Friday, August 29, 2014

Feeling is Healing

Obviously the pain of losing a child is unbearable, and as we approach new milestones I find that it's getting more difficult. Emotions I never knew I could experience continue to confuse me and beat me up. It's a battle of the wills to manage the flood of feelings I experience on a daily basis. 

One month ago today I birthed my beautiful baby girl.  Instead of dressing her in her "1 month" onesie and taking the obligatory picture of her next to an oversized stuffed animal or on a favorite piece of furniture, I find myself clutching and empty blanket - taking in as much of her smell as I can.  I close my eyes and take myself back to that day - the softness of her skin, the wrinkles in her feet, her chubby little cheeks. It's already been a full month - and all I have are memories.

At a recent Reiki appointment I was told that feeling equals healing. I thought I'd try and get out some of those feelings so that those of you who talk to me on a regular basis may better understand why I am the way I am.  These are some of the thoughts that cross my mind every single day.

I'm mad.

I'm mad that my life will never be the same. 
I'm mad that my husband and I have to navigate different emotions and need things at different times. 
I'm mad that no one truly understands this- even parents who have been there, as we all handle this differently.
I'm mad that God let me carry a baby for 39 weeks and 6 days, experience 15 hours of labor only to take her from me so soon. 
I'm mad that I'm mad at God.

I'm sad.

I'm sad that I've cried every day for the last month and that sadness will continue for a length of time that I can't comprehend.
I'm sad that I can't accept an invitation with friends to do normal things like go to the zoo or to a park because I'm fearful of breaking down at the sight of other babies and children who will remind me of my loss. 
I'm sad that my relationships will never be the same. 
I'm sad that people don't know what to do or say and that they feel badly because they can't help. 
I'm sad that "normal" things like watching a television show with a baby in it will make me cry.
I'm sad that I never got to hear her cry or be able to hear her call me mama. 
I'm sad that I don't get to see my husband interact with our daughter. 
I'm sad that our mothers don't get the opportunity to have a relationship with our daughter the way I had with my grandmothers. 
I'm sad that we have to talk about Olive in the past tense. 
I'm sad that I didn't get the true birth experience that I wanted.
I'm sad that the only outfit I ever bought for my daughter was one she would wear for her funeral. 
I'm sad that I will never know if she would have curly hair, blue eyes or a stubborn personality. 
I'm sad that all of the hopes and dreams we had for her will never come true.

I'm confused.

I'm confused by my physical body and how some days it can't figure out that there is no baby and other days it seems as if it never knew she was there. 
I'm confused by my brain and how it allows me to feel guilty for smiling or laughing or feeling happy, and then immediately turns that guilt to sadness.
I'm confused about what to do with all of these baby items that sit behind a closed door in our home.
I'm confused at how and why this happens to anyone at all. 
I'm confused by the realm of heaven and that I don't truly know where my girl is or what she is experiencing at this very moment.

I'm fearful.

I'm fearful of the first time I am asked if I have children.
I'm fearful of what tomorrow, next week and next year will bring. 
I'm fearful of returning to work. 
I'm fearful that I'll never have more children. 
I'm fearful of getting pregnant again. 
I'm fearful of having another child only to lose that one too.

I'm hopeful.

I'm hopeful that her memory will live on because I make sure she is talked about, loved and remembered. 
I'm hopeful for happier days - even if those days seem far away. 
I'm hopeful that I'll be able to pray for myself again someday. 
I'm hopeful that I'll be reunited with her in heaven.

I'm thankful.

I'm thankful that, one month ago, you all stopped what you were doing and took time to pray for our baby girl.
I'm thankful that you continue to pray for us and our families.
I'm thankful for the messages, cards and remembrances that flood our phone, email and mailbox.
I'm thankful for the offers to help, even though I haven't (and probably won't) take you up on those offers.
I'm thankful for the voicemails, since I rarely answer the phone, that are left to let us know that you're thinking about us.
I'm thankful that through all of the hurt and pain, YOU showed me just how much good there was in the world.
I'm thankful when you speak her name, Olive, letting me know you honor her and remember that she existed and still exists in our hearts.
I'm thankful that butterflies and ice cream cones will never be taken for granted.
I'm thankful that you hug your babes tighter because of ours.
I'm thankful when you tell me that you are taking time to appreciate the small things like a flower or the way the sun is shining.
I'm thankful that more people are talking to God.
I'm thankful that Olive was a member of God's family.
I'm thankful that Olive made me a mother and that I was specifically chosen to be hers.
I'm thankful for my husband and his patience as we endure this roller coaster together.
I'm thankful that she didn't suffer.

