Thursday, March 29, 2012

To Count As Gain

Life is full of questions. I am okay with them. I ask a lot of questions.

However, there have been a few questions that people have asked of me over the last 9 months that always catches me off guard.

"Is she your only one?"

How do I answer?

I have three children! I have given birth to three beautiful girls! So, what do I say?

Most of the time I give a curt, quick nod and try to walk away. Quickly. It is my only response without having to say anything, because to have to deny them as mine would hurt too much. I give a quick nod, a slight, barely noticeable movement. I give that nod when I can't stand the pity or when I don't have the strength to explain.

Sometimes, and more often than not, I tell whoever asked, that I have three girls. Her and two in heaven. That is a quick way to get rid of people. They don't know what to say, so they will say anything to get themselves away from this very uncomfortable, pain-filled moment.

It's like I'm contagious. They then treat me as if just simply being around me, will cause them too, to bury a child of theirs.

Some people have even had the nerve to tell me that I shouldn't include Emmerson and Vivienne when I think of my children.

Ouch! Really?! Just because they never got the chance to meet them, and their lives have not changed because of them, my life should not be different as well?

They were my babies! They still are my babies! I loved them while they were here with me, with a fierceness that any mother loves her children. I would have done anything for them.

I did do everything in my power to try to save them. I would have, if given the opportunity, laid down my own life so that they could have lived.

In death, I continue to love them with that same protective fierceness. They are my babies.

Here is something else people find necessary to tell me: You just need to have another one. Have another baby.

What!? Because another baby will replace the two I lost? Emmerson and Vivienne were people. They were special and unique in the fact that they were identical twins. They were special and unique in the fact that they were wanted and loved by so many in their short lives. They were special and unique in the fact that they each had souls and were loved by the One who created them. 

The people that tell me to have another, they hurt me but I know that they mean well.

But it still, all the same, hurts me. They don't realize that another baby will not fix me. It will not make me better. It won't heal the hurt. 

Another baby will not EVER be Emmerson and Vivienne.

And to be honest, I don't want another baby to do that. This hurt hurts only because I. Love. THEM. So. Much.

Another baby will not replace that love. That love is theirs and only theirs.

Another baby will be unique and special and loved in their own, designed, deserved way. But that baby will not be my Emmy and Vivi. They won't take their place.

A short while ago, my husband and I talked about more children. It is such a painful discussion for us to have. It hurts us both so deeply so we don't venture there very often. I am fearful of having another. He knows this. So he said, "I don't feel like our family is complete, so I would like to have more children . . . one day." There was silence and then very softly, with tears in his eyes, he says, "Our family never will be complete no matter how many children we have. They are not here. They are never coming back. There will always be two people in our family missing."

Such a bitter reality to realize.

I am terrified and ever so fearful of having another baby. Why? Not because I think they, too, will die before me. Even though I know that is a very real possibility.

It scares me for reasons I can't explain. I am scared of the memories that will flood me with another pregnancy. I am fearful of having to wear the same maternity clothes I did with Emmerson and Vivienne. I am fearful of being in that Ultrasound Room again. I am fearful that I won't let myself love that baby like I should because what if? I am fearful of the anxiety that may accompany me with that pregnancy. I am fearful that Emmerson and Vivienne will feel as though I have betrayed them.

But another baby will not be Emmerson and Vivienne. Another baby will not fix anything.

The hurt will be here, in my heart, for always.

Regardless if I have another child or if I let others know how many children I really have, the truth is always there. I have three children. I have been blessed to love three beautiful girls. And because I have loved, I hurt because there are two beautiful souls that I no longer get to hold.

I have three beautiful children. I count them, all, because more than me having three children, three little girls have possession of my heart.

I count them. I include Emmerson and Vivienne because to me, they count.

I count them because they matter.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Dancing In The Aisle

Photo courteous of Julie Davis Photography

It was in the middle of a Target aisle.

I was trying clothes on my daughter, in the middle of the store. Yup, I am one of those moms.

It was cute and it fit. It was a dress. I took it off. I wasn't thinking.

