Friday, June 30, 2017

When You Lose a Baby

When you lose a baby, you don't just lose an idea of a person or a potential possibility of a future.

You lose a very real would-have-been life and future, full of all the many small and large things that comprise a life.

You lose knowing what their hobbies and interests would be, the things that would make them laugh, what college they would have attended, who they would have married, who their children would have been... these things just scratch the surface.

The person who is lost before birth is the same person at the core of their being who would've been in 5, 10, 20, 50+ years. All that was needed was time, development, nurturing, and love.

Of course we as humans are shaped by our experiences too, yet a massive part of who we are is determined and crafted by our Creator before we are even born.

The way we will look as we age is already determined, our personalities, the things we will enjoy and prefer... all of these things are wrapped up in the tiny precious package that is a newborn baby.

When this precious life is lost, it's not just an idea that is lost, but the package that was ready to be opened, that suddenly never will be. The contents that were already there are somehow lost, leaving the family with an empty feeling of being somehow gipped and deprived. This package was in your lap ready to be finally opened after shaking it and longing to discover it for 9 months in eager anticipation, then suddenly death steals it back. That's a little bit of what losing a baby feels like.

It was a gift the Lord gave me when He opened up my heart to love Lily 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. πŸ’•


Thursday, June 29, 2017

On Pregnancy Announcements and Cherishing Life

If I am ever blessed with having another life to grow within me, I will want to share the joyful news early in pregnancy.

There are many people who wait until after the first trimester at least to make a pregnancy announcement because of the possibility of an early miscarriage, which is understandable. However, my thinking on this differs from these people. Let me explain...

I know that the odds of losing a baby decreases the further into the pregnancy one reaches, however when you have lost a baby literally AT their due date, you come to understand that there is no "safe zone."

Not only that, but even if I were to lose another baby, I'd want the support of others if it did happen. I wouldn't want to face the pain and loss alone.

Also, I believe every life deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated, no matter how short or long they are.

I hear of people who wait to announce they are having a baby until after the baby is born, and some wait to learn the gender until birth. I understand this can be an exciting surprise, but the way I see it, which has obviously been shaped by my full-term loss, I want others to know about and love my baby for as long as I have them here. I don't want this to seem like a morbid way of thinking, it's simply reality. I want to know my baby by his/her gender and name. I want to bond with my child as much as I possibly can because each day is a gift and tomorrow is not guaranteed. Lily taught me that. Lily taught me how to treasure her future siblings in a fuller way.

I want to make memories during my pregnancy, and gather keepsakes that document that sacred time in my life... getting a belly cast, professional maternity photos, etc. Not that I didn't make memories with Lily, but if I knew then that it'd be the only time I'd have with her, I would have been intentional about doing much more.

I'm thankful for the 40 weeks and 2 days I did have with her and that I bonded with my baby girl named Lily Katherine for the time I could. My heart truly connected with her for who she was, as a unique soul created by God, not for anything she'd ever do or accomplish, which doesn't make someone who they are anyways. πŸ’•


Her in Me and Me in Her

The intricate details of her beautiful feminine face are known so completely by her mommy. So much so that when I see a picture of myself, I see Lily's face in mine. I see her in me and me in her.

It seems appropriate for us to share looks, as we shared everything else. Her heart both sprang to life and ceased in my body. She shared my body, making it her cozy home for the duration of her earthly life. She bears the name of a flower as I do. Her cells still live in me and her heart still beats with each beat of my own. Her legacy resides somewhere inside of my own, with our stories and purposes so closely woven together.

Our hearts know each other, reaching across realms, unaltered by the separation of the grave. We are tied together in Christ and nothing separates those found in His love. We may have never locked eyes, never had a conversation back and forth, but our mother-daughter connection is so much more than that. How could it not be? Her bones and flesh grew inside the form that is my bones and flesh. I felt her life. With each gentle or not-so-gentle movement inside of me, with each sound of her heartbeat of dance on the ultrasound machine, it was as if she was telling me all the words she'd never get to say.