As difficult as the days are, I recognize that for every feeling of anger, sadness or confusion there are many more things to be hopeful and thankful for.  I know life will never get "easier" but do believe that one day the hurt will hurt a little less, and the tears will begin to come every other day, then weekly, monthly and as we pass certain milestones. 

Until then I will allow myself to feel whatever it is I'm feeling, and just be.

Monday, August 25, 2014

What Death Can Do To A Marriage

This past Thursday was my birthday and my husband decided a weekend getaway would be good for us both.  He arranged a lovely weekend in Door County, WI.  We stayed at a bed & breakfast, shopped at antique stores, had delicious meals and spent some much needed quality time together (with minimal breakdowns and tears).  It was the perfect way to reconnect with the man I knew, almost 10 years ago, that I would marry.

For the first week or so after Olive died I would find myself laying in bed staring at a picture of my husband and I on our wedding day. Each morning I would wake to it, at that couple so in love, and wonder - if we had known then what we would be experiencing now - how would that day have been different?  Obviously God does not make His plans known to us ahead of time, or that would make for one sad (much sadder than normal) world to live in. 

People ask me all the time how I'm able to continually scroll through my Facebook newsfeed when there are new baby announcements and pictures of people snuggling their newborns.  I am genuinely happy for those people - why wouldn't I be?  Becoming a parent is a beautiful thing, I'm convinced one of the best things.  Should I feel jealous or sad because their babies lived and mine did not?  Sure, there is an emptiness I feel but it's not jealousy, it's not even sadness - it's just an emptiness that I can't really describe.  Truth is, the pictures of newborns aren't the ones that get me, it's the newlyweds that do.  I find myself looking at their happy faces and wondering what lies ahead for them.  Will their roads be filled with happiness and blessings?  And, as morbid as it may be, what kind of pain will they have to endure, and will they be ready for it?  (Cleary my recent experience has made me view the world a little differently.)

Choosing to marry someone is, I believe, the biggest decision one will ever make - maybe the most important in a lifetime.  When you choose to marry someone you are committing yourself to a lifetime journey of so much.  There was a time when I didn't want to get married because I couldn't imagine burying my spouse some day.  Crazy, right?  Then I realized that the journey, no matter how long or short it would be, would be worth it in the end.

If you have a traditional ceremony - I suppose even if you don't - at some point you make a promise to stand by this person through whatever life brings you.  I wonder how many people really understand those promises on the day of their wedding?  When I would think about my wedding vows I understood there would be both blessings and challenges, happiness and heartache, sickness and health.  I knew we would experience grief and death - the death of friends, most likely parents, possibly siblings, and that one of us would most likely die before the other.  I never, not in the deepest part of my mind, ever would have thought we would lose a child.

I find myself replaying in my head moments in our relationship, wondering if that happy couple could ever know the depth of pain they would soon experience.  You get so caught up in wedding planning that sometimes you fail to plan for the marriage - I know there were times that I did.  What happens after the wedding day?  What happens when one of you loses a job?  What happens when one of you has a bad day at work and takes it out on the other?  What happens when you bring a child into the world and have to share your time?  What happens when that child dies?

The days after Olive was born were especially difficult for my husband.  I was in "go-mode" as I normally am, still high off the adrenaline of just having a baby, still believing in a miracle.  My husband was much more realistic than I was - he knew she was going to die and began to shut down.  I knew she was going to die too, but hadn't yet come to accept it - and honestly thought we had much more time than God knew we would.  The day after she was born was the hardest for him, it was difficult to have the conversations we needed to have - he was ready to make the decision I was dreading and I was still holding out for a miracle.  We were truly in two different places.

