Friday, October 30, 2015

Perinatal Bereavement Class

I was honored to have been asked to share yesterday morning at a Perinatal Bereavement Class for medical professionals at Rex Hospital in Raleigh, NC, where Lily was born. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, so this special class lined up well with that.

My friend Heather, who also delivered her daughter who was stillborn at the same hospital just a few months before Lily, shared as well. It was neat to see how even though we have different stories and experiences, there were a lot of similarities there too... in what we appreciated from the care we received and the things we agree could be improved.

There was a table where I set up some of my most precious keepsakes, the tangible things I took home from the hospital that prove Lily was real.

There were a couple tables with all the supplies the Perinatal Bereavement Committee has, things to be given to parents walking through the loss of a precious baby.

There were also a couple snack tables.

This is the room where it was held.

A couple of the nurses were so sweet to treat Heather and I to lunch in the cafe at the hospital. And we were both given beautiful Fall Mums to take home. :-)

I wasn't sure how I was going to share. I thought of just speaking on the spot from my heart, but then was reading over my birth story that I wrote out shortly after Lily was born. It has many vivid details that I wouldn't fully be able to articulate just speaking, so I decided to tweak it a bit and read that. I cried a few times while I read it because it took me right back. After I finished, I shared a few photos from my pregnancy, of Lily and I at the hospital, some memorial photos, and photos of her headstone. 

I was thankful for the positive feedback both Heather and I received. Before we even left the hospital, we ran into some of the ladies who work in the lactation "department" for lack of a better word (one of the ladies had been in the class) and we learned that they are already working to implement something new because of what Heather and I shared. One of the most painful things after losing a baby in the immediate days following is when your milk comes in and you have no baby to nurse. You cannot tell your body you don't have your baby anymore. We suggested that perhaps they directly talk with the mothers about their options and how they can get their milk to dry up quickly. Not only that, but they are going to be providing supplies to help with that process. That might seem like a small thing, something that wouldn't even cross most people's minds, but to a loss mom, it is huge. It was so special to hear about more change taking place already!

Anyways, I wanted to share here what I read yesterday:

It’s an honor to be here with you. Thank you to Sandra for asking me to share my story… not only my story, but my daughter’s story. My daughter Lily Katherine who would be 5 1/2 years old today, in Kindergarten, but she cannot speak for herself because she is not here. I don’t get to call her by name, so when I get to speak her name, when people want to hear her name, it means the world to me. It makes me feel like the mother I am. So often, as a mother with only a child I hold in my heart and none that I hold in my arms, I feel “left out” of the mommy club. But in moments like this when I can share about the very real pregnancy, labor, and birth of a very real little girl, it makes my heart bubble up with the pride of a mother for her child. Because I see how my little girl is impacting this world, in big and small ways.

This is a part of her story, the story that continues to unfold all these years later, even though she is not here. Yet her legacy continues… I wrote this shortly after she was born and died, so there are many details that I would have forgotten had I not written them down then. Reading it myself now makes the memories come flooding back…

On Tuesday morning, March 16, 2010, I woke up at 2 a.m. with contractions. Could the time finally have come that I would go to the hospital and meet my daughter? My body had gone into labor and it was time.

A couple of hours after I had gone to bed, I awoke to cramps coursing through my abdomen and as hard as I tried to go back to sleep, I met with no success. I wondered if these contractions could be real, because as a first-time mom, I was beginning to question if I would even recognize true contractions when they came. I had been having a lot of different pains and cramps in the previous days, weeks, and months. But, these were it.

These were real.

Soon, I got up and went to wake my mom. When I explained how I was feeling, she assured me that the time was here and suddenly the excitement and the reality of what was to come in the next few hours settled into our hearts. She began keeping track of all my contractions in her journal, when they started and how long they lasted.

I'm not sure why, but I was expecting the pain to stop, like it couldn't possibly be real or something. I thought the pain would subside and I would soon be able to go back to bed. During my entire pregnancy, I kept saying that I didn't want to go into labor in the middle of the night.

I was going to try to wait it out as long as I could. After reading up on pregnancy and childbirth, I was under the impression that labor would last hours before I actually needed to call my Dr. And I didn't want to be "that person" that calls the doctor in the middle of the night. 

The hours passed and contractions were hurting more and I realized that I really did need to call my doctor. I decided to wait until 5 a.m. Mom told me that all these pains were worth it, because I had my little girl to look forward to at the end of it all. She prayed that I would picture Lily's face in the midst of contractions and it seemed to ease the pain some.

