Thursday, August 16, 2018

He Numbers Our Days

There are so many posts I need to share!

August 12th was my 29th birthday. I always get reflective about life and Lily around this time of year. πŸŽˆπŸŒΉ

I was born six days before my due date. I can't help but think how if Lily were also born six days before her due date, she would have most likely lived.

When my mom was in labor with me, my heart kept decelerating. The doctors were becoming increasingly alarmed and kept saying how they might have to do an emergency c-section. When I was born, the bottoms of my feet were dark and I was unresponsive at first. Obviously I quickly did become responsive and there were no lasting issues.

Things could have turned out entirely different on the day I was born. How easily my parents could have lost me. My own frailty and birth story is a reminder to me of everything I have lost with Lily. She was my mini-me, looking similar to me at birth, with almost the exact same measurements.

me on the left and Lily on the right

She was just as real and loved as me. I could have easily slipped away on August 12th, 1989, just like Lily slipped away from me. The last 29 years my parents have had with me could have been erased in an instant... all the memories, the laughter, the knowing of who I was growing up and who I've grown up to become would have been no more. Lily wouldn't have even been had August 12th gone differently. Every August 12th since 1989 would have been much like every March 16th has been for me since 2010.

Having lost my own daughter, knowing many people who have or had infertility issues (including my parents) and those who've lost children in many different ways, and seeing how I myself could have nearly died is a reminder of just how precious life is, and what a miracle it is to be conceived, born alive, and have the gift of growing up. May we never forget what a beautiful thing it is to be alive.

Thinking about my own birth and all my life has held up until this point highlights all that I'm missing with my own little girl. One life holds so much and I won't know any of what Lily's would have held beyond the womb.

I'm clinging to the truth that the Lord numbered both of our days and is sovereign... "In Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." ~Psalm 139:16

This post left me:

The Difference Between Us

Do you want to know what the difference is between the two babies represented by these birth certificates?

The difference is 20 years between birth dates. The difference is Virginia and North Carolina. The difference is merely an ounce between birth weights, with the same length. There is not much difference in their looks either.

They both were full-term baby girls when they were born. They both bear the names of flowers. They are both immensely loved.

Yet, one was born with breath and the other was not. One got to grow up and the other didn't. One celebrated her 29th birthday a few days ago and the other never will.

One is me and the other is my daughter.

That one breath changed the fact that I got one kind of birth certificate and she got another.

One. Single. Breath.

Separates her mattering and counting in other's minds versus not.

It shouldn't. ❤️

This post left me:

Until Our Last Breath

You may remember me writing about sweet baby Ryleigh Grace, who was stillborn at 38 weeks. Yesterday, August 15th, was her 2nd birthday.

Her mommy, Kristen, and I were good friends in high-school. Her firstborn was actually born on the exact same day as Lily! - March 16, 2010, and is now a healthy and thriving 8-year-old. Then her second baby was stillborn, giving us yet another thing we have in common.

Anyways, this summer, Kristen had her rainbow baby, another beautiful little girl. Her heart is still heavy with grief over the loss of Ryleigh. In many ways, I imagine having another baby is a reminder of all that was missed with the one who was lost. Kristen's experience proves that babies are not interchangeable and just because you have another doesn't mean you stop missing and longing for the baby who should've been here to grow.

I texted Kristen yesterday on Ryleigh's special day and told her they were both on my mind. Kristen responded that Ryleigh is on her mind every day, which I feel captures so much in so few words... even when the rest of the world "moves on," even when we think of other's babies who were lost on the day of their birth (hopefully if you know someone who has lost you do), we must remember that they remember and miss their beloved child EVERY SINGLE DAY! Another baby doesn't "fix" anything. Yes, another baby can heal and fill empty arms in a unique and beautiful way, but they will never erase the pain of what happened and what should have been.

It reminds me of this touching thing a bereaved mother put in her paper, which I first saw shared on Facebook a while back. I know I'll feel the same after 70 years. Our babies remain in our hearts and minds FOREVER, until our last breath.

This post left me:

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Power of a Protective Mother

A couple months ago, I had an experience that shook me up.

I was eating brunch at a local restaurant when a cute little family with a mom, dad, and 3 kids came in.

All of a sudden the mom started yelling "oh my gosh, she's choking!", talking about her toddler daughter.

She jumped up and immediately went into action to save her little girl's life. I could hear the sheer panic and fear in her voice.

Everyone in the restaurant was watching and a few people called the ambulance.

It brought me to tears because I'm always emotional about anything to do with choking, after my mom had to do the Heimlich on me when I was 9. I was praying that this would turn out well and thankfully because of this mother who knew what to do and did it, it did.

More than anything though, I left feeling amazed by a mother's love and how she'll do anything necessary to protect her babies, even when she's terrified herself. From the womb, God wires a mother to be a protector. A mother's love even extends past death, and with it the desire to protect her child's legacy.

She was by the ambulance as I was leaving and I made a point to tell her what an incredible mother she is and how we saw her swiftly move to action. I think she needed to hear that as she immediately started crying. What a beautiful little girl in her polka dot dress who is thankfully okay.

