Thursday, March 27, 2014

Happy Birthday Beauty Girl

It's Grace's birthday. 3 years old. How quickly and how slowly time has passed. Birthdays are so special. The start of your life. A profound day, even if one doesn't feel it is. A celebration.
But how do you celebrate a birthday of someone who is now dead? Someone who, never got to celebrate their own birthday? Not even once? It's hard. Like everything that goes with having lost a child, it is a struggle. To be honest, each year I just want to stay in bed and cry. In so many many ways, it was not Grace's death that the grieving began, it was her birth. The losses started immediately. "This was not how it was supposed to be" a phrase that echoed repeatedly in my mind.
It is so hard to know what we should have today, how we thought it would be. To picture in our minds, what kind of party she would have? 3 is so fun. How much would she giggle over her gifts as she opened them? It's almost impossible for her death to not be on our minds on her birthday as well.

But, this is how it was supposed to be. Her BIRTHDAY is to be celebrated.3 years ago today, a miracle occurred. Her name is Grace Fenella Hall. 12:07 am, she came rushing into this world. Changing lives immediately. Of course our little drama queen was born just after midnight, on a sunday, barely minutes after we were admitted, nothing prepared for delivery, in a hospital without a NICU and with a very serious unkown birth defect. I think about her delivery often, how really it was all "wrong." But it was the way it was meant to be, even if it makes no sense. I still remember the stories in the following days, of family members telling people about her, but those people already had heard about her, having heard about her from someone else.

It is hard to accept that we only had 4.5 months with her, but the reality is, we were so blessed to have that much time. Every odd was stacked against her and she was truly the most amazing baby. She survived so much. She fought so hard. I've never seen such bravery.

I will never forget the surgeon who told me, only days before she died that he believed in medicine because he was a Dr but that Grace wasn't alive still because of medicine. He said she was truly a miracle and that there was something else about her. At her funeral a nurse told me that in all her years, she had seen so many babies and so many fight through so much but that she had never seen a baby fight and survive the way Grace did. So many times before Aug 9, Grace should have died and she didn't. Daily, miracles occurred. We get hung up on the feeling that we didn't get our miracle, the ability to bring our daughter home and raise her. But we did, we got 4.5 mos of miracles. The time she clotted off 3 ECMO circuits in 20 mins and was being kept alive by a surgeon performing chest compressions. The simple fact that she was able to survive an ambulance ride, and a helicopter ride, 3 hospitals in the first 8 hours of her life. The fact that after not being held or barely touched for 2 months, she was only happy when being held. The fact that she knew her brothers. So many miracles.

Three years ago, with the birth of Grace, my world and many others were changed. The lessons she taught me are always there. I may struggle with putting them into action in my life but she is woven into every part of my life. Her life was a blessing.

Happy birthday my beautiful girl, your life may not have been as long as we had wanted but you surely left your mark on this world. Your beauty and your grace still show today and your blessings still abound. Thank you our amazing Grace for the gift of your life on this day, 3 years ago.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Inconsistent..

My blogging is inconsistent to say the least. I was so looking forward to participating in October's "capture your grief"project, and had hoped it would be helpful to myself and maybe my fellow BLM's but what happened was pretty surprising to me. Instead of capturing my grief, quite honestly, my grief captured me. I simply couldn't do it. I am amazed that I survived October. Many moms describe grieving their babies as coming in waves. You are fine, then a wave comes rushing in, knocks you off your feet and then it's calm again. Over and over again. October was a tsunami.
I'm not entirely sure why. I think that it had been leading up for quite some time. We've had a rough year again, many (very expensive) things went wrong with our home, beginning in May and I weathered it all well I felt. I became pregnant in August and I miscarried in September and then in October one event just set into motion one of the hardest months of grief that I have had since 2011. Because of the hole I was in,  I almost lost one of my longest and closest friends, she didn't do anything but be honest with me and I ended the conversation, deactivated my facebook account and was ready to just be done with everyone. She wouldn't let me. Within seconds she reached back out to me, she extended grace to me that I wasn't willing to extend to me. Her actions, along with countless other friends, and an amazing month of messages at church slowly brought me out of the dark hole I was drowning in. I was so glad for October to be over. It really was rough.
In November, I became pregnant again. I would have been due on the last day I saw my daughter alive, 3 years later. But once again, at 6 wks I miscarried. That hole was going to be even darker and deeper than October. The first two days, I felt an anger and sadness and hopelessness that I can't even describe. Despair doesn't even come close. But instead of keeping it quiet, instead of trying to just ignore it and hope it went away, I opened up. I told some great people what was going on. Immediately they all said amazing things to me, prayed amazing prayers for me. Extended much empathy and grace to me to keep me from going as deep and dark as I could have. Reminded me that yes, this is terrible what I am going through, what I have gone through BUT oh, how blessed I am! How much love I have, not only through these 5 (big and little) men in my home and my beautiful angel girl, but my savior, who also suffered and the many many people he has laid in my path to encourage, love and guide me.
This is not my home. I wanted my Grace and I wanted the babies I lost this year here, I wanted this life with them. But I will have them, in Heaven, where I will have far more time and beauty with them there, than I ever could hope for here. I am thankful for those who have helped me remember this.
One of my sons said to me "I wish we could go back to Connecticut, to how life was there" and I have thought that for the last 3 years too. It's not just that we hadn't experienced the loss of one of our kids, it wasn't that we hadn't had hard times. But we hadn't experienced anything as bad to really break us down and crush us. But truly, we hadn't experienced the beauty either. In this coming year, I want my son (and me!) to decide that life here, our life, our beautifully broken crazy life is still good. We can be as happy as we were then. It's just going to take some work. I'm willing to do so.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Capture your grief Day 5

