This will be quick, but I just wanted to ask for your prayers today.
I'll admit... I am sort of anxious about it turning 2009. I'll try to explain.
You see, 2008 was the "year of Isaac" for us... we found out about him in February, found out that things weren't quite right in April, and found out just how devestating his prognosis was in June. We had countless doctor visits, ultrasounds, and various fetal tests... almost every week, or at least every other week, there was something.
So much time and energy was spent caring for our little boy... time spent at those visits, time spent fervently praying, and time spent making memories and enjoying whatever time we were given.
I've had some difficulty welcoming each new month, as it was a reminder of how the world is marching on when I'm still trying to pick up the pieces and make sense of it all. I would imagine that it turning to another year will be that much harder. I am not sure how I will respond tonight when everyone, in a celebratory fashion counts down and shouts "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" I am just not sure I feel all that happy about it, because in a lot of ways, it feels like I will simply be further away from my son.
So we could use your prayers... that God would continue to teach us how to adjust to this "new normal," that He would provide us grace for each step, that He would help ease the ache a little bit as we continue to miss our sweet Isaac so deeply, and that He would continue to restore our hope as we look ahead to the future.
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~ Jeremiah 29:11
Thanks for continuing to pray for us and walk with us.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
This will be quick, but I just wanted to ask for your prayers today.
Posted at 7:31 AM
Friday, December 26, 2008
This year I thought a lot about what I needed this Christmas. Like I mentioned earlier, I had trouble answering people when they asked me what I wanted or needed for Christmas. The truth is, I just wanted Isaac here... and yes, I would even go so far as to say that there's a part of me that feels like I need him here. I just miss him.
While Isaac wasn't here with us this Christmas, nor will he ever physically be until we're reunited with him in Heaven, there was a lot of ways that he was present with us this Christmas... and truthfully, I have my family to thank for that.
We started the morning at the cemetery, and while it was comforting to have a place to go to be "with" him, I just couldn't help but think, "I can't believe that this is where I will be spending each Christmas with my son..." I still don't think that realization has fully set in.
From the cemetery, we headed up to my mom's. She purchased two kids' Christmas books for us to have in memory of Isaac... my favorite one growing up (a scratch and sniff nonetheless!) and her favorite one growing up, entitled The Littlest Angel. There was also a beautiful little angel of rememberance pin and an angel ornament. My sister, Kate, and her husband, Tim, gave us a Christmas ball with pictures of them with Isaac in it, too. These things were so thoughtful and sweet.
The part that moved me the most, though, was at my aunt's. Admitedly, I was a little nervous to be around so many people all day long. My extended family is a ton of fun to be with... always lots of laughs; but I just wasn't sure that I felt like laughing. It's been hard feeling like I want to celebrate when my heart is still so broken. And I wasn't sure if people would feel comfortable asking me about Isaac or not... it can just be a hard thing.
Anyhow, each year we do a stocking exchange that involves clues and guessing who gave each person's stocking to whom. It's a little confusing, and I am not sure that we all even understand the "rules." After the exchange was done, my aunt Janie announced that she had one more stocking to give. My heart started to pound... hard... when I realized what she was up to. She mentioned how much she wished that Isaac was here with us this Christmas, but that he would always be remembered. Inside the stocking were contributions from various family members towards Isaac's playground.
Needless to say, I just lost it... and the tears just started flowing. Tears of sadness because my sweet son isn't here and I wish so badly that he was; but also tears of gratitude that they remembered... that I got to hear Isaac's name on Christmas... it was just what I needed.
I wanted to leave you with just a few pictures from our day...
An ornament we made with Isaac's footprints and birth information thanks to the generosity of the String of Pearls ministry...
The Rochfort sibblings... my uncle Dick, aunt Janie, uncle Steve, and my Dad!
The gang... TOP left to right: my brother-in-law Tim, step-brother Brendan, cousin Emily, cousin Meghan, cousin Doug, Spencer; BOTTOM left to right: sister Kate, cousin Grace, me, cousin Annie; front and center: cousin Missy
Thank you for continuing to lift us up in prayer, for continuing to encourage us, and for continuing to walk with us. It's my hope that your Christmas will filled with love and peace as you celebrated our Savior's birth.
Posted at 8:50 AM
Thursday, December 25, 2008
It would have been out of character for me to have not gotten up "before the sun" as my mom always says... be it Christmas or any other day, this seems to be my pattern. In fact, at one point my mom had to implement a rule that we weren't allowed to get up before the sun on Christmas morning; of course as a child (and, admittedly, as a teenager) my anticipation kept me awake anyhow. This morning seems to be no different, though I don't believe it's my anticipation that awoke me this morning. Because truthfully, this Christmas has been hard... really hard.
I may have mentioned that we haven't really done anything "Christmas-y" this year. Sure, we've participated in some of our same traditions with family, but this morning, the traditions that we wanted to start as a family... with Isaac... aren't happening the way we had envisioned. Instead of playing Christmas music and opening a few gifts (whatever that would look like with a 2 1/2 month old), we'll be starting the tradition of spending some time on Christmas morning at the cemetery... a place where no one dreams of being with their child on Christmas. The only real "Christmas-y" thing we did this year was send Christmas cards... mostly because I know it's the only year that Isaac's sweet face will make it's way onto our annual Christmas photo card. I also enclosed a letter this year, which I wanted to pass along to my faithful blog readers as well...
Dear Family and Friends,
This has been a year of unspeakable grief for us; yet even in the thick of it, we know that we are incredibly blessed.
It was on February 26 of this year that we found out we were expecting Isaac. On April 21st, we learned that there were some major concerns, and on June 17th, we found out just how grim Isaac’s outlook was. With great resolve, we decided to do everything possible to enjoy my pregnancy and the time we had with him, and by God’s grace, we were able to. Not without tears and tremendous heartache, but God graciously allowed us to enjoy the time with Isaac that we did have… for nine months in the womb, and, on October 7th, for the sweetest sixteen minutes after. Isaac was buried on October 11th, and we honored his life with a memorial service on October 18th. We miss Isaac daily, and his absence is profoundly real to us, particularly during the holiday season. But in the midst of it, God is teaching us how to navigate this “new normal” way of life. It’s a slow and difficult process, but we are learning.
We know that many of you are familiar with Isaac’s story. So rather than reiterating the same details, this is our hope: that this Christmas, you’ll hug your loved ones a little more tightly, linger with family a little bit longer, and most importantly, see Jesus a little more clearly.
In other family news, Spencer is still plugging away with his graduate work in school administration through Hood College’s partnership program with Montgomery County Public Schools. His coursework will be completed this summer, and he will then begin his internship next fall. Stacy has returned to work and is slowly getting back into the swing of things. We recently learned that she achieved her National Board Certification for teaching, a rigorous process which she completed last school year.
In closing, we just wanted to reiterate our sincerest gratitude for all the ways in which so many people have come along side of us and supported us over this past year. We are truly grateful.
Spencer & Stacy,
with Isaac forever in our hearts
I would pass along the photo we enclosed as well, but you already have seen it if you've been here before... the photo at the top of the page in the header (on the left).
Blessings and peace to each of you today and in the new year. God's grace is sufficient for each step...
Posted at 6:51 AM
Monday, December 22, 2008
Thank you all so much for your suggestions about where to stay in Jamaica. We had our travel agent run several of the properties you suggested, but many of them were booked (go figure... with less than a week!) We had a few options, and decided on the Iberostar Rose Hall Suites, adjacent to the Iberostar Rose Hall Beach Resort. Should be really nice!
Again, it has been longer than I typically like between posts. Here are a few, rather disjointed updates...
12/18/08-- Our 4-year wedding anniversary. Spencer had class, but his classmates were kind enough to devise a ploy to get him out of there so he could come home. We actually celebrated the following evening at a new restaurant that opened near us.
12/20/08-- Ended up on tripadvisor.com reading some pretty horrendous reviews of the resort where we're scheduled to go in Jamaica leaving this coming Saturday. So, our trip is up in the air at this point. We're currently trying to change resorts... we'll see. If we can't, then we're cancelling the trip altogether (gotta love trip insurance!) I just can't deal with the headaches that are possible to encounter based on the reviews. If anyone has any suggestions for resorts in the Montego Bay area, let me know... ASAP!
