Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The day I watched my grandpa die

The day I watched my grandpa die started out like every other morning. Rush Maddy off to school. Try to stay awake after putting the baby down for his first nap. (Fail at staying awake.) Bouncing, feeding, cleaning, calling, rocking, shushing and everything in between.

I didn't know the day would be today.

Then came the text ... "We have hours left, if that."

The day came crashing to a halt. The world stopped spinning, at least for our family. Tears, lots of them. And then planning mode. 

"Ryan," I called him at work, "What do you need?"

"Bethany," I called my friend, " can you please pick Maddy up from school and keep her for awhile as we say good-bye?"

"Susan," I called the family that has taken care of my kids for years, "grandpa is dying. He has hours, if that..." They took both Leyla and Baby Z. 

And then I wrestled with that decision. Should I allow my kids to say good-bye? Or are they too young? Will they just be a distraction? 

My kids saw grandpa a lot. But today, it was more important to let Ryan and his parents and aunt have the time and focus they needed to say good-bye without the distraction of the kids.

Before I know it, it is time.

I grab some to-go food for my hubby before meeting him at hospice. Arby's was slow. Too slow. I wanted to yell at them to hurry up, I needed to make it there before Grandpa passed. They did not respond to my silent, yet earnest, pleas to just bring the darn food already. 

It was strange driving to hospice. "I will walk through these doors," I thought, "and grandpa will be alive. When I walk out of these doors, grandpa will be dead."

I felt clumsy and irreverent bringing fast-food into his final place of life. It felt even stranger munching on fries while watching his breathing to make sure he was still with us.

At first, it seemed to me we might be there awhile. As in many more hours. 

Ryan went to get me some tea in the hospitality room. We had been there an hour and weren't sure if we would be there for several more. 

But the signs started... His pulse was no longer registering on the home monitor. His hands and feet turned icy cold as all blood went instead to his main organs. 

His mouth hung at an odd angle. It reminded me of all the pictures I have seen of babies ... Dead babies. It looked like death.

I got two sips of tea in when we all realized that he was pausing a very long time between breaths. He gasped a few times -- my mother-in-law went to grab a nurse to see if he needed more medication. 

When they came back to the room, his chest had come to a still. We waited with our own breath held, but there was no more rising and falling. There were no monitors to tell us when the end had come. 

I wanted to sing a hymn to grandpa... But I felt embarrassed. And I didn't trust my voice. I stayed quiet, my silent tears communicating everything that should have been said.

We watched as the vein in his neck continue to pulse for a few minutes. His heart tried so hard to keep going, just as it had the last 101 years.

The nurse checked his vitals. When she looked at her watch.... We knew. 

Today was the day I watched my grandpa die. 

I suppose there should be consolation. And I guess maybe there is some consolation. He had a good long life. So it was a good death. 

And yet, it was still death. 

The man we all loved had shriveled to skin and bones before his chest rose for the last time. 

His body turned pale quickly, and then his hands turned blue. His mouth gaped.

We stayed with his body for several hours. Lots of crying. Lots of phone calls to fill in his loved ones who weren't present. 

The social worker came in and offered the family a quilt, as Grandpa was a veteran. 

Everyone else waited for a local university to come pick up his body. I had to get the kids and offered to pick up dinner as well.

I held his hand one last time, and said my goodbye. 

I picked up the kids and dinner for everyone. I watched all the cars on the road, carrying their important people to their important places. It felt strange and cold that the world should pulse with life when a life had just ended. Didn't they know? 

I finally made it back to the hospice. We kept Leyla out of the room. Maddy wanted to see Poppy, my father-in-law, so I let her go in. She said she was ok to see grandpa's body. She seemed to understand much better than I expected what was going on. 

Soon, grandpa was wheeled out, his body completely covered. It was then that Leyla asked for grandpa. She always loved her grandpa. They had a special bond.

Seeing death is so revealing. Of course we will all die. But does that not feel so far off? As if it will happen to us in another lifetime? 