5. Memory: What memory do you have of your child that stands out for you the most. It may be a positive or negative memory. When you think of your child what is the first memory that comes to your mind?

So many memories, it's so hard to know which one stands out most for me. We had 4.5 months with Grace and spent so much time with her. I don't have just one memory that comes first, it just depends on the day. I do have a few that are much more prominent than others, so I will share those.


Many know, that my pregnancy with Grace was probably our biggest surprise and most unplanned baby. My pregnancy with her was filled with so much chaos, we moved 4 times, Adam left the Navy and began a new job, we had school issues with Tyler, and began homeschooling him, we bought a house. There was just so much else going on that we didn't (sadly) focus as much on her. I didn't feel like we'd prepared enough for her and I felt very overwhelmed at how I was going to handle all that we were dealing with, as well as a baby. I remember more or less, panicking when I realized I was in labor with her, thinking "oh my gosh, we are actually having another baby, this is real. I need more time, I'm not ready!"
My labor was so fast. It was so intense and painful because it was so fast. But one of my very very favorite memories will always be, when I looked down and her head was delivered and I saw my beautiful daughter for the first time, I saw her face and suddenly, every single thought above was gone. Replaced with overwhelming joy, and love. She wasn't even fully born yet and I was madly in love, and extremely ecstatic. It is such a good memory. My heart was so happy.

This memory is not so great. Even though the Dr explained to me what CDH was and what ECMO was when Grace was being transferred to Toledo to be prepared to be transferred to U of M, and her exact words were "if we do not get her to U of M, she will die" (not could, will) I didn't think she was really that sick, the whole time I was at Flower. I think I was really in shock. I had been told what was going on, but still didn't really get it I guess. I kinda thought we'd get to U of M, and either she'd have a small surgery, and we'd bring her home within a couple of days, or I also had crazy disillusions that we'd get there and they'd say " wow amazingly we were wrong! She's fine, go ahead and hold her and nurse her etc" Well. Obviously, that is not how the story goes.
We got to the hospital and parked, and went to the main lobby (which really, wasn't even close to the NICU) and got directions. They asked if I wanted a wheelchair and I declined. I had only given birth, I wasn't in need of a wheelchair to go see my baby..Uh yeah. Should have gotten the wheelchair, it turned out that from the main lobby, the NICU was quite far! I had to stop a few times to just rest because well, I had only given birth about 8 hours prior. So we get to the floor the NICU was on and we saw a door that said it was Holden NICU but it looked to us like it might be a back door, that we were supposed to go into a different door, we'd never been to a NICU so didn't know. We saw a woman at a desk up ahead and went to her and told her why we were there, and I'll never forget she said "um, youre in the wrong place. We only have healthy babies here" and the way she said it was so rude. It just hurt.
We went down the hall to the NICU, and we were led to our baby. We walked a short way down and entered a room, the absolute second we walked through that door, I realized that all of my expectations and thoughts of what was going on were completely wrong. I honestly felt my heart break. I never knew I could feel such pain. The tears immediately started just falling. Like rain.
Her nurse said "are you mom?" and I think I managed a nod. She said "come here and see your daughter" and made the dozens of dr's surrounding her, make room for us. To hold her hand, she allowed us to cradle our arms around her in her bed. I could not stop crying. I couldn't even talk. My heart was truly shattered.



