Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dear Theodore (1 year old)

6/23/2015 - One year old in heaven

Dear Theodore,

I'm nearly two months late in writing this down, but it has been running through my head constantly. My sweet one year old little boy, my heart is broken and missing you. Your first birthday happened in the midst of much craziness - we had just found out about baby sister's cyst, so we had multiple appointments with specialists and had to switch providers in order to birth her in a hospital instead of the birth center. I was in a car accident two days after your birthday and then your little sister was born just eight days after your birthday. I carried you every second in my heart and my thoughts, but there was not a time for me to sit and write your letter.

Subconsciously I knew that your first birthday would be in the middle of lots of activity, so I did a lot of grieving in the months and weeks leading up to it... I felt the weight of grief very heavily again. The actual day of your birthday was the one peaceful and calm day that week... there were no appointments, and I was able to do the few things I had planned on doing. I took flowers and chocolates to the birth center where you were born, I wrote thank-you notes (that I still need to mail, yikes!), and we visited your grave with the freshly laid gravestone. Nana and Grandad took us out for dinner, and Nana made you the perfect cake for a one-year-old little boy. I wasn't sure if I wanted to sing "Happy Birthday" or not... but Judah started singing it to you all by himself when he saw the cake with the candle lit, so we sang it with him and it was perfect. You were born at 8:46pm, so we went outside after we ate some cake and lit sparklers in the backyard around that time. I wasn't sure leading up to the 23rd what it would look like or even what I wanted it to look like, but it really was just what I didn't know I wanted. So many wonderful people participated in "Theodore's Thank You Day" and did acts of kindness in your memory - it brought peace and joy to my heart to see/hear/read about the things people did. The very next morning we were back to appointments and craziness, but I'm so grateful that God gave us the special, peaceful day that I was hoping for on your birthday. It was enough to get me through those few crazy weeks surrounding baby sister's birth.

I cannot believe that it has been a year... a long year since I birthed you and held you and kissed you for six of the shortest and longest hours on earth. You were such a big boy, 9lbs 12oz! You looked a month old at birth, so chubby and roly poly. I will always desperately wish for more time with you, to see you grow and change, to know you at one year old. As Judah likes to say "Baby Theodore is not a baby anymore, he is a big boy in heaven!"

I don't really know what else to say, just that we miss you so very much. I'm realizing more and more that no matter what our family looks like, there will always be you missing. And that is an ache that we will carry until we meet again - some days it is so very achy.

Happy First Birthday, my sweet Theodore. I am thankful for the peaceful day that it was here on earth, and that every day for you is like the best birthday ever... but I still wish that your face was covered in chocolate cake, and that we could all be laughing at how adorable you are.

Love, Momma, Papa, Judah, and Nella

The last "monthly sticker" balloons - 12 months old.

Visiting your grave

Judah always runs and lets balloons go in the field by your grave.

Birthday cake (chocolate, picked by your big brother)

Sparkler fun outside

We lit a sky lantern, and tied it to the fence so it wouldn't float away (fire hazard!)

Chocolate and flowers for the wonderful people at the birth center you were born at

Thank you notes (still writing them... and still need to mail them!)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Dear Theodore {11 months}

5/23/2015 - Eleven months in heaven

Dear Theodore,

Here we are, just a month before your first birthday in heaven. There were many times during the early days after you were born when reaching a year of grief seemed like an impossibility - how could we get through that much sadness, all those milestones and months without you. But here we are, and it's crept up on me in these final weeks of your little sister's pregnancy. I feel unprepared and unsure of how to celebrate you and desperately miss you at the same time. Your first birthday falls right in the middle of the week that baby sister will be arriving. We didn't necessarily plan it or want it that way, but that is how it has worked out. Navigating the joy of meeting her, and the pain of missing you and wishing you were blowing out your first candle... all in the same week.

Our days are pretty normal, almost a year after you were born. The fact that you lived and died far too soon is integrated into our lives, it's part of our story... not so shocking and jarring and all-consuming as it was in the beginning. But there will always be moments of shock and disbelief. One afternoon not long ago I feel asleep on the couch during Judah's nap, and my mind was in that sort of twilight between sleeping and waking. I thought of you and your birth and death and was in a state of total shock once again - did that really happen? Did I really give birth to you, my perfect but not breathing son? How? Why?

