Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Two Years

Dear Claudette Elyse,
Saturday the 29th will mark two official years since we held you.
In that time frame a lifetime has changed for your mommy.  You may have noticed I haven't blogged in a long time. I thought the unexpected arrival making you a big sister would bring so many words and thoughts to my mind, but really it has confused me and made me numb most days.

With each passing day without you I feel a bit more lost. I am hoping one day I will wake up and make sense of all this reality, but until then I just am trying to be the best version of mommy I can be. That probably comes off like a feeble attempt to most people, but you and I know I am doing my best.

Last year you inspired over 700 random acts of kindness. Local media was so inspired they wrote of your impact. It was awe-inspiring.

This year mommy planned on spending time with you on your birthday at the place  I feel closest to you, the ocean. Life gave us another big curve ball and grandma got very sick and we couldn't go. But we are very thankful your brother and sister have another Thanksgiving with their beloved grandma, so we count that as a win.

So we decided we would go to Boise and spend your birthday with Auntie Aryn and Auntie Audra and family. Nope, our 28 year old furnace had other ideas for that too.

So here we are two days before your birthday without plans (you know mommy likes to have her plans). Heck, your headstone hasn't even been decorated. In all truth, I don't really like visiting you out there and haven't been since spring. But you know that.

So with Thanksgiving, Black Friday and then D-day ahead of us how do we memorialize you this year love?
Well, I think the big reason God kept changing our plans is because his was better...always is right?

A little over a three months ago, the earth lost an incredible little man named Mattie that likes using his little body to change the world like you. He was adopted at birth into an incredible family, I MEAN INCREDIBLE! You know the kind that has 3 crazy, cool biological kids then decides to adopt 4 crazy, cool adopted kids most with special needs because that's just who they are. They gave a voice to the non-verbal little guy and he changed the world with his short visit here (sound familiar?). I fell in love with him via FB post and Instagram pics. I wept when he coded multiple times and everyone thought his life was over then. I grinned despite myself when he went on to live and laugh and love on this earth for close to another year.
This was a picture taken at his birthday party: 
Yep, his family likes awesome parties too! 

So I got to thinking since you and me Claudie like to help change the world one person at a time how we could help this incredible family. See the Loux family is self-employed you know doing things like helping bring home orphans to loving families and empowering people who feels powerless by giving them health and vitality through their wellness program. It's pretty cool to watch. I met Mattie's mommy because she was going to help us bring home our baby...and she is just not in the way we thought. 

So Mattie needs a headstone! You know yours was paid for by an incredible organization. But their funds are low and they were only able to help pay for a little of what was needed for Mattie's. I know I have friends that are EXTREMELY GIVING! 

So in honor of you sweet one and your new heavenly buddy, Mattie I am asking all my friends to give just a few dollars to help this sweet family have a headstone for their son by Christmas. I did the math and even if all my friends gave two dollars we would have a headstone for Mattie!!

Think we can do it sweetheart? Ya, me too!

Love you more than words and happy 2 years old in heaven,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October 15, 2014

Today is the National Day of Remembrance for Pregnancy and Infant Loss. In the late 80s Reagan made this a national holiday that now gets international recognition...well kinda.
I feel blessed to live in a time that now gives some recognition to the millions and millions of babies we have lost. To think what my mother in law and others not so long ago had to go through and silently grieve the loss of their children is so sad to me.
But the fact remains we really have done little to change the overall hushed culture of pregnancy and infant loss in this country.  One in four women suffer in silence daily with the pain of miscarriage as if it is something unimportant or embarrassing to speak about it openly.
We discuss stillborn loss as something that "just happens" to some of us and although awful there is nothing really that can make a difference even though we know that over 88% of cases could have been prevented.
And although we have some studies showing what may or may not cause SIDs, we really know little more than we did 20 years ago.
Why do we spend billions researching diseases that kill  fifty or less adults a year, but we still have barely put a penny into the whats and hows of something that kills one in four babies?
I think that answer is very complicated and yet very simple.
We as a nation don't care about the least of these. Yes, I said it and yes I know the backlash I will get for it. But how can a nation that kills just as many unwanted babies care about the wanted ones?
So us mommies through grassroots efforts refuse to suffer in silence anymore. More and more of us are shouting from the mountain top, "my child mattered!"
Social media, the Return to Zero movie, and many small groups, that are finally working as one large group, has helped the world understand our babies matter no matter how many breathes they took in this world.
Please help us save our babies and make sure EVERY one of there lives matter by speaking about the ones we have lost with confidence and love in our hearts.

THEY MATTER...Every single one!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Always an Empty Minivan

I wrote a post awhile back lamenting how we never got to fill our minivan:

Well it turns out that minivan will never ever be filled, because we sold the good old swagger wagon.

We sold it because it has almost 150,000 miles and need more repair than we were willing to pay, but we also sold it because our perspective has changed on life.

Instead of sitting around lamenting our empty mini we decided to get a more practical car for our needs. I know, I know it's just a car. But for us it was symbolic of all we have lost and it was time to start a new chapter.

A big step of our new chapter started last week when, I had a doc appointment. It had to be at the office where I last saw Claudie alive and first heard she wasn't alive. I must be walking around in some kind of grief bubble still, because it didn't even dawn on me it would as hard as it was. But it hit, HARD. As soon as I pulled up in the parking lot I started getting flashbacks. Like crazy real flashbacks on a Lifetime movie and had to blink and shake my head in hopes they would vanish. But by the time they called me in to the ultrasound room, I sat on the table I was shaking uncontrollably.

"Is something wrong," the ultrasound tech asked?

I uttered something about 38 1/2 weeks and baby and then trailed off into uncontrollable tears. All the while I was texting Dustin something fierce.

"Where are you?"
"I am in the ultrasound room."
"Are you coming?"

The ultrasound tech took it as she needed to give me reassurance of this baby right away and quickly tried to find a heartbeat. Yes, I wanted to hear a heartbeat, but really that is not what I cared about at the moment. At that moment all I could think of my sweet little curly-haired, red lipped beauty, Claudie. It was so hard to focus on the machine. Tears and shaking overtook me.
In hopes of making me feel better she turned up the heartbeat volume.

Louder. And Louder. I cried.

I couldn't stop. What became clear to me at that moment is something I have always known, this is not a replacement child.

A heartbeat on the child growing within me will never be a substitute for the one whose heart will beat no more.

I realized a part of me so wanted that to be the case, but instead a new permanency of her death was felt. Claudie will forever be gone. She cannot be replaced.

Now are plans are different, because we have discovered they aren't our plans at all, but rather Gods, so we must mold our minds and hearts around whatever new reality is given to us. To embrace it with the only certain thing we know about the future, it's uncertainty.

For now that comes in the form of selling a van, but I  have a feeling that is just the beginning of many things we will have to evolve and change in the coming months...I don't even want to think about her nursery.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wait...are you still adopting? {and other pressing questions}

So by now you may have heard the BIG news, WE ARE EXPECTING!

After the shock and disbelief has settled a bit you probably have a few questions and hopefully we have a few answers for you all. Afterall, I think you all deserve to know as much as possible since all you have gone through with us and the support and love you have shown us.

When are you due?
My due date is May 1st. That puts me around 7 weeks pregnant. We debated back and forth waiting to tell everyone but it became clear we would need your prayers since hospitalization has been threatened already. And the really it came down to we are having child whether we have one for 9 weeks or 90 years on this side of eternity and we want everyone to celebrate with us every second of that incredible gift.

Are you guys still adopting?
First things first: a little background info.
Dustin and I have ALWAYS wanted to adopt. We discussed it on our first date for goodness' sake. Adoption was not a result of our losses in fact we have always been very fertile and we were making conscious efforts to prevent a future pregnancy. Heck, Dustin was to have a vascetomy soon...but I will stop talking about our reproductive systems because my husband will be mortified (again) and well it isn't really anyone's business.

We decided to adopt after Claudie because we were told by my diabetes doctor it was unsafe for both me and any future babies to get pregnant you will remember the autopsy showed the cause of death as maternal diabetes. Our OB and perinatalogist felt it would be okay but I would have to have much better control of my diabetes. I had the best control of my life during the pregnancy with Claudie so for whatever that advice is worth.

...oh and a side note don't you love how people say control of diabetes. For anyone who has had Type 1 as long as me they wish they had control over it.  But I digress.

