Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Birthday

Today is Aubrey and Ellie's birthday. I don't have it in me to post anything right now. I just want to remember my girls today. One year ago I saw their little faces for the first time and held their little hands. I can see them perfectly in my mind. I just close my eyes and there they are. I miss you sweet babies. Happy Birthday.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

This Time Last Year

I have to admit that I have been useless today. My mind has been somewhere else. Aubrey and Ellie's birthday is fast approaching and I can feel the pain creeping up on me. As the days count down I can't help but compare today to this time last year.

This time last year my girls were growing in my belly. Everyday I felt movement and kicking. We had just moved into our new house and I was doing my best to get us unpacked and settled. I was having a hard time though. My belly was getting big and increasingly in the way. I was exhausted all the time, but I chalked it up to carrying two babies at once. My third trimester was just around the corner and I was focused on the finish line. I was more than halfway there. I couldn't wait to meet my babies.

This time last year my sister was planning a baby shower for me so that Aubrey and Ellie wouldn't have to wear their brother's baby clothes after they were born. I had already purchased an amazing double stroller that came with two infant car seats. It was in perfect condition for being second hand and was a steal. I couldn't wait to use it. I was also given a double jogging stroller that was still at my parent's house. And two cribs sat in the nursery in need of assembly. But I wasn't too concerned because I knew they would be in my room at the beginning. When my son was born I couldn't let him out of my sight for the first few weeks. I figured it would be the same with Aubrey and Ellie. I couldn't wait to watch them sleep.

This time last year I was naive. I had no idea that in a few short days our lives would change forever. I didn't know that the most traumatic experience of our lives was just around the corner. I had not yet endured the realities of premature birth nor the devastation of losing children. I want to go back to this time last year. I want another chance to sit on our reclining couch with my husband's hand on my belly feeling for kicks. I want one more day to hold my son and my belly at the same time and be with all my children at once. I want my hopes and dreams back. I want my babies back.

This time last year I didn't know God's comfort like I do now. I have a new perspective of His grace and His sovereignty. I didn't understand how truly merciful the Lord is until He took my girls to heaven. Nor how persistently He pursues us to heal and restore our broken hearts. A year ago I would have told you that I could not even imagine losing a child, and a year later here I am living it. I am not the same woman I was a year ago. And I never will be again. But that is ok. I am being rebuilt and my faith is stronger now than it was this time last year.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hospital Memorial

On Saturday I attended a memorial at Balboa Hospital for all the babies that died in the NICU this past year. It was really lovely. The NICU staff did a wonderful job honoring each little life that came and went too soon. I was not sure what to expect but didn't want to miss out on any opportunity to remember my girls. I was truly touched by what I saw and heard and so glad that I went.

When I walked into the chapel I could feel the invisible mix of emotions. Immediately my eyes were drawn to a table with 10 or so handwritten name cards on it. I scanned it for my girls' names and found them. Aubrey on the left side, Ellie on the right. I had to resist the urge to run up to the table and place the cards side by side. I didn't like seeing them separated.

I quietly took my seat and listened. I could not hold my tears back. A flood of emotions came over me. I remembered how I felt those weeks in the NICU. I remembered how my heart broke when the doctor told me that they could not stop my labor and if I wanted to give my babies a chance I needed a c-section immediately . I remember how concerned the doctor was when I started to cry. I looked up at him with eyes filled with tears and asked, "This isn't good, is it?" He shook his head and softly answered "No, it isn't, but we will do all we can, I promise." I always appreciated his honesty. I never saw him after that. I have always wondered if he knew what ultimately became of my girls.

The days that followed were full of fear, concern, frustration, and heartache. I think the NICU nurses could always see the pain on my face when I came to see the girls. We were all worried but we tried hard not to lose hope. The staff took amazing care of them and, even though they probably never knew it, they took amazing care of me. Every visit to see my girls meant leaving them again, and I hated leaving them. I didn't want to be away from them. I didn't want them to be scared or lonely. Mostly I was terrified I may not see them alive again. But I knew the nurses and doctors were doing all they could for them, and more importantly, I knew those nurses loved my little girls.

My instinct was confirmed at the memorial when two of my girls' nurses got up to share their experience in the NICU. They talked about the bond they form with the babies and families, and how hard it is on them when they lose one. That they strive to provide the best care they can so they never have to question if they did everything they could for a baby that doesn't make it. And every lost baby hurts, it never gets easier. I could not help but hurt for them. I can not imagine doing their job day in and day out, but I am so thankful that they do it and for the dignity and love they showed my girls all those days in the NICU. They could have chosen to simply do a job, to save themselves the pain of losing a child that was not even theirs, and go on with life un-impacted. But they don't. Instead they chose to let all the babies, even the ones that pass away, leave footprints on their hearts. I was so comforted knowing that they remembered my girls, that my girls mattered to them, that my girls were loved by them.

When the service was over my son and I went to the front to collect all the girls' things. I wanted to keep their name cards for their scrap book and bring their roses home with me. Dustin walk proudly down the isle with a flower in each hand. We were the only family there with two flowers.

