Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Perfection

I have seen perfection.
 
I have held it. I have kissed it and loved it.
 
I have counted perfection's fingers and toes and shed my tears over it.
 
I have given perfection a heartbreaking farewell and then...I buried it.
 
Physically, I buried perfection in the Earth. Symbolically, I buried the image of perfection to protect it.
 
This perfection needed to be protected from shallow opinions of harsh critics. Perfection needs to be protected from a world that may not be kind to him. Perfection is hidden under the wings of his mother.
 
But today, I received an incredible gift. A gift that will allow me to share my glimpse of perfection with you. A gift that will allow me to share my son with you.
 
 Barrett's pictures are sacred to me. The ones from the hospital didn't turn out well, and I only have two beautiful images that my mother thought to capture at the funeral home. They are a treasure to me. I keep them with me at all times. And, for the most part, I keep them to myself, only sharing them with people I truly trust who first ask to see them. Protecting these images are how I protect my son.
 
Keeping them sacred allow me to protect his beautiful image from people who may not be so kind. I have no intentions of ever publically sharing his photographs. They are my sacred treasure that I selfishly hoard for myself and those I am closest to.
 
Yesterday, a beautiful person that I met through a common love of babywearing reached out offering to do a portrait of Barrett. Tears. Immediate tears.
 
I haven't even shared with her yet that I had been thinking of having that done for awhile, but the problem is finding someone willing and who I trust with his image. I absolutely feel like her reaching out was a God thing for sure.
 
This amazing, kind, beautiful, amazingly talented person created an indescribable gift for me. This portrait of Barrett is one that I can share. One that I can hang on the wall beside his sisters. Another image to carry with me.
 
Since receiving the digital image this morning, I have caught myself just staring. Not only did she give me the gift of incredible artwork, but she gave me the gift of being able to share my son.
 
So, for the first time ever, I am sharing him with you. My angel. My little piece of heaven. My only baby boy. My son. My perfection.
 
 
JoyLynn is also the author of Carried Away, an incredible book displaying her talent of creating fun scenes with her son and woven wraps--a favorite book in our house!
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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Confession

I need to make a confession. Or two. Or three.

I fail a lot. I let people down. 

I confess that I struggle daily. 

Most recently, I have struggled with God. They say that there are stages of grief. I agree with that. Though, grief is its own monster, and it doesn't always go in the order that they say it will and it's not guaranteed that you won't revisit some of the stages a hundred times like a song stuck on repeat. 

I've had a tight grip on something that I've refused to let go of. I've clenched it tight until my knuckles turned a permanent white. Bitterness.

I want to let it go, because I am exhausted by the amount of energy it requires to carry it with me. But I'm scared to let it go. The bitterness allows me to feel something. And since losing Barrett, I've experienced so many moments of "numbness" that the thought of letting go of any feeling at all is quite terrifying.

This bitterness has roots. These roots are deep in my heart. They started growing the day he died. WHY? A root grew. WHY ME? Then another. WHY MY SON? Another root. 

A holiday passes without him. A root grows.

I look around and see how blessed I am. I realize how thankful I am. Shouldn't my thankfulness outweigh the bitterness and make it disappear? Another root. I am bitter because I am bitter.

And over two years, this bitterness has formed a solid system within me. Between Barrett's death and other events that year, I have clung to it because it is familiar. Familiarity is "safe". 

I've been wrestling with God over it. God wanting me to surrender it and me clinging to it like a safety net.

But what good has come from me clinging to bitterness? None. I should have been clinging to God.

This is not news to me. I've known all along what I should do. But I'm stubborn and I fought God over it. I ran and hid away with my bitterness. But you can't hide from God and at each turn, He has been working on me.

And so, little by little, root by root, one finger at a time, I'm letting it go. And I'm giving it away. I'm tired of running. Tired of hiding. Tired of clinging to the wrong truth.

Confession number two. Barrett's death rocked my world. It shattered my fairy tale views of the world. His death has forever altered everything about me. How I think. How I feel. My hopes, my dreams, my fears. 

Along with that has come severe anxiety. About everything. I hide it well, but it eats away at me. I've wrestled with God over this too. What do I do? How can I ease this and let go?

And you see, God has been giving me an answer all along. But it's been an answer that I didn't want. It is pushing me out of my comfort zone. 

I'll discuss this more in a later blog, but I felt an immense relief and weight lifted off of my shoulders when I finally said "Ok God. I will try".

