To read the story of our precious Harlynn Renae, start here and follow the "next" links at the end of each post. Thank you for coming and sharing with us in this journey.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Everyman's Nobody

Life has thrust me on a path I never dreamed existed. The loss of child, our child, our Harlynn, has left me reeling. Clamoring. Struggling. In the face of our tragedy, there have been times I can't see through the tears. I can't breathe to calm the weeping. I can't settle to stop my shaking. There have also been times where I have seen a passion rise within me I never knew I had. A purpose that has become second nature to me. A goal that finds me voluntarily in the midst of absolute heartache and despair.  In that, I never know what each moment will hold, or how often I'll flip between emotional extremes.

I have heard quite often how strong I am. How amazing I am. How inspiring I am. I'd like to address those assertions if I may. 

I am Everyman's Nobody.

When we lived in Wyoming, I remember standing in the check out line at WalMart (the only place to shop) one day. The woman in front of me turned around and said, "I think I know you." I had never seen this woman before in my life, so I doubted her observation. She continued, "Do you sing on the stage at my church?" Once I verified the church she attended, I said, "Why yes - you do know me." I introduced myself and she did the same. I remember thinking to myself, "I really need to be careful in public." Meaning, there are people who know who I am, and I don't know who they are. They know I'm a Christian, and they probably don't know that I swear. That I used to smoke. That I display ridiculous road rage. It was at that very moment all those years ago I made a vow to no longer flip people off as I drove. 

Because they might see me in church on Sunday and how embarrassing would that be?

I was no angel. I doubt anyone thought of me as one. I was a snot. A spoiled brat. A gal with a case of road rage, which makes no sense, because there was nothing but wide open roads in Wyoming. Nothing would fry my hide quite like a cattle crossing on the highway. Oh I used to get so mad at those rustlers! Couldn't they pick another day? Another time of day? The extra five minutes waiting for a herd of cattle to cross the road was infuriating!  And remember the panhandler who made me so mad, when he used MY money to buy something he PROMISED me he wouldn't buy?! The nerve! People are such morons! Jerks!

And then that person - that Val - moved to North Dakota. And guess what? I didn't change. Road rage only intensified, but I still hold true to my vow and refuse to flip people off. I still get upset when I don't get my way. I still drop a cuss word (or three) when I get really mad. I still make judgments about people without knowing them or their story. I still sin, knowingly or not. I still fail at life. At loving. At being a good person.

And yet I hear those words to describe me. Amazing. Inspiring. Strong. It seems so....wrong. Most of you know me, like really know me, and some of you who really know me are still saying these things.

Here's what I want to address. You are too. You are strong. Amazing. Inspiring. Probably even more so than I am. What I've been through - losing Harlynn - is the most painful, excruciating, heart-wrenching journey I have ever been called to walk. Ever. Every day I physically ache because of missing her. Every day my eyes well, and spill over with tears because I had to bury the child I had so many hopes and dreams for. Every day I struggle to get out of bed. To be the wife my husband deserves. To be the best mommy Haley could ask for. To make Harlynn's short life matter.  But none of that makes me stronger than anyone else. None of that makes me better than anyone else. None of that gives me an increase in status over anyone else.

Whatever you've suffered through, whatever you've experienced - whatever you've survived - you're amazing. You're strong. You're inspirational. 

We all have journeys we're called to walk, and none of them are the same as someone else's. We all handle things differently. We all adopt different coping mechanisms.  We all experience tremendous hurts. Tremendous pains. We all try to be better people at some point. We all fail

I fail. Every day. Several times a day.

If I am amazing, if I am strong, if I am inspirational to any degree - it is only because my hope rests in knowing I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to save myself. That's already been done for me. I just have to trust. And nearly four months into this journey - I'm almost able to. (I am even failing at hoping sometimes!)

I want to caution you. I want to be as real and as forward as I can be: Don't put your stock in me. Don't let your hope rest in me. I am nobody. I am Everyman's Nobody.  If I inspire or encourage you in any way, it's because there is a greater God at work. I'm just a gal who wants to give bad drivers the bird. Who wants to roll over and crumble into a puddle of tears. Who wants to spend her Saturdays in pajamas and eating ice cream. I'm just a gal who's being carried through this horrible, dark journey in the arms of one who can redeem this life. In the arms of the one who is holding my sweet baby Harlynn. In the arms of the only one who is able to carry every broken piece of me. 

