Thursday, December 31, 2009

My reflection of 2009

I can't believe we've come to the point where a new year is ready to begin. 2009 has been quite a year-one of the toughest and greatest of my life. I can't even remember what I did last New Year's Eve. It was just a few days after we got back from our trip to Hawaii. More than likely I slept through it. That's what I have done most years. I am not a night person.

But tonight I find myself awake and reflecting on the past year. So, here is a recap of some of the moments in our journey with Carleigh...

January 5 - I started Carleigh's blog and we met with the funeral home to begin going over pre-arrangements for Carleigh's funeral.

January 8 - I had my first OB appointment after Carleigh's fatal diagnosis and presented Dr. F with our birth plan.

January 21 - More pre-arrangements with the funeral home.

January 25 - Bought Carleigh's plot at the cemetery. We also bought ours so that we would be together.

February 1 - We told our church family about Carleigh fatal diagnosis.

February 11 - We had our 3D/4D Ultrasound and it was wonderful to see our little girl so clearly!

February 18 - Had a maternity photo session done by our NILMDTS photographer.

February 27 - Felt Carleigh have the hiccups for the first time.

March 6 - Received packages in the mail to officially enroll in the Duke study on anencephaly.

March 10 - Birth plan updated and finalized.

March 14 - A prayer shower was given for us and it was amazing.

March 20 - Had my last ultrasound that showed Carleigh's growth had fallen even further behind. I decided it was time to move forward with an induction.

March 21 - I threw a belly casting party so that some of my girlfriends from high school and some of my family could help me create a belly cast.

March 23 - Last OB appointment and set induction for March 27.

March 24 - Met with the funeral home to go over final arrangements for Carleigh.

March 27 - Went to the hospital in the early morning for my induction. Had many family and friends there for us and who stayed the whole day and night. I updated my progress on Carleigh's blog.

March 28 - At 3:49 am, Carleigh McKenna was born still. She weighed 3 lbs 15 oz and was 13 1/2 inches long. A beautiful and perfect little girl.

March 29 - We left the hospital and took Carleigh to the funeral home and then went home.

March 30 - We returned to the funeral home to dress Carleigh in her burial outfit. My milk also came in this day and I started pumping and storing milk.

March 31 - I wrote Carleigh's birth story.

April 3 - Carleigh's first visitation.

April 4 - Carleigh's second visitation and funeral service.

April 9 - I had a 2 week check-up with my dr to see how I was doing.

April 19 - Made our first visit to Carleigh's grave since her burial.

April 27 - My milk finally dried up and I quit pumping. I was able to pump over 300 oz for my cousin, Amber.

April 28 - 1 month without Carleigh.

April 30 - I sponsored a child from India in memory of Carleigh.

May 1 - Received news from Heidi at Duke that they were unable to do chromosome analysis on Carleigh's cord blood.

May 10 - My first Mother's Day without Carleigh

May 11 - Had my 6 week check-up with Dr. F and it was also my first day back at work.

May 16 - We held a bike run in memory of Carleigh that benefited the Neural Tube Defect Research Fund and I got a tattoo in memory of Carleigh.

May 21 - Foundation poured for Carleigh's headstone and more dirt to be put on her grave.

May 28 - 2 months without Carleigh.

May 30 - We had a pancake breakfast fundraiser to raise money for expenses and to make donations to a few places. It was a great success!

June 20 - Anthony's first Father's Day without Carleigh and also my birthday.

June 28 - 3 months without Carleigh.

July 4 - I created a corner in our flower beds to remember Carleigh and finally received our NILMDTS photos.

July 14 - I visited Carleigh at the cemetery and found that her headstone was finally up!

July 15 - I had my first dream of Carleigh.

July 18 - I wrote lyrics just for Carleigh to the song More Beautiful You.

July 19 - We visited the cemetery so that I could put flowers in Carleigh's vase on her headstone, which had just been put up.

July 28 - 4 months without Carleigh.

August 8 - We participated in the Ride 4 Grace and I got to meet Kelly from Sufficient Grace Ministries in person! It was wonderful!

August 10 - A year ago I found out I was pregnant with Carleigh.

August 21 - I met with Monica from the Mother Baby Care unit at the hospital I work and where I received Carleigh's diagnosis and delivered her. I told her I wanted to provide her with Kelly's Dreams of You memory books and comfort bears to help other families.

August 25 - I obtained copies of my records from my labor and delivery with Carleigh.

August 28 - 5 months without Carleigh.

September 28 - 6 months without Carleigh.

October 15 - I lit candles for Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

October 25 - We took a trip to Chattanooga, TN to visit the National Memorial for the Unborn and to meet up with some other loss families. What an amazing weekend!

October 28 - 7 months without Carleigh.

November 1 - I gave Carleigh some new flowers for fall.

November 6 - I saw Carleigh's memory chest made by my aunt and uncle for the first time. Breathtaking.

November 22 - I had my first public breakdown.

November 26 - Our first Thanksgiving without her.

November 28 - 8 months without Carleigh.

December 6 - I decorated Carleigh's vase for Christmas.

December 15 - One year ago this day we received Carleigh's fatal diagnosis of anencephaly.

December 24 - I visited Carleigh on Christmas Eve and sang to her.

December 25 - First Christmas without her.

December 28 - 9 months without Carleigh

So many moments made up 2009, both big and small. If I had to think of one word to describe it all I would say 'wonderful'. It truly has been a wonderful year despite the hard times. Sure, there's been heartache, but when I think of 2009 I don't think of the fact that I lost my daughter. I think of the fact that I had my daughter. I'm thankful and blessed that I got to know her and that I had time to prepare for her. This year has forever changed my life. I've loved deeper, grown stronger in faith, and so much more. I am hoping that 2010 will have great things in store for us. I have faith that God will bless us with another child. In the meantime, I'll continue on by loving my family, praising my God, living my life, and always, always remembering my baby girl.