As I watched my grandpa pass, I could envision myself on the other end of the equation. 

What will people remember me for? What will bring them consolation when I am gone? What will it be like for my family when my hands are the ones to go stiff and blue? 

We all must die. The strongest amongst us. The oldest. The youngest. The weakest.

And so death reminds us to count our days. Count our blessings, and our loved ones, and the good we have to offer. It reminds us that we are not going to have forever to make a difference, to encourage, to fulfill dreams. We have today. We have this moment. 

When death has brushed us so closely, it calls to us to live. To reevaluate. To prioritize. To remember our blessings. And to bless others. 

But it is a call to more. 

The day my grandpa died is also the day my grandpa lived. He stepped foot in heaven, where he will live for eternity.

And the truth remains that even the good we do will one day pass. Death reminds me to not just make a difference... But to make an eternal difference. 

One day, I will die. You will die. Our loved ones will grieve... But the world will go on. People will still drive around in their important cars to their important places, oblivious of the fact that we not only died, but that we ever lived.

So what am I doing today that will outlive me? 

That is my question today...

The day I watched my grandpa die.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Microblog Monday: The silver lining

It happened today as I casually wove my minivan through the post office parking lot, thankful to have met that 5:00 deadline.

Everything was normal. Nothing about this errand suggested that God was going to teach me a huge lesson about the last three years of loss.

As I rounded the last corner, I saw it. The ginormous storm cloud that would later dump rain on our little house as we ate homemade chicken soup gathered around our red dining table.

Creeping over the edges of the cloud was a golden hue that glowed in such a bright metallically yellow, I wondered why they called it a silver lining. 

And then it hit me. 

I've always thought of silver linings as a token "something good" to hope for or count on in a storm of life. As in, "well, they may have all died, but at least I'm a more compassionate person now ..."

All wrong. 

The silver lining is a promise. 

It is a promise that, just like the powerful sun and clear skies far above ... there is something so much greater, so much stronger, so much more breathtaking beyond this storm cloud. 

I just can't see it all from my perspective down on earth. But the silver lining promises there is a purpose, a glory, and a God that is just behind that storm cloud, just out of sight. 

Mostly out of sight. 

God gives me the silver linings so I have enough to trust him. To know that while the storm may rage, He is always right there, just behind the clouds.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Issy's Story: Natural miscarriage at 12 weeks


Thank you for sharing your story with us. I'm so very sorry for your loss of Shiloh. The name you picked out is perfect. And the way you described everything makes me feel as though We are right there with you. Thanks for sharing so candidly. I hope you had a gentle anniversary last month. 

<3 Rachel

It was my 29th birthday present. My husband was at a church concert and I was getting E (1.5 years at the time) ready for his bath. We were leaving for vacation in a few days and I thought, "What the heck, it's early, but I'll just see."

was in the bathtub splashing around when I looked at that positive cross. I just started laughing and crying all at the same time, and E giggled along with me (not having a clue why!). 

"You're going to be a big brother!" I kept telling him. 

My husband came home and when he came into the bathroom, I told him, "It's a good thing I didn't go with you." 


"Because I wouldn't have found out that you're going to be a Daddy again!" He, of course, was ecstatic. It was a great evening.

Fast forward three months. It was a few days before our 12-week ultrasound. I had had a polar opposite first trimester than I did with E (our firstborn). I was never sick and felt great! But the lack of illness made me so worried, and in the back of my brain I had, for some inexplicable reason, the feeling that I would never get to hold my baby in my arms. I couldn't understand it.

It was a Wednesday night, and just as I was getting ready for bed, it started. A tinge of red on the toilet paper. And I instantly knew, and started crying. 

I went to bed, and we both started praying hard, hoping the one hope that every parent who knows they are losing their child hopes for. 

The next morning, I went to work (teaching at our local community college). Thankfully, I had planned for a movie as I was on the verge of tears and was working to contain myself. After class, having called, I went in to the doctor's. 

