December 27, 2011

Stella’s 1st Birthday & Angelversary…

Ever notice how some days are harder than others?  Yeah, I’ve had that day!  In fact, I’ve been feeling that way this entire weekend!  Really I guess I should scratch that and say I’ve been having a hard holiday season, since every emotion imaginable has struck since just before Thanksgiving and who knows how long this crazy roller coaster of a ride is gonna last? 

I knew December 23rd was going to be an emotional challenge like few I’ve ever seen being it was Stella’s 1st Birthday and Angelversary, but I didn’t accurately anticipate the long lasting affects I would continue to experience through out the Christmas holiday.  I was hopeful that by today, Christmas, I wouldn’t feel the struggle so much, but it’s still riding my coat tails trying to bring me down!

The whole week began with me feeling shaken and off after a very poor night of sleep.  I had fallen right asleep, but woke suddenly just a short while later with the feeling of extreme panic.  When I saw 1:30am on my clock I just wanted to sink deeper in to the bed and be swallowed alive!  Last year on the Monday evening before Christmas I was admitted to the hospital due to HELLP syndrome while pregnant with Stella.  I spent a couple of hours in the labor and delivery triage area while they tried to figure out exactly what was going on, but once they identified the problem they began working on getting me a quiet room, inform the nurses of my case and get me moved upstairs so they could begin my IV with Magnesium Sulfate and then my OB came up to begin the induction process (and trust me, it was a process!).  So, by the time my medications were on board and my OB had started the Cytotec it was almost 1:30am, so when I awoke in a panic last Monday night and saw the time I literally found myself flashing back to the hospital room, attached to the IV and terrified about what was laying a head of me and my daughter’s future.  Sure, I knew I wasn’t in the hospital, but instead in my own bed, but I saw everything so vividly in front of me like I was living through it all over again!  I laid in bed crying and holding my belly until I finally drifted back to sleep.  Needless to say I woke up in a foul, sad mood like my precious Stella had just been ripped away from me all over again! 

Sweet Stella Grace December 23, 2010

The pressure of Stella’s birthday and Angelversary, along with the Christmas holiday, surely didn’t help any as the week progressed.  My stress levels and bitchiness felt like they were at an all time high!  Although, maybe it was good that I was so busy and preoccupied because it kept me from having a full out melt down, even though I felt it building up inside me?  I was angry I was busy with holiday things because all I really wanted to do was plan a meaningful way to honor Stella’s short life and her importance to me!  With everyone’s various holiday and work schedules we weren’t able to have many family and friends join us in celebrating Stella, and that alone left me feeling even more sad and depressed.  I understand everyone has their own family and schedule to work around, but I couldn’t help feeling that if Stella was still alive and with us for her 1st birthday all of these significant people in my life would have made arrangements to celebrate with us.  Leaving me, once again, feeling cheated and robbed of an experience that was very important to me! 

We went ahead and commemorated Stella’s special day anyway.  It was difficult to figure out the best way to celebrate her spirit with out her being with us because nothing seemed appropriate.  At the same time I knew I needed it to be a joyous and fun occasion because additional sadness was the last thing I needed and I really don’t feel like Stella wants us to live in sadness.  So we decided to do the zany Happy Jollidays LaZoom Tour around Asheville to brighten our spirits and bring a little laughter to the day and prepare us for the Christmas holiday.  My brother and a couple we’ve been friends with for many, many years joined my husband and I for the fun outing.  It worked, we did smile and laugh, but it still felt like we were missing an important part of any celebration … the guest of honor herself.

Trey and my brother holding Sprout

Sarah and Jason giving Sprout some love

Our friends had to get back to their family holiday obligations, so we met Trey’s parents out that evening for a late night dinner at Ruth’s Chris.  We had an absolutely fantastic meal, which was a real treat, and Trey toasted to our little Stella.  But over all I was left feeling a little let down and like I had done a poor job of honoring our girl on her special day.  We had gotten a cupcake for Stella, did something fun for her birthday and celebrated with a delicious meal, but the day didn’t truly feel like it was about HER, which was the most important aspect of the day to me personally.  Our friends brought 2 stuffed animals over, one for Stella and one for Sprout, but other than that her name wasn’t ever mentioned again unless it was by me or my husband at dinner.  They made more of a fuss over Sprout then Stella and that left my heart hurting.  I know they all mean well, but December 23rd was supposed to be all about Stella, how she touched our lives and will always be loved and cherished.