But for now, my point is, I am broken. I am a mess. I make a lot of mistakes along the way.

But my Jesus has been with me every step of the way. I don't know where I would be if not for that truth.

It's ok to be broken. It's ok to be a mess. Just lay it down.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas in Heaven

My Dearest Baby Boy,
 
I love you so much. I have learned to live here and now in the present, but there is that piece of me that will always be with you. Christmas is hard. Instead of picking out flowers or a Christmas decoration for your grave, I should be wrapping hot wheels and dump trucks alongside Barbie dolls and Minnie Mouse. I long to see you chasing Audrey with your baby sister and fighting over who gets to sit in Momma's lap. Christmas is so exciting with your sisters, but at the same time, it is incredibly hard without you. I wish there was a grief blueprint to follow, but there isn't. To say it is at times confusing would be an understatement. Sometimes I don't know what I feel, but it feels good to just "feel". I love you. I miss you. I want you here. Merry Christmas Baby boy.
 
Love, Momma
 
Thank you to a new dear friend for sharing this video:
 
 
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Monday, December 15, 2014

Love Wildly

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending Love Wildly in Kansas City.
 
Here is the first thing I learned. Sometimes you don't realize how much you needed something until you have it.
 
The fellowship with these incredible women. The friendship. The vulnerability. The love. I needed it all and I didn't even know it.
 
When Barrett died, I built up walls. Strong concrete walls. These walls have held my emotions for two years. I cried so much after he died, that I started the process of constructing these walls. I constructed them with shame, fear, loss, and pain and then I held them together with guilt.
 
Those are powerful building tools if you allow them to be, and that's just what I had done.
 
And along with those walls came shame. Because there were times that I wanted to show emotion, but those walls held them in tightly, and I was ashamed that I looked fine when inside I was screaming. I was ashamed that I was sad on the inside at times but on the outside I seemed unaffected.
 
And the guilt. Oh the guilt. There is so much of it.
 
I feel guilty so often because I feel like I don't love my son enough because I don't get to show my love for him in the same ways as my daughters. Even though I love him with all of my heart. His sister was conceived before his due date and I battle the sentiment of "if he were here she wouldn't be". I know that's probably true, but please don't tell me. I love my rainbow girl more than I could ever put into words. She is more than my daughter. She is my proof that good endings exist when my view of the world was shattered. She was my hope when all I longed for was to give up. When I was fighting the stormy waves searching for shore, she was the light Jesus shone to lead me back. She taught me the true significance of the rainbow.
 
But I hate the sentiment that I traded my son for my daughter. That I traded pain for hope. That I traded the storm for the calm. I didn't. I wasn't given a choice. There was no trade. My son was given, then he was taken. My daughter was allowed to stay. The sentiment of a trade throws guilt over my shoulders that is so heavy I feel like Wiley Coyote when an anvil falls on his head. It's heavy, it hits quickly, and I can't stop it.
 
I feel guilty that I get so caught up in life sometimes that I don't speak his name as often as I would like to. I feel guilty that life gets so busy that I don't visit his grave as often as I would like. Guilt comes knocking at my door, and it comes carrying a bag of shame to tell me that I am not worthy of being Barrett's mother; that I am not worthy of the precious gift I was given.
 
And I harbored all of this guilt and shame for two years. This weekend wasn't a fairy godmother's wand. They didn't just disappear. But this weekend gave the tools and power to say "You're wrong. I am worthy of this gift".  
 
I don't usually struggle with words, but trying to put what this weekend was into a simple blog post is an impossible task. I do hope to give you a taste of it.
 
The group of women who attended this event are extraordinary. Along with all of the ones who wanted to be there but weren't able to for different reasons. I hope to meet each of you one day as well.
 
This weekend I found some healing that I didn't know I needed. As I took the time to allow myself to be vulnerable to feelings and emotions, I discovered that when Cathleen came along, I put my healing on hold in order to survive the emotions of the pregnancy after loss. I spent all of my energy going through the motions so I didn't just collapse.
 
So this weekend I was able to walk back to that. I took some of that spent up energy and put it back towards walking my healing journey as a bereaved mother. I don't need to go through the motions; but I do need to allow myself to heal.
 
You don't ever "get over" (what does that even mean?) losing a child, but I was still stuck in my grief stage of 4 months after his death. While on the outside I may have appeared to heal, I haven't. I was simply hiding behind those walls of shame and fear and pain and guilt.
 
This weekend they came down. And I cried for the first time since shortly after Barrett died.
 