The sweet young nurse pulled out the machine to listen for the heartbeat...and while I stared at that ceiling, her silence confirmed everything. "Well, we can't be sure until we do an ultrasound," she nicely said, trying to foster any hope that I might still have had. But I had none and couldn't keep the tears from flowing. 

She quickly left to get an older nurse (presumably one more experienced with this type of situation). They both came back and all I could say was, "I already know." The older nurse nodded her head, not really being able to verbally agree with me and just said, "Mothers have instincts about this. We'll see what the ultrasound says." 

So I was sent up to the second floor of the clinic, to get official confirmation. And as I slipped into that bluish, open-backed shirt thingy, I couldn't help but think that this was suppose to be an exciting and joyous time, not one met with tears and anguish. Even in the room, I clung to the tiniest amount of hope that my baby was okay.

The ultrasound tech looked at the screen for a bit and got quiet. Through my tears, I said, "The baby's gone, isn't it?" She nodded. I asked how long ago and she said around 10.5 weeks. I was to go back downstairs and talk about my options. 

As I left the ultrasound suite, as cruel irony had it, I of course had to pass by the pregnant mother with her barely year old and toddler in tow. 

I remember stopping by the window to look out at the pretty little lake and waterfall that was in the hospital's outdoor court. I picked up my phone to call my husband and brokenly told him. Then had to head over to the lab for bloodwork (still not sure why to this day!) and then back to my midwife. Waiting in the office, I tried not to be bitter as pregnant patient after pregnant patient walked in.

I admit, I wanted everything to be done as quickly as possible. I could have a D & C, which I wanted to schedule immediately. But even in my heartbreak, God was watching over me. My midwife said that my body had already started the "process" and if I could give it a few days to see what happened, it would be better. So I agreed, and left to make the sad, lonely drive home. 

The whole thing had taken about 2 hours, and I honestly don't remember ever crying so much. All I could do was wonder how long "it" would take. I had to teach a private lesson that afternoon (again, where was my head?), and afterwards we went to have dinner with a family member who knew what was going on. 

I mindlessly sat on the couch and as it got later, I started feeling the cramps set in. We left, came home, got E into bed, and then both my husband and I fell into bed and fell asleep crying.

Warning: The next section might be graphic.

I woke up around 1am that Friday morning with some serious cramping. I got the heating pad out and laid on top of it. After about 15 minutes, I felt something drop in me (of course now I know - it was the baby dropping down into the birth canal). I ran into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet. In one push, the baby slid out. All I could do was cry. I got up and looked down at my baby, so small and helpless but perfectly formed, even at 10.5 weeks. 

She/he had fingers and toes, and I could see the closed eyes. My baby...so tiny...almost a year later and I still cry over our loss as I write this. 

I went back into our room and told my husband, who had woken up and was sitting on the edge of our bed. We both cried and he said a prayer for us. And then I went to say goodbye. Even though our baby had already been gone for some time to be with the Lord, I had to tell him/her how loved he/she was, and that I would never forget, not for one single day, how much she/he meant to me, to us. 

And I haven't...each day I remember my baby in some form. I still cry over "what could have been". I often find myself thinking who she/he would have become, what my baby would have looked like, what kind of personality she/he might have had.

So in a natural miscarriage, you really have no idea what to expect and question practically everything that is happening to your body. The next day in the afternoon, I ended up delivering the placenta. I had to do more research about that, as I didn't know what had happened really. But again, turning to other women's blogs helped me understand a bit more. 

It was so final, and while I was relieved that it was over, my sense of loss was so profound. I felt empty; my arms ached to hold my baby and my heart broke to know that I never would.

My husband and I chose to be very private about our loss. Only those family members and close friends that we had told knew, and I wanted it that way. I couldn't handle the sympathy, the expected phrases, and the statements that people make when they are trying to be helpful but end up hurting you more than silence every could. 

