Lilypie Angel and Memorial tickers

Lilypie Angel and Memorial tickers

Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Year

This year has been the most difficult year I have ever experienced.  Reflecting on all that has happened is completely ripping me apart tonight.  It was difficult to spend Christmas without our little one, when I had pictured her with us so often throughout the pregnancy.  It's difficult to try to wrap my mind around our loss and our emptiness.  And tonight, it is difficult to leave a year filled with the pure joy of expectation of Annalise and the simultaneous extreme pain of loss of Annalise.

The last few weeks I have had moments of pouring out my heart and sobbing for Annalise... just missing her and wishing she were here.  The realization that I will forever have this break in my heart is daunting.  I was thinking about how the loss of my father (when he left us - then when he died) left and huge, damaging hole in my life.  And here I am again, with an even larger hole left when my little girl died.  Life is difficult.  And I know that the difficulties will never cease in this lifetime.  I hold tightly to the knowledge that I will see my little one again, one day, when I leave this world.

My sweet Annalise.  Mommy and daddy miss you more than anything.  My heart is so deeply broken without you here.  I think about you every, single day.  I am so sorry that we didn't have more time with you.  I ache for the memories we could have made.  I pray that you are blissfully content where you are and you know how I deeply and entirely I love you.  I wish you were here to start a new year with us, but I hope you will see nothing but happiness fill our lives in 2012.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

November 28th

Annalise's given due date was November 28th 2011.  James and I spent that day and several days before in Key West, FL - complimentary of our amazing families.  I dreaded seeing November 28th come around.  I envisioned myself in the deepest darkest despair for days... weeks even.  However, I found myself in very different circumstances.  Monday, November 28th - I awoke peacefully with 2 thoughts on my mind: how was I going to honor Annalise today and many prayers for my friend Meghan who was delivering her daughter (diagnosed with Trisomy 13) that day.  I spent most of the day in the sun, laying by the pool - in awe of the clear blue sky and coconut trees swaying above me in the breeze.  I spent much of the day reflecting on where this entire situation has brought us.  We are different people in so many ways.  Our love and respect for each other is undeniably stronger.  Also, I have never had such a reason to seek answers from God as I have had in this situation.  I sought Him and I found Him, like never before and I will never be the same because of it.  I am at peace with this situation.  Don't get me wrong, it hurts and I long for my baby... but I have a peace that because God is in control and because He loves me so outrageously, that it will all be okay.

James and I had lunch and watched TV at the pool bar that day.  We got into a conversation with the bartender "Billy the Greek" (as his name tag read).  Billy was probably in his early 50's - super nice guy.  We talked to him about his family, where we're from, and what we do.  When he found out James is a pastor, the questions came flooding out of him.  He is Greek Orthodox and began talking about many aspects of religion but mainly about having trouble believing/trusting in God when he sees all the bad in the world that goes on.  -- We shared our story with him and he said the most amazing thing to us.  He said "when I see you around and talk with you, I can see in your eyes that you are genuinely happy - not faking it like I see many people do."  I got tears in my eyes and told him "thank you" and "he has no idea how much that means to me."  Two and a half months ago when I started counseling and my counselor asked me what I wanted to see achieved or changed in my life through these sessions - I told her, "I want my joy and happiness back."  I felt like I had lost it all, but in 3 short months (which feels like 3 years) God has put the pieces (mostly) back together.  So much so that "Billy the Greek" can see our genuine joy.

Thank you Annalise.  Thank you for your life, thank you for your love and thank you for your strength.  We are forever changed because of you.  No matter what happens in this world, I will always have your memory tucked away in a special place in my heart.  You are my first baby - my first love.  I love you and I miss you.  

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Last weekend I went to a women's retreat in Indiana.  When I was first asked to go, I was in a really bad place emotionally, so I talked myself out of it and initially said "no."  I thought:  There was no way that I was going to share my feelings and be completely vulnerable with a room full of women who would probably think I'm crazy.  I knew that what I was holding inside was ugly and once the walls that I so carefully put in place came down, there was no turning back and who knew what was going to come out.  However.  The night before going, I got serious in prayer and told God that I needed answers.  I wanted to know:  Why me? Do you not love me? and Is my daughter okay?  I also knew that I had lost trust in God and was holding in major anger toward Him and pretty much any one who was happy - especially those with kids.  So, even though I completely didn't want to, I told Him I would go.  I said "I will go to this thing in hope that you will meet me half way."  I promised myself that I would make every possible effort to seek answers and find healing because I truly didn't want to feel the desperate misery I was feeling.

This women's retreat, which was actually called "an encounter", was designed to "peel away the layers, like an onion, until everything you are harboring is dealt with and you can truly encounter God."  I think I cried so much that I was actually dehydrated for days after.  Everyone there was so genuine and non-judgmental... so completely real.  In my small group when everyone began to share what they were struggling with - I soon found out that 2 of the girls in my group had lost babies (one of them had lost 3 in a row!!!).  Unreal.  It was a comfort to see how those girls have come through those losses and are stronger now.  A lady who I had never met before prayed for me and she prayed the exact phrase that went through my head after Annalise was still-born and the nurses took her to be cleaned up and dressed.  It's the same phrase that was in one of the songs at Annalise's funeral service... and she prayed it over me.  "There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning."  I think the use of that phrase, was just one of the many ways in which God showed his love for me that weekend.

It's difficult to describe all the ways God showed up and rewarded my efforts in seeking Him, but I will tell you that after that weekend I have a newly found, deep peace in knowing that God desperately loves me and that my daughter is in perfect peace and love.  God has been more real to me these past several months than He has ever been before in my whole life.  I think the only reason I feel this way is because I actually put aside my doubt, my criticism and my pride and desperately sought God out like I never have before.  He tells us that if we seek Him with our whole hearts, we will find Him.  I needed answers, I needed to know He was there and he cared.  I found that He certainly doesn't disappoint.  I walked away with all my questions answered and with a new found hope.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Brutally honest

So... I am going to be brutally honest here... the past week and a half or so has been really bad.  It pains me to say that all of the strength and optimism I have shown in previous entries has been non-existent recently.  I know that these feelings have been the result of a culmination of several difficult situations these past couple of weeks.  First, our church had it's large "Harvest Fiesta" where we play games and distribute candy to appx. 1,500 cute kids dressed up in Halloween costumes.  That was difficult.  Then there was a wedding we attended where every woman I came in contact with talked constantly about their kids (no one knew my situation) and one of the bridesmaids was pregnant with twins.  To top it all off, the flower girl was a little blonde haired, blued eyed girl named Elise (much like Annalise).  I was in the rest room, and her mother turned to me and asked me to help fix Elise's hair.  I wanted to just run away, but I didn't want to be a jerk, so I quietly held her blonde locks and tried to hold back the tears.  As soon as she was done, I ran out of the bathroom and basically broke down sobbing.  To top it all off, the end of that weekend brought the beginning of my menstrual cycle -- Something I was hoping not to see again for another 9+ months.

