Six months ago today was the day I thought I'd finally meet you. I was past my due date and we had planned a natural induction for that day. We still didn't know if you were Felicity Faith or Caleb John. I was so excited to meet you and I was hoping you were a girl, but I'm ashamed to say that at that point I was more excited to be done being pregnant. If only I had known, I would have cherished those extra days with you all the more.
My midwife and her assistant arrived and our busy day began. We tried all the options available including sweeping my membranes, castor oil, and homeopathy. I did go into labor and was dilated to 4cm, but by the next morning labor had stopped. We decided to just wait at that point, at least for a few days.
Did you know, sweet girl, that you were just days away from meeting your Lord? I like to think that you stayed that extra week inside of me, to be near me as long as you could. I just wish I had known!
I think back to when I was 12 weeks pregnant and ended up in the emergency room after having a weird sensation, like I was losing you. After four long hours of waiting and tests, all was deemed fine. I wonder now if what I felt was you moving around so much that that's when the umbilical cord got knotted.
I wondered too about the exact time that you died. I like to think it was while I was sleeping during the hours before you were born. I hope that you drifted off to sleep only to wake up in Jesus' arms. I never felt you struggle, so I truly hope it was peaceful. I hate the thought of you in pain.
I'm learning so much from you not being here, Felicity girl. I hate that! I hate to think that your death was the only way for me to learn these things. But at least some good is coming from all this pain. I'd hate to have it be all for nothing.
I'm learning to be a better wife and a better mommy to your brothers. I'm learning patience and to treasure each day and each moment rather than things. I'm learning to give up control, because I'm really not in control anyway. I'm learning to live in the present instead of always looking to what's ahead.
Other people are changing too, because of you! I've had friends tell me that they're learning to change their negative thoughts and behaviors, because they now realize how fragile life is. Your short life continues to impact others!
And now you have a baby brother with you in Heaven. I prayed and asked God to tell us whether our baby was a boy or a girl. God answered that prayer and told us that his name is Jeremiah Daniel. We look forward to meeting him and holding you both again in Heaven. What a wonderful day that will be! Take care of each other until then. Mommy and Daddy miss you so much and will always miss you. You are a precious gift to us!
Here's my version of a spring makeover: painting my toenails! Hope you weren't looking for some radical new hairdo or something.
Yes, I know that I didn't "stay in the lines" while painting my toenails, but that how I do it. Then after a few showers, the paint on the outside gets worn off and voila, I've got perfectly painted toenails. Besides our weather reports are predicting snow, so I don't think I'll be wearing sandals anytime soon. (All comments about my feet will promptly be deleted!)
This is the view I saw outside my kitchen window a few mornings ago. It's hard to be upset about being up early when you get to see something like this. Pink sunrises and sunsets always make me think of Felicity in Heaven. I can only imagine her view trumps mine!
How's this for brotherly love? They love to cuddle but they also love to argue with each other. Elijah at 2.5 hasn't mastered the art of arguing, so he just bites when he gets really upset. Elijah's been in underwear now for the past week and a half! Woohoo! (He still wears a diaper over his underwear during naps and at night though.) He's tells me he's "holding it up" when he's holding it in. I'm so blessed!
I have a dream. It's a dream that's been growing bigger in my mind over the past few weeks. It's a dream that may never happen, but it's something that would fulfill a deep need for me.
You see, through blogging I have "met" some of the most amazing women. Women who like me, are suffering through the loss of their baby. Most of them are still in the first six months of their grief, just like me. They live in places like Michigan, Maine, Oklahoma, Oregon, California, and even right here in Minnesota. They have become close friends through phone calls, conversations on Facebook, and the comments we write back and forth on each other's blogs. Many of them share my faith and all of them share my pain.
My dream is to get together with all these women for a long weekend. I envision this happening at my home. I would lovingly kick my husband and kids out for the weekend and welcome each of these women with a hug as they arrive. They'd each bring the necessities: a box of kleenex, their favorite comfort food, and pictures and mementos of their child. We'd spend the weekend crying, sharing, comforting, eating, praying and hopefully laughing some too. We would talk about our children and our lives. We'd share feelings that we haven't been able to voice to those who are not grieving. We would rejoice in our children's happiness and wholeness in Heaven, despite our constantly missing them. We'd all walk away from the weekend feeling tired, but refreshed and renewed, knowing that the friendships we had cemented would last forever. We'd know that despite how life changes and how many years go by we'd always have a connection.
