Sunday, January 25, 2009

25 random things

A post has been floating around Facebook where you post 25 random things that people might not know about you. I decided to do the same for Keely:

1. She's buried with a blue stuffed angel because I was so sure she was a boy.
2. She was born with her beautiful blue eyes open.
3. She is buried next to my beloved grandmother, Marney.
4. She weighed 1 lb 3 oz. but most likely lost weight after death, before birth. She was huge for her age!
5. My feet were crossed at the arches in the hospital bed and the nurse asked if I sat that way often (I do) because Keely's feet kept crossing that way when they tried to get her footprints.
6. She died at 11:20 am. 04/02/07
7. She was born at 8:55 pm. 04/11/07
8. She had wisps of white, white hair.
9. She was buried April 14th, 11 years to the day from my baptism.
10. Her nickname in utero was Baby Cree.
11. She is the only one of our 3 children we didn't know the gender of before birth.
12. Boston got to hold her.
13. She is named for my sisters (oldest's middle name is Rae, middle's middle name is Keely).
14. After her birth, we read "I Love You As Much" to her, just as we read to her brother every night. The last page says "Now sleep, child of mine, while the stars shine above. I love you as much as a mother can love"
15. The bouquet on her casket was white roses and lilies of the valley, the same as my wedding bouquet.
16. 62 bouquets were sent to her funeral.
17. Macy's will always make me think of her. That's where we found much of what she's buried with as well as what I wore to the funeral.
18. Her headstone is emerald green, which is hard to see in the photos.
19. We (hubby and I) designed her stone.
20. It was 30 degrees the day she was buried.
21. While in early labor, we watched the Style Network wedding show, trying to be distracted.
22. She wore a little pink robe in the hospital. The funeral home laundered it so she could be buried in it and we could keep her little pink dress.
23. The imprint of a foot on her life announcements are almost exactly the same size as her footprints.
24. I have a tattoo of pink angel wings on my right shoulder for her.
25. A little angel carrying lilies of the valley was stolen from her grave last year.

Monday, January 19, 2009

what happened...

So often we are asked for an explanation of what exactly happened to our sweet little Keely. If only we knew...

Upon our pregnancy with our sweet little rainbow, Callum, every test known to man and perinatologist was performed, including blood clotting disorder testing. My peri had a feeling we would find our answers there. As we waited for the results to come in, after months of wondering and hoping for an answer, I got my answer. My answer was that I didn't want to know. In waiting for those test results, I realized that knowing would be just as scary as not, maybe even moreso. And so, ignorant bliss is the path I longed for. Knowing what happened wouldn't bring our baby back but it may provide a safer entry into the world for our youngest and so then I did want to know. When the phone rang and my heart leapt into my throat, that half-prayer was answered. No clotting disorders. I was have half relieved, half terrified.

I have gone over every second of pregnancy, from conception to watching her beautiful heartbeat stop, looking for an answer, even a clue. None to be found by doctors or hunch. I don't know if it's better that way but it doesn't really matter now. The best medical guess is a cord issue, compression or entanglement that resolved itself while we planned the funeral, before her birth. And so it goes.

"This day is getting older, in fading light it's beautiful.
This wind is blowing colder, and too soon I'll feel it's pull.
Still, I took all my chances, earned myself an even score.
Try to learn my lessons well. And I don't have the answers,
for those questions anymore. Only love can be both heaven and hell.

So sturdy up, sturdy up your heart, for the road is long ahead.
I'll be with you even though we're apart, but your road is yours to tread.
And so it goes, and so it goes, and so it goes, slows your mind, mind, mind, so it goes... and so it goes, and so it goes, slows your mind, mind, mind.

I've grown old on this ocean, gave her all, my stronger years.
Gave my wife my devotion, when she died, the ocean my tears.
I've tried to teach you well son, all of everything I knew.
Of how to live this life be true.
Don't bow your head to no one, and no matter what you do,
if you start then see it through.

