"We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be"
C.S. Lewis

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Rainbow Dedication

I have not blogged since September!

Christmas came and went without fuss.  We had a wonderful time as a little family of three, knowing that very soon our lives would change.  Autumn had been told that "after Christmas" Jesse would be here.  So as soon as our Elf, Chippey, left again for the North Pole, she started asking, "Is Jesse coming today??"  She was a week early on her own so of course we thought Jesse would also be earlier. And since this was my third baby we expected him at least a few weeks early.  We were ready!  Mentally and physically.  But as the weeks drew closer and closer to my due date (January 23,) we were starting to wonder if he wasn't just too content to make an appearance!  The week before my due date I told the doctors that if he wasn't born by his due date, we'd induce.  I had another ultrasound done a few weeks before his due date and they estimated he would be around 9 lbs if he went full term.  I was determined not have a C-section so I didn't want to risk him getting bigger than that.  So we scheduled the induction a day before his due date. 

It was a long day.  We got there at 5am and Jesse was born at 3:20 pm.  And due to some nurses who weren't paying close attention, he ended up with a double whammy of the epidural and I just got the edge taken off.  So he slept for 2 days!  He dropped weight quickly and just in the past three weeks (he's 2 1/2 months old now!) has gotten back up to his birth weight.  He's been tested, poked and prodded to make sure that his slow/low weight gain isn't anything to worry about.  All is well and he's just a tiny guy.  A beautiful, sweet, amazing tiny guy.  Here is a picture of our SON, Jesse Allen Parks:

We have had a wonderful two months with him, aside from worrying about his weight.  As you can see, Autumn is THRILLED with her baby brother:

We had him dedicated at church yesterday.  It was an emotional but beautiful morning!  I wanted to share the letter that we wrote for him. 

Dear, sweet boy.  We weren't sure how to begin this letter.  We've written two before.  Both very different.  For two amazing girls.  Both very different.  And now we get to write one for you, our SON!

Isaiah 66:9a from the New Century Version reads:
              '"...I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born," says the Lord.'

You came into our lives on the heels of a sad time.  You are our Rainbow Baby.  **A Rainbow Baby is a baby born after the loss of a child.  Just as a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better, the Rainbow is more appreciated, having just experienced the storm in comparison. 
There is an understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm.  When a rainbow appears, it doesn't mean the storm never happened, or that you are not still dealing with the aftermath.  What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared.  Storm clouds might still be in the distance as the family continues to cope with the loss, but something colorful and bright has emerged from the darkness and misery.**

Without our rain, we may never have seen our rainbow.  You, Jesse, are that colorful something.  You are already so bright, and strong, and full of LIFE!  You have come into our lives and made it extraordinary!

Your name means "gift of God."  Your daddy, sister, and I are so thankful that God has gifted you to us.  And we three are committed to loving you and sharing our wonderful Jesus with you!  He will get you through some hard times if you let him. 

You have a very big extended family and they all love you tremendously.  You have an even bigger church family, and they love you too!  But you also have a very big God and He loves you most of all.  Never doubt that he always has your best interests.  Even when you can't see the big picture, He is in control and He will make it work out.  Be faithful.  Be kind and loving to others (especially your momma and sister!).  Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength as we will teach you to do.  May you be a man of character, trustworthy and truthful.  But most importantly, be a man of God.  Allow Him to work in you.  To mold you into the best Jesse Allen Parks you can be. 

You are our son and we love you, Always, Mommy and Daddy

We are so thankful to God for this miracle.  And I want to thank each of you who has followed this blog.  This will officially be my last post.  I have another blog that I started years ago and may continue writing with that one, but for now we're going to enjoy the blessings and look for more rainbows through any future storms. 


**a dear friend of ours first mentioned the term "Rainbow Baby" to us, and this was the definitions I found and rearranged**

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Heart That is Healed

Last month was supposed to be my last ultrasound.  That was not to be.

