Thursday, September 7, 2017

I Have Two Daughters

Lacey has arrived and brought our family so much joy! The moment she arrived I found some peace and relief I had been waiting for for nine months. She came out with a strong cry, a lot of brown hair, and beautiful pink lips. She is perfect!

Before her birth I had told myself that it would be ok to feel grief and sadness that day. I had anticipated feeling a lot of grief that day. I thought that Lacey's arrival would make me ache for Tenley more than I already had. But on the day of Lacey's birth that was not the case; I was so overwhelmed with joy that day that I did not feel any grief. I took in every moment special moment with Lacey and did not hold back my happiness. I held her all day, kissed her sweet face, and constantly told her how much I love her. It was one the best days of my life!

During our hospital stay I was on cloud nine (the lack of sleep and pain pills were part of that). I was amazed at how different Lacey's delivery was from Tenley's. During that time I continually thanked God for blessing us with Lacey and making her strong and healthy.

When we came home from the hospital grief began to hit me. I was in Lacey's room rocking her to sleep when I had a moment. I looked at her and again overwhelmed with love, and I couldn't believe this perfect little being was mine! And that is when it hit me that I missed even more with Tenley than I have thought. I had missed rocking her to sleep, feeding her, soothing her when she cried, and learning all the things she liked and disliked.

Over the last two and half years I have grieved Tenley and all that could have been. I had thought about missing her first day of Kindergarten, her graduation, her wedding day, and all other big life events. What I had not thought about was the all the little moments I had missed with her as a newborn. I had didn't know how strong of a connection a mother and her baby could have when they have more time for it to grow.

Grieving a child never ends. I know that as Lacey grows up I will have many more moments like this when I realize that I missed these experiences with Tenley. And although I have a beautiful, perfect little girl now... I am supposed to have two beautiful perfect little girls.

I love both my girls with every fiber of my body, but I love them differently. I wish I could love them the same, but what I have with each of them is very different. Either way, I am Tenley and Lacey's mom. Tenley made me a mom. Lacey gives me the title of mommy every day.

My Beautiful Family
Tenley's shoes are in the picture to represent her.
(photograph taken by Marele Strydom)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Tenley's Going to Be Big Sister

What a rollercoaster the last 8 and half months have been! Last November we discovered that we are pregnant again. We waited a few years after Tenley to get to this point because we knew it would be challenging and emotional... we were right.

Thanksgiving week in 2016, was the week of Tenley's 2nd birthday. It is the hardest week of the year for us because there is nothing worse than having your child's birthday without your child. This year we decided to do a virtual celebration for her by having our family and friends write her name in creative ways and send them to us. It was a beautiful way to remember our sweet girl with so many family and friends.

I was super tired that week, but I just assumed it was due to the grief and emotions. But I had a sense of peace as well; we had survived another year without Tenley and although this is sad it is also a victory.

At the end of the week we discovered that my exhaustion was not because of grief, I was a few weeks pregnant. The next week was full of some excitement and a lot of fear. We began to relive everything we went through with Tenley and wondered if this would be the same experience again. I think I called the doctor every day that week asking questions and sharing my fears.

The next few months were challenging. I had doctor appointments every few weeks to monitor the babies growth. These appointments scared us every time, but it was nice to be watched so closely. At every appointment we thought that we'd be told the worst. When we received positive news we would be relieved and happy for about an hour, then the fear would come back and we wonder when the bad news would come. Genetic testing came out normal, and we learned that we are having a girl! 💗

We kept the pregnancy quiet as long as we could. It wasn't that we didn't want to share our news with people, we just didn't want to face the questions people may have. We also didn't want people to think that because we were pregnant again everything was good in life. This child does not bring Tenley back. We knew that no matter what the outcome of this baby, we would still live with the heartache and loss of Tenley for the rest of our lives.

Despite all these feelings of fear and dealing with the pain of what could have been with Tenley, we have done our best to make the most of this pregnancy, and celebrate the good moments. That is what Tenley would want, to not worry and make the most of every moment. Even though it has been hard at times, we have tried our best to live in faith and positivity.

