Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Forever Prints on My Heart

She has left forever prints on my heart. I treasure her hand and footprints more than anything in this world. They remind me she was really, truly here. Look how tiny and precious they are, though they were actually quite large for a newborn, a trait she got from her father. In a heart frame because she is always in my heart.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Perfect for Her

I have been having issues with Lily's vase on her stone. When I went up with my family to Massanutten in Virginia over New Years, I got to visit Lily's special spot a couple times. My aunt, uncle, and grandmother all told me that at different times when they've visited the cemetery, her vase had fallen over. I was afraid something like that might happen because it has never been sturdy since it was first installed in November. It has always been wobbly and not snug in the hole. I assumed it would just take a while for it to settle, however it hasn't.

I stressed out all week when I was in Virginia about how I was going to fix it before I had to leave to come back to North Carolina. I had no idea what to do because I installed the vase the exact way the monument company told me to - with the screw and adhesive stuff that I had also used on the actual stone. I didn't want to leave Lily's spot knowing her vase was going to keep falling over, especially when it gets windy (the vase is not very heavy). I decided to go by the hardware store to get some supplies, then my brothers were going to help me fix the vase right before leaving Virginia.

Well, as soon as we got to the cemetery with our new supplies, we discovered that because the vase had fallen over, dirt and water had gotten into the hole where the screw is supposed to go. And that week was really cold, so the water and dirt was frozen in the hole and the vase wouldn't even go all the way in because of it.

My grandmother and brothers said I will just need to wait until spring when everything warms up and thaws out and then we will fix it. I was feeling really sad that I wouldn't be able to have the vase fixed before I left. I gave Lily's vase to my grandmother to keep safe until I can make a trip back sometime when it warms up. I don't want it just flopped over at the cemetery to break, get blown away, or stolen. I put her little tree on top of where the vase is supposed to go. There was a light snow dusting on the ground.

My grandmother was trying to make me feel better by saying it looked fine and doesn't have to be perfect... I know it doesn't have to be perfect.

But, later I started thinking about what she said and realized that yes, I do want it to be perfect for her. The thing is, this is the only way I get to parent Lily, by making her stone look beautiful and stay clean and decorated. This is all I get to do for my child... I do want it to be perfect for her. After so long of waiting for her stone, I want it to look perfect. It's only been up since November and there is already a problem. 

I know this might seem silly and like not a big deal, but to me it is a big deal. I don't want there to be just an empty hole on the foundation (the tree keeps blowing over too). I don't want people to visit Lily's spot to see her stone for the first time and it not be perfect. I don't want them to wonder what that empty hole and extra area on that side of the foundation is for. I don't want them to bring her flowers and have to leave them on the ground, rather than in her beautiful vase. I especially want it to be perfect for her birthday... which is why I am planning on making a trip up for Lily's birthday, so I can fix her vase myself then and get everything decorated and just perfect for people to see. I don't want her spot to look abandoned or neglected, like nobody cares. I want everyone who sees her stone to know that her mommy loves her very much.

I have been emailing back and forth with the monument company and they said it shouldn't be doing this and they are very sorry. I am thankful they are going to help me figure out what to do and will cover the costs of what it takes to get it fixed. This company is always so kind and helpful.

This is how I parent Lily... this is all I can do for her... I want it to be perfect.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Five Years Ago at This Time

Five years ago at this time, I was in the early stages of pregnancy with the first child of my womb, though I did not know it yet... in less than two weeks, it will be five years since I first discovered I was pregnant and that dreadful word captured my thoughts... abortion. 

On February 6th, 2009, I chose to have an abortion at 6 weeks gestation. It is something I will forever regret. But, I am so thankful for God's love, kindness, grace, mercy, redemption, forgiveness, and His healing touch on my heart and life... despite what a wretched sinner I am and how undeserving I am. 

I truly can hardly believe it's been that much time since my entire world changed from the tiny blue positive sign that left me frozen with fear. I will never be the person I was before that positive pregnancy test. In some ways, that's a good thing, yet in other ways, I wish I could have that innocence back. I wish I could know what I know now without knowing the heaviness of it all and having to walk through it myself. However, sometimes God can only teach us things through experience. 

I was just realizing today how much God has healed my heart in five years, even when I could not see Him moving... my abortion is something I think will always grieve me, however, it is not all-consuming like it once was. My Jesus has given me freedom from my past. He has helped me to move on while never forgetting. 

