her name

There are certain things you take for granted. Not on purpose. But just because they are so simple. So small. Like hearing your child’s name. You probably say it yourself at least a million times a day.

But when your baby dies. Well. You realize there may come a day when no one but you mentions their name. It almost seems like an impending second death. The day her name is said for the last time by each person. My eyes well up with tears at the mere thought of it.

Fortunately, I don’t see that day in our near future…and hopefully it is a fear that wont come to fruition.

All of that leads me to a tender moment I got to experience the other day. I was at my inlaws and as usual Jaxon was being his regular rambunctious self…. toddling everywhere, picking everything up, throwing things across the room (everything, to him, is a ball!).

He made his way to the entertainment stand which holds a few pictures.

Pausing the story to interject- I’m constantly in awe at the grace with which my mother in law has handled Gracelyn’s death. She continues to make a place for her. In her heart. In their home. In our conversations. and it has truly been a gift to me.

At the entertainment stand James (Chris’ dad) was quickly beside him. I assume to keep him from knocking over their new tv ;). But as he did that Jaxon picked up one of the pictures.

James says ‘there’s mommy and daddy’

Onto the next- ‘there’s Jaxon’

And suddenly my heart froze for a second. I realized in that second that I haven’t heard James say her name, maybe ever but definitely not in the past year. It’s not that he doesn’t love her, or care. I know, without a shadow of doubt, that he does. But he’s a pretty reserved guy and baring emotions isn’t something we often do together.

A whirlwind of thoughts attacked me and I prayed over and over… please don’t let him skip her. Please say her name. Please don’t pretend she isn’t there.

and then he said it ‘and there’s Gracelyn. and a red bird’

Just like that. ‘There’s mommy and daddy, there’s Jaxon, there’s Gracelyn, and a red bird’ He included her as naturally as every other member of our family as casually as a red bird and as clearly as he mentioned each of our names. and I immediately got teary eyed.

To you it might be silly.

But to me….a weight shifted and my load became a bit lighter, more bearable.

I realized again that I’m not carrying this heavy burden alone. That our family is stepping up to the plate to make sure she isn’t forgotten. That Jaxon will know her name. He will know that a baby came before him. That his sister is real. That people die but they still shape us and that alone is significant and should be remembered and said aloud.

And again I’m so grateful.

They say it takes a village….well I believe I’ve got the very best one.

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Somehow

I still don’t understand how we got here. From that day to this. Somehow it just happened. Each second kept ticking by and eventually we made it to this moment. Chris said it well the other day…early on we just knew each day would be extremely difficult to survive so we handled each other with care. We knew we were fragile beings, walking a thin tightrope between sanity and complete breakdown. But somehow the days turned into months and the good started to outweigh the bad. Yes we still miss her and there is a gaping Gracelyn sized hole forever torn out of our lives. Yes we still think of her constantly and agonize over who she would be if she were here now. Every time Jaxon laughs I’m pained with the wonder of what her laugh would have sounded like. But now we have more good days than bad. More manageable days that unbearably sad. And with that we’ve almost forgotten that we still need an immeasurable amount of grace.

I still wish that we wore signs on our foreheads to tell the world (our spouse included) to tread carefully. Something to alert others that although we push forward we are still climbing up from the valley. A glaring reminder of how our day is going…how our heart is mending or breaking. Something to somehow share, without screaming, that we need more grace! But why is it that we don’t just extend grace…no matter what. In all seasons, in all moments, at all times? I know that I need more grace so I’m going to determine myself to somehow give more grace. Diligently, purposefully, and prayerfully I vow to be more gracious.

Spiral

Spiraling. It’s scary. You go along day to day thinking things are ok and then suddenly- nothing is. Nothing is ok. Everything has jagged edges that rip open the wounds all over again. A moment somehow becomes destructive and tears down all of the progress you thought you made. A look can send you into a tailspin. And the triggers…they come fast and furious. Spiraling seems to come in ‘suddenly-s’.

Jaxon recently started reaching his hand up while nursing to touch my face and lips…the first time he did it something inside me triggered. The knowledge that I never felt Gracelyn’s hands with life in them exploded in me like a bomb. Suddenly, I was right back in the hospital room. Holding her hand in mine. Begging breathe to be in her lungs. Kissing her over and over. Praying to wake up from a nightmare so bad I never even knew to fear it. Heavily weighted by the guilt of a thousand ‘should have’s.

