Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving 27-30

Our computer broke last week so we had to get a new one. I'm back and I've had a lot of thoughts I've wanted to write about. First, though I want to finish my thankfulness project.

27) I am thankful for the Catholic Church, the Holy Spirit, the communion of Saints, and prayer. I have had membership in several churches in my life, and attended many more, but when I went to Mass as an adult I knew I was home. I'm thankful that there is a Holy Spirit to live in us and guide us in this world that is full of so much suffering. I'm thankful for the Communion of Saints both in Heaven and on Earth - for my family in Heaven who are closer to God than I and are willing to pray for me, and for my friends here on Earth who are willing to be with me in person and share their love, prayers, support, and casseroles.

28) I am thankful for the promise of Heaven and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Although I am a Christian, and consider myself a believer, I naturally drift toward unbelief. This is just how my mind works, and part of my struggle with faith. I don't know if I ever cared about Heaven before Jonah died. I care now. I hope that Heaven is real and that it is wonderful. Not only is God there, but my precious treasure Jonah is there and that's where I want to go when I die.

29) I am thankful for books written by people much wiser than I. I can't seem to get enough of reading lately. If you have suggestions, I would love to hear them.

30) I am thankful for the women who have traveled this road before me. I'm not thankful they had to lose their children, but I am thankful to have people I can talk to, blogs I can read, and support groups I can attend where I am not alone in my grief.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving 17-27

17) I am thankful for my high school friends. These are friends who have seen me at my most ridiculous. If you can love someone through her awkward preteen and teenage years (and mine were especially awkward, angsty, and ridiculous) you deserve some sort of prize. Thanks for loving me despite my many, many flaws. I love you, too.

18) I'm thankful for the friends I met in college. I got the privilege to sing and make music with some fantastic people. I had fabulous, funny, loving and talented friends from the music department, friends from the theatre department (which I wholeheartedly wish I had been more involved with because those were some amazing people), friends I met through Spanish, Gospel Choir, or other extra-curricular activities, and the dear, lovely, and hilarious group I lived in such close proximity with. They taught me to love country music. They helped me to learn to like myself. I did a lot of growing up in college and I'm lucky to have had support from some of my best friends still to this day. I also had a few really amazing professors.

19) Speaking of college, I am so thankful that I got to spend 5 years doing one of the things I love the most - singing! Even though I didn't go to graduate school for music, and it didn't lead to a career for me, I feel blessed I got to sing so much and learn so much. I really do love the challenging type of singing I studied in school and I miss doing that kind of work.

20) I'm thankful for my dog eating the food my kids drop on the floor. Yes, seriously. Before we got her I swept a kajillion times a day. I did not want a dog, but as far as dogs go, she's pretty cool.

21) I have a comfortable, warm house. I have electric lights, running water, heat, air conditioning, an electric stove, washer and dryer, a yard, a fridge and luxuries too numerous to count.

22) Even though I have Marfan Syndrome, I have been able to carry four children to full term. I am grateful that my disorder was discovered early in my life and that I have been treated successfully with activity restrictions, medications, and surgery. Although I carry extra weight, I am otherwise healthy and I am so grateful.

23) I am thankful to have been able to carry children at all. My heart grieves for my friends who want to carry a child and cannot. My heart also grieves for the children who need families. I know how lucky I am, and those of you who struggle with infertility have a special place in my prayers.

24) I'm thankful for the change in seasons. Weather in the midwest is not always awesome. I'm pretty sure I haven't seen the sun in ten days. There's a lot to complain about, but I really do love the fresh greenness of spring and the crisp coolness of autumn. I will even concede that there are some things I like about summer and I can even get behind the enthusiasm for the first snow of the season.

25) I'm thankful for things that help make me feel pretty; the occasional pedicure, makeup, lotion that smells nice, new clothes once in a while, and my friend Autumn who cuts my hair.