Instead of the guilt and shame that cripples, I am now left with wondering who my child would have been had I chosen LIFE. I am left with this burning passion to be Luke's voice. I believe it is part of why God put me on Earth. I promise I will speak for him always...

These are just some of my thoughts as the five-year anniversary of my abortion draws near. At one time, my first child was alive within me and he is now forever alive in Heaven. That is the promise I hold onto.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Heaviness of 4

Each year, when January rolls around, I start thinking of Lily's birthday being just a couple months away. And my heart, oh my heart, has to start grappling with the reality that she'd be turning a new age soon... and I will never know her at that age.

She would be almost 4... just the mere thought of that brings tears to my eyes. These past 4 years have passed so quickly. 4 is weighing heavily on my heart.

I open the lid of her cedar memory chest and pull out those precious footprints and handprints... in the moments when the missing is more... when I need to be reminded that she was real. I didn't dream her up. With each turn of a calendar year, it feels like one giant step into the future... a future where Lily will not live. In those first days, weeks, and months after she was born, time dragged by so slowly. Now, I find myself wondering how in the world it's coming up on 4 years since I held her for the first and last time.

I hate not knowing who my 4-year-old Lily would be. So many things about her I wonder. I wonder what my life would look like today if she were here.... completely and totally different. That's as much as I know.

When her birthday draws near, I start looking up ideas for how to celebrate... the only problem is, this always leads to finding things that have to do with birthday parties for little girls who are here. I was googling ways to honor Lily for her 4th birthday in Heaven when I stumbled across 4th birthday parties for little girls on Earth. That's how she'd look? So grown up! I wonder what theme/colors she would have wanted for her birthday party this year. In all my searching, I came across this little shirt for sale that you can put the name in to see what it'd look like. It seems to fit - Lily Katherine turning 4 - yet she will never fill a shirt like this. It will always remain empty of her. Though she still is having a 4th birthday. It's all so hard to wrap my mind around sometimes.
My sweet girl - I miss your laugh, your smile, your curly hair, your bright blue eyes. Though I never knew these things the way I wish I could have, I surely miss them. 

I miss your life in my life.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

March for Life '14 in D.C.

I was really hoping to make it to the March for Life in D.C. again this year. My mom and I planned to make a trip up like we did in 2013 (You can read about our experience there last year HERE. And you can see the video of me speaking last year at the march HERE).

However, I came to a point of realizing I can't do everything every year. There is a season for everything and right now I am in a season of needing to simplify and re-prioritize. It is okay to say "no" to things and not to feel obligated to do everything, even if I wish I could do it. I have also not been doing well physically lately, so just need to rest more.

I did just go to the march last year, so it's okay I can't make it this year. Maybe I will aim to go every other year. I'd rather not attempt to do everything and give my all to each thing I do rather than try to do everything and only have strength and energy to give a small part of myself.

I was able to make it to the Raleigh Rally and March for Life this past weekend, so that made me feel good that I could at least do that. There was a big snowstorm that just went through D.C. yesterday, so I'm not sure my mom and I could have made it anyways (that was the day we planned on driving up). God knows what He's doing and I felt Him asking me to let go of this dream... at least for this year.

I am praying for everyone marching in D.C. and across the country at many different marches during the anniversary week of Roe v. Wade. Abortion was legalized in America 41 years ago today. Think of all the lives we will never know on Earth because of abortion... including my Luke Shiloh.

It is for babies like my Luke and Lily and for mamas like me who must live with a past abortion for life that I speak... that I march... that I write.

May we fight for and live to see an end to abortion in America and the world!!


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lily's Spot Covered in Snow

I think there is something so magical and beautiful about snow. Unfortunately, it doesn't snow in North Carolina very often... but when it does, I enjoy is so much.

Anyways, I really wanted a photo of Lily's headstone and her special spot with snow. I have no idea if I'll be able to see Lily's spot covered in white because who knows when I'll be up there when it actually snows.

There was a nice snowfall in Virginia today. My friend Elise surprised me with a text that said, "Hey girl, I took pictures of Lily's grave with snow. :)" I was so excited! Elise is such a sweet and thoughtful friend to remember that I wanted photos like this and to do this for me and my girl. A true friend, I tell ya.

Anyways, here is Lily's beautiful stone covered in snow today! It's about time for that Christmas bow to come off... it keeps blowing around to the wrong side.