12/21/08-- Back at our church for the first time in a few weeks, and I am just so thankful for our church. Many of you posted in response to our experience last weekend at my mom's church (the church I grew up attending... which I LOVE). This past Sunday, our Pastor got up and acknowledged that this time of year can be so hard, particularly for people who have recently lost someone they love. Within the last week, a few members of our church experienced the death of a loved one, and our Pastor had them come up so that we as a congregation could pray for them. I am just so thankful that our church is a place where people are known... where you can come as you are, be authentic, and know that you will be met with the love of Christ.
Spent some time at the cemetery as we usually do. I noticed the abundance of wreaths, poinsettias, and other Christmas decor everywhere. It was both beautiful and saddening at the same time, seeing how many people were missing loved ones this Christmas. Spencer also noticed one of the graves in Babyland (the section where Isaac is also burried)... it was from the 1960's (the exact year escapes me) and there was a brand new toy there that we hadn't seen before. Forty years later...and these parents are still remembering and missing their child.
Had a chance to visit with my mom's side of the family at my grandad's house. It was wonderful to be able to catch up, and I am so thankful that my family mentioned Isaac. My grandad and Maria (his wife) had pictures of him up, right along with their other great-grandchildren. My aunt and my cousin asked about Isaac's playground and offered to come and help once construction and installation of it begins. They asked what we were doing to remember Isaac this Christmas... I just love it that people ask. I know I have communicated here that I do sometimes fear that people will forget him; and so being asked those types of things is so good for my heart because it helps me to know he isn't forgotten.
On a different note, I have recently started thinking alot about the relationship between Christmas and Easter, and have started thinking about the crucifixtion in a whole new light. For years, I have thought and even given Young Life talks about the birth of Jesus as the start of God's redemptive plan for humanity... and about Jesus's death on the cross as him bearing our penalty for sin. And both of those things are deeply true.
But lately, I have started thinking about both of those events from Mary's perspective... from the perspective of a mother. I still have a lot to mull over and will write more about it once those thoughts can give form to words.
This post is a bit all over the place, so I will end with a few prayer requests...
1- That we'll figure out what to do with this Jamaica trip... either a new resort, or that we can cancel it. It has me a little stressed.
2- For Christmas... this week is heavily weighing on my heart. I am just missing Isaac so much.
Posted at 6:28 AM
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Posted at 1:10 PM
Sunday, December 14, 2008
"Are you ready?"... to leave, that is.
Spencer turned and asked me this about 3/4 of the way through church this morning. We don't ordinarily just pick up and leave church like the way we did today, so let me explain.
Tomorrow is my mom's birthday, and so Spencer and I went up to Baltimore, back to the church I grew up attending with my family and then to brunch afterwards. I usually love going there, and it's a great church. So, I thought this was a good idea because 1-we got to celebrate my mom's birthday, and 2- because the children's Christmas pagent was taking place at our church this morning and I just wasn't sure that was something I was going to be able to handle.
Little did I know, that what I was in for was a lot harder.
I've shared on here that it has been difficult for me into the Christmas spirit his year... the whole "holly, jolly Christmas" thing just isn't where I am. So when worship started and we sang nothing but Christmas carols, I was a little on edge. It probably didn't help that one of the worship leaders had a big pregnant belly. But, given the spirit of the season, it was something that I could sort of let roll off my back, an even somewhat enjoy.
The sermon started, and to be honest, this is where it went downhill, and for me, it went downhill fast. Just about every analogy made had to do with pregnancy and babies. I mean, I do get that... at the heart of the Christmas story is a teenage girl who is pregnant with the Savior of the world. What I had trouble with was over and over hearing phrases of us as Christians being "pregnant with possibility." And truthfully, it was a creative illustration and metaphor; but as a mother who just lost her son, it just wasn't working for me.
What I had more trouble with was when the "hardships" of the holidays were described as traffic at the malls and getting together with family that can sometimes be difficult.. and that we needed to "get over it." Because, of course, there are parts of the world that are far worse off.
Get over it.
Really? To the wife who just lost her husband as he was fighting in Iraq and for the first time won't be here for Christmas this year, she should get over it? To the man whose wife is fighting a terminal illness... and losing, he should get over it? To the mom and dad whose teenage son died in a tragic car accident last month, they should get over it? And to the moms and dads who have given birth to a child and have held them as they died just minutes, hours, or days later, they, too, should just get over it?
I acknowledge that we are a prosperous nation and that in numerous ways, we can't begin to imagine the hardships of poverty and disease-stricken countries in other parts of the world. That is absolutely true. But there's another truth of the matter and that's this: tragedy exists in America, too. Not just in the blatantly visible ways, but also in the hearts of men and women who are or have experienced deep, profound, and unspeakable grief.
And for those people, the holidays can be excruciatingly painful. For some people, the frustrations aren't with the trivial things like traffic at the malls, but with trying to reconcile who God is with the pain that He is allowing them to face. Trying to figure out what it looks like to have hope again in the midst of their grief.
Later this evening, though, I thought more about this question of "Are you ready?" So often we find ourselves asking each other this question in regard to Christmas, frequently referring to whether or not we've accomplished all the things on our to-do list... the decorating, shopping, and cookie baking.
But as I thought about it further, I think a better question in terms of "Are you ready?" is thinking about whether or not our hearts are ready to be reacquainted with the story of Christmas... the fact that we're celebrating the birth of the Savior of the world and the start of God's redemptive plan for humanity. Because of Christmas, we can have hope. Because of Christmas... the beginning of Jesus's life here on Earth, ultimately sacrifced as not just a ransom for many, but for each of us personally... because of those truths, I know that my sweet Isaac is safe in the arms of God.
I want to be ready to be reacquainted with those familiar truths in a fresh way this Christmas... and I'm getting there. Will you join me?
Posted at 5:55 PM
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Posted at 8:39 AM
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Today, Isaac would have been two months old.
It's snowing here in Maryland today, and Isaac isn't here to see it. He isn't here to see the twinkling Christmas lights all over the neighborhood, or the beautiful sunrise I saw on my way to work last Thursday. Oh, I really wish he was. I miss him so much.
Today, instead of taking him to church with us, we'll visit Isaac at the cemetery. When we were there last Sunday, I remember turning to Spencer and saying, "I can't believe that this is really our life... that this is what we do now on Sunday mornings." In some ways, it still seems a little surreal; yet most days, the reality of Isaac's absence is extremely edvident and incredibly heavy on my heart. Thank you for continuing to pray for us.
I want you to know how much Daddy and I love you, and how much we miss you. Our hearts hurt. Today you would have turned 2 months old, and we're so sad that you're not here. We think about you so often. Please know that you will always hold a most special place in each of our hearts. We miss you.
I love you, sweet Isaac.
"...And I'm the one who's loved you all your life... all of your life."
~ Meredith Andrews
Posted at 7:28 AM
Friday, December 5, 2008
We are overwhelmed by the number of generous offers we have received from people to help us fundraise money for Isaac's playground... from food, to kitchen gadgets, to beautiful tiles, and now make up and face care products! There's another offer on the table, and I hope it will continue to help you with your Christmas shopping!
Elizabeth is a Mary Kay consultant and has offered to donate a portion of her sales to Isaac's playground when the "Isaac's Playground" is mentioned when ordering.
The fundraiser will run now through December 15. Orders will be shipped so that you are able to have them by Christmas.
20% of the sales will go towards Isaac's playground. If you are interested in booking a web/catalog show, $10 will be donated for each show booked. If you desire to sign up as a Mary Kay consultant, contact Elizabeth and she will personally donate $25 towards the playground.
As an FYI, all orders of $40 or more will receive a special gift. Shipping is complimentary.
If you are interested in placing an order, please go to Elizabeth's personal Mary Kay website at: www.marykay.com/estank
When placing your order, please include "Isaac's playground" in the comments section.
In other news, we received Isaac's birth certificate in the mail on Wednesday. I had been anxiously awaiting this because I was excited that he would have this same certificate that other babies have... a verification that he was here and that he was alive.
