Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Birthdays and Holidays

I'm going to do a bit of a long update because it's been awhile.

2015 has been a hard year for multiple reasons.  We have survived a significant move to a neighboring town into a much better house for us.   Although I will miss being less than 2 miles from Gabriel, it is nice that we still aren't too far away.  The neighborhood is nice and our family is much better fit in the new place.   Of course we have Gabriel monuments and memorials throughout our new home.

Over the course of late summer/early fall we experienced a few more losses, tough ones.  My dear grandma passed away in August.  This loss was devastating for me as I've always been close to my maternal grandmother. I found comfort in knowing that Gabriel would now experience the grandma I knew and loved so much.   Her death was not a surprise, there were multiple things leading up to that time. I'm just glad I got to see her and spend some time with her in the days and hours leading up to her passing.

My mother in law had a long and courageous 9 year battle with cancer. She was a fighter and was able to continue on living, even with the chemo and other treatments.  In November her body did not react well to the new chemo regimen she was on and she landed in the hospital where she would stay. Although this death was somewhat expected, it was still a shock as we weren't expecting it so soon.  Just weeks before this happened she was doing very well and had been out running in the sprinkler with my kids, enjoying life on river cruises and other vacations.  That chemo treatment took her out fast and we were all a bit surprised.  Her passing - especially being so close to the passing of my grandma - was very tough for our family.  It is comforting to know that although my surviving children have lost 2 grandmas, my Gabriel has gained 2.  I know those two lovely ladies are up there spoiling him with love, although our hearts remain broken here. In the last moments I had with Gail, I asked of her the same thing I asked of my grandma." Please give Gabriel a special hug and kiss from me, tell him how much I miss him and that I'll see him again someday." For Gail I added "Take care of my little man, I'll take care of yours."

Through these losses, I've learned how much Gabriel's death has effected Evelyn.  She handles it death and loss like a champ.  We always try to put it in a positive light "We'll see grandma again some day." or  "Grandma is going to take care of Evelyn for us till we see them all again!".   For Christmas, the only thing she asked from Santa was a photo of grandma Gail for her bedroom.  Through a joint effort including a heartbroken auntie, Santa came through. Evelyn couldn't have been more thrilled. But we were so heartbroken. It's so sad to know that she gets it. At 5 years old she understands more than she should. It breaks my heart and makes me miss these beautiful ladies even more. Evelyn has glowing stars on her ceiling and one night caught me completely off guard "mommy, you see that star there? The one by the little ones there? I'm going to name it Grandma Gail because it shines so bright."  Instant tears fell.  She is so sweet and absolutely wise beyond her years.

I don't want my kids to experience loss, sadness and heartache. Especially at such a young age. But it's a part of life and they handle it with grace.

Gabriel's birthday this year was a bit tough. He would have been 4 years old.  I had a tough time holding it together throughout the day as my mind wondered to sights of him, the way he smelled and felt to the touch. We told Evelyn that it was Gabriel's birthday and that we would go to the cemetery to put up his tree and celebrate his life.  I don't think she quite understood what that meant.  She was excited all day, dancing around the house saying "It's Gabriel's birthday!"   We dug out his Christmas tree and went out to adorn the cemetery with holiday cheer.  Although it helps brighten that day for me, it's still so sad.  The cemetery looked beautiful with his bright white tree shining for all the babies that rest there.  Evelyn was disappointed. Although I bought cupcakes to have after setting up his tree, she was upset that there wasn't more to it.

Christmas day was tough. I wasn't feeling jolly, happy or in the spirit.  When Evelyn opened her photo from Santa she was so excited. She exclaimed "A photo of Grandma! It's what I wanted! For my room!"   Daddy lost it. His heart hurt and was broken still.  My heart hurt but I held it together so D could have the moment he so desperately needed. Holidays are so hard with so much loss in the air.

This Christmas day was different however.  Over the summer, my sister in law became pregnant with triplets. Sadly she lost 2 of the babies at around 16 weeks. She continued on with the 3rd baby and her due date was set for Christmas day.  The pregnancy was emotionally tough, you could see it on her face.  In the afternoon hours on Christmas day, She went into labor.  She had asked me to attend the labor and delivery previously.  Little did I know she would go into labor on Christmas.  It was a quick 3 hour labor and she was surprised with a little Christmas baby boy!  Helping this little guy into the world on a day that was so tough to get through, really brought some happiness and peace to the season.  My family needed that positivity this year.

For now we are living in the moment. I cherish the sadness, tears and hurt as a symbol of how much these wonderful people have meant to me.   It's not easy to grieve, to hurt so much.  We are looking into 2016 with a positive outlook and hoping for great things this upcoming year.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Welcome to Holland

I'm going to jump to the point of this post and do a more personal update later.

