Monday 29 September 2014

Hope's 3rd Birthday

3:17pm, 29th September, 2011 a nurse put Hope's tiny body into my arms and I caught a glimpse of Heaven. That day was one the best and worst of my life. I saw the beauty of what life could be, and I felt my heart break as I watched it slip away. It was so traumatic that there are still patches that are fuzzy or blank. But when it comes to my baby girl, my tiny, perfect, treasured daughter...I remember everything. The warmth of her skin, the feel of her tiny hands on my chest, the way her feet fit so neatly in the palm of my hand, marvelling at her sweet face...willing so hard for her to open her eyes, for her hand to wrap around my finger, to feel her breathe, to keep her warm as her skin began to get cold. Breathe, baby girl, breathe. I'm so sorry, I tried, darling, I tried. I love you so much, so so much... 

On the 29th of September, 2012, I wrote her name in the sand at Sumner in Christchurch. I felt so much love for my baby, and felt her near to me as I remembered her, talked about her, wrote her name in the sand and cuddled her pink teddy bear. The day was gentle on my heart, and I was able to smile and feel so proud and happy to be her mama.

 Fast-forward a year, 29th September 2013, things had changed again. My best friend had become my partner, I was facing different challenges with my health, and I couldn't stop thinking about the things my heart needed to know; like what colour her eyes would have been, would her hair be curly or straight, would she have been a redhead like her nana? My heart felt heavy with another years worth of milestones I had missed with her. I went to another beach and write her name in the sand. I sat with her teddy and remembered how her tiny body fit so perfectly in my hands. I remembered, I wondered, I celebrated, I cried and I wished things could be different.

 29th September, 2014. Hope would have turned 3 years old today. My fiance and I had a picnic with pink cupcakes down by the lake. The weather was forecast as rainy and horrible, which was such a disappointment , but when we looked out the window it was brilliant blue skies! For weeks, I had been going through what I wanted to do for her birthday and imagined how lovely it would be down beside the lake. And it was. Ducks, Pukekoes, Sparrows, all enjoying the warmth of the Spring sun. It was windy, really windy, which meant my attempt at writing Hope in daisies failed, which led to frustrated-wind-hating tears. Of course, I wasn't really crying over the daisies. I missed my girl, and I was frustrated that I'm writing her name in different ways just to see it again, instead of calling her name and having her with me. They were missing-my-girl tears. Cuddled up feeding the sparrows the remains of a cupcake that had suffered at the hands of the wind, I imagined how things would be different.

 Today, another year has passed. Another years worth of smiles, sloppy kisses, late nights, early mornings and 1000 other things I miss without her here. Today was different. Today, she felt further away than ever. Maybe it's the number that's getting me- three years. THREE. How can it be that long since I held her? Today, I missed her. Today, I mourned her. Today, I felt the weight of all the birthdays to come. Today, I don't know if I can face having to do this every year for the rest of my life. Today, I just want my baby girl back.

 In three years, Hope has inspired me to be a better person. A more patient person, a more loving person, a more grateful person. At least, I would like to think so. It's not everyday, though. There are still more days than I would like to admit that I would rather curl up under the covers and hide from the world than go outside. Or eat. Or do anything but hide. I cry more than I would like, and more often than not at things that I wouldn't have cried at before. Little things get to me, insignificant things can leave me sobbing. I don't know how long it will be until this passes. Maybe it will never pass. Perhaps, I'll just learn to live with it.

 Today as I sat beside the lake, I thought about how amazing things are right now. I am less than a fortnight away from being a wife to the most wonderful man I have ever met. We are starting our life together in a beautiful city, in one of the most incredible places in the world. I am so thankful for my life, and the people in it. I am living the life I want, a life I could barely dream of. I guess that's something else I need to learn, though. That it's ok to be happy. That's it more a tribute to my daughter's life that I live with love and thankfulness than hide away. I don't have to be sad to remember her, I don't have to mourn to keep her close to me. She is no further away if I am smiling, or weeping. And it's an honour to live a life I am proud of, to live for both of us and continue her legacy.

  My darling girl, I love you so much and wish you the happiest of birthdays. Even though I can't be with you, know I am thinking about you, loving you, celebrating you, and longing for the day when I finally get to hold you again. Until then, I will keep you in my heart. Mama loves you, sweetpea. Happy 3rd Birthday.

Monday 18 November 2013

Hope's Story

I am not afraid to talk about my daughter. I used to be. I used to wonder what people would think of me, of her. Would they understand? Would they think something was wrong with her? Would they think it was my fault? 