This past week has been an exhausting roller coster of episodes of unrelenting depression, interlaced with some of the darkest anger I've had in a long time.  I am not proud of how I've acted this week or some of the feelings I've felt.  I feel further away from God than I have in a long time.  There is a part of me that is so deeply angry at Him and finally throwing blame on Him for all of this.  I even think there is a part of me that wants to hurt Him how I've been hurt.  I'm angry at Him for our daughter dying and for the fact that I have lost my joy and have been re-introduced to the dark anger I used to know as a child when my father left.  I'm also angry at the way it is affecting our marriage.  Then after all these thoughts and bad behavior, I go through moments of thinking that He allowed this to happen because I am a such a bad person that I don't deserve to be a mother and most likely will never get the chance to be a mother.  I am constantly and unreasonably angry at all parents, families, mothers or anyone around me that is happy.  I feel like I am about one conversation about kids away from having a nervous breakdown.

I tell you all of this to just be real.  I am in a bad place right now and am struggling.  If there are others of you out there struggling through situations, I don't want you to read my blog and see all this strength and courage and wonder what's wrong with you when you see nothing but pain, anger and depression in your own situation.  I want you to know that these feelings come.  However, I am determined to overcome this.  Right now, it feels like I can not and will not.  I feel like I don't have one ounce of strength or desire left to keep living.  Nothing in my life holds the same passion and desire it used to and I feel like giving up.  I HAVE to believe that this will get better.  I HAVE to believe that the storm will pass and clear skies will be in my future.  (It doesn't feel like it - but that hope is all I have to hold onto right now).  I've been down this road before and I don't want to go back there.  I know what waits at the end if I don't choose to turn this around.  If I don't choose to fix my thoughts and turn my life back toward God.  Please pray for me.  Please pray for my thoughts and my emotions and my sanity.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

All because of Annalise

Lately I've felt like I've fallen into a pretty consistent pace of life.  In my mind, I think I'm coping and grieving "well".  For the most part - things feel like they've settled into a new normal.  There are those unexpected days and moments when grief and sadness sneak up on me and I have to fight back to "happiness".  James and I have been spending some much needed quality time together.  We have grown so much closer and so much more mature since we lost Annalise.  I feel even more in love with him than before - I feel more "tied to" him than ever before... if that makes sense.  I guess walking through tragedies will cement relationships together like that.  We've also been seeing a Christian counselor who has helped tremendously.  Thank God we took that step to talk through our feelings and have a guide walk us through our grief.  It is certainly healing.  We are finding out more than I think we ever wished to know about our personalities and who we are as individuals and as a couple.  Sometimes I am blown away when I think about how our little angel has given us this gift - she has opened our eyes to things we would have been otherwise missing.  She has taught us lessons that some people never get to learn.  Once we can conquer our sadness and come through this tough time, I know we are going to be better, stronger people -- all because of Annalise.  We will be better parents, better spouses, better pastors, better friends.  I guess with every tragedy, God gives us the opportunity to grow and become better versions of ourselves - more like Him, hopefully.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I miss you my love

Your Daddy and I have been trying our best to be strong and find the best way to cope with our grief.  Some days are much harder than others.  We miss you so much.  I know you are looking down on us and can see the tears and the sadness we are experiencing.  The both of us only want to hold you again.  I wish I knew how to make this pain go away because I hate spending my days so deeply sad and hurting.  I hate that my heart feels like it's imploding every time I see a baby or a pregnant woman.  There is a deep, empty hole in my soul which was supposed to be filled with loving you and enjoying you.  I hope you are happy my love.  I hope that you have 100's of friends and never spend a day alone.  I hope that Jesus is there to hold you and love you when you are missing your mommy and daddy.  Since I'm not there to take care of you, I can only hope all of your needs are being well met and that you daily know love like our love for you.  I am so so sorry that I cannot be there to take care of you and love on you.  I feel like nothing else in this world matters anymore because you are gone.  I feel like my purpose and my reason for living left this world when you did.  I would give anything to see you smile... to hear you laugh... to hear you say "mommy."  I can't help but feel sorry for myself that I cannot have that with you.

Please guide us my love.  Your daddy and I need you to watch us through every day.  We are having a tough time without you.  Please send some sunshine and good days our way. I love you with everything that I am.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A different reality

During these last couple of weeks of being back at work, I have had an overwhelming feeling that I am lost.  A feeling that I went "off-track" somewhere.  I was preparing and anticipating for the reality of motherhood and working part-time (or not at all).  Instead, I'm left with a new reality, a very different reality.  I'm back at work, and some moments feel like nothing ever changed - no pregnancy ever happened because I'm right back where I was - doing the same thing I was doing before.  But the fact of the matter is: everything has changed.  Everything inside of my heart and inside of my head is different.  Some days I wake up with agonizing emotional pain, wondering why any of this had to happen to us.  I wake up and I don't want to face the day.  I don't want to face this reality.  Some nights, I lay in bed with tears streaming down the sides of my face, wishing I could still be pregnant with my baby girl.  I have cried myself to sleep too many nights to count.  Sometimes the struggle seems pointless.  Then sometimes, when you add in the stresses of the world that is speeding along as we're trying to hold onto our sanity and put ourselves back together, it can all be too overwhelming.

There's a poem titled "Welcome to Holland" that a friend shared with me.  This poem so accurately sums up how I feel right now.  Sometimes I sit and cry saying, "I don't want to be in Holland.  I want to be in Italy".  It is unfair.  To any family that has had to go through the loss of a child - it is very unfair.  I don't have an answer as to why these things happen.  I spend probably the majority of my time crying out to God asking him to show me why.  Today I was just telling God that I don't know why my human mind is so desperately trying to connect the dots and gather an understanding of what has happened to us - but I NEED that.  I NEED to understand!  What I do know is that this situation has drawn me so much closer to God and has completely changed my thought patterns toward this earth and the time we spend here.  It has also changed my thoughts about heaven and hell and the reality of those places.  More than ever, I understand how temporary this life and this body is.  I understand that we do not live forever and something is going to happen when we die - we are going to go somewhere.  I know more than ever that I want to be in heaven because a piece of my heart is already there.

"Welcome To Holland"
by:  Emily Perl Kingsley

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy.  You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum.  The Michelangelo David.  The gondolas in Venice.  You may learn some handy phrases in Italian.  It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives.  You pack your bags and off you go.  Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy!  I'm supposed to be in Italy.  All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan.  They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease.  It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language.  And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place.  It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy.  But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips.  Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there.  And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever  go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Sometimes it amazes me how strong and happy I can be. Then there are times when the sadness creeps in and is completely overwhelming. This is one of those times.
It's indescribably painful to see so many kids and babies all around me every day and to see FaceBook posts about babies and pregnancies when I have a huge, gaping hole in my soul that should be filled with my little daughter. Instead, I have a box. I have a box of mementos and photos and a blanket. I have a blanket with her name on it... but no baby to wrap up in the blanket. God - take this pain away from me. I'm torn with never wanting to forget and never wanting to remember. The remembering brings the tears. The remembering reminds me of what I almost had. The remembering makes me feel like I wasn't worthy enough to be a mother.