At 5 a.m., we called Dr. M, awakening him from his sleep. He said he would head over to the hospital. We started getting ready too. I put on the bright pink shirt that I had gotten that said "Coming this Winter." I was so excited my winter baby was finally almost here!

My mom, sister, Emma, and I finally headed off to the hospital a little past 5:30 a.m. I remember looking over at my mom and noticing how tense she looked driving. I'm sure my moaning and groaning from contractions didn't help anything. She was driving as fast as she could, without breaking the speed limit. I thought to myself, maybe we should take a picture or video of us on our way to the hospital. But, it was still dark out and I didn't want to fuss with it. At 6 a.m., we arrived at the hospital, with no idea how drastically things would change within only a matter of minutes.

We pulled up to the Rex Birthing Center, where I had seen so many women being pushed out in a wheelchair, with their precious new baby in their arms.

It was finally my turn.

Finally I was going to be the one with my babe in my arms, proudly showing her off for everyone to see. We would get to put Lily in her pink car seat with butterflies and take her home. Mom went to get the wheelchair to take me in because I was in too much pain to walk. My sister carried my stuff in for me. We told the security guard at the front desk that we had already let Dr. M know we were coming and he checked with the people upstairs. They were all ready for me.

The elevator took us up to the second floor and we were instructed to wait in the waiting room up there. As soon as we got in there, the nurse came to take us to our room. She wheeled me down the hall. I was nervous, excited, and more awake than anyone should be at that hour of the day.

My room was really nice and cozy. I dimmed the lights just right because it was still dark out. I had to change into my hospital gown right away. I remember looking down at my pink socks and pacing back and forth, back and forth. Mom noticed the birthing ball in the shower and was going to bring it out. We three were just thrilled. I was ready to get an epidural!

First, my nurse, Shannon, had to make sure I was eligible to get one. She checked my heart rate and blood pressure, and then, just as they had done so many times before…that little monitor was put up to my swollen belly to check Lily's heart rate.

Why wasn't I hearing it right away?

The monitor was moved all over my stomach...high, low, left, right...still nothing. I looked at my mom, searching her eyes for comfort. I wanted her eyes to tell me everything was alright.

Perhaps the equipment is faulty, or perhaps Lily is in a weird position, we both thought to ourselves. At the same time, a thousand thoughts of “what ifs” were racing through our minds.

I was fullterm and babies don't die at fullterm, right? So, I honestly wasn't too concerned. We just needed my Dr. in there to make everything better. I had been to his office so many times before and we had always heard Lily's heart beating so sure, so strong.

It was the sweetest sound.

Everything is somewhat blurred together in my memory until Dr. M came in to do an ultrasound. When he came in, right away I could tell he looked concerned.

Why is he looking that way?

Within seconds, there was Lily on the screen. I couldn't tell what was going on. Several moments passed. What's going on? Why isn't he saying anything? I looked up at Shannon and saw tears welling up in her eyes, threatening to spill over at any time.
I'll never forget those words, those dreadful words that will forever be burned into my memory...

"Hannah, this is where her heart is. And it's not beating anymore...I'm so sorry."

What?! How could that be?! Is this just a nightmare?! When will I wake up?! I just want to wake up!!

But, I didn't wake up. It was real. I was so utterly shocked and frantic that I couldn’t cry at first.

All in a single moment, my whole world crumbled around me and my dreams were shattered. Shaking my head back and forth, the only words I could string together were “no, no no,” half wanting to plead with Dr. M to keep looking until her heart somehow started beating again and half wanting to cry out with tears in my eyes and my arms outstretched to the Heavens,

God can I please have her back?!

But, there was nothing my doctor could do and there was nothing we could do...but cry.

It all felt like a dream. A horrible, horrible nightmare. I glanced over at my little sister, just shy of sixteen at the time, having to carry this heavy burden of knowing her first niece had slipped away before she ever got to say hello. Seeing the quiet tears streaming down her face jolted me into this truth I had to face.

My little girl was gone.

Deep belly sobs rattled me to the core and I felt that ache in my heart that only comes from knowing your child is in the arms of the Lord, rather than here.
Strong contractions coursing through my body were like salt on a wound, a bitter reminder that I had to deliver the body of my child who was already waiting for me in Heaven.

Thankfully, I soon had an epidural. I would have been nervous, but because of this news, I didn't care. I just wanted the pain to stop...the physical pain, emotional pain...the physical pain didn't seem to matter much anymore. It seemed so stupid now that I had been stressing about it. The emotional pain, though, was excruciating.