So sturdy up, sturdy up your heart, for the road is long ahead.
I'll be with you even though we're apart, but your road is yours to tread.
And so it goes, and so it goes, and so it goes, slows your mind, mind, mind, so it goes... and so it goes, and so it goes, slows your mind, mind, mind."

~The Beautiful Girls

how quickly they forget

Isn't it funny how time can pass too quickly and not fast enough at the same time?

It wasn't that long ago and still so many have forgotten. So many have moved on. More and more often I have to remind people. Three children. I have THREE children. You may not see her everyday but I do. I see her in the sun and snow. I visit her grave. She is with us because she lives on in her brothers and in her parents. Often I am surprised, pleasantly, at those who remember and aren't afraid to speak her name. If I could only express how much that means to me. If only those people knew just how important that is, how important they are for doing so. Sometimes, my attention is drawn to someone who remembers and doesn't speak her name to me and that's important too. Flowers left at the cemetary anonymously, a thought or a prayer. I don't need to hear it, I need to feel it. The love for my little girl is spread all over this world. How lucky am I to have gotten to carry her. How very blessed I am to have my beautiful children; all of them.

Those people, the ones who remember, are the ones I will focus on. They are the ones I'll think of when I feel like others have moved on. I'm not sure this is even coherent. It evolved from what I intended to write. I came on to rant and complain (about those who have forgotten) and in the end, didn't want to waste my fingers with negative thoughts but praise those who haven't moved on without her, but taken her memory along. I suspect those of you know who you are and I thank you. I love you.

"Parting is all we know of heaven and all we need of hell." Emily Dickenson

Friday, January 16, 2009

one more look back

written August 3rd 2007

There’s this girl in the pictures from last year, even earlier this year. I feel so sorry for her. She’s na├»ve. She wears these innocent smiles because she doesn’t know what’s about to happen to her, she doesn’t know her life is about to change forever. She isn’t considering that her pregnancy might result in a grave instead of a baby. She doesn’t think she’ll ever have a daughter and she can’t fathom burying one. She was planning a nursery, not a funeral. That poor girl was me in another life. 4 months and 2 days ago, when life was still perfect; when both of my children were still alive. I’m in mourning for that girl as well as my daughter. She was fun. People wanted to be around her. She could find optimism in everything. She wasn’t the girl that would cry for no reason. She wasn’t a bitter, angry person. She wasn’t so sad. She wasn’t afraid of holding her nieces because it would upset her. She could listen to music without it taking on a whole new meaning, a sad meaning. She wasn’t the one that people were awkward around. She wasn’t the one people were hesitant to have around. She was the one that comforted others, not the one who had trouble comforting herself even. She wasn’t the one who didn’t even want to make a trip to the grocery store because she should be going with two children.

I don’t know what the future holds for that girl, the girl I am now. There are a few things I can take comfort in:That girl will carry on the memory of her daughter and make sure no one forgets.That girl never has to regret loving her children with all of her heart and soul because she does and always will, she has since the moment of conception.That girl has a daughter and will always have a daughter. That girl reads the bible daily. That girl has a mission to get back to her daughter.That girl saw an amazing outpouring of grief for this beautiful little soul, who’s feet may not have touched the earth, but her presence touched many on earth. That girl was given an amazing gift, even if she didn’t get to keep it.

another one from the vault

A blog entry from December 26, 2008 and more fitted to here.

It's 11:15 pm the day after Christmas, the boys will be up around 5:30 and I'm exhausted. The boys are all exhausted (all 3 of them!) and snoring soundly. I should sleep. I can't. I spent Christmas, like everyday, with an insane range of emotions. When I look at Boston and Callum, I could just burst; they give me such love, such pride, such peace. I cannot believe I've been so lucky. I am so very, very blessed to have my husband; so warm, caring and true. I don't know how I've been so lucky. Then, there is an aching, throbbing hole in our family. Keely should be here too. We talk about her, miss her, love her daily. She's in our every thought, all of our sweet babies are. Our boys know her, miss her, love her. I wish they could grow up with her. I'm not an unhappy person by any means. I don't want it to sound like I don't appreciate my blessings because I do. They make my heart swell. They are sleeping right here; one in my arms and one at my side. I could sit here all night just listening to their breath. I will and I am so thankful for it; both that it's there and that I'm here to hear it. If I don't hear it for a split second, I'll have to nuzzle them to make sure they're okay.