Friday, September 16, 2011

She Opened My Eyes

Over these past 4 weeks I keep seeing little ways I've changed since we lost Annalise. She has opened my eyes to so many things. Before now, I felt like I was walking through life half asleep. Now - I'm truly fully awake.

I've noticed how much I would let all the small stresses of life bother me in the past. I would let them all build up and then I would just explode. Now, I feel calmer and those small stresses seem completely insignificant to me. For example: this morning I took a big test. Regularly, I would be freaking out about it, but I was completely calm and peaceful. I practically got a perfect score on the test, and even if I had failed it - it would have been okay, because I could have taken it again. There are scarier things in life.

Also, things such as possessions and social stature that I used to hang onto so tightly and thought were so cool before - I now sit amazed at how petty it all is. I look around at people chasing after these silly things - fame, extravagant wealth, party life - and I just feel my head spin at the realization that once upon a time that was me and now... now I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, those are the emptiest, least important things - ever. We all hold on to so many unimportant things that our arms and our hearts are too full for the things that truly matter.

Now, more than ever, I'm so aware of all the people around me. I see people in the store and on the street and I wonder to myself, "What's their hurt?" Everyone seems to have hurt. It's the world we live in - a broken world. I have had numerous conversations with people who are going through unreal pain - cancer, divorce, financial issues, deaths -- so many deaths. We all die you know. This is where my baby girl has opened my eyes to know the deep, important truth that is: life is so short and so temporal. We are basically here on a vacation. I'm here on vacation with my friends and family and my baby girl went back home a little early.

My communication and my relationship on a whole with my husband has improved drastically. I guess nothing truly cements a relationship like traveling through the darkest moments of your life together. I've always said to myself that's why my family - my mom, my brother and me - are so close. We went through such hardships and came out on the other side together and stronger!

Most importantly, since my baby girl is there, I have wanted to know so much more about heaven. About what happens to us after we die. I have needed to grow closer to God through this situation because He was the only thing sustaining me. I have learned that I can truly do anything with Him. I didn't think I could ever have the courage to give birth to and hold my dead baby - but I did. I didn't think I could ever put that baby in a casket and bury her in the ground - but I did. I didn't think I'd ever have the conviction to live after that - but I am. I didn't think I could go back to work and resume life - but I did. And this hasn't been the first time I've made it through unbelievably tough issues with His help.

James and I have had the honor of creating a precious life who will forever be alive in eternity.  I carried her for 6 months and never got to meet her face to face, but I have become a better person all because of her. I have told Annalise "Thank you for opening my eyes" several times over these past weeks and I will say it many more throughout my life. Her life was so extremely significant... it completely altered James' and my little world. I will never be the same and I am so grateful for that.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The fog in my brain

Today was my first day back at work. I only scheduled 5 client sessions (1 hour each). It was good to see everyone again. They were all sensitive and amazing and we didn't even talk about the baby and the pregnancy very much - which was also nice because it has been the only thing consuming my mind for the past 2 months since finding out the diagnosis.  However I felt like I walked around today with my head in a fog. It was similar to the day we found out Annalise's fatal diagnosis or the day we were planning the funeral. Those days I sort of just robotically functioned as if I wasn't in my own life and I was just performing the motions I knew I needed to perform. Well, I got through today not feeling like my normal self and then at the end of the day I just sat down in my car and cried. I cried all the way to the cemetery then sat at her graveside and cried. I finally yelled at God. I finally told Him how wrong I think he is for what has happened. I finally asked him "Where were you?!? Why didn't you show up?!? Why didn't you heal her?!?" I know it's not Gods fault, but I just was so desperately longing for my loving heavenly father to fix everything and make it all perfect for our family. Now I'm just left wondering what great is going to come of this all. What is the purpose for this tragedy?

After putting a fresh bed of mulch around the lilies on her grave, I left to pick up a few items at the store. I swear, today I felt like everywhere I went, people were looking at me as if I were wearing a sticker on my forehead that said "My baby just died." James always says I wear my exact emotions all over my face. So if I looked on the outside anything like what I felt on the inside - I'm sure it was well worth staring at. I finally got angry today. I got angry about all the 100's of kids I see everywhere I go. It's like a taunting reminder that my child is never going to be here with me again. I also got angry at so many parents treating their kids so un-lovingly. It makes me mad and it makes me sad to see this. I guess I value parenthood so much more now after what I've lost... maybe before this, I would have been one of those same parents frustrated at their kids. Hopefully I can go forward treating my future children with love and compassion even when they are getting on my last nerve.

In the gym with my clients, I think I was probably trying a little too hard to make everything exactly as it was before. Normal for their sake. I don't want to be a total basket-case freak that cries at every mention of a baby or sad song on the radio, so we can't even make it through a workout. I guess I put my "game face" on today and I figure I will have that game face on out in public until this new natural feels... actually natural. I also let myself get frustrated today at my (muscular) weaknesses lifting weights - forgetting that it's only been three weeks since I delivered a baby. I am rushing it -physically and emotionally. Then I feel guilty for rushing it. Then I beat myself up about what I should be doing differently. Then I just cry. It's a sick roller-coaster that I'm on right now and if you know me, you know that I don't like roller-coasters.

I have no doubt in my mind that this will get easier. I know everyday will become less forced and less terrifying. Then I will feel somewhat like myself again. Somewhat like myself but also very very different. Today was actually much easier than I thought but I really acted like a complete drill-sergeant, ignoring much else. I hope my clients don't think I've lost it. Happy Miranda will be back... soon. Just give me a little time.

On a side note today. I was thinking about how people who don't know God cope with tragedy and severe heart-ache. I know that the Miranda who didn't know God back in the day when my parents split went straight to every bottle of rum and party she could find to escape the pain. I know other's have mentioned along this journey how drugs - especially prescription drugs were a "crutch" they leaned on to get through things. I have also heard God and Christianity flippantly referred to as some peoples' "crutch". Well from my stand point, seeing and knowing the terrible effects alcohol, drugs, etc can have on your life and your families lives, God seems like a much better and more positive "crutch".  When my parents split, I blamed it on God and the last thing I wanted was anything from Him. About 12 years later, after trying everything else, the only thing that won out was Gods love - still waiting there for me even though I cursed Him and told him how much I hated Him. He still waited.