Stella's Christmas tree, 1st birthday cupcake and gifts

Stuffed animals and a thoughtful card from another Baby Loss Momma friend

Realistically, I guess nothing would have been perfect unless I could have had sweet Stella on my hip, dressed in a special outfit with a birthday hat, balloons all around and watching her smiling, laughing face as she dug in to a big cupcake with her name written on top!  Anything else will always pale in comparison!  So the question becomes ~ How will we be able to manage all the birthdays/Angelversaries for the years to come?  I’d love to hear from other Baby Loss Mommas and how you’ve coped with these painful milestones? 

December 25, 2011

The difference a year makes...

I mentioned in a previous post how crazy busy we’ve been around here and I’m sure everyone who hears that just rolls their eyes and thinks, “Yeah, like you’re the only one!” Of course I don’t think I’m the only one who has ever found themselves running around frantically trying to catch up at every turn, but I do feel I’ve been given an extra challenge lately that is leaving me a bit stretched to capacity.  That’s ok though, I really wouldn’t want it any other way! 

Not only have the days, weeks and months been passing us by, but with each week we’ve come closer to the season I’ve dreaded so much - HOLIDAYS!  Our World changed for us last holiday season just before Thanksgiving and I’m still in the process of learning how to cope with this new journey in a very different World.  And if that wasn’t physically and emotionally time consuming enough we’ve been keeping a secret and that can be hard work in itself!  Sure a few people we are close to knew, but for the most part we had kept everything very quite and were just moving along until the time felt right to share with our extended family, friends, and now anyone who might be reading this blog.  I’ll skip to the chase and share the personal message we shared a little over a month ago…
On this day, November 18th, of last year we learned the devastating news about Stella's health and her struggle to survive and make it out in to this World.  A year has passed and Stella's 1st birthday is now only 5 weeks away on December 23rd.  It's been an extremely difficult year full of challenges learning how to navigate the World without my daughter, and as we move closer to this holiday season the anniversary of Stella's birth, day to day life will be very painful.

Last year we suddenly cancelled our Thanksgiving plans after receiving the news of Stella condition, however this year we have renewed hope and much to be thankful for.  For one thing, I didn't pass away with Stella and that is something to be extremely grateful for every day!  It has allowed us to continue on and honor Stella's short life and big spirit in any way possible.  Now Stella is a big sister in the making!  Yes, you read correctly!  Trey and I are expecting and have been growing a little "Sprout" for 18 weeks, so we hope to meet our baby around April 20, 2012.  Yesterday we had our big targeted ultrasound and learned that Sprout's heart appears healthy and is growing ahead of schedule.  Two very different findings from what we learned about Stella just a year ago!  Not only did yesterday's ultrasound go very well, but we received results a couple of weeks ago from our Genetic Counselor that Sprout's risk of a chromosomal defect is very, very slim; 1:10,000!  And, for all of you who are dying to know ... Sprout is a GIRL!!! 

We are extremely happy, but I am also very scared of what may be waiting for me down the path.  With all this good news at this point we are just trying our best to enjoy and think about a happy and healthy future.  This will undoubtedly become more difficult as we move closer to the holidays and we miss sharing what should be Stella's 1st Thanksgiving, birthday party and Christmas. 

I want to be clear with everyone that even though we have a new child growing Stella will always be our first baby and hold a significant place in our hearts!  Sprout will not replace the pain we have endured, nor take Stella's place in any way, so please don't assume our hearts are healed or forget her importance in our lives. 

We wish you all a Happy Holiday Season full of love and peace!!

With love,
Shelby & Trey
You may be wondering why we’ve kept this wonderful news so hush, hush until now?  Well, I can tell you there are a number of reasons I could list, but I’ll just be as honest and blunt as possible … I’ve been too scared!  I’ve been terrified something awful would happen to this baby, Sprout, as soon as I opened my mouth to share the news.  I’ve also been scared I would loose some of the connections I’ve developed over the last year with so many strong, caring Baby Loss Mommas.  I’ve worried they would turn their backs on me and kick me out of the one club no one ever wanted to be part of in the first place, yet now I find myself desperately wanting and needing to know that I am still an accepted member.  It may sound crazy, but these fellow Mommas have become an important part of my life and I value their opinions, suggestions and the strength needed to get through each day.  Hopefully this news won’t turn off any potential readers because, I gotta tell ya, being pregnant again after a loss is probably just as hard as going through the loss in the first place!  Sure, it’s a totally different experience, but the emotional roller coaster is practically the same! 

I hope you all can wish Sprout and I well, but as a Baby Loss Momma I can also understand the pain of knowing some one else is pregnant while we will never be able to hold our precious babies we’ve lost ever again.  And there in lies the never ending conflict of emotions of a pregnancy after a loss!  