There is a family not that far away tonight that won't be hearing the reassuring breaths of their son (I had a photoshoot for NILMDTS whom I'm a photographer with). There are little boys sleeping tonight whose mother can't be there to listen (I checked the lemmondrops blog). I am just heartsick for these families, facing their darkest hours right now. I've been in the position of facing the first night of your child in Heaven and you here, without a clue of what to do. Mundane things seem so silly, so pointless. That's how I feel tonight. Why should I get to sit here and watch a movie or sleep? I remember the first night after Keely died. Sam made mac n chreese and while Boston ate, we sat in silence. Those plates sat there, untouched, until my mom did our dishes the next day. Sam and I sat up all night watching videos on Mtv. That was the first time I saw Rob Thomas' "Little Wonders". Boston slept in both of our laps and I felt every twitch in my body, hoping to feel her move, hoping they'd made a mistake. Someone is sitting up right now, unable to sleep, left with only memories, hoping there was a mistake.

I started the Kelly Corrigan book yesterday. This is what I get for reading- ha!

I'm terrified of facing that night again, that first night and I'm terrified of someone facing that night with only memories left of me. I find such comfort in my faith, in the Bible. It isn't death that frightens me. I'm trying desperately to live a good life. Nights like tonight, I want to hug everybody I've ever wronged, just to be sure. I'm not scared of death but I'm in no hurry. I have children on both sides and the ones here need me more. Young, vibrant, full lives gone with little or no warning. I miss that "it won't happen to me" ignorant bliss. I never said it but I'm sure I thought it subconsciously at least. I can never feel a part of that category now. It's not that I'm sitting around waiting for bad things to happen. But nights like tonight, it catches up to me. I have to have a good cry or purge my rambling, probably incoherent rants on unsuspecting friends. Or both.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

a life cut short

The following is a post from my family journal blog, written last month. I thought it seemed more than appropriate to add to here as these families are still on my mind and in my prayers.

This has been a busy month and in a busy time, it's so easy to forget the bigger picture while trying to remember if all the gifts have been packed in the car. Cancer has claimed the life of two precious souls this Christmas. One child, much too young to say good bye to his parents and friends. One young mother, with children much too young to yet understand what they've lost. One of these I'd never met but I knew her words well. She offered insight and spirit through her blog up until her last weeks. Ironically, during this time, I've been drawn to read Kelly Corrigan's book (The Middle Place) by the youtube video of her reciting her essay "Transcending". It rings so true. I couldn't begin to do it justice by summing it up so I won't try but google it, buy the book and be moved. I read tonight that it's as much an honor to be a witness to someone leaving this world as it is to witness their coming. Nothing could be more true. The difference, to me, is what lies before them. We know what a baby may face. We know, Lord willing, they'll learn and grow and be loved and give love. We pray they'll be surrounded by family and friends and laughter. There will be tears; some of joy, some of heartache. When we witness a soul departing from life as we know it, the fear and uncertainty are left in our hands. Those of us watching this transition are left to battle the void left by the departed. It's surreal. It's nearly impossible to wrap my mind around what that means. My work in bereavement photography has taken me to that place often. Quite an incredible honor; to be with this soul who, not long ago, had every hope and dream this world could offer pinned neatly on their shoulders and now leave a legacy which is yet to be determined. To watch my Keely leave this earth was like no other moment. To this day, 20 months later, my throat swells to think of it but I refuse to forget one second. I want to remember each thought that went through my head, each smell, the touch of every surface. To think that right now, at this moment, someone else is having that moment makes me ache for them. At that moment I said good bye to my girl, someone was welcoming their girl with utter and complete joy. At those moments of pure and total joy, when my boys were born, someone was standing at their child's grave. No pattern or reason, no predicting what moments we'll face in our life and to witness the end of this journey for someone is probably the most incredible honor bestowed on any other person. I just needed to get that out so I can recount these sweet memories with my boys from the holidays because only the Lord knows when memories will be all there is left of me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A year ago tomorrow...

