Thursday, June 21, 2012

Refiner's Fire...and Adoption Updates!!!

Okay...if you have been following our blog this past week and haven't sworn it off entirely due to your consistently ruined make-up before work and the fact that I have single-handedly boosted the Kleenex stock by 50%, we thank you. ;)

As I said before, this week was about remembering Lily, and praising God for how far He has brought us and the faithfulness He has shown to our family. Our lives are not all sunshine and roses, but they aren't all thorns either. We share our entire testimony with people, because it's real. There is a reason we were led to adoption. God used certain events in our lives to lead us down this path, and we think it is important to recognize those events and share our experiences with all of you.

There are so many people out there who can relate to our story, but not many people are as open about their pain as we have chosen to be. Everyone grieves so differently, and I really don't believe there is a right or wrong way to do it, I can only share how we did it, and how we get through it each day. We appreciate so much your support, even though I am sure I have made many of you "uncomfortable", and I know I have made many of you shed a few tears with us! But that's okay. I'm okay with uncomfortable, and I happen to think tears are good for the soul. :)

As I have reflected on this past year, I realized that God has used our experiences as a refiner's fire. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, John Piper describes it this way...

"A refiner's fire does not destroy indiscriminately like a forest fire. A refiner's fire does not consume completely like the fire of an incinerator. A refiner's fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact. He is like a refiner's fire."

Our losses did not destroy us. They did not consume us. But God used them as a tool to melt away parts of us that, looking back, were unnecessary, harmful, or distracting to our walk with the Lord and the life in which He so badly wants us to be living. I have watched as pettiness, immaturity, and things that simply don't matter melt away over time as I experienced loss after loss, pain after pain. It gave us perspective, as these things usually do, as to what is truly important in this life, what is of eternal value, and what isn't.

I'm not saying I don't still get excited over my favorite TV show or a pair of cute earrings from Charming Charlie's. I still get upset over stupid things and Josh and I are not by any means above arguing over how to properly do the laundry. I am saying that, like it or not, we were forced to do a lot of growing up in the past few years, this last one especially. God has used these experiences to mature us (albeit against our will) and challenge our walk with Him. Being a Christian is a pretty cushy gig here in America. It really isn't that hard, in my humble opinion, to trust the Lord with your life when things are going well. But to trust Him when your children are taken from you? When you are in such a dark place that you can't seem to find the light? It made us truly explore our faith, challenged it in ways that grew my relationship with the Lord immensely. If I can trust Him through this past year, I believe I can trust Him through anything.

He didn't just refine the things in our lives, He refined the people in them. Grief experiences like losing Lily, and leaps of faith like adoption, is incredibly telling in the area of relationships (and I am sure I am not the only one who has noticed this, as I have heard it said of so many who have walked in our shoes). Every experience from the loss of Lily to our adoption, we have watched as people have either rallied around us, supported us full force, or faded into the background quietly. You find out who your true friends are in times like these, and we certainly have. I have grown so much closer to my family and my friends who have walked this road with us. Still, we have also lost some relationships, and realized that some relationships simply will never grow past that of casual friendships. Relationships that can survive the turmoil of life events like these end up being stronger, unbreakable, and everlasting. But through that refiner's fire, some of our relationships have been separated out and melted away. Though every friendship that is lost is sad, I would never change it, because that refiner's fire also left us with "the silver and gold intact." The loved ones that God wants in our lives to support each other, love each other, and encourage each other's walk with Him, those are the ones that turn to silver and gold in times like these! 

We have so much more "refining" to do. This is just the beginning, I am sure, but I have realized the process of refinement is so much easier when you don't fight it. I've come to actually pray that God will show me what needs to be melted away in my life, from things to people to habits, and when I do He is incredibly quick to show me! It is painful, but it is so worth it.

Now, all of that being said, I would like to give you a few updates in the adoption arena! Things are moving right along, and we've had some pretty big developments in the past couple of weeks! First of all, if you haven't already noticed, take a quick gander over at the funds thermometer! We are SO CLOSE to being fully funded for this adoption!!! Our puzzle piece fundraiser was a great success, but I don't have a final total yet because people are still buying puzzle pieces! If you would like your name on a piece, just let me know. We were going to "close" the fundraiser this week, but there is still plenty of room for your name, so if you want one just let us know! 

I am overjoyed, but not surprised in the least, at how God has provided for this adoption! When we started this process, it was a HUGE leap of faith that we would somehow be able to come up with nearly $13,000 over the course of just a few months. But little by little, through each one of you, He provided! And here we are, only weeks away from bringing our baby home, and we are nearly fully funded! It is simply amazing. I am so thankful for each one of you, for how you have sacrificed and participated and supported us. I wish I had the time to write each person who donated a long, hand written note of thanks. Please, please know how grateful we are. This would have been impossible without your generosity. Thank you.

In other adoption news, you might have caught my passing reference to meeting the birth mother of our child in a previous post! When we were matched with this birth mother, who I will refer to as "Kim" for privacy reasons for now, she initially was not planning to meet with us before the birth. But after a few emails between us and her case worker, Kim decided she would be open to meeting with us after all! We were sooooooooooooo nervous!!!. It just so happened that the only available date for all of us to get together was yesterday, Lily's first birthday. 

Josh has little to no concept of nervousness, as he never gets nervous about anything (I hate him for that), but I was a complete wreck driving out there. I actually had been so busy in the weeks and days leading up to the meeting that I hadn't had time to dwell on it much, but as we drove out there to meet the woman who has chosen us as the parents for her child, I was freakin' out big time. My only consolation was that Kim was probably just as nervous as I was, so hopefully she would be understanding!

The minute we saw each other and were introduced, I could tell I was right, she was just as nervous as I was! Thankfully the case worker was there to facilitate the whole thing and help fill the conversation gaps and silences. It was a very casual meeting, and I only realized after the meeting was over that at some point I had actually kicked off my flip flops and had my feet wedged under me on the couch! And Heather, you will be interested to know, I held a throw pillow for dear life during the entire meeting! (Heather knows that throw pillows are my security blanket) ;)

We basically talked in more detail about everything in our Match Letter, but it was nice to just get a feel for each other in person the way you just can't do through letters and pictures. Kim is an incredibly sweet, laid back, intelligent girl, and I was so happy I got the opportunity to meet her before the baby comes! 

She asked us if we had a feeling one way or another if it was a boy or girl, and we said no! She told us she has a VERY strong feeling it is a we shall see! (No one knows what it is, it will be a big and wonderful surprise!!!) She told us numerous times, "I consider this your baby already, this is your child." Which of course brought tears to my eyes. She asked us what names we were considering, and I cannot even BEGIN to tell you how nervous I was to tell her! I was terrified she wouldn't like them! So scared, in fact, that I didn't even tell her the boy name, because I suddenly became unsure if I even liked it! Haha!

We went over the plan for the hospital. At this point, Kim would like me and Josh to be at the hospital for her labor and in the delivery room for the baby's birth! We are pretty excited at the possibility of being there for our child's birth, but of course we are leaving room for the possibility of Kim changing her mind, and would completely understand if she did. 

