I can't believe Jacob's birthday is over. There were parts of yesterday where I felt like I was saying goodbye...like I had reached the end of my journey. But then, there were parts of yesterday where I was able to truly understand why I was feeling the way I was and to make sense of it. Here's a bit of how I spent what would have been Jacob's birthday...and what led up to our very special day.
Without going into a lot and bogging down this post, let's just say that I've been on a bit of a break fertility-wise this past month. If you've been following my posts, you probably read awhile back that Clomid didn't work for me and resulted in my period getting all goofy. It didn't start when it should have. Due to several issues with timing, my RE agreed to me delaying starting Provera until today or tomorrow. I was sad at first to miss out on an opportunity to try to conceive...but then as the month of April progressed, it didn't take long for me to relax and just enjoy my time with my boys and especially thinking about how different this month would have been had I still been pregnant with Jacob.
Gone were my late nights where I researched fertility issues on the Internet...they were replaced instead by watching YouTube videos of miscarriages, stillbirths and infants lost. While I cried at every one and felt the pain of every mother and father who lost a precious baby, I also felt strengthened by the strength that these parents showed. What they went through was so heartbreaking and yet their stories revealed the beauty and love that got them through. You could feel it and see it.
But it wasn't just videos that I watched, I also read blogs of other moms who have lost babies. Every word has touched me...every story is a treasure just like each mommy's baby angel is a treasure in Heaven. I feel like I've entered a whole new world that I never knew existed. I am so amazed at the strength and love that is in this world of immense loss and pain. I'll write more about this in another post.
So, I've spent the month kind of getting ready for Jacob's due date, if you will. In addition to all of my normal life tasks, projects, meetings, practices, etc. I still found time to think about my baby and to grieve for him. One thing that helped was my participation in an online auction for Sufficient Grace Ministries sponsored by Caring for Carleigh. A new friend of mine organized this auction in memory of her precious baby girl who went to Heaven two years ago. I am so grateful for my friend's vision and dedication to the auction. Not only did she raise a substantial amount for the charity, but she also provided us with beautiful items to bid on--many of which were baby loss items. I'd only peeked at these types of things before, at times it was just too painful. But now, the timing felt right. I bid on and won a few things to help me honor the memory of my beautiful son. I am so thankful, again, that this auction was scheduled during this month. It couldn't have come at a better time!
As the days in April raced by, I felt my apprehension growing. I knew I needed to determine what date Jacob would have been born. In part one of this post, you read how I finally settled on a date, April 20, 2011. So with the date set, now I faced the difficult task of deciding what exactly to do on that date.
I didn't want to get myself all bogged down in trying to plan the "right things". I've never done anything like this before. Birthday parties for my boys, my husband and even my mom have all been celebrations of life--they've had cute themes, yummy food and thoughtful and fun gifts. How does a mother plan something on the day that her baby would have been born? What does she plan? Is it