Aug 31

Be Still

There is something that I lucked up on and that’s my dad. He is a wise one that is for sure. I remember when I was growing up that something would happen or I would get in trouble or something, and he would say, “You see Ked… this reminds me of a story in the Bible.” My brilliant, over-confident teenage self would be like, “Here we go again!”. I have learned to listen more as he starts to speak. My dad isn’t always the first to speak, but when he does speak up, most of the time it’s worth listening to.

Here’s a visual of the old vet for those of you out there who need one. I am definitely one of those, so I try to be considerate of that need from time to time. Anyways, back to the point, shortly after things settled down a little with Mary Anna, and Dan and I were at home more, my dad called one day to give us a little tidbit of his wisdom. He said that he was listening to a sermon or remembered one or something, and it was talking about being still. So, he challenged us to go sit in the nursery and just be still. Dan and I had been walking by the nursery and glancing in here and there, but the thought of going and just sitting in our empty nursery, ok old man, are you kidding me?! Being the good obedient child that I am, I said, “o.k. D let’s go do this.” Dan and I walked up the stairs and around the corner with the dogs and just sat down. We both proceeded to just sob. Then slowly after the crying stopped, we began to smile and laugh a little. It was a very healing moment.

The kicker is that I am a very stubborn person. I tend to need to hear things a few times before I actually do them and not think that I know best. I would go in there from time to time and try to be still, but I did not want to really be still. It wasn’t about just being still in the nursery, it was about being still period. So, in true fashion, I went to lunch on Mary Anna’s due date with a dear friend and her sweet mommy. They called to love on me that day a little, and as soon as I got there, they asked me lots of things about Mary Anna. I will never forget her mom at one point saying, “You know Kari, after what I have been through, I learned that sometimes you just need to slow down and be still and just listen to the Lord.”. It hit me. I was keeping myself busy with so many things that were masked as good or necessary things that I was not letting myself just be still.

This morning I wanted to write something before the business of the day began, and nothing worthwhile was coming to mind. I hopped in the shower, and I kept hearing in my head, “Just be still Kari.” For the first time to date, I listened and grabbed my Bible and went and sat in the nursery and read:

God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear.
The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.     Selah
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
Be still, and know that I am God;
The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.     Selah
Psalms 46: 1-2a,7,9a,10a,11
Hopefully most of you are not as stubborn as I am and you listen the first time, but it finally hit me today to just be still. Also, while reading, I learned that twice in the passage, we’re told that the Lord is with us and our fortress. Not once, but twice, so I guess that means it’s pretty important. I think we tend to get so busy no matter what our storms are in life, and we forget to just listen. Thankfully my wise daddy told me once and my heavenly Father reminded me today that sometimes that is exactly what we need to be doing.

Aug 27

Rewind

I realize that I have not explained much of what happened before Mary Anna was born. This is a sensitive post, and I have debated it over and over again. I felt like some of the current does not make sense without a little history, so here it goes!

Before we found out about our baby girl, we had two miscarriages. A sweet friend at our church encouraged us to see someone to make sure that something was not wrong. We were very wounded and scared after what the past few months had brought us, but we reluctantly made an appointment with a specialist. After much testing, we were waiting on results, and I will never forget that phone call, “Umm, we have some news…” pause… heart pounding… “You’re pregnant!”. What? I started crying in Tractor Supply Company *again don’t judge, d is in vet school and needed some coveralls, so ya know, it is what it is! , and Dan of course was so confused, so I hung up the phone and told him the news. “D, we are pregnant!” We were so shocked, and we found out that as far as they knew there was no reason for the miscarriages. The only thing the specialist saw was a possible blood clotting issue, so he put me on blood thinning shots. Dan had to give me a shot every night in my stomach. They watched me very closely for the first 10 weeks, and then the specialist released me to my regular doctor. My regular OBGYN felt like the shots were a little unnecessary,so  He sent us to UAB for a second opinion, and they agreed and took me off of them. It was not a big deal at all, but it, as usual, was another complication.

After we made it past 12 weeks, we felt like we were in the clear. Our second miscarriage was at 11 1/2 weeks, so we kept our lips sealed until the second trimester. Everything was looking great, and we went in for our gender appointment, and it went downhill again. They told us that our baby had cysts in her brain, and that something was wrong with her lower leg/foot. Again, our hearts were broken. The lady asked us if we still wanted to know the gender, and we said absolutely, so she told us that it was a girl! I was the happiest and saddest that I had ever been at that moment. They ushered us down the hall to confirm the findings with our OB. We began to sob, and our wonderful Dr. assured us that it was no big deal and that the cysts were common, and that her leg could be fixed.