Many of you have told me through e-mail or conversation that I'm so strong or amazing and I write so well. I have to completely attribute that to God. It's not me, because I have never been more weak in my life. I would still be laying in a bed since Friday, August 19th - not able to muster up one ounce of "why do I have to go on."  It's all completely God and I know many of my friends from the past who will read this and think I've totally lost it. And you know what - I think I have. I don't know if you can truly understand the depth of God's love and peace until it's the only thing you have left to cling onto.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Baby Alexander

Yesterday marked the 7 year anniversary of the loss of my mom's baby boy - Alexander. It's so insane because she and I lost our babies at pretty much exactly the same time along in our pregnancy - 6 months. I will be honest and tell you that when she was going through the situation I was in college, away from home, and I wasn't very involved in her experience. I had no clue what she was going through or how broken she was feeling. I was totally wrapped up in my own life while she was going through one of the hardest situations ever in her life. I feel so guilty, now, for not being there... now that I know how deeply devastating this experience is. She has told me how she was alone in the hospital with no one but the nurse at her side. Even now when I think of this I can feel my heart just breaking. I had no idea what she was dealing with. I should have been there. I didn't cry a tear for her experience then, but I have wept many for her and for Alexander now.

It's crazy how God uses situations in our lives. She was (and is) able to be there for me with deep understanding because she has walked this path. I wish she never had to go through such a thing but I am grateful to have her comfort and understanding. It's also a comfort to know that my little brother and my little girl are in heaven together - they have each other. It's encouraging to see my mom and how she has walked through her grieving and where she is today. She still misses him and even cries occasionally but she is good and she has resumed living her life. Seeing this gives me courage that I can do the same. I look at her and I see me. I see that I can be okay - I will be fine.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Husband

Today I have been thinking a lot about the amazing support system I had around me during this time. My family, my friends, my church and especially my husband. All throughout the long night at the hospital he was there for me every second that I needed him - without complaint. I kept saying I felt bad for needing so much from him and bothering him while he was trying to sleep. All he kept saying was "he wouldn't have it any other way" and "he wanted to be there for me." He was my rock that night. We both saw each other in such a different way after that experience. Our relationship has grown stronger. I know that I feel a deeper love and respect for him than I ever have. He is an amazing man... and I am a lucky girl.

Even now... he is always there to listen and give heart-felt support and advice. I think and I hope that I am there to do the same for him. I've found out that men and women grieve very differently, so sometimes I wonder if my advice and support helps in any way. My heart aches to see him sad at times. My heart aches that we had to go through this and are now faced with figuring out how to resume life as normal when nothing feels normal. However, since Annalise passed, I've seen in James a new passion to do the very best he possibly can at anything he is doing. I've seen a new drive to be the absolute best man, husband, and pastor he can be. He says he just wants to make God and Annalise proud. I know they are proud of him, because I sure am.

Friday, September 9, 2011

3 Weeks

You know, while I was pregnant - time seemed to just speed along through the first trimester. Then at 20 weeks when we found out, everything seemed to slow down tremendously as we stretched every minute out with Annalise and made every second with her count. Since her death and delivery it has been only 3 weeks. To me, it has been the longest, most difficult 3 weeks of my life. I think I am in awe at how regularly 3 weeks is no time at all, but during these last few weeks I feel like time has lost all definition.

It might have a lot to do with being off of work, so the days just seem to go on forever. James hasn't experienced these same feelings about the time - probably because he has been insanely busy at work. I have to admit, I've been a little jealous of how busy he has been able to be. I wish I had so much to occupy my mind. Instead, I'm left in a quiet house to think about her and about our loss. It may have been very good for me though. I feel as if I'm in a good place right now. Some moments get difficult but I've learned from past experiences not to dwell in the difficult moments for too long. Dwelling in the sadness and the difficult moments can become dangerous very quickly. I've learned that major depression and emptiness thrive on my dwelling and my negativity. I instead choose to change my thought patterns to joyful memories of my Annalise and I focus on all the blessings I have around me now. I am incredibly blessed.

I start back to work next week. I'm looking forward to it. I think I'm scared that I will be in terrible physical condition and my clients will be more fit that I am.. haha! (which I'm pretty sure most of them are right now). I'm also scared of crazy, out of nowhere emotional breakdowns. I pray this doesn't happen because the last thing I want to do is make everyone around me uncomfortable. I'm also pretty excited that one of my past clients is coming back to me. This guy worked out with me last year. He was 89 then and is 90 years old now! He's a firecracker though. Somedays you don't know what you'll get from him - he always keeps me on my toes. I'm sure there will be more stories to come about him! I'm looking forward to getting back into a "normal" pace and seeing all these people again.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Our Earthly Tents

For the past 2 nights, I have not slept very well. I've had nightmares all night long about having a baby in my arms and then having it taken away from me - then me frantically searching for the baby. Last night, I dreamed I was in a house with several very pregnant women who were all complaining about the pains and challenges of pregnancy while I was sitting there in my pain and loss. I just distinctly remember wanting to scream at them all in my dream - but I didn't. I pray my dreams become better soon and I can get some peaceful sleep.

Usually most mornings when I open my eyes - painful thoughts immediately rush at me. Although this has been getting better with time, this morning was particularly poignant. I had thoughts about my baby girl in the hospital right after she was delivered. She was just so tiny and fragile - James and I were, at first, both scared to touch her for fear that we would tear her skin. (There is nothing more painful to a parent to know your child is injured and there is nothing you can do to fix them.) Then my memory recalled how her body started breaking down as we passed her around, moved her and touched her. My heart was aching then in the hospital and I think it aches even more now as I recall it. However, a Bible verse came right to my mind this morning while laying in my misery in my bed. It's 2 Corinthians 5:1 "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands." As I type this now, tears come to my eyes. I am so grateful for this truth. I love how Paul uses the word "tent" - a flimsy, temporary structure - to describe our earthly bodies. Then he uses the words "a building from God" - giving the sense of a strong, permanent, perfect structure - to describe our eternal bodies.

I thank God everyday that my baby has a new, perfect, eternal body. Free of pain or illness. I ache everyday to be with her and to see her. To hear her laugh or see how she would act silly like her mom and dad. Through this entire experience I have sought and gained such a deeper perspective of heaven and what we have to look forward to. I cannot wait to see my baby girl's new body in heaven one day.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Gift From Heaven

I went out today to buy day lilies to plant at Annalise's grave and a special box to put all the mementos of her life in. We decided to put everything in a box because it's so difficult to be going throughout our day, doing okay, then seeing one of her memento's and just braking down and losing it. Now we can have the choice to go to the box and have a good cry on our timing.

As I was putting things in the box I came across a poem that CLC gave to us along with a small wind chime for her grave site. I hadn't taken the time to read it on the day of the funeral because I was just so overwhelmed by everything. The poem brought James and me to tears today. It's perfect. It's titled:

A Gift From Heaven

I am with you always
I live in your heart
I speak to your soul
We are not far apart

When you feel a light breeze
Hear the songs the birds sing
Know that I see every smile
Your kindness can bring

I see you building your dreams
With wisdom and grace
And asking His guidance
With each challenge you face

I am more than a memory
You will feel our love grow
I am forever your angel
Some things you just know

Please tell me your thoughts
Your hopes and your fears
And know that through faith
He will heal all your tears

For today, I can share
That in Heaven above
God has taken my hand
I am complete, I am love.