I've received some really sweet gifts since Felicity died, many from friends in bloggyland that I have never even met. Today I received a wonderful little care package from Kara, an old elementary school friend. We recently reconnected through Facebook. Check out her blog for a cute and informative story, especially if you own a cell phone and have a child under the age of three.
Kara sent me the book, Rain On Me by Holley Girth and I'm really looking forward to reading it. It's a devotional book of "hope and encouragement for difficult times." Just what I need right now. I just finished reading the forward by the author and I'm already thinking I'll be reading more than one chapter a day. Unfortunately the chocolate bar that Kara also sent me won't last through the second chapter. But I'll enjoy it while it lasts and it's chocolately goodness will linger on my thighs for many months as well.
Kara wrote a sweet note and included a quote from Anne Lamott, which I have to share. ". . .what I've discovered is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place and that onlygrieving can heal grief; the passage of time will lessen the acuteness, but time alone without the direct experience of grief, will not heal it."
It's so true! Whenever I find myself stuffing my grief, I find it that much harder to keep going. When I acknowledge my stuffed up grief, I end up having to play catch-up and it's so much harder. Like one step forward, then two steps back. I'm really finding with all the busyness around me that I have to stay up late or be by myself in order to just sit and feel, to remember and cry. And then eventually I pick myself up and go on, until the next time the grief hits me.
Romans 8:38-39 is the verse at the top of chapter one in this new book and when I read it, it was like I was reading it for the first time:
I am convinced that neither life nor death, neither angels nor demons, neither thepresent nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
Despite Felicity's death, whether I'm afraid of dealing with the present or I'm hoping for the future, the depth of my grief can never separate me from the love of God. What a wonderful promise!
I have to admit, spring's starting to get to me. On our way home from church we saw our first robin. Then this afternoon, I notice the return of the bluebirds. We have tons on our property and many of them sit right on our deck. I was able to open our patio window while cooking supper. I love having the windows open! It's suppose to be 60+ degrees here tomorrow.
I've begun to think about Felicity's stone being set at her grave (hopefully mid-May?) and being able to put flowers next to it and hang a wind chime maybe. I don't get to her grave as often as I'd like. The boys and I tried a week ago, but it was too wet to get out of the van. Hopefully with warmer weather, we can spend more time there. It may seem weird to many of you, if you're not grieving a child, to think of spending time at a grave. (A dad at a grief group I met refers to his daughter's grave as her "property" which I thought was cute.) But for a grieving parent, to visit our child's "property" is like being with him/her. While I know Felicity's soul is in Heaven, I know one day her body will be raised up (I Thess. 4:16) and so it feels right to be where her body is, since I can't be with her in Heaven.
Spring fever is starting to hit me as I'm mentally thinking of all the projects I'd like to accomplish around the house. Unfortunately, the majority of these projects are things that Paul could care less about. I'm working on him though. When I first mentioned the idea of painting, he said we'd do it before we try to sell the place, in 10 years or so. All of our walls are off-white and starting to look pretty dingy.
When I returned home from Wal-mart yesterday with paint samples in hand, he got a worried look on his face. He got even more worried once I'd walked around the house and picked the shades I liked best. After a day or so of thinking about it, he's starting to warm up to the idea and is thinking of logistics that never crossed my mind. I'm thinking of a warm beige ("shingle tan") for the entry way and up into the dining room, "springside sage" for the kitchen, and a combination of "shingle tan" and "red drama" for the living room. I picked out some colors for the other rooms, but I'd just be happy getting these areas done. We have vaulted ceilings so it's going to be quite the project, if we do undertake it. If any of you reading this have rooms you've painted in dramatic colors, I'd love to see photos. We need some ideas on how to break up the colors between the walls since one of the kitchen walls goes into the living room. Email photos to me if you'd like to share: rschwendinger at hotmail dot com.
Elijah (2.5): "We don't eat swords, we eat lunch."
Ethan (6.5): "Wouldn't it be neat if our house was made of marshmallows" (said while eating - though not marshmallows)
Elijah: "When I get big I can be a dada (daddy) and do botions (devotions) and gyve (drive)."