We are VERY cautiously proceeding with some changes we feel will make a difference this time around. It is also important to note Claudie's heart had enlarged several weeks before she died. Had an OB or perinatalogist been looking at my ultrasounds that I was having rather than an ultrasound tech they would have caught it very early. She would have been delivered and would have survived. So this time around we are in the care of perinatalogist primarily rather than as a consulting physician. This will provide a much safer level of care. With all that said, it is obvious I am very high risk and we know this pregnancy could end like the last three babies did.

So are we STILL adopting? The short answer is YES. We have always wanted to adopt and will still continue to do so. It goes without saying that journey will most likely take a detour while we try to focus on maintaining as little as stress as possible for me and baby during this pregnancy.

Another big question is:
Are you still having the Rummage and Bake Sale Adoption Fundraiser in a couple of weeks? Well, that brings me to my other piece of AHHmazing news! My dear friend and her caring husband are embarking on an incredible journey to baby #4. When I say these people are wonderful, I ain't blowin any smoke. This sweet couple has 3 beautiful girls already. One of which, Reese, was born with Down's Syndrome. The adorable 4th daughter they are adopting will be coming from China and also has Down's. This means this mommy will be caring for four kiddos under four, two with special needs and all the while working nights on one of the busiest ICUs in the city. They have already been pre-qualified and are trying to raise funds to bring this Miss Cutie Patootie to the USA to be united with her family:

Isn't she the CUTEST!!!??!!?!

So since our church no longer has a place for people to sit during service because so much has been donated and because we have a wonderful source for which to filter funds we have decided to do the Rummage and Bake Sale for the much deserving Wallace Family.
Here is their blog for the full story: The Reese Report

So on to the last question that I keep getting and feel so blessed to have friends and family who care:
How can we help??

1. First and foremost PRAY if you are so inclined. We could use it desperately and feel the effects of each and every prayer prayed.

2.  Be POSITIVE! We need all the good vibes headed our way. And don't worry we have thought of all the negative thoughts enough for the rest of you. So if you want to vent about your worries or fears and how you don't understand why I don't understand contraception when I studied the human body for four years, tell it your dog or cat, because we don't need to hear it and you will frankly only be hurting the baby.

3. Help with the Rummage and Bake Sale coming up. I committed to do a lot for this sale on my own before I realized heavy lifting and such may not be in the cards for me. So I would LOVE any help tagging, baking, organizing or whatever you can do to make sure this sale is GREAT. I MEAN DID YOU SEE THAT PICTURE ABOVE??! I need her cheeks to make their way to American soil ASAP so I can squeeze them! Also, donations for baked good and sale items would still be greatly appreciated but only if you can bring them directly to the church at this point. We still need large items for our raffle if you have goods to donate.

4. Tangible help is always appreciated. My mommy gave me a bad trait. She didn't like to take help from others. She always said it was embarrassing because it meant she wasn't doing her job (like raising eight kids with a debilitating disease wasn't enough). So I learned to say, "no thanks" a lot. A dear friend has taught me not only is okay to ask for help it is wrong to refuse it. So with said, if I do get hospitalized I may be asking some help with child care. Meal help is tricky because everything has to be extremely low carb. I would love any recipes you all might have however! Salads and veggies are getting boring fast.

How do you feel about this all?
The last few weeks have been nothing short of breathe-taking to watch God's sovereign hand at work.  For instance, immediately after announcing the news to my shocked husband in walked a mommy holding a little baby, with a GREY ELEPHANT IN IT'S HANDS!!! Now, tell me that isn't a God thing. But truth to told EVERYTHING is a God thing. And we are approaching this pregnancy very differently because we know this baby does not belong to us, but simply God is entrusting it's life with our care on this side of eternity.

For that and EVERYTHING that has come before, during, and after we are grateful...yes, even the fact I can barely form a sentence I am so sick after dinner every night. But I have never been so happy to feel miserable in my life.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Empty Minivan

Our minivan has 157,213 miles on it. It has nice fat dent in it from the first day we purchased it. (Hey, I was not used to pulling in and out of parking spaces with a swagger wagon yet.) Behind the passenger seat there is duck tape because of four years of little feet trying to reach toys.

I purchased the van about twenty seconds after we found out we were pregnant with our second child. I remember driving home from the dealership and Dustin looking in the backseat with just our little six month old in the backseat laughing. "How many kids are we going to have?" he joked.

The van seats eight...sounded good to me. It would fit a double stroller, maybe even triple stroller nicely.

Despite losing my "cool card" that I never really possessed, I remember feeling incredibly blessed as I drove my minivan home. I remember thinking I will look in the rear view mirror and see all the kids that will fill it to the brim, hear all the squeaking little voices that will distract me from driving safely...but heck it has like 18 air bags, right?

Flash forward two years later...

Driving to my mother in laws house, I had twins in my belly, a two year old little girl with piggies in one seat and a three year with a cowboy hat in the other. I remember thinking after we found out we were having twins that it was such a good thing we found a nice van for so cheap. But after we dropped off the kiddos we were to head to the hospital to deliver the twins long before their time. The mini would never know hold two infant carriers at the same time. Its third row looked so empty. I felt so stupid. Why was I driving a mini van?

Another year passed...

"Do you want me to take it out of the car?" my sister timidly asked of the car seat Dustin has so carefully placed a week earlier expecting the arrival of our daughter.
I nodded yes. I couldn't conjure up words. It was 7am and we were headed to the hospital to deliver Claudette. We would not need the car seat because she would not be coming home with us.

Present day...

We have used and abused the van over and over again. I have popped down that third row on more times than I can count to put my latest garage sale finds in the back, but we have never needed the third row for our kids and I am not sure we ever will.

My plans included filling up the van to capacity. To driving back and forth to grocery stores and park dates with it seats occupied and I have done just that, but the third row is empty and now we need are close to the point of selling it and the question arises, do we need another mini or we being presumptuous again?

Monday, July 21, 2014

July 21, 2014

Last year I was blown away about how much each year has turned further into something harder and yet more beautiful I blogged about it in my post July 21, 2013.

Now here we are a year later sitting in the same hospital we lost you and Claudie. The same hospital that performed dad's open heart. We are sitting in the same chairs in the same waiting room, with the same nurse, the same doctor, and the same beautiful sun that set the night we lost you two years ago rose over the same sky this morning.


It provides great comfort but also great anxiety. I am worried for the kids other grandma as she faces a huge surgery. They...we simply can't lose another person so important in our lives. We gave her flowers with an angel hanging from them that says, "A guardian angel watches over you."

I don't know 100% that is how it all works. I don't know that you truly have the capability to control in any way the outcome of what happens today or any day. Ultimately, I know that fate lays only in the hands of the God who creates life. But, my speculation is who have some control over how the day feels. Because I feel ya momma! I feel in the woman in the yellow shirt. I feel ya in the white butterfly that has been following me since I found out Dustin's mom would have this surgery last Wednesday. I feel you in my heart.

I am sad because I miss you today, but I am more happy than sad because today is your birthday. Your FAVORITE day! I can sense you dancing and rejoicing, getting way more joy than any ice cream cake on this earth can ever provide.

Happy 65th mom!!
See ya soon.


Monday, June 16, 2014

D Day

Did anyone else notice it? The smallness of the day, at least in comparison.

Father's Day is so much less acknowledged in our culture than Mother's Day.

Heck there were several post on FB acknowledging single mom's on Father's Day. I get it. Really I do. There are countless deadbeat dads. But newsflash world there are deadbeat moms too.

There was another interesting post I saw yesterday that went something like this:

A dad that decides he doesn't want to parent is called a deadbeat.
A mom who decides she doesn't want to parent is called her choice.

I do trust fully there are crummy daddies in this world, in fact, I have seen horrible examples of this firsthand just recently through some close friends. But is Father's Day really the day to talk about it?

The world gets it. Bad dads exist. But GOOD dads exist too. Dads who silently work hard and play harder with their kids. Dads who are equally if not more so hurt by the suffering or death of their children. I say perhaps 'more so' because we as mommies for the most part have something our counterparts don't have nearly enough of...a support system.

