Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It's not you, it's me

This time of year is so exciting for parents.  Summer is drawing its last breaths and Fall is slowly beginning to spread its colors.  Crayons, notebooks, pencils, and backpacks line almost every aisle of every store.  For some this routine is old hat-- you and your kids have done this before, the new clothes, shoes, supplies, maybe it's even your last year doing the dance.  For others it's a first and it is very exciting, this back to school thing.

Then there's some of us, scrolling through our social media feeds when we are unexpectedly hit by a picture of your first-timer.  The one we were pregnant with together.  The one we both anticipated and planned and dreamed for at the same time.  Your "baby" that's not really a baby any more.  You cried, she held your hand, he tripped as he crossed the threshold of the classroom, you snapped pictures, then they smiled and waved as you walked away, leaving them to this new adventure.  The pictures you proudly display to all the world, "my baby started school today."  And I'm staring at the screen with tears rolling down my face, your baby that my baby played with, your baby that we joked would date my baby, is starting school today, and mine is not.  And I can't bring myself to click the "like" button or double tap the picture like I have many of my friends' older children's back to school posts.

It's not you, it's not your child.  It's me and my child.  Somewhere deep inside I am happy for you.  I even think your little girl, in her skirt, leggings, princess shirt and pigtails is darling, and your boy in his button-down plaid and crisp jeans is very handsome, but the grieving mom in me can't bare to look at the picture long enough to really appreciate these things and show you that, even with a simple click of the mouse.  Because with each picture of your child, who is growing up, learning, and LIVING I am reminded that mine is not.  I am reminded just a little bit more of how much I miss her. I still like you, I still think your kid is great, but I just can't bring myself to witness this particular milestone with you.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

9 Month Struggle

After the accident I saw a lot of doctors and out of a sense of duty I asked about future children as I was cleared for various activities.  As each doctor cleared me feelings of fear and doubt began to creep in.  Several months after the accident, after all my doctors had cleared me to go on with my normal life and normal activities, and after months of physical therapy, I finally worked up the nerve to tell my husband that I was unsure about having any more children.  At the time we had Mr. E who had survived the accident and I was already nervous enough that something might happen to him, the though of another child that could potentially cause me the heartbreak of loss again scared me so much I can't even put it into words.  Miscarriage or stillbirth were certainly on my mind, especially since some of my injuries from the accident make me high risk in pregnancy.  I couldn't bare the thought of even an early miscarriage, I knew that my emotional state wouldn't bare it.  Lawrence was disappointed to say the least.  He told me that he knew that there were more children meant for our family and he couldn't bare the thought of not providing them the opportunity to have mortal bodies.  He told me that he was willing to wait for me to feel better about having more kids, but that this was something I would have to pray about.  I prayed and received comfort.  A little over a year later I came around and got pregnant.

Shortly before we decided to get pregnant again we moved into a new house.  After moving seemed like as good a time as any, I had survived one rather big emotional hurdle, why not brave another?  I really though that I was ready.  But then I got pregnant and I found out how wrong I was.  I struggled to connect with my rainbow baby during my pregnancy.  As much as I struggled I did harbor hope that this baby would be a girl, not to replace my daughter, but to maybe help patch my grieving heart in ways that I though a boy just wouldn't do.  When we found out the baby was a boy I was a little disappointed, but still wanted to be able to love him.  I continued to struggle with connecting to this baby.  I tried decorating his nursery, taking more pictures and videos of my baby bump, washing clothes for him, choosing a special coming home outfit... none of it worked.  I couldn't even bring myself to even talk to him the way I had with my first two.  Shortly before he was born I finally broke down and told Lawrence about how I had been struggling.  It was almost harder to tell him about this than it was to tell him about possibly not having more kids.  He told me that he was worried that this would be a problem and did his best to comfort me and help me.

When Baby J was born I was afraid that I would continue to struggle to connect with him, but something amazing happened.  When the doctor handed him to me after he was born I had an overwhelming feeling that Ethne was in the room with us.  In that moment I fell completely in love with my baby boy and my fears flew out the window.

Then I was put to the test when we found out about J's Hirschprung's Disease and he had to be hospitalized and have surgeries.  This was a whole new kind of struggle to keep my heart and mind open and continue loving him when the future seemed so uncertain.

Long story short (to read the rest of his story follow the Baby J tag at the bottom of this post), he is fine now and I was able to stay by his side through everything.  I was scared out of my mind and went through some flashbacks and what I'm pretty sure was PTSD, but I can't imagine not having him, I love him so much.  He has been a huge blessing to our family and has helped me heal in all the ways I was afraid he wouldn't be able to and more.  He is patient, brave, happy, and a joy to be around and I love him so completely-- we all do.

I want it to be clear that, while I struggled a lot emotionally, I wanted Baby J.  I share these things because I want others to know that they are not alone.  Another angel mom recently shared her struggles with pregnancy following the loss of her child and it buoyed me up immensely to know that I am not alone in my struggles.  The Atonement is real and I know that Christ knows my pains, but sometimes it is immensely comforting to have a more tangible friend that can understand too, and sometimes these friends are Christ's way of helping to comfort us.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The big 4!

It's time for another birthday!  Mr. E turned four-years-old recently and he was very keen to celebrate.  Mr. E has finally figured out what birthdays are and has been excited for his birthday for MONTHS.  Every time we'd celebrate another birthday he'd get excited for it to be his turn, and every time it wasn't his birthday he'd get disappointed.  But now that it really was his turn he had to tell everyone who will listen that he was going to have a "Paw Patrol" birthday and that he would be 4.

Mr. E is such a great kid.  He loves his friends and regularly tells me that his Uncle G is his best friend (the 5 year age difference doesn't phase him one bit).  He loves to help with anything we will let him help with.  He has really started to come into his role as a big brother and sometimes plays well with Baby J.  The boy has a serious lack of "poker face," we always know when he is trying to hide something or when he's done something he knows he shouldn't.  He loves to compete... games, races, wrestling... as long as there can be a winner he's up for it-- and he is a pretty good winner and doesn't get too sore when he loses.  He is very affectionate and loves to snuggle up and watch a movie or show.  He loves to sing and picks up on music quickly.  He likes to hide whenever he hears someone coming, but he gets too giggly for it to be very effective.  He loves it when daddy's friends come over to sing music and gets out his guitar or drum set and microphone to join them-- he's even been on stage at a performance.  Mr. E and our Ginger puppy are still buddies and he has high hopes that, one day, she will sleep in his room with him every night.  His favorite color is red and he was thrilled that he got to play on a tee ball team with red shirts and hats (St. Louis Cardinals).  He really enjoyed tee ball in the spring and is still thankful for it every night.  He is spunky and busy and we love him so very much!