When I put it on, I took off her shirt, put on the dress and then took off her jeans. You  know, trying to protect her modesty.

I wasn't thinking.

When I took that dress off, my daughter was left standing in the middle of the aisle with just her big-girl-panties on.

I immediately realized what I had just done and in that same exact moment, so had my daughter.

She loves to be naked!

It is normal to dress my daughter in the morning and a few hours later, to see her with just those big-girl-panties on and pretty shoes.  She always claims to be hot. And, in her defense, she usually is.

But lets call a spade a spade. She also loves not to be dressed. Even though she loves clothes, especially pretty clothes and dresses and dressy shoes. She loves to be naked more.

So that moment when we both realized that she was naked in the middle of Target, I rush to try to get her clothes back on and she takes a few steps away from me and starts . . . dancing.

She also loves to dance. She has some pretty nice rhythm too (especially with me being her mother). She will dance strapped in in her car seat. She dances any time she hears music (its like someone flipped a switch) and a lot of times she dances only to the music playing in her head.

It always brings a smile to my face . . .

. . . But that day in Target, I didn't get embarrassed but the first thought that crossed my mind was, "what do others think of me, letting my daughter dance almost naked in public?"

It didn't matter. It doesn't matter.

My little girl was dancing. She was living in the moment. She was enjoying what was, just like she likes it. Music, a little rhythm and just big-girl-panties.

It made me smile. Smiling to see her so unaware of where she was. So unaware of the others around her. So unaware of what others might think of her. Of the way she looks or doesn't look. Of the way she dances or doesn't dance.

Only aware of the moment and how it moved her. And she didn't resist because of what others might think of her.

When I realized this, it was a bigger moment for me.

There won't be many moments like this for her.

Those moments will soon give way to the moments where she wants to rejoice and enjoy and sing but doesn't because she's too worried of what others may think.

I love that innocence in her. I wish with all that is in me, that it will never leave, but I know that it will.

It will end all too soon.

In a blink.

I want her to enjoy, rejoice and dance the way she feels in her core now, before the world tells her that her way isn't good enough or pretty enough or stylish enough.

I want her to dance when the moment moves her.

And I don't want to be the first one to tell her that it isn't right or she should do it this way or that.

I want to stand far enough away to give her the room she needs but close enough where I can reach out and grab that moment and hold it close.

So, the other day, my daughter was dancing in the middle of a Target aisle with just her big-girl-panties on. Yes, I am one of those moms. And very proud of it.

178. Laughter as the three of us dance in public.

190. Tickles and laughter - those little-girl-giggles I wish I could bottle up.

201. Little girl dancing in the kitchen, while dishes sit in sudsy sink, singing her own song.

232. Little girl dancing . . . always dancing . . . even in the middle of a Target aisle.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Meant To Be

I am a member of a club I never filled out an application for or asked to join. And yet . . . here I am.

Everyday I hear of another or directly from another Baby Loss Mama and I wonder, how did I never not know of even two before Emmerson and Vivienne? Now, it feels as if there are more moms and dads out there that have buried a child than there are not.

I get it. My eyes are open now.

I really need you to hear me when I say this. I don't want to pitied. I don't.

I would still appreciate grace and compassion extended to me. I need that grace when those days still dare to suffocate. When that grave haunts me so much that I can't look beyond the grey clouds and see the promise of it all.

I want compassion when I am standing in the middle of a Target aisle, forgetting completely why I am there and just sobbing. Sobbing because the weight of their death has hit me so hard, so unexpectedly, once again.

I don't want to be pitied. I really don't.

I don't want to be pitied because I don't want my love for them to be pitied. I first loved them deeply. I loved them before I grieved them.

This love I have for them is great.

I don't want to be pitied because I have hope of seeing them again. Because even though I hurt, I know they are living so fully now. I know they wouldn't trade what they have for what could have been.

That was never an option. That was never a part of His grand plan.

It's taken me a long time to get to this place, and to be honest, I don't think I am completely there yet, but I am accepting the fact that Emmerson and Vivienne were never going to go home with us.

They were always meant to be here for just awhile. And during that time, they touched me greatly and I loved them with all that I had.

