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.
Powered by Blogger.
Design by Luminous Light Studio | All Rights Reserved