Dads are taught to be strong and suppress their own needs for the good of others. They are taught that their struggle is less than ours. I have seen this in a very tangible way since we miscarried the twins. I say WE because both myself AND my husband, lost that day. I always thought he didn't have the connection and was able to heal quicker, but was he? Perhaps, he was made to. I took time off work for my body and mind to heal. He went back the next morning after the d&c.

The afternoon we found out we lost Claudette friends and family surrounded me in a protective cocoon. Dustin instead was forced to work on a project and never slept because he had to complete it before we went to the hospital to deliver her the next morning.

I had countless friends and family questioning how I was. Dustin also had countless friends and family questioning how I was. It was never about him or at least it was not to the degree it was about me.

Mother's Day people cared and wondered how I was doing.
Then Father's Day came and I am not sure a single person asked how my husband was doing.

I am not going to blow smoke. It isn't like my husband is crawled up in a ball crying for help. If anyone were to ask how he was he would most certainly answer, "fine" and move on. But is that point?

We need a shift in this society. We can't keep characterizing men as the stupid, emotionless duds and their struggling mom counterparts trying to juggle all of the family activities while navigating her emotions alone. This on the surface is what it often looks like to me. But I have been thinking a lot about this and I think dads might just react this way because it's the only way they are allowed to.

There are many articles on how men and women grieve differently. Undoubtedly, there are differences but really the loss of a child and is the loss of a child for any parent, only the journey is different. It is easy to get distracted by the nature in which a man returns to his everyday activities and think he must have moved on. But really he is bottling it down, soon to pop like a firework. We must support our dads just as we do our moms. By doing so it will really help us ALL in the end. And call me naive but perhaps a good first step would be to ask the father who has lost a child how they are on Father's Day.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Stress Paralyzed

Anyone watched Moms' Night Out? Didn't think so...

Anyway, it is about a group of friends who are desperate to break free for a night of fun. A term came up in the movie called, "stress paralyzed". If you are a mom or a human being for that matter, I don't think I need to describe it.

I have taken on this paralysis to a whole new level. I am fully embodying this catatonic state. It started months ago (maybe years) but it went to a whole other level the week before Mother's Day. See previous post...see I couldn't even make it past Wednesday.


That was the start. Then a series of some stupid and some significant events took me in a downward spiral despite trying to see the rainbows and lollipops.
Three traffic tickets, a few rocky relationships, a job on the rocks, and a shattered dream later here I am.

Nope. I am not curled up in a ball in bed (any more). I am a fully-dressed, functioning member of society. For that I am proud.

But truth be told I have shut down to a new degree. It is a defense-mechanism of sorts, perhaps. I have shared and been vulnerable and honest to the core with my journey. In the beginning I wanted to be an open book because I felt my loud mouth would help others who were the quieter and kinder version of me. As time went on, I needed to be an open book. It was my release so I wouldn't be paralyzed in the pain. Well, after the above mentioned happenings and many details that are inappropriate to share (yes, I have a filter) I felt like I might have hit four extremity paraplegia. No writing. No talking. Just going through the motions.

This is the full reason for this post! I can't sit still and let life happen to me anymore.  SO.....

Yesterday, I chose happiness! I woke up and did three hours of "summer school" with the kids. It was so fun. The kids even loved it.

When my husband called to say he would have to cancel our adoption meeting later that afternoon (second
meeting a row he has missed), I chose to too make lemonade out of lemons.
"Let's go to the pool, kids!"

When we went out the door to leave and Amelie fell and screamed bloody murder for 1 hour, I decided rather than recoiling to nap time for the house, I would instead plead the case for the benefits of chlorine water on boo-boos.

After we drove 20 minutes in a car without air-conditioning telling the kids all the way about the best kiddy pool in Missouri only to drive up to a closed Super Splash, I did NOT refused to give up and drove another 45 minutes the opposite direction to the best kiddy pool in Kansas...chanting I can do this, I can do this, the whole way.

Once we finally got to a pool, we enjoyed 3 1/2 hours of playing together in the sun! It was amazing. I found myself smiling more than I had in weeks. It was genuine. No one was watching me. I had no reason for false sentiments. I was happy. So happy that time jumped passed us and I was ecstatic when daddy called and said he could meet us for a post swim pizza.

See it's working! If you just be happy, life is better! I started to feed my brain. My body quickly rejected that notion.

By the time I walked the pruned kiddos to the car, I was starting to get extreme lower back pain. By the time we made it to the restaurant it had radiated to my lower abdomen. A kidney stone? I was starting to see double by the time I made it home. I told Dustin I thought I might have sun poisoning and told him I was getting a shower, would he bring my monitor to me. After checking and re-checking it was confirmed by blood sugar was in the extremely critical high range, over 600. I was so sick by now it was act fast or end up in the ER. Luckily, Dustin should have his Certified Diabetes Education degree and knows how to handle situations like this well. Several, hours later and my blood sugar in a more stable 250 range and still coming down, I was an emotional basket-case.

Just ONE day, I stammered out. Just ONE day having a good day! Is that too much to ask? Diabetes has ROBBED me!! It took parts of childhood, it took relationships, it took my child, and now it is robbing me of my life. I can't do this anymore! I won't!!

As I screamed those words, I had an epiphany. I had blamed so much on me, on others, on circumstances, when the blame should have been directed to what was sitting right in front of me all along in the form of an insulin bottle.
Diabetes is to blame. Fact is I want to ignore it's presence. It's devastation. It's hold on my every breathing moment and it's incredible hold on others in my life the last twenty four years. Maybe, I am over-reacting. It is just another autoimmune disease, right? Millions have them. It may kill me one day but I am living now right? NO! The answer is no I am not living now, because it has already robbed me.

But the destruction is over, Mr. Diabetes! I refuse to let your power over me take one more day. As I sat in bed last night I made a commitment to change. To do different. To do better. No it may not make a difference physically. After all, the best control I have ever had resulted in the death of my daughter. But I will no longer take that guilt on! Instead, I will redirect it to this mal-functioning pancreas and the havoc it has raged on me.

This morning I got up and drank my isotonic tea. I jumped in the car with my chocolate Isolean shake. I have no grand illusions of a new person emerging from the other side when I done with my 30 day cleanse, but I already have a new mindset...and really for now that is all I need!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Last Week

Two years ago Mother's Day marks the start of the most tragic and yet most beautiful week of my life. I have felt the need to put pen to paper so to speak so I don't forgot the details of those precious days.

Sunday, Mother's Day 
The warm Kansas air blows through my maternity dress as we enjoy the family time in Ottawa. Dustin and I had debated not leaving mom on Mother's Day but she was adamant we go enjoy grandma and the extended family. We had already had two celebrations both Dustin's step-mom and his mom before leaving for southeast Kansas. The thought was we would spend all evening with mom. Annye agreed to stay and keep an eye on her. She was giving us frequent updates about mom's condition.
"She is acting weird." "She won't wake up much today."
Turn up her oxygen. Let her rest.
My suggestions would haunt me for the next two years.
Around noon a call from my another sister out of town, Audra.
"Hey, sis. I am worried about mom. Something sounds off."
It's okay, Audra. Trust me, I spent all last night with her. She is fine. Sleepy and keeps saying strange things, but I think she is just depressed...
...more haunting words.

We were all on edge and short with one another. We had been for weeks. Normally, us siblings were an united front, but we had been bickering for days with our spouses and each other. We commented on it in a phone call earlier in the week. Our intuitions were on overdrive.

It was early evening around 5ish. We said our goodbyes. "Give Claudette our love!" Dad pulled out shortly after us. We were on the road mere minutes when the phone rang. I heard in her voice. She was nervous. Annye always speaks loudly and over-politely when she is worried. I started to worry too. "She just won't stay awake Alyvia. I think we need to call 911. Should we? I don't know what to do!"

Several minutes later..."They say they to take her to Shawnee Mission. They won't take her to the hospital her docs are at because it's too far away. [it's only 5 more minutes must be bad]
A heart attack?! It didn't add up. Mom had her fair share of issues, but her heart was always strong. She had been like this for days. It couldn't be her heart? Come on Alyvia, you are a nurse. THINK! THINK!

Okay, just stay as close as possible and we will be there as soon as we can.

"Mom, is waving to the neighbors goodbye. She is smiling and waving but the paramedics say she is very sick." My sister's voice is shaking.

We are coming.