People often ask me and praise me for how strong I was during our journey. They often ask how I stayed as strong as I was, the truth is I wasn't always that way. I definitely had moments of deep desperate despair.  When I read this essay my view changed though.  I went from feeling lost and hopeless, to seeing the brighter side of things, at least as bright as it could get given our situation. I began enjoying Gabriel's presence and cherishing the time we had. Here's how it came to me -

While navigating our lives after Gabriel's diagnosis a local woman got in touch with me. She was traveling a very similar journey and with very similar timing.  She shared an essay with me called "Welcome to Holland".  This was a turning point for me and I'm SO glad she shared it with me.  She uses this a lot when talking about her own journey though loss and every time she posts it, shares it or talks about it,  I smile.  I'm grateful of the positive reminder.  It was a very uplifting for me and changed the direction of my path dramatically.  I hope that this is something that will help others - so I'm passing it along to you.  I believe it was written for parents of children who have special needs, but it fits VERY well into any seemingly devastating situation that doesn't go as planned. So I know sharing this will help more than one type of person.

I don't take credit of the beautiful display. I found it on google and loved it. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Travesty Fraud and Devastation

I feel like I need to respond to a situation that has occurred. If not to the person who did this, than for myself and those who know me as well as past and future readers.  I feel the need to acknowledge the situation and make it known - If we haven't already been to hell and back, someone has opted to make the trip significantly longer for us.

At some point a woman from southern Tennessee (we'll call her Amy for privacy sake) stole photos from my blog and fabricated her own pregnancy. She could have revealed her miscarraige at any point but instead, she pretended her way through an entire 9 months and on February 3rd, Amy's daughter was born and died 36 minutes later (the same amount of minutes Gabriel survived).  She posted a photo of Gabriel and used it as her Facebook cover photo claiming it to be of her new daughter who passed away from kidney failure. Later she would go on Facebook with her story and receive donations from warm and loving strangers who felt a sense of heartache and desired to help her. They gave selflessly and generously.

At some point, a couple caught on to her scheme when they saw Amy's cover photo in a Google search that led them to my blog.  This wonderful couple collected all the information they could before everyone found out and chaos ensued. How blessed am I that this loving couple had thought to gather all the documents and proof silently before everyone else revealed Amy for who she is. The wife contacted the local authorities with all the proof, she knew who this person was that was doing this. After meeting with their local authorities she contacted me via email.

Her words were loving, sympathetic and heartfelt. A gentle voice to share heartbreaking news.  I read the email multiple times over, grateful she had already taken the steps to alert the proper people before dropping this 10,000lb bomb on me.  Immediate action wasn't necessary. Amy had already been called out on her fraud and the authorities were already alerted to the situation.  I was able to process all the emotions that went through me as each word repeated over and over.  

I feel eternally grateful for the wonderful woman who felt the need to contact me, and also took hours out of her life to protect me.  I'm grateful to her wonderful husband for assisting and supporting her.  I feel hurt that Gabriel was so disrespected in such a fraudulent way.  I feel angry that someone would do this. I'm flattered that she thought my baby was so beautiful she wanted to claim him as her own (I mean lets face it - he was stunning and if he wasnt already mine, I'd want to claim him too). I'm pleased knowing that with my blog posted all over their local Facebook pages, someone somewhere would have seen it that will benefit from it. I'm also pleased that this woman will get what she deserves and all the loving people who so generously gave their money to her will get their justice, whether that's legally or karmatic.  

I'm also utterly disappointed in some people that make up the human race.  I always knew there was risk in posting photos online and publicly.  People steal photos all the time and use them for many reasons. I had thoughts of watermarking all my photos, but a) by the time I thought of it there were way too many to go back to and b) my experience in the photography industry has taught me that watermarking your photos doesn't actually protect you, at least not entirely.   Despite knowing the risk, I felt it was more important that the families who came to my blog with a similar fatal diagnosis would see that these babies do look fairly normal. I remember fearing that Gabriel would look different or deformed.  I posted the photos to ease other parents hearts and minds, and through feedback I know families it has helped. I had however hoped that if images were to be stolen, they would be of my living healthy children. I had hoped that people would have enough respect for the dead that they would leave his alone.  

Amy has made a mockery of all the families that experience infant loss. She's made a mockery of the greiving journey so many of us heartbreakingly walk. She's disrespected every family that has REALLY experienced this heartache.  

I had thoughts of removing my blog or all the photos within it, but I won't. My blog has well over 100,000 views. My blog has helped dozens of families who have since contacted me.  My blog is here for a reason and I can't fathom removing it from future parents who may need it, or that person who hadn't lost a child but now understands. Everyone has taken something with them as they walk away, and that is much more important to me than some unstable woman possibly stealing my images. 

I had faith that people would have enough respect to leave these precious and personal images alone, but alas I hoped wrong again. 