I was all set to receive my friendly "dismissal," and I had even come bearing cupcakes as promised.  We had our routine check and I thought all was well and we would never darken the door of that building again.  Although everything with the Boy has been growing normally and looking great, they found a few cysts that had formed on the inside of his head.  These were caused by a an irritation near the ventricles in the brain and, apparently, only occurs in 3% of babies.  Dr. B started the conversation with, "Well it can't be easy with you."  But she had a smile on her face, so I wasn't too concerned at this point.  She explained about the cysts and almost immediately followed up with, "Do NOT go looking on the internet about this.  It's nothing.  These cysts go away 100% of the time.  I have never seen a baby born with them.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with what happened last time, nor will it affect this baby developmentally."  I took all that in and nodded, fully intending to do exactly as she said:  not worry.  She even told us that she had been petitioning the board to remove this "area of concern" from the list of things they have to tell parents about if they see them on the ultrasound, but they have, so far, ignored her request.  She stressed again that I should not worry at all, "But because it's you," she said with a smile, "I want to see you back in 3 weeks."  I rolled my eyes and smiled and joked that I wasn't bringing cupcakes again.  She gave me a hug as we walked out and I geared up for another 3 weeks of waiting.

But this time, the waiting was very peaceful.  She said don't worry.  I trust her completely.  She cares for me and my family and has only the best interests and hopes for me.  She would never steer me wrong.  So I committed myself not to worry.  I almost didn't even think about it.  I probably wouldn't have, had the next ultrasound date not been looming ahead on the calendar.  But I had peace.  It gave me comfort to have someone PHYSICALLY telling me "don't worry."

So why are we able to, almost, blindly trust our doctors, yet many times we don't trust God that way?  I have come to trust God in a whole knew way in the past year and a half, but there are days when I still find myself drifting into the lane of 'worry.'  Why would He give me a stone when I ask for bread?  Aren't I supposed to be anxious of NOTHING?

Today was the 3 week return visit.  And, just as she said they would, the cysts 'magically' disappeared.  Dr. Baron gave us the heave-ho, saying she didn't want to see me again (teasing of course), and that she looked forward to a birth announcement so she could see how handsome this boy is.

It has been an amazing walk so far.  My faith has been tried.  I am thankful He has been glorified through my writing.  I am humbled that so many people have come alongside us and joined in helping us get to the other side of grief.  I only pray I can continue to bring Him glory and that my faith stay strong.

I probably will not write again until I share our beautiful boy with you.  Thank you for listening to the ramblings of a simple girl, saved by grace, looking forward to Heaven and leaving the pain of this world behind.  Because He is good, and righteous, and loving, my heart is whole. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Gift

We had another ultrasound today.  I am currently 16 weeks along with this new baby!  Everything, so far, is growing right on track.  The doctor says it's still a teeny bit early to 100% guarantee smooth sailing from here on out, so she wants to see me back in 3 weeks for an official "kick you out of this office" party. I told her I'd bring the cupcakes!

We also found out we're having a BOY!!  At our 13 week ultrasound they had a sneaky suspicion that it was a boy but couldn't confirm it until today.  We are THRILLED! 

I have three amazing friends who have also been through what we went through with Carina.  Same diagnosis.  Same choice to carry their sweet babies--all girls.  Two of them, so far, have gone on to have boys and I am now added to that list!  I was talking with my mom and just sort of pondering aloud as to why God would give us all boys instead of girls.  Don't get me wrong, I am very excited about this boy!  But I love my girls.  I know girls.  Had a great name picked out for a girl.  I expected another girl.  I wasn't disappointed by a boy...but I think I was just expecting a girl.  So I wondered aloud about it and my mom, in her wise mom-way, said, "I think God gave all of you girls baby boys so you wouldn't feel that these babies are a replacement, in any way, for the one that is not here anymore.  So you wouldn't ever wonder if Carina would have been like this baby.  God gave you boys so that you can continue to heal and so you can continue to hold a special place for Carina in your heart." 