Now to get dad's attention who had no phone and no idea of the latest. We pulled over the side of the road, he just a few miles behind us quickly noticed us honking on the side of the road.

It's mom! We need to get to the hospital.

"Give me your phone and you drive." were dad's only words.

This made me very anxious since it had been about 8 years since I drove a five speed, but I wasn't about to tell him that. I killed the car twice trying to pull out on the I-35. Once on the road, little was said, except a prayer. We both agreed we would drive well over the speed limit and explain to a cop if we got pulled over. Then we decided it might take to long to explain so we agreed on 75 MPH.

The phone rang a few minutes later. It was the cardiologist. They want to cath mom, thinking it was a heart attack. Still I was confused. So was dad it wasn't adding up.  Dad gave his consent over the phone since they said mom wasn't with it.

I was shaking. I think I saw dad tearing up. It felt more real than it had in the past. After all, we had gone through similar things for the last 18 months or so. Mom was diagnosed with the vasculitis and we have even discussed hospice the Thanksgiving before last. But I think we all knew then mom wasn't going to die. She still had so much hope. So much life left to give. She ended up moving in with us by that Christmas and was walking and doing great by the end of the winter. By the following winter we thought she was invincible given all she had gone through. Her kidneys had not fared so well and the dialysis along with the steroids and chemo had been brutal on her bones. Fracture after fracture. At least we were finally seeing some hope for a kidney transplant. I always compared her to my patients. Okay if she were one of my dialysis patients in the hospital how bad off would I think she was? About a 6 on a scale of 10. Not bad. I have seen a lot worse patients get a transplant and do great. Am I being irrational? Are biases taking over my medically-trained brain.

I dare not look at dad for fearing of starting to cry. We prayed and drove. FASTER. 80 MPH. I think we made the 90 minute trip in under an hour. As we pulled into the Shawnee Mission ER the sun was setting. I remember thinking it was gorgeous out.

We ran in. Dustin was behind us in the van with the kids. Everyone ran in. By this time more information was provided. Mom's arterial blood gases were horrible. I remember hearing the levels and asking the doc is that even conducive with life? He looked at me and said he had never seen worse and they need to intubate soon. I looked over at mom she was smiling and talking to kiddos. WHAT?!? This is not what someone looks like before intubation. Surely there was some mistake. The doc pulls me into the hall. If we intubate there is strong chance we won't be able to extubate. He looks at me for a knowing glance. I told him I already knew, but he needed to give us the opportunity for her to talk to her children before we intubated after all it was Mother's Day...there are EIGHT kids, doctor. A long pause. A knowing look and a shake of the head. I grab my already almost dead cell and start dialing. Who do I call first? Birth order. Here we go...

Allyson mom is getting intubated. She won't be able to talk with it on. She made never get off it. Do you understand? Allyson she is going to talk to you before she gets intubated okay?

And this is when for the first time I witnessed my mom's love like I had never seen it before. She, struggling to breathe, flushed and exhausted, spoke with love and understanding of each of her children's needs. "Oh, I am fine Allyson. I love you so much. Just fine."

Then Jake.  Reassurance.

Then John. Joking.

Then Audra. Reassurance again. And love to the boys and Stella.

How is she still talking I am thinking? How do I get her to stop talking to each kid? How can I take the phone away? I don't want it to die before she talks to everyone or before she has said what she needs to.

Then Josh. How's Shawna? I sure miss you. (falls asleep)

Mom wake up. We need to call Aryn Lea.

The baby, Aryn Lea. And now she is full on singing songs.

Now, it's Annye and my turn. I leave and let her have time with Annye and her family.

My turn. Mom you don't need to talk, okay. I love you. I know you are tired. They are going to put a tube down your throat and you might not get off it. I won't leave you mom okay...oh and mom, I am naming this baby after you, okay?
Mom perks up. She looks directly at me, "oh, you don't want a baby named Claudette."

I knew then and there we would have a little girl named Claudette.

8:30pm Mother's Day mom was intubated.

In the wee hours of the nights mom's siblings started to arrive. Aunt Candie. Aunt Sherry. I recognized their nervous energy and quickly realized how closely we were all related. Then Uncle Mark. Then Aunt Jeanne and grandma?!? It was almost 1am by now! Then my Aunt Rochelle with my cousin Danielle. I was starting to get upset
Why had they got Rochelle out? She had suffered a stroke years before and the last thing she needed was more stress. But I realized Rochelle needed to be there, she was mom's twin after all. Then my mind went to the story of when Rochelle went to the ER with unexplained abdominal pain the time mom went to the hospital to deliver one of us...yes they were that close. But Danielle too? She needed to be at her daughter, Addi's side. Addi and Conner were her micro-premie twins. Addi was facing insurmountable odds, including almost a year hospital stay, a trach, and now liver cancer. I remember thinking how cool it was both of the twins had daughters pregnant with twins. I, of course, went on to miscarry our twins and now the horrible fate handed to Danielle's babies. It was hard not to think there to be some sort of curse at this point.
As everyone arrived I felt at peace. It was nice having mom's family surrounding us. There we all waited and talked and prayed.
Before sunrise almost all eight of mom's children had almost all arrived. By noon we were all there. In a matter of mere hours every child had managed to get a plane ticket and arrive from Phoenix, Boulder, Atlanta, Moscow, Boise, Des Moines. It was a feat only mom could accomplish. We hadn't been together for years. We decided it had to have been mom and dad's 40 wedding anniversary, but even then we weren't all in the same room because I was in the hospital delivering Henry. He was four years old by now.
By this time mom was in the ICU. Grandma and mom's siblings, except Sherry, left as the hours drifted on; but there we siblings would stay camped out in the small waiting room outside. There were no couches, only a type of love seat with hard wooden arms. Those wooden arms felt like a cushion by 4am. Some would dose off and snore, then others would wake. One of us would take turns sleeping next to mom in the pull out bed. Jake and Audra took on that duty most. The nurses quickly realized by the end of the day we were not going anywhere and offered a small unused room in the back of the ICU.
To this day I don't know what it looks like because I never went to see it. Fact is, I barely got of the chair that Monday. I couldn't bare to see mom like that. I know what intubation looks like. I know what mom looked like. It was too hard. This couldn't be real. If all eight of us were here at the same time what did this mean for mom? My nurse-brain froze and I had a hard time thinking logically.
I texted my friend Hilary. She was the most brilliant nurse I knew and had lots of critical care experience. "Yes, that is normal," she would say. "Ask about this," her reassuring words all the while her taking care of her own patients was amazing. By 8am she was at my side after working all night at a hospital clear across town. This would be the first of so many acts of kindness that carried us like what I can only assume is fireman rescuing one from a tall, burning building.
The next act was from our church. The word church doesn't even capture what I am trying to convey. It was bigger than that. At the time Park Woods consisted of barely 10 families. We had no pastor. We barely had elders. It was a hard time for the body of believers, but the core that stayed was strong and resilient and we saw just how much that week. Monday night a couple of large coolers were delivered: toothbrushes, gum, candy, protein bars, water bottles, snacks, snacks, and more snacks, wet wipes. Anything and everything you might need. It was a godsend, especially for those who had traveled all night and had yet to shower or eat.

No change. She was heavily sedated and going in out of atrial fibrillation. She was in congestive heart failure. We had realized that essentially mom was suffocating for days if not weeks by now. She had been hospitalized a couple of weeks before and the blood gases were horrible then. The pulmonologist at that time thought they must be wrong based on mom's symptoms. I remember him telling me at one point, she would be able to know her own name with these gases, yet she was talking and laughing. However, thinking back on it she was saying such weird things about death and crying a lot. We attributed it to another pneumonia. Turns out my suggestion to turn up mom's oxygen was about as detrimental as any of the acts performed. Mom was taking quick, short breathes to compensate and was essentially hyperventilating. I gave her even more oxygen which effected her CO2 levels and made things even worse. No, I don't think it killed her but I will never forgive myself for not picking up on that.
Why was mom having such a hard time breathing? Well, over the course of the 18 months mom had lost over 100 lbs and over 6 inches of height (if not more). The years of steroids and chemo (she had RA since she was twenty) then the high dose steroids and chemo of late had caused irreplaceable bone loss. Essentially, mom's rib cage was being suffocated by her body. It had caused a pneumonia, CHF, and of course the need for a breathing tube.
Now, the questions started turning in our heads. What would change? How could we fix this? Can we fix this?
Anxiety was mounting.
Conversations ripped across the room. Some were helpful. Some were hurtful. But all the while we never left her side and knew we had to come to some decision.
But what? And how?