-Kristan Dean

"Just Smile"

I know I've been quiet for awhile. I've sat here 3 separate times, started writing a blog but then deleted it and walked away. The place I'm in right now emotionally is just so crazy and volatile. One day I could be feeling waaay up! Then the next waaay down. I didn't want to appear to the world to have split-personalities. But writing to you all and knowing that you are all walking this journey with me is so comforting and I don't want to turn my back on this.

Over the last week or so I've just been trying to ease my way back into what I'm calling a "new-normal". I'm trying to do things I enjoy (even though much of the luster is gone from just about everything right now). I am smiling a lot more and finding time to laugh with my husband. I've been trying to go out in public more and more. At first it was very difficult... but it's getting easier every time. The hardest parts are seeing the people at the local grocery, gas station, or sandwich shop - who I've had passing conversations with about my pregnancy - now just completely ignore the issue of my flat tummy like nothing ever happened. Maybe that's for the best though, because what would they say?! Then, how would I react?! Maybe it's for the best. However, I think a part of me just wants everyone to recognize Annalise's life - no matter how much it may hurt me to talk about it - I want to know that she is remembered.

I've also been setting goals for myself. Very small, very slow goals right now. I worked out a bit yesterday (which was a far cry from a regular workout of mine, but I broke a nice lil sweat). I've been cleared by the doctor and I'm slowly able to start doing more physically, which is good. I am a busy body and a very active person. Being back in the gym was very uplifting. I seriously feel alive when I'm working out and helping others to work out. I'm also studying for a personal trainer recertification test - which I take in about 10 days. I'm meeting with a few friends. Life is seeming to slip back to normal very easily. But I have to confess there is an evil little part of me that wants to stay in the misery of 3 weeks ago. I want to wallow in the pain and the missing her. I don't want to heal or let go because I feel like I'd be completely letting go of her. (Sick I know... I'm sure you're all thinking of a therapist to refer me to right now.) But I'm determined not to let those sad feelings get the best of me. I told James yesterday that through my tearful daily prayers, I get the distinct feeling that Annalise wants me to just smile. I keep thinking the words in my head "Just Smile." I don't know if it's just my "always be happy" personality and attitude coming out or if my little girl is actually placing on my heart her desire for me to just be happy. But now my number one goal is to "Just Smile" as often as I can every day.

I don't know if this is bad to confess on here or not, but I will admit that lately the number one desire that has been on my heart is to try again for a baby. However, every one keeps saying "give your body time to heal" but also "give yourself time to mourn Annalise properly." I think that I will always ache for Annalise. I will always miss my 1st baby. It will always hurt to know how motherhood was snatched away from me the first taste I got of it. The way I would emotionally diagnose myself right now is: I'm sad and I'm hurting. I miss her tremendously. However, I know she's in heaven and loving her life right now. I know she's secure. I need to do for me what I feel will be the most healing. I need to know I can be a mom. I need to know I am capable. I need an outlet to give all this maternal love. Maybe I'm all wrong. But even if I wait 2 years to have another baby - I still think I'll have the same emotional pains - they may have become dull and fallen beneath the surface but I think they'll always be a part of me from now on. I don't think Annalise wants me to hurt. I think she wants us both to be happy. I pray that God will show me (us) the proper timing of His perfect will.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dear God:

My heart is broken. I feel like there is no strength left in me. The things I used to enjoy so much, now feel hollow. Nothing holds the same passion. I don't have the same passion. I hate feeling like this. I hate this pain we have to go through. People have said to me that I shouldn't ask You why... but the first thought that comes to my mind when I open my eyes in the morning and the pain starts fresh is: WHY?! When I look at my deflated tummy, the only thought I have is: WHY?! When I sit crying in my bed at night, my heart is crying out: WHY?! Help me Lord not to dwell on this because I know this can completely consume me up. This will destroy me if I let it. I want to regain my joy and my passion. I want to be able to go on and laugh and smile for my little girl who is watching me from above. I want to be able to just flip a switch and go on to be okay. I just can't though. I feel incapable of it.

God. I'm only human. At times... my strength fails me. My faith fails me. My mind is weak against the enemies' lies. I need You. I need Your strength. I need Your Grace. I need Your comfort. I need Your love. Please be more near to me than you ever have before. I beg for a comforting sign that my baby is well. That she is happy. I just wish I could see her happy. I miss her every day. I want to hold her every day. Some days I just wish I could be back in that hospital - eternally laying in that bed holding her. Please God... I beg for Your comfort and strength. I can't keep going on feeling this way. This is not honoring to my baby girl - for me to be so ruined. Help me to accept what has happened so that I can move on and heal. Help me to know You still love me deeply, even though this happened to me. Help me not to take on a victim mentality.

I thank You that I am still healthy. Thank You that I can still have babies. I pray for my future child or children. I pray for their health. I pray for their future. I pray that I can be the best parent possible. Help me as I go into future pregnancies to have faith in You. I am already terrified that something bad will happen again. Please completely eliminate those thoughts and lies from my mind.

God, most importantly - so that we can move on to our future - please show us what is next. What you have in store for us. What can we do for You with this situation? How can Annalise's life honor You and impact the world? What is my role in Your bigger picture? Please reveal this to me and help me not to be so self-consumed that I miss it.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

One Day at a Time

I think Annalise would be proud of us. Every single day it hurts, but every single day we are taking steps forward. There have been parts of this journey that I told myself I'd never be able to get through - delivering her, having her funeral service, burying her - but somehow I made it through. There are still parts of this journey that terrify me - going out to a restaurant and seeing kids, making small talk with friends, waking up everyday and facing life... but I do it. I meet each day head-on, knowing that the pain could be great, and I make it through. Each terrifying step that I conquer brings me closer to healing.

I know with all that I am that my baby girl is safe in the arms of God. She is happy and I don't have to cry for her. But, I think the hardest part to let go is - I built up in my mind a beautiful picture full of dreams and expectations of what life would look like after November 28th 2011. Now all of that is gone... and I'm left with empty hands, shattered dreams, and a broken heart. Now I have to deal with transforming that picture and accepting what my new reality is... and that... is difficult. In place of our home being filled with cries of a new baby it is filled with dozens of sympathy cards, small tokens given to us by friends, family and the hospital, and the smell of dozens of lilies. These things are beautiful, but seeing them every day only reminds me of the large void that is in my soul and the lingering pain that creeps up and becomes overwhelming at random times. Someone very dear told me to get through every difficult day by setting small goals and accomplishing these goals daily or weekly. As a personal trainer I absolutely love this and this is how I'm going to approach the next few months. 

Thank you to all of our friends and family who have supported us and loved on us during this time - you have made such a difference in our journey. It is so good to know that we are loved and prayed for. Thank you to all of you that have shared with me how Annalise has touched your lives... this means more to me than you could ever know. That is what I want to hear. I want to know that my baby girl made a difference - even if it is small - in others' lives. Thank you to those who mourned with us at her funeral. You are all now family to our little angel.  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Life without you...Your funeral

People warned me of this... they called it the "anti-climax" and said it would happen after the hustle and bustle of delivery and funeral planning etc etc. Today the best way to describe how I feel is numb. Numb and hollow. There is a physical yearning for something more. Something is missing... someone is missing.

