Tuesday, November 26, 2013

First birthday

Waking up today, I could scarcely believe that it has been one year since I lost a child.
     One year since one of the worst nightmares for a mother came true in my life.
          One year since I had to say goodbye to my second daughter, Abigaile Grace, far too soon after I said hello. I was sad and a little angry throughout the morning, that I was preparing to go scatter my daughter's ashes, instead of picking up first birthday cake that would soon be smeared all over her adorable little face, and blowing up balloons that would entertain and delight her. I couldn't help but remember back to the mornings of Isabel's and Josiah's first birthdays, and think how there were really no similarities between those experiences and this one.

Shock and disbelief still reign some of the time in my life, that I am in the position of being a mother who has experienced the death of an infant, but I can only keep putting one foot in front of the other each day, and continue to live my life in a way that will help others to remember hers, and to draw closer to the One who created each of us in the palm of His hand with a unique purpose in this life.

I wanted to do something special to commemorate Abbie, so we planned a mini family vacation this to honor and remember her.

The North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota has been a special place to Luke and me since before we were married. We have been up there about a half dozen or more times over the years, always staying in a different location, but always at some point during the trip, finding our way to the town of Grand Marais.

We chose to have Abbie cremated last year, and so far her cremains have lived in a wooden box on our dresser, that plays the song "Amazing Grace" when wound. But all along, I have known that I wanted to scatter her ashes in a few places that are special to our family, and Grand Marais is the first obvious choice.

Luke is the travel guru in our family, so he spent days researching the best cabin for us to stay in this particular trip, booked it, and made all the arrangements. Love having an organization nut in our family!

We arrived on Saturday in the afternoon, and the cabin was perfect for our needs. Luke and the kids enjoyed exploring on the rocky (and somewhat icy!) shoreline near our cabin. The first two nights, we experienced windstorms on Lake Superior that even the locals said were very strong. The massive waves crashing on the large boulders along the shore sounded like a constant thunderstorm rolling all night long. I found this an interesting parallel to the journey of grief I have been on this past year. Sometimes I feel as if the waves beating against me are relentless, and other times they abate long enough for me to take a breath, look out past the waves, and even see the beautiful sky and sunset off in the distance.

A song has really been speaking to me these past few months during worship at church:

"Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)" (Hillsong United)
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
This could not be more true in my life, in the past and especially now. In the deepest waters of my life, where I am close to drowning, is where I have experienced the real presence of Jesus the most. So I will continue to look to Him.

This morning, to close out our time at the North Shore, we took half of Abbie's ashes and went out to Artist's Point in Grand Marais, where there are large flat rocks to walk on to get closer to the water. Due to the windstorm causing waves to crash over these rocks the past few days, and the temperature hovering right around 15 degrees (VERY cold!) they were too icy to get very far out, but we managed to get out far enough to scatter her ashes into the water, in a place where we will visit many more times in the future. We now have one more reason to call Grand Marais a special place.

Abbie, I hope you are dancing and laughing today as the princess birthday girl in heaven. We miss you terribly and can't wait to see you again someday.
P.S. Isabel is insisting on being the first one to hug you when we get there. I hope that's OK - it will warm my heart to see my two daughters embracing. And mama can wait her turn, because once I get you in my arms again, I may not let go for a very long time! I love you, little girl. ~Mommy

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sounds of life, sounds of death

As I sit here on my computer, browsing through pages and pages of baby loss blogs (these mothers and fathers help me through this journey, in ways I cannot even come close to describing), I hear my 3 1/2 year-old son crying from his bed upstairs (it is 11pm). I throw off the blanket and set aside the laptop, and rush upstairs. I know it is probably a bad dream, or he is too hit, or can't find his paci (he does this around this time of night, about 50% of the time).

I enter his bedroom quietly, but making a shushing sound so he knows it is me. He almost instantly stops crying but is still upset. I remove some of his blanket layers, because he does feel hot, and I grope around for his paci in the dark and hand it back to him, where he sleepily inserts it back into his mouth, all without opening his eyes.

On a normal night, I would now quietly exit the bedroom, because we have always been firm believers in teaching our children to soothe themselves back to sleep. But on this night, I pause. I kneel down beside his bed, take his hand in mine, lean my head on the edge of his bed, and watch him....listen to him.

