Baby Dreams

When Patrick and I were dating and first married and we talked about having kids, for some reason we often talked about having a little girl.

I’m not sure why we always seemed to picture ourselves with a little girl, dressed in pink dresses and pigtails, but this was always the image we, especially me, seemed to have in our heads.  Maybe my subconscious knew something I didn’t yet.

Naturally when we first got pregnant we started dreaming of all things pink.

We did sort of assume we would have a boy, just based on his family’s track record, but still, every dream I had was always of us with a little girl.  I could never seem to picture a little boy.  We picked out names.  We had Madeline’s name.  We had Joshua’s name (just in case).

When it came time to have our gender ultrasound we went to a 3D ultrasound place.

They were able to do the scan earlier than at our doctor and we were excited to find out. When the lady said, “it’s a boy.” I think Patrick and I were both a little surprised and sad at first.  I feel terrible admitting that now.
(Yes, there was a brief moment where I was sad that we were having a boy.  Now, I would give anything to have him.  I have often wondered if he felt my disappointment and that is why he didn’t stay.  Stick around for more crazy thoughts from the life of a guilt-stricken bereaved mom.)

The moment was short-lived of course.

Once the initial shock of that revelation wore off, the excitement set in.  We really were going to have a boy.  Even though all of my crazy pregnancy dreams were about a little chubby-cheeked girl dressed all in pink, we were having a boy!  Joshua.  His name was going to be Joshua Patrick.  (In reality, had he lived, we were going to follow the same double middle name pattern that Patrick has (and Madeline too).  His full name was going to be Joshua Patrick Arthur Denney, after Patrick’s dad’s middle name.  We’ve never told anyone that.  We didn’t want to leave that extra burden of grief on anyone, but in my mind that has always been his name.)

We started planning the nursery almost immediately.

Baseball.  Obviously it was going to be baseball.  I wanted to do a classic baseball theme with little bits of our team, the Kansas City Royals thrown in here and there.  We left the ultrasound place and immediately went and bought his first little outfit.  While I was still a little sad that I wasn’t getting to buy the little ruffled dresses, I was pretty excited about the cute little bow-ties and suspenders.  I was going to dress him like a little preppy man.

I suddenly had Pinterest boards full of baseball themed ideas for a nursery and baby shower.

I started pinning newborn baby boy photo ideas and the excitement grew.  We went shopping for little boy clothes and were excited to imagine taking him to baseball games and football games and watch him grow.

And then he didn’t.

We had to pack away all of the little boy clothes.  We never decorated that baseball themed nursery and we never got to take him to a Royals game.
The disappointment of never getting to do those things is so much bigger than that fraction of a second that I felt sad that he was going to be
a boy, but I still feel so much guilt for feeling that tiny bit of disappointment.  I think we had always just assumed we would have a girl and then we would have a boy later.  It wasn’t that we didn’t want a boy ever.  He was very much wanted. Wanted with every fiber of our being, it’s just that we had always kept picturing this little girl.

Then there were those dreams I kept having.

Every dream I had when I was pregnant with Joshua, it was always a baby girl.  I could picture her face – clear as could be.

When Madeline was born, I recognized her instantly.

She was the little baby from those dreams.  I had been dreaming about her.  I always wondered how my heart new what my head didn’t back then.  I always wondered if that was why when Patrick and I thought about kids, we always talked about a little girl.  We always talked about our Madeline.

When people ask us if we want any more children, that is such a complicated question.

Of course we do, we want our Joshua.  But that’s not going to happen.  So, we are content with our Madeline.  In a perfect world we would have our two children.  We would get to have our Joshua and Madeline together, here with us, but we all know this world is far from perfect.  So we will live our perfectly imperfect lives with our Madeline – our little girl that we dreamed of for so long while we hold tight to our dreams of her big brother.

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Working It Out

I’ve spent the last year working out. Really in more ways than one. I started using the My Fitness Pal app and a FitBit, and tracking what I was eating and how much I was working out each day. It actually became fun. I enjoy getting up and working out. Mainly because I’m not doing just a more series of sit-ups and squats, but instead I found Refit. It’s basically Zumba, but they incorporate positive music (Christian a lot of times) and they are just super encouraging. So instead of a boring workout routine, I just basically dance for 30-60 minutes everyday depending on how crazy my day is. Madeline usually even joins in. It’s been fun and honestly I’m wearing a size I haven’t worn in years and I feel so much healthier.
Last night while Madeline and I were doing our dancing. We started the routine to Mandisa’s Unfinished.