My whole life I had feared giving birth to a child. And now, here I was, having to give birth to my daughter of Heaven. At only 20-years of age. I asked Dr. M if I could have a c-section and he said for my health and for the health of future pregnancies, he wanted us to continue with a delivery, as long as I kept dilating and labor continued to progress. I didn’t put up a fight… which I’m so thankful for now. I had no idea how beautiful her birth would be.

My mom called my dad and told him what happened. He and my brothers had planned on coming a few hours later. They couldn't believe it. Nobody could believe it. I mean, I was two days past my due date, I had a healthy and normal pregnancy, Lily was healthy, had a strong heart...everything was good. We had just had an ultrasound less than five days earlier and everything was set for delivery. Little did I know that was the last time I'd see her alive or hear her precious heart beating. So what happened? These thoughts and questions kept playing and replaying over and over again in my mind.

My mom, sister, and I noticed how cloudy and gloomy the day was and how the weather outside was a reflection of how we felt. We talked about how God had prepared us for this without us even realizing it and how we knew He would be faithful to carry us through. How blessed we are to have known Lily and all the wonderful times we had with she's changed us and how we're better people from being a part of her life. How we could see God working through her life now, and how He already had, and how we know He will continue to.

Laying in my hospital bed on March 16, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the depth of the meaning of her name. Both her first and middle names, Lily Katherine, mean purity and innocence and I realized that she will forever be pure and innocent. 

My mom called a couple people close to us to let them know what was going on. It was hard to see my loved-ones eyes full of tears. I didn't want others to have to go through this pain of losing a niece, granddaughter, friend, cousin. The loss of a baby impacts SO.MANY.PEOPLE. And it is lifelong. It is never something you “get over.” We will always wonder who Lily would be today and all that her full life would have held. We will always miss and love her beyond measure. She is irreplaceable.

My family waited in the waiting room downstairs, crying, surrounded by staring people. Happy people. Waiting for their sister, daughter, friend to give birth to a healthy baby. That was to be us...

Instead, we had a leaf with a teardrop hanging on our door, to inform nurses and doctors that whoever was inside that room has a baby that didn't survive. My mom was the first to notice it. It really broke her heart to see it. Another thing that broke her heart was hearing in the room next door, a baby's heartbeat...what I should have heard that morning.

We were all in that room together, sitting there. Still. Quiet. What was there to say? There were a lot of tears. A lot of pain. I was so tired, but couldn't sleep. I rested my eyes for a while.

My nurse, Lanie, was absolutely wonderful. She took such good care of me. Taking care of my every need, she went above and beyond her job duties. She made me as comfortable as I could be under the circumstances. I am so thankful for her compassion. Before going to the hospital, I was concerned I wouldn't “click” with my nurses and I would feel uncomfortable with them. But, the opposite is true. I actually consider Lanie and Shannon my friends now. I could never thank them enough. I don’t know if nurses and doctors realize that we, their patients, remember them and their care forever, whether good or bad. And even the seemingly small things are big to us and can greatly shape our experience.

Time kept passing. The hours kept passing. Soon, it was afternoon. I knew the time was coming that I would have to deliver my baby's body. Her body was still in my body, but her soul was with Jesus. How strange it was to think that.
I kept dilating and labor kept progressing at a good rate. At around 3 p.m., I was dilated all the way and my body felt ready to push. I put it off for a while because I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to have to hold her like that. I didn't know what to expect with the delivery. I didn't know how she would look, having already passed. Quite frankly, I was frightened. By 4 p.m., it was time. Every one left the room except for my mom and sister. Lanie and Dr. M were both in the room.

Within fifteen to twenty minutes of pushing, she was in my arms.

Lily Katherine Allen-Ball
born on March 16, 2010
at 4:24 p.m.
she was 7 pounds 9 ounces
and 21 inches
looked just like her mommy :)

I remember the first time my eyes beheld her little body. It is an image that will forever be engraved into my mind. Lifeless. Quiet. Still. The silence was deafening. No screaming and crying, or squirming around. I just wanted to hear her little cry...I never got to hear her cry. My heart was breaking. The tears were streaming down my face. I had pictured this moment my entire life, always longing with everything in me to be a mother. But, I never pictured it like this. Her body felt warm, like she was alive, only sleeping. She was beautiful. Perfect. Every detail of her just right. She was the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. Why had I been afraid? Her little nose was the first thing I noticed about her, so tiny and adorable. It looked like a miniature version of mine. I memorized every part of her. Every part of her, forever engraved in my mind. Wow, God made this perfect little person in only nine months. He chose me to carry her.... She had short little eyelashes like mine, almost nonexistent eyebrows, chubby cheeks and the same chin as mine, and the cutest heart-shaped lips. Mom said her lips were even like mine. Everyone said she looked like me. To this, I jokingly said, "poor thing." It was true though. Looking back at pictures of me as a newborn, I looked just like her. Her legs were even the same shape as mine. She had the same thumbs as me too. Her tiny fingers and toes were so cute. I couldn't stop staring at her. I had always imagined her bald like I was as a baby, but she had beautiful hair (the exact same shade as mine!), though not very much of it.