26) I can't believe I waited so long to say this but I am thankful for my Marfriends! I don't have as many friends with Marfan as I hope to have someday, since I'm kind of newly getting involved in the community, but I have met some wonderful ladies who are near and dear to my heart. My wonderful friend came to stay with me after Jonah died and she was of utmost comfort to me. She blogs at :)

27) I'm also grateful for my internet friends, the Babyzone girls. We were all on a message board together when we were due with our babies born in May of 2007. Over four years later, a lot of us are still friends and keep in touch. How cool is that? Several I have met in real life. This is a really great group of ladies and they have supported me through a lot of things that have happened in my life.

To be continued...

Monday, November 21, 2011

More Thanksgiving (the family edition 5-16)

5) My stepmom, Janice. She makes my Dad so happy and she loves my kids. She has been so good and kind to me and my family. She has so much energy and is always thinking of something fun to do!

6) My mother-in-law, Mary Ann. She raised my fantastic husband and she is so generous to us. She would never let us go without. We have a great time when she visits! I would also like to say that our dog, Sammie, is also very grateful for Mary Ann and the snuggles and treats the doggie gets when Mary Ann comes!

7) My Dad. Growing up I knew he was always there for me. As an adult I realize how valuable and rare that is. Dad and I have shared many laughs and tears through the years.

8) My brother, Elliot. I love my brother. We have so many memories, both awesome and sad. I will always admire him for the way he cared for my mom when she was on hospice. I am so proud of my little brother, and grateful to have had a sibling to walk through life with.

9) My mom. She was my closest friend. We had so much fun together, and also had our share of passionate disagreements. I am thankful that she lived for so long after she was sick. I'm thankful she got to be there throughout my childhood, when I graduated, got married, and had Melody. I'm grateful that for a brief time, my mother and my child shared this planet. I know that Melody won't remember my mom, but it is comforting to know that she felt Mom's touch, heard her voice, and knew her love.

10) My beautiful Melody. She made me a Mommy! She has so much imagination and her heart is full of love. She is also a beautiful singer!

11) My spunky Lila. She has personality to spare. She is so bright and sassy, but also very sweet.

12) My sweet Isaac. He is jolly, good natured, and fun to be around. He makes me smile. I am so proud of the progress he is making in his therapies.

12) My beloved Jonah. What can I say that I haven't already? I will always love and miss him. I pray for a day when we will be reunited in the next life. I am thankful for the time we got to spend together.

13) My grandma Helen. I love my grandma. My kids love my grandma. I feel lucky that we get to have her around.

14) My grandma Lou. I admire her class and poise. She is so generous with her time in showing us houses pretty much whenever we want . She has brought us meals and apples numerous times when we were having a difficult situation. I am thankful for her kindness and love.

15) My step-sister, Maggie. I always wanted a sister and I am looking forward to getting to know her better!

16) The rest of the family. I have many aunts, uncles, and cousins who make my life richer and more enjoyable. I also have Grandparents and a father-in-law in Heaven, and I'm glad I got to spend time with them. Justin also has a grandmother who is still living, and she is an awesome cook and very funny!

That's all for now, more to come.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving 1-4

I have been watching people post on facebook daily the things they are thankful for in life. Here are mine, one for every day in November.

1) For my son Isaac's therapy team. What wonderful people I have the privilege to know! Seriously, we are lucky. Our therapists are awesome. They are compassionate and kind. Not only have they helped my son make great strides in his development, they have listened to me being almost constantly stressed. Two of the therapists worked with Jonah as well and it is so nice that they held him, and that they remember him. They are not only our therapists, they are our dear friends. I will be so sad when Isaac ages out of the therapy program in February, but I hope they will keep in touch with us and I wish them all the blessings life has to offer.

2) For my husband. Since marrying in 2005, we have been through a lot. He sat by my side when I was pregnant with our first child and had food poisoning. That was not a pretty picture and I knew from then on I had a winner. Earlier this year he revisited his caretaking role when I broke my ankle and needed help for almost everything. We have each lost 2 grandparents during our marriage as well as him losing his father and me losing my mother. We have given birth to 4 children, including one set of twins. We have miscarried a baby. Of course the most difficult thing so far is that we have buried our beloved child. Together we have navigated medical appointments and special needs services for our children. We have a long but hopefully rich journey ahead of us. I'm grateful to have a steady partner in life.

