Happy Birthday Nora!

Happy first birthday to my beautiful baby Nora.

CSC_0262

I still can’t believe she is here alive and thriving. I probably started writing at least four different blog posts about this huge milestone and how amazing this past year has been, but most of them ended up being about me and not Nora. I also ran out of time and realized that today I wanted to spend my time just hanging out with my girl instead of editing blog posts. Now she is sleeping soundly in her crib after a fun day and I’m typing up a quick happy birthday post. I decided last minute to take the boys to the beach for a night (we’re leaving early tomorrow morning and they have no idea!) so I have to pack for the trip. I will write more about her birthday when I get back.

We had such a great, laid back day. Asher came running out of his room really early asking, “Where is baby Nora?” I told him she was still asleep and he said, “Oh, well, what does she look like?” I broke the news that she still looks the same as she did yesterday. “Oh, no! You mean she still looks like she’s zero? Can she at least walk?” Poor guy. He was expecting her to be an instant toddler when she turned one. After everyone woke up, we sang happy birthday to her this morning as she stuffed a giant pink cookie in her mouth.

DSC_0455

She opened some of her presents while the boys crowded around. She will open the rest of her presents at her party this coming weekend. Liam and Asher loved watching her open presents.

DSC_0459

DSC_0486

DSC_0468

DSC_0470

DSC_0473

DSC_0482

Also, please ignore her crazy outfit…apparently that’s what I put her to bed in last night! Nora’s favorite part of her birthday was when we took her to a pet store and let her look at the little animals. Also, notice the tiny puppy she brought along to the pet store…my heart cannot handle the cuteness.

DSC_0488

DSC_0490

DSC_0491It is hard to believe that this was one whole year ago.

IMG_7245

IMG_7103

IMG_7061

We are so incredibly thankful for Nora’s life and we love watching God use her already as a light to others. Happy birthday precious girl. We love you! Here are a few pictures from our DIY birthday shoot:

CSC_0248

CSC_0199

CSC_0243

CSC_0198

CSC_0224

And this is my favorite one…like she’s looking up at her big sister:

CSC_0197

To the Doctor Who Saved My Daughter’s Life

Dr. Moise,

Our miracle baby Nora will be a year old in a couple of days. We know that without you, this past year would have been very different and Nora would not be here with us today. One whole year of kisses. One whole year of full arms and mended hearts, of doting big brothers and tiny dresses and a warm little body on my chest. One whole year of little details emerging, revealing who our daughter is…

thumb_IMG_1617

Those big brown eyes with long, dark eyelashes; her content and happy spirit; her sensitive heart; her desperate love for animals. She’s everything to us. She is her Grandma’s first living granddaughter, our first living daughter, my rainbow baby, the pride and joy of her brothers, someone’s future wife, someone’s Mommy. Thank you for seeing that, for seeing her value before she was even viable. You treated her like the most special baby in the world, even though I knew that she was just one of the many babies you helped on a daily basis. Thank you for recognizing how important this little life was to us, and for treating her with respect before she even took her first breath.

It is rare to find a doctor who is so generous with his time. I still remember emailing you, grasping for answers and a glimmer of hope after Lucy died. You didn’t know me. I wasn’t your patient or a family friend or anything, but ten minutes after I sent that email I couldn’t believe it when my cell phone rang showing an incoming call from Houston. You talked to me for 45 minutes, sharing your opinion about what happened to Lucy and discussing our possibilities for another child. I remember how much that meant to me at the time; a gesture of kindness from a stranger who thought Lucy’s life was important enough to spend his time discussing. Every single time someone contacts me with questions about anti-kell antibodies or advice about what their treatment should look like I give my time gladly knowing how much it will mean to them.

Thank you for thinking outside of the box and pushing for better treatment options long before Nora was even conceived. Thank you for not accepting, “This is the way it’s always been done” or, “There’s nothing we can do.” Those ideas of yours saved her life and the new treatment you are working on now will hopefully save many more lives, maybe even my grandchildren. And when you save a baby’s life, you don’t just save a baby’s life. You save the parents from living the rest of their days without their child. You save the grandparents, the cousins, the siblings and the aunts and uncles from a devastating heartache.

We will always think of you on Nora’s birthday and tell her about you when she gets older. Liam and Asher know who you are. In our family, Dr. Moise is a household name. We want our kids to know how one life can be used by God to change the lives of other people for good. We will always be grateful for the priceless gift you have given us, our Nora Juliet.