Not scared to say it, I used to be the one

Preaching it to you, that you could overcome

I still believe it, but it ain’t easy

‘Cause that world I painted, where things just all work out

It started changing and I started having doubts

And it got me so down
But I picked myself back up

And I started telling me

No, my God’s not done

Making me a masterpiece

He’s still working on me

As I stood there following the choreography on the screen, my daughter by my side, tears started to form in my eyes. These last few years have been hard. Very hard for me. I’ve always been the one who has believed, who has had faith and trust that God will just take care of things, and then when things fell apart, when we lost Joshua, when Patrick was laid off while we were pregnant with Madeline, when I was laid off the following year… year after year…blow after blow. I started to wonder each time where was He? Where was the God that I believed in since I was a little girl? The one that I prayed to and trusted and had faith would make all things good?

I don’t deny the blessings I’ve received. I have a beautiful and amazing daughter and a supportive and wonderful husband. We have a lovely home and we both (now) have jobs that we truly enjoy and where we feel respected. That said, you lose a child and it’s hard not to question everything you’ve ever believed in. Every bit of faith you’ve ever had goes out the window and no matter how firm you thought your foundation once was, it cracks.

So those words… I understood them.

They resonated somewhere deep within my heart and the tears came as I continued move to the rhythm of the song.

See I’ve been working out lately, but not just my physical self. I’ve been working out my emotions and my feelings towards my spiritual self. I’m not quite sure I have it figured out yet. I still believe. I do. My faith and my belief has just taken a much different shape than what it once was.

I have struggled because church and me don’t really get along anymore. Where my faith shakes out and what I often hear preached from a pulpit don’t mesh, so I don’t go. I can’t listen to a lot of what I hear preached without rolling my eyes, because  when I’m told just to pray more and that will make everything work out. Or that if I just have enough faith, or if we are good enough Christians then good things will happen… it’s hard to reconcile those kinds of false and ridiculous statements against your newborn child dying in your arms while you cried out to God for a miracle. So forgive me if I don’t believe if I just pray harder good things will happen. I’ve never prayed harder than I did that February morning and I’ve never felt as abandoned as I did that February morning, so…

See me and God still have some things to work out 4+ years later.

But that’s okay. It’s just unfinished business.

 

For more of my thoughts on faith visit: Struggle of Faith.

“I have always considered myself a Christian.

I was raised in Sunday School.  We went to church on Wednesday nights and said our prayers before bed each night.  I thought I knew exactly who I was and what I believed, and then I watched my tiny first born son take his last breath in my arms.

Everything I thing I thought I knew changed.

I suddenly had questions that no one could answer.  The basic Christian sentiments that my friends and family were saying all felt like stabbing knives into my already bleeding heart.” Continued at Still Standing Magazine

 

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What Dreams Never Come

I haven’t written in awhile. Madeline keeps us busy most days.

‪Sunday marked one month until the 4 year anniversary of the loss of our son, Joshua Patrick at 36 hours old. ‬We had so many dreams for him. Many of which revolved around baseball and our favorite team, the Kansas City Royals.

We had planned a baseball themed nursery. We had bought Royals onesies and already talked excitedly about taking him to Royals games and signing him up for tee ball someday. This year he would be old enough to play.

So Sunday morning while getting ready for the day, Patrick’s phone buzzed with a sports update. I quickly realized that this was more than just the normal injury report or score update. The look on his face and the exclamation out of his mouth told me that something was wrong…very wrong. He turned the phone around to show me. I read the news, Kansas City Royals pitcher, Yordano Ventura had been killed in an automobile accident. I could feel the tears start to form in my eyes. My heart hurt. For his family. For his friend. For his teammates. For our City who cheered him on and cared so deeply for our boys in Royal blue.

As the day passed on I would see updates from other players and fans and my heart continued to break. Once again my mind asks questions that I just can’t find answers to.

The weight of February approaching feels almost unbearable. The ache and grief that come with the days ahead have already begun to feel heavy upon my heart. Memories of four years ago fill my mind along with all of the wondering of what should be now.

It may seem crazy, but hearing the news of loss of the Royals player on Sunday, exactly one month away from the date of the anniversary of Joshua’s loss, seems to have triggered something for me. I don’t know if it’s just that I’m sad that a player for a team that we love to watch is now gone at the too young age of 25. Reading the stories of the man he was off the field. Thinking about his loved ones, his child…his mom. 25 years old with such a huge talent and an even bigger heart from everything I read…and now just gone. I never can understand these things. A mother should not have to bury her child no matter the age. It’s not the way life is supposed to work. For that matter a young child should not have to say goodbye to their 25 year old dad either. It’s just not okay.