You can understand my shock, then, when I saw the word "DECEASED" stamped across his birth certificate. I jsut started bawling.
Of course I know he's deceased, thank you very much. I know he's not here... the quietness of my house, the emptyness of my arms, and the heavyness of my heart remind me of that every day. There are death certificates for that sort of thing. I just wanted so badly for him to have what other babies have, and for it not to be tarnished by that one word that cut so deeply into the wound on my heart that's already there.
Like I've mentioned before, the reminders of Isaac's absence so often come in unexpected places... like, of all things, a birth certificate.
Please continnue to pray for us, particularly right not just for protection of our hearts... there are so many reminders of Isaac's absence and they seem to be multiplying now that the holiday season is here.
Posted at 9:17 AM
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
In case there was any doubt in my mind that the Christmas season is upon us, Macy's on 34th Street in NYC on black Friday confirmed the fact that it is. This time of year has always been filled with much joy for me... the decorating, the shopping, the cookie baking, the caroling, the flipping around radio stations just to see if I can find Josh Groban's or Celine Dion's rendition of "O, Holy Night"... I love it all. The time with family, and the time reflecting on the miracle of Jesus's birth.
But this year, I am just not in the holiday spirit.
I remember back to last Christmas, just a few short months after my miscarriage, thinking, "Surely, next Christmas will be different. By then, we'll have a little one here, or just about here, and it will be great. There will be strollers, and burp cloths, and cute onesies..."
Boy was I wrong.
My dad asked me recently what I wanted for Christmas this year, and honestly, I had a really hard time thinking of anything. There are some things I could use, but what I want he can't give me. Nobody can. Because what I want is Isaac. I want him back. I want him to be here.
There's nothing like the holidays to bring a blatant reminder of what's missing, or in our case, who is missing. Just when I thought that hole couldn't get any bigger, it has. And it's hard... and it hurts. So I am not sure how much of the "Christmasy" things we'll be doing this year... to be honest, it's just too hard. 'Tis the season... but I feel anything but jolly.
We would appreciate your prayers through this difficult season... for comfort, for peace, and for God to help ease the ever-present ache in our hearts. We just miss Isaac so much.
I would also like to ask for your prayers for another momma who will be delivering her sweet baby, Max this Friday, December 5. You can read her story at http://ourmiraclemax.blogspot.com/. Max has been diagnosed with Trisomy 18, and they are not sure how long he will be here with his sweet parents before meeting Jesus. Please pray for them... that God would be ever-present with them in these next two days leading up to Max's birth, that the c-section would go well and that Trish would come through it in good health, for the moments that Trish and Dustin have with Max... that they would be very present in each moment and able to just love on Max as fully as possible. Please pray for God to calm their fears and provide His peace.
Thank you for continuing to walk along side of us in our journey, even 8 weeks after Isaac's birthday. Thank you, too, for praying for Trish, Dustin, and Max.
Posted at 7:25 AM
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Well, we made it home late last night from our Thanksgiving trip to Philadelphia, New York, and Long Island to visit with family. We were fortunate to have found street parking in both Philadelphia, and more impressively, New York city, to have not hit a lot of traffic, or to have Spencer's car break down. It was a nice trip.
Now that the Christmas season is in full swing... trust me when I say that Macy's on 34th street in NYC on black Friday will convince you that it is in case there was any doubt... I wanted to remind folks that there is one week left in the Pampered Chef fundraiser that Kara is so generously holding for us to raise money for Isaac's playground.
Here are the details again:
The fundraiser will run through December 6, so you have plenty of time to order and receive your items in time for Christmas. 10-15% of the sales will go towards Isaac's playground. If you are interested in booking a show, $3 (which will be matched by Kara for a total of $6) will be donated for each show booked. If you desire to sign up as a Pampered Chef consultant yourself, Kara will personally donate $20 towards the playground. As an FYI, all of Pampered Chef's unglazed stoneware is 20% off for guests this month.
If you are interested in placing an order, please go to Kara's Pampered Chef page at:http://www.pamperedchef.biz/karaduenasThen, follow these easy steps:
1. Click on the link for Our Products at the top of the page.
2. Click on How to Purchase.
3. In the field where you can look up an organization, type in Mountain View Community Church
To save time, the link below should take you directly there. If not, then please use the steps above.http://www.pamperedchef.biz/karaduenas?page=products-main
Please be sure to have your order shipped directly to you to ensure that you receive it in plenty of time for Christmas.Thank you to Kara for so kindly setting up this opportunity, and thank you to each of you who decide to do a little Christmas shopping from Pampered Chef.
My mind is still spinning from our trip, the laundry, setting up a few Christmas decorations... so a more "typical" post will be up in a day or two.
Posted at 10:25 AM
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, a few of the blogs I frequent have talked a lot about thankfulness recently. One in particular talked about how the Bible admonishes us to both be thankful in everything, and thankful for everything.
Ephesians 5:20 says, "...always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." I acknowledge that I have a lot to be thankful for... for Jesus and His finished work on the cross, for a wonderful husband, irreplaceable family and friends, the chance to have had a wonderful pregnancy and to have given birth to an absolutely beautiful son, for a secure job in tough economic times... I could go on. But thankful for everything? I'll be honest. I am not thankful for the fact that Isaac died. I would give anything for him to be here this Thanksgiving, and next, and for many Thanksgivings to come. I don't know how to reconcile this verse with circumstances that have unfolded these past few months.
Yet somehow, I can manage the idea of being thankful in everything a bit better. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Even though Isaac's absence is profoundly obvious and noticeable to me all the time, in the midst of the pain and the grief, my heart can still be postured in a state of gratitude. Right now, that is a daily, conscious decision that is often times hard to make, particularly on days like today where I just really miss him, but it's a decision that is possible to make.
There are many details surrounding my pregnancy with Isaac and his birth that I truly am thankful for... for the wonderful doctors who managed my care during my pregnancy; for the hospital staff who made all sorts of accommodations for us to be comfortable; for nurse Kathy who attended to Isaac's care and our every request for making memories with him; for the beautiful pictures that Bill was able to take; for our family making countless sacrifices and loving us so sacrificially; for our small group who in Christ-likeness has so faithfully prayed for us and with us, and who have so selflessly attempted to meet any need that has arose; for the chance to meet Isaac while he was still alive and to have the chance to spend time studying all of his little features, seeing evidence of both my and Spencer's physical traits. I know there are many, many more.
I was told that the holidays were going to be hard. And they are. I miss Isaac a lot today. Please continue to pray for us this holiday season; I know his absence will be a lot more evident and real to us during this time, and we could really use your continued prayers for comfort and peace.
This morning before work I was running on the treadmill listening to Josh Groban on my iPod. I don't know what in that sentence is more surprising... that I was running, that it was before work, or that Josh Groban was my music of choice. Anyhow, his song "Awake" came on and for the first time the lyrics really hit me. And yes, albeit discretely, I cried while running on the treadmill. The words brought me right back to the morning of October 7...
"Awake"A beautiful and blinding morning
The world outside begins to breathe
See clouds arriving without warning
I need you here to shelter me
And I know that only time will tell us how
To carry on without each other
So keep me awake to memorize you
Give me more time to feel this way
We can't stay like this forever
But I can have you next to me today
If I could make these moments endless
If I could stop the winds of change
If we just keep our eyes wide open
Then everything would stay the same
And I know that only time will tell me how
We'll carry on without each other
So keep me awake for every moment
Give us more time to be this way
We can't stay like this forever
But I can have you next to me today
We'll let tomorrow wait, you're here, right now, with me
All my fears just fall away, when you are all I see
We can't stay like this forever
But I have you here today
And I will remember
Oh I will remember
Remember all the love we shared today
I remember so vividly not wanting to forget anything about those moments that Isaac was alive, laying right there next to me. I knew our time together was going to be short, and I just wanted to be fully present so that I could take it all in. And it truly is only time that is teaching me how to carry on without having him here... with the limp, a piece of my heart missing it is a really hard thing.
Yet in the midst of it, I am still so incredibly thankful.... thankful for Isaac, for those moments we were able to share in those 9 months and 16 minutes...