The funeral was beautiful - every aspect. The music, the flowers, the sermon, the food, the tons of people that came... just perfect.  I know my little angel was happy to see how many people were loving on and supporting us and showing love for her in so many ways.  When I walked into that sanctuary the amazing smell of lilies made me smile and think of my baby. Then I saw the tiny little casket and I felt like someone had kicked me in my stomach. I fell to my knees and wept. This is not what we planned. This is not what we envisioned for our daughter. I kept having flashes go through my mind of the mothers being wheeled out of Miami Valley Hospital on Thursday night with their beautiful babies in their laps, as I was being wheeled in to have my dead baby delivered and placed in a casket. I can't sugar coat it in anyway - THIS PAIN IS SUFFOCATING. I also hate to see my husband suffering and crying at his daughter's funeral. It's all unbearable. I don't know how we're facing all of this and still standing. I don't know how to act right now or what to think. I'm putting expectations on myself as to how I should be feeling or what I should be doing - should I be smiling with others? Should I be going out it public? Should I be sitting around the house all day? Should I be going back to work asap? I don't even know if this is something I can ever get over - can I ever function in normal society again? Right now I feel like the answer is "no."

At the burial site when they dismissed us to go back to enjoy the meal all I could think as the funeral director was talking was "I don't want to go, I want to stay here with her forever. I have to hold her again... just one more time." So I fell on my knees and put my arms around the casket, laying my head on it, leaving lipstick-kisses for my baby girl. Then I got up and I walked away with the teddy bear my brother bought for Annalise. I don't know how I stood up from that place or how I put one foot in front of the other. I don't know how I have the fortitude to be sitting here writing this right now or eating 3 meals a day. My body feels like the life and the fun are completely gone. I told my husband that my tearful prayer to God this morning on my back patio with my coffee was "Please God don't let me forget how to live, how to have joy, how to have fun and laugh. Don't let me become a depressed and destroyed person."

I can hear all the answers and the wise words playing in my head as to the smart and right things to do - they're there. I know them all. I just don't know if - right now - I have the strength to stand firm and live them. And I think that's okay... for a time. It's okay.

Annalise - You're mommy is in agony without you here. I miss you my dear sweet angel. Guide your mommy on a path of healing. I need you to guide me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tribute to Annalise

Here is what I wrote for my Annalise.  It was beautifully read by Lisa Clay at the funeral today.  Thank you ALL for making this day so special for us.  I will post more later about the funeral, right now just a bit emotionally exhausted.


You are beautiful and you are perfect.  You are the daughter I’ve always wanted.  I will always remember you as a feisty, happy, beautiful little girl who not only had tremendous strength but also gave that tremendous strength to your mommy and daddy.  I will always remember our conversations and the stories we read together.  I will miss forever the way you would bump and nudge me at 6 am every morning to get out of bed - especially when I was having silent inner debates convincing myself to sleep just 5 more minutes. I will miss how active you would get when I would eat ice cream (that’s the one bad influence I’m going to hold you to!)  You sure loved your ice cream.  I miss our morning cup of coffee when you would bump and jump as I was trying to check my e-mail.  I always smiled at those times, picturing you saying, “Hey, pay attention to me, not FaceBook!”  Now every time I drink my morning coffee I think of you and I miss you so so much.  I know if you were here, you would bring such joy, enthusiasm, energy and life into this world.  Every time I close my eyes I see your precious and perfect tiny little face.  This always brings tears to my eyes, but a smile to my lips because even though it hurts to miss you, it’s a joy to remember you.

My angel, I thank you for the memories.  I know with every fiber of my being that you are in heaven enjoying a perfect body and perfect joy.  This is what gets me through every day.  This is the only reason I can get out of bed in the morning.  This is my motivation to push through every day of my life and run this race well, because I know now there is something extra special to look forward to at the end.  I know your daddy and I will get to hold you again one day.  One day you will be reunited with your entire family.

If there is one thing I want the world to know about you it’s that we are neither angry with God nor do we blame Him that your precious life ended so soon.  Your life on earth may have ended, but your eternity in heaven has just begun.  You will never have to suffer a broken heart, or one single physical ailment.  You will never cry a tear or worry for one day in your life, because you are safe in the arms of God.  People ask me, “How can you believe in a God that allows babies to die?”  I tell them:  My God is not the God of death, pain or suffering.  God gives life and gives it to the fullest.  God has sustained me through this entire situation.  Without Him I would be lost.  Without Him I would be hollow - I would have no life or anything to live for.  However, Satan has come to steal, kill, and destroy.  I am determined not to let Satan steal our joy from the short time we had with you.  We will hold onto that joy forever... until the day we see you again.

I love you my daughter.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Life without you...

Hey everyone. Just let me say... it has been so touching to see the amount of people from all over the world who have visited this blog. I am so happy that Annalise can be known by so many people even though her life was so short. She impacted our lives so tremendously in such a short time and I know we will never ever be the same.

Wednesday, August 17th we found out at the doctor's office that our sweet little girl had passed. Going into the appointment I had a pretty strong gut-feeling that was the case, so as soon as we got there I asked the receptionist if we could please go straight back to a room. Surprisingly, James and I sat back there making playful nervous jokes toward each other and smiling and loving each other. Dr Guy did an ultrasound and as soon as he put it on my belly and she popped up on the screen I turned my head away and said "yeah, that's not our same active little girl." Dr hung his head and said, "no...". He showed us her chest cavity where the heartbeat should be, but there was no movement at all. Tears were pouring out the corners of my eyes but I strangely felt a peace and said out loud, "She is in the arms of her heavenly Father." Dr. Guy was kind, sweet, amazing... and answered all our questions about what happens next. We sat in the room for awhile after he left, just weeping together.

We surprisingly held it together to quickly get many things in motion by phone call - the funeral, our parents' flights, photos, obituary, cemetery arrangements. We got it all done. We were given the option to go into the hospital Thursday night for them to start the process of inducing me. They said it could take 12 hours or longer (grrrreat!). As soon as we found out our moms were on planes, we made the appointment.