One of the hard things, which happens often, are the questions that all mothers are asked. Is this your first baby? How many children do you have? How old are they?... I get the "Is this your first baby?" question whenever I go anywhere without Judah. I say "No, actually it's my third" and kind of hope the questions stop there. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Recently I was picking up our take-out order at a little Chinese restaurant, and a sweet older Chinese lady continued the questions... How old are your children? Boys or girls? And what is the baby? ... I smiled and said "My oldest boy is three, my second boy would be almost one, and the baby is a girl, due very soon". She didn't pick up on the "would be" and it was way for me to include all my children without raising more questions. And it made me feel like a normal mom, including you in the list. It's a hard thing to navigate though, how much to say so that I feel like I'm being true to myself and honoring you... and how much to not say to avoid the inevitible pain and unwanted comments.

Perhaps harder, though, is when people just innocently assume that baby girl is my second baby, and there is no easy or appropriate way to correct them. Or when someone confuses Judah by asking "Are you having a baby brother or a baby sister?" because in his mind, he has both. And he does. He often answers baby brother, even though he knows we're having a little girl... I think to protect your memory. He understands that baby sister is a different baby. It's just hard for him to grasp that you are not here with us.  He asks frequently if baby sister is going to live in heaven when she is born, to which we tell him "We hope that baby sister is going to come home and grow up with us!". He also often says things like "I miss baby Theodore. I wish I could play with him. He would like my firetrucks! He plays firetrucks in heaven with Jesus. Can we go see him there? Why did he have to go to heaven?" ... Oh, how I wish I could watch the two of you play firetrucks. I'm just so sad that you two will never get to be brothers on this earth.

We recently got a little red wagon and took Judah for a walk in it. Everytime I looked back to check on him, I wished you were strapped into the other little seat. I bet you would just have loved it, sitting like a big boy with your big brother. I know you are having so much more fun than we could ever imagine in heaven, but I still long for you to be here on earth having fun with us. I want to watch you figure out how to blow out a candle, and make a complete mess of your first cupcake, just like Judah did.

I miss you, little Theodore. This month I will work on your special wall in our room... full of your pictures and poems, your teddy bears, things that remind us of you. I want to have it all set up by your birthday. With baby sister coming and all the busyness of the next couple of weeks and months, I want you to have your own little spot. I'm not sure yet what we will do on your birthday, I know it will be in the middle of a crazy week... but I want to make space for celebrating all that you are in our family. Judah said recently "We should have a cake for baby Theodore's birthday!" - so we will definitely be having cake. Not an hour goes by that I don't think of you, not a second that you aren't carried close to my heart.

We love you, our little almost-one-year-old Theodore. One year in heaven for you, one year on earth for us - as opposite as it could possibly be. I'm glad you're the one in heaven with Jesus, wanting for nothing. A parent always wants the best for their child, and you have the very best.

Love, Momma, Papa, Judah, and baby sister

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dear Judah {3 years old}

Dear Judah,

I can't believe it's been three whole years (plus a couple months...) since you were born! I can hardly remember what life was like without you. It seems like lifetimes ago that you were born, and just yesterday at the same time. It does feel like it's been much longer than three years ago that you were a tiny baby - you are so big and grown up now, it's hard to imagine you as a baby. I love the Timehop app on my phone because I get to see pictures of you three years ago, two years ago, and one year ago often. It's crazy how much a little person grows in the first few years of life.

We had a little party for your third birthday with our small group, and I made you a construction site cake. You were so excited and joyful about it all, it was a delight to watch.