With love,

Josh, Bethany, Liam, Asher and Nora Weathersby

CSC_0241

 

 

 

Weaning my Rainbow Baby

Nora is almost 11 months old and she is finally finished breastfeeding. She is totally on cow’s milk now (and a little bit of frozen breast milk) and she eats more “real” food than her brothers do at most meals so I know she is getting the nutrition she needs. The weaning process has been much harder and emotionally taxing for me than I ever imagined it would be. I planned on breastfeeding Nora for an entire year but there were several pressing factors that meant she needed to be done breastfeeding a month and a half earlier than I had anticipated. I was not expecting the rush of emotions that came with this transition. Depression, anxiety, extreme guilt, feelings of inadequacy as a mother, insomnia, hopelessness…it was insane. When I weaned the boys around 11-12 months I felt a little bit sad, but was mostly glad to be done and I felt totally ready for the next stage. Weaning my rainbow baby turned out to be a very different experience.

When Lucy died and was stillborn I was only halfway through my pregnancy so no one warned me that my milk would come in afterwards. It did in full force. I was engorged and leaking milk and had no baby to nurse. It was traumatic to say the least. It scarred me permanently. In the days and weeks following Lucy’s death I begged God to let me breastfeed a baby one day, even though it felt impossible. I would wake up throughout the night in despair with the sense that I should be getting up to nurse my newborn daughter. Instead of nursing Lucy, I woke up to aching breasts and empty arms. If I dared let myself imagine breastfeeding a future baby of mine, I would immediately break into tears of joy at the thought. This is one reason why it was so important for me to be able to breastfeed baby Scarlet when we were planning to adopt her. When I was finally able to breastfeed my beautiful rainbow baby Nora in the NICU, it was everything I had imagined. She was alive and breathing and so perfect. She latched right on and was a pro from the start. I could not believe that God had given me this desire of my heart, to breastfeed my very own living daughter. Breastfeeding Nora has been a huge part of God’s promise to redeem my losses and it has been an essential piece to my healing puzzle.

During the two agonizing years between losing Lucy and having Nora, I fantasized about having a living baby and nursing her and holding her on my chest and feeling her tiny body rise and fall with each breath. I pictured so many scenarios…Josh holding our miracle baby and the boys meeting her and all the healing that would take place. But for some reason, I never pictured her growing up and leaving me. Weaning my rainbow baby made me realize that she won’t always be my rainbow BABY. She will grow up and mature just like she should, and she will not always be a little baby. One day Nora will be a grown woman and she will leave to go live somewhere else. I won’t be holding her in my arms forever. That was a difficult realization for me. As I was working through the weaning process with Nora I almost gave up at one point because of my intense feelings of loss and depression. I realized, though, that if I continued to breastfeed Nora just because I needed her to complete me emotionally or because I was too sad to let her grow into a toddler, then I would be doing it for the wrong reasons. She was ready to be done, she had a mouth full of teeth, was eating complete meals at the table and was biting me and feeling frustrated that the milk wasn’t letting down immediately like the bottle did. I knew it was time to move on but it was just hard. It went so FAST. How is she not a tiny baby anymore? I savored every moment, even the hard ones, but it still went by so incredibly fast.

Nora has reminded me that life is full of changes, constant changes. We get older, jobs change, friends move away and children grow up. My mom told me when her five children were growing up and she was tempted to mourn the fleeting babyhoods and the toddlers turning into big kids, it helped her to remember that it is supposed to be that way. Babies are not meant to be babies forever. She asked herself how she would have felt if she had been stuck at age four forever. Of course she is glad she was able to grow up into a happy adult and become who she was meant to become and we should be thankful that our kids get to as well. I finally found peace when I remembered that God is solid and unchanging. He is our constant. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and His steadfast love never ends. His faithfulness and goodness are forever. I can plant my feet firmly on Him and know for sure that He will not change or be moved. He is my satisfaction, my confidence and my fulfillment, and only HE can be those things. Yes, one day my kids will grow up and leave me and I can be a mom without any kids at home and still be perfectly complete and satisfied with my life.

Rainbow babies grow up but that doesn’t mean their light and brilliance fade. If anything it shows that they are ALIVE and thriving and it lets the radiance of who they truly are shine forth even brighter.

 

 

Ripples

“Mommy, do you want to die in an explosion so you can go to heaven and see Lucy?” Five year old Asher caught me completely off guard with his question. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to laugh or cry but his face was earnest and he really wanted to know. I told him I didn’t want to die in an explosion but I was excited about being with Lucy one day when I do eventually get to heaven.

Lucy’s death had such an immediate, violent impact on my life but the rippling effects are really hitting the boys now. Liam and Asher are suddenly old enough to comprehend that their little sister is dead and it is heartbreaking to watch them work it out in their minds. The boys are so obsessed with Nora and they love having their baby sister with them. I think they are just now understanding all of the beauty and wonder and love that they are missing without Lucy here. I found this drawing at the bottom of Liam’s backpack the other day.