Lord lift me up and let me stand
By faith on Caanan's tableland
A higher plane than I have found
Lord plant my feet on higher ground

Saturday, July 27, 2013

No Bowl Of Cherries

I see them all the time. You probably do too. The pictures, the memes, the quotes - everything displaying the sunny side of life. How to stay positive. How to turn your negatives into happy thoughts. How to brush off the bad. How to stand tall in the face of darkness.  For some reason, our society expects people to always be okay. To always sport a smile. To always stand up, dust off, and carry on. "Keep Calm And Carry On" even.

To that - I say "No thank you."  Life is not a bowl of cherries. Life is a journey. And right now I'm blindfolded, barefoot, and bound, and somehow expected to travel this journey with ease. With grace.

Somewhere along the line, we as a human race, lost permission to be angry at life's circumstances. Can we change the circumstances? Not always. Does that mean we aren't allowed to get angry over things we can't change? I beg your pardon.

It will never be "a good thing" that Harlynn died. I will never be okay with having to lose her. It's true God wastes nothing, and out of terrible events arise great and momentous purposes. I don't believe for a second, however, that our losing her happened for the "reason" of something else. You cannot reason with me on why babies die. You cannot give me a reason my baby isn't here. You cannot. However, I'm now in pursuit of a life-mission to help other families. To be some source of help and comfort to the parents and families that experience this loss. I wouldn't have done this had I not experienced it. And again I say, it will never be a "good thing" that Harlynn died. But praise God he can use it for his good things. For his children. For all of those who have to walk this road.

While I know I am blessed, and am grateful for all I have - and am grateful for once having things I have since lost - I do not want to feel pressured to simply be okay. To not question why this happened. I do not want to be expected to hold myself together at any given time. I do not want to adhere to the expectations of a society who knows nothing about this path, and conform to their view of how I should grieve and when.

I don't want anyone to take away my right to grieve messy.

While I appreciate those who can turn the negatives to positives, who always have a bright outlook in any situation, and who decorate their mantras with uplifting reinforcements, I don't want to be lumped in with them. I'm not there.

To all the grieving, all those who suffer, all those who are heavily burdened: You have permission to be angry. You have every right to be upset. You have free reign to feel those feelings to the fullest, because repressing them can do more harm than good later on.

If you can't smile, that's okay. If you can't stop crying, that's okay. If you find yourself in a place you want to hole up and tell the world to stick it - that's okay.

Eventually, with every breath I take, and with every choice I make throughout the days ahead, I will stop being upset. I will stop being mad. I know I will. I know you will.

Give yourself time. Give yourself space. Give yourself permission.

In the end, we'll be better for it. 

And if society tries to tell you how to feel or what to think or how to behave - tell society you appreciate the intent, but they don't know you as well as you know you. 

We'll be alright, you and I. Let the people have their bowl of cherries. When the cherries are gone, there remain the pits. And let's be real....sometimes, life is the pits.

Next: Everyman's Nobody
Prev: The Grave Truth

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Grave Truth

Cemeteries used to scare me. The permanent place of rest gave me nothing but unrest. I felt like within the property lines of the cemetery were nothing but tormented souls trapped underground.  

Then I buried my baby. I realize now, the cemetery is far different than I used to imagine.

I went to see Harlynn's site again today, once again not knowing what to say, how to act, or the "proper" way to visit my baby's earthly resting spot. I sat down and repaired the hole in the box that houses her little guest book my aunt made specifically for Harlynn's site. I read through the entries. Again. I looked around at the many graves - graves of babies - that occupied the area where Harlynn is laid to rest. Some of the graves were laden with memorial treasures. Some of them were seemingly neglected. I started to wonder about those babies. Were their parents able to visit them? Did their parents still feel the need to visit them?

That thought caught a lump in my throat. I don't know why. How many parents couldn't bring themselves to sit by a stone marker? How many parents ache in silence? How many parents no longer feel the need to visit their baby? Will I ever be one of them?

I started to cry. Not just for my own loss, but for the fact that there are so many parents who have to carve time out of their lives to visit the graves of their children. They're not picking them up from after-school activities or summer camp, they're visiting the cemetery. To spend time with their child.

Why does this have to happen?

I looked over at the tree near Harlynn. It's only mid-July and the tree that bloomed so gorgeously in May is already turning and shedding its leaves. It's a poetic resemblance, really. These babies, who blossomed so beautifully, withered away from our lives far too soon. Long before their season should have ended. 