I found a poem a while back that I think would be perfect to share now.

She is Gone
You can shed tears that she is gone
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back
or you can open your eyes and see all she's left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her and only that she's gone
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
or you can do what she'd want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
Anon

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Angel Tree

I have a small Christmas tree. It's nothing really extravagant. Just a small, fiber optic tree from Dollar General but it sure lights up pretty. I'm a sucker for fiber optic lights and all the changing colors. Well, I decided that this tree would be my angel tree this year. I didn't get fancy at all in decorating it. Maybe next year. This year I just hung all of my angel ornaments on it. Next year it might be a good idea to get something with a little sturdier branches. I wonder if I could get one with fiber optic lights?

Here is a full view of this year's angel tree:

It's much prettier when the lights are on but it didn't really make for a good picture.

There were many this year that contributed to our angel tree and I send each of you my many thanks!

I received 2 ceramic ornaments (one for both Carleigh & Jordan) from April @ Our Broken Hearts, 2 gold angels engraved with Carleigh & Jordan's names from Sarita, a stocking for Carleigh from Ashley @ Missing Mackenzie, and 2 doilie ornaments made by Jess @ Peace Like a River, a Hallmark ornament from my coworker, Sharon, that I put Carleigh's picture in, a doilie angel from NMU for Jordan, a Reunion Heart from Celia @ Beauty From Pain that I made into an ornament, 2 bless this baby ornaments that I was able to get for both my babies thanks to Kristin @ Once A Mother, and I also hung up Carleigh's angel wings from Lea @ Nicholas' Touch.

I actually still have the angel tree up. All our decorations are still up. We'll prolly take them down this weekend. It sure was nice to be greeted by my angel tree every time I walked through our front door.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Won't be around much

I wanted to make a quick post and let everyone know that I will not be falling off the face of the earth. I no longer have internet access on our home computer thanks to some lovely viruses that decided to visit us. They've made themselves so at home that we've decided to let them keep it and get a new one since it was going downhill anyway, but unfortunately, that will not be right away. So my internet access will be very limited. I do have a few posts that I would like to make so I will be working on getting those up. I will not be able to visit and comment much on your blogs during this time and for that I apologize. I'll try to catch up when I can but it will be difficult. Just know that I'm thinking of you all! You can reach me easily through email as those can come through on my phone.

Monday, December 28, 2009

9 months

Today was 9 months since Carleigh's birth.

The day went just fine. I worked and my mind was kept engrossed enough in that and a book that I actually didn't think about it much. When I got home Hannah was getting ready to leave so I didn't get to see her much and after she left I was busy putting away all the stuff we lugged home from Christmas. That was fun (yeah right).

So, how am I doing?

I'm doing pretty well. I am happy almost every day. I have my moments when it hits me, like driving home on Sunday from Christmas. A trip that normally takes a little over 2 hours took about 4 hours because of the weather and everyone driving slow. I just felt it then so pretty much the whole way home I listened to Carleigh's complete playlist on my phone, even when I dozed off. I cried a little. It's easy for me to cry in the dark. Nobody can see me then.

It's still easier for me to get upset about things quicker and I still don't like big crowds, but I'm getting better. When I feel myself start to get irritated I talk myself down in my head. I ask myself, "Is this really worth getting upset over?" And most of the time it isn't so I self-prescribe a chill pill. Hubby is prolly the worst at getting me going. We know how to annoy each other well. He's also much better than me at making up too because I can be so stubborn.

I still try to visit Carleigh once a week but I imagine this winter it may be less because of the weather. If it doesn't get too bad I'll keep going once a week. I guess even if it does snow a lot I could keep going but I'd just have to invest in a pair of snow boots, which would be nice to have anyway.

I have finally gotten the stamps made of her hand and foot prints like I've been wanting to do for a while. They turned out pretty good and are the actual size of her prints. I actually used them for the first time last night to write a couple thank you notes. Now I can stamp them in her Dreams of You memory book. I'm almost done completing that book. Seems like I've been working on it forever.

It's hard to believe it's been 9 months already. Time slips by so fast and in just a few days we'll be welcoming a new year. God is still my Provider and Comforter. I've definitely learned in this journey that I am nothing without Him. It is Him that has carried me through all of this and I give Him all the glory.

Happy 9 months in Heaven, Carleigh. Mommy loves you!

