Monday, August 24, 2009

Faith, Hope and Camping

We went camping this weekend. By we I mean my husband, son, and I. We were invited by friends from our church to Idyllwild for two nights of outdoor fun. My son had never been camping before and you never saw a more excited little boy. I think boys are hardwired for open spaces, dirt, and the kind of fire that roasts marshmallows.

The weekend was wonderful in more ways that one. I enjoyed watching my son be a little boy, dirt and all. He was brave and slept in his own tent all by himself and genuinely seemed unfazed by it. He went to bed every night way after his usual bedtime yet still managed to wake up too early. I loved hearing his little voice singing and talking to himself while he waited for us to wake up in the morning.

Of course I thought about my girls. First I imagined how filthy they would be crawling around in all that campsite dirt and how I would have lost my mind keeping them away from the open campfire. Then I wondered if we would have even been there if they were alive. It seems I can't get through a day without feeling that my life wouldn't be this way if...

I get confused sometimes imagining my babies. All the what ifs are just emotional rabbit trails that only lead to one place...reality. My girls are not here anymore and they never will be again. 7 days with Ellie and 13 days with Aubrey is all the time we got. And after more than a year, I still struggle accepting that.

But the reality does not stop me from picturing them in my mind. I usually see my girls as they would have been if they went full-term. I set their age by what their birth date should have been, not by what it was. And I almost always imagine them healthy.

Occasionally though I think about if they had survived being born so early. It always ends in tears. It hurts to know that if they had lived they would be very sick little girls. They would not be crawling around in campsite dirt or putting little pebbles in their mouths. Not because we wouldn't be camping, but because my baby girls would have never crawled...or walked...or talked...ever.

My love for my girls is unconditional. I would have loved them, cared for them, and been honored to be their mother in whatever condition they would have been in. They are my babies. But I can't lie and say there is not a part of me that is so relieved that my girls are no longer suffering. It hurts to lose them absolutely. It hurts like nothing I have ever felt. But at least I know they are ok and I don't have to worry about them anymore. I know they are safe now.

As parents we are always talking about turning our children over to the Lord. How they don't really belong to us, they belong to Him. And it is a nice spiritual concept to say to God "my child is yours" while still holding them in our arms. I have done that exact thing with my son. I trust God with his life. His life. But trusting God with my daughters' deaths is not tied up so neatly in a perfect little bow. How easy it is to trust God when we get what we want.

But what happens to our faith when we don't get what we want? When we hand our children over to His hands and He doesn't give them back to us. What then? Where do we stand now?

I can tell you where I stood...on shaky skaky ground. My faith was turned upside down. I didn't lose it, but it had to be completely redefined and re-established. It had to be restored.

Twice within the same week I had to sit with my husband and decided to hand my child back over to God. How I wished I could have instead stood up on the church podium in a sentimental dedication service and given them back as a metaphor and a choice while the congregation sighed at the cuteness of my identical twin little sweeties...but it was not to be so. My husband and I had to walk out our faith in the most tangible way imaginable. For 7 and 13 days we trusted God with our daughters' lives. And then we faced the dreaded moment of trusting Him with their deaths as well.

It was not an easy decision. It was the worst decision I have ever been faced with. And our faith did not remove from us our questions, fears, and profound pain. I could literally feel my chest cave in as the doctors removed life support at our request and handed my babies to me. I held my breath for a miracle. The one I wanted never came.

There is a song I love called Held by Natalie Grant. The song talks about a mother who lost her infant son. It is beautiful but heart wrenching and hits amazingly close to home. One of the lines in the song says "they had no sudden healing" and goes on to say later in the song "who told us we'd be rescued?" I could not get these words out of my head as I watched my girls slip away. Will we be rescued?

I waited so patiently, but our sudden healing never came. Walking out of our private room with each of our girls in our arms after they had passed away was a faith changing moment. Our faith stood on the brink...and I remember only one thought.

Thank You.

Even I don't understand it. Who says thank you in that situation? I never imagined in a thousand years I would ever hold my child as they died. Nor did I imagine I would do it twice. I never imagined that my life would require me to hand my babies back to God literally to never hold again. Nor did I ever think we wouldn't be rescued. And my faith hung in the balance of all of it. Why not a sudden healing? Why not a heroic rescue? Why not a happy ending? Why not...

I could feel the disappointment and anger building up. I felt that all my faith all these years had amounted to nothing more than being abandoned when I needed God the most. As I turned my face upward, ready to confront God with my questions, ready to challenge His decision not to intervene, ready to question His goodness and love...the only words that flowed from my heart were thank you.

Not thank you for allowing my babies to die or thank you that my heart is completely broken, I will never be thankful for that. But thank you for sending your Son Jesus, who by his blood, made right every wrong. That before I felt the pain of losing my own sweet girls God made a way to fix every broken thing so that in the moment of my worst pain I could have hope. At the lowest moment of my life all was not lost...it was found...in the miracle that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that none should perish but have eternal life. We were not forgotten. We have all been rescued. My girls just sooner than the rest of us.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Little Empty Room

We have a little empty room in our house. It was supposed to be Aubrey and Ellie's nursery. When I walk to the top of the stairs it is the first room I see and I pass its doorway a thousand times a day.

But I rarely go in. Only when I have to.

Sometimes I linger in the doorway and look at the blank wall where their cribs were supposed to be. I took their cribs down after the funeral and put them in the garage. It hurt too much to see empty cribs just sitting there with no babies to put in them.

