Her Birthday

Thursday we celebrated the miracle of her life, one year later.

Naomi Ruth Smith, born April 25, 2012…

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DSC03815 DSC03823We made a cake.

DSC03804 DSC03829 DSC03830And our home filled with beautiful flowers from friends and family near and far while our phones beeped with texts of love, reminding me that we are held in the hearts and prayers of so many.

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We released balloons up into the bright blue sky and her brothers blew out her candles.

DSC03869 DSC03889 DSC03893_2 DSC03856We made these fun little butterfly treats, because of course there should be party favors!

While it was not the first birthday I would have wanted for my daughter, with her in Heaven and us here, it was a day in which tears mixed with laughter and I am so grateful that I could laugh and smile. I am grateful for hope and I am grateful that I made it through the day! Thank you to everyone who called, texted, or sent us words of love, remembering the life of our precious daughter with us. We are so grateful for your standing with us on this journey.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

On Pain ~ when you are trying to not feel it

**I wrote most of this post several weeks ago. But I still wanted to post it because I want to document what this whole experience has been like for me.**

Its amazing to me how hard I work to avoid pain. Have a headache? Pop a motrin. Got a sore throat? Take a throat drop. Fall on the ice while going to the car to fetch a toy for your child (ahem)? Please don’t ask me to move for the rest of the day because my leg hurts, badly. Cut your finger while prepping dinner? Go to bed! (I wish!)

I spent a good portion of the day one day a week or so ago sitting on the floor with a crying child (who shall remain nameless), explaining consequences for actions, discussing good and bad choices and mostly just being with him in his pain. At one point he said to me, “I will do ANYTHING good and have ANYTHING else taken away but please don’t take away ….[that thing I really really wanted to do]…”.

My son was trying to find a way to avoid the emotional pain caused by the consequences of his actions. He pleaded with me over and over not to make that thing his consequence. It was hard, so hard to stand firm because I hated seeing him in such emotional turmoil.

Lately I realize that I have been pleading with God, myself, my husband, to not let this be my reality – the reality where my daughter, who would be nearly ten months old but for the fact that she got really sick and she died. I found myself distraught this past month over the evidence that, no, I am not pregnant.

Just last week I was remarking on how things seemed to be more even emotionally for me. I felt better able to “manage” my grief. I could see healing happening and I felt like I was starting to move forward. At the same time I was struggling to feel connected to Naomi. I had such a short time with her, we didn’t really get to know her much at all. And while I was relieved that the raw, sharp, biting pain of early grief had subsided into a deep ever present ache, I also felt more distant from my daughter.

I have been discovering that when I employ various strategies to numb the emotional pain of loosing my daughter I also numb out the joys of knowing her as well. Now, some of the coping strategies are just that. I need to cope. I need to be able to keep living so I can’t live in the pain all the time. But when I avoid it for long periods I find myself not only escaping the pain but also in some ways unable to feel the joy and love that she brought to my life. And there is oh so much love and joy she brought to me. God has used my daughter in my life in ways I never could have imagined. But I am so grateful.

Life is precious and fragile and painful. I don’t want the pain, but through it, and sometimes in it, I see love and beauty that simply takes my breath away. So today I try to face the pain as best I can with the prayer for strength and grace in all the places I need it most.

Walking With You: Finding Hope and Healing With or Without a Rainbow

For the final WWY post in this segment, we will share our experiences with longing for another baby to fill our empty arms. Some experienced a subsequent pregnancy after loss. Some may be fearful of embarking on that journey again. Some may not be able to have another child, whether due to infertility or other reasons. Some may have found that having another baby, however precious a gift, was not the key to healing the grief. Can you experience hope and healing…even if there is no rainbow after the storm?

So, yes, I’m quite behind in getting this final post in the WWY blog series up. There have been several reasons including a really busy few weeks at work and a quick get away with my husband to celebrate our ninth (!!) wedding anniversary. But really, I just was not ready to write this post last week.

I still am not quite sure what I have to say on this topic. We do not know whether or not we will have another child. That is a question that we both wrestle with and while I, more so, long for a baby to hold, it is just too soon for us to make any sort of decision. Naomi was supposed to be our last child. And now that she is not here with us it is so not what we had pictured.

I will say that right after Naomi died my desire to have another baby was so strong. And I think a lot of that was tied to my idea of trying to recapture the pure joy I’d experienced with my previous two babies’ births. I felt at the time, in the initial raw stages of grief, that the only way to regain joy was to have another baby. But now I can say, with certainty, that joy and hope is possible again…and its found in God.