Tenley's little sister will be born in just a few weeks. We are so excited to meet her and hold her. This experience has been scary and emotional, but it does not change the fact that we love this little girl just like we loved her sister. We will raise her to know that she and her sister are blessings to us.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Grief at Christmas

Those moments of heartache can hit you at any time, but during the holiday season it seems to happen more frequently. With a Christmas tree, gifts, and family time, there are extra triggers coming at you. I think the worst part is knowing that the "whole" family will be together, when really it won't be. Someone very important is missing and we cannot FaceTime or make a phone call to help fill that void.

Today it is a rainy, gloomy day; just like it was after Tenley died last year. I am home alone while my husband works. I had many plans for the day but couldn't bring myself to do any of them. I felt unmotivated and lazy. Finally, I decided to get up off the couch and get ready to run some errands and  enjoy this time to myself. As soon as I thought "enjoy time to myself" I was paralyzed with sadness. I froze in my tracks and tears started to flow. I sat down and cried for the rest of the afternoon.

I am spending another Christmas without my daughter. She should be here getting into the wrapped presents, crawling all over the house, and keeping me busy. But instead I am home alone, childless.

I try very hard to make the most of the situation and be grateful for my alone time or time with my husband without any distractions, but I would trade it all to have my little girl here with us.

This time of year brings on the what ifs, we could've, and it should be's. I know there are so many people who have a loss that is triggered this time of year, just like me. I pray those of you who need a little extra hope and joy in your stockings this year. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Tenley's Birthday

November 22nd was Tenley's birthday. It marks a year since I was blessed to meet my daughter, watch her fight for her life, and let her go. 

To celebrate her life we decided have a memorial for her with our family and closest friends. Because she had died so suddenly last year, we couldn't bring ourselves to have a service for her. This seemed like a good time to bring together our biggest supporters to celebrate and grieve Tenley's life. 

Our family set up some beautiful pieces to represent Tenley, as well as candles and flowers. When I arrived at the house I was overwhelmed at how beautiful everything looked, and how sad this day was. "I am spending my daughters birthday at her memorial," is all I kept thinking; this isn't how it should be. As people began to arrive I was sick to my stomach. 

But as I began to visit with my family and friends I felt grateful that on this difficult day we had asked all of these wonderful people to surround us with love and support. 

We then shared a few words with our family and friends about how our precious little girl changed our lives. She taught us how to come together as a family in a difficult time, how to persevere in a difficult time, and how to look to God for comfort and healing. 

My dad shared 1 Corinthians 13:12 MSG: "We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!" And and to that he added, "When that mist has cleared, we will see clearly our Tenley Grace and know her as if we spent a lifetime together. And there will be a reunion like no other." 

After we took some time to share, we continued a little tradition that I started on her half birthday, and blew bubbles to heaven to celebrate Tenley. 

I have learned this last year that there is hope; my hope is in God who will make all things good again. We were not promised a life without pain and tears, but if we look to him we are promised an eternity without pain and tears. And my tiny Tenley is doing just that. So I celebrate not only her 30 hours of life on Earth with me, but also her eternal life with a loving, healing God. 

Happy Birthday baby girl. Your mommy loves you more than words can say. I look forward to day that we reunite in heaven. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

My Little Pumpkin


Although it is very hot still in California, Fall is definitely in the air. Everywhere you look there are pumpkins; pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin patches, pumpkin everything! I used to love Fall with all that pumpkin goodness, the weather changing, and Thanksgiving. It was my favorite time of year. This year I face a different Fall season filled with grief and heartache.

It was this time last year that I was pregnant with Tenley. We carved pumpkins about her, took pictures my belly weekly, dreamed of all her life would be and looked forward to meeting her in March. I remember telling Brendan how excited I was that we would get to take her to a pumpkin patch next fall and dress her up as a ladybug for Halloween.
Oct. 2014

Each season brings a new set of things that I grieve. Because of this it feels like there is no growth or change in my broken heart. This cycle becomes very discouraging. I know it has not even been a year yet, but surviving eleven months of this pain has been so hard and seeing no progress makes it even harder.