He recommended us to see a specialist, so we made another trip to UAB. I will NEVER forget that day. We sat down, and they did the ultrasound, and the doctor began to give us a laundry list of all the things that could be wrong. He told us that the findings could be isolated, or they could be linked to something. The next part was when we lost it. He told us that we had two options. We could continue to monitor her closely, or with the risks he encouraged us to consider an abortion. WHAT! Thank you for the offer to kill my baby girl, but no thank you, I think we will pass. Needless to say we kindly said that no matter what, abortion was never an option for us, and we will carry our Mary Anna as long as the Lord wills. I do not remember much more of that day except feeling completely numb. Thankfully sweet Dan is medically minded and smart, so he continued listening to the doctor, while I checked out mentally and went back to being numb.

We got into the car, and I did not speak for about an hour. If you know me, you know that is pretty unreal for me to be silent. I am usually the one who won’t take a breath, so Dan was a little concerned. As we began to process things, we realized that we would believe in our baby girl and pray for healing. It was still very much an option that everything was isolated, so we chose to move forward in full faith. We continued on the next few months going back at forth between our regular OBGYN and the specialists. Her cysts indeed did go away, and she was doing wonderful. All of her organs looked normal, and there was nothing physically wrong except her little leg. We finally were released by UAB to continue our visits in Auburn.

Our doctor recommended us finding a pediatrician and going over these findings with him about her little leg, so we began to move forward with plans. We met with him, and he assured us again that it was very common. She was doing so good that we had nothing to fear besides a few visits with a pediatric orthopaedic, and maybe a few trips back and forth to Birmingham to fix her leg. About a month before she was born, they did a follow-up ultrasound at our OBGYN’s office in Auburn. They decided at that time that she was very small for her size, so they wanted to again keep a close eye on her. Each week I would have an ultrasound and a non-stress test. She was passing everything with flying colors and gaining weight slowly.

One Monday morning in July we got up for our usual weekly check-up at 33 weeks, and during Mary Anna’s non-stress test, she had a dip in her heartbeat. We were sent to the local hospital for further monitoring. I remember telling Dan, “Call my mom so she knows whats going on, but tell her not to freak out that everything was fine.” My mom freaked out of course! During the prolonged time on the monitors that watched her heartbeat, they found that she would have intermittent dips. Basically her heart rate would drop, but everything else was doing so good that they did not want to deliver that early unless they had further proof that they needed to.

Saturday, July 13, after spending 5 nights in the hospital on complete bed rest (yes, we were mentally going crazy by this point), they decided to send us to UAB by ambulance in fear that they would have to deliver soon. I kept telling the doctors that if they were going to deliver early that I really wanted to be transferred, because our local hospital did not have a NICU. I did not want to be separated from her after she was born, and because she was so small, they were pretty sure she would have to have some special attention after birth. We had our first ambulance ride to Birmingham, and we were starting to get excited. They told me that once I made it to 34 weeks, that besides her weight, we were safe to deliver, so we anticipated that she was coming soon! We again were monitored closely, and you can read her birth story here.

You have to know that we wrestled through this whole pregnancy. I told Dan time after time, that I felt like we kept getting kicked in the ribs (figuratively, not literally). It was like after our first miscarriage, we were really sad, but it was very early and very common, so when we got pregnant again two months later, we were thrilled. Then we got kicked again by our second miscarriage. Again, we were more like devastated after this one, but we got pregnant three months later, so we were feeling a little more positive. Once Mary Anna was named and we started preparing for her arrival, we just knew that she was going to be worth it all. She was worth it all, but I remember telling Dan shortly after she went to heaven, “Dang-it, why did we get kicked again.” We clung to the hope the whole time that she was fine.

Our baby girl was perfect. She was beautiful and a gift. Every time I look back at the 8 months leading up to her arrival, I see a lot of tears, stress, and pain. We have yet to have an easy, fun pregnancy, but absolutely, we would do it again and again if it meant we got to meet our princess. The Lord protected our hearts by helping us to choose to keep walking and believe in her. If we had known the outcome, I do not know what we would have done or how things would have been different, but I am thankful everyday that we did not know. When Mary Anna was born, we had nothing but complete joy and confidence in our hearts.