She's right.  I don't think I would ever intentionally feel that way about another baby girl, but it's a natural thought.  And I'm thankful God spared me from feeling that way.  This new baby will be his own person.  He will be just who God is making him to be and nothing less.  We will raise him as well as we can and pray every step of the way.  I'm thankful for all three of my babies.  I've learned a little more about God from each one.

We like the name Jesse.  I've seen two meanings of this name.  'The  Lord exists,' and 'A gift.'  Both are a perfect expression of how I feel about this new life.

"I keep my eyes always on the Lord.  With Him at my right hand I will not be shaken."  Psalm 16:8  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I'm Not Moving

I posted this on facebook yesterday:  "Our family is growing by two feet!"  With the following picture:


That's right!  Baby #3 is on the way!  We wanted to wait and share this great news until after our first ultrasound.  After experiencing what we did with Carina, even though the chances of Achondrogenesis happening again are so slim, we were a bit hesitant to share about this pregnancy too early.  

At our ultrasound yesterday my OB spoke with our wonderful ultrasound doctor and she told him she'd like to do some extra blood work on me as well as see me for an early ultrasound in the next week.  The baby was bouncing all over the place and it had a very strong heartbeat!  The doctor did a preliminary measurement of the baby and it looks right on track.  We got some really cool pictures and it was amazing to hear the heartbeat and see this little life spinning and dancing inside me.  

I am currently 12 weeks along, already in the second trimester--yeah!!  The baby is due in January!  And, according to the Chinese calendar, JUST makes the cutoff for a "Dragon Baby!"  Babies born in the year of the Dragon are considered the most favored, the most honored.  I feel favored and honored just to HAVE this little bundle!!  I was SO happy when we found out about this baby, yet at the same time I was extremely nervous.  I still am, a little.  Not nearly as much after our ultrasound, but understandably I have a teeeeeeny bit of fear.   But how can you pray for something and worry about it at the same time?  You can't.  And so I am working on putting my "dukes" down.  I refuse to go through the next 6 months in a vulnerable state.  Fear will creep in.  I am sure of it.  But I am determined to remember Who has been in charge this whole time.  NOT ME.  God gave us an amazing child in Autumn.  Why would I doubt that He would bless us with another healthy baby?  But IF HE DOES NOT, my faith will not be moved.  I will continue to love Him and trust Him.  I wouldn't do a single thing different if we could do Carina's pregnancy and delivery all over again, so for that reason alone I put my "dukes" down.  He carried me then, He will carry me now.  

I don't know what tomorrow holds, or the next few months, or the next few years.  But I do know that it will be okay.  I will be okay.  I choose to be excited!  I choose joy!  I stare at the scary unknown and laugh HA HA HA!!! (and I give it the evil eye every mom is famous for.) 

I love this baby and I love the One who created him or her.  I will not be moved.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Letting Go

Today is Carina's birthday.  I have been asked if we're doing anything to celebrate and remember her and for awhile I didn't know what to say.  Let me back up...

For those of you who don't know, we're moving.  We currently live in  North Port, Florida and will soon be moving to Venice, Florida.  Just a short 30 minute drive, but when you are living that far from your church, family and most of your friends, yet you're driving there 4-5 times a week, it seems much further.  Maybe that sounds crazy to anyone who lives HUNDREDS of miles from their families or HOURS from work...just go with me.  So we have found a great house to rent and it needed some work before we moved in.  There was popcorn ceiling that needed to be scraped and re-textured, the kitchen needed updating, it needed painting...just a few things that have turned into major projects.  So for the past month I've been pretty focused on that since we need to move in by June 1st or 2nd.

I have always had Carina's birthday in the back of my mind, but wasn't sure what to do.  I didn't want to do something halfheartedly, but I did want to do something.  We decided to take Autumn down to the beach to release a balloon for Carina.  We will sing happy birthday, blow her kisses, and remember her.