I don’t know how I got here. To this day, 8 days shy of 16 months without my girl. Somehow the seconds kept ticking by. Life went on. It shouldn’t have. It should have stopped. The whole world should have ceased to exist the moment her heart stopped beating. But it didn’t. And here we are.

I thought it would get easier…that’s not the right word, better? More bearable. And if I’m honest it has, the weight has gotten so familiar that I’m not suffocated by it’s magnitude. But suddenly it’s hard again. It seems like we are in a war. Fighting a battle that I don’t know how to win. Lashing out because anger is sad’s biggest defender and I’m still so very sad. Trying to find the glue to keep your marriage together while still mending your heart.

And then I’m right back in the middle of all of the hard decisions, what funeral home will you use? Where will she be buried? What will she wear? Now I’m back to the moment I bought her very first outfit. It was my lunch break the day after we found out she was a girl. I bought her the sweetest blue outfit with a bird on the butt and pink flowers… the front said ‘daddy’s girl’. I should have announced her birth in that outfit. An adorable picture of a proud daddy holding his sweet girl in the cutest little outfit displaying to the world that she was his girl. Instead, we buried her in it. Those words sting to even type.

But she is still his girl, our girl. She is still our daughter, our firstborn, our precious, loved, wanted, beautiful daughter.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. Wonder who she would be. Say her name. Wish she were here.  I guess that’s the thing about spiraling- you crash into everything, frantically grasping at anything- oftentimes creating disaster and making a much bigger mess. Nothing makes sense and it makes you momentarily crazy..straining even the best relationship. Experiencing each emotion again is exhausting and painful and hurting people tend to hurt people. The spiral can start with anything, a look, a touch, a memory……but I know that when it’s over, when the spiral ends in an exhausted crash- somehow we will find our balance. Restart. And keep moving forward.

 

 

Cemetery

I went to the cemetery. This might not seem like much but it’s not somewhere I frequent. I haven’t been in months. I know that her earthly body, her shell, is there but I know that she is not. She is safe in the arms of Jesus. Being at the cemetery brings the memories, flashbacks, in full unstoppable force. I remember the drive to the hospital, where we passed that same cemetery. I remember being told she didn’t have a heartbeat. I remember begging them to check again and pleading to cut her out of me and save her. I remember during delivery for just a second everyone in the room sounding excited because she was crowning and ‘oh my gosh she has so much hair’. I remember praying and pleading with God that every contraction was bringing her back to life, that they were wrong and she’d come out screaming and crying. I remember the silence when she was born. I’ll forever remember Aundria’s voice as she asked ‘do you want to hold your baby?’. OF COURSE I do. I want nothing more than to hold her every second of every day. But I can’t and it’s terrible. I remember her being put on my chest and begging her to breathe, to wake up, to not be already gone. When I go to the cemetery I am reminded how very wrong all of this is. Parents should never bury their children. When I go there I want to dig her body out of that hole and hold her…because she should be held by her mom. She shouldn’t be there.

We haven’t ordered her headstone yet. It’s just too hard. Maybe you don’t understand that. Maybe you go past her grave and think we are too lazy to do it, or we don’t have the money or that she is forgotten. I can assure you None of these could be further from the truth. The truth is every time I see the template I throw up a little bit and become physically sick at the thought of putting my beautiful daughters name on a grave marker. Permanently (in this life) marking her death. It seems so final. It is so hard. I don’t want her to have a grave marker because I don’t want her to be there. But it doesn’t change the fact that right now that’s where her body is. I say all of this to say that when I went to the cemetery… because we haven’t ordered her headstone, and because I haven’t been in months….I couldn’t find her grave. I didn’t know where my daughter was buried. And I had my first panic attack. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I could barely walk. What kind of a horrible parent loses her daughter’s grave. What is wrong with me. I called my mom because I know she has been there much more frequently than I have. She couldn’t even understand me on the phone. Finally she realized what was happening and told me what she had put on the grave to mark it. My eyes immediately found the spot and I fell down on top of it. Sobs and dry heaves wracking my body as I cried out ‘I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.’. I know she can’t hear me but I want her to know I didn’t forget her and that I’m so sorry for all of this. I’m sorry that our family is perpetually missing her. I’m sorry that I didn’t order her headstone and that I lost her gravesite. I’m sorry that I don’t know what to do in all of this. I’m sorry it’s so painful and hard and unfair.  I laid on her grave…trying to be as close as possible to her, and cried until I almost fell asleep. Mentally, physically, emotionally exhausted. This is not the way it’s supposed to be.