And one of my absolute favorite memories will always be this..


Capture your grief Day 4. Legacy

4. Legacy: Do you believe your child left a legacy behind? It could be something very simple but meaningful


I came across this sign at Hobby Lobby a few weeks back ( still waiting to get the entryway painted so I can finally hang it!) and it is perfect. Absolutely perfect. This is what Grace left behind. I never could have imagined how much of a lesson in grace I was going to receive through her. Never in a million years did I think my baby daughter could teach me as much as she did. She may not be alive today, but for the rest of my life, I will try to live my life half as well as she did.
There are many many things I learned from her, that I am actively trying to apply to my life, to the way I raise my boys but she taught me the most about grace.
Because of her, I try so hard to "give grace" I teach my boys to "give grace". Even when we don't want to, because it is what the Lord does for us, and it is what our Grace did for everyone. She has taught me to truly see the beauty and good and love in everything. Because of my daughter, I can love my sons and my husband, my family and friends,better. Because of my daughter, I can actually truly praise God through the storms, I can do things I didn't think I could. I want to live my life like she did. Truly full of Grace.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Capture Your Grief, Day 2. Identity.

I am participating in CarlyMarie's  "Capture your grief" project for the month of October. Each day this month, there will be a different topic pertaining to grieving the loss of a baby, or pregnancy. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss awareness month.
Today's topic is
2. Identity: What is your child’s name? Why did you chose that name? What is the meaning of their name? If they were born, what were their birth details. What were their features? Who are they?





Grace. My daughter's name is Grace Fenella. Her middle name is Adam's Grandma. She is a beautiful woman, inside and out and without her, my dear husband wouldn't be the man he is today. He has always spoken and thought so highly of her, so it was no hesitation when he wished to name his first daughter after her. Grace.. well, the long version of her name can be found here. And the short version, is that when I was pregnant with her, I was being taught about God's beautiful grace so very often, and she was just such a representation of that for us, at that time. And to this day, she is. Grace, the name, the word is just beautiful.
Grace's birth was beautiful and  a whirlwind and full of chaos exactly like her life. It was shocking, exactly like her death. She was born at 12:07 am on her due date, after we had arrived at the hospital approximately a half hour or less, before. I know it was about 11:15 when we left for the hospital but I am not sure exactly when we arrived. Anyhow, I didn't think I was in labor and finally decided Adam could call his mom to come spend the night "just in case" and I guess that was probably the only smart thing we did that night. Finally after hours of Adam insisting I was in labor we decided to go in. As we drove through the neighborhood, I realized I might actually be in labor afterall and as we drove on 23, I realized I was REALLY in labor and started telling him to go faster because I started getting worried I wasn't going to make it. We got there finally and suddenly I was having a baby! The second she was handed to me and I looked down at her, I started panicking. She was looking at me, right at me, and I will never forget the look of panic in my newborn baby's eyes. Her mouth was wide open, and not a sound. Adam was preparing to cut her cord and I remember wanting to just yell at him to hurry up already, she wasn't ok! I remember saying. she's not ok! And being reassured she was, but as soon as the cord was cut, and she still didn't cry, but finally made a heartbreaking gurgle, I knew she was absolutely NOT Ok, and everyone else did too.
But what came next, I never expected. 3 words to forever change my family's life.
Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia. How can something so horrendous even be real?
She left on an ambulance. Adam went with her. My sister in law stayed with me. After being somewhat stabilized, she then left the 2nd hospital on a helicopter. She was not even 8 hours old and was already on her 2nd transport. I never expected that day to go that way.