Who knew that crying could be so scary? But it was. I was petrified. I was more scared of that than revealing any other part of myself. I was scared of feeling again.
 
But feeling isn't always bad. When you block off the feelings of hurt, and pain, and grief, you block off the wonderful feelings of love, and friendship, and healing as well.
 
This weekend, while I was surrounded by these extraordinary women, I was surrounded by so much more.
 
I was surrounded by beauty. Each of them carries their beauty in their own unique way, both inside and out, and that is an incredible thing.
 
I was surrounded by courage. These women shared themselves with me, with each other. They shared things, that maybe they had never shared before. They shared their stories, their hopes, their fears, their joy, their pain, their precious babies, and themselves. There was the courage of the women who knew they needed help in their journey, and they reached out for it. They pushed aside the feelings of "I'm not worthy of their help" and "I'm not worthy of their love" and let someone love them. The courage was overwhelming.
 
I was surrounded by strength. Even when they don't feel strong, it is there. The group of women at Love Wildly have buried their children. Some have buried their future children. We have all buried our dreams, our hopes, and a huge part of our hearts and ourselves with those precious lost lives.
 
I was surrounded by love. Love Wildly wasn't just the name of the event. There was so much love that you couldn't help but feel it. Love for each other, love for our babies, and the hardest one--love for ourselves.
 
Along with the love, came support. Inspiring support. There were times I was overcome with emotions as I would turn and see mothers having a one on one moment. To realize that one, in all of the busyness, noticed that the other needed a helping hand in that moment; a hug, a cry, a friend. And they pushed aside any possible fears of rejection or "What do I say" and they acted.
 
It isn't all sunshine all the time. Fear and pain also made their presence known because they become a part of you after losing a child. But the truth that "that's ok" was there too.
 
It was a weekend I will never forget. And I love that. I don't want to forget. I want to carry the truths from the weekend with me always. I want to carry these ladies with me always.
 
Their friendship is a true treasure; a blessing.
 
Love Wildly ladies. You are loved. You are worthy of that love.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Attitude of Apathy

I posted last week about how I have been apathetic towards my diet for my entire life until recently; and not only my diet, but my family's diet. I've spent decades consuming junk, and until recently, my family did as well, and didn't really think much of it. I was never raised to question these things--I always thought..."they couldn't sell it if it isn't safe, right?".
 
I wondered why I never questioned things before. And not just our diet, but other products around our home. And I really didn't until I had a horrible allergic reaction to Degree deodorant (so, thanks Degree for having something in your fragrances--that they don't have to list the ingredients of by the way--that I am very allergic to) that started me on my journey of researching ingredients and questioning them all. Also, because these companies are not required to list what goes into their "fragrances", I still have no clue what it is I am so allergic to.
 
So it started with deodorant and morphed into a lifestyle. I realized that I never questioned things before because the harm they cause isn't instant. The effects are long term so they're not as noticeable. Because the deodorant had an instant effect, it sprung me into action. I'm sad that it took something like that happening. I wish that long before now I had taken the time to think about what I put in and on my body and my family as well. I wish that long before now I had had the desire to better care for the bodies God has blessed my family with.
 
In saying all of that, I think that our attitude of apathy stems from the fact that we don't see immediate results from how these products affect us. And because we don't see immediate harm and they are quick and convenient for our fast paced, way too busy culture, we don't care. It's also a learned attitude. In the local culture in which I reside, my attitude towards health is not the norm; thankfully I am blessed with a few like minded friends, but most think I am a hippy. But I'll be a healthy "hippy" and know that I did the best I can to care for the body God blessed me with.
 
It's convicting for me as a Christian. I've spent years trashing my body with unhealthy products all for the sake of speed and convenience. And because I was too lazy to take the time to care.
 
I hear people say, they don't have time to eat healthy. My husband and I both work full time. We have two living children and a non profit we run in memory of our still born son. We have a house full of our personal animals and foster animals. I run a small WAHM business as well. I've always believed that if you are truly passionate about something you will MAKE time for it (that belief is one that convicts me a lot on my Christian walk). So I have made time for my family's health.
 
And, I can't believe I am saying this, but in the process I have learned to truly enjoy cooking; but not store bought foods--I like taking good locally grown, organic foods, and turning them into meals that my family enjoys. Now, that's not as easy as it sounds. My five year old has become very picky because she's just always eaten popular processed foods like the rest of us, and after two decades of it, I am learning to like some veggies myself. My eyes have been opened to the art of cooking and I'm really enjoying it. (And canning. Everyone on my Christmas list should expect canned foods-ha!). I enjoy the challenge of trying something new and finding a way to serve it so that even my five year old will eat it. So far, so good. (Cate is easy since she was a young baby when we started making our changes.)
 