Moments

I’ve started doing kick counts…religiously. I can’t get out of bed in the morning without feeling reassuring kicks and jabs and I absolutely cannot sleep at night before feeling and counting to 10 at a minimum. Last night I laid down and didn’t feel anything. I waited (I’d say patiently but that is a lie). I poked and prodded and pressed. I rolled from one side to the other. Stood up. Used the bathroom. Drank ice cold water. Nothing.

Fighting the urge not to let fear invade every ounce of me I just grabbed the Doppler and walked to the living room. Chris said ‘maybe he just went to sleep early tonight’. Maybe. but I have to be sure that his heart is beating. I can’t control anything. I know I’m not the giver of life. But I have to hear his heart beat. I searched all over and couldn’t find it….the tears started to well up in my eyes and fear crept everywhere. Normally I can feel around and know where he is and get his heartbeat on the Doppler within seconds…last night it took minutes which felt like hours.

Finally we heard that miraculous sound. And relief poured out of me as a million tears. Sobbing and trying to catch my breath I realized I had been holding it for most of the time I searched. Chris just held me and whispered ‘he’s in there. He’s ok’. and as I couldn’t stop crying he just prayed over me, and over our family.

These are the moments I never knew existed when I was pregnant with Gracelyn. The hard, scary, nerve wracking, terrifying moments that time stands still and you know that your entire life can split in two. Thankfully last night it stayed together. Prayerfully it will continue to stay that way.

These moments define our life now. Fear and faith. I know everyone says they cannot co-exist but I’m learning they can certainly run parallel, they can absolutely collide, and they will grow based on which one you nurture. Last night Chris nurtured my faith, he strengthened that muscle that tells me that God is our provider and that no matter what our trust is in Him. As scary as the scariest moment feels we know that we will get through it and that we are not alone. Easier said than believed and felt in a moment like that. I’m so thankful for my family and while I’m not at the point yet that I’m thankful for this journey we are on I wouldn’t trade all of it for none of it. I wouldn’t erase her so I didn’t feel this fear now.

Saddest Story

A long time ago I read a story about Ernest Hemingway and a bet. He bet that he could make someone cry with a story completed in just six words.

He wrote “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”

He won.

I cried then and, as I pack up my daughter’s unworn clothes, I cry now. I never thought I’d be living that story. They called it ‘flash fiction’. Oh how I wish that were the case. Although I’m not selling her clothes I am living the saddest story as a terribly tangible, terribly painful reality. Of all the things people complain about.. of all the meaningless things I’ve complained about myself……it pales in comparison to packing away unworn baby clothes.

This is a perspective I wish I didn’t have.The dividing line between what really matters and what doesn’t.

clothes

Laundry

I would give anything to be folding her laundry right now. Anything. Seems like such a meaningless task but if I were folding her laundry that would mean that she were here. That this nightmare was over and that the reality of our baby being with us was more than just an ache in every second. I lost my self control… as much as I thought I held it together today, it all came falling down. Tears pooled in my lap. Why is she not here. Why are there no Gracie clothes in this stupid laundry basket. Why are we living life without our sweet girl. These are all questions with no question mark because I know not to expect an answer. But I’m still wrestling with God… still questioning, crying, suffering, and yearning for one more second with her. One more breathe of her scent. One more kiss on her cheek. Just one. I would give my life for another minute with her. But I can’t. And I hate it. I hate that I can’t change this and that every day I wake up and live this life without her. That we are still here without our girl. People complain and take for granted things I’d give my life for. One chance to clean up her mess, one night of listening to her cry while nothing soothes her, one time to change her diaper, one chance to fold her laundry….just one.

 

silence

I tried to sleep, but the silence was too loud. Piercingly loud. I never heard my baby cry.I don’t know what her cry sounds like. I never saw her eyes. What color are they? What does she sound like? Why is this still so hard. Looking out the window and there are so many Christmas lights. Stupid. I used to love all things Christmas. I would probably be sitting here nursing her and soaking it all in. Instead, once again, my couch is soaking in tear after miserable tear. Missing Gracelyn. It’s so quiet I can hear my heart beat and all I can do is pray. and sometimes that prayer is only to simply call out to Jesus. I am not alone. Now Kari Jobe is playing in my hand. Thank you God for tiny relief from despair.