So did their daddy.

We still do. You can't quit a love like this.

And while I will always wonder what their voices would have sounded like, how our family would have looked and interacted with them being a physical part of it, I know they are complete and happy.

I know they are beautiful and my love for them is beautiful.

I don't want to be pitied because, in spite of it all, I have been blessed.

I am so thankful that I got to hold them and kiss them and swaddle them in blankets and in love.

I am so thankful that I got to hold Emmerson while she was still alive. I am so grateful that I got to be the one to offer her that last bit of earthly comfort has she passed from my arms to the arms of her Savior.

I am thankful that I got to see Vivienne's heartbeat one last time and got to witness her stretching those beautiful limbs of hers.

I am so thankful that they were perfectly formed. They were wonderfully beautiful.

I am so thankful that I got to carry them and experience them. I am so thankful that God chose me to be their mommy.

My blessings are beautiful.

My hope in it all is beautiful. I don't want my love and my hope and my girls to be pitied. Because of it all, I love them and I grieve them and because of it all, it is all beautiful.

This is what was always meant to be . . .


Friday, March 16, 2012

Instruments In His Hands

Before I start writing I feel I need to tell you all something. I used to rarely ever cry. If, before, my feelings were hurt, I would get mad but I. Would. Not. Cry.

Now, I cry all the time. And not just because I miss Emmerson and Vivienne and because I sometimes become so incredibly pissed with how things turned out. But I cry over commercials, during worship at church, watching my husband and my daughter interact. I feel like a cry baby. Maybe I am making up for lost time?

With that being sad, I feel I can share with you what I wanted to today.

The other week I was reading a post by one of my favorite bloggers who also is a Baby Loss Mama. I cried as I read what she wrote. Not silent, beautiful tears streaming down my face like you see on beautiful actresses in the movies. I am an ugly crier. I CRIED! UGLY! I bawled. I had to step away from my computer to collect myself before I could finish reading her post.

I was an emotional mess because it was true what she wrote and because I felt those words were written and spoken just for me.

She was telling the story of her youngest daughter waking up in the middle of the night screaming. Not crying. Screaming! Angie went into her room and her daughter did not realize it. She stayed in there trying to console her. I want to share the rest in her words because, well . . . I cannot write as beautifully as she does and there is such a wonderful message in her words alone.

She was still scared. Still unaware of me.
Quietly, quietly, I started humming, “Hush little baby, don’t you cry…” It was just enough to make my throat vibrate. Too quiet for her to take notice, but she must have sensed something in her half-awake state, and she calmed a little. I started to reach over the crib but I didn’t want to wake her if she was going to go back to sleep. She didn’t even need to know I was here, just felt enough in my presence to know she wasn’t alone. I kept watching her though, and I noticed that although she was still upset, she wasn’t looking at the door. She knew that one of us would come in and get her, but she cried to the corner, so distraught that she didn’t lift her head.
And in the middle of the night, while the wind howled around Nashville and the rest of my babies slept, I wondered how many times I have done this.
I call Him, because I know His name.
And He answers, because He has always known mine.
I am lost in the wreckage, trying to get my bearings, and while I can’t even lift my head, He whispers throughout the madness…I am here, love. Rest.
I snuck in when you thought it was over. When you thought it was impossible. And while your back was turned and the world was upside-down, I came near to you. I have seen you wrestle with your pain, shout in anger, and kick the sides of this life until the bruises reminded you that you could even feel at all.
And somewhere, sometime…many in fact, I bowed beside you and sang. And when you thought you couldn’t get to me, I reminded you that I always, always come to you.
Hush little baby…

Those darn tears again!

Maybe, just maybe, those words were meant just for me. You know, God has a way of working through others.

We all are just instruments in His hands . . .


Monday, March 12, 2012

No Matter What

The wand had just left my belly. I heard, "I'm so sorry."

It had been five hours since Emmerson had been born. Three hours prior to the I'm so sorry,  I had seen her sister move around and I saw that heart beating.

Now, I had heard, "I'm so sorry."

