If you are new here or have stumbled across this page, welcome. You may be unfamiliar with our story. At the end of June 2013, our beautiful baby girl Shaundi was born perfect and such a joy! In early September of the same year, my husband found her unresponsive and not breathing. Life with one of our babies gone has been challenging. I’ve shared our journey along the way. This is a collection of blog entries about Shaundi.
November 28, 2012
If Fancy Feast Cat Food Commercials Make You Hungry…
If a Fancy Feast cat food commercial makes you crave mashed potatoes and gravy…
If Slim Jims and strawberry smoothies seem like an acceptable breakfast…
If you tell your husband that you are allowed to have the biggest serving of the peaches and cream because you are eating for three…
You just might be pregnant with baby number three!
Oh, and that eating for three? It’s not twins (that we know of), I’m just still nursing our five-month-old.
We are expecting the grand entrance on (but most likely before) July 4th, 2013. Lulu has a nickname for baby three, Baby Lima (not LIME-A, LEE-Ma). I’m pretty sure it’s because her best friend has a brother named Liam.
We’re just adding to the Indianapolis with Kids population! See you out and about!
May 5, 2013
Announcing the NAME of Baby Three in Style
I never thought I’d be a mom to little girls. I’m kind of girly in that I love the color pink. I also love to wear dresses, makeup, cute shoes, and pretty hair — the problem is, I don’t know how. Surely God wouldn’t inflict the pain of having ME as a mother on little girls, right? Wrong! All along we’ve had a boy name picked out for our son but this third pregnancy will place another little girl in our family. Poor, poor babies. I can’t braid hair, I have a terrible knack for not being able to purchase socks that match…anything. Shoes? Ha! Thank you to our friends for sharing your kid’s shoes, Lulu still calls her pink and brown shoes “Lilli shoes”…because Lilli used to wear them.
It was hard enough naming TWO little girls but then we had to come up with a THIRD girl name. When my husband Jay and I finally agreed on a name, we asked our friends from Mabel’s Labels to help us present her to the world in style…you know, girly, pink, and matching style (I’m telling you, I need ALL the help I can get). We are so blessed to have these adorable, tiny little party dress-loving, dancing babies in our home and we are just so excited to introduce baby #3 to you in June or July. Now that we have a name, we can stop calling her Baby #3…or Tree as my daughter calls her.
Baby #3 will be named Shaundi (pronounced Shawn-dee). I have a friend from college named Shaundi and she has really done the name justice! Do you know how a single person can make a name or a word either sound beautiful or ugly? The Shaundi that I know is a beautiful person inside and out, a great leader, has a contagious smile, and goes after exactly what she wants.
Lulu has always had her own adorable labels from Mabel’s Labels. When her daycare asked us to label everything, they meant EVERYTHING; sippy cups, spoons, lunch boxes, Tupperware, shoes, coats, bags…you get the picture. Because of my friends at Mabel’s, she’s always had the most stylish labels (see, I need help! It takes a village and I’m fortunate enough to have one).
July 1, 2013
Born: Baby Shaundi is Finally Here
Baby Shaundi was born on Tuesday night. Much like her sisters, she was born with a full head of hair but hers is by far the lightest in color. She was six pounds 13 ounces and is growing stronger every day! The tiny newborn clothes are very loose on her beautiful tiny frame and her skin is just the softest you’ve ever felt!
Lulu is absolutely in love with her tiny sister. All day long she wants to hold her, hug her, kiss her, to be next to her. She’ll be talking about something, anything, and then drop into this high-pitched voice squeaking, “She’s so CUTE!” And cute she is!
Scout gets a huge smile on her face when she sees Shaundi. She is more of an observer and doesn’t know exactly what to do. When she does try to interact, she’s a little too rough, but not because she’s mean or tough, she’s just a baby herself and doesn’t really have control over her limbs. She’s being taught very quickly what “gentle” means.
Leaving the house as a family of five requires a lot of strategizing. I know that there are so many of you out there that do it every day and have done it for a long time. There are even more of you who do it with larger families. If I believed in a world with multiple Gods, you would be Gods and Goddesses in my book.
Going anywhere on my own with all of the babies is darn near impossible. I tried it today. Taking the kids to the Mother’s Day Out program nearly killed me. Lulu can walk and is most helpful with carrying something small. Scout cannot walk yet so maneuvering her and an infant and all of the diaper bag business is just…well, I can’t do it.
All of that said, we now have Shaundi with us and we are just so happy to all be together.
July 2, 2013
I Resigned: From Working Mom to Work at Home Mom
I resigned from my full time job.
What a weird feeling. What a strange thing to say. I’ve resigned from jobs before but never without having another job waiting or being enrolled in school full time. My friend Jenni asked me to share how I came to this decision so here it is.
I’ve had the same job for nearly 4 ½ years and the same “career” for nearly 14 years. My work at the not for profit was something that I chose to do from a very young age, it has been my dream job, something I considered to be my calling.
When Jacob and I started our family several years ago, I never really considered staying at home as a mom and when people suggested it as an option, I laughed at them. First of all, I loved my job and second of all, like many of you, we are a dual income family out of necessity.
Scout was born last summer and for the first time I started counting the emotional, physical and economical cost of commuting 45 minutes each way (while my job was very flexible with weekday hours and the ability to work from home a bit, I often made the 45 minute each way commute TWICE in a day). While I once made 100% of Lulu’s baby food, I found that we were spending more time eating McDonalds pancakes and Happy Meals than we were spending at home at the dinner table.
Our home was a mess-laundry never made it from the couches to the dressers, it was like our couches WERE the dresser drawers. Dishes would pile up (from what, I don’t know. It’s not like I can say I ever cooked), I was making emergency runs to Target for forgotten shoes once we got to day care… The list of failures and survival methods goes on and on. Life has been a chaotic mess and I’ve been absent from much of my life over the past year or so, just doing what I have to do to get through the day and make sure everyone is alive at the end. I don’t want to live that way. I want to have time and energy for my kids, I want to teach them things and I want to learn from them.
Meanwhile, part of my life was going into this little website. It has been a great outlet for my creative energy because my physical energy just hasn’t been there. It represents one of my deepest desires to spend time with my family, to be a part of the community and the goings on in our world. It fulfills my need to mobilize and encourage others and make a perceived difference.
Indy with Kids has brought several opportunities into my life that have allowed me to make a tiny bit of money which when added to all of the savings of gas, lunches out, hurried dinners out, wardrobe, emergency shoe shopping and other purchases that come from being unprepared, I believe that the financial side of leaving will work out. The Queen of Free had great advice for me when I sought her wisdom, she advised me to “run my household like a business.” I’ll be cutting out expenses we don’t need, finding creative ways to stretch the things we have and searching for opportunities to earn what I need.
Staying at home or working from home isn’t the answer for every parent and it wasn’t even the answer for me until now.
Our family’s needs and desires changed. There’s no debate here when it comes to other moms and dads and the decisions they make. I’m fortunate that our needs and the timing are working out. During this season in our life, this is a gift that I’m going to run with. A year or two ago, staying at home wasn’t in the cards nor would I have felt it was a gift for our family at that time. It’s not that I’ll never have to leave my kids or be away from them, there are plenty of things coming up on the horizon that WILL take
me away from them, I’m just looking for a better balance.
Thank you for all of your love and support as I enter this new calling of motherhood and contract work.
September 5, 2013
Pain: The Only Thing I Feel Right Now
Oh, the pain. Oh, the hurt. I just want to curl up and look at Instagram photos of my baby all day long. I want to post them and repost them, as if there are enough memories available to fill the void of never knowing her favorite song, her favorite color, her favorite food, what makes her laugh. But no, that is not even what I want to do. I want to rewind, to return to Monday where we were playing and enjoying dinner with friends and snuggling sweet baby Shaundi.
I’m so connected to my online world that it doesn’t seem natural to not tweet out every single thought, to snap every single photo of our pain, but what good would that do? It’s so raw, so heart ripping, so awful that there is just no good behind my hurt. Sharing our lives has made me a better person, I’ve met the best people by doing so and yet, this horrible, terrible thing just doesn’t have the words to share, doesn’t bring about photographs that are visible to the naked eye. There’s just no instagram filter called “pain”.
I am sorry we haven’t shared the details, the hows, the whys. One reason is that we don’t know. This could take weeks, months. One reason is that it just doesn’t matter.
The only good right now are the people that have been placed in our lives. I’m sure there’s more good but that pain filter in my life right now is just too distorting, too ugly.
September 10, 2013
One Week: On the Death of My Child
It’s so hard to believe that one week ago I was sitting at McAlister’s Deli writing my weekly articles for the website. It’s so hard to believe that one week ago a police car arrived and rushed me to the hospital. It’s so hard to believe that one week ago life took such a tragic turn. It’s hard to believe one week ago we were told that things “looked extremely grim”. It’s hard to believe that one week ago I called my mom and dad in California and said, “Please come.”
There have been so many times in my life that I’ve messed up — forgotten to return library books, gotten a speeding ticket, been involved in a fender bender, had to go to court because I forgot to pay a traffic ticket, got behind on my mortgage…the list goes on and on. Without fail, my parents were there to help me, my friends bailed me out, I lived in shame for a week and then things worked themselves out.