Christmas Letter


Dear Family & Friends,
We hope that you are enjoying the Christmas season and taking time to reflect on the many blessings that the Lord has brought into your lives.
Anthony is still working for Comdoc and Holly for the hospital. We are both thankful that in the economy of today that we have jobs that provide well for us, which includes an endless supply of cardboard thanks to Anthony. Many of his parts for work get shipped to our house. Anthony takes part in a bowling league every Tuesday that he enjoys a lot. Holly’s spare time has been taken up by catching up on scrapbooks not yet finished and blogging, which is replacing the time-consuming scrapbooking.
Hannah will turn 10 on January 4 and she is in the 3rd grade. She still lives with her mom and step-dad in Louisiana. We were able to see her a couple times this year plus most of the summer. Hannah likes that Kyndra is getting bigger and able to play and talk with her more. She’s excited about her new phone that her mom gave her.
Kyndra will turn 2 on January 10. It’s hard to believe almost 2 years have gone by since she was born! She’s constantly learning new things and making us laugh. She says a lot of words and knows her numbers up to 10, although she doesn’t always get them in the right order. Her favorite shows are Dora and Diego and she gets so excited when they come on. We have quite a few Dora books that she constantly wants us to read.
Last year in our Christmas letter we announced that we were expecting another little girl. Not long after we sent our letter out we received devastating news. We found out that our daughter Carleigh had a fatal neural tube defect called anencephaly. With this defect, the portions of the brain and skull are missing. We knew that even though she might not survive to birth or live long afterward that we would carry her to term-a decision that we will never regret. Just days after we received her diagnosis, we left for Hawaii. The trip was just what we needed. We came back feeling better and ready to face the road ahead. We spent the remaining months cherishing our time with Carleigh. We had maternity photos taken, set up a 3D/4D ultrasound session, were thrown a prayer shower, and created a belly cast.
The decision was made the last week of March to go forward with an induction as Carleigh’s growth was becoming more restricted. We went in for the induction on March 27th and our precious daughter was born still on March 28th at 3:49 am. There is no doubt that the presence of God was strong in the labor and delivery room that day. A sense of peace filled the room like we have never felt before. Those moments with her were bittersweet as we celebrated and mourned her life. We held her visitation and service the following weekend. We want to thank the many people who sent us cards, gifts, flowers, and made donations. Thank you to everyone who made the trip down for her visitation and service. Having you there at such a difficult time meant a lot to us.
We are still learning how to live a life without our daughter here. We have fallen into a normal routine again but our lives feel far from normal. The grief of losing our daughter still weighs heavy on us but our faith in God keeps us from drowning in our sorrows. Carleigh is ever present in our thoughts and in our hearts and we have no doubt she will remain there until we are reunited in Heaven. We have included in this letter a small collage. We want everyone to have a small piece of our daughter. She was born silent to this world but her little life spoke volumes.
We do have 2 websites that you can visit to keep up with our family: carleighmckenna.blogspot.com & haasfamilyblessings.blogspot.com
Much love from our family to yours,
Anthony, Holly, and all our little angels

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Carleigh in Hawaii

It was a year ago that we were ending our trip to Hawaii. It was a week that gave both me and my husband an escape from the reality of December 15th-the day we found out that our daughter wasn't going to live. It was a trip to the Big Island that we all had been planning for 3 years. I'm so glad we got to spend that Christmas in such a special place. We've always enjoyed spending Christmas in Hawaii. It was Kyndra's first Christmas and Carleigh's only Christmas alive here on this earth, even if it was in my belly. I was 23 weeks along when we were there.

So to remember our time there I thought I would share some pictures of me and Carleigh enjoying Hawaii.













Carleigh, ku'u momi makamae, aloha au iā 'oe.

(Carleigh, my precious pearl, I love you.)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day

I wasn't sure how Christmas was going to go this year but so far it's been good. I think it helped that my hubby surprised me with something special. Christmas Day was spent with my family at my mom and dad's house. The girls (Kyndra and my niece Audrey) kept things entertaining for us all.

Carleigh actually received a gift! It was from my grandma, my Uncle Buck & Aunt Backy, and my Uncle Doug & Aunt Sherry. It is a beautiful soft, pink blanket with her name and birth date on it. It's hung on a cute wooden hanger. It was so nice that she was remembered!



I was going to light a candle for her but I totally forgot. I actually don't feel bad about that either. I know that Carleigh is happy that I enjoyed being with everyone. She knows she's always in my heart and I thought of her often but I just didn't remember to light that dang candle! Oh well!!

Merry Christmas Carleigh! I know that you are enjoying your first Christmas with Jesus. Mommy can only imagine how glorious it all is. Missing you and loving you always, my little star!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Eve Visit

video

Merry Christmas, Carleigh.
Jesus loves you and mommy does too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas to me!!

I received a wonderful surprise from my husband tonight. I have a piece of jewelry that I wear almost every day that is very special to me. It is a gold cross necklace that Carleigh wore for her visitation and her service. It is dainty and beautiful.


On this necklace I have placed her gold baby ring. We had it sized as small as we could. On the outside of the ring it has a beautiful design. Many times throughout the day I touch her ring and put my finger through it. It's actually become a habit now and I do it without realizing that I am.


My plan was to get a small gold pendant with Carleigh's hand print on it from My Forever Child to add to this necklace. My sneaky husband apparently asked one night about what I wanted to figure out what to get instead of just appearing interested. Sue and Anthony talked on the phone and she created my pendant. Anthony even paid for it with his work credit card and had it delivered to our neighbors' house so I wouldn't know. He went over to our neighbors' house this evening to 'supposedly' tell them that we would be gone for a few days (which I'm sure he did anyway since they keep an eye on our house) and he came back and surprised me with my pendant.


I told him I felt bad because I didn't get him anything for Christmas (that's our thing). He said it wasn't a Christmas present but just something he wanted to do for me. Ok, my heart is melting!

Thank you so much sweetie for surprising me with something I wanted so much. And thanks Sue for creating it!

25 Days of Giveaways Winners

Thank you to all who entered on my day and shared with me your acts of kindness. And now the winners, who were determined by the random name generator better known as my husband (which means he drew your name out of a basket-thanks hun!). ;)

The winner of the Fertility-Pregnancy Charm Necklace is Rachel @ The Harrison Crew who said:
When I returned from Maternity leave with Ryan I found a note in my mailbox here at the office. To my surprise it was a note from the CEO of my company expressing how sorry he was for my loss. I was floored. Here the CEO of one of the largest transportation companies in this country with over 35,000 employees took the time to hand write a note to an employee who lost their child. It reminded me how blessed I am to be surrounded on all sides by such a wonderful support system.

The winner of the Forget-Me-Not beaded bookmark is Jill @ Footprints On Our Hearts who said:
I just love everything from My Forever Child! There have been so many acts of kindness, but one important one was after we came home from the hospital without our babies we felt so alone. Share Southern Vermont contacted us to tell us they were there to guide and help us and that we were not alone. They have been a great outlet to my husband and I.