We celebrated with pizza, chocolate cake, ice cream, and presents.  Grandma and Grandpa H were there with all three of my brothers and my awesome sister-in-law, along with Great-Grandpa and Grandma E.  It was a quiet night, but fun and just what Mr. E wanted-- all the attention on him!

He is such a blessing in our home and definitely keeps us on our toes.

Monday, June 1, 2015


Before I get into this post I want to make it clear that this is not about anyone but me, this is a problem I have struggled with since losing Ethne and none of this is a reflection on any family, friends, acquaintances, or even strangers.

In high school I was known as a bit of a flirt, I had lots of friends, and was busy with lots of extra curricular school and church activities.  When I moved on to college at SUU I got involved in music, had a fun job with a lot of people I liked, had good roommates, and dated quite a bit.  BYU-I was a little different, I still had a good job, I kept dating, but I didn't exactly have roommates my first semester there, and only had two while I was engaged.  The point is, I was fairly outgoing.   After Lawrence and I got married things changed some, but we still enjoyed having friends over for dinner and/or games.

Then the accident happened and Ethne died.

Since the accident I have struggled with social anxiety.  I struggle in large groups of family or friends.  Part of the reason I struggle is because I am afraid of running into triggers then having people wonder why I am crying for what may seem to be no reason.  Meeting new people is also a struggle because they often don't know about the accident and they didn't know Ethne, losing it around new people is even more difficult and terrifying.  Making new friends is tough because they often don't understand that new people who didn't know Ethne are harder to talk about her with.  Family events can be particularly difficult since there tends to be cousins, nieces, and siblings that can cause me to break down.  I also struggle with small talk, and tend to keep to myself at large gatherings.

I pray for strength, I put on a brave face, and I try to get out there, despite the struggle.  I need friends just like everyone else, it's just hard sometimes.  So if you invite me to something and I turn you down, please don't take it personally.  Keep trying, keep talking to me, it means a lot, even if I don't show it well.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Light of the World Garden

There is a place in Utah called Thanksgiving point.  It is famous for its museums, golf course, petting zoo, and gardens.  They host an annual tulip festival that we (my mom and I) visit ever year.

The flowers at the tulip festival are breathtaking.  Tulips of every imaginable (and some unimaginable) varieties are everywhere.  There is so much color and life.  You just really have to see it to truly understand the beauty of it.  It really is incredible.

These sprawling gardens are divided into various smaller gardens such as a "secret garden," an "Italian garden," the "Monet pond," a rose garden, and so much more.  A few years ago (3 to be exact) we stumbled upon a new garden installation.  This new garden featured bronze statues of  Christ from various stories in the New Testament.  Front and center in the garden is a life size statue of Christ walking on the water.  A placard behind this statue explained that the artist had plans to install all the statues full size at some future time.  Every year when we have gone back we have looked for the full size statues.  In the mean time we have thoroughly enjoyed the smaller versions.  That first visit was a few months after the accident, I was still wearing my neck brace and using a cane to get around.  Coming face-to-face with my savior in that garden was powerful and overwhelming in many ways.

Christ walking on the water
The woman touching Christ's garments (Mark 5:25-30)
This year when we went to the Tulip Festival we took my sister-in-law, Jessica, who has never been before.  When we finally got to the Light of the World garden we were given a wonderful surprise.  While we were enjoying the sweet spirit present in the garden a woman approached us.  Introduced herself as Angela Johnson, the artist that created the sculptures.  We were a bit stunned.  Then she went on to explain that KSL, a local news station was there filming for a special story about the garden and wanted to use some footage of us in the garden with our kids.  We were happy to oblige.  Then we started talking with Angela and it came out about our first visit to the statues.  She grabbed the reporter and asked them to interview me for part of the news story.  They asked me a few questions and to share some of my feelings about the garden and about my favorite statue.  I was able to talk with Angela about when the full size statues would all be installed and about how much I have enjoyed visiting the garden each year.  When we were finished they asked me to send some pictures of Ethne for them to use in the story.

This was nearly three weeks ago.  The story aired last night (Sunday).  Here is a link to the story.

We are so excited to see the full sized statues next year when we visit the gardens.

Christ carrying his cross

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day Milestones

Every woman who has had or wanted to have children anticipates certain milestones in regards to motherhood.  Milestones like those first two pink lines on a pregnancy test, the birth of her first child, that child's first birthday, first steps, first teeth, first words, etc. etc.  These milestones often mark successes and give reason to celebrate, even if it is only a small celebration.

Another milestone many women look forward to is their first Mother's Day.  For me it was an anticipated day, a day to reflect on the things I learned and experienced as a new mom, and how far my baby had come in the months since her birth.  I loved being able to celebrate Mother's Day with my Princess.  The next anticipated Mother's Day was the first after the car accident.  Yes, I was still a mommy, and always will be, but it was difficult to pass the day without Ethne.  I had anticipated a cute craft or scribbled coloring page from her nursery class (a church class for 18 mo-3 years), and maybe a messy breakfast in bed.  But instead I cried for missing my little girl.  There was no scribbled card or handprint craft, no little girl serving me chocolate toast.  It was a hard day.

The next Mother's Day milestone that I anticipated was seeing my kid(s) sing with the Primary in Sacrament Meeting.  In LDS Sunday worship we attend 3 hours of meetings.  The first of these is Sacrament meeting where we sing, pray, partake of the sacrament, and are taught by other members of the congregation.  Often during this meeting there is a special musical number, and it is a tradition of sorts that for Mother's Day the children ages 3-12 will sing special songs about mothers.  This has always been a favorite for me and from a young age I looked forward to the day that my children would join in this tradition.  The second Mother's day after the accident marked the first year that I should have had a child singing for Mother's day.  Instead of being in our own ward we were in Idaho visiting Lawrence's parents, so that eased the sting a little, but it was still hard to realize that I should have had a child singing.