We arrived at Miami Valley Hospital and I was terrified and nervous. However, everyone there was simply amazing and made me feel very comfortable and made sure our family was very comfortable in the large, private room we had. James now even gets teared up talking about how perfect and special they made such an awful situation. Dr Guy was there with his calm and steady spirit and our nurse, Tracy, was a complete god-send. At about 8pm they were getting ready to give me medicine to start the process of labor but before we began Dr Guy asked if he could pray for us. I told him, "Yes Please!" and everyone gathered around my bed and prayed. I was terrified and my emotions were everywhere so about 30 mins after I got the medicine I began shaking uncontrollably. (In college, shortly after 9/11, I developed anxiety issues and this was not the first time a scenario like this has happened to me. It brought James and me back to memories of him sitting over my bed in the ER just months into our dating relationship and I had an attack on one of our dates - can you say embarrassing? :-) ) Dr Guy said it could also be due to the medicine and the effect it was having on my body. Seemed logical because the shakes came whenever they would give me a large dose of new medicine. My family and James were all there coaching me through the anxiety and nervousness. I had an amazing support system and James was the most loving, caring, attentive, and thoughtful man all night. Gradually, the process of dilation began and soon the contractions came along... woah! I had been told to be thinking about what kind of pain control I want - if any. My mom was recommending trying it without the pain meds because that's how she did it. About 10 mins later I told her she was crazy and called in for an epidural! That process was surprisingly not that bad - probably because I had my strong man there literally, physically supporting me. Once they turned that drip on and my legs started to lose feeling I felt waaaay better! I actually loved the epidural! I started becoming my usual ridiculous self and making jokes - asking for food, talking about every fattening food under the sun and after they told me they didn't want me eating much other than popsicles or jello I asked Tracy if she could liquefy a cheeseburger and just put it in my drip. Everyone liked that one. After that we all were able to sleep and I was out like a light! Tracy periodically checked my vitals and how dilation was coming along. At about 5:45am Tracy woke me up to turn me and when she did I told her I felt a lot of pressure. She checked me out and said to James, "Wake up, you're going to have a baby now."  Dr Guy got there and 3 simple pushes later our little tiny angel was here.

This was the point of the night I was terrified for. They wrapped all 14.8 ounces of her in a tiny blanket and handed her to me. She was so tiny she didn't even look real. Her skin was a very pinkish red color with a slight bruising coloration. Her face was perfect and all her little features were so beautiful. James and I keep saying we will never forget that face. Her eyes were closed and her sweet little mouth was hanging slightly open. Her perfect little nose was definitely her daddy's nose!! She had all her beautiful little fingers and toes - with nails!! I loved her little finger and toe nails! I couldn't believe how someone so tiny could be making those huge kicks in my belly! I just soaked her in with James at my right side. Everyone was watching me and I felt really weird for a moment but I just let myself get lost in her features. I was weeping telling her over and over how sorry I was. I just kept saying "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry." I knew she was in a better place and "sorry" wasn't necessary but I just felt like maybe I had failed her in some way so I said "I'm sorry."

I spent hours holding her, saying prayers over her, talking to her, and watching James hold her and love on her. It was so touching to watch him. He's so gentle and loving - he's such a good dad. We both have seen each other in such a different light throughout this experience and we have gotten so much closer because of it.  The nurses dressed her in a tiny little dress and hat that another mother had made and supplied to the hospital for situations like this (amazing). They took hand and foot molds (which was very difficult because she was so fragile), hand and foot ink prints - with James snapping photos all the while. It was an amazing family time moment for everyone - completely honoring our little girl. The professional photographer arrived and got some amazing shots. Soon after the photographer finished we realized all the passing around of her tiny, fragile little body was taking its toll on her and she was starting to bleed and her skin to tear -- completely awful and heart wrenching!! I asked if we could stop it all and let her lay in her little bed because I didn't want to see her that way - basically breaking down and bleeding. Everyone agreed and we set her down in the gorgeous (but too big) outfit my mom bought for her - using it more as a blanket to wrap her in. She looked so peaceful in her little bed wrapped up in her flowery outfit and her sweet tiny mouth hanging open. I always smile when I think of that tiny mouth hanging open like she was snoring. We love our little girl. We will love her forever.

Soon the funeral director came to pick her up and brought a black leather box with a small white bed in it. He asked if I wanted to place her in it or if I wanted him to. I said I would do it but as soon as I did pain and tears came to the surface. I could hardly breathe. Everyone was there for me and we sat and cried. My heart just about fails in my chest when I think about her in that black box. My mom said, "Miranda, she's not in that box - she's in heaven." I know... I know. But it's difficult to see that when all I see is a black box with my angel in it. I miss you Annalise. Mommy and Daddy miss you and love you so so so much. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to love like we never thought possible and to learn things we never would have without you in our lives. You have changed us and so many others. Your life was so important and so amazing. We will see you again soon...

~Annalise Lilly Oldham~
Born Into Heaven: August 19th 2011
Time: 5:46 am.
Weight: 14.8 oz.
Length: 11 in.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Day You Died

My Annalise. I felt that empty hole when you left me on Tuesday. I just knew you were gone because I had a deep feeling of loneliness. You left us to go home to be with your heavenly Father, but we miss you so desperately. I know you're up there looking down on us right now and I want you to see how strong your mommy can be, but I miss you... I miss you... and I can't be strong right now. I'm sorry. My heart is broken in a way I didn't think possible. The pain is so overwhelming I feel like my will to live might spontaneously give out at any moment. We miss you baby. I miss your kicks and our conversations. Daddy and I miss talking about you and praying over you. I'm so sad we never got to meet you and know your personality and see your eyes light up at the sound of our voices. I'm so sorry you couldn't feel our touch. I'm sorry about so many things. It tears my heart out to know you are in my tummy right now but your are not alive. I am trying my hardest to picture you in heaven right now. Like your daddy said today: "Our little blonde haired, blue eyed baby girl." In the 6 months you were in my belly, you were loved so completely. I hope you felt that and I hope you know how precious you are to us. We will love you and miss you forever - until we see you again. Watch over us my angel. I love you. I miss you so much that it physically hurts. Love always, Your Mommy.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Funeral Home and Cemetery

I've been sitting here with my head in my hands thinking "what do I write about today?" The only words that come to mind are: painful, unfair, awful, horrific. I know we're not the only parents out there who have had to deal with losing a child - we can see that from all the grave stones in "baby land" - but the pain is mind numbing none the less.

We met with the funeral director and our caregiving pastor today to discuss all the details of what a funeral and burial would look like. I think through parts of it, I was just removed and robotic - answering questions like they were questions about someone else's life. Then some things are said and it all comes at you like a ton of bricks and hits you that this is about YOU. This is about YOUR BABY. James, being a pastor, was contemplating doing the funeral. Pastor Libby sweetly advised against that and said "maybe you could just do the grave side dedication of your daughter back to the hands of God." I don't know why but that was one of the things that just broke me. I'm not ready to give her back to God! I mean, I know He'll take better care of her than we could ever dream of doing but I don't wanna give her back... not yet.

We made it through that meeting and decided to take a look at the cemetery suggested by the funeral director, which is located close to the church. We went out to "baby land" and couldn't believe how grown over and neglected it looked. Small grave tiles were marking the graves and most of the tiles were grown over with weeds and grass! Old silk flowers, flags and trinkets were all around making the place look trashed! We both lost it a little out there. It's so difficult to imagine her buried and her grave stone grown over - gone and forgotten.  I know as a Christian that she will not be in that box in the ground, but in heaven. However we still want to honor her memory and nothing about that grave site was honoring to us. Like James said "this is the one act we are going to get to do for her on this earth - it has to be great." I am married to the most amazing man, and he is the most amazing father. There are things that he said today that broke my heart for him on such deep levels. He said he was wanting it to be that cemetery because he could leave church and have his lunch with his daughter - he could have the daddy-daughter dates that he's been dreaming about. I love him with my whole heart and my heart is so broken for me but it's also so broken for him. I hate that we have to hurt like this.

