Aug 16

why….

i am mad.
i am angry.
i want to break something.
i want to cus.
i want to tell everyone that i am a mom even though i’m not holding my baby.
i want to scream.
i can’t do this.
i do not want to wake up tomorrow just to be reminded that my baby girl died one month ago.
i should not have to spread her ashes somewhere.
i am tired of being strong.
when i see a newborn my heart aches for mine.
i am sick of books about grief.
i am tired of going to sleep with my eyes burning every night.
good grief.
i miss my baby girl.
i want to hold her.
i want to hear her cry.
i wish people would just say her name in front of me.
i am so sick of feeling like something is missing.
because it is.

Aug 16

Answer This…

My mom’s best friend from high school works at a little clothing boutique. A girl walked in recently holding a baby in a car seat. She started talking to the girl and of course oohing over the sweet baby boy, and she asked her if it was her first child. The girl answered, “No, my firstborn is in heaven”. She went on to tell her story. My mom’s friend shared with her about our Mary Anna, and of course called my mom immediately to tell her about the conversation.

As my mom told me the story it caused me to stop and think how I would answer that question in the future. If someone asks, “Do you have children” or eventually, “Is this your first child”, how would I answer that. I thought the girls answer was so elegant and raw, “No, my firstborn is in heaven.” I want to have the courage to answer that way.

We are at the beach right now, and this morning Dan and I went on a little stroll before the rain came in. I started telling him the same story, because I hadn’t had a chance to yet. He told me about a conversation that he had at a vet conference recently, where a professor asked him if he had any children. He paused and in the situation did not know how to respond. It was so soon, and so he just quietly said, “no”. Throughout the rest of his conversation with this professor he kept bursting to tell him about Mary Anna, but he didn’t know how.

Dan and I both agreed that from now on that we would always say, no matter what the audience is, that “yes, we have a baby girl and she is in heaven”. As we finished our walk and the rain started slowly coming down I could not help but wonder if she heard the same thunder rolls that I did. It was so symbolic of our walk right now. As we begin to Keep Walking and make a step forward, the rain is always there slowly coming down to remind us that even though we are walking, we are still in the storm.

Aug 14

One Month

Dear Mary Anna,

You would be one month old today. I wake up today feeling so empty because you are not here, but feeling so full because I got the best 4 days of my life with you. You should be home by now and up at all hours of the night. I should be finally getting used to my new schedule as your mom, and I should be writing this letter in present tense and not past tense. I can’t help but see you in everything that I do. You have changed so many lives my baby girl. I am SO proud of you. I hear stories of what you are doing every day, and it makes me feel so lucky to be your mommy. I am so sad it hurts. My body hurts, because I miss you so much. I will never forget you, and I will never stop loving you. You changed me, and I will never be the same because you were my girl. It hurts too bad to write this because I want to be busy with you not trying to make myself busy without you. I hug the little bear they gave me the day you went to heaven all day long, and it makes me feel a little better, but it makes my arms ache to hold you. I miss you more everyday. This has been the hardest month that I have ever lived, but I would do it all over again to have you. You were worth it Mary Anna, and you always will be. Thank you for letting me be your mommy.
As I say to you everyday, “you’re doing it baby girl, you’re changing lives”.

I LOVE YOU,
your mommy

Aug 13

Love

I will never forget a few days after Mary Anna went to heaven, we were talking with my parents, and Dan was saying how much he loved her. He told my dad that he never knew he could love something so much in such a short amount of time, and then he said, “I’m sure it’s different with how much you love Kari since she’s been your daughter so much longer.” My dad looked at Dan and said, “Absolutely not. I will never forget the first moment that I held Kari and I love her the same now that I loved her then. I might have more memories, but that love is instant.” I could not agree more. The love is instant. Anyone who has had a child knows they change you forever the moment that you lay eyes on them. My love cup is full and always will be thanks to my baby girl. 

Aug 11

Rock of Ages

Today was our first day back at church since Mary Anna passed. We haven’t been avoiding church, but due to being gone a lot lately, we haven’t been in town on a Sunday yet. I woke up wanting to avoid church with my every being. I was tired, my head hurt, my body ached, and I did not want to deal with the emotions of walking through those doors. Against my will, I got up and took a shower and each step towards leaving for church I could feel my anxiety heighten.
I grabbed my coffee, Bible, and waterproof mascara and hopped in the car with Dan and started the dreaded drive. Sundays have always been happy days. I always look forward to Sundays, because they recharge my batteries for the week. The kicker is that my baby girl was born on a Sunday. We had her service at our church in the same room that we meet every Sunday. Now, Sundays are just hard. They remind me of her birth and her death. We get to church, and we walk in and Dan says, “here we go…”. We sit down, and I feel numb. I can’t sing, smile, or cry. I sit through the whole service without any emotion until we get to the end. Our church sings a song and during that song we do communion every week. The music starts to play, and I feel my stomach tighten, it’s Rock of Ages. It’s one of the songs that we sang at Mary Anna’s service. It makes my heart ache for her.

Dan and I had a miscarriage last summer that was very hard. The first Sunday that we walked into church afterwards they played this song at the same point in the service. I remember standing there and at the end when it says “your will be done”, thinking that I could not bear to sing that line. I had just recovered from losing a baby and how dare anyone think I should sing that. That song reminded me of the baby we lost, but slowly it gave us hope for the future and hope in the Lord.
We decided once we found out that we were pregnant with Mary Anna that we wanted that song sung at her baptism. It has always been special to us, a song of tragedy and triumph. So when it was time to plan her service after she passed, it was an easy decision to have that song sung.
Needless to say, I sobbed the whole song and never even sang one word. I sobbed the whole walk to communion and the whole walk back to my seat. I couldn’t help but think as I ate the bread and drank the wine that my Mary Anna has already seen the whole picture. I haven’t yet. I don’t get it. I miss her, and I am angry.
All I know for sure is that, Rock of Ages, YOUR will be done.
Again, I took a step out of the churches doors and decided to Keep Walking.