Over the next few months, my husband and I turned to each other in our grief, and to God. I would just start crying out of nowhere, and my husband was so understanding to just hold me and never probe. It took quite awhile, but the pain began to lessen, and I had the desire to name our baby. Our baby was a life, a person, and she/he died just as any other child or human being died. And I wanted to give our baby an identity. We chose the name Shiloh, which means peaceful one. It was so appropriate, as our baby is at peace and we will one day see him/her again.

Shiloh's "birth" date was September 5, 2013.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tonight, I light a candle

Tonight -- I light a candle.

For me.

For you.

For you who are new to your loss and are barely holding on by a thread.

For you who lost your first, and wonder if you'll ever get to parent a living child.

For you who lost your last, and grieve the hole that you feel in your family.

For you who lost your child or children early in gestation, and sometimes wonder if your loss counts.

For you, who remember all to well (then some days, not enough) what it feels like to hold the shell of your child in your arms. Here -- but gone.

For you who have lost many children, and the pain and burden you feel is just overwhelming.

For you who have had years and years to heal, and yet your scar still sometimes bleeds, still sometimes scabs over.

For you who are missing a niece, a nephew, a grandchild, a cousin, or a godchild.

For you who are locking arms, holding tight, clinging to everyone around you for support.

For you who feel alone. Oh so alone.

For you who had to bury your child.

For you who never had a chance.

Tonight -- I light a candle for you and yours.

May you find some peace and comfort as you think of your babies tonight.

<3 Rachel

Friday, October 10, 2014

When kids hurt

Today I am sad.

I can't totally explain all of it (although I'm sure part of it has to do with the fact that I'm behind on some of my meds. Ehhh.)

But it's honestly a different sad.
Yesterday, we received Baby Z's ISSP. Which basically means to you, that we know all the background on his case. And his brothers' case.

It breaks my heart.

It isn't the worst story you've ever heard, but neither is it one that a child should ever have to claim as their own. In short, it really, really sucks. It's a crap situation.

I hurt for whatever has caused the circumstances in which the family has acted the way they have. I hurt for the hurt they all must have.

I hurt, because while I at times complain about my busy schedule or my inability to sleep or my frustration in my organizations skills, the hard truth remains that I. Am. Privileged.

And my children are privileged.

I don't have to make the hard decisions like what to feed my kids when we have no money.

I don't have to act out my hurt in bizarre ways, because there really is no childhood hurt.

I don't know what it's like to want, to need, to be neglected, to be abused, to be broken as a result of choices of those who should protect me.

I don't know these things -- but there are kids that do.

And then there are times when kids hurt, and we adults don't do enough.

Like this. 

You need to read this article I came across today:

On October 4, 2011, the oldest daughter, 16 at the time, took the step that led to the children's rescue. She left a scribbled note in her counselor's office begging for help.

She wrote, "I need you to call CPS. ... Me and (my brother) are being beat with a board about three and a half feet long. ... (Our parents) have promised (the board) to us after we leave your office because our room in not clean. ... PLEASE HELP!!"

Two days later CPS and police officers went to the home, a typical-looking house on a quiet cul-de-sac. There, they found signs everywhere of abuse and starvation . . ."

This happened 8 (8!!!!) years after the first CPS referral. 8 years of horrific abuse, torment, starvation and more while the people who are supposed to do something about it sit back, close their computers, and enjoy a weekend without worrying about the

5 kids that needed them.


So this is where my heart is today.

Children hurt. Children are being hurt. And it really, really sucks.

P.S. I legally cannot share any details on his case. So while I've referred to different scenarios in which I've not made hard decisions, this is not to insinuate that his bio family has had to make such decisions. Just want to clarify.

P.P.S. The article is in no way related to Baby Z's case.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The day I realized real life and I don't really get along

Some days, I would give anything to be Type A.I'm so far from Type A, I'm really more like Type Z.

Especially on this day ... The day I forgot to pick up my daughter from kindergarten.