Posted at 12:35 PM
Monday, November 24, 2008
Isn't this what every parent wants for their child? For them to be safe? I remember being in the hospital and wanting to know when folks from the funeral home came to pick up Isaac, and I wanted to know that Isaac had arrived back there safely. I couldn't stand the thought of anything happening to him in the meantime.
"Mighty to Save" is a song that we frequently sing in worship at church. I remember it meaning so much to me when I was pregnant with Isaac, faithfully singing the words and truly believing what it was I was singing... that God is mighty to save, and truly believing that He was going to save Isaac. After Isaac was born, I had trouble listening to this song. In fact, I often turned it off when it came on the radio because, quite frankly, the song made me angry... I felt as though God hadn't saved Isaac, that He wasn't mighty to save.
Oh, but He was.
As I was leaving work this past Thursday, "Mighty to Save" came on the radio, and for some reason that day, I decided to listen and not turn it off. I thought about what the word "save" means. To make safe... to keep from danger or harm...to safeguard. Like I said, isn't that what every parent wants for their child? As I realized this , I just began to weep. My tears were both of sadness that I can't be the one to provide that safety for my son and the reality of the loss of Isaac hitting so hard, but also tears of gratitude that my God, who is much greater than I, can provide safety for Isaac... and has... and will continue to for all eternity. In the greatest sense, Isaac is safe. He isn't here, and oh I wish so badly that he was; I continue to struggle deeply with the fact that God didn't heal him on this side of heaven. But he is safe... safe in the arms of God, as John McArthur puts it in his book. He's more than safe... and for that, I am so thankful.
More on the idea of thankfulness in a few days...
Posted at 7:35 AM
Friday, November 21, 2008
The tiles above were created by Kaye Mackay, a dear woman who read my blog and sent Spencer and I this baby memorial tile, as well as a birth verse tile, after having read about Isaac. For anyone who has been to our house and seen them in person, you know they are beautiful. She designes tiles in all sorts of shapes and sizes for a whole host of occasions. You can view them here http://www.engravedeuniques.com/.
In addition, Kaye has also graciously offered to help support our efforts to fund Isaac's playground. Starting tomorrow, 10% of the sales on any orders (except the 16 x 8 family tile, as those proceeds are currently being donated elsewhere) via the website during the week of November 22-29 will be donated to our church for Isaac's Playground. So, another Christmas shopping opportunity at its finest! These tiles make great gifts, particularly because they are so personal (and beautiful!)
Here's how it works.
1. Head over to Kaye's website http://www.engravedeuniques.com/
2. Take a look around, and feel free to place an order if you so choose. I am sure you will agree that her work is beautiful.
3. Be sure to mention "He will carry Me" in the comments section while checking out on the website. This part is very important!
On a side note, please also don't forget that you can still place a Pampered Chef order with Kara, and a portion of those sales will also be donated for Isaac's playground (see post entitled "Christmas Shopping" below.
Thank you all for your support... through these opportunities, your prayers, your encouragement. We appreciate it more than I could every convey on here.
Stay tuned this weekend for an updated on how this week at work shaped up...
Posted at 5:38 AM
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Well, I made it. I'm exhausted, but I made it.
I woke up this morning around 4am and tried really hard to fall back asleep, but to no avail. I finally surrendered to the fact that it just wasn't going to happen and got up a little before 5 o'clock with plenty of time to shower, get dressed, have my coffee, check e-mail... and then it hit me. Again, these moments come out of nowhere. Usually before work I would sit and play Isaac music as I wrote my daily letter to him. It was the sweetest time of my day, feeling him wiggle and kick to the songs I knew he liked best. I never wanted those moments in the morning to end. Today, though, was different, and it was another stark reminder of Isaac's absence. I knew that it would always feel like he was missing; but the more I get back to my "normal" routine, the more I am reminded of it.
Thankfully, traffic cooperated this morning and I was able to make it to work with plenty of time get myself settled and situated, which included putting a framed picture of Spencer, Isaac, and me on my desk.
It's always difficult returning to teaching after you have been out for a day or two, trying to make sense of what went on during your absence. The substitute who had been in for me did a fantastic job making sure everything was organized, labeled, and prepared... and it went a long way to make that aspect of my day go a little bit better. The students were well-behaved, and it was clear that they were still very much accustomed to our class routines. A few of them were very sweet and made cards. One little girl, who tends to be a bit more quiet, came in at the end of the day to simply give me a hug and say, "I'm really glad you're back, Mrs. Delisle."
Of course it was difficult to be there. There were moments that it was all I could do to not let the flood gates open and just start sobbing; in other moments (thankfully my lunch break), my efforts were of no use and the crying happened anyway. I can't really put my finger on why. Perhaps it is because I took this job at a new school so that I could be closer to home "once the baby was born," and going back to work without Isaac here is yet another reminder of his absence. Or, perhaps it's just the fact that grief is unpredictable; it creeps up on you when you expect it, and when you don't.
Overall, it went... one class period at a time. God's grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in weakness. I truly believe that His grace was made tangible to me today through all of your words of encouragement and many prayers. It was so good to be able to check back on here from time to time and catch up on the comments. So for that, thank you. Please continue to pray for my transition back... I know that it's going to continue to be a challenge.
And now there's tomorrow... one day at a time.
Posted at 8:32 PM
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Tomorrow, I return to work. I'll be honest... tomorrow is a day I have been dreading.
Thinking about that has my heart racing and my stomach literally in knots. Please don't misunderstand; I genuinely enjoy my job. Yes, perhaps I am a little crazy, but I really do enjoy teaching in a middle school.
Right now, though, I can't stand the thought of going back. I don't know how I am going to manage dealing with the needs of so many people, mustering the energy to even put a smile on my face and have some level of enthusiasm when interacting with students, or having the wherewithall to be able to mentally juggle everything that I need to. I worry about how the students and the staff members will respond to me upon my return. And I worry about feeling so far behind with everything and not really having the energy to catch up.
But I don't think those are the real reasons I am dreading it.
Truthfully, I don't want to move forward. Moving forward to me means moving farther away from the time that Isaac was born, and I don't like that very much. Our lives returning to how they looked before Isaac came is just excruciating, because it is a very vivid reminder of his absence and how much we so wish that he was still here.
Right now, I have the freedom of being able to feel and just be however I need to be in each moment, and I really like that. I love being able to think about him whenever I want, to pull out my photo album and just re-live the morning of October 7 so that those memories stay fresh. Being at work all day doesn't really allow that. I enjoy having the time at home to work on his baby book, to read, to meet up with friends for lunch or for coffee or for a walk. This time has been safe... life has been a little slower and I have been able to focus my attention on whatever it is I would like. Again, being at work all day doesn't really allow that, either.
I could really use your prayers for my return to work tomorrow. I am terrified by the fact that I am not really sure I can make it through a whole work day. I am terrified that as I become re-engaged with work and all of its demands, that my memories of Isaac won't be as fresh... and I want to remember... vividly. I am terrified of things going back to "normal"... because nothing about this feels normal. Nothing about it feels as it should.
Over the last several months, I have come back to the passage in 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul pleads with the Lord three times to take away his thorn in the flesh. Much like Paul, I also remember pleading with the Lord (on countless occasions, not just three) to take away the pain and the torment and to heal Isaac. But instead of heeding Paul's request, the Lord replied,
So I suppose that would be what I would ask you to please pray for... for grace. That God would grant me just enough grace for each moment... grace to even be able to walk through the doors in the morning, grace to interact with my students kindly, grace to be forgiving of people who say the things I just don't need to hear or who act like nothing has happened, grace to be able to have moments in my day where my thoughts can rest on Isaac, grace to be forgiving of myself if everything isn't "just so"... you get the idea. God's power and grace really are going to have to do the work; I just can't.
Thank you for praying... thank you for your encouragement... thank you for continuing to uphold us as we continue to pick up the pieces.
Posted at 6:07 AM
Sunday, November 16, 2008
As we were parking the car and surveying the people who were walking towards the direction of the theater, I realized that most of the attendees were about 15-20 years older than us, which was perfectly fine with me. It was nice not to be confronted with images of what I feel like our life should look like and what I deeply desire for it to be... images of a husband and wife with their infant in a carrier; images of a mom walking while holding her little boy's hand.
