Brushstroke Melody

BrushstrokeMelody

The day before felt like we were playing a dark game of hopscotch on a minefield. That was Friday. It was the day we spent hours absorbing the laundry list of imperfections about our daughter growing inside me. I was a sponge over-filled with horrific realities and sad truths just begging to be washed clean of it all.

Saturday was the hazy aftermath.

We felt all the emotions and none at all. We were both overwhelmed and completely numb.

It was grey both literally and figuratively. The clouds looked lower than I had ever remembered. It seemed appropriate. Heaven was hanging it’s head right along with us.

I spent the majority of that particular day curled up on one side of the couch. Chris asked what I wanted. He knew the answer but was looking for what I needed in that moment.

“An escape,” I said plainly. And so we watched movie after movie….after movie.

Eventually we emerged from our theatrical cocoon and even the dark, grey skies burned our red and swollen eyes. We traveled to pick up Cooper from his grandparents’ house.

It was during that silent, hour-long drive that I received a text from my Carrie. It didn’t say anything; it was a link to a song.

It was “Oceans” by Hillsong United. Popular now, but had only just been released at the time. That was my first listen.

Chris and I looked at each other. We didn’t have to speak.

If you haven’t heard the song, I encourage you to. If you have, I don’t have to say much more for you to understand.

From that point forward, it was Audrey’s song. And it was everywhere we turned.

One acutely difficult day when I was pregnant and waiting with Audrey, I turned to my dad for encouragement.

I was struggling. I was scared of the unknown. No, I wasn’t scared, I was terrified. He was quiet for a period of time. And then he simply said, “Have you not been listening to the song.”

That was a pivotal moment for me. Not just in the journey with Audrey, but in my life…my faith.

You see, I had spent 30 years hearing the words but not listening.

I heard someone recently talk about “training for your trial”. What an incredible idea. It’s less about waiting for the other shoe to drop and more about your faith becoming real and deep and intimate. All of this so when you must go trough life’s tribulations, you are deeply rooted and strongly grounded. You are ready.

So, I listened again. And again and again and again.

Oh…I thought.

It was a fight or flight situation for me personally. I could have flown the coop and given up on God. Why? Because it kind of felt like He let me down. Scratch that, not kind of, it did feel like He let me down.

I dug my heels in and fought for my faith.

Perhaps I had to fight a little harder because I hadn’t trained for my trial well in my trio of decades. Either way, I knew God was in this and even when I was angry, He could take it. Either way, I knew that I wanted Him to carry me through it when I was too weak to take the steps alone.

Fast-forward to the day family and friends gathered to celebrate the life Audrey lived and to say a final earthly goodbye. That same, precious Carrie honored us by singing Oceans to our baby girl. Sarah played violin. Chris drummed beautifully along.

I can hardly type these words without pausing for a tear-break as I think back on the moment. Full-circle. The words of that gorgeous song flooded our hearts on the first day of the journey and again on the last.

And now, three years later, a gift found it’s way to me for my 33rd birthday.

It’s Oceans.

Literally.

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An artist named Lindsay Sherbondy, whom I am inspired by daily, painted the song. The waves crashing. The hope. The darkness. The light. It’s all there in the brushstrokes.

My parents gifted me with Audrey’s song as art. I’ve never loved a painting more sweetly. I’ve never felt a piece of art more deeply.

It’s my fight song. What is yours?

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To the Last Drop

I’ll never forget the day I looked in our freezer and decided it was time.

It was quite literally overflowing with breast milk. Milk my body had produced for the baby no longer living.

There was this process of “undoing” around our home after Audrey passed. It started with diapers. I gave these away to people in my life with baby girls who could use them right away. Slowly, it became too much to walk by a closed door to a fully furnished nursery. The crib came down and still to this day, provides a sound place for our beautiful niece to sleep.

The offers from family and friends to help do these unfathomable tasks after she passed were endless and sincere. But I knew there would be a healing that would come with physically and emotionally taking care of putting her things to rest. Little by little, as my heart and mind could allow, I came to terms with our reality and intentionally gave new life to the things she would not need.

The very last was the milk…hundreds of ounces of it. It took up residence in our freezer. In my mind, it not longer held purpose, yet it was packed full of meaning.