I cherish you, my sweet daughter of Heaven... I cherish all you were to me while your heart beat here and all you are to me still.

"She never knew just how deeply she could love until she stood on one side of the veil and her child on the other, her feet rooted on Earth and her heart forever reaching towards Heaven." -Jessi Snapp πŸ’–

Here are our newborn pictures that resemble each other too (me on the left and Lily on the right).


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Lily Remembered in Dubai

Lily visited the Middle East for the first time! My sweet traveling friend Emmakate remembered her at Jumeirah Beach in Dubai, on the coast of the Persian Gulf. πŸ˜ ❤️ 🌊 ☀️ 🌍 🐚 🐳 🐬 🐟 🐠 🐒


Visiting Their Spot

A huge piece of my heart is found here in this cemetery in Virginia. And it is here where my heart is always first drawn when I come back into town.

See where the grass is growing in a rectangle by the bench? That's where Bumma is.

It's odd coming here now without her. Most people don't have memories with their grandparents spending hours at the cemetery where they'd one day be laid to rest themselves. I should be seeing her white Buick slowly creeping in to meet me here. We'd visit our baby girls together. I'd sit on the grass in front of Lily's grave and Bumma would sit on the bench that bore her husband's name, her daughter's name, and her own name. She'd face me and listen as I'd pore out my heart to her. And in her ever wise and gentle way, she'd understand me and would speak Jesus into the tender and wounded places. She'd watch me as I'd pull the "weeds" around Lily's stone (even though she'd insist it was grass and think I was silly for wanting things so precisely a certain way). We'd talk about how weird it was to see her name and birthdate on the bench and not to see the other date that would one day need to be etched it. Now we know - April 14, 2017. We'd even take lots of photos through the years. Because I wanted to visit my baby and Bumma wanted to come with me, I have all these memories at the place where I now come to visit Bumma too. And it's weird and sad and special all at once.

I come here and I talk to Lily and Bumma. And I ask Jesus to tell them things for me. And I rejoice that they are not truly here. But their bodies are... and don't you dare tell me it's not painful to say goodbye to the human body because that is how we know our loved ones on Earth. That is how their souls are represented here. And we miss that representation of them. And we are thankful to have a place we can visit with their name, an honor and a testimony that they were here.

Bumma's mountains are here and they seem to be still smiling over her. I will make sure to keep pulling the "weeds" for them both and can just picture Bumma fussing about it even now. Heaven just keeps getting sweeter and sweeter. πŸ’š


Star Legacy Foundation's Stillbirth Summit ⭐️️

The annual Stillbirth Summit put on by Star Legacy Foundation was held in Minnesota over this past weekend. This is an event focused on stillbirth research and prevention, with the most passionate stillbirth researchers from around the world, who I'm so thankful for! They are needed. It means a lot to me to know people are taking this seriously and realizing that it's not okay that healthy babies are dying for no known reason right around their due dates). I hope to make it myself one year to the Summit.

They honored nearly 1,300 babies who were stillborn with a big sign full of their names that says "we will always remember," as well as gold stars hanging from the ceiling, each with the name and birthdate of a stillborn baby who will always be deeply missed and loved by their families. These names were submitted from around the world.

Thank you so much to Danielle who was able to attend the event and sent me a photo of my Lily Katherine Allen-Ball's name up close on the sign! And I heard that our stars will be mailed to each family as a keepsake. Lily's friend Lillian Judith Joy is right above her on the sign, which makes me smile. Her mommy is a dear friend of mine. It brings tears to my eyes to know my little girl is a part of this and hopefully in the future, stillbirth will be no more. ❤️ ⭐️️  

I enjoyed reading this blog post that was shared on the Star Legacy Foundation Facebook page, from the perspective of someone who attended the Summit.  


The Gift She Is in Our Lives

Mint Springs // Crozet, Virginia πŸ’›

My Aunt Helen helped me collect rocks to spell out a couple baby names for friends facing difficult milestones.