Guess what... as I'm going to post this, I checked the weather and IT'S SNOWING HERE NOW TOO! :)


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sometimes I Wonder Why

I know that God's plan for Lily's life never included her spending days on Earth...and I have peace in that. Truly, I do. I know that He will use her life more with her in Heaven than He would have if she were on Earth. I am so thankful He has allowed me to trust that...

But, there are times when the grief overwhelms this mother heart of mine. And I wonder, "Why, God? Why my baby? Why my story?"

I am not saying I ever would wish this burden upon anyone else because I wouldn't. I am just wondering, why did God choose me to walk the road of a bereaved mother? If I live a long life, most of my days will be spent without my first-born. I lost a child at 20...that's so young to have to know such a loss and live with it forever.

Grief is messy. And I am going to be honest and say there are times when my heart hurts so much. And I wonder why I was chosen to know this pain, this ache, this longing, this loss?

The Lord had already begun stirring a passion to be a voice for the unborn when I was early in my pregnancy with Lily. As the months wore on, I felt like He was calling me to share my story of LIFE to be a light to those facing similar circumstances. I remember when I was about 18 weeks pregnant and I went to a pregnancy center banquet with my grandmother. I knew that one day, I would stand before a crowd of people, just like the crowd at that banquet in October 2009, and I would share what God did in and for me...

I just thought that I would have my beautiful daughter with me to say this is what we're fighting for...she shows the beauty of LIFE. I never could have dreamed the way God would write the story.

I wish I was facing the challenges of a young, single mama...instead, I must face a lifetime of being a mother who misses two little ones who danced into my heart and left me changed forever. I am left with reminders that they were here. They had weight in this world. And they will have weight in my life forever.

As a friend of mine so often reminds me...I must remember that they are in my future. Maybe I need that reminder. The pain of this Earth and the tears will all be wiped away one sweet day...

My friend "Belle" commented on this post and said something I really like and want to share: "I love the thought that they are in my future.... it is truly beautiful and unlike the other pat things we hear people say, it doesn't seem to diminish their presence in my present nor devalue how they changed the course of my life in the past." Yes, this.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Medical Records and Unanswered Questions

Since I first got mine and Lily's medical records in the summer of 2012, I've been meaning to write about this. A few days ago, while I was going through some of Lily's things in her memory chest, I thought of those records and wanted to look them over again...

It is very emotional, very bittersweet, to go through those thirty or so pages... much of it is fancy medical lingo that I can't decipher. Some of the pages bring a smile to my face, the pages that are full of information from my appointments from when I was pregnant with Lily. They take me back to that place, when she was here... they bring back those sweet memories of hearing her precious heart beating, seeing her on the ultrasound machine, and finding out all the fascinating facts about how her body was growing within mine. I have record of my weight and blood-pressure from each appointment. I have record of each date of all my ultrasounds. I have the notes about all the testings I had done and the vaccines I received. I have record of her heart rate from each visit, which brings back the memory of the sound of that fast thump, thump, thump. I have papers from my 6-week postpartum check-up. I have my intake papers from when I first started going to my doctor. All the dates from these records are 2009 and 2010... seeing them takes me right back. I see my age listed as 20-year-old female... how can I already be 24? How can it already be 2014?

As I said, it's bittersweet to look through these pages... but they are a reminder that Lily was really, truly here. She had weight in this world. Because I have so few memories of/with Lily, I cherish those I do have... even the memories of appointments. It has been healing to have these records.

The papers in my records that are the most difficult to look at are the Pathology Report and the Delivery Notes/L&D Summary. I didn't really know what to expect to find in my records, as I've obviously never gotten records like this before. I had no idea I'd have all these pages of notes, written from the perspective of my doctor. It is so strange to read through what he wrote. Certain parts are extremely difficult to read...

Findings: A nonviable infant delivered with Apgars of 0 at 1 minute 0 at five minutes, weighing 3426 grams or 7 pounds 9 ounces at 16:24...

Description of Procedures: The patient arrived at the birth center and I was called by L&D nursing at approximately 6:30 and informed by the nurses that they could not find a fetal heart beat using Doppler... I immediately proceeded to the birth center and evaluated the patient with ultrasound at about 6:50. Ultrasound revealed a single intrauterine pregnancy and the fetal heart was evaluated and there was no cardiac motion over the course of a 10 minute examination. The patient was informed of fetal demise and plans for delivery were made.... the nonviable neonate was handed to the care of the patient with the nursing staff in attendance. The patient voiced desire to hold the baby... The maternal patient remained in the LDR suite in good condition. The stillborn neonate remained in the LDR suite with fetal demise status in the care of the patient and the nursing staff.