This post left me:

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Lily's 8th Birthday Celebration!

This post is almost 4 months overdue!!

This March 16th was a beautiful one. As I've written before, Lily's birthday means more to me than any other day, even my own birthday. Yes, I get sad and reflective, but it so much more than that. It's like God highlights the day and somehow just makes it feel so special and magical, from start to finish. He hides treasures throughout the day, waiting to be discovered. But honestly, I could sit at home all day and still March 16th would be marked as sacred... and so, so sweet. 8 years out and the sweetness outweighs the bitter in bittersweet, without comparison. I love you, my sweetheart. I know you are safe. I'm forever thankful you are mine and I am yours.

Here is Lily's special spot in Crozet, Virginia decorated for her 8th birthday! The flower arrangement (with roses and lilies of course) was put together by her mommy and grandmother. I found the flag and balloon online. ☺️πŸ’•❤️πŸ’8️⃣

Here are Lily's 8th birthday red-velvet cupcakes with stargazer lilies on top (my favorite type of lily). :) This is one of my favorite traditions for my girl on her birthday, which started because I had a red-velvet cake at my Valentine's baby shower. I got them at a local bakery in Virginia and the owner shares a birthday with Lily Kat! ❤️πŸ’•πŸŽ‚πŸ’•❤️

We had delicious red-velvet ice-cream. We had a mini Shamrock cake too, though I unfortunately can't find that photo now.

My sister-in-law Kala got me these beautiful flowers for Lily's birthday. She arranged them herself. They smelled wonderful! She's such a sweet auntie. ☺️πŸ’•πŸŒ»πŸŒΈπŸŒΏπŸ’

A thoughtful friend of mine from childhood sent me this gorgeous painting for Lily's birthday. Stephanie, thank you so much for remembering my girl with me and for the time you put into this! I've always loved your art. πŸ˜„πŸŽ¨πŸ’•πŸ’œπŸŒΈ 

It was so special to visit Lily's spot on her birthday with her cousin, Harvest, who was almost 2 at the time. Now that H is older, it brings such joy to my heart to watch her show interest in Lily's stone (especially the lamb), to run around in the sunshine and blow bubbles for her cousin. It's a strange juxtaposition of life and death to be experienced in a cemetery. I wish these girls could know each other here. My daughter would now be 8, a big kid compared to lil' H. I know they still have a special bond and fully believe they will one day meet. Harvest wore her butterfly shirt in Lily's honor. πŸ’•

On March 16, 2010 at 4:24 p.m., Lily was born. As is tradition, at 4:24 p.m. on her 8th birthday, we lit the red-velvet cupcake candle that is used only on special dates. We sang Lily girl the birthday song, as well as a favorite of my families' that says, "Every day of the year, may you find Jesus near." Singing those words to her holds and entirely different meaning. We also blew bubbles that my thoughtful friend gave me for Lily's birthday. As you can probably tell by the video, Lily's cousin Harvest loved this part of the celebration. :)

Each year in honor of Lily for her birthday, I like to have some sort of project or do something for others. This year I sponsored a little girl in Jesus' name and Lily's honor through Compassion International. She shares the exact same birthday as Lily!

I was rockin' my St. Patrick's Day green for my mid-March girl over her birthday weekend! 

My friend Tiffany who lives on the opposite Coast also has a daughter who was stillborn on March 16th, in 2007. Sending a package in honor of her girl who shared my girl's birthday is something I treasure each March. Genesis has her own special spot in my heart. It is interesting reading what Tiffany writes because there are so many similarities between us... the same anticipation about our daughter's impending birthdays when the new year rolls around. The same tie we have to March 17th, St. Patrick's Day, and how we associate that date and all things green/Clovers/Shamrocks with our girls. I got them some St. Patrick's Day temporary tattoos so her other kiddos could honor their sister. Anytime I see dragonflies, something that makes Tiffany think of Genesis, it also makes me think of her. It's amazing how we carry the babies of our friends with us always. We both also like to snap photos of the things that are "winks from Heaven." Each year on March 16th, I like to see how Tiffany honors Genesis. We both have traditions. It is sweet thinking of them throughout the day, knowing that Tiffany is probably feeling many of the things I am at the same time I am.

My friend Joanna who used to be my neighbor has a daughter Ashley was also born on March 16th. She turned 15 this year, which means Lily was born on her 7th birthday. My mom and I didn't know them well when Lily was born. However, it's crazy to think about how we were living by each other and had no idea that on the idea I was at the hospital delivering Lily, they were celebrating Ashley's birthday. Two little girls born at the same hospital on the same date 7 years apart. We discovered this shared date a year later, when Lily would have turned 1. It came up in casual conversation with my mom one day. That was around the time we started becoming friends with Joanna. We decided to take Ashley a gift to honor Lily on her birthday, since we can't get anything for our own little girl. They didn't even know about Lily at that point, but right when we took the gift over, Joanna was surprised we remembered her birthday and said, "Oh, you must have someone in your family with that birthday." So my mom told her about our girl. She was so sweet about it and wrote in a thank you card: "Ashley has really enjoyed her birthday gifts. I'm glad she could bring happiness to your special day." (I am referencing old blog posts to recall these details). After that first year giving Ashley a gift, we decided to make it an annual tradition to honor Lily. And by that point, we had become good friends with Jojo. Not only is doing this for Ashley a sweet way to honor Lily, but we really enjoy shopping for girls and imagining what Lily might have liked through the years. We love watching Ashley open her gifts and it means a lot when she likes what was selected for her. 