Also, the other day my mom looked at the clock at 3:16 (Lily's birthday) and she prayed aloud, "thank You for the gift Lily is in our lives." Aunt Helen also thanked the Lord for Lily during her prayer. πŸ˜Œ πŸ’• 🌸


Lily Remembered at Happy Wanderers

Lily Katherine was remembered by her South African friend Lily-Grace on holiday (I love how they call it that πŸ˜‰ ) at Happy Wanderers at Kelso Beach, South Africa. She also collected some seashells πŸš  for her in her bucket. ❤️ 🌊 ☀️ 🐳 🐬 🐟 🐠 🐒  


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Lily's "Priceless Images" Drawing

This is my beautiful Lily Katherine drawn by "Priceless Images." He generously draws them as a gift for parents who've lost a child. I've been on a wait list since last March. You can find his page on Facebook if you're interested. I'm planning on keeping mine in Lily's scrapbook. πŸ’•


Lily Remembered at Ocean Beach

Lily was honored by Tamberly at Ocean Beach in San Diego, California. Her sweet daughter Esther, who was stillborn, just had her 10th birthday this past weekend. ❤️ 🌊 ☀️ 🐚 🐬 🐳 🐟 🐠 🐒 


Rocking Sweet Lily

This is a photo of Lily I can't remember sharing before.

It was several hours after birth and she had already changed so much physically by this point, so she didn't really look like herself. I think that's why I haven't shared it.

But now I am because I have so few photos and she is beautiful still. And this captures the one and only time I'd ever rock and sing to her. A priceless mother-daughter moment. ❤️  


Summertime Missin' You

Lily girl πŸ’• ~ I wish you could be here.

To have come to see your mommy in her play last week.

To spend afternoons at the pool. To go to the park and museum, and all the other fun summertime things kids are enjoying.

It doesn't have to a special holiday or occasion for me to feel the ache of your absence. Sometimes it's the day-to-day mundane moments when I simply just wish I could grab your hand, hear your laugh, and for you to be a part of the memory making.

I read an article that said studies show when a mother sleeps on her back in her 3rd trimester, it increases the risk of stillbirth. I can barely stand the thought that I'm missing out on a lifetime of summers with you potentially because of one time unknowingly rolling over onto my back during sleep.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Lily Remembered at Emerald Isle

Lily Kat was thought of by Kaitlin at Emerald Isle, North Carolina (one of my favorite beaches!). She said she couldn't pass up the chance to put Lily's name in the sand. I love that she wrote Lily Kat. ❤️ πŸ˜Š 🌊 ☀️ 🐚 🐳 🐬 🐠 🐟 🐒 


"Watching Over You"

"Songwriter John Dolan wrote this song "Watching Over You (Brianna's Song)" <--- {click link to listen} in honor of his niece, Brianna. He felt inspired to write this song in 1999 when Brianna was miscarried. Dolan hopes it can bring comfort to families who have suffered a similar loss."

(Brianna's Song)

You never got to dress me up
in ribbons, bows and lace
Never got to hear me laugh
Or see my smiling face
Never got to brush my hair
Or wash between my toes
Why I had to leave so soon
Only Heaven knows

You never got to hear me cry
Or wipe away my tears
You never got to watch me grow
Or silence all my fears
You never got to see me walk
Or fall and scrape my knee
Heaven knows that sometimes
Things aren't meant to be

Heaven knows I love you
Heaven knows you love me too
I know you did everything
There was for you to do
Don't you worry mommy, daddy
We'll be together soon
I'm looking down from Heaven
And I'm watching over you
I'm waiting here in Heaven
And I'm watching over you

Never got to hear me laugh
Never got to hear me cry
Never got to say hello
Never got to say goodbye

Don't you worry mommy, daddy
We'll be together soon
I'm looking down from Heaven
And I'm watching over you
I'm waiting here in Heaven
And I'm watching over you


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Lily Remembered on the Outer Banks

Lily was remembered by Josiah in Avon, North Carolina on the Outer Banks. πŸ˜Š 🌊 ☀️ 🐚 🐳 🐬 🐠 🐟 🐒 


Father's Day

Father's Day makes me think about all that Lily's father is missing out on with her. Talk of a local father-daughter dance has been swirling around and how it aches each time I hear of it.