Kim told us she would like us to pick out and bring the baby's going home outfit to the hospital, so yay I get to go shopping! ;) All in all, it went really well, and we are so thankful we got the chance to meet with her and get to know her a little bit.

The baby is due (technically) on August 2nd, but we have it on good authority that Kim will most likely deliver in the next two to four weeks. We are praying that God will just help us all to be patient until He brings this baby in His perfect timing! 

I feel the need to reiterate the fact that this baby is not our baby, yet. Yes, Kim has made it very clear that she has chosen us to parent her child, but she is under no obligation to follow through with that decision. It is completely within her rights to change her mind, to make a different plan, to do whatever she wants. Though we are confident at this time that Kim has made up her mind and has no intention of changing it, this is her baby. She can make whatever choices she wants, and until the adoption is official when she signs papers somewhere near 72 hours after the baby's birth, even if we have already brought him or her home, she has every right and opportunity to make another decision. We would support her in whatever decision she made,  though of course we would be so disappointed and saddened if this adoption placement were to fall through. But if that happened, we would know that God has a different plan for us, and for whatever reason, just wanted us to be a small chapter in Kim's life.

We are very optimistic about this match, however, and are planning for this baby as much as we can! I can't believe we could very well have a new baby in just a few short weeks! It is surreal, and just hasn't quite sunken in yet. We are so excited, though, and I know the days will just fly by! 

We won't be posting for awhile as we have a family vacation planned, so hopefully I will be back online in about two weeks. Who knows, the next post could be THE POST!!! :)

If you are praying for us, please cover "Kim" in prayers. Pray for her heart. Pray for wisdom for her, for her to get the support she needs at this time. Please pray for the baby. We are still facing the possibilities of health issues for this little one, and are praying fervently that God blesses it with perfect health! Please pray that the baby does NOT decide to make its appearance while we are on vacation haha! And pray for our family, that God will equip us with the love and tools we need to welcome this child into our home and lives.

Thank you so much for continuing to follow along on our Adoption Faith Walk! It has been such an incredible journey so far, and I am super excited about what's to come!!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lily's Birth Day

Okay, this is the last post in my "Series of Lily" if you will. This week has been about remembering her, and celebrating the impact she had on our family. Thank you for following along, even though these posts haven't been easy to read. She was and is a huge part of our family's story. Thank you for remembering her with us, and for being there for us through it all.

We walked into the hospital when it was still dark outside. The sun hadn't come up yet, and I had no idea it wouldn't be until the next day's sunrise that I would finally deliver Lily. I knew I would be leaving her there, and the thought of that left a pit in my stomach. I held tightly to the pink bunny I had gotten for her at the hospital gift shop when I had my amnio the day before. I didn't let go of that bunny for weeks.

We checked into the maternity triage. They must have told the receptionist I was coming. She gave us sympathetic looks and spoke in a very soft voice. I remember giving her my insurance card and thinking how awful it was going to be to get the hospital bill in the mail months later. I was right.

After waiting for awhile in the small waiting area and praying to God that no healthy pregnant women came in, we were called back. I had been telling all my family and friends to pray that I would have kind nurses. For some reason I was terrified that my nurses wouldn't be nice. It seems silly now, but my feelings and nerves were so fragile that I couldn't bear the thought of having a nurse who was rude or unsympathetic. The nurse who helped me into my room was so kind, but I remember telling myself not to get attached to her because I would only have her for three hours before shift change.

She took me to a room far away from the other labor and delivery rooms, off in a back corner of the unit where the nurses station was unmanned except for my nurse and one or two other people. She told me they didn't want me to have to hear any babies crying or mothers laboring with healthy infants, and it would be more peaceful back there. She showed me the special hospital heart they taped to my door, so that everyone who entered would know I was delivering a stillborn, I guess so they wouldn't try something awful like smiling.

I got settled in the room and they started my IV. The nurse asked me all the questions she needed for my chart, and if I wanted the epidural right away or in a few hours. I told her I didn't want any drugs. I was so scared that if I got an epidural, I wouldn't feel Lily come out. I thought because she was so tiny that she'd slip out and I wouldn't notice, and the thought terrified me. I thought if I got any pain medication that I would be too groggy to remember my incredibly short time with Lily, and I wanted to be completely lucid since I knew I had only hours, maybe minutes with my baby girl.

They began the induction by giving me some medication that would start labor. They anticipated I would only need one or two doses before Lily would be born. I was hopeful we would have her by lunch that day.

Jake and Eisley were going to come visit before things really got started, and I remember trying to make myself look nice and comfortable for them, so they wouldn't be scared. When Josh's parents arrived with the kids, we had some time together for them to see me and also say goodbye to Lily. The kids had drawn pictures for her and brought her stuffed animals. Seeing them and holding them lifted my spirits immensely. I was so thankful I would have them to go home to, and wondered how any woman could go through something like this without children at home to fill the void. After two losses, and later three, I have come to realize what an incredible miracle Jake and Eisley are. I had taken for granted so much how easily my twins came to me, how healthy they were. I knew I never, ever would take that for granted again.

Showing me their drawings

Eisley drew both Lily and Gracie in she draws three babies up there. :)

Jake drew a two headed dragon. :)

Telling him how very much mommy loved him and explaining why he couldn't stay

Eisley was begging to stay and hold Lily.  I promised to sing Lily Eisley's  special song for her and give her a kiss from her sister

No one can make me smile like Jakey can. :)

Robin agreed to stay with Jake and Eisley instead of meeting her grand-daughter, and I appreciated  it more than I can ever tell her. It gave me such peace knowing they were with their Nana.

Even in our darkest hour, our babies can make us laugh! They have the joy of the Lord in them and He knew we would need it in those moments.

Dropping their toys for Lily in her empty bassinet. This was such a tough moment for me...

Kissing her sister goodbye "until Heaven".

One last family picture with Lily
As much joy as seeing my kids brought me, it had taken absolutely every ounce of my strength to hold it together while they were there. We had been visiting with them and our family for awhile and I hadn't realized what kind of emotional strength it was taking to not fall apart. The moment the door shut after everyone walked out, and I mean the very moment that door closed, I completely lost it. I broke down into gasping sobs and Josh had to climb into the bed with me to calm me down. This was real. It was happening. I was here, Lily had to come out, and there was no turning back now.

The pain of labor with Lily was sharp and unyielding. With every contraction, I knew I was closer to losing her forever. Yet it seemed to go on and on without progress. Hours would go by, and I would be so sure that I had progressed enough to start pushing, but the nurse would check me and shake her head every time. It was just not moving along.

I had a new nurse by now, and I loved her. I prayed I would have Lily before shift change because I wanted her to be the one to deliver Lily. They upped the dosage of the induction meds and the nurse calmly and gently tried to convince me to get an epidural, or at least take some pain medication. I vehemently denied it, and told her my fears of not being able to feel Lily come out, as well as my fear of being too groggy to remember my only time with her. She told me she understood, but that the dosage of meds they were giving me were going to cause an intense amount of pain, and I should not have to deal with that on top of everything else. I could tell how badly Josh and my nurse wanted me to give in, but the fear was too great, and the pain seemed manageable compared to what I was experiencing emotionally.