Meaning…and nutrients.

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Does it sound strange for me to say that throwing it away seemed disrespectful? When she was alive, it was just as important to Audrey, or really more so, as diapers, clothing and even a crib. And I made it for her. I worked hard to produce this for her. To simply dispose of the frozen milk wasn’t right.

I was desperate for Audrey’s life to have purpose. And so her milk would too.

I contacted several professionals to discuss my options and thankfully, our neighbor and friend was an OB/GYN who guided me in the steps to donate the milk to another baby in need.

Within minutes, or maybe it was seconds, of posting the offer of milk, nine different women requested it. I considered, “How in the world do I choose?”

I remember thinking about God. I wondered if He ever thought, “How do I choose?” What were the criteria for babies who got Heaven early? As per usual, my mind spun into a series of wondering and overthinking. I may never get an answer to that question and that’s just okay. I have found peace in the simplicity of trust.

My sister-in-love and I still giggle about the day the recipients came to pick up the milk. I won’t go into detail but let’s just say it wasn’t quite the picturesque moment I had imagined. A situation I thought would be crowded with tears was just that…only they were the laughing kind.

It was the first time I really laughed after Audrey was gone. I needed that. I’ll never regret choosing to donate what was intended for my daughter. Or was it?

I had milk and no baby. She had a baby and no milk. Simple.

Once the milk was gone, I opened the freezer door. It seemed darker somehow. The emptiness mirrored my heart in that particular moment.

But then I realized, I got my freezer back. Ounce by ounce, it had eventually become overtaken by milk. There was no more room for anything else and only once it was all gone did I recognize this.

This was symbolic to me. When Audrey died, there were hours and days that I felt like a hollow shell. She overwhelmed my emotions, my thoughts, my everything really. When she and her things were gone, I realized just how much space she held. A lot. I’m okay with that. I don’t regret that.

And when it came time to fill the void she left, I remembered Daniel 3:18, “…but if not, He is still good.”

He.  

Love + Hugs, R

 

Which Hunt

Have you ever caught yourself measuring time based on a big event in your life? Perhaps it was an accident, or a “Got Ya” date, a major promotion at work or a death.

We’re approaching three years since Audrey was born. When I speak of her, it feels strange to say she was born almost three years ago. I guess in part because that seems so long ago, and yet, at the same time, shocking that it has passed too quickly.

My personal journey as her mother is three years old also. I’m basically a toddler. I can walk well, talk in complete sentences and ask for help when I need it.

I also have those toddler-like days when I cry for no reason, I can’t put into words what exactly I’m feeling and I’m overtired.

My journey is still young and moldable. Most weeks I see, read or hear something that I put into the Audrey part of my brain. You might think it slowly turns off or that having a six-year-old and a nine-month-old would crowd that…it doesn’t.

Cooper randomly brings her up or mentions her name. I won’t avoid that. And Emma? The simple being of her causes me to overthink and feel a little too much most days. Her existence is fascinating to me and further deepens my faith. Sometimes it confuses me but that is when I choose to trust that she is meant to be here and Audrey is meant to be there.

Being chosen as Audrey’s mother sent me on a “Which Hunt”. I imagine, no I hope, I’ll be on it for the better part of the rest of my life.

Whatever the situation is, big or small, important or mundane, I know that only I have the power over my emotions. No one or no thing can MAKE me feel a certain way.

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So I ask myself, “Which way will I handle this.”

I’m hunting for my which.

Whiching well doesn’t always come easily to me, I’m a feeler. I feel all over the place. I tend to feel then think, therefore I should a lot too.

I fail often. I get it wrong. I lose perspective and lose sight.

But sometimes I win. I get it right. I dig both heels into the foundation that has been laid through the life and death of my second born and I see the light.

My Which Hunt is ever evolving. Let’s just say this particular season of life as a family with two young children provides endless opportunities to choose wisely. The moments when I react instead of respond are all too common. At times, I fall prey to taking the path of least resistance. It’s easier at first but more often than not, I regret it. In my relationship with adults, I typically have more time to gather my thoughts. As a parent, that time is cut in half (or less). I’m helping shape and mold future adults here, I need more time to choose the best which!

