Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Hardest Decision

October 31, 2012                                                                                        9:19 a.m

Dear Brynna,

Here it is.

Despite wishing and hoping and trying so very hard, I could not stop Halloween from coming.

A year ago today your Daddy and I got the results of your video EEG which told us, due to the lack of oxygen during labor, you would never walk, or talk, or eat, or breathe or learn, or even “know” us or anything around you. 

And then Daddy and I had to make the worst decision any parent ever has to make.  We had to decide whether to keep you hooked up to a ventilator forever in attempt to keep you with us or whether to unhook you from all the machines and let you soar free, untethered to this world by lines and tubes…

Oh Brynn, I hope you know how hard that decision was for us.  How desperately we searched for alternatives.  How hard we prayed and attempted to bargain with God, telling him to take us and save you.  And somehow, the decision, although already made and done, is still hard and some days feels harder than when we first made it.  It is such a permanent decision…

But we made it out of love for you.  Deep and true love.  We let you go so that you would not be stuck in a body that would not allow you to live, and instead, despite our minds telling us “no, don’t do it, your arms will ache and your hearts will break into tinier pieces than they already have”, we followed our hearts.  We followed our “Mommy” and “Daddy” hearts and recognized we wanted better for you.  We, as parents, want the best for all of our children.  Anything less than that is unacceptable.

We love you so very much that we made the hardest, most devastating decision…we chose to let you go.  We chose to let you be free of the limitations of your brain and body and instead fly freely on the wind among the birds and butterflies above the rainbows.

As you know, Brynna girl, there is not a day, not a moment, that goes by that I don’t wish things were different and that you were here with us.  I long to hold you and kiss you and watch you grow. 

Today, as I was thinking about what to write to you, I realized I will never get the chance to just sit and talk with you.  And that broke my heart all over again.

In the first months, and now year since you’ve gone, I’ve been consumed with all the baby milestones you would be reaching had things been different.  Not getting to see you roll over for the first time, not being able to watch you scrunch up your darling baby face as you tried new foods, not being able to help you take your first steps…

But today, a new realization washed over me.

I realized I will never be able to sit across from you on a couch or lay with you on a bed, and just talk.  Not about who your friends are, or what you’re learning in school, or what boy you’re interested in or even what Daddy and I are doing that is “embarrassing you”.  I am so sorry we won’t be able to just talk.  My heart breaks for all the conversations we will never have face to face.

But then my heart speaks up and tells my brain to think outside itself.  Get outside of my nine dots. 

True, we won’t talk in the same way I talk to your brothers, but you are there, talking to me.  Talking to Daddy.  Talking to Cole and Aidan and Jack.  And we hear you.  I promise.  Your messages are not sent in vain.  We are not so consumed by our sadness at the loss of losing you that we miss what you’re telling us.  We feel you telling us, and we know in our hearts, that you are safe and happy.  We know you are seeing and feeling things that we can only imagine.

And that knowledge helps to heal my “broken momma heart.”  Although it brought us to our knees in sorrow to let you go, I know by doing so we granted you the ability to truly be free and, at the same time, it gave you the ability to be with us in a greater capacity than if we’d kept you here.

I love you, Brynna.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

October Blog Hop in Honor of Baby Finley

I have met, and continue to meet, many amazing people throughout this grief journey.  One of the blogs I read is written by a bereaved momma to her baby boy, Finley.  Each month, she does a blog hop on her site to help give others a list of blogs of grieving parents.  The hope is that it will make it easier for people to find a connection and support on a road that is otherwise so dark and lonely.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Happy Birthday, Brynna Girl.

Dear Brynna,

Happy Birthday, baby girl!  Today is the day.  Today you turn one year old.

It's so hard to believe one year has passed since the day you were born, and on the other hand it seems an eternity we've been without you.

To say I miss you is the greatest understatement of all time.  I need you like I need oxygen.  You are part of me, and to have you missing means a part of me will never be whole.

I laid awake much of last night as I remembered what it was like a year ago to be in labor and eagerly anticipating your arrival.  Back when we were still naively happy and blissfully unaware that pain such as this really existed.

I love you so very much.

I am doing my best to celebrate your birthday today.  Doing my best to approach the day with love and appreciation for the time that we did get with you.