I remember writing emails back and forth to my sister, updating her on my lack of progress. I had texts coming in from friends who knew I was in labor telling me they were praying, and Josh and I were so thankful for the support of our loved ones.

Josh was amazing. He had been incredible for the past few days, but during my labor with Lily I realized how very, very much I loved him. He took such good care of me. I remember the nurse telling Josh to go get something to eat, and him refusing to leave me. She told him she would take care of me, and it would be a long time before Lily was born, so he should go. He very reluctantly agreed, and when he kissed me goodbye and walked out, the nurse leaned over and said, "That man loves you so much." It meant the world to me, and I was overcome realizing the grace God has shown Josh and me in our marriage, that after everything we have been through, a stranger could still see our love for each other.

We would go back and forth between having strong, peaceful moments, and dark, terrifying ones. I remember one particular time when I was in so much pain, and the grief of what I was being asked to do hit me like a ton of bricks. My parents happened to be in the room at the time, and I remember just falling apart at the seams. I was sobbing and repeating over and over again "I cannot give birth to a dead baby, I cannot give birth to a dead baby." I was out of my mind with sadness, and I was so scared about what was happening. I was scared that Lily would look awful, that I wouldn't be able to hold her, that they would discover she had some genetic defect that would prevent us from wanting to try again. I was scared that I didn't have what it took to do this, that I would be too weak. I was scared of the sadness, because I knew it would be bigger than any sadness I had ever felt.

Josh held me together while I was falling apart. God granted him supernatural strength to deal with me in those moments and not lose it himself. It was late in the evening, I had been in painful labor for over 15 hours, and there was no end in sight. We hadn't slept properly in days. We were physically and emotionally exhausted, and at the end of our rope.

At midnight, I got a new nurse. I dreaded saying goodbye to the one I had bonded with in the past 12 hours, and prayed so hard the next nurse would be kind to me. She was an angel. She told me she had been where I was right then, that all my nurses I had so far had been. I suddenly understood why they were all so wonderful...they got it. They too had faced what I was facing, and God knew I needed them.

She saw how hungry, exhausted, and hurting I was, and she went about fixing it. Though women in labor are not supposed to eat, she "turned her head" while I ate some tater tots and a cherry limeade that Josh snuck in from Sonic. She sat on my bed and asked me to explain my fears about the epidural. I cried when I told her, and she put her hand on my face and promised me that she would not let me miss my time with Lily. She assured me they would turn the epidural down so I would be able to feel when Lily was ready to come out. She told me firmly but gently that I needed sleep, or I would not have the emotional or physical strength that I needed to deliver my daughter. She promised me she would check me every two hours to make sure that when it got close to time to push, that we would know and I could turn off the epidural.

Perhaps it was her kindness, perhaps it was that I had absolutely no strength left to argue, but I agreed. They called the anesthesiologist and he came very quickly to give me the epidural. I remember how very quiet and somber he was. He told me very curtly that he was very sorry, but he was going to make it so at least I wasn't hurting physically anymore. As epidurals do, it hurt going it. I remember staring at Lily's empty bassinet and having a flashback of my epidural with the twins, how when I got it then, I stared at their bassinet and thought about how if I could just get through this, soon I would have my babies crying right there in that bassinet. I realized I had nothing to look forward to, and suddenly that needle hurt even more.

I had no tears left, though. I stared blankly while it went in, and waited for the relief. Minutes later, I finally felt it. The pain was gone. It is amazing the high you get when you have been in incredible pain for hours on end and suddenly the pain is gone. I think Josh was even more relieved than I was, and you could tell that relieving me of my pain had taken a huge load of off his shoulders. The nurse got me comfortable, turned off all the lights, and ordered us to get some sleep. I remember being so tired. I let her give me something to make me doze off and being so comfortable that I was afraid I'd miss the birth. She assured me I wouldn't, and Josh and I finally slept.

Two hours later it was time to be checked again. It was early morning, and I had been in labor for nearly 24 hours. I prayed this was it. I was so disappointed when the nurse told me I still had a ways to go, but she was hopeful we would deliver before the end of her shift in two hours.

When she walked out, I hit a wall. Josh got into bed with me and we realized how close we were to all of this being over. We were so scared, and all we could do is hold each other and pray. We prayed for peace, we prayed that Lily would be whole and beautiful. We told God we were ready, and to please let her come soon. We asked for strength, we asked for time to hold her, we asked that this nurse would be the one to deliver Lily, as I loved her most of all and knew she would be so gentle with our Lily.

Josh said Amen, and we talked. We felt such a peace, such a calm, we knew it was the Lord. Right then, I felt it. I knew she was coming. Even though the nurse had just checked me only minutes before, I could feel it. I knew. I told Josh to get her right now, right right now, that Lily was coming. He didn't quite believe me at first, but I was so adamant that he sat up and ran to the door. He said, "She thinks it's time, right now." The nurses came in and asked what I was feeling. I said, "Lily. She's coming now."

The nurse checked me and I saw the surprise on her face as she gently said, "Okay. She's coming right now. I will get the doctor, but she might not make it in time." The doctor came in minutes though, and the nurses hurried to get things ready. Suddenly I was so excited to see Lily. It wasn't the same kind of excitement as with the twins, obviously, but I still was so excited to see her and hold her. Josh held my hand and kissed my head.

It was so bright in that room. I told the nurses to dim the lights, I wanted it dark and quiet. They did, and then they told me to push. I pushed, once, and that was it. At 5:36 a.m., Lily was born. She came out with her amniotic sac completely in tact, and it look like a giant water balloon. It was amazing. They took her to her bassinet and broke the water. The nurse told me she wanted to clean Lily up before we saw her, and I was fine with that. I was so scared at how she would look, and told Josh to make sure she was okay before they brought her to me.

After a few minutes, the doctor came over. She told me that Lily's cord had been wrapped tightly around her neck three times, and she was confident that this was the cause of death. An autopsy wouldn't be necessary. She told me Lily looked perfectly healthy, and had this accident not occurred, she was sure Lily would have been born a perfectly healthy baby girl. I felt relief and sadness at the same time. Was this good news, or bad? I couldn't decide.

The nurse came over and quietly told us what to expect. She said that Lily was extremely small and fragile. She told us there was swelling in her neck because of the cord, and that her skin was so delicate that we needed to limit touching it. She asked if we were ready, and we both nodded.

I remember them handing her to me in what suddenly seemed like a giant baby blanket, though they had always seemed so small to me. Lily swam in it. I held my breath as I looked down at her.

She was beautiful.

She looked so pitiful, like she had been hurting. I cried. Her lips were so familiar. They were Jake's lips. We unwrapped her and inspected the long, beautiful legs we had seen on her ultrasounds so many times. We commented that her calves looked so muscular, she had Harrison calves.

Her feet were so incredibly small, yet completely perfect. Her tiny hands had tiny, perfect fingers the size of rice. She was so delicate, and I was so scared of breaking her.