I remember saying to him as he was agreeing with my way of thinking for a major decision, "Will you blame me? Is this what you want? No matter what happens with Olive, we still have to go home together. If we go home without a baby, I still need my husband."  I was extremely fearful of what this would do to our marriage.  I knew the statistics, I knew that people grieve differently and that this could in fact do much more damage to our marriage than help it and I wasn't prepared to lose my daughter AND my husband.  I told him, "Whether or not we ever have more children, or if it's just you and me for the rest of our lives, there is NO ONE I'd rather spend my forever with.  I need you."

It was actually our midwife that gave us the breakthrough we needed the day after Olive died.  We sat in her office for almost an hour, openly talking about things that neither of us knew the other was thinking or feeling.  I believe that day was a significant one for our marriage.

He has been the most amazing partner I could have ever imagined.  I never thought I could love him more than I do now.  Sure, we have had to navigate some unimaginable things in the last 3 weeks - we've learned that we grieve differently, we need certain things at different times.  Sometimes one of us is really sad and the other is having a good day.  Sometimes one wants to stay home and the other needs to get out.  I can see how marriages fall apart if you don't communicate - and communication takes on a whole new meaning after losing a child.  Through it all we have never once been angry at one another or blamed one another for anything (I guess I shouldn't speak for him...., but I haven't).  There are certainly times we don't understand, or something feels like it's building up, but then we discuss it. 

This weekend we had beautiful moments talking about our feelings and about Olive - we relived her short days on earth by expressing things we each felt during those 36 hours.  We talked about our future, how we could continue to honor her and remember her - and with each conversation we reconnected in a new way.

While I don't wish this upon anyone I know that other couples will experience this grief someday - too many, in fact.  So I ask, are you prepared?  Are you prepared for whatever God gives you - good or bad (because there will be both)?  What can you do now, no matter where you are at in your marriage, to build a foundation that will be able to endure both blessing and unimaginable heartache (because there will be both)?  Are you the spouse your spouse needs and deserves? 

I can ask these things because I wasn't, I'm not- often times I put myself first - many times unknowingly, but sometimes very knowingly.  I know I'll continue to have these moments - I am human, after all, but now I find myself constantly thinking about him and his needs.  Is he happy?  Did he have a good day today?  How can I make his day better?  What does he need from me?  What can I be for him that I haven't been in the past?  The beautiful thing is that I know he feels the same.  I feel it when he embraces me, I feel it when he looks at me, I feel it when he speaks. 

What a rollercoaster of emotions the loss of a child brings, and then add the post partum hormones on top of that (no wonder I can barely function most days)!  I am broken in pieces at the loss of our daughter, but put back together (to an extent) by the person God chose to be my husband.  I am incredibly sad that this part of our life is missing, but amazed at what it has brought to our marriage.  I cry thinking about the memories we won't get to make, but encouraged by the memories we have yet to make. None of it would be possible without God and this man. 

After a nice weekend with minimal tears I found myself crying and sitting in the rain this morning - literally sitting on the deck, letting the rain wash over me - thinking about how there are two sides to everything: "good times and bad times, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health".  Those promises didn't end when Olive passed away. Those promises don't just go away because there is a strain in our life or in our marriage.  These are the times they shape us, mold us and make us better spouses.

"Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me." Ruth 1:16-17, reading from our wedding in 2011 - another moment where I had no idea what meaning this would take on for our life.

I continually pray for my marriage. I thank God that we created our beautiful daughter and that God honored us with being her parents.  My heart is far from healed and my marriage is far from perfect, but my spouse is my perfect partner - brought into my life by God and chosen specifically for me, specifically as Olive's father, specifically for our journey. 


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Earthly and Heavenly Birthdays

I've always found it interesting, the way people celebrate birthdays.  As a child I always had a celebration with family and friends - maybe a pool party, maybe a party at Chuck E. Cheese or something similar - I was always made to feel so special by those around me. While I don't go all out for birthday celebrations nowadays, I do like to try and make others feel special on their birthdays. I will tell you though, this year I was really looking forward to my birthday, but now that it's here I don't feel like celebrating.

I usually wake early, but pray to God that he lets me fall back asleep before the hole in my heart sends a message to my brain.  Before the tears start, I beg Him, just a few more hours.  Today was no different - in fact it might have been worse.  My husband came in before work to wish me a happy day, and even let the dogs in bed this morning to snuggle with me.  But, just like every morning, I smile, tell him to have a good day and then begin my struggle to get myself motivated. 

