Friday, August 24, 2018

National Rainbow Baby Day

Two days ago was National Rainbow Baby Day. 🌈 ❤️ 💛 💚 💙 💜 💕 

A "rainbow baby" is a term commonly used in the pregnancy/infant loss community, referring to a baby born after the loss of a baby.

People like to imagine that everyone gets their rainbow baby. It's assumed that if you know the heartache of pregnancy or infant loss that you automatically get a license to bring home a healthy little one, almost like it's a guarantee to know that joy after being acquainted with such pain.

The reality is that not everyone does get a rainbow baby, some never and some not for a very long time. I'm not trying to be a Debbie-downer here, but please hear me out.

It has been 8 1/2 years since my daughter Lily passed away unexpectedly and for no known reason at full-term. I've seen my fair share of rainbow babies.... in fact, some of those who lost their baby around the same time as me have gone on to have 4 children since that time! It's like a fresh wave of loss parents comes along every year or so and then inevitably they have a healthy child soon after. I've seen this time and time again and it doesn't get any less painful with each pregnancy announcement and birth.

It's not that I am not overjoyed for them. It's that I'm sad for those of us who feel left behind. And I'm sad because I wonder if this is what I'm destined for, especially with the way so many parents of rainbow babies talk about them.

There is a community within the babyloss community of women who don't have a rainbow baby (for many different reasons). We're known as "still mothers," because we are still mothers even when our motherhood is invisible to the world. We have a website and a support group with other others who "get it." We are mothers who understand that not everyone is guaranteed a rainbow after the storm, but that doesn't mean we lack hope. Many of us prefer not to use the term "rainbow baby" because the babies that we lost were not a storm. Our babies brought light and love and COLOR to our worlds and their death doesn't negate that.

Parents of rainbow babies talk about their child bringing them out of the pit of the sorrow that comes when one loses their child.

A particular friend I know lost her son early one year, got pregnant with her daughter later in that same year, then welcomed her into the world at the end of the year. She wrote on her blog about how the day of her daughter's birth overwhelmed her with gladness. She said, "To this day I know she is the only reason I ever recovered. She's the only reason I am not still deep in sadness."

A few years ago, I met a mother online whose daughter was due just days before Lily in March 2010. This little girl shares both Lily Katherine's first and middle names, just with a different spelling for both names. She was stillborn in late February of that year. We connected over our daughter's similar dates and names. Then she told me she had a healthy daughter a year later. She told me if she lets go of her focus on her living daughter, her heart becomes much heavier about her daughter who is no longer living.

Seeing and hearing these things is difficult for the invisible mother club. When I read these things, it stings because I wonder, will I recover? In many ways, I think that having a baby in my arms would help heal me in deep and immeasurable ways while on Earth, ways that only ever having another child can heal. Does God not want me to be healed in the way He has allowed others to be? Am I just resigned to the fact that I may always be haunted by silence, never to hear my own baby's sweet cry? Is this what my motherhood is going to look like for the rest of my life?

We should be careful not to pain the picture that life gets better if and when you have a rainbow, so if you can't or don't, you're destined for a life of misery and isolation.

Maybe us invisible mothers should redefine how we view rainbows. Maybe our rainbow is how we mother our baby's legacy. Maybe the rainbow that's been born after our loss is how we honor them, how we write about them, how we go to remembrance walks and candlelight ceremonies, release butterflies, continue with traditions on their birthdays, plant gardens, make hospital comfort boxes, etc. Maybe the light and color that comes is how we bring light and color to other families whose worlds have been darkened by loss.

Not everyone gets their rainbow baby, but maybe we can still have our rainbows. Even if we don't get what most people think will heal us and make us whole, Jesus is still enough. He is my rainbow, my hope in life and for eternal life. Maybe that's what my rainbow story is supposed to be.

I'm not trying to make anyone with a rainbow baby feel bad or feel like they shouldn't share. I personally *do* like the term and you better believe if my time ever comes, especially after waiting so many years, that I will be thrilled and all about some rainbows!

I just hope in my sharing others will realize rainbow babies aren't always expected or guaranteed and how it can be painful, confusing, and isolating for the invisible mother wrestling with these things. Let's weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice and not forget to have empathy with where others are.