I say all of this to challenge yourself to look at the products you use on a daily basis; the foods you consume, the lotions you put on your skin (your largest organ that absorbs those lotions), the deodorant you use, the products you clean your home with, and decide if you are fine with it (I'm sure many will be) or if you want to change something. And if you choose change, I hope you will stick with me on this journey as I share some of the changes we are making and how we are doing them. I would love to hear your ideas as well.

 
 
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October 15th

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. October 15th is set aside as a special day of remembrance. I find it hard to put into words exactly what this day means to so many people.
 
As the parents of a baby born still, we remember him every day. As do the siblings and grandparents of all of these babies. We will always remember because we always grieve. We will always grieve because we will always love.
 
Today, we ask you to remember them with us. I know it's hard. I know it's sad. It's something we carry with us daily. But just this one day out of 365, we ask you to walk beside us. To be a reminder that you acknowledge that our babies lived; that their lives matter. Say their names today. Do a random act of kindness in memory of one of these precious lives.
 
 
Participate in the Wave of Light. Light a candle at 7 pm your local time in memory of one of these precious lives. Even if you haven't been affected by Pregnancy or Infant Loss, just remember with us.
 
I thought this could never happen to me. I was blissfully unaware of PAIL day two years and two months ago. I was unaware that 1 in 4 pregnancies will result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss, and I certainly didn't think that I would be that 1 in 4.
 
 Let their parents know you remember their babies with them. Tell them. It will help them. We aren't asking you to share our pain of losing a child, but we are asking you to share in our joy of being their parents.
 
 
"If you know someone who has lost a child, and you're afraid to mention their child because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died -- you're not reminding them. They didn't forget they died. What you're reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift. " - Elizabeth Edwards
 
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I'm an Addict

Yes, I am an addict. I am addicted to sugar. I came to this conclusion pretty recently.
 
I heard something that said sugar was as addictive as alcohol or tobacco. No, that can't be right. I could quit anytime I want. I would never become addicted to something like alcohol or tobacco. That's damaging to your health.
 
But, the truth is, it is just as addictive, and in the amounts that the average American consumes, it is damaging to your health.
 
I'm not one to believe in big time conspiracy theories, and I don't classify all the sugar in American foods as any type of conspiracy theory. It is, however, in large part, a business strategy. Because sugar is addictive, if you enjoy their sugar filled product, you will most likely be a repeat customer. (Think Coca-Colas, juice boxes for your kids, etc)
 
Guys. It's even in our bread. Unnatural amounts. Curiosity overwhelmed me and I walked to my cabinet and pulled out that 100% whole grain supposedly good for you name brand bread from my cabinet. The third ingredient? HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. Why? I make homemade bread from three ingredients (organic): unbleached flour, active dry yeast, and water. That's it. It tastes better, it's better for you, and it's a heck of a lot cheaper. Oh, and it's easy. It's not an art form.
 
My curiosity wasn't satisfied so I ventured through the rest of my kitchen and I STRUGGLED to find anything that didn't have high fructose corn syrup or insane amounts of sugar. (By the way...fat free =/= sugar free, and you know what your body turns all that excess sugar into that it doesn't know what to do with? FAT). Other than the newer foods I have been buying since we began our household eating habits revamp, almost everything had large amounts of sugar.
 
So I thought, I'm giving it up. No more. Harder. Than. I. Thought.
 
I went cold turkey on my Sprite addiction. No more. 10 teaspoons of sugar in ONE drink. I've managed that ok. But by lunch of the first day I was already eyeballing a candy bar and a Sprite. I resisted, but it was TOUGH. My mind wanted that sugar it is so used to.
 
I've always heard it takes 21 days to make a habit, so I hope that when I check back in with you in a few weeks, we will all be in the habit of eating locally grown, organic foods. I can say that I already feel much better. I have more energy and my body just feels better.
 
So, this post is my confession. I'm addicted to sugar. I'm counting on you to hold me accountable as I drop the unhealthy amounts (not altogether, just the outrageous amounts) of sugar that are contained in processed foods and drinks.
 
I'm taking charge of my health and my family's health. I refuse to continue a path of apathy with our health. We only have one life and one body--take care of it!
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