It’s hard to believe that this time, no matter how many friends I call, no matter how much I beg my parents to help, no matter how many times the sun rises or sets, no one can fix this situation.
I have stressed over so many things in life and somehow everything has worked out in the end, everything has been okay–different but okay. This. This will NEVER be okay. This will NEVER feel worked out. This. This is a four-letter word.
September 12, 2013
Old Normal: Finding Our Equilibrium
Today we ventured out as a family and did something that we would do if everything was normal. When someone dies people often tell you that you’ll find your new normal and life will go on.
The thing is is that Shaundi was our new normal. With Shaundi gone, everything is back to how it was two months ago. Back to the old normal. She was here for such a short time that we hadn’t even quite gotten used to the new normal. The new normal was a little more stressful and very exciting. The new normal forced us to go at life with a slower pace. The new normal made us reassess our lives and professional goals. The new normal was so new, so different that we were still getting used to it.
Now that we’re back to the old normal, I long for the new normal. I long for the constant diaper changes, for the every three hours of breast-feeding, the time-consuming task of getting three children ready to go anywhere, the art of strapping three children into tiny car seats, wearing a baby while carrying another. I miss all of that. I loved doing those things! They were hard and I rolled my eyes when people asked how I was holding up. It was obvious that I had that new baby exhaustion but I so loved being a mom to my three little girls.
That is the new normal.
Today is the old normal and while I loved the old normal two short months ago, the new normal was just starting to fit.
September 14, 2013
Shortly after Shaundi was admitted to the hospital the doctor began talking to us about donating her organs for other children. It was so difficult to think of that being a decision that was a reality. We had just arrived at the hospital, to me this was the beginning, there was still time, a chance that she might make it, right? She hadn’t been on earth long enough to be in this situation, everything just HAD to work out, right?
Why couldn’t someone else’s baby have spare parts for MY baby? Why didn’t another family have to choose to save MY baby’s life? Why was it MY baby had to be the sacrifice? Why did we have to give everything WE had? Weren’t there spare parts out there for MY baby? Could SHE be fixed, couldn’t SHE be repaired?
Oh God, the pain of even thinking about all of that.
I’m a selfish momma, I want my baby in my arms, I want her sweet beautiful cheeks to be pink, her toes to wiggle, her eyes to gaze into mine. I want her heart to pump blood throughout her body, her lungs to breath in fresh air, her brain to feel the joy of the love we all have for her. I don’t want to let her go–not a single part of her, not a cell, not a limb, not an organ. She was given to ME and I want her for a long time.
We did have to make that decision and we DID decide to give all that our child could give so that another family didn’t suffer the way that we are suffering. Another family can have a chance to see their baby have birthdays, another family can hear their baby say, “Momma” and “Dadda”, another family can dress their baby in Easter dresses and take photos with Santa, another family can have first days of school and first dates and high school graduations. Another family won’t have to cry these tears, these warm, sad tears that pour down my face and leave my cheeks so cold.
September 16, 2013
I wondered how I would feel the first time I came across someone with a baby who is the same age Shaundi was when she died. I wondered how I would feel when I came across parents with babies that are the same age that Shaundi would be at that moment had she lived.
This weekend I saw a three month old baby. When Shaundi died a week and a half ago she was 72 days old, today she would be 84 days old. This three-month old was so alert, he knew his mom, he wanted his mom, he was happy, he had tears of protest when something didn’t go his way, he could hold his head up, he was beautiful. I just wanted to study him and watch him forever and remember more about how my own little baby moved before she left us and more about what milestones she might be reaching if everything was normal. I just want to watch how they move and try to remember.
Seeing this baby made me so happy but yes, it is a reminder that my arms are so, so empty and my soul is so, so bruised. Seeing other children doesn’t make me long for my sweet baby Shaundi any more than I already do because my want, my yearning is so big and so deep that there is no more room for any more longing.
Every situation, every experience is a new experiment on my soul, on my emotions, and on my heart. Everything is new, every emotion is raw and I am so exposed to the elements.
September 18, 2013
Because I’ve worked at a church for the last 15 or more years, I know that a lot of people are wondering where is God in your posts and the things that you say?
And the thing is that for the last two weeks I’ve been asking the same question, where is God?
I don’t want to believe that He’s here. I don’t want to believe that he’s had anything to do with this, because…”Why?” That’s always my question every morning, “Why?” and then my next question is, “WHAT am I supposed to do?” What am I supposed to do with this pain and this hurt and this nightmare?
People tell me that I’m being watched by others to see how I react, how I respond and that everything is for the glory of God and that people might come to know Jesus because of Shaundi. They said the same thing when my 15 year old brother died. They say, “It’s God’s will.”
They are wrong.
I don’t believe that God would will anything like this to happen to anyone. I believe somehow He will be able to use the situation for good someday, through me, through my husband, through my daughters, through others, but I don’t believe this was His will.
I question him many times every day, “WHY!? WHY?! Why God? Why me? Why Shaundi?! Why MY heart? Why MY soul?! Why MY baby?!”
And he doesn’t answer.
For the rest of my life I will ask these questions over and over again because I don’t think I’ll ever have an answer that is good enough to settle my soul and repair my broken heart.
Do I see God anywhere?
He is in the love that other people have for my family, in the care that is being given to our family, in the hearts of other people.
I feel so far away from him. I feel betrayed. I feel hurt. I feel devastated.
So where is God? I hope he’s hiding for a while because I just can’t look at Him right now.
September 20, 2013
Our family loves to travel together. I’ve always loved traveling. The love of travel comes to me from my parent’s love of travel. Often when you ask people why they travel they say it’s to find themselves.
That’s never been the case for me, I’ve always had a pretty good sense of self. Who I am has changed a lot over the years but I’ve never needed traveling to find myself. All I need to do is look around my world, at my reality, and there, I found myself. I know who I am, I know what I want, I know how to do things. My reason for traveling was not to find myself, but to find others, to find out more about the world around me, about the other people in the world. That was my reason for traveling.
When I was a teenager I found myself very unhappy as a highschooler, I didn’t really care for the world around me. I wanted to escape, to get away. I wanted to see things and experience things that couldn’t be found in a textbook or in the hallways of a high school. I was fortunate to get to do some of that traveling during high school; in Nicaragua, Mexico, Hawaii, and many other states.
When I finished high school I wanted to see more of the world, I wanted to find out about other people even more, and I wanted to learn about suffering. I wish I had been more specific when I indicated that I wanted to learn about suffering because during what was supposed to be a very long (1-2 year) trip to Africa, I found myself suffering. My brother was killed in a car accident at the age of 15. I ended my trip to return home to be with my family.
I continued to travel on shorter trips; to Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and even more of the United States. I found myself looking for a job that would keep me close to my family instead of so far, far away from the world that I had wished to be apart from just months earlier.
After working for a while and attending college, I found myself restless. I wanted to explore more but still be able to get home within a day, so I moved Indiana. Since moving to Indiana my overseas adventures have been far and few in between but my road trips have happened quite frequently. I’ve explored the land that God has put me.
I found myself as a wife to my husband when we were married. I found myself as the mom to my daughter Lulu when she was born. I found myself as an employee, as a daughter-in-law, as a mother to two little girls and then as a mother to three little girls. I never had a problem finding myself.
Today I find myself as a grieving mom of two little girls and no longer a mom of three little girls. Finding myself at this time is difficult. It’s difficult because I don’t want to find myself here, I want to find myself somewhere else, I want to find myself as I was two and a half weeks ago.
For the first time in my life, finding myself is very, very hard.
September 23, 2013
I’ve been called overdramatic. All of my life I’ve been called overdramatic, but I’m NOT overdramatic. I get excited, I get sad, I get happy, I get frustrated, I may be extreme, but I’m NOT overdramatic.
Within 10 minutes of getting to the hospital and hearing the doctor say the words “extremely grim”… in a sentence…those two words next to each other… I called my mom and I said two words, “Please come”. We were at the hospital for only 10 minutes, but I wanted my mom and my dad there. RIGHT NOW!
What was the worst that could happen? They would fly all of the way from California to Indianapolis and waste an airline ticket, because once they got there Shaundi was all better happy and healthy?
I didn’t want them to think I was being over dramatic in asking them to come, to drop their lives in California and jump on a plane and rush my side, to my child’s side. I wanted them there for me, I wanted them there for Shaundi.
There was that tiny thought in the back of my mind that mom and dad will come and they will make everything all better…And in the end, when she woke up and was breathing and her heart was beating and her blood was running quickly through her veins, her eyes open, pupils dilated — then my parents could say, “You’re so over dramatic! Why did you call us here when she’s just fine?” And I would forgive them for saying so and then I would let them call me overdramatic for my whole life.
If only that was the truth. If only I had been overdramatic and my parents rushed across the country simply to visit a child in the hospital, a child who we were scared for but was well. Then, THEN I would accept the label overdramatic.
I would wear it proudly.