When I walk through deep waters
I know that You will be with me
When I’m standing in the fire
I will not be overcome
Through the valley of the shadow
I will not fear
I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me
In the midst of deep sorrow
I see Your light is breaking through
The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You
Lord, You fight my every battle
And I will not fear
You amaze me
Redeem me
You call me as Your own
You’re my strength
You’re my defender
You’re my refuge in the storm
Through these trials
You’ve always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul
I am so thankful that I don’t have to do this alone. I’m scared, I am weak, and I’m certainly in the midst of deep sorrow but I am not alone.
That’s what I have to do. Choose Jesus, over and over. Gracelyn is perfect. She exists. She is safe and she will never know pain or suffering or sadness. She was created for Heaven and thank God that when we get there we will have her and love her for eternity. I would give anything to hold her again, feel her hiccuping, see her breathe…anything, including my very own life if i was given the chance to save her. But I wasn’t. Just make it through this minute. This heartbreak. This second. This despair. This pain. Joy will come. Spring will come. Redemption will come. “The pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.”. There is great great joy coming….I just have to make it through another night.

rocked

I feel like an earthquake hit demolishing my entire life and I’m still trembling to my core foundation with the aftershock. I am rocked. Knowing that God is good, right now, only seems to deepen the wound. I know He is good and wants good for me…so why isn’t my baby here? I’m angrier than I have ever been. I’m bitter. I’m hurt. I’m outraged. I feel abandoned, unloved, and broken. Knowing that nothing happens outside of His knowledge and sovereign control is burning me from the inside out. I want to be near Him but I also want to scream and cry and break things. I feel like He didn’t hear me. That my prayers don’t work. I’m confused, hurt, and scared. I’m embarrassed and ashamed. I feel like my body failed her and my God failed me. I feel out of control. I used to be so positive. I thought anything could be overcome with God, right speaking and sustained though. Now I’m not so sure. I hate this. I don’t know when or where or how i’ll be blindsided by the next wave. When I’ll be dragged under and held down by the next tidal wave of grief. I’ve always been able to snap out of it before…now I just feel like I’m drowning in a sea of tears and can’t figure out how to breath or get my head above water. I keep thinking of that saying “when you hit rock bottom there is nowhere to go but up.” It’s wrong. I don’t think it’s so much about just the depth of this great sorrow but the vast, immeasurable width of it as well. There is a whole lot of space at the bottom. I’m terrified to get stuck down here in this pitch black hole of dark despair. I feel like I should have to wear a sign “caution, bereaved mother, handle with care”. Part of me wants to curl up and die and the other part wants to make sure to press towards redemption. I don’t want her life to be in vain. I don’t want this to be the end of the story. I don’t want to be bitter forever. I know that’s what faith is… trusting even when you don’t understand and can’t see. I know that He can turn broken into beautiful. I want to be used mightily and to glorify Him through surviving this storm…but I wish it didn’t have to be this way. I wish she were here. …that I cold hold her and kiss her. I believe heaven is a real place. I just can’t seem to get there fast enough.

whew

This week was really really hard for me. I don’t know why. I sat for hours and cried in her room. Almost until I fell asleep. Actually most nights I just cried until I was so exhausted I couldn’t hold my head up and then crawled into bed to cry myself to sleep. It wasn’t pretty but somehow we made it. I wrote that entire post ‘chairs’ crying so hard I could barely breathe, tears running down my face and neck, but I needed to get the feelings out. They, for me, are easier to handle out than in. If I leave the feelings inside, bottled up, eventually I will implode. I’m trying to keep the explosions at bay. If I get everything on paper I can somehow process it. I can look at what I write and decipher what’s real. Emotions and feelings are really tricky things. They are deceptive. In writing I can separate the feelings from the truth. I can separate and see what’s from the devil and what’s from God. In my head it is much harder to sort through. Chris asked me to change what I wrote, reminded me I am an awesome mom and really encouraged me and loved on me. (He did that when I was sitting in the floor begging God to die also). But I can’t change it because that’s truly how I felt in that moment. Feelings and emotions are really crazy things and I’m just trying to tackle them as they come. But I also want to look back at this and be able to say ‘but God’. I was lost but God found me. I was broken but God repaired me. I was on the brink of suicide but God carried me. I couldn’t make it on my own but God made a way. I know I’m not handling this or making forward progress on my own and the more that’s revealed to me the more I press in to Him. I wrote that distraught. The next day was better. I don’t know what today is going to bring but God is going to get me through it.