Sunday, January 31, 2016

Boxes That Carry Her Legacy

In line at a store, there's a little girl and her mom. They are buying birthday balloons and party supplies. They share with me that it's almost her birthday.

I'm in line waiting to buy things to prepare for my little girl's birthday we well.. Only she isn't here and there will be no party. Instead, I'm purchasing things to go into the 2 hospital comfort boxes to be given to "Lily's Hospital," where she was born. One for a little girl and one for a boy, filled with resources, and most of all love, for their parents who will have to bury their babies.

Things are coming together with these boxes that carry her legacy and they should be delivered most likely a couple days before March 16th because my mom and I are hoping to spend a few days at the beach to celebrate our girl on her actual birthday.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Friendship Bracelets and Tattoos

Here's another post I've been meaning to publish...

Last August, I went out to Colorado a few days before I was to arrive at Ellerslie, to spend time with my friend, Bex. You may remember reading about her before (click HERE to read the posts about her and our friendship). She placed her son for adoption less than a year before I got pregnant with Lily. I knew about her story and reached out to her when I needed a friend and someone who understood what I was going through. She was that friend to me.

Here are our friendship bracelets with our tattoos for the little ones who brought us together in friendship 6 1/2 years ago.


She was one of the first people to know about my little flower and the first person to know the name that is now forever on my wrist. 

We had a wonderful visit, going to Boulder, downtown Denver, and just hanging out drinking coffee and sharing our hearts. Every year in August, I am reminded of how we became friends that same month in 2009. It was interesting that the first day I arrived to her house, she got a reminder on her Facebook Memories that we became "friends" that exact day 6 years before... I never could have imagined all that would happen in those years and what a dear friend she would turn out to be. :)


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Kids the Age She'd Be

This post has been in my heart (and sitting in my drafts) for a long time. I saw something today that prompted me to finish it.

Grief over the loss of a baby is multifaceted. When my doctor spoke those words to me on March 16th, 2010, that Lily's tiny, perfect heart was no longer beating, I didn't know all the layers to this profound loss that would be unveiled through the years without her.

A friend posted about how her daughter turns 6 today, with a photo of what a big girl she is now. This is a friend of my family that we've known for many years. We were connected during our pregnancies, due less than two months apart. I sent her a baby gift and a card, saying how I was excited for our little girls to meet in person one day soon... Two months later, they sent me a sympathy card and a Willow Tree.

I know many people whose children were born around the time Lily was, a few even born on the exact same date! Friends from high-school, friends I met taking classes at the pregnancy center, acquaintances, friends of friends, family of friends... you get the picture.

Lily has three cousins that were born within just a few months of her. My cousin Daniel's son, Owen, was born three months before Lily. She also has two other cousins who I don't write about, a little boy who was born five months before Lily and a little girl who was born half a year after. They are Lily's father's niece and nephew. I never see or talk to them, so I don't know anything about their lives. But I have seen photos. I still know that they are out there and that they are Lily's cousins. There is a little girl who is now taking the place of Lily as the oldest granddaughter and niece growing up in that family. A little girl who will miss out on having a girl cousin close in age to share life with. It absolutely breaks my heart to think of this little girl, who Lily will never know and I will never know because Lily isn't here.

It breaks my heart even more wondering if the other half of Lily's family cares for or thinks about her at all. Is she out of sight, out of mind, almost as if she never existed? I can't stand the thought of them not ever mentioning her, not remembering her on her birthday each year, not visiting her grave every now and then, and not missing and loving her. Will they think of Lily as her girl cousin grows up through the years and wonder how Lily would have looked and who she would've become? Will they count her as part of the family? I hope they will remember her and learn to love her in the only ways they can.

My child is the only one who didn't make it. All these children are healthy and thriving. Lily will never grow beyond 21 inches, 7 pounds and 9 ounces. She will never speak a word, never even take a breath.

The only reason I know others who have babies who died is because I purposefully searched out people to connect with, both locally and online. Nobody I know in "real life" lost their baby like me. Don't get me wrong, I am glad they didn't. It just makes me feel alone.

What people don't seem to comprehend is my pain was not left behind in 2010. Year after year, I see these children who were in the womb at the same time Lily was. Whether I want to be reminded or not, their full lives remind me my daughter is in the ground.