September 25, 2013
13 years ago when my brother was killed in a car accident, I was overseas and living in a community of people with limited access to communication tools like telephones and computers. One day, someone that I didn’t know very well approached me and said that I was needed in the phone room. It was an emergency. They wouldn’t or couldn’t tell me what was wrong and I sobbed all the way there.
Just in case you are ever put in to position to take someone somewhere to find out something, don’t do it. Call in sick. Don’t accept that responsibility, it must be awful having a piece of information while someone wails and begs you to put them out of misery and suspense and just tell them. I sobbed loudly the entire time that they dialed and redialed my home phone number in the United States. I sobbed when they couldn’t get a line out of the country to make this important phone call. I sobbed when no one would tell me anything no matter how many times I asked what on earth was going on. Every moment that passed was torturous and burned my heart and ate away at my ability to breathe.
It was the most helpless, awful feeling I had ever felt at that point. When we finally got a hold of my family, I learned the news that my brother was gone.
Three weeks ago I had my phone turned off and all of my email and Facebook tabs closed as I composed the perfect article for a website that I contribute to. It had my utmost attention, the most focus I’ve given anything in a long time. When I was done, I hit send, smiled with a sigh of relief and then I checked my Facebook page.
There were several messages demanding that I call my husband immediately or call any number of a dozen people leaving these messages. Friends and neighbors wrote messages that said, “Call me! Call me!” I panicked and I turned on my phone – there were messages and text messages from my husband, from neighbors, from people I haven’t spoken to in years, insisting that I call immediately. I called my husband first and he said that friend was coming to get me, to stay where I was.
“Where are you? What’s wrong?!” I asked in response.
He said he had to go and to just hang on, someone was on their way. I stepped outside into the hot air and I gasped for breath as people asked if I was okay, as a police car arrived, as a friend arrived, as a neighbor arrived. I just sobbed and cried and gasped, “What is going on?! What is wrong!?” as the parking lot spun and blurred.
The police officer drove me to Riley Hospital, lights on. All the while I was screaming and sobbing, begging him to tell me something, anything, “What’s wrong?! Somebody tell me please! Tell me what’s wrong!” The freeways were closed for the first day of the big project. There wasn’t much he could share. “Tell me!” I begged. Really, I didn’t want him to tell me what was wrong, I didn’t want him to tell me what was going on. I wanted him to tell me that everything was fine, that it would all be all right. Instead, no one had much to tell.
I felt hopeless and helpless. I felt the deep, hard feeling that nothing would ever be right again. I felt that despite having no information, something was so incredibly wrong.
And it was.
September 30, 2013
My best girlfriend from high school came to visit us in May.
We had a fun week of running around town, doing things and seeing things, resting, relaxing and enjoying one another. A month later baby Shaundi was born. Then my parents came to visit from California and stay for a couple of weeks. We also had a great time — hanging out, building things, playing, visiting and seeing other people and just loving on our three babies. Then we spent the rest of the summer traveling, visiting people, visiting places, coming and going.
We’ve seen a lot of people, had them come and go from our home and our lives this summer, we’ve come and gone a lot too.
Then another friend from middle school was to come visit us with her infant son. The girls were very excited, but then last minute they were not able to visit, and so Lulu was disappointed. For a couple of weeks and even at times now she asked me when my friend is coming and bringing a little baby to spend the night at our house.
Then Shaundi. It feels like Shaundi just came to visit for the summer. It feels like she was just a houseguest, joining us on our adventures, sitting with us as a family, but still just a houseguest.
For how strong this feeling is of Shaundi just being a houseguest, a visitor, a traveler on her way, on a journey different from ours — I wonder how it feels for my children, and how it will feel years from now? Will we talk about the time that Shaundi came to visit and then we went to this place and that?
Will it always feel this way? Will it always feel like she was never really mine, never really a part of us?
She didn’t have her own room. She slept in a crib in my bedroom. She didn’t really have her own clothing or her own blankets, they were all hand-me-downs, beautiful things that we had used and received when her two older sisters were born. She never really was a permanent fixture. When she left so abruptly there was no bedroom to clean up, just linens to wash and fold and put away.
Just like what a visitor leaves behind. You wash and fold and put them away until the next time someone comes to your door.
I don’t like this feeling. I hate it. It rips my heart into a million pieces and scares me that her visit can just be a mark in a guestbook or a visitor diary and that’s the end of her time with us. I hate that. I hate all of this.
Is it too redundant to tell you again that I just want her here? I want her to move in permanently, to be with us for every trip, every holiday. I wanted her to be more than a guest in our home. I wanted her forever.
October 4, 2013
No Words: Nothing Can Be Said
People talk about “profound sadness” or “unbearable sadness” or “remarkable sadness” when they discuss losing a child. I don’t understand those words. Those aren’t words I would use to describe these feelings… but they are the only words out there. There are no adjectives to go along with the grief that floods my heart EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.
There are no adjectives to describe the disappointment that buries my breath as I realize that this is permanent. That these thoughts, these feelings, this situation, this loss — it’s all permanent. Every day I relive the realization that this is it. There is no rewinding, no changing anything. There’s no do overs. There nothing. This is it.
There’s nothing that I can tell you, no words I can use to share how heavy this emptiness is. It’s not unexpected, it’s not surprising. It’s sadness that is unimaginable. Absolutely completely imaginable.
Even though I’m living it, it’s unimaginable. Every single night as I go to bed I can’t tolerate the pain that I feel. I can’t imagine ever feeling good or whole or complete again. Every morning when I wake up, my heart still can’t comprehend that this is reality. This is the truth.
My brain knows, my arms know but my heart can’t translate reality and it begs and begs for something different. For something that feels right. For some sort of relief. My brain begs for words–words to tell my heart, to tell my family, to tell strangers. But there are none.
Just as difficult as it was for me last month, as a mother holding tiny baby, trying to capture the words to share how much I love that baby — It’s the same level of difficulty to develop the words about my loss because this feeling of loss is just an extension of that very same love.
There never were words for that love but I didn’t need them because I had the possibility of expressing them in ways that a mother can love her children. But now the possibility of loving that baby, of SHOWING her how much I love her…that possibility is gone.
So now I search for the words because all I have left are words, words that leave me looking high and low, near and far, words that leave me stranded.
October 7, 2013
A popular hypothetical question among animal owners is regarding what the dollar amount is that you would spend on a very sick or injured animal. What is your cap on prolonging the life of your best friend? It’s different for everyone, as a dog owner, I LOVE our Pixy girl so much but I just don’t know the dollar amount. It would honestly depend on the month, on her age, on any number of factors. Often we live from paycheck to paycheck, so the thought of a sick or injured pup is just so difficult, it could be financially devastating.
Somehow it’s a bit different with kids for most people. When it comes to your kid, there’s really no price tag. There’s no amount that you wouldn’t pay to make sure that they were healthy, that they were well, that they were physically taken care of, that they lived. The whole reason that we work and have jobs is to give our children a great life, everything they could possibly need.
I would live in my car to bring Shaundi back. I would live with family members for the rest of my days, I would live on the streets if it meant Shaundi was with us happy and healthy. I can’t think of anything I wouldn’t do to have her with me, legal, illegal, you name it — it would be done.
When the hospital bill arrived this week I knew it would be difficult to open it, but honestly, every move that my body makes is difficult. Every thought that I think is painful. Every single thing that goes through my mind every single day is difficult. Every laugh, every tear, every smile, every frown, everything is difficult. When I opened the hospital bill and saw the bottom line I was so upset. Not because it was exorbitant, but because it was such a little number. Yes it was tens of thousands of dollars more than the hospital bills that I used to complain about for her birth, but it didn’t seem like enough of a price tag for a life.
In retrospect, three months ago I should have been so thrilled at the price I paid to have a happy beautiful baby born. Those bills are only a fraction of the bill for services rendered to save her life, yet there aren’t enough decimal spaces in that price tag. I wanted to be shocked, to be blown away! I wanted the bill to be hundreds of thousands of dollars, millions of dollars, for there to be a numerical understanding of the effort that was taken to try to save my tiny baby. I wanted a number that matched the terrible pain, I wanted the number to give some value, some sort of measurable value to her life here on earth.
But I didn’t find.
I found a number that I can live with. A number that is financially crippling in some aspects, but just devastating that I cannot measure the value of her life on this number. I can’t stop thinking about how I wish that I opened the envelope and found something that I was looking for. But I think that as with everything else in this situation, I will just never find what I’m looking for. I will never find answers, I will never find words and now I will never find numbers that give some meaning to this.
October 10, 2013
The conversations I’ve had the past few weeks have just been so warm and loving, so heartbreaking and lovely at the same time. This post is dedicated to all of those mothers and fathers who hurt with me, who hurt with each other, who have un-held babies and who have babies who were held. You know who you are.
When you’re a parent you fear a lot of things. You fear the impact that you have on your children, which ultimately will determine the impact that they have on this world. You want your kids to be upstanding citizens, you want them to be bright…or at least not stupid. It would be nice if they could change the world but as long as their world is okay you can live with that. You want to leave this world a better place than when you found. And really one of the ways you can do that is through your children. Yes we can all do little things but you multiply yourself, you create something and what happens to that creation or what that creation does seems to say a lot about what kind of parent you are, what kind of talent and expertise and gifts you brought to the table.