But it is so hard.

I want more time.  I want you here.  My arms still ache with emptiness and I long to hold you, if it's only for a moment longer.

We have balloons for you.  Daddy and the boys and I are going to send you some messages later today.  Be on the look out for the purple and green and white balloons, okay?

And I made cupcakes that we will have after spaghetti dinner tonight.  Aidan is so excited we're having spaghetti.  It's his favorite.  It brings a smile to my face to picture what you would look like eating it too, and what a great big mess you would make.

Your candle is lit and people have been calling and texting all morning.  You have gotten several cards in the mail, which I think is so sweet of our friends and family.  Everybody loves you so very much.

The birthday fairy came and put ribbons on your door last night.  Did you know our family has a birthday fairy?  We are so lucky.  Not everyone has her.  Your ribbons are pink and green and white and there is a purple bow.  They are beautiful!

I am doing my best to keep my heart in a place of happiness.  Doing my best to keep at bay, the sadness that always threatens to overcome my being.  Doing my best to focus on my love for you.

I love you so incredibly much more than the distance between us right now.

Thank you for being in my life.  Thank you for being my daughter.  I am so thankful to have you.

Happy 1st Birthday, my sweet girl.


A Note of Thanks.

(posted on facebook this morning in attempt to reach "the masses" and express our gratitude)

As most of you know, I have been taking a break from Facebook for the last several months. Sometimes it is just too hard to watch the lives of others move in a forward direction when you want so badly for yours to do the same.

It has been a "self preservation" thing. Unhooking from the rat race. Just giving myself permission to move on in our own time. Taking the time we need, at the pace we need, to heal.

But today is a day that I feel the need to go outside of myself just a little bit more and say thank you. To all of you. Those that I know, and those that I don't. To all of you who have held Brynna, the boys, Steven and me in your hearts over this past year...thank you so very much.

It has been a year. 

Already, 366 days (remember, it was a leap year?) have passed since our sweet baby girl was born. I'm really not sure what time means anymore...some moments stretch into hours, and yet somehow, in a blink, a year has passed.

Last night I was wakeful, a great multitude of emotions running through my head. Recognizing with each passing minute, the time was drawing closer and closer to Brynn's time of birth. I was wide awake at 3:30 a.m remembering that at that time last year, I was still happy. I was in the pain of labor, but I was still happy. 

As the minutes ticked by, I watched the flickering of Brynna's lit candle. 



As the clock hit 4:03, I acknowledged that was the moment our lives took a turn we never saw coming, never could have imagined. The moment that nothing would ever, ever be the same. 

And it hasn't. Been the same, I mean.

It has been horrible. It has been devastating. It has been exhausting. It has been a year of sorrow and unrest, and agonizing heartbreak.

At the same time, it has been hopeful. It has been loving. It has been heartwarming. So mixed up and sticky our lives are right now. The sadness always existing right alongside the light.

As I have written many times on my blog, losing a child sets a parent on a long, dark, winding road. The road stretches overwhelmingly on to the rest of your life. The road is one they call grief. There are moments of despair. There are moments when all hope seems lost. There are moments when your confidence in the world, and any possibility for good, is shattered.

And yet....

Here we sit, 366 days out from the day our world stopped turning.

And somehow, it's turning...

It's slow. But it is turning. Somehow.

That "somehow", I am learning, is because of hope and love. Hope that tomorrow will be kinder and a love and appreciation for our children, deeper than any love I've ever known.

That "somehow" is also, in large part, because of all of you. 

Those of you that have carried our broken hearts in your own. Those of you that have written, called, texted, stopped by. Those of you that have donated your time, your money, your hearts and joined us in walking in memory of our sweet girl. Those that have prayed, those that have lit a candle, those that have paused to watch a butterfly flutter by. To all of you that have taken time to remember our sweet Brynn. To all of you that continue to remember.

Thank you. So very sincerely, thank you.