Each time I see, hear about, or think of these children born around the time Lily was, it is a reminder of the little girl that was lost, the life she will never live. With each post of their child's birthday, how their child is learning to read, or how emotional it is that their child is growing up too fast, such as when they registered them for Kindergarten, it is a blow to the tender place in my heart that will always grieve for my little girl who will never experience a single one of those things so often taken for granted.

And not only that, but literally EVERY SINGLE YEAR since Lily's birth in 2010, I have known friends and/or acquaintances who were due on or right around Lily's due date and birthdate. Every single year. So even apart from the children who were actually born near the time Lily was that I associate with her, it is yet another fresh blow when children are born in mid-March each year. I know it sounds weird to someone who hasn't experienced it, but her name and birthday are some of the only things that are hers in this world! They are sacred to me. The birthday celebration we have for her is most certainly not typical, making it painful to see others celebrating her bittersweet day with only happiness. It is also hard to see the pregnancy milestones others are experiencing lining up with my memories. I imagine the pain would ease a lot if I were able to have another baby, but I'm not.

I love how John Piper describes the loss of a baby in a letter to the mother of a son who was stillborn (it is one of the most comforting and validating things I've ever read and my mind constantly goes back to it):

"Amputation is a good analogy. Because unlike a bullet wound, when the amputation heals, the arm is still gone. So the hurt of grief is different from the hurt of other wounds. There is the pain of the severing, and then the relentless pain of the gone-ness. The countless might-have-beens. Those too hurt. Each new remembered one is a new blow on the tender place where the arm was. So grieving is like and unlike other pain.... there is another way God is honored in our grieving. When we taste the loss so deeply because we loved so deeply and treasured God's gift - and God in His gift - so passionately that the loss cuts the deeper and the longer, and yet in and through the depths and the lengths of sorrow we never let go of God, and feel Him never letting go of us - in that longer sorrow He is also greatly honored, because the length of it reveals the magnitude of our sense of loss for which we do not forsake God. At every moment of the lengthening grief, we turn to Him not away from Him. And therefore the length of it is a way of showing Him to be ever-present, enduringly sufficient."

2010 was the severing. And now, six years later... I am still hurting. I am still writing. Because the countless might-have-beens go on. The pain of the gone-ness is relentless. I share because I love her. I share because she still matters and I still miss her. I share because I am a mother. I share because I treasure the gift of her life, and God in His gift of her. I share because He has never let go of me and my writing is me not letting go of Him.

My little girl is just as loved and real as these children, yet the reality of her presence isn't here. I feel invisible in my motherhood, much like Lily is invisible to this world. I ache for what might have been on this Earth had she lived. It is a loss that runs so deep it could never be described, only felt. I don't even know if I'm making sense much of the time, trying to express what I feel.

My friend Stacy wrote me something encouraging last year when I shared with her how hard it was that Lily wouldn't be starting Kindergarten and seeing posts of people whose babies were born the same month (and day) as Lily that would be.

These are the comforting words she sent me: "Lily has the BEST Kindergarten teacher ever!! She goes to the BEST school... She is safe... She is healthy and whole... She doesn't even need immunizations!! I know this doesn't remove any of the pain. I know it doesn't make you want her here any less... I know that it hurts like crazy to hear others complain about things you long to experience with your girl... but one sweet day Hannah, you will be reunited with her FOREVER. Your separation is temporary. Your mothering Lily is different than theirs, but it is no less important or real... Anyway, I'm not trying to say it shouldn't matter, because it does and I totally understand... just want to encourage you that while this life hurts, it isn't even a drop in the bucket of time that you have to look forward to spending with Lily... in a place where it's not scary to let her run free without your protection. I can just picture how beautiful she looks right now running through fields of flowers and skipping on streets of gold. She wouldn't enjoy Kindergarten near as much."

If you want to know how to encourage someone who is grieving, use that as an example. Validating and encouraging at the same time. Please don't be afraid to say Lily's name. Please tell me you think of her and remember her. Please tell me you're sorry Lily isn't here for whatever milestone she'd be experiencing. You can never know what it does for my heart to have others love her too.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Less Than Two Months

My stomach is literally in knots, with the knowledge now in the forefront of my mind that in less than two months, we'll be celebrating yet another one of Lily's birthdays. Both Kala and my mom recently said how they can't believe it's nearly been a year since her 5th birthday, when we took the comfort boxes to the hospital where Lily was born and I got my long-awaited tattoo.