Birthing my little girl was a beautiful experience. I wouldn't change it. It made me feel more like her mother. I would have done things for her all her life, had she lived. But, she didn't, so this felt like one of the only and final things I could do for her. I just wish I could have heard her cry, seen her eyes, felt her breathe, smelt her sweet baby smell.

We took lots of pictures with Lily. By this time, Shannon had come back for her next hospital shift and she requested to have me as her patient again, at least until I had to be moved to my postpartum room. I would think that a lot of nurses would have avoided a situation like this, but mine had compassion on me and actually cared. Another nurse, I can't remember her name now, had come in and told me she had a stillborn baby 12 years before. She really understood my pain. It was good to know I wasn't alone and that other people made it through such a loss before me. Lanie stayed late and helped Shannon take a mold of Lily's right foot. We could only do one of her feet because her feet and hands were so big! It took a few attempts because her little foot was so flat. They also helped with getting her footprints and handprints… I am so thankful I thought to ask for her handprints too or else I wouldn’t have them… I wish I had gotten more than one set for my parents and others to have as well. I also got a little snippet of her hair. They dressed her in her little pink outfit that we had brought along for her to wear while meeting all her visitors for the first time. I still wanted her to look her best and oh, she did. The pink outfit had baby birds, baby chicks, and baby bunnies on it. She was swaddled in the matching pink blanket and had a cute pink hat on. It was one of my favorite outfits for her and pink is definitely her color. :) At times now, I wish I had dressed her myself...but she was so delicate and I didn't want to hurt her. The nurses were so gentle with her. They also took some pictures for me. I am so thankful that God was gracious enough to give me two wonderful, compassionate, sweet nurses. When Lanie left, she gave me an adorable little panda bear. I'll keep it forever with all of the other keepsakes that remind me of Lily.
When everyone came in to see Lily and me, I felt so proud of her. I felt so proud that she was my baby.

Around 9 p.m., I was taken to my postpartum room. I didn't want to leave Shannon. I didn't think I could possibly have nurses as dear as she and Lanie had been to me. Shannon placed Lily in my arms and I held her as I was pushed in the wheelchair to my recovery room. There was a blanket over her so nobody would see. She was so beautiful. I should be showing her off right now, I thought. Not hiding her. My eyes were already so puffy and I'm sure I looked horrible. I couldn't keep from crying. I saw people looking at me, wondering I'm sure what my story was.

The two nurses I ended up having in my postpartum room, Kitty and Catie, turned out to be very caring and sweet as well. I could tell they really cared about me and my Lily. They took excellent care of me, were very sensitive to my needs, and made me feel completely comfortable. I could tell they both were trying to keep from crying. They didn't want me to see them with tears in their eyes. I'm sure they thought it would only make me feel worse. But I needed to see and know that they cared, that they are human.

Everyone held Lily some more, we took more pictures, and I rocked her. It was painful to get up, but I had to rock my baby girl. Just once. I needed to. It felt so natural, holding her, rocking I was comforting her, when really I was comforting myself.
I didn't want all my visitors to leave that night. I didn't want to feel lonelier than I already felt. By midnight though, everyone was gone, but my mom. I was exhausted. I had been up for so many hours and was physically and emotionally drained. I was afraid to sleep, afraid of the stillness, the darkness of the night. Lily stayed in my bed that night with me. I'm so thankful to the hospital for letting me have her for that long. I held her all night. It was really difficult to sleep, especially with nurses periodically coming in to check on me. At one point in the night, I started crying, from the very depths of my soul. I woke my mom up and she cried with me. All she could say when I cried like that during those first few days was, "I know...I know." She said it softly, sweetly. Like it was the only thing to say. And I knew what she meant. I knew she understood. I knew her heart was breaking for her flower, because I had lost my flower. Only a mother's love...her heart was breaking as well because she had lost her precious first granddarling, long hoped for, long adored.
The hospital chaplain, Carla, came in to talk with us that next morning, March 17th. It was St. Patrick's Day and I remember seeing people with green hats and shirts. Whenever someone new came in the room and I saw the way they looked at me, I couldn't keep from crying. Carla told us she too had lost a baby herself. I could tell we had a little special place in her heart. She knew just what I was going through. She talked with us and prayed with us. Twice in the hospital, I was told by staff that they had lost a baby. I began to realize just how many people live with such a difficult loss. Why had I never heard about it before then if so many people have experienced it? It is a life-altering and crushing loss, but so often seems to be swept under the rug. That is partly why I speak out… for the mothers from decades past who never felt like they could.