You never stop talking these days... whether you're creating an imaginary play world for yourself, or telling me about something that happened (in real life or in your imaginary worlds), or asking me if you can go somewhere or do something. You hold entire elaborate conversations with the characters in your imaginary worlds. Your vocabulary and sentence structure is impressive (I'm obviously biased, but you are an excellent little talker and many people comment on it). You recognize your numbers and letters, and you love to show off by "spelling" your name to anyone who will listen :) "J-U-D-A-H! That spells ME! It's my name!". You recognize many common signs/words that we see a lot... you can spot a Chick-Fil-A from a mile away, ha. Target, Costco, Hyvee, IKEA, Whole Foods, Aldi, McDonalds (the big yellow M!), Freddy's, and lots more... you always point them out as we drive by. You recognize the words "Judah, Mama, Papa, Nana, Thomas, Sarah, Baby" because we often spell them with magnets on the fridge, or write them on your easel. You like to make letter shapes out of things like beads and sticks - your favorite letter to make is "T"

You love to ride your balance bike around the front and back yards like a crazy child... up and down hills, lifting your feet up to coast along, zooming around like it's second nature. You will be ready for a pedal bike soon, I think! We are SO VERY GLAD that winter is over. Being outside makes our days much easier.

You are grasping deeper concepts and asking lots of questions now, and we are finding it difficult to explain things to you in ways that you can comprehend. We recently had Easter and that was a hard one to explain! You can rattle off the whole story of how Jesus died on the cross for our sins and then rose again to conquer death so that we can go to heaven. But you are still confused... "But WHY did Jesus have to die, mama? His friends are going to miss him!". You were also confused that not everyone can become alive again after they die! (Many of your imaginary games involved characters dying and then coming back to life for a few days, haha). These are all hard things to understand even as an adult, so it's difficult to know how to discuss them with a curious and very imaginative three-year-old!

You want to know how everything works, and where everything comes from. You certainly keep me on my toes with all your questions. And of course, the ever-present "Why?"... "But WHY mama?"

You are the best big brother, to Theodore and baby sister. You remember Theodore and talk about him often. You adore baby sister and are constantly rubbing my belly, talking to her, telling her you love her and how cute she is, giving her hugs and kisses, and trying to get her to kick you. You can hardly wait for her to come out!

Your train table and your play kitchen are two of your favorites right now. You make up stories about your trains as they travel around the tracks, and you love to cook us "dinner" and bake us all kinds ot cakes and cookies and pies in your kitchen. Being outside is another favorite thing... with your bike, lawnmower, and your new-to-us little climber, wagon, and cozy coupe. You also love to "pretend drive" my car or Papa's car. You could spend hours just sitting in the driver's seat, buckling and unbuckling your seatbelt, pushing all the buttons that we let you push, pretending to fill up with gas, go shopping, get ice cream....

We recently moved you from your toddler bed (converted from your crib) to a big boy bed. You love it and transitioned just fine, but it was hard for momma! You slept in that crib/toddler bed for over three years. I have a picture of the very first time you slept in it, and one of the very last night you slept in it. I can't believe how big you are getting.

We love you, big three year old!!! Eventually I'll get around to sorting through all the pictures and posting some.....

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dear Theodore {10 months}

04/23/2015 - 10 months in heaven

Dear Theodore,

Some days are just harder than others, and usually your month birthdays are days like that. I wake up with a deeper ache. It hurts more that there is only one little boy snuggled up next to me in the morning as we wake up. I stretch my arm over the spot next to me and shed some quiet tears that you are not there, while Judah builds his little nest on the other side.

To be honest, this month has had a lot of hard days. It kind of started out on the wrong foot for me - when we let your nine-month balloons go, the wind was weird and they got stuck in the tree in our front yard. I laughed it off, but it actually really bothered me. They didn't float off into the horizon like they usually do, and there wasn't a sense of release or "letting go". Instead, they stuck in our tree and slowly deflated or popped. I tried not to look at them. I am fully aware that when the balloons float away, they come down somewhere and get stuck in some random tree or pop or deflate.  I know it's silly, but having it happen right in front of my eyes was disheartening, and it just seemed to kick start a sad month.

This month also contained Easter, which was just hard. Another "holiday" without you... more traditions that should have been with two boys... egg hunts and Easter baskets and enjoying the beautiful spring. Judah was very interested in the Easter story this year, and it was hard to explain it to him in an age-appropriate way. It's not an easy one to comprehend even as an adult. It was such a tender subject for me this year, and I was a bit of a wreck for most of a week. He died and rose again, to save us from our sins... so that we can be together in heaven one day. I just struggled so much with the reality of this world, the suffering, the pain, the separation from loved ones. This life on earth, it is a Holy Saturday. The dark wait before His return, before the "He is Risen!". Some days it seems too much to eek out an existence and hope is hard to grasp.