Elijah: "When I'm dix and a have (six and a half), I be E-sin (Ethan)."
Elijah: "I'm a widdle baby, I need nursey milk."
Elijah: "When my deeth (teeth) ball (fall) out, I can have more nursey milk."
Elijah: "When I get big I can be a pweece man (policeman) and be mad and put people in gail (jail)"
Then yesterday while I was brushing my teeth I heard Ethan screaming in pain. I rushed down the hall to find him at the bottom of the stairs. From what I understand, Elijah had gotten upset that Ethan was going upstairs, so he tackled him as Ethan was going up and bit him in the back. Poor Ethan has quite a large bite mark (it even drew a little blood) on his back, in spite of wearing a turtleneck and a t-shirt.
It was one of "those days."
So much for being concerned about coyote attacks in your yard when you're not even safe in your own house?
True to the saying that March comes in like a lion, there's a blizzard going on outside my window at this exact moment! Thankfully we're all snug at home. Paul's been working longer hours lately, what with the demands at work due to the economy, and with an hour commute each way, he's been getting home pretty late at times. But tonight he's at home, already in bed. He's home with the flu or food poisoning (he went out to eat last night for work). We won't know which until someone else gets sick. Should be an interesting 24 hours or so.
The weather is a huge contrast from yesterday morning. It seemed like spring was finally here. During breakfast we could see two coyotes playfully hunting mice at the edge of our property (1000 feet from the house). We saw multiple male pheasants beating their wings and calling out to find a girlfriend. The driveway (loose term for 400 feet of dirt) had some spots that slightly resembled quicksand. And Ethan was finally able to pry the hat and scarf from our long-departed snowman off the ground with little effort.
In all honesty, I'm kind of dreading spring. Winter is the season of rest. For nature as well as for our family. There's so many things to be done during the other three seasons: planting, tending, weeding, mowing, harvesting. It just doesn't seem to end until the snow flies again. Winter has been my season of grief and my grief is not yet over. Like I've said before, it sneaks up on me and pounces and I find myself a complete wreck for a few hours or the day. Winter has been conducive to grieving, allowing enough time to be sad for awhile and then move on. I'm afraid things will get so busy this spring, that I'll find myself not grieving, only to be assaulted later on by all the sadness built up that I didn't have time to feel.
I miss Felicity so much! On Saturday I led my local breastfeeding group and I saw a friend's baby girl who was born a few weeks before Felicity. She was so sweet! She babbled and cooed and was such a reminder to me of Felicity and what she would be like right now. It hurt but it felt good too. Weird description, I know, but I don't know how else to describe it. Then on Sunday, I was scheduled to be in charge of the nursery and due to a friend's illness, I was in there during both Sunday School and 2nd service. We have a small church and currently only one infant in our church family. He was born just two weeks ago and I wasn't sure if his parents would leave him in the nursery or not. I assumed they wouldn't, but mentally I had to prepare myself if they did. They didn't, but his mom came into nurse him and then later to change him. Seeing him felt good and sad too. Congratulating his parents was so hard! I'm so thankful they have a healthy baby, but I miss my daughter so much and I can't help but wonder "why me?" What qualifies me to lose two babies in less than five months?
Winter fits my mood. Spring seems too happy for me and I'm not ready for that yet. Lately, I've been reflecting on Mary, the mother of Jesus, and thinking about what her life and grief were like. To bear a son, knowing that He would become the Messiah for His people. How could she live, wondering all the time, when and how it would happen? Luke 2:19 says, "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." Did she contemplate that the angel's promise might involve Jesus' death? My grief seems so petty in comparison to that. And yet, it is MY grief. Only I can bear THIS mother's grief. And wait. . . . .
I just finished reading the book, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken. This is a book I've had on hold in three different library systems for the last few months, hoping that way I'd get it sooner. I love to read and I was thrilled to finally be able to read it.
The author writes this story of her own experience of having a stillborn baby boy, her first child. Just over a year later, she gives birth to another baby. The books chronicles her life from her first pregnancy through the birth of her second child. She is a real author, not just a person using her experience to write a book. She has published other books prior to this one.
I'm still mulling over whether I liked the book. I haven't found any other books written from a this perspective and I was really hoping to make a connection with this author and her experience. She is what I would consider an agnostic, so her grief in many ways is entirely different than mine. In other words, she has no hope. While the story itself is sad, this lack of hope makes it almost depressing.