I told Halrynn I love her so much - and because I couldn't physically give her my love, I would give it to other people. I told her I knew she was experiencing far greater things than I ever could have given her but I wish I would have had the chance to give her something. I would give anything to show her something of the breadth of love this broken heart carries for her. I told her I wished I could do something about the ants that seem to have claimed her spot as their territory. Like they were there first or something. The nerve.

As I went to leave, I turned over my shoulder to the other resting babies. "Your mommies and daddies love you. Every one of you."

And for that matter, so do I.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Juicing. . .Day Three

There are no pictures today because let's face it: at this point, who really cares what I look like as I swallow a gulp of super juice?

I never thought I'd make it to day three with sticking with vegetable juice, water, and green tea. But GUESS WHAT? I totally did!  I feel pretty good today, aside from still feeling hungry. I thought the hunger would eventually pass but it hasn't. I'm still hungry. Almost all the time. But it's not unmanageable and I'm not "angry hungry" like I usually get when I wait too long to eat or something. Plus this morning I was down in weight again making my 48 hour total down 3.6 pounds. Tomorrow morning's weigh in will be fun for me I'm sure.

I told Brent going forward I was fine with juicing for breakfast and dinner for a while yet, but I am going to eat something for lunch. Like, chew real food.  This juicing stuff is great and wonderful and healthy, but I need to get my masticating skills on. 

So going forward for at least tomorrow (ha!) the plan is juice for breakfast, giant spinach salad with berries and chicken for lunch, juice for dinner.  Even talking about the salad makes me drool a little. Real food....I can't wait....

So all in all this experience went far better than I anticipated. I'm stronger willed than I thought I was, and I really cannot believe I made it through three days. I don't think Brent can believe it either.

I'm very much excited for tomorrow when I can chew food again, but still contribute to a healthier me. Maybe eventually I will only juice for one meal a day and eat two balanced meals. And by eventually I mean maybe by Wednesday. We'll just have to see how long I can stick with this and incorporate it into my daily life. I can attest this is by far the healthiest thing I've ever done, and truth be told, I feel really good today. Who knows, I may have just converted to juicingism.

Point being: I DID IT!!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Juicing. . .Day Two

It was hard to get to sleep last night. My blessed husband was serenading frogs from the comfort of our bed. After giving him several nudges and love-shoves, I was able to fall asleep sometime after midnight.  While laying in bed waiting for sleep to come, however, I felt hungry. Really hungry. Once sleep came, I forgot about not eating and woke up this morning without feeling like I was starving. I weighed myself and was down 1.6 pounds from yesterday's starting weight. Is that impressive for 24 hours? I'm not sure. But it's certainly more than I was able to do on my own previously.

I did notice that when Brent didn't immediately jump up to start the breakfast juice, I was highly annoyed. Irritability indicator number one.  Haley had toast with jelly for breakfast. I'm pretty sure no piece of toast has ever looked, smelled, or I'm sure tasted, as good as the piece she enjoyed this morning. 

As I watched Haley enjoy her breakfast, Brent set mine down in front of me. Well good morning.

Thankfully, we did not repeat the cabbage. This morning's juice was spinach, carrots, oranges, and one apple. Strangely enough, the first thing I tasted with my morning gulp, was cabbage. Gah! There was a pleasant aftertaste of oranges but you had to taste the bad in order to taste the good. Such is life, right? Brent decided he would educate (via lecture) me on the proper way to drink my juice, and just how much of it I should fill my mouth with at a time. I decided I would secretly like to love-shove him in the face. Irritability indicator number two. I got through the juice no problem, and never came close to throwing up. I didn't even have to plug my nose. This is serious progress from yesterday's first meal of the day. Even though I tasted cabbage, I think the fact that there was no cabbage actually in the juice helped tremendously.

We headed to church and Haley was complaining about not feeling her usual self. I turned around in time to see Brent giving her water from the water bottle I had brought for myself. I know she's my kid and all....but I've seen the things that shoot back into a drink as she consumes it...and it's not for the faint at heart. Now I would have to sit through church without my water. It was now Haley's water. Water and other unidentifiable particles. Plus if she really is sick, I don't want to drink after her and catch it.

