Thursday, January 31, 2013

Walking With You ~ Overcoming Guilt–Embracing Joy

Week 4 ~ Overcoming Guilt and Embracing Joy
One area so many mothers struggle with is guilt, especially those who experience the loss of a baby/child. We want to address this struggle in this post. It will help mothers quietly battling guilt for living life and experiencing joy to know they are not alone. Other moms silently battle this as well. Whether it is the startling first time you really laugh after losing your child, or whether you have experienced the healing balm of joy for years, share your thoughts on this week’s post.

I don’t remember being flooded with guilt after learning of Carleigh’s fatal diagnosis. I do remember questioning why this was happening and wondering if it was something I had done. I became pregnant when our daughter Kyndra was 6 months old. I have thought more than once that maybe if I had waited longer this wouldn’t have happened. I would have those twinges of guilt thinking that my body did this to my baby, but then I would remember that there is nothing that I could have done. I was taking my prenatals and I was getting the recommended amount of folic acid. What more could I do? I knew bad things like this happened but I never imagined that would happen to me. It was always somebody else until that day. Then the sad story that you read about or hear became my own.

For most of Carleigh’s pregnancy I was happy and I enjoyed it. Believe me, I had my sad moments but I wanted to make the most of the time I had with my daughter. While there are some things that I wish I would have done, I don’t look back on my time with her while I was pregnant with guilt. When I remember those moments while carrying her I can picture myself happy and not sad and for that I am thankful. The beauty of my time with her isn’t tarnished.

I think where most of my guilt lies is my birth choice. I chose to have a vaginal birth over a c-section for several reasons. I wanted the easier recovery. I wanted to be able to have a vaginal birth for future children. I wanted to have her on my chest right away after birth. I also knew that with having a vaginal birth that her chances of surviving it were less than a c-section. I had hope though that she would be ok and the few times I prayed during that time I prayed for her to be born alive.

I was induced at 37 weeks and I chose to have my water broken during the induction, which both decrease the risk of a baby with anencephaly being born alive. I must state here that while my birth choices did not have the outcome I desired that I in no way regret them. The choices I made allowed our family to be present for support, for a photographer friend to take beautiful pictures throughout labor and delivery, and more. My guilt lies in the fact that I know because of these choices that my daughter was born still. I know it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to say that I have guilt over my choices yet I don’t regret them but it’s true. I’ll always wonder what I missed out on by not choosing a c-section. I could’ve missed seeing more of my daughter and spending whatever moments with her alive that she would have had.

After Carleigh’s birth I was ok with laughing and smiling even though my daughter was gone. I just knew that she would want me to be happy and that those moments were ok. Sometimes it did feel weird to be happy in such tragedy but it was like a gift from her. I didn’t want to reject it.

Guilt has never consumed me with Carleigh. It certainly had the capability if I allowed it to but I didn’t. Guilt comes from Satan, not God. I know he is the source of all the “what ifs”, “if onlys”, and “not good enoughs”. God wants better for me. Of course, I don’t think you can completely rid guilt from your life but it doesn’t have to have a grip on you. It may take time and help from God but you can overcome it.

I will note that I had enormous guilt over Jordan that was consuming so I know what that type of guilt is like. It can be smothering. God healed me from this type of guilt. Counseling helped too but I give God the credit on this one because He actually did a physical/emotional healing with me and took the guilt away. Since finding forgiveness and healing for this loss I have not felt guilty since. Not saying it’s not still there wanting to eat at me but I don’t allow it to. When Satan tries to attack me with it I confront him by saying that I am forgiven and I am loved.

I know that guilt can also come from having rainbows, but I haven’t felt that. I am completely happy that I have my rainbows and I don’t feel guilty for loving them completely and having joy over them. It’s just the same love and joy I have for all my children, which they deserve. I’m happy that Carleigh has little sisters and I like to think she is happy too.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Who You Are

Been listening to this song a lot on my drive to work in the early morning. Sometimes I still don’t know what God is doing but no matter what I know who He is.

Isaiah 12:2
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.

Deuteronomy 31:8
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

2 Corinthians 1:3
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,

Deuteronomy 7:9
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Walking With You ~ Steps Back Into Life

Week 3 ~ Steps Back Into Life
Share about your first steps back into life. What helped you survive in the world outside as you took those first tender steps? Are there still tender areas for you today, living in a world that doesn’t embrace or understand the loss of a baby/child? How do you cope with those struggles? What advice would you offer those new to this walk to encourage and bring hope? How has this changed for you from the beginning? If you are in early grief, what do you fear/struggle with as you try to navigate a new normal….life without your baby?