The countdown to your baby sister is getting shorter, and the emotions and anxiety that go with that have also really hit me this month. She will be born within days of your first birthday in heaven, and I wish I knew exactly when she will arrive so I can prepare my heart a little more for the onslaught of joy and sorrow that will happen in the same week. Moving through the weeks and milestones at the same time of year as I did with you last year is bittersweet. Never in a million years did I think I would be pregnant again this year - I thought I would have you in my arms. "The mind of a man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps" - Proverbs 16:9.

O God, who holds all souls in life; 
and calls them unto Yourself as seems best: 
we give them back, dear God, to You who gave them to us. 
But as You did not lose them in the giving, 
so we do not lose them by their return. 
For not as the world gives, do You give, O Lord of souls: 
that which You give You take not away: 
for life is eternal, and love is immortal, 
and death is only the horizon, 
and the horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.

- Rossiter W. Raymond

I came accross this poem some time ago, and I've read it over and over. Yes, God gives and takes away... but not in an eternal sense. Only on this earth. This sorrow-full earth. God gave us you for nine short months here, but for an eternity in heaven. As far-off as that seems, and as painful as this life on earth is... we will see you again. A sweet friend reminded me today that time in heaven is different from here on earth - maybe for you, no time at all will have passed until we meet again in that whole and perfect place in the presence of our Savior. That brings me peace. I cannot protect Judah from sorrow and pain (that is hardest part of being a mother), but you are in the very arms of Jesus - never to suffer, never to want, never to miss us or long for us like we do for you.

A year ago right now, we had just moved into our first house - bought with the  anticipation of bringing you home to our own house. One of the main reasons we decided to buy a house was so that our children would have a place to really call "home"... to put down some roots here and settle in. This is your house just as much as it is ours, though you never got to come home to it.  I am very attached to it - you lived here inside of me for two months, and I labored here with you before I knew you were gone. It has harbored us during our grief, and helped heal us with it's bright and airy atmosphere. Our first house has very much become our home, and you are very much a part of our home.

I can never predict when a hard day is coming, or what odd thing will trigger deep grief. There have been many hard days this month, and it's been draining. I can understand why - we are getting closer to the one-year mark of saying goodbye to you, and closer to meeting baby sister all at the same time. I am anxious, exhausted (I guess two pregnancies in less than two years will do that), and grieving. I just miss you so much. As we were leaving the cemetery today and climbing into the car, Judah said sadly "But what about baby Theodore? I really miss him"... like he wanted to somehow take you with us. Sigh. We all really miss you. You and baby sister are going to be my Irish twins... I wish you could both be here on earth. 

We love you, little Theodore... 10 months old, I can hardly believe it. We've lived a lifetime in 10 months, it seems. And yet I can vividly relive the day you were born. I wouldn't change it for the world, except of course to have gotten to keep you here on earth with us. I love that I got to carry you for nine months, and that we got to meet you... heartbreaking though it was. You are worth it all.

Love, Momma, Papa, Judah, and baby sister

Monday, March 23, 2015

Dear Theodore {9 months}

3/23/2014 - Nine months in heaven

Dear Theodore,

You were born on a Monday, the 23rd of June. This month and last, your month birthdays have been on a Monday. It's been strange. I always look back to Sunday the 22nd of June with such heartache - it was the last day before our world crumbled and would never be the same. And it was SUCH a good day. We went to church... I still have the bulletin that Thomas and I played the connect-the-dot game on while taking sermon notes (how old are we?!). We came home, had lunch, and skyped with Nana and Grandad. Then off we went to Touch-A-Truck where Judah had the time of his life climbing through dump trucks and firetrucks and tow trucks and school buses. From there we went straight to our church's summer picnic, complete with inflatable water slides, pools, and sprinklers for the kids... it was so fun and we got to talk with many of our church family. I was hugely pregnant with you and everyone was excited that you would be here any day. The whole day, I just had this feeling that it was our last "hurrah" before our sweet baby boy arrived and we started our new life with him. And I guess I was mostly right - except for the devastating fact that we would be starting our new life without you. We had no way to know that before the end of the week, we would be having your memorial service.