The nurse came back with a teeny, tiny pink blanket that velcroed together in the front. She put Lily in it and it made her so much easier to hold. It held her together, literally, because she was so incredibly delicate.

We marveled over her. We sang her Eisley's special song and told her about her brother and sister. We told her how sorry we were.

After awhile we told the nurse to let our family in. We told her to warn them about how small she was, how her skin looked, to explain how she had died so I wouldn't have to. I remember feeling scared that everyone might think she looked too upsetting, that maybe they wouldn't want to see her after all.

When they walked in, I held Lily in my hands and told them, "She's so tiny. Her skin is really shiny and her neck is swollen. But she's beautiful."

I was proud of her. I wanted to show her off. She was my daughter, and I wanted everyone else to love her as much as I did.

I'm so thankful they came. They supported us, they held her, and they were so strong. I know how hard that was for them. She was scary to look at, it was a scary situation, and they did it for us. They showed so much love for us and their granddaughter, and we were so grateful.

We took time with our family to pray and read Scripture over Lily together. Josh and I took turns holding her and reading out loud from the Bible. We read Psalm 139.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
 You know when I sit and when I rise; 
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
 You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways. 
 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely. 
 You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, 
    too lofty for me to attain.
 Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 even there your hand will guide me, 
    your right hand will hold me fast.
 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
 For you created my inmost being; 
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful, 
    I know that full well.
 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 
 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God! 
    How vast is the sum of them!
 Were I to count them, 
    they would outnumber the grains of sand 
    when I awake, I am still with you.

And then we prayed over her.

We asked our families to step out so we could have our last moments with her. Josh and I knew it was coming to an end. We felt at peace with letting her go. We spent a few minutes holding her, kissing her feet, and trying to imprint mental pictures of her in our minds, so we would not ever forget.

I always sing my babies lullabies at bedtime. I let them choose one of many, and I sing it to them, every night, no matter what. I wanted to sing to Lily, but I couldn't think of the right lullaby. Then an old George Straight song popped into my head, and it was perfect for my sweet baby who I would only get to sing to once...

Goodnight, Sweetheart, sleep tight
Wherever you are
God holds you in His arms
While we're apart
Though your're far away
Your love will stay
Tucked away here in my heart
Goodnight, Sweetheart, sleep tight
Wherever you are

And then we knew. It was time. Josh and I whispered to her that it was time to go. We told her we would see her again very soon, and we let go. Josh called the nurse in, and we told her we were ready. She asked if we were sure, and we said yes. I had pictured that moment for days, thinking it would be traumatic, heart wrenching and impossible. But as I handed Lily back to the nurse, I felt only peace. I was so thankful for my time with her, that I got to hold her at all, and I knew our time was up. She was gone, and I was ready to let her go.

It was a very odd feeling, confusing almost, after we let Lily go. What next? The nurse told me I needed to eat breakfast, and then I could go home. I ordered bacon and eggs. When I finished, Josh helped me get dressed, and it was time to go. Just like that.

The nurse who delivered Lily had stayed an extra two hours to see me out. She gave me two bracelets she had made while I was in labor, they were pink and they had "Lily Grace" on them. One for me, and one for Eisley. The nurses had taken Lily's footprints and made me a beautiful card with her height, weight, and time of birth. They even made Jake and Eisley their own special memory pages with Lily's footprints and the date. A blue one for Jake, and pink one for Eisley. They said, "In memory of our baby sister, Lily". They were so beautiful. I thanked the nurse and gave her a huge hug. I told her how important it was to me that she had been there, and that she had treated me with such love. I am still convinced to this day that those nurses were angels sent by God to get me through those hours! 

I remember them wheeling me out of the hospital, my pink bunny in hand, and seeing a new daddy with his brand new baby car seat coming in the front door, smiling with excitement as he got ready to take his little one home. It was a punch in the gut. We had no one to take home. 

I panicked. How could I leave Lily in that hospital? Where was she? Was she alone? What did they do with babies like her? How could I desert her like this? I felt like a horrible, terrible, awful mother. I felt empty, so empty. And I held that pink bunny as if my very life depended on it.

And we got in the car.

And we drove home.

Lily's birthday was one year ago today. I have spent the past week thinking of very little but her, of those few days in June where our world turned upside down, looking back at the incredible strength God granted us to get through something like that, and how far we have come in the past twelve months. 

We met our new baby's birthmother today. We talked about how it was Lily's birthday, and we were all so amazed at God's perfect timing. I promise to get back to our adoption journey in the next post, but this week belonged to Lily. I have actually enjoyed sharing her birth story with the world, because it is healing for me. It is painful, but I am proud of our story. I hope that it offers insight to those who don't understand the grief of pregnancy and infant loss. I hope it offers encouragement to those who have suffered it, knowing they are not alone. And I hope if offers hope to anyone going through a time of grief, hope that the Lord can offer peace and comfort that you cannot get anywhere else. We are proof of that.

I'm so thankful that you have taken the time to read about our loss and how the Lord brought us through it. I have been told so many times that my posts never cease to make people cry, but I promise that's not my intention! I heal through my writing, through sharing our story. I believe that experiencing crippling grief and sadness makes our joyful experiences so much more amazing. Having walked through such dark times, I appreciate the bright ones that much more! I want to share all the aspects of our journey, not just the happy ones, because that just wouldn't be accurate. When we do finally hold this new baby in our arms, and I post pictures of our family complete, I know you will all cry tears of joy with us because you have learned how far God has brought us! 

We sometimes wish things had been different. That Lily could have been born healthy and perfect, and we never would have had to walk this road. But we cannot deny the lessons God has taught us through our experience losing Lily, lessons about faith, provision, the true nature of the Lord, friendship, family, and love. I am changed because of her. I would not want to go back to the person I was before I had Lily. The Karen I am now is stronger, more sensitive, less petty, and closer to my Lord. I am a better mother and a better friend, though both my children and my friends have had to be patient with me this year while I learned those lessons. I am a better wife to my better husband. I am wiser, and I am so much more appreciative of my joys in life. 

Thank you, my sweet Lily, for growing your mommy so much! Happy birthday my love! We will see you very, very soon.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Lily Grace...

One year ago my sweet Lily was born! I can't believe it has been a whole year. It has seemed to go by so quickly, yet at times it seems it will be an eternity before I will see her again...

I know she is having a better birthday party today than I ever could have thrown her, though I do throw some pretty amazing birthday parties!

I miss you, my love.

Happy Birthday.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

And God Held Me...

This entry continues remembering the loss of Lily. Again, it is sad. Loss is sad. But we are confident that great joy will be born from our loss, and I want everyone, especially our children, to know how awesome our God is, that He can create joy from utter brokenness. But to understand how powerful our God is, how far He brought us, I think it is important to understand how shattered we really were. Not to pick at old wounds, but to show how awesome it is that we can be healed at all...

Isaiah 61:3

...And provide for those who grieve in Zion, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for a display of His splendor.

I could not fall asleep. I wanted to, so badly I wanted to. To escape this reality. To dream dreams where I was happy again. To feel, just for a moment, like I could breath again. I regretted so much not asking the doctor for something to help me sleep, after that awful, long, exhausting day when we found out Lily had died. I remember lying awake in my bed, writing my sister emails on my phone, telling her how much I wished she was here. I just laid there, crying silently, for hours upon hours, until light started peeking through my window.

