November 20, 2015

A great reason to visit Chatsworth, GA

Every year in either October or November, a beautiful group of ladies residing in Chatsworth, GA, put together an event called "Remembering our Babies: A Walk to Remember." It is sponsored by the local AOG-Assoicates in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

This 5K fun run and 2 mile walk is for pregnancy and infant loss awareness and to raise money for the March of Dimes. If you live within driving distance, let me encourage you to put this on your agenda for next year!  It is a perfect way to remember/honor babies lost too soon, celebrate their lives, and enjoy time with family and friends. In addition to the 5K and the walk, attendees have a chance to experience a great raffle for tons of awesome prizes, shop multiple vendors and delicious concessions (They had funnel cakes!), and participate in a balloon release.

It is the fourth year in a row I have traveled an hour to attend this event. Every year, it grows in attendance and in activities. This year, I brought my entire family with me. My girls, ages four and eight, had a great time in the bounce houses, and my youngest had her face painted for free!

One of my favorite things about this event is the raffle. Every year I have come, I have taken home a prize, and this year, I took home three prizes!!! I won a bag of Disney princess toys for my girls, and I got some great new Christmas decor.

My friend Tricia, whose husband and youngest son joined us this year, also won a prize - a beautiful Christmas wreath!

Tricia is holding her wreath next to her hubby Keith. My hubby, Michael, is on the right.
Tricia and Keith joined me this year to remember their five year old son, Christian, who they lost just last month. This was their first opportunity to attend a remembrance event for Christian.

While I usually run the 5K in honor of our Angel (lost to an early miscarriage), I opted to participate in the 2 mile walk with Tricia and our kids in memory of both Christian and Angel.

Me and Tricia
Our husbands ran the 5K (a wonderful, mostly flat course), and I'm happy to report that Keith finished first overall with Michael finishing third overall! Their outstanding performances honored both our children, and I was especially overjoyed that Keith was able to win a race for Christian - something he had been wanting to do since the loss of his precious son. 

Following the race and the walk, everyone gathered together for the balloon release. What made this moment extra special was the balloons themselves. After pressing a button on the top, the balloons lit up! This made for a uniquely beautiful balloon release.

It was a night to remember in Chatsworth, GA, and I can hardly wait to do it again next year! The drive there amidst the beautiful fall colored trees and the festivities at the event are totally worth the time! And if you are privileged to be able to attend next year, let me recommend the Chatsworth restaurant Open Range Steakhouse. Best post race dinner EVER!

Today's forget-me-not: This great event in Chatsworth, GA, remembering Christian, Angel, and all babies lost too soon!

November 6, 2015

the stress of life

Lately, I have been experiencing countless moments where, by the end of the day, the stress of life so debilitates me that doing simple tasks is like trying to run up a steep hill — with the force of gravity beating me backwards every second...

Please read my latest post at Beulah Girl.

Today's forget-me-not:

October 30, 2015

the conclusion of Capture Your Grief

Here is my final blog post journeying through Carly Marie's, fellow baby loss momma, topics about grief. I've enjoyed reflecting on these subjects as a way to continue the discussion about pregnancy and infant loss. I'm so thankful I have this blog to use as a platform for worthy causes such as this.

The sixteenth subject was CREATIVE GRIEF. 

The question asked with this topic was, " Have you done anything in memory of your child? Maybe it is something you created for them."  My response to this is, yes. I did create something for Angel - this blog. I started this blog as a way to work through my grief via writing, but it quickly became something I could use to remember her and honor her. For those reasons and others, my blog makes me happy.

The seventeenth subject was SECONDARY LOSSES.

Here is how Carly Marie describes this: "When your child dies, there are a series of secondary losses that follow. They are different for everyone. The loss of relationships, the loss of innocence, the loss of employment etc.  Share about something else that you lost when your child died. This is the perfect way for us to shine a light on the grief experience."

