Monday, September 23, 2013

The hard days (9 weeks)

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This was the picture we used to “reveal” we were pregnant

 

Dear Sophia,

These last few days have been really hard for me.  Yesterday marked two months since you left us and I was an emotional wreck.  I haven’t felt so sad or cried so much since the first week you were gone.  It was an uncontrollable sadness, and I couldn’t stop my tears from coming, even while we were at church.  Daddy and I sat in the back row, both so sad, and just tried to keep ourselves together.  I couldn’t sing a single word of the worship music in fear that I’d just break down.  Usually just not singing can help keep my eyes dry, but yesterday the tears came no matter what. 

After church daddy and I had planned to attend a small group with married couples.  We hadn’t been to a single meeting since you were born, and we felt it was time.  However, I couldn’t do it.  The reason it was especially hard was because as I stood outside the door to the meeting room, memories of the last time I had been there flooded me.  The last time I had stood in that exact spot I had said “Well, the next time you see me I’ll have my baby with me.”  I had said it on Sunday, May 26th, your due date. 

Those words echoed through my mind as I stood in that small hallway and I couldn’t stop the breakdown.  It was so much more than tears, it was overwhelming sadness and anger and frustration and pain.  It was a total breakdown.

I had an excuse to go down to grandma and grandpa’s apartment (they live in the same apartment building that the married couples meet in) and so I went down in the elevator so I could have a little time alone to collect myself.  Grandma and grandpa were still at church so I had the apartment to myself.  I went into the bathroom and just let the tears come.  I let the words come—“I want my baby, I want my baby, I want my baby”.  I covered my mouth with my hand and screamed as loud as I could, hoping that would release some of the emotion. 

It didn’t help.

I went back up the elevator and called daddy to come and meet me in the hallway.  I told him that I couldn’t do it.  I just couldn’t do it.  Your daddy is a wonderful man, and he just hugged me and told me it was alright.  He quickly got his things and we went home, tears still streaming down my face.

Sophia, it was a really bad day. 

Besides the fact that yesterday was your two month “angelversary” and today it has been 9 weeks since you died, tomorrow is also a significant day in our (yours and mine) history.  One year ago, on September 24th, I found out I was pregnant with you.  One year ago I stared down in disbelief at those two pink lines.  One year ago I called your daddy and said “Are you sitting down…?”  One year ago I heard the smile on his face through the phone as he said “Really????”  One year ago I found out that you were mine and I was yours.  One year ago our relationship started and one year ago I gave my heart and love to you.

One year ago I never expected that in a year I’d be writing a letter to my dead daughter.  I never expected that you wouldn’t be in my arms and that our home would be silent of baby coos and giggles. 

I never thought that this would be the road my pregnancy with you would lead me. I didn’t think a year ago that the surprise of your life wouldn’t be long followed by the sorrow of your death.

Now you see why it was such a bad day.  Well, actually each day without you is a bad day, but this was a really bad day.  I am grateful that days like that are fewer now than they were nine weeks ago.  I thank God that every day isn’t a really bad day.

I miss you, Sophia, plain and simple.  I don’t think that will ever change.  But as I’ve said before, instead of letting myself dwell on the fact that you’ve been away from me for 9 weeks, I try to remind myself that for those 9 weeks you’ve been with Him.  You’ve had 9 weeks in Heaven, and that’s the best thing I could ever wish for you.

 

Love you forever,

Mommy

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Guilt (8 weeks)

My precious Sophia,

Eight weeks ago we said goodbye to you, and eight weeks ago you heard me say “I love you” for the last time.  It seems like it was so much longer than eight weeks.  It feels more like eight months.

When you died it felt like my world stopped.  It felt like I stopped.  The person that woke up each morning didn’t feel like me. It was as if the real me was frozen inside of a shell of sadness and grief. The girl who once was an extrovert now dreaded leaving the house.  The girl who once loved to laugh now could only cry.

