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!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Love and Loss

With Valentine's coming up, I can't help thinking about our marriage. Mr. Elliott and I.

Since the loss of the twins in 2011, we have had deep peaks and plunges in our relationship. More of the latter.

Grief is hard. A death of child tears away the core of your being and adds kerosene to issues you might have already been coping with in your marriage.

A few months after the miscarriage, our marriage took a very bad turn. One we had never had before. It was hard I think mostly, because I was still so broken and my husband who had not bonded with the twins didn't understand my loss.

Then there was the loss of my mom. My mom was so close to not only me but my husband. So a barely bandaged relationship was again ripped open by loss.

It was a very hard time financially as well. I wasn't working much, if any, because of the difficult pregnancy with Claudette.

They say money, sex, and death are the key factors for tearing relationships apart. Since we had little of the first two and our fair share of the last, our relationship was hanging. Grasping by a string really.

This is no way to bring a child into the world, and we were about to. Then we lost Claudette. Dustin and I went simultaneously into shock. Every time our eyes met, tears filled them and we were forced to look away. This went on for months and months. The first year of her passing we grasped onto each other like Jack and Rose during the sinking of the Titanic.  (Although I think I moved over more than Rose so "Jack" could actually get on the raft.)

It wasn't until her first birthday that our already fragile ship, sunk. It was ugly and loud and hateful.
I was leaving for the birthday memorial and I asked where the kids coats were. A simple fight over where they were turned into World War 3. Words were said that should never been said to people that live in the same planet, let alone ones that love each other.

It began a downward spiral. It was a lonely time for us. I was sad. Dustin was sad. We both acted wrongly on many accounts. I would lie if I said I didn't question divorce. I never was able to act on it. I would like to say it was because of my moral convictions or because of the covenant we made before God, but at times it was just because we were too lazy to fight anymore. Then a day came late last month, where all hell broke loose. I told Dustin I would NOT leave him, but he needed to know I was NOT happy and I felt I had already "lost" him.

Several hours later, in the wee hours of the morn as it often falls, Dustin came to me. He was teary-eyed. I was teary-eyed. We were depressed. We were stressed. We were overwhelmed. We held each other and promised something to each other to:

 that we would not make the death of our daughter, the death of us.

That is no small promise either. It is estimated upwards of 80-90% of marriages end in divorce after the lose of a child. Reality check! But it a promise we made to each other seven years ago too.
"In sickness and health. In good times and in bad."

Tonight my sweet friend and nurse who helped deliver Claudette sent us me this picture.
I had never realized it before, but she pointed out our hands make a heart.
So to my Valentine after 7 years of marriage and over 16 years of being in each others lives
thanks for making my heart whole!  
I choose you,
In sickness and health
For better or for worse
Til {our} death do us part.
photo cred: Maggie Bainbridge

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Not a Waste

Two days before he died, my husband and I watched Doubt. It was yet another example of how one of Philip Seymour Hoffman's movies can change your perspective on things.

I remember thinking when it was over, how many incredible movies he had made and how many more he would make. Truth be told I thought he was more in his late 50s not 46, but still I thought he had decades left of cinema brilliance.

When I heard the news he had died I was not surprised. He looks washed up and hung-over on the red carpet, so it doesn't take a rocket scientist to deduct he may have been using something.

I also consider him almost genius like. Watching a movie he was in is almost uncomfortable. It is like he transcends the screen and you are actually in the room wherein the scene is taking place. Geniuses are troubled, whether famous or not. So it goes to reason, that often they seek solace, perhaps from their own minds, in substances that numb.

But what I can't seem to get off my mind, is the comment I keep showing up on feeds,


Perhaps, you have seen it too. Or maybe the less hurtful one,

"He had so yet to give, what a waste of talent."

I get the sentiment I suppose, but what a misguided and frankly hateful comment.

His life was not a waste. He was human being. A human being that was with a person I follow on FB days before at their son's basketball practice. A human being that changed many through his movies. A human being, who was flawed like us all, and ended up with the worst possible outcome because of his choices. A human being whose life mattered just as much as my children's.

Since I have lost a child, I always go right to the mother and what she must be going through. Remember, his mother (the mother with which he wanted us to congratulate for his Oscar) is somewhere mourning. Think of how she sees her son. Think of how you would want one to see your child if they passed, no matter the circumstances.

So let's do what is best to do at these tragic times: learn from his mistakes in his death, but not create our own mistakes by belittling his life.