Thursday, September 29, 2016

I Can't Even Imagine

"I can't even imagine..."

I've heard this hundreds of times from people. Before Lily's diagnosis, I even muttered these words myself. These words are often following an I'm sorry with a sympathetic head tilt. Maybe it's because there's usually a silent void following an I'm sorry because I don't always know how to respond. I can't reply "it's okay" because it's not okay. And "thank you" just sounds weird. So there's this weird silence after I'm sorry and I've learned it's often followed by an "I can't even imagine." 

*Let it be known - it's okay to just say "I'm sorry" and sit in the silence with someone.* 

I have heard this from everyone - from strangers, close friends, even family. I have heard it so often it makes me cringe and it makes me retreat further and further away from people. It has turned close friends into acquaintances.

I get it. I really do. I used to be one of those people who had no idea what to say. I used to be one of those people on the other side feeling so much sympathy for someone who lost their child, but at the same time thanking God that it wasn't me. Thanking God that "I couldn't even imagine" because it was not my broken heart but someone else's.

But to be honest, it puts up a road block between you and me. Because the truth is, if you can't imagine what it's like to walk in my shoes, you can no longer truly know who I am. I'm not the person I once was and I will never be that person again. I am a grieving mom who is living the unimaginable. So if you can't allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to "imagine my pain", then we must sever our ties and go our separate ways.

I remember vividly when I was so tired of hearing "I can't even imagine". I was actually still pregnant with Lily. She was so strong and I could feel her moving constantly. Someone said the obligatory I'm sorry and then the awkward silence led to "I can't even imagine what this must be like!" I wanted to scream, "Yes you can! You have kids! You CAN imagine!" But instead, as Lily kicked me in my rib, all I could muster through my tears and wavering voice was, "Me either. I can't imagine this either." It was true. It didn't matter how many times a doctor explained the diagnosis. It didn't matter what the likely outcome was going to be. It didn't matter what I had read or googled because in that moment, I couldn't imagine my life without her either

Because the truth is, especially if you have children of your own, you can imagine my painYou can look into the eyes of your child/ren and imagine them being taken from you. In that moment, you can put yourself in my shoes. You can imagine never seeing their beautiful eyes open. You can imagine missing every. Single. Milestone. You can imagine the hole in your heart from grieving your child. And most likely, the tears will begin to sting and you will need to catch your breath. It will feel like a giant boulder has been placed on your chest. You won't have the strength or even the desire to move it. It will make you rethink gossiping with anyone about"how long it's been" or "shouldn't she be better now?" You may rethink wondering why I'm not handling my grief as well as you may like me to. Because even though you can't seem to imagine it, the truth is you can. 

I still find myself uttering these words..."I can't believe she's gone. I can't believe I have to trudge through the rest of this life without her." Because honestly, I still can't imagine it and I have been living this unimaginable life for nearly two years.

~ ~ ~

Kellie Soper lives in Arizona and is wife to her amazing husband, Jason. Together they have three beautiful children, one on earth and two sweet, perfect souls in Heaven. Ted is a wild, silly, and rambunctious toddler. Their sweet Lily Frances was born sleeping on November 12, 2014. They learned at their 18 week ultrasound that Lily had a fatal neural tubal defect the doctors said was "incompatible with life." Kellie and Jason both knew Lily was not a "decision", but their precious daughter and they believe her life was of value, no matter what. She carried Lily with love for 42 weeks and 2 days. They miss her every single day, but are grateful for the honor and privilege of being her parents. Their youngest daughter is Clare Therese. She met her big sister in heaven after a few precious months on earth with her family. You can read more about their family on Kellie's blog, Life and Love.

Friday, July 15, 2016

What Ifs and If Onlys

by Alex Hopper

It’s beyond hard not to think about the “What ifs” and “If onlys” after a devastating loss. It may not be the healthiest thing to think about but I think sometimes we just need to let our minds “go there” for a few moments. I think it is better to bring the thoughts to light instead of letting them fester in the dark. 