Nine months ago right now, on another Monday, I was in labor with you. The physical agony was nothing compared the pain of the knowledge that I would be giving birth only to say goodbye. Your birth has given me the courage to face every day since then. I think to myself "If I got through that, I can get through anything... I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Women often say that giving birth is the most painful thing you might face on this earth... I can guarantee you that it's not. Giving your baby up to heaven is... it is true physical, mental, emotional agony.

Bereaved motherhood is a hard journey. Nine months in, most days are manageable... I can take care of Judah, get housework done, prepare meals, run errands. But there is always a hole, always something missing. On hard days and anniversaries like today, the hole seems bigger and more achy. It's like being desperately hungry, only nothing will satisfy you. It's a deep ache that longs for you to be home with me, my Theodore, and yet recognizes that this earth will never be home.

There is a song by David Crowder that plays through my mind often:

"Come As You Are"

Come out of sadness
From wherever you’ve been
Come broken hearted
Let rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are

There’s hope for the hopeless
And all those who’ve strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There’s rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t cure

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
Fall in his arms
Come as you are
There’s joy for the morning
Oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
Come as you are

When I feel the weight of sadness and grief, I often say to myself... "Rest for the weary, rest that endures... earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal". On your month birthdays, I give myself the whole day without plans, because I never know what I will feel. Today I woke up with Judah, and the morning went fairly normally. I read something that made me choke up a little, but then I was ok again. As the hours went by, though, I've had this headache that's been building... like a storm brewing. I put Judah down for his nap, and he had some hard questions about life and death, and why Jesus had to die on the cross. I felt so inadequate to answer them in a way that he would understand. As I rocked him and sang "Jesus Loves Me" before he climbed into bed, I felt the floodgates begin to open... I managed to hold it back until he was tucked in and on his way to dreamland. I sat down to write this letter and let the tears out as the headache slowly faded. I call them "grief headaches" now, and they often surprise me, but I'm learning to recognize them. One of the things that's hard for me right now is that each month, it gets more difficult to picture you at an older age. We are only three months from your first birthday in heaven. It fills me with sorrow when I realize this is the month that Judah started walking and looked so grown up to me... and I will never know what you look like at nine months old. Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal...

This afternoon when he wakes up, Judah and I will go pick up nine blue balloons to let go when Papa gets home, and some bright flowers to bring some light and beauty into the house. We'll all go visit your little grave... Judah will ring the windchimes and spin your pinwheel and we'll pray. It's not how we pictured celebrating your birthday every month, but it brings us some peace. One of my projects this month is planting a little flower garden memorial in the corner of our yard next to your hydrangea... plenty of bright colors and beauty.

We love you, Theodore Robert. I have no idea how heaven works, but this month I will imagine you taking your first wobbly steps surrounded by angels and light and love in the presence of Jesus.

Love, Momma, Papa, Judah, and baby sister

A few pictures during labor with you, nine months ago right now:

Close up of my necklace, that I wore during labor with you and with Judah

Precious snuggles

Friday, March 6, 2015

Dear Theodore {8 months}

2/23/2015 - Eight months in heaven

Dear Theodore,

I'm writing this late again, next week you would be nine months old here on earth. These letters to you are emotionally draining for me, but so important and healing. It is hard to find time to sit and write when Judah is keeping me busy. He doesn't like to see me upset so I try not to write letters to you when he is watching. It's just one of many things that make me wish you were here with us, so that all of our lives could be intertwined more effortlessly.

Month eight was a busy one, a cold one, and a sick one. Judah had a week-long stomach bug, and then we all got bad colds that took weeks to go away. I started on a bit of a health quest because I was sick of being sick with all the winter germs and revamped our eating, making our own sourdough bread, milk kefir, cultured vegetables and cooking healthy food each day. This takes up a lot of time and energy but it has really helped. Knowing that I am feeding myself and my family good nourishing food has been uplifting for me. Judah also turned three, and we had his birthday party last month. It was lots of fun, but as always I couldn't help but wonder what it would have been like to have you there. I remember last year on Judah's second birthday thinking "Next year Judah will have a 7.5 month old little brother crawling around on his birthday!".