And God held me.

I remember lying very still, very, very still, with my hands on my belly. She was in there. She was in there, but she was gone. She had died. I had no idea why, and it was driving me crazy. It is something no woman should ever have to experience, the feeling of a child inside you that you knew was no longer alive. It does things to your mind, to your heart, things that are irreparable, permanent, devastating.

And God held me.

I must be broken, I thought. The first miscarriage had been a fluke, they told me, but for Lily to die this far along, now it was definitely my fault. Why did my babies keep dying? What was wrong with me? Had I eaten something bad? Had I jolted her somehow? My mind went absolutely everywhere, into very, very dark places. How could it not? I carried within me the corpse of the child I loved. There was nowhere to go but dark. The darkness surrounded my mind, surrounded my heart.

And God held me.

I felt ashamed. I felt so ashamed that this had happened again. I felt guilty for about a million reasons...for losing another baby, for causing my family pain, for ruining Lisa's trip, for being such a bad mother that my babies were dying one after another. I was mad at God, but mad does not even begin to describe the anger in my heart. I was scared, but scared was something you felt when you thought something bad might knew I would face delivering a stillborn...I was terrified to my very core. I was sad, but sad does not even begin to scratch the surface of what I was feeling...what was this feeling sad did not describe? Broken hearted? Devastated? No. That did not describe it right. I was confused. So confused. Why? Why not earlier before we had told the kids? Why, after so many healthy ultrasounds? Why couldn't it have happened earlier, before I got so comfortable and had finally let my guard down and gotten excited over this baby girl? Why did it happen when Lisa was so far away? When Josh's sister and her husband were also on the other side of the world, oblivious to what was going on at home? Why did it happen at all? What was God doing to me? What was He trying to tell me? So many questions, no answers at all.

And God held me.

I worried so much over what people must be thinking. I was convinced they were thinking "Well, she should have been happy with her two kids. This is what happens when people aren't content." They must all be thinking I deserved this. I was so embarrassed. I was so ashamed that we were, yet again, the center of everyone else's pity. I just wanted to grow our family like everyone else seemed to do so easily. I worried that people thought this baby was a selfish desire created because I wasn't content. I felt the urge to defend myself against imaginary disapproval. I was content! I was so content that I wanted another child to experience what a joy it was to be a part of our family. I felt I had more to offer another child, and I wanted this little girl more than words can say. Did people know that? What was everyone thinking? Did they think it was my fault? Did they blame me the way I was blaming myself? I have always struggled with what other people thought. This situation was no exception. You think Satan will leave you alone just because it is your darkest hour? You think he will cut you a break and not torment you with all your usual insecurities and fears just because you are experiencing the greatest tragedy of your life? Think again. He is an opportunist, and grief is a great opportunity to break someone down.

And God held me.

My thoughts were all over the place. It was a chaotic attempt to make sense of something incomprehensible. As I listened to Josh sleep, his arms around me, around my belly, I didn't dare move. I remember praying that he wouldn't wake up for a long time, because once he did, he'd have to come back to this world where I was. As he slept, I knew there was relief for him. And I knew the feeling of waking up to a reality you wished was a nightmare. I didn't dare move and bring him back to it, back to the stabbing pain and emptiness. So I was still. I didn't move. And neither did Lily. And suddenly I was so incredibly aware of her stillness.

And God held me.

The morning was a welcome relief. We had an appointment at the doctor to start the induction process. It was Friday. I remember waiting in the waiting room with Josh. He held my hand. I made no eye contact. Not with anyone. When I spoke to the receptionist, she whispered to me. I remember feeling as if everyone around me thought they might break me if they spoke too loud or made any sudden movements. They were probably right.

I remember going into the little room with Josh. I had become extremely attached to him in the last 24 hours. I could not let him out of my sight, I could not even disconnect from his hand long enough to use the bathroom without going into a panic. I remember the doctor coming in and crying with us. She explained the process, and I was so dismayed at how long she said it would take. I expected to give birth to Lily that night, to be induced immediately and deliver her easily. She was so small, how long could it possibly take? How painful could it possibly be? I should have known better.

She told me the regular methods of inducing labor didn't work as well when the baby was this young. They had to go about it differently, slowly. Your body just doesn't accept the fact that it is time to let go of the baby, and it fights tooth and nail to keep it safe. I remember thinking it was so ironic that my body was fighting so hard to keep the little life inside me, but didn't recognize there was no life left in it. I felt betrayed by my body, by my doctor who had promised me this baby was fine only a week before, by the baby who didn't stay alive. I was such a mess.

And God held me.

I will not go into the details of what they do to start the induction process in cases like these, but it was pretty much barbaric in my opinion. It was the most physically painful thing I have ever experienced, and I gave birth to seven pound twins with an ineffective epidural, if that puts it into perspective. It felt like torture.

I stared at the ceiling while the doctor did what she needed to do, and I sobbed. I sobbed at the absolute unfairness of what was happening to me. I squeezed Josh's hand and listened to him whisper comfort into my ear and felt his tears fall into my hair while he did his best not to fall apart. I nearly broke in half, and while I used every ounce of my strength to hold myself together, I yelled at God in my heart. I told Him He was cruel, I told Him I hated Him for doing this to me, I told Him I would never, ever forgive Him for the pain I was feeling both physically and emotionally.

And God held me.

When it was over, I sat up and listened to the doctor tell me she would see me at the end of the day to do it all over again. And then I demanded drugs.

Josh had to half carry me to the car, and right before I stepped into the parking lot, my body couldn't take it anymore. There was no room left for anything else, any more pain or hurt or suffering. I threw up all over the sidewalk.

And God held me.

I don't remember that day much, just bits and pieces. I remember going to Sonic. Refusing to get out of the car out of fear someone would comment on my pregnancy. I remember a friend coming over and dropping off things I would need for the hospital. I remember lots and lots of flowers. So many flowers arrived, and I was suddenly so happy we had named her Lily. Lilies were all over the house, and it was comforting to me.

We were bombarded with love from all sides. Our friends and family that had heard about Lily sent us texts, left us messages, dropped off cards and flowers and sent their love through our parents and siblings. We felt so incredibly loved, we felt completely covered in prayer, we felt a peace that passes all understanding...

And God held me.

I had to go to the hospital for a different doctor to do my amniocentesis procedure. This, I was deathly afraid of. I knew it entailed an ultrasound and a very, very big needle straight into the uterus to gather amniotic fluid for them to test. Every aspect of that sounded awful to me. I dreaded it.

I remember the nurse taking me back into the procedure room and hugging me. I had never met her, and right there, I sobbed in her arms. She cried with me and told me how incredibly sorry she was. She treated me like a delicate glass object, so gentle and caring. She helped me undress and explained everything she was doing. The manager of nursing for the entire department came into the room and introduced herself. She told me through tears how sad she was for me, and that if it was okay, she was going to stay during the procedure and rub my feet. She wanted to rub my feet and cry with me. The nurse manager. I was blown away, and so grateful.