He cries at night, which is sometimes tiring, because he is a little old to be doing this as much as he does. But I am more tolerant of it these past 8 months, because I will never hear her cry. I never once heard her cry.

He breathes, deeply, in and out. His lungs are working perfectly. Hers were barely formed, never working on their own, and at the end they were punctured and damaged from the wonderful doctors and nurses trying to save her life.

His heart beats, steadily, in his chest. Hers was so erratic when we heard it on the monitors in the hour or so before she was born by C-section. Her baseline was 190 and then when I would have a contraction, it would drop into the 50's. That sound, more than any I have ever heard, haunts me to this day and I can hear it, as clearly as if it was yesterday. It was the sound of doom, the sound of terror, the sound of a mother's worst nightmare coming. She was coming, and it was far too soon. We tried everything to stop it, but my labor was too far gone, my body that likes to pop babies out fast, was already progressed too far and she was under too much distress.

Our son has a major medical condition, not one that would be obvious to anyone around him, but a serious condition nonetheless. I have not lived in fear about this, for the most part. But tonight, as I knelt by his bed, watching him for many minutes, I prayed, in the very depths of my mama's soul, "Please, dear Lord, keep him safe and healthy. Please do not take another child from me. I am begging you. Please do not take another child from me."

I do not know where my breaking point would be, but I am hoping and praying I am never tested by the loss of another child.

Every moment, with every child, is absolutely precious.

Friday, July 26, 2013


This week has been hard. Abbie was born eight months ago today. We got some disappointing news recently and are navigating life ahead and how that will change as a result of the news. I feel like I have been fighting back tears nearly constantly this week, like I am in some sort of setback in my grieving process. But I know that is probably not the case, as the grieving process ebbs and flows and will likely continue to do so for many years to come. This is what I am being told by baby loss mothers who are further past their loss and share their wisdom born of tragedy.

Differences in my life are becoming so noticeable now, as I move ahead and attempt to find my "new normal." whatever that might be after the gut-wrenching and heart-altering experience of losing an infant.

We had a garage sale earlier this summer, and all the baby/kid clothes from Newborn on up, that our kids have outgrown, were included in the sale. So much of it was purchased that I have nearly empty bins remaining of the few items we are keeping in hopes for a rainbow baby. Oh, how I wish that the baby girl clothes had been kept out of the sale, waiting for Abbie to grow into them.

We are redecorating Josiah's room, taking down much of the "babyish" Noah's Ark décor and replacing it with "big boy" sports décor. Oh, how I wish Josiah and Isabel were bunking up in the bigger bedroom while Abbie sleeps peacefully in the Noah's Ark nursery that has seen each of our children through their first years.

I took Isabel shopping today for back-to-school, and was tickled to see how she prances and flounces around the Mall of America, delighted at so many of the sights, smells, and sounds. She helped me carry the shopping bags, such a big girl! Trips to the mall are so much easier with children who can walk on their own. Oh, how I wish we had a child with us who needs to be carried.

Luke and I are running in a baby loss 5K in the beginning of September. Abbie will have a memorial photo collage there, and she is my motivation to run. Oh, how I wish I were an exhausted mother of a fairly new infant, too tired and busy to even think about putting on running shoes.

Life is different. I wouldn't call it better. But my attitude and perspective have changed. I cherish the moments with my children more than I used to. Fear has crept in a bit, when it had been at bay for so long. Thoughts are scattered and sometimes feel random. I don't know what the future holds, and feel out of control. I know I have never really been in control, and I am thankful I know the One who is in control. Knowing Him does not make me perfect, but it allows me the fortitude to be able to get through each day, one day at a time.