For me, I lost my naivety surrounding pregnancy. My pregnancy before I lost Angel - my pregnancy with Beth - was pure bliss. I never worried a single second about her. I never doubted for a moment after seeing the positive pregnancy test that I would bring home a healthy baby after nine months. However, my pregnancy after losing Angel - my pregnancy with Hannah - I struggled with worry and fear from the moment I saw the positive pregnancy test. Those nine months I spent pregnant with Hannah hardly enjoyable because I finally understood how fragile life on this earth really is. And it scared me. Even after she was born. I worried. And even now, I worry. Loss makes it hard to enjoy the present because of the memory of what has past.

The eighteenth subject was SEASONS AND SYMBOLS. 

Back to school season always reminds me of when I lost Angel. My miscarriage began while I was teaching. It was the first week of school, so that season makes me sad. Now the fall season, specifically October, brings me a solemn joy because I know that during this time, baby loss mommas everywhere strive to honor their babies memories due to pregnancy and infant loss awareness month and the wave of light on October 15th. As for symbols that remind me of Angel - and this won't surprise you - angels remind me of her. I know you can't guess why ;-)

The nineteenth subject was MUSIC.

This is the song I consider Angel's song: "Still" by Gerrit Hofsink.

The twentieth subject was FORGIVENESS AND HUMANITY.

"When you forgive another person, you are not condoning their actions; you are just accepting their humanity and releasing yourself from them."

This is something a Christian should excel at given how much we have been forgiven by Jesus. I've had to forgive others, and it's easier to do so when you consider our fallible humanity. My prayer is that my family and friends forgive me when I err - which I often do. Most especially, I pray that those who experienced a loss before I experienced mine, forgive me for my insensitive remarks upon their losses and for not doing more then to ease their pain. I'm sorry. I wish I had stopped a moment to really consider what you were going through and what I should do to help. If I haven't asked you before, I ask you now. Please forgive me for my words and my inaction.

The twenty-first subject was SACRED PLACE.

The question here was, "Do you have a special place that you visit to 'be' with your children?" I don't have an out of home location, but in our bedroom, I do have a memory box that contains Angel's ultrasound picture and a few other mementos. Her special candle that I light every August 5th and October 15th is right beside it along with a few other treasured objects that were given to me in memory of her.

The twenty-second day was DREAMS AND RITUALS.

I don't really dream about Angel, but I do have some things I do annually in honor of her and in remembrance of her. I've already talked about how I light her candle on the day of her loss and during the international wave of light, but the other thing that has become a ritual for me is to participate in a 5K in honor of her and babies lost too soon. I truly look forward to running for her and others.

The twenty-third day was LOVE LETTER.
This subject reminded me of the letter I wrote to Angel this past August. Check it out: a letter to the daughter I never met face to face

The twenty-fourth day was CHOOSING YOUR BREATH.

"Conscious grief work is so important if you want to create a beautiful life after loss. Have you ever sat down and really thought about where you are in your grief journey?"

It has been five years since my miscarriage, and I'm in a good place on my grief journey. There are some who may think I am not because I continue to talk about the baby I lost, but they would be very wrong in their assumption that someone who strives to remember her baby by talking about that child is having difficulty with her grief. To begin with, you never stop grieving the loss of a child, so you can stop waiting for that to happen. And secondly, don't expect a mom to just "get it over it" and "move on" by silencing herself.  Not talking about her child is the worst thing a momma who has lost her child could do. We have to talk about our babies. We must. I think it's a sign of being in a good place on the journey that is grief from loss of a child when a momma can talk about that child.

The twenty-fifth day was EARTH REMEMBRANCE.

For this subject, Carly Marie urged us to plant something to remember our child. Now, I do have an area in my backyard where I have planted two azalea bushes which represent Beth and Hannah. Those bushes were given to me by my speech team at the previous high school I worked at. I've tossed around an idea to plant one for Angel, but I think I found a better idea. I want to get one of these:

I found these memorial stones on the website store. I want to get one that has Angel's name and place it between the two azalea bushes representing my other girls. This plan makes me happy.

The twenty-sixth day was GRATITUDE. 

Having an attitude of gratitude really does help to improve your mood and sends your overall quality of life on the upward path.  For that reason, I highly suggest taking the time to count your "blessings." So, here it goes... I'm thankful for many things. I'm thankful for being not only Beth's and Hannah's momma but also Angel's. I'm thankful for an understanding husband. I'm thankful Jesus is our Lord and Savior. I'm thankful for the life of relative ease we live and the jobs that afford us that ease. My glass is more than half full. How about yours?