And then it happened. It always happens when you least expect it. And no, babies were not in attendance at the Jim Brickman concert.
If you have viewed my other blog that's linked to this one, you'll notice that there's a beautiful song called "Never Alone" playing as you read through the letters I have written to Isaac; it features Jim Brickman. And he played it... last night. And while it was beautiful... I was bawling.
I had first stumbled across this song as I was trying to find the perfect one that would convey what a mom would want to tell her son, and I just really connected with it. But last night, as I listened, all I could think of was Isaac... how much I love him and how much I miss him... how much I want to just be able to hold him tight again... and how there is so much more I want to say to him and love that I want to give him, but can't.
A few people recently have shared with me a quote (from the show ER nonetheless!), the essence of which I had also read about in one of the (many) books I am reading: "When your parents die, your and orphan. When your partner dies, your a widow. When your child dies, there are no words for that."
Although Webster may not have defined one in his dictionary, I believe there is one, well two actually... a mother or a father. It just looks different.
You see, when your grandparents die, are you suddenly no longer a grandchild? And once your parents pass away, are you no longer their son or daughter? You don't suddenly cease to be these things. And although burying your child turns the world on its head feels so against the "natural" order of things, is it really any different? I don't think so. Instead of being a mom who gets to raise her son, I am a mom who will always be missing him. But I'm still a mom.
The writers of the quote from ER were right about one thing though... When your child dies, there are no words for that. It truly is a time of unspeakable grief and heartache. I guess that's why Job's friends didn't say anything to him for those seven days in which they just sat on the groung and mourned with him.
Posted at 7:50 AM
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I have to admit, I've been doing a LOT of my Christmas shopping online. I've realized that being out and about in the middle of the afternoon is just not the greatest of ideas for me... everywhere I go, it's the stroller brigade. And to be quite honest, it's just too painful some days (well, most days) to be constantly confronted with images of what I deeply desire my life to look like... going shopping with Isaac in his little infant carrier.
Anyhow, as I mentioned a few posts ago, I have received another generous offer to help raise funds for Isaac's playground... and perhaps this fundraiser will help you with your Christmas shopping!
Kara Duenas is a Pampered Chef consultant and is graciously running an online fundraiser on our behalf. Here's how it works.
The fundraiser will run through December 6, so you have plenty of time to order and receive your items in time for Christmas. 10-15% of the sales will go towards Isaac's playground. If you are interested in booking a show, $3 (which will be matched by Kara for a total of $6) will be donated for each show booked. If you desire to sign up as a Pampered Chef consultant yourself, Kara will personally donate $20 towards the playground.
As an FYI, all of Pampered Chef's unglazed stoneware is 20% off for guests this month.
If you are interested in placing an order, please go to Kara's Pampered Chef page.
Then, follow these easy steps:
1. Click on the link for Our Products at the top of the page.
2. Click on How to Purchase.
3. In the field where you can look up an organization, type in Mountain View Community Church
To save time, the link below should take you directly there. If not, then please use the steps above.
Please be sure to have your order shipped directly to you to ensure that you receive it in plenty of time for Christmas.
Thank you to Kara for so kindly setting up this opportunity, and thank you to each of you who decide to do a little Christmas shopping from Pampered Chef.
Posted at 6:48 AM
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
If any of you are like me, in a time of crisis, you search for what it is that will ground you; when life's circumstances seem to be unraveling in a direction that you had never imagined possible, you cling to what it is that makes you feel secure. For me, I cling to words... words from Scripture, words from people who have walked this road, and words from others who seem to say just the right thing. I've been doing a ton of reading lately, and several things that I have read really resonated with me.
In her book Holding On to Hope, Nancy Guthrie talks about the pain of losing her first child, Hope... "Even now, I can't say I'm healed. Part of my heart is no longer mine. I gave it to Hope and she took it with her, and I will forever feel that amputation."
I thought about this for a while. Over the last few weeks, I remember telling Spencer on multiple occasions that my heart hurt... that physically, it hurt. I suppose that's why I was so struck by Guthrie's statement. Part of my heart was given to Isaac... that part of me that resolved to love him at any cost... and that part of my heart will always be with him. And I do feel that amputation, as if part of me is somehow missing.
Another place I have been struck recently is through the words of a daily e-mail to which I subscribe. This e-mail was talking about grief and quoted Larry Crabb... "Knowing the Lord and His comfort does not take away the ache; instead, it supports you in the middle of the ache. Until I get home to heaven, there's going to be an ache that won't quit. The grieving process for me is not so much a matter of getting rid of the pain, but not being controlled by the pain."
I appreciated the fact the Crabb acknowledged that the ache is very real and is very lasting. Yes, in the Lord we have comfort and we have hope; but it can be all too easy to then simply write-off that ache that is real, and present, and lasting. I guess that ache sort of goes along with the limp that I spoke of previously.
In her book After the Darkest Hour, the Sun Will Shine Again, Elizabeth Mehern says this: "Burying a child stands the world on its head." A dear couple at church on Sunday shared this perspective on grief: "Grief is a normal response to abnormal circumstances."
There is nothing that feels normal or right about burying your child. In fact, it feels absolutely wrong. It goes against what we typically deem to be the "natural" order of things. Certainly, God is sovereign over everything, but I suppose we typically assume certain things in life; you expect to bury your grandparents, and sadly (I have a hard time even thinking about this) your parents. But you never, ever expect to bury your child. It stands the world on its head; it feels backwards, upside down, and completely abnormal. And to be honest, that's really hard and often feels incredibly unfair.
A few days ago I received an e-mail from Kathy, my wonderful nurse from the hospital who I have mentioned before. The subject line of the e-mail read: "Thinking of you..." and in the message she wrote, "I just wanted you to know." What a gift to just be given a beautiful, simple, tangible reminder that we are not alone and that others continue to think of us.
Last Friday, on what would have been Isaac's one-month birthday, I received a card and some beautiful gerbera daisies from a dear friend. In the card, she talked all about Isaac... specific things she remembers about him, like his long fingers and the way he smelled, and what she loved about him. Those words were like music to my ears and a balm for my soul. To know that he hasn't been forgotten is such a gift... because one of my greatest fears is forgetting.
And lastly, I stumbled across this passage in the book of Job:
When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. ~ Job 2:11-13
What struck me about this was that Job's three friends were simply with Job grieving with him; they weren't trying to speak or provide any answers (at least at this point anyway). They didn't offer up trite or pithy statements which are all too small to fill the vastness of the loss. They simply acknowledged Job's suffering and the magnitude of his loss, and were with him.
Spencer and I appreciate the numerous people who have simply just been with us. I think back to being in the hospital and being visited by a couple with whom we're very close. The wife turned to us and said, "I don't even really know what to say." And that was okay... there presence... just being there in the midst of our pain and our hurt... was of great comfort.
Thank you to the many of you who have offered us words of comfort and encouragement... who simply remind us that you're praying for us and thinking of us... who ask us how we are doing and allow us the space to be however we are, knowing that some days are better than others, and aren't afraid to meet us in that place... who are willing to talk about Isaac with us because you realize that we don't want to be finished talking about him and that his name is like music to our ears. We are grateful.
Posted at 7:16 AM
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Thank you to the many of you who continue to pray for us and who left words of encouragement for us either on this blog or who e-mailed me. Friday was hard... I knew it would be. At 8:33 am, the time when Isaac was born, Spencer was sweet enough to call and we just talked for a few moments before his students entered the locker room. All morning my mind had going to thoughts like, "At this time on October 7, we were just arriving at the hospital," or "At this time on October 7, Kathy was hooking up my IV..." and when I thought, "At this time on October 7, Isaac was born," my phone rang. It was good to be able to connect with him during that time.
My mom came down to visit last Friday, and we had decided to get lunch at Chick-Fil-A. As we were eating, a girl around my age came in with her mom... and her newborn in a carrier. And where did they choose to sit? Right next to us. It was just more than I could take... I looked at my mom, told her we needed to leave, and she graciously did... finishing her salad in the car! The fact here is simple: it was excruciating to watch before me what I desperately wished my life looked like, feeling as though it should have been three of us at lunch that day... my mom, me, and Isaac... but instead there were two. Someone was missing. He still is...and truthfully, he always will be.