Reading this took me right back to her birth and my feelings surrounding it. "The patient voiced desire to hold the baby." This makes me proud that I wanted to hold her. You see, I was scared of how she might look (other loss parents have said and thought the same thing. Some choose not to see their baby). I am so glad that I chose to hold her right after she was born. I am proud that I pushed my fear aside and mothered my baby girl in the only way I knew how, the only way I could...

I went over things from my medical records with a midwife last summer. Dr. M never really went over them with me, in a way that I could understand at least. I just needed someone who could decipher the medical lingo to help me make heads or tails of things.

As Dr. M had told me, there is no medical explanation why Lily was taken so soon and the autopsy results were inconclusive. I will never know why this side of Heaven... but, there were traces of something found that hints at an infection. An infection that could have taken her life (though the infection could have come as a result of her passing). I cried my eyes out when I heard this and felt like it was my fault, like I did something to get the infection that killed her, even if I never knew what I was doing obviously. I didn't know about this for over 2 years and it was hard to hear it.

God walked me through that and brought me to the place where I have to trust that He is greater than all that and if He wanted her here, she would be. He is greater than any medical condition or explanation and He knew what was going to happen. He planned her life and brought the purposes of her life to fruition. Her life and death were not in vain, nor were they a surprise to Him.

Overall, I have found a greater sense of peace and healing through going over these records... and I know with every fiber of my being that my Heavenly Father is in control of my life, as well as Lily's life. I know that He is good always and He gives peace. He comforts the hurting and heals the broken. That's my God.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Jewel - Lullaby

There are certain songs that take my heart to such a bittersweet place... a place where I feel Lily near. The Jewel "Lullaby" CD does that for me. It came out in 2009, when I was carrying Lily. My mom gave it to me as a gift during my pregnancy. I was so excited to play it for Lily once she was born... I dreamed of rocking her while nursing, listening to these beautiful tunes as she'd drift off to sleep. The CD is truly one of the most beautiful I've ever heard. Jewel says that it is for children, but she made it with adults in mind too. The words, the music, and Jewel's singing are all so lovely...

I listened to this CD over and over again when I was pregnant. So hearing it takes me right back to that place when she was here. I can't hear it without tears coming to my eyes. Music is so powerful in how it can make you feel the way you felt when you heard that song at another time in life.

I have such a precious memory from my pregnancy that has to do with this CD. One day shortly after I got this album, I was driving over to a friend's house for a visit. She lives about 30 minutes away, so I had quite a bit of time in the car to listen to the CD. I turned it up so loud and both Lily and I were enjoying it so much. She moved around in my belly more than she ever had before when I played this music for her. She loved it. It makes me love this album even more, knowing that Lily loved it too... and that she truly did hear it during her time in the womb. Babies love hearing music in the womb and oftentimes remember it after they are born. I bet Lily would have remembered this music and that it would still be a favorite of hers to this day, and all through the years. I wish I had countless memories of playing this CD for Lily outside the womb... but I am truly so thankful for this one sweet memory of her dancing for her mommy while listening to this lovely music. Her perfect little ears heard these very songs that I am listening to right now. She was real. She loved music like her mother (and father). It gives me a sweet connection with her.

This photo was taken in November 2009, around the time I got the CD and when Lily danced around so wildly in my belly. It is my favorite photo of me pregnant.

I often will give this CD as a gift to families with children, such as for the families of kids that I nanny. For Christmas, I gave it to the two little boys I nanny and their mom recently said that she loves it and plays it on repeat. She said it makes her cry a little. (By the way, I have mentioned this before, but one of the brothers was born on March 16th, 2010 - Lily's exact birthday! I nearly fell over when his mom told me this. It makes it very special to be his nanny... what a healing gift from God!)

Anyways, the CD is hauntingly beautiful... especially because of the memories for me. For a while, I didn't really want to share this album with others because it's one of the few things in the world that is directly connected to Lily (it may sound silly, I know). But, it feels like it's her CD. It's symbolic of my short, sacred time with her. However, I have decided that sharing it with others makes me feel as if I'm sharing a piece of Lily with them. They probably wouldn't be hearing it if it weren't for me sharing it with them. And I wouldn't have heard it if it weren't for Lily.