You don’t want your child to be forgotten, YOU don’t want to forget your child. Sure, you don’t ever forget your own offspring but somehow you do, you forget what those little laughs sound like as they get older, you forget what their tiny little baby voice sounded like, the words they said, the funny things they did, you DO forget. And When someone is so tiny and doesn’t tell stories yet, doesn’t have a laugh or a giggle yet, doesn’t do anything…It’s easier to forget. So you search through their clothing for that smell, that one article of clothing may have not have been washed yet and still smells like their sweet little baby smell. You those tiny little diapers that seem to appear in forgotten spaces, remembering just how tiny that baby was that was meant to wear them. You look at your family and watch as they giggle and laugh and enjoy one another and YOU giggle and laugh and enjoy them too, but then you do remember something, you remember that there should be one more.
And then what if the world forgets. What if the world never even realized? What if people don’t understand? On some level everyone understands. We’ve all suffered loss of some sort, a job, a friend, our parents, a child, a miscarriage, the inability to conceive. And while every loss is different, the pain is still the same. And the energy that we exert to make sure that our person leaves a mark in this place, we want their name everywhere, we want it on every tongue, to be spoken, to be written, to be engraved, to be imprinted. To be remembered.
I want people to know that she was here– she was tiny and she was quiet and she didn’t physically do much, but she was here. She existed. And then I think of all of the mothers out there who have suffered miscarriages and I feel their pain on some level because we are all missing what could have been, what should have been, the dreams we had for those babies, the named and the unnamed, the ones just called baby or just call mine. We all grieve and we all long for, search the unknown and we look for blame and we look for answers, and we try to be better.
Most of all we want people know that there was a life. There were dreams. And we knew those babies. Whatever impact they have on the larger world begins to not matter, because the impact they had on our hearts, on our bodies, for better or worse we are forever changed.
October 15, 2013
October 15th – Pregnancy and Infant Loss – Wave of Light 7pm
There are things that have never touched my life personally so I never knew about them. One of those things was an event, a national day of awareness for Pregnancy and Infant Loss.
Tonight at 7pm, I along with thousands of other mothers and fathers and those missing their babies, will light a candle for my sweet baby. Everyone lights the candle in their own time zone at 7pm and leaves it burning for one hour. This is called the International Wave of Light.
One one hand, this sounds beautiful, on another hand…well, I have nothing to say. It’s still all so raw to me.
If you light a candle tonight, be it for your own loss or for the loss of another family, please post a photo to our facebook wall and tag it #october15th
In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan Proclaimed October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. “When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, their isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.”
October 17, 2013
Bad Mother: When We Place Judgment on Parents
To the Man with the Tommy Hilfiger hat and shirt who had three children with him on the hayride at the pumpkin patch, and the help of two grandmothers:
I am a bad mother. There, I said it. Is that what you wanted to hear when you asked everyone around you, “who belonged to that child that had no sweatshirt on when it was so cold outside”? Is that what you wanted me to say out loud from the two feet that separated us on that hayride? Or did you simply want me to sit there and stew and replay over and over what a terrible mom I am, how sometimes I forget to bring things, or how my car didn’t start because I forgot my keys and I had to hitch a ride with a neighbor and so I forgot a sweatshirt for one of my two children?
I won’t even explain that — it’s a common occurrence that I forget things or the kids forget to grab them. It happens. I’m sure I’m NOT the only one, but YOU, you made me feel like I AM the only one. The only parent who makes a mistake but moves on and moves forward. You made me feel like the lowest of dirt. You should know that I did see you snap a photo of my child and text it to show how bad of a mom I am.
You know what I did on Wednesday? I woke up, I showered, I dressed my kids, I played with them, I fed them, I worked through the car dilemma and I took my children to the pumpkin patch. Do you know what I wanted to do?
I wanted to die. I wanted to lay in my bed and cry my broken heart out. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to curl up and just disappear. But I didn’t — I got up and loved on my babies and treated them to a beautiful day on the farm.
I want to forgive you for how rude, how mean, how judgemental, how awful you were towards me on Wednesday, but I just can’t get over it. You see, these days I’m a little hyper-sensitive about how people look at my parenting skills, my every move. It’s been a terrible month in our family — the refrigerator died, the washer died, the dryer died and my sweet, tiny, brand new baby girl died. But you didn’t know that. How COULD you know that?
And that’s just the thing. How could you have known that? How can ANY single one of us know what battles another person is fighting, overcoming, being buried by? If you don’t know, don’t judge. It’s hard, I understand. We all look at someone else’s kids or life and think WE can do better than THEY are doing.
I dare you.
I would GLADLY hand over my trials and my battles to anyone. Who knows, maybe you WOULD do better but for now, why don’t you just be so thankful that I am the one dealing with these things. Be glad that it was ME that was dealt this card because with your judgement should come the acceptance of EVERYTHING that comes with it.
I’ll never get an apology from you. Even if you did read this, I doubt you would be humane enough to reach out and take back your words, those terrible, heartbreaking words. Your apology wouldn’t change things, I already feel that sinking feeling of being a terrible mom and you have crushed my spirit even further, but I’m still waking up every day and trying.
These things are all things to keep in mind when you see that struggling mom, that wild toddler, that preschooler without a coat and mussed up hair, the kicked down family. Maybe tomorrow I can remember a coat or brush my kids hair. Maybe next week I can keep doing my best. Maybe next time you can offer a helping hand instead of a slap of your words. Maybe we can all learn from one another and keep our words, our thoughts and our judgements to ourselves. I know it’s hard to control your thoughts sometimes, so think what you must but don’t involve an entire hayride of parents in your adult bullying, don’t draw others into humiliating me and destroying what is left of my will to go on with life.
A Heartbroken Momma
October 19, 2013
Good Stuff: The Good People Who Love Us in Grief
If you don’t personally know me (like IN PERSON, personally know me), then you probably read my blog and think that there is so much in my life that is bad. You probably think that if there is any good that I don’t see it.
I do see it. I do feel it. I’m living it. I’m getting through BECAUSE of it.
I hate making thank you lists because inevitably I will forget someone. Inevitably I don’t know even HALF of what has been done for our family, for the prayers said, the thoughts thought and the goodness delivered. Thank you to everyone and thank you to those I have yet to mention or have yet to know about. It was not intentional. Even when I hurt and I’m sad, please know that I am FOREVER thankful. The hurt and the sadness are so strong that sometimes they are the only thing I can SEE, but please know that I always FEEL your love.
Thank you to the emergency personnel who helped on the phone, in our home, on the way to the hospital and at the hospital. Thank you to the highly skilled doctors and nurses and specialists and everyone who has a role big or small at Riley Hospital. Thank you to our family and friends who were present in person and on standby by phone and text. Thank you to my friends who took care of my children while we were at the hospital. Thank you to the Cheer Guild for appeasing my children with toys and gifts. Thank you to the coroner for taking good care of the body of my baby girl.
Thank you to our pastors for everything. Thank you to Cindy Johnson for your kind services to our family once again. Thank you to the internet, to the bloggers, to the friends, to the strangers. Thank you to the over 400 people who gave towards medical bills, funeral expenses, family needs and memorial gifts. Thank you to my readers who left comments and prayers. Thank you to all of our churches and many other churches for their love and support and care and services. Thank you to Wilson St. Pierre for the care you provided to our beautiful baby and the care and services your provide to other families in our community.
Thank you to our many friends and family who dropped EVERYTHING in their own lives to come to the aid of our family in so many ways. Thank you to the Freemasons and our friends for the balloons and all that went with it. Thank you to all who made cookies, served cookies, made juice and served juice, made a meal for our family and served it. Thank you to our musicians who provided their services. Thank you to Casey and Shireen and Cindy for your photographs. Thank you to everyone for their instagrams. Thank you to all who attended to send our sweet girl on her way. Thank you to the friends new and old who have fed us and continue to do so. Thank you to friends and strangers for shopping for us. Thank you to friends and strangers for your cards and encouragement.
There is more to our story of thankfulness. There are forgotten parts to our story of thankfulness — my brain has forgotten but my heart has not. Thank you.
Thank you to each of you as you are a witness to or part of our story as it continues to unfold.
October 23, 2013
Some people believe in modern-day miracles with all of their heart. Some people have experienced modern-day miracles. I’ve never had a miracle. Not when I’ve asked for it, when I’ve begged for it, when I’ve gotten down on my knees and pleaded and prayed for it. Not ever.
When my brother died, I cried out to God over and over and over again on the long flight home from West Africa. I begged him to raise my brother from the the dead. I begged and prayed and cried.
For me, a miracle is not a reality. So when the doctor said that Shaundi’s situation was “very grim”, I didn’t ask for a miracle. I asked that I could please wake up from this nightmare, for this to be a dream, for none of it to be true. I begged for this to be my runaway imagination going to very dark places.
I couldn’t ask for a miracle, I had already used the opportunity to ask for a miracle in the past and God did not answer, or if he did he didn’t answer the way that I wanted him to answer. I knew there were no miracles here. When my husband told me that Shaundi just needed me to have positive thinking, I thought positively.