Maybe it’s that I’m just sad that we never got to take Josh to a Royals game like we had dreamed of doing so many times. We never even got to decorate his nursery in the Royals baseball theme like we had planned. Maybe it’s that I realized that this year Josh would be old enough to sign up for tee ball and maybe start really understanding the game being played at the K. I can almost picture him running around in a little Royals jersey practicing his baseball while his little sister practices dancing around the yard. That was the family we were supposed to have. Those were the dreams we had. Those are the dreams that hurt now.

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Ouch

It was innocent enough. 

A dad was talking about how much of a pain it is to have to take his kids’ coats off in order to get them in their carseats. He made a joke about it being okay if one of them froze to death since he’s got two others…

An elderly man talks about all the hoops he has to go through to get his passport renewed. He has to show his driver’s license, birth certificate, old passport, etc. He jokes that he has to give them blood and his firstborn son too…

People say things without thinking. I know this. Logically my brain understands that these people don’t know that I did have to give my firstborn  son back. That I do live everyday without one of my children. They don’t get that these things aren’t funny. That these type of jokes aren’t things to joke about. My brain knows that people don’t say these words with any ill intentions, but my heart wants to shake them and tell them that their words hurt. 

The truth is we all say things from time to time that can probably be misconstrued by someone. Sometimes it’s the simplest things, the things that seem innocent enough, that can sting a wounded heart. 

So, this is my reminder to myself as much as it is to you, be gentle with your words. You never know what battle wounds someone may be hiding. 

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February…Again

  I’ve thought about taking a break. A break from Facebook and Instagram. A break from seeing the photos of your adorable children playing together…brother and sister. A break from the reality that we should be posting our own photos in between reminding our almost 2 year old and almost 3 year old to share on a daily basis. A break from the heart ache of knowing that instead I have to point at photos to teach Madeline about her big brother. 

But the truth is that I can’t take a break from this reality. I can’t turn off the realization that February is here, and I should be getting ready for Joshua’s third birthday party, but instead I’m trying to figure out how we get through another birthday without him. 

I keep thinking that at some point this will get easier. Honestly, in some ways and on some days it does feel easier, well, maybe not easier rather lighter at least. The weight of the grief three years out feels like something I can easily carry most days. Like putting on an old backpack. It’s there. I feel it, but I can still move through my day mostly unhindered by the weight of it. Then there’s those other days. Those days that bag feels like it is loaded down like my college back pack always was. Pulling me down. Slowing me down. Weighing me down. February is the two ton of bricks loaded on top of the already too heavy books. 

While my instinct is to hide away and shut everything off, I’m choosing to instead make an effort to use this blog more again. I’m going to grieve out loud with the hope that others who are going through a similar feeling of loss will know that it is okay to feel the pain and to speak it out loud. 
[Print by: Franchesca Cox]

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My Saving Grace

The weight of her tiny body on my chest was the only thing keeping me grounded in that moment. I knew that. If it wasn’t for the feel of her breathing as she lay there sleepily cuddling into me I was afraid I might have forgotten that I was supposed to be breathing too. I spoke softly to her as I apologized that her big brother was not her for her to play with. I promised them both that I would make sure that she knew about him. Telling her sweetly that I knew they would have loved each other very much and had lots of fun.

This is a familiar scene around our house. Me in tears, holding our daughter, while desperately wishing our son was here too. This life we live is not easy. It is not fair. But it is ours.  It is our blessing and our struggle.  We don’t take the little moments for granted.  For now we just hold Madeline a little tighter until we can hold Joshua too.

 

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The Cardinal

Tuesday night, after work, on my way to pick up Madeline from daycare, I found myself in tears.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I have to pass two cemeteries on my way home each day.  The cemetery where my Joshua is buried and the cemetery where my Grandma Jones is buried (along with my Grandpa and cousin).  Most days I have to really just focus on the road, staring straight ahead, and refusing to let my gaze linger over where I know they are.  It takes a lot to not want to stop every day and just linger.

So on Tuesday, I let my eyes drift over to where I knew they were and the tears fell hard.

These days, I’m mostly good.  I usually have a moment or two that nearly breaks me each day, but I am generally able to hold it together.

Then there are days like Tuesday.  Days where the weight of the loss is just far too much to bear and the grief washes over me and I find myself torn between a state of shock that this is really a part of my life and just complete devastation that this is part of my life.

