Goodbye to summer

I am a summer girl. It’s easily my favorite season. I love lots of things about the other seasons as well, but nothing warms my soul like summer days and nights.

To me, summer is:

The smell of our tomato plants as they grow and gift us tomatoes so sweet we eat them like candy.

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The song of crickets throughout the night and excited birds in the early mornings.

Late evening walks to watch 9pm sunsets.

IMG_3373Early morning sunrises, so quiet and peaceful.

IMG_3409Backyard BBQs and the laughter of little ones.

IMG_2110Escapes from the summer heat up in the Wasatch wilderness for awe-inspiring hikes.

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IMG_0144The smell of summer rain on hot cement.

IMG_1517Fresh produce and new recipes to try.

photo-4Many afternoons spent in wet swimsuits.

IMG_3027And the celebration for the lives of our little girls who both share summer birthdays.

Camille-021As this Labor Day weekend draws summer to a close, I feel much gratitude. Thank you summer for all the ways you help me continue to heal, live, and thrive. Last year you helped us through the raw, dark stages of early grief. This year you were with us to welcome our rainbow! Until next year…

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An upended moment

I just gave Cami tummy time for the first time since she’s been born. I’ve been putting it off because I knew it’d be hard for me. Given that Charlie died on his tummy, I knew it’d be impossible to give her tummy time without thinking of him. I also know I have to give her tummy time! She has to develop the neck muscles necessary to lift and move her head when she learns to roll over!

While Charlie didn’t die of suffocation, his death was related to being face down. At least that’s a prominent theory: carbon dioxide build-up and an immature brain that doesn’t arouse to tell the baby to move their head and get fresh air. What’s frustrating is I know Charlie had the neck strength to move his head! I’d seen him do it many times.

IMG_1013And I have to imagine that had he moved his head, he would still be alive today. But for some reason, he didn’t.

When I put Cami on her tummy and watched as she nuzzled her face into the blanket, I burst into tears. I watched as she struggled to move her head…and also NOT struggle to move her head. As I watched her, I couldn’t help envisioning what Charlie’s last moments might have been like. Moments I never witnessed. But SHOULD have! I SHOULD have been there! It was a moment I should have prevented!

But because I wasn’t there, I can only imagine. I HATE imagining what those moments were. Was he asleep? Was he awake and making soft grunting and whining noises like Cami? Was he crying for me? Was he scared? Did he have any idea what was happening? And watching Cami I seemed to be able to do more than imagine. I could almost witness what it looked like. And my heart broke all over again.

Needless to say, tummy time for Cami didn’t last long today. I couldn’t resist pulling her into my arms and loving on her as tears dripped down my cheeks for her angel brother.

A quilt in memory of Leigha Franklin

IMG_3416A couple weeks ago an Angel Grandma contacted me about her daughter, who lost a baby girl to SIDS. She was hopeful I could donate a quilt to her in memory of her sweet granddaughter. I had another quilt ready to go but felt the above quilt would be perfect for someone who had lost a little girl. So I sent this quilt to Courtney Franklin, in memory of her daughter Leigha. I was a little bummed to not be able to meet Courtney in person as she lives across the country, but I was grateful to send her something to comfort her and remind her of Leigha.

Courtney contacted me after she received the quilt and shared some of her story. Leigha came into the world on June 16th, 2012. She was Courtney’s little girl after two boys. She stole everyone’s hearts, especially her mom’s and brought so much joy for the months she was here. Like our story with Charlie, Courtney’s tragedy was a vacation gone wrong.  After moving away from family just a couple months previous, in October, Courtney planned a vacation to surprise her grandma. Little Leigha left this world mere hours after arriving at her great grandmother’s house on October 25.

My heart goes out to this grieving Momma. At the same time, I’m grateful to get to know other angel moms and build a sense of community together. It’s amazing this community extends to the other side of the country! And yet so sad to keep learning of families who have been visited by SIDS. In other words, building this community of grieving parents is truly bittersweet.