In the early days, I kept a journal. As time passed, I relied more and more on the shoulders of other bereaved mothers through the MISS Foundation, which I am so very lucky to be a part of. We never have to walk this journey alone. Looking back at this time last year, we were just past 9 months since we held our little girl in our arms, since life has so drastically and so quickly changed. We were months away from holding our little rainbow boy in our arms, his life a voucher for hope restored.

Just over a year ago, I wrote the following post:

I had a horrible night last night. I was very paranoid for some unknown reason and felt very uneasy before falling asleep. It takes hours for me to fall asleep anymore, but I'm kind of used to that now. Before I fell asleep, my mind kept flashing back to the events surrounding Keely's death and delivery. Every last detail; things I hadn't remembered up until now. My husband and son were both sleeping peacefully (I checked on their breath like a crazy person) and I laid there crying. I tried to think of a million different things to distract myself. I prayed for what seemed like hours, but everytime my mind would wander back to those weeks. It's not that I want to forget them; they're almost all I have of Keely. I would rather remember the happy times with her though. After about 4 hours of that, I finally fell asleep only to have horrible nightmares, filled with blood. Very vivid, bright blood in each dream. When I woke up, though exhausted, I didn't even know if I wanted to go to sleep again. There is no safe place in times like these, I guess. There was no reason this time; no anniversary, no sad song I heard, just my mind going crazy.I don't know if I'm just getting scared of not bringing home this rainbow baby, whom I already love. I know a huge part of me is afraid of letting other people forget Keely. I know we'll never forget her and I also know it doesn't really matter; some people want to forget. But I feel like it's up to us as her parents to not allow anyone in our presence to forget her. I'm a bit afraid that when our rainbow baby is born, people will think we've forgotten her. There's no real point to this other than to get it off my chest.

MISSing Keely and her angel friends terribly

the first

I've always been one to listen to the lyrics. Of course, at first I'm drawn to the melody or the beat but then I listen to the words. Since having children, the words have taken on even more meaning. Since Keely's passing, the sad songs sting deeper. One of the first songs that I associated with Keely was "Stolen" by Dashboard Confessional. Some of the words don't fit but enough of it does that it'll always be her song. Specifically, for the reasons explained in bold...

We watch the season pull up its own stakes
And catch the last weekend of the last week
Before the gold and the glimmer have been replaced,
Another sun soaked season fades away(she was due in September, the end of summer)

You have stolen my heart (self explanatory)

Invitation only, grant farewells
Crush the best one, of the best ones
Clear liquor and cloudy eyed, too early to say goodnight (this line in particular gets me everytime)
You have stolen my heart
And from the ballroom floor we are in celebration
One good stretch before our hibernation
Our dreams assured and we all, will sleep well (as does she)

You have stolen
You have stolen my heart
I watch you spin around in the highest heels
You are the best one, of the best ones
We all look like we feel

You have stolen my
You have stolen my heart

Steal our hearts she did.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

from her 1st birthday

so remembered, so loved by so many

The cemetary in winter

I've had issues with the cemetary where Keely is laid to rest. We chose that solely because my grandmother (my beloved Marney) is. I do find comfort in Keely being next to her Great Grandma and that is where Sam and I will someday rest. I know once we pass on, we won't care but it's important to me now. We've gone 9 rounds with the caretaker about getting the grass cut; many of the families of the cemetary, not just us. Finally, some good samaritans (who I want to just give a hug to) took over and made it beautiful all summer long. We've had things stolen (if you see a little angel carrying Lilies of the Valley, let me know) and we've had strange things left there.