The winner of the Healing Heart Charm Necklace is Karen @ Gott Joy! who said:
Beautiful jewelry...you have a beautiful heart! I have been blessed with precious people that have loved on me during my loss. Last week someone left a candle and a card with Rebekah's mommy on the outside of the envelope. That touched me so because I was really feeling lonely at that same exact moment.

Congratulations to the winners! Please email me at caring4carleigh@yahoo.com to confirm and to get your addresses. I hope that you enjoy your pieces from My Forever Child!

Monday, December 21, 2009

25 Days of Giveaways


Thank you Tina at Living without Sophia and Ellie for hosting this wonderful event.

NOTE: These giveaways are open to all babylost mamas. If you didn't sign up to host a giveaway we still want you to participate and try to win some of these GREAT items. We want to spread happiness to everyone, not just those who are hosting a day!

I didn't find out about these wonderful giveaways until after all the days were filled up but Tina still let me participate so here is my day!! (My day is the 22nd-posting early for those living in other time zones.)

I don't think it would surprise some of you for me to say that I love helping others. It makes me happy to be able to do something for somebody else. The desire to help others has only increased since my Carleigh left me back in March.

One of the first acts of kindness shown to me after Carleigh's birth was from Sue at My Forever Child. It was the evening of Carleigh's first visitation. My pastor came and gave me a package. It was very puzzling because I wasn't expecting anything and I had no clue what it was. I opened up the package to discover a beautiful bracelet that had Carleigh's name and birth date engraved on one side and her footprints on the other. I was absolutely astonished that someone I never even knew would do something so nice for me. I didn't even know Sue was following us but our story touched her and she decided to send not only the bracelet for me but pins for my entire family to wear. Just like I wear my bracelet, my family still wears those pins.


Since then Sue and I have become quite acquainted and I have given away quite a few pieces of her jewelry and other remembrance items as well as having bought some for myself. I love having these reminders that I can either see or wear. It's nice when someone asks about your jewelry because then you have an opportunity to talk about your baby.

So, for my day I would like to give away items from My Forever Child.


The first piece is the Fertility-Pregnancy Charm Necklace. This necklace has several charms that hold a special meaning. A charm with the word 'Baby' is a visual reminder of your motherhood intentions, Our Heart Swirl with Moonstone gemstone charm promotes love, genuine rose quartz promotes the healing of broken hearts and increases the reception of love, and genuine blue chalcedony decreases negativity and depression and increases sleep and tranquility.

The second piece is a Forget-Me-Not beaded bookmark. This bookmark has art glass beads that are strung onto color coordinated waxed Irish linen cord with silver toned spacer beads and charms.

The third piece is the Healing Heart Charm Necklace. This necklace has several charms that hold a special meaning. A 'Heal' charm is a reminder to take care of your emotional and physical well being, genuine rose quartz promotes the healing of broken hearts and increases the reception of love, genuine amethyst heart is for remembrance of your loved ones, and a small heart charm is to symbolize the healing heart.

To enter this giveaway just leave me a comment and tell me of an act of kindness that someone did for you when you were hurting.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Remembering Jordan

Today it is 7 years since Jordan left this world. I debated on whether or not to share his/my story as it is not an easy one for me to share but I knew that I must for my son. So if you would like to read it you can go here.

Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance. -Viktor E. Frankl

Today is also the day we left for Hawaii a year ago, just several days after Carleigh's fatal diagnosis. A trip that would end up being really good for us.

What a week this has been!

7 years


Today it has been 7 years since Jordan went to Heaven.

I lit Jordan's memorial candle and displayed his plaque this evening to remember him.

Jordan, if you were here today you would be 6 years old as you would've most likely have been born in July. It's hard to imagine what it would be like to have a 6 year old running around the house constantly. I know your sister Kyndra would enjoy having you around and would probably bug you a lot! You know I miss you so much and wish that I could have realized how much I loved you sooner. But I want you to know that even though mommy made a mistake that your life has a great purpose. God and mommy are making sure of that! Love you always, Mommy

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A year since our world changed

Just one year ago today our lives forever changed.

It was the day we learned our daughter wouldn't live. It was the day we were given a fatal diagnosis called anencephaly. It was the day when our world came crashing down. It was the day when we picked up the pieces of our shattered lives and moved forward intent on making the most of the time we had left with her.

I didn't know how the day would go starting out. Originally I had down to take this day off of work but changed it last week. I ended up leaving work early anyway as we were slow and I had a few things to send out in the mail.

As soon as the clock hit 1 pm that's when I started reliving it all. It began with my ultrasound, getting the call, the diagnosis, and the moments following. I even did a play by play on FB just so that I could write down when each moment happened. (Thank you to everyone for your comments and support.) I was ok through it all, but now not so much.

Since putting Kyndra to bed, I've sat here and listened to I Will Carry You by Selah over and over. It's a song that I listened to many times the days following her diagnosis. I felt the music and the words and I felt the tears burning in my eyes. The words were true then and they are still true now. I will forever carry my daughter, long beyond this empty cradle. This day a year ago I carried her in my womb but today I carry her in my heart.

One of the parts in the song that actually makes my heart joyous is the part where it talks about God showing her pictures of time beginning and walking her through the parted seas. The angels singing her sweet lullabies and then saying who could love her like this? While I truly believe that no one on this earth could love my daughter as much as I love her, I also know that God loves her so much more. It can be hard to grasp because I love my daughter very, very much and to think that God loves her even more than I do?

It's quite possible I will cry myself to sleep tonight. I am going to take her fuzzy, pink blanket to bed to sleep with. It doesn't smell like her anymore but just knowing that she was wrapped in it from when she got her bath in the hospital until we laid her in her casket is enough for me. It's been many months since I have done this but tonight I need it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Very Own Angel



I would like to highlight a ministry called My Very Own Angel.