The twenty-seventh day was SELF-PORTRAIT.

After losing Angel, it took awhile to get comfortable with my new reality. But I can finally say after five years, I am not ashamed of who I am.

The twenty-eighth day was REACH OUT.

It brings me great joy to help mommas do something to remember their children lost too soon. I'm working on doing that now with a friend. More on that next month. :-)

The twenty-ninth day was WHAT HEALS YOU?

I have many answers to this question; it just depends on the day. First and foremost, Jesus heals me. And He uses many things to help me heal: hot chocolate, writing, friends, running, sleep, and chocolate (did I say that already ;-). The point is that I am healing. And my complete healing will come when I am with my savior and my Angel again one day.

The thirtieth day was REFLECTION.

Carly Marie's Capture Your Grief project has been a great vehicle for reflection. So much has happened in the last five years since Angel's loss. Finally, I can see how God can work all things together for the good of those that love Him. I can celebrate what Angel's short life has meant to me and how it has shaped me. I can take pride in the things I have done since then to honor her and remember her. I'm in a good place. I pray you find this good place eventually in your journey of grief.

And tomorrow is the thirty-first day. The subject is SUNSET.

I went ahead and took my picture of the sun setting tonight because I wanted to get this post done and shared now. As I said before, I have enjoyed participating in the project, and I would encourage you to journey through it as well if you have experienced a loss. God bless!

Today's forget-me-not: the Capture Your Grief  journey

October 15, 2015

The Wave of Light 2015

I am continuing my journey through Carly Marie's Capture Your Grief. Will you journey with me?

The eleventh subject was GLOW IN THE WOODS.

Glow In The Woods is a blog written by baby loss mommas that helped Carly Marie after her loss, so she encouraged us to write about our "Glow In The Woods." I didn't have just one site but many websites that I kept up with that year following my loss. Each of the ladies behind those sites played a role in helping me navigate my early grief. This post from September 28, 2010, listed some of those sites. A few of the links don't work anymore, but some of the blogs are still maintained. Irregardless, I will always remember those ladies, and I hope to hear from all of them again one day. Thankfully, I keep in touch with a couple of those baby loss mommas via Facebook - you know who you are ;-)

The twelfth subject was NORMALIZING GRIEF.

Here is the premise for this topic: "Often while grieving we have feelings of isolation because we fear judgement that what we are feeling isn't normal. But it is amazing to see just how many people feel the same way. When others stand up and express how they feel through sharing their experiences, it allows us to say, "Hey, I feel that way too!" With this topic, Carly Marie has urged us to share something about our grief journey that we may feel is not common but most likely is.

Here is my true confession: sometimes, I'm hesitant to talk about Angel, and I hate that. I guess I pause to speak about her because I think many people find it weird that we gave the baby we lost at eight weeks a name. I think they also find it weird that I go out of my way to do things to remember her. My perception is that most people see an early miscarriage as a thing to be moved on from and not an actual child that was lost. This often confuses me because most of my friends claim to be pro-life and support that cause; yet, when someone loses a baby to miscarriage, she and her family are encouraged to move on. You certainly don't give that baby a name and memorialize the child in any way. Yet, that is what we did. That is what I do. It's a way to honor and remember that child, and it is a way to grieve her. I just wish it wasn't seen as "weird." Maybe it isn't?

The thirteenth subject is REGRETS + TRIGGERS.

I don't really have any regrets concerning my grief - aside from what I said above about being hesitant to say Angel's name, but I do have some grief triggers. August 5th is one of those triggers. The start of August always finds me back in the classroom, and on August 5th, I find my brain can't help but go back to that day when Angel slipped from my body. It remains an emotional day for me.

Also, whenever I hear that a friend has experienced a loss of a child - whether it be by an early miscarriage or, like recently, through some tragedy a young child is taken - my loss is lived all over again. Now, don't get me wrong, I would never equate my loss to anyone's loss, each is different. However, the loss of a child, whatever the age, is the loss of a child, and the loss of one's flesh and blood is painful. Period. And whenever a friend has to endure that, I feel the pain of losing Angel all over again.