There are times, though, that I find such peace in her place, my heart is relieved. One morning, a fawn was resting right at her headstone. Her headstone itself is perfect: emerald green stone, the shape of an angel and the perfect verses for our perfect girl. It makes me feel good to decorate it for holidays and to find the perfect flowers for her butterfly shaped shepherd's hook.

Yesterday was one of the good days there. There was a quarter inch of ice covering the entire place and complete and total silence. I could almost hear Heaven. Even her windchimes were too heavy with ice, until I turned to go back to the car and a single note from them said goodbye to me. I had to look back once more to see the sun peek through the clouds and shimmer on the angel's ice. Such beauty.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Her birth story; into Heaven, into our arms

On April 2, 2007, I had a doctor's appointment as usual. After a usual exam, the doctor couldn't find the heartbeat with a dopplar. We upgraded to a scan and heard that sweet heartbeat. The heartrate was unusually slow so we went to the ultrasound room, where I watched that precious beat stop. Those were the last beats of Keely Rae's heart on this earth. Sam and I were beyond devastated and struggled to believe it. We prayed and prayed until our follow up ultrasound the next day, but the miracle we needed wasn't found. Our angel measured 22 weeks 3 days along and was total perfection. Everything looked perfect so no answers were easy. We waited to induce. We wanted to plan the funeral, just right for our little girl. I felt the irrepressable urge to oversee every detail. With the help of some angels here on earth, we were able to plan for one of the worst and most beautiful days of our lives.

On April 11, 2007, we began an induction just as we would've with a live birth. I had to be given three times the strength of a normal induction because my body wasn't ready to give Keely up- and neither was I. Around noon, the contractions became intense, but I stayed with our plan to give Keely the medfree birth we'd been planning. Boston was amazing; he napped with me in my hospital bed and kept our spirits alive. What an incredible little soul. He nursed at 5:30, a little earlier than usual because I was afraid we wouldn't get the chance later. Soon after, I began having intense contractions and was purely terrified. I've never been so scared in my life. It was nothing like the medfree birth with Boston. I honestly thought I might die. The intense pain my body was feeling was nothing compared to my heart breaking. I read the 23rd Psalm several hundred times, along with Psalm 139:13-18, the verses we'd chosen to be read (among others) at the funeral. Sam was amazing. He held my hand and kept me strong when I know he was dying inside. We talked of our little angel watching over us, knowing we are so limited in our understanding of time on earth and she knows we'll be together again soon- in the blink of Heaven's eye. We had them do one last ultrasound just before the induction; just to make sure. That's when they told us we had a daughter. We were shocked. So much for mother's intuition. I would've bet anything on our second child being a boy. Keely Rae it would be; named for my sisters. I began bleeding severely around 6:15 and the nurses felt sure we'd have a baby before 7 pm. I've never in my life seen so much blood. It was pouring out; nothing like Boston's birth. Everyone left the room except for Sam and I as we waited to see our daughter's earthly body. It was different from a live birth. They just leave you in there unattended, no nurses watching what was happening, no doctors on call. Just you and your sadness. 7:30 pm rolled around and the nurse began to become concerned about the severity of my bleeding. She called my doctor, who said she was on her way. Sam told me later that he was terrified, seeing how much blood I had lost. He feared I'd have to have a transfusion. That was pain like I've never experienced in my life. A million times worse than a live birth, as if you can feel part of you dying along with your child. The adrenaline rush as with a live birth is absent because I just wanted to keep her with me; I didn't want to give her up. Pure hell. Despite the pain, Sam kept me strong and I declined pain meds of any kind. Somehow, that last hour, Sam and I found a peace about us that had eluded us so far. We both felt like she was okay; that she was with us and that we were going to be okay. She was already better than okay.