Mom was much less sedated now. She was blinking and pointing to things.
She kept pointing at her trach. She hated it. This was in some ways harder. Mom, was now aware of her suffering.
At one point she pointed to a pen and paper. On it she drew at heart. Then she pointed to every single of us.

I will never forget that moment. It was one the most beautiful things I had ever seen!
It was driving her nuts not being able to tell us she loved us (and frankly it was also driving me nuts she couldn't.)
By dinner time we were surprised with famous Oklahoma Joes BBQ from a dear old friend, Deborah. Most of us hadn't seen in her in over 20 years. I know it may seem like just BBQ, but that food at that moment might as well have been a check for a billion dollars.
We ate and laughed and talked with Uncle Brent and Aunt Jan. Audra's best friend from High School, Quion, and her husband showed up. It was such a lovely time. I remember thinking it was the first time I had breathed since Sunday. Looking back on it perhaps God was preparing our bodies and minds for what was to happen the next day...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Be Positive! {Thoughts on Gratitude and Grief}

I am drowning in a deep, dark sea. I am a captive to it's unpredictable waves. Prisoner to it's control
over me.

Grief has ripped my plans for productivity, joy, and peace and replaced them with a new person I don't recognize . Every time my wound starts to scab it once again gets ripped open by a new circumstance. 

"Be positive." they say.
"Write a gratitude journal," they tell me.

But I do NOT feel ungrateful.
Maybe if I think positively, then I will trick the universe into some cosmic twist of good things coming my way?

It feels false.
It feels unnatural.

Is this really the point? To be positive, despite your very world crushing below your feet?
Perhaps. I have met many who have met insurmountable odds and still ooze positivity. Some I think are sincerely in a good place and have worked through a lot of the natural anger and pain. I feel for others. I think so much pain must be just under the surface and they push it down with trite quips and and joy journals. Is this what Christ has asked of me? Am I ignoring him?

I look to Job, who suffered arguably more than any human being. He is angry. He is sad. He cries out to God. He ask God why.
I look to Christ. He is angry. He is sad. He cries out to God. He ask God why. Why?

I wish some would stop replacing my grief for perceived ingratitude. Look at what you DO have. Cup half full, Alyvia, cup half full. I am not ungrateful, I am sad. There is a difference, a big difference. Also, I wonder is this the Christian way of supporting one another?

On some level positivity is a great thing but is this how God wants us to help one another through suffering. At times is like telling a person to acknowledge how pretty the sea is as they are screaming for help during a tsunami?

We ignore that suffering and pain is part of the path paved to glory and our forever home.
Rather than encouraging other's to think of the cross during suffering we point their focus back themselves. "How can we get something positive from this?" we ask, when the focus should be how can God get glory through this?

I bask in my preacher's words:
When Jesus rose from the dead, it marked the beginning of the new heavens and new earth,
we have just yet to have them revealed them to us.
Suffering than glory.
We often try to make this all about me, myself and I, but the cross is the real focus.

This journey as lonely as it as and as sad and anger-inducing as it makes me at times, has made my
focus on just that. Through this suffering I am finding ways I would have never otherwise to glorify Him.

I am grateful, among so many things, to have wise people in my life who see that trite phrases and half-full quotes are about as helpful as an umbrella in a hurricane and instead allow me cry, to scream and to just feel what the honesty of the life that has been given to me. This ironically helps me be the most positive, because it redirects me to the hope and joy that surpasses any human suffering that can be throw my way.

So for my life, as hard as it is of late, I am grateful.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

De-friended {On navigating friendship and social media post loss}

So I have been trying to finish this blog post for over a month. It has weighed heavily on my heart. It is personal. Very personal. Truth be told given the events of late, I should be several FB friends lighter. At first I didn't want to delete others from FB, but it's getting harder. Feeling judgemental and sometimes hateful eyes piercing at my back is hard and makes my already frayed-nerves on edge. My hands have been shaking for days. But as I write this John Mayer belts on Pandora,

"even as my hands are shaking...say what you need to say, say what you need to say. It's better to say too much then to not say what you need to say. With my heart wide open..."

Seriously, that started playing as I typed that! Serendipitous, right?

So here's what I need to say (and I am pretty sure it's too much):

I have never been good at being a friend. As a child I had 7 other siblings around at all times to keep for companionship. As I got older and went to high school and college I was friends with everyone. I attached to a select few here and there but was I was bad at being there and understanding how to navigate the 1:1 friendships. To this day I would rather speak in front of a crowd of hundreds rather than go to coffee with one friend. After I met my husband we were so consumed with each other, we did a poor job of fostering those friendships we had formed over the years and most of them withered.

However, some friends it doesn't matter if you talk everyday or every year, the moment you see each other again you know that you will always be friends. I am grateful for those connections and have clinged to those friends especially as of late. But I would be remiss if didn't mention I have not reciprocated well in those relationships. But I am changed and see friends differently than I did many years ago. I think it has a lot to do with maturing and growing up. I no longer need to be invited to a slumber party to understand someone is my friend. However, there is still so much for me to learn about relationships after loss.

I really didn't understand when someone told me you would need a new address book during the grief process. As time when on, I began to understand more of what they were saying. Friends who I barely talked to before became my lifeline. I soon began to understand why they were who they were and I connected on a level I hadn't before.Then there the friends I would easily call my best friends before my losses and I quickly began to understand it was going to be difficult to be around them in the same capacity or if at all.

I was confused about these new relationships forming and falling apart and it led to anger and resentment. I didn't understand why someone could not offer me some support when I was reaching out for it, but was the first to ask a favor of me. Worse yet people started causing drama around my posts and blog. Really the jist of all it was well intentioned...but it was drama just the same at a time when I had more than my fair share. The drama has since turned into hurtful and hateful actions. It's one thing to never acknowledge the death of our child but comment on every other single post I have written on FB except those that have to do with my grief (yes, I notice) or to liken the death of your pet to a child....hurtful. Then there are those who have questioned my parenting and whether I am equipped for another child...hateful.

Since I hadn't been a good friend in the past, perhaps this is my payback. But I think there is something bigger going on here too. I think everyone sees a new side of their "friends" via facebook. You know you have that person you connect with so much at work, then you realize that you are going to have to see every stupid cat meme that ever existed as soon as facebook friend them. Or maybe there is the person you are just acquaintances with you realize you share the same exact philosophical ideology based on their post on twitter? Social media helps us see sides of people we wouldn't otherwise, BUT without the crucial facial expressions and vocal influx. Well when the death of a loved one happens to you, your friendships as a whole seem changed. Social media can be a powerful tool for connection and closeness and it yet the double-edged sword of the typed word can tear apart even the seemingly best of friendships.

Let's face it an emoticon is a poor replacement for an actual emotion.

It has been advised by those close to me to delete these hurtful friends, because they are not real friends in the first place. I am at a point now that I want to do just that. I even deleted my FB account only to remember our church's account is under my name and several other things that need my account to be active. Then I decided I would just log out, ignore it for awhile. It helped. But still I felt anxious...and bored.

Then it dawned on me.

The epiphany is that ALL people are placed in my life for a reason. I don't just get to click a magic "de-friend" button and ignore that. God didn't hand me this life for me to edit it. The goal here is not to just be happy or positive. It is through honesty and candor in my suffering, that I can bring God the most glory. How can I do that if I start turning my back on those who perhaps need it the most? That chubby little bundle of pink that was laid in my arms 16 months ago taught me that one. It's an invaluable lesson that I must never forget!

Friday, March 21, 2014

On Rainbow Babies


***Warning I need to vent and when I vent I tend to get feisty.

For those of you who don't know rainbow baby is a term for a baby after loss. The idea is that a rainbow doesn't negate the storm but is something that is beautiful after it.

Okay. Thanks.

I am just going to be frank here. I hate the term. It's stupid. It's similar to when people say it happened for a reason.

Newsflash: EVERYTHING happens for a reason and saying my daughter's death did not only makes not feel better it often makes me feel worse.