Lily's daddy's love for his daughter, as well as his anguish over losing her, are both clearly written on his face in this picture. πŸ’”

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

They will always be a part of each other.


Happy Birthday, Aunt Rachel

My Aunt Rachel Ross would have turned 52 on June 14th. She was born on June 14, 1965. June 14th is Flag Day and Rachel was given the middle name Ross partly after Betsy Ross, who sewed the American flag.

Sadly, Rachel only lived for three months outside of the womb. She died on the operating table at UVA on September 10, 1965 as her doctor attempted to save her tiny, deformed heart.

Rachel was the seventh child of my grandparents, James Kirk and Nancy Virginia Bain. My mom is the eldest of the seven and was nine when Rachel passed, so she clearly remembers that time and has shared her memories with me. She even has a diary she wrote in then. This is the only family picture of all nine of them (baby Rachel in my grandmother's arms and my mom is in the back with the glasses). They are standing in front of Holy Comforter Catholic Church in our home area of Charlottesville, Virginia on the day of Rachel's Christening.

My grandmother attended Compassionate Friends meetings and events until the time of her death at 85-years-old. We had the indescribable bond of knowing what it's like to have a daughter in Heaven. We were always close, but Lily and Rachel brought us closer. Even when I was a young teen, before I ever knew I'd lose my own child, I would go to CF meetings with my Bumma. I see now how God was preparing me for a future only He could see.

My mom said one of the few times she saw my grandfather cry was when Rachel died. Bumma was so brave in how she'd always correct anyone when they mentioned her "six children." She had SEVEN, even if one lived in Heaven.

Each year, I remember my Aunt Rachel on her birthday. Her absence has left a hole in my family. We will always miss her and wonder who she would have become and what other cousins I might have had. I'll always love her and hope future generations will speak of and remember Lily the way I do Rachel.

I usually send a gift to my Bumma on Rachel's birthday. I had already started thinking about what I could get this year. It meant a lot to me to honor Rachel with Bumma. Now Bumma has been with her little girl for two months. This is the first birthday she's getting to spend with her baby! I'm so happy for them both. But it sure is weird to not be able to call Bumma on this day.

You can read more about my Aunt Rachel in a blog post I wrote by clicking HEREπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ ❤️ πŸŽ‚ 🎈


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Lily's Summer Spot

I was recently able to decorate my sweet girl's special spot for Summer. I tidied up her stone and the weeds around it (Bumma used to get exasperated and say it was "grass" not "weeds" as I'd get upset that it grew so fast and much.. too funny!). The white lilies and little angel statue that my friend Kristen left for Lily are still in good shape from her birthday. I got the new monogrammed "L" flag from Kirkland's! It's one of my favorite flags I've found. I love the Laurel on it, and especially the little bow. πŸŒΏ πŸ’•  


Lily Remembered at Johns Island

My friend Teresa thought of Lily at Beachwalk on Johns Island in South Carolina. This was her very first visit to the beach! πŸ˜„

When she sent this photo, she wrote the sweetest message along with it: "I was so happy to be able to remember your precious girl when I was at the beach and share your story with those who were with me. Lots of love." ❤️ 🌊 ☀️ 🐚 🐳 🐬 🐟 🐠 🐒 


No Footprint Too Small

My friend Hannah sent me this. πŸ’•


Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Smallest Coffins

This quote speaks for itself. It's amazing how so few words can speak so much.

I remember seeing Lily's tiny white coffin and thinking how strange it was that they even have to make them that small. Seems so unnatural. Shouldn't coffins be used for people who have lived long and full lives, with children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren?? Not for babies who never took a single breath.

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