I think we were all thrust back into the world, into life, whether we wanted to or not. The world goes on around us despite our losses. I know many times I wished that the world could just stop like it felt like it stopped for me. But no, time kept moving and the world went on its merry way with barely a blink of an eye. It seemed like the life of my precious girl was but a blip in the radar, Some may deem that little blip insignificant but to me it meant everything.

37 weeks.

The day after we came home we went back to the funeral home so that I could dress Carleigh in her burial outfit. Later that week we had her visitation and her service. We had quite a bit of support that week after her birth as we had family down in the area and everything was being planned for the service. My mom stayed with us to help out with Kyndra. I wish I could say that the support continued but frankly, it didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, we received many cards and messages and even phone calls with people giving their sympathies and those were very much appreciated, but  they only last for so long. Eventually they stopped. We don’t have any family and few friends where we live so in person support was very limited for us. There were a few that continued to give us support.

The most support I received was from the online blogging community so that is where I spent a lot of my time (plus writing was/is a big outlet for me). I was and still am criticized for that. I have been told that all I do is spend time on the computer and supposedly this is the reason many people don’t come visit us from where we are from. It leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth that people have judged the things I have done while grieving. I wonder if I would have been criticized had I attended a in real life support group? There was no support group for me to go to. The people that have criticized me never called me every day to see how I was doing yet people who I had never met at all were checking up on me and supporting me in ways that so called family and friends failed to do. I understand and give grace to those who weren’t there because they didn’t know what to do or say. I get that. It’s hard to know how to support others when you’re afraid you may say or do the wrong thing. That isn’t the issue I have with people. It is judging how I am grieving and coping and even comparing how I am grieving with how others have grieved. I will openly admit that I spent a lot of time on the computer that first year and even into the second year, but that is what I needed. I needed support and love and my online friends were the only ones still willing to give that to me when I needed it.

For many months after Carleigh’s birth I did not want to leave our house. I was confronted about it by people who didn’t understand. All it did was leave me in tears because I didn’t understand either. I didn’t know how to explain that I just didn’t feel like going anywhere. Going out would mean I would likely see someone who was pregnant or who had a small baby and it was difficult for me to see either one for a while. Going out would mean I would become annoyed and angry for no apparent reason. Going out would mean I would have to possibly face crowds of people that seemed way too happy than they ought to be. Going out only magnified what I was missing. After about 7 months I started to work on getting better with all of this. I didn’t like being like this but I couldn’t help it. Eventually I worked through it but it was something I had to do alone (aside from my online friends who were right there with me).

One thing that helped me (aside from my living daughter) was helping others. With every person I helped it made me feel a little closer to Carleigh. Most of it was helping others in their grief as they walked the road with me, but something I did was pump my breast milk for about 3 weeks and then I gave it to my cousin. It sounds honorable but I didn’t intend to donate when I started pumping. It was merely to avoid engorgement. By the time I had decreased my supply enough to not have to pump I had over 300 oz in my freezer. Naturally, someone had to taint that experience too and I’ve heard conflicting reports that the milk was used and that it was dumped down the drain. I would hope it was used but in the end it doesn’t really matter because I freely gave. What people choose to do with a gift is up to them.

I think one of the hardest things in going into the outside world are the questions that people ask. It’s bound to happen so you can’t avoid it. People will ask if you have any children or how many you have. It is a difficult question to answer for a parent who has lost a child. You are torn with what to tell them. Do you tell them the truth and include your Heavenly child and possibly make them uncomfortable or do you omit your Heavenly child to avoid the awkwardness and in return feel guilty for doing so? It isn’t an easy choice. I don’t think either way is wrong. I think a parent can share as little or as much as they want. I used to include Carleigh every time but there have been times more recent where I haven’t. While I know that’s ok, I still felt a pang of guilt that I should have included her. I think it is easiest to tell strangers because you can act like they are still living. When asked how many children I often just say 5 girls and leave it at that. When asked the ages of my children I just give the age Carleigh would be if she were still living.

Things are much better now than those early months. I can be in public again and be around pregnant women and newborns without feeling that pang. My emotions aren’t all over the place and I if they do go up and down I can get a better handle on them. I do still enjoy helping others though! That is one thing that hasn’t changed.

We live in a society that shies away from death, especially the death of a baby. Many seem to think that since the baby’s life is so brief that it is easier to get over and move on from but that is certainly not the case. I think losing a baby/child is the most difficult loss of all. It is against the natural order of how we think death should be. Children bury parents, not parents bury children. I think each day we get closer to breaking the stigma of baby loss. There are many people and organizations who speak out and bring awareness. Just look how far we have come! As long as people continue to move forward progress will continue to be made.