If you are also a bereaved mother without a living child, check out the website Still Mothers (there is also a Facebook page and an online support group).

I appreciate this article about The Unique Grief of Mothers without Living Children. It is so comforting and validating. I thought I'd share it here for anyone else in similar shoes and also to give a glimpse into what it's like.


On another note regarding rainbow babies, I saw this touching video on Facebook (click link to view) that made me tear up. It's of a mother taking her rainbow baby home from the hospital. I've been praying and hoping for even the opportunity to have a rainbow for 8 1/2 years and don't know if the day will ever come, which hurts more than I could ever express. But I imagine I'll feel a lot like this beautiful mother if my day does comes. Somehow experiencing great loss makes love that much deeper. And I can only imagine how the longer the wait, the sweeter it'll be.


29 and Feeling Fine

My 29th birthday was this month, on August 12th, and I thought it'd be fun to share highlights/memories/milestones from each of my 29 years thus far 😄❤️🌹🎈🎉🎂🎁 #1989baby :

1 - I was probably being all adorable and learning to walk and talk. 😇

2 - Doing what 2-year-olds do... Hopefully growing some more hair. 😜

3 - Definitely noticing kitties by this age. 🐱

4 - My sweet little sister Emmaline was born. I still remember holding her for the first time and how much I loved babies even then. 🍼

5 - I used to line all my dolls and stuffed animals up to attend school and I was their teacher. 🍎 I also liked to report the news. Once I very seriously reported that "George Washington had a very had day today." ;)

6 - Some of my fondest memories are of living in the country in Earlysville, Virginia. I loved having big twin brothers to go on fun adventures with! 😍

7 - I got my first American Girl doll for Christmas that year and thus began my great love for AG.

8 - Moved to Carolina for the first time 🌻

9 - Met my childhood best friend 👭 ... nearly choked to death, but my mother saved my life 😯🙏

10 - Attended public school for the first time 😳

11 - Hello, acne 😩

12 - Middle school. 'Nough said. All I can say is I would definitely not wish to relive those years of awkwardness and mean kids. 😒

13 - There was a group of us 5 best friends that we called "the Quints" 😄

14 - Started high-school 😎

15 - Got my Driver's Permit 🚙

16 - Spent my sweet 16 birthday at Emerald Isle... got my Driver's License! 🌊🐚

17 - Traveled to NYC and Colorado for the first time... Graduated from high-school! 🌃 🎓

18 - Went to college in Tennessee and ran on the cross-country team ✏️

19 - Most difficult year of my life. God used the experiences of this year and the next to transform my life and teach me how beautiful redemption is. ❤️

20 - My sweet Lily girl was born! 💕🌸

21 - A lot of blogging and healing 💻 ... Worked at an Italian restaurant. 🇮🇹🍴

22 - Started public speaking and sharing my story around the country! 🎤 Spent a season at Ellerslie in Colorado 🌻 ... Got into photography  📷

23 - Remember how I started loving American Girl as a girl? Well, this year I got to go to the AG store in Chicago and I was probably more excited than I should have been. My cousin Daniel aptly described it when he said it was my childhood dream come true... just 15 years late. 😏 I nannied a lot that year.

24 - Decided to go back to school to finish my undergrad degree! Volunteered at a Pregnancy Center... My brother Joseph and bestie Kala got married! 💍

25 - Quarter of a century! Got involved with the Perinatal Bereavement Committee at the hospital in Raleigh where Lily was born and created my comfort boxes for families walking through infant loss. 💕

26 - I graduated with my Bachelors Degree and my amazing niece Harvest was born! Spent another season in Colorado! 🎓

27 - Bumma went to be with Jesus

28 - Moved to Virginia on an adventure of trusting God and growing as a person.

29 - Starting my Masters program (oh yeah, I still have to share that news with you all!)... who knows what else?? 😍💭 #29andfeelingfine


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

My Would-Be 3rd-Grader

Amidst all the back-to-school-first-day photos, this is where mine would be....

You can imagine a beautiful 8-year-old 3rd grader, with curly hair and blue eyes. There would surely be a big smile on her face and a pink backpack draped over her shoulder. The twinkle in her eyes would tell of her excitement for a new year and all she'd learn and the friends she'd make.