I digress. Back to the topic at hand. Or maybe I was talking about the topic at hand. Here is the thing, a lot of people mean well. They want to make sense of it. We think if something so senseless makes sense then somehow the logic will help us grieve, but in reality the exact opposite happens. We coin silly little phases to oversimplify something horrible and tragic. We do it over and over with lots of different little phrases. I made of list of ones that really bothered me last year in this post: Words/Phrases that Drive Me Nuts.

Rainbow baby made the list then and it is coming back up again. Here is why...

Like I said in the previous post Claudette was my rainbow baby, so maybe I am just mistrusting of the promise that term gives. Perhaps, bigger than that is what rainbow assumes. Rainbows happen after storms, therefore; it is assuming having a living baby is a part of the process of having a deceased one. As if you have to have at least one living baby to be a mom.

Any mom who has lost knows what I am talking about because inevitably they have got the question, "Do you have other kids?"

Whew! You have two other living kids. Oh good. At least you have other kids.


Oh, no! You don't have any living children. Are you trying for your rainbow?

These are the types of questions and comments we get from others and thoughts sometimes we give to ourselves as baby loss mommas.

Yes technically we are trying for another baby via adoption. But this baby is not a rainbow baby. It doesn't negate any storm. It doesn't even have to do with any other storm. Yes, it could be argued that without the loss of twins, Claudie would not have been and without the loss of Claudie a future child might not be. This is true one some degree. But that is silly to make the inference that directly. It's like saying without my first born my second born would not exist. Yeah, it's call birth order! It's a simple as that. Yes, some go on to try for more babies than they would have normally because they have lost their babies and yes after loss a lot of mom's have the strong hormonal pushes to try for another. But babies don't cancel each other out based on their lifespan.

I know I might be offending some, but I think it devalues a child that dies to call the next child a rainbow baby. Just as my mom will always be my only mom. I don't need a rainbow mom since she died, my daughter wasn't a storm and I don't need some colorful rainbow to come bring something positive out of the negative. See as sad as I am Claudette is gone, her presence as short as it was, was enough.

Monday, March 10, 2014

I'm Cheap

I thought I would let my blog followers in on a couple little secrets:

First: I am cheap.

My house is furnished 98% on garage sales, estate sales, TJ Maxx and Target...I mean really does one need to go anywhere else? I HATE retail, who doesn't? But now that we are trying to save money way into the five digits my cheapness has taken on a new level.

This is why I am OBSESSED with my second secret: Rhea Lana.

What the heck is that? Well, one day I was just walking into Panera to get an ice tea and I walked passed all these moms in a frenzy shopping for children's clothes and goods from a relatively small shop. It smelled ahhmazing, which is not been my experience at when I normally shop second hand. I was immediately approached by someone, with a happy smile, handing me a basket. It was so organized. Then I saw an old dear friend and realized she and another mommy to littles owned this incredible franchise in Overland Park, called Rhea Lana Children Consignment Sales. I was sold...and I am not an easy sale.

Here's the deal I got high (HIGH) end clothes at seriously crazy cheap prices. The next sale (they happen twice a year) I thought I would try to sell some of my junk. It flew! I was able to purchase both of my kids wardrobes and toys for an entire season (including a newborn daughter) for under $150!!! Everything from diaper dekor refills, to a Coach diaper bag.

The next sale I stepped it up a notch and decided to volunteer (honestly, cuz momma wanted to shop even earlier). This is when it got crazy!

The sales are now almost 40,000 items and have moved to a HUGE convention center...don't worry still have the same great smells, smiling faces, and are just as organized.

I scored a bouncer for $7!! An graco carseat snugride for $15!!! A Bob NEW stroller for around $100! And here is the AMAZING, AMAZING thing I spent NO money on my kids clothes!! It was an even exchange for what I consigned! Since I was now able to afford high quality clothes, like Heartstrings and Tea Collection, at cheap prices they held their value and I was able to resale them for basically the same price I bought them. Now, I just kinda do an exchange program of sorts for new sizes. Yes, it doesn't work for all clothes because kids stain and rip their clothes, but then I inevitably have a big item laying around (like last Ikea table I scored a few years back at a sale) that I can sale and make BANK and break even!

This sale I am trying to do even more, and bring money home to contribute to our adoption funds! That's right I want to actually make money after buying spring and summer clothes (and toys) for a four and five year old. I think I might just be able to!

Anyway,  I thought you mommies should know about these amazing sales. Oh, and one more thing...they consider us adoptive-moms-to-be like pregnant moms-to-be and let us shop even earlier!

Check our their FB page for more info: Rhea Lana Overland Park
Photo cred: Amanda Eaton
Most of the toys on this picture were purchased at Rhea Lana, including the white shelf the toys are sitting on.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Something happened on the way to pick up my kid from kindergarten {that changed my life}

Most of you probably know Our Story by now...or at least most of it.

But why are we adopting?

Because we can no longer carry children?

Because Christ ask us to take care of the orphans?

Because it's our last resort?

Because we want to?

The fact of the matter is we can carry children. In fact, we are super fertile so we have to be pretty aggressive about preventing it while still maintaining our religious believes about some contraceptives.

And yes, we would love the idea of helping orphans and/or the fatherless like Christ ask us to, but that is not why we choose adoption, at least not completely. Frankly, anyone can help orphans and/or the fatherless without adopting, and adopting doesn't always mean you are helping the orphans or fatherless. It is not always the "Mother Teresa adoptive mom" coming to the rescue of the "poor, uneducated birth mom" as it is often portrayed. Adoption can be that. But that is not adoption.

It is not our last resort. We have other options. Like I said I can carry children or I can have others carry our child for us , as in a surrogacy, which would most likely be the only safest option since carrying another child brings huge risk to the baby and me. Or we could just be "content" with the children we already have as it have been suggested to us.

The truth is we are adopting because we want to. We feel like it is a good fit for us. No, it is NOT AN EASY CHOICE. But it is a CHOICE...a choice we made. People all come to adoption for different reasons. For us it was always part of our vernacular.  But in reality if our five biological children would have lived, I don't think adoption is something we would of or could of breaking point is sooner than I would like to admit.

So a few weeks ago, I was headed to pick up Henry from kindergarten. It is only a 3:28 minute drive (yes I have timed it), so it happened quickly. I was sitting there thinking of our child-to-be. It wasn't a child that looked like us, or smelt like us, or acted like us, but here is the life-changing part: IT WAS OUR CHILD!! It was Henry, Amelie, and Claudie's sibling. My husband's pride and joy and MY BABY. But the time I was in the mini-van procession line I was a bucket of tears. By the time the side door jarred opened and Henry jumped in the backseat, I was inconsolable.

"Are you sad, mommy?" He sweetly asked.
"No, hunny. These are happy tears! I am HAPPY!"

You see for the first time I realized, my dreams and desires were not just for Claudie to return or to be pregnant again (both of which will never go away), but my dreams were to adopt!!

I do not know how it exactly happened and I am not blind to the fact that this journey is still a steep hill, covered with sharp rocks. but for now all I can think about is my dream!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Adoption Update

I am writing this post for two reasons.
1. I keep getting questions asking how far along we are.
2. I keep getting asking myself questions about how far along we are.

So how far along are we?
When I was pregnant I could tell you how many days I had left. How weeks along I was. I could tell whether our baby was the size of a walnut or a grapefruit.

Adoptions is very different in this respect. We could have an expecting mom tell us she would like us to care for her child tomorrow.
We could been on this journey for years to come.

For anyone who has adopted you know the home study can be very, very time consuming. We have completed our home study by about 50%. The paperwork side of it is mostly done. We are now just working on the to-do list. One thing on the to do list is to get a physicals. This one makes me a little nervous, since one of the questions a physician must answer is if we are both expected to live a full, healthy life. I have type 1 diabetes. This in no way should make a doctor answer "no" to this question, but given my recent medical history it might cause pause. We would appreciate prayers that it doesn't.

Once we finish the study and raise some more funds (I am taking on more work) than we should be good to LIST!! We plan on listing with a few local adoption agencies that we feel strongly connected to, but we would love a private situation to arise as well...SO PASS ON THE WORD: THE ELLIOTTS ARE TRYING TO ADOPT! After that it is just a waiting game.

Now, to answer some questions many people have asked, so I figure even more are wondering.