Happy 1st Birthday, sweet Brynna. We miss you more than words can say and we love you greater than the distance between us right now. Always, we love you.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Dear Momma,

Dear Momma,
I know my birthday is coming up soon, and I know that makes you and Daddy and the boys sad.  But please don’t be sad.  I am not sad.  I am happy and light and have an understanding about things that one day will make so much more sense to you too.
I am sorry that I will not be there with you next Friday, but I am here with you.  I am.  I am here with you all the time.
It is me when you see the rainbows, it is me when the beautiful butterflies go fluttering by, and it is me when the “perfect” song comes on at the “perfect” moment.  It is me, Momma.  It is always me. 
I know you love me.  And I love you, too.  Just like you say, “forever and one day”, I love you.  I love you “bigger than the distance between us right now”.  I love you.
And I will see you again.  It is really hard to explain how this all works, but you and me and Daddy and the boys, and Grandma and Grandpa…everybody…we’ll all see each other again.
I am happy that the messages I am sending you are getting through and you guys are open to receiving them.  I will keep letting you know in whatever way I can, that I am with you.  All of you.  All the time.  Please let Grandpa know I am talking to him too, sometimes though it’s only in a whisper.
I love you, Momma.  I wish you could wrap me up in a big birthday hug next week because I know that would heal your aching, empty arms.  I really don’t want you to be hurting the way you are, but I know it’s only because you miss me so much and you don’t yet have the ability to see the meaning behind all of it.  I know you don’t want there to be “meaning” behind all of it, but there is more, Momma.  There is more meaning and one day, I promise, it really will all be okay.
Thank you for loving me.  Thank you for being able to carry the painful burden of losing me.  I know it is hard.  I know it is unfair.  I know you feel lost and very alone.
But, Mom, you are not alone.
Never are you alone. 
The bond that brought us together is too strong to be undone by my being here and your being there.  We are together.  Just in a different way.  And one day, you will hold me and smell me and see me smile and hear me laugh, and it will all be better.
Just like you say this past year has passed in a blink, when you get to where I am, you will see that the time you and Daddy were without me, was merely a blink too.  Because after this, we get forever.
I love you, Momma.  I love you as much as a daughter can love her Momma, and then even more after that.
Please remember I am with you in everything you do, and please try really hard to do the things you would have done if I were still there with you in the way you want me to be.  It is important that my brothers still be able to have fun in the way only kids can. 
I know you are afraid of Halloween because that is the day  I had to go, but Mom, they are still there with you.  I know you loved Halloween before, and I want you to love it again.  I am so happy Aidan heard me when I whispered in his ear to remind you that Halloween can just be another way to celebrate me, remembering the day of the dead.  My brothers and I talk all the time.  They are the best big brothers on the planet, and they love you and Daddy very much.  They want you guys to be happy too.
Being dead isn’t bad, Mom.  Truly.  It’s lighter and freer and more full of love than any words can describe.  It’s the ones who are left behind that hurt as a result of death, but once you’re on this side, you see.  You’ll see.
I am there with you when you cry, with my hand on your head.  I am there with you when you sleep, with my hand on your back.  I am there with you when you smile, with my hand on your heart. 
I love you, Mommy.

A "Bad News Day"