Moments

I live in moments. Some sweet, some bitter, and some bitter-sweet. Even though having Cami makes us more complete than we’ve been since Charlie died, Charlie is never far from our minds. Losing Charlie changed everything. And grief continues to change everything; in both good and bad ways. A new layer of experience and grief is open now that we have our rainbow.

Moments that used to be simple, aren’t anymore. For example, the first time I sang to Cami, I cried. It was such a bittersweet moment. I have another baby to sing to! But I hadn’t sung to a baby since Charlie. I still won’t sing Charlie’s songs because it’s too painful and those are his and my songs (Wheels on the bus, Leaving on a jetplane and You’ve made me so very happy). One day, maybe I’ll sing those again. I imagine he’d want me to. But not yet. In the meantime I have come up with some Cami songs that she enjoys me singing (Sound of sunshine, American Honey, and Born to fly).

Nursing is a daily sweet moment for me. Oddly enough, especially the middle of the night feeding. When I nurse Cami in this rocker each night, I snuggle in the quilt someone made for me in remembrance of Charlie.

IMG_3432 In those moments, it feels like he’s here with us. It feels like a few moments all quiet and alone with my angel and my rainbow.

Speaking of nursing. It was a bittersweet moment to introduce a bottle to Cami. Before, I used to look forward to introducing a bottle, knowing I’d have a little more freedom to live my life once my babies weren’t so dependent on me. But I didn’t feel inclined to do that with Cami. I love feeding her and she goes everywhere with me. Sure I’d like to go get a pedicure, knowing if she got hungry, there would be milk at home for her. I also have some doctor appointments to make and it’ll be nice to have those without consideration for Cami’s eating schedule. And there’s always work to consider in the future. And of course, I think it’s good bonding for Chad to have with Cami. But I got quite teary eyed the first time I passed Cami off to Chad to feed.

IMG_3049Other moments we have that grief influences include this:

IMG_3428and this:

IMG_3285I was so excited when Cami began socially smiling! It’s so amazing to connect with her that way. I remember as soon as she started smiling I became really anxious to capture it on camera. I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “If we lose her, I need to have a photo to remember what she looked like when she smiled!”

The same sentiment applies to her cries. I took a video of her crying the other day. Why? Because I miss Charlie’s cry and would give anything to hear it again. If we lose Cami, I want to know what her cry sounded like!

Maybe that’s morbid thinking. I don’t want to think that way, but I can’t help it. After losing Charlie, photos and videos have become so much more important…because it’s all we have left of him. It’s why I’ve been trying to learn to be a better photographer, so I can capture amazing moments of my children. I AM hopeful that I get to raise my little girls and see them grow up, but regardless, I am committed to capturing as many moments as possible.

IMG_3395And I won’t erase them! Blurry or not!

Here’s to pushing into all the moments of our life now: the bitter and the sweet!

11 years with my Chadlysan

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11 year anniversary.

Today we celebrated 11 years of marriage. Of those 11 years the last one has been the most formative of our marriage. I think losing a child either makes or breaks a relationship. It’s been trying but we are closer now than we’ve ever been. I can finally understand what people mean when they say, “I love you more now than when we got married.” Chad has been my rock through the greatest heartbreak either of us has ever experienced. I feel a tenderness between us that didn’t exist before. Together I believe we can make it through anything. Above is the video montage I made of the last 11 years for Chad.

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A quilt in memory of Clayton Wadley

IMG_2865Today I had the sad honor of meeting another SIDS mom and giving her this quilt. Brianne and her husband lost their son Clayton not even three months ago when he was three months old.  I got to look through a photo album Brianne made of him and he was so precious! There is always something special, almost sacred, about looking at photos of little angels before they left this earth. I really enjoyed talking with Brianne and her sister. We cried together as we talked about our angels. I was struck by the similarities in our stories. Especially in the ways it felt like our babies said goodbye to us. Brianne shared that on the day he died, Clay missed his morning nap and didn’t fall asleep in his carseat like he normally would when she’d run errands. Instead he stayed awake smiling at her and was so happy to just be with his mom. It reminded me of how Charlie too did not fall asleep in his carseat on the day he died while we went to and from lunch but just kept looking at me and smiling! It feels like, if they knew they were going to leave us, they just wanted a few more happy moments with us. Those moments feel like tender mercies to hold on to.