Catie kept coming in to tell me I could leave whenever I felt up to it, but I didn't want to leave. Leaving meant leaving the hospital...without Lily. Leaving meant going home with empty arms. I was alone with Lily for only a short amount of time during the stay at the hospital. But, in that time, I spoke with her, hugged her, kissed her, knowing these would be the only moments I would ever have alone with my little girl, my first-born baby.
From the time we found out Lily's heart was no longer beating to the following afternoon, I couldn't decide if I wanted to have an autopsy done or not. I asked several people their opinion on what I should do. I wanted to make sure I could see her again in her burial outfit. It was supposed to be her going home from the hospital outfit, but instead it was her going home to Jesus outfit. I remember feeling like it didn't matter what the results of an autopsy would show because it wouldn't bring her back. I prayed that if the Lord wanted me to have one done that it would work out because I had no idea what to do. At first I said no, but the staff later said the hospital was offering to do it for me free of charge, so I accepted. I had no idea that I would eventually be extremely thankful for this decision so I could have some answers. I am thankful they gently brought it up more than once to give me time to think and make a decision I was not prepared to have to make. You never think that the words “baby” and “autopsy” belong in the same sentence.

Early afternoon, Catie came in and told me they had to take Lily away. I could tell it broke her heart to tell me this. I burst into tears, asking if that meant I wouldn't get to see her again at the hospital. No. No. No. I can't let her go. She's mine! Just go away. Less than 24 hours with her...that's all I had. I had to fit an entire lifetime's worth of memories into less than a day. After a few moments alone with my precious princess, I collected myself and placed Lily in the little baby cart that I had seen newborns taken to the nursery in. But, she wasn't going to the nursery. A blanket was placed over her. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do, to let go of her. In tears, I watched as they took her away from me, down the hallway and around the corner, out of site.

She was gone.
I asked to have the blanket and outfit she was in and I'm so glad they were able to get them back to me. I'll keep them forever with Lily's things. After Lily left, I walked slowly down the hallway. Crying. I didn't know what to do without her there. My mind knew she was gone, but my body, my heart was longing for her. I couldn't explain to my body that there wasn't a baby to nurse, there wasn't a baby to hold. My arms were lost without her. I noticed on one of the doors a big pink ribbon. I figured a family was in there, happy. A new baby girl in their arms. It didn't seem fair. On my door, there was that dreadful leaf with a teardrop on it. How could this be me?

The nurses gave me everything I would need to physically heal in the coming weeks. And we packed up and left...with empty, aching arms and broken dreams and hearts. All I had was a small white pouch, with memories of my little girl. Proof that she was real. I asked to be taken out the main entrance. I didn't want to have to see all the happy new mothers with their babies in the birthing center. I wondered what I was supposed to do? Where I was supposed to go from there? How strange it was to get in the car and leave with less than what I had come with. I remember thinking I should be sitting in the back seat, with a precious new life beside me. Instead, I rode home in the front seat, empty car seat in back.
At my six-week postpartum check-up, I sat in my Dr.’s office, surrounded by all the familiar sights, sounds, smells of my pregnancy, of when she was alive inside of me. It was so difficult to be back in that office. 

Sitting across from Dr. M, he told us there is no medical explanation for why Lily died. Honestly, this is what I expected. I was just waiting to hear the words from him. I know there was nothing I did and nothing I could have done that would have saved her. In the future, if I have more babies, I will be considered high-risk.

I will always wish I would have taken more photos and gathered more mementos. But I am thankful for what I do have and realize that no matter what I had, it would never be enough because it’s Lily that I truly want here.

March 16th, 2010 was a day that has forever shaped my life. It was tragic and sad… but it was also more beautiful than those things. Yes, Lily died…. But before that she LIVED. And her birth was beautiful. Her life changed mine and I am forever thankful for the gift of her. I don’t want her death to overshadow her life. I don’t want to focus on the sorrow, but choose to look for the beauty among the ashes. I choose to look for ways to mother her legacy and make her proud.

It has been such a joy to get involved more this year with the Perinatal Bereavement Committee here at Rex Hospital. The ladies are absolutely precious and genuinely care deeply about their patients, including those who are experiencing the loss of a baby. I want to thank them for allowing me to mother my Lily by sharing my experiences, by giving comfort boxes to be distributed to other families walking through a loss similar to what I walked through, and by asking me to be involved in different ways, such as coming today.