So here are some of mine:

What if we had tried to start a family sooner? What if it had happened easily for us like it seems to happen for everyone else? What if the pregnancy had been completely normal? What if that ultrasound didn’t show that something was wrong? What if there was no such thing as LUTO? What if the procedure (that was your only chance) had worked like it is supposed to? What if my water didn’t break at 18 weeks?  What if we never heard the terms “fatal fetal diagnosis”, or “incompatible with life”? What if your lungs had developed correctly, despite there being no fluid? What if the steroid injections and bed rest had helped? What if the neonatologist said that intervention would help? What if there was something (anything) that would have helped? What if you had lived?

If only you had lived. If only you had the chance to go to the NICU. If only you could have come home after a long hospital stay (months after birth is infinitely better than never at all). If only we didn’t have to bury our first and only child. If only people could “understand” without having lost a child themselves. If only people didn’t expect a bereaved parent to be back to “normal” after a week. If only there was more compassion and less judgment. If only the rest of the world would grieve along with you. If only others were sensitive to your pain, in spite of their own joy.

And the list could go on forever…..  If you’ve lost a child or someone you dearly love I am sure you could write your own list of infinite what ifs or if onlys - and maybe you should. Write them out or type them up. Then delete the file, or shred it, or burn it…or post it to your blog or share it with a friend (whatever is more healing for you). Show it to everyone or show it to no one. Allow yourself to feel it all and when you’re done give yourself permission to let it go. You will never let go of your love or your grief over whom and what you’ve lost or the memories, but you can let go of the impossible thoughts that only hurt your heart. Instead of thinking about those by-gone what-ifs, try to wonder. Open your mind to wonder who your child would have been and who they would want you to be. There will be pain in the wondering as well, but it is a pain mixed with the joy of your child’s life- no matter how brief. Wonder at the love that makes all the pain worth it, because it is a wonderful love.

~ ~ ~

Alex Hopper is a writer in North Carolina. She is married to her beloved, Trent, and mommy to her angel, Cyrus. Cyrus was diagnosis with a fatal birth defect in the womb at 12 weeks. He was carried with love until he was born at 33 weeks on November 25, 2013. He lived for 1 hour and 9 minutes. His life was short, but his legacy lives on.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Happy Birthday, Eden Olivia

by Megan Coker

So much can happen in a year.

It seems like such a short time ago that you were born into our arms and breathed so deeply, curled your hand around my finger, and left us while lying in your Daddy’s arms. I realize now that carrying you to birth meant switching the weight of making every memory possible with you to the weight of the grief that is making memories that are missing you. And while grief makes the day seem long, it feels like the whole last year has been a blur. How did we get here?

You inspired me. To take the pictures and to write the words. To be a better friend and to defend myself. To be content with a quiet life and to step outside my comfort zone when it’s needed. To be a better wife to your daddy and to let him be a better husband to me. You are my daughter and you taught me more than I ever dreamt about all the things I wanted to teach you myself.

 I miss you, baby bird. It has been three months longer without you in my life than I carried you. How does a person love someone so much after such a brief time? Parenthood is the most instant type of love and I don’t know who I was before you came along. All I know is I’ll never be that person again. I miss you because you made me.

There’s a hole in my life today where you should be- corners of the living room that should house your toys and play yard, a wall in the pink bedroom in the house we moved to where your crib would have fit perfectly, silence where there should be cries and giggles, the empty grocery cart seat I have as I breeze pass every other mother in the world shopping at the exact moment I am, the high chair we don’t ask for when we go out for dinner, the ache in my arms as I wonder how to celebrate this type of first birthday. Your absence is everywhere.

But then, so is your presence. I find you even in the rare moments I’m not looking. Your scent still washes over me unexpectedly in places your body never went, and your face is the centerpiece of my sweetest dreams. I have never had so many friendly birds visit in my yard and I have never heard the name “Eden” in the company of strangers so much. Your body died but your spirit is still alive and even when I don’t notice, you’re there. I wish you could physically hug me and I could see you with my eyes, but I am learning to lean less on the physical proof that you were here and focus on the spiritual proof that you are. I’m thankful for the promise that one day those different types of proof will be one and the same. I’ll hold you again and tell you all the times I just knew it was you, my love.