Today is my 34th birthday.  Today also marks 3 weeks since my baby girl left this earthly world and celebrated her heavenly birthday - which should be reason enough to celebrate if you're a strong Christian mother who trusts your baby is enjoying peace and unconditional love forever and ever.  But today the selfish, human mother in me wants my baby for myself - and I'm not apologizing for it.

You see today is my first birthday as a mother, a day I was so looking forward to.  A day where I wouldn't rush to get out of bed, but rather lay there as long as I wanted, staring at my girl - kissing those little piggies and sweet (and chunky) cheeks - not worrying about the clock or where I had to be.  Everything I was looking forward to was going to be right there in bed with me.  Instead, today (like pretty much every other day since she was born) I lay in bed in the mornings - listening to the silence, waiting for a sweet cry to rouse me - and after an hour or so, giving up as I know it's not coming. 

I did get a special delivery yesterday - two actually - and I'd like to think they were birthday gifts from Olive.  The morning she passed we received a call in our room that there was a photographer at the hospital that was available if we wanted to have pictures taken with her.  My husband and I were already packed up, had maybe 12 hours of sleep combined in the last 3 nights and really just wanted to get out of the hospital.  We declined the pictures and I have not forgiven myself since.  With 36 hours on this earth and only a few low quality pictures of her on my phone, what was I thinking not taking them up on that offer?  For 3 weeks I've stared at the same picture over and over again wishing I had something else.

The doorbell rang yesterday with a package from the hospital.  I opened it and found two 5x7 pictures of my baby and a CD of images that the photographer took of her. While there were only 9 pictures on that CD, it was still 9 more pictures that I didn't have of her the day before. 

Oh, my heart!

The other gift Olive gave me was through song.  I've mentioned that I have the Christian rock station on in my car - hoping for more messages to bring me comfort.  The first song I heard yesterday morning was, without a doubt, a birthday message from my precious baby.  I've not stopped listening to it the last 24 hours.

So here I sit, on this my 34th birthday.  A grieving mother - listening to a song on repeat like I'm a 14 year old girl with my first broken heart.  Instead of snuggling and kissing her I'm staring at her baby picture and mine, trying to find comfort in the fact she had my nose - looking for any other confirmation that she was indeed mine, if only for a short time.  Rather than holding her in my arms, I hold a picture of her wrinkled toes, remembering how they felt on my lips when she was lying in the NICU. 

Yes, I feel sorry for myself today on my earthly birthday.  But I can't help but feel a tiny bit of comfort listening to the rain fall on the roof.  I imagine those raindrops are coming from a giant sprinkler in heaven where my baby - along with other angel baby friends - are running through enjoying a beautiful summer day - celebrating her heavenly birthday.  It doesn't make today any easier for me as the hole in my heart longs for her, but I listen to her message over and over again trying to believe that she is having the time of her life.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


I recently read an article about signs or cues we get from loved ones that have recently passed on. For instance, when I'm visiting my grandma's grave I've experienced a random gust of wind here or there - just when I need it most, as if angel wings are wrapping their arms around me. It's a topic that I know people have differing views on, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  I don't know that there is any truth to it, quite honestly I think it's a way for our human minds to find comfort knowing that everything will be OK. Either way, it's reassuring to people and if it makes someone feel better - then I say go with it.

Shortly after Olive passed I was sitting outside thinking about whether or not life would ever go on as "normal" and a butterfly passed by me.  It was brief but it got me thinking - maybe it was a sign? It brought me a small sense of relief, but the thought eventually faded and I went about whatever I was thinking or doing.

Last week while sitting on our deck, writing the blog post about bringing Olive home, I couldn't hold back the tears.  I was thinking about that sweet baby and how sorry for myself I was feeling.  I was supposed to be at home - caring for her, rocking her, snuggling her.  These 12 weeks were supposed to be just ours.  Instead I was coping and dealing with a loss greater than I ever thought I could know and these weeks off were now intended to care for me, allowing me to heal - or trying to heal anyway.