December 21, 2011

Giving Back

In my last blog I mentioned my husband and I helped with and attended the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Gala and Auction at the end of September. Trey and I first got involved with the March of Dimes back in April and set up a last minute team for Stella Grace in the March for Babies. In one weeks time we raised a great deal of money to help prevent premature births, birth defects and infant mortality. Our local walk took place just a few days after Stella’s due date, so it was a very emotional time, but we felt great knowing we were helping to make a difference in some baby’s life and for their parents who would be able to hold and love them for years to come.

After our success with the March for Babies we decided one of the best ways we could honor Stella’s short life was to become more involved with the March of Dimes, so we reached out to our local division and offered ourselves as volunteers. Shortly after we were approached and asked if we would like to join the local Pisgah Division Board of Directors. Of course we said, “Yes!” and have increased our involvement with the March of Dimes since this past summer. Besides the March for Babies our other big annual fundraiser is the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction, which was held this year on September 30th. Since this was the first fundraising event since becoming Board Members we worked to help out in any way we could be contacting restaurants and businesses to donate their goods for our auctions. This was also our first “Gala”, so we were both excited to see how it all came together and be part of something so amazing. The Gala featured 12 local Chefs serving small plates of fantastic foods, three tables of wonderful silent auction baskets, a very moving presentation about the Mach of Dimes mission and one local family’s personal story, an action packed live auction and a closing performance by the Asheville Aerial Arts. I couldn’t hold back my tears during the presentation and my mind stayed on Stella the entire evening. I know she was really there with us for the event!

The evening was a huge success and I’m so proud to say we were able to be part of it all! Soon the preparations for the 2012 Gala will begin and I hope Trey and I are able to help out even more with this important event. For now, though, our attention is beginning to focus on the 2012 March for Babies and all the awareness and funds we hope to raise again for Team Stella Grace. If you would like to get involved in the March for Babies in your area you can look up the event for your area and get started forming a team in honor of your preemie, family member or in memory of a special baby who was lost to prematurity. It’s a wonderful way to give back and fight against prematurity!

December 16, 2011

My, how time flies...

Geez, I knew I had been slacking on updating my blog but I didn’t realize it’s been nearly 2 ½ months since I wrote last! Of course I knew the end of September was crazy busy and I had been working hard to get through a quick trip to Atlanta for the French Bulldog National Specialty and then back home in time for the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Gala and Auction. Both of these things are very important to me since I volunteer with a French Bulldog rescue, French Bulldog Rescue Network, and am a Board Member with our local Pisgah Division of the March of Dimes.

The French Bulldog Rescue Network (FBRN) always set up a fundraising table at this yearly event, have several volunteers travel from far and wide to attend, and there is always a Rescue Parade. We’ve fostered a few dogs with FBRN and we’ve adopted three Frenchies, but I also used to do some major volunteer work with them and came in to contact with a great number of people who will bend over backwards to help get a French Bulldog in to a safe and loving environment, so it’s always nice to see some of the volunteers I’ve met before and meet some news ones face to face who are able to attend. This year was particularly important to me because of our eldest Frenchie, Smeagol, health problems. You see, Smeags is a very special soul who spent most of his life living in a rabbit hutch in a North Carolina puppymill, with scummy water, rarely feed and never received any positive attention or medical treatment. We’ve been blessed to have him in our lives since October 29, 2005 and though it took a little while for him to trust us, he’s learned a very different lifestyle and shows us every day that he is a unique character.

While I was pregnant with Stella last Fall Smeags health had been concerning us. He had a few spells that made his odd body wobbly, but he always seemed to recovery quickly and look at us like we were crazy for doting on him (just another of Smeags charming attributes). In early November of last year I went o bed nervous about the lab work for the Quad Screening I was scheduled to do in the morning and it took me a while to settle down enough for me to fall a sleep. It didn’t seem like I had been a sleep very long when I suddenly woke to a thrashing noise and hopped out of bed to find Smeags having a Grand Mal seizure. It took a while for the seizure activity to pass and I spent the next five minutes clearing away foam from his mouth to prevent him from choking and then sat trying to calm his confusion. We spent the next hour sitting with him, talking and comforting him until he slowly seemed to come back around to “himself” and the fear in his eyes lessened and we all decided to try to get a couple of hours of sleep before the alarm clock beeped. We took Smeags with us for my lab work and drove him to our vets to be checked out afterwards. My horrible suspicions were confirmed by our vet and Smeags most likely was suffering from a brain tumor.