That's what I would be posting today and what I wish I was.

But March 16, 2010 took that photo and moment from me.

That's what I want others to grasp about infant loss - when you lose a baby, it's not a one-time occurrence that only affects you one day of your life.

It takes away the first day of 3rd grade too, and a thousand other days.

As John Piper described in a letter he wrote to comfort a mother who lost her son to stillbirth: "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."

Today my heart is tender as I miss my 3rd grader, my sweet Lily Kat.

Who are you missing today and what grade would they be starting? 🍎 ✏️ 🎒 ❤️


There is a touching letter being shared on Facebook and different blogs and websites, written by a Kindergarten teacher. This is what she had to say about it, with the letter below:
"Summer is winding down and I'm gearing up for a new school year. Yesterday, I sat down to finish my mailing for my new Kindergarten students. I worked my way through the list, personalizing each letter with my student's name (I feel like it adds a little extra love when you put pen to paper for someone). and daydreaming about the year ahead.
Then, I thought of them; the children who should be coming to Kindergarten. I imagined the families who should be receiving letters from new teachers, but instead, they are receiving yet another dose of heartbreak at the milestone their child did not reach.
So, I have decided that, for this year, they can join my classroom. I will be their teacher.
Here is their welcome letter."


Believing for a Miracle with a Broken Heart

My roomie put this inspirational quote up in our living room.

I've been thinking a lot about the truth in these words and how freeing and beautiful they are.

Don't we get it in our minds that we can *either* have hope *or* a broken heart? That the two are mutually exclusive?

When really the two can coexist side-by-side. The broken heart makes the hope for a miracle that much sweeter and when that miracle is fulfilled, that much more a thing of awe.

You can be broken-hearted over the baby you lost while at the same time hoping for the miracle of a rainbow baby.

You can be broken-hearted over being single and life not going the way you thought or dreamed it would while at the same time believing that God can change your circumstances and bring you a spouse.

It’s not either/or.

And like a seesaw going back and forth, sometimes your heart will feel more of the weight of hope or the weight of being broken-hearted. But that doesn’t mean the other doesn’t still exist and won’t again reign.

There are lessons to be learned in sorrow and in hope, and sometimes the lessons are found when both occupy the same soul simultaneously.

You, yes you, the one with the broken heart... you can believe things will change and your miracle will come, fully trusting God holds and ordains your life, while still feeling the ache in your heart. You don’t have to choose. 


Life for Lily Day!

August 15th was Life for Lily Day (I also call it my Spiritual Birthday)! 💕🌷

This year to mark the day, a couple people close to me went with me to the cemetery where we enjoyed a red-velvet treat and watched the sunset on a beautiful summer evening. I shared a bit about the significance of the day and thought about all my girl means to me and how peaceful the day feels.

On this day in 2015, family and friends gathered with me for a butterfly release at her special spot.

Here is part of what I shared about what Life for Lily Day is/means to me:

It was on this date in 2009 that I had an abortion appointment scheduled at Planned Parenthood. Blinded by my fear and shame, I thought I needed to "take care" of the "problem" of an unplanned pregnancy. After all, I had just turned only 20-years-old, was not married, and not in a place in my life where I thought I was ready to welcome a child into this world. 

It is only because of God's grace that August 15th does not hold painful memories of walking through those abortion clinic doors with my child safely nestled in my womb and walking out with her body having been violently ripped from mine. It is only because of His loving-kindness and intervention in my life that we are all standing here together, in this moment, at the beautiful memorial stone for a little girl named Lily Katherine. On the day that the enemy of our souls intended to be death for Lily day, we can rejoice that because of God's mercy that instead we celebrate Life for Lily Day! It is only because of His victory over darkness that when the clock struck midnight on August 16th in 2009 that my child's heart was still beating strongly within me. 

God whispered to my heart in August 2009 that I had come to a fork in the road in my life and had a very big decision to make. He showed me that if I chose to have an abortion, I couldn't imagine the pain and darkness that would follow, but if I chose life, I couldn't imagine the beauty that He would bring. On an August evening around dusk, I was watching the pink clouds dance across the sky, when suddenly the decision became clear to me: I had to obey Him and choose life. Suddenly all my fears melted away when the light of truth shined on my heart. I knew my God would be with me and would give me everything I needed to face the journey ahead.

