Friday, September 30, 2016

It's Not Just a "Cause"

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. I would never want those other things 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 pored into it by giant corporations. It is a worthwhile thing to research, understand, and talk about. 

You can get your own PAIL Awareness images to share with friends, family, on your blog or social media accounts from Luminous Light Studio by clicking here.

My daughter, Lily Katherine was stillborn 2 days past her due date. 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. 

I know I talk quite a lot about Pregnancy and Infant Loss. You'll see pink and blue strewn throughout my social media pages, especially throughout the month of October. But you see, to me it is not just another "cause." There are thousands of causes out there, aren't there? Support this, support that. Many of these things are important. This is not a cause, but our children. It's not merely about raising awareness for the sake of people being aware. PAIL Awareness Month is about honoring our babies and speaking out about the dignity and value of their lives, despite how brief. I don't just share the awareness ribbon or take part in the Capture Your Grief Project to make pointless noise. I am as outspoken as I am for a few reasons...

One, I want those who have lost their baby to know they are not alone. I want them to be pointed to resources to help them heal. I want them to know it is healthy and okay if they want to share their stories. 

I also want others to understand how loss affects someone, irrevocably. I want others to get a glimpse into what it's like, so maybe they will learn how to offer support and understanding to those impacted by infant loss.

I want to share my beautiful Lily with the world, my sweet girl who lived a full life in my womb and will always live in my heart. My girl who will always be my baby. This is how I mother her, this is how I share her. It was a gift the Lord gave me when He opened up my heart to love her as much as I do. And because of how much I love her, I miss her with that same great measure. The grief, in turn, is also a gift, for even that points to the sanctity of her life and each life, no matter how brief. I share because I believe in the sanctity of each unique and irreplaceable life, created in the image of God.

Why aren't more people talking about pregnancy and infant loss? 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. I want others to be aware of the importance of counting their baby's kicks

But, the main reason I think PAIL isn't spoken about or acknowledged is because people have minimized the value of the unborn in our society. It's no wonder people don't think it matters when someone loses a baby, whether at a few weeks gestation or full-term. 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 40 weeks? 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 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 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. 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!

Click here to read ideas I've shared for how to get involved during PAIL Awareness Month!


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Saddest of Short Stories

I read that Ernest Hemingway once made a bet that he could write a six-word short story that could make people cry.

He wrote the following...

Reading these words for the first time a few years ago certainly took the breath right out of me and made me tear up. But I'm sure that's partly because I have many, many pairs of baby shoes that are never to be worn by the one they were intended for. She only ever wore one pair... the little brown shoes she was buried in (pictured above). The brown shoes that sat on my dresser throughout my pregnancy and were a symbol of the promise of all her life would hold...

This picture is in Lily's scrapbook. It's all her shoes in her nursery, waiting for her. So many adorable, tiny pairs of shoes for a pair of adorable, tiny feet. Are baby shoes not one of the most fun things to buy?! She had more than me. ;) Hopefully I will have another daughter one day to fill her big sister's shoes.


Lily Remembered at Jensen Beach

Lily Katherine's name was written in the sand at Jensen Beach in Stuart, Florida, by my sweet friend, Jessica! 🐬🐳🐚🌊💕


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Adventures with Lily ~ Topsail Island

Most years in the Fall, usually at the end of September/beginning of October, my mom Ginny, sister Emma, and I, along with my mom's best friend from college (Grace a.k.a. "Aunt G"), take a trip to the Carolina coast for a couple days of fun, rest, and relaxation. The weather during early Fall at the beach is gorgeous! 🌊🐚🐬🐳

The first trip we took was when my Lily girl was here. We went to Topsail Island 7 years ago around this time of year. I was 16 weeks pregnant at the time. As you can see in the photos below, I was finally starting to look pregnant, rather than just feel pregnant.

Lily had oh so many adventures during her short time on Earth and I will forever cherish those sacred memories. I cannot believe it's been 7 years.

That's my mom and Grace in the background

I still have this Topsail Island hat that I got in 2009 in Lily's memory chest

This is what I wrote about that trip to Topsail in Lily's pregnancy scrapbook:

"At the end of September/beginning of October, "Aunt G" (your grandmother's best friend named Grace) took us to Topsail Island for a short getaway vacation. We had a blast, staying at the Jolly Roger Inn right on the beach, eating delicious seafood at a local restaurant, splashing around in the waves at Surf City (where there is ironically a sign that says "no surfing allowed") with your Auntie Em and laughing hysterically as she held us up in the water in her small arms (we really floated), watching the breathtaking sunrise over the ocean, feeding the seagulls cocoa puffs from our balcony, watching and listening to the waves crashing upon the shore, walking down the pier, taking a lovely walk along the water's edge, relaxing in the sand and soaking up the sun, enjoying the beautiful Fall weather and the presence of the Lord. You're a beach girl like your mommy!"