The fourteenth subject is EXPRESS YOUR HEART.

For this subject, Carly Marie offers an opportunity to write about whatever is on your heart or mind. The subject that instantly pops into my mind is that of the caregivers. These are the people who go out of their way to be there for you after your loss. I want to give a shout out to them! They don't shy away from your grief. Instead, they want to share in it. And let me tell you, it's a great way to acknowledge the life of the child that was lost. If you are ever so unfortunate to know someone who loses a child, be a caregiver, You can never have enough! I'm so thankful for the friend who made my family a huge meal just a few days after my miscarriage. I'm also thankful for my mother-in-law who did a variety of things to acknowledge and honor Angel's life. I can't say enough about caregivers. LOVE YOU!

The fifteenth subject - today's subject - is THE WAVE OF LIGHT!

I look forward to participating in the wave of light every year. It's the second time of year - August 5th being the other time - that I light Angel's special candle in memory of her and in honor of all babies lost too soon. Tonight, I am also burning a candle for five year old Christian, lost this night a week ago.

Please, participate with us - whether you are a beavered parent or not. Show your support for those that have lost their beloved children. Show that you remember him or her too. And let me thank you ahead of time for doing it!

Today's forget-me-not: Babies lost too soon - no mater the gestation or age.

October 11, 2015

capturing grief

I'm continuing my journey through Capture Your Grief with Carly Marie. I am enjoying this time of reflection. Any time purposefully spent thinking about Angel brings me joy. Whereas five years ago thoughts of her loss were painful, I can now say that God has given me beauty for those ashes and has turned my mourning into joy. I'm forever blessed being her momma.

The third subject for reflection in this series was IN HONOUR.

When I see those words, I think of the beautiful baby loss mommas I met after my miscarriage who did things in honor of Angel.  Here are two pictures I will forever treasure that they created for me.

The fourth subject was DARK + LIGHT.

This topic reminds me of a post I wrote at a particularly dark time after my miscarriage. Some individuals were saying insensitive things.  I called the post, "I'm okay - don't worry about me!" After reading back over it, I'm thankful to be sharing it here again. I hope it is a light to those in the dark about what to say to someone who experiences the loss of a child.  Check it out. Give it a share.

The fifth subject was EMPATHY.

What is empathy? The dictionary defines this noun as "the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another." You cannot even begin to empathize with a mother who has lost a child unless you have ever lost a child.  You can sympathize, but you cannot empathize. Truly, those that can empathize know best how to respond to someone who has lost a child. I wrote up some suggestions in a post: What can you do when you learn your friend has had a miscarriage? I think these suggestions would apply to any mother who has lost a pregnancy, infant, or young child.  Please read that post. Take it to heart.

The sixth subject was BOOKS.

There was a bible study I joined that was especially helpful to go through after losing Angel. It used a book called Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy.  This book, and that group of ladies, helped me process what the bible, and thus my Jesus, had to say about my miscarriage. I would highly recommend it if you are dealing with a recent loss.

Another book I have to mention is the one I wrote Angel's story for: Because They Lived. For whatever reason, I was drawn to hearing other women's stories about their losses after losing Angel. It helped to know I wasn't alone in my experience and in my grief.  I also recommend that book.

The seventh subject was MEMORY.

For this subject, Carly Marie suggested we share a memory of our child. Angel wasn't here very long, so I don't have much to draw from.  However, my earliest memories surrounding her were joyful and involve when I found out I was pregnant with her. Seeing the positive pregnancy test was particularly exhilarating. I remember being giddy with excitement. She was desperately wanted and dearly loved, still is. Learning I was pregnant with her will forever be one of my greatest moments of happiness in life. 

The eighth subject was WISH LIST.

I can tell you what immediately comes to mind when I think of a personal wish. I wish my friends and my family would make more of an effort to remember Angel. Some do. But many do not. In August, send a message or a card about her passing? In October, do something in honor of her memory?  Those are just a couple ideas. And so I guess my greatest wish of all would be that if someone loses a child to miscarriage, early infant loss, or unexpected tragedy (as some dear friends of mine have endured this past week with the loss of their five year old), that we all just go out of our way to remember the importance of remembering that child - even months or years after he or she is gone. That's my number one wish.

