Little Townhouse on Helmsdale

Five years ago today we closed on our first house.

We knew Joanna was on her way, though we didn’t know it was her specifically. After an early loss a few months before, we were still holding our breaths in hope and anticipation when we signed the papers and took possession of the keys.

Walking into OUR home that night, we had such big dreams, but not just for us, but for this baby. I was already planning the nursery before we moved one thing into the space.

Back in June of this year, as we drove over the Virginia state line, into familiar but distant territory, I cried. For all the things that I miss. For all of the people. For all of the convenience. For all of the memories made in our first seven years of marriage.

But mostly I cried for her; for how I felt closer to her again. For how her home and the hospital she was born were so close to me again. For how that place had brought healing, and friends who’ve walked the same road. For how she was there, how she physically existed there. For how she held my heart there through pregnancy after loss and through bringing home her baby brother into a space that was still hers, too.

That home will forever hold a piece of my heart. I loved it so. I love her so. I miss it. I miss her, painfully, still. How can it be five years already?

I am glad that she is here too, in our hearts. In our memories.

Little Townhouse on Helmsdale, thank you. xo

Joanna’s Gifts – The Third Birthday

Tomorrow is Joanna’s third birthday… It’s incredible how fast the time moves, and how much our love for her grows, even though we aren’t holding her in our arms anymore.

It’s hard to imagine what Christmas could have been like with an almost three-year-old and an almost 18-month-old. Leo loved pulling paper off of his gifts, but didn’t quite connect that the unwrapping meant he was getting a new toy to play with. I know Joanna at nearly three would have had the most magical Christmas. I don’t know what she would be into at three, but maybe unicorns and a Doc McStuffins play set. It’s not hard to see those aspects of the holiday, it’s hard to imagine because it still hurts.

It still hurts that she is not here. It still hurts so much. When I go to get my nails done and there’s a little girl getting her first manicure about Joanna’s age. When we go to weddings and dads give toasts and dance with their daughters and moms help brides into their dresses. When I listen to the radio and hear songs written to daughters, or children in general.

When I think of all the moments I will miss of her life, when I think of the small moment in time when she was here with me, in my belly, in my arms. It all hurts.

Even three years out. I have a feeling the hurt won’t ever go away, even old wounds still ache. And so this will too. Every reminder will bring on a little pain, a little longing for that little girl, my firstborn. Every time I hear her name belonging to another, the hole in my heart will open, raw, all over again.

The truth is that time can heal you in some ways. I wouldn’t say time heals all wounds, no. But, it can make you see how strong you are. It can make you see how much love you are capable of. It can show you how love can even be multiplied and how loss is not the end. Time can’t heal your heart after a child is taken from your life, because that wound will always burn; but time can help you move forward, find purpose, use your pain to help others.

I wish I could say that I see the reasons why Joanna died – you know the “everything happens for a reason” reason. But in three years I have not found one and I don’t think there is one. I don’t think there’s a purpose for babies to die and I don’t see it as “God’s plan.” I don’t think everything happens for a reason. I don’t. But I think through the struggle and through the pain, Joanna’s life and death have helped me to be a better person.

From being able to share my story to help others to having more empathy in almost any situation. I have learned the value of time–how there is never enough to spend with the ones you love and to be more present in those moments. To laugh even in hard times but also to cry when I feel like it and let my feelings out so they can be processed and understood.

I’m still learning to love myself, to not feel guilty about Joanna’s death, to not be angry at myself. These are harder to accept but I am making an effort each day.

Bill gave me a necklace for Christmas that I have been wanting; it says “And if not, He is still good.” And in all things, I still believe He is good. In good times and bad times and in long lives and those cut too short. In my life — even if He doesn’t save me from the fire, He is still good. I know three years ago today when I found out Joanna had died, in that exact moment, God was still good. When I held my beautiful girl in my arms, He was so good! Even leaving the hospital empty-armed — still good. Nothing that can happen in this life can change who He is, which is good.

And when I was pregnant with Leo I had the words “But if not…” written on a post it, stuck to my computer at work where I saw it all day long. It was my motto, my mantra. To remember that God was in this with me and even if I didn’t get to bring Leo home, He would still be good.