I mean, it was bound to happen sooner or later. I just didn't think it would be so soon. 

We had a social worker visit, and either I was chatty or they were chatty, or we all just lost track of time because none of the clocks in my living room (or bathroom for that matter) are set to the right time... And so our hour-long appointment lasted much more than an hour.

My agency caseworker stayed extra late, in part at my encouragement. I'm a social person, and if I'm allowed to be so honest ... I really miss grown-up talk. 

Don't get me wrong here: I love the quality time I get with my kids. I don't take it for granted. 

 I took Baby Z and Leyla to the park today, and we honestly had a fantastic time. 

I especially like the picture above because she reminds me of Maddy at this age.

Isn't Washington beautiful? Love that this is just 5 min away!

So yes, I love my kids. But it was nice to have a conversation that wasn't full of two-word commands like "feed me", "change me", "wipe my butt." (Ok, that one was a 3-worder.)

So she stayed, we chatted and had a lovely time. Around 4, I started getting the feeling that I was missing something. Mentally, I ran through my calendar. I was sure the only thing I was missing was a trip to the post office I had wanted to make. 

Finally, I start to think to myself ... It seems like we're missing someone.

I check my phone for the time, and sure enough, the school office had called. 

My poor, sweet girl was forgotten by the one person who should never forget her. 
Her momma. 

She forgave me much, much more quickly than I forgave myself. 

Not only did I feel awful, but I felt totally irresponsible.

That feeling has continued today ... When I realize that our relicensing paperwork is MIA. Thankfully, it's all still blank so I'm hoping they will send me replacement paperwork. 

Also, today, I remembered that I have a dental appointment tomorrow ... And yet I kept forgetting to get babysitting. 

Also, a certification for a 36-hour training we did last year is nowhere to be found. But I HAVE to find it by end of October so we can be current on our continuing education, and continue to be Baby Z's foster family.And I have searched through the files and piles (and trust me, we have far more piles than files), every last piece of paper ... And that document is simply gone. 


The previous was all blogged this morning at 1:30 this am after rocking down a baby.

This am, I was feeding said baby. Our schedule was a little tight, but Maddy's homework was done, her clothes were on, her lunch was packed. I even secured babysitting for the dental appointment.

Everyone, including  baby was sitting down to a quick breakfast. Leyla and I were still in our pajamas, but we would have time to change before taking Masdy to school. 

As I scoop more sweet carrots into a messy little baby face, the doorbell rings.

It is time for Baby Z's visit with mom ... And for the umpteenth time, I forgot.

So I scoop up baby, rush around like mad to get him in an outfit warm enough for the weather (where are all his pants??), hastily pack a makeshift diaper bag -- and Leyla comes up to me, totally stinky. 

Turns out she had blowout diarrhea.

Thankfully the supervisor, who is a guy, was kind enough to finish dressing baby while I address poop girl. 

And he's kind enough not to judge the fact that I am in my pajamas, hair looking awful, breath smelling like who knows what, and (worst of all) bra-less. (Oh ease oh please, universe, let him not have noticed that one.)

And so have decided today that real life and I sometimes just don't get a long too well. And that has only become more painfully obvious since adding the third child.

Instead of recounting to myself all the ways my forgetful brain has failed me, I'm choosing to cling (really, I'm clinging on by a thread here) to the verse I read this morning.

"The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing."

This will be my mantra for as long as I needit.

God's right here beside me, guiding me, and telling me I have everything I need to complete the journey He's put me on.

Ps. Maddy with on-time to kindergarten. Don't ask me how.

PPS. As we were leaving to go to the dental appointment, Leyla took a drink of milk. As is her usual custom, she hoarded the goods inside her checks instead of swallowing. As she was on my carpet, she sneezed ... Spewing soy milk all over the hallway. Poor hallway ... It will just have to wait. 

"I lack nothing, I lack nothing, I lack nothing..." 