My dreams of you are all I have - I will never get to see you at 8 months old, a year old, 8 years old, 18 years old... And every month I have to let go of that a little more. I can sort of imagine what you would be doing, having watched Judah grow up. At 8 months old he was a speedy crawler, he could stand alone, and he was walking everywhere with his little push walker. Nothing was safe! Sometimes I look around and imagine how different life would be if you were here - we'd have the fence up around the TV. We'd have gates on all the doorways. The alphabet fridge magnets would be pushed up higher out of your reach. I'd be wrestling with safety locks on the kitchen cupboards. The pile of clean laundry would be your playground. There are a hundred little things that I think of every day, and then have to let go.

It snowed several times and it was cold cold cold. The cold makes me sad anyways, and being stuck indoors doesn't help. Ever since we buried your ashes on your one month birthday, it's hard for me when it rains or snows. My momma heart irrationally wants to run to your grave with umbrellas and blankets. I don't... because I know with absolute certainty that you are not really there. But your grave is one of few tangible links I have with you... it's your precious little earthly body... and I am your mother and there are so few things I can do to mother you on this earth. So it's hard for me. This probably seems strange and morbid to people who have not buried a child or a loved one... it's one of those things that I hope no one ever has to understand.

We found out baby #3 is a little girl in the middle of month 8. I knew from the very beginning with you and with Judah that you were boys. This time I just couldn't tell, though I kept thinking "well maybe this one is a girl" and then instantly saying to myself "no that's impossible, we're a boy family!" - I guess that should have been my clue that it was a little sister! It is such a joy to think about having a little girl. But my heart hurts a little, too. Judah won't have his little brother buddy like I had imagined the two of you. We won't get to use all the sweet little boy clothes (this time). Our lives will be filled with new little girl things, which is so happy... but I miss you, my little boy. No one will ever replace you.

Sweet Theodore... we just miss you. This letter seems a little disjointed... I just wanted to write down what I felt during month eight. It's not pretty or flowing but it's real. We miss you. It always hurts. We wish you were here.

Love, Momma, Papa, Judah, and baby sister

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Dear Sweet Rainbow Girl

My sweet baby girl,

I had kind of hoped to have a name for you by now, but we are not quite there yet! I hardly know where to start my first letter to you. We found out we were pregnant with you in mid-October just days before your big brother Theodore's four-months-in-heaven birthday. We were not expecting to be pregnant again quite that quickly, but God had his plans! The month leading up to finding out about you was a strangely bright and hopeful month, after three dark months of hard grief. On Theodore's three-months-in-heaven birthday, we visited his little grave like we always do and there was a beautiful rainbow over the cemetery. We saw a similar one the evening before Theodore was born. It brought me such joy and hope. Throughout that whole month, I saw rainbows literally everywhere... dancing through the chandelier in our kitchen, shimmering through cracks in the garage door, out of the corner of my eye as the light caught my glasses.

There was joy that month, mixed with the grief, and bright hope for the future... promises of good things to come. And then we found out about you! A "rainbow baby" is a term for a baby who comes after the storm of loss. I do not consider Theodore to be a "storm" or a "loss"... he is our precious baby boy... but the grief of not having him with us on earth is most definitely like a storm. Rainbows don't take away the ravages of the storm, but they bring light and hope. You are our sweet rainbow girl - you have brought us so much joy already.

As the pregnancy hormones kicked in, I began to have a more difficult time again. Pregnancy and grief make for a rough combination. I always look back on that month and the first couple of weeks of pregnancy with wonder - before we even knew about you, God sent little signs of the joy to come. It really was such a bright and hopeful few weeks.

November, December, and January were hard. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, a new year... so many firsts without Theodore, while being pregnant and exhausted and hormonal. Your due date is only a week apart from his, so I hit milestones at all the same times I was hitting them with Theodore last year. It was/is bittersweet. Thankfully the past few weeks have seemed a little brighter again.