I always thought that getting to this point would automatically make me equipped to say, “my baby died” and not cry so hard or have panic attacks. I thought one year would give me the time I needed to really know deep grief and then I could move out of the deep end and only wade occasionally. I thought that since it’s expected by everyone else that I act right after only a few months, surely a little more time would be all I need. But here I am one year later and it feels so much like I’m in the movie Groundhog Day. I don’t feel new or “better”. I knew that there is no getting better because I’m not sick, but I didn’t know that every day would just feel the same as it did a year ago. My anxious heart leading up to today felt the same as it did when I was preparing to deliver you. Have I made no progress in healing?

That can’t be right, though. Where there was once a pretty bow wrapped around my writing, there is honesty and rawness. I feel more real about things I never wanted to know, let alone write about. And where family once meant blood, I know that family now means the people you choose. And man, this past year I’ve built up one hell of a family. I have been loved well by people who were once strangers and I have learned to love them well too. I learned what self-care is and I got some help for depression when it came to a point that I could not help myself. I know you’d be proud of me. I’m proud of me... But still, every morning I wake up wondering how in the world I’m going to breathe without you.

One year.

An identity theft.
Two more babies- Errol and Mason.
Three severed relationships.
Four trips to the hospital to photograph your friends.
Five different medications until I found something to work.
Six months old the day after Christmas.
Seven new friends like sisters.
Eight holidays we should have dressed you up for.
Nine times Daddy and I couldn’t be together on your monthly birthday.
Ten times I had to figure out how to answer the question “any kids?”
Eleven times, a full day of your candle being lit.
Twelve months, my little baby girl would have been a whole year old today.

I’m not in the same place I was when you left. But I don’t feel any different either. My love for you has not faded or shifted or calmed. It is still fierce and it still burns- like a seat belt clip on my skin when we come back to the south to visit your grave. It runs through me like fire and it takes me breath away to say your name. I am still in love with being your Mama and I always will be so very grateful that you’re mine. I wish today were different and so I am mourning. But because I love you the same as I would if you were here, I am celebrating too.

I would trade every good thing to have you in my arms. There’s no doubt. But since I cannot, I am so thankful for every mercy we have in this life of grief so far. You have made us so proud- your story is one that people stop and listen to when we tell it. Your story is an opportunity to raise CDH awareness and share the gospel and point them to Jesus. You’re happy, healthy, and in Heaven. What more could a parent ask for when it comes to the well being of her child?

I love you, my sweet. I miss you.

Xoxo, Mama
~ ~ ~

To celebrate Eden’s Birth and Glory Day today, we are asking friends to commit intentional acts of kindness for others in her name, leaving notes or cards telling others about her. She brought the best and most kind people into our lives and we’ll spend the rest of our time while we wait putting that love back into the world. We invite you to join us in this as well.

~ ~ ~

Megan Coker carried Eden Olivia to birth in June 2015 after receiving a diagnosis of a severe Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia in the Bilateral form. Eden lived for 40 minutes. Megan is Ryan’s wife and together they follow his Army career. She has found a way to honor Eden’s short life in capturing the beautiful moments of others through starting her photography business, Eden’s Garden Images. Each day has its new challenges for both Megan and Ryan but they are learning to lean on each other through it and work steadily on strengthening their marriage. Megan finds healing through writing about Eden and remembering their beautiful time together.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day

The most memorable part of my wedding day was the moment I walked up the aisle towards my soon-to-be husband. I had been anxious all morning, but seconds before I walked down the aisle I was filled to the brim with peace. I took my dad's arm and he kissed my cheek. We walked down the aisle to one of my favorite songs. As we got closer to Jason, I noticed he had a huge smile and tears streaming down his face. It was the first time I ever saw him cry.

We planned and planned for months, but nothing prepared me for that moment. Nothing prepared me to see the emotion of that day on his face. In that moment, and so many that have followed, I continue to learn how sensitive and sweet he truly is. And almost four and a half years later, one child here and two in Heaven, it was very telling of the journey we were about to embark upon.