On an exciting note, I have been told by the folks at Mountain View, our church, that we have raised about $9,000 towards Isaac's playground!! We are blessed, and I am truly humbled by this. Thank you so much for your generosity. I've had an offer for another fundraising opportunity to raise additional funds for this project, so please stay tuned for details.
Lastly, someone posted a comment a little while back asking me to share a little more about me and Spencer and our life; for those of you who know us, this isn't new information. For those of you who don't, here ya go!
Spencer and I met at work. The elementary school where I was teaching at the time was hiring a new part-time phys. ed. teacher. I was in over the summer to work in my classroom, and the dear secretary said, "Stacy, you ought to meet this new phys. ed teacher! Look... here's his resume!" No joke... she handed me his resume! And I actually read it! You never know what to think when someone tells you someone is good-looking or that you ought to meet them, because people's thoughts on what "good-looking" is varries, but I have to say, this dear woman was right. In fact, the first few months he was working there my friends and I fondly referred to him as HGT... hot gym teacher! Anyhow, we had spent some time together during lunch, and he had come to leadership for Young Life a few times in an effort to get plugged in to a Bible study in the are. In late October of that year (2003) he asked me our on our first date, to Six Flags. We had a great time and I didn't want the day to end, so I invited him over for dinner. I went out on a limb there, but am glad I did.
We were engaged a short time later...5 months later to be exact... on March 11, 2004 (two days after my birthday!). Spencer proposed at a friend's parents' house. They had set up a bonfire on a beautiful starry evening... it was perfect. And I fell for the surprise! We were then married 9 months later on December 18, 2004. Here's a little wedding photo:
Since being married, we have had our share of joys and sorrows. I'll focus on a few of the joys...We bought and sold our condo in which we were living and bought a home in a neighborhood we absolutely love. We are glad to know that we will be very happy staying here for quite some time. We've had the opportunity to travel, which has been wonderful, and hope that those opportunities continue.
Some other random little things about our life I guess would include that we both are still teahcing. Spencer teachers phys. ed. at a middle school, and I teach 6th grade Reading at a different middle school. Spence is currently pursuing his Master's Degree in School Leadership and Administration. Outside of our careers, we were involved with the Young Life ministry for quite some time. I had lead at a high school for 5 years before Spencer and I spent another 5 years leading WyldLife, Young Life's ministry to middle schoolers. This is our first year not leading, and in some ways I miss it terribly. We both are also pretty active people, enjoying getting to the gym and just being active in general... Spence enjoys golf, I enjoy running. We are blessed with wonderful family and a phenomenal group of friends including our small group (through a church many of us used to attend, but then some of us moved and now attend a different church, but our small group still remains!).
So that's a little peek into our lives... we're slowly putting the pieces back together again. It really is a day-by-day process when your world feels as though it has crumbled; grief can be so unpredictable and is truly exhausting to work through. But the only way is through it, trusting that God will provide just enough grace for each step.
There's a blog I frequent written by Greg Sponberg, husband of the Christian singer Nicol Sponberg. They lost their little boy, Luke this year due to SIDS. In one of his posts he recounted words that they received after Luke died that had really meant a lot to them. Their grief counselor shared this:
My experiences tell me that you're going to walk with a limp. You'll be okay and you're going to make it. But you'll walk with a limp.
It would be dishonest to say that we are doing any better than limping. We are limping, but at least we're walking. And we are grateful for the many people who have come along side of us as we limp along our way.
Thank you for continuing to pray for us... that God would continue to meet is in our many questions and lack of understanding, that He would show us just how trustworthy He is, and that He would protect our hearts with His perfect peace as we continue to miss our sweet Isaac so, so much.
Posted at 8:19 AM
Friday, November 7, 2008
As I was in bed last night, I got to thinking about how one month ago, on October 6, I barely slept a wink in anticipation of what the next day would bring. I knew that I would get to meet my sweet Isaac... the little "thumbs up" guy whose kicks and wiggles I had felt for months, who I wrote to each morning, who I played music to, who I prayed so hard for, and who I loved and wanted so, so much.
On Tuesday, October 7, I woke up early to write one last letter to Isaac before he was born and to play music for him one last time. And I prayed... oh, how I prayed that even in the "eleventh hour" God would unfold the miraculous; it wasn't too late.
I remember getting to the hospital and being greeted by our wonderful nurse Kathy and going back to the room that would be ours for the day. It wasn't long before I was in my stylish hospital gown and hooked up to an IV. Our family came to say hello and our pastors came to pray with us before we went back for Isaac's delivery. I remember being so afraid of getting a spinal... something that has terrified me for a long, long time; but what I had hoped would happen, did... I was too concerned about Isaac and what it would be like to meet him that it wasn't nearly as bad as I had thought.
Eventually, Spencer was brought into the OR as well, and my wonderful doctors began my c-section. We had both memorized Psalm 121 so that we could say it together during the procedure in an effort to be focused on something other than the doctors' voices and the tugs I was feeling. A little while later, at 8:33am, my beautiful... and I mean beautiful... son was brought over to us; and 16 minutes later, at 8:49, he was in heaven.
We were fortunate enough to have been able to have Isaac with us as long as we wanted, and so we kept him for quite some time... we made molds of his sweet little hands and feet, got his footprints on everything from our Bibles to Christmas ornaments, took hundreds of pictures, prayed with him, told him how much we love him and how proud we are of him, hugged him and kissed him, and did everything we could to take all the love we'd want to give him in a lifetime and somehow channel it into the time we had with him.
But it wasn't enough... time, that is. Truthfully, it could have never been enough.
Today is hard... I thought it would be. It's hard thinking that I should be celebrating my 1-month old, and instead I will be spending time at his grave weeping. It's hard thinking back to October 7, just one month ago, and already feeling like there's this vastness separating me from the last time I was able to see and hold and snuggle with my son, yet the heartache is still so real and so fresh.
Please pray for us today, that God would uphold us with His peace, give us enough grace for each moment, and would allow us to look back on Isaac's birthday with at least a small sense of joy and awe of our beautiful son.
Posted at 7:18 AM
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I was asked to share other books that I have been reading surrounding the topic of infant loss...
In addition to Holding On to Hope, I read Empty Cradle, Broken Heart (the author escapes me) and I'll Hold You in Heaven by Jack Hayford. There was another book I read over the summer, I think called When A Baby Dies. I also got about half way through A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis over the summer, and need to pick it back up and finish it. I still have a stack of a few other books that I want to get through, in addition to working through Nancy Guthrie's devotional, The One Year Book of Hope.
It has been a little longer in between posts than I usually like, but truthfully there isn't a whole lot at this point on which to update. Everything is pretty much the status quo.
Spencer has been getting back into the swing of things at work, though isn't overly excited about being with other people's children all day. I imagine I will face a similar challenge when I return to work on November 19.
Physically, I continue to feel better. I am really starting to get the itch to work out again, but know I still have a few more weeks before that becomes a reality. It has been difficult to not be able to engage in the thing that I enjoy most and that is a huge stress reliever for me. In due time I suppose.
When not spending time with whoever it is that is visiting with me on a given day, I have spent a lot of time reading. Of course, much of my reading has focused on books dealing with infant loss and grief, and I have found comfort in reading words of others' stories and experiences. I am the type of person who hates checking out library books because I can't write in them; and yes, I am the type who writes in my books when I read. Currently, I am in the middle of a book entitled Holding On to Hope by Nancy Guthrie (I am also working through a devotional she has written). The focus of the book is "a pathway through suffering to the heart of God." Nancy has lost two children shortly after birth herself.
As I was reading today in the chapter entitled suffering, Nancy writes:
"Have you cried out to God in frustration, with questions about how he could have the power to heal and yet chose not to heal the one you love? Have you agonized in an effort to reconcile your understanding of a loving God with one who allowed the accident, the atrocity, or the abuse? I have, and we're not alone."
I starred this paragraph and next to it wrote, "YES, YES YES!!!!" That passage really sums up where I am... trying, often with frustration, to reconcile the conflict between my head and my heart in who I know God to be and the agony that He has allowed Spencer and I to face, all the while still missing my sweet Isaac so much that it hurts.