Aug 11

What Would I Do Without You?

There’s something that I have learned in the midst of grief is that I seriously don’t know what I would do without, and that is my D. He is my husband and my rock. He understands me like no one else does. There’s a song that we love that just says the words that we can’t say.
Thanks to Drew and Ellie Holcomb for your musical talent to get us through the hard times.
Aug 09

Birth Story

We woke up on July 14th at UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham), and we were exhausted. Dan and I had been in the hospital for 6 days straight. We were in Auburn for 5 days until we were transferred to UAB. I was 34 weeks pregnant, so I was in the safe range to deliver, but the doctors were monitoring me and MAC closely to try to keep her in as long as they could. She was doing great, but she would have random decelerations in her heart rate. The “decels”, as they called them, were something to be concerned about, but nothing else was going on, so they keep thinking they would just keep letting her rock along until something showed them they needed to deliver her.
The doctors decided to do a stress test mid afternoon, where they would give me small doses of pitocin (a medicine that starts contractions), and they could monitor Mary Anna and see how she would react to the contractions. If she showed any signs of being in stress, then it would alert them to deliver. They started the medicine through my I.V. as Dan and I patiently distracted ourselves by watching Ice Age on the T.V. The test seemed to be going well, and it wasn’t painful at all (for those of you women out there wondering).
One of the OBGYN’s walked in and told the nurse to stop the medicine, and then she left the room. The room was awkwardly quiet for a little bit until the doctor came back in and said that they saw signs that they needed to deliver. She gave me the option to try an induction or go ahead with the cesarean. Dan and I agreed with all that was going on that we did not want to put any unneeded stress on Mary Anna and agreed to have a c-section. Things started moving very quickly. They threw paper scrubs at Dan (side note for those of you who know D, he played college football so the paper scrubs did not fit, so the sweet nurses gave him some UAB scrubs to wear instead… it gave us a good laugh in the midst of being stressed!), and he called my parents to say “it’s happening”, so they ran in and grabbed our things and gave me a kiss. The nurses put me in the wheel chair and within about 20 minutes, we are heading into the operating room.
Before they let Dan into the O.R., they make sure that the spinal worked on me, so these were a few pictures of D patiently waiting on me, and then him walking down the hall to go into the O.R. with me.

I was so ready to meet my baby girl that the c-section did not scare me. Once Dan got into the room and sat next to me all my fears were calmed, and I knew that we could do it. He kept looking at me saying, “you’re doing so good baby.” He was such an encourager, but even after 10 years together, in that moment there were no words to be said. 
In emergency situations, the pediatricians take the baby to a room right behind the O.R. and make sure the baby is o.k. before they show the mom. Dan and I sat there as they walked off with our baby and a few minutes later, I heard one of the doctors say, “mom did you hear that cry?”. I listened and there she was, my Mary Anna, it was the best noise that I had ever heard. The pediatrician came and grabbed Dan, so he could be with her. A few minutes later Dan comes back and shows me this picture:
 Mary Anna Caldwell
4:28 p.m. 
July 14, 2013
2 pounds 10 ounces
15 inches long
my baby girl
He told me she was doing great and breathing good, and that she was perfect. My heart melted. He was the happiest, proudest dad that I had ever seen, and I was complete. She was healthy, breathing room air, and doing good. Dan sent a quick text to my dad, and this was him showing off his first granddaughter.
Dan runs back to be with her, and then a few minutes later while they are finishing up on me, they walk in and briefly hold up Mary Anna and let me see her. There is no way to describe what I felt in that moment. It was my baby girl, and I loved her little body more than I had ever loved anything else in this world. 
I could see Dan almost doing a tap dance in the corner of my eye, and he said, “can I go with her.. I mean.. uh.. I don’t want to leave you.. but… “, and I giggled and said, please go with her. He smiled the biggest smile that I had ever seen and kept looking at me and then looking at her and said, “I LOVE YOU”. As he left the room, he looked at me and again said, “you did so good”. As Dan and Mary Anna left with the team of doctors and I laid there waiting for them to sew me up I thought that I was complete. Finally, she was here, healthy, and breathing good, and all we had to do was put some weight on that girl, and we would be out of there. 
I thought….
Little did we know that we were going to have to chose to Keep Walking without our baby girl too soon.
Aug 06

Welcome

In the next few weeks, I plan to share the story of our little Mary Anna. As you can see, she only was with us for 4 short days, but in those days she changed us forever. We had no idea on July 14th that we would be saying goodbye on July 17th. How do you do something like that many people ask and the answer is I do not know. Dan (my sweet husband) and I say to each other everyday that there is no road map for this. There is no way to tell you how I wake up everyday and face life without my angel. There is no way that I can promise to my friends that I won’t lose it mid conversation with them. There is no way to go to sleep and not wake up in the middle of the night in sweats just to realize that this is not a nightmare, this is real life, and this is our life. Our life is messy and hard, but it is full of love and faith. I pray that this blog doesn’t bring just tears but happiness. I feel like sometimes with facebook, instagram, etc. that we portray to others that our lives are perfect, so I hope you see that our lives are not perfect, but they are real and messy.
The reason I named this blog Keep Walking is because luckily we got sweet footprints of Mary Anna. It has been a symbol to us that we have to Keep Walking. Dan and I have said to each other many times lately, “you have to just keep walking..”. So until next time, Keep Walking my friends.