I don't even want to imagine what my life would be like right now and all we would have missed had August 15th gone the way I had planned. Every year, I would have tearfully remembered that just three days after my own birthday, I denied my child the gift of having her own birthday. Because of the one who loves us more than life and had a plan beyond what I could see or comprehend, she does have a birthday - it's March 16th, 2010, a date that would have held no significance to me had the date of August 15th turned into one of anguish rather than rejoicing. Instead of ending her life, my Father in Heaven gave me the courage to embrace her life, and then put His love for her within me, even when I was selfish and broken and had none of my own to give.

You might think to yourself that Lily died anyways before birth, so what's the big deal, why shouldn't I have gone through with the abortion and saved myself the heartache of her untimely death? You see, she may have died, but she LIVED first. And she did not die before the purposes for her life were put into motion by the one who crafted her life and legacy before the foundation of the world. She didn't die before she changed my entire life, future, and calling. My child died with dignity, rather than at the hands of an abortionist, paid for by her mother. God had His will for her life and in my life, rather than me having my will and playing god in taking her life myself. It is the Lord who gives and takes away. May His Name be praised!

Butterflies symbolize new life and that is what Lily brought me. Her new life in the womb was a reflection of and the instrument used by God to bring me to life in Him. Her name means "purity and innocence," as a symbol of my redemption in Christ. Because of His shed blood, I am washed whiter than snow. He has cleared the blemishes of my past and makes them as if they never were. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!"

As my friend Anna wrote, "little Lily was a miracle, and even her name was a testimony to your growing in His light like a flower blooming in her season." Summer is the perfect time of year to release butterflies for the baby girl who brought me new life, as it was the time of year her life began. Obviously butterflies are significant enough to me to include one on the back of Lily's stone. Her life brought transformation.

Lily now has eternal life with Jesus. God spoke His promise of eternal life, redemption, and the love and mercy of Christ through Lily's birthday: March 16. 3:16, like John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." Her life is a picture of this.

Not only are butterflies significant to me because they remind me of Lily's new life, the new life she brought me, and my new life in Christ, but they are also beautiful creatures with short life spans. Maybe God wanted to speak through how He designed butterflies to be so lovely, knowing they would live a brief time, that it is not length that brings beauty and significance. I believe the butterfly is a reflection of the beauty, depth, and intricacy of Lily's life and legacy. Although the length of her life was short, the depth of it is immeasurable in how it's changed the breadth of the rest of my life.

There is a part in Lily's song that perfectly captures what August 15th means to me - "How close I had come to that fatal mistake, but I knew that your life was not mine to take. Through the turmoil and questions broke God's gentle voice: "will you entrust Me with this child, with this choice?"

The song "Alive Again" by Matt Maher beautifully articulates the season in my life when the Lord broke through my darkness. The chorus of the song says, "You called and You shouted, broke through my deafness, now I'm breathing in and breathing out, I'm alive again. You shattered my darkness, washed away my blindness, Now I'm breathing in and breathing out, I'm alive again."

The song "You Are On Our Side," by Bethany Dillon is another special one for me. On August 6th, 2009, I wrote in my journal about how desperate I was for Jesus and how deeply I regretted choices I had made. I asked Him to fulfill His purposes in my life and to take away anything keeping me from Him. In that journal entry, I wrote the lyrics to this song. The chorus says, "You sit at the table with the wounded and the poor, You laugh and share stories with the thief and the whore. When You could just be silent and leave us here to die, still You sent Your Son for us, You are on our side."