I saw that smile with tears streaming down his cheeks again when our son was born. And just over two years later I saw him cry again.Only this time there was no smile. This time, with a sick and somber face he asked the question I was too scared to, "Is there something wrong with our baby?" Then the answer, and suddenly seeing him bury his face in his hands and weep for our unborn daughter. 

Every dream and hope we had for her stolen from us in that moment. He will never get to take her to daddy/daughter dances. Never coach her in softball or watch her twirl. She will never ride on his shoulders or squeeze his face with her hands. He will never walk her down the aisle to meet her husband.

I grieve and ache for my daughter, but when I think about what my husband has lost too, it's almost too much to bear.

Shortly after Lily's diagnosis, we met with our pastor. He offered his prayers, the support of our church, and two pieces of wisdom I will never forget. 

The first: He told us that we need to remember that we will each grieve differently and that is okay. He said the most important thing is to be aware that we will go through this differently. 

The second: He looked directly at my husband and told him, "You need to talk about this."

We don't talk about child loss nearly as much as we should and we certainly don't talk about the dads much. So often the attention and focus is on the moms, after all we are the ones who carry our babies and for the most part, we may be the ones who visually show our grief.

The dads generally go back to work sooner. They may need to shut off their emotions in order to get through the day. They may put up a strong front to be able to take care of their wife. I'm even guessing people rarely ask them how they are really doing. More often than not, they hear people asking about the moms. I imagine they don't feel like they even have permission to grieve for their child.

The grief of missing Lily didn't really hit me until several months after she died. When the pain meds were gone the fogged finally lifted, and the shock wore off. The waves were washing over me and I could hardly catch my breath. 

And I was mad at my husband. 
Because he wasn't going through it like I was. He seemed fine. He could function. He could go to work. He had normal conversations. I was lying in bed one night while Jason was reading and I just started crying and I couldn't stop. Jason leaned over and held me and these four words he whispered was all I needed to hear, " I miss her too." 

We grieve differently.

I am a writer. I write my pain. I write it down and share it with the world in hopes that it reaches the right people for the right reasons. I get it out of me. Sometimes it pretty and sometimes it's not. I close myself off from the world who doesn't understand me or even tries to. I cry. A lot. 

For Jason, the grief builds and builds. It starts out slow and steady and he can handle it for awhile. And when it gets to be too much, he breaks. He cries. And then he talks. Sometimes to me and sometimes to one of the few people he lets in.

We are getting better at it...if that's possible to "get better" at grief. I can see now when it's getting to be too much for him and a wave is about to hit. Sometimes I know it means we need some "just us" time and sometimes I know he needs to talk to a dude. 

But this is just my husband's story, how he is living this life without his daughter. There are many, many other dads out there who are missing one of their children, or several of their children, or ALL of their children

And they are hurting. Whether they tell you or not. Whether they show it or not. They are hurting. Underneath that strong and brave exterior is a man who just wants to hold his baby again. And play catch with his son. Or give his daughter butterfly kisses.   

But instead, his arms are empty. His eyes may be dry, but his heart is weeping.

Remember him and remember all the dads who we cannot see grieving.

This Father's Day, all of us at All That Love Can Do wish peace and healing to all the brave daddies who did all they could for their children. You are our heroes!

Please come to our Facebook Page to share the name of the father you're honoring today, and, if you'd like, a photo of him with his special baby in heaven <3. 