The doctor who had done my ultrasound the day before came in. I hated seeing him, but he was so kind that I couldn't hate him for long. He explained the procedure to us, told us he was hopeful we would get some answers, and then began. He started the ultrasound, and five of us (the doctor, Josh, me, the nurse, and my foot rubber) all stared at the screen. My poor Lily. I remember saying, "My poor baby, look at my poor baby" over and over again through my tears. The nurses cried. One of them said her legs were so long and pretty. We agreed.

The doctor took the biggest needle I have ever seen and stuck it deep into my belly, and I was so afraid he was going to poke Lily with it. It hurt, but not as bad as I thought it would. He pulled out a bunch of fluid, and I remember gasping when I saw it looked like pure blood. He told me it meant Lily had probably passed at least a week ago, and I cried some more. It was such an awful, sad, peaceful experience in that dark room with strangers who were doing their best to hold us together.

And God held me.

We had to be at the hospital by four o'clock in the morning on Saturday. We sent the kids to stay with Josh's parents, and went in for my last appointment with the doctor late Friday afternoon. I had taken something to take a bit of the edge off, and Josh and I prayed fiercely in the car that God would not let it be as bad as that morning. I let Josh pray, because my heart just wasn't in it. I was having a very hard time trusting the Lord after it seemed my fervent prayers for Lily's health for the past five months had gone completely unheard. What was the point? Why ask Him for anything at all if He obviously wasn't listening to me? Deep down, I knew God had bigger plans than I did, and I knew He was in control, but that's why it was so hard for me to deal with. I knew my God was in control, and He still let this happen. How could I trust Him?

And God held me.

That appointment was awful, but not nearly as bad as the morning. Josh and I left with plans to be at the hospital before the sun came up to deliver Lily. We had asked if we would be able to see her, to hold her, to take pictures. The doctor said that from the ultrasound, she looked "physically whole" so there was no reason she could see that we wouldn't be able to have time with her. She explained how Lily would look, how tiny she would be. Jake and Eisley had been begging, begging us to come to the hospital and see Lily after she was born. That's all they had been talking about since we told them we were pregnant, and it hadn't changed after they learned she died. They still, so badly, wanted to see her, wanted to hold her. After knowing what she would probably look like, though, we decided against it. They still tell me they are mad at me for not letting them come, but I don't regret it. She was scary for me to look at, and she was my daughter. I didn't want the only memories they had of their baby sister to be scary ones.

I remember kissing the kids goodbye and telling them we would see them at the hospital tomorrow, before I had Lily. I remember the door closing after they left and absolutely breaking down into a mess of tears.

And God held me.

I remember Josh holding me. I remember how I felt bonded to him in a way I had not felt in the ten years we had been together. We had experienced the kind of grief that made us outsiders to the world now. We saw it differently. We had been changed in a way that only we understood. We didn't even have to talk, we just knew what the other needed at any given moment. I remember watching the Food Network for hours, because it was the only safe thing we could watch. There was no chance of seeing a baby, a pregnant woman, or any kind of plot that would hurl us back into our reality. We just needed to pass the time and do it numbly. I remember how Josh would cater to my every wish and need in such a gentle and loving way. I remember how loved I felt by him, and I remember thanking the Lord that He was using this to bond us together, when it so easily could have torn us apart for good.

And God held us both.

I remember Josh telling me I needed to go to bed. We went there silently, dreading the morning. I remember laying there with him, talking and talking and talking. We talked about the kids, all of them. We talked about the delivery. We talked about everything and nothing. And we held each other, and we cried.

And God held us both.

We slept for maybe an hour before the alarm went off. I remember very clearly that I wanted to look nice. I wanted to look nice because Lily was going to see me. I remember how silly that felt, but I still took an hour to shower, to curl my hair, to do my make up. Josh told me how pretty I looked, and that we should take one last picture of the two of us together. We had been taking belly pictures every month since we found out about Lily, and this would be our last. I grabbed a lily from the vase on the table, and took it outside.

And God held me.

As we drove to the hospital, we listed to a CJ Bergmen song, "The Real Me". It was like he was singing about us. And we cried the whole way there.

And God held us.

Through our pain, our anger, our hurt, our confusion, our bitterness, our sorrow...He held us every single moment. There was never, not one time, where I felt the Lord had turned His back on me. I knew He was letting me grieve how I needed to grieve. And I knew He was right there, ready to comfort me at every turn. And He did.

And on that day, though I wasn't yet ready to face it, I knew the Lord was doing something bigger. That He would create purpose from this tragedy. I did not know what, or when, and I still don't fully know, but I trusted that part of Him. We prayed, even in those moments, that He would not let Lily's short existence be wasted, that He would do something with it so much bigger than us.We had not come to grips with her loss or the reasons behind it by any means, but we felt at peace that, eventually, we would.

And as we walked into that hospital with Lily, knowing we would be walking out without her, facing what was easily one of my greatest fears, knowing how painful, beautiful, terrifying, and heart breaking this experience would be...

God held me.

The Real Me
CJ Bergmen

I can feel you now
You are overhead reaching down to me
Slowly pulling away
Picking at the parts that aren't even me

I can't believe that you're not through with me yet
That you would still have names to raise up from the dead

And I believe in miracles and need one now
And I believe in things unseen come and heal me now

This is the way you said it would be
Painful beautiful and freeing
As my body thaws come back to life
I can feel you again

I can't believe that you're not through with me yet
That you would still have names to raise up from the dead

And I believe in miracles and need one now
And I believe in things unseen come and heal me now

Can you stop it hurts when you push on that
Part of me I'm scared of
Better yet pursue my brokenness to the end of it

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Day My World Fell Apart

The following entry is sad. It remembers the day we learned of Lily's death, and it isn't the most fun thing you will ever read. I write about things like this because it is an outlet for my grief. It helps me remember how far the Lord has carried me. It was really the first day on our road to adoption, though we didn't know it at the time. So while it doesn't really have anything to do with our adoption, it also has everything to do with it...

One year ago our world was shattered. Like most earth shattering days, it started out extremely ordinary.

It was VBS week at our church. It was a Thursday. The Thursday before Father's Day. We dropped the kids off in their classroom and headed to the doctor. I was 20 weeks pregnant with Lily and we were going to a routine ultrasound to peek in at her and make sure all was well. I barely got Josh to agree to go with me because I had just had an ultrasound and everything was fine. What could have changed in a week?


My sister was in Europe with friends on vacation. We had been emailing back and forth. I had just read her quick note on my phone telling me she was praying all was well and to email her as soon as the ultrasound was done. We had been told a few weeks earlier that Lily was definitely a girl, but Lisa and I were both hoping for confirmation at this ultrasound so we could start hoarding pink clothes and ribbons and buying out sections of Babies R Us. I worried that maybe the baby would be a boy after all...I wish now that was all there was to worry about.