Her writing style is quite unique. Though she is American, she has lived a lot of her life in other countries and as I read the book, I felt a little like I was watching a foreign movie with subtitles. Does that give you an idea about the style of the book? She also doesn't tell her story chronologically, instead she goes back and forth between the past and the present, which is slightly confusing, but also leaves an element of mystery as to what will happen next.
Despite our faith differences, I did connect with Elizabeth's thoughts and feeling about her stillbirth and her subsequent pregnancy. How could I not? The emotions of sadness, fear, shock, and anger are all the same. The difference? Without the love of Christ, her feelings never have any resolution.
I guess I would encourage other grieving moms to read this book. At least just to feel that their emotions are normal. It's always nice to hear that the thoughts running through our minds are the same as any mom who's lost a baby. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to write this book.
Today marks Felicity's 5 month heaven day. I thought I would try to sum up what five months of grief looks like. The disclaimer is that grief is SOOO different for every person. What I feel and think may be the exact opposite of someone else after five months.
I have mostly good days now. Every once in awhile I have a crying spell, brought on by Felicity's pictures, a sad song, or a tough day with the boys. Whatever the reason, crying for awhile always seems to make me feel better and have a fresh perspective.
There's still days though that my life feels surreal. Was I really hugely pregnant only five months ago? (A quick look in the mirror after my shower is a good reminder that it did happen - my body still has the look of pregnancy. It's been a lot harder to lose weight without a nursing newborn!) Sometimes I think back to those first few days and weeks and wonder how I survived. I know now I was in shock for many weeks.
I never dealt with depression after Felicity's death, but a have had a few days where I just feel like shutting down. Last Sunday was one of those days. After eating breakfast, I decided to just go back to bed and sleep. I stayed in bed for three hours at least before I finally just forced myself to get up. Paul didn't seem to understand this behavior and was really worried. Until we talked about it, I think his impression was that since I was having mostly good days that I wouldn't have any more bad days. That's not how grief affects me. I think because I have so many good days, grief can sneaks up on me and then pounces without warning some days or even some moments. Any type of stress makes me feel grief-stricken.
Things that have helped me incredibly these past five months include so many things. The local Moms-In-Depth Bible study group (of which I am not even a part of) has been bring us a meal every Monday since the beginning of Dec. This has been a huge blessing for our family! Mondays can be especially difficult for me as Felicity was born on a Monday and Mondays are full of my memories of that difficult day. All the prayers of so many have been the reason we've been doing so well these past five months. And the support of other moms who've lost babies has been the greatest blessing for me. Hearing your stories and knowing I'm not alone in my grief has touched me in the deepest way. I don't know how I would've survived without blogging and the connections I've made with other moms. I started blogging back in August, thinking it would be a good way to keep friends and family updated on the boys lives and the new baby coming. Only God knew then what a lifeline it would be for me in the months to come.
I know the months ahead will continue to be full of hills and valleys. I will continue to depend on God each day for strength to endure until Heaven.
I've changed my blog layout. I hope this isn't distressing to anyone. Remember I said that my husband would continue to support my blogging habit as long as I never changed the picture of Elijah and the cows as my header picture. Well, he never said anything about the layout.
I feel like a new layout is as good as a new outfit. Only there's no shopping with whiny children, no horridly distorted changing room mirrors, and no price tag. It's BETTER than a new outfit!
And unlike a new outfit, which can't be returned easily, I can change my blog layout again tomorrow if I choose. But I won't. Going through all the available layout options is almost as annoying as. . . shopping for a new outfit.
If you remember, my last layout had a bunch of grey circles near the post and even when you scrolled down as you read, the circles went with you. I thought they were making my thighs look wider than they already are. So. . . I picked this layout instead. I'm thinking two daisies are better than a whole bunch of circles. I know it's a little off center, just like my shirt when I've got a 25 lb. toddler in one arm. And being off center, it helps to hide one of the daisies. Let me know what you think of my new look.
I'm wife to Paul and homeschool mama to our three boys. We also have a beautiful girl and two boys waiting for us in Heaven. I never thought my life experiences would include a divorce, stillbirth, and miscarriage. God's using these experiences to grow me if I let Him. I love my life, but I'm also anxious for Heaven and having my family all together there.