Sunday, December 28, 2008

Three Kids

I visited some friends today that I have not seen in quite a while. Whenever I visit my parents I also like to visit friends that still live in my home town. These friends have three adorable little boys. Their oldest is just a few months older than my son and the second boy is almost two and the third is six months. And they are all adorable. I enjoyed so much visiting them and my son enjoyed having some boys to play with. It was a fun afternoon.

Observing how quickly life happens I couldn't believe that they have three kids already. Three kids in three years! One of my best girlfriends from high school also has three kids. It seems like everyone has three kids. And then it hit me.

I have three kids too.

It tore me up inside. I could feel tears well up in my eyes. I fought them as best I could but I think a few slipped out. I decided that it was time to go and I gave my hugs and left. As my husband and I drove home I sat quietly. I find these kinds of days so bittersweet. The days when I am genuinely enjoying myself with friends or family, watching my son enjoy being a little boy, feeling the pain lift for a moment, when suddenly my grief blindsides me and before I know it I am crying and hurting again. I just can't seem to escape my pain. It really is always there. I am afraid it always will be.

I don't know why such a revelation is even a part of my life. Why does it seem like everyone gets to keep their babies but me? I am happy that my friends have all their healthy, beautiful children. That is my hope for everyone. I would not wish such pain on anyone. I just wish that I could have all my children too. I simply don't understand why this had to happen. I don't think I ever will. In the meantime I am trying my best to cope. I may never get over losing my girls, but I hope that someday I can visit my friends and not burst into tears at the sight of their family.

Right now I can't help it.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Eve Visit

I visited my girls in the cemetery for the first time on Christmas Eve. I have tried to visit them before but was unable to bring myself to go. I just was not ready. But with Christmas the following day I felt compelled to see them. I had to let them know that they were included in our lives and in our holiday celebrations. That I thought about them day and night and still cried for them. And I just wanted to spend some time with them. I have missed them so much during this holiday season. The night before I visited them I wrote them a letter:

Dear Aubrey and Ellie,

I am sorry that this is the first time I have visited you since your funeral. I have not been able to muster up the courage until now. It is Christmas Eve and I needed to come and visit, to bring flowers, and spend some time with both of you. I don’t want you to feel left out. You are still a part of my life. You are a part of everything I do. You always will be forever.

There is so much I want to tell you that I don’t even know where to start. First I want to say that I miss you both so much. There is not a second that goes by that I don’t think of you. I have tea with you every morning, I look at your pictures daily, and I cry, a lot. It is still hard for me to get out of bed in the morning and you are the last thought on my mind when I go to sleep at night. Living without you has been the hardest thing I have ever had to do. The only peace I have is knowing that you are both together, whole and restored, in the presence of the Lord, waiting for me. I can only go on because I know I will see you again.

I am so thankful that God gave you to me. I wish He would have let me keep you longer, but I don’t regret one second of being your mom. You two have changed my life more profoundly than any person or experience in my life. I was thrilled to death when I found out about both of you. I always felt privileged and special to be blessed with identical daughters. I was completely in love with both of you from the very beginning and my love for you has only grown, even after your death. You will always have a place in my heart and a place in our family. I will never pretend like you didn’t exist or keep you a secret. I am as proud of both of you as I am your brother and it is an honor to tell your story.

I am sorry that I didn’t know how to pray for you. I only ever wanted what was best for you both but I didn’t know what that was. I felt so helpless while you were alive. But I never gave up hope or lost faith, and I never stopped loving you. Forgive me for not dressing you before you were buried. I should have put clothes on you and looked at you and held you one last time. It was hard for me to think clearly at the time. I hope you understand.

Aubrey Elizabeth- I am so sorry for not visiting you in the hospital the Sunday before you died. Please forgive me for taking our time together for granted. It is one of my greatest regrets. I would give anything for one more day with you now. Also forgive me for not pumping my milk while sitting by your incubator looking at your tiny little face. I intended to do that and am not really sure why I didn’t. I regret it. Thank you for giving me so many special memories of you. You were so feisty and strong. I know you would have made a great big sister to Ellie. I loved the day I got to change your diaper and touch your skinny little legs. I treasure most how you opened your eyes a few days before you died. I know you could see me with those smoky gray eyes. It is my favorite memory of you. Whenever I picture you in my mind I see you looking back at me and it comforts me. And it was my privilege to hold you before you went to heaven. I wanted to hold you the entire time you were alive but was not allowed until then. It was my dream to hold you and it came true. I remember your cheek against my cheek. You were so tiny. I miss you everyday.

Ellie Alexandra- I am sorry for not giving you a bible verse until after you died. That was not my intention. I am so thankful that in the short time you were alive I got to make so many special memories with you. I was so worried about you. I was worried about you and your sister both but you got so sick so soon that I couldn’t help but be concerned. I love how you waved you left hand at me when you heard my voice. And I loved the day I got to lift you up while your dad changed your bedding. I loved sitting next to you while I pumped my milk imagining nursing you someday. I am so thankful that I got to hold you before you left us. I loved petting your hair and kissing you. You were so sweet. I think you would have been my easy baby. I miss you everyday.

There are feelings in my heart that I cannot put into words. My deepest pain seems to come only in the form of tears. Something happened to me when you died. You each took a part of my heart with you to heaven. I will never be the same. But I promise to heal. I promise to honor your lives with how I live my life. I will never stop missing you. I will never stop wondering what you would have sounded like or what color hair you would have had. I will always feel sad that you are not a part of my daily life or a part of my future. And you will never be forgotten or replaced. You are my precious baby girls. I will love you forever.

I will see you soon. Wait for me.

Love,
Your mom.

When my husband and I arrived at the cemetery it was cold and rainy. We put purple and pink lisianthus flowers at their grave. I intended to read the letter I wrote to them but could not bring myself to do it. So I folded it up and put it under the flowers. We stood there a while holding each other and cried. I watched my tears fall into the grass. I felt so sad. It was hard to read their headstone and accept that I buried my two babies. I never imagined such a tragedy in my life. But I was glad I went. I needed to see them. I needed them to know that I was thinking of them. I plan to visit them again soon. I hope to feel more and more comfortable each time. I don't think I will ever feel good about visiting their grave, but I do think I will have peace about it someday. At least that is what I hope for.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Cookies

We have a tradition in my family. Every year we get together and decorate Christmas cookies. My mom makes the dough and cuts out every shape of cookie imaginable. She also makes homemade butter cream frosting and my sisters and I color the frosting and put it in piping bags with different icing tips. Then my aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, nieces, nephews, and friends get together and spend hours, I mean hours, decorating cookies. We visit and create and genuinely enjoy ourselves. It has been one of my favorite holiday traditions for as long as I can remember. I look forward to it every year, even as an adult, and I look forward to making it a tradition with my own children someday.

This year was different for me though. When I was pregnant with Aubrey and Ellie I told my husband that I didn't think cookie decorating would be possible for me this year. That I just didn't think I would find time to decorate cookies with two newborns to nurse and an almost three year old running around. This year I would just have to miss out. I was not disappointed, it was just the reality of having twins so close to Christmas. There was always next year. I simply accepted that I would not be able to participate this year.

A few months after Aubrey and Ellie died I told my husband that I still was not going to decorate cookies. Even though I love it and now had the time, I could not bring myself to do it. It seemed like a poor consolation under the circumstances. My ability to participate would be a symbol of their absence instead of a celebration. I just didn't feel right about it. I could not imagine participating.

As the day approached I became very emotional. I was dreading cookie decorating day. I told myself that it was ok to help, to mix the frosting colors, to fill the bags, to help my son decorate his first cookies, but that is as far as I would take it. I would not decorate. I would not dishonor my girls.

But something happened.

While I helped my son frost and sprinkle his cookies the dread in my heart disappeared and was replaced by peace. I wanted to decorate cookies for my girls. I no longer felt that enjoying myself would dishonor them. I wanted to do it for them, and I guess in a way, for myself too. So I sat down and spent hours thinking of my girls while I frosted cookie after cookie. When my sister walked in and saw me she said, "So you are decorating cookies!" As if to show her approval. It was ok for me to join in after all.