Forever and a day, I will love you, my precious princess, my flower who was too beautiful for earth. Though you whispered goodbye before we could say hello, the Lord has changed my life with yours... 


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

On Romance and Relationships

Do you want to know an incredibly freeing thought TRUTH? Nothing I do and say or don't do and say is going to impress a man and make him fall in love with me. It is out of my hands. I have no control over it.

Some people might think that is actually quite frightening, rather than comforting.... but you see, I know that when God does bring someone into my life, it'll be right. It'll be in His perfect time and way. It's comforting to know that I don't have to cause a man's heart to be stirred towards me. The God who created me and has called me to my purpose is capable of awakening our hearts to one another.

I have prayed and asked the Lord to only allow one man, the man He has for me, to pursue me. Because I don't want to mess around. I don't want anyone's heart to be wounded. There is no time for games in such a serious matter. I can trust that when it's time, God will show this man. He will show him that I'm "the one" and that it's time to pursue me and how to pursue me. I don't have to and don't want to manipulate it in any fashion.

This man will love me because the God of love will give him HIS love for me. I don't ever have to pretend to be someone I'm not. And not only that, this man will not be intimidated by my ministry and calling. He will support me in it and will pray with and for me. I have struggled with thinking how could a man fall in love with me knowing about my past before he even gets to know me? Because there is so much more to me and it's difficult thinking he'll know the most raw and vulnerable parts of me before he even knows me. Not every man would want to pursue things with a woman with a "past," and someone who is so public about her story. But the man who God has for me will have grace. I wouldn't want a man who isn't Christ-like. The fact is, the man I marry will never even know who I once was, and a man who doesn't recognize that, I have no desire for anyways. The man I marry will love Lily... and Luke too. And he will see the beauty of redemption and the work of Christ in my life. He will see that I'm not a depressed person with all sorts of baggage.

As a friend of mine recently said to me, I can be faithful in sharing my story when God opens the doors and can have complete rest and freedom trusting that God is in control. When something does happen with a man, it'll so clearly be Jesus scripting the story. I have prayed that it will so evidently be HIM when and if it does happen and that my love story will be a reflection of the gospel.

There are well-intentioned people in my life who I know want the best for me. They feel sorry for me because I'm not married yet. Please don't feel sorry for me. If I were meant to be married right now, I would be. God holds my life and future in His hands. I trust Him and that He knows best for my life in the area of romance. Because you know what? In the past, I have made really stupid choices in the area of guys. Those guys were never meant to be my husband. I don't trust my own judgment in this area. I know that God will give me peace when the right person does come along, the one HE has chosen for me.

You might think it's irrational, unproductive, silly, naive, and maybe even a little stupid that I'm not "out there" trying to snag a husband. I'm not on any online dating website, I'm not in any singles groups, and I really don't want anyone to set me up with their friend, son, grandson, etc. Because the God who created romance and marriage is far more capable of finding a man for me than I am or anyone else. After all, He created him and me. And the man who will compliment me, and I him, is out there.... if marriage is what God has for me. How will a God-written love story look? I have no idea. Each love story is different, showing the creativity of the Lord.

A young woman named Krissy was asked as the years were passing by and no prospect of a man was in her life if she was called to a life of singleness. She thoughtfully responded, "today I am." Today, I know I am called to singleness. Will that be forever, I don't know. I hope not. But I also know that what God has for me, whatever it is, is best. And I wouldn't want marriage if it isn't His plan. I would rather be single forever than married to the wrong man. The kind of man that loves Jesus with his entire life and will be the right person for me is worth waiting for.

Even if time keeps passing and it appears as if nothing is happening, I know my God is working and is in control. And no matter the pressure, how it appears there are no guys in this generation that are single and worth waiting for, or the Lord's seeming distance in this area, I choose to trust. I want my life and love story to be proof to those in my life and to this world that God does care about every intimate detail of our lives... and that He does script beautiful love stories to this day.

For more on the topic of honoring God in this area, check out the book, "When God Writes Your Love Story," by Eric and Leslie Ludy. Also, check out the movie, "Princess Cut."

Here are a few of my favorite songs from Eric and Leslie Ludy:


Lily's Autumn Spot

I decorated my sweet girl's special spot for fall over my weekend trip to Virginia. I love taking those baby pumpkins every year. :-)


From Teardrops to Butterflies (Update)

It feels as if I haven't written here in a long time. I had several posts scheduled to publish while I was away in Colorado, so it hasn't been silent here, but I haven't actually been here in several weeks. It feels good to be back. I have many things to write about to catch up. :-)

Here is an update on something I shared over the summer:

This year, I have gotten involved with the Perinatal Bereavement Committee at the local hospital where Lily Katherine was born.