Here are the pages in my scrapbook about our beach trip:

Here are screenshots of my Facebook posts about our beach trip in 2009:


Lily Kat

My sweet friend Amanda texted me this morning with the photo below and wrote: "G and I were watching cartoons this morning. We were watching "Franklin and Friends." Franklin's little sister's favorite stuffed animal was a kitty named Lily. They called her Lily Cat. It was a cute episode and that kitty's name made me think of your love for cats and then the name Lily. 🐱👧 That's Lily Cat winning the race in Franklin's race car. 😊"

I thought that was so sweet she thought of me... My Lily and kitties are two of my greatest loves in life. And it's even more special that Lily Kat is one of my Lily's nicknames! (Kat for Katherine). ❤️


Monday, September 26, 2016

Candlelight Vigil

Last evening, my sister-in-law Kala and I attended a beautiful Candlelight Vigil in the nearby city of Rocky Mount, North Carolina (I actually lived there at one point for a brief time). It was in recognition of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, which isn't technically until October. The event was Nash Health Care's Annual Walk of Remembrance for Steps Never Taken.

I had heard of this group before because they usually put on a Memorial Walk, but this year had a Candlelight Vigil in lieu of the Walk. Since I am already planning on attending a Walk in Raleigh next month, I was really hoping to have something like this to go to. I am glad Kala wanted to come with me. We even took time beforehand to drive by my old house and then ate dinner at a cute shiny diner!

Kala and I both agree that there is something special about a Candelight Vigil... it is sacred and intimate, all the families gathered together to remember and honor our loved and missed babies. I don't know those people or their stories, but it was an honor to hear the names of their babies and to celebrate them all together. 💕

Here are Kala and I with our candles. I wore my Lily's handprint necklace and my "Held Your Whole Life" shirt (I meant to get a better picture).

They had special bags for luminaries that we were able to decorate ourselves... Kala and I each made one for Lily and then I made one as well for my Aunt Rachel. We were given the bags to take home with us as a keepsake, along with the sand and "candles" inside.

I loved all the purple and white decorations! Everything was beautifully put-together and thought-out.

Kala and I also wrote on the back of our bags

The luminaries for all our precious babies

the location was peaceful

We wrote our babies names in a book to be read aloud during the Vigil. As each baby's name was spoken, their family would come up and have their candle lit. It was touching.

Mine and Kala's candles lit 

A young woman sang a couple songs. She has a beautiful voice and I told her how much I appreciated her being there. Having live music made the event that much more special.

This video is a little snippet of one of the songs she sang.

As it grew darker, the luminaries looked prettier. This was a photo Kala took on the car-ride home.

I'm glad to have the luminaries to hang on to as a keepsake, as well as the program from the event. It was a special evening for Lily. I also found out it was National Daughters Day, which was quite appropriate. :) Thank the Lord the rain held off.


Why One, but Not the Other?

This post has been sitting in my drafts since August 2013 and I'm just now getting around to posting it...

My paternal grandmother, Margaret, went to be with the Lord at the age of 89 on August 14th.

We went to Virginia for her service and burial and I was filled with sweet memories of both my dad's parents. I will always treasure those times and wish my future children could have known them besides just through stories and pictures.

My siblings and I loved going to stay with our grandparents (Mamaw and Papaw we called them) in Waynesboro, Virginia. Mamaw was the best cook and I fondly remember sitting in the swivel chair in their kitchen, watching her make us our favorites, such as mac-n-cheese or pancakes. I can't taste chocolate milk or grape soda without being brought right back to being in their home. After our visit and just before we were to leave, I would sit on my Papaw's lap and he'd give me some dollar bills, which for a kid is a big and exciting deal. One time, their basement flooded and I helped clean up. I felt so special and important that day. They had a pool table in the basement that we enjoyed playing. Everything was always so clean and orderly. Mamaw was a wonderful housekeeper and wife, after marrying my grandpa at only 15!

with my Mamaw and Papaw

3 generations - me with my grandmother and dad (I think I resemble them both)..
This was taken at my baptism at Mint Springs in Crozet, Virginia, the summer that I was 14/15 

When I read my grandmother's obiturary, I noticed right away that Lily wasn't included in the great-grandchildren. I was sad, but understood that others just don't "get it" and was trying to be understanding about it.

Then I noticed it said this: "In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband, Alvin, of 65 years in 2003; her brother, Douglas Hunt; and a great-grandson, Tristan McLaughlin." I was confused... who is her great-grandson, Tristan? I'd never heard of him. I asked my dad and he informed me that my cousin got into a car accident when she was pregnant and lost her baby a long time ago, around half-way through the pregnancy. My cousins on my dad's side are all more like aunts because there is a large age-gap.