That night I felt sad. I didn't regret decorating cookies, but I did miss my girls. I never thought that one day I would sit down to participate in one of my favorite holiday traditions in memory of my babies in heaven. I am constantly reminded that nothing was left untouched by Aubrey and Ellie's death. And nothing ever will be. Their death is a part of my life. But I promised them I would not let their death ruin me, that I would do my best to find healing so that they could be proud of me. Now I have a new tradition. From now on I will sit down and decorate cookies with my children on earth and for my children in heaven. And that will just have to be how I think of it. Cookie decorating will never be the same. But then again, nothing will be.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Perspective

I feel like I am gaining a new perspective on the loss of my daughters as my grief changes. I don't feel less grief yet, but I do feel my grief differently. My pain used to be so raw and intense, and often hit without warning. Sometimes it still does, but not nearly as much. Now my pain is quieter. It is always there, but instead of being right on top of me all the time it shadows me almost. I always sense it, but there is a little more distance between it and me. And that little distance allows me a deeper understanding I think. At the very least it leaves some room for a deeper sense of peace.

I often struggle to accept that my perfectly healthy and properly developing babies got thrown into the world too soon and became profoundly sick and injured as a result, and eventually died. They were not born early because they were sick, they became sick because they were born early. And it was simply too much for them to overcome. Why I went into labor so early remains a mystery, which bothers me greatly. I have this sneaking suspicion that my body simply failed. I have forgiven myself for failing my girls. I know in my heart it was not intentional, just something that happened. But it still gets to me. They did not deserve what happened to them. They really didn't.

I don't understand why they were born early, but that does not change the fact that they were. And I don't understand why they became so sick, but they did. And the fear that I felt when I learned of their permanent brain damage was beyond explanation. I would stay awake at night wondering what kind of life was in store for them, what kind of pain and suffering might be in their future, both physically and emotionally. Wondering why them? Why did this happen to them?

To be honest I did not even know how to pray for them. I wanted them to live so badly. The thought of losing them was unimaginable. But with their quality of life so uncertain I had no idea what kind of life they would have. One doctor softly commented to us that some fates are worse than death. I was confused and scared. I didn't know what was best for them. I wanted them to live. But I didn't want them so suffer. I just wanted them to be ok. I was unimaginably conflicted. Either outcome was my worse fear realized. Why won't you heal them God? I would silently pray. Please, I beg you, make them well. Do something! Anything!

At their funeral I remember telling God that this was not what I meant at all. I wanted a miracle. I wanted my girls with me. I was so sad to say goodbye to them. As time passes my perspective is changing though. I can't help but wonder if my prayers for them were answered after all, just not in the way I had hoped. God did do something. He healed them. He just chose to restore them in heaven instead of on earth. I admit that I would have preferred to have them restored on earth. I just miss them so much. But I trust that God spared my girls from a life of pain and suffering. He knew how much losing my girls would hurt me. But maybe He also knew that living would hurt them more. As much as losing Aubrey and Ellie has broken my heart, I am beginning to truly recognize God's mercy in it. I no longer see only what was taken from me, but what was given to them. God saved my baby girls. And for that I am truly thankful.

Monday, December 15, 2008

No Babies to Dress Up

The holidays are keeping me busy. Yet I still manage to find time to cry every single day. Grief always seems to find its way into my day. As Christmas is getting closer I feel myself growing more and more sad. I am coming to accept that there will be no babies for Christmas this year. Accepting that has revealed so many broken dreams and unmet expectations. And each one is like another cut on my already bleeding heart.

When I was pregnant with Aubrey and Ellie I had this vision of Christmas being the day of their big reveal. I would bring my precious little identical twin daughters home for Christmas and the whole family would be there to meet them. I envisioned having them dressed in identical outfits but with different colored headbands on their heads so everyone could tell them apart. They would have been so little still, probably not even three months old yet. I imagined nursing them while I sat in front of the fire in my parent's living room the same way I nursed my son when he was tiny. I had a dream of what having my girls for Christmas would be like, and I have had to let it all go. Every little detail is gone. And with it so is a part of my heart.

I was in the mall with a girlfriend the other day and I found two little infant outfits that would have been exactly what I would have bought for my girls to wear for Christmas this year. And to tell the truth I almost bought them anyway. I grew very attached to them as I imagined my little girls wearing them. But I thought about it and I made myself put both outfits back. Your girls are in heaven now I told myself. There are no babies to dress up for Christmas this year. It is a sad time for me.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Held

When I was pregnant with my son over three years ago I heard a song on Christian radio by Natalie Grant called Held. I remembered it because when it would play I would cry. The first verse is about losing a baby, and with my unborn baby boy kicking in my belly the thought of losing him was too much to bare. I honestly thought losing a baby would be the worst imaginable pain. I didn't know that three years later I would no longer think, but know, exactly what losing not one but two babies feels like. And the pain is worse than I ever imagined.

This song is powerful. I can't listen to it without breaking down. And I mean breaking down. It stirs up in my heart the deep grief that seems to settle on the bottom. The grief I don't want to touch because the pain of it might cut me clean through. I am still so raw. I battle daily accepting that God allowed this. That the God I love and loves me took them anyway. I guess I am supposed to find comfort in being held through this. But I don't. I don't want to be held, I want to be doing the holding. I want my babies in my arms.

Held

Two months is too little.
They let him go.
They had no sudden healing.
To think that providence would
Take a child from his mother while she prays
Is appalling.

Who told us we’d be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
We’re asking why this happens
To us who have died to live?
It’s unfair.

This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held.

This hand is bitterness.
We want to taste it, let the hatred NUMB our sorrow.
The wise hands opens slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow.

This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held.

If hope is born of suffering.
If this is only the beginning.
Can we not wait for one hour watching for our Savior?

This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held.

I feel the arms of Jesus reaching for me even though I push them away. I am just so angry. It IS appalling to take two children from their mother while she prays. And I prayed! I begged! This IS what it feels like when the sacred is torn from my life and I survive. It is devastating. And jumping into God's arms like it is all ok with me is just not possible for me right now. None of this is ok with me. I know God is patient with me though. He is waiting with open arms while I inch closer to Him. I just need to know I don't have to pretend I am ok with what happened to be held. And I don't. God will hold me even when I am mad, when I feel confused, when I express my disappointment, when I am completely broken. God will hold me while I kick and scream. I just need to let him.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Someone Elses' Words

I don't know about you, but sometimes, no matter how hard I try to put my emotions into words, it does not translate. And it is frustrating. Without the words to express myself the pain stays locked inside. When I struggle to give my pain a voice I read. Reading helps me think and sometimes I stumble across the words I was looking for. Today a friend of mine forwarded me a post from stillsearching.wordpress.com, the blog of a fellow Wheaton alum, who wrote a beautiful piece on Advent. I read it and was blown away. It was clear as I read his words that he was able to say what I could not. Sometimes others just say it better I guess. I included the post below. I added italics to the sentences that resonated most with me for emphasis. The words are beautiful.

Advent: A Beautiful and Sad Time of Year
December 2, 2008 · 8 Comments

"Though Thanksgiving is not a part of the liturgical season of Advent, I think it fits perfectly as segue or entry point into this period of the church calendar.

Advent, after all, is about anticipating and reflecting upon the mystery that is the Incarnation: the nearly incomprehensible moment when God entered human history by becoming a baby on earth. Thanksgiving is an appropriate predecessor, as a day that we set aside to take stock of what we have, what God has done for us, the bounties and blessings and loves he’s bestowed us. Thanksgiving gets us in the mode of self-effacing gratitude, but it doesn’t end there.
It prepares our hearts and minds for the bigger, more solemn, more awesome experience of meditating upon God’s greatest and most mind-blowing gift ever: himself.

It puts everything into perspective. On Thanksgiving, I was amazed and shamed at all the things I have. I was thankful for all the usual stuff (family, friends, a house, my health) as well as some unusual stuff (walnuts, synthesizers, Japanese people, aging), but mostly I was just overwhelmed by the fact that I was even alive: that I existed when I just as well might not have existed, and that God orchestrated it for some spectacularly unfathomable reason.


It made me reflect on the preciousness of life, and how newborn babies often make us say things like “isn’t life a miracle” or some variation of “that’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” Which is weird, because babies are really not all that beautiful, in the way we typically conceive of beauty. They are actually a bit deformed and unseemly, what with their frog-like appendages flailing around and their crinkly, crying faces, etc. But we nevertheless are floored by the miracle and beauty of them. And I think it is our response to the very idea of life: of an existence that starts at a defined point, a someone that holds the promise of the world and an unknowing affirmation of everything in its gradually opening eyes. Above all, it’s a sense of wonder. How and where does this little person come into being? Why do we love it and it us? What is its purpose? It’s the supreme mystery of existence.

