps and feel relieved to be rid of him for a few days and crying over missing him all at the same time, and maybe one day help him with his Eagle Project. And as happy as all that makes me, I feel bad I will only get to do it once. I'm supposed to be helping TWO of my boys earn merit badges. I should be sending TWO boys off to scout camp. And I should be helping TWO boys with their Eagle projects.

Last night I thought of how much it hurts to think that you won't get to sit in the "Eagle's nest" with your dad, grandpas, and big brother. I imagine how proud your dad would have been of you. I imagine how Sam would have shook your hand with pride as you sat in the seat next to him, sharing a great honor together.

I know everyone says you are in a better place, but I can't help but feel sorry that you'll miss out on the wonderful things that this life has to offer. I know it isn't all roses here on earth, but there are some pretty amazing things to make life happy. Last night I missed you like crazy and felt a deep sense of heartache over not getting to experience this wonderful part of life with you. I think you would have been happy here. I think you would have sought out all the good things that this life has to offer. I think you would have loved to go to camp with your big brother.

I think last night I wasn't the only one feeling lonesome for you and wishing you were here. I think you were wishing it too. I sometimes get the feeling that you miss us as much as we miss you. Maybe I just feel that way because I hate the thought of you forgetting about us. But I think a mother has a special bond with her children and I don't think I'm just imagining things. I think my heart is connected to yours and I think I can tell when you are as lonely for us as we are for you.

Hang in there, my boy. We can do this hard thing that the Lord has asked us to do. I promise we'll come home to you. I promise!!


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Songs Say it Better Than I Ever Could...

Dear Luke,

Did I tell you I have an iPod? Oh, really? I did? Well, too bad, because I'm going to rant and rave about it a little more.

The other day I was listening to some hymns while doing some house work. It's amazing how calming and peaceful cleaning out a fridge can be while listening to good music.

I thought of my sister-in-law (your aunt whom you most likely already know and are well acquainted with), Stephanie, when "There is Sunshine in My Soul Today" began to play. When Stephanie was just three years old she got very sick and stopped breathing. It was minutes before she started again and suffered severe brain damage. My mother-in-law says she used to sing this song to her because she loved the words "And Jesus listening can hear the songs I cannot sing." Stephanie could not talk. She could only express herself through laughing and crying. But my mother-in-law knew that someone could hear her. Our Heavenly Father was very aware of Stephanie and the earthly family that loved her. I cannot hear this song without thinking of Stephanie and feeling anxious for the day that I will get to meet her and talk with her.

Next I heard "Nearer, My God, to Thee." As I listened, I watched my kids sitting at the computer together. Halle was playing on and making stories for her and Sam to listen to. My mind instantly went back to last January. We were desperately wanting another baby. I yearned for one. Whenever I watched my two kids playing together, I got that overwhelming feeling that someone was missing. Now here we are, one year later, and nothing seems to have changed. Sure, Sam's a little taller (but hasn't gained one measly pound) and has a mouth full of teeth. He also talks up a storm, whereas last year at this time he could only say half a dozen words. Halle's gotten taller too. Lots taller. And she's definitely not a toddler anymore, but a little girl. But otherwise, to an innocent bystander, everything seems to be the same as last year, as though time has stopped for us.

But in reality, EVERYTHING has changed. As I looked at my two kids sitting at the computer I no longer feel as though someone is missing. I know you are not here physically, but you are a part of our family. We are complete now. And we have a much stronger love for God than ever before. I feel we truly are nearer to Him because of you.

"Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee!
E'en though it be a cross
That raiseth me.
Still all my song shall be
Nearer, my God, to thee.
Though like a wanderer,
The sun gone down,
Darkness be over me,
My rest a stone,
Yet in my dreams I'd be
Nearer, my God, to thee.

There let the way appear,
Steps unto heav'n;
All that thou sendest me,
In mercy giv'n;
Angels to beckon me
Nearer, my God, to thee."

Luke, you are the angel who beckons us to Him. Without you, we'd still be yearning for something more. But now we can look at our lives, and though we miss you daily, we feel that life has more meaning. More purpose. We feel whole.

Many nights I sing my absolute favorite hymn to Halle and Sam. I never make it through without crying.

"And when I think
That God, his Son not sparing,
Sent him to die,
I scarce can take it in.
That on the cross
My burden gladly bearing
He bled and died
To take away my sin.

When Christ shall come,
With shout of acclamation,
And take me home,
What joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow
In humble adoration
And there proclaim
'My God, how great thou art!'

Then sings my soul,
My Savior God, to thee,
How great thou art!
How great thou art!"

We truly have a loving Heavenly Father. I see that now, more than ever. And I will prouldy proclaim it to anyone who will listen.

I love you bud!