So I waited to celebrate this milestone with Mr. E.

This year I finally got the experience of seeing one of my children sing with the primary for Mother's Day.  Mr. E walked himself up to the podium with the other children, found himself a spot right up front, then wandered away...  We spotted his sweet red head again when one of the older children stopped him and tried to hold him up, he didn't like this, so he was put down, and he wandered some more.  The music director told him to join the rest of the kids, and one of the speakers grabbed him and tried to hold him up again, and it didn't fly.  Finally he found a place up front near the microphone.  Lawrence and I watched this all unfold, anticipating him making a mad dash or grabbing hold of the microphone and yelling into it, while trying not to laugh.  Then they sang.  I don't know if Mr. E actually sang because we couldn't see his mouth, but just seeing him up there, joining in song with the other kids made my mommy heart so happy, almost to bursting.  I cried, happy tears, that I was finally getting to see one of my kids sing, and a little sad, that Ethne wasn't there to sing with them.  Edward got a little turned around when they finished and returned to their families, but he found us quickly and I gave him a great big, teary hug to which he replied "Put me down mommy, I want to color."

Some day I will get to see Ethne sing sweet songs for Mother's Day,  but until then I will revel in my silly, wandering little boy and wait for the days when Baby J will join his big brother to sing in sacrament meeting too.

The longer I'm a mom the more I realize that it is the little things that make the most meaningful memories, and watching my babies sing in church is definitely one of those little things.  I am so thankful for these sweet spirits that I have been trusted to care for and for all the little moments that make being a mommy so incredibly fulfilling.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Ethne was here

I've had a lot of what I call "Ethne was here" moments lately.  Moments when my boys do something so characteristically "Ethne" that I can't help but think of her.  Moments when I know that, even though Mr. E doesn't remember her, and Baby J never knew her in this life, I get a witness that they do know each other.  These moments are sweet tender mercies to me.

Chocolate toast

Snuggles on the couch with blanket and a pillow (or daddy)

hanging out on mommy and daddy's bed

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sleeping Babies

When I was in elementary school (I don't remember what grade) my class read on of the "Little House on the Prairie" stories.  In it Papa Ingalls was not home overnight and a bear (I think) came too close to the cabin and Mama Ingalls had to scare it away.  After the incident the mom picked up her sleeping baby and rocked with him.  My teacher explained to us that holding a sleeping baby can be one of the most comforting feelings.  I didn't understand it at the time.

Now I do.

There is just something about having an innocent child tucked in your arms that can calm almost anything.  Their rhythmic breathing, the sound of their tiny snores and sighs, and the complete and utter trust that they put in you when they sleep while you hold them seems to make everything else melt away.  This is one of the reasons I love to check on my boys each night before I go to bed.  No matter how tough of a day we have had, no matter how much yelling I may or may not have done, no matter the number of time-outs, the frustrations, or stresses, even just watching my boys sleep is incredibly comforting-- bonus points if I get to snuggle one or both of them for even just a few seconds while they snooze.  And during those quiet moments I can sometimes catch glimpses of Ethne.

The first time I saw Ethne after the accident was when we went to the funeral home to dress her.  I thought she might look like she was sleeping, but I was wrong and it made things so much harder than I thought they would be.  We were told that we could hold her if we wanted to, and before we saw her I did, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it once I saw her.  Her precious body just lay there on the table, stiff and cold, no sweet breaths, no tiny snores or sighs, she didn't even smell like herself.  Her head, face, and body looked bruised and pale and her perpetual mischievous grin was gone.  It hurt my heart so much to see her that way.  We slowly dressed her--with me bawling and Lawrence doing most of the heavy lifting (and work)-- in her sparkly Christmas dress, with Disney princess panties, tights, black shoes, and an elephant necklace.  I held her cold hand for most of the dressing, too lost in my grief to recognize that the body on the table wasn't really my little girl, but only her mortal vessel.

The funeral was different.  Before the funeral I took some medication that left me a bit dazed.  Add to that all the people and the whirl of activity and I was in a very different state.  I was still very sad, I cried through all of the viewing and funeral.  Our funeral director tried to allow for us to have time alone to hold her, and I was very much looking forward to it, but because of the throngs of people who came we ended her viewing late.  So during the family prayer I held my baby girl's body for the last time.  It wasn't near long enough.  It was the most alert I had felt since the accident, she was wrapped in a blanket made by loving hands and holding her Ariel doll.  As long as I didn't look at her face, covered in makeup, I could almost believe that she wasn't gone.  It was almost like she was sleeping in my arms.  Then it was over-- someone took her away from me, despite my protests-- and I had to accept that that was it.  It didn't go over well.

Angel's EmbraceSince then I have come to realize that the body I held that day, the one that we put in the ground in the white box, was only Ethne's mortal vessel.  She still lives, just on a different plain, as a spirit.  She is with us often and instead of me holding her while she sleeps to calm myself, she holds me in my times of need.  It is strange, as a parent, to have that role reversed, but one day it will be the right way around again-- because we are an eternal family.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Baby 36

My newest little cousin was born last night.  He makes a total of 36 cousins on that side of the family.  I won't go into details because I don't have permission from his mommy, but he could sure use some prayers and this is one of the best places I know to go when I need to ask for them.  Please pray for this precious little boy and his mommy (and the rest of his family) for me.  Thank you!

Sunday, April 19, 2015


We talk a lot about Ethne and her elephant...