My friend Bianca in South Africa sent me these adorable photos of her girls wishing Lily a happy birthday! Her oldest daughter is also named Lily and was also born in mid-March, so we have a special connection. :)

I was so thankful my brothers, sister-in-law, and niece were able to join my mom and I in Virginia for Lily's birthday weekend! It means more to me than I could ever express that they celebrate, honor, and remember her with me. Their friend also came up for the weekend, which happened to be his birthday weekend too. It was gorgeous! Look at those Blue Ridge Mountains on Lily's special day.

March 16 Sunset

This little girl right here.... she brings such joy and healing to my heart in the hard moments.

During my pregnancy with Lily, I enjoyed the personal pan cheese pizzas at Pizza Hut, so mom and I had that for lunch.

We ate at Cracker Barrel for dinner when the others arrived from North Carolina. This is a special birthday tradition and where we've eaten all but one of Lily's birthdays (when we were at the beach). They were so sweet to treat me. :)

It snowed in Virginia the week of Lily's birthday and I was able to write something special in the snow. I also wrote a few baby names for friends.

My friend Cambry gave me a red-velvet cupcake for Lily's birthday. It was DELICIOUS!

My friend/roomie Mary gave me a yummy dirty chai tea latte at the local coffee shop her family owns. :)

Thank you for all the comments, texts, messages, etc. and for caring about my sweet girl in 2018! I got some other cards and gifts that I don't have photos of, but I greatly appreciate. A travel mug from Bex, confetti, bubbles, and something for decorating Lily's grave from Emily, a basket of goodies from my Aunt Helen, and a pretty top from Terri. :)

Here are the blog posts I've written over the years, both on Lily's birthdays, as well as the posts about how we've celebrated her birthdays:

This post left me:

Monday, June 18, 2018

My Reason to Hope

This life without my baby girl can be messy and complicated. As much as I want to appear to have things together emotionally and spiritually, I struggle often. I battle with jealousy and feeling forsaken.

Lately there have been a handful of friends who lost babies who have had healthy rainbows, or are anticipating an upcoming birth soon.

I see the faces of these perfectly precious babies, these children who fill the empty arms left when their older sibling/s left so soon... and I marvel at how so many conflicting emotions can reside within me at once, taking up space side-by-side in my heart and mind.

The part of me that is happy for them and rejoicing with them is angry with the part of me that resents them and wonders why it can't be me as well. The part of me that cries with joy for them scowls at the part of me sitting alongside that weeps over how I feel left behind.

Always left behind...

I see all these people talk about how long they've waited for their rainbow and I resent them for saying so when they don't know what waiting is. I say in my head when I see pictures of their babies "it must be nice." I wonder why I've been waiting for the better part of a decade and God seems in no rush to change my circumstances, even as the big 3-0 is now breathing down my neck. The passing of the days and the turn of the calendar month after month is a reminder that this internal clock of mine is tick-tick-ticking away.

As much as I want to have a positive and uplifting thing to say to tie up this post with a pretty little bow, and as much as I want to see the sunshine in the midst of the storm, I can't.

All I know is God is still good even when it's hard for me to see His goodness.

God is still trustworthy and kind, even when it seems He is unkind.

God is still sovereign and knows what's best, even if what He chooses for my life is the opposite of what I would choose.

It was a lot easier for 20-year-old Hannah Rose to proclaim the goodness of God, even in the days following the death of my baby. It was easier to hold onto hope for the future when I was still young and assuming all my dreams were certain and would be coming true in just a few year's time.

Almost 30-year-old me has a few more scrapes and bruises, more years to learn the reality of life and how our dreams and plans aren't always realized, at least not in the time or way we'd anticipate or desire.

In ways, I like the younger and more naive version of me. But I also know that in the last decade, God has made my faith real. He has made it deeper and truer and has walked alongside me in all the complicated mess. He has proven Himself faithful in my agony. His love doesn't take away my questions and pain, but it rises above it all and that is my reason to hope.

This post left me:

Father's Day 2018

Father's Day makes me think about all that Lily's father is missing out on with her. His love for his daughter, as well as his anguish over losing her, are both clearly written on his face in this picture. My thoughts and prayers are with all the bereaved fathers who've lost children through stillbirth, abortion, and any other way. πŸ’”

Lily's hands with her daddy's... she had his hands and feet.

And happy Father's Day to my Dad!

This post left me:
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