I remember sitting in the waiting room with Josh. I remember every detail of that room, every article I read in the magazine I was holding. I remember debating about if I had time to use the restroom, and asking the nurse if I should just hold it. I remember talking to Josh about baby names. I remember loving the name Lily, and knowing her middle name would be Grace no matter what. I remember having one split second of panic that maybe the gender of this baby would not be the bombshell that would be dropped at that ultrasound. I remember wondering aloud to Josh if he thought everything would be okay, and wondering silently if it was normal that I hadn't felt the baby move yet. I remember them calling us back to the ultrasound room, and I remember my tummy doing flip flops in excitement that I was about to see my sweet baby again.

I remember the ultrasound tech, because she was the same ultrasound tech my friend Bo had when I went to one of her ultrasounds the previous year. I remember that she was really nice and gave Bo a ton of pictures and said, "I'm not supposed to give you this many, but your baby is just so dang cute!" I remember thinking to myself that I got lucky, because I'm sure she would do the same for me. She recognized me, and I told her that story.

I remember lying down on the table and feeling her squirt that gooey gel on my tummy. As she did, she asked me if I had felt the baby move yet. I said no, but it took me even longer to feel my twins, so I wasn't that concerned. As the words left my mouth, I watched as the screen changed from black to Lily. I saw her, and we all sat silently for one second.

Two seconds.


Three seconds was all it took...

And in that moment, neither of my hearts were beating.

The tech knew. I knew. Even Josh knew. There was no flicker. There was just Lily, swimming silently inside me. Her long legs were still so long. Her hands were up by her face. But she didn't move. The tech told me what I knew she dreaded to say as much as I dreaded hearing it...

"I'm so sorry, but your baby doesn't have a heartbeat. I'm going to go get the doctor."

I nodded. I remember thinking, very clearly, "Well. That sounds about right." Bitter. Shocked, yet not as shocked as I should have been. So angry. So sad. Jake and Eisley...devastation at the thought of telling them, again, that they weren't going to have a baby sister after all. Why? Why? Why why why why why God why????

Josh and I were alone. My shirt was still hiked up and I still lay there, unable to move. I could not move, because if I moved I would die. I knew I would die if I moved an inch. The flood gates would open, and I would never, ever stop crying. So I did not move. Not one single inch.

Josh whispered to me, "She looks like a Lily." We hadn't officially decided on her name, so I knew what he was saying. We would name her Lily, even though she had already died. We stared silently at the screen that showed our still daughter. And neither of us spoke.

I had to call my sister. But I knew I couldn't. She was half a world away, and it was the middle of the night for her. I could not call my mother, because I was not emotionally strong enough to even dial her number, let alone tell her the baby had died. I called the first person I knew would tell me what I needed to hear. At that moment, I could not handle even one tear or cracked voice from someone else. I needed strength, I needed the facts, I needed someone I trusted completely and who could hold it together long enough to tell me exactly what questions to ask and what to do. I needed a doctor. My sister's best friend, Nicole, and her husband, Brent, just happen to be doctors. They are two people I rarely get to see, but I trust with my children's lives and I know care as much about me and my family as they do their own. I dialed Nicole's number, and left her a message I doubt she will ever forget.

"Nicole, this is Karen. I just had my ultrasound and the baby died. Please call me back, I don't know what to do."

I called Brent's phone and left a similar, possibly more jittery, message. And then we waited.

Minutes went by. So many minutes. They told us to wait. The doctor needed to finish the ultrasound and talk to us about what would happen next. But it took a really long time for him to come in. I laid there, my coffin of a belly out in the open, cold, empty, yet swollen with child. I began to get angry, panicked. I told Josh I could not wait one more minute in this damned room, and he needed to go right that instant and get the doctor because I was about to lose it. I had never been so close to losing it in all my life. Josh left and came back very shortly with a young, grim faced doctor whose job I did not envy. I kept thinking about how awful it must be for them to have me as a patient. How often did this happen? I wondered. How often did such a wonderful experience turn to utter tragedy in this office?

The tech came in with him and they both told us how very sorry they were. The doctor told me he needed to take a look at the baby again to see if he could determine what had happened. I was about to pray that God would show us what had happened, but then I realized that I wasn't speaking to God yet. I wondered if I ever would again.

The doctor scanned my belly for a really long time. He told me her legs and arms were perfect. Her skull was perfect. Her entire body looked perfect. All of her organs were there. He could tell she was a girl. He told me there was a lot of blood, and it was probable that she had died at least a few days ago. I wondered what day it had been? What had I been doing when her heart stopped beating? Was I doing the dishes? Was I playing dollhouse with Eisley? Was I driving to work listening to the radio when my child suddenly died? Had I been sleeping? Would I have felt it? Should I have felt it? What kind of mother was I? What kind of mother didn't realize her child had died? I felt sick.

I asked if they could please print some pictures of her. The tech gave me even more than she had given Bo. I found it ironic.

The doctor let me sit up and handed me a tissue box. I cried. It wasn't a sobbing cry. It was a steady, silent flow of tears that fell like a fountain, no break, no sound, just tears. He told me we had a couple of options. I needed to deliver the baby, so I could either go to the hospital and deliver her how I planned, or I could go to a clinic and "Have it taken care of". Those were his exact words. I fought the urge to smack him. I told him to stop talking, we would deliver her as we planned. He instantly switched gears and told me he would set it up. He told me I needed to have an amniocentesis. If we wanted to know what had happened, this was our best shot. He told me we would also want to consent to an autopsy of the baby, because I was so young and the baby was so far along, he recommended we "do everything possible to get the answers you want." I agreed.

We thanked him and walked out of that horrible, disgusting, heartbreaking room. I could tell that in the 90 minutes we had been back there, the entire office staff had been briefed on what had happened. They gave me sympathetic, understanding, teary looks. The secretary who helped me sign out and make my appointment for the amnio had obviously been crying. I appreciated that.

I was supposed to come back in three hours for the amnio. Josh and I needed to go pick up the kids from VBS, we had been at the office much longer than we planned. I remember walking to our car. I remember people looking at me as I passed them, pregnant and crying.

Josh and I talked, but I can't remember what about. We agreed we needed to tell the kids. We have always been very honest with them, and we knew they would know anyways. Josh let me wait in the car while he went to get them. I couldn't bear the thought of running into someone I knew at church and them asking about the baby. What on earth would I say? "Oh, yes, we just had an ultrasound this morning actually, and she died." No. I would wait in the car.

When I saw them coming, I went and sat under a tree in the secluded shade on the side of the church. Josh brought the kids over and sat them down. Eisley asked why we were sitting there, and I told her we needed to talk to them. Josh started, but he couldn't finish. I told them, "We went to see the baby this morning while you were at VBS. You know how we've been praying that her heart would keep beating? Well, I'm so sorry, but her heart stopped beating. She died, and she is in heaven with Gracie now."

I remember very distinctly how both the kids faces looked exactly as if we had just told them we couldn't have ice cream for dessert after all. Almost a fake pout kind of a look. I wondered if they understood. And then Eisley said, "Well, that's okay mommy, now Gracie has a sister to play with in Heaven!"