Summer 2010 we came to Utah for a visit.  During that visit we went to the Hogle Zoo with Grandma, Grandpa, and my two younger brothers while Lawrence went to some job interviews.  It was so much fun to watch my youngest brother and Ethne (only a couple months apart in age) interact and their reactions to the animals.  Ethne was particularly fond of the Elephants and the large cats (tigers, leopards, lions).  Ethne was just figuring out many animal sounds so she was particularly excited to see the ones that she knew the sounds for.  After we sufficiently wore our legs out and went for a train ride we stopped in the gift shop to get souvenirs for each of the kids.  As we walked in there was a tower of stuffed animals that Ethne was instantly attracted to.  The first animal I picked off the shelf for her was the elephant.  She hugged it and held on tight.  I tried to offer her other animals, toys, books, even shirts.   But she would have none of it, shaking her head at each new offering and clutching the elephant even tighter while buzzing her lips together to make an elephant sound.  She was sold.  After that she and the elephant were inseparable.  It slept with her, rode in the car with her, went to Grandma's house with her, she even wanted to take it to church.  When she started talking the elephant quickly became known as "ephant" since she dropped the L when she said it.  It was one of the three toys (along with her Ariel doll and her yellow lab puppy) that she wasn't willing to share when Mr. E came along.  One time Ethne got a tummy bug and her ephant caught the brunt of her upset tummy.  Ethne was not happy that I had to wash Ephant and she waited by the washing machine for about half the cycle for it to come out (that's a long time for a little girl) and then watched a fair amount of the dryer cycle too.  Ephant was always the first thing she made sure was in bed with her.

It was also the first thing I was able to hold in bed with me while in the hospital.

Elephants were special to me before Ethne's ephant ever came along, though.  When I was a teenager my Grandparents served a 3-year mission in Zimbabwe, Africa.  When they come home they brought back lots of souvenirs that they shared with my aunts, uncles, cousins, and other family.  One of these souvenirs was a carved wooden egg of adult and baby elephants under a tree.  My Grandma gave this beautiful carving to me and told me that it reminded them of me because of the way I was always trying to be helpful and kind with my younger cousins.  I have always treasured these words from my Grandma and love having this carving in my home.  Before this gift elephants had been among my favorite animals, but this bumped them right up to the top-- maybe that's why that was the first toy I offered Ethne at the zoo so many years later.  Either way, I'm glad I did and so glad that she loved it so much.

Now I have a collection of Elephants to remind me that Ethne is always near.  Of course I have Ethne's treasured Ephant, but I also have my carving, an elephant key chain, a painting of Noah leading the elephant onto the ark, several stuffed elephants, a scarf, a beautiful wind chime, jewlery, and more.  I enjoy these gifts and reminders.  I love having Ethne's ephant in pictures, a physical reminder that she is always part of our family, even though she isn't physically with us.  I love the gifts of elephants that others send to me, they show me that they care and that they are thinking about my princess too.

Did you know that the old adage about elephants never forgetting is actually quite accurate?  Elephants have the longest recorded memories of any animal.  Family is also very important to elephants, they tend to stay together in large family groups and all the female elephants help with the care of baby elephants.  Elephants are also the only animal known to mourn and visit the bones of their dead.

I guess elephants and I are just meant to be.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Brave Samantha

March 20, 2015 marked the 69 anniversary of Grandma and Granddad's wedding.  They were able to celebrate it together, surrounded by family and loved ones that they haven't been able to celebrate with for some time.  Meanwhile, those of us left behind celebrated Grandma's life.

Despite this time of year being a busy time for Lawrence's work he was able to work out some time off so we were able to join the rest of the family for Grandma's funeral and a family reunion of sorts.  This reunion included Lawrence's sister, Heidi, and her family, who moved across the country over a year ago.  We haven't really gotten to spend time with them since they moved, so we were very excited to see them.

In the past I have shared that Heidi's oldest, Samantha, has a special place in my heart.  She is my first niece, Ethne's best friend, and a sweet and special little girl.  On this trip I was able to enjoy almost 5 whole days in her presence.  We talked, painted fingernails, read, listened to music, and snuggled.  I can never get enough time with this precious girl.

But sometimes it can be too much...

Being with Samantha can help fill the void I feel with Ethne's absence, but at the same time being with her also seems to make me feel that void more poignantly.  For a short time my arms are filled with a little girl, some of my time can be spent doing the things that I did or would be doing with Ethne, and I love that Heidi so willingly allows me this privilege and that Samantha is such a willing participant.  But all the same, she is not mine, I don't get to take her home with me, kiss her boo-boos, hold her as she sleeps, or many of the other things that mommies get to do with their little girls.

Time with Samantha got to be too much one night as we were in Idaho with everyone.  Marilyn (my mother-in-law), Samantha, and I were in the kitchen and Marilyn was talking to Samantha about how proud she was of her.  Marilyn talked to Samantha about school, making friends, and being brave (Samantha is notoriously timid).  Seeing Grandma and granddaughter having this heart-to-heart was more than I could take as I longed for my Princess to have that opportunity and to be there with me.  I went outside to have a good cry.

As I was outside crying I reflected on the conversation Samantha and Marilyn had been having, especially the part about being brave.  As I was thinking I heard a whisper in my mind that, at the times Samantha needs to be particularly brave, Ethne is by her side, helping her.  My mind saw a distinct picture of Samantha and Ethne holding hands, facing the scary world together.

Heidi and her family spent Monday night with us before flying home early Tuesday morning.  I got up and helped them gather their things, children, and get loaded into the car.  Just before they left I stole a quiet moment alone with Samantha.  I told her what Ethne had told me about helping her be brave.  Samantha smiled, nodded, and told me that she knew that Ethne has been with her and even  shared a specific experience with me.  It never ceases to amaze me how in tune this sweet niece of mine is and how close she and Ethne still are.

I am thankful for my testimony of life after this mortal existence and for experiences that bear witness of this truth to me.  I am thankful for loving family and the strength they lend to me.  I am so very thankful for Samantha and the bond she and Ethne still share and the way Samantha is able to share that bond with me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Red Headed Little Girls

They find me.  Everywhere I go.  Sometimes it feels like they might be following me.  But the logical part of my brain realizes that it's really just me noticing them in a way I didn't before.

I see them at the park, playing with younger kids, helping them up the stairs and down the slides, stopping them from falling or jumping off something that is too high.  I see them getting mani-pedis on a girls date with their mom.  They're at the store, shopping for cute clothes, or helping wrangle younger siblings.

I see them and a part of me falls apart.

I follow a very popular mommy blogger's instagram.  She has a little redheaded girl.  Her daughter is close to the age Ethne was when we lost her.  I may have to unfollow her instagram.  Each picture tugs at my heart, reveals a new crack, or reopens one that has at least scabbed some.