~ ~ ~

Kellie Soper lives in Arizona and is wife to her amazing husband, Jason. Together they have three beautiful children, one on earth and two sweet, perfect souls in Heaven. Ted is a wild, silly, and rambunctious toddler. Their sweet Lily Frances was born sleeping on November 12, 2014. They learned at their 18 week ultrasound that Lily had a fatal neural tubal defect the doctors said was "incompatible with life." Kellie and Jason both knew Lily was not a "decision", but their precious daughter and they believe her life was of value, no matter what. She carried Lily with love for 42 weeks and 2 days. They miss her every single day, but are grateful for the honor and privilege of being her parents. Their youngest daughter is Clare Therese. She met her big sister in heaven after a few precious months on earth with her family. You can read more about their family on Kellie's blog, Life and Love.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Day of Despair

by Kellie Soper

Some call it their "D-Day". The day they learned of their child's fate. The day they learned that every hope and dream they had for their child was shattered. The day they may have been told their child was "incompatible with life".Or the day someone referred to their child as an "option" and no longer a person. The day they received the diagnosis that shattered their world as they once knew it.

Our D-Day was two years ago. At times it feels like yesterday, but mostly it feels like an eternity since that day. I honestly can barely remember what life was like before that day two years ago. 

But I can remember very clearly every single moment of that day. Every insignificant detail, every feeling that I felt.

It started out as a great day. My son Ted had been sick all week and he was finally feeling better. Our dear friends' daughter was just born the day before. Our other dear friends were getting married the next day. Sandwiched in between was our "routine" anatomy scan. I was so excited to see our baby again. I had no feelings, no intuitions that anything was wrong. In fact, I felt wonderful...on top of my world just before it crumbled below me.

Jason had the afternoon off so we were going to have a late lunch date after. On the way to our appointment, we were trying to decide where we wanted to eat and talking about how much fun our friends' wedding would be the next day. We were in much need of a date night.

thought our "routine" anatomy scan was going normal. I couldn't remember the "order" of Ted's ultrasound to know if this was the same or not. It didn't phase me at all that we hadn't seen our child's profile. We saw ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes. Two lungs and two kidneys. And we saw our baby's heart...four chambers, beating perfectly and beating strong. In a few minutes, I would learn for the first time that a perfect and strong beating heart wouldn't be enough.

Then the doctor came in and shared with us a word that I barely knew and immediately became my greatest fear realized. I learned what the word anencephaly would mean for my family. I learned that every hope and dream I had for my child was stolen from me.

And then I learned the real meaning of despair. It's the complete loss or absence of hope. 

That's where I was two years ago...completely hopeless, utter despair. I thought I knew heartache before. I thought I knew what it was like to lose someone you loved. Really, I didn't know at all...not until this moment, two years ago. 

True despair. 

We drove home in silence. The only sounds were our tears and trying to catch our breath. We laid on our bed together and just cried. I told Jason I was so sorry this was happening to him. It made him cry even more. 

After awhile he left to call his parents and pick up Ted at our friends' house. I can only imagine how hard it was for him to go pick him up and tell our friends by himself. 

I just laid there sobbing and praying. Over and over, I begged God to not make me do this. I begged Him and begged Him to take her then. I didn't think I could endure the next five months. 

Two years later and I can't even begin to explain to you the guilt I carry for ever thinking that, let alone screaming it out loud. But that's where despair leads you. That's what the absence of hope looks like. 

Even after her birth, even after the day I held her for the last time, even after my last kiss on her cheek and seeing her in this life forever...even after all of those moments, I can honestly say, nothing compares to the despair of her diagnosis.

It was the worst day of my life. 

I cried every single day for weeks. 

Slowly, somehow, by the grace of God and prayers, every day, little by little, I was able to pick myself up a little bit. We talked to our priest. We met with another family who had faced the same diagnosis and survived. We had unbelievable support from family and friends. We learned the very definition of community.

As the months passed, the despair still lingered, but it was overpowered by graceThe grace of God wins every time when you choose life. After the hardest two years of my life, I believe that whole-heartedly. It was never strength, it was always grace.

Grace reminded me that my daughter was a precious gift no matter what. She deserved every chance of life possible. She is not a definition, she is not an option, she is not despair. She is a person. She is my daughter. 

While these past two years have been harder than I imagined, I have no regrets and I would not change anything. I would have given anything to save her, but I would never trade her for another. She is unrepeatable and irreplaceable. She is my precious daughter.