I now stand proudly and tell people that I have a daughter in heaven. I am proud to be her mama, and no matter what happens I will never deny that she lived, no matter how briefly.

But one thing that I haven’t done, not a single time, is explain in detail the story of her life here on Earth. Namely, her conception, her life in my belly, her birth and her death. 

I know other baby loss parents have, and I am not saying that it is a bad thing. To share that loss in detail, to be that vulnerable, is such a wonderful act of compassion as it can help so many others in their journey. Please do not interpret what I am about to say as a judgement on them, or any other mama.

I haven’t shared Hope’s story with anyone because, to me, I feel like it would validating someone else's need to be convinced that she lived. Or that her life was somehow long enough or special enough or miraculous enough to be considered worthy of remembering. 

Her conception and my pregnancy with her are very sensitive subjects and I do not share them lightly because I do not want Hope’s life coloured by these. She cannot be defined by how she came to be, and I will not let it be a reason for people to judge myself or her.

The day she left me, the day she was born and the day she died, will remain in my memory as the best and worst moments of my life. Never have I experienced love of such depth, or a connection so intimate that permeated my soul. I have never felt such strong emotions. Such joy, such overwhelming grief and sadness. Never have I ever felt so confused or ever questioned more my faith in God’s plan. 

All of this I felt in the space of a few short hours. The time from when I knew something was wrong to walking out of the hospital with an empty womb and  broken heart wouldn’t have been more than most people spend watching television everyday. 

In all honesty, and I say this with all the love in the world for my little girl, her birth and death were anti-climactic. She slipped silently into this world, her tiny heart stopped beating and she died. Nothing that doesn’t happen every day, all over the world. It’s so common and tragic and wrong that it seems almost hard sometimes to imagine how any baby makes it into this world alive at all. 

That day was and is the single most personal event in my whole life, and while there may come a day when I feel I want to share it, it still remains the only time I spent with my daughter and that is something I am not willing to give up just yet. 

Hope’s story to me is not confined to dates and times and memories and stories. It is so much more than that, SHE is SO much more than that. 

Her story continues with every person I meet who tells me that they have lost a baby as well. It is alive every time I get to give a grieving family a picture of their angel. The legacy of hope and love that she is leaving with each person who hears about her is living on far longer than her short life on Earth. 

And THAT is her story. I want her to be known, I want her to be remembered, I want her to be loved. I want people to know that she lived, she was here, she was important, she was wanted and so, so loved. And I believe that I can do that so much more through her legacy, through my ministry with parents, through the people I meet and the friends I make. 

It won’t make her anymore “real” to people, or any less gone to me by sharing the intimate details of her birthday. That is something only Hope and I shared, and it is something that will most likely stay that way.

So please, if you want to know more about her life please feel free to ask me privately. But know that there are things that I haven’t shared for a reason, and try not to be offended if I fail to go into detail.

And please, please think of Hope in terms of what her life is doing for others and help me to make sure that her life and her legacy are not overshadowed by her death.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Let Her Go

So much has happened recently, I can barely put it into words. It feels like life has never been so full, so empty, so beautiful, so painful or so complicated.

Where should I start? Firstly, it has been 6 months and 2 days since my Grandma Betty passed away. She spent her whole working life teaching primary school and she was one of the first people I called when I was accepted into Teacher’s College. It has been 6 months without hearing her voice. 6 months
without her hugs. 6 months. 6 months. 6 months.

I have just spent the last few weeks on my first professional practice in a school, teaching a class of twenty-eight 11 and 12 year olds. It was amazing, and I wholeheartedly believe that teaching is where I should be. Every day I would learn something new, and every day I had new things I wanted to tell my Grandma about. Every day I came home with the same heaviness that comes with wanting to talk to someone, but knowing they aren’t on the other end of the phone.

My Grandma lived life to the full, and delighted in the simple joys life had to offer. While in a class I was stuck daily of all the things I love about life, little things that Grandma taught me make up life. it was also these simple things that I know I will never get to do with Hope. Simple things like school assemblies and kids going up to get their first certificate; reading spelling words out just like my mama did with me; seeing children learn and grow and live everyday.

I never realised how unpredictable my emotions would be while on my pracitce. I anticipated some emotions, after all I was going to be around children and that was obviously going to be hard. But I could handle it, right? I mean, I figured that I knew what things would set me off, and I was ready. I was prepared. I really should try and stop thinking like that! Not only was I unprepared for the different moments that did set me off, I also underestimated the sharpness and the ferocity with which those moments would come.

A little 5 year old coming and giving me a hug.

Working through a math problem with one of my students.

Saying good morning to my students as they entered the classroom every morning with their parents.