I thought things like “this isn’t real” — that’s positive right? This isn’t my baby, this isn’t my life. My baby is at home, safe, breathing, heart beating, blood flowing. She’s not here, not with these tubes or these wires and these machines. She’s not with people starting her heart over and over again.
What kind of miracle could have happened in this situation? If I had more faith or asked for that miracle, would it have happened? I prayed. Don’t you dare think that I didn’t pray. I didn’t ask for a miracle I just asked for it to not be true. Shaundi’s birth was a miracle, as is every life. There’s no room for miracles when it comes to death.
November 2, 2013
What Now? What Do You Do After Your Baby Dies?
<img class=” wp-image-22244 ” src=”https://indywithkids.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/10439506644_ee5d45d655_b.jpg” alt=”Photo by Cindy Johnson Family Photography” width=”672″ height=”447″> Photo by Cindy Johnson Family Photography
Leaving the hospital without Shaundi was a completely unnatural feeling. I didn’t know what to do. I had just been through the longest, most traumatic, most terrible experience of my entire life. I lost a piece of my heart, I lost every tear from my body, I lost my confidence, I lost my baby. During those incredibly long (but oh so quick) 15 hours, there were many people that were a “part” of it all – doctors, nurses, specialists — all of us thrown together unwillingly in the fight for a life.
What do you do when you leave the hospital? It’s like checking out of a hotel, do you leave the key in your room and shut the door? What if you left something behind. Do you drop it off at the front desk and say goodbye? What if that’s weird?
Do you hug the nurses and doctors and say goodbye? Do you say thank you? Do you say, see you later? What exactly are you supposed to do? What exactly IS the next step? When I came in here, I had a little tiny baby named Shaundi, I shouldn’t be leaving without her, right? Other parents were pulling their children to the exit in wagons or carrying them and I had no baby to carry. No infant in my arms, just a box of paperwork and “remember your dead sister toys” for the girls.
“Is this it?” I asked a nurse. “Do I need to sign anything, tell you anything? Do I just leave? Will we see you again? Will we hear from you?” It felt like the ending to a date that you just weren’t sure if it was bad or good.
“That’s all,” she said, “this is it.”
“Okay, thank you.”
They do their best to make you feel less empty when you leave, They fill your arms with blankets, boxes of mementos, footprints of your baby, books on grieving. And despite leaving with my arms full of these things my arms were so empty.
November 3, 2013
When my first baby was born I used to have nightmares that I wouldn’t know what she looked like.
The nightmare went like this, I dropped her off at childcare or daycare or some other unidentified place and when I came back, I couldn’t remember which baby was mine. I didn’t know her face. It wasn’t memorized because she was so new. She was changing every hour, everyday there was something new about her face and I dreamed that I would forget it. I dreamed that I wouldn’t remember what she looked like, that I couldn’t pick her up out of a lineup.
And now in my head I can barely remember what Shaundi looked like. She was a new and different every day. And this is my worst nightmare, that I wouldn’t be able to recognize her. I have photos but every parent knows that the photos you take never capture exactly what that baby looks like, there’s no context, you don’t know the moment, what was going on in the world around you — without that, the picture is just so flat and lifeless.
Like the one baby blanket that wasn’t washed, the one with the smell of her, the smell of baby. The scent has faded and been replaced with the smell of the Ziploc bag that I tried to hide it away in, hoping to save it forever. One little whiff of hope, of joy, now plastic like and gone. And her face, that sweet, tiny beautiful face…what did it look like EXACTLY?! I want to remember what she looked like in my arms. I want to remember every line, every crease, every smirk.
Unfortunately, there’s nowhere on this earth that I would have to recognize her, but why can’t my brain remember EVERY single little thing about her? Why? I just want that little beautiful face burned into my eyeballs forever. I don’t want to forget a single thing. Not a single detail, a single feature, a single movement, a single twitch.
What if I go to heaven and I can’t find her but she’s right in front of me? Why if I just don’t remember? What if I grow old and don’t remember what my baby looked like when she was alive?
November 22, 2013
Yesterday I had heart surgery. It was planned and it was to correct a heart defect that I’ve had my whole life. I was worried and scared but I wanted to get it done. We’ve thought a lot and talked a lot about death in our house these past few months and one of the most comforting parts of this surgery was that I was going to be put under.
For the first time in two and a half months my brain didn’t have unanswered questions dancing around disrupting every thought, every memory, every moment – waking and sleeping. For the first time I didn’t re-live horrible things over and over and over in my head. For the first time I didn’t feel anything. I just was. For four hours I wasn’t afraid, I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t worried. I was nothing. That moment where you just let go was so wonderful. Now I wonder if that’s what death is like. You don’t exist and you just let go. You feel nothing.
Waking up was difficult. When I’ve had anesthesia before, I’ve been told I’m hilarious when I wake up. Think David After Dentist when he’s thirty something, yeah, I’m funnier. Not this time. I came unglued. I just cried and cried and moaned. I wasn’t in pain on the outside and for all intents and purposes, my heart was fixed…but it’s still broken. My tears were a mixture of relief that I was awake and well and disappointment that I was back to reality in this place.
Every single morning when I open my eyes I’m hit with the overwhelming weight of disappointment. I love my life, I love my kids, I love my husband but the disappointment that our loss is real is just so heavy. It packs such a powerful punch that I can literally feel my heart stop for a second. It smacks me in the stomach that this is real and I just struggle with the fact that we can’t change anything. I struggle with accepting the idea that nothing can be done. I’m really having a hard time with that reality. My brain knows but really, my heart just doesn’t. Every single day I tell my poor heart the truth and every day my heart argues and protests. Until my heart accepts this reality, life will continue to be so painful.
All this month I’ve been anxious for this procedure. And what’s the worst that could happen? I’ll die. And thinking about that makes me sad because of course I want to see my children grow up. I want to run around and play with my family and I don’t want them to have any more pain in their lives. But sometimes I don’t think that I can handle this. I sometimes think that the absence of this pain in my life would feel so good. And if for some reason God decided that this was it for me…maybe I would be okay with that.
Isn’t a broken heart just so heavy? Doesn’t it just bleed onto every piece of your life? If only there was a procedure that could patch up this injury or ablate it away.
December 12, 2013
Every night I fall asleep laying in the same spot that Shaundi died. I lay here and I imagine she’s still here. I wonder if she was scared when it happened. I wonder if she wanted for us. I wonder if she felt alone, lonely or abandoned. I wonder if it was quick. I wonder if she thought about me, about her daddy, about her sisters. I wonder if she knew how much we love her. I wonder why it had to happen here…why it had to happen at all.
Our bed was our happy place. We have spent hours and hours and hours and lifetimes here. It’s a big bed and It fits our whole family. We watch TV here, we eat birthday breakfast in bed here, we snack here, we recharge here, we work here, we lay here when we’re sick, while we’re pregnant and watch hours of Dora, watching movies while we’re on bed rest. We snuggle, we cry, we hold each other, we have tickle wars, we play “the floor is lava”. We even have family photos taken there! This is our happy place.
The day that Shaundi died, really died (and then was revived, but the day that she really died), I was having my haircut for the first time in months. Afterwards, I came home and I fed her. I held her while Scout and Lulu watched Dora with their daddy on the bed. We all watched Dora, we chatted for a bit, we all tickled each other, we all admired our beautiful, beautiful new baby. We loved on each other, we loved on her and then I left the house to go to work.
My first day as 100% self-employed.
Shaundi slept in our happy place and Jacob and the girls had dinner downstairs. And then she was gone.
I don’t know if this is still our happy place. We still have happy moments here, but it’s also a place of terror, of pain. t’s a constant reminder of death and hurt and longing.
When my brother died his funeral was in our church, the church that I grew up in and made so many fun memories. And then there was his funeral. And then years later my wedding. And then my sisters wedding.
Perhaps it’s fitting that death and life and love and hurt all take place in one location. Maybe that’s just the way it’s supposed to happen. Like hospitals; birth and death.
December 19, 2013
Travel with Your Kids – Anywhere at Any Age
During the summer we don’t really tell our kids that we’re going somewhere, we tell them when we’re going home. It’s completely normal for us to be gone for about half of the summer (or more) for family vacations or work related travel. We take every opportunity we have to hit the road and see something new or visit a friend. Museums, tourist attractions, landmarks, restaurants, unique hotels, parks. If it looks like family fun, you name it, we’ll check it out.
Part of our ability and drive to travel is the nature of my job (and my past career included event and trip planning for groups) but since having kids, it’s become about something different. There is no better expression on your child’s face than one of discovery and excitement. My oldest daughter loves Dora the Explorer and all of the adventures she goes on. You wouldn’t believe how many things the stairs in our home have been — sticky, icky mud and the tallest mountain, a waterfall, the winding river, and whatever adventure she decides to go on that day. For me, introducing my kids to real waterfalls, actual tallest mountains and very sticky icky mud, is thrilling.