I had no idea how terrifying being pregnant again after a loss could be. Before I could feel you moving, I had to rely on my pregnancy symptoms. If they seemed less severe one day, if I felt less queasy or something, it was hard not to worry that I was loosing you. I felt you move later than I felt Judah (14 weeks) and Theodore (13 weeks)... it was not until about 16 weeks that I felt you really move. Even now at 22 weeks, you movements are softer and less pronounced than the boys'. When I was pregnant with Judah and Theodore it was so fun to feel them moving, and I never gave it a second thought. I never did my "kick counts" like you're supposed to after 28 weeks. Every time I feel you move, I breathe a sigh of relief and release some tension that I don't even realize I'm carrying. When I wake in the middle of the night, I cannot sleep again until I feel a little kick or roll. And you can bet I will be doing my "kick counts" multiple times a day as soon as I hit 28 weeks. Maybe even 24 weeks. I feel like I can't trust my body to keep you safe like it's supposed to... like it failed to keep Theodore safe. I know that God has a plan, that Theodore is exactly where he is supposed to be... and that you have your own days ordained for you... but it is very hard to feel like something in your body went wrong and caused your baby to die and you don't exactly know what or how to stop it from happening again.

Each appointment that I have, whether just a check-up or an ultrasound, is nerve-wracking. My appointments at the birth center are often in the same room that the midwife could not find Theodore's heartbeat. I always walk right past the ultrasound room where they confirmed his heart was not beating. And sweet baby girl... you are ornery when it comes to finding your heartbeat! You like to hide. At my 12 week appointment it took the midwife at least five anxious minutes to find it... same again at 16 weeks. Because I felt movement later and your heartbeat was always hard to find, the midwives guessed I might have an anterior placenta (in the front of the uterus). However, the ultrasound at 20 weeks showed it was more fundal and posterior - so baby girl, you just like to hide and give me and Papa mini-heart attacks! I guess you are just more chilled out than your brothers because you don't move as much as they did.

Your 20-week ultrasound with the maternal-fetal specialist was anxiety-inducing as well. I'm just more aware now of all the things that can go wrong with development etc, so it was hard not to be anxious. The ultrasound was early on a Monday morning and the whole week before I literally kept forgetting about it. Thomas would mention it and I would be surprised again - oh right, that's on Monday... I think it was my mind protecting itself with some sort of denial, ha! The ultrasound tech was very sweet, and the very first thing we saw was that you were a girl. Everything looked good, although the tech was momentarily concerned about one of your kidneys being a little big. When she went back and measured again, it had gone back down, meaning fluid was moving through properly. You do like to give us a good scare. You measured two days bigger than your due date (July 4th), and apparently you have long legs and arms and big feet! Which is surprising, considering the rest of your family has relatively tiny feet :)

One of the reasons I really wanted to have a name for you by now was that I felt it would help me to connect with you during the pregnancy. While I still want to find a name sooner rather than later, I'm not worried about bonding with you anymore. I think about you all the time... I wonder what you will look like, and I imagine holding you in my arms. I feel connected with you, much more so than I ever felt during my pregnancies with Judah and Theodore. I only got to hold Theodore in my arms for six hours, after carrying him inside me for nine long months. It's intensified the longing to hold you... to see you breathe, to hear you cry, to feed you, to watch you grow, to watch you with Papa and Judah.

Your biggest brother Judah is so excited to meet you. He wants to rub my belly and kiss you multiple times a day (an hour!). Every morning when he snuggles up next to me he asks "Mama, is there a tiny baby in your tummy?"... "yes, buddy, there is!"... "Is it baby sister?"... "yes, buddy"... "Is she going to come out now?"... "Not for a few months, she's still too little right now" .... and so on. He just has to check every morning that you're still there... my sweet 3-year-old boy. He worries for you, which breaks my heart... and makes me beg on my knees that you get to come home and play with him and grow up with him. After rubbing my belly he often says to me "I just checked on baby sister and she is good! She is sooo cute and I love her." He pretends to check for your heartbeat like he sees the midwives doing, and he gives me "shots" in my arm (I get blood drawn at every appointment to keep an eye on antibody levels). He is so very sweet with you, just like he always was with Theodore. Now that he is older and understands more, he wants to know things like exactly how you get your food (the umbilical cord thing is fascinating to him), and if you need to wear a diaper inside me! According to Judah, you love blueberries and chocolate just like he does.