I miss my daughter.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Abigaile - on the Seashore of Remembrance

At 8:00 this morning, I saw an email come through, a special one that I have been anticipating for many weeks. I was so anxious to see the photo attached to the email, but due to my busy day and some technology challenges, I could not actually view the photo until I was home and able to get onto my personal computer.
So at 11:00 tonight, I was finally able to open the email and view the breathtaking photo that one baby loss mama (CarlyMarie on her Seashore of Remembrance) used her incredible talents to make for another.  When it opened, I was not expecting the rush of emotion that filled me, making itself evident in the hot burning tears that immediately overflowed from my eyes and ran in rivers down my cheeks
Her name, Abigaile, beautifully drawn in the sand. Under a breathtaking sunset made up of hues of purple and pink (colors I would have dressed her in as a little girl, for as long as possible until she insisted that I let her choose her own clothes). I believe that God was thinking of us as He painted this particular sunset, knowing that her name would be drawn in the sand on this specific evening.
Her name, Abigaile, that I will never see written in childish scrawl as she learns to pen her letters.
Her name, Abigaile, which came to my heart so quickly after I learned, just hours before her arrival, that she was a girl.
Her name, Abigaile, which means The Father's Joy.
Her name, Abigaile, that I will never hear her spell in an adorable little girl's voice, 
Her name, Abigaile, that I want to say so many more times per day than I do.
Her name, Abigaile, that I want to hear from the voices of those I love.
Her name, Abigaile, which will always be sacred to me.
Her name, Abigaile, forever imprinted in this breathtaking scene, by a fellow baby loss mama and a beautiful artist. Thank you, CarlyMarie, for this indescribable gift, from the bottom of my grieving mama's heart. You have given me a gift that truly can never be duplicated or replaced. I am humbled with gratitude to you. May your precious son Christian's legacy continue to live on in these beautiful names and drawings in the sand. This gift will be cherished for the rest of my life, until I meet my baby girl and hold her in my arms once more.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Honoring Abbie today - 06/07/2013

Sometimes it's the little things...

I have taken lately to reading stories to each child individually before bed, in order to get some decent one-on-one time with each of them instead of spending the time refereeing disputes between them. So tonight, after Josiah was all tucked in, I went into Isabel's ready for the normal routine of one story, a Bible story/devotion, and tucking in.

I quietly enter her room and she is engrossed in American Girl doll play, mostly getting the doll (McKenna) ready for bed, choosing what she will wear, how she will lay in the bunk bed, etc. And it causes me to realize how much Isabel and Abbie would have loved playing with dolls together someday. And as I watch Isabel be a "big sister" to McKenna (she rarely plays mommy to her dolls but always announces that I am the mommy to both of them and she is the big sister), I also think how much she would have enjoyed being a real big sister to Abbie. So, as I watch my first daughter and ache for my second, I once again experience opposing emotions simultaneously. Joy and sadness, fullness and emptiness, celebration and grief.

So, Abbie, how did I honor your life today? By sitting down on the floor with your big sister, and playing with her and her dolls. We embraced the moment, broke from the routine, and I could feel you there with us. I read something wise recently about how your children are only this age for a moment. In an hour, they will be an hour older, and tomorrow, they will be a day older. Our time with you was too short, precious girl, and so until we meet again, I am going to cherish as many moments with my children here on earth as possible. At one point during our play, Isabel looked up at me and said, "I love you, mama. The most." Oh how I wish I had been able to hear you say those word someday. So because you can't say it to me, I will say it to you. I love you, Abigaile Grace. And I will make sure you are not forgotten.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Honoring Abbie today - 05-27-2013

Blogging has been hard. I have been working on healing in other ways, but blogging sometimes rips opens wounds in a way I am not always prepared for. And I have to be careful when the children are around, because sometimes the sobs are so wrenching when these wounds are opened, that it would alarm them. We are very open and honest in our family about the birth and loss of Abbie, but I also don't want to cause worry and trauma in Isabel and Josiah's lives that will cause them harm in the years to come (this mostly affects Isabel as she is older and more sensitive in general).

So I am starting a shorter way to occasionally blog when I am not up to a full-fledged post. I will briefly post an entry that talks about how I deliberately honored Abbie's life on that particular day.

So today, May 27, 2013 (Abbie was born six months ago yesterday which is mind-boggling to me), I ordered a beautiful urn to place Abbie's tiny amount of ashes in. For as beautiful as she was, she deserves a sacred place in which to keep her remains that stay with us here on Earth. Until we can meet again in heaven and see her in all her wholeness and beauty.