I have learned more and grown more in these past two years than all my years combined. I have learned some hard lessons about how people close to you deal with your grief. I have learned that my family is more amazing than I ever dreamed they could be. I have learned that the world keeps moving despite your constant pain. I have learned my husband is the most compassionate and sensitive man I have ever known and my love for him today far exceeds the day we were married. I have learned how cruel this world really is and I am grateful Lily does not have to experience it. I have learned to never take a single day for granted. I wake up every single morning thanking God for another day with my family all the while longing for glimpses of Lily. 

More than anything else, I have learned that Lily is worth every second of heartache I will face for the rest of my life. I love that she is my daughter. 

Holding her in my arms helped me let go of the despair. Kissing her cheeks filled my heart with so much love it could burst. Memorizing her perfect hands and feet carries me through each day. Remembering how much love and peace filled the room when she was born makes it all worth it.

I am not the same person I was two years ago, I'm not even close. But the truth is, I don't want to be that person again because that would mean I missed out on experiencing a love that was so perfect and so pure. All she knew was love. I would have missed out on knowing Lily and loving Lily and that alone is worth a life time of heartache.

~ ~ ~

Kellie Soper lives in Arizona and is wife to her amazing husband, Jason. Together they have three beautiful children, one on earth and two sweet, perfect souls in Heaven. Ted is a wild, silly, and rambunctious toddler. Their sweet Lily Frances was born sleeping on November 12, 2014. They learned at their 18 week ultrasound that Lily had a fatal neural tubal defect the doctors said was "incompatible with life." Kellie and Jason both knew Lily was not a "decision", but their precious daughter and they believe her life was of value, no matter what. She carried Lily with love for 42 weeks and 2 days. They miss her every single day, but are grateful for the honor and privilege of being her parents. Their youngest daughter is Clare Therese. She met her big sister in heaven after a few precious months on earth with her family. You can read more about their family on Kellie's blog, Life and Love.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hyrum's Story, by his Mama

A Life Well Lived, By Ashley Wiltbank

​I've heard many people say that the year they lost their child was the worst year of their lives. I refuse to make that true for me. 2016 has already been the best year of my life. A year I'll remember forever. It's the year I got to witness and hold a miracle. A gift directly from God. Proof that He is real, and that He loves me. In 2016, He gave me Hyrum.

Technically, our journey with Hyrum started in 2015. On December 7, 2015, when we were referred it a perinatalogist, after my OB saw fluid on our baby's brain and bright spots on his heart. Maybe I was oblivious or na├»ve, either way, we were not at all expecting the tech to turn to us and say that she "saw what your OB saw, and I see a lot of other issues too". She then went on to list nearly every major organ system and the problems she saw in each one. I don't think I really processed what it meant until after several hours of more testing, when the genetic counselor told us that our baby would most likely be stillborn, and that if he wasn't, the odds of him making it to his first birthday were less than 8%. She said if she were me, she would terminate the pregnancy.

Luckily, when we met the MFMS, he was much more positive. He didn't bring up termination, and although the prognosis for our sweet unborn baby was still grim, he encouraged us to make the most of our time with our son. We were introduced to a perinatal palliative care nurse, Berdette. She told us that our son's life was going to be brief, but that it was still within our power to make his life wonderful.

A friend brought us this picture by the artist Simon Dewey, not long after we got the diagnosis. We knew that Hyrum's place in our family had meaning and that God had a plan for him. And we knew most of all, as our daughter said, "Jesus is going to take care of our baby!" The title of the painting is "In His Constant Care". It brought us so much comfort.
It was undeniable that God was sending us a valiant, noble little spirit! We'd tossed around the idea of naming him Hyrum, and after finding out that it means "noble", "whiteness", "borrowed" and "my brother is exalted", we decided that that would be the perfect name for our kids to call their brother!

Some days during my pregnancy were SO hard. I was so discouraged, and so sad. But I'm so grateful that most of the days were actually pretty good! In taking Berdette's words to heart, we tried to make the most of our time with our son. Every day I got to wake up and feel him kicking felt like a gift from Heaven. We took time to get to know him. Our other three kids loved to feel him kick them! We would sing to him every night,
"Godspeed little man, sweet dreams little man, oh my love will fly to you each night on angel's wings, Godspeed, sweet dreams".  