I didn't want to look Dr. D in the eyes. I don't think I could have taken any more of those looks that day.

Dr. D was standing on my left side. Her resident was on my right with the wand in her hand. The screen was placed at my eye level on my right side.

"I'm so sorry."

I ever so slowly turned my head to the left and ever so slowly lifted my right hand and pointed at the screen, "But . . . her heart . . . it's beating . . . I saw it." Those few words, took forever for me to speak.

Dr. D had the resident place the wand back on my belly.

"No, honey. That's your heart beating."

I remember thinking in confusion, "what is my heart doing there?" It's down there, where my babies were, beating for them. Does it not know?

And how could my heart still possibly be beating when it had taken the worst kind of beating?

She squeezed my hand. I tried to squeeze back but that medication had me too weak.

I swear there were tears in her eyes.

Five hours before, she had been in the room when I gave birth to Emmerson. She lifted her up and placed her on my chest. She heard me say, "Hi, there baby girl!"

I performed that very long task of turning my head back in her direction.

With dry eyes, "It's okay. They belong together. It's okay. They are all they have ever known. They belong together."

The screen was black. They left my room. My room was black.

My world was black.

Two days before, after all the testing, while in that conference room when we heard, Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, Stage 3C, I asked a question.

After the interventions we could take, the survival rates, the risk of brain bleeds, strokes, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, risk of death after delivery, after all those were discussed, I asked what I most wanted to know.

"What will the age of viability be for my girls?"

I needed to know. I needed to know so we could discuss when we let a NICU team in the delivery room.

My husband and I had discussed this at length the day we learned the pregnancy was no longer going smoothly.

I had worked many hours next to micro-premies. I knew parents fought no-matter-what. I can't fault them for that and I am not judging them for that either. A parent's love is unique . . . it is a parent's love. I had seen a lot though.

I didn't want to be a no-matter-what parent. I didn't want my no-matter-what to be because I didn't know how to let go. I didn't want to be a no-matter-what because I didn't want my babies to fight unnecessarily.

It's not something most women think about when they are expecting life.

And yet here I was.

I was a mother. I was a nurse.

A week before when I had talked with Dr. C, one of the Neonatologists I used to work with, I had asked him, "If I make it to 24-26 weeks, what would you do? If these were your babies, would you let NICU in the delivery room?"

*I know 24-26 weeks isn't usually a death sentence for a singleton or even twins, but we were dealing with complications and a disease process on top of that.*

He was silent. For a long time. I pleaded with him. I know doctors hate being asked that question and if a patient asks them, they won't answer it.

"Please! I'm not asking you as a medical professional, I'm asking you as a friend. What would you do?"

Dr. C and his wife's first born lived for about 11 days after being born prematurely.

"He lived for eleven days and every day was a struggle. I watched him struggle everyday. I saw painful procedures performed. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't have let NICU in the room. I wouldn't have put him through that hell."

I didn't want to unnecessarily push a life that was never meant to be lived this side of heaven.

I didn't want my babies to struggle . . . to be in pain.

So, I asked. That was the one piece of information I needed to know the most.

Dr. L, on that Tuesday after all the testing, said, "I wouldn't consider age of viability for your girls until 26 weeks and even then, Twin B (Vivienne) will look like a 23 weeker. Neither one of them have had any strokes or brain bleeds yet but that is still a risk. If you deliver at 26 weeks, Twin B will be at an increased risk. Even if you make it to 26 weeks, the odds would be stacked against Twin B. She might not even survive the delivery. We really want you to make it to 32 weeks. If you can make it that far, and I think you can with the medication and the surgery, you will give your girls the best fighting chance."

After Emmerson was born, they increased the Magnesium Sulfate yet again, hoping that I could hold on to Vivienne for a few more weeks.

"Please God, don't give me a few more weeks just to put me in a position where I have to face an even more difficult decision. Please God, don't put that on me."

I am their mother. I am not their God.

I didn't want to get those lines tangled up. I was not the one that breathed them into existence. I didn't want to be the one that decided how much to do to make them live.

Such fuzzy lines.