This ministry was started by my friend, Stephanie Stewart, after the loss of her 2nd son, Vayden, on May 23, 2009. I have known Stephanie since she was pregnant with Vayden and I have always connected with her. Her faith and strength is inspiring, along with her desire to help other women and families. You are truly a special woman, Stephanie, and I pray that God blesses you and your ministry.

Here is her story.....

I planned the pregnancy of my 2nd child and at a routine 18 week ultrasound we were told that we were having a boy who suffered from a lower urinary tract obstruction aka LUTO or PUV. At that time the diagnosis was poor. Just four weeks later the diagnosis became fatal. We were told that our son’s kidneys failed and that he would not live long after birth if even to that. Our options were to terminate the pregnancy, chop it up as a loss and try again later, or carry to term. I chose to carry to term. The next few months of my pregnancy was used to embrace the knowledge that I had been given, I never gave up hope, but I did prepare. I searched for support that was non-medical related. At that point I just wanted to know if I was going to die after losing my baby. I started blogging as a way to cope. It was the best thing I ever did. The families I’ve met through this mean so much to me-those before, with me and after me. Vayden James Stewart was born May 23, 2009 at 35 weeks. He lived for 3 hrs and 45 min, the most humbling, amazing and heartbreaking 3 hrs and 45 min in my life. Only a month after Vayden passed I had a need to reach out to women to help them through this journey, just as so many helped me. That’s when I started working on creating My Very Own Angel. ~Stephanie

A beautiful baby boy. So perfect and so loved.

My Very Own Angel is about healthy grieving and progressive healing. My goal is to help continue to break that 'don’t talk about it' syndrome. Your baby living or not is and will always be YOUR baby. I want everyone to see angel moms in a different light. I want people to know that we are PROUD to say “I Have My Very Own Angel”. Every chance that I get to honor Vayden is another step on my ladder. I want everyone to feel the same. ~Stephanie

What does My Very Own Angel offer?

The 345 teddy bear project is a donation of 345 teddy bears that wear angel charms around their necks. They are to be given to mothers when they hand over their baby at the hospital. The slogan is that “No woman should leave labor and delivery empty handed”. The number 345 represent the 3 hrs and 45 min that Stephanie's angel Vayden our angel was here on earth. The bears are donated in divided sets to hospitals.

As part of My Very Own Angel, Stephanie offers Carrying To Term (CTT) comfort packs. Stephanie has a soft spot for women that carry to term. The CTT packs are offered to women who make the brave choice to carry out a fatal pregnancy. They have special keepsake items inside for mom and baby. The item Stephanie is most proud about is the “Our Very Own Angel” infant caps. Care packs are provided at no cost to women who are carrying to term.

The My Very Own Angel t-shirts are a statement-making item that you can wear when you just want to tell the world “I have my very own angel”. Some women wear them to birthday parties because they know people will ask “How many kids do you have?” The MVOA shirts can be worn anytime and can be a great conversation starter

Because My Very Own Angel is not yet a 501 (c) 3 non profit, the shirt sales and small donations and out of pocket expense is how MVOA continues to run. Stephanie makes no profit or money and when she does, she hosts blog or facebook giveaways or donates to Sufficient Grace Ministries, String of Pearls, or Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep to show her appreciation for their love and support. Her heart has called her to do this because she wants women to know there is hope and that you will get through this and you can do it with grace.

In 5 years Stephanie would like to have reached out to hospitals all around the US with The 345 Teddy Bear Project. She hopes to see the number of families carrying out fatal pregnancies double and these families making the most out of carrying to term. Right now she is working with local high risk OBGYNs hoping they will allow her information in their offices. So in 5 years she hopes women who receive fatal prenatal diagnoses won’t have to hunt and search for support and she would like to see My Very Own Angel on those lists.

In 10 years, Stephanie's husband should be out of the military or close to it. They will be settled in one area so that Stephanie will be able to complete everything needed to be recognized as a non-profit by the IRS. She will finally be in place that she can call home and become well-established with the local businesses and hospitals. Stephanie knows she will be grateful for all the travel and the knowledge received over the next 10 years about other states and how they treat pregnancy and infant loss.

My Very Own Angel’s signature scripture:
“Now someone may argue, “some people have faith; others have good deeds" But I say "How can you show me your faith if you don't have good deeds?" "I will show you my faith by my good deeds" James 2:18

You can visit My Very Own Angel's website, blog, or Facebook page. You can read more of Stephanie's journey with her son Vayden on her blog Through My Mothers Eyes......Vayden's Story.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Some updates

I have a giveaway going on in Carleigh's Community so check it out! Also, on Carleigh's Community you will find photos of some of the items up for Harley's raffle. Tomorrow is the last day to enter and right now there are more prizes than people entered! The ChipIn widget is on my right sidebar. Entries are only $1 each.

I also have another giveaway on Carleigh's page.

Thank you to Sarah and Richard at Say It With Flowers for the wonderful pictures for Carleigh and Jordan. They are truly beautiful! Thank you to Heather at In This Storm for taking a picture of Carleigh's name in the sand in Hawaii. I love that her name was written there! All of these have been added to her gallery.

Thank you to Jill at Footprints On Our Hearts for the mystery gift that I won in her giveaway she had recently. What she sent me was a Butterfly Lithophane Night Light and it is beautiful! It is so pretty when it is lit up. Jill's husband, Mark, also did something wonderful. He sent out some dollar bills in Carleigh's memory and they can be tracked on Where's George?. Here are the serial numbers in case you want to track them: L76283866J 2006, D53962712C 2006, L73050597H 2003, B65939151E 2006, D48566384B 2006. It'll be interesting to see where they travel! Thank you Mark!

