Monthly Archives: September 2015

Happy 1st Birthday in Heaven my sweet girls

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The girls' garden on their first birthday...

The girls’ garden on their first birthday…

D: Oh what an emotionally exhausting but beautiful day today was. Most momma’s get to be physically drained from making their baby’s first birthday just perfect and get the cake and frosting all over the face picture to prove it, but this is what we get… Life after Loss… it is a constant challenge to balance the immense grief and sadness with the beauty life still has to offer us here on earth. The balance of yearning for heaven, but still choosing to continue on with a life here too. Forever the balance of light and dark…. Today was a stunningly beautiful day. It truly was. But only in the context of being loss parents. Today was absolutely the most beautiful day it could have been under the circumstances, short of having our sweet girls here on earth with us the way it should be, I couldn’t have asked for a better day. It is like knowing for the rest of life I have to settle for “the best it could be considering my daughters died”. I thought after a year I would have accepted that- you know the ‘this is my life now’ acceptance… but now I know differently. Today and 50 years from now, I will not have accepted this. There will never in my mind be a sound reason as to why there is anywhere better suited for 2 baby girls than in their mother’s arms…. 

The weather was absolutely perfect today. I awoke to seeing wispy clouds through the sky light and refused to get out of bed until after 8:40 a.m- the time my water broke last year- just in case life wanted to play a cruel joke on me and repeat history. We ate breakfast in the girls’ garden, and as we sat on their new custom mosaic bench we received the most beautiful sign from our girls. I mean, over the past year I have questioned my faith, my belief in whats next, unsure how to stay unwavering  in my faith in light of all that has happened… but things that happened today- timing of things that happened today- it just cannot be coincidence. And it is in the moments- the times when I know without a doubt that Rylie and Avary are still with us spiritually, and that we will be together again for all of eternity- that I can truly breathe. I can truly smile. I can honestly and truly want to continue on with this life here on Earth, because I know what is waiting for me when my time comes….

As we sat on the bench in the twins garden, about 12 inches in front of our faces, 2 white butterflies met up for a moment in time and did a fluttering little dance around together -right in front of our eyes- and then parted ways…. what a beautiful start to the twins birthday. Thank you babies <3

We brought our donation of toys and books appropriate for 1 year olds to the post office to mail to the children’s hospital. On the outside of the box the clerk noticed our sticker reading “In memory of our beautiful daughters Rylie and Avary Andrews September 15, 2014”. The clerk said to us “I am so very sorry to see this. I too lost a baby. It has been 12 years and let me tell you, it doesn’t get easier. It is a community that none of us wish we belonged to. I am so very sorry for your loss”. And immediately Eric and I felt comfort. We wouldn’t wish our situation on anyone, but when you find people who just get it suddenly the world opens up and you don’t feel so alone. Eric said it once we got to the car as ” ah someone who speaks our language!” And although she didn’t say much, what she did say spoke volumes. Even on this shitty, hard and difficult day we were not alone…

On our way into the Chicago Botanical Gardens we paid for the vehicle behind us as our Random Act of Kindness and asked the guard to pass on a small card for us that read “Our Treat” with our ‘in memory’ sticker attached. I hope we made someones day a little bit by paying for their park pass, and in return I hope they read our card and made our day by knowing for even just a moment in time our girls were being remembered and leaving their mark on the world. 

At 2:42 p.m. (half way between Rylie’s birth time of 2:40 and Avary’s birth time of 2:45) Eric and I released our pink and yellow balloon from a beautiful spot in the gardens- sitting at the waters edge with the brilliant blue sky above us and just the right amount of wind. As we released them and told our sweet girls ‘happy birthday’ 2 female ducks appeared and swam right past us basically at our feet… Again- they did it for us again! Another timing too perfect to be coincidence. We cried and held hands and thanked our twin angel bees for such obvious signs that they were present with us on this difficult day, and watched until our balloons were no longer visible from this earth.

When we returned home we sat once again in Avary and Rylie’s garden and read to Chloe for the first time. We read to her the 2 books we have purchased to help tell her one day about her big sisters in heaven; Someone Came Before You and My Baby Big Sisters- both adapted specifically to our situation. We held our soul-bird urns and our angel rubbing stones as we read, and felt proud to tell Chloe for the first time about her big sisters, tears and all….