It’s fitting, then, that God chose to enter our human world as a newborn baby. He could have appeared out of thin air as a 21 year old, or as a 30-year-old prophet ready for some serious ministry. But he chose to start where everyone else starts: in the womb. His incarnation was always about working through—not outside of—creation to reveal himself to us in ways we could understand. And a baby who is born and grows up and dies is something we can understand. It was God coming down to our level to bless our unfortunate little existence by becoming part of it. And his name was Emmanuel—“God With Us.”

Speaking of that, I highly recommend the advent devotional book, God With Us, featuring essays and meditations by the likes of Scott Cairns, Kathleen Norris, and Luci Shaw. In the introduction to the book, which I read last night (Day 1 of Advent), Eugene Peterson captures so much of what I have been feeling about Advent. He writes:

There can’t be very many of us for whom the sheer fact of existence hasn’t rocked us back on our heels. We take off our sandals before the burning bush. We catch our breath at the sight of a plummeting hawk. “Thank you, God.” We find ourselves in a lavish existence in which we feel a deep sense of kinship—we belong here; we say thanks with our lives to Life. And not just “Thanks” or “Thank It,” but “Thank You.” Most of the people who have lived on this planet Earth have identified this You with God or gods. This is not just a matter of learning our manners, the way children are taught to say thank you as a social grace. It is the cultivation of adequateness within ourselves to the nature of reality, developing the capacity to sustain an adequate response to the overwhelming gift and goodness of life.
Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder. The wonder keeps us open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can account for, that always exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make.

I love that Advent simultaneously forces us away from ourselves and our petty problems while also, in a way, affirming them. It’s a season of denying our self and our possibility in the face of the wholly Other that is the mysterious, Incarnate Emmanuel. But it’s also a chance for us to focus, to synthesize our various desires, issues, concerns, and identities into a cohesive oneness with the bewildering fact that we are here, and so is God. There’s a reason why we sing “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.” We share a planet—the dirt, air, water, DNA—with the creator of the universe. This is the most empowering and humbling fact of history, and the weight of it is immense. It is the reason Advent is historically a very solemn season: because the Incarnation cannot be taken lightly.

As I enter into Advent this year, I’m burdened by just as many hopes and fears as the next guy. There is pain and regret in my heart, love and confusion, physical and emotional imperfection, and immense exhaustion. I sometimes just want to drink eggnog or mulled wine and listen to Over the Rhine’s Darkest Night of the Year (for the record, probably the best Christmas album of all time) while languishing in self-pity and world weariness as stocks and bombs carry the torch of history’s tumultuous march.

And Advent accepts all that. It thrives on unsettledness, uncertainty, and despair. Which is kind of bleak for a holiday season that is typically thought of as the merriest season of all. Until we recognize that our pain makes Advent all the more meaningful—to look forward, expectantly, longingly, to the moment when all the pieces (of our lives, of history, of heaven and earth) come together in a monstrous cymbal crash that reverberates in every corner and cranny of the concert hall."


I hope that you found his writing as meaningful as I did. It helped me find more peace in the midst of the holidays. Losing Aubrey and Ellie is still fresh and painful, and the holiday season seems to reopen barely closed wounds. The more I fall apart however, the tighter I cling to Jesus. This time of year makes obvious what I lost. But it also reminds me of the hope I have, the comfort in the midst of my suffering, that only Jesus can provide. As was so eloquently stated above, my pain makes Advent all the more meaningful. I too have "pain and regret in my heart, love and confusion, physical and emotional imperfection, and immense exhaustion." The death of my daughters has left me broken in so many ways. I walk wearily to the arms of my Father for healing and "to look forward, expectantly, longingly, to the moment when all the pieces (of our lives, of history, of heaven and earth) come together." I will see my girls again. Advent makes that possible.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Fixation

I am staring at the computer screen right now. I don't know what to write. Not because I don't have anything to say, but because I don't know where to start. How do I even begin to explain what it is like to exist after the death of both my babies? Is it even possible? Some things can only be experienced I think. Grief is impossible to imagine because our imagination at its best cannot conjure up the depth of the pain grief inflicts on our heart. Grief can't be anticipated. It is impossible to brace yourself for impact. And it hits so hard you can't even believe you are still alive. That is the hardest part. Grief doesn't kill you. It lets you live to experience every single painful moment. It is relentless. Grief is like torture.

I had a particularly hard day. I was fixated for some reason on what color hair Aubrey and Ellie would have had. It really bothers me that I will never know if they would have been blond or brunette. It isn't that I prefer one over the other, I just wish I had more details to imagine them with. I want to see their little faces in my mind as they were intended to be instead of so sick and discolored and premature. What color eyes would they have? Would their hair be curly or straight? Would they have freckles? What would they sound like? I would give anything to hear them just once. A cry, a laugh, it doesn't matter to me. To have a memory of their voices would be so precious to me. I just want to know them.

I don't get to know them in this life as I want to, but they are waiting for me in heaven, and there I will get an eternity to know them perfectly. That is the only thing that gets me through these days. My grief is only temporary. It doesn't feel temporary. But it is. If I can just hang in there until then I will see them again. Our separation is not permanent. Until heaven!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving. I have been cooking since early this morning. I love to cook and am happy to have Thanksgiving in our new home surrounded by family and friends, but I can't shake the feeling that Aubrey and Ellie are missing. If Aubrey and Ellie had lived I would not be here this morning. I would be at my parent's house, with my baby girls, showing them off to my whole family. They would probably be around two and a half months old now. I would have my hands full with three children under three and putting on Thanksgiving at my house would not even be an option this year. I wouldn't even consider it.

But here I am. No babies at all. And it makes me so sad. I honestly try to remember all the other blessings in my life but they only remind me of the two blessings that are gone. I still have moments of denial. I can't believe this all really happened, that my baby girls are dead. It just seems too horrible to be true.

Now that the holidays are here the adjustment to life without Aubrey and Ellie is even more apparent. There are no babies for Thanksgiving. There will be no babies for Christmas. No little bundles to dress in warm hats and socks. No matching dresses with tights that have ruffles on the bum. I have time now to decorate the house and make Christmas cookies and throw parties. But I don't want it. I want Aubrey and Ellie. I am doing my best to make this holiday season fun and meaningful, especially for my son who is now old enough to be thrilled to death over presents and decorations, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that deep down I resent it. It is hard to celebrate with the loss of my girls still so recent. I don't feel like celebrating. I feel like crying. For the rest of my life two of my children will be missing from every holiday. My two little girls won't be at the Thanksgiving table today or any other day.

Losing Aubrey and Ellie has changed my perspective on everything and realigned my priorities extensively. I do recognize the blessings in my life. But I still hurt. I still feel the emptiness of losing them. I still have an ache in my heart that never seems to go away. This is not at all what I ever wanted to happen. I still dream about them and long for them. I wanted them so badly and accepting their death is a constant emotional battle. They are my precious girls and I will miss them at every holiday forever. Truthfully, I will miss them forever no matter what day it is.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Unexpected Return

Today my son had an MRI. He has been having dizzy spells that we can't find the cause of. The doctors want to rule out the worst case scenario so they scheduled an MRI for him today at Children's Hospital, the hospital Aubrey was transferred to and eventually died in. Where we took my son was in a different part of the hospital and at first it didn't feel too reminiscent of our time there with Aubrey. But while wheeling my son to recovery we walked right down the hall to the NICU and past the room we sat in with Aubrey after we removed her from life support and held her while she slowly left us.

Those few steps through that familiar place felt like slow motion. I remember emerging from that room with my dead daughter in my arms covered in a blanket. I remember all the eyes on me as I walked her through the NICU and placed her back on her bed. I remember telling the nurse to keep Aubrey warm and to be careful not to hurt her while removing all her tubes and tape. I looked around and saw alive babies on all sides. But my baby was dead. Both my babies were dead. One nightmare ended as another began. Our girls were gone. We signed some papers and went home. It was horrible.

I was not expecting to return to that part of the hospital today, nor was I expecting to remember so vividly my experience there. When the memories come back so does all the what ifs and regrets. Not a moment goes by that I don't wonder if some how the outcome could have been different. I just don't understand what happened, why my beautiful baby girls came so early and left too soon, why this is part of my life at all?