In the midst of my sadness, through wet eyes and a runny nose, I caught a glimpse of a beautiful black and yellow butterfly.  It came and quietly sat on the deck next to my cup of coffee.  Occasionally it would flutter about, but it always came back to the same spot on the deck - as if patiently waiting for me to finish my post.  After a few moments I surprised myself, not realizing what I was saying, I spoke to it - "Hello, sweet girl"


I don't actually think that butterfly was my daughter - but something inside me felt her when I looked at it.  After awhile it flew off, over the house and was gone.

One of my daily rituals is taking the dogs for a walk.  They've been such a source of comfort, knowing just when I need a snuggle.  It's also been helpful to have something here to take care of.  Our walks have become somewhat of a daily struggle though, as the quiet time gets my head going and I end up crying -tearing up, thinking about Olive.  I remember walks, through heat, rain, wind - especially at the end - trying to get that baby to move down so I could meet her. I recall how my feet would swell in the humidity and my belly would feel heavy - then I look down and realize that belly is gone - and I cry some more. 

Lately though, my thoughts have been about what I did or didn't do during my pregnancy - did I miss a cue? Was it the travel I did so close to my due date? Too much ice cream? Not enough iron?  It's not that I blame myself, per se, but I'm human - and I was the only one caring for her for 9 months, how could I not question myself?

Two specific times popped into my head on our walk that day.  There were a handful of times that Olive would move so sporadically inside me, almost as if doing ninja warrior moves in my belly.  These few times I remember comparing it to her trying to escape - was something wrong?  Was she in pain? Did I miss a maternal cue and she was in distress?  "Nicole, she is fine - be happy she is moving and letting you know she is still there.  Movement is a good sign."  Or was it?

A week before I gave birth I recall getting out of the shower and a wave of anxiety came over me.

What if I die? 

My mantra when we were trying to conceive, and toward the end when I would get anxious about labor and birth was, "I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139:14  I would repeat this over and over again until I believed it.  I reminded myself, "Nicole, this is 2014 - mothers and babies don't die in childbirth anymore unless something is wrong - and there is nothing wrong.  You are healthy, you are strong, you can do this." My body created her, my body housed her, my body could certainly birth her and be strong enough for both of us during that birth. 

Just as I'm remembering these moments and beginning to let the doubt and guilt creep back into my head a butterfly came and landed on the ground right in front of where we were walking.  I stopped and watched it fly around me, I felt a sense of relief, as if somehow Olive knew I needed some reassurance just then. 

"Don't cry, mama - I'm OK. I'm with Jesus"

I don't know how many more butterflies I'll see this summer, or if they'll come exactly when I need them to as they have these three times before.  I will tell you that I'll never look at another butterfly the same. Whatever you believe, whatever you need for comfort - be open to it and welcome it.  God talks to us in the most beautiful ways, through His most beautiful creations.  Whether a gust of wind on a calm day or a lovely butterfly that is with us for only a moment - close your eyes and let Him fill you up with peace.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I am Weak But He is Strong

Earlier this week I had a heck of a day.  It was a rainy day and I could not get myself out of bed.  I had no reason to stay in bed - but I had no reason to get up either.  I could just tell it was going to be a long day, a sad day - and I was OK with that.  I felt like I needed a sad day, although I was dreading how sad it would turn out to be.  I don't remember feeling this low since Olive died.

I did get up and shower, I had a Reiki appointment at my acupuncturist's office that morning and I thought the least I could do was shower for her.  Sweat pants and a tank top was all I could muster up that morning though, so off I went.  I had only had Reiki done once and, to be honest, wasn't sure what to expect.  She informed me that the exercise may bring out emotions, either immediate or later on, just to be prepared.  Great.

As she worked on me for the next hour, I was trying to keep my mind clear - but I kept having flashbacks of moments in my life:  the stress of trying for a baby, the morning I found out I was pregnant, the look on my husband's face when he read the card - "9 months starts now".  Flashbacks of sitting on the plane, headed to Arizona when he first felt the baby move, when we had our ultrasound and could tell from that exact day that baby would have my nose!  Then she did it - she had one hand lightly on my breastbone and  one hand on the top of my belly and - whoosh - the feeling that my baby was laying on me again flooded over me.  I fought back the tears, although now I wish I hadn't. I know I was holding back, as I have been for awhile. 

Don't get me wrong, I cry.  Normally I do my crying in the shower, where the tears mix with the milk and blood and wash down the drain, everything...down the drain, away from me.  Everyday I cry - but this made me want to throw things and scream and sob.  But I held it in.