After dinner we looked at family and friends Random Acts of Kindness in Memory of our #twinangelbees on social media, read the messages we received in honor of the day, and looked at the tokens of love sent to us by friends. We lit the girls sapphire birthstone candles, and looked through their tiny boxes of memories from this day last year… And I sit here now fighting off the fatigue from an emotionally draining day as I try to finish typing my last tribute of the day to my beautiful perfect little 1 year old princesses… 

Eric and I have changed so much in the past year. We have grown so very close, developing an everlasting love and connection over the birth and death of our first born children. We have handled more than most get dealt in the first early years of marriage, and I honestly think we are stronger because of it. Because of Avary and Rylie we appreciate deeper, love harder, speak and cry honestly and openly, and truly take nothing for granted. When we married we said “for better or worse” and there is truly no one in the universe I would have rather had by my side over the past 365 days then the perfect man sitting beside me now. I love you so much.

Rylie Nicole and Avary Lauren- Happy 1st Birthday in Heaven from your very proud Mommy and Daddy. We love you girls so incredibly much. Keep holding hands and taking care of one another until we can all be together again one day. I love you my twin angel bees….

E: Today was a really good day. I don’t think that it could have gone better. I think that makes us both very happy especially because we were struggling with what to do on their birthdays that would be both meaningful and appropriate. We had a lot of ideas but were uncertain about particular order, whether or not to include our loved ones in person, if what we had planned would be enough, etc. The beautiful day ended up shining down on what I think were many right choices. We both feel fulfilled, albeit solemn, after this particular day.

Nothing serves as a better accompaniment to spiritual reflection than perfect weather. I am thankful that today was sunny and 75-80 the entire time. There weren’t no clouds in the sky – rather, there were the perfect amount of clouds in the sky. Whispy ones that remind us of angels, but otherwise perfectly clear and pleasant.

I guess I take it back – the only thing better than an environment that provides what you need is a universe that seems to want to be spiritual back at you. I don’t know how to express this to my future self when he reads this – or to anyone else who may be concerned – but today was a rare breed of days that talked back to us. I felt them all around. And it didn’t even phase me – I wasn’t shocked that two butterflies came together to dance in front of our eyes in the garden sanctuary we build. They were so close I could have reached out an touched them. We were sitting on the Twins’ memorial bench when we asked for them to come to us. And they did.

Again, when we arrived at the gardens, we had only a few minutes to find the perfect spot to release their balloons and speak to them on their birth times. It’s like we were presented with the spot in front of an uninhabited fountain in the middle of a peaceful lake by a helpful force. We talked to Rylie and then Avary beginning at 2:40, held hands and released their balloons. And just as we did – as we watched their balloons float away together – two female ducks emerged from around the corner and quacked right past our feet close to the water’s edge. Of course your heart would skip a beat and you might jump a little in your seat when something you want to happen so badly occurs – but that surprise and excitement almost instantly converted to an ethereal understanding that they have always been with us and are always listening to us.

I think I feel like we felt them the right amount too. Because I believe that they have to operate within the mechanics of the world in which we live – by swimming past as ducks or fluttering as butterflies – I would never expect something impossible to happen. Often, white butterflies in this area will swirl together in a briefly organized pattern, breaking from otherwise erratic flight. But today… they did it when we asked and they did it in front of our faces while we prayed to them on their bench. They swirled together in the very center of our sacred place for them. Ducks swim in the water and they don’t really appear to be too fearful of humans most of the time. But today… they appeared in front of our crying faces – two (and only two) uncharacteristically-partnered female mallards distinguishable by their brown heads – right as we had opened communication with them at a very meaningful time to all four of us.

Today, things happened that were real enough to feel that we weren’t dreaming or wishfully thinking, but also surreal enough to feel that these occurrences were meant for us in particular when we needed them. The timing was too perfect. The universe was too responsive. I felt like Avary and Rylie could hear us and were able to embody tools in this world to communicate with their parents when we needed it the most. We weren’t scared or surprised – we just knew it was them.

Danyelle and I are thankful to have one another. To be in love and to believe the same things. We walk up and down the stone steps at the same pace and our rhythm makes my life worth living. We gave life to two little versions of us – equal parts you and equal parts me. I can’t imagine what our worlds would have been like with those girls in them. But we love you and will always love you Rylie and Avary and we will raise our living children to know who you are. Thank you for the wonderful day and for making us into who we are.