For those of you that are newer on this walk, you will undoubtedly come across people who do not support you if you haven’t already. I am sorry to say but this will continue to happen. Don’t let it bring you down. While a few may intentionally hurt you, most just don’t know how to handle the loss of a baby. Don’t feel guilty for being happy. It’s ok to laugh and to smile and have fun. Our babies would want that for us. Being happy doesn’t mean they aren’t love or missed. Nothing could ever change that.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Walking With You ~ Clinging in the Pit

Week 2 ~ Clinging in the Pit
Whether or not you are new to loss, talk a bit about early grief. What was it like, clinging for hope in the pits of despair? What did you cling to for hope? How did you survive the early days? What helped? What do you wish you could share with someone new to this walk, clinging in the pit? If you’re in the pit, currently, share your struggles. What can others do to encourage you?

I started grieving for Carleigh once we got her fatal diagnosis when I was 22 weeks pregnant. We are now just a couple months away from her 4th birthday. Each year, each day I’m on this road of grief it evolves into something different, yet the same.

I remember those early days. There is no doubt in my mind that God carried me from the moment we got the diagnosis through the months after Carleigh’s birth. I felt God’s presence close to me. I felt the prayers so many prayed for us. Looking back, I honestly don’t know how I dealt so well with everything even with knowing God was with us. Overall, I had so many more good days than bad days. I do believe I was in the pit of grief but I don’t think I was in so deep that I couldn’t see the light. I think I was rather on the edge of the pit holding on. Some days I’d be able to lift myself out and other days I lost my grip and sank deeper.

The roughest time for me during my pregnancy was the first few days following the fatal diagnosis. I allowed myself to feel it. There were a lot of tears and sadness. I felt shock and disbelief that this was really happening to me. Sometimes it just didn’t feel real. I listened to sad songs and cried. I read stories similar to mine. I looked up so much information about anencephaly because I needed to know all I could about the condition that would eventually take my daughter away from me. It felt like that was all I could really do at the time.

We got the diagnosis on December 15, 2008 and just 4 days later on December 19th we left for a family trip to Hawaii, which included us, my parents, and my sister’s family. It was a trip we had been planning for 3 years. I’m sure many would think that a vacation after such devastating news would really be no vacation at all but it was. It was what I needed. I had decided to just take time away from it all and enjoy myself and I did. I knew that all the worry, problems, emotions would be there when I got back so I guess you could say I said a temporary farewell to them. I wasn’t going to let grief steal away what was supposed to be a fun and happy time for my family. I came back with a better outlook and felt better prepared for what was ahead of us. I think I realized that it was ok to still be happy even in tragedy.

For the most part, my outlook during the pregnancy was good. I had some sad days here and there but overall I stayed pretty positive. I am glad for that because I can look back and truly say I enjoyed and cherished it as much as I could. (Again, I really believe I had so many good days because God was holding me up.)

God continued to carry us through labor and her birth. The peaceful feeling in the room after she was born was amazing and unexplainable. It should’ve been so painful for us with Carleigh being born still but it wasn’t. I think we were a little sad she wasn’t born alive like we hoped but we were still so joyful to be able to meet and hold our daughter after waiting and planning for her arrival.

I won’t ever forget the day when the pain was the worst. It was day I was discharged from the hospital. I dreaded leaving because I knew I would have to let her go. We had originally planned to have the funeral home come to the hospital to get Carleigh but I couldn’t do it. We had it arranged that we would take her to the funeral home instead. I guess I was really prolonging the inevitable but I was glad I didn’t have to walk out of the hospital with empty arms. I cried changing her outfit. I cried holding her as our stuff was gathered around us. I cried as I stood with my nurse and waited for the car. It’s safe to say I cried a lot. Then I cried even more at the funeral home saying my last goodbyes. Then as I handed her over to the funeral director and walked away that was my breaking point. If a heart could literally break this would have been the moment. Anthony had to hold me up and I was sobbing uncontrollably. Anytime (like now) when I relive those moments it gets to me and I cry.

The days, weeks, and months after Carleigh’s birth were up and down. I missed her like crazy but I had hope. I knew I would see her again one day (even if that day seemed so far away). What helped me a lot was my living daughter. She was 15 months old when Carleigh was born. She was oblivious to all that was happening. She gave me reason to be happy, to smile, to laugh. I never felt guilty being happy because I knew that my living daughter deserved my happiness and I knew Carleigh would want to see me happy.