I can't really think of anything new to ask you to pray for for us... it's all the same things, really. Thank you for your continued prayers and words of encouragement during what has been a lonely and confusing and painful road to navigate...they mean more to us than you could know.
Posted at 2:15 PM
Saturday, November 1, 2008
I was watching the Sex and the City movie with my mom this past week, and for those of you who have seen it, you know that Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) is stood up at her wedding by her fiance, Biggs. She and the girls go to her honeymoon destination anyway, and as she wakes up one morning, she turns to one of her friends and groggily asks, "Did I dream it?" to which her friend kindly replied, "No."
I can so relate to that. Some mornings shortly after Isaac's birthday I would wake up and wonder the same thing... "Did I dream it?" Because to me, clearly, this just can't be real. It just seems too horrifying. Now, I wake up and often think, "I can't believe I didn't simply dream it." The fact that all of this isn't only some horrific nightmare is abundantly clear; I just sometimes can't believe it all actually happened.
Today we went to Harpers Ferry, WV to walk around and get some lunch. It seemed like a good idea for a warm fall day, and it was... not only to us, but apparently to everyone else nearby who has recently had a baby. There were strollers, baby carriers, and smiling happy families everywhere... and I was so envious. I just wanted to scream to everyone within earshot, "Don't you know what has happened? Don't you know that I just lost my son?! How can you look at me and smile?? That should be us, too. There shouldn't be only two of us here..."
And so it is experiences like that which serve as a clear reminder, that no, I in fact didn't dream it. I know that in time, there will be more joy restored to getting out on a beautiful day and nosing around a town we haven't been to before or taking a hike along the river, but right now doing those things are a vivid reminder that it feels like someone is missing, and that I am deeply missing someone... my sweet Isaac.
I love you and I miss you. I miss you so, so much and want more than anything for you to be here. I miss your soft sweet face, your fuzzy strawberry-blonde hair, your cute little turned up nose, your perfectly delicate hands and feet... I miss you holding on to my finger with your little hand, the way you felt in my arms when I held you... I just miss you so much it hurts.
I know all of these circumstances don't change who God is... He is always the same, and I know we can trust Him, even when things hurt so deeply and so badly and don't seem to make any sense. My head knows that... but my heart is just still really heavy. Thank you for continuing to pray for us...
Posted at 6:02 PM
Friday, October 31, 2008
On October 31, 2007, I remember sitting out on our front steps as the trick-or-treaters came around. There are too many kids in our neighborhood to go inside and wait for the doorbell to ring... it's just a steady stream of little (and not so little) people. I remember thinking how "this time next year we'll be trick or treating with a 5 1/2 month old... how fun!" I remember talking to our neighbors about when it was the right time to order nursery furniture, and being blissfully unaware that anything could go wrong in pregnancy once you actually got pregnant... that always happened to "other people." I was young, healthy, and doing all the right things.
Little did I know that two days later on November 2, 2007 I would be called back for an ultrasound that would reveal that our little one no longer had a heartbeat. I would be one of those "other people."
Little did I know that November 2, 2008 would be Isaac's due date. When I first found this out, I thought "God is so funny... it can't be a coincidence that He has Isaac's due date as Novemeber 2. Clearly, He wants to redeem that day and turn it from something heart-wrenching into something glorious. I need to start feeling at peace with this pregnancy."
Little did I know that this time of year would be more heart-wrenching than I could have ever imagined was actually possible.
Little did I know that I would be sitting here today, feeling as though twice over I should have a child here with me... and yet instead, I am joined by the emptiness, heartache, and grief that are all-too familiar to a parent who has suffered the loss of their child. I would take spit up and dirty diapers any day.
Needless to say, we're not "doing" Halloween this year; I am truly hoping that our house doesn't get egged and that the pumkin sitting on our front porch doesn't get smashed. I just don't have it in me to see all of the cute little kids dressed up with their Mommies and Daddies, when my heart is longing to just be able to hold Isaac again.
I have a feeling this next week is going to be really hard. Isaac's original due date is on Sunday; and because he was delivered a few weeks early, next Friday we would have been celebrating his first month with us. I've been told that holidays, anniversaries, special dates, etc. can be difficult, and I know this is only a small dose of what is to come. Please pray for us... that God would just meet us and give us just enough grace for each moment; that He would keep our memories of Isaac fresh, because truthfully, I am sometimes afraid of forgetting; that He would continue to surround us with caring friends and family who are willing to listen, to talk about Isaac, and to just "be" with us in the midst of our heartache; and like I have asked before, that God would start to restore our hope and our joy despite the painful reminders all around us of what we hoped would be, but isn't.
Posted at 8:37 AM
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I feel as though there are a number of long over-due thank yous that I need to share...
Thank you to each of you who has so faithfully prayed and encouraged us. We still need and appreciate your prayers and encouragement, as this process is still incredibly difficult, painful, and just plain heavy. The words that you leave here and in e-mails to us have helped me to put my feet on the floor each morning... and some days that in itself is a major feat.
Thank you to our family for your unconditional love and support over what has been a very, very difficult year.
Thank you to the blog reader who left the beautiful bracelet for me at Isaac's memorial service. I have searched back through comments that have been left and e-mails looking for who you are, and for the life of me cannot find the message you have left. If you see this, please e-mail me because I would like to send a more personal thank you than just this "shout out" on my blog.
Thank you to those of you who have contibuted to the playground being built in honor of Isaac and for helping us to remember and honor him in this special way.
Thank you to Bill Millios for the beautiful pictures of Isaac and the wonderful slideshow.
Thank you to Danielle for the beautiful blog makeover.
No real updates to share, except that Spencer has returned to work. He runs a mentor club at his school, and there is one boy in particular with whom he has developed a strong rapport. Yesterday, this boy apologized to Spencer for not making it to Isaac's memorial service because he wanted to come, and said that he cried that day because he was just so sad about what happened. I thought it was sweet that a middle school-aged boy felt that way.
It has been difficult for me with Spencer having gone back to work; I really dislike anything feeling like it is going back to normal, mostly because I feel as though it's not how things "should" look. Regardless of what I am doing, thoughts about how different things should be always creep in. I remember straightening my hair on Sunday morning thinking to myself, "I shouldn't have the time to be doing this right now; I should be feeding Isaac, have spit up on my shirt, and should be trying to get him ready to get out the door... not have twenty minutes to spend on my hair." I know in time those kinds of thoughts and that "mind chatter," as a friend described it, will begin to subside, but right now it's very present and to be honest, very difficult.
Thank you for continuing to pray for us in what feels like a very lonley time, when the world just keeps on moving when it feels as though our world has been shattered. I know I have asked before for just continued prayers for comfort and peace, and for God's presence to be very real to us, but truthfully, I don't know what else to ask you to pray for. So thank you for continuing to pray for those things, for God to heal our hearts that feel so broken, and for Him to show us how to navigate this "new normal" in our life... what it means to be a family of three that to the world looks like a family of two; how to be parents to a dear child who we desperately wish was here with us but isn't; how to move forward while we miss our sweet Isaac so much; and how to somehow allow God's goodness and grace to radiate through our story.
Posted at 8:37 AM
Monday, October 27, 2008
Many of you have left comments or have e-mailed me asking what, exactly, was Isaac's diagnosis. In an effort to answer your question, I thought I would give a "reader's digest" version of our story.
Our story actually begins on Labor Day of 2007, when I found out I was pregnant with our first child. Having conceived very easily, I was blissfully optimisitic that clearly, on or about May 9 of 2008, we would welcome our first little one to the world. Of course, we called our parents right away, marked the baby's due date on the calendar, and started thinking all about the "next times..." the next time we go to the beach we'd have a little one with us... and so forth. My first few prenatal appointments went well, and I remember both hearing and seeing our baby's heartbeat for the first time. I also remember asking my doctor what the risk of miscarriage was once we had heard the heartbeat, and he told me that it was extremely low... less than 1%.