This is what I shared a couple months ago: "There is a common symbol that is used by hospitals across the country to alert medical professionals that someone in that room has had a loss. It's a dreadful leaf with a teardrop on it. I think it is important that staff doesn't come waltzing in the room to ask how the baby is when the baby won't be going home. But, that symbol is just so sad and depressing. Yes, it is a sad thing when a baby dies, but it is also an incredible thing that the baby first LIVED and birth is still beautiful. My mom said whens he first saw that leaf on my door when I was in labor she wanted to rip it down. I was told that because of my mom and I sharing our thoughts on this on Lily's birthday, they have decided to change the symbol completely and will no longer be using the leaf! Instead, they will be using a beautiful symbol the hospital created with a heart and butterflies incorporated into it in blue and pink (colors for pregnancy and infant loss awareness). I was shown a few of the options and we all agreed on the best one. And not only will the staff be trained with this new symbol, but they will also be using it on all their bereavement care items. For instance, the only copy of Lily's prints I have is on a paper with that leaf. Now, baby's prints will instead be on a page with the beautiful new logo! I cannot tell you how much this seemingly small thing means to me, to know my girl's life is making a difference in this world, including at the hospital where she was born. She's pretty amazing, if I do say so myself, and I do. :'-) Not only is the logo changing, but the butterfly will be a new theme, like I used in my comfort boxes. One of the nurses found a butterfly necklace with a pearl for the parents."

I said I'd give an update with the final logo, so here it is! Isn't it precious? :-) For some reason it isn't showing up as crisp as it actually is.
And here is the former leaf with the teardrop logo.

You can read more in the first From Teardrops to Butterflies post.


Friday, October 9, 2015

My Darling GIRL

"I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body." -Psalm 139:14-15

Six years ago today, on October 9, 2009, I had a 3D/4D ultrasound at the Triangle Imaging Center in Cary, North Carolina. I was 17 weeks 5 days gestation at the time. The main reason I wanted to go was to be told the gender of my baby, though I already believed in my heart she was a GIRL! It was my second ultrasound and I (think??) the first time I heard her heartbeat (which I have a recording of to this day, something I am soooo incredibly thankful for!). I also have a DVD recording of my entire ultrasound from that day, many ultrasound images, and a DVD recording of my mom, sister, and I in the ultrasound room. The photos below are still images taken from that video (so special to have!). We could see Lily on both the little screen as shown in the photos, as well as on a large television screen on the wall.

Below are a couple of my favorite ultrasound images from that day. It is special that I still have the little captions I wrote with my ultrasound pictures when I shared them on Facebook while I was pregnant. I have included those captions with the photos. :)

Pudgy little belly.
The cutest profile I've ever seen! She's blowing kisses!
Look at that teeny little foot! She's smiling - happy little baby. :)
Definitely a little GIRL!
Her perfect little heartbeat. I love hearing it!
Her "drama queen" pose she does a lot. :)

One day soon, I would like to share the ultrasound DVD I have, as well as a recording of Lily's heartbeat. These are some of the only things I have of her life to share. This ultrasound is the only recording I have of her while she was living, rather than a lifetime of home movies. I cannot express how thankful I am to have these things, a glimpse into the only world my sweetheart ever knew. She was real!

Each year on this date, I like to watch that ultrasound DVD and remember my beautiful daughter. It brings tears to my eyes to see my face light up as I'm watching my little girl dance for me. My mom is gently resting her hand on my arm throughout the ultrasound, as a physical representation of how supportive she was through my pregnancy. You can just hear the excitement and joy in our voices. It makes me laugh to hear what we were joking about, such as when my mom told the lady doing my ultrasound that she had already bought a lot of baby girl items and she was glad she wouldn't need to return them. :) As you can tell, we were pretty confident Lily was a girl. And my mom was thrilled to be a grandmother and my sister was excited to be an aunt.

I am not even sure how we found out about the Triangle Imaging Center and 3D/4D ultrasounds, but I am so glad we did. Honestly, I believe it was orchestrated by the Lord so that He could bless me with priceless mementos from Lily's life. I do wish that I had gone again in the third trimester of pregnancy, to have seen Lily's face more filled out, so I could know her more and how she'd look as a *living* fullterm baby. 