What am I doing?  How are we doing this? Seriously, how does my body continue to function, putting one proverbial foot in front of the other, when my heart has emotionally ceased to beat?
I do not want to celebrate Brynna’s first birthday without her.  How heartbreaking is that?  Celebrating your baby’s birthday without your baby?  Trying to plan something, some way to acknowledge her and cherish her on one of the biggest birthdays that exists, and she’s not here.
One week. 
One more week, and it will have been a year since she was born.
Just seven more days. 
I am not so much worried about doing too much or not doing enough on her birthday.  I know that whatever we decide to do (or not do) will be the “right” thing.  I just don’t want to have to be in this position.
Never in my life have I wished more for a “do-over”. 
Never in my life have I wished my life were more like a "choose your own adventure book".  Remember those?  Remember how you would see your options at the bottom of the page… “to go into the big dark cave turn to pg. 17,” “to turn away and run in completely the other direction, turn to pg. 30,” “to grab a friend and a lantern, turn to pg 50”… and if you were anything like me, you would turn to each option and see how they each played out, and then make your move.
If I had a chance to be on the “October 25th” page, I imagine how different our life would be if I had only been able to read ahead and make my best, most informed decision…  “to go blindly into induction against all your gut feelings just because the doctor felt it was "necessary", turn to “October 26th”, “to turn to seeing your beautiful daughter grow and love, turn to “investigating more options””, “to escape a lifetime of pain and guilt and regret, turn to “you should do more research””….
If only I could have read ahead.
I am feeling more and more isolated.  A year is a long time for the non-broken hearted.  It’s time enough for the world to settle back on its axis, and begin to spin with regularity.  But for the grief stricken, a year is merely a blink.  It’s just enough time to cry an ocean of tears, knowing full well there are many more oceans yet to be filled.
It’s not so much that I begrudge others moving on and living their lives.  I have a very strong feeling that’s what we’d be doing if this cross was not ours to bear. Instead, I view everyone’s moving on, (decorating for holidays, having the energy and excitement to partake in any number of family activities, getting caught up in trivial workplace drama) as yet another illustration of how changed I am.   How complicated everything has become.
The grief of losing Brynna has changed me.  I want to believe that someday, somehow, I’ll get back to some representation of the person I was before. But I know that is not possible.  I will never again look at life through the exact lens through which I previously viewed it. Knowing now, first hand, that really horrible things happen no matter the content of your character, is something that permanently changes your heart. 
That’s not to say I will live my life feeling jaded and bitter, although there are definitely days I feel that way.  I just have to be honest with myself and accept that things are different now.  I can no longer live naively believing that if you just don’t give the sad, horrible, heartbreaking things any attention, they won’t really happen.
We’ve talked about, in grief group, that sometimes as bereaved parents, we feel others view us as violating their view on the world.  To be around us, and visit with us, forces people to acknowledge that bad dreams really do come true.
I explained it to a friend recently like this:
You know sometimes when you’re watching or listening to the news and it is just one bad story after another?  You feel like you just can’t take hearing one more heartbreaking detail so you turn off the TV or the radio, and somehow that makes it better.  Somehow by turning it off, ignoring it, refusing to give the bad news any attention, it can’t really be happening, it can’t really be possible.  And then you can go about your day with more confidence that you are safe, that your spouse is safe, that your children are safe.
We bereaved parents are, for many people, that “bad news day”.  Where it’s just one unbelievably heartbreaking detail after another, and to know us and spend time with us means you have to acknowledge and accept that it could happen to you too.  For many people, that is too much to ask.  So they stop calling, they stop coming around, they “turn the TV off”.
I wish I could turn this TV off.  I wish I had a “do-over”.  I wish that being a good person was enough to guarantee only good things in a lifetime.
I wish, with all that I am, that in one week we would not be celebrating our baby girl’s first birthday without her.

Monday, October 15, 2012

October 15th...Who Knew?

October 15th.  

It was Brynn's actual due date.

It is also, ironically, International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

Wikipedia says: 

October 15th is a day of remembrance for pregnancy loss and infant death, which includes but is not limited to miscarriagestillbirthSIDS, or the death of a newborn.

The day is observed with remembrance ceremonies and candle-lighting vigils, concluding with the International Wave of Light, a worldwide lighting of candles at 7:00 p.m. 


In my life before Brynna, I had no idea such a day existed.

I am heartbroken to now be in the small population of people who will recognize it every year of my life from here on out.  

Tonight, as in many nights past (and still yet to come), candles will be lit in our home to honor Brynna.  We only had six short days in her presence, but her memory is with us for a lifetime.  We remember, always.  We love, always.  

If you are so inclined to participate, would you all be so kind as to light a candle in remembrance of our sweet girl?  Would you light a candle as well as for all the other angel babies and their families as we do our best to walk this dark, winding road they call grief?

Thank you.  In remembering them, they live on, and that is the best thing you can give a grieving parent.


 "If you know someone who has lost a child and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died, they didn't forget they died. You're not reminding them. What you're reminding them of is that you remember that they lived, and that's a great, great gift."     -Elizabeth Edwards

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Just a Few Ways We Remember

Dear Brynna,

I remember you always but this month, especially, you are on my mind.

This is the month you were born, and this is the month we still had hope you would be with us.

This morning I sat down to read some of the things I have written to you and about you in this last nearly 12 months.  I hadn't read the words I spoke at your funeral in a very long time.  Reading them again, and remembering what it was like that day, of course brought me to tears again.

I talked about the sadness and sorrow of losing you, but I also spoke of all the happiness that surrounded our hearts from the moment you were merely a twinkle in Daddy's eye.  We anticipated your arrival from the word "go" and were irrevocably in love with you before ever laying eyes on you.