Because Joanna was good. Short life. But good life. She will always be the one who made me a mama. That’s good. She will be my firstborn. That’s good. She was perfect. That’s good. She was mine. That’s good. She will always be with me. That’s good.

Happy birthday tomorrow to my girl. We love and miss you so much!

xo

If you’d like to help us celebrate, check out our Facebook event. We are having a random acts of kindness day and would love you to participate and share what you do in J’s honor.

Dear Joanna (9.17.15)

Dear Joanna:

I feel like I haven’t told you enough lately how much I miss you.

I miss you when I wake up in the mornings and only have myself and the dog to take care of. I miss you while I’m at work because I should be at home with you. I miss you when I drink Diet Coke because I wouldn’t dare to drink it while you were with me. I miss you when I get dressed and all of my old clothes fit and my maternity clothes sit in the back of the closet. I miss you while I’m driving, the back row missing an occupied car seat. I miss you when I walk down the hallway and stand in an empty nursery. I miss you when I go to the store and see the foods I used to buy that you liked. I miss you when I’m sleeping, but sometimes I see you in my dreams.

I miss you when I’m breathing.

Every. Second.

Your dad and I are going to Disney World on Sunday. I know your absence will be intensified. Last year you were with us. Not too many people knew yet. We bought you your own pair of Mickey ear and had them embroidered with “Baby J” on the back. We used them to create an announcement to tell THE WORLD you were on your way.

I know when we go to Beast’s castle for dinner your dad is going to be very sad. He was so happy to have the Beast wear your Mickey ears and point to my belly and take a picture with us. But, even in the sad, there will be sweetness. The sweet memory that you were here. We will be back in a place where you were with us. Even in your short life, we made memories and you got to go to Disney.

I’m not sure what the most bittersweet part of our trip will be for me. Riding the rides I couldn’t last year because I was keeping you safe? In all honesty, I feel guilty about how excited I am to ride those rides this year. I would rather have you all over again. I hope you know that.

We love you and miss you so much.

And, hey. J, you will always be our dream come true.

All my love.

Hugs and kisses, little one.

Mom

On Growing Up

As most of you know, I love country music. A current favorite of mine is Maddie & Tae (see: Fly). They have another song, that generally the lyrics don’t mean as much to me as some songs, but one line says “that’s the downside of growing up.”

That’s alright, that’s okay
It’s just the way you find your way
It’s the road you gotta take to get where you’re going
You’re gonna twist, you’re gonna turn
But it’s how you’re gonna learn
A lot about life, a lot about love
On the downside of growing up

Gosh, isn’t it true? Life is hard. Some people have it worse than others, but everyone has their own struggles. Our biggest struggle, our deepest loss, losing Joanna and learning to live without her, is rough.

As we grow up we have these hopes and dreams and a vision of what our lives will be. We don’t realize what we are in for…working so hard and never feeling like we are getting ahead. Health issues. Losing grandparents. Financial struggles. Job changes. Friendships fade. Moving away from home. Losing children… So many things for which we’d hoped that didn’t come true or don’t turn out the way we planned.

We spend so much of our childhood wanting to grow up only to realize there are some pretty awful downsides to adult life.

But as I think of that: the downside of being an adult, I am quickly brought back to the reality that I get to be an adult. Joanna will never grow up. She will never be an adult.

Even with all the rough and tough stuff that happens to us as adults, oh, how I wish Joanna were here to grow up and discover so much good in the journey.

Working hard and being proud of what you do. Falling in love and marrying your one and only. Becoming best friends with your mom and always holding the title of daddy’s little girl, though you’re almost 30. Friendships that last 10 years, or 21 and that only grow stronger even when heartache happens. Adopting a pet who steals your heart forever. Becoming a parent and loving someone more than you ever thought possible.

The downside of growing up is that not everyone gets to do it — but they should.

If only they could.


One of the oddest things about being grown-up was looking back at something you thought you knew and finding out the truth of it was completely different from what you had once believed. –Patricia Briggs

For Father’s Day

For Mother’s Day I wrote a post meant for all mothers in all stages of their motherhood journey. And so I thought, all fathers should be honored and recognized, no matter what part of their fatherhood journey they are on.