Each year for her day, I like to do something different and special. I've already been to her spot in Virginia for one of her birthdays, and we went to the hospital and took the boxes, which is something I've wanted to do for years. Now that we've spent her day in the city where she was born and in the town where she's laid to rest, I have decided for her 6th birthday this year, I'd like to do something else I've been wanting to do.

This year, I am planning on and praying it works out for my mom and I to spend a few, or even just a couple, days on the North Carolina Coast. I looove the beach and live close enough (only 2 hours away) that it's totally doable. The Carolina Coast reminds me of Lily because I spent a few days there when I was carrying her in the fall of 2009.

This year, I feel the need to simply relax and be on Lily's birthday. I want to be still in my memories of her and my thanking God for her life, and the beach has a way of fostering a peaceful atmosphere like that. The sites, sounds, and smells of the beach make my soul breathe deeply and calmly. I just need this time away. I think it will be a sweet time of remembrance for two older generations celebrating the third.

I have some other things planned and usual traditions I'd like to keep up with. For one thing, I am going to be donating one boy comfort box and one girl comfort box to Lily's hospital. We'll of course also be having something red-velvet. But on March 16th and at least a day before and after it, I want to just be with my mom, remembering our precious little flower.


Perfect Way To Start

I came across an achingly beautiful song on Facebook, written by a man named Craig Aven whose wife has had two miscarriages.

I just love what he said in the intro about sharing the song on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade "where it feels like the life of the unborn child is not valued as much as God says that it should be and this is not something that we should be ashamed to say hurts us, losing our baby, because it is valuable and precious." That is a big part of my story with Lily, how the grief I feel over losing her, points to the sanctity of her life and each life, no matter how brief.

The part where he talks about his child's first steps being on holy ground really got the tears rolling for me. Lily never got to walk this earth, but she is getting everything there, in her forever Home, that she never got here. She's not missing anything. Listen below (email subscribers click HERE).


Friday, January 22, 2016

43rd Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Today I am watching coverage of the March for Life in Washington D.C., where thousands of people are not letting the massive impending snow storm stop them on this 43rd anniversary of the legalization of abortion in America.

I wish I could be there in person, but am grateful to be able to tune in from home.

Here is the video of me speaking at the March for Life in D.C. in 2013 (email subscribers click HERE):

It was a blessing to be there and to share on that day (read about my experience by clicking HERE). I hope it works out for me to go again in the future! I am glad I at least have local marches to be a part of. 

This is something about this day that I shared on my blog last year:

"Today feels like such a heavy and solemn day. I keep thinking about how something that happened on this day 42 years ago, abortion being legalized, impacted my life decades later. I take responsibility for my choice to have an abortion, however, if abortion had not been legal, I never would have sought a back-alley abortion and would have taken responsibility for my choices. I wouldn't be living with the regret that I will carry for the rest of my days. I wouldn't have to imagine who my child would be today. And so many women who have been deceived by the legal right to choose also wouldn't have to carry this pain for life. I am so thankful for how God has healed my heart, but there are days when my heart deeply hurts. Today is one of those days. I think it's important to feel the pain at times, to never forget and to be encouraged to keep fighting, both for the unborn and for the mothers and fathers who find themselves in a situation where they might consider having an abortion."


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Bring Me Anything That Brings You Glory

This is the first year since Lily was born in 2010 that the dates are lining up with the same days of the week, at least through February. With this year also being leap year, that means instead of Lily's birthday on March 16th being on a Tuesday like the year she was born, instead it will be on a Wednesday. I remember years ago looking up to see when her birthday would next be on a Tuesday and I figured out it won't be until 2021. There is something about the dates lining up with the same days of the week that make the memories that much more vivid, like last year when the dates I associate with my abortion were once again over the weekend.

Anyways, this year, the NC Right to Life Prayer Breakfast, Rally, and March for Life downtown all fell on Saturday, January 16th again like in 2010. Exactly 6 years ago on that date I was with my mom and sister participating in the Rally and March. Lily was exactly two months away from making her arrival. We made signs to carry and I was so proud to show off my preggo belly! I remember the powerful speeches that were made, that I have recorded on video to this day. I remember walking really far and getting tired, being seven months pregnant and all. Here is the page I have in my pregnancy scrapbook from that day.