The urn is a cherry wooden music box that plays, fittingly, Amazing Grace. It will read:

Abigaile Grace Christenson
November 26, 2012
Too Beautiful for Earth

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Missing her always

It has been over a week since I have cried. Maybe even two. That makes me feel...guilty somehow. Like I am getting over losing her? But I know, deep down, I am not. I still think about her nearly ever hour. She is, and will always be, a vital part of my existence. I have three children.

Why am I crying less now? I am not sure, but it does feel like the pain is less raw, less violent each day that passes. Our God is truly a God of healing.

I have had a lot of opportunity recently to reflect on the amazing blessing of family and friends in my life. I do not know how I would get through this journey without them.

Soon I think I will be ready to share the entire medical journey that led up to our loss of Abbie. I have been reviewing text message chains from the month of November, with close friends who were walking with me on the journey, and praying for me and for Abbie each step of the way. I still struggle with feelings of incredible anger toward my body for not nurturing this life the way that it should have. I still wonder if we had done this differently, or that differently, would the outcome have been better? Would I be sitting her with her snuggled up against my neck, being a personal body heater the way newborn babies do, instead of having both hands free to type this blog post? I don't know, and I may never know, but I still struggle with those questions. I know, as a result, I will be overcautious, overprotective, and maybe even extreme in my next pregnancy. For those of you who know me in real life, I ask for your grace when that journey begins. I will be focusing on one job, and one job only, growing the baby and keeping it inside for as many weeks as possible. This means I will back away from most other activities for the duration of the pregnancy, and relax and rest as much as possible. I know many women who have gone on strict bedrest and have been able to achieve this goal.

I visited the Body Worlds exhibit yesterday with my husband, brother Luke, and my brother's girlfriend Ellie. I wasn't quite prepared for the emotion I would experience when we walked through the Conception To Birth part of the exhibit, which was very early on. They had genuine babies, at very stages of gestation (everything from 2 weeks all the way up to 28 weeks), who had passed away and were preserved through the incredible process of plastination. The babies at 22 and 24 weeks gestation affected me the most. It was like looking at Abbie all over again, although they were chubbier than she was, confirming again for us that she was truly growth restricted those last few weeks in my womb. Again increasing my anger at my body.

Over the next months, I will get prayer for my body. I only want one thing from it. The ability to bring another baby far enough along in a pregnancy so that the baby can survive on the outside, and we can complete our family. This will be my fervent prayer from now until I see that baby's face.

Always missing her,

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 24

Today is March 24th, 2013. I first laid eyes on this date, when I typed my conception date into a due date calculator, when I was just 4 weeks pregnant at the end of July 2012. Never would I have dreamed that on this date, I would open the bag of my daughter's cremation ashes, rubbing just a tiny bit of the fine powdery dust between my fingers in an effort to feel nearer to her. I am in the middle of the most nightmarish storm I have yet undertaken in this life.  I want to go back to the innocence of never knowing the pain of losing a child.  I want to go back to when due dates were happy days. I want to have my pregnancy innocence back. These desires will not be granted, and I don't know why. But I move ahead, choosing to trust Him in this storm. 

When I got up in front at Abbie's service and spoke of the impact of her brief life, I talked about how I have prayed the same words about each of my three children, "God, please don't take this child from me." I spoke of how His answer was "yes" with Isabel, "yes" with Josiah, and "no" with Abbie. I often play the series of events leading up to her birth and death over and over again in my mind, and I feel like my brain, soul, and spirit is being wrenched between two opposing and fiercely strong winds. Each is like a gale, whipping at my body, threatening to pull me off my feet, forcing me to completely surrender to the sheer power of it. The first gale is the absolute, unwavering assurance that God is good. He is good all the time, even when I don't understand Him, even when I sit on my couch for hours, unable to stop crying, months after the death of my child. The opposing gale is the one that wants to drag me down into the endless depths of the question "WHY?!?!" I still feel myself asking this question multiple times a day. Do I believe her life will have a legacy, a meaning, a purpose? Yes. But I struggle with the question of "Why?" because I don't yet quite know exactly what that legacy will be. I don't know how her life will touch others lives just yet. And that's hard for me, to not have it all lined up in a neat little row, to make some sense out of the chaos. I know I want to join with other grieving mothers that I have met on this journey to help break the deafening silence around child loss. And I know I want our story to help spread the balm of Jesus' love to other hurting hearts. I don't know exactly how or when this will take shape. But I am waking up each day and living my life, the best I can, for my family here on earth and for my beloved daughter in heaven. It is all I can do, for now.