He showed me He is on my side.... in how He whispered hope and life to me, in how He brought the victory, in leading me to ask Him in my journal to rescue me from myself so He could prove Himself ever-faithful and present, in how He led me to the "Lifehouse Everything" skit online, in how He led my Aunt Sarah to lend me her David Teems CD so Scripture could be read over me during those nights where a battle was literally raging in the spiritual world and His power was released through His Word, in how He led me to reach out to a young woman named Bex who had courageously chosen life and adoption for her little boy and was able to be just the support and encouragement I needed in my own unplanned pregnancy, in how He led me to the pregnancy center, the "place of hope and light" as I call it, where I was able to cry and talk it out with my now good friend, Anna, in how He led me to listen to many different songs during that time that ministered to my heart, in how He put His love for Lily within me and the desire to protect her from harm, in how I found a Precious Feet pin of a 10-week unborn baby's feet when I was also 10-weeks pregnant and my heart was able to grasp that I had a precious life within me, in how I was initially researching abortion methods because I was planning on having one, when God turned my world upside down and showed me the truth about abortion and first birthed within me the desire to be a voice for the voiceless, in how He whispered to my heart that I was carrying a little girl named Lily while I was still in my first trimester. He showed me He was on my side through all these things and more. Through all these years, He has continued to show me He is on my side.

My spiritual birthday, or Life for Lily Day, is a "stone of remembrance." We praise the Lord for what He's done and we thank Him for sending Lily to Earth. As the decades pass, and my hair turns gray, and aging-wrinkles form on my face, I will remember. My love will only increase with time. While I remain on Earth, I will do all I can to share her story with others and bring glory to the Lord as she have done. Because I know the time is coming when we will be together forever and this life will have been but a breath in light of eternity. All the tears will dry up and the sorrow will fade away, on that day when Jesus greets me at the gates of Heaven, where I know she will be waiting with Him, to welcome me Home. As John Piper wrote in a letter to a mother whose son was stillborn, "she simply skipped Earth. For now. But in the new heavens and the new earth, she will know the best of earth and all the joys earth can give without any of its sorrows." When we first lock eyes, dear Lily, all the years of missing you will be no more and I will hold you and never let go. I will thank you for bringing me new life...

Life for Lily Day Butterfly Release

For more pictures and more on the butterfly release, you can read my blog post from last year by clicking here.


Thursday, August 16, 2018

He Numbers Our Days

There are so many posts I need to share!

August 12th was my 29th birthday. I always get reflective about life and Lily around this time of year. 🎈🌹

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.

me on the left and Lily 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 29 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.

I'm clinging to the truth that the Lord numbered both of our days and is sovereign... "In Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." ~Psalm 139:16


The Difference Between Us

Do you want to know what the difference is between the two babies represented by these birth certificates?

The difference is 20 years between birth dates. The difference is Virginia and North Carolina. The difference is merely an ounce between birth weights, with the same length. There is not much difference in their looks either.

They both were full-term baby girls when they were born. They both bear the names of flowers. They are both immensely loved.

Yet, one was born with breath and the other was not. One got to grow up and the other didn't. One celebrated her 29th birthday a few days ago and the other never will.

One is me and the other is my daughter.

That one breath changed the fact that I got one kind of birth certificate and she got another.

One. Single. Breath.

Separates her mattering and counting in other's minds versus not.

It shouldn't. ❤️


Until Our Last Breath

You may remember me writing about sweet baby Ryleigh Grace, who was stillborn at 38 weeks. Yesterday, August 15th, was her 2nd birthday.

Her mommy, Kristen, and I were good friends in high-school. Her firstborn was actually born on the exact same day as Lily! - March 16, 2010, and is now a healthy and thriving 8-year-old. Then her second baby was stillborn, giving us yet another thing we have in common.

Anyways, this summer, Kristen had her rainbow baby, another beautiful little girl. Her heart is still heavy with grief over the loss of Ryleigh. In many ways, I imagine having another baby is a reminder of all that was missed with the one who was lost. Kristen's experience proves that babies are not interchangeable and just because you have another doesn't mean you stop missing and longing for the baby who should've been here to grow.

I texted Kristen yesterday on Ryleigh's special day and told her they were both on my mind. Kristen responded that Ryleigh is on her mind every day, which I feel captures so much in so few words... even when the rest of the world "moves on," even when we think of other's babies who were lost on the day of their birth (hopefully if you know someone who has lost you do), we must remember that they remember and miss their beloved child EVERY SINGLE DAY! Another baby doesn't "fix" anything. Yes, another baby can heal and fill empty arms in a unique and beautiful way, but they will never erase the pain of what happened and what should have been.

It reminds me of this touching thing a bereaved mother put in her paper, which I first saw shared on Facebook a while back. I know I'll feel the same after 70 years. Our babies remain in our hearts and minds FOREVER, until our last breath.

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