At 8:55 pm on April 11, 2007, Keely Rae was born sleeping, already in Heaven. She was pure beauty. She had her daddy's jawline (same as big brother), along with Daddy's lips. She had huge, beautiful eyes and a pointy little nose. Her little feet were pointy and long; like she would've been a ballerina. She was stunning. Sam and I fell for her (as if we hadn't already). She looked absolutely perfect. No visible problems, with her or with the cord or the placenta. I got to hold her for a minute and then the doctor told me they were going to have to extract the placenta because it had broken up inside (part of it came out before the baby). Still, I declined meds and my doctor said she didn't recommend that but that it was my decision. I knew I'd regret it if I couldn't at least give Keely the birth we'd planned. Sam kept me strong. The doctor used her hand to scrape the lining of the uterus to extract any remaining placenta. That pain was hell. Pure, complete hell. They didn't expect that I'd have to fully dilate, but I did, just as a live birth. Within the hour, Keely was cleaned up and we had prints made of her tiny hands and feet. She fit in the palms of her daddy's hands. The photographer from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep came and did a photo shoot with me, Sam, Boston and his little sister Keely. How precious those photos are to us; of our angel. The hospital also took some photos and gave us a tiny pink outfit for Keely to wear. It's beautiful. Unfortunately, there was another family down the hall who lost their baby about the same gestational age as Keely. My heart broke for them. I felt awful knowing another family was facing this pain. Every once in awhile, over the loud speaker, they'd chime a lullaby. That was a sign that a new baby was born safe and sound. We were in the maternity ward with all of the babies, but had no baby to take home. Somehow, we found a bit of solace in knowing we weren't the only ones, but I wouldn't wish this pain on my worst enemy. We had to stay until about 10 oclock the next morning so they could observe me. During that time, Keely stayed in our room and I just stared and her and wept while I held my sleeping baby in my arms. I'll never forget her beautiful face. The next morning, we left empty armed.

Saturday was the funeral. I didn't know I could produce so many tears. I didn't know I could actually, physically feel my heart breaking. I didn't ever think I'd be laying a child to rest. I never even thought I'd have a daughter, let alone bury one. The funeral home was packed. It amazed me that our little angel baby could touch so many people without her feet touching the earth. I didn't leave her side during the visitation; I wanted every second near her that I could have. Before people started coming in, Sam, Boston and I went in to see her one last time. Her little earthly body needed so badly to rest, to be laid next to her great grandmother in peace since her soul was already soaring. Boston had carefully picked out a blanket for her, which we swaddled her in. On her head, a tiny pink bow from my mom and dad. Also buried with her was a stuffed angel big brother wanted to give her that said "God bless baby", a letter from me, Sam and Boston, an "I Love You" taggie book that we bought just after our bfp and she was wrapped in her delicate pink outfit. We also put a pink "my first" dolly in there with her and kept an identical one for her memory trunk. We closed the casket after our final look and final kiss. The room was filled with flowers, angels and friends. My father (a preacher) said the most eloquent, perfect eulogy for our angel baby girl. He read the verses we chose and beautifully told of the life that, though brief, would never be forgotten and made her mark on our world without breathing its air. Sam carried the tiny casket, a lone pallbearer. He said I carried her for her life and he'd carry her for her death. He was so strong and I was so proud. What an amazing man I married. Boston was cordial throughout the visitation and slept throughout the funeral. We laid her to rest next to my Marney amid a light mist and a dark sky. It was one of the hardest days of my life, but it was very important to us that she have a proper goodbye. Her emerald, angel shaped headstone was up by Memorial day. It has Psalm 139:13-18 on the back and the front has her name, angel date, and "our beloved angel". I can't begin to express how broken my heart is and I know that will never go away. We have to find a new normal and move on, while taking our angel and her memory with us.

written by mama with love in the weeks following

I'll take it from the top...

1 year, 8 months, 3 weeks and 5 days ago at 8:55 little girl was born silently into this world.

It sounds simple. It sounds short. It's anything but either of those things. It's grief. She didn't just have death, she had life and her light shines through those that love her still. This is her story and it didn't end 1 year, 8 months, 3 weeks and 5 days ago.

At the encouragement of family and friends, I'm using this little corner of the world to tell our story. There are tears, there are smiles, there is death but beyond that, there is life; both hers and the life she gave us, the lessons she continues to teach us. While the story didn't twist the way we would've planned, it is ours.