When my second child was born, Lulu wanted to name her Dora. It would have been fitting for a child in our family. Instead we named her Scout. Scout means explorer. We are a family of explorers and I wouldn’t have it any other way. With each of our children we’ve packed up the car and the pack & plays and hit the road for an adventure by the time they were 4 weeks old. New York, Chicago, California, a safari, an airplane, a boat. You name it, we’ve probably taken an infant.
This past summer, our third little girl Shaundi was born. She was such a trooper — other than a travel crib, she never even had her own bed because we were on the road for most of her short life. When she died suddenly at only two and a half months old, I was able to look back at her tiny amount of time on this earth and know that we had really lived as a family, we had done so many things and visited so many places. Many parents who lose children who are several years old do not even have the number of photos and stories of places visited together as we do.
The biggest treasure from our summer travels are not just the photos but the memories that her older sisters will always have or hear about of their baby sister being a part of our summer adventures. Travel and exploration are so important in life — having a family to do this with is so special.
Take a Friday off work. Fill the tank with gas, pack up a swimsuit, a towel, a couple change of clothes, a coat, tennis shoes, flip flops and get out of here. Go see something new…with the kids.
December 22, 2013
I always wanted to be one of those families that sent a photo Christmas card to our list of loved ones. I used to do it, before kids. Then we had kids and the hundreds of dollars it cost was just too much (hello postage!). I also wanted to be that mom that sent out birth announcements but since we all but tweeted their births (okay, we might have tweeted), no mailed announcement needed.
If I’m ever going to be that person that mails out Christmas cards with smiling photos of my babes, this is the year I need to do it more than any other year. This is the only year I can really include Shaundi. This is the only year that I can send out a photo of her beautiful, peaceful face without being worried that people will think I’m weird or stuck in the past or crazy. Our 2013 Christmas card is representative of all that happened in our lives in 2013.
Scroll to the bottom for our video scrapbook of 2013
Until we really looked through all of our photos from 2013 (nearly 20,000 of them) and watched the videos (about 400 of them), it was hard to see anything other than death and darkness and sadness. But oh my gosh, there was so much LIFE in 2013! So much love and light!
In January we had a 2 1/2 year old, a six month old and a baby on the way. Scoutie couldn’t sit up yet, Lulu wasn’t in preschool yet and we hadn’t didn’t know if we were having a baby girl or boy. As the months zipped by Lulu learned so much and had no trouble sharing with anyone who would listen, she started preschool and enjoys her “jobs” in her school. Scoutie crawled, sat up, turned one year old and eventually walked. We found out we were to be blessed with another little girl and we called her Shaundi Adrian.
This past year we loved so much, we grew and we lost. We came to know and feel the love of our entire community — near and far. Thank you for your role in our community, whatever it may be. As we struggle through the meaning of life and loss, we are ever comforted by the people that God has placed in our lives. We are aware of the embrace of family, friends and strangers and we are so very thankful for it all. As difficult as our journey has been, we can only imagine the journey of those without the kindness and generosity we have been shown.
For 2013, thanks.
For 2014, hope.
December 31, 2013
Year 2013: The Year My Child Died
Today is hard. Sounds are giving me headaches. With every noise around me I can literally hear my brain crying out. Thoughts are crushing my heart. I prepared myself that Christmas would be one of those really hard days. Every day is a really hard day but I thought Christmas would just crush my soul in way that would leave me crumpled in a corner in such a manner that could not be uncrumpled. I survived. I survived Christmas.
New Years Eve. That’s the day. The day that has me running errands between mini breakdowns, begging the girls to please just play together nicely in the other room…quietly. I’m trying so desperately hard to remember that 2013 was mostly good. I made a video about it, I keep telling myself this over and over, but it’s like burning a pan of rice. Even though it’s just the rice on the bottom that burned, it all tastes like burnt. My whole year, my whole LIFE just tastes burnt right now.
I’m trying to reflect on the good. The good people we’ve met, the good people we’ve known, the good people who have taken care of us, of our girls, of our tiny angel baby. It’s so easy to reflect on the good but it’s just so hard not to feel the loss, the horror, the terror, the guilt, the hurt, the blame, the hot tears.
I wanted to tell you about a friend of mine who is on my mind a lot. Cindy is someone that I might never have met if it wasn’t for Indy with Kids. When I was pregnant with my second child, Cindy, a “regular” on the Facebook page, wrote to me and told me about her photography business. She offered to photograph our family. She took gorgeous photos (coincidentally) on the day that I went into the hospital to have my baby. They are my favorites ever.
Not only does Cindy photograph families, but she does boudoir sessions. She wants to make women see their own beauty. She can find that angle, that perfect shot that makes life (and people) look beautiful, even when they don’t feel beautiful.
Since the first time Cindy photographed our family, she has been there for us so many times. When baby Shaundi was in the hospital and we knew it was the end, we asked her to come and she came. Cindy and a network of volunteer photographers are a part of a group called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. They provide remembrance photography sessions to families suffering the loss of an infant. Until I wore these heavy, sad shoes, I might have thought it a strange idea and just thought, “to each his own” but can I tell you, having those photos of our baby in our final moments together as a family, of her baptism, of our tears and our hugs and our love, those are very important photographs. They aren’t my favorite, they aren’t ones that bring a smile to my face, but they are so special.
Cindy has this huge heart for people. She loves and gives of herself and shares her talents in so many ways. I’m so blessed to have Cindy in my life.
Beauty–when I feel days that are this ugly and hard and I feel the need to share the pain, I’m going to do my best to tell you about something beautiful. I’m going to tell you about some of the pretty that shined through during the past four months.
For 2013, thanks.
For 2014, hope.
*The photos shared above are from our newborn family shoot when all was well. We have chosen not to share our remembrance photographs at this time.
March 22, 2014
Oh, Baby: Baby Number Three
I wrote this post almost two weeks ago because it’s all I could do to stop myself from telling you before now. The truth is, I wrote it in my head over two months ago. I’ve poured it back and forth in my brain from bucket to bucket. I’ve swished it around, I’ve strained it, I’ve tested it and here it is.
All of my pregnancies have been 100% planned and expected, including this one, “Baby Poppy” as we’ve taken to calling him/her. I only tell you this because if you know our story, you are probably wondering. That seems to be the question people ask me every time I’ve been pregnant. And yes, we planned this pregnancy.
Of course, I will share with you that when I found out, I cried. My tears were those of happiness, joy, sadness, grief, fear, terror, guilt. My brain began asking me unimaginable questions, questions that don’t even matter because they aren’t real scenarios. But still, my brain asked my heart these heart wrenching questions for which there are no answers.
Instead of mulling them over, we are celebrating. We are celebrating the possibility of life, the possibility of a newborn baby in our home once again. Will you celebrate with us again? Will you come be a part of our continuing story of love and life?
Thank you for all of your kind thoughts and prayers over the past few months. We ask for your continued love as we share more of our life with you. Thank you for your continued role in our journey.
May 8, 2014
Don’t Ask: There’s No Answer for “Why?”
For months I’ve cried out to God and asked, “Why?” I’ve said it in anger, in desperation, in tears, in anguish, in pain.
I’m done asking why.
There is no answer to the question that God or anyone else can ever give me that will make the death of my sweet Shaundi okay. There’s no answer that will satisfy this pain in my throat, in my stomach, in my heart. I’ve tried to answer it myself, I’ve heard “reasons” from other people and none of them help.
The only question I still have is, “How?”
How will I survive this? Yes, even eight months later I don’t know how to survive. I’m dying inside faster than a woman my age should. I’m angrier at people than I should be. I’m just getting by when it comes to my emotions and my care.
How? How many more days or years will I live without my girl? How am I supposed to live my whole life when a part of me is gone. Completely gone. I’d rather have lost a limb than such a chunk of my heart. Aren’t there other organs that regenerate that I could have had a slice taken away? How can I do this?
Today I’m taking my kids back to a place that we spent time at just a few days before we lost Shaundi, and I’m really struggling. As much as I’m looking forward to it, I’ve been overly emotional today and I’ve finally identified why. Eight months ago I packed up the final box in my office at work, I loaded all three kids into the van after daycare and we headed to an event for children and families. I can vividly remember the conversations with Lulu about why there were boxes in the car, “Why are you taking your office home?”
Because I work at home now.
“That’s a GREAT idea!” and now I would get to take the three girls to more places to have fun. Starting that night we were going to play so much more now…all of us together.
But I didn’t get to play with all three of my girls. We played for one more weekend. I had one day as a self-employed, stay-at-home mom. One day. And then Shaundi was gone. I treasure the months I’ve had with Scoutie and Lulu and I love them so much. Still, there’s no answer for “why?” that would satiate my mind, no answer that would make anything better or make me feel peace. There’s no answer good enough for a momma who loses a child.
I don’t ask why anymore.
June 5, 2014
Always Zero | #loveforShaundi
It’s birthday season in our house. Each of my girls were born in the early summer months. Lulu was born close to the end of May, Scoutie was born 2 years and 2 weeks later in early June and Shaundi was born 1 year and 2 weeks after Scoutie, also in June. Explanations of when each girl moves from being one age to the next have been continuous and difficult to grasp. There’s one transition that Lulu still doesn’t quite grasp but after our conversation tonight, she might.