I pray with everything inside of me that God's will is to heal her. I pray that all of these plans we spent the day crying over will be unnecessary. Either way... I know through this situation we will be forever changed.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Living in a Nightmare

Over the next 2 weeks, as our minds tried to absorb all that we had heard, we said that it felt like we were living in a nightmare. I mean, this was really the stuff of nightmares - no doubt about it. We had times of denial, disbelief, anger, and deep, overwhelming sadness. The greatest thing is that we carried each other. It always seemed to happen that when one of us was down the other was strong and vice versa. We took turns on the emotional roller-coaster.

Later than same week, we scheduled an amniocentesis. To prepare us, the doctors told us they thought it looked like Trisomy 18 from the ultrasound, but the preliminarily results came by phone call the following Monday afternoon. Our very calm and kind genetic counselor informed us that it was Trisomy 13, which she said is "a very poor diagnosis." After receiving those results I spent 10 mins in the bathroom throwing up (my first time since being pregnant). Doctors were less kind than the counselor and told us the raw details: There is a 90% chance that she will not survive to birth and only a maximum of 7 days survival if she is born. We were told many things, one of which was to consider funeral plans. How do expectant parents deal with that information!? We are supposed to be planning the nursery or a baby shower - NOT a funeral!!! I couldn't stand to go into the doctors' office and hear all this news every time - it was like taking a beating that hurt for days afterward. So I asked them to make our appointments only as necessary. This way, I can concentrate on the happy aspects at home and enjoy our baby girl as long as I have her, instead of constantly being reminded by the medical world that she is going to die.

I thank God every day for this amazing little life kicking inside of me. I tell her all the time that she is changing my life and changing me for the better. I am becoming a stronger person, a better mother, and a better Christian - all because of her. I feel so guilty because she has given me so much already and I can't help her at all. I can just sit here, helpless, and wait for her to pass away. That feeling is unbelievably awful. I do what I can do and that is PRAY hard every day. I know from other experiences in my life that God causes all things to work out for good - He truly does. And I know he has great plans for us and for Annalise. I just have to trust... which is SO difficult in a time like this. I am used to taking the reigns and controlling (just ask my husband!) but am being broken down of many bad habits here.

I thank God for our church. They have been praying, supporting, and cooking amazing meals for us! What a family they have been - especially when our families are so far away. This is what life should look like. The way they have come around us in this time of need makes me so happy to be a Christian and to have my faith. I don't know how people can get through situations like this without faith. Without God. I just don't know.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Monday July 11th 2011

I have hesitated for weeks to start a blog, even though several friends have urged me to. I think maybe until now my mind hasn't been clear enough to articulate my emotions to the rest of the world. However, I realize now how much other women's blogs have helped me through these last few weeks and I also want to be able to have that opportunity to help other women in my situation. So here it goes... I'm about 4 weeks behind from the day we found out - so I promise I won't unload 4 weeks of emotions on you all at once.

On Monday July 11th we were scheduled for our 20 week ultrasound - all I could think was "Today we find out if we're having a boy or a girl!" I was excited, nervous, and anxious while waiting to be called back for our appointment. On the screen we saw an energetic and beautiful baby - moving and squirming like crazy! I think we had both been expecting (or maybe just hoping) for a boy, so when the nurse told us it was a girl - it took a couple minutes for that news to sink in - but after it did we were thrilled! The nurse left the room and we immediately called our parents to tell them it was a girl! We sat there talking about all the amazing things having a baby girl in our lives would mean - James already planning for her future wedding.. haha! About 15 minutes later the nurse and the doctor walked back into the room. They were very quiet and had very grave looks on their faces. I think I was still on cloud 9 so I didn't really pay much mind to it, but James was immediately concerned. The doctor told me she just wanted to take another look. After about 10 mins she turned to me and said the words that shattered my world: "There's no easy way to say this, but I see some genetic abnormalities which I'm very concerned about." She said a few other things but all I remember was it felt like time froze and like someone had just slapped me across the face. I was in shock. My mind was blank. I didn't know what to think. I put my arm over my face as her words replayed over in my mind and the nurse wiped the gel off my belly. I remember everyone looking at me for a response. I stood up and walked to the corner of the room where James was sitting and just started weeping. James' face was filled with the same shock, but also concern for me as he hugged me. The nurse and the doctor left the room to "give us a minute" and I ran to the sink and started dry heaving. I felt completely hopeless and terrified. I think at that point 1,000 thoughts and questions started going through my head. The doctor sat us down in her office and began to explain what she saw: lagging development of several parts of the brain, and kidneys; 2 large holes in the heart; a herniated diaphragm, causing the stomach to crowd the lungs; poor lung development; and developmental issues with the hands and feet. She said with all that is wrong, there are most likely deeper cellular issues that they can't even see. She told us termination of the pregnancy was an option. We both immediately and fervently declined that option. This is our child and we are not going to murder this precious life! I couldn't believe everything I was hearing. I never dreamed anything like this could ever touch us - we are young, healthy and have no family history of genetic abnormalities! Of course I tried to blame myself - searching for things I must have done wrong, but the doctor reassured us there was nothing we did or could have done differently. Genetic abnormalities occur because of a "random and incorrect shuffling of genes that happens at conception." This explanation was some comfort, but not much. For weeks I continued to blame myself in any way I could think of. I told myself over and over that I was broken in some way - that I was an inferior woman because I can't carry a healthy, whole life inside of me. I have dealt with a lot of self-blame in the last 4 weeks. It is wrong, but it is a personality flaw of mine and Satan always uses our weak areas to attack us and bring us down. He hasn't brought me down yet! I know that the One who is in me is greater than the one who is in the world (1 Jn 4:4).  I am learning to accept that God is in control, no matter what.

We left the doctor's office after about 2 1/2 hours of questions and tears. We were exhausted. When we made it home all we could do is lay in bed, pray, cry, hold each other, and fall to sleep. That day, the most insane summer storm rose up out of a gorgeous sunny day - thunder storms, wind, hail, and torrential rain. We said we will never forget that storm because it was like God was hurting and crying right along with us. Over the next few entries, I hope to show how God has been (and continues to be) so close to us in this situation. Our church family has truly been the arms of God, coming around us in such an awful time. We are learning to love our sweet precious baby girl more and more every day - honoring this time we have with her. There is pain every day, but there are beautiful moments as well - we just have to choose to see them and choose to enjoy them. James said that to him, Monday July 11th was the day our baby girl was born. That day we named her Annalise Lilly. Annalise means - God's favor and grace. Lilly is my middle name and also the name of my great grandmother who everyone said was as close to an angel as a human could be. She passed away early in life. We love and treasure our Annalise Lilly... Our Precious Miracle.