That’s when I pray, a lot, for wisdom and discernment. That works in all aspects of my life, not just as a parent.

Our daughter lived and then she died. Black and white, but not simple. Her life and death were sprinkled with clear which’s and difficult which’s. Some of the decisions we were faced with are almost unbearable to think about now, but we did it, we made it through.

I’m still growing and maturing on this journey. One day, I’ll wake up and it will be thirty years since Audrey. What will life look like by then? Only God knows. But I pray I will still say our Audrey reminds me to which wisely.

Love + Hugs, R

What About The Dad?

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To The Daddy,

Our child is 50% you and 100% us.

Instead of carrying her in your womb, you carry the weight of our world on your shoulders.

You may not have felt her kick from the inside out, but you aren’t exempt from the pain of her loss.

I see you.

I see you forced into the role of “The Rock”. You are expected to be the solid counterpart to my emotional tendencies.

I see you wiping away my tears and wonder if you ever need a good cry.chrisaudrey

I see you leave for work each day. Throughout it all, you have continued to build a life for our family without question or complaint.

When was the last time I checked your pulse? Maybe she has also been on your mind.

You lost her too, after all. She wrapped her tiny hand around your ring finger. She calmed when you held her near your heart.

She knew the love of her daddy…what a beautiful thing it is, the bond between a father and his child.

When we chose each other, little did we know this would be part of our story. And yet she is, forevermore.

In Japan, broken objects are often repaired with gold. The flaw is seen as a unique piece of the object’s history, which adds to its beauty. Isn’t that remarkable? I imagine our marriage as a well-made vase. The great loss of our child could have slowly caused a crack and eventually broken us apart. Instead, she’s our gold. She makes us stronger.

Never once have you ever thought, “What about me”? That’s not who you are. But I have for you. Because it isn’t about me. It isn’t about me and our child. It’s about us. All of us.

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They feel it too. They need to be remembered and thought of. They have off days and quiet days and just-plain-angry days.

Give them the opportunity to talk about it, don’t assume they won’t or don’t want to. Give them the opportunity to get away from it. Time with friends or enjoying their favorite hobby can help relieve stress.

Don’t take it out on the Daddy. It’s easy to do. They are close and nearby. The truth is, sometimes those we adore the most are in the line of fire.

When family and friends offer to help, keep him in mind. What are some ways people can help him too? Ask someone to mow the lawn. Ask his friends to take him for a guy’s night. If a meal train is going, suggest some of his favorite meals.

It’s easy for him to get lost in the shuffle of errands, picking-and-putting, taking care of this and that, bill paying, and more. He keeps moving. Help him pause every once in a while.

Acknowledge the Dad.

Love the Dad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Years Gone

If only I could borrow miss Audrey for one more day, just to snuggle her close. I promise I’d give her right back…well, maybe.
 
It was on this day, two short but full years ago, that our daughter Audrey spent her last day here on earth with us. What I wouldn’t give for one more day with her. But like Diamond Rio so poignantly says, one more day would only keep me wishing for more. After all, we got 81.
 
Last week, Cooper asked me if Emma is Audrey.
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I’ve thought about that precious question a lot. It’s confusing for him. Who am I kidding, it’s confusing for me. No, Emma is not Audrey. Yes, she is a baby sister. Yes, she sure looks a lot like Audrey. To him, perhaps a subtle nuance at this point. But, they are two different people. Two different stories. Two different purposes. Some day he’ll understand that better.
 
I had a tender day recently. My whole body hurt for Audrey. I just missed her. I was sad about her and that hole in my heart pulsed painfully. Oddly, it seemed comforting. I was almost relieved that having Emma didn’t cover up that pain. It confirmed there is no replacement for Audrey.
 
I will be forever grateful that I chose to document our daughter’s life through writing. It became my therapy, a cathartic outlet for me. I may over share at times but never will I regret including the tiniest of details about our daughter we lost too soon. I reread this link today that I wrote about her last day.
 
 
It is a bit hard to read but only because it makes me want to jump back in time for the day. I wouldn’t change a thing, I would simply redo it…in slow motion.
 