All moments that made my soul lift up. All moments that brought back the crushing blow of my own reality-that I will never have moments life this with my girl. All moments that I will never get to share with my Grandma.

And all through the busyness and the paperwork and the teaching and the learning and the joy of being where I wanted to be, questions kept rolling round and round the back of my mind. One in particular, kept poking through to the forefront of my thinking. What colour would her eyes have been?

An educated guess would say blue, like most of my family. And that’s nice to think about, Hope being part of the family and sharing this special trait. But there’s a roadblock to this, and it’s a big one for me. I don’t know that her eyes were blue because I never got to see them. That irreplaceable, unmatchable moment when a mama gets to look into her baby’s eyes for the first time is a moment I will forever mourn. That moment has been going round and round in my head and shows no sign of moving out. Every time I try to consol myself and convince myself that she would have had blue eyes like me, like her nana and aunty and great-grandparents, there’s still a small voice that says “but you don’t really know, do you?”.

Getting to see children learn and smile and sing and breathe and live will never be any less of a joy as it was during my time with my class. But that reminder that my baby girl will never grow up to fill one of those seats, never get to bring home her first certificate, never get to complain about math homework or delight in learning a new spelling word…that will never be any less painful.

So lately my mind has been twisting and turning trying to make sense of all this grief. Mourning my Grandma, one of my favourite people in the whole world who was always there my whole life. Mourning my baby girl, who was here for too brief a moment.

I heard a song recently by Passenger called “Let her go”, suggested by my mum. One line in particular really hit home : "You see her when you fall asleep but never to touch and never to keep because you loved her too much".

I miss my Grandma and I miss Hope. My heart has never been so broken, and my life has never been so full.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

This. Is. NOT. God.

Lately, I’ve felt and thought so many things that have damaged me, made me doubt myself, made me hate myself.

People make cruel or thoughtless comments, and instead of taking a step back and asking if it reflects them or me, a voice whispers “It’s you. It’s always you. It’s because you’re nothing. You deserve it.”

And this seems to happen so often that even though I don’t want to believe, I feel it slipping it. and it sounds so much like my own voice, surely it’s true? Each time I feel like I’ve taken a step forward something happens to bring me to my knees.

So it must be me. I am the common link here. It must be my fault. And if all of this is my fault, surely I don’t deserve anything. Even God’s grace. Even to know God at all.

But I have to keep telling myself, telling my soul- screaming at my soul- that THIS IS NOT GOD. He is not putting the words in my head that say “it’s impossible, nobody loves you, I can’t go on, I can’t do it, I’m not able, I’m unforgivable.” That’s the ENEMY talking, NOT my God.

MY god says that ALL things are possible (Luke 18:27), that HE loves me (John 3:16 & John 3:34), that HIS grace is sufficient (II Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15), that I can do ALL things through Him (Philippians 4:13), that HE is able (I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1), and that HE forgives me (I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1).

It feels like the enemy has really done a number on me lately, and is upping his game. His voice sounds like mine, his words sound like mine. And the further he pushes, the more he tells me that I don’t deserve anything, the further he pushes for me to doubt the very faith that keeps me.

But I have BIG God. Who loves me. Who has forgiven me. Who gives me mercy and grace every single day even though I fail him every single day.

I have a God who died for me.

THAT is the truth. Not that other rubbish. So even when the words sink in, and whispers cut like knives I need to remember that my Heavenly Father loves me, and doesn’t wish for me to feel this way.

Father God, I thank you with all my heart and being that You call me your child and that You are who You are-yesterday, today and tomorrow. I cry out to you. I am in pain and need you so. Please let me feel your comforting hand upon me. Shield me from the enemy’s barbs and help me to forgive those that you have already forgiven-especially myself. And please, Lord, as my heart breaks right now, please hug my darling once for me, and tell her that Mama is going to be okay, because Mama has a awesome God. Amen.

Friday 9 November 2012

Today was a good day...

(I wrote this on Friday)

Today was a good day

Well, it wasn’t. But it was… Let me explain.

The other night I ended up in the ER again with an ailment the doctors couldn’t do anything about. They sent me home in pain, and I had a frustrating sleepless night. The next morning, I was sick from not being able to eat and exhausted from not sleeping. I had accidentally left my cell phone at the hospital so the day would involve a trip in to retrieve it, and pick up some medication.
I tried to eat something and keep it down. It was not easy. Having been sick like this before, I knew what I needed to do to help my body recover, but recently it feels like it gets harder to come back each time.

In the early afternoon, I began to feel a bit brighter so prepared for the trip back into hospital. I was tired, sore and not in a good mood. I was worried that I would faint from not eating, or my body would throw another tantrum and I would end up back in hospital. Suffice to say, I was not happy.

So, I picked up my phone (which had a completely flat battery by this time), and picked up my medication.  I hated being back there, even if I wasn’t a patient. It’s a scary place to me (not an unusual feeling, I do realise!) and anything that involves going anywhere near it generally makes for a pretty bad day.

As I was walking out, I suddenly realised how lovely the weather was. I decided on the spot to go for a walk in the nearby Botanic gardens. For those who know me, spontaneity (even for things as small as this) isn’t just a rare occurrence- it simply doesn’t happen at all! So anyway, I came to a seat overlooking the river. It was a perfect moment- the sun, the ducks, the air, everything just felt quiet and peaceful. And for the first time in days, I wasn’t in pain or feeling sick.

And I started to pray.

Not in any formal, organised way that ticks off bulleted pointed prayer points. No, this was like talking to an old friend I hadn’t visited in a while. I realised, sitting on that seat, looking at the beauty before me, how little I have been talking to God recently. I read somewhere a quote that I rather liked: “If you only talk to God when you’re in trouble-you’re in trouble!” It came to my mind as I sat there, and almost felt embarrassed. Because I was in trouble. Thankfully, so thankfully, it wasn’t God who made me feel this way-it was me. He is still there, exactly where He promised me He’d be. And when my heart was ready, He showed me just that.

I walked away feeling a sense of peace my heart hasn’t felt for the longest time. It felt like coming up for air. And for the first time in a long time, I felt like me again.

So, even with everything that happened, even with my health and all the little things that niggle and make for a bad day, I had a good day. Because in all of the all too familiar darkness, I got to spend some much needed time with my God.

Monday 5 November 2012

Today I feel...

It’s so hard to put into words the plethora of emotions that grief throws at you. Sometimes, actually a lot of the time, emotions are merged with each other, a giant balloon of swirling thoughts and feelings threatening to burst and overwhelm you. Sadness…joy…pain…anguish…guilt…So much of the time it’s hard to identify just one or two emotions that you’re feeling at any given moment, let alone communicate them or put them into words. But in this moment I have to be able to know what I’m feeling, say what’s going on and put it into words otherwise the feelings will simply consume me. So I’ll try. Bear with me, I am less than succinct and tend to ramble!

Today I feel…sad. I miss my daughter, I want to see her and hold her more than I want to take my next breath. I’m sad because I look around and she’s not here. I cry because my arms ache to hold her, and they are empty. I feel sad because my grandmother has only been given a few weeks more on this earth. I’m sad because there are so many things that I want her here for. I’m sad because I know she must be exhausted, and the woman I have grown up with was passionate and lively. I’m sad because it seems so cruel how time and disease has ravaged her body. I’m sad because I miss my daughter, whose life was so brief, and I’m sad because my grandmother’s long life is almost over.

Today I feel…embarrassed. There are many things that I have said and done in this past year that make me cringe. Mistakes I have made that can never be undone. Things I have said to people that can never be forgotten. Trips, falls, slips and tumbles that I failed to recover from. Obstacles and challenges that I failed to handle gracefully, and instead made things worse for myself and those around me. I feel embarrassed that I have not handled this year as well as I would have liked. I feel I should be better than that, that I should be able to meet life’s challenges and rise above them. Triumph over the road blocks and detours and come out the other side, wiser and stronger. I feel like I should have, but I have not. It’s been over a year, and I feel like I have barely moved from where I was, weeping an agonised farewell to my daughter. I feel stuck, I feel like a failure. And for that, I feel embarrassed.
Today I feel…guilty. I have let myself and the people around me down so many times in the last few months I am truly surprised that I have anyone left in my life at all. I am astounded that more people have not turned and walked away. And even the surprise I feel at people’s continued compassion and kindness shows how distrusting I am of them and their intentions. And that makes me feel guilty, underestimating those around me makes me ashamed of myself. I also know that the problems I am facing are so consuming me that I have been unable to be there for the people I care about. I have not been able to be who they need me to be, do what I they need me to do. And after all the help I have received this year, this makes me feel guilty.

Today I feel…lonely. I miss my family, and wish that I could be with them. I try to explain how I’m feeling and few understand and meet me where I am at. While I know I am not alone, these feelings and tiny crises make me feel lonely, longing for just one person to understand what it is I ask for, what my heart longs for and my soul needs.

So the balloon above me swirls with colours I now recognise, nonetheless powerful enough to overwhelm me, but familiar insofar that should the balloon burst, I do not fear that it will end me.