The most vivid memory my mom and I hold from that day is of the precious 6-week old baby boy named Nathaniel who we met there. My mom and I talked to his mom. The family had all red-headed children, including little Nathaniel. He was so cute! Nathaniel seemed enamored with me! I said he knew Lily was growing away inside me. :) We joked and said that he and Lily were going to get married one day. It would be an "arranged marriage," whether they liked it or not. ;) I remember I couldn't stop staring at him because of how precious he was and how I longed to one day soon hold my own bundle of baby love.

In 2011, my mom and I saw him and his family at the Prayer Breakfast. Right away, we recognized his mom from the year before and my heart ached so much knowing Lily should have been there that year, outside of the womb. He was walking all over the place and had grown so much from the year before, a stark reminder that Lily hadn't.

Well, out of all the many people who attended the March, my mom and I yet again ran into Nathaniel's family this year. They are hard to miss with the red-hair and many children they have, a few born since 2010. It hurt for both my mom and I to see them. We both cried. It hurts because of how much this little boy has grown and Lily remains a baby. It hurts knowing the hope and anticipation we felt when we saw them in 2010. It hurts knowing they were around Lily when she was alive and they saw my pregnant belly. It hurts because Lily could actually have played with him this year and maybe they would have had a little kid crush on each other. It hurts because if Lily were here, I could have told the mother how we remembered them from 2010 and how I was pregnant then and here is my daughter. It hurts because instead, I can't say anything to her. It hurts because I don't want to say how we remember them but my little baby died that same year. It hurts wondering if they recognize us but can't remember from where, yet we remain silent so as to not freak them out. It hurts because they've gone on to have many more children and I haven't been able to have one since then. It hurts because even if it was just a joke that Lily would marry Nathaniel, it's not a joke that she will never marry anyone. She will never marry an amazing Christian man one day and have babies of her own, my grandchildren. Generations were lost when she died.

As we were driving away from downtown and I was thinking about Nathaniel, we heard the song "Bring the Rain" by Mercy Me, and as he sang the words, "bring me anything that brings You glory," I felt the Lord gently remind me that this is bringing Him glory. I don't even understand it all, but I know that Lily's life and death and my response to it and desire and willingness to share my faith and trust in Him through it all is bringing Him glory.

"Bring me anything that brings Your glory." Do we really mean that? For me, part of anything turned out to be burying my baby. What is anything in your life? Anything is everything. This life is about bringing Him glory, not about our own comfort and happiness. The longing over Lily and sorrow over the loss of her life is a testimony to the sanctity of human life, made in His image. It is bringing my Heavenly Father glory.

As Mary said in Scripture in Luke 1:38, "let it be to me according to Your word." Whatever His will is for our lives, may we mean it when we say the same thing.

Listen to "Bring the Rain" below. Email subscribers click HERE.

Anyways, here are a few pictures from the breakfast and Rally/March this year. Alan and Lisa Robertson spoke and shared a bit of their story. She is post-abortive and his mom was only 16 when she got pregnant with him. It was powerful. I was honored to have been asked to help out at the breakfast. I'm just trying to remain faithful in serving when and how God opens the doors for me to do so.

It was a beautiful day for the March and it was a relatively good turn out.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My 26th Birthday!

This post was in my drafts and I realized I never published it, so here it is a few months late.

I wore a "Lily" necklace and my butterfly earrings for my girl

On August 12th, I celebrated my 26th birthday. It was a wonderful day. I spent it in Virginia, the very area of the country that I was born, surrounded by treasured friends and family. 

my Birthday Eve sunset

the beautiful Virginia summer sky on my birthday

The weather was amazing, my Aunt Nana made French toast for breakfast, we went to the Charlottesville downtown mall to have dumplings for lunch, then found our way into a cat store. ;) 

it was appropriate to go here on my birthday

my darling grandmother 

We visited Lily's spot and took her a bouquet of pink roses. It was incredibly special to visit her on my day. 

Bumma and I at Lily's spot

pink roses for my little flower

with my brother, grandmother, and sister

sister, Emma, and I

We then went up on the mountain to admire the scenery. 

I'll never tire of those mountains

my brother, Adam, and his dog, Bernerd

To finish the day, we ate a delicious dinner at Blue Mountain Brewery. It was a beautiful evening with a breathtaking view and dear friends and family to enjoy it with. 

with my sister, her boyfriend, my brother, aunt, uncle, grandmother, and mother

my birthday dessert that I shared with everyone after they sang "happy birthday" to me

My sister-in-law sent me hilarious birthday memes all day. ;)

I'm looking forward to seeing what the Lord holds for me while I'm 26! Thanks for all the sweet birthday wishes!