As I was walking away I felt a tap on my shoulder. "Do you remember me?" I heard a voice say, "I am so glad you could come." Of course I do. There stood Dr. Ling. She hugged me and I cried. How could she think I would forget her? If only she knew that I could never forget her. A mother does not forget the doctor who disconnected her little Ellie from life support and placed her in my arms. Dr. Ling also gently removed all of Ellie's tubes and tape after she passed away while keeping a blanket around her because I tearfully requested to not let Ellie get cold, despite the fact it no longer mattered. And as my husband and I were leaving that evening after saying goodbye to Ellie forever, Dr. Ling stopped me in the hall and put an arm around me and said she was sorry. All I could do was cry. I could tell she was sad too. I knew I would never forget Dr. Ling and her compassion that day nor the care and concern she had for my girls those days in the NICU.

There is no doubt in my mind that God hand picked every single doctor, nurse, and social worker that we came in contact with during those traumatizing days. My night nurse Rianne was a godsend. She didn't even know me, yet she lovingly stood at my bedside as I cried over the fear of losing my babies night after night. There was an amazing woman who worked on the floor I was on, who sat on my bed with me and told me that she lost a baby 28 years before and that God healed her heart. She held my hands and prayed with me for hours on my last afternoon in the hospital. Each nurse in NICU patiently cared for my girls and each doctor watched closely over them. I will never know the amount of silent prayers that were lifted up in that NICU asking God for the same miracle I was begging for. I may also never know if any of them cried when they returned to the NICU for their next shift only to find empty incubators. In the meantime I remain deeply thankful for the love they showed my girls and my husband and I and pray for the opportunity to someday say thank you.

God has been so faithful to send His comfort. Since my first tear dropped I have been surrounded by an outpouring of love and support that did not stop when we left the hospital. People I have never even met brought us meals, flowers and books. Thousands of people in all parts of the world covered our family, and my precious girls, in unceasing prayer. Family and friends rushed to our side. Every doctor and nurse did all they could. And all of you that read this blog have done more than you will ever know to comfort me. I am deeply grateful for all of you who have walked, and continue to walk, with me. You have blessed me. I have been truly comforted.

Matthew 5:4 "God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Compromising

This post is for Deana...she helped me put these thoughts into words.

I feel like I am battling again. But this time it is different. Instead of fighting the pain, I am fighting the joy. I can't seem to solve a crucial dilemma within my heart...let me see if I can explain.

A miracle has happened. Something I honestly never thought could happen. I am healing. The morning I have been waiting for is rising in the east. There has been a transformation within my very soul. Where there was only pain, relief exists. I have peace again and hope and joy...yet I feel myself resisting. I would think after hurting so deeply for so long I would embrace the healing I am experiencing. I would be excited about it. But I am hesitant. Why?

Because I don't want my healing to degrade my love for my girls. How can I have joy without compromising the severity of my loss, yet not let the severity of my loss compromise my joy? I am confused.

These are the kinds of questions I wrestle with, that turn and turn in my head as I try to wrap my mind around the depth of which losing Aubrey and Ellie has affected me. Even joy causes me pain. Peace concerns me. Hope confuses me. And I don't know how to sort it out yet.

My prayer now is for freedom. Freedom to love my girls. Freedom to miss them deeply. And freedom to have joy, hope, and peace. And not just have those things, but feel them, embrace them and not feel guilty about them.

Once again I have to truly give myself permission to heal. Truly allow God to do a work in me I don't fully understand. Help me answer questions I didn't think I would ever have. Teach me to live again. I am healing, but I clearly have a long way to go.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Turning A Corner

Last week I had a strange, dull headache around my eyes. It was annoying, but I didn't let it get in my way as I went on with day. But every once in a while I would think to myself what a odd headache. I wonder what is causing it? I figured it would eventually go away, but it didn't.

As I climbed in bed that night I felt the tears creep up on me. As I let them slip out my headache instantly went away! I didn't realize it, but trying not to cry all day long had caused my headache. The constant tension of fighting back my tears actually made my eyes physically hurt. Once I let it out, my headache disappeared. Check Spelling

But I was not relieved. I was discouraged.

In the last six weeks or so I felt that I had finally turned a corner. I was making strides in my healing process. My energy was returning. I was sleeping better. And I no longer dreaded waking up in the morning. Most importantly, I had begun to dream again and think about the future. I felt hopeful and joyful for the first time in almost a year. It felt good to get through a day without breaking down.

Yet here I was again, crying. Was I regressing? Was the relief I felt an illusion or phase? Was I right back to struggling? Had I gotten my hopes up for nothing? I was so sick and tired of being sick and tired I continued to fight my tears. I really thought I was past all this!

I feel so much pressure to be "better" almost a year after my girls' deaths that I find myself rushing myself through my grief. I want people to see the work God has done in my heart and my life, to be an example of Christ's ability and willingness to restore lives and heal unimaginable hurts. And I feel that my tears nullify the change God has brought about in me. That the bad days represent a lack of progress. I am not all better yet, but I desperately want to be.

Or do I?

This is what is so complicated about grief. I will never be all better. At least not in this life. But I will be better. I am already better. God has done a work in me, and still feeling sad, still having hard days, does not negate the healing that has taken place in my heart.

But that magic moment of finally being able to put this all behind me will never come. My hurt will only end when my life ends. In the meantime, God will continue with the work He has begun in me. And just as my healing will never be complete, neither will His work in me. I like knowing that no matter how many tears I cry, or don't cry, God remains faithful, and His work can never be undone.

Romans 5:3-5 "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love."
 
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