I felt more confident, more loved when Hyrum was alive inside of me. I felt so honored to get to carry this beautiful little soul and have him literally be a part of me. I just knew he was so pure. Too pure for this earth. Strong impressions told me before I ever even saw him that he accepted this body and this short life, that his heart is not set on the vain things of this world. He's pure and perfect enough to serve his purpose without having to be physically with us.

I tried so hard to listen to the things I knew Hyrum was trying to teach me. I've never had such a sure knowledge of a loving Heavenly Father. I've never had such love for the people around me. I've never been more motivated to be a good person. I've never been so grateful to see the sunrise, sunset, blue sky, rainy days, cold days, bright days and dark days. I wanted to spend as much happy time as I could with my kids. I wanted Hyrum to hear his siblings and hear our happy voices and know he was part of a family who loved each other and loved him.

Some days I failed miserably. Some days fear and stress consumed me. But my noble little Hyrum motivated me to press forward. I wanted to make his life beautiful.

We felt like every person we met while I was pregnant with Hyrum, from our doctor to our photographer to the random stranger who paid for my prenatal vitamins at Safeway one day, was intricately placed in our path. I never knew such amazing, compassionate people existed, willing to do such grand acts of service for complete strangers. My husband made the comment that if Hyrum had lived, these would be the types of people he would associate with and bring into our lives. And even though his time was short, he still brought them to us!

I'd given birth three times before, and each birth experience was beautiful in its own way, but nothing could compare to the overwhelming feelings of love, peace and the presence of Heaven in the room when Hyrum was born. He didn't cry or move for several minutes after he came out, but I knew him immediately, and I loved him immediately. The second I saw his face was the first time on this journey that I ever experienced denial. I thought to myself, "They said something was going to be wrong with him. Lethally wrong. You can't hand me a baby this perfect and tell me he's not going to live!" He was perfect!
Sadly, my denial met reality just 3 1/2 hours later. Hyrum waited patiently for everyone to go home, then passed peacefully in my arms.

We were given everything we had hoped for his life. We were able to give him a name and a blessing. He was welcomed and loved by his siblings. His grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all came to meet him. We swaddled him and snuggled him and sang to him. He got a birthday cake and we got lots of pictures. But he continues to give us so much more than we ever could've imagined!

Everything that I felt when I was pregnant with Hyrum has come back ten fold now that he's passed on. I want to be a better person, and I'm throwing myself out of my comfort zone to try to be a person worthy to call herself Hyrum's mom. Every little thing reminds me of him and how I want to do everything I can to get back to him. I want to be a better mom, better wife, better friend. I want to be closer to God, and in doing so, I grow closer to Hyrum. I look for people's souls now. Not their mortal vessels. I know that's what Hyrum would do. That's what he's taught me to do. I want to share God's love, because that's what Hyrum did for me.

Just like when I was pregnant, some days I fail miserably. At times, he pain and the emptiness is more unbearable than I ever could have imagined. The dark days are darker, but the bright days are brighter, and even though it's been less than two months, there have been days that have been completely bright, with no darkness in sight.

Some people live their whole lives not knowing their purpose, without living for anyone else. Hyrum did that with three hours. He has shown me that life, and what you do with your life MATTERS! You don't have to make millions or cure cancer, sometimes the simplest things, the simplest beings change the world around them. We've had so many people tell us about how Hyrum has changed them too. I know that that is part of his purpose. As much as I sometimes want to have him to myself, I know he was meant to be shared and to touch others.

D&C 18:15 says, "And if it so be that you should labor all your days...and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!"

I know Hyrum is there! His life was short but he lived it for us, and especially for me. He labored through his short life to bring others to God. I know his joy is great and that he's waiting for me to do my part to meet him there. Hyrum has shown me my purpose. He's taught me that I can have everything I've ever wanted out of my life, and that the things I truly want are not the things of this world. I'm not perfect, but I'm progressing and the thought of holding Hyrum again someday pushes me every day.