As we talked, I was impressed at Brianne’s strength and faith. She is doing so amazing for where she is in the grief process! I look forward to being her friend.

Cami 1 month update

IMG_3029It’s hard to believe Cami has been in our arms for a month already! Like I said last post, time feels both suspended and flying by so fast. The days melt into one another (likely because I never get more than three hours of continuous sleep). Cami continues to be a complete joy! She has feisty days, but she is still a great baby. And when she cries, it really doesn’t stress me out because the sound of crying is music to my ears compared to the awful silence we experienced when we lost Charlie.

IMG_2986But gratitude doesn’t diminish the fact that newborns are hard work! We have greatly appreciated the continued help that has come in the form of Chad’s mom, “Baba”.

G78A7380She has been a workhorse while she was visiting: helping with baby, doing laundry continuously, fixing things in the house that are long overdue, and playing with Hailee.

Cami and I have gotten into somewhat of a routine. While I still can’t predict when she’ll eat, she consistently eats between every three and four hours. Besides a brief stint of mastitis, cut short with quick onset antibiotics, breastfeeding has fallen into place and I enjoy the one-on-one time with her. She is also beginning to eat more efficiently, which means I’m not always sitting for an hour straight to feed her.

Cami has smiled for us. Her first smile was gifted to her older sister Hailee. We can’t elicit them at this point but I anticipate soon we will!

Cami also continues to fit in newborn sized diapers and clothes. But she is quickly outgrowing them.

One thing that is hard is how vigilant we are with Cami. During the day, when she naps, if she doesn’t have snuza on {which I often forget to do before I wrap her and put her down, as it’s up in our bedroom from the night before) we stay in the room with her and watch her breathe. This is quickly becoming difficult with a busy four year old and a life that demands attention. Despite the inconvenience, poor Cami is constantly surrounded by noise and doesn’t get the best rest. And poor Hailee is constantly being “shushed” by us to optimize Cami’s sleeping ability. It feels like a balance between vigilance and trying to live our lives. It’s a balance we haven’t figured out yet…

G78A7394One question I ask myself each day: Who is harder? A newborn or a four-year-old? Hailee continues to be great about adjusting to having a new baby around. At the same time, she is also four years old…and very busy. She always asks each morning “where are we going for fun today?” and is constantly wanting to do mommy-daughter “projects.”

IMG_3206I am more than happy to comply, when I can. I love spending quality time with her. But the demands of Cami plus sleep deprivation often get in the way. It’s been wonderful having grandparents around to help in this regard. Another thing that has been difficult with Hailee is her lack of “good listening” skills. With Cami, it is much harder to be consistent and follow through on consequences. As a result, Hailee is very demanding and often blatantly defies our requests or boundaries. She is getting away with a lot and subsequently we often feel we are losing control as parents. This is something we need to get a handle on…but again…it’s a balance between survival and good parenting. Survival is taking priority right now.

But overall we continue to do really well! I continue to feel so grateful for my girls. I feel happier than I’ve felt in a long time. While Cami doesn’t fill the hole in our hearts that Charlie’s death created, she fills us up with more love  and hope that we desperately needed. It’s like, when Charlie died, our hearts were cut in half. We had one living child here with us and one cut from our lives. Now we have two living children and one gone. So suddenly our “Pie of Pain” was reduced from half to one third. And IF we have more children, that hole will never be filled but will likely continue to get smaller. And that feels really nice.

I think Charlie is happy for us too. I think he is happy we have another child to snuggle and love. I continue to believe and feel he is close around us and I hope he continues to watch over us as we care for our amazing rainbow baby and his older sister.

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