But I did do everything I could have done to treat that disease. I took the medication, I had the surgery, I was going to eat lying down because that is what would have been best for them. I was going to do what was going to be best for them while they were still alive. While they were still kicking and moving below my heart. I was making decisions to treat the illness that threatened them. The illness that was treatable and side effects reversible.

But I didn't want the decision, once they were born, of how far and how long we let medicine give the false illusion of life. I don't think I could have beared the weight of those decisions. Just like I couldn't and wouldn't have chosen which one to terminate to give the other the best fighting chance, I couldn't and I wouldn't have been able to know where to start and where to stop. That's why, when it is all said and done, I didn't want the no-matter-what placed in my lap. Because I know me and I know I would have never known when to stop. When to let go.

In the darkness that overwhelms me at times, I have a profound peace in knowing that my girls never knew pain. They never knew struggle. All they knew were each other and love. They knew love. And they felt love.

They knew nothing but love and to me . . . that means everything.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Empty To Overflowing

Another Friday. Another five minutes with Gypsy Mama.


I can honestly say I have never felt more empty in my life before eight months ago. 

It was a terrible feeling I didn't know what to do with. It was foreign. I didn't recognize my own voice, my own reflection and I sure couldn't recall any of my desires and dreams. What were those anyway?

I was empty. 

I have had people tell me recently that those first months after Emmerson and Vivienne went to be with their King, that I looked like a zombie. That there was nothing . . . no light . . . no life in my eyes.

I was empty.

I have been reflecting a lot. On how I view life now and how I viewed it then. I reflect on God and how I boxed Him in, defined Him by my own definitions. And now, I am just trying to keep those fists unclenched and keeping my gaze fixed to the heavens and letting God do His thing.

I have wrestled with many trials (some not so heart wrenching) in my life and since I have been reflecting, I have wondered a lot if that was God trying to teach me, to show me that He is always enough.

I have felt so empty. 

I am reflecting. I am wondering. Am I empty so that God can fill me back up with all that is truly good?

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. 
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Psalm 23:5


Friday, March 2, 2012


It's time. It's time to write for just five minutes. One topic. No proof-reading, no editing, just writing.

When I saw what the topic was this Friday, I gave a smirk and thought, nope. Not going to write about that. Nope, so I clicked on to another site and finished what I needed to do on my computer.

Nope, because people are probably getting sick of me writing about grief . . . ache. It's been my life for the last eight months and I am just now starting to feel like I can write about other things than hurting. And the other reason I shook my head no was because, really, I could write a book about aching so how could I possibly condense this into five minutes?


That word, that emotion, that hurt . . . it is not foreign to me anymore. But, was it ever really foreign to begin with?

I ache in new ways. I ache in old ways. I hurt deep. I hurt wide. I cry rivers. I sob loudly.

I sob, I hurt, I ache because I have lost.

I sob, I hurt, I ache because I first loved.

What's that saying, "It's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all"?

How true! And to think all those years ago in high school, I thought the love they were referencing was about a boy.

See, I hurt and I ache, probably for the rest of my days because how does a mother who has buried two of her children never not ache? Pieces of myself gone . . . forever. But, I couldn't have this profound hurt if I first didn't love deeply.

And I will never apologize for loving.

But here is an ache too. Watching your children grow up.

That is a completely different ache. It's one of those heart-swelling aches.

To watch my daughter play, eat, sleep . . . brings me joy but an ache always accompanies it. Because wasn't she, just a day ago, that tiny newborn who left her footprints on my newly soft, still swollen belly? Wasn't she, just a week ago, learning to crawl? Wasn't she, not that long ago, trying to figure out how to move those delicious lips of hers to form the word "mommy"?

In a months time, she will be blowing out three candles. Three!

Those candles that she will blow out will remind me of the days that have already blown past, and the days to come that will fly by.

My throat will be thick with tears because as any mommy knows, those birthdays are all so bitter sweet.

I will have that heart-swelling ache on her birthday because of the blessing that is. And I will have that all too familiar ache for those moments I will never have with my precious Emmy and Vivi.

I ache because I live . . . because I love.


Thursday, March 1, 2012


Do you know Thomas?