We were discussing releasing balloons again for baby Shaundi’s birthday. Lulu was asking if Shaundi was going to still get old like everyone else. I explained that she would not.
“Mommy, will Shaundi always be zero years old?”
Yes. Yes. My baby will always be 72 days old. She’ll always be tiny in my heart and in my mind. The dust that she has become will be only that old. Yes, nine months have past and she was born nearly one year ago but she will always be zero. 0. It’s a big hole. It’s a permanent hole. It’s the number of loneliness. It’s the number of heartbreak. It’s the number that doesn’t exist. There’s nothing there.
March 25, 2015
Every Moment Has a Hole
My husband and I recently listened to the Serial podcast from NPR. It was a great series to listen to, it was a devastating story and so easy to jump on one side or another of the case and speak of the characters as if they were just people in a book or a movie. But then there was the end. The mother of the teen who was murdered shared a Korean proverb: “…when parents die, they’re buried in the ground, but when a child dies, you bury the child in your heart. “When I die, when I die my daughter will die with me. As long as I live, my daughter is buried in my heart.”
That’s when you are reminded of the reality of the whole thing, this is real life, this is someone’s story. There’s a family out there who doesn’t have their child anymore. There’s a mom out there that cries for her baby, a sibling who is fearful and confused, a dad who hurts. It’s sad.
And that proverb? It’s so true? It’s the truest truth I’ve heard in the past year and half since my little girl died. She’s still here. She’s still in my heart, buried. Sometimes people don’t remember or even know what has happened to us, but I can guarantee you that I know. I can’t stop knowing. She’s here. When I die, only then will she be laid to rest.
For now, she’s not really here, but that’s the problem.
Every moment has a hole in it, every photo has empty space that should be filled, every celebration has missing laughter, every bedtime has one less hug and kiss, every table has a missing chair, every car ride has a missing car seat, every song has a missing singer and every dance has a missing dancer.
“When parents die, they’re buried in the ground, but when a child dies, you bury the child in your heart.”
September 13, 2015
We Are Good: Child Loss Two Years Later
It’s two years later.
I can’t believe it. I didn’t think I could survive one day. One night. One week. One month. One year…
Here we are. We have survived.
I think of Shaundi every single day. Sometimes I think of her every single moment. There are days that it seems like every breath is deep and hard because I’m still hit with moments of shock and dismay. Other times a whole 24 hours can pass by and I don’t hear the sound of her name anywhere except in my mind and in my heart. Hearing her name aloud is like bells on a quiet day. It doesn’t hurt, it feels good. It reminds me that she was real, our baby was real, and our love was real.
There was a weekend we spent at a lake together along with extended family and close friends. It was just over two years ago. All three of my baby girls sat on a bench on the boat. I snapped a photo. Shaudi is looking. The other girls are more interested in her than in smiling for my photo. This photo sits on the mantel of our fireplace.
Several times over the past few months, the girls have curled up next to me and looked at the photos in that room. Twice, twice I’ve been told by my babies, “I wish I could jump into that picture. I wish I could go back there and start over.”
Me too, love. Me too. I wonder if things would be different. I wonder if it was possible to go back and change things, would they really be different? Could I change anything?
If you ignore this giant hole in my heart, the one where it was ripped away and taken from me if you ignore that and if you can look past it all, we are good. The girls are growing, they are healthy, they are smart and we have a new baby. He’s not quite a baby anymore, but he’s the baby of the family.
When he lived beyond the 73-odd days that Shaundi did, I felt good. When he turns one this month, what’s left of my heart will do a happy dance. I’ll breathe a tiny sigh of relief and know that my job is never over but at least I can get through that first year because I wasn’t sure I could. My confidence was shaken. My ability to believe that everything…almost everything would be alright.
If you take all of that crap away, we are good. We are just your average, normal family.
We are the Mann family, and we are good.
October 15, 2015
That Never Happened | Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day
Shaundi is 2 years old. Not technically, but she would be. We still count her in our lineup of ages. The kids ask how old she is, and that is what they mean, “how old WOULD she BE if she was still here?” So yes, Shaundi is just over two years old.
It’s really hard for me to imagine her being two years old. If I really try, I can imagine that maybe she would really love painting and play dough, but she would do silly things still — like put the Play Doh in her mouth and then paint her arms.
I only picture her as two ages. She is a baby. Tiny and brand new, so soft. Or, she’s this intelligent, mature being that’s wise and knows everything and has stepped back to see the big picture. At this stage of being in my mind, she is capable of making decisions to do things — like leave us. And that hurts. I don’t like that image, but it’s there. It makes me angry with her. Didn’t she want to be with our family? Couldn’t SHE have done something? Fought harder? God knows, I tried. I don’t like this picture at all.
I don’t want to picture her either way. I want to picture a 2 year old, sitting in my lap, looking through some books, reading a Dr Seuss story that seems to go on and on, having these endless sentences with words that don’t make sense. Sentences that make her smile.
I want her to be wild and to drive her sisters crazy. I want her to crawl under my bed and get stuck because she’s just barely too big to fit there anymore. I want her to stand up in her crib and reach for me when I come in. I want her to cry with disappointment that the day is over when I say it’s bedtime.
I want to transition her to a big girl bed and work on potty training. I want to cut up fruit into little pieces for her, even thought she tells me she’s a big girl and can eat a whole apple slice. I want to wash her clothes and give her a bath — shampoo her hair and listen to her shriek is the water falls into her eyes.
That never happened. None of it, because she left me. I couldn’t keep her safe enough, or healthy enough or happy enough to stay.
November 12, 2015
STOP IT | No More Speculation in Public Forums
Every time a tragedy happens where there’s no answer, people feel the need to fill in the blanks with their own speculation or with a comparison to another tragedy. Unfortunately, they also feel the need to do it in a public forum.
If you were qualified to do this, you wouldn’t be sitting at home on Facebook perusing news stories and creating a sensational story.
When our infant daughter became unresponsive during her nap, I was a suspect. I wasn’t home when it happened, it was a pretty clear cut case in the end but in the heat of it all, in the immediate moments following a death or an accident, everyone is a suspect.
Some of the last few hours of my daughter’s “medically sustained” life, I spent time with a homicide detective and a social worker. While she lay in a hospital bed alone, I was being interrogated about where I was, what my life was like, who I was with, what I ate, what I drank, what I did in my free time.
While my baby was dying/dead in the hospital.
My husband was interrogated separately from me.
Then it wasn’t over.
While we held the hands of our sweet baby girl and sobbed and were told that the situation was very grave, a police officer stood at the door and observed everything we did.
During the nighttime hours that we spent kissing her forehead and praying and begging, homicide detectives searched our home and interviewed our friends and neighbors.
When Shaundi was removed from life support, an autopsy was performed to be sure that there truly was no foul play.
While we were planning a funeral, our other children were interviewed without us by a child psychologist and social worker.
The autopsy came back showing exactly what had happened. She had stopped breathing in her sleep for this reason and that. We weren’t guilty of killing our child.
In the months following Shaundi’s death, there were home visits.
And finally the case was closed.
I am still so angry about how the system works. There’s no innocence until proven guilty, only guilt until proven otherwise. BUT, then I try to remember that if this process saves the life of one child, it’s worth it. Even being two years removed from it all, it’s hard to say that. I repeat it to myself often.
When I see people online spout out their public speculation about the guilt or innocence of other people in the media, I think about the time that I was under fire. I shudder to think of what would have happened if my husband or I had been torn apart by these people.
As a grieving mother, a mom who had just lost her baby, I already wanted to die. If my community had shared their unmerited “hunches”, I don’t think I would be alive. I’m fortunate that I had a supportive community in real life AND online. I only ever saw love and compassion being shared. And don’t think that mourning families don’t read these things. WE DO!
There’s no closure in death until you yourself die, so you search for small pieces of closure, you google your story, you see EVERYTHING.
And yes, you say things or write things that can be misconstrued and misrepresented by people who don’t know you. When you come from a religious background, you spout off things that you’ve always heard or told people when they are suffering. And people don’t always understand those things when they are on the outside, so they should just keep their mouths shut.
Church people say stupid stuff. VERY stupid stuff, and it’s supposed to help you find comfort. And if the person grieving says these same things, it doesn’t mean they are guilty. It’s automatic, robotic.
When my brother died, I said stupid religious stuff that I’ve heard my whole life, “It was God’s will”, “It was all a part of HIS plan”, “He’s in a better place”. When my daughter died, I couldn’t do it any more.
Maybe I’ve lost my faith, maybe I’m not as strong as other people, but I know I shocked them when all I could say to every pastor and church person was, “This f—ing sucks.”
And no one held that against me. No one shared that on Facebook or in the media. No one took my words out of context or tried to twist them to hurt me — because what I was speaking was universal.
If someone speaks in terms you don’t understand, don’t try to understand them, just move on. let them grieve and express themselves in their own words as they try to figure out exactly what is going on. There’s a whole new level of feeling and indescribable thoughts that come when your life is turned upside down. Let the experts figure it all out because I assure you, not only are they living in a personal hell, they are living in a legal hell that I hope you never understand.