When we're in public I have to turn away from redheaded little girls.  Sometimes I think it will be ok, I realize that these girls aren't my Princess, but then they flash a mischievous smile and my dam bursts.  Seeing them makes me wonder if Ethne would be like these other little girls.  If her hair would be as long, if it would hang straight or bounce in ringlets.  I wonder if she'd still have the ever present glint in her eye that made you wonder if she was up to something.  I see them doing fun things with their moms and I feel cheated in a way, because I don't get to do those things now.

Part of dealing with grief is learning to live with this jealousy.  Learning to look at these little girls and realize that they are not mine, and that they aren't causing this torment on purpose, or really at all.  It isn't their fault that they remind me of Ethne, or that this reminder makes me miss her even more.

I love little red headed girls, even if they do make me cry.  So if you see me turn away from your red head, don't take it personally, just know that it's part of me dealing with my grief.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Heaven isn't missing this angel any more...

We love you Grandma!  We are sure that Grandad, Billy, Ethne, and so many others are showering you with hugs.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Please and thank you

From the time our kids are very young we try to teach them to say please and thank you.  As they get older the habit becomes engrained and we have received many compliments on how polite our kids are.  Ethne was no exception.

We Have also tried to teach our kids some sign language before they started speaking.  Simple words like "all done," "more," "sorry," "milk," and of course "please."  Baby J hasn't picked up signs well, he laughs when we try to get him to sign.  Mr. E signed pretty well and stuck to the exact motions of the signs.  Ethne also signed well, but she liked to add her own little flair to the motions.

Of the signs that Ethne used the one we all remember best is "please."

I wish we had a video of how Ethne signed please.  She had her own little style and her sassy personality just made it so funny and so memorable that we often find ourselves laughing about how she did it.  When Ethne really wanted something, even after she started talking, she would use both hands to rub her chest while doing a little wiggle dance as she asked for something.  
I am thankful for this memory that brings a smile to my face and sometimes a tear to my eye.  I miss this girl of mine.  I look forward to the day I will get to see her silly please again, and I will be sure to make a video.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


Sorry for my toddler-esque tantrum in my last post.  I needed to get those feelings off my chest and I promised myself that I would keep this blog real.  I don't want to hide the ugly parts of this journey, I want to share them so others will know that they are not alone when they have the same kinds of feelings.

I have to say that I would not be where I am today without the support of my family, friends, and even strangers.  Seeing that people are reading this blog makes me feel supported.  Phone calls, texts, cards and small gifts, especially on the hard days are especially supportive.  I feel supported by the power in prayers that many are still offering in our behalf.  I feel supported when someone cries with me, hugs, or even just listens to our story.  This support strengthens me and makes it possible for me to face the hard days, the not so hard days, and even the easier days.

My biggest support comes from Lawrence.  He listens to me, he encourages me, he prays for me, and most of all, he has stuck with me.  I'm sure there have been times that he has been frustrated with me, in fact I know there has been.  But despite it all he has stuck by my side, always holding my hand and walking through the haze with me.  He is stronger than me and I need that strength every day.  Before we dated we became friends.  While we were dating Lawrence grew to be my best friend.  When we got married he became my husband.  But he is so much more than that to me, he is all these and more.  Lawrence is everything to me, he is my husband, my best friend, my biggest supporter, my strength, and everything in between.  I am so very incredibly grateful that I was led to be in a position to meet Lawrence, date him, and marry him.  I am beyond grateful for his strength, his faith, and his support.

Thank you to everyone who has helped support us in any way.  Thank you for your continued prayers, thoughtful gifts, cards, and comments, and for your listening ears and reading eyes.  Thank you for lending us your strength when ours is failing.  And my biggest thanks to Lawrence for putting up with me and for carrying and sometimes dragging me along for these last three years, and for being willing to stick with me into eternity.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Angelversary 3

I have this problem, I think that it is a problem I have always had to some extent, but it has gotten worse since the accident.  My problem is that I tend to live in the now.  Some may not think that is a problem, but when it comes to planning ahead it really is.  I tend to ignore dates and times and just take life one day at a time, not really thinking ahead and often not planning ahead for events and milestones like birthdays, anniversaries, etc.  Since the accident it has been worse.  This is in part due to the haze that I have been living in, too depressed to really acknowledge much, but also because I put in somewhat of an extra effort into avoiding thinking about certain days that roll around each year.  The day I most try to avoid thinking about is, of course, February 6.

No matter how I try to avoid it, the day comes, every year.  And this year marks Ethne's third angelversary.  She has now had more angelversaries than she had birthdays.  And it isn't fair.  It isn't fair that every November 11 we visit a cemetery instead of hosting a party for a happy little girl.  It isn't fair that every February 6 I am reminded of the worst day(s) of my life.  It isn't fair that, instead of getting to watch my Princess grow and learn each year she is invisibly watching over me.  It isn't fair that twice a year, every year, I basically start the grief cycle over again, denying that these days will come without Ethne here, I get angry with myself for avoiding thinking about it and not planning anything, I try to get out of the day even happening by considering just sleeping right through it, I cry and cry, then I finally come up with something to do, some way to mark these days that I try to avoid.  These two days, almost exactly 9 months apart have become the two most anticipated days of my year, and not in a good way.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Haze

This has been a very difficult post for me to write, and part of me feels like it is a bit of word vomit.  With every post I think long and hard about what I should write, what I need to write.  I feel like I am often inspired to write the things that I do.  This is one of those posts that I know I have needed to write.  What I share in this post is personal, deeply personal.  I have tried to write a post like this multiple times and every time I let it sit in the blog archives as a draft or I delete it because I am afraid of sharing such personal things.  Recently, however, I have been feeling a particular push to get this post written.  I don't know why or what has triggered this sudden feeling of urgency, but it's there and I can't ignore it.  So please, if you read this, be kind and understand that, unless you have experienced the same things in the same ways that I have, you just don't really understand it the same way.

This is my last post in the five stages of grief from Elizabeth Kuebler-Ross.