Domestic or foreign?
I swear sometimes I feel like I am ordering a beer. The truth is either! We are open to any situation really. We just find that domestic makes the most sense right now. If a foreign situation arose, we would be open to it.

Why not just foster to adopt?
It's a good question and one I get asked a lot. I mean it's free (in fact you often get money back from the government) and it helps the child arguably in the biggest need. Not to be rude, but please STOP asking it.

First off, nothing is JUST when it comes to adoption. It is an HUGE process which takes much talking, mediation and prayer. For those of you who don't realize it, Dustin and I pursued foster parenting a couple of times. After we lost the twins we enrolled for foster classes. I got pregnant before we got a chance to go. We still felt really drawn to fostering after we lost Claudette, but were very cautious of the emotional cost it would take on all of us. We decided to go the foster to adopt meeting anyhow. It became clear after going it probably isn't the right choice for us right now.

Why not you ask? Well, first off we have to honest with where we are in our grief. You could get a baby at birth and not know if you can actually adopt the child for sometimes over two years later, since the goal is reunification with the birth family. This often means the child comes and goes back with its birth family for two years. That for me would make it very difficult to bond with a baby that would be taken away again at any time.

It's not about just about me you say. Well, you are right. It's NOT. We have to consider our other children who have lost 3 siblings now. The next child that comes in our home we would like to make every effort to ensue they stay.

And frankly, the biggest factor we considered is it's not fair to the foster child. I get it both sides could be argued, but my husband has helped me see that having a child (especially a foster child) needs a strong home in which is well prepared for reunification with the birth family. We simply put, are not at this point.

I say all this to by NO means deter people for fostering to adopt. In fact, we still plan on doing just that once the kids are a bit older. We often talk about how neat it will be to foster (and potentially adopt) other children through the years.

I also know that God likes to giggle at our plans and we could have a foster child by next week. We are just trying to be realistic with our plans.

So that in nutshell is where we are at.

I just can NOT do this post with giving a shout out to everyone who has been incredibly generous to us in this journey thus far. We have had perfect strangers to dear friends make sure that adoption is in our family's future and for that we are EXTREMELY GRATEFUL!

Don't have dollars to give? WE UNDERSTAND! But you can still help. Please either like or share our Facebook page, by clicking below:
In some ways this helps more than money ever could by getting the word out.

If anyone still would like to give you can  click here.  Even $1 helps!


Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Elephant in the Room

When I was around four or so, I used to call my Uncle Scott and Aunt Candie, "Uncle Cotton Candy". I truly thought it was their name. I remember wanting to go to their house so much just to see if magically cotton candy would start appearing. I believed they were magical for a long time, so it feel to reason when they gave all us kids stuffed animals one year I treasured mine like no other stuffed animal I had or would ever possess. It was a grey elephant.

Ever since I had have loved elephants. They always reminded me of my mom. I am not sure exactly why. Maybe, it's that my they are sturdy and reliable. Or maybe it was they way they move in a pack reminded me of growing up. Or perhaps, it was something as simple as my mom had grey hair. But I have always got the since my mom personality whenever I see an elephant. Weird I know. Don't worry I am going to therapy.

When we were doing Claudette's nursery we decided on yellow and grey theme. PERFECT, now I could find a way in incorporate my love for elephants somewhere. I loved finding elephants that would fit perfectly in her nursery. 

I found lots of little treasures along the way. If you are curious what they are you can click here.
It was so fun to find treasures along the way, but unfortunately there weren't many to find. Elephants especially for nurseries were hard to find at the time. At least the ones I was looking for.

But something has happened since Claudie died. I see elephants EVERYWHERE! It's weird. One the anniversary of what would be the twins 2nd birthday Monday, I saw twins BOTH sucking on an elephant blankie. There has been tons of times that elephants have appeared at the most opportune times. Heck, as I saw this as I walked out the bathroom today:
Hard to tell, but a daddy, mommy and baby elephant with tails attached.

I take all these things as little hellos from Claudie. I don't know that they are. In fact, I thought it might have just been a phenomena that happens that once something becomes important to you you notice it more. Like when you notice all your home state license plates when you visit another state. 

But perhaps no crazier elephant "sign" has appeared than on the morning of Claudie's first birthday. A local news station posted a picture of the sun rise. The post below the picture read something like this, "do you see what we see? Pretty cool huh?" I can't find the picture. Oh I wish I knew where it was.
But in the sky was a picture of AN ELEPHANT! Not only was it amazing there was a cloud in the shape of an elephant but it was amazing because I had prayed that God would show me a cloud that would make me feel Claudie close to me for months prior. I constantly looked to the sky and nothing.  Then the sunrise...on her birthday none-the-less. I know it was ordained from above (as is everything).

From that moment I knew that these signs are the Holy Spirit's way of letting me feel comfort from above. I am curious to know what signs you have seen and what you think they mean.

Monday, February 17, 2014

They Matter: My letter to the Kansas MISSing Angels Bill HB 2613

I have the distinct honor of presenting my story for someone to read in front of a public hearing for HB 2613. This is a bill wherein babies born still in Kansas would be issued a Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth.

I have said before why this matters, but  I will list some of the bigger reasons again:
Legal reasons. Taxes and other logistical things become a nightmare proving your child actually existed.

For lineage. How will my great great granddaughter ever know she had a great-great Aunt Claudie?

But without a doubt the biggest reason is: THEY MATTER! Our children matter. Whether they took a breathe on this side of the womb or not, they are human beings and should have the basic right to be seen as one with a birth certificate. Our children existed.

Below is my letter to the be read at the public hearing. You all have been so supportive of us thus far and I would love your honest (but kind) input in what you think of the letter:

Claudette Elyse Elliott was born on November 29, 2012 at 38 ½ weeks old in Shawnee Mission, KS. Time of birth 11:30am. Time of death 11:30am. She was a chubby-cheeked, button-nosed, wavy-haired beauty! She weighed just three ounces shy of TWELVE POUNDS. No wonder I could barely walk almost the whole last trimester.  She was perfect in almost every way. Ten toes. Ten fingers. Eye lashes for miles. But Claudette’s heart was broken, enlarged to be exact. We had only found out about this the day before.

Surreal is the only word I have to described the day she was born. We named her Claudette, in honor my mom Claudette who died six months previously. After deciding on the name, I looked up its meaning: “dies young.” Well, that was true for my mom, but lightening doesn’t strike twice, right? We added a strong middle name to offset the glim meaning, “Elyse”. It means “God’s promise”. We had no clue how fitting her name would prove to be.

I decided I did not want to take pictures of her. I mean why would you want to remember such a horrible day, right? But November 29, 2012 with all its tragedy is the most beautiful day I have ever experienced. It had all the markings of any other birth. Family. Friends. Cries. Excitement.  As soon as Claudie came out, I was scared to hold her. As my husband gently handed her warm body to me, I knew I would never be the same. She was there! Her soul was present. I lost it. The last 24 hours had been a blur and filled with confusion, but then a large dose of reality smacked me in the face. My child was dead. I was holding my child…and she was dead.

It was too much for me to take and I tried to numb my pain with details. Some details any mom handles after delivery. PICTURES! I changed my mind. I wanted pictures and lots of them. So thankful that a friend was wise enough to call Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a photography agency that does professional portraits of your child that has died at no cost to the family. OUTFIT. What did I want her to wear? I had known this for months so it was a no brainer. VISITORS. My family and friends all held her. No one was untouched by her presence.

Other details were things only a mother who has lost a baby will understand. What funeral home? When should her body be taken for the autopsy? Do we let her brother Henry, 4, and sister Amelie, 3, see her? We decided Henry would and Amelie shouldn’t. I will question that decision for the rest of my life. How do we say goodbye? Still haven’t figured out that one, so I decided I just wouldn’t.

Then there were questions that came in the days following. What flowers? What colors of flowers? What should the funeral look like? Who should speak? Is the house clean? When should we have the funeral? When will I be discharged? Will I need a wheelchair for the visitation? Should we do it now or wait til after my father has recovered from his quadruple bypass? Yes, that’s right. My dad suffered a massive heartache while writing his granddaughter’s eulogy in my hospital room. Losing both of his Claudettes was too much for him to bear.