Here's a YouTube video that has little snippets of each song from the album so you can get an idea of what it sounds like.

I enjoy all the songs on the album, but my favorite (and what I call mine and Lily's song) is #10 - "Forever and a Day." The lyrics are beautiful. After Lily passed away, we were able to bring her to Virginia in her little white coffin for her service and burial. On the trip, we played this CD. It was then that I first realized that "Forever and a Day" (our song) is 3 minutes and 16 seconds long (3:16). Lily's birthday is March 16 (3-16). How special is that...

Forever and a Day

The other day you asked me to
Tell you how much I love you
Oh, but words so often fail
To describe the depth and scale
And even though it may sound cliche
I'll tell you now in my simple way

My love is as true as the oceans are blue
And I'll always feel this way
Just listen to the beating that keeps repeating
My heart wants to say
Like Gala and Dali, It's you and me
Forever and a day
Forever and a day

You watch me turn out the light
Wrap my arms around you, say goodnight
Trace our shadows on the wall
Thank God for the miracle of it all

My love is as true as the oceans are blue
And I'll always feel this way
Just listen to the beating that keeps repeating
My heart wants to say
Like Gala and Dali, It's you and me
Forever and a day
Forever and a day

The road of life winds
With the passing of time
I can hear you say
How can hearts know
Where love will go
Beyond today

Just listen to the beating that keeps repeating
My heart wants to say
Like Gala and Dali, Its you and me
Forever and a day
Forever and a day

I never imagined just what forever would come to mean... that the rest of my days on earth would be spent without her. Yet, my love will stretch into eternity... and it is there we will meet again. Forever.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Dreams for 2014

Happy New Year! It's 2014 already?! A new year means everyone is reflecting on the previous year and wanting to make some changes to make the new year count.

I saw a man on the news on New Years Day talking about having a word that you carry with you each year. It is easier to remember a word throughout the year rather than a list of resolutions.

I have a couple words that I want to carry with me throughout 2014...

Discipline - in every area of my life.... physical and spiritual. This year, I want to get healthy and in-shape. I want more discipline in prayer, time with God, going to bed earlier and getting up earlier, more time studying, arriving early rather than late, getting organized, among other things... a lot of this is between me and the Lord. But, I know that He is calling me to live a more disciplined, focused life.

Simplify - My life has felt so hectic and busy lately. I want to simplify my life in many areas. I want my life completely focused around my relationship with Christ. I feel the Lord asking me to give up some things in my life in order to make everything about Him. This is not going to be easy, but it is so worth it.

I don't like the idea of having "new years resolutions." To me, it seems to be setting yourself up for failure. I prefer to say these are my dreams and prayers for the new year...

I hope to go to the March for LIFE in Washington D.C. again this year! The march last year was AMAZING and such a memorable experience. My mom will probably we going with me again and we can hopefully meet up with some more friends and family. I am thinking that I won't speak this year since I did last year. I want to be able to soak up the experience and walk around to see more after the march. I also don't want to be overwhelmed and thinking about my speech so much.

I want to continue doing well in my college studies. I want to get the most that I can out of the B.L.A.S.T. Mentoring that I will be participating in through September. I want to pour myself into each thing God has given me.

Writing goals: I want to make BIG progress on writing my book and proposal. I want to continue writing articles for pro-life websites and news sources.

Speaking goals: I want to make speaking a more regular part of my life... I also want to broaden the audiences that I speak to. My ultimate goal is to become a full-time writer and speaker. I am praying about God's plan for my current job situation... I feel as if some new things are on the horizon and I am just waiting to see what He has in store.

This year, I want to *finally* make it back to Chattanooga, Tennessee to go to the National Memorial for the Unborn. I am beyond ready to place Lily's brick and Luke's name plate. I will be having a special remembrance ceremony in Luke's honor. This is something that keeps getting pushed back and it is time to go.

I want to keep volunteering at the pregnancy center and perhaps get more involved with post-abortion ministry... I am not sure exactly how this will look.

I want to reach out to babyloss families more this year... through donating hospital comfort boxes, as well as other ways.

I want to grow in my photography.

More than anything, I truly want to make this year count by making it ALL ABOUT JESUS. I am praying He continues to open up big doors for me to share my story and His love and light. I am praying that He moves in many ways in my heart and life. We will see what 2014 holds...

What words do you have for 2014? What are your plans, dreams, goals? :)

*You can read my Reflections on 2013 post HERE.*


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