 Obviously there are so many details to our story that I could not write without writing a complete book, but the one thing I hope to convey is that our journey so far yes, has been very hard, but it has been worth it all. Being Mary Anna’s mommy is the biggest accomplishment of my life so far, and I am so thankful for who she is and the mountains that she is moving. We would pray this over her every night before she was born:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Psalms 139: 13-16

We prayed this over her while she was in the hospital:

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Psalms 20: 7
If you make the Most High your dwelling
-even the Lord, who is my refuge-
then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways…
Psalms 91: 9-11
Aug 26

Must Love Dogs

Apparently today is National Dog Day, and there is one thing for sure in our house, and that is that we love dogs. My dad is a veterinarian, so growing up being an animal lover was a requirement. When Dan and I started dating at the spry age of 16, I knew he was a winner when I learned about his love for animals! Now, I did make the mistake of saying that I would never marry a veterinarian *not that I do not love vets or my dad or anything like that… I don’t know why I said that… I was 16 , and here I am, married to a vet to be. Anyways, back to the point of the day, We have two dogs that we love dearly.

Marley:
named after Bob Marley
don’t judge, d was 18 when he named her
no, not named after the book
7 years old
grouchy at times
not a very good sharer of her things
lover of water
not a big eater
very loyal
likes her brother, sometimes?
sleeps by our bed every night
yellow lab
carries her duck
still growls at the mailman, ooops

 Fish Camp:
the ultimate trash dog
he adopted us, then we adopted him
named this as a joke, but it stuck
a cuddle machine
lover of water
lover of food
lover of people
lover of basically life
a pointer mix of sorts
loves his big sister
2 years old
cute as a button
loyal like her sister

Needless to say, for many years our puppies were our children. They still are, but sorry pups, Mary Anna jumped you both in the rankings! After everything happened, the one thing that we wanted more than anything was to see our dogs. We let them break all the rules, and we still kinda are, oh well. I think we broke a rule today when they each got an Oreo at lunch, ooops again! The fact of the matter is that dogs are good medicine. They are a factor of our healing too, and they will never know how much joy that they bring us. If you aren’t a dog lover, then I would give it a try. They are life changers for sure. Well better run, Fish Camp is whining for dinner.

Aug 26

Moving On

I remember the days after Mary Anna went to heaven saying to Dan, “I DO NOT WANT TO MOVE ON.”. So many people would say things like, “It will get better.” or “You will move on from this.”, and the thought of moving on was all sorts of wrong in my head. It has taken me a lot of time to understand what “moving on” meant. I do not know what it means for everyone or exactly what people meant when they would say those things, but I am slowly learning what that means for me.

I did not want to move on, because I thought that moving on meant forgetting her or losing her or not allowing her to be a part of us. What I realize is that I can slowly let my guard down, love others, open my heart back up to babies, be vulnerable with my friends, go in public, etc. When I do those things, I can still carry her with me. Getting back to my new normal or moving on as some would say, does not mean letting my baby girl go, it just means that it’s o.k. to laugh again or enjoy life again.

Now as I do those things, I see that I still do not look at the world the same or enjoy all the same things, and I certainly do not do anything without thinking of Mary Anna. All of this is a process, and as so many people say to me, “I just don’t know what to do or say”. I tend to laugh at times and want to say, “UHH Do you think I know what to do or say!!”. Sometimes as the world keeps moving I feel so lost in all of the shuffle, but slowly I learn to just be thankful that I was given such a blessing and learn to join in the shuffle little by little. I am learning how to keep walking just as much as the people around us are learning how to keep walking with us.

Aug 25

He did it again…

Like I wrote last Sunday, it’s still hard to walk into church each week. The worship was sweet this morning, and each word that I sing about my Savior heals my heart a little bit more. I was doing good and feeling strong until I heard the strums on the guitar to “Holy, Holy, Holy”. I did not have a bulletin, so I had no idea to look forward to another song that was hard for us. We sang it the day we baptized her, at our wedding, and we also sang it at her Celebration Service. Have you really read the words to that beautiful hymn lately?

  1. Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
    Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
    Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
    God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
  2. Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
    Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
    Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
    Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.
  3. Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee,
    Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
    Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
    Perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.
  4. Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
    All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
    Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
    God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

As usual, the tears started flowing, and I yearned for my Mary Anna. I know the day she passed the angels greeted her in heaven singing this very song. I just know it. A friend texted me last Sunday and said that she was thinking of Dan and I. As she walked into church they started singing “Holy, Holy, Holy”, so she stopped and prayed for us.

I do not know much, but what I do know is that my Mary Anna made and is making a difference. Also, I know that things do not just happen. There is a creator behind everything that happens, and each step is ordained long before us. At times that is hard to comprehend, but right now, I know I would rather trust than not.