I ran to Target to get thank you cards - because it's good etiquette and apparently therapeutic to go through every card and name in the guest book and relive a funeral for days on end (insert sarcasm here).  I overheard some sweet ladies talking about, what I assume to be one of their children who is having a baby.  "Do they know what they are having?" "A boy - how fun!"  I wanted to throw my thank you cards at them. But I held it in (mainly for fear of being arrested in Target - oh, and because it's not their fault I lost my baby - but lets be honest, I really didn't want to be arrested)

I decided that was enough of being in public for one day and went home.  I've been trying to keep the Christian rock station on in my car. I find it helps me keep things in perspective, and God has a funny way of talking to you through different means. This day would be no different.

I heard, "I'm alive. Even though a part of me has died"  as I pulled up to the mailbox and realized I was holding my daughter's death certificate in my hands. 

So here I am
What's left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I'm alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into Your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

I pulled into my driveway, put the car in park and had one ugly cry.  The ugliest cry - the one filled with constant tears and snot and choking.  The cry where you sob loudly, crying out to God,

"Make it go away!"
"I'm not strong enough for this!"
"Why are you doing this to me?"
"I want my baby back"
"Please God, just one more day. I just want to hold her!"
"Please. I'm begging you - I CAN'T DO THIS!!!"

Sometimes I feel it's all that I can do
Pain so deep that I can hardly move
Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You
Lord take hold and pull me through

And then the tears subside, you blow your nose, wipe your eyes, take your Target bags into the house and hope the next day is a little kinder to you. 

It's the moment when humanity
Is overcome by majesty
When grace is ushered in for good
And all our scars are understood
When mercy takes it's rightful place
And all these questions fade away
When out of the weakness we must bow
And hear You say "It's over now"

I'm alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take this heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into your arms open wide
When The hurt and the healer collide

Jesus come and break my fear
Wake my heart and take my tears
Find Your glory even here
When the hurt and the healer collide

Song by Mercy Me, "The Hurt & The Healer"

Bringing Home Olive

As you know Monday was my first day flying solo.  On Sunday night I made a list of things that I could do each day to keep myself busy, per my midwife's instruction.  She told me it would take planning on my part, to make sure I had things on my agenda and wouldn't just sit at home alone.  My husband has been great about coming home each night, asking what I did and asking what my plan is for the next day.  My grandma calls, just to see if I did "anything fun" today, other friends send me their availability and offer to hang out at a moment's notice.  Everyone means well, I know.

Monday morning I spoke to the funeral home and was told that I/we could come pick up Olive's remains and belongings.  Since I was going to be out that way for lunch with friends I decided I was going to get her myself.  We decided to have Olive cremated after her funeral as we hadn't yet decided on a cemetery, and to be honest, I wasn't sure I could actually bury her so soon. 

I had been dreaming about the day I got to bring my sweet girl home since we bought our house 4 years ago.  I envisioned us getting her snug in her carseat, I would sit in the backseat with her the whole ride home - because that's what new moms do.  We would stop for a quick picture on our front porch to signify the fact that we were now a family - this would be the home we would raise our babies.  Instead I was going to pick my daughter up in a wooden box (a beautiful wooden box, by the way) but a wooden box that would sit next to me in the passenger's seat.

The funeral director was pleasant, as they had been throughout all of this, but nothing could change the fact that I was bringing my baby home in a box.

I made sure she was snug in the seat next to me as I fought back tears.  On a whim I decided that I didn't want to go straight home.  I made a pit stop at Culvers (like so many afternoons when she was in my belly) to enjoy one last ice cream cone with my girl.  I had grand intentions of having some mother-daughter moment that could make up for the lifetime of moments I was going to miss out on, but instead I sat there and cried.  Ice cream running down my fingers and onto my skirt.  I just sobbed.  I apologized to her that we would never go for ice cream after a soccer game or because of a good report card.  We would never have ice cream to mend her first broken heart or celebrate a major success.  But I promised her that every time I ate an ice cream cone, I would think of her.  I finished what I could and drove her home.