I spoke that day, of the things about and because of you that made us so happy, and I vowed to remember them in even the darkest, most sorrow filled days.

There have been so many dark, sorrow filled days...

Every day I wake to the reality that you are still not here with us, and will not be coming back.  Every day my heart aches to hold you in my arms and watch you grow and learn.  Every day I miss you.

But every day I also remember.  I remember how sweet you smelled.  I remember how soft your skin was.  I remember what it was like to watch you sleep.  I remember how much I love you.

We are not the only ones remembering.  There are so many people out there who remember you and pray for you and love you too.

I have been compiling a folder of photos called "Remembering Brynn".  Some of the pictures are shown below and are things that your brothers, Daddy or I have done or experienced, and some of them are pictures of things people have done for us while remembering you.

You live on in all of our hearts, sweet baby girl.

Always and forever I remember you.  Always and forever I love you.  Always and forever I am happy to have you as my daughter.

So many friends and family donated money and came out to walk at the Tears Rock and Walk earlier this year.  We walked in your name and also for all the other babies that have gone to heaven too soon.

At the six month mark, my sweet friend Sarah brought these bright daffodils by to let us know she remembers you always.  You are in so very many hearts, Brynn.

At your Uncle Conner's wedding, Cassie made a point of having these purple remembrance ribbons for anybody who wanted to wear one or attach it to their bouquet.  Uncle Conner and Auntie Cassie love you so much.

We have your nightgowns that you wore in your crib with your blanket.  All five of us go into your room very regularly to sit and remember you.  It is a very peaceful and beautiful place and it brings calm to my heart to be in it.

I typed an entire blog entry about the Story of the Red Balloon.  What an amazing thing to have experienced!  I still have the balloon in my room in a safe place and I look at it often and remember.

I also typed recently about the Tears Angel of Hope Memorial that Grandma and Grandpa donated money to, to have your name engraved alongside so many other angel babies.  Now, there is a permanent way for so many people (even those who walk by and don't know us personally) to connect with you and remember.

Your brothers remember you all the time.  They love you and miss you so very much.  They are wonderful big brothers and they are very careful with your memory.  They cherish their little sister.

Awww, the story of the Sand Baby.  I typed an entry about the amazing way your dad honored your memory in giving me this sweet pink frog, filled with just enough sand to weigh exactly what you did at birth.  7 lbs 11 oz.

Another sweet sentiment from my friend and neighbor, Sarah. One more way to say she remembers and is thinking of all of us all the time.

Your pink glass baby candle remains lit so very often.  Nearby is a Willow Tree sculpture of a momma holding her new baby (it's titled "Guardian") and I put next to it the Willow Tree "Angel of Hope."

Your ashes and some of our "Feely Hearts" that we each received while attending our Bridges support group.  We see this first thing, each time we come through the front door.

To say that the friends I have at work love you, is an understatement.  They remember you and speak of you each time I am at work.  One of my friends, Liz, lays down with her daughter every night and prays for Baby Brynna.  She was in Leavenworth recently and came upon this angel ornament and immediately knew it was a gift from you to us.  She gave it to me the other day at work and it brought tears to my eyes.  I am so lucky.

Years ago, I volunteered every summer at American Cancer Society's cancer camp, Camp Goodtimes.  My camp name was Racoon, and I have since had quite a soft spot in my heart for these little animals.  About a month ago, I was doing some shopping and came across this pajama.  I wrestled with myself with whether or not to buy it, but I knew if you were here with us it would be a "no-brainer" so I brought it home, and on nights when I am really missing you, I lay it over my pillow and cuddle your memory close.

This is the pair of socks you wore while you were in the NICU, and I often go to work with them in my pocket.  When I see another little girl who is the age you would be or if I'm dealing with a parent who is upset and acting without perspective, I hold onto them and remember you.  I always remember you.

This picture just shows that you are with us in all we do, always.  The Minnie Mouse is what I brought home for you when we were in Disneyland last May for Uncle Conner's wedding.  The bamboo necklace is something Daddy and I got while on our cruise with Matt and Rita.  We brought one home for all four of you kids.  And the Cougar flag is something Grandma and Grandpa Clancy brought home from the WSU game they went to recently.  They brought three other ones for each of the boys too.