IMG_1844

I asked him about it and he said it was a bad guy freezing the whole world and all the people died but Lucy (who is the tiny dot in the upper left hand corner) survived. Lucy survived. Our ultimate fantasy scenario. Liam also told me yesterday, “Mommy, I’m sad about a daydream I had where all the babies are trying to be alive, like all the babies in their mom’s bellies, and the ones who don’t win die but only the winner gets to be alive.” The boys have asked us about having another baby and we told them that if I had another baby in my belly we don’t know if that baby would live like Nora or die and go to heaven like Lucy. Asher asked me today how old Lucy is and I told him she is about 2, almost 3 years old. I hesitated, though, because I honestly don’t know how aging works in heaven. Would Lucy grow up, year by year like she would here? Or is she still a newborn waiting for me to get there so I can watch her grow up? Or is she an adult? If she were here on earth she would be turning 3 years old this summer. She would be exactly two years older than Nora, just like Liam is two years older than Asher. The boys always have a combination birthday party in February/March and I know Lucy and Nora would have had a combination birthday party every July. I hate that Nora doesn’t have her big sister here with her. Such a huge loss. The boys are so sad that Lucy isn’t here with them. Asher asked what she looks like now and I had to tell him I wasn’t sure. He looked so sad and asked if she looked just like Nora but had a different name and I told him I didn’t know. He said he wanted to be in an explosion so that he could go see what Lucy looks like. I know some of these thoughts seem morbid, but they are just a peek into five year old and seven year old minds trying to understand death. I hate that death is such a big part of our family and part of the boys’ childhoods.

Asher always includes Lucy in our family. He was very wounded this past Christmas when I didn’t hang a stocking up for Lucy. I promised him that next year we will hang a stocking up for both of his sisters. This is his latest family drawing:

IMG_1776

He is holding Nora and up in the sky is Lucy in her mansion in heaven. She is looking out of the window at us. He insisted that I hang the picture up on the wall above Nora’s crib because he drew it for her. Oh how my heart hurts when I think about telling Nora one day that she has a sister that she will never get to meet until she gets to heaven. Watching the boys deal with Lucy’s death now, three years later, is a reminder that this terrible tragedy that happened to us in 2013 isn’t just over, even though we are continuing to heal. The harsh reality is that the tragedy continues and the ripples continue to bruise us, to cut into our hearts, to reopen old wounds. There are facets of our loss, our life without Lucy, that have yet to impact us. One day when Nora gets older she will wish she had someone to play My Little Ponies with; a sister to tell secrets to and do each others hair and share clothes with.

It is hard to go through life without such a vital part of our family. It is hard for siblings to comprehend their sister being dead. Their sister will never be a part of our family here in the flesh. But goodness, she makes heaven so much sweeter and more tangible. When Asher builds things with Legos he often constructs a scenario here on earth and then one in heaven too. “Mommy, these guys are in their house having a meeting and this guy is in heaven.” Thanks to Lucy, heaven is a very real place to us. She has gifted us with an eternal perspective on life and a joyful anticipation of heaven. I used to dread the end of my life on earth. I feared death. It made me feel anxious and panicky. Now, I look forward to it; not in a suicidal way, but in a very sweet, excited way. I feel peace about dying and I can’t wait to get to heaven. The boys are excited about heaven too and they look forward to meeting their little sister and seeing the mansion that she lives in.

The rippling effect of our loss and heartache will continue to hit us throughout our lives. I know one day when all the 2013 babies start kindergarten I will have an intense ache in my heart…and when they graduate and when I know she should be in college and when I see a beautiful bride her age walk down the aisle and when I meet my grandchildren but none of them are Lucy’s…I will continue to be wounded again and again and so will her Daddy. As her brothers grow and understand more and more about this great gaping hole in our family, they will continue to be bruised as well. BUT these destructive ripples are confined to this earth. They will not follow us to heaven. They are harmless in light of eternity, and that is why I look forward to heaven so much. I just can’t wait to see my first girl and to see all of my children under one roof.

Beautiful Monotony

At this time last year we had just arrived in Houston and we felt so afraid and out of sync. It was a huge transition for our family. All of the normal comings and goings ceased and our full focus was on saving Nora’s life. Liam didn’t get to play soccer last spring, Asher was pulled out of preschool and I quit my part time job to move to Houston. We even ended up pulling Liam out of kindergarten about three weeks early so he could move to Houston to be with Asher and me in May. We had recently moved into our house so we were still unpacking and putting things in their place. We had big plans to plant a garden and fix up our back yard in the spring and summer. Nothing was planted in our yard but by God’s grace and goodness, our little Nora continued to grow.