So, wait a minute... one baby lost in my family was included in the obituary, but not the other?! Lily is my grandmother's only great-granddaughter and my dad's only grandchild (at the time of my grandmother's passing). I am truly shocked and hurt.

Apparently Tristan's aunt (my cousin) wrote the obituary. Because of how much older my cousins are than me and the fact that I rarely see them, I have never been close with them. I am sad I never knew about Tristan. I am glad he was included, but my girl should have been too. It's not like they don't know about her... She would have only been 3 1/2 when my grandmother passed. I wish my dad had said something to stand up for Lily. I guess he thought nothing could be done about it by that point and he didn't want to stir anything up, but still, it could have been done in a loving and gentle way. Maybe they thought we wouldn't want her included, which I don't know why they would assume that, considering obviously they knew they wanted Tristan's name listed.

I feel like I am constantly fighting this battle to get others to care about Lily and recognize her value and irreplaceable place in my family... I even feel this way with my family. It reminds me of something I wrote before: No striving on my part to get others to recognize her value will make her any more valuable. Simply by existing, she matters. And I can rest in knowing her value doesn't change depending on what others think of her. My love is no less real even if people don't understand.

These flowers were from one of the arrangements at Mamaw's service. I took these to Lily and my Aunt Rachel after the service... obviously roses and lilies remind me of Lily and daisies remind my grandmother Bumma of her baby daughter, Rachel. Baby's breath is also sweet and reminds me of my girl.


Kathlyn's Birthday Video

My friend Beth's baby girl Kathlyn was stillborn at fullterm in 2009. She would have turned 7 this year on July 30th. Beth created a video for Kathlyn on her special day, in which she also remembered several other babies in Heaven... Kathlyn's friends. I was touched to have Lily included. Here is the screenshot below of where Lily is on the video. You can watch the entire video by clicking here. We are all bonded together in our love for our babies.

These are the touching words Beth shared with her video:
"I've been working on this video for a few weeks to honor Kathlyn's 7th Birthday. I almost feel like it's more for me than for her, and for the other families of the babies I included. If Kathlyn had lived, I'd have a little rising 2nd grader now. I'd have probably met a few moms from her classes. Instead over the past 7 years I have come to know many other sad mommies like myself, from as close to 5 doors down the street all the way to Australia. Maybe this video is for us, instead of for her... because where she is, she has everything she could possibly ever want or need and more. Since I can't have her, what I need is two things: first, to know that I will see her again, and thanks to the sacrifices of Jesus, I will. And the second, is to know that I am not alone, that there are other sad families out there I can turn to, sometimes when I have no desire to even associate with anyone else other than those who understand. Having those families has been what makes it just a tiny notch above completely unbearable to not have my daughter beside me."

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Brighter Days

My friend Brook, who I met through local infant loss circles, wrote a beautiful song called "Brighter Day" after her precious son Colby was stillborn in November 2013.

This is what she wrote about it: "The song began as a lullaby for Colby, but evolved into an expression of my hopes and dreams for him, my pain, and ends in a prayer, asking God to give me hope for a brighter day. As you can imagine, this song is very dear to me. It became a tool for me on days when I needed to cry, but couldn't because I was fighting the grief. For quite a while, I couldn't make it through this song without melting into tears, healing tears. I'm so thankful for the gift of these words because by sharing, many have also been able to heal a bit more. Please share this song with others who you think may benefit from hearing this song. There are brighter days ahead."

I've had the blessing of hearing Brook sing this song in person and both her voice, as well as the lyrics, are beautiful. Thank you for sharing your gift with others, Brook!


A Fall Visit to Lily's Spot

This is a post from last October that I never got around to sharing...

Jesus is so good and He gives beautiful gifts to His children. A little bit of Ellerslie came to my hometown in Virginia when I got to visit with my dear friend Miriam who was in my Advanced Semester. We realized when we were in Colorado that we both have ties to Central Virginia and were planning on being there visiting at the same time (we live in different states)!

It was funny that I couldn't fit everything in my suitcases to fly home a couple weeks before, so another friend of ours, Teresa, had the idea for me to send one of my space bags across the country with Mim in her car, which I did haha.

We had lunch at one of my favorite cozy and quaint coffee shops, I took her to see Lily's spot where I shared Lily's story, and I drove her around a bit to show her meaningful places to me and my family, and then took her to the Christian thrift store, The Green Olive Tree. My grandmother was one of the original ladies who started it back in 1979. I told Miriam about it Colorado when so many things I wore were from there. :)

I thank the Lord for a precious time spent with a precious friend who prays with and for me, and points me to Him. I only wish she could have met my grandmother, but it didn't work out... this time at least.

Mim attentively listened to me sharing about my beautiful girl, asked questions, and said things that blessed and encouraged my heart tremendously! Love you, friend! 🍁🍂🎃🌻

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