I admit that I did not read my Bible much perhaps not at all from getting the diagnosis and through the first year. I also did not pray much. I just couldn’t bring myself to do those things. I at least managed to make it to church. Those early days in church were tough. It was very emotional and I felt like crying from the moment we stepped in until we left. It still remains an emotional place but at least now I am at a point where I don’t feel like I’ll completely lose it at any minute.

I hit a rough patch around 6 months out and I struggled a bit. God felt farther away then and I think that is why I struggled since it felt like God wasn’t holding me up as much as before. It was about this time I realized some of the things I was doing without realizing. I never wanted to leave the house and when I did I often became angry and annoyed. I spent way too much time on the computer but it was my therapy, my support group because I had no where else to turn. It helped so much to be able to connect with other moms who had lost a baby. Many people didn’t understand my grieving and instead were judgmental of how I coped. Sadly, people still continue to be this way towards me and many others who are grieving the loss of a baby. I never have to pretend or hide my grief with them because they get it.

I remember one night just feeling so sad and missing her like crazy. I went up to the bedroom where I keep her memory chest and I pulled out her soft, pink blanket that I kept her wrapped in. I held it to my chest and buried my face in it. I breathed in the scent of it even though it no longer smelled like her but just hoping I could remember what she smelled like as the blanket absorbed my tears.

The past 4 years have been up and down. More ups, but still, when the downs come they can really drag you down. The hardest time for me every year is the time between the diagnosis day and her birthday. My emotions are heightened and I miss her more. I’m in that place right now. I used to tell people that the first year was the toughest but I don’t so much anymore  because I don’t want them to think that after a year things are magically better. I think it is tough because the waves of grief happen more often but when the waves hit you even years down the road they can still sting just as much as if it were early in your grief.

For those early in your grief, please give yourself the time to grieve and don’t rush it. Allow yourself to have those bad days and allow yourself the good days too. Don’t let people tell you that you should be better after so many weeks or months or years. Don’t let people tell you that this is the way you should be grieving or make you feel that you are doing it wrong. There is no right or wrong. I would say if it feels right to you and does not harm you or anyone else then it is ok.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Walking With You ~ Intro and where we are now

This is the first part of the WWY series for mothers/families who have lost a child. This week we are introducing ourselves and sharing where we are now in our “grief journey”. For a full list of weekly topics, visit this post.

This is my third time participating in the WWY series and each time I am so glad to be able to join in and share and leave some love for those who participate. Sometimes it takes me a few days to get my posts up because of the busyness of life but better late than never, right?

Week 1 ~ Introduction and Where are You Now?
Tell us a little about yourself, your baby, and how you’ve come to this walk. Also, where are you now in your grief and healing? Are you new to this, still in the depths of fresh grief? Have you been walking this path awhile?

So, who am I?


My name is Holly and I am 29 years old and I live in Ohio. I am a wife to Anthony and a mom to six children. Four of them I hold in my arms and two of them I hold in my heart. Our living children are Hannah (13), Kyndra (5), Lainey (2), and Evanee (6 mos). Our Heavenly children are Jordan (who would be 9) and Carleigh (who would be 3).

Jordan's Flower - Rory's Garden

My first loss is one that I chose. On December 19, 2002 at the age of 19 I had an abortion. I found out in October that I was pregnant. I was young and scared and thought I had no other choice. I was too afraid to tell my parents. I was afraid of how they would react. I was in shock about it all and my judgment was clouded. I wish very much there would have been a voice of clarity in my life to tell me that what I was doing was wrong. I lived in denial about it all for 5 years until the birth of my daughter and then it just all hit me. The reality of my choice hit me hard and I became depressed and was sinking into a hole I could find a way out of. Thanks to God and counseling I found healing. I named my baby Jordan Leigh and you can read more about his story HERE.

Carleigh's Flower - Rory's Garden

Six months after the birth of my daughter I became pregnant again. I was so blissfully happy, especially when I found out our baby was a girl. It was my dream to have two little girls close in age. At 22 weeks we received a devastating blow. We found out our daughter, Carleigh McKenna, had a fatal condition called anencephaly. I knew without a doubt that I would carry Carleigh as long as I could. I could not end her life because I knew what that was like and I couldn’t make that choice again and because I loved her so much that I was not ready to let her go yet. So I tried to make the most of the time that I had left with her. I made memories and planned for her arrival. It wasn’t always easy but I am able to look back on that time with her with a smile because I chose joy instead of sadness in those months we had together. When I reached 37 weeks I decided to be induced and Carleigh was born on March 28, 2009. We had hoped to be able to meet Carleigh alive, but she was born still, having passed some time in the last hour before her birth. I will always remember those moments with her. Even though she wasn’t alive I treated her like a living baby. I held her, I kissed her, I sang to her. Above all, I loved her with the fierceness of a mother’s love. I still do. You can read more of her story HERE.