I am an emotional victim in this situation, but the real victims in this story are the loving people who donated generously to her. Another victim is her husband, who seemingly had no idea of her deceit and thought his baby girl had died.

Her side of the story is heartbreaking as well. She says she had miscarried early in her pregnancy but didn't have the courage to tell everyone. She went on with her pregnancy as if nothing was wrong, even had a baby shower. She got so wrapped up in her own web of lies that come her due date, she needed a way out. She seemingly chose Potter's Syndrome at random and through Google found images to use. She claims she never received anything and and the things she did receive were returned to the sender. I have no way of knowing the truth, although I have seen and hold in my hands her posts to Facebook. It sickens me to read her journey and the way she deceived everyone she came in contact with causing them to believe her misleading stories.

At this point the police are aware of the situation, but unless someone comes forward with fraud charges or proof that they sent Amy anything of monitary value, their hands are tied. It's sad that people including her get away with similar acts of fraud and never get charged with any crimes. 

My heartaches, I'm heart broken and have been disrespected in the worst way. I hope nobody ever has to feel the pain I feel because of this woman.

My message to her: Believe me when I tell you that Gabriel's story is not one that you wish were yours. Having precious photos as your only way of remembering what your child looked like is not pleasant. Having to say, good-bye sucks.  This is not a journey you wish to travel or want as part of your life. Burying your child is pure hell and no person should HAVE to endure this kind of pain, and no person should WANT to. The attention a parent receives after their child is ripped from their arms is not the kind of attention you want, it's the kind of attention that is uncomfortable and akward, its filled with pain, tears and gut wrentching apologies. I'm sorry for the loss you've experienced, I have also experienced a miscarriage and remember that pain all to well. I will never make excuses for what you have done, but I can have a certain amount of understanding for mental instability. I hope you find the help that you so clearly need to seek. I'll be praying for you.

The photo is found here:

Molly Bears

I've waited a long time for this post, yet it's taken me a week to have time to write it!  I spent 2 1/2 years trying to get on the list for Molly Bears.  Molly Bears is an organization that has volunteers that make bears with weight in them so that they weigh the same amount as an angel baby that has passed.   They only have their list open once day per month and they only accept 200 new purchases.  As you can imagine the timing is curtail when trying to get on the list, and time and time again I was too late.

The bears only cost $20 which is amazing because the average bear is $40 to make and ship.  They run on donations - both monitary and supplies.   I'm grateful for the wonderful people who make this happen.

I finally got my bear on the list in August.  Along with it came the warning that the wait for your bear is sometimes 9 months.  That's ok, I would wait.

In January I received an email that my bear was being made!  I was shocked that it was so quick and soon my bear would be in my arms!

A few weeks later I received the email that my bear was on its way! In a few short days I opened my box to find a package from Molly Bears.  It sat next to me in the car for about 45 minutes before I finally drove home to open it.  The anticipation was killing me but I wasn't ready to open it right away.

Each  Molly Bear looks completely different in design, style and everything.  They are personal to you and that makes it special.  I had put in a request for a bow tie but I had no idea what my bear would look like.

He's beautiful.  The minute I picked him up out of the box there was a sense of peace that came over me.

4lbs 8oz. Who knew it could feel so heavy.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Something in the Water

The other day I was driving down the highway on my way  home when a song came on the radio - Something in the Water by Carrie Underwood.  The lyrics talk about being stronger as she walks through a tough journey in her life . I hadn't really been listening  through the song because as I'm driving my mind wonders into 100 different directions.  Then at the end of the song she starts singing Amazing Grace, and that caught my attention. Suddenly I started thinking about funerals, because you know that's probably the most popular funeral song played.

Of course that got me thinking about Gabriel's funeral even though we didn't sing or play Amazing Grace. I started remembering the moment I lost it.

I had stayed composed as his daddy and I carried his "cradle" to his final resting place. I had kept it together as the pastor began talking about the after life and salvation.  It wasn't until everyone started reciting The Lord's Prayer that the tears started flowing. I couldn't speak . My voice disappeared and my strength went with it. Standing there surrounded by so many people who love and support us, yet I felt so weak and helpless.

The remainder of my drive was spent in tears all because of a song that was supposed to make a person feel stronger and empowered

I write this post so that you can understand what it's like for a moment in the mind of a loss parent. It's the simplest things that will throw vivid memories of him back in the forefront of my mind once again. Sometimes it's a random bird, flower, or billboard. Sometimes it's a specific location I drive by or a person I saw online.

A small thing - like a song - can put a wrench in an entire day and suddenly my mood is different, my vibe has changed, and the way I carry myself has completely turned around.

I think about him every day, but some days the universe sends me a solid reminder and usually it sticks with me for quite awhile.