"Depression — "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "I'm going to die soon so what's the point?"; "I miss my loved one, why go on?"
"During the fourth stage, the grieving person begins to understand the certainty of death. Much like the existential concept of The Void, the idea of living becomes pointless. Things begin to lose meaning to the griever. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and sullen. This process allows the grieving person to disconnect from things of love and affection, possibly in an attempt to avoid further trauma. Depression could be referred to as the dress rehearsal for the 'aftermath'. It is a kind of acceptance with emotional attachment. It is natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty when going through this stage. Feeling those emotions shows that the person has begun to accept the situation. Oftentimes, this is the ideal path to take, to find closure and make their ways to the fifth step, Acceptance."

"Depressed mood is a feature of some psychiatric syndromes such as major depressive disorder,[2] but it may also be a normal reaction to life events such as bereavement, a symptom of some bodily ailments or a side effect of some drugs and medical treatments."

Not long ago I realized that I had been living in a sort of haze.  I was on some kind of auto-pilot, going through a lot of the motions, not really putting a whole lot of thought and effort into many of the things I did regularly.  I developed a sort of daily routine with Mr. E and later with Baby J that allowed for me to remain in this sort of waking sleep.  This wasn't a new thing, it started round about the time I woke up in the hospital and what I suspected about Ethne was confirmed.  That means that for the better part of two years I was in this haze.

My days (pre Baby J) looked something like this:

Get up when Mr. E got up, about 8-ish, feed him breakfast, get him dressed, let him pick a show or movie.  Once the show or movie was going Mr. E and I would hunker down on the couch together and I would fall asleep while we snuggled.  Around noon I'd feed him lunch, he'd play until 2-ish when I'd put him down for a nap/quiet time.  While Mr. E napped I'd usually veg, binge watching tv shows, napping, or folding laundry.  Mr. E would get up and play or watch tv while I fixed dinner, often it was something easy, a recipe I had memorized.  We'd eat, more snuggling or bath time, then bed for Mr. E about 8:30.  Every day looked roughly the same with little variation.  After Baby J the days were somewhat similar, just with nursing sessions in between and Baby J involved in the cuddles.
* * *

Not long after the accident several people suggested I go to counseling.  So I went.  The therapist would sit in her chair and ask me to talk about my feelings.  The problem was, I wasn't sure what exactly I was feeling at the time.  All I knew was that it felt like my heart had shattered, but was somehow still beating-- the shattered pieces rubbing their fragile edges together cruelly as they tried to pump pudding thick blood through my veins.  My world revolved around my kids and Ethne had been at the center of my world for just over two years, that was suddenly gone.  Yes, I still had Mr. E, and I thank heaven every day for him, but for a month or so after the accident I wasn't allowed to pick him up and I could hardly hold him by myself, much less get on the floor and play with him.  I had to spend my days practically being babysat, unable to do so many things for myself.

I remember one night, while we were staying with my parents, the week after I had been released from the hospital, I was in bed and Mr. E was supposed to be going to sleep, he was in a crib in the same room as Lawrence and me, and he started crying.  No one else was upstairs, I was trying to call for someone to help, but no one could hear me.  So I got up, very slowly made my way around to his crib, and tried to comfort him.  I couldn't stand up unsupported so I was leaning heavily against the crib, I couldn't look down at my distraught baby because of the neck brace, but I could hear his cries and I could feel his tender arms reaching, grabbing, begging for me to pick him up.  I cried, he cried, and Lawrence finally came back to find us in this mess.  I think that was when the severity of my injuries really sunk in for me.  I also think that's when depression started to take hold.  Yes, I had been very sad before, but the reality didn't quite sink in until that moment, when I was unable to help my baby when he needed me.

Just like I wasn't able to be there for Ethne.  And now she is gone from this mortal sphere.

After that incident I just started doing the bare minimum.  I quit seeing the therapist, it was just frustrating and emotionally draining to sit and talk to this woman who didn't understand at all and I could never explain my grief to her.  Many of the same people urged us to go to a group for bereaved parents, so we did.  This was better, to be with people who understood better what it felt like to suddenly have your world fall out from under us.  Lawrence noticed the haze creeping in more and more as I avoided callings in church, stopped reading my scriptures regularly, etc.  He shook me awake some, helped me get back into some better habits, and they helped immensely.  But I was still weighed down, blanketed by this haze that wouldn't let me fully engage.  I also got better at hiding it, putting on a good face when people were around, but it was always there, just below the surface, waiting for my facade to come down.

* * *

I don't remember exactly when it happened, but it started some time between Baby J coming home from the NICU and his second surgery.  I was able to stick my head out above the clouds a little at a time, and I liked what I saw.  So I started making more of an effort to keep my head out of my hazy clouds.  I still had snuggle time with Mr. E, because that is something he needs and enjoys, but I wasn't sleeping through it all the time.  I also started getting down on the floor with my boys.  I worked with Baby J as he tried to master rolling and sitting up.  I wrestled with Mr. E.  At first it was hard to hold my head above the clouds for long, and these play times and times of real engagement only happened occasionally, and were short-lived, but I found that, as I did them more, the stronger I became and the easier it was to stay up above the haze.

I can't say that every day is all sunshines and rainbows now, that is definitely not the case, nor do I ever expect it to be.  All I expect of myself is that I keep trying, and the days when I'm not strong enough to ride above the haze I will take and try to be stronger the next.

"Sorrow comes in great waves... but rolls over us, and though it may almost smother us, it leaves us.  And we know that if it is strong, we are stronger, inasmuch as it passes and we remain." ~Henry James, "Letter to Grace Norton" Henry James: Selected letters

I have come to realize that I don't want my boys to grow up thinking of me as their sad Mommy, their barely present Mommy, their sleepy Mommy.  I want them to have memories of playing with me, of happy days spent engaged and involved.  So I will continue to try to hold my head above the haze that is the depression of grief.  It is an every day struggle, and sometimes I lose.