The ninth subject was FAMILY.

My family is Michael, Beth, Hannah, and Angel. It is my in-laws and my relatives. It also encompasses the members of our church, and it extends out to those who care about my well-being and the well-being of those I love.  Life is all about relationships - the greatest of which is the one we have with Jesus. Family is everything. I would do anything for those I consider family.

The tenth subject is WORDS.

For this topic, Carly Marie encouraged us to write whatever is currently on our hearts.

My heart is heavy tonight after the loss of my children's pastor's five year old son, Christian. After going to his viewing, yesterday, and his funeral, today. I'm brokenhearted for his momma and daddy and brothers. I'm mad. I'm sad. I'm over loss. I'm ready for Jesus to come and take us all to glory. I am weary of this world.

So many taken far too soon. We will always remember you ALL. Until the day we are together again.

Today's forget-me-not: Christian and his family

October 2, 2015

Because you never stop grieving

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. And this month is dear to my heart.

After losing Angel to an early miscarriage in 2010, I was so happy to learn that there was a month dedicated to remembering babies lost too soon. I vowed to do something special each October going forward.

That first October, I went to a remembrance event nearby with some dear lady friends of mine. It was such a great night of healing.

In 2011,  hubby and I bought flowers that were placed on our church alter in honor and remembrance of Angel and all babies lost too soon.

In 2012, I ran my first Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness and Memorial 5K.

In 2013, I wrote Angel's story for the book Because They Lived, and it was published soon after.

In 2014, I again ran in the memorial 5K I had run in 2012, but this time, I visited a variety of baby loss pages on Facebook and asked mommas if I could run in honor of their babies too - and the response was amazing! I put those names on my racing shirt. It's a piece of clothing I wear in every PAIL race I run.

This year, to the best of my ability, I'm going to participate in Carly Marie's Capture Your Grief project.

Here is an explanation of the project from Carly's website:

"Capture Your Grief is a mindful healing project for anyone who is grieving the death of a baby or child of any age or gestation. There are 31 subjects, one for each day in the month of October. You are invited to explore each subject and share a photo that captures your own journey. You are welcome to take new photos or use ones from the past. Capture Your Grief is about exploring your grief and discovering more about your thoughts to aid in your journey of healing and personal growth. You can join the project at any time of the month."

The first subject, for October 1st, was SUNRISE.

You couldn't see the sun that morning because it has been pretty cloudy and rainy here for the past week, but the sky did get brighter.

When I took this picture, I remember thinking, "The sun is just beyond those clouds. I can't see it, but it is there." Just knowing it was there and was shinning despite the fact I couldn't see it reminded me of those first months after my loss when I couldn't see anything positive coming out of the loss of my Angel, but having faith in Jesus as I do, I knew He could and would use this, as He does everything in my life, for good, eventually. And that has truly been the case. You can see the evidence of that above where I wrote down the things I have done to honor and remember Angel. She has been a blessing to me and to many others despite her short life on this earth.

The second subject, for, today, October 2nd, is INTENTION.

Carly suggested we fill in the blanks of this sentence: “I intend to ……………. in honor of my precious child/ren ……………..”

Here is my sentence: "I intend to continue to advocate for pregnancy and infant loss awareness in honor of my precious child, Angel."

Whenever I'm provided with an opportunity to speak about my loss in order to help break the silence and shame surrounding miscarriage or to do anything to help the baby loss community, I jump at it. I particularly enjoyed writing Angel's story and helping Katy Larsen promote her book, Because They Lived.

Let me encourage you to share your story - share your baby. Writing about Angel has been a huge part of my journey of grieving and healing.

And let me encourage you to join me Capture Your Grief put together by Carly Marie. Every Friday of this month, I will post my pics as I journey through this project. I look forward to the reflection.

Today's forget-me-not:  Angel and all babies lost too soon!

September 25, 2015

The Father and Extended Family Refuse to #ShoutYourAbortion

I am about to share with you a letter written by a devastated great aunt upon learning that her nephew’s girlfriend, pregnant, had an abortion.

I am honored this individual asked me to share this letter with you via my blog, and I am humbled by this responsibility, for two reasons.