But the last two weeks mommy has begun to feel like the icy shell around her was starting to slowly defrost.  I think it began the day I was able to go to an orphanage and hold lots of other babies.  While I held those sweet babies I thought of you, of course.  But instead of it making me completely depressed, it gave me hope that one day I would be able to hold another one of my babies in my arms.  It gave me hope that one day God would give you a brother or a sister.  That same day I met with your doctor, Dr. Chen, and we spent a few hours talking about you.  Overall, it was just a great day.

A few days later mommy had some friends over to our house and we worked on a craft.  Did you know that before I knew I was pregnant with you I did a lot of crafts? In fact this blog used to just be a craft blog.  But then I found out about you, my precious girl, and all I wanted to write about was you.  While my friends were over we talked a lot about you, but we also laughed.  And I remember being very aware of how good it felt to laugh again.  It felt so good to be with girl friends and it felt so good to be creative again.

But as quickly as I felt that goodness, it was drowned out with guilt.  I felt guilty that I was laughing and smiling again.  I felt guilty that I didn’t feel consumed by grief. 

I think it’s really normal for mommies like me to feel guilty.  First we feel guilty that somehow we caused the medical problems that led to our babies’ deaths.  We think that maybe we ate something, or didn’t eat something, that caused our babies to be sick.  Then we feel guilty when our babies are in the NICU or PICU because we see you getting stuck with needles and filled with tubes.  After you pass we feel guilty about everything: Did I tell her I love her enough?  Was she scared when she died? What if I could have done something to save her?  What if we had made different medical choices, would she still be here?  The guilt goes on and on…

And now, eight weeks after you leapt into Jesus’ arms, I feel guilty again.

I feel guilty because I’ve been thinking about writing blog posts that aren’t about you.  Mommy is trying to make her life better by exercising and eating healthy.  I’d like to share that journey on this blog, but I feel guilty.  I feel like people will think I’m a bad mom or that I didn’t love you.  I’m afraid people will tell me, “It hasn’t even been two whole months yet, how dare you write about and do things that aren’t only about Sophia.” 

I’m feeling guilty because this past week daddy and I tried fostering a dog, and due to the doggy’s high maintenance personality, after two days I found myself looking at your picture and thinking “I’m so sorry I haven’t been thinking about you more.”  I felt guilty that I had allowed something to come into my life that was taking away from my “think time” with you.

I feel guilty that I don’t cry myself to sleep every night anymore, only some.  I feel guilty that I’m starting to forget some of the details about you and about your 47 days on this Earth.

So, so much guilt.

But amidst all this guilt, I try to think of you and what you’d want for my life.  I try to remember that if you loved me like I think you did, you would never want me to spend each day suppressing moments of happiness or feeling guilty.  You’d want me to always remember you, yes, but to try and move forward and make myself an even better person than I was before.  You’d want me to have other babies and you’d want me to try to only dwell on the fact that you are perfect and whole in Heaven now.

So Sophia, I’ve decided to start writing about my new journey—the journey to healthier living.  I hope that I can make you proud and I look forward to continuing my letters to you each week.  I love you so much, and even though your death brought so much sadness into my life, I thank God every day that He let me have you for 9 months and 47 days.

 

Love always,

Mommy

Monday, September 16, 2013

Picking Up the Pieces

(Dave)

A few weeks ago something very strange happened. I was sitting in our office, which is right next to Sophia’s room, when all of a sudden, I heard a loud crashing sound. I walked into the living and looked at Sarah and she didn’t seem to notice anything so I looked into our bedroom and Sophia’s room. When I walked into Sophia’s room, I saw a large chunk of a painted red glass flower. I had no idea where it came from, but I figured it must have fallen from somewhere to make such a large sound. I looked up at the light fixture and realized it was a part of it that had randomly broken off and fell to the floor. It took some time to clean it up because there were so many pieces that it shattered into. Some were fairly large shards and others were so small that you couldn’t see them until you stepped on it. I even cut myself on two of the small pieces as I was trying to pick them up.