June 15, 2016
And Then It Happens to You
Before I was a mom I had a lot to say about a lot of things when it came to how other people parented or the decisions they made. I knew everything.
And then it happened to me, I became a mom and I learned I was 100% wrong about everything I knew.
I never thought I was the best parent or that I had it all together; I try my best and do everything I can for my kids. In one second, I was the mom that was judged by my neighbor, gossiped about, questioned. Thankfully, I was only ripped apart by a few people and I found very little online. What you say online is out there friends, no matter what you feel about another person’s parenting practices, they are grieving and hurting. Your negative input does not help the situation.
My heart hurts so much every time I turn on my computer. I’m fortunate that I seem to have very compassionate, loving friends who look at the world a lot like I do…or like I do at this point in my life. Even my friends without children have kind hearts and soft words for what they see in the world.
One moment you’re the best parent — you take your child on vacation, or to the zoo or an amusement park or a playground — and then it happens to you. You lose a child. Your child is a statistic, a product of your failure as a parent. You’re the worst parent ever. And that’s just what you think about yourself. And the worst part is, your baby is gone!
One moment everyone is attacking and shredding an unknown mother (sometimes a father, but mostly a mother in my experience) for all of her faults, for taking her eyes of off her child, for taking a drink of water, for going to the bathroom, for tending to another child, for digging around in her purse — and then it happens to you. In a blink of an eye you lose a piece of your heart and the world turns on you. Let them say what they want, if only it brings your baby back — but it doesn’t.
One moment it’s someone else’s story and you have everything to say about it online, in conversation with your friends — and then it happens to you.
Children die every day for a multitude of reasons. Let’s turn our outrage towards the fact that in our prosperous society 15.3 million children live in food insecure households. They’re hungry. They’re starving. Let’s fix that, let’s find a solution — you never know when it could happen to you.
If the hunger issue or any other reason that children are losing their lives seems too big for you to contribute to, then try contributing love. Compassion. Care. When we lost our child, we were surrounded by love and care and kind words and it meant so much. Please stop with the narrative on someone else’s story. Hope with all of your heart that it’s always someone else’s story and that it never happens to you.
September 3, 2016
It Gets Worse | Grief & Loss | Three Years
Oh, it hurts.
I’m not sure that Labor Day weekend will ever be a mark of joy again. I’ve said that I don’t want to even recognize this time, that only the would-be birthdays of my little Shaudi should be marked, celebrated, mourned. But I can’t let go. It’s just always there when September rolls around.
The pain hasn’t faded, it hasn’t dulled, it hasn’t dissipated. We have more joy on top of all of the pain, but it’s like a sandwich, every bite you take still has that layer of onions or mustard or pickles or whatever you don’t really care for on your sandwich. You can cram it full of the good stuff but it’s still there, your teeth sink right into it every time.
When everything happened, I thought the worst feeling I could ever have was when I begged for it all to stop and heard exactly what would happen once life saving measures were ended. I thought the worst feeling was that breath of relief from all of the medical personnel that filled the dark room when I declared that enough was enough and it was time.
But it got worse.
I thought the worst feeling was when we brought our other two children in and they didn’t even recognize the baby hooked up to all of the tubes and wires. I thought the worst feeling was explaining to them that this was going to be the last time they would see her because she was going to leave us.
But it got worse.
I thought the worst feeling was when I held my baby, unplugged from all of the machines and sang to her, knowing that there weren’t enough songs in the world to let her know how much I loved her. I thought the worst feeling was when my teeny little girl slowly hiccuped her way to death — so slowly, yet so quickly. I thought the worst feeling was time of death, 12:34pm.
But it got worse.
I thought the worst feeling was leaving my little girl in the hospital bed and walking away. Forever. I thought the worst feeling was driving away from the hospital with two babies instead of three.
But it got worse.
I thought the worst feeling was the physical and emotional pain of letting my milk dry up because there was no little one to feed. I thought the worst feeling was laying down where she last laid, knowing that she was alone when she died. I thought the worst feeling was finding her spit-up rags, teeny diapers and bottles all over the house.
But it got worse.
There’s one thing that is so terrible, so awful, so heartbreaking that I’ve never talked about it. It’s an image that plays over and over in my head on repeat and today I just can’t get rid of it.
A few days after Shaundi died, we dropped the girls off at childcare and went to the funeral home with some of our family and very close friends. Our baby was wrapped up in a handmade blanket from my friend Janet and she was tucked into this small little box with her bunny toy. The lid was placed on top of the box and her little baby body was sent towards the hottest fire so she could be cremated. I felt nothing as it happened. All of my feels were gone, used up. But the past few months I can’t stop thinking about it. I feel a lot right now.
It doesn’t get better friends. It gets worse, you just learn to work around it, to exist despite it all. It’s always there and always painful, but you just do it. You get up out of bed and you put your feet on the ground. You hug your babies, you move forward and you do what you have to do. You enjoy life, you love those around you, you keep your loved ones in your heart, even when they leave you, and you leave behind those who hurt you.
September 3, 2017
The Problem with Love | #LoveforShaundi
The problem with love is that it’s a function of your heart. And your heart is stupid. It really, really is. If love had anything to do with your brain, then everything would be okay.
Your brain knows when something isn’t right, true or real.
But your heart is with so much fault.
Your heart will continue to be in love with someone who isn’t right, your heart will convince you of things that aren’t true.
My heart is constantly trying to figure out how to get Shaundi back. My heart is constantly trying to bring her home — trying to figure out how this can play another way.
My heart relives the pain when another family suffers the loss of a child. My heart has me convinced that there could be a different way. My heart watches as other families go through the same decisions we had to make — and when they are victorious or there’s a miracle, my heart is convinced that this very same miracle could be ours.
But it’s over.
My heart won’t hear it.
My brain is smarter.
My brain is the one that sheds these tears. My brain is the one sitting here sobbing — my brain knows.
The heart will constantly try to find reconciliation, miracles. The heart has more faith than the brain.
But my heart, my heart is with fault. It is over. It has BEEN over for four years now. Any my heart won’t take no for an answer. Won’t take goodbye for truth.
The tears, the sobbing, the pain of it all — my heart doesn’t understand. Until the day that I die, my heart will be searching, like a cell phone looking for a signal, my heart will look and look and look for Shaundi to be back in my arms, until the battery dies.
Photos by Casey Coombs
June 25, 2018
I can’t even remember if I’ve already titled a blog “We Survived,” but that’s the mantra today on Shaundi’s 5th birthday. We survived another year. I should have a baby celebrating her 5th year on earth, the big Kindergarten year, her 5th year of life. Instead, we’re missing her on her 5th missed birthday.
The years are flying by — and not because they are easy. Sometimes I don’t even know where the week went, it’s like I’m still living in that numb blur of grief and it’s painful. Sometimes it’s physically painful and you just limp through the pain of heartache and sadness and pray that you survive. That you get out okay on the other side. (But where is that “other side” that everyone speaks of?)
This is a milestone birthday, a special one, where we should be getting ready for her to ride the school bus with her two big sisters, where we should be celebrating with ice cream and pony rides. Maybe there would be a Paw Patrol theme or a unicorn theme. Maybe she would want her own American Girl doll so she would stop stealing her sister’s dolls. Or maybe she would want a scooter.
We should be celebrating with joy and laughter.
Instead, we’re surviving.
We’re trying to keep the joy and the laughter and celebration. Each year, we buy seven balloons, one for each of our family members and we let them go. And then we have donuts and play as a family.
But we’re celebrating what should have been. We’re celebrating survival.
Today, when we stood at a favorite park and let those beautiful balloons fly, no one cried. Every year the babies cry because they don’t want to let that balloon go. The big girls talk about how we’re sending them to heaven. In the years past there have been notes attached, pictures. The babies don’t care that the balloons are a gift or tribute to a sister that they never met, a sister that they never knew.
This year there were no tears, the babies willingly let go of their strings and sent those balloons upward.
This year we got it right with the balloons. Every single year it has been a disaster. The balloons don’t fly or they get blown into trees and never make it (to heaven.) The strings get all tangled and turn into a mess AND THEN get tangled into a tree and never make it (to heaven.)
But this year they were individual balloons and they ascended together but separately. After 5 years of frustration over wanting to have a perfect moment, a perfect tribute, we finally got it right.
I don’t know why it even matters. It changes nothing. Maybe there was a part of me that wants to get it right since we couldn’t get her life right. We owe her. We owe her balloons and kisses and hugs and laughter. We owe her the kind of family that celebrates. We owe her a life. And birthdays, so many birthdays.
There aren’t enough balloons in the world to bring her back. There isn’t enough of anything to bring her back and that kills me every second of every day. I’m surviving, but I’m dying. I want there to be a price to pay, a solution. I want the answer to be there, I would make it happen.
I don’t know if what we’re doing is okay. I don’t know if it helps our kids or hurts them, but I’m surviving and it’s the only thing I know to do. I’ll probably do this every June 25th until the day I die. I know that the balloons aren’t going to heaven, and my kids will understand that one day soon, but for now, it’s helping us survive.