After church Brent headed to the store and I headed home with my kiddo to do what I could to make her feel comfortable. The first thing I desired upon buckling her in her car seat was a nacho bell grande and bean burrito from Taco Bell. Can we juice sour cream? Maybe these veggie juices would be better with a dollop of sour cream on top.  I couldn't wait for Brent to get home and start juicing our lunch because by this point mid-day, I was insanely hungry. I was able to curb it somewhat with water, but from the noises my stomach was making I was able to translate "FEED ME NOW" being spoken through its grumbles.

More green juice for lunch. It's like liquid grass. I can tell you it didn't taste a thing like nachos bell grande, or like sour cream. I don't think sour cream would have helped it. It's not that it tastes awful, but it isn't tasty. The lemon really saves my gag reflex. At lunch time I was so over this juicing thing. I was starting to get crabbier, I was hungry, and I would have given almost anything for a trip to Taco Bell.

I took a two hour nap that left me feeling amazing and refreshed for about two minutes after I woke up. I'm not sure if it was because two hours is less than four, or if it's because of something else, but I was still pretty tired, even though I woke up naturally. And by naturally I mean by my husband slamming our bedroom door. Irritability indicator, anyone?  He then thought he'd be hilarious and ask if I wanted to go to Applebee's for dinner. Isn't that hilarious? And by hilarious I mean borderline evil.

I stuck with water until it was time for dinner. Sweet, savory dinner. Of juice. Once again it was my favorite of all the juices. I enjoyed it, and tried to make it last a while. Dinner makes me happy. It's like I forget how hard the rest of the consumption is and I think "Yes, juicing is wonderful!"

Today my head didn't hurt at all like yesterday. I think a lot of yesterday's headache was actually the barrette I wore most the day. Duh. I got a shower first thing this morning and it was amazing. It felt like the first shower you get after you go camping for a week. I am notably irritable today. Definitely irritable. I'm apprehensive about tomorrow. How will the day go when I can't take a long nap in the middle of it? How will the day go when I have to drink juice....again? I thought I would be macho (rhymes with nacho...) and try to stick with this for five days, but based on how I feel right now, Tuesday morning and a bowl of oatmeal can't come soon enough. Time will tell.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Juicing. . .Day One

If you've read every word I've ever written over the last 12 months (and who wouldn't want to?) then you know that after I became really sick last year, Brent and I became Netflix documentary junkies. It's the type of junkie I might even recommend becoming. We've learned a lot about health, we've changed some of our goals and aspirations, we've committed to changing some (most) of our eating and health habits, and now I'm about to review my very first day of juicing.

Brent and I have been carrying extra weight around for a while. Last year before I became pregnant, I actually dropped 15 pounds and was starting to feel pretty good.  Now I've just ballooned and told Brent at dinner the other night, "You agreed to run a 10K in October. We have family pictures in September. We have got to do something." He smiled and said, "You can juice with me this weekend." I made a face. "It's settled, then." he replied.

Juicing is not a "quick fix" or a dieting fad. It's a kick start to detoxing our bodies, and to jump start our commitment to eating healthier. We do really well eating healthy for a while, then I have to have a cheeseburger, and it all goes downhill from there. If you think of it, pray that I might get over that little craving thing.  We have a plan in place for when juicing is over (thank you, eMeals) and today marked our getting started as a couple.  Brent has done this before, and has been very successful. This is not at all my thing, so I needed a little swaying. The fact that I'm wearing my husband's jeans instead of my own was swaying enough.

This morning when I woke up, Brent was talking to Haley about her breakfast. I thought his suggestion of opimeal (oatmeal in Haley-speak) sounded really good. Then I remembered, I would be having a special breakfast juice. Ugh. I sauntered to the kitchen and turned the corner in time to see Brent chopping a head of cabbage.

A head of cabbage. As part of breakfast. As part of a juice. Are you gagging yet?

He and Haley began juicing the cabbage, carrots, and oranges. I wanted to document this journey through pictures, and you'll be able to see exactly what we did.  Haley tried it first. She liked it. I figured if she liked it, it couldn't be that bad.

Brent tried it. He didn't make a face. I believe his comment was, "Hmm. Not so bad."


I smelled it. That was a mistake. Over-powering scent of cabbage first thing in the morning is not entirely pleasant.  I took a drink. It was NASTY.  All I could taste was cabbage. 