3) For my OB office. I know this might be a strange one, but this is just another place where God has put some truly amazing people into my life. Everyone who works there is so caring. Three of the ladies who work there came to Jonah's visitation to support me. I am honored to call them friends. I am grateful to know that when Justin and I are ready for another child, these people will be there to support us and help us through another high risk pregnancy with no judgement, only love.

4) For my inheritance from my mother. My mom didn't leave me money when she died, but she did leave me a rich inheritance of friends. Whenever I am in need they are there, to listen, to pray, to bring meals, to offer advice, to play with my kids, anything. I may have lost my mom, but she made sure I had lots of awesome mothers in my life!

More to come...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

8 months

Today, 11/11/11, Jonah would have been 8 months old. This is a letter to him. Only positive thoughts going in. If you would like to leave a thought for Jonah please feel free.

Dear sweet Jonah,
     Although I only got to hold you for 7 months, you were a bright and shining light in my life. We found out we were expecting you after a weekend-long playdate with the babyzone girls. I took a pregnancy test on Sunday and, to my surprise and delight it was positive. I yelled down the stairs at Daddy, "We're gonna have another baby!" and he said "Yay!" You were wanted and loved so much from the very beginning.

     When I was 8 weeks along I heard your heartbeat for the first time, and I got to see you on ultrasound. That was the first of many, many times I got to see you. Each time was so wonderful and I always marveled at the miracle God was creating in me.

     You grew strong and healthy. At 16 weeks we were excited to find out that you were a little boy! Nana was with us at the ultrasound and she was thrilled. I was so happy that you would be joining our family. I couldn't wait for Isaac to have a little brother to grow up with and play with. Soon after we found out you were a boy, we chose your name, Jonah. I had a very difficult time picking your siblings' names but yours I knew from early on. I felt in my heart that it was the perfect name for you and it made me feel happy inside.

     On Friday, March 11, 2011 we went to the hospital to have you delivered. Your sisters were really excited that the baby was going to come out of my tummy. My surgery went smoothly and I will never forget the moment you were born. The doctor tried to hold you up so that I could see you. Even though I didn't get a good look I could hear your sweet cry. You were gorgeous. I remember saying that you looked like a Miller! Nana, Papaw, and Janice were there with Mommy and Daddy right after you were born. Everyone held you and talked about how wonderful and handsome you were. We chose your middle name, Edmund, after your Great Grandpa Eddie. When Grandma Lou heard this she said Grandpa would have been very pleased.

     We had lots of visitors while we stayed in the hospital. We both did so well that we got to come home after only two days. The day we brought you home was the happiest of our lives. Our family felt so happy and complete. Daddy took an extended leave so that he could have some special time to get to know you. Your sisters and brother were very happy and enthusiastic to meet you. Your sisters liked to help me take care of you.

      I got to spend Easter and my birthday with you. Then I broke my ankle, but Daddy stayed home to take care of me so we got lots of family time. Daddy would take care of your brother and sisters while I laid in bed and snuggled with you. We did lots of nursing too! Then I got to spend my 4th mother's day with my 4 beautiful children. Even though my leg was in a cast I felt like the luckiest lady alive. You made us feel so whole.

     Jonah, you were so beautiful. You had eyelashes that were a mile long and sweet, pouty lips. You had an adorable dimple when you smiled. You had huge beautiful blue eyes. You were soft and warm and snuggly. I knew just the right ways to hold you to make you feel safe and secure. I spent a lot of time holding you because I was the best at comforting you. That's what Moms are for. I loved your fuzzy warm head and your soft spot. I loved nuzzling your neck and rubbing my cheek on your cheek. I loved to hold your hand and squeeze your precious feet. You were such a gift to me and to this family. It made my day when your brother was softly rubbing your little head. Your sisters loved to play with you and make you laugh.