The days that I win often have a lot in common.  They are days when I stay busy.  Days when I don't sit on the couch and watch movies and tv.  To have more winning days I find that I have to start the day engaged, I cook breakfast (sometimes something as simple as oatmeal does the trick, but usually it has to be more), I try keep the tv off much of the day, I exercise, we have family scripture study and prayer, I color with Mr. E, I tickle Baby J, we have picnics and playdates, run errands and do chores.  I have found that keeping busy helps keeps the haze at bay, I can still feel it looming-- it is always there, but being busy and engaged help keep my head up.  I still find time to snuggle Mr. E, it's his favorite part of the day, but I try limit the time spent in mindless pursuits.  I also work hard at reading scriptures daily and having personal prayer, sometimes I am better at it than others, I really do have to work at it.  I am by no means perfect, and it is going to take a lot of time before I get this really figured out, but as long as I recognize what is happening I can find tools to combat the haze of depression.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Little Brother

Dear Baby Brother (I),

Just last week you celebrated your 5th birthday.  You were pretty excited about it and knew just what you wanted... Legos, or more specifically, The Flash legos and super hero legos (I pointed out that they were pretty much the same thing and you rolled your eyes at me).  You were so excited over all your presents, even though the Flash legos weren't among them.

I wonder if you noticed how hard it was for me to watch you do these things that Ethne should have done exactly two months earlier.

I remember well when you joined our family.  You came via foster care and were in sad shape-- your tiny body was bruised and broken, and I am willing to bet that your heart was too.  I was visiting while you stayed in the hospital and Mom spent a lot of time there with you.  Ethne was about 5 months old and was there when you came home.  She was certainly ahead of you in so many ways, but you two seemed to bond as she rolled around and climbed on you while you tried to adapt to your new home.  Then mom broke her toe/foot and we knew that meant you were there to stay, it just took the state a little longer to figure it out.  I watched from afar (mostly) as you healed and grew.

Then we moved to Utah.  That bond that you and Ethne shared in the beginning remained and became stronger as you spent more time together, especially as I student taught and after I went back to work.  You were still behind Ethne, developmentally.  You two were a team against Mom/Grandma-- you'd cause the trouble and Ethne would report.  Those beatings you took as a baby had slowed down your learning and Ethne was running circles around you in verbal skills, gross motor skills, and especially fine motor skills.  She showed you the things she knew, like how to drink from a straw and regular cup, how to use a spoon and fork, and she talked your sweet little ears off.  You watched her carefully, you listened to her stories, and you followed suite (now it's nearly impossible to get you to stop talking).  She was not only your niece, but your best buddy too.  We thought you two would grow up together, be best friends forever, but that was not to be.

I hope that you know that, even though it is sometimes hard for me to see you grow up without her, I love you.  I know that you are meant to complete our family.  You filled a hole that we didn't even really know was there until you had filled it.

I'm so glad Ethne had you there to show her how to get into mischief and make messes.

I'm sorry that she's not around to help you make those messes and to help keep you in check when you try to steal her lunch or do something naughty.

There are days when I just can't muster up the strength to see your smiling face, to count the increasing candles on your birthday cakes, to watch you cross another milestone that Ethne won't get to cross along with you, and days when it is all I can do to not cry as I watch the way you play with Mr. E and Baby J in ways that I imagine she would.  Please forgive me when I can't be there.

I love you, and I think that's why it is sometimes so painful, because I love her too.

Your big Sister

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The First Few Days

A little over a year after Baby J's birth I have been reflecting.  I feel like I should share some of the experiences we had in the hospital after his birth and while he was in the NICU for the benefit of others.  Before I share, though, I want to make it clear that I appreciate every doctor and nurse that cared for us during this time.  Despite my frustrations (that will become evident hereafter), they were doing their jobs to the best of their abilities and trying not to make us worry too much.  Doctors and nurses have very difficult jobs and I truly appreciate them for all they do.  I feel I should also warm those who might be squeamish, there's some details about procedures that Baby J endured that might make you squirm.

about 36 hours old
Day 1, Dec. 26:  My water broke in the wee hours of the morning the day after Christmas.  When we arrived they got me right in and hooked up to iv and monitors quickly, when I was ready for my epidural they got the anesthesiologist came as quickly as he could.  He struggled getting the needle into the epidural space because he had me sitting up and my belly was just too big for me to bend enough to make the space big enough, but as soon as I laid down he got it right in.  The nurses were courteous and the delivering doctor was understanding of my special circumstances (not being allowed to push hard or for too long because of my carotid artery).  It was wonderful and very special to be able to hold Baby J immediately after he was born and they let me hold him for what seemed like a long time before they took him to clean and measure him, the even did his first APGAR test while I held him.  After he was cleaned and I was feeling like sitting up Baby J was very eager to eat and latched on right away.  They let him eat to his heart's content before they moved us to the mother baby room.

Day 2: I was anxious to get home, I don't like hospitals and just wanted to have my whole family together.  I figured that since his birth was so uneventful that we would be released in the afternoon/evening.  This was not to be when his pediatrician came to visit and learned that he had not pooped.  She told me that this was one of the requirements for babies to go home, and as disappointed as I was at the time, I now completely understand why.  This is about when problems started popping up.  Baby J had been nursing for short bursts about every 3 hours since his birth, but that suddenly stopped after 24-hours.  He wasn't really waking up to eat and when I tried to get him to nurse he just wasn't interested.  Baby J was gagging occasionally and soon he started spitting up yellow.  The nurses kept telling me that it was all fine as long as it didn't turn green and stayed in small amounts.  This is also when they started taking him to try and stimulate him and get him to go.  As the day progressed he continued to refuse to eat so we tried some other techniques, a nipple shield, pumping and then giving him the bottle, and S and N (nursing with a small tube attached to supplement with formula), and the lactation consultant came for a visit.  Then his spitting up increased and he still wouldn't eat.  The spit up turned green and had flecks of brown in it occasionally, I was very concerned by this point.  Every time he spit I called the nurses who came in and kept telling me (as if I was a first time mom and just didn't know) that spit up was completely normal and that the color was fine.  I kept insisting it was't and they kept trying to downplay my concerns, it was really frustrating.  I finally stopped calling them, they weren't listening to me and they were treating me like I didn't know what I was talking about.  Lawrence and my dad blessed him, I felt a little better.