My life was not supposed to be like this. I can only pray that God gives me peace and the ability to accept my daughters' deaths and all the heartache that goes with it. I never wanted to let go of my girls. Laying them back on their beds and walking away from them was crushing. I didn't want to leave them, but in truth they had already left me. All I have now are memories. I never want to let go of those memories, but I do want to let go of all the what ifs and regrets. I just don't know how.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Numb

I thought the numb phase had passed. At the very beginning I remember being aware of my numbness. The night after Ellie died I didn't shed a tear. I just laid in bed, completely numb, and fell asleep. I didn't feel anything about anything. Not a single feeling existed in my body. I don't even think I had any thoughts. I was just a body, my heart and soul had shut down, and I was fresh out of tears. When I walked out into the parking lot after Aubrey died and squinted my eyes in the brightness I felt as though I entered the twilight zone. I was a hollow woman. Nothing lived inside me but emptiness. No feelings. No emotions. Nothing.

In only a matter of days the numbness wore off though, and my pain was excruciating. Both of my babies were dead. I went from having no feelings at all to feeling every painful emotion that exists all at once. I thought feeling had returned. But I realize now that I can only feel my pain. I am still numb in almost every other way. As I sit here writing this I can't deny my indifference to the rest of the things in my life that cause me to feel. I have shut out anything else that might add to my pain. I just can't cope with more pain or disappointment. I just can't.

I don't know what to do. I can only pray that God will save me from myself. That God will give me the strength I need to risk feeling again. I can't be numb forever and I don't want to be. I want to feel EVERYTHING, not just the agony of my daughters' deaths. I want my life to become real to me again. I want to feel again.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bleeding to Death

Grief is more far reaching than I ever imagined. The pain is deeper than I even realize. I know it is there but I am so delirious with the pain of it that I don't even realize how deep the wound goes. I have heard war veterans talk about how they got shot and didn't even realize it until they had almost bled to death. They knew something was wrong, they knew they felt strange and weak, but they had no idea they were bleeding to death. That is grief. I feel strange and weak, but I am not completely aware of just how much my broken heart is bleeding. I know I am hurt, but I am not sure how badly. The difference is with grief you don't bleed to death. You bleed to unawareness. Somehow I have lost myself in my pain. I have become someone different. Someone I don't recognize. Someone I never wanted to be.

Aubrey and Ellie's death has changed me forever. In some ways I am changed for the better I guess. But I am not really sure. But in other ways I have changed for the worse. Of that I am sure. I feel that I have lost my way a bit. My heart is still bleeding all over the place, I just don't always realize it. Hopefully I can not only regain what was lost in me, but that God will turn my weakness into strength. I want to feel strong again. I want to feel like myself again.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What is Good?

God works all things for good for those who love him. I must repeat that to myself a thousand times a day. I believe it to be true but it doesn't take my pain away. It is an unfair trade if you ask me. What does it mean? What is good? Better than Aubrey and Ellies' lives? Better than loving and raising my two precious daughters? Better than a life and future with my girls? I don't think so. So what is this good God promises because it doesn't seem that good to me?

Losing Aubrey and Ellie has brought me face to face with the harsh realities of life. Some things can happen in life that no amount of good can make up for. Good is a relative term that changes depending on life's circumstances. But I wonder, is the good God promises an ultimate good? Is His good different from what I understand good to be? Is His good always truly good regardless of circumstances or my perception of it?

I think it is. What is ultimately good for us is to be transformed. To become more like Christ. That is the good God promises. And that ultimate good, although it does not always feel good, is truly good. God did not allow my girls to die so that I could become more like Christ, but He will use it for my good, to transform me and draw me closer to Him because only there will I find the comfort and healing I need to go on. He will not allow my daughters' deaths to be meaningless. His good offers what nothing else can, purpose in my suffering.

I don't think I will ever prefer the good God promises in this life to keeping Aubrey and Ellie. I wish I could say that the good is worth it, but I can't. I would trade it all to have Aubrey and Ellie back in a heartbeat. I have been honest with God about that. But I am thankful that in my suffering there is meaning. I don't think I could go on if it was all for nothing.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Healing

I was driving in the car today and a song came on the radio by Lifehouse called "Broken" that touched my heart. I felt like it was written for me. It describes exactly how I feel since Aubrey and Ellie died. Just a few days before I heard it I hit my knees begging God to speak to me. I was so broken. I realized that I have distanced myself from God. I have been relying too heavily on what I know to be true about God and but longing for the emotional comfort and peace that only comes from Him. I was desperate for something more. I prayed that God would help me to feel, and not just know, that He is with me. And He answered my prayer right then. In my mind I heard Him say to me, "You will be ok, I sill got you." I was so touched. And so thankful. For the first time in a long time I could feel God comforting me. It was deeply healing. I used to tell my girls, "God's got you," when I talked to them in their incubators but I think I forgot that "God's got me" too. When I heard this song in the car it reminded me of what God did for me this week. I am in pain, I am still hurting so much, but in pain there is healing. I am holding on because in His name I find meaning. And I will be ok.
Broken
The broken clock is a comfort, it helps me sleep tonight
Maybe it can stop tomorrow from stealing all my time
I am here still waiting though i still have my doubts
I am damaged at best, like you've already figured out
I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing
With a broken heart that's still beating
In the pain, there is healing
In Your name I find meaning
So I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on
I'm barely holdin' on to you
The broken locks were a warning you got inside my head
I tried my best to be guarded, I'm an open book instead
I still see your reflection inside of my eyes
that are looking for purpose, they're still looking for life
I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing
with a broken heart that's still beating
In the pain (in the pain), is there healing?
In Your name (in Your name) I find meaning
So I'm holdin' on (I'm still holdin'), I'm holdin' on (I'm still holdin'),
I'm holdin' on (I'm still holdin')I'm barely holdin' on to you
I'm hangin' on another day
just to see what you throw my way
And I'm hanging on to the words you say,
You said that I will be OK
The broken lights on the freeway left me here alone
I may have lost my way now, haven't forgotten my way home
I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing
with a broken heart that's still beating
In the pain(In the pain) there is healing
In Your name I find meaning
So I'm holdin' on (I'm still holdin'), I'm holdin' on (I'm still holdin'),
I'm holdin' on (I'm still holdin'), I'm barely holdin' on to you
I'm holdin' on (I'm still holdin'), I'm holdin' on (I'm still holdin'),
I'm holdin' on (I'm still holdin'),I'm barely holdin' on to you

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Simply Worth It

Losing Aubrey and Ellie has put my life under a microscope. Every aspect of my life has been magnified a thousand times. The cracks in my life, the weak areas, are proving to be more fragile than ever. But the solid parts of my life are holding fast. They are stronger than I even realized. I have learned that I am both stronger and weaker than I thought. My perception of myself has changed as I am stripped to the core. It was one thing to imagine how I might respond if something tragic ever happened to me, it is another to actually find myself here. It is so different than I imagined. I now realize that no one is capable of imagining this kind of pain, it can't be conjured up in the mind or viewed from the outside. It can only be experienced first hand. And it is worse than I ever imagined it could be. Beyond worse.

I think life can be so disappointing. And lonely. And scary. Just existing assumes so much risk. We are all destined for life-altering heartache. We risk incapacitating pain every time we love someone, hope for something, or dream of the future. We may lose who we love, never get what we hoped for, and our dreams may be stolen from us. Sometimes it doesn't seem worth it. Why do we set ourselves up for disappointment like that? Wouldn't it be safer to not love, to not care, to not hope, to not dream?

Absolutely Not! The depth of my pain may match the depth of my love for Aubrey and Ellie, but I would not trade one second of that love, one moment of knowing them, to ease even a fraction of my pain. Some things are simply worth it. And loving them is worth it. I can't help but think of how God must feel the same way about us. His heart must break so profoundly for us. The infinite depth of His love must make His pain unfathomable. Yet it is worth it to Him also. He still loves us. He still pursues us. He still has a purpose and future for us. He still blesses us. We are worth it to Him. I am worth it to Him. And my girls are worth it to me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Can't Stand It

Sometimes I freak out inside. I feel like my world is caving in around me. I can't stand that Aubrey and Ellie died. I CAN'T STAND IT! Grief and sorrow pile on top of me like rubble. Before I know it I am buried and suffocating, the entire weight of it on me at once. And it infuriates me. It is a battle I can't win. I am fighting with everything I've got, but I am no match for the magnitude of my grief. When I surrender to my grief it overwhelms me. When I resist my grief it pursues me relentlessly. When I question my grief I find no answers. When I collapse in exhaustion my grief tramples me. When I muster up new strength my grief intensifies. I can't get away from it. If I could gnaw off the part of me caught in grief's trap I probably would, but all of me is tangled up in it. There is not a single cell in my body that does not feel the pain of losing Aubrey and Ellie. I literally feel sick with grief.