To begin with, this letter clearly shows the grievous impact an abortion can have on the father of that baby and the expectant family. This is a reality that is largely ignored or dismissed by the pro-choice community because the baby takes up residence in the mother’s womb. It is her body, so, they surmise, it is ultimately up to her to decide what should be done with the life of the infant. However, after reading this letter and the pain exhibited therein, I would encourage those who hold that view to reconsider that position.

Another reason I feel privileged to share this letter with you today is because it gives this baby, lost to abortion at the hands of her mother, a voice. This letter acknowledges her little life and the huge impact it had on her family. This testimony shares her name with you and shares how much she was is loved.

Let me share with you now, Aaliyah - via her great aunt’s letter and with her father’s permission.

Dear person that I am going to have to work long and hard to forgive,

To say that I am mad at you doesn't even come close to how I feel! There isn't a word strong enough or ugly enough to describe how I feel about you today!

You hurt our family deeply today. You forever ripped a precious baby that we all love from our lives. That's not all you did though, is it?

You didn't just take her away. You KILLED her!! Because of you, our precious Aaliyah is DEAD!

My sweet sister who wanted nothing more than to love her granddaughter asked me, "What kind of a person does this?!" I just don't know the answer to that because behind your sweet little smile is a MURDERER!

You are now a mother who KILLED her own child! Do you get that? Because I don't think you do!

You didn't just kill your child though! You also killed OUR child!

That little girl's daddy already loves her so much and would do anything for her. You didn't give him that chance though. He was powerless to save his daughter from her mother who wanted to kill her!

Now he is crushed! His baby girl is DEAD! Do you get that? YOU stopped her precious little heart!

They begged you not to do it! They offered you everything they could to save her life. They cried and prayed that something, ANYTHING would make you change your mind! Nothing could though, and you KILLED her!

Did you really think that your very own precious baby was going to ruin your life?! Well I've got news for you missy, that baby would have given you the greatest joy you have ever felt in your life! That baby would have loved you more than anybody in this world ever has!

I sure hope you make something great of your life. You better make it amazing. You better do something really special because that is what your baby died for! That is what OUR baby died for!

Your choice today is going to haunt you for the rest of your life. It will NEVER go away! No matter what you do from here on out you will always be a mother who KILLED her own child!

If you are ever given the blessing of becoming a mother again, DO NOT make the same mistake twice! DO NOT rip another man's baby from his life! DO NOT tear a giant hole in his heart that can never be fully repaired! DO NOT devastate another family the way you have ours!

We were all thrilled that you were having a baby. We were so happy that we were going to have this baby in our family. We all loved her so much already!

Did you know that? Sadly, I already know the answer to that. Yes! Yes, you did know that! Yet, you still chose to kill OUR baby!

Did you know that I had already bought YOUR baby some clothes? I bet you didn't! You didn't know because you never gave me a chance to give them to you!

Let me tell you about them. They are little red and white shirts that wrap in the front. They have little snaps so that you wouldn't have had to wake her by pulling the shirt over her head. One of them has little snowflakes on it because she would have been born close to Christmas.

She was going to be beautiful! I know it! On the outside you are so very beautiful. You would have passed that on to her you know?!

Oh dear, I could go on and on, but you've already heard it all. I know you have because my sweet sister tried everything she could to save her granddaughter's life. And my nephew whose child you killed, begged you not to do it. Didn't he?!

They both told you that WE would take care of that child in every way if you didn't want to. They both told you that they would help YOU in every way possible. They both told you that they would support you and that baby. My sister invited you into her home and said that she would take care of everything!

None of that meant anything to you though. None of it mattered because in the end it is a woman's right to choose! Isn't it?! Forget the father and his whole family! They don't matter a bit!

You got the right to choose what happened to your body and I hope you're happy about it! Because OUR baby sure didn't! She died without a choice!

She had a beating heart, tiny arms and legs, tiny hands and feet with fingers and toes on them. She was a person! She was a BABY and you KILLED her!

May God forgive you because I sure as HELL am not about to!

Sincerely, Aaliyah's loving Great Auntie

Daddy loves you, Aaliyah!

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