Well, that was (now) over a year ago and knowing how limited his time is with the diagnosis of a brain tumor I knew I had to get him to the French Bulldog Nationals so he could make one last Rescue Parade and see all the FBRN volunteers who love him. We first booked our hotel room last October and I thought how fun it was going to be to take Stella and Smeags. I had even come up with a plan for them to both ride in a red wagon together, so they could enjoy all the dogs, people and activity, but things have changed. However, Smeags still enjoyed himself and all the attention he received and everyone seemed very happy to see the old man doing his thing!

I wondered on our drive down to Atlanta if any of my rescue volunteer friends would say anything about Stella, since most of them had read or heard about our experience, and I wondered how I would handle that. Deep down I knew I would rather them mention Stella rather than dodge the huge whole left in our hearts, but for the most part everyone remained silent. One volunteer friend during a quiet moment took me by the arms and spoke to me about the loss of my precious daughter. I can’t even remember exactly what she said because I was so surprised and then overcome with appreciation and tears, but she said commented along the lines that she was proud of me for talking about our loss and all the information I share with others and that she holds us in her heart. Besides seeing how much love Smeags received at Nationals, hearing someone have the courage and respect to speak to me about Stella made the whole trip worthwhile! My heart was very happy as we drove back home.

Wow, I guess I’ll have to catch you all up on the March of Dimes Gala next time! Don’t worry, I plan on posting it this weekend and hope not to allow so much time to pass between posts.

September 24, 2011

The Loss Never Goes Away…

Months have passed, oceans of tears of have been spilled, hugs exchanged, compassionate people have listened and stories have been shared, but there is still an ache left behind that will never go away. When you loss a baby, like I’ve lost my sweet Stella, not only have you lost a part of you, but you’ve lost all the dreams, hopes and future, too. It’s impossible for anyone who hasn’t experienced such a loss to fully understand.

It’s not the same as loosing Grandpa at 65 years old to a heart attack. Of course loosing anyone you love is painful and difficult, but people will still talk about Grandpa, his memory, his life and all the family and friends he’s left behind. They have photos to flip through to sweeten their memories and good times together to cherish. When someone looses a baby, no matter whether through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss those memories are very few and far between. No one wants to talk about the babies who have been lost, but it's sweet music to their Moms ears when someone is willing to remember them by speaking aloud. We have to focus on the time we had them in our lives the longest ~ while they were growing in our bellies! How we shared our pregnancy together, the special songs we made up to sing to them, our conversations together as we fell asleep, our dreams and hopes for their future that we shared with our bellies, the milestones we experienced, the first kicks and their reactions to certain foods. These aren’t memories that our families and friends can share with us. We are completely alone with our special memories to cherish!

Not only have we lost the chance to hold our babies, but we’ve been robbed the opportunity to create new memories. I’ll never know the color of Stella’s eyes or what makes them sparkle with happiness, what her smile looks like, the sound of her giggle, her favorite color, or if she would have been a Daddy’s girl? I’ll never know if she enjoyed going on walks in the woods, either in a carrier or as a toddler or child? Would she have smiled at the sight of a deer in the woods like I do? I'll never have the joy of baking and decorating a birthday cake for my sweet girl and throwing her a party. I wonder would she have preferred vanilla (like her Dad) or chocolate (like me)? Maybe Stella would have shown us her independent streak and chosen strawberry instead? Would she enjoy family drives on the Parkway to take in the beauty and enjoy a picnic together? I wish I knew the answers, but I’ll never know! The curiosity and wonder will always haunt me! I wish I had the chance to discover each of these things about Stella because they would all fill me with precious, cherished memories of time we had together! Instead I have a few photos, her stamped footprints, her ashes and a broken heart!

September 13, 2011

Exposing Myself

It's a subject many people would rather avoid and if brought up the general population just doesn't know how to respond.  I guess that is why I feel the need to talk about it, even if it's here where no one is actually reading.  I want people to know ~ I am a Baby Loss Momma!  What exactly is a Baby Loss Momma?  Well, sadly it's a Mother who had many hopes and dreams for a baby they carried, but were unable to bring home in their arms and fulfill those wishes.  You can learn more about my experience by reading Stella's story on Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope.

I'm very lucky to have found Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope as a resource and confirmation that I am not alone in my grief and suffering!  Tragically there are way to many women and families who have been directly touched by the loss of baby or infant!  Thanks to Faces, other online groups and perinatal loss support groups I have found myself surrounded by a community of Baby Loss Families.  We are given a chance to remember our babies, what it felt like to carry them, our deepest desires for their lives, talk about our experiences with complicated pregnancies or births and share our children with each other.  Some of us aren't even able to do this with our families or friends because they truly don't understand, but we are able to find comfort in those who had been strangers until we all found ourselves in the same situations.  It's a horrible place to be, but I am very thankful I am not here alone!