Today my throat might have a lump that may not go away, but that’s okay. I’m incredibly proud of her and her story. Here and there, it continues to impact people and as long as I can, I will sing her song.
 
Audrey, today is for you, as you dance in Heaven with your body perfected. We’ll miss you until the day we get to say hello again.
 
Hold your littles and not-so-littles a bit tighter today, friends!

Parallels

PARALLELS

Parallels. They are everywhere I turn right now. So much about life right now seems to have something deeply rooted.

I’m having a hard time grasping it all and wrapping my heart around what was and is and is to come. My mind is like an overripe fruit that can no longer hold anything in.

The problem is forming sentences. My thoughts and feelings jump all over the place and I feel…tired.

It’s May. This month marks two years since our Audrey came into the world and lived her 81 days. Her life continues to bless me daily. Two years passed far too quickly.

Our little family has been full of life more than usual over the past two months. After a decade away, we have returned to our hometown of Stillwater, OK. Chris and I grew up here. When a wonderful work opportunity for Chris came knocking, we prepared to leave what was our home for 10 years as we became adults and parents.

It’s surreal sometimes, being back in the place that formed and shaped us. So many important people are here and just being near them feels like home. We left behind a group of people who are an extension of our hearts. This was and continues to be hard. Our 81 days with Audrey were beautiful because of so many of these people, our village, stepping in and fueling us. It was bittersweet to sell the home where our baby Cooper became a boy, and the place that housed our emotions during Audrey’s life. There is something almost healing about a fresh start at this particular time. As we prepare for another little girl to join our family, she has a place of her very own. Her room really is hers. She won’t live in what was intended for Audrey. This feels right.

And yet? The parallels continue. This pregnancy has been complicated. The baby is perfectly healthy as far as we can know at this point. This alone is overwhelming. It’s such an incredible thing for a baby to be born healthy, never ever to be taken for granted. At the very same time, thinking of her health can bring on a strange ache about Audrey. It’s hard for me to even put into words.

Almost one month ago, I had stents placed in both ureters because the ureters had collapsed due to my growing uterus, which caused urine to back up severely in my kidneys. Recovery from that surgery has been slow and often incredibly painful. We learned early on that my placenta was very low lying, also known as Placenta Previa. I was hopeful it would resolve itself. It did not. In fact, the placenta continues to be too low and puts me at risk for bleeding should any little thing disrupt the placenta. Additionally, the placenta has grown through my uterus and has potentially attached to my bladder. This is a rare condition known as Placenta Percreta, it is dangerous to mother and baby during delivery because of potential heavy bleeding and hemorrhaging. My team of doctors includes a high risk specialist, a urologist and an OB. Together, they have determined that the best course of action with the lowest risk is to perform a full Hysterectomy at the time of C-Section delivery, taking her at 34 weeks. The urology team will be present and ready to repair the bladder if needed. Doing a hysterectomy reduces the risk of heavy bleeding because they won’t try to separate the placenta. The bladder concern complicates things and we are prayerful that perhaps it hasn’t actually attached, but is just touching.

Delivering the baby six weeks early comes with preparing for a NICU stay. The “party line” is the expect her to be there the full six weeks, but she could come home after 1-2 weeks if she is healthy. Please oh please, God.

This delivery will take us back to the same hospital in Oklahoma City where Audrey was born. She’ll go straight to the NICU where Audrey lived for weeks. And just like Audrey, she isn’t due until June but will celebrate her birthday in May.

I’m working to keep it all in perspective and sometimes it is a lot to take in. Our baby girl is healthy, it is my body that is complicating things. By God’s grace, I have felt pretty calm about it all considering the risks.

I had a box of Audrey’s tiny preemie clothes that I kept for nostalgia, never imagining that we would need them again two years later. Coincidence? Nah…

As I type, these items of clothing, small enough to dress a baby doll, are washing clean. They, too, are getting a fresh start. However, their memory cannot be washed away. And who knows, it may be hard to see Audrey’s baby sister wearing her clothes. I’ll take it all as it comes.

Chris has put together yet another crib, this makes three. So far, only one of our children has slept in the crib their daddy brought to life. Oh, how desperately I want to see this baby girl sleeping soundly in this crib.