I never linger long. If I do my mind starts spinning with what should have been. I have cried many tears in that doorway. No mother should ever have a little empty room.

Last week my best friend called me to ask if her family could stay with us while they visited San Diego. I was thrilled. On the phone I made a comment about having an extra room they could use and as soon as I hung up I began setting it up.

An air mattress, a pack n' play, pillows and blankets...it was nothing fancy, but it made a cozy little guest room for my visiting friends. When I was done this strange feeling came over me. I sat at the top of the stairs and cried. I couldn't help it. It had been a very long time since I spent time in Aubrey and Ellie's nursery and reconfiguring it into a guest room felt like betrayal.

It isn't a guest room, it's Aubrey and Ellie's room.

At that moment I decided that I am not ready. I am not ready to give their room away. I am not ready to let go of what was...is...was supposed to be...theirs. I am not ready to put this in the past like something that simply didn't work out. That room was for my very real, very loved, very special, very wanted, twin baby girls. And I am just not ready.

We don't have a guest room in our house, we have a little nursery for two baby girls named Aubrey and Ellie. And if someday I have another baby it will become that baby's nursery...because that room is meant to be a nursery. We moved into this house because we needed a nursery, not a guest room. And if from time to time a guest or two visits and they stay in Aubrey and Ellie's room, that is ok. But I refuse to transform it. Guest room by default is a poor consolation. I will not hang a proverbial new sign above the door. It is their room. I need it to be their room. I will keep it their room for as long as I need.

From the hallway it may appear to be a little empty room with yellow walls and no furniture, but inside it is filled...filled with my dreams and hopes that never came true, full of prayers and tears and late night phone calls in the dark to my sisters and supportive friends, with one hand on my empty belly and Aubrey and Ellie's memory book in my lap.

When I walk in that room I feel something. Sometimes I just feel sad, but other times I feel like keeping a room for them in our home is a tangible example of the room I keep for them in my heart.

How I wish I could tell visitors I only have a couch to offer them as all my rooms are filled with children. But since I can't, at least I can say they are welcome to stay in Aubrey and Ellie's room. That way they know what I know...Aubrey and Ellie are remembered here, and always will be.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Join Me!

Check out my new blog dedicated to running the race, and the Silver Strand Half Marathon!

**ANOTHER UPDATE!!!!! For those of you who can't run or don't want to run, but still would like to honor your baby/babies in heaven, I would be happy to put the name of your child/children on my jersey and run for you. Submit the name of your baby/babies as a comment or in an email and I will be certain to include them. I also hope to make the t-shirts available to purchase if you would like to have one as a keepsake. I would be honored to run for your children.

*UPDATE!!!!!!! I have some ideas about what our t-shirts (or tank tops) should say (although I don't have graphics or design ideas yet). On the front it could read: Running the Race, Perseverance Personified! Putting one foot in front of the other after loss. And on the back it could say: In memory of the babies we loved and lost and underneath that will be a list of all the names of our children in heaven. What do you think? Let me know. I am open to other ideas as well. I am thinking out loud here. Original post follows:

I have decided to run the 2009 Silver Strand Half Marathon on Coronado Island in San Diego AGAIN this November, but this time I want to invite you to join me. Before you think I am crazy, hear me out...

Last year, after my daughters died, I was desperate for anything that might take some of my pain away. So what did I do? Well, I decided to run a half marathon. Sounds crazy I know, but I was convinced it would help. I knew it would benefit both my emotional and physical healing so I decided to go for it. What did I have to lose? I had never run a half marathon before nor was I in shape to do so. Between being pregnant for six months and then having a c-section it would take a miracle to get ready and the thought of running 13.1 miles seemed impossible, but I wanted to do it. I had to prove to myself that I could do it. And truthfully it felt small compared to the marathon of grief I was already running.

So I trained for 10 weeks. I could barely run at first. But I kept at it. By the time race day came I was ready. I didn't set any new records, but I finished the race. And it felt amazing! When I crossed the finish line I knew it would not be my last half marathon.

A year later I am ready to run again. And I want to share the experience. I cannot promise that running will fix all your problems or take away the pain you feel, it certainly was not the magic cure to my own grief. But it did reignite in me the desire to persevere and it reminded me of how much I love living, even after the loss of my sweet girls. Both figuratively and literally speaking, I want to run the race.

Do you want to run the race? So come on then, run with me!

I would love to have t-shirts made for all of us running. It would be an amazing tribute to the babies we lost as well as a powerful way to support each other on our healing journey. If you want to run, email me at aubreyandellie@gmail.com or leave your name and email as a comment. I will keep a list and we can all support each other as we train. At the bottom of this post is the link to the race site. You can register there. Also, if you sign up on www.runnersworld.com you can have a half marathon training plan printed out specifically for your running level. I assure you anyone can do this. And you will be glad you did

So lets run the race....together!

You can find information about the race here: http://www.kozenterprises.com/Running/halfdf84.htm
Sign up by October and save some money.
This is a great first half marathon for those of you that are intimidated. It is flat (no hills!) and the weather is great in November. Be brave!

That's me, second from the left!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Too Pretty Not To Post

This was done for me as a surprise gift. You can't imagine
the joy in my heart to see my little girls' names on two
perfect flowers. I cried and smiled. It melted my heart.
You can find more pictures like this at
If you have lost a baby or know some one who has,
you can submit the baby's name and have it written on a flower.
You can then purchase a print of the photo as a keepsake.
I think this is a beautiful idea. It truly honors my sweet girls.
 
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