Here is what I wrote about that date in Lily's pregnancy scrapbook:

"On October 9, 2009, Grandma Dukes, Auntie Em, and I went to the Triangle Imaging Center in Cary for a 3D/4D ultrasound at 3:30 p.m. The main reason we went was to find out conclusively if you were a boy or girl (though we believed in our hearts you were a girl!) It was so special to see you on the screen - very active! You were so spunky! We said you were doing your "drama queen" pose. At first, Ms. Kim thought you were a boy and we were all quiet. But then she said, "nope, she's definitely a little girl!" and we excitedly gasped. Of course, we would have been happy either way, but we just knew you were our Lily girl. Your daddy and I made a bet - he bet you were a boy and I bet you were a girl (obviously mommy won!) Your daddy was able to watch the entire ultrasound and listen in to our conversation online through Sonostream Live. That was neat since he never got to be at an ultrasound in person. We video recorded our time there (including your heartbeat). 

Lily's scrapbook has four full pages from this day, with pictures, memories, and other fun details and decorations, which I look forward to sharing soon when I share her scrapbook! 


Monday, October 5, 2015

As I Stand by the Little Grave

"Ah! when the mighty wings of the angel of death nestle over your heart's treasures, and his black shadow broods over your home, it shakes the heart with a shuddering terror and a horror of great darkness...As I stand by the little grave, and think of the poor ruined clay within, that was a few days ago so beautiful, my heart bleeds. But as I ask, "Where is the soul whose beams gave that clay all its beauty and preciousness?" I triumph." -Robert L. Dabney


Friday, October 2, 2015

PAIL Nails

I'm at Ellerslie and my friend Olga and I painted our nails with the colors from the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Ribbon, in recognition of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month! She was sweet to do that with me. :)



Thursday, October 1, 2015

October - Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

Most everybody knows that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Two of my aunts are survivors of breast cancer. There is pink everywhere, from people you see wearing t-shirts at the grocery store to NFL players sporting pink shoes on the field. There are several walks to support this cause and billions of dollars pored into research. Millions of people acknowledge it, which I think is a wonderful thing. You basically can't live in the United States and not hear about it constantly during the month of October.

But, not many people know that October is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It is far too often overshadowed by other causes. I would never want those other causes to be forgotten about, I just want P.A.I.L. (pregnancy and infant loss) to be spoken about as well. I want commercials about it and money being put into it by giant corporations. I am just saying it is a worthwhile thing to research, understand, and talk about. 

My daughter was stillborn at fullterm. I had a completely normal, healthy pregnancy and she was a healthy baby. She had a full autopsy done and nobody could give me a reason medically for why it happened. Don't you think it's about time something was done about this? In the United States of America in the 21st century, thousands of babies should not be dying with no explanation. 

The purpose of this month is: “To inform and educate the public about pregnancy and infant loss so they can better learn how to respond with compassion to affected families.” -Robyn Bear

Why aren't more people talking about it? I think part of it is because it's an uncomfortable thing to talk about babies dying and people think it will never happen to them. But, the main reason I think P.A.I.L. isn't spoken about or acknowledged is because people have minimized the value of the unborn in our society. In a country where our President doesn't place value on babies who are born alive after a failed abortion and wants them to be left on a table to suffer and die, I think it's quite obvious. The unborn are so quickly disposed of, as if they are waste. No wonder people don't think it matters when someone miscarries or loses a baby. After all, they were just a blob of tissue, right? They weren't a baby yet, so what's there to be upset about? I ask you, then, when exactly is the baby an actual baby? Was Lily not a baby because she never breathed outside my womb, though she made it to fullterm? What about the mother who miscarries her very much loved and wanted baby? Is it a baby only when the mother wants it, but otherwise it's just cells? We need to talk about this! And I believe once this cause is acknowledged more, people will start valuing and understanding the sanctity of all LIFE.

Women around the world, from all walks of life, are affected by pregnancy and infant loss. 1 in 4 women will face a pregnancy/infant loss in her lifetime. Some more than one.

If you have never lost a baby yourself, please help us stop the silence and raise awareness because chances are this cause has probably already affected someone you love. Please educate yourself so you know how to support somebody if they lose their baby. Consider changing your profile picture to the blue and pink awareness ribbon that is pictured above. Blue and pink for the precious boys and girls who are no longer here. Let's show compassion. Tell someone who you know has lost a baby that you are thinking of them this month.

This month, I honor and remember all the precious ones who are no longer with us, the sons and daughters of Heaven. Their lives are important and they will forever remained loved and missed by those who know them. Let's get the word out about Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness. Share your story. Speak out!

Lily Katherine
March 16th, 2010

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