May 20th is when our little egg will hatch. I try and try to imagine what the day will look like and, like every other unknown in our lives, I simply cannot.

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Walk by faith, Rachel,” I can almost hear Him whisper, “Remember this. Remember what Audrey taught you. Her gift was and is perspective.

Will my heart grow enough to make room for all three of my children? Will this baby push Audrey to the side? Will Cooper struggle to understand seeing yet another baby sister in the NICU?

Every once in a while, I use Audrey’s name accidentally when referencing this baby and it hurts because I get so mad at myself for it. The closer we get to meeting our Emma, it seems I am mourning Audrey in a new way. My heart is uncomfortably thrilled and broken at the very same time.

In 19 days, another baby will leave my body and become a part of the world. This time, my uterus will go too. I’ll never feel a baby slide an elbow or kick a heel from the inside, nor will I watch my belly dance involuntarily in the wee hours of the morning. My childbearing days are limited to 19.

What a humbling gift it is that I have been able to do this three times. They haven’t been perfect, glowy or easy but they have been. That alone is a miracle.

This song, Small Bump, came on as I typed away, and reminded me of the sweetness of this baby to come. She dances away and I pause to notice and remember the feeling…

As of today, we have all worked together and made incredible progress on funding the Wings for Audrey endowment. $91,150, can you even believe it? They said to expect it to take 3-5 years, but I believe it is going to happen this year. September will mark two years since we started fundraising and it would be amazing if by then, we all celebrated together!

You’ve continued to be there for us. Thank you for helping us keep Audrey’s story alive…for sharing her story. And if you think of it, we would be humbled and grateful for your prayers on May 20th.

Now and always, R

 

 

Spot Color

It was about this exact same time, just two years ago, that I sat in front of my blank computer screen…cursor blinking.

I decided to begin typing about the story of our Audrey as she lived just a few inches below my beating heart. On that day, never could I have imagined all that would unfold.

And now, today, I am once again typing away while a different baby girl curls around my womb.

Recently, I spent the morning working at one of my favorite coffee spots. It was a cloudy and stormy day, no sunshine to be found. I thought about how that is just like grief sometimes. A low-set gloom darkens everything. There aren’t any shadows. It’s simply and eerily monochromatic. But, light continues to shine just above the clouds. The sun is there, patiently and unconditionally waiting for you to rise up and allow its warmth to find your skin.

I blinked back to present moment and saw a beautiful mama walking in with her daughter that looked not-quite-two. She seemed about the age Audrey would be now. I watched them interact, all smiles and sweetness…like it was a commercial. Little one was donning a navy raincoat with bunnies all over it and there, like a ray of sunshine through the clouds, it noticed it. Her lovey. Tucked right inside her jacket, with just a head and two floppy ears peeping out, was a bunny zipped up tight and protected by this sweet girl.

In the same moment, I grinned sincerely while a lump swelled in my throat.

It never goes away. It never stops. And goodness, am I grateful. I will miss her, until I no longer have to and I, too, get Heaven.

I heard someone recently say they were tickled pink. I thought about what an appropriate description of emotion…color.

So much of my life is centered around color as a designer. Color can make or destroy a design…it matters more than most realize.

I started thinking about how we are tickled pink and green with envy…so, what exactly is the color of grief? The truth is, every person you ask may have a different opinion. Why? Because grief itself isn’t a single emotion….it’s all kinds.

Grief is red. It’s angry and mad. It’s wanting to punch a wall or scream into a pillow.

Grief is blue. It’s sad. It is tears that have no end and a heart that aches because a piece is broken.

Grief is grey. It’s neutral and slow. It’s the inability to feel one way or another or to make plans.

And grief is black. Its the darkest of dark. It’s broken and still. It can feel empty, alone and terrifying.

When we grieve, we’re all those colors and more. Grief is complicated and intimate. But, of all the life lessons I have been gifted, one that is so important is that grief bonds us.

We learn a lot about the people in our lives during hard times. You will learn the most, however, about yourself. Who are you when the worst happens?

Grief is incredibly revealing.

 

CIRCUMSTANCE

What color are you today? Are you tickled pink? Tell your best friend! Are you deep blue? Reach out and let someone in.

Love + Hugs, R