I'm sure you would say yes if I asked it this way, do you know Doubting Thomas?

I feel a little sorry for him. I mean, nobody really knows you are talking about one of the twelve unless you preface his name with doubting. What a way to be remembered.

He wasn't with the gang when Jesus appeared to them after His resurrection, so in his defense, he actually didn't see, he just heard.

And we all know how word can spread, picking up little pieces of untruth as it journeys onward.

I can just imagine the others running to him and telling him with excited emotion, how they saw Jesus. Maybe he thought they were playing a joke on him. Maybe he was just grieving too much to be able to put much weight in their words.

He responds to them (and I could see him doing it with a roll of the eyes and a yawn, you know, to let them know that he's not buying their cruelity), "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side,  I will not believe it." (John 20:24)

And then he walks away, leaving them behind, to further prove his point. Well, that's how I see it anyway.

A week later Jesus stands before Thomas and tells him to go ahead and touch the holes in his hands, where the sins of many pierced skin sharp. To open eyes and see . . . witness . . . the wounds that bled for love. Thomas obeyed. Then Jesus told him to stop with the doubting (John 20:27).

I can't help but think that Jesus had delicately dealt with Thomas, knowing how he felt.

"Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29)

That one stung a little bit, I'm sure. He called him out on his disbelief, thus renaming him, Doubting Thomas.

I still feel bad for the guy. That name has stuck for centuries!

He just wanted to see.

Don't we all?

I'm a visual person. I learn by seeing and doing. John 20 verse 29 is easy to say . . . but to actually put it into practice? I think that is hard.

I would have been one of those that said, "Nope. I'm not going to believe it unless I can see it with my own two eyes, thank you very much."

I want to see! I want to see how things work, what the sky looks like when someone else declares that a storm is on its way. It's not that I don't believe a storm isn't coming, I just want to see the sky for myself.

My child is the same way. She wants to see everything. She wants to see the egg before I crack it, once it is cracked, and then once again as the yolk is scrambled. She wants to see every page in the book and every picture on every page, sometimes two, three . . . five times.

She just wants to see. She wants to make sure that what I am telling her is lining up with what she sees. She wants to make sure that her brain is making the correct connections.

Thomas just wanted to see.

I love Thomas. I absolutely love him! His devotion makes me cry. Because of his love for the Lord, I have a hard time referring to him as Doubting Thomas.

In John chapter 11 Jesus decides to return to the place where He will be falsely accused, prosecuted and hung on the cross. Jesus returns to raise Lazarus from the dead.

His disciples know to return, may mean death. Jesus definitely knows what is in store for him and yet He returns for the sake of a friend. And, I think, to let His loved ones know that the tomb is not the end.

He tells His friends that they will travel back to Judea and they try to persuade Him otherwise. They remind Him that if He returns, He will probably be stoned. And since Lazarus is sick and sleeping, they should just let him rest so he will get better.

Jesus has to spell it out to them that Lazarus, is in fact, dead.

After His other disciples have just got done trying to talk Him out of leaving, I'm sure out of fear (because really, if Jesus is stoned, what will happen to them?) Thomas speaks up.

Now this is when my eyes well up with tears, "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (John 11:16).

You can say all you want about how he questioned and doubted but I didn't see any of the others wanting to die with Him.

One betrayed Him with a kiss and one denied Him, not once, not twice but three times! But no one else offered to die with Him. No one else offered to take His hand and walk that road with Him.

Thomas doubted. Haven't we all?

Thomas was a passionate person. I can relate to that. He was intense in his belief of who Christ was, so much so, that he was willing to die with Him. And in so doing declared his loyalty to Jesus with his actions.

Thomas was also intense in his doubting. He not only needed to see Christ with his own two eyes but he also needed to touch the wounds.

After the touching of the wounds had left their mark on Thomas, he declared (probably rather intensly), "My Lord and My God!" (John 20:28)

The doubting led to an intense declaration of love and belief.

How beautiful for doubting to end with the same loyalty and love as to declare, my Lord and my God!

Doubting to Declaration . . . "My Lord and my God!"



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