We told the kids the details we thought they needed to understand. That we named the baby Lily. That she was still in my tummy and I would have to go to the hospital so the doctor could take her out. That mommy would be crying a lot, but not to be scared, because eventually I would stop crying. It was only that last part that I felt dishonest about. I told the kids that we should pray, but I looked at Josh and silently told him to do it. I was still not speaking to God.

We drove home and Jake and Eisley chattered about how Gracie wouldn't be lonely now, how God must have taken Lily so she'd have a playmate, how it wasn't fair to Gracie that she had no brothers or sisters up there, and now everything was fair for everyone.

I could not disagree more. It wasn't fair to me.

But I was so proud of them and so touched that they were more concerned about Gracie's loneliness than their own disappointment at yet again not getting to be the Big Brother and Big Sister. I was so proud of my kids. It was then that I realized what a great job we were doing with them, and I broke my silent treatment with God to tell Him that if I was doing so well with Jake and Eisley, why did He continue to take my babies away? Wasn't I a good mommy? Couldn't He see that? What was I doing wrong? My silent treatments with the Lord never last very long. I simply cannot go long without letting Him in completely, letting Him blanket me with comfort and love and the peace that I so desperately need, even though I struggle so much with the anger I feel towards Him at times like those. Though I was feeling every emotion from anger to brokenness to dismay, the Lord was so completely close to me in those moments, I simply could not deny Him. Without the peace He was offering, I would have shattered into a million pieces.

"The Lord is close to the broken hearted. He saves those who are crushed in spirit."
-Psalms 34:18

Somewhere in there, Nicole called me back. She did exactly what I needed her to do. She gave me the facts, she was a rock, she told me everything I needed to know, and she did it without breaking down into a mess of tears. We discussed the delivery, how Lily would look, how big she would be, the possible reasons she had died, the process of delivering a stillborn, and many other details I wished so badly I didn't have to know.

And because I could not bear the thought of lying to my sister for the next week, I emailed Lisa. I was struggling so much with the fact that my best friend, my sister, was not anywhere to be found. Why did God time it this way? Why did we have to go through this when she was so impossibly far away? How was I supposed to do this without her? How could I possibly tell her the worst news she's ever gotten over an email that she would surely be reading on a laptop in a hotel room thousands of miles away? I momentarily considered not telling her. Who was I to ruin the trip of a lifetime with this news? Was there another way? But I knew there wasn't. If the situations were reversed, I would never forgive her for keeping something like that from me. So I wrote it...

Many months later, Lisa would give me a gift that answered the questions of why God allowed her to be so far away during a time like this. Over the course of the week that I learned of Lily's death, delivered her, and recovered from labor, Lisa and I wrote dozens of emails back and forth to each other. We couldn't talk on the phone hardly at all due to the time difference, cost, and the inability to speak two sentences without breaking down into tears. So we wrote. Back and forth, again and again, we sent letters to one another. I poured out my soul, and she poured out hers. As a gift to me, Lisa had all of those letters printed and bound into a book that I know I will treasure forever. Someday I hope to write a real book with it. For now I read it now and then when I find myself forgetting details I want to remember.

After I wrote the email, we knew we had to start making calls. Josh called his mom. I remember sitting on the couch next to him with my face in a pillow. I remember hearing her answer the phone and watching as Josh started bawling next to me. He couldn't get the words out. All he could say was, "The baby...the baby...the baby..."

My husband is the most level headed, steady, rock of a human being that I have ever known. He does not cry. He does not show emotion. He has maybe once in his life had trouble finishing a sentence, and it is not an easy thing for me to watch.

I remember hearing his mom try to understand what he was not saying. He simply could not finish the sentence, and it was torturing me. I almost ripped the phone from his hands and screamed into it "THE BABY DIED!" so I could finally put Josh's mother out of her misery.

But then I heard her, "Josh, did the baby die?" She said it through her tears in utter disbelief. He was able to mutter, "Yes" before he broke down and sobbed. And I sobbed. And his mother sobbed. And it was literally the most awful conversation I think I have ever witnessed, heard, or been a part of. And I could not fathom having it again with my own mother, and then again with anyone else. That one conversation that I didn't even participate in completely wiped me out emotionally.

But I had to call my mom, and somehow I did. It was interesting to me how calm I felt doing it, as if Josh and I had switched roles. I calmly told her that the baby had no heartbeat, that she had died, that I would be delivering her in the next couple of days. I don't remember much else, just that I was eerily calm.

The next few hours were a whirlwind of heartbreaking text messages to friends, phone calls with doctors, emails from the church setting up meals. We ended up scheduling the amnio and the process of starting my incredibly long induction for the following day. I simply had nothing left and could not force myself out of the house again that day.

I don't remember much about the rest of the day. I know that we played about eleven games of Uno with the kids, trying to pass the time and normalize things for them. I can't imagine they felt much was normal while I cried incessantly, even if I was throwing down wild cards and trying my best not to lose control.

As people learned of the news, they rallied around us and prayed for us. We could feel it. I knew people were praying, because I couldn't believe how peaceful I felt in the midst of such chaos. You never think you'll be able to handle things like that, because the thought of that kind of pain makes you crumble. If the thought of it makes you crumble, the actual experience certainly must end you. But it never does...and I am convinced it is only the peace and comfort that God poured all over us that day and the days following that got us through it.

The Thursday before Father's Day. One year ago. It was one of the worst days of my entire life. It was the beginning of a road I never expected to take. The road I am still on. It was painful to the tenth power.

As I write this, it is Thursday. The Thursday before Father's Day. The kids went to VBS just like they did last year. It was so very ordinary. And it was so very hard. I was flooded with memories I sometimes wish I could erase. God has brought me such a long way in this one year. He has taught me so much about trust, patience, and love. And if I'm being honest, I'm so glad for the memories I have of Lily, for though the events surrounding her death and birth were tragic, she was not a tragedy. She was a miracle.

We are expecting again. We are hopeful, cautiously optimistic. We have come a long way in a year. God has poured blessings on our family the past few weeks, and it has truly made this particularly difficult week so much easier to bear. My sister got engaged. My brother got married. We got the news that a birth mother chose us. And today, I got to sit with one of my dearest friends during her ultrasound and see her healthy, sweet little baby kick and squirm and wiggle around. It was amazing. It was incredibly painful for me, but I could not have been happier to share that with her, because it reminded me so sharply how far our family has come in this one year.

In a few days, we will be celebrating Lily's birthday. This is a tough week for me, but I imagine that day will be the hardest. On that same day, we have an appointment to meet the mother of the child we are hoping to adopt. How's that for full circle? God's timing amazes me. I don't try to understand it, but I have come to trust it fully.

I remember wondering, one year ago, if I would ever stop crying. If things would ever be normal again. If there would ever be a day where I didn't fall apart on a whim.

I was up at my sister's cabin this week with friends, and we were watching one of our favorite movies, "Sleepless in Seattle". That movie is full of pretty awesome quotes, but there is a particular quote that describes this past year of grieving Lily so perfectly...

"I'm gonna get out of bed every morning. Breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while, I won't have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out all day long."

I don't have to remind myself to breathe anymore. And if you are or have ever been in the midst of deep grief, you can understand what a great milestone that is.

Here's to many more milestones.