She was the most beautiful baby. She had dark hair, not a ton of it, but enough. She had beautiful, blue eyes. Chubby cheeks. She was gorgeous. 7 lb 4 oz. My smallest baby. My dainty girl. But oh, was she fierce. She was a survivor, I don't care what anyone says. She was strong. A fighter. She went through more than anyone I know, and she wasn't phased. She lived out her name. She was grace. She went through all the torture, she suffered. And yet, she still loved people. The very people who sometimes hurt her (because they had to give her a shot, draw blood etc) she smiled at. She demanded they hold her,as she layed her head on their chests (which was the absolute most amazing feeling ever)  Aside from the few seconds I held her at birth, Grace was not held in somebody's arms for over 6 weeks, but just occasionally then. She was passed two month old when she was finally held daily. In those two months that she wasn't held, we kept hoping and praying soon we could hold her, we believed that our touch, being held would help heal her. Surely, there is healing power in loving touch. After those two months, we held her for hours and hours. That little girl absolutely hated being put down! I will never forget what Adam told me, after holding her for hours and hours. He said that as he sat holding her, all that time we believed that our touch was healing her, that we were holding her for HER benefit but he realized that maybe, it was the other way around. Her touch, was healing us. She allowed us to benefit from being held. And he was right. The Lord's healing grace.  There is no other word for her, she was and is Amazing.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Two years later.

I remember clearly, sitting next to Grace when she was just a few days old, and the "honeymoon period" was over and she had started having scary days and thinking " if she does die, how will I survive? How do you not die, because your baby has died?" and then again thinking the same thing when she did die. I remember thinking about the people I knew who's babies had passed before Grace and wondering how in the world, you can walk away from your baby the final time. Thinking that I'd need to be carried away..In the end, we left Grace with one of her primary nurses and I pretended I was just leaving for the night. It didn't take me long to figure out how to fake it through the hard things I guess. I remember waking up the next morning after she had died, and sitting on the front porch with Adam. It was early and our neighborhood was quiet, we needed to make plans, find a funeral home, and all I could think was "I just want to go back to bed, stay there and wake up in heaven" "I just want my baby girl" In those early days, there was so much uncertainty, "How will I do this" "how do I live without her" "how am I supposed to take care of 3 other kids, without her" "will I ever truly be happy again" It baffled me how people could lead "normal" lives but have dead children? I remember just wanting an answer "this is how you will get through this" "all you have to do is...." but of course nobody could just hand me an answer.
I remember just pushing myself to try to lead a normal life. Signing the kids up for activities, making plans with friends, etc. I remember being so angry. Just so mad. The breakdowns were seemingly endless, which is funny since that is probably so unkown to others. A trip to the grocery store, results in an anxiety attack and tears streaming down my face. I sometimes wonder how many times people saw me out in public those first months, and thought "what is wrong with that lady?!" It was so tough. I remember cancelling plans with people, and avoiding situations because I was just too tired, too sad. But then just sitting on the couch and doing nothing, because all my energy had been expended, crying and grieving and wishing things had been different. There just seemed to be no way to make this better.
I was bitter. Bitter, bitter, bitter. And I suppose, who could blame me. I went to the hospital in the middle of the night to deliver a healthy baby girl and instead ended up on a path that I never in a million years imagined I would be on. I couldn't make sense of it. I remember people telling me, that they would pray for me to have "peace that passes understanding" and though, of course I knew what that meant, it baffled me. How can I have PEACE that my baby is dead, when I cannot understand for second, what has happened? When it doesn't make sesnse that we were told she was healthy, but she wasn't and then we were told that she might die, but she didn't so we were told that it would be a long road, but that she was coming home and then she fought, she fought so hard, and she endured so much and it was SO hard and then she just suddenly DIED? I WANTED to be bitter. Why would I want to be happy, to feel joy, when this had happened?
But the thing that I learned, or really rather, the thing that God showed me, was that bitterness, and anger and resentment and all of those "ugly" feelings, do not make it easier. They make it harder. I tried to not be so angry and so bitter and I made a much more marked effort to be happy and seek this "peace". And things got better. But not totally. It was still really hard. I still had so many hard days. And my grief is displayed in ways that I wouldn't have expected and many wouldn't see as grief. So it was hard. I just couldn't see how I could ever really feel better again. How would the shift happen, where more days were good instead of bad. Someone told me they would pray for the day that having an angel in heaven becomes a blessing to me. and that made no sense to me.
But now, here I am two years out. My sweet baby girl has been dead for over 2 years now and I am in a place I wouldn't have expected. And I could feel it creeping in over the last year, but we have had so many things happen over this summer and the truth is, they have been hard. But they have truly been the Lord working in us. I really believe that. The truth is, I feel joy. I feel peace. I see how blessed I am. I am thankful. Now, don't mistake this for thinking that I am "fine" or that I am "over" anything. At the beginning of writing this post (which has taken me over an hour, since sweet Caleb has woken up twice) I was sobbing into my ice cream, while listening to Mumford and Sons because I miss my daughter so much. But, even though I miss her, I am able without even convincing myself, to understand that I am blessed. I can laugh, truly laugh. The absolute joy I feel with my sons and contentment with my husband is real. I'm not faking any of it. The calm I feel is nothing I expected. Two years later and I can say, life is good and i'm going to make it. And I'm confident of that, not just trying to convince myself and others that I believe it.This road is far from over, I will go through times of great sorrow still but I think I am finally starting to heal.
 Mama's you are going to get through this! You are going to make it and it is going to be ok. The truth is, though, the only way through this is through Jesus Christ. I firmly believe that. And I was so mad at first, so angry and wanted nothing to do with God, but learned, I can't do this without Him. I simply can't.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Oh sneaky grief..