I ended up plugging my nose and choking it down to get it finished. I almost threw up twice. This is going to be a long weekend, I thought.  After finishing the breakfast juice, the burps were relentless. I asked Brent if that was normal and his reply was "everyone reacts to juicing differently, so it's quite possible it's normal for you."  Well that's dead sexy. Burping cabbage juice. Good thing he put a ring on it, right ladies?

After a while, I became seriously tired. It had been a long week, and after having the juice instead of typical breakfast, I was zapped of energy.  I went in to lay down for a little Saturday snooze. Four hours later, and after dreaming my entire family was seated around a marvelously huge and intricate log table ordering porterhouse steaks, I woke up.

I had slept through lunch, so Brent made the afternoon snack, or as he calls it, "lunch number two." Cucumber, celery, spinach, green apples, lemon, and ginger.  Haley stated quickly she didn't like this juice and didn't want to try it. I made Brent go first. He winked. Like this was just something he does all the time. Like it's a glass of water.

I resisted the urge to smell it first, but when I put it up close to my mouth, I could smell it. Cucumber. I have never been a fan of cucumber. I took a sip. Eh. It wasn't as awful as I was anticipating. It tasted like....dirty lemonade. I took another sip. WOW, there was a chunk of lemon in that sip. Sour! 

It took me a long while, but I finished the whole glass. I didn't come close to throwing up. Progress. I also drank a large glass of water.  After finishing the juice, the headache started to really show up in force. It's unlike any headache I've had before. It feels like I've been wearing a hat four sizes too small. The crown of my head from temple to temple just aches. And quite intensely.  In all seriousness, I could have taken another nap. It's easier to sleep through pain than to try to function through it. There was a bright side, though - no burps after the green juice.

The end of the day brought dinner/dessert. Apples, sweet potato, peaches, and sprinkled with a little cinnamon. This I was looking forward to. It looks a little like a chai tea. I happen to love all the ingredients so my hopes were really high. Haley tried it first, and liked it, but not as much as she liked eating slices of the peaches. Brent was familiar with this drink from his last juicing experience, so he was unaffected by the adventure.


It wasn't as sweet as I was expecting. The flavor was nice, though, and certainly my favorite of the three from today. It tasted a little like I was drinking a slice of apple pie, sans any sugar.  It was certainly a nice way to cap off the evening.


I am not crabby like I expected I would be. (Yet.) I have even a little more energy now than I anticipated. I danced a little with Haley earlier, and felt pretty good.  Brent is a tish grumpy today, but nothing major. Today went far better than I expected it to, I must say. Tomorrow may be a different story.  Especially if I have to drink cabbage again. I think I'm going to have some decaf green tea and call it a night. And no, I didn't shower today. Something about a four hour nap and an intense headache...  I'll set my goals a little higher for tomorrow, since it's a church day and all.

Next: Juicing. . .Day Two

Friday, July 12, 2013

{Illuminate} Week 3

The following is a homework assignment for Week 3: 100 steps Perspective; "I am grateful for"

I am grateful that on this journey, there have been glimpses of beauty. Not just grateful for the beauty but for the fact that through this darkness I've found myself in, I'm able to still see it. I'm able to recognize that not all in this life is empty. Not all is burdensome. Not all is hopeless.

This week's project forced me to get out of my house, take 100 steps, and find something photograph worthy. I looked outside tonight and the storm clouds cast an almost "sepia" look from the sky. It was breathtaking. I grabbed the camera and headed outside. I have to admit, 100 steps is not near as many as I was anticipating. I didn't get as far as I thought. 100 steps one way, I found a few things to capture through the lens. 100 steps back found me seeing the comforts of my home setting in a whole new light. 

I'm grateful for the reason to get outside and be purposeful. I'm grateful for the quiet, alone time. I'm grateful for a creative outlet. They may just be pictures to anyone else, but I see part of my story in every one of them. 

I'm grateful for the freedom to be honest. For the ability to be vulnerable. For the chance to recognize my weaknesses, and instead of succumbing to their burden, embracing them for the fact they are part of what makes me Val.

I'm grateful for my girls. I'm grateful for the chance to be a mother. Their mother. I'm grateful my heart has the opportunity to love as only a mother can. I'm grateful for the few hours I got to hold Harlynn in my arms. One day I'll be grateful for the lifetime I will hold her in my heart.