After Olive passed, my inlaws did us the service of removing anything baby related from the common areas of the house and stuck it all in the nursery.  I told them they could leave the items in our bedroom though, but after one night my husband woke up and took that cradle directly to her nursery and shut the door.  I can't say I blame him.  He spent sleepless nights working on perfecting that cradle.  That cradle was going to be a safe place for us to rock our babies to sleep, for Olive to rock her baby doll's to sleep until some day she rocked her own babies to sleep in it.  As much as I wanted that cradle in our room, albeit empty, that was a decision of his I was not going to argue.

Olive now sleeps in a beautiful box that my sister-in-law made years ago - never knowing the true fate of her creation.  When we received the box it didn't close, so my husband took some extra olive wood that my sister-in-law had brought us and added it to the box so that it would close properly.

Snug and secure - not in the way we envisioned, but in his own way he ensured she would have a safe place to sleep peacefully forever.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Journey of Hope and Healing

The past two weeks have been somewhat of a blur.  Those of you who have followed our journey know that our sweet baby girl, Olive Elizabeth, was born on July 29th and only lived 36 hours until being called home to Jesus. I've used Facebook as a forum to keep people updated on Olive's progress (or lack thereof), her funeral and to express our gratitude and thankfulness for the outpouring of love and support.

Last night as I was thinking about how I would get through my first day home alone (my husband returned to work today) I thought about how I haven't blogged in awhile.  I have a nutritional blog that I really didn't keep up with throughout my pregnancy. I didn't think that was the right place to share this journey of hope and healing - and I wanted to honor my daughter and all of you, her branches, that have been praying and supporting us throughout this challenge.

Today a friend thanked me for my vulnerability. Vulnerable - not a word that has been used, at least not directly to me, but the most accurate word to describe my state right now.  I am completely and utterly vulnerable, and those that know me best know that I am not a private person.  I believe we learn so much about ourselves when we are most vulnerable, so while my hope is that you leave here in a better place, this blog is a place for me to find some healing.

Many people ask me how we came up with Olive's name.  Honestly, it was just a name that I grew to love over the last month or so.  We wanted an "older" name, and when I scoured the 1890 social security registry for names, Olive was one that stood out.  My husband wasn't sold as easily as I was.  It really wasn't until the evening she was born that he agreed to it.  If you ask him now he'll tell you there would be no other name for her.  It's funny how things work out - as I've researched the olive tree I've learned many similarities between it, my beautiful daughter and our journey.

The olive tree is one remarkable tree - known for it's ability to grow and thrive in almost any environment, it is almost indestructible.  It produces a lovely fruit and oil from that fruit that have been known, for centuries, to cook with, feed, anoint and keep lamps lit to light the way.  The olive branch has become a universal symbol of peace. Though our daughter only lived a short time, she helped to feed the souls and lives of many - showing us all peace through tragedy.

In the bible, we see references to the olive leaf and tree that offer us hope and healing through God's promises.  Psalm 52:8 reminds us, "But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercies of God forever and ever."  It's difficult to trust in God when you feel robbed of one of the most beautiful blessings - the blessing of children.  We prayed that God would bless our marriage and make us parents - and He did.  We are Olive's parents - not in the way many of you are parents.  We won't get the opportunity to rock our baby to sleep, see her take her first steps, have her first day of school, or mend her first heartache.  We won't see her graduate or learn to drive.  My husband won't walk her down the aisle, and she won't make us grandparents. 

But she made us a mom and a dad.  She gave us the greatest gift - the ability to feel that unconditional love you feel when you first hold your baby.  When I close my eyes at night, I feel the weight of her as they laid her on my chest - all warm and slippery.  I was able to share that moment with my husband where we both cried at the sight of her and were flooded with the emotions of 15 hours of labor finally over and getting to find out what we had waited 39 weeks and 6 days to learn - we had a daughter.

No, we may not get to be parents the way we anticipated but we are still parents.

God's promises are fulfilled everyday - even through chaos and uncertainty.  Noah was reminded of those promises when a dove from the ark brought him an olive leaf, the olive tree was alive and thriving after the flood.  "Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth; and Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth" (Gen. 8:11).

Life had resumed - a fresh start - just as God had promised.

While I'm far from a fresh start, I am trying to remind myself that God does answer prayers, God does fulfill His promises and we will go day at a time.