Last night, while Sarah and I cleaned the floors of our apartment, she found more pieces of that glass, hidden underneath a miniature bench used to hold some of Sophia’s stuffed animals. Despite my best efforts a few weeks ago, there were still remnants of that random incident. When she told me about finding those pieces, I couldn’t help thinking that it’s so similar to how our lives have been these past few weeks. When Sophia passed away, something inside us was shattered. In the initial days, we were just trying to pick up enough of the big pieces of our lives in order to survive. But in the subsequent days, it was like finding small pieces left over that you never saw. Like the small sharp pieces, driving to work and crossing the same bridge we had gone over 3 times a day on route to the hospital, still hurts. Walking into my classroom and seeing the dates in my lesson plan book for the last Friday before Sophia passed away, still hurts. I used to always keep my phone on during class in case the hospital or Sarah called with news about Sophia. Now, I have to keep it silenced and in my book bag during class. Each time I turn it off, it hurts as a reminder that no one from the hospital will be calling me about my daughter. Sometimes, it’s a painful surprise when we come across something seemingly random that reminds us of our daughter.

There’s one song that I’ll sometimes wake up hearing my head. Hillsong – I Surrender. It’s a powerful song with lyrics speaking about surrendering to the will and power of our Savior Jesus Christ, despite some of our most trying times. This song has significant meaning in my life now because I remember hearing it when we were saying our second goodbye to Sophia. I remember thinking in my head that I didn’t want to surrender her to Jesus. I wasn’t ready. Even now, there are days when I put up a fight and say that I’m not ready to accept the fact that she’s really gone. But the beautiful thing about surrendering to Jesus is that, unlike surrendering during a war, you’re not really losing. You’re actually winning. This is because of who you are surrendering to. When you surrender to Jesus, you are letting him lead you out of those dark valleys. He binds you up when those random sharp pieces of memories cut you. He picks you up when you’re tired of trying to reassemble your life by yourself. And though the pain never really goes away, His love covers and fills the wounds in your heart. I’m not declaring that I’m over Sophia’s passing. The pain is still as fresh as it was that morning. But I’m sure thankful I don’t have to pick up the pieces by myself because of the hope found in Jesus Christ.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Red house shoes (7 weeks)

This past week you would have turned 3 months old.  It’s hard to imagine that we could have had a 3 month old at home, and it’s even harder to dwell on the fact that we don’t.  This week I missed just feeling the weight of your body in my arms, and being able to touch your soft skin.

 

My sweet baby girl,

The night I went to the hospital to deliver you I wore a pair of red house shoes.  They were cheap, plastic sandals I had bought we when first got to Taiwan to wear only in the house. You see, all the floors in our house are ceramic tile, and when I was very pregnant with you I needed some extra cushion under my feet.  I wore them to the hospital that night because my feet were so swollen that they were the most comfortable shoes I owned.   Once the contractions started I didn’t care that I was wearing house shoes out in public.  I wore them while I walked around my hospital room, fighting through contractions.  I wore them the first time I went to see you in the PICU.  I wore them the first time I was able to kiss your feet and hold your hands.  I wore them the entire time I was in the hospital with you, my sweet pea.

When I was discharged from the hospital I put the red house shoes in my shower so I could remember to wash them before I wore them around our house again.  I knew they were now dirty with the dirt and germs from the hospital, and I didn’t want to bring that into our house.  But, since our lives were so busy going to and from the hospital to visit you, for awhile I forgot to wash them.  They just sat on the edge of the bath tub.  Waiting.

Then, you started to get really sick, and I started to look at them differently.  They went from just being house shoes to physical representations of memories from the night you were born. 

After you died I couldn’t bare to wash them.  I knew they were dirty, but they were dirty with evidence from the first days of your life.  Each particle tied to a memory of when you and I met.

 

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The first time I saw you in the PICU, a few hours after you were born.

I used to think it was really strange when people would leave things untouched after a loved one died.  I thought it was weird that they would leave entire rooms exactly how they had been left the day that person passed away.  I used to think that, but now I get it.  I totally get it.

You see, I know that your soul is not here on Earth, and that it is completely in Heaven.  I know that physically you will never be here again, but that doesn’t mean I can bare to get rid of the physical traces that you were here.  And I’m not talking about getting rid of the big things that were yours—blankets, clothes, etc—keeping these things is definitely “normal” and “expected” of any grieving mother.  I’m talking about the small things.  I’m talking about dirt on the bottom of red house shoes.