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.

I'm on the left and Lily is 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 26 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.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Niece or Nephew?

In December, my brother and his wife had the appointment where they had the anatomy scan and were able to find out the gender if they wanted, which they did. They invited my mom and I along to the appointment. Looking back, in ways I wish I hadn't gone. The night before, I had written the post talking about how God gives us today's strength for today. I was feeling good and had come to a place in my heart where I would accept whatever the baby's gender turned out to be. But to be honest with you, deep down, I felt the baby was a boy. Maybe that's partly because I so wished it would be. I had decided I didn't want to be at the appointment, but at the last minute ended up going.

Partly why I decided to go was because only one adult is supposed to go back with a pregnant patient, so I didn't think my mom and I would be allowed back anyways for "the moment" finding out. My brother asked the nurse when they were called back if we could come too and she said yes. The ultrasound tech pulled up the precious little one on the screen and after a while, J & K asked if she could tell the gender. Honestly, it looked to me like there was something between the legs, indicating a boy. But finally, she said... the baby is a girl.

I didn't want to show my initial disappointment. Because this is their baby and their joyful moment, not my baby and my sad moment. But it's hard to hide genuine emotions.

I just couldn't believe it. Why does it always seem like if it's going to be the hardest possible on my heart, it will be? I am afraid I won't be able to bond with this baby in the same way I would had Lily lived or had she been a boy instead. Maybe once she's born I'll feel differently.

It's another little girl, the first girl born in my family after Lily, and she is to be born at Lily's hospital. The due date is May 13th. It's just a bit too much for my heart. It's painful to think of my parents holding their granddaughter, when my girl should have been the first they experienced all those moments with. My dad didn't even see or hold Lily.

J & K must know how I feel. I obviously know they don't want to hurt me and they didn't plan this, but I wish they would bring it up and tell me they understand and are here for me. I wish they'd say something because the silence makes me feel isolated and guilty for feeling this way, though I know there are many in similar shoes who understand.

I am truly excited for them and happy to be an aunt. The thing is though... I want to only be joyful. But it's so hard thinking this baby will replace Lily in all the firsts my family would have experienced with her had she lived. I can't force the feelings that aren't there. I don't want to feel sad, I don't want this to be painful for me. But I cannot make the pain dissolve. I can only entrust my feelings into my faithful Father's hands and ask Him to carry them for me because I know I cannot carry them myself. I can ask Him to hold my heart as I ache not knowing if I'll ever see my parents with a living child of mine. That would help so much. But not having a man or any prospect of one makes it that much more difficult hearing news like this.

December was a tough month for me... with Christmas and finding out the gender news and with Owen's birthday and knowing Lily would be turning 6 soon as well. It felt like one emotional blow after another.

I wish I could say right now that I am perfectly contented with the fact this baby is a girl, but that wouldn't be honest. It is extremely difficult. The only thing I know to do now is to enter into my war room (I'm referencing the amazing and powerful movie War Room about prayer). I can only ask the Lord to give me love for this child, love that is not tainted by pain. I can only choose not to allow my feelings to rule me, though the feelings may remain. I can choose to have fun shopping for a baby girl, like for things such as the sweet ultrasound frame above. I can choose to lavish my love on my niece.

The way I will love my niece has been largely influenced by my love for Lily and even by her death and how I've learned to cherish the days we're given in a deeper way than ever before. There is a great lesson in learning to step forward in love and faith, even when our feelings don't always line up... maybe that's exactly where I'm supposed to be right now. Please pray for my heart if you think of me.

Multiple people have said that perhaps this new life will help bring further healing to my heart... I'm not sure how that will happen, but I'm asking God for it to be true.

You can read all the posts I've written about Lily's cousin by clicking HERE.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sanctity of Life Sunday

Today is National Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. The date was chosen by Ronald Reagan to coincide with the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case. He issued the day to fall on the third Sunday of January in the years following, the closest date that coincides with the original January 22nd date.

On this day, many pastors across the country are preaching on the topic of abortion. There are hurting men and women clinging tightly to the secret of having made "the choice" in their past.

I know that this time of year, with the anniversary of when abortion was legalized in America, it's much easier to think about it, talk about it, post about it, etc... but as the calendar flips to February, know that those who live with abortion don't only think of it one day, week, or month out of the year.

Every day, I think of my child who was aborted. Even those of us who have found freedom and healing through Christ will always regret making that choice and will always remember our child.