So I was surprised one Friday afternoon when the kind ultrasound tech called and wanted me to come back in to double check a few things that didn't look quite right on a previous ultrasound a few weeks earlier. She said it was more of a peace of mind thing than an actual concern. Nonetheless, I was terrified. Spencer met me there, and we were blindsighted by the news we received: your baby's heart has stopped beating. That was November 2, 2007. At 13 weeks, my child was no longer with us. We later found out that this baby had triploidy... a whole extra set of chromosomes. The concern that was seen on the ultrasound photos? An omphalocele... and if you remember anything about Isaac, this should sound familiar. However, we were told that the omphalocele was simply a marker of this baby's genetic abnormality.
We waited the couple of months my doctor recommended and then, again, got pregnant easily. I remember taking a pregnany test "just for kicks," thinking that this wasn't our month at all... I was wrong. So on February 26, 2008, we learned that we were expecting Isaac. Again, I was excited, but much more guarded. I remember calling and telling our parents, but we decided to wait much longer before telling other people. I did share the news with one close friend, mostly because I was just really scared and really nervous, and needed a girlfriend in which to confide and with whom to pray.
The first few weeks went off without a hitch. I felt a little more nauseous this time, which was very welcomed because it was a marked difference from my first pregnancy in which I didn't feel nauseous (or really anything) at all. We saw and heard Isaac's heartbeat, and everything seemed to be going well.
In late April, I went away to New York with my mom and sister for the weekend, and the whole time just felt like something was"off." I don't know how to explain it really... but I just noticed this weird drop in any pregnancy symptoms. I was about 12 weeks at this point, and thought it could have simply been my symptoms tapering; but because of my previous experience, I wanted to be sure.
So, I called the doctor and on April 21, went in for a heartbeat check. Spencer met me there, just as I was being called back. The nurse couldn't find Isaac's heartbeat on the doppler, so they very quickly sent me for an ultrasound. I remember asking the tech if there was a heartbeat and she said yes, but she seemed very concerned and preoccupied with other things she had found. She asked if we had had our first trimester screen yet, and I explained that we hadn't, and hadn't really planned on having one. I then asked her if she noticed anything that was cause for concern and she said, "Oh, yes..." and turned the screen for us to see. Now I am not one who can usually make out what is on the ultrasound screen, especially early in pregnancy; but there was no mistaking the large cystic hygroma she pointed out around Isaac's head and neck (measuring to the tune of almost 9mm), or the omphalocele by his abdomen. We met briefly with my doctor, who immediately referred us to a genetic counselor.
As we sat and talked with the genetic counselor, my head was spinning... we were hearing things like "5-10% chance of viability" and "even then we wouldn't know about this baby's quality of life..." She took our family history, we talked about what these markers could be pointing to, and she recommended that we have a CVS test done to check Isaac's chromosomes. So we did. And it hurt like crazy.
A few days later, we received the preliminary results that Isaac didn't have Trisomy 13, 18 or 21, and the more thorough results we received about a week later indicated that all of Isaac's chromosomes were normal, and that we were having a little boy. We were so excited... excited that there wasn't anything genetically wrong with our baby, and excited that it was a boy.
We had additional visits with my doctor, and then had our first fetal echocardiogram. Since I was only 17 weeks, it was difficult for the cardiologist to see very much, so she recommended that I go for another one in a few weeks.
During this time, we prayed and prayed... we had learned that Isaac's cystic hygroma had shrunk and praised God for it; we continued to pray that Isaac's heart, brain, lungs, limbs, and everything else would be developing normally. At this point, I truly felt like Isaac was going to be okay in the long run... that he may require some surgeries shortly after birth to correct the omphalocele and that it might be a long road, but I really thought this would all be fixable.
In late June, at 20 weeks pregnant, we went to Children's National Medical Center for our "marathon" day of tests, including a fetal MRI, another fetal echocardiogram, and an in-depth ultrasound. This is the day our lives were changed, our mindset was thwarted, and we learned that things were not at all as good as we were hoping they'd be.
The good news was that Isaac's heart and brain looked normal, as did his limbs. But the rest of the news we received was devastating... the omphalocele contained all of his intestines, his liver, and several other organs. In addition, his spine was severely curved (termed "kyphoscoliosis"). consequently, his chest cavity was extremely small, and he wasn't developing the amount of lung tissue that he should (termed "pulmonary hypoplasia" or "hypoplastic lungs"). We met with several doctors, including a pediatric surgeon, who essentially told us there was really nothing they could do for Isaac. With his chest being so small, there wasn't even really room for lungs to develop, and with his spine being so curved, there really wasn't a way to repair the omphalocele. That day, we were essentially told that our son was going to die... perhaps in utero, perhaps at birth or shortly thereafter.
Many of the dotors with whom we met encouraged terminating the pregnancy; that was never an option for us. Isaac is our child and he deserves a chance at life, just as anyone else. We also know that God is a God of miracles, and that He is bigger than medicine and could change all of this if it was His will.
And so as we continued the long road of many doctors appointments and ultrasounds, we prayed... prayed for Isaac to be healed, prayed for the chance to enjoy seeing Isaac on the ultrasound monitor, prayed that Isaac would be born alive... but over and over again, prayed for a miracle.
During those months of appointments, we learned of other smaller complications, like how the omphalocele was adherent to the placenta and therefore Isaac was sort of "stuck" in a transverse position; we also learned that because Isaac wasn't able to move around freely, the umbilical cord never really had a reason to grow very long, and only measured around 7cm.
At about 33 weeks, I ended up in the hospital having contractions, and thankfully the doctor was able to get them to subside with a few shots of terbutaline. I remained on an oral form of the terbutaline for the duration of my pregnancy. Because of this little scare, my doctor decided to move up my c-secion date by 10 days... this was also devastating to me. I knew that Isaac was safe inside me, and truthfully I didn't want to have to give up 10 days with my son. But, I also recognized the importance of my c-section being carefully planned with all of the right people there, and so an emergency c-section situation wouldn't have been good for anyone .
On October 7, our beautiful sweet Isaac was born at 8:33 am and was alive and with us until 8:49 am when he went to be with Jesus. He was so peaceful the entire time... never struglled or appeared to be in pain, and we are so, so grateful for that. We were so fortunate to have family and close friends there to meet him, to have a wonderful nurse who helped us make lots of memories with him, and a talented photographer who took hundreds of pictures. We got to hold and just love Isaac for as long as we wanted. Saying goodbye to him that night was the hardest thing I have ever had to do; but I wouldn't trade anything for the chance to have gotten to meet my son, and to love him for his entire life... snuggling with him, telling him how proud I am of him, how much we wanted him, and how much we love him.
And so the diagnosis? "A sequence of giant omphalocele, kyphoscoliosis, and hypoplastic lungs, severe." Essentially, the neonatologist's assessment is that the omphalocele was so large that as Isaac's spine grew, it sort of had to grow around the omphalocele (which was sort of pulling him forward). She called it a "deformation" of the spine rather than a "malformation." These two issues, in turn, caused his chest circumference to be so small that he wasn't able to develop enough lung tissue to breathe on his own. We have been told that this was an extremely unfortunate random thing that occurs at 4-6 weeks gestation, that it is not genetic, and that there's no reason to believe it will happen again. I sort of can't get past the fact that an omphalocele was present with both my first pregnancy and with Isaac, and this is definitely something I want to bring up with both my doctor and the genetic counselor.
So in the end, we're left with having found the narrowest odds, and to be honest, that sometimes makes me really angry. I don't like the fact that my child was the 1 in 10,000 (the occurance of a giant omphalocele) and that the other complications made it so that surgery wasn't an option.
I guess the bottom line, though, is just that I miss my son terribly. I had thought that having so much foreknowledge would have better prepared me for this; but the truth of the matter is that it didn't. It allowed us to be prepared on October 7, but nothing can prepare you for the depth of the heartache of losing a child.
I don't really know anything different to ask you to pray for today... it's all the same, really... For peace, for comfort, for God to be near to us (when truthfully I feel really abandoned, even though I know I haven't been). Please also pray for us as Spencer as he goes back to work tomorrow... this is hard both for him to be getting back into the grind, and for me, as I am pretty resistant to wanting anything to go back to "normal." Please also pray that God would begin to restore our joy and our hope in the midst of our brokeness.
Posted at 7:03 AM