I had dozens and dozens of questions. I was so confused.  So tired. I didn’t know how to navigate this new found trauma, while recovering physically from the Cesarean. I was guided ever so gently by a grief coordinator our hospital provided.  She answered each question. We were told after her birth we could have a birth certificate but it was basically just something the hospital would provide for us as a memento. No real legal value. I nodded. Never remembering what became of that conversation.

Days passed. Her funeral passed. Her headstone came. We were drowning. Emotionally. Physically. Financially. I had not been able to work my long 12 hour shifts as a transplant nurse because of the difficult pregnancy. After Claudie’s death, the thought of returning to a hospital to work right away was too much for me to bear. We needed monetary support. I had remembered seeing in a work email that my company offered something called a Hope Fund for situations like these. I called. I was told all they would need was a birth certificate and death certificate. I called my husband to ask if we had the documents, not remembering what had happened weeks earlier in the hospital. We had nothing to present them.

It was the first time I realized, it was like in the rest of the world’s eye she didn’t really exist.  I started to think about how she would never show up on documents and no one would ever realize after we were gone that she even was here. This catapulted me into making sure everyone I came into contact with knew of her. I started a facebook page, “In Loving Memory of Claudette Elyse”. I started a grief blog. I started a project, “Kisses for Claudie” wherein random acts of kindness in her name were performed.  I spoke her name often and loudly. I honored her as only I knew how and try to make sure everyday she is proud of her mommy.

And as each day goes by she teaches more and more about life and love. The most important lesson she has taught me is EVERY LIFE MATTERS. Claudette Elyse is our daughter. She is Henry and Amelie’s baby sister. She will hopefully one day be a big sister to our adopted child. She is a granddaughter. She is a niece. She is a cousin. She is a HUMAN BEING. Having a Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth won’t bring her back, but it will help her be seen as just that. No less. No more.

My name is Alyvia Elliott. I am Claudette Elyse’s mom. I am her voice. I, and the 1 in 130 mom’s who give birth to a baby that has died, will NOT stop saying our babies names. We will not sit down. We will not stop fighting for our children, because THEY MATTER!

Thank  you for taking the time to ensure our children’s lives count.


Monday, February 10, 2014

{Tips for Saving a Relationship after Loss}

So yesterday's post, Love and Loss was super hard to actually post. But there is no turning back now. It went viral in 24 hours. So now you all know about my marriage woes.

In addition to my husband's and my flushed cheeks from embarrassment this am, we also woke up to dozens of emails and comments that told us how they were struggling or had struggled in their marriage through loss. Not just baby loss, but loss of what they may be used to or perhaps a disease that makes it difficult to maintain the same lifestyle they once had and on and on.

I should state clearly I am in no way a therapist. I am struggling, have struggled, and will continue to struggle with my marriage this I know. But I also got inspired to write some things that I have found helpful and those things I haven't.

1. Talk about your child.
This was a hard one for in the beginning. Claudette shares my mom's name, whom had passed shortly before our daughter, and it was very difficult to be "reminded" of that loss daily. I would hear the kids constantly say her name. That was different. I remember first hearing my husband say, "Claudette". It was during a prayer for her and my safety shortly before she was born. I think my love for him grew right then and there and continues to grow every time I hear him say it since.

2. Don't talk about your child.
This one seems kind of harsh, but my husband helped me understand he is different than I. Sometimes he just wants to watch a movie and not be reminded of reality. It's okay to take breaks from reality (yes I know it always in the back of our minds).

3. Do something to bring your child into the holidays or celebrations.
Holidays are stressful. Not having a loved one there makes it all the more stressful. Pain equals anger too quickly and if you add stress to that combination you are just looking for something to go wrong, so why not just be clear about it from the beginning. My son helped with this one. Several weeks before Christmas, he suggested we buy a baby Christmas tree for Claudette. So I did. You should have seen my husband roll his eyes when I walked in the door with it. No we didn't have money for it. Yes it was a real and would get needles everywhere.  But I never had to turn the lights on the tree each evening, because my husband already had. It gave him a way to express his love for his daughter.

4. If you having a rough day, use a signal.
This was a really great tip I got from fellow baby loss mom. Sometimes it is just too hard to say what is bothering you, so have a candle that is lit if you are particularly sad at some points. I bought one and it sits on our coffee table. If Dustin gets home and sees it, he knows I am having a rough day. I even caught him lighting once. It is a great tool to let the other person know, I need you.

5. Have sex.
Well I have already let the cards on the table in our last post about our lackluster sex life so I might as well continue. Sex is important! Very important to marriage. You may think there is NOTHING less appealing than it after losing a child, but sometimes it is a great way to be reminded of the intimacy that you both so desperately need. As time drifts on, it may be harder to connect. Have sex anyway. It may be the only way you have to "communicate" at the time.

This may sound silly, but our marriage slipped away when I started wondering off to the guest room or couch to avoid at first his horrible snoring...and frankly his sleeping. It made me mad my husband could sleep, let alone snore throw such enormous grief. HOW DARE HE! As time went on  I started to resent my husband for how much he slept. The nights is when all my anxieties came to the surface and I had to think about them through a polar bear next to me growling. Now, I realize his need for sleep (and LOTS of it). It is really a manifestation of his grief. He immerses himself in work to avoid reality. I immerse myself in reality to avoid grief. No one way is better than the next. But if I would wonder off to sleep in another bed, I find the mornings the same bitterness is there. If I just stay in bed, something as simple as our feet rubbing against each other in the middle of the night help re-connect us.

7. Leave.
Leave the house. Leave the house. Leave the house. It is so important to get a change of scenery. No you don't have to spend money. But go on a date. Family dates work too. We set it in stone. Monday nights we go out together. It is something we look forward to every week and makes the weekends way less dreaded. Don't be too jealous. Often it is a family trip to the grocery store.

8. Stay.
There is a fine line between going lots of place and well...going lots of places. In other words, sometimes it is just too much for one partner to bare. Take time at home. Make it your safe place. A place you can scream, cry and laugh without judgment. Dustin and I have spent many a Saturdays hiding in our bed all day. It is so important for the grieving process I think. {Warning: others don't understand this one, and will take it as depression.}

9. Say no.
Control, of loss thereof, is one the hardest things about losing a child. If you could control things you wouldn't have lost your child. Your marriage and other relationships would not be falling apart. But you quickly realize after loss, you are NOT in control. A way to keep some semblance of control however is to simply say, "no". It gives you power. Saying no to a friend who wants to go out. Saying no to your spouse. If you say "yes" when you mean "no" it builds resentment. Resentment ends relationships. End of story.

10. Say yes.
Okay, okay! Yes, it may seem I am contradicting everything I just said above, but you know those times when you aren't sure or not if you should go. I mean you kinda want to, but then you have to get dressed and put on a bra. Well, but on a bra ladies. It may save your marriage.

11.  Ask.
I cannot tell you how many times I needed my husband to just ask me something. Then the day finally came, "are you okay?" I lost it! I mean ugly cry lost it. "No," I snorted through the tears. Then the next thing happened that may have saved our marriage, "I want to take you out!" What?! You want to take baggy-eyed, yoga pant wearing me out? "You look cute! Let's go." I am telling you guys, no matter what the circumstances, telling a gal she looks cute gets her every time!

12. Don't ask.
"What's the matter?" What do you mean what's the matter?! Have you not been a participant in the last year?! GEESH! AM I ALONE!!! That all goes on in my head. Answer said aloud: "Nothing."
Sometimes actions speak way louder than words. Sometimes we just need a partner and not a grief partner...someone to pitch our butt when we walk by or wink at us from across the room. Oh man, winking that's the best. I can't wink (I know. I am defective.) But my husband does a mean wink. He does it all the time. He is super quite, but when he winks at me, I know. I know he is thinking about me. He does this all the time from when we are sitting watching TV to when I a laying in a hospital bed ready to deliver a stillborn.

13. Be honest.
This is perhaps the most important thing. If you aren't feeling it, be frank about it. Sometimes just talking through emotions help us understand our emotions better and we are more likely to overcome them. 

14. Love is a choice. Choose it.
One of the above mentioned messages I got was this:

Someone commented that it was a depressing quote, because the more we know each other the more we see their flaws. But I think it also beautiful. To love someone despite all flaws, to embrace each other against all odds and circumstances, to choose a flawed person out of billions of other flawed ones, that is love!

This is love!