I get a knot in my throat sometimes that can take hours to go away. I think I get it on the days I try really hard not to cry. Some days I am so sick and tired of crying I fight off my tears all day long. When I get in bed at night I realize that my throat hurts from chocking back my tears and my neck and shoulders are tense and sore. I get frustrated because I have to decide which kind of exhausted I want to be at the end of every day, exhausted from crying all day or exhausted from trying not to cry all day. It is frustrating. I am really exhausted.

I cannot explain how badly I wish this never happened. I love my girls. I often feel that being without them is just too much to ask of me. Most days I just don't know how I will ever go on, how my life will ever be good again. I feel as though I will never be ok again. And that scares me. If only they didn't die I would never experience any of this. They would be healthy and beautiful and here with me. I would be exhausted and happy and in my glory with my sweet baby girls. I would never know this depth of pain. I would still be ok. We would all still be ok.

The hardest thing about losing Aubrey and Ellie is the finality of it all. Yes, it would be so much better if this didn't happen, but it did happen and no amount of wishing, arguing, questioning, praying, or demanding will change it. My baby girls are dead. They are never coming back. I will never hold them, see them, or be with them again until heaven. And until then I will hurt. My life will never be normal. My family will never be whole. My heart will always be missing two pieces.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween

Yesterday was Halloween. I dressed my son like Oliver Twist. He looked so cute.

My husband and I took him to the Harvest Festival at our church so that he could play games and have fun. It was a beautiful day and nice to be outside, but I was hurting inside.

While pregnant with Aubrey and Ellie I looked forward to Halloween. I knew they would be born by now for sure and I was excited to dress them up in sweet little costumes only twins could pull off like two peas in a pod or yin and yang. Something darling.

But just as Halloween has come and gone so have my precious babies. Two babies to dress up for Halloween is just one more unrealised dream of a future with Aubrey and Ellie that will never be. And it makes me sad. I know this is just the beginning of the difficulty of the holiday season. So many things are on the horizon that will only deepen my pain and magnify the loss of my babies. I expected to have them for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. I planned on bringing in the New Year with them and every New Year from then on. I had a whole lifetime planned with them.

Life is so sad sometimes. I miss my girls.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Didn't Go

I didn't visit the cemetery.

I just couldn't bring myself to go.

I honestly had intentions to go, but I was too scared. And too sad. I knew that I would break down and I did not want my son to see me like that. I also wanted to read a letter to each of my girls, but was unable to prepare them. I didn't feel right going there unprepared.

I guess it just wasn't time yet.

I feel terrible that I have all these opportunities to visit their grave and don't go. But I just can't. It is too painful. Someday I will find the courage to visit them. Someday I will find the strength to kneel down in the grass and touch their headstone. Someday I will sit with them and read the letters I wrote while I cry and miss them. I think what I dread the most is not the going there.

It is the leaving.

Leaving the cemetery on the day of their funeral made their death so real. And I fear that leaving them again will only make it more real. You would think my empty belly and painful scar would be enough to convince me of that already. How much more real could it get right? Was holding each of my babies in my arms as they took their last breath not enough to drive it home? Is an empty nursery and quiet house not convincing? Do their death certificates and the deed to the cemetery plot leave any question that they are gone?

Yet with each passing day, somehow, the reality sets in even more. I don't even know how but it does. And the pain of those moments is excruciating. I know that seeing their headstone is going to hurt profoundly. And I am just not ready for that yet. I will be someday, but not today.

I hope my girls understand. I think they do since they don't really hang out there anyway.

I miss you sweet girls. I miss you so much.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Anxious Observer

At my aunt's memorial service on Saturday I could not help but watch my uncle and cousins the entire time. I observed anxiously, trying to read them. I recognized in their faces the intensity of their pain. Their body language exposed their grief. I empathized with their brokenness in some ways but not in others. It is hard to watch people you love hurting so profoundly, especially when my own pain is still so fresh. I know how unbearable it really is. I worry for them.

I prayed today for them and for every person in the world that is grieving, has grieved, and will grieve the loss of some one they love. Watching others grieve stirs up so much of my own grief it almost makes me sick. I feel scared and sad for others who are experiencing such pain. I watch helplessly as they uniquely endure their loss. I feel anxious because I know how hard and lonely this journey is. And it is lonely. So unbelievably lonely. I hurt for them as I myself hurt.

I know how devastating losing Aubrey and Ellie has been for me and I can only assume that other kinds of loss, although not identical to mine, are just as devastating. My uncle asked me how long the pain lasts. I couldn't really answer him. I told him that his loss is different than mine and that he is different than me, but for me it has not yet ended, that it will take a while. He thanked me for being honest but I could tell he was not encouraged. I too wish the pain would pass more quickly, but it doesn't. It takes a lot of time, too much time in my opinion.

I know that God will help them through their grief just as He is helping me through mine. I know that God will carry them just as He has carried me. But it will still be hard for them just as it is hard for me. They will have many hard days and tear-filled nights. I still have many of those ahead of me. I can only watch anxiously and pray for God's comfort for all of us. He has enough for all of us thankfully. Even when we feel like enough does not exist.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Sliver of Light

The last four days have been the hardest in a long time. I felt like I was caught in a storm again. It is so easy to feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and disoriented. The waves of grief were pounding me one after the other. And I struggled. I felt like I was hanging on for dear life but unsure if it was even worth it. I wanted to let go and just be overcome.

Grief is a lot like water. It can be relentless, eroding away every coping mechanism, striping me of any strength or strategy to endure this sad season of my life. Aubrey and Ellie's death has truly shattered me and sometimes I feel as though the pieces will never be put back together. I am simply broken, forever.

But today I saw a sliver of light. I felt a hint of warmth on my face. I was in a storm but now the storm has subsided and the clouds are clearing. Light is breaking through. And there I am, holding on to a life raft, tired and soaking wet, bobbing up and down with the small swells of the sea. The waves are gone. The rain has past. I am still in the ocean of my grief with no land in sight, but for the moment there is calm, there is light, and there is warmth. There is hope.

It is easy for me to see God in the calm. But He was there in the storm too. He has not abandoned me during this time. He is what keeps me afloat. He held my head above water through every powerful wave. When I could not see, He was guiding me. When I could not swim, He held me up. When I wanted to cast myself into the sea and give up, He quieted the storm and let the sun shine through.

Another storm will come. My hard days have not come to an end. But I am so thankful for God's sufficient grace. I will remember this day when the hard days hit again. I can trust that there is light in these dark times. I have experienced it. God is so faithful. His Word is true. He comforts those who mourn. His comfort is real to me today.

I am still sad. My heart is still broken. God's comfort does not remove the pain, but it does sustain me through it. I feel the pieces being put together one by one. I will always miss Aubrey and Ellie though. And I know I have many more tears to cry for them.

At least for today though I can have a little sun on my face in between the tears. For the moment I can catch my breath and bask in the Light.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Headstone

My dad called me today to tell me that Aubrey and Ellie's headstone has finally been set on their grave and that it is beautiful. I have not yet visited them at the cemetery. I can't bring myself to go. But I have plans to finally see them this weekend while I am visiting my parents to attend my aunt's memorial service. I want to write them each a letter and read it to them while I kneel at their grave. I know I will water the grass with my tears. I will also bring them the most beautiful flowers I can find. Most importantly I am going to spend some time with my girls. I realize they are in heaven and not really in that tiny casket but I think going there will be good for me. It will be a huge step. I will put their letters in their memory boxes when I come home and hold my time at their graveside close to my heart. I need these things to keep me going. Any connection to my girls helps me cope. Any memory I can make with them brings me comfort. I miss them so much.

Doll Clothes

I was in the craft store today and I came across an entire wall of doll clothes. I found all kinds of beautiful and tiny little outfits that would have fit my girls perfectly. Adorable little dresses with ruffles. Tiny sweaters with matching mittens and booties. Even shoes. Tiny little shoes.

I was filled with gut wrenching regret. I should have dressed them before they were buried. I should have found doll clothes for my girls and made them look pretty before they were laid to rest. I am their mother, I should have done that for them. I wish I could go back in time and make a different decision. But I can't. It makes me so sad.

Not dressing them before they were buried is not my only regret. I have many.