There are few days in life we can remember so vividly…

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On the eve of the twins birthday, I cannot help but remember those last naive and innocently beautiful days leading up to Avary and Rylie’s births 1 year ago tomorrow. There are few days in life that one can remember so vividly. Had the twins lived, I’m certain I would not have been able to distinguish September 13th, 14th and 15th from any other days of pregnancy last year. But because it was the ‘beginning of the end’ -the final days leading up to the ‘before’ and ‘after’ that now define my life- I remember them with such clarity.

September 13th I sat in an 8 hour Continuing Education course in an uncomfortable chair that gave me a back ache from my quickly growing belly. I stood up with the rest of the group to review simple exercises- ones intended for the elderly- and was winded enough from it that the woman next to me asked if I was okay. I laughed it off and told her the belly was catching up with me. I had a chocolate milkshake at a Buona Beef on lunch break as Eric and I chatted on the phone about the rest of our weekend. I finally caved that night and admitted to myself my clothes no longer fit, and my maxi skirts wouldn’t hold out much longer as the fall weather began to set in. We went maternity clothes shopping, bragging to store employees about the beautiful girls we were expecting. Eric and I both left the store giddy with excitement as we entered this next phase of our pregnancy.

September 14th we were in DSW and I kept needing to sit down- man this belly really tires a pregnant momma out! Once home, I sit in the chair in the nursery with our micro-buddy warm animals swaddled in baby blankets talking about how much fun it will be to learn to manage both of them at one time as Eric primes the R and A monogram stencils we have on the walls. We have spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, and Eric snaps our very last daily pregnancy video as I laugh and smile and recall a memory about my Nana…. 

In hindsight, all of that back pain, shortness of breath and needing to sit down might have been a sign. Perhaps it should have been the warning to get to the hospital. Perhaps if we had, Rylie and Avary would be here with us today… however at the time- and still to a strong degree today- all of those things are normal for a pregnant woman… in pregnancy everything is normal until it isn’t…

As I sit here now typing and preparing myself for Avary and Rylie’s first birthday in Heaven tomorrow, 21 wk 5 day Chloe is kicking up a storm. I have been feeling her for the past few weeks, but nothing like I am right now. Strong, consistent kicks and twirls- I can even see the little jabs from my belly for the first time-  Like Chloe reminding me, “I’m here for you mom. You still have me, I’m not going anywhere, and I’ll help you and Daddy get through this tomorrow”. What a blissful moment of time I will forever cherish. My glistening rainbow during these rainy days….

Reaching our 1st Milestone with Chloe

20 weeks pregnant with Chloe Rose

20 weeks pregnant with Chloe Rose

Well we made it to this 20 week bump picture. The picture we never got to take with Avary and Rylie because instead of taking pictures of my growing twin belly, we were taking pictures of our sweet girls, and saying goodbye…

This milestone, along with others we anticipate in the coming weeks, brought me much apprehension and anxiousness. It brought flashbacks of the day my sweet girls were born; both the beauty of Eric and I bringing our daughters into the world, and the tragedy of bringing our daughters into this harsh and cruel world too early, where we knew they couldn’t stay…

Reaching this milestone was the first of 4 I marked on my calendar the day we found out we were expecting our third child. 1) Our loss mark with the twins. 20 weeks. September 2, 2015. 2) Viability. 24 weeks. The point when doctors would do whatever they could to save our sweet baby this time. September 30, 2015. 3) Safety. 28 weeks. The point when our sweet baby would have a 90% chance of survival, allowing us a 90% chance of getting to bring home a baby instead of 2 small boxes this time… October 28, 2015. 4) Our due date. 40 weeks. A day so far along in a pregnancy it seemed unimaginable to us given our history. January 20, 2016. 