Grief is such a strange thing.  It is constantly changing shape and form.  Some days it is easy to push aside and other days it comes at me with hurricane force winds and knocks me down.

I changed the channel on the radio.  Maybe a change of song would help hurry this grief storm along.

“I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

In the midst of deep sorrow
I see Your light is breaking through
The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You
Lord, You fight my every battle
And I will not fear”

I was nearly to Madeline’s daycare now.  I really needed to pull myself together.  I couldn’t very well go inside with tears running down my face.

That’s when I saw it.

A bright red cardinal.

Right there in the middle of the street.

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about signs from Joshua, but Tuesday, that cardinal, that was him.  I just know it.

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2 Years Without Him

I’m sitting here watching the Academy Awards with Patrick and Madeline. My mind keeps flashing back to 2 years ago, sitting in the hospital room, absentmindedly watching the Oscars trying to feel “normal.” We ordered pizza and sat there staring at the tv. I let the mix of pain meds and Xanax take over and fell asleep somewhere in the middle. All I wanted was to get out of that hospital. To get away from that nightmare. I wanted desperately to feel normal.

Thing is nothing has ever been “normal” since this day 2 years ago. This is one of those days that I wish I could just black out on the calendar and pretend it doesn’t exist.

But it does.

Two years ago this morning, I held my son for the first time and the last time all at once. I watched my sweet husband do the same.

I woke up this morning and the scene looped in my mind. I could almost sense his tiny weight in my arms. I could smell his sweet baby smell and feel his tiny head of hair against my cheek.

I’m grateful that I can remember what he looked like. What he felt like. But, oh, how those memories hurt.

So tonight, like every night, I remember Joshua and try to remember that the pain is great because the love is great.

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Two Years

Dear Sweet Joshua,

Today you would be 2 years old.

I want nothing more than to be planning a birthday party. Probably TMNT themed thanks to your dad’s influence. I want to bake you a cake and watch you blow out the candles.

I want to spoil you with presents and shower you with kisses as you giggle and try to wiggle out of my arms.

I want to hug you tight and tell you the story of how you were born.

I want to watch you play with trucks and cars and pretend that you are Batman here to save us all.

I want to tell you how much I love you and hear your sweet voice say that you love me too.

My sweet angel boy, I want you to know how proud I am of you. Maybe that seems silly to say, but I am. I proud of you. You, in your short 36 hours on earth, touched so many lives. Your footprint may have been tiny and your life far too short, but your impact was huge. Your life mattered and I will make sure that it continues to matter so long as I am breathing.

My child, my son, I love you. I know these days it seems like I am so busy with your little sister, but there has yet to be a day or a moment where I am not thinking of you.

Sometimes I think she sees you. She will stare and babble and giggle at nothing for several minutes. I like to think it’s you coming to play with her. I do pray that it’s you she is seeing. I will make sure she knows all about you, dear boy. You are, after all, her big brother and that is a very important person for her to know.

This last year has been harder than the first without you. This year we watched your little sister grow and play and smile and say mama and dada all of the things we wish more than anything we could have watched you do too. Madeline has made losing you feel even more real.

Sometimes I dress her in onesies and jammies that we had bought for you. I hope you don’t mind.

I love you. I love you. I love you, sweet baby. I miss you so very much. My soul aches and longs to hold you in my arms and cuddle you close.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Joshua Patrick.

Have your Great Grandma Jones bake you a cake today. I bet the birthday parties in Heaven are amazing.

Love you always and forever,

Momma

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Ask My Mom How She Is

My Mom, she tells a lot of lies,

She never did before
But from now until she dies,
She’ll tell a whole lot more.

Ask my Mom how she is
And because she can’t explain,
She will tell a little lie
because she can’t describe the pain.

Ask my Mom how she is,
She’ll say, “I’m alright.”
If that’s the truth, then tell me,
why does she cry each night ?

Ask my Mom how she is
She seems to cope so well,
She didn’t have a choice you see,
Nor the strength to yell.

Ask my Mom how she is,
“I’m fine, I’m well, I’m coping.”
For God’s sake Mom, just tell the truth,
Just say your heart is broken

She’ll love me all her life
I loved her all of mine.
But if you ask her how she is,
She’ll lie and say she’s fine.

I am here in Heaven
I cannot hug from here.
If she lies to you don’t listen
Hug her and hold her near.

On the day we meet again,
We’ll smile and I’ll be bold.
I’ll say, “You’re lucky to get in here, Mom,
With all the lies you told!”

– Author Unknown

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