I've just begun to open up a world and a part of myself that I never knew existed. I wish I could've learned these things another way, but I'm forever honored that Hyrum is the one who was willing to come teach me.

Godspeed Little Man! Sweet Dreams Little Man!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

7 Things I Wish I'd Known

“Your son will not be able to survive outside the womb.”  Those are words that I will never forget.  The day my entire life changed.  Knowing your child can’t survive, and each day could be your child’s last.  Your dreams and wishes turn from watching them grow up to just wanting to see them breath, to cry just one time.
What I wouldn’t have given for a list of what to do. I looked, but people don’t tell you what to do after a fetal fatal diagnoses.  They don’t give advice, most people don’t even know what to say.  These are the top 7 things I wish someone would have told me soon after my son’s fetal fatal diagnosis.

  1. No matter what choice you make, it is the right one.  That feeling of not knowing what to do, and how to handle things, that’s okay.  Make your choices out of love, as a mother or father.  You know it’s the best choice because you are doing it out love.  Let your love guide you, and then all your choices will be correct.

  1. Guard your relationships (marriage, significant other).  Grief is hard, and people grieve very differently (see below) that is not uncommon to rip relationships apart.  Remember to take care of you and your spouse.  Lean on each other, and understand that the anger is not towards him/her but towards your new reality.  A reality that no parent wants to find themselves in.

  1. We all grieve differently.  Way, way differently.  While I wanted to barely drag myself out of bed (and some days it was my 2 year old making me get out of bed), my husband wanted to go back to work as soon as possible.  While I cried over everything, he would just say, it’s going to be okay.  It didn’t mean he loved our son any less, just simply that he grieved differently.  It was very hard some days to deal with the way he grieved.  I wanted to yell often at him, why do you not love our son as much as me?  Why do you not care?  I knew though, I knew that he did care.   He did love him just as much as me.  He just grieves differently.  He grieves with distractions, and I grieve with giving myself alone time and being able to talk it out.

  1. Make as many memories as you can, while your child is still here.  Just because you won’t be able to take your child to the zoo when they come into this world, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t now. Make those memories now.  I took my son to as many basketball games as possible.  He loved them, he would jump up and down and go nuts every time.  That is a memory that I can always cherish.

  1. Take as many pictures as possible!  I know a lot of women hate to have their picture taken, especially when they are pregnant.  Take a moment and remove how you feel about your body and remember the love you are carrying.  The sweet child you are carrying.  You can even just capture your belly at places you would like to make memories with your child.  

  1. It is okay to be scared.  It is totally normal to be scared of letting the ones closes to you out of your sight.  Those worse case scenarios going through your mind.  That is your fear and reality trying to sort out this new reality your life has entered.

  1. You are NEVER actually ready. There were days that I thought I was ready, I was doing everything I could to prepare myself for the day my son would come into this world.  I knew he may come into this world alive with very short time or already passed.  I did everything I could to prepare for that day, but I wasn’t ready.  I couldn’t have prepared for that day, and that is okay.  I was not prepared to say good bye.  I was not prepared to walk out empty handed, and that was okay.  I just took it moment by moment.
When your reality becomes something that you were not prepared for, it becomes hard for you to function.  The basic functions of life become priority, and your brain tells you the rest isn’t important.  I wish I could remember every second I had with him, but the memories come in waves.  Sometimes the sadder memories engulf me, but as time passes the beautiful memories surface more often to bring joy to my heart. No amount of preparation would have gotten me ready for the day I had to say goodbye, but with a little guidance and a lot of support, that painfully joyful day was manageable.
~ ~ ~

Dana Thompson is the founder and photographer for The Angelfish Project, a blogger at To Carry Love and a middle school teacher. Dana is the wife to Roderick and they have three children: Elexander, who is four, Tristan, who has been with the Lord since February 14, 2014, and Adalynn, their 1year old. Dana loves playing with her children, watching Roderick coach football games, photography, teaching, and cooking.
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