If someone was to come to our house they would easily see reminders of you.  They’d be able to see the large photo of you in your pink head band and the black and white pictures of you with me and with daddy.  They’d be able to see the pretty green container with the pink bow that holds your ashes.  They’d be able to see the pink candles we bought for your memorial service and the pink cross that sat above your bed for each of your 47 days of life.  And those are just the things they’d see in the living room.

But what they probably wouldn’t notice are the other, smaller, things that are reminders of you.  They probably wouldn’t notice the prenatal vitamin bottle sitting on my night stand that only holds one more pill.  They probably wouldn’t know that that pill should have been taken months ago, but that I refuse to eat it because those were the vitamins I took while you were inside me and while I was pumping milk for you.  They probably wouldn’t notice the blue Post-It note on the side of the refrigerator that reads “200 ml, 2 minutes.”  They probably wouldn’t know that I made that note for your grandma so she would know how to use the microwave sterilizer (for mommy’s pump parts) correctly.  The probably wouldn’t know that I can’t bear to take it down because it reminds me of when there was still the hope that you’d be able to take my milk.

And they probably wouldn’t have known that two red house shoes, sitting on the edge of a bathtub, could hold such memories and emotions in them.  The wouldn’t know that each time I go into the bathroom and see them, I’m faced with the question, “When will I be ready to wash them and when will I be ready to move on?”

I know there is no pressure to grieve quickly, and that one day I will be content with just your blankets and clothes and stuffed animals.  But today those things are just not enough.  Right now I need to continue to cling to each possible tangible piece of evidence that you lived; that you were real.

 

I love you my precious daughter,

Mommy

Monday, September 2, 2013

Always her mom (6 weeks)

Dear baby girl,

I still remember the day I found out I was pregnant with you.  I was so shocked and in such disbelief that I threw up!  That day, September 24, 2012, I became your mommy.  And from that day on I have loved you, prayed for you, and advocated for you.  Since September 24, 2012, each and every decision I have made has been with you in mind, and each dream I have dreamt has revolved around you.

And just because 6 weeks ago I stopped being able to physically be with you, that doesn’t mean that I have stopped being your mom.

 

I will always be your mommy and you will always be my daughter.

 

You see, just because you’re not here doesn’t mean that I can stop parenting you—I just have to do it in a different way than the other mommies who still get to hold their babies. 

I can give you your own place in the living room where daddy and I can look at your pictures and things each day.

I can organize and neatly store all the letters and cards you received, old hospital bills, ultrasound photos, and all your other mementos. 

I can make memory bags, in your honor, for other families at the hospital who lose their babies too.

I can continue to share the message that Trisomy babies can live and are worth saving.

I can dream and imagine about all the moments we could have had together and what you would have looked like all grown up.

I can talk about your wonderful, brave life to my friends and our family.

I can buy beautiful flowers for you each month on your “angelversary”.

I can keep posting on your Facebook page memories of you, and how mommy and daddy are dealing with you being gone.

I can give gifts and donations, in your name, to different charities on your birthday and at Christmas.

I can write you these letters each week and let you know how I’m feeling and what’s going on in our lives.

See, Sophia, there are lots of things I can do to keep being your mommy!  And as the years go by, and the ability to do some of those things stop, I will keep being your mommy forever in my mind and in my heart.

If someone asks me, “Do you have a daughter?” I will always say “yes!”  I will tell them that my daughter’s name is Sophia and that she lives in Heaven right now, but some day soon I will be with her again.  Then, if they want to know more, I will be proud to tell them that you were the strongest baby in the world, a Super Girl, and I will tell them all about how hard you fought for each of the 47 days of your life. 

All of us mommies and daddies who have lost our babies, we will always be parents.  Death cannot tear that title away from us.  Time cannot erase that knowledge from our minds.  Distance cannot strike that love from our hearts.

Sophia, you will never be forgotten and you will never stop being a part of our family.  You will always be our first born baby girl, the precious angel that made me and daddy a real family.

I wish we could be like all the other mommies and daughters this side of Heaven, but I can try and rest in the fact that we’ll have all of eternity to make up for lost time on Earth.

 

Love always and forever,

Your Mom

 

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