Trusting Him in the storm,

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Who would she have been?

I find myself wondering...

Were her eyes blue? Surely they were behind her closed lids, but would they have stayed that way as she grew?

Would she have had platinum blond hair like her brother, or darker blond hair like her sister?

Would she have been a petite child like our other two?

Would she have been a feisty baby like Isabel, requiring lots of attention, or a more mellow one like Josiah who was mostly content to go with the flow and watch the world go by?

Would she have been a good nurser?

What would her giggle sound like?

What would have been her first word?

What would have been her favorite color? Favorite food? Favorite toy? Favorite movie?

Would she have been bright like the other two, learning her ABCs, colors, counting, and letters earlier than average?

Would she have been a tough little girl? I think she would have been, because she was really tough in the womb, hanging on for many weeks in an inhospitable environment.

Would she have had a love-hate relationship with Ginger like the other two?

Would she have joined her sister in gymnastics and ballet, looking up to her as she learned new things in each?

Who would have been her best friend?

What kind of student would she have been when she joined our other kids at their private school?

What color would she have chosen for her prom dress?

What style of wedding dress would she have worn?

Who would she have married?

What would have been the look on her face as she handed me her own child to hold for the first time?

All these questions and more, every day. I miss her.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

We know the WHO

Sometimes as a blogger, a thought will hit me that I feel I should share on my blog, but often times I don't because I don't feel I have enough other "stuff" to share to make the blog entry worthwhile. I am going to try, with this blog, to get out of that trap. This journey of grief is so winding and unpredictable, that often times the thoughts and insights come in tiny chunks, itty-bitty but impactful, you might say very much like our precious baby girl Abbie who weighed less than one pound, but whose impact has been weighty.

So, for tonight, here is my thought:

I do not even begin to understand the WHY of what happened, but I am comforted even in my gripping pain, because I know the WHO that is holding Abbie even now. My Savior, Jesus Christ, saved my life so completely, when I was 19 years old, and in so doing, He saved my life once again as I journey through the tragic and unexpected loss of my daughter. I do not know how I would handle this without having Him to lean on. His power is made known in my weakness. Come Lord Jesus. Engulf me in your arms, along with every other grieving mother on this planet. Only You will someday make sense of all this mess, and make it right and whole.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My daughter grieving for my daughter

This evening around 9:30, I was passing through the hallway upstairs and heard Isabel crying very quietly in her room. Her door was open, but she was crying so quietly that I could barely hear her. I stopped in her doorway as my eyes adjusted to the darkness and focused on her small frame in the bed across the room.  She was lying very still on her back, with small sobs escaping her every few seconds. Isabel is a spirited and dramatic young girl, and usually when she cries, it is pretty loud and attention-getting in a way. But tonight, it was as if she didn't even realize anyone could hear her, and was trying to stay as quiet as possible.

So, of course, I padded quietly into her bedroom, knelt by her bed, and placed my hands on her gently. Her eyes were closed, so I was not certain at first if she was even awake. But after a few seconds passed, she opened her eyes partway. She had not yet uttered a word to me, and was still crying. I whispered, "What's wrong, sweetie?" To which she replied, in the sweetest little girl voice, "I miss baby Abbie," and continued to cry quietly.  I had no words, and leaned down and gathered her into an embrace, wishing I could take her pain away, wishing I could give her the sister she so desperately wants to have back. We had a quiet conversation after that, and a short while later I tucked her back into bed and wished her sweet dreams and a peaceful night's sleep.

Oh my. Talk about melting my heart and breaking my heart in two, all at the same time. I am watching my oldest child grieve for my youngest child. I want to take away Isabel's sadness, and it is just one more reason, among so many, that I wish more than anything that I could bring Abbie back to this world. But I can't, and so for now, I will dry my child's tears and hug her tightly every chance that I get. But even while I dry her tears and hold her close, I look forward to the day when I will watch my daughters embrace one another, on streets of gold, and there will be no more tears of sadness in any of our eyes, and no quiet sobs escaping any of our lips.