Happy Father’s Day to all men. Whether you have children, want children, have a child on the way, have lost a child, or have an empty nest, Sunday is your day. You have love in your heart for a child(ren) that will be, already is, or was.

Once you become a dad, you’re always a dad. It’s a really special thing to be a dad. You have the privilege of leading a household and raising children to do the right thing, to be caring, to show them and teach them compassion, to show them love and teach them how to love.

Love, to me, is the most important. I learned a lot about love from my dad. He loves my mom with all his heart. He is good to her, he puts her first, he is kind. In turn, he also loves his children and cares for them and supports them in all they do. Watching him love my mom has shown me how a man should love a woman. One of the greatest lessons I learned from him is love. Because I knew what to look for, I have the most amazing husband. I also have the most amazing father for my children.

Since losing J we have found that fathers often get the short end of the stick when it comes to mourning and grieving. People always ask the dads how the moms are doing but they forget that the dads also lost a child. Their hopes and dreams have been dashed. Their hearts broken. Their pain is just as real as the pain of the moms.

So this Father’s Day, remember the bereaved dad. For his burden is heavy: taking care of his wife, assuring her he loves her and will always be with her. Remember him, because he carries his child in his heart, but he loves her just the same as if he were holding her in his arms. Remember him, because though he seems strong, his heart breaks every day.

Be kind to him. He puts on a happy face but he is still sad. Love him, because he is one of the strongest dads as he carries the weight of grief on his shoulders.

I have often heard that because we love deeply, we hurt deeply. No one loves these little lost lives as much as their parents. No one knows, aches, with the hurt as much as them.

If your babies are still with you, hold them close for the dads who can’t cuddle their daughters. If your babies have grown and are away from home, call them and enjoy the sound of their voices for the fathers who can’t laugh with their sons. If your babies are on the way, sing to them and feel them tumbling around in the womb for the dads who will never hold their babies again.

Whatever kind of dad you are, you’re wonderful and you’re someone’s hero. I know Joanna’s dad is both of these things to me, and to J.

We love you! Happy Father’s Day!

That Which Will Never Be

When your baby dies, your dreams for her die also. All of the things you spent months imagining while she was flipping and flopping inside you will never happen.

You will never see her first smile. Her first steps. Her first tooth.

You miss bath time and story time. Cuddle time. Nap time. Bedtime.

You will never take her fishing, teach her to ride a bike, go to a baseball game or take her to the beach.

You don’t get to see her off to preschool, kindergarten, middle and high school. School dances. Field trips. No graduation. No college degrees. No weddings. You don’t get to see her become a mother.

There is so much more. You miss out on all sorts of moments you can’t even name because they are experiences only parents of living children can have. The bereaved parent also mourns the unknown.

Would she have a sweet, quiet voice when she said her first word? Would her dad’s silly noises have made her giggle? Would she have been tomboy? Would she be shy or outgoing?

What little things would she have said that would have surprised me or filled my heart with joy? Would we have bonded over certain TV shows or musicians? Would she have liked sports? What experiences would we have, whether happy or sad?

One thing we do know is how much we love her. And we know she is still with us.

But it is really hard to accept that Joanna will never grow up.

To honor and remember J, we purchased my cousin’s veil for her wedding, which we were able to attend over weekend. Back when Emily was visiting us in January, my mom and I took her shopping for her gown. When she had found the dress, we added a veil to see how it looked. Emily loved it and I knew I would need to buy it for her. For Joanna, who would never wear one.

At the wedding, I was so happy to see that veil. Emily was beautiful and the veil completed the look. But I was also so sad. Why isn’t our baby here? Why won’t she get to meet her wonderful family? Why does she have to miss out? All the things we hoped for her…they just will not be.

We feel that every single day.

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The big welcome!

Hi, all:

I’ve decided to try to get back into blogging and this is just an introductory post.

Things I plan to blog about…

Hopes and dreams.
Preparing for baby (who is NOT on the way…yet).
The journey to lower blood pressure (through weight loss and a lower sodium diet).
How to be a good wife (not the same type of Good Wife as the TV show).
Finding joy in the small things.
And following God through it all!

If you like the sounds of this (you’re in for recipes, treats, crafts, funny stories and more) please follow my blog and keep reading. If this is too boring, I do apologize.

Welcome, world, to Mrs J at Home!Image