This year is so different. We have settled back into the glorious monotony of life with three kids and no pressing emergencies. Asher is loving his last year of preschool. Liam is thriving in the first grade and both boys will start soccer practice next week. Like many parents with young children, my house is a disaster, I’m exhausted all the time and I am still struggling to lose the last 15 pounds of baby weight and I’m loving all of it (yes, even the baby weight.) Nora is seven months old and so much fun.

IMG_1037

She just started saying some words (although most of it is just babbling) this week. She has been saying, “Hey!” for a couple months but this week she started saying, “Hey Dada” “night-night” and (rarely) “Mama.” Nora is still breastfed and loves avocados, green beans, bananas, pears, peas, sweet potatoes…basically all fruits and vegetables, just like her brothers. She is growing well and doesn’t have any problems with anemia or antibodies. One thing that has concerned me is her gross motor skills (she’s great with the fine motor skills and social development.) She is meeting all of her gross motor skills late. She just now is finally able to sit up on her own but she isn’t even close to crawling. Her brothers did everything really early. When Asher was Nora’s age he was almost walking. At first I worried so much because of all the things Nora has been through…she was exposed to so many different drugs in the womb (all class C for pregnancy) like IVIG, Fioricet, Wellbutrin, Zofran, Phenobarbital, etc. She was sedated and paralyzed five times in the womb and had seven blood transfusions all together. She also battled anemia the whole time she was in the womb and her first few months of life. I was so anxious that maybe these things affected her development somehow but after consulting with our pediatrician and a physical therapist, I now am sure that it’s just because of her personality. Every doctor has said she is doing great developmentally. Liam and Asher were so incredibly active and curious and driven to explore when they were babies. Nora is content, laid back and relaxed all of the time and prefers to sit back and observe what’s going on around her.

IMG_1302

IMG_1311

One thing Nora HAS officially been diagnosed with is torticollis and plagiocephaly just like her brother Asher was at this age. These are big words and they kind of sound like scary medical conditions but they really aren’t that big of a deal and are pretty common in babies. Torticollis just means her neck is tighter on one side so she tends to turn her head one way, especially when she sleeps. Because she was lying on one side of her head so much, she has developed a flat spot (plagiocephally) on the back of her head. It’s not dangerous at all, purely cosmetic. Nora has been going to physical therapy for a couple of months to stretch out her neck and is now over the torticollis but her head still looks kind of weirdly shaped from the back.

IMG_0951

We were given the option of leaving it alone to see if it would round out or trying a cranial band to correct the shape. At first we said we just couldn’t afford the cranial band and it would have to round out on it’s own like Asher’s had. Well, it just wasn’t fixing itself and we started to notice some facial asymmetry so we decided it was worth it to pay for the cranial band. She has had her “helmet” for a couple weeks and we have already seen a lot of improvement in the shape of her head. Hopefully she will be out of it by this summer.

IMG_1112

IMG_1241

The one thing Nora is a little ahead on is teething. A mouth full of teeth is not a fun experience for a breastfeeding mama, though. Her newest teeth are so hilarious and strange. Here’s a picture of the fangs (up top.)

IMG_1271

Every time I get to learn something new about Nora, even the smallest thing like her new funny teeth, or when she is meeting her milestones or what her hair smells like, it feels like a hand wrapped gift from my Father. There are so many things I won’t ever know about Lucy until I get to heaven. I appreciate being able to learn all the details of who Nora is. I love looking up while doing laundry and seeing this…

IMG_1278

Pink among all the brown and blue. Right here in the beautiful monotony and busyness of daily life I am surrounded by miracles and they all affirm in my heart, “Yes, He is good. Yes, He is faithful. He fulfills His promises. He makes a way in the desert. He heals the broken hearted. He restores and redeems.”

Years, not Months

Our family has been enjoying our little Nora so much lately. She is probably the happiest, most laid back baby I have ever encountered. It’s almost like she KNOWS how amazing it is that she’s alive and she enjoys being with us so much.

IMG_0384

My mom said the other day, “She just doesn’t seem REAL.” Nora is the embodiment of joy and light. I am constantly amazed that even with such a violent, dangerous entry into the world she is so peaceful. Our lives are so different now that Nora is here in our family.

IMG_0386

It is mind boggling to actually be experiencing JOY again when only two years ago I felt like I literally couldn’t make it through another hour because of the pain I was in.