I feel like I'm missing something here but my mind is blank!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Deck the grave with boughs of holly

fa la la la la la la la la

Today I decided I wanted to swap the fall flowers at Carleigh's grave with ones more suitable for the season. Anthony and I stopped by Walmart before church to look over the selection, which I must say is quite poor!! I really wish there was a Hobby Lobby in town instead of a hour away! I looked for about 30 minutes until Anthony said I needed to hurry up so we could get to church.

I ended up getting a pack of white/silver bows, a blue mini stocking, and a fake poinsettia planter. Oh, we had to get some cheap wire cutters too since I forgot to grab that before we left our house.

After church we headed out to the cemetery and I went to work. I had a heck of a time pulling the fall flowers out of the vase. I kept pulling the plastic liner out, which housed a big, dead spider. When I pulled out the foam the flowers were stuck into a big chunk of ice came too. Oh yeah, we forgot to drill a hole in it like we planned so the water could drain. We'll get that done soon. Anthony smacked off the ice for me and then it was much easier to get the flowers out.

While I worked on the flowers, Anthony kept an eye on Kyndra as she picked up many rocks and leaves. When I was close to being done Anthony and Kyndra went to the car because it was chilly out. It was around 32 degrees F and by the time I was finished my hands were cold and numb.

I think it turned out pretty decent. Could be better but it works!






Saturday, December 05, 2009

More from yesterday

I wanted to say thank you to everyone who left a comment on my last post. All of them are so helpful. I really wasn't sure how it would be taken. I could've kept it to myself, but I knew that if one person could draw something from it then I needed to post it. Thank you for all the nice things you said. You all are too kind and you make me blush.

I know some of you said you would've been offended receiving that email and perhaps I would've too if it wouldn't have came from the person that it did. It did take courage to write, not knowing how it would be received. While the person has not had the experience of losing a child, they are a person who has shown me they care a lot for me and they have also done a lot. I could've immediately been offended and written off everything that was said in the email but I needed to look beyond just the words.

It's easy for someone to sing your praises. It's not so easy to tell someone, especially a loved one, that they may not be in the place they should or could be. You risk a lot putting yourself out there. There are people who speak without thinking and end up saying insensitive things, while meaning well. There are people who speak and just don't care at all. This is a case of a person who thought through their words and meant well. I am grateful that someone cared enough for me to speak up, even if I don't agree with everything they say. I think of the analogy of a friend who will tell you that you look awful in an outfit when everyone else says that you look great. It takes a true friend to tell you the truth even when it hurts-they run the risk of offending you because they love you.

What prolly prompted the email was the stretch in time around 6 months after losing Carleigh where I was struggling a little. Seeing me doing so well after her loss and then start to struggle was prolly concerning for this person. If I hadn't walked this road with all of you and knew that this was a normal part of grief I'd prolly be concerned too.

I can assure you, I am just as positive and happy (well, most of the time anyway! lol) in real life as I am on my blog. Those who know me personally can attest to this. How the heck am I so positive? Beats me! lol No, really, it's prolly a sum of my own personality, my experiences, and God. Sometimes it surprises even me.

I agree with those of you who said our life experiences help make us who we are. They certainly do!! I do believe we can choose how they make us. You can take something bad and choose to let it have a bad effect or a good effect on your life (and it can take time to work through those bad things). Take my experience with Jordan. (I know some of you may not know about this area of my life but you will soon as an important date approaches.) It was something absolutely horrible and I will never forget the suffering I endured. I could have easily succumbed to the darkness that was pulling on me, but I sought help and climbed out of the pit I was falling in to. I grew so much from the whole experience once I began to heal. I reached out to others and shared my story and I saved a few lives in the process. I remember saying that if one person could find Jesus through my experience then it was worth it all and I still feel that way.

Something one of you said really struck me as true. "The pain is still there and it still hurts even when good things come from the pain." Even though I am happy, I still feel the pain of losing Carleigh. I still feel the pain of losing Jordan. I don't think that ever really goes away. You just kinda learn to live with it.

While I have resolved to be happy, I am certain there will be times that I won't want to be. There will be times when all I want to do is cry for my baby. I won't hold the tears back because sometimes you just need a good cry. It's like a release for the soul. And, yes, like one of you said, there can be joy in sorrow!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Suffering & choosing to be happy

I've been thinking a lot about suffering lately. I don't know what brought it on but I've been feeling some stirrings from God (which is refreshing since I haven't felt His closeness for several months now) and then I read Kristen's post.

To top off Kristen's post I got an email from a family member that was along the same lines and I finished reading Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, which was given to me by my cousin Luke after Carleigh's passing. Ok, God, I get the point.

Grief is an ugly, yet necessary word. A word I am all too familiar with. With grief there is suffering. I've experienced what I consider great suffering twice. First with Jordan and now with Carleigh. Now, it's a normal thing to grieve and I've done my share of it. I would say I've suffered with a pretty positive attitude (my sole opinion), but it's also taken a toll on me. There have been changes in me that I didn't anticipate, both good and bad. These changes are perhaps noticeable by the people who know me.

While I'll take the good any day, I'd rather not have to deal with the bad. What is the bad? Well, for starters my patience can run a lot thinner, especially when I'm dealing with a large group of people. I mentioned this when I had a not so good experience at an outing. I'm glad I've at least recognized some of these things so that I can work on them. I know there's no quick fix. It's gonna take some effort and time.