Reaching and surpassing this milestone I thought would bring a small sigh of relief- ways to go still- YES- but a small relief. To take a deep breath in and say to myself the small Pregnancy After Loss (PAL) affirmation: “I have never been this pregnant before. This is a different pregnancy, and will have a different outcome”. And you know, I did say that to myself when I woke up this morning.  I took some deep breaths and thought of my twin angel bees and asked them to watch over sweet Chloe, who we continue to have the privilege of  growing inside my belly. But almost immediately after that affirmation I felt guilt, anger and resentment. Why didn’t Avary and Rylie get to have 20 weeks 1 day? Why didn’t I get to have my sweet girls for even 1 more day? I have never been this pregnant before, but I should have been!! It was stolen from me, forever taken from me, the chance to carry my sweet girls for even just 1 more moment in this life. How can life be so cruel? Now as the tears start to fall as I type, I feel guilt for getting so wrapped up in my sadness and the horrible loneliness that has become my friend and confidant since my daughters died. I feel guilty because I have a beautiful, perfect little girl, all 12 ounces of her, growing inside me. I feel guilty because I want her- to have and keep here on this earth- so badly but the hope I continue to have for her does not take away from the pain and grief I feel for the loss of her older sisters. Not one bit. It doesn’t work that way. This PAL stuff isn’t for the faint of heart, let me tell you. Aside from having to survive the loss of my daughters, being pregnant again is the hardest thing I have ever done. Every single moment of every single day is a delicate balance of holding out hope for the baby I carry, managing the grief and pain I will forever carry from the loss of my bees, and finding moments of calmness in knowing how much love I hold in my heart for all 3 of my girls…

I have been struggling a lot lately with the loss of what I thought my life would be like. Today is September 3, 2015. Eric and I went out on our first date 9 years ago today. Crazy!! We have not been together all of the time since then- each taking our space where we needed it to learn and grow into the people we eventually became- ones who could love each other unconditionally and selflessly. And we take pride in that being part of our life story. I never, though, could have imagined what pain life had in store for us. Like most 20 year old girls falling in love, I quickly began to imagine what a life together could have looked like. I imagined our wedding and our home and babies. Lots of babies! More babies than Eric had ever considered, I’m sure! On the day we said our wedding vows, May 18, 2013, I could imagine our whole life together. We talked and dreamed of our house in Oak Park and our 3 children (a 4th if the first 3 were all boys or all girls!) and the traveling we would do one day. 

I know life frequently does not turn out ‘as planned’. And I respect that. Things change, people change, things don’t work out, babies come on accident, etc etc. But I never imagined that by our 29th birthdays we would have laid to rest our first 2 born children. I never imagined that in my 29th year on this earth I would look into the mirror to only see a shell of the person I used to be. To feel like I have no spark in my eyes, no twinkle of wonderment of what the future holds. To take weeks to call my friends back because I’m just ‘busy’ trying to survive. To avert my eyes when I see young babies or pregnant women, despite my growing belly. To avoid going out in public, afraid of people noticing my belly and excitedly and innocently asking “is it your first??” For so many people that is such an easy answer. When I was pregnant with the twins it was a question I welcomed so I could brag about the beautiful twin girls I was growing in my tummy. It is different now. Everything is different now. Most people get to say “I am going to have 3 kids” and then they have 3 or 4. I now know, due to my exposure to the loss community and those who struggle with infertility, that more people than we want to imagine struggle with exactly what I am speaking of… Grieving the loss of the family and life you had always imagined is a very true pain. I grieve for the loss of 2 of my children. I grieve for the loss of the experience to raise twins. I grieve for the loss of the ‘family here on earth’ I had once imagined. Family planning is not solely in my control, like so many take for granted. I do not know if I will have my “3 maybe 4” children here on this earth like I have imagined since I was a young girl. And I grieve for that. Due to pregnancy complications, the loss of my first born children, moving up in age, and generally having to accept I am not in control- I do not know what our future holds. And I struggle with that. A lot. I know life ‘isn’t fair’ but I am still envious and jealous of those who have control. Those who bring their childhood dreams of what their family would be like to fruition.  

So for today, I take a deep breath and thank God and my angels for allowing us 1 more day with Chloe. I hold out hope that in 4 months I will be holding a beautiful, perfect little girl, and that I will continue to feel the presence of Avary and Rylie in my life. I will continue to plan for my angels first birthday in heaven, rapidly approaching. I will attend my infant loss support group, and find comfort in the uncomforted- knowing I am not alone. I will continue to grieve, continue to love, and continue to try my damnedest to wake up each day and put one foot in front of the other. I will forgive myself for the days that that very task is not so easy, and relish in the days that don’t feel so hard. I will continue to hold out hope and dream of the ‘earthly +heavenly family’ I never imagined I’d have, and try to be patient in seeing where life will take us.