Letting go of her balloon is a great symbol of letting go of our pain.  It's an important stage of grief:  letting go of your pain.  Not all at once, but one day at a time.  That's how this past year has been.  One day at at time, stepping out in faith, moving forward, and letting go.  And letting go doesn't mean forgetting.  We will never forget our daughter.  She is in our hearts forever and we will see her again soon!  But holding onto pain can hinder the way God uses your pain.

I read Mary Beth Chapman's book, "Choosing to SEE," (one I highly recommend!), and she said something that has stuck with me.  Upon losing her daughter, Maria, she comes to realize that she will be with her again in Heaven. And when that day comes, she will be with her then for far longer than she is without her now. 

I share that belief!  Our pastor spoke yesterday about our lives being just a 'hands breath.'  A vapor in the wind.  Fleeting.  Brief.  Blink and you miss it.  But eternity goes on, and on, and on, and on, and ON!  Never-ending.  Can you just imagine?  The scripture he referenced was John 16:19-22:

Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 

At first I struggled with these words.  He was pointing out the part about a woman giving birth, and how after the baby is born she forgets her pain because of the sweet, new life that she now has charge of.  I felt a little twinge in my heart.  It wasn't that way with us.  We didn't get a sweet, new life.  But as I thought about it a little more, I realized that we did.  We may not have gotten to raise our daughter, but we got to SEE her.  We got to HOLD her.  We got to SMELL her.  We gave her kisses and love.  We took pictures that we will treasure forever.  We have memories.  And so, we are able to let go of the pain.  In a little while, we will be with her again.  Our time with her then will be far longer than the time without her now.  

It seems appropriate that her first birthday falls on Memorial Day this year.  Memorial Day is all about remembering those who have died.  We remember Carina's life and how special she is, and how much we are changed because of her.  I am a different person than I was last year.  For the better, I think.  And though we still don't know the "big picture story" of why God brought her in our life, we know she was not a mistake.  "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

If anyone has not read Carina's Birth Story here is the link to that post.  God was so present that day!  We continue to hold on to Him as we continue to let go.

Happy Heaven Day, Carina!  We will see you soon!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Beauty For Ashes

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.  Isaiah 61:3

Many of you know that we had Carina cremated.  What many of you do not know is that my sister and a few friends made it possible for us to keep some of Carina's ashes.  Not in a jar, not in a box...but in a diamond.  A beautiful, priceless, stunning gem.  There is a company called Lifegem that takes cremated remains and through a very long, very intense process, pulls out the carbon identifier from the remains and creates a diamond.  It's unique to the carbon of the individual so that no two gems are the same.  You can choose the color diamond, but the lightness or darkness of the gem is determined by the carbon of the individual.  My sister offered to pay to have this done for us.  Last June is when they started the process.  We were just notified on Thursday that the diamond was finally finished.  After almost a year, I would have a tangible part of my baby.

When we decided to do this, I kept thinking of this verse in Isaiah, and that song, "Beauty for Ashes." This diamond is a sweet reminder of Carina, being that it's created from her ashes.  But it is also a reminder of what Christ has given me.  He gives beauty in place of ashes, joy in place of mourning, peace in place of despair.  Over the past 11 months, there have been many moments of mourning.  But there have also been many moments of joy. And the fact that I am able to find joy is just confirmation that God continues to come through trading out our mourning for His joy. 

I picked up the diamond on Saturday, which was the 28th.  It was sent to the funeral home to make sure someone was able to receive it when it arrived.  As I pulled in the empty parking lot, my heart started pounding.  I didn't really want to go inside.  I got out of the car and started shaking as I walked towards the door.  I tried not to think about Carina being brought here.  The lobby seemed inviting, for a funeral home.  It wasn't cold or smelly like I had imagined.  I still felt shaky as I waited.  I took a few deep breaths as the door opened and as the director came in I noticed a small box in his hand.  I was familiar with him and we chatted for a bit.  He thanked me for letting them take care of Carina.  I thought, not for the first time, that I hated having to deal with anything involving a funeral  home, but if I had to, I was grateful that I was dealing with this group of people.  They thanked meBeauty from ashes.