There are no easier answers but one of the things I’m coming to understand is that the sorrow I feel over Naomi’s absence with us right now will never go away. I’ve been thinking that healing, what I’ve been shooting for, meant a return, somehow, to how it was before, to how I was before. I think I’m starting to understand that sorrow, instead of being something to work toward being rid of, can actually deepen and widen joy, making even the ordinary every day become infused with a preciousness because this moment with these ones I’ve been given is a gift. And each of those moments I had with Naomi, they were gifts too, though well watered with many tears.

I was talking with my counselor recently about this very topic and happened to mention the term “rainbow baby”. Its such a popular term in the baby loss world, I guess, that it didn’t occur to me that she wouldn’t know it. So after explaining it to her that got me thinking about rainbows…they come after a storm. The rainbow in the Bible was a sign given to Noah of the covenant God made with him and with all living creatures following the flood, that never again would God destroy the earth with the flood waters — God’s promise to sustain life, not to destroy it, even when passing through the deepest, darkest storm. And I see God sustaining my life, even as I’ve passed through the valley of the shadow of death. Whether God chooses to give us another child one day or not, I see rainbows all around, made more beautiful by the tears that continue to fall and refract the light into millions of breathtaking colors.

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Choosing to SEE : A Journey of Struggle and Hope

I have read a lot my whole life. Books have, from early on, been a source of knowledge, companionship, adventure, and wisdom for me. And so too in this part of my journey I have been helped along by the words of others who have walked similar paths of grief and sorrow, all in their own unique journeys, unique stories to tell. I hope to be able to share some of those that have helped me the most here as a resource for others who may be looking for these kinds of resources.

I recently read Mary Beth Chapman’s autobiography, Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope.

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I think I picked it up after seeing it mentioned on another baby loss mom’s blog. While Mary Beth, wife of Grammy award winning artist Steven Curtis Chapman, tells the story of the tragic loss of their five year old daughter, Maria, in 2008, the book is about more than just the accident that led to Maria’s death (she was hit by the car driven by her oldest brother, Will, in the driveway of their home). I knew of the accident and remembered when it happened. At first I didn’t want to pick up the book and enter into another mother’s grief, a grief that I guessed was even deeper than my own. But Mary Beth writes, with both authenticity and with humor, of her story from the time she met Steven Curtis, through beginning their family and his career, her struggles with clinical depression, and their family’s journey to adopt three little girls from China, one of whom was Maria.

While I was never a huge Steven Curtis Chapman music fan, I have been listening to his album Beauty Will Rise recently as many of the lyrics are interwoven in the book. Steven wrote this album following Maria’s death and the lyrics are so deep, full of pain and hope. One of the themes of both Steven’s music and Mary Beth’s book is learning to SEE and listen for the ways in which God is working in our lives to redeem what looks like it can never be redeemed, those dark places where only God can bring healing.

Another storyline that has stayed with me is Mary Beth’s honesty about her struggle to let God write her story as He chooses to. As time and time again, her life took turn after turn that was not what she had planned or wanted she has learned to let go, to trust in God’s working in her life and her family’s life. It’s not easy and she doesn’t pretend like it ever gets easier or that she has it figured out. And yet Mary Beth shares over and over again how God has shown her that He is moving, bringing forth beauty from the ashes.

My favorite song on Steven’s Beauty Will Rise album is “Heaven is The Face“. I’ll leave you with the lyrics and an encouragement to go read Mary Beth’s book because wherever you are in your journey, I think you’ll be encouraged by her words.

Heaven is the face of a little girl
With dark brown eyes
That disappear when she smiles
Heaven is the place
Where she calls my name
Says, “Daddy, please come play with me for a while”

God, I know, it’s all of this and so much more
But God, You know, that this is what I’m aching for
God, You know, I just can’t SEE beyond the door

So right now
Heaven is the sound of her breathing deep
Lying on my chest, falling fast asleep while I sing
And Heaven is the weight of her in my arms
Being there to keep her safe from harm while she dreams
And God, I know, it’s all of this and so much more
But God, You know, that this is what I’m longing for
And God, You know, I just can’t SEE beyond the door

Heaven is a sweet, maple syrup kiss
And a thousand other little things I miss with her gone
Heaven is the place where she takes my hand
And leads me to You
And we both run into Your arms

Oh God, I know, it’s so much more than I can dream
It’s far beyond anything I can conceive
So God, You know, I’m trusting You until I SEE

Heaven in the face of my little girl