     When you were born, I planned our future with you in my mind. When you died, that future changed. It is my hope that our faith is true. I hope that you were greeted by the people that love you. I hope my Mom carried you up to Heaven to show you off to God and to our friends and family. I hope you were surrounded by love, and light, and warmth and peace. I want to believe since I didn't wake up when you passed away that it was very peaceful. If I had known that was my last night with you I would have held you all night. Know that I will forever hold you in my heart.

     Thank you God, and thank you Jonah, for the 7 months, plus pregnancy I was given with my dear son.

     I hope I live a long time, Jonah. I have to take good care of your brother and sisters and of Daddy. Let's make a deal, though. When I die, will you promise to come be the first to greet me? The first thing I want to do is hold my sweet boy again. You and Ashtin watch out for each other until Daddy and I get there. Mimi and Papaw Kenny will take good care of you.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord
And let perpetual light shine upon him

All my love forever,
Ashley (your Mommy)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Heart on my Sleeve

The loss of a child is uniquely hard. I have heard one reason is because the natural order of things is for children to outlive their parents, not the other way around. I have been reading a book, After The Darkest Hour, the Sun will Shine Again by Elizabeth Mehren that is full of stories of parents and the loss of their dear children. It is a coping manual, but it doesn't offer much hope. Even earlier than the 20th century, when infant and child deaths were much more common than they are now, parents grieved with heavy hearts over their lost children. I say lost, because it is too difficult for me to say dead.

In a time when it was all too common for families to lose multiple children to disease or other causes, the mourning of parents was still especially painful. I believe this is because God knits parents, especially mothers, to their children in a special way. Jonah was the heart I wore on my sleeve. He was my heart beating outside of my body. This is necessary from a biological standpoint. Children wouldn't survive at all if it weren't for a loving caregiver. Even after the baby dies, the connection remains and the mother is left disoriented.

In the Bible, in Luke 15, Jesus tells the famous parable of the lost sheep. I know this parable is meant to illustrate God's joy in conversion, however it seems especially poignant to me right now. Even though I am so grateful for my three living children, my husband, my family and my friends, I pine for the lamb who is lost. It's hard for me to believe, but I am trying my hardest to believe my little lamb is in heaven with the Lamb of God.

I feel that soon I will be expected to move on. Please be patient with me. I tire of my pity party as well, but I am waiting patiently for strength, healing, and peace. I know I will always miss my baby, but I hope that a time comes when I can remember him fondly instead of achingly, and when I can enjoy other things without feeling that I have abandoned him.

If you pray, please pray for me this week. Night time is the hardest because that is when I would have been snuggled in bed nursing Jonah. If you think of it, whisper a short prayer for me as you lay your head down to sleep. Pray for my peace, for my guilt to be alleviated. Pray for me to find joy in my husband, delight in my other children. Pray for me to remember Jonah but with a lighter heart each day. Pray for my faith, that I don't lose it, that I act lovingly toward others, and that one day I will hold my sweet Jonah again. Please also pray for two undisclosed intentions I am hiding in my heart.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Books I am reading:
After the Darkest Hour the Sun will Shine Again
Safe in the Arms of God

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Proof that life goes on...

 Even after this devastating tragedy, our life has gone on. It's certainly not the same, but for ourselves and our other kids it is important that we try to reclaim some joy in living. I have reached the point in my grief where I wake up and feel almost normal, only to be hit with a sick feeling in my stomach, remembering what (who) I have lost. But by then there are usually two beautiful little girls climbing on my bed and asking for breakfast so there's no time to cry. Here are some of the fun things we've been doing to keep life going for our family.

I want to thank my friend, Chrissy, for doing pumpkin decorating with the kids, because I wouldn't have felt like doing it. Also, my friend Angie, who brought her kids to ZOOBOO to spend time with us, even though we were pretty down that day.

My husband goes back to work this week. I don't have any idea how he will be able to do that. At least at home I can cry. I also have a very dear friend coming to stay with me so that will ease the pain of this week for me. Please keep my husband in your thoughts and prayers in a special way.

"...I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." John 10:10 NAB