We are less than four months away from meeting you, and it cannot go fast enough. I just want you in my arms! I feel like I will not breathe deeply or easily until I hear your newborn cry. I know you will not fill the hole that Theodore has left in our earthly family... there will always be someone missing. You and Theodore will be my little Irish twins - I only wish you could both be here on earth. You definitely bring joy and healing to our lives... and it will be such an adventure to have a little girl!

We love you so very much,

Momma, Papa, Judah, and Theodore

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Dear Theodore {7 months}

Seven months old - 1/23/2015

Dear Theodore,

I'm three weeks late writing this, you would actually be almost eight months old by now. Let's just say it's been a crazy month. Cue mom guilt.

Month seven was a hard one. It contained Christmas without you, and a New Year without you. On your six month birthday we were in Oregon, and it was hard to be away from home, unable to do some things that we usually do on your birthdays like visiting your little grave. Two days later, it was Christmas. I am glad, I think, that we were able to be away for Christmas... I think it would have been pretty miserable for everyone at home. I'm glad especially for Judah's sake that we were surrounded by family and uncles to keep him busy and having fun. However, I hardly remember much about Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the day after. I couldn't sleep at night, and I had a terrible headache... it was partly from having a cold, but I know it was a grief headache. It was my body's way of grieving. I remember sobbing for a good hour when I woke up Christmas morning and saw your empty stocking alongside our full ones. I had no idea what a trigger that would be... I went and got your blue giraffey and put him in your stocking. Then I wiped my tears away and tried to enjoy the day for Judah. My headache stuck to me like glue, no matter what medicine or naps I took to get it to go away.

We said goodbye to family and flew back to Kansas City on New Year's Eve. On New Year's Day, we had our own little family Christmas celebration. This time I was a little more prepared, I had bought some sweet little baby toys and I stuffed your stocking with them. Judah delighted in pulling them all out for you. I had planned to donate them, but I just couldn't part with them... and Judah attached himself to several of them, so we will keep them for your baby sister.

After the New Year, I was so worn out from heavy grief and being away from home, it was like my body needed a couple of weeks to recover. Facing a new year without you - I think it was all just too much for a little while there. 2014 was hard to say goodbye to because it's your year - the year that I carried you and gave birth to you. 2015 is a year that you don't live on this earth. The first couple of weeks of the year are kind of hazy to me, I wasn't functioning very well and I think Judah watched too much Netflix. Cue mom guilt again. But then I found my feet again, just in time for your 7-month birthday. I started taking care of myself - eating better, going to a holistic chiropractor for my aching out-of-whack body, and exercising again. One of the things that has struck me on this grief journey is the importance of looking after yourself - your body, mind and soul. When I neglect any one of those areas, I struggle much more with every day life and the heaviness of grief.

On your birthday, we picked up seven blue balloons and let them go with your seven-month sticker and we visited your little grave. Judah gets a balloon too, and he always wants to let it go with your balloons. I know they don't really go up to heaven, but it's a helpful symbol to me of "letting go" each month and letting God carry my dreams for you. We got little matching windchimes, one is at your grave, and the other hangs above my kitchen sink. I ring it and think of you often.

I'm never sure when I start these letters to you what they are going to be like. Since I am writing this later on I'm able to look back and comprehend a little of what I was going through during your seventh month in heaven. I'm just so glad that you don't feel any of this - you are whole and perfect and there is no empty spot in your heart that misses me or life on this earth.

A dear friend, and deeply bereaved mother, sent me this quote a few weeks ago:

"Do not judge the bereaved mother. She comes in many forms. She is breathing, but she is dying. She may look young, but inside she has become ancient. She smiles, but her heart sobs. She walks, she talks, she cooks, she cleans, she works, she is, but she is not, all at once. She is here, but part of her is elsewhere for eternity." - Anonymous

A part of me is elsewhere, with you in heaven, until we meet there again. It is part of my identity now, and it is not easy to live without a part of your heart every day. I know it will grow less painful but it will always be with me, because you are not here. It's part of life on this earth - it will never be perfect because this is not our home... and never have I longed for home more.

We love you Theodore. I can just picture your chubby seven-month-old self delighting the hosts of heaven... though I wish you were here to delight us.

Love, Momma, Papa, Judah, and baby sister


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