Mary Anna taught me how to love Jesus.
She taught me how to pray.
My baby girl taught me how to desire heaven.
She taught me what a rainbow truly means.
My princess taught me how to approach the throne of grace with humility.
She taught me how to rely on Christ alone.
Mary Anna changed me.

Our pastor ended the sermon today with these words: grace + truth + time. That is what we are doing right now. We are clinging to the grace given to us, resting in the truth, and letting time heal our hearts.

















Aug 23

Today

Today is August 23 to most people, but to me this is my Mary Anna’s due date. I have anticipated this date for months with so much expectation and joy. The last 6 weeks have caused me to dread today. I have wanted to erase it off the calendar and just move on. Unfortunately that is not an option. darn.

I kept wondering what I would feel or do or write about today, and I still do not know the answer to that question. I am pretty sure I am numb again. Dan got up to head to school, and I checked my phone, and I had a text that read:

His mercies are new each morning… even today… I love you
That is a good best friend who sent me that at 5 am, so that I would wake up to the truth. I probably otherwise would have wanted to doubt his mercies today, but thankfully I can hear her in my head saying that over and over again. 
I started writing a letter in my head to Mary Anna last night, and I could not find the words to say except this:
Mary Anna,
Good Morning Sunshine. I remember when my mom held you and sang, “you are my sunshine my only sunshine”. I wish I could sing that you, and you could see those lyrics hanging over your bed. Your BB and Doc gave you the prettiest picture that said that the day we found out that you were a girl. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you.
Love,
your mommy
I do not understand any of this. What I do know is that on July 14, I did get my sunshine, my only sunshine, and no one can take that sunshine away. I will miss my little Mary Anna forever.
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:12-13
Aug 22

Sign

We had a celebration service for Mary Anna on Saturday, July 20, at our church. It was such a precious celebration of her life, and I will write the details about that later. The women in our church decided they wanted to have a reception afterwards, because there would be so many people coming from out of town. A family that we love dearly in Auburn and have “adopted” us into their family offered to host. It was wonderful to get to visit with so many dear friends and family and eat a home cooked meal.

I honestly had little to no appetite, but finally I sat down to eat a few bites. Right after I took a few bites, my dad stuck his head in from outside and said, “Hey Ked, I want you to come see something”. *Ked is what my dad calls me. I walked outside, and it was unreal. There was a rainbow starting to form. It had barely rained that day. As everyone slowly starting walking outside the rainbow starting peeking through the clouds more and more. Then slowly you could see a second rainbow and the moon in the middle. I stood there in awe of the Lord’s promises, and I could not help but wonder if my Mary Anna drew that rainbow for us.

Tears rolled down my face, and Dan and I just stood there holding onto the truth that our baby girl was healed and in heaven. Even though we were so numb and broken, she was made new. One of our friends snapped this shot:

The night sky started covering up the rainbow, and it began to just slowly get dark and the rain started to drizzle again. We said goodbye to some people, and we went back inside to reminisce on the day with some friends. It was such a sweet time of sharing Mary Anna’s story with my friends in Auburn who I barely had time to speak to, because they were all working so hard to make the service and dinner perfect. I cannot sing their praises enough. It was perfect. The boys played ping pong, and the girls curled up on the couches and drank wine together. They laughed and cried with me as I told them the details of the 4 little days that we had with Mary Anna.

Finally we decided to call it a night, and I checked my phone for the first time. As I clicked it on, I had text messages galore, and most of them were pictures of the rainbow from all over the state. Everyone was seeing the same thing we were as they were driving home. It was clear that rainbow was a gift for us. So we knew that we had to Keep Walking.

Aug 21

Empty

I just opened my email, and in my inbox was a devotional titled, “Running on Empty”. I thought to myself, “that is exactly how I feel”. The best way to describe my emotions is empty. You see, everything I do, I imagine how different things would be if Mary Anna was still here. So basically everything I do, I feel empty on the inside. Sometimes my brain looks a little like this:

i think i’ll do some laundry now….
walk to the laundry room…
i don’t feel like that…
so maybe i will wash some dishes..
start washing dishes…
i want to be washing bottles and breast pump parts not this stupid bowl…
o.k. get it together Kari…
i think i will write a thank you note…
ugh how do i say thank you for a car seat when my baby passed away…
i could write a blog…
why am i even blogging…
i need to make my blog pretty but i do not know how….
maybe i will call a friend…
maybe i am crazy…
i think i am crazy…
surely this is unreal…
nope. this. is. very. real.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains- where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121: 1-2
Aug 18

Closure

The morning after Mary Anna passed, we had another hard hurdle to jump. We had to make arrangements. Dan was certain that he wanted to cremate her, but I just could not decide. We started thinking about burial sites, and since we do not know where our forever home will be and a few other factors, we decided to have a Celebration Service and to have her cremated.