Grief is surprising. It's frustrating too. I have had many people tell me, or I've read that after awhile, they can choose to grieve. That they can keep it all bottled in and put on a shelf out of the way of their normal life and then on one certain day, revisit it. Then when they are done, they go on with their lives and then 365 days later come back and grieve and continue the cycle, year by year. Of course, they say that not a day goes by that they don't think of the person but they only grieve that one day. I don't get that. I just can't understand it. I mean, not a day goes by that I don't think of Grace, and in a way, it hurts to admit that I suppose I don't truly grieve each and every day anymore. I mean that in the sense that two years out, I don't cry every single day or every night. I don't let my mind go to the day she died or the day she was born or the bad days she had, every single day. But I sure do go there often. Very often. But I just can't see myself only doing it once a year. But I suppose I don't know. I do know that I do not want to have to grieve like this for the rest of my life. Is that terrible? I don't want to when I'm 80, see a woman who is 53 and wonder what Grace would have looked like at 53, how many grandbabies would she have, etc etc. It hurts and it's tiring and I just don't want to spend the rest of my life doing it. But the thing is, she will be dead for the rest of my life. I will spend the rest of my life without her, I will never know the things I wonder about her, and I will never have the joy of helping my daughter learn how to raise her children etc. So though right now, I am sad not knowing the things my friends know, like what its like to take their daughter for her first pedicure, or haircut or dress shopping etc, and my husband doesn't get to partake in the daddy/daughter dances that are constantly posted to facebook, I know those things will end. But then other things begin. When we are older and all of ours and friends kids are getting married, my sweet husband will know that there is nobody for him to give away, he already has. I used to think "Cinderella" by Stephen Curtis Chapman was a beautiful song, now I turn it off, it's painful. I am sure it is for him as well now. I grieve for SO many things about her. I never knew before her that grief waslike this. Yes, I had known people to die, I had attended funerals and cried heavy tears for people who had passed but none like this. None like her. My daughter.
I grieve for the healthy full of life little girl that I didn't get to have. For the little girl that we rushed to the hospital to deliver, who was healthy. I grieve because I didn't enjoy my pregnancy with her at all and that was the only time she was ever safe. Grief comes to me in such strange ways. Often, I think of all the ways our lives would be different if Grace had not died. I imagine it as amazing. I imagine all of my boys with zero behavioral problems and insecurities (sure they weren't perfect before her death by any stretch, but it has done a number on us all) and I imagine her as a rambunctious two year old, who has all of her brothers wrapped around her finger. But very quickly, I am reminded that I don't know what she would have been like. She very well could not be walking, she might not be talking, she might be tube fed all day long still. Oxygen dependent still. Maybe she would have even ended up with a trach. Appointments all the time an hour away. And then I grieve for the special needs girl I don't have too. I saw a sweet little girl with an NG tube at the zoo the other day, and I felt jealousy. I had NG tube jealousy? I want to care for my little girl with a feeding tube.
I grieve for the healthy, typical girl that I do not have and I grieve for the special needs little girl that I do not have.
And that's what it comes down to though. For me to have kept her, she would have suffered. And even though, they'd have loved to keep her too, my sons would have inevitably suffered too since their lives would have been so altered to protect her. The hours of play with neighbors and birthday parties and outings to so many places just wouldn't have happened to protect her from the possible germs which could have eventually lead to her death anyway. But, for purely selfish reasons, I wish she had stayed. I miss her. I miss her nasal canula and I miss her feeding tube. I miss her stinky and leaky bag o bile... But how selfish to put her through all of that. But then it all comes back around to, "why did she have to be born so sick anyway.." I wish I knew.