I regret not paying more attention while I was pregnant. Maybe I could have prevented their premature birth? I should have protected them better. After they were born I only visited them in the NICU two or three times a day. After I was discharged only once a day. I should have visited more and stayed longer. I never took any video of them. Why did I not do that? I had the opportunity to sit next to Ellie's incubator and look at her while I pumped my milk, but I never got the chance to do that with Aubrey. I hope she can forgive me and knows that I love her as much as I love her sister. I also didn't visit Aubrey in the hospital the Sunday before she died. Everyday I think how God gave me a day with her that I took for granted. Every time I wish for just one more day with my girls I think how I did have one more day with Aubrey that I didn't take advantage of. I feel like a horrible mother.

It is really hard to forgive myself for not doing all the things I should have done. And everyday brings a new regret. It is all part of the process I guess. Part of the grief process. Someday I hope that I can let go of all the ways I failed my girls and accept that I did the best I could under the circumstances. I hope they know that I tried to be the best mother I could to them and that I love them with my whole being.

I hope my love for them can find its way to Heaven.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fed Up

I woke up this morning completely fed up.

I looked at myself in the mirror and I saw a worn out woman staring back. My eyes were puffy from crying the night before and I looked awful. I am so over feeling broken and sad all the time. I just don't know what to do with myself anymore. I want this whole miserable process to be finished. I am sick of carrying it and dealing with it and fighting it and feeling it and wrestling with it and crying about it.

My heart aches all the time. I am exhausted. And I want more than a break from the pain, I want it to end. I just want it to be over.

If only it was that simple.

Nothing about my daughters' deaths is simple. And nothing will make the pain simply vanish. It is something I will carry for the rest of my life. Their loss has complicated my life in ways I did not think possible.

Normal daily living is harder than it has ever been. Simple tasks overwhelm me. I get frustrated with the demands of being a wife and a mother. I just want to be left alone to deal with my pain by myself, uninterrupted. I can't seem to keep myself motivated. I lose track of time. Halfway through something I forget what I am doing. I feel like I am losing my mind sometimes. I constantly fight the urge to check out on life every day. I don't want to cook dinner or fold laundry or go to the grocery store. I just want to do nothing and stare into space and think about my girls.

The present overwhelms me. The future scares me. I used to love being alive. I embraced the present and welcomed the future. The possibilities were exciting. Now all I foresee is a lifetime of grief. A lifetime of sorting out how to live without my girls. And more opportunities for loss and pain. I am scared now. Bad things can and do happen. It is frightening.

I think part of what is making me so fed up is how hard I am fighting to resist giving in to the process. I fight it sometimes because walking through the grief hurts and I don't want to hurt anymore. It is far worse than I imagined it would be. I am scared of how bad the pain might get. I don't want to find out how much worse I can hurt. I hurt badly enough already. I am overwhelmed. I have hit the wall.

It has been a hard last couple of days. The hardest in a while. I hope it lets up soon.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Another Death

Today my aunt died. Cancer. She is with the Lord now without question and no longer suffering. I rejoice that she is whole, but I am still very sad. I loved her. She was always a good Aunt to me and my sisters. She loved us. Her and I also formed a unique bond when my girls died. She also lost a baby daughter over thirty five years ago. She was so broken hearted for me. She knew my pain. I found comfort in that.

I went to visit her two weeks ago. We live three hours from each other. I wanted to spend time with her and tell her how much I loved her before she passed away. She was very sick and in a lot of pain.

I sat in her room while she slept. And when she woke up I rubbed her feet with lotion. She asked me how I was doing and I started to cry. First of all I could not believe that she was asking about me in her condition. I guess that is just the kind of person she was. She truly cared about others. She knew I was hurting. And she was right, I was. She hugged me and told me that she knows how hard it is, that she cried on her daughter's birthday for twenty years, but life is still full of so many blessings. That she feels so blessed to have lived the live she did. She must have said how blessed she felt thirty times.

Hearing her say that gave me hope. She had made it through her grief to live her life, and not just any life, but one full of blessings. If she could I know I will too. It will just take time.

My aunt will be dearly missed by many. A lot of people loved her. I wish she could still be with us, but I do think it is beautiful that she met her daughter in Heaven today. I am sure she never stopped longing to see her baby, no matter how blessed her life was. And that ache in her heart is finally gone. She is with her Jesus and her daughter now. There is peace in that only a mother who has lost a child can understand.

The Nursery

I was standing in Aubrey and Ellie's nursery today trying to think how to rearrange the furniture in it to transform it into a guest room. I was trying to make room for a queen size mattress so that when guests come stay at our house they have somewhere to sleep since the room is not being used right now. I want to put up one crib in the room because I hope to have another baby in the future.

But which crib should I put up, Aubrey's or Ellie's?

I want to give the other crib back to my mom.

But again, which one?

It sickens me that I will eventually have to pick. This is a decision I should never have to make.

I hate these days when decisions have to be made to move forward with life. That nursery was supposed to be for Aubrey and Ellie. It was never supposed to be a guest room. It was never supposed to be for any other purpose than for my baby girls.

I just stood in the door way staring. I could feel resentment and sad anger building up in me. It felt very much the same as picking out their plot and headstone. I hated that day. Every moment was torture. I just hate that this happened and all the decisions that come with it.

I resent so much how everything got so screwed up when Aubrey and Ellie died. Losing them changed everything. My life will never be the same. I will never be the same. And their empty nursery only pours salt on my wounds.

I still call the nursery Aubrey and Ellie's room.

I don't know what else to call it.

There is a rocking chair in the corner I had dreams of rocking them to sleep in. Sometimes I just sit in it and cry. Some days are just so hard.

Today was one of them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Decision

After Aubrey and Ellie died I was faced with the biggest decision of my life. I was completely devastated and in shock, yet I knew that I was at a crossroad.

I had to decide to walk through my grief to reach the healing on the other side or let my grief overwhelm me and leave me wrecked and miserable for the rest of my life.

To be honest, at first I did just want to lay down and die. I could not imagine ever feeling anything but pain again. Yet I knew that I had to commit to the process of healing even if I could not fathom ever reaching the end. I had to at least try.

And not just for my sake, but for the sake of my husband and son, and for my girls. My girls may have died, but I was still alive and I had to learn to live again or I was afraid my grief would swallow me up. My son needs a happy mom, my husband needs a whole wife, and I wanted to honor my girls by living a full life.

I eventually decided that I was determined to make it through. I was going to make it to the other side no matter what.

Looking back though I see that I had no idea what making such a decision would require of me. I could not fathom the fight ahead of me. I still can't. I am blindsided daily by the difficulty of healing. But I'm along for the ride no matter where it takes me. I literally hold on for dear life and pray that at the end of it I will find the peace I am desperately seeking.

I often reflect on the exact moment I made the decision to find my way through my grief. I was sitting in front of my daughters' casket, staring at it. I have never felt such anguish in my life. I often describe that day as the worst day of my life. Attending Aubrey and Ellie's funeral was my worst nightmare realized and the finality of their death was emotionally sickening. I could barely endure it. I wanted to crawl inside their casket and be buried with them. I could not imagine feeling pain more painful than what I felt that day.

Yet, in the midst of my paralyzing pain, I felt a peace. I believed for the first time since their death that I would make it, that I could keep living even though they were gone. It would not be easy, but I didn't have to figure it out alone. It would be OK. And my girls were OK.

I decided right then that no matter how hard the process became, I would not give up. And so my journey began.

I remember telling myself that now I get to find out what I am made of. And you know what I have discovered?

I am made of tears and snot!

I wish I could say that I discovered how strong I am, but I haven't. I found out that I am not strong enough for this. Losing my girls stripped me of any strength I thought I had. I can honestly say that my own strength has not moved me a single step forward, that God has carried me every step of the way. His strength is what gets me through. His comfort keeps me striving for healing. His words and promises give me hope. I don't know where I would be without God's faithfulness.

The process has proven to be harder than I ever imagined it though. I often want to give up. And at times I probably have. But God gives me a renewed strength and is patient with me as I travel uniquely through my grief.

Every morning I wake up and say, "OK God, it is you and me together today." And He is so faithful. It has been over three months now and I am still pushing on. It has not been easy though. I have been discouraged many times. Grief is messy and confusing. There is no rhyme or reason to the process. Just when I think I can't hurt anymore than I do, somehow I feel the loss of my girls even more deeply. When I don't think I have one more tear to cry, more tears come. When I think I am finally taking a step forward I get knocked back ten steps. Grief is pretty relentless. And I just keep taking blow after blow.

I don't know what is ahead of me. I do know that I still have a long way to go. I do know that I am so tired and still so sad. I know that I hate grief and I hate that my girls died. I don't know how this became my life. But it is my life and all I can do is the best I can.