When I got to work the other day, this was sitting on my desk. A sweet card and book from a dear coworker letting me know she is still thinking of us and remembering you always.

After you died, we received many plants in your memory.  This little pink hydrangea is growing so well and every time I walk to my car in the morning, I see it and I think of you.

Your Aunt Julie and Uncle Ray's good friends, Sam and Lorne, gave us this wind chime after you died as well.  It hangs right outside the front door, and we remember you every time it makes its beautiful sound.   There have been so many times that nothing else in the air is moving, but I hear the wind chime and it calms my aching heart because I know you are there somewhere, somehow.

Your brothers recently asked me if I would teach them how to sew (I will blog separately about the whole process soon) so Grandma Betty Ann and I got out our sewing machines last Wednesday, and sat down to teach them.  For a couple hours, they all worked very diligently on creating some cuddly, handmade pillows.

When the pillows were done, Aidan asked if I had some left over remnant fabric that he could use to learn to sew better by hand.  I happened to have some random pink fabric upstairs so I gave it to him thinking he would just practice a few straight stitches and then be done.

I was mistaken.  Instead, Aidan began to create a tiny pink outfit complete with a mask, shirt and pants.  He put a label on it and told me it is the Pink Ghost.  He made it for you for Halloween.

I was amazed.  I am amazed.

Amazed at all the love and energy that people pour into remembering our family each and every day.

We love you Brynna.  We all love you.  Your brothers, me, your Daddy, Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunts and Uncles, cousins, friends, coworkers, strangers....

We all love you.  And we all remember.



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

We Remember...Will You Please Join Us?

October 3, 2012                                                                         10:10 a.m


That’s what I find myself doing the great majority of my day. 

Remembering what it was like to be happy.  Remembering what it was like to be na├»ve.  Remembering when I used to think that if you were a good person, good would come your way, and that somehow you would be protected from the atrocious pain that life had a habit of throwing at other people.

I spend my hours remembering my daughter.  My sweet Brynna Elizabeth.  I remember holding her skin to skin on my chest on Halloween of last year, the one and only time I was able to do that.  I remember the feel of her soft head and the warmth of her tiny hands.  I remember how beautiful her lips were and how the tips of her ears had just the slightest elf like point to them.  I remember.

That’s all we can do I guess, is remember.

Steven and the boys and I are fortunate to have people around us that remember our daughter too.  Whether it’s through tender words written in letters, through money raised and steps taken in a walk a thon, through warm hugs and open ears, we know there are so many who remember.

Last month, we were able to remember Brynn in yet another way.

My parents, who are two of the kindest, most supportive, loving people you will ever know, donated money to have Brynn’s name engraved on a monument created by the Tears Foundation.

The monument is in tribute to all of the angel babies that have left us far too soon.  It is located at Bonny Watson Memorial Park in SeaTac and it is beautiful.

After Brynna’s memorial service, we brought her ashes home with us.  Steven and I felt, and still feel, we want her close to us, in the warmth of our home, until we know where he and I will be and then she’ll be there with us.

But in having her name permanently engraved somewhere, I feel her legacy lives on even stronger.  Now, when others stop to take a moment and remember their baby at the memorial, they will see my baby’s name too, and they will remember her in the way only a grieving parent knows how.

Below are some pictures from the unveiling on September 9th.

Thank you, Mom and Dad for your generous hearts and loving support.  I know you miss your granddaughter, and I am so thankful that you remember her with such love and tenderness.  What a lucky girl.

Brynn's birthday is coming and I'm not entirely sure what that is going to look like yet, but I do have one request to any and all of you who are out there thinking of us and reading this.  Would you take a moment sometime in the upcoming weeks to stop and remember our sweet Brynn?  Would you light a candle, or perform a random act of kindness for someone in her name, or write a note, or listen to a song, or say a prayer for her?  

Would you, if possible, take a moment to take a picture, leave a comment, send a text, leave a voicemail letting us know how you remember her?  

It is only by remembering our sweet baby that she will live on.

Today, I lit candles around the house and by her pink glass baby candle, I left a note:

"Today and all days, I remember.  I love you, baby girl.  Love, Momma"