 PPPS. I figured out that we have about 8 in-home visits a month. Add a supervisor twice a week for pick up and drop off,  and that means , on average 4 out 5 days in the week someone professional related to foster care or adoption is in our house. This is not counting our out-of-home appointments. No wonder I'm behind on laundry.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Microblog Monday: Self-Help in the church

Today, I have more questions than outright thoughts.

My daughter's self-portrait. 

A few weeks ago, there was an outrage in the Christian community about a quote by Victoria Olsteen. I'm not a fan of the Olsteens per say (the one time I watched it, Joel had his Bible out but never read from it. Not too impressed. Watered-down Christianity isn't my thing.)

But it begged the question for me:

What should the role be for personal development (aka self-help) in the church?

Too many have insisted there is no place, we are worthless unto ourselves, and must rely solely on God for any worth. Others, like the Olsteen followers, have replaced the need for truth (all truth, not just the prosperity kind), for easy words that go down smoothly.

I feel that I learned too much, too early, how worthless I was without God. I think I just kept the first part of that, and dropped the latter half., not recognizing that my very existence is from God, and is therefore valuable. It wasn't until, as an adult, I started reading personal development books and listening to audio training that I feel like I started getting healthy again. Emotionally healthy. And maybe spiritually healthy too.

While we humans might not be able to much without God ... By God's grace we can learn to love ourselves, just as we learn to love others, right?

What do you think? Where is the balance?  And how  did you learn to view yourself  growing up in the church?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Day 5: Photo grief project


Most people journal privately.  I did some of that, but chose instead to "grieve outloud" on my blog. 

I have received criticism... Been made ashamed of my feelings and words. But more than that, I've received confirmation ... I am not the only one feeling the way that I do. That opening up changes things, changes you, changes others. 

We are closing the gap toward one million page views. When I started this blog, never did I think that this would bring healing to so many others, as it has for me. 

Journaling online has changed me. What has it done for you?

P.s. Today is the second anniversary of our loss of Caleb at 8 weeks. I miss you, Caleb.

Day 4: Grief photo project


Who am I now?

Now that I know children die. Now that I know love is not always enough . Now that I know you can lose the most cherished, beautiful part of your heart ... And still breath, still walk, still work, still love, still live. 

Who am I now?

It's complicated. 

I ache for the children whose hands I'll never hold, lips I'll never kiss, and feet I'll never tickle . Yet I snuggle all the more my living children, the ones I get to keep and hold onto, and the one I will likely give back. 

I have scars. Many many scars. I do not want to be pregnant right now, and yet I ache with jealousy at times for those of you who are carrying a healthy baby. Who get to feel kicks and rolls and watch your belly grow. 

I am content, and yet triggers are everywhere. I cannot escape them. 

I am changed. There is before me, and after me. Some of you wish for the before me ... Sometimes I do too. 

But the after me is good in her own right. Because my babies died, I can take in abused or neglected children like Leyla and Baby Z. Because I know absolute weakness, I also know absolute strength. Because I have been to the bottom, I know that I can make it, even if slowly, to the top. The bottom doesn't scare me so much anymore. 

And because I know loss, I can help others and offer then love and support in their time of need. 

I am not quite broken ... But once I was. I  am not quite whole ... There is no cure for dead babies. I am not myself ... And yet much more like the girl I am to become.  I am infertile, yet actively parenting 3 kids who call me mom.

That is me, for now. 

But tomorrow? Tomorrow could change everything .

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Grief photo project days 1-2

CarlyMarie Project has a photo event that is just one way to documents and process your grief this October. 

I decided to join in.  If you'd like to photo document your own story,  I'd love to see it. 

On each day, comment below with the link to your post for that day. That way we can journey through this together. 

Without further ado  ...

Day 1: Sunrise

I don't have any pictures of a sunrise, but I do have one of a lonely tree at sunset. It will have to do.

2. Heart

This is my journal I write letters to Olivia in. 

What is your days 1-2?