I remain committed to my healing journey.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Yelling to God

Today has been a hard day.

All I can think about is how God could have asked this of me. In my conversations with God today I find myself shaking my head in painful disbelief. My feelings are deeply hurt. I feel betrayed. How could He require me to endure this tremendous loss? How could He ever allow such a thing to happen? HOW?

Doesn't He know how much this has broken my heart and crushed my spirit? How incapacitating my pain is? That asking me to live my life without my girls is too much to ask of me?

THIS IS TOO MUCH TO ASK OF ME GOD!!!!

How will I ever get through this? Honestly, how could shattering my hopes and dreams and allowing my girls to die be necessary at all for them, me or my family? There were so many less painful outcomes God could have allowed. Why did He allow the most painful outcome possible? Doesn't He know my heart and how much I love my children...that asking this of me is unnecessary and feels cruel?

I am so hurt. Truly crushed. And desperately sad.

I know that God understands my anger. After I get done yelling my disappointments to God I often realize that I am not really angry but desperate to vent my pain. I just miss my girls. Living without them is so hard for me. I would really like some one or something to blame for all the pain I feel. I have tried to be mad at God but I just can't be. I have tried to blame Him but I truly know that my girl's death was not his fault. And I know that He was merciful to them. I am not mad really. Just horribly sad and broken hearted.

At times I do wish I could punch God for allowing this to happen though. But in reality no punching is necessary.

God knows how I feel fully and completely. I don't have to make Him hurt like I hurt, He already carries the burden of my pain. He knows the full weight of it would crush me so He helps me shoulder the load. His presence in my life and the fullness of his comfort is as real as my pain. It is possible to feel so sad and yet be comforted by the Lord at the same time.

And thank God for that!

I will probably never know how God could have allowed this to happen, but I do know He does not expect me to endure without His help. He will sustain me until the day I meet my girls in Heaven, however long that will be.

I lean heavily on that promise.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Due Date

Today would have been my girl's due date.

I knew this day would come and I knew that it would be hard.

To be honest though I don't find it any harder than any other day without my girls. Since Aubrey and Ellie went to be with Jesus my days have been the hardest of my life. It does not matter what the date is, each day is another day without my babies.

Waking up each morning still brings tears. My favorite place to cry is in the shower because the water washes my tears away and muffles the sound of my sobbing. Getting on with the rest of the day is easier some days than others.

For some reason I often cry in the car. Days that require a lot of driving are harder than days at home. And once I crawl in bed I always cry again. Some nights I shed only a few tears, other nights many tears. It just depends. I miss my girls most at night when the house is quiet and dark. I listen to the silence and think of them because I know I will never hear them cry for me. I don't even know what they sound like. They never cried while they were alive because of the breathing tube in their throat. It makes me sad that I never heard their voices. It is just one more thing I will never know about them.

I didn't have an emotional break down today. I wasn't a mess. I just felt deeply sad all day, like I do everyday.

I thought a lot today about what my sadness feels like. My sadness is acute and constant. It envelops me like air, always all around me, eerily silent and always present. I can't see it, it isn't tangible, but I feel it with every ounce of my being every second of every day. It lives in me too, unchanging and unyielding. Sometimes my sadness surges like a storm, pummeling me with intense emotions, battering me with painful reminders of what I have lost, and when those storms come I am often left feeling kicked while I'm down. But even when the storm dies down, my sadness does not subside. It is always there, lingering. I think I have all the symptoms of a real broken heart. Seriously, my heart actually hurts. I don't think a broken heart is just a figure of speech.

My sadness has become a part of me, a part of who I am now, and slowly I am learning to function with it. I think it will be a long time until I feel any relief from my sadness. Losing my girls is the most painful thing I have ever experienced. I don't expect it to ever fully go away. This kind of pain doesn't just leave one day.

But I do trust that God will help me learn to live with it. And I know he has carried me during the worst of it. I have crumbled under the weight of my pain at times, and I have felt God carry me through those times. I know that while He is holding me He is also holding my girls and all three of us are in the arms of our Savior together.

It is the closest I can get to my girls in this life.

I am thankful for God's grace during this time, but I would still trade it all to have my babies back. That is just the honest truth.

I just miss them so much.

Monday, October 6, 2008

So Many Losses

On Sunday I was driving in the car to my GriefShare class. I was all alone, thinking and missing my girls.

Their due date is right around the corner and I often ponder how life would be different if we were still expecting them any day. I recalled that when I was pregnant with them I constantly imagined what the day of their birth might be like. I hoped and prayed for a natural, medication-free birth just like I had with my son and I was looking forward to surprising all the doctors when I gave birth to twins without an epidural.

I imagined Kirk's face as he saw his little daughters come into the world. He was in Iraq when our son was born so Aubrey and Ellie's birth was going to be a first for him.

But mostly I imagined that special moment when we would take our first family picture. I wanted one of those priceless once in a lifetime photographs of Aubrey and Ellie in my arms and our son in my husbands' arms, looking delirious with exhaustion and joy, marveling at our perfectly beautiful family. It didn't even matter to me if I looked terrible from hours of labor, I had my heart set on that picture. I prayed for that picture and thanked God in advance for that miracle moment.

But it would never be.

As I drove I started to cry. It hit me that I was grieving the loss of that moment. I was and still am grieving the loss of that once in a lifetime photograph, that picture of my wonderfully blessed life.

Losing my girls has truly cost me so much.

As the loss of my daughters continues to sink in, I feel new losses all the time. I didn't only lose them, I lost every memory that never came to be. And I grieve the loss of the memories I'll never have.

Just when I think I might be coping a little better a flood of new grief comes over me as I am hit with the magnitude of Aubrey and Ellie's deaths. Just the other day my mom showed me two darling overcoats she bought for my sister's two small daughters. They were pink with white fur around the collar and the sleeves. When I saw the coats my heart got so sad because they were exactly what I wanted to dress my girls in. I had dreams of dressing them in matching coats with white tights and black Mary Jane shoes. I have to grieve the loss of ever dressing them up as I hoped.

Before Aubrey and Ellie were put in their casket I was asked if I wanted to dress them in something to be buried in. I said that I didn't because I didn't have anything for them. That they were so small the only clothes that would have fit them were doll clothes. But in reality I didn't want to dress them because I was too scared to see them again. To this day I regret that decision. I am grieving the loss of that opportunity. I should have dressed my babies. I should have looked at them and touched them and dressed them and put little hats on them and wrapped them in a blanket and held them and kissed them one last time before I put them in their casket to be buried. But I was scared. I was so devastated with grief that I didn't have it in me at that moment to say yes. I will always regret not saying yes.

But I know Aubrey and Ellie forgive me.

The hard part is forgiving myself. And letting go of what will never be.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Nightmares

Since Aubrey and Ellie died I have had nightmares. Scary, tormenting nightmares. I had a lot of them in the beginning. But they occur less and less as time goes by. They used to be terrifying. They seemed so real that I would wake up confused and upset. Sometimes I would even scream or cry out in my sleep. Now I don't have nightmares as much, but I constantly dream about them, which is just as emotional. I dream I am holding them, but I wake up with empty arms. It makes me sad.

The first night after both my girls had died I had a dream that I was in the middle of the ocean treading water in rough seas with one of my babies in each hand. I was desperately trying to keep them above water. I was using all my strength to keep swimming but over time I grew tired and I dropped my babies into the sea. In my dream I was frantically grabbing for them but the waves knocked them out of my reach. They slowly disappeared in the water and I was helpless to save them. Just as I started to drown I woke up. I cried for hours after that.

I think my dream that night represented the helplessness I feel. I struggle daily wondering if I could have done more to help my girls live. It was so frustrating just looking at them through the incubator glass. I felt as though I failed them. I should have kept them in my belly longer but my body failed in the worst way. Now they were sick, and not getting well, and there was nothing I could do but pray.

I often feel guilty for not knowing how to pray for Aubrey and Ellie. I am so thankful that God knew what my girls needed even when I didn't. I find peace in that. It was disheartening to not know what was best for my own children. I remember praying Please God, just do something. I don't even know what I meant by that, but God knew. He heard the desperate plea of my scared and broken heart for my precious daughters.

And eventually God did do something, He took my girls to Heaven. I find comfort knowing they are whole now and not suffering, and I trust God. I know He did the most merciful and loving thing that could have been done for my girls under the circumstances. But not a second goes by that I don't ask God why He didn't let me keep them. I really wanted to keep them. I know I will see them again someday, but in the meantime I still miss them. I really really miss them.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Small Special Things

Everyday I do certain things to incorporate Aubrey and Ellie's memory into my daily life. These small things give me a lot of comfort and allow me an opportunity to think about them without bursting into tears. I will admit, I often still cry when I think of them, but as each day passes I cry less and less, and that is a huge step for me.