As you carry on throughout the year, please remember this and please keep having loving conversations with others about it, so that less men and women will have to live with the pain and regret themselves.

Know that everyday you wake up is a day multiple men and women are grieving that on that exact date "x" amount of years ago, they chose to end their child's life. It's a modern-day Holocaust and it needs to end.

I read an eloquent and beautiful post full of the truth of the redeeming and restoring power of the Gospel of Christ. Please consider sharing it for the many grieving hearts. Click HERE to read.

Also, HERE is a recording of the speech I gave last year on this day at a Memorial Service for the Unborn in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Feel free to share.


Friday, January 15, 2016

My Lily-Belly

I will always wish I had taken more and better quality photos while I was pregnant with Lily. Any that I do have I cherish. This photo below is not good quality, I'm in my pajamas, and you can't even see my face... but I love it because it's the only photo I have that far into pregnancy showing my belly. I grew for around another month after this. I love it because I know Lily was in there, thriving, growing, alive, and safe.


Bo's Birthday

Wednesday was my friend Bonnie's son Bo's 5th birthday in Heaven. This is a local friend who started the faith-based infant loss support group I sometimes go to.

It was a sunny (though still cold) January day, and I've been wanting to visit Bo's spot for years, so I made the effort to finally get there. It's only about 20 minutes from where I live. On the way, I stopped to pick up some bright lilies for him, because after all, I only know Bo and Bonnie because of my Lily.

His stone is beautiful, as is the big tree that hovers overhead. It is a gift to remember my friend's babies with them, especially on their birthdays. It was a privilege to stand before this precious boy's grave and to thank God for his life and pray for God to continue giving strength to his family, as they carry on in this life without him.

It means the world to me when people visit Lily's spot, so I'm sure it is special to others as well. I had a precious time with Jesus at Bo's spot, laying out my heart before Him.

This is how I can be pro-life right now... in little moments like this where I can honor a brief but beautiful life.

With Bonnie this past Fall at a local Remembrance Walk


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

By the Same Name

Part of why I love Lily Katherine's name as much as I do is because of it's timeless elegance and lovely feminine sound. Not only are her first and middle names both names that would be heard in centuries past, but they are also names from generations past in my own family, making them even more special.

My great-grandmother Bain (my mom's dad's mom) was named Katherine. She was almost 100 when she passed away. I was 10 at the time, which leaves me with several memories of her. Obviously my Lily's middle name is Katherine. I selected it, not primarily because it is a family name, but because it means purity and innocence. However, I love Katherine with a "K," rather than a "C," because that's how my great-grandmother's name is spelled.

After I already named Lily, I found out that Katherine's mother (so my great-great-grandmother and Lily's great-great-great-grandmother!) had the name Lily! Lily had a daughter named Katherine. And all these generations later, came my sweet flower... my Lily Katherine. Both names mean purity and innocence. I wonder if they both knew what their names mean. I wonder why they were given those names.

It makes my heart smile that Lily is connected to the generations of my family through her name. She is just a real as anybody and deserves the most beautiful of names. She is a daughter, a granddaughter, a great-granddaughter, a great-great-granddaughter, and so forth. She holds an irreplaceable part in my family. And it makes me feel connected to the women in my family who share my daughter's name.

Some people live close to 100 years on Earth, while others never take a breath outside the womb, but that doesn't make one life more significant than another. That's what I feel God reminding me of as I struggle with wondering why my relatives before me, Lily and Katherine, were blessed with many more years than my little Lily Katherine. What I keep coming back to is remembering that it is God alone who numbers our days and it's His business whether those days are numbered few or many. Our value is not found in that number. And what God can do through a life is not measured or defined by that number. He works outside of our lines, as I wrote about in a blog post a couple years ago. Not only that, but His love for us is not measured in how many days He gives us on Earth. The fact that my girl has the same name as these women who lived on Earth for many decades is a reminder of how they are equal.

Psalm 139:16 says, "Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."

My grandmother "Bumma" recently sent my family this photo of Lily's great-great-great-grandmother, Lily! She is sitting front and center. It's special to have!

Here is a photo of my great-grandmother, Katherine, and I when I was a little girl.

Lily Katherine's name is one of the last and only things I have of her, and I treasure it. Lily is with both Lily and Katherine right now. I wish she could know Bumma and that the two of them could take a photo like this one of me with my great-grandmother. I bet Lily would look a lot like I did in this photo right now.