It has been 10 years since Jordan went to Heaven and we are coming up on 4 years since Carleigh’s birth.

My grief for Jordan is a much easier burden to bear because God did an immense healing on my heart. A real, physical healing. I remember when the pain was just too much and I cried out to God to take it all away-the shame, the guilt, the regret. I told Him that I didn’t want it anymore and that whether He took it or not I would get help. I prayed this to Him before bed one evening. The next morning I woke up with a new heart. I didn’t feel like I was in a deep pit anymore. I felt like myself again and it was amazing. I kept my promise and sought post-abortive counseling, which helped me even further. I am thankful for God’s healing touch in my life and for His forgiveness. He took such a painful part of my life and turned it into something beautiful. Sharing my story about Jordan has helped me and others and I am grateful for that. I don’t feel much regret towards my choice now simply because of where God has brought me today though I will always regret what could have been. I look forward to the day when I will be able to meet and hold Jordan for the first time.

While my grief with Carleigh has not put me in a deep pit as it did with Jordan, I have found it harder to heal from her loss. God was very much with me during my pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the time after. I had hard moments but not as often as you would think with early grief. Around the 6 month mark I had a hard patch of grief when God felt so far away but I was able to recover from that when I felt God was close again. I really don’t know how I could have handled losing her without God carrying me through it. I think surviving her death is a miracle in itself when you think of all that we went through. I always said that the first year was the toughest but now I’m not so sure. Lately, I’ve been having a harder time but that could of course be because we are in the months before her birthday. Those days approaching are always full of emotion and a heavier heart.

I am one who tends to bury emotions and try to keep them nice and tidy. I don’t like to cry in public and I’m much better at writing my feelings than talking about them, although I have gotten better I think. I miss my daughter so much. I miss everything I have missed with her. I miss seeing her grow up with her sisters. Sometimes I just want to scream that it isn’t fair and stomp around like toddler and shake my fist at the world. I have a daughter and I lost so much when she died. I’m never going to get over losing her. I can’t let go and I can’t move on from it. Her life and her death consumes me. When my mind is free it wanders to her. I know this doesn’t sound good at all but amidst any despair I feel from my grief I have hope. This hope is a beacon of light in the storm and it keeps me on the right path. I know God is good and I have trusted Him completely on this path, even when it didn’t make sense and even when I had more questions than answers. I have the hope of seeing my daughter again in Heaven. I look forward to that day so much. I don’t know how long my life on this earth will be but what I do know is that I want to live this life as best as I can. I want to make her and Jesus proud. I am so thankful that there are more good days than bad days now, and I’m thankful for a God that wraps His arms around me on the days when no one but me knows that I need just a little extra love to get through.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

January Babies

♥ Remembering those babies with special days in January ♥

Luisa ~ January 1, 2011
Snowflake ~ January 2, 2011
Little Bean ~ January 3, 2008
Zoelle ~ January 4, 2009
Erin ~ January 6, 2009
Sweetpea ~ January 6, 2011
Harvey ~ January 6, 2009
Lukas ~ January 7, 2009
Azalea ~ January 9, 2011
Eli & Jett ~ January 10 , 2009
Sam ~ January 11, 2013
Elisha ~ January 13, 2009
Levi ~ January 14, 2009
Claudia ~ January 15, 1985
 Josiah ~ January 15, 1995
Harley ~ January 15, 2008
Emma ~ January 15, 2009
Grace ~ January 15, 2010
Hudson ~ January 16, 2009
Cameron ~ January 17, 2009
Ethan ~ January 24, 2005
Jonathan ~ January 24, 2012
Timothy ~ January 25, 2011
Asher ~ January 25, 2012
Christian ~ January 26, 2007
Ethan ~ January 27, 2007
Terry ~ January 27, 2007
Isabella ~ January 30, 2010
Heidi ~ January 31, 2009
Logan & Brody ~ January 31, 2009

I'm sorry if you're baby is not on this list. Please leave a comment to have your baby added.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A new year

Here it is, another year already. It seems like 2012 passed by so quickly. 2012 was a good year for us. We welcomed our 2nd rainbow, which has given us even more joy. I’ve also found a new level of missing though too with another addition to our family. I can’t say I’m surprised about it because I’ve learned not to expect anything about how grief should be. It is what it is.

I guess it’s the time of year where I am missing the most. The time from when we got her diagnosis to her birth. I am definitely feeling it in my heart lately.

Hoping that this year will also be a good year for us and for many of my sweet friends out there.


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