The Lord went before us as He had for every step. Dan called a local funeral home in Auburn to tell him our plans. When Dan told the owner what had happened and what we wanted, the guy said, “there is no charge… I am not out to make money off of children. I have children of my own and I am so sorry”. Dan hung up the phone and with tears rolling down his face he told me what the guy said. What a blessing. Little did he know that Dan is still in school and money is very tight, and we had no way to prepare for this financially. We are forever grateful for each person that has blessed us along the way.
We also decided that after her service that we wanted to bring her ashes to the beach to scatter. The beach is our happy place. In May, we came down for a week for our family vacation. While D and I were sitting by the water on Mothers Day, I felt Mary Anna kick for the first time. It just seemed right to stand at the shore and get some earthly closure by spreading her little ashes there. This weekend we did that. Yesterday was one month from when she went to heaven, so at sunset we finally did it. Again, it was closure yes, but it just all felt so wrong to be standing and opening a bag containing our baby girl.
Lord, give us strength where we have none.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
Lamentations 3: 22-24
We will wait for you Lord, and we will Keep Walking.
Aug 17

Heaven

I woke up today thinking about the fact that Mary Anna went to heaven a month ago. Yesterday was a hard day anticipating today. I was thinking how I just wrote her one month letter to her, and we are already at the one month of her death. It’s just too soon.

The day Mary Anna went to be with Jesus and be made new was a heavy day, that I hope no one else has to experience. We woke up and had to make the decision to take our daughter off the ventilator or to allow her to continue to suffer. So many people say they could not have made the decision that we did, and I always say that I promise if you were in the same position that you would do the same thing. You see, when our baby girl was born she was healthy, tiny, but healthy. When she started showing signs of being sick, she went down hill fast. If you ever have to watch your child in that state and had the opportunity to allow them to be made new, I promise, you would do it too. We weren’t strong that day, but The Lord and all the people praying for us gave us strength.

We woke up that morning in the hospital room, and Dan and I decided that before she passed that we wanted to baptize her. We called our pastor and told him what the update was, and he said. “I will get a baptism together, and I will be there soon”. Keep in mind, we were about two hours away at UAB at the time. While we were waiting, we showered and quickly went down to the NICU to be with our girl. The sweet nurse let me change her diaper and lotion her little body. I knew it would probably be the last diaper that I would change and the only time that I would get to lotion her little body. These things most moms take for granted, but for me it was precious, because it was all I had. Then, the pediatrician came in and confirmed that Mary Anna had Trisomy 18. We knew it before he even said it, but the diagnosis was devastating. He told us that she would not live, and even though we were prepared for that, it hurt so bad. I cannot put into words the emptiness that I felt as I looked at my baby. I looked at Dan and said, “How do we do this?”, and he quietly said, “I do not know.” We wept together.

Our pastor arrived with some close friends from church, and some other friends and family arrived from our home town. The nurses got Mary Anna ready to take her off the ventilator, and they put the dress on her that we were supposed to take her home from the hospital in. The very same dress that I came home from the hospital in 26 years ago. They handed me Mary Anna, and slowly one by one the people walked in. Our pastor, Rick, who was wonderful through Mary Anna’s little life handed out the words to “Holy, Holy, Holy”. I looked at Dan, and we wept again. Rick did not know it but we sang that song at our wedding. It was so special. We sang together, and at that moment it was a glimpse of what Mary Anna was about to see as she entered the gates of heaven. The saints and angels would be singing those very words. It was almost too much to handle. After Rick baptized her in Jesus name, each person hugged us and our baby girl, and they left the room.

Dan and I spent the last few hours holding and singing to our baby girl. We soaked up every part of her little body. We kissed her, held her hands, and rubbed her little toes. We sang “Amazing Grace” and “When the Night is Falling” to her, and we read her Psalms. We told her how much we loved her over and over again. I will never forget those moments. We knew that these moments would be our last, so we cherished everything about her. Dan felt her little chest, and he told me that her heart was slowing down. They came in and took the breathing tubes out so that we could get some final moments with her without the tubes. I will never forget finally seeing her little lips again and just weeping. I held her to my face and kissed her lips knowing she was with Jesus. I did not want to let her go, but I knew she was not there anymore. We laid our precious baby girl down in her beautiful smocked dress. She was an angel. Before we left, I looked at her and quoted Matthew 19:14, “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” At that point, the kingdom of heaven was more real to me than it ever had been.