Monday, January 11, 2016

The Priceless Treasure of a Photo

You don't have to look far to be bombarded by gory scenes of violence and death. In fact, take a peek online at the movies currently showing at your local theater and you'll see that Americans find entertainment in and are willing to spend large sums of money to watch these things unfold on the big screen. Sadly, even little children are exposed from a young age.

That's why it makes me angry that modern culture no longer finds violence and gore inappropriate or upsetting, yet finds a picture of a beautiful and perfect baby, who is no longer alive, disturbing and grotesque. Can you see the irony here too? How is it more offensive to see a precious child, with darkened lips and closed eyes, than it is to see violent movies or horror films?

Do you realize for a family whose baby was stillborn that those are the ONLY pictures they will EVER have of their beloved child, when they dreamed of a lifetime of photos and memories? Do you realize they love their child just as much as you love yours? And just because their baby was born dead does not mean they aren't proud to be their mother or father and that they don't want to share them with others. Can you not try to grasp for one minute what it would be like if this happened to you?

I have been open with sharing photos of my daughter Lily Katherine, who was stillborn at 40 weeks 2 days gestation on March 16, 2010. Many people remark how perfect and truly beautiful she was. Yet, there have been those through the years who have said some cruel things. She is not some nightmarish freak. Her pictures capture how lovely she was, perfectly formed and real. She isn't scary or disturbing. Yes, I realize that some of the photos show crimson lips... but besides that, she looks like a sleeping child. And if crimson lips are the most disturbing thing ever to you, you have GOT to be KIDDING me.

I have been hurt in the past by the harsh things people have said about Lily/her photos and about the fact that I choose to publicly share them. Why don't they see her the way I do? Should I have been more private with her photos? Should I have protected her memory from those that will only mock it and not recognize her beauty?

NO - I will share, I must share. Because I believe it shows honor to Lily by not being afraid to share her with others. It shows the sanctity of unborn life, even those who don't live outside the womb. They don't magically become babies once they are born alive and healthy. She had eyebrows, eyelashes, fingernails (details that I can only remember through the photos I am beyond grateful to have)... everything that makes a baby look like a baby. Only she was asleep to this world. I want to be brave in sharing her photos and her story so others who have been through something similar feel like they can do the same. A child who was stillborn has beautiful photos, for those of us who were blessed enough to get any. When people are walking through the experience of losing a baby, in the midst of it, many people cannot comprehend how precious those photos will one day become. They think it's morbid to even think about capturing photos of death/the saddest day of their lives.

But as a NILMDTS volunteer photographer, Vicki Zoller, wrote, "We don't photograph death... We capture love." For those who aren't familiar, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep offers free professional portraiture photography to those who have lost/are expected to lose their precious baby. It is not unusual or unhealthy to desire photos of a stillborn baby or to desire to share those photos.

If there is one regretful wish I hear over and over from other parents I know who lost babies, it is that they wish they had taken more/better pictures... some wish they had taken one single photo. Only those of us who have walked this road understand how valuable those pictures are. They capture a moment in time that we'll never be able to experience again. They capture the very real child we held and love, but unimaginably had to bury.

In the 19th century, post-mortem photography was common. According to the NILMDTS Facebook page, "Post-mortem photography is termed the practice of photographing the recently deceased. This type of photography was very common in the nineteenth century when death occurred in the home. Photography was new and expensive. Childhood mortality rates were extremely high in the Victorian era. It was common practice to make the 'subject' look alive or appear to be sleeping. These photographs served as keepsakes to remember a loved one, and especially with infants and young children, was the only documentation of this child into a family and possibly the only photograph the family ever had. Post-mortem photography flourished in the early decades among those desperate to capture an image of a deceased loved one. It was better to have a photograph, than have no photograph at all."

It is better to have the photographs I have of Lily than to only have my unreliable memory to reference. With photographs, I don't have to question the things my mind could easily forget. I have the assurance that she was truly real when I look at her sweet face in her pictures.

As a society, these photos don't have to be seen as creepy if we don't allow them to be.

Be brave, sweet mothers and fathers of babies who've been lost. There are many of us who feel honored to see photos of your baby. And to those who don't get it and don't want to, please keep your thoughts to yourselves and allow the only photos we'll ever have of our babies to be freely and proudly shared with whomever we wish.

Here is my beautiful and perfect daughter, Lily Katherine....

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