I'd like to share a portion of the email I received (mostly for my own purpose):
I am totally convinced we all have to accept who we are in life and accept the individual gifts given to us when we take that very first breath. God doesn’t ask us to do anything else. We are told to accept ourselves as being made in his likeness. If you accept the idea of a Supreme Being who created all things then it follows that you were put here as part of a greater design.
You have always been a crazy, fun loving nut. It is who you are. It is how he made you. To be anything else is denying yourself and the rest of the world the joy of one of God’s works. God didn’t give you Carleigh to hurt you. He brought her into your life so you could show others that the will to overcome is far greater than the desire to give up.
When I was growing up we were poor. The house was not insulated and the furnace was not that great so in the winter we were very cold in the bedrooms. It was cold enough that on many mornings in the winter we would wake up and scrape the ice off the windows so we could look out. After one particularly bad storm we found a window had leaked enough we had a mini snowdrift on the bedroom floor. Even today I shiver at the memory of how cold some nights were in that bedroom.
One day my Grandma and Grandpa visited and they were carrying dark black moving quilts for one reason or the other. If you are not familiar with moving quilts I need to explain they are very heavy blankets placed on and around furniture when households are relocated. That way when the furniture rattles around in the truck the moving quilt protects the furniture from scratches and dings associated with moving. Did I mention these suckers are heavy?
Well, we got the idea of crawling in under the moving quilts and it felt much warmer than the thin blankets we had on the beds. We loved those things. In the end our Grandpa left the moving quilts for us to use on the beds. I remember the moving quilt almost suffocated you it was so darn heavy but it was comfortable compared to what we had before. There were many mornings after waking up I would lie in bed as long as I possibly could before facing the cold and the seemingly freezing walk to the bathroom 8 steps away. Once I got moving I seemed to be OK. But oh how I hated leaving the quilt on these cold winter mornings.
Those heavy blankets were the only bedding I ever knew. It wasn’t until I started dating and went to my girlfriend’s house that I ever saw a quilt that was different. I remember thinking those lightweight, frilly things looked pretty enough but they would never keep a person warm. Once I got married I found out that I didn’t know a darn thing. The lightweight, pretty quilts were not only beautiful, they were far warmer than anything I had ever known. Today I can’t begin to imagine sleeping under one of those black quilts that comforted me in my youth. Bear with me, there is a reason for all this.
You know how much I hate to have discussions of a religious nature. I am not that religious at all. But I won’t hesitate to use teachings that are a part of any faith if it supports my argument. Yeah, I know if you are religious you are not supposed to do that but I have already explained I am not religious so in my mind that rule doesn’t apply to me. So here goes.
Depression, disappointment, and sadness are like those quilts I used to lay under as a young boy. If you don’t know anything else you can find great comfort in a dark, suffocating existence. Back then I didn’t really mind that I couldn’t easily roll over or shift positions in bed. The discomfort was worth it in my mind because at least I felt warmer than before. In fact, it was so much better than what I had before that I never even opened my mind to the possibility that anything could be better.
Those of a religious nature may draw a correlation between the heavy quilts of my youth and what happens when Satan starts taking charge of your life. If he can get you to bury yourself in a dark quilt of depression during a cold and lonely period of life he has a chance to turn you. Let’s face it, compared to the day you buried Carleigh, today is at least a little better. You have something around you, even if it is overwhelming sadness. But isn’t this just how Satan works? He gets you to embrace anything but the life God intended for you. Once you get used to darkness it just gets harder and harder to throw off the quilt that keeps you there. Eventually you can reach a point where it is easier to just stay under the quilt.
But the life God gave us is like the bright airy quilts I discovered after getting married. It took getting married to teach me that life isn’t meant to be restrictive, suffocating or heavy. Our lives are meant to be filled with laughter and joy and crazy nuts like the Holly we remember. It is his promise to us.
I am afraid you might be under a moving quilt, Holly. A place where thoughts of your loss overcome the joy of the gift. A place where not understanding why takes the place of accepting that a Supreme Being is in charge. A place where what might have been pushes aside what is. A place where staying in bed seems better than facing the dawn of a new day.
I don’t know how else to say it, Holly. You were chosen to do something many of us could never do. I don’t think it was fair or right. But it was. And if everything in the Bible is true then we-not just Holly, but everyone around her-have to accept that you were not given a burden greater than you can bear. You shouldn’t accept anything less of yourself, nor should those who love you. But here is the kicker. I think you are expected to bear that burden with the spirit and fire in your belly that God gave you. I don’t think you are allowed to bear that burden wrapped in the cloth of the dark prince.

I wasn't sure how to react to this email at first (remember I only posted a portion of it) because I thought I had been doing pretty good in my grief journey. While I don't necessarily think I am dwelling underneath a dark quilt, I see the love and concern behind the words so I had to take the time to evaluate where I was.

I have certainly asked the question 'why?' on this journey. I think it's human nature to want to understand why things happen the way they do. Do I feel God did this to me? No, but I do believe He knew the road that was ahead of me. He could of prevented it, yes, but He obviously saw the bigger picture and thought it was good. I trust that He is right.

I have learned quite a bit these last few days about suffering. In Man's Search For Meaning it says, "Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you."

I couldn't control that my daughter was diagnosed with anencephaly. I couldn't prevent my daughter from dying. I can't do anything but control how I choose to live my life without her here.

I think of how my daughter would want me to live my life. Would she want her mommy to be sad, angry, frustrated, or impatient? I don't believe that is what she would want for me and I don't believe it is what God wants for me either. So, I've taken a new resolve to change my attitude. While my outlook may have already been good, I know it could be better. I can be happier. I can live more fully.

I don't want the gift of Carleigh to be overshadowed by sadness. When I think of Carleigh I want there to be only joy. I won't stop missing her. I'll always miss her until we are together again. But I can keep my trust in God to take care of her until my purpose on this earth is filled and I can join her in Heaven. She really is in the best place she could possibly be. There's no greater place than being in Heaven with Jesus.

I know that it is possible to be pulled out of great suffering and back into life. I experienced this with Jordan. I was actually in a much darker place in dealing with my grief and guilt over Jordan than I have ever experienced with Carleigh. I managed, with the help of God and counseling, to live my life again and to live it with a greater joy and purpose than before. I can do it again.

Choosing to be happy in no way means that I will forget the pain and sadness that I have endured. Do I want to forget the pain? Absolutely not!! In a way, feeling the pain reminds me that my experience was real-that she was real. I am sure that there will still be moments when those emotions hit me out of the blue. I am sure there will be times that I want to cry. In these moments, I won't turn away from these feelings but will turn to God to comfort me. He will bring me back to where I need to be, where I want to be. Happy.

You are like the salt for everyone on earth. But if salt no longer tastes like salt, how can it make food salty? All it is good for is to thrown out and walked on. You are like the light for the whole world. A city built on top of a hill cannot be hidden, and no one would light a lamp and put it under a clay pot. A lamp is placed on a lampstand, where it can give light to everyone in the house. Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Remembering at Christmas



Walking With You was created by Kelly of Sufficient Grace Ministries to help support those who have lost a child. Together we share our stories, helpful information, scriptures, encouraging words, prayer requests, and more. To join in on Walking With You please visit Kelly's blog.

If you are missing someone you love this Christmas, someone of ANY age who is spending Christmas with Jesus this year, join us on this very special Walking With You. We are sharing our Christmas memories and the ways that we remember our loved ones who have gone home to Heaven at Christmas time.

Last Christmas is one I will always remember. We received Carleigh's fatal diagnosis on December 15 and then left for Hawaii on December 19, a trip that we had been planning for 3 years. The days before we left were tough and I cried a lot, but I resolved to make the most out of our trip and enjoy it. And that's what I did. We were able to spend a wonderful week in paradise with our daughter. I came back from the trip feeling renewed and ready to face the road that was ahead of us.

This Christmas is our first without her. I'm not sure what to expect or how I will react emotionally. Right now I am doing really well. Christmas is my favorite time of the year and, like previous years, I am looking forward to it. We've got our decorations up and plan to put some lights up outside too.

The one thing I haven't done inside yet is put up our small Christmas tree to put ornaments on for our children in Heaven. Right now I have one ornament each for Jordan and Carleigh. Jordan's ornament (on the right below) is a little angel we picked out from their angel tree on our 1st visit to the National Memorial for the Unborn in October 2008. We first hung it on our tree last Christmas.


Carleigh's ornament (on the left above) is one that was given to me by my coworker, Sharon, this year for Carleigh. It is a Hallmark ornament that I can put a picture of her in. On the front of the ornament it says 'Remembered with love' and on the back it says 'The true testament of a life well-lived is the love we leave behind.' I love that it has stars all over it because stars remind me of my own little shining star, my Carleigh.

Kristin @ Once A Mother had a giveaway for a very cute baby angel ornament. I didn't win the giveaway but Kristin was able to get the contact info for the lady who makes them and I have ordered 2 of them-a pink one for Carleigh and a red one for Jordan.

On our main Christmas tree there hangs a little bare butt angel. This ornament is one that has been in our family. My mom gave me sister and me each one when we married to hang on our trees. It reminds me of my own little angels and it is an ornament that will stay on the main tree instead of going on the small angel tree.


I would like to get some Christmas decorations to take out to Carleigh's grave to replace her fall flowers and pumpkin. I hope that I can find some that I like. The plan is to do that this weekend.

Every Christmas since Anthony and I have been married I write a Christmas letter and send it out to our family and friends, along with a picture of our family. I haven't started our letter yet but I plan to do that soon. As for the picture, this year there is no family picture. We are not doing one. Instead, I am sending out a postcard of Carleigh created by Birni @ All The Little Ponies. She did such a great job and I can't wait to send it out to everyone. Now all of our loved ones will be able to have something special to remember Carleigh.

This Christmas season we will be donating to several causes for our babies. For Carleigh, we will be making a contribution to the Neural Tube Defect Research Fund at Duke. We participated in Duke's study on anencephaly and other NTDs. We still get letters in the mail from people who have sent in contributions in memory of Carleigh. That means so much! For Jordan, we will be making a donation to our local women's center. This center is where I received my counseling and their annual banquet is where I gave my testimony and read my poem. The center has a very special place in my heart. In honor of both of our children, we will be making donations to Sufficient Grace Ministries and The Greatest Blessing.

I really wish that we could be in Hawaii again this year for Christmas. It would mean a lot to be in the same place we celebrated Christmas when Carleigh was still alive, to walk on the same beaches and visit the same places. No matter where I am I will remember my babies fondly and thank God for each of them and for the baby that was born in a manger so many years ago.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Prayers please!

Just wanted to ask all of you to pray for Kimberly at Happily Henninger. Kimberly's son Hudson was born still at 30 weeks and she is now 10 weeks pregnant with her rainbow baby. She had a checkup and ultrasound today and everything looks good. The doctor did find something on the ultrasound and is sending her to a specialist for a second opinion. A halo was seen around her baby's brain and it could be a cystic hygroma. This could go away on its own or point to some abnormality.

Please pray that Kimberly's baby will be fine and that what they found on the ultrasound is nothing. Pray also for Kimberly and her husband, John, as they wait to find out what is going on with their baby.

Heavenly Father, I ask that you be with Kimberly and John as they wait. Not knowing what is going on isn't easy so I ask that you give them peace and comfort. Please allow the ultrasound tomorrow to show that Baby Henninger is perfectly healthy and there is nothing to be concerned about. If there is a cystic hygroma, I pray that it will go away and cause no problems. Thank you for blessing this family with the gift of another baby. Be with them tomorrow as they see the specialist. Thank you so much for Your faithfulness in our lives. In Jesus' name, Amen.
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