I'm grateful that even when I am enveloped and immersed in my own grief and turn my back on the rest of the world and on my God, the rest of the world and my God refuse to turn their back on me.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Big News

A month or so ago, on Facebook, I had posted there was big news for us. I asked for prayers and for people to come alongside us in a way they might not expect. I'm going to tell you tonight what our big news is.

Today, July 10th, marks exactly three months since we held Harlynn for the first and last time. We met our precious baby girl and had to mourn losing her before we could ever celebrate her arrival. The last three months have been hard. "Hard" doesn't even begin to describe, but there are no words in our language that aptly describe the personal hell a parent experiences when they lose their child. Their flesh and blood. Their gift. Gone

We've had a lot of support from friends, family, strangers, and so tonight, on what would have been Harlynn's 3 month mark, we had a thank you party. We invited people over who have been there for us in ways we couldn't have imagined. We wanted to feed them and serve them in some small way to express how much they mean to our little family, and how their support has literally carried us over the last three months.

Of course the first thing people did when they received the invite was ask what they could bring and how they could help. We're doing this to thank them, and they want to still make sure we're taken care of. God has put some amazing, fabulous, extraordinary people in our lives. I hope they all realize it.

So! While they were here, we revealed our little announcement. And to be fair, I'm going to reveal it here as well.

Do you remember Michelle? We had never met each other before being connected so she could photograph Harlynn's visitation and funeral. Afterwards, my interactions with her led to a friendship. She is one of a kind. She has a wonderful sense of humor, a heart as big as I've ever encountered, and a creative, compassionate spirit that is absolutely unmatched. Michelle called me on Mother's Day.  Mother's Day was a very difficult day for me. I got texts and phone calls, but I didn't answer them. We were walking out the door, headed to the cemetery, and she texted, asking if she could call. I don't know why (or I didn't know why then) but I answered.

She explained she had wanted to start a nonprofit for a while, but wasn't sure which direction to go, what the exact purpose or fulfillment would be. She told me - and I wish I could remember her exact words, because the way she phrased it was so very special - that Harlynn had come to mean a lot to her, and show her what she needed to do. She was going to turn in her notice and start a nonprofit for families like us. Families that had to walk this road. She told me that photographing Harlynn's services was the most meaningful shoot of her life, and that our little girl had impacted her in a way she couldn't express. She wanted to tell me, on Mother's Day, that my little girl would make a big difference in the world.

I was stunned. I was not at all expecting that. I was thrilled and devastated all at one time. I hate that other families have to go through this, but I love that she saw a need and decided to go forward in supplying it. I love that my daughter inspired her. I secretly hoped she would call her non-profit something very specific. But I kept my hope a secret. It was her idea, her genius and wonderful idea, and I was going to help her in any way I could, and be a silent spectator of it's wonderfulness.

Then Michelle and I were chatting one night - once again, through facebook - and she typed, "I think we should start Harlynn's Heart."  The phrase itself took me by surprise. It took me a moment to get my thoughts in order, but I knew exactly what she was saying. What I didn't understand, was how she knew that was what I was secretly hoping she would call her organization. Harlynn's Heart. I confessed I was hoping she would call it that and she told me, "I've been thinking of that since Mother's Day!"

Since then we've been brainstorming. We've been gathering info. We've been researching. We've been going full steam ahead. Then...we hit the paperwork. There is a LOT of paperwork to get a non profit started. But we're going to fill it out. And we're going to get this rolling. 

We're going to become birth and bereavement doulas to help families at whatever stage they need. Whether they have a perfect pregnancy and delivery, whether they find out at 20 weeks their baby won't survive, or whether they find out like I did, moments before delivery, their baby has already passed - we will be there to provide them support, comfort, and resources. Actually, I should tell that story too. As if we need more proof God moves in powerful and mysterious ways.  I was sent a link to a website by another loss-mom friend.  I hadn't gone to check it out until a couple of weeks after it was sent to me. In digging around the website, I saw they offered courses to become a nationally certified birth and bereavement doula.  I knew that I was going to do that. I knew that had to be a part of this.  

The next morning right as I got to work my cell phone rang. My phone rarely rings during the day because everyone knows I'm at work. I looked to see who it was, and it was Michelle. I answered, "Good morning!"
"This COULD NOT wait!"
"I was thinking about a service that's missing. Something that we could do that we haven't talked about yet. I think you need to become like a stillbirth doula, who specifically deals with families who are going through what you went through."