I took the diamond to the jewelers today to talk about fitting it in a ring.  I felt good.  Confident.  And very protective.  I wasn't really sure how my request would be received.  I didn't think they would laugh or anything. I knew they would be respectful.  But I wasn't sure if they would try to push me into something I didn't want or if they would try to tell me that it wasn't a real diamond...I just didn't know what to expect.  I shouldn't have worried.  I started by telling them I had a gem that I wanted to put in a setting.  I asked for a book and my sister and I started looking through it.  I told the associate that I didn't want to do a prong setting because I'd heard too many stories of the prongs loosing up and the gems being lost.  This diamond was too valuable and I didn't want to risk it.  I offered to let him see it to see if he could suggest a good setting.  As soon as I opened the box he couldn't take his eyes off it.  He knew instantly that it was a special, unique diamond and said, fascinated, "Where did you get this, it's gorgeous!"  He kept going on and on about how he'd never seen anything like it and how beautiful it was.  That's when I explained to him how we got the diamond.  He was even more fascinated.  He went to get his boss because he figured the boss would have a better plan on how to best display the diamond and protecting it at the same time. 

As he walked away I began to cry.  I thought I would be fine.  You just never know when these moments are going to hit you.  I had just told him, again, how valuable this diamond was and that it was irreplaceable.  And until he walked away and I was left thinking about those words, did I realize just how true that statement was.  Valuable?  Worth more than my life.  Irreplaceable?  You can't even imagine.  And so I cried. 

The associate returned with his boss and they were both very understanding, but at the same time very determined to make this ring the most beautiful, the most special, the most amazing project they've ever done.  He asked how long the process took.  I told him, through tears, almost a year.  He told me how he'd gone to a show and they told him about this process and how amazing it is.  I simply nodded and he perused the book of settings a few moments more.  He said he would get the pieces in on Thursday and would call me to come in and take a look at them and see if it's what I wanted.  He made sure I understood that this was important to him. As we left he said, "Smile...we're going to make this very special." 
Beauty from ashes.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Life

Today is a special day. My sweet Carina would have been 10 months old today. 1o months have passed since I held her, briefly. But today is special not just because I am remembering Carina, but also because an amazing friend of mine gave birth to a healthy baby boy this afternoon!

My husband has known my friend longer than I have. He watched her grow up in the youth group and she and I became friends about 2 years ago. We share a special bond. I can't explain it, but I'm so thankful for it! Her husband and I are on the church worship team together so I've been able to get to know him as well. We used to have them over for dinner a lot and then they got their own place and have returned the favor. We enjoy playing cards and laughing together, and just generally like each other's company. They are so incredibly sweet to my 3-year old daughter, who just adores them. And they have walked closely with me this past year and especially after we lost Carina.

And today her son was born! It is the first birth I have been able to sincerely REJOICE in since Carina was born. Not that I haven't been happy for my many other friends who have had children in the past 10 months, but this one was different. And to have him born on the 28th of the month is so very special to me. I still allow myself to be sad once in awhile, and the birth of this child on this day is just so healing for my heart. As if God is showing me that the 28th no longer has to be a remembrance of something sad....but instead it will be a milestone date for my dear friend to mark the growth of her son!

I will still be sad. I'm assuming I will grieve this loss forever. But I don't let it consume me. And now, having this day be forevermore a day of gladness, I am letting go of another piece of pain and allowing God to fill that place with something else. Something precious. Something sweet.

This new life.
Psalm 84:6 "When they walk through the valley of weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs, where pools of blessings collect after the rain."