This Fall pumpkin carving, pumpkin spice lattes, or bright red leaves can't make me happy. Not without my my little pumpkin here...

Monday, June 22, 2015

Tip of the Iceburg

The struggles that people see are just the tip of the iceberg; underneath there is much more.

Grief brings many struggles. There are the obvious ones like missing the person that is gone, wishing you could see them one more time, and accepting that life will never be what you had hoped and dreamed. Then there are the other parts of grief that people don't usually see, mostly because those of us grieving choose not to show it. 

One of the more obvious struggles I have... babies, babies, babies. Everywhere I look there are babies. I cannot avoid them! And when I look at those babies I feel broken hearted and robbed. I never got to experience my baby like most people get to experience theirs. Seeing a baby makes my heart ache deeply and makes me begin to ask the impossible questions again: Why did she have to die? Why couldn't I save her? Why us? And the list goes on. 

Another challenge is with friendships. Not only am I missing and grieving my daughter, but I am losing friends because I cannot bear to be around them while I am in this pain. So many friends have or are having babies, but this causes a separation between me and those friends. I cannot relate to them, we have nothing to talk about...there is an elephant in the room. That elephant is that you have a healthy baby and I do not. Some people clearly think I just need to get over it and deal with it. They talk about their baby, show pictures, and don't think twice about the pain it causes me. Other people are sensitive and kind. But even if they are sensitive and kind, what are we left to talk about? I cannot handle talking about their children, I have no children (and in the back of my mind fear I may never have children), and I do not always want to talk about my loss and pain. So we are left with small talk. 

The other big struggle I have is feeling like I am letting down the people around me because I am not able to be who I used to be. As I have written in previous posts, I have learned to smile and laugh in the pain. I have also learned to show my true emotions and share my experience with people. But there are times when I cannot socialize and visit with friends, I cannot laugh at jokes, and I cannot be my usual outgoing self because the grief has paralyzed me. I often worry that people are uncomfortable or disappointed with how I have changed. 

As I analyze and process my struggles, I must remind myself of the hope that there is for healing and hope for the future. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

It Comes in Waves

It has been almost seven months since I held my daughter and kissed her for the first and last time. I have thought about that moment at least 50 times a day since then. What an impact her tiny, short life has made. My world has been turned upside down. 

Last month was Tenley's half birthday. The grief was heavy that weekend, but my husband and I vowed to celebrate her in our grief. Being a teacher, I have shared Tenley's story with my students and their families, so I decided to include them in the celebration by blowing bubbles up into the sky for my girl. I was overwhelmed by the joy of my students and how excited they were to celebrate Tenley's life. 

This past month we have had many ups and downs. There are days when I miss her so much that the heartache becomes all consuming. There are other days that I try very hard to ignore the pain and sad reality of our situation and keep busy. And then there are days like today, when I think "I can do this... I can survive this."

At this point I no longer cry every day, most days, but not every day. I call that growth! I have been able to talk about Tenley without crying...more growth! And the biggest one... I found hope.

Before Tenley came God was good. He had blessed me, I loved him, He loved me, we were cool. After Tenley I had many questions and so much doubt. How could a loving God leave me in world to suffer without my daughter? Why didn't He save her? Where is He? Does He care at all, or just sit back as God of all and watch? I was so angry.

I do not have those answers, and as long I am on this Earth I will not have them. But I know that God has been present during this time. I believe that He has brought specific people into our lives during this time to support us and encourage us. He has given us the strength to get up every day and keep living. Most of all, I believe that He has wept with me. He is not sitting back watching with a straight face, he is watching me cry and feeling my pain with me. He did not want this to happen, but He will make good of this. The good will never balance out the pain, but there will still be good. Tenley's life will make an impact, God will be sure to do that. I still believe God is good, he has blessed me, and I am not alone.

I write these words to you on a good day. Not every day do I feel hopeful or blessed. It comes in waves (I never really understood that until now). That is why I write; so that on a bad day, when a big wave has hit, I can read this and remember that there are better days, I have hope, and I am not alone.