I love tea, especially green tea. Drinking tea gives me a mini break throughout my day. I sit and relax and enjoy a few moments to think or be comforted while I savor my tea. After Aubrey and Ellie died any quiet moments I had in my day were spent thinking about them. Every cup of tea was my special time to remember them. So I bought two beautiful tea cups, one for each daughter, with their initial on it in Old English writing. Each day I use one to have my morning cup of tea and the other to have my afternoon or evening cup of tea. I make sure to alternate cups each morning so that I use each cup equally. If I reach for Aubrey's cup one morning and then use Ellie's cup later I make sure to reach for Ellie's cup the next morning and use Aubrey's later in the day. I don't want one to get more of my attention than the other. I love them both the same. Drinking tea with them also assures that I take time daily to remember them equally. I worry about the possibility of forgetting one of them or dwelling on one more than the other. I don't want either of them to ever feel that I miss one more than the other. I miss them the same. I wanted each of them as much as I wanted the other. I grieve deeply and equally for each one of them.

I also promised my girls that for the entire year after their death I would keep a bouquet of fresh flowers in the house at all times. So far I have managed to keep my promise. Once a week or so I go to the market and pick out two different kinds of flowers, one for Aubrey and the other for Ellie. I try to pick flowers that remind me of them, that represent the little bit of personality I saw in them in the short time I knew them. I may have only known them for a short time, but I did know them. Mothers know their children. I knew my girls. After I pick their flowers I arrange them in a vase and put it up on our mantel so that I can look at them often. The flowers remind me that their memory is alive even if they are not. And the flowers are beautiful like my girls. Mostly I just like keeping my promise to them.

My parents had a ring made for me to wear in memory of my girls. It is beautiful. Their birthstone is in the middle with two little diamonds, one on each side, to represent each of them. Also my parents are making little plaques to go on the cradle my dad made for me and my sisters before we were even born. It is a tradition in our family to make a plaque for every child and grandchild that is born and put it on the cradle. My sisters and I each have one with our name and birth date on it. When my son was born he got one. So did my sisters' two girls. And my girls will each have one too, but theirs will be different because it will also include their death date. The important thing is that my girls are being acknowledged. That is all I want, for them to be counted.

In the future I would like to do even more things in their honor. I would like to plant a tree that blooms in June to honor their birth. I would like to get a tattoo somewhere to remind me of how they changed my life and how I am permanently impacted by them. I would like something other than a huge scar on my belly to remind me of them. I would like to make a quilt out of all their bedding in the NICU. I want to touch something that once touched them and hold something that held them. My dad is making me a wooden chest to store all their memory items in. Their pictures and scrap book, their hand and foot prints, Aubrey's hair and the plaster casts of Ellie's hands and feet, and the quilt when I make it. Every memory item I have will be stored in their special chest made for them my their grandfather. We are going to put a plaque on it also so every one knows what is inside. And I will keep it for the rest of my life.

Mostly I just never want to stop telling their story. I want the world to know them so everyone can see that all life matters and God intends all life for a purpose. My girls mattered. They mattered to me, they mattered to my husband, and most importantly, they mattered to God. Their bodies may not be able to live on, but their memories can, and it is up to me to make sure they do.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Empty Belly Pain

I was running this morning with a good girlfriend of mine to get ready for a half marathon I will attempt in November. We ran four miles, just four, and it seriously a challenge. The experience made me question if my half marathon goal is too lofty. I am still recovering from my c-section and I can also feel the toll that grieving has taken on my body. I am tired physically as well as emotionally and mentally. I feel as though something is weighing me down all the time. I guess that is because something is. Grief is a heaven burden. Heavy in so many ways.

As I ran I could feel a dull ache in my lower belly. I feel it every time I run and even for a few hours after. Truthfully I feel it even if I don't run. It is always there as a constant reminder that Aubrey and Ellie are gone. My belly is empty. My babies are not there anymore. And the ache I feel in my belly is the same ache I feel in my heart. For the rest of my life I will have a scar on my belly and on my heart to remind me that Aubrey and Ellie are not here with me. I think the scar on my heart still bleeds. It probably always will.

Not a second goes by that I don't wish to have my babies with me. I sit with one hand over my face and one hand on my belly and cry for them. My sadness comes from a place so deep within me that I didn't even know it existed. My pain runs as deep as my love. It is so unfair that the more you love some one the more it hurts to lose them. And I loved and lost two some ones within six days of eachother.

Maybe that is why my grief is so crushing? Or maybe grief is just crushing no matter what causes it? Regardless, my grief is crushing me. I don't know how much more I can take. Seriously, I need some relief. I need a chance to catch my breath. I need my babies back.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I don't want to be tough

My son is just a little boy and he gets his fair share of scrapes and bumps. Sometimes he hurts himself and goes on like it never happened and other times he cries like his arm has fallen off. When he gets worked up over nothing my husband and I tell him to "be tough" and that there is no reason to cry. Today, after a minor injury of unknown origin, I encouraged him to be tough and he said in response, "I don't want to be tough mom," as he fended off tears.

I know exactly how he felt. Every day I tell God that I don't want to be tough anymore. I just want to cry for a while. Daily life requires that I toughen up. It takes a certain level of composure to function and go about normal daily activities. And I hate it. It is exhausting to press down all my sadness so that I can run to the grocery store or sit through church without bursting into tears. Because inside I am still so broken. I am not tough at all. I can keep it together for a while, but it is only a matter of time until I find myself curled up in a ball on my bed crying out every last tear in my body.

I cry when I wake up, I cry in the shower, I cry in the car, I cry when I write, and I cry when I think about Aubrey and Ellie which is as often as I breathe. I can't do a single chore or run a single errand without tears streaming down my face. Yet some how I manage to wipe the tears away and put a smile on before I face the world. Sunglasses are a godsend. The people that see me have no idea what kind of heartache lives inside of me. They would never suspect that less than three months ago I lost both of my baby girls. And I resent it.

I want the world to know what happened to my girls and how much it has devastated me to lose them. I want everyone to be aware of my pain. But that is not how life works. The world does not stop for me, although at times I feel that it should. In the midst of my pain I have to find the strength to be tough, even if I don't want to be.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What for?

I have been struggling lately with the question of what for? What for? is a very different question than why?. Why? is looking for answers to the past, what for is looking for answers to the future.

I get why? I have been a Christian for a long time. This is an imperfect world corrupt in every way with sin. Nothing is untouched by the the consequences of the original sin. Therefore, in this life we will have suffering. There is pain and loss. There is death. And no one is exempt from experiencing it. Not me and not my sweet girls. The rain falls on the righteous and unrighteous. I get it. And I accept it. At least intellectually anyway. God also promises to comfort us, to carry us, and to work all things for our good if we love Him. I get that too. My understanding is clear as day.

Yet my understanding of Aubrey and Ellie's deaths does nothing to ease my pain. It is still there, like a clenched fist around my heart. I hurt every moment of every day. And I can't help but ask God what for? It is impossible for me to believe that any blessing will come from this that is greater than the blessing of my baby girls. I also can't imagine that God is trying to teach me something through this that could not have been taught to me through other means.

Did my girls truly have to be sacrificed for my own spiritual benefit or for the spiritual benefit of others? Were my girls' lives less important? Were they some how more expendable? Will the supposed good that comes from this be worth the pain? These are all very tough questions I wrestle with day and night. And if I am being honest they come from the angry and frustrated part of my heart. This whole tragic event just seems so unnecessary. Why does my heart have to be broken and my life changed forever? Why did my babies not get a chance to live their lives? What did all of this happen for? I have to know what for or I will go crazy.

So I have decided to stop asking what for in pathetic desperation like the answer might not even exist. I am not shouting to the universe, I am calling out to an Almighty God. I may never understand my daughters' deaths, but I can know what good will come out of it in time. I know there is a what for? because God promises to make one. That does not mean He made this happen, but He promises to use it for his glory.

Instead of questions I now have requests of God, passionate and pleading requests. I desperately want to see how the death of my girls will serve a purpose. And I want to see it this side of heaven. I need to see how it is being used for good or my pain will never lessen. I need to see God's supernatural power make the death of my daughters count. I need the peace of knowing their short lives were not meaningless. I need to know that my pain is not meaningless.
 
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