anderson in his mouth to prevent spit-up iv in hand
Day 3:  They finally decided to do something.  The on-call pediatrician ordered an x-ray of his tummy to try and see what might be causing the problem.  The x-ray showed gas trapped in his bowels and that his colon was narrowed on the left side.  This is when they decided to send him to Primary's and the NICU.  Lawrence was out having a special breakfast with Mr. E.  They rushed back when I called with the news.  They told me that he would have to be transported either in a helicopter or ambulance.  That's when I lost it.  I basically begged the doctor not to send him in a helicopter, my mom was there, she explained why.  He went in an ambulance.  By the time the ambulance and the transport team arrived Baby J was rather dehydrated.  They had a difficult time getting an iv in him, it was really hard to watch them continuously poke my baby boy.  When we got to Primary's they gave us a very quick orientation, showed us how the NICU worked, where the pumping room was and where and how to store milk, then took Baby J for another x-ray.  Mom made me eat, Lawrence went with J.  The second x-ray they injected barium contrast into his bum to see if it would shed light on the situation.  It shed some light, but didn't give a definitive diagnosis.

that's an iv in his head, the one in his hand went bad
Day 4-7:  Were spent waiting.  Holidays tend to slow business processes down and hospitals are no exception, labs were running slower than usual.  J had an iv and a central line that were giving him fluids and nutrition and was having lots of wet diapers.  For about 24-hours after the barium x-ray his body slowly expelled most of the barium, but nothing else.  His nurses in the NICU were very compassionate and so wonderful to us.  We went home every night to sleep in our own bed and to let Mr. E sleep at home as well, he spent most of the days at Grandma and Grandpa's house playing with his uncles.  On day 5 they finally came and performed a biopsy of Baby J's rectum to make a final determination about what was causing his problem.  The results from this took two agonizing days.  Day 7 presented the official diagnosis of Hirschprung's Disease and we were given a plan of action.

Day 8:  Surgery day!  After the biopsy result the surgery resident explained to us that his surgery would be in two parts, one where they would find the "transition zone" where the ganglion nerve cells had formed and place an ostomy then he would have another surgery later to reconnect everything.  I was too dazed to ask the questions I should have asked about why they were doing the surgery in two parts and what the heck an ostomy was.  My mom knew what he was talking about (she was there with me at the time, Lawrence had to work, or had a cold, or maybe both), but I was feeling a little lost.  I wish I had asked.  On surgery day they took my baby to a place I wasn't allowed to go and we had to wait in a room full of other anxious parents.  They couldn't tell us how long the surgery would take because of the nature of it.  The way it worked is the surgeons took cell samples every few centimeters and sent them to be tested for the ganglion cells until they found the transition zone.  The length of the surgery was dependent on how long it took for the pathologists to get the results and how much of his intestine was effected. Lawrence made me eat, the cafeteria had blueberry pancakes and bacon.

Day 9-11:  More waiting.  We did make some friends while in the NICU, other parents with sick babies from all over.  One from Cedar City, another from Vegas.  It was good to have people to talk to during the long, quiet hours holding my baby with all his tubes and wires.  On day 10 they finally let him have milk through an NG tube (nasal gastric, up his nose and down to his belly). Little bits at a time to see how it would effect him and his digestion, gradually increasing until they decided he would be allowed to nurse.  Day 11 they had me do a lot of "teachings" that were required before he could go home.  There was a video on ostomy care and a CPR video, complete with creepy CPR dummy baby that we got to take home.  The wound care nurses also paid us a visit and talked about ordering supplies to take care of his ostomy.  Again, I wish I had asked more questions about what they were ordering for us and why because we wound up with things that we never used.

Day 12:  On our way up to the hospital Baby J's nurse called to ask if I could spend the night with him so they could evaluate how well he was nursing, I also feel like they wanted to check my competency (or something).  We were already half-way there and didn't want to turn around so I could gather supplies, so at lunch time we ran out and picked up a few things I would need for what we thought would be an overnight stay.  The wound care nurses came by again to give us a chance to change his ostomy bag and let us know where the supplies would be coming from, get insurance information, and our mailing address.  The first time changing his bag was nerve wracking, it's difficult to see part of your baby's insides on the outside and you want to be so gentle with them when all the nurse is telling you to do goes somewhat contrary to that.  J was also allowed to actually nurse by this point and he seemed anxious to do so, but was also a little lazy about it.  But he didn't like the bottle either...  Lawrence had to leave us since there wasn't room for us both in the family room and he had to work part of the next day.  I was stuck at the hospital, no car.  At some point during the night Baby J's monitors decided they didn't want to work properly and the computer started panicking and beeping every 5 minutes.  The sweet nurse fixed it, but it only lasted about 12 hours.  J's ostomy bag that I had just learned to replace also sprung a leak.  The night nurse didn't know how to apply a new bag so I got to try it by myself.  I was nervous and it took a couple tries, but I got one on, that promptly sprung a leak a few hours later...

Day 13:  What we thought was supposed to be an overnight stay was actually a 36-hour stay.  I was getting frustrated and anxious.  I didn't like being cooped up in the hospital without a car, I hadn't had a shower and didn't have clean clothes.  Lawrence brought me some clothes and a few other things for the second night.  Some time during the day the nurses got word that one of the former occupants of J's NICU room had tested positive for an antibiotic resistant bacteria and we had to take extra precautions to contain it.  This meant more hand washing and wearing a goofy gown until we were cleared.  This also made me even more anxious to go home.  Fortunately J's new bag stayed on all day.  I didn't sleep well this night because I started having flashbacks and dreams about my stay in the hospital after my car accident.

Day 14:  I was done.  Nurses and doctors had been telling me for days that he would eat better and gain weight better at home, but that he wasn't gaining enough weight yet to clear him to go home.  How contradictory!  I was on the verge of walking out with my baby whether they cleared him or not.  My mom talked some sense into me and told me to explain my frustrations to the doctors.  A lactation consultant and occupational therapist visited to make sure I was nursing properly and that J had a good latch and suck.  They both noted that everything looked great, just that he was a little lazy, and made the same comments about him doing better at home.  When the doctors came by for rounds I put my foot down.  I told them that I needed to take my baby home, that I was having flashbacks, and pointed out contradictory statements.  They made me promise to take him to the pediatrician to be weighed the next day (Friday) and the following Monday for weigh-ins and set up a home health nurse to check in on us too.  Then there was a car seat check to be sure he would breathe fine in the car seat and that the straps were adjusted properly.  We had to wait for Lawrence to get off work at 5, and we were free!

We were so happy to finally have our whole family together under the same roof.  We stopped to pick up Mr. E and my parents also supplied us with dinner.  Baby J was two weeks old and finally home!