As she was talking, my mouth dropped. "Michelle. Michelle. Michelle!" I just kept repeating her name. I told her what I had found online less than 12 hours before her phone call. She was in my head. We are literally on the same path with this.  Michelle's phone call was absolute confirmation we're supposed to be doing this - and we're supposed to be doing this together.

We will give workshops for doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, churches, businesses - anyone who wants to be educated on our journey, on the journey of perinatal loss, and on how to help those who have to travel this road. We will be there. We will provide lots of other services and programs too, but we have a lot of organizing to do. We have a lot of people to love on.

We're not an organization....yet....but we will be. And we will be there in any way we can to assist parents, families, friends, who have or will experience this heart ache. 

And we will need your help. We will need your prayers. We will need your encouragement.

There are big things to come because of Harlynn's Heart.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Special Girl

Haley, this is one of my favorite pictures of us. I had just found out a few days before that I was pregnant. I knew you were soon going to have a little brother or sister, you were already the cutest kid in the world, and we were having a good time sharing stories this night. I took our picture with my phone, and it still is a favorite.

The other morning when I woke you up, you stood on your bed and wanted me to pick you up. I happily obliged, and remembered the days, not so long ago, when waking you up meant walking out to the rocking chair for extra rocking and snuggles. If there was a light on, you would mumble, "Too bright!" and I would turn off the lights. You're like your mommy in that regard - no lights or noise in the morning. Those mornings in the rocking chair - that was the bright spot of every day for me. 

I call you "my special girl" and it's a title you rightfully acquired. You are so very special to me. To your daddy. To everyone who knows you. You're one of a kind. I sit and watch you "dance awesome" as you say, or listen to you carry on a coherent and sophisticated conversation and I wonder where my little girl went. It's hard to imagine you were anything different from what you are now. It's hard to believe you were less than 3 pounds in an isolette. It's hard to believe you used to not sleep every night from 8:00 to 7:00 the next morning. (By the way, thank you for being such an awesome sleeper for as long as I can remember...)  It's hard to believe you were a mini-you before you became my mini-me.

I was so excited to learn my special girl was going to have a special girl as a sister. I remember thinking surely lightning wouldn't strike twice, and we were having a boy, but when we found out we were expecting another little girl, my heart nearly exploded from excitement. You somehow always knew. You insisted you were going to have a sister, and you were right. I know you understand bits and pieces, and I know you understand things we don't even realize ourselves, but I still wish you could have your baby sister here. I know you'd take excellent care of her. I know you'd be jealous of her touching your toys. I know you'd protect her to your wit's end. I know you'd kiss her one minute and smack her the next. I know how sisters are. I know how you are. I know how it might not be a factor now, but years later, you'll hurt for not having your sister. I want you to know - if there were anything I could do to give you your sister back - I would have done it a million times over by now. I'm sorry, sweetie. 

I took you to Chahinkapa on Sunday - just the two of us. We had such a blast together. You wanted to ride in the wagon, and I lugged you around to see every single animal and every single display. We had ice cream and you were so stinkin' cute. You remembered what Daddy had said about lightning putting nitrogen in the ground and making the grass greener (A. How does he know this random stuff and B. how on earth do you remember what he randomly knows?) and you commented that's why the grass was so green on the drive down there. You also commented that it was taking too long to get there. Gosh I love you. Even when you complain, it's so stinkin' cute. You wanted to hold my hand so I reached behind to hold your hand as I drove and you suggested we pray. Melt this mommy's heart.... You touched a tortoise at the zoo, after I begged you to trust me that it wouldn't hurt you - I was so proud of you for actually petting it!  After our day together at the zoo we went to the cemetery to see Harlynn's spot and we told her all about everything we saw and did earlier and you told her, "I wish you were here to go wiff us."  We all do. We all wish Harlynn were still here. But Haley - you will always be an amazing big sister to her. It's just in a different way than any of us imagined.

I want you to know, be certain of, and never doubt how very special you are and always will be to me. You are my special girl for a reason. You fill our hearts with joy, you fill our home with so much love and laughter, and you are the bright spot in our lives. We thank God for you every day and the true gift you are to us. You fill our lives with an incredible presence. We are so blessed to be your parents.

I love being silly with you. I love reading you stories. I love your snuggles. I love it when you hug me for no reason at all or tell me you need to tell me a secret, just to whisper "I love you, mama" in my ear. I love you, Haley.  Here's to more snuggles. Here's to more giggles. Here's to more memories.