It has been almost three years since my daughter Lucy died. Only in the past few months have I really noticed how much healing has taken place. This past Halloween was the first holiday I was actually able to celebrate (although most of it was spent in the ER with Nora.) I looked forward to picking out costumes with the boys and finding something adorable for Nora to wear. I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my family and to have Nora sit with us around the table felt like such a miracle. I was even excited about Christmas this year. Of course, I cried for Lucy on Christmas and had that heavy, fearful feeling of loss in my chest, but I was also able to enjoy Nora’s first Christmas. In years past I would dread Christmas for weeks before it arrived because it seemed impossible to celebrate without Lucy here. So many huge healing steps have happened lately. I am able to notice and enjoy things like the changing seasons, Liam’s school activities and Asher’s preschool theme days. I am actually starting to care about small, “meaningless” things like my hair and the weather and our family budget. I can invest in relationships again and actually absorb what other people are saying. I am able to go to Target without having an emotional breakdown and I can attend family functions again. I have really sad, dark days sometimes, but they are coming less than they used to. Birthdays are still very hard for me and singing the Happy Birthday song around a cake full of candles is almost unbearable, even when it’s my own children’s birthdays, but I’m optimistic that that will change in the future.

When I think back to the weeks and months after Lucy died I realize that this healing that is just now taking place was expected of me then by many people. We had just moved into a new house the week before Lucy died and many people (with good intentions, I know) chose to acknowledge the new house but not my new daughter who died. I was asked many times how we were enjoying our new house. I was so deep in the grief fog that sometimes I thought, “What new house?” I wasn’t even aware of my surroundings and I was in no shape to actually care about or enjoy the house I was living in. Most people thought I would be healing after several months. They expected me to be able to come to family functions (where triggers lurked behind every corner) and to celebrate holidays and actually engage in small talk. I know that the people who expected these things of me just hadn’t experienced a loss like this, and they didn’t understand how it felt. I didn’t even know how it felt until it happened and even then I was so impatient with my grieving. I was exasperated after several months when the healing didn’t come and the grief weighed me down even MORE than before. But now that the healing is starting to take place I know that it takes YEARS, not months, for the inner healing to start showing on the outside. The pain is only just now lessening. I’m amazed that I have learned how to pull my mind away from the grief and see past it and live in the present. This is a new skill, only learned after years of practice. After Lucy died my grief was like a wall that slammed down in front of me; like a solid, unpeneterable brick wall with giant graffiti letters scrawled across, “LUCY IS DEAD.” Everything else in the world was on the other side of the brick wall. I couldn’t see past the grief, no matter how hard I tried. How many people have the ability to will themselves to be able to see through a brick wall? Slowly over time that brick wall has thinned and morphed into something lighter and more transparent. It’s still there, right in front of my face and I know it won’t be removed until I get to heaven, but I can now see through it, like a net. Often a trigger will cause the net to come back into full focus and the sadness is debilitating, but I am learning how to bring the rest of the world back into focus.

There is no set timeline for grief but it is much more accurate to count in years than months when it comes to healing. If you know someone who has recently suffered a devastating loss, remember that the way you think the grieving person should be feeling after three months is the way they will probably feel after three years. Please be patient and let them grieve at their own pace. I felt such incredible pressure to “get over it” quickly. Well, the “it” is my daughter and I won’t ever get over her. I pressured myself as much as other people pressured me to heal before I was ready (as if I had a choice in the matter.) Now I wonder, what was the rush? Why the push to be “better” when I had no control over my healing pace? If I could do it again I would just sit in the grief and let myself feel whatever I was feeling without guilt or a need to please others. I would set up better boundaries and allow myself to say no to the birthday parties, the holidays, the trips to Target and the family vacations without feeling bad about it. I wish I knew back then what I knew now, that the healing will come on it’s own timeline and it will take much longer than I expected…but that it WILL come.

Psalm 30:5  Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

The Year of the Nora

Well, the year of the Nora, as I like to call it, is almost over. 2015 has been a year of healing and restoration. I will always remember it as the year my dreams came true, when God performed a miracle in our family.

Nora is now 5 months old and is doing great. She already has two teeth and is trying to sit and stand by herself, but has no interest in crawling. There haven’t been any lingering effects of the anti-kell antibodies and Nora hasn’t even had to have her blood drawn since Halloween. She is the sweetest, happiest baby. She loves people more than anything and is never as interested in the toy as she is in the person holding the toy. Nora LIVES for eye contact and a little bit of conversation. Nora is my medicine, my joy, my comfort. Her brothers fawn over her daily, reminding her constantly of how beautiful she is and how special she is. I know that God is using Nora to give us a glimpse of the joy and restoration we will feel in heaven when we get to fawn over Lucy and feel the comfort of her presence. We love having Nora here with us and every day that we get with her is a precious, unexpected gift.

IMG_7017a

We had some family photos taken over Thanksgiving and I noticed recently that in many of the pictures there is a beam of light shining directly on Nora’s face. It is such a perfect picture of who she is to us and what her name means. Light. Dawn breaking after the dark night.

IMG_6732

I think of you all often…the people who prayed for us and supported us, my blog readers and all the people who helped us in so many different ways throughout 2015. You will always hold a special place in our family. I don’t know how we could have made it through this year without you. At the end of 2014 after our failed adoption I felt so disappointed and disgusted that people like Kailee and Peter existed in the world. The fact that someone could be so brutal and so heartless without remorse was depressing. But you all have renewed my faith in humanity and I have seen God’s goodness reflected through you. You have brought us so much hope. Thank you for supporting us along this journey and for sticking with us throughout this past year. I can’t wait to tell Nora one day about all the people who rallied together to help get her here. You will forever be a part of her miraculous story.

Even though our 2015 was a year of renewed hope and joy, I know that tragedy and devastation could be right around the corner. I have no idea what 2016 holds for me or for you, but I do know that God is there waiting.

Deuteronomy 31:8 The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.

So, whether next year turns out to be a devastating, heart wrenching year like my 2013 or a year of miracles and hope like my 2015, I know that God will be with me through it all. That fills me with courage and hopeful anticipation going into this new year. I pray that all of you will draw close to God and feel His deep love for you in the year to come and that others will show you the same generosity and love that you have shown us over the past year.

Nora says “Thank you for your prayers, your support and for all the love you gave me this year.”

IMG_9861

DONE

Well, Nora is officially DONE with transfusions and blood checks and has been released from her hematologist! A couple weeks ago she had her blood drawn for the last time at Children’s Hospital and I was so excited that it was the last time I would have to drive all the way to Birmingham and watch them stick her with a needle. Nora wasn’t that excited about it.

IMG_9039

The next day, when I called to find out her numbers, the nurse told me they had only checked her iron and not her hemoglobin, hematocrit or retic. Her iron level is completely irrelevant and has nothing to do with this type of anemia. I was surprised at the rush of emotion when I found out we weren’t really done and that Nora would have to have another blood draw. I broke down in tears, frustrated with the hospital for running the wrong test and frustrated with myself for not making sure they were ordering the right blood tests. I was sad that Nora would not be cleared by Halloween like I was hoping.

This Halloween was the very first holiday that I wasn’t dreading since losing Lucy. It’s a huge milestone in my grief journey. I never thought I could enjoy a holiday again, but this year I was ok with it, even looking forward to it a little. Nora was going to be a ghost and the boys were ninjas.

IMG_9048

On Halloween Nora woke up feeling very irritable and she wouldn’t nurse. She started screaming and WOULD NOT STOP. She sounded like she had a little congestion and a cough but soon started having a little trouble breathing. She was grunting and occasionally gasping for air. Since I didn’t have her latest blood work results I wasn’t sure if she was anemic or not (although I suspected that she wasn’t since she was still pink.) We had to take her to the emergency room. Difficulty breathing can be a sign of severe anemia and we didn’t want to take any chances. The saddest part was when the nurses couldn’t get Nora’s vein because she was so tiny and slightly dehydrated. They tried four times before they finally were able to draw enough blood for the tests. We were so relieved when her counts came back normal. Her hematocrit was 42 and her hemoglobin was 14! She did have bronchiolitis and an ear infection which were causing her all the discomfort, and it was kind of a let down to spend Nora’s first Halloween in the hospital, but it was so exciting to see her numbers looking so good! And she did end up getting cleared for good by Halloween like I had hoped 🙂

We feel so incredibly relieved that all of the medical dangers caused by these horrible antibodies are now behind us. Nora is a “normal” baby now and is producing her own red blood cells with nothing in her blood to destroy them. Not only is Nora done, but we are done trying for our rainbow baby and that desperate desire for a third living child has been satiated (thank you, Jesus!) Our family can relax and we are now trying to focus on recuperating from the past three years. We have had one tragedy after the next and even though it ended in the best way imaginable, this high risk pregnancy with Nora and her birth were so exhausting. We are depleted, financially and emotionally. We are slowly trying to pay off our medical bills and climb out of debt that we fell into during the “adoption.” How I wish there was a way to get all of that money back from Kailee and Peter. We are also trying to give Liam and Asher a lot of attention since they have had to endure so much in their little lives. Lucy, Scarlet and Nora have been our main focus since 2012 and now we are finally able to pour ourselves into our sons. It is so fun. I just finally “set up” their bedroom since I never had time to after we moved in last fall. I made their names out of fun letters and put them on the wall, rearranged the furniture, got rid of Asher’s toddler bed and I’m still working on some really cute bookshelves to go on the wall. Asher was so excited when he saw the small changes I had made that he said, “This is my favorite room I ever had!” It is so nice to be able to just be in my home with my children, with no pressing emergency or giant obstacle to overcome.

Josh and I are finally able to focus on our marriage and work on just enjoying being with each other again. Losing a baby puts so much strain on a marriage, not to mention an adoption gone wrong and a very high risk pregnancy. We love being able to just enjoy normal little things together again (things that seemed frivolous and meaningless in the midst of grief.) We watch Netflix and go for walks and plant vegetables and herbs in our fall/winter garden. We go to church together and are able to plan fun things like camping trips and what to cook for Thanksgiving. Even though we still have a lot of healing to do and our Lucy wound still gapes, I feel like we are finally able to slow down and enjoy life again.

As I go about my day, a phrase often comes to mind, “He brought me out into a broad place.” It comes from Psalm 18:

Psalm 18:19 He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.

Thank you, Lord, for rescuing me and for rescuing Nora. I know we will probably face more adversity, pain and loss in the future, like everyone does, but I love this place you have brought me into right now. I praise you for the miraculous things you have done in my life and for this time of respite and restoration.

Numbers Went Up Without a Transfusion!

Quick update on Nora’s HDN (hemolytic disease of the newborn.)

During Nora’s last appointment with the hematologist we found out she was allowed to go two whole weeks between blood checks, which was wonderful but kind of scary for me. Yesterday they finally checked her blood again to see how her body has been doing trying to make it’s own red blood cells and fighting the anemia. Well, for the first time EVER in her life she was able to get her hematocrit and hemoglobin levels up without a transfusion. That is great news! Two weeks ago her h&h were 31.7 and 11.1 and yesterday they were 33.6 and 11.6. It’s not a huge jump but it’s going up instead of down, FINALLY. They will check her again in two weeks and if it’s still rising, then she is completely over the antibodies and HDN and doesn’t need anymore blood work or transfusions. This is what we’ve been praying and waiting for for so long. I was hoping she would be cleared by Christmas but now it looks like she might be over it by Halloween! Thank you all again for praying for her. She is such a fun, sweet baby and we love having her in our family.

IMG_8432

When the Leaves on the Trees Turn Scarlet

On this day one year ago a little girl was born at 37 weeks and six days. We had been praying for this baby and waiting for her birth for months. She was going to be our rainbow baby, our hope and redemption after the storm. Scarlet Mae. We had stared at her ultrasound pictures and fawned over every detail. On this day one year ago, I woke up like any other day. I worked on Scarlet’s nursery, I pumped milk every three hours for her. The boys rejoiced because the leaves on the trees were finally scarlet and that meant their baby sister was coming soon.

IMG_4684 1IMG_4677

We went about our day like normal, making sure our phones were close at hand in case “the call” came. I made sure her diaper bag was ready and her clothes were all washed and folded. I published a blog post and planned what to make for dinner. I texted Kailee like usual, just checking in on her and asking if she wanted to get in on the fun and make a prediction about when the baby would arrive. She never texted me back. EVER. She never answered another one of our calls or emails. EVER. Because she was giving birth at that very moment and instead of calling us to share the exciting news, she called two men in California. She had gotten what she wanted from us…emotional and financial support for her, her husband and her two children for almost the whole pregnancy. She discarded us like a used piece of trash. Instead of placing that baby in our arms that day, she placed the baby in the arms of two men who we knew nothing about. We went about our day and we had no idea that the thing we feared the most was happening at that moment. We had no idea we were being betrayed. There was no Scarlet Mae. She became Ava Mae that day.

My journal entries from last fall:

10-13-14

Kailee is 38 weeks pregnant today. She still has had no prenatal care. I feel frustrated, helpless and antsy. I don’t know if Scarlet is ok, or if Kailee will follow through with her adoption plan. I feel like I’m going crazy waiting and wondering what will happen. I don’t know how to prepare for this. I don’t know what to expect. This is one of the weirdest places of my life.

Oh Lord, please be with Kailee and Scarlet today. Protect Scarlet and keep her alive and healthy. Please let her be OURS. Let us give her a happy childhood and a beautiful life. Please let us teach her about you some day. Please prepare our hearts and minds for what is going to come over the next 2-3 weeks. Also, I feel such a clear prodding of the Holy Spirit to do a miracle in my body. Come, Lord, do a miracle in my body. Show your awesome power through me. Do a miracle in my body.

10-14-14

Still anxious. Still no word from Kailee. Still fearful and doubtful. I like this prayer by Amy Carmichael-

“My Father, all that has gone cold and lifeless in me…is it just your planned stillness before new life flows? Are the hands I’ve clenched in troubled prayer like tight leaf-buds, about to spread into open-handed praise, because your Spirit comes again? I believe, Father, that the joy of a new season in you is warming me right now…”

Please, Lord ❤

10-19-14

I am completely overwhelmed with anxiety. Kailee and Peter are not communicating with me, completely ignoring my texts. Tomorrow she will be 39 weeks pregnant. I have no idea what to do. I feel so rejected, tricked, conned…what if this was her plan all along? What if we don’t get our Scarlet? The thought is too heartbreaking to fathom. How can I tell the boys that they’re not getting their baby sister Scarlet?

I can’t.

Oh Lord, PLEASE be gracious to me and come to my aid. Where are you? I don’t understand what is happening or how I should respond. Did I do something wrong? Please open up the lines of communication between us TODAY. Please Lord, DO something. Open your heart to my cry. Let us give this baby a wonderful life. Don’t let this end in another tragedy. Please give us this baby. We already love her so much. We are so ready for blessings instead of heartache. We are so broken. Will you allow us to be destroyed even more? We need you. Our lives are in your hands. You hold our lot. Please be gracious to us and show us your bountiful love. I love you.

10-24-15

Still waiting, wondering and worrying. This morning I woke up incredibly angry at Kailee. How can she do this to us? Why is she ignoring us day after day? I am beyond frustrated with her and with this whole situation. I just want my Scarlet, in my arms, home and safe. This passage from Amy Carmichael is good for me today-

“Would I merely endure it, praying for the grace not to make too much over my poor circumstances? Or would my soul willingly enter into the iron of this new and difficult experience?…So there could be nothing but peaceful acceptance. And when one accepts, then all that is included in the thing accepted is accepted too- in my case, the helplessness, the limitations, the disappointments of hope deferred, the suffering. My Father, I will say- no matter what shadows of circumstance blow across my way- you are my Father of Lights. Coming down from heaven are good and perfect gifts to me…All the promises of your love and goodness are still…Yes! and Amen!”

We were devastated on October 25th when we found out that Kailee had tricked us and lied to us; when we had to tell the boys AGAIN that their little sister would not be coming home; when we had to clear out her nursery and pack away all the baby girl clothes. It seemed incomprehensible that this had happened after losing three babies the year before. We felt betrayed by God, forgotten and mocked and hopeless.

11-03-14

Well, the thing we feared so deeply has come to pass. On October 25th Josh came upon an adoption page on Facebook and there he found pictures of “Scarlet”, already born and already adopted by two gay guys named Adam and Gary. They named her Ava Mae, even using the middle name I picked out in honor of my Mama-E. How cruel. We have no more money and very little hope left to try again. We are so sad and discouraged. This is the first time I’ve been able to bring myself to sit down and meet with God. I am still a bit numb and in disbelief at what has happened. I’m sitting in her empty nursery right now, thank goodness we never had time to set up the crib. All those beautiful, precious baby girl clothes, packed away again, unused, collecting dust. My heart just aches.

Lord, I don’t understand how you could allow this. How much heartache do you think we can take? We are so broken. We are so tired of loss and grief. Please heal us and bless us with a third child we can keep. Help me trust you again. I want to drink you in and be filled up with YOU. Take away my bitterness, guilt, anger and hurt and help me to forgive Kailee and Peter.

Psalm 46:1-3 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Lord, what do you want from me? Why do you allow all of this suffering in my life? Please don’t take my boys or Josh next.

I was at one of the lowest points of my life. We had no idea that the very next year our own baby would be born at exactly 37 weeks and six days. Instead of waiting for the call, we would be the ones calling our family and spreading the news that our miracle girl had been born healthy.

Today I am not celebrating my daughter’s first birthday and it’s ok. In fact, I’m thankful that I’m not throwing a first birthday party and that I get to celebrate the three month old miracle in my arms instead. I’m rejoicing in God’s faithfulness and I see now that He didn’t betray me on this day one year ago. He was getting ready to redeem our pain and loss in the best way ever.

When we found out we would not be adopting Scarlet I was tempted to give up on God. I doubted everything I had ever heard Him tell me. The events of our life did not seem to match up with the promises He had made me. But I decided to cling harder to Him instead of giving up on Him. When you feel like everything is spiraling out of control and God has turned His back on you, give Him one more chance. When it feels like He has abandoned you and your world is nothing but heartache, CHOOSE to trust Him. I know I have said this many times but I will say it again because it seems to have become the theme of my life… step out of your comfort zone and into His plan for your life, even when it seems absolutely ridiculous because that’s when He will reveal Himself to you. He can use even the deepest loss and sharpest pain to create something beautiful. I’m so glad I chose to give Him one more chance.

FullSizeRender-45

The leaves on the trees are turning scarlet again and last year when we lost “Scarlet” I thought the changing colors would always be a bitter reminder of the pain and failure we felt. But this year it feels like redemption is blooming on those trees. When I see the colors of fall all around I see God’s goodness and I thank Him for all that He has done in this past year. When I prayed and begged Him to give us our daughter last fall HE DID. Nora was conceived when the leaves turned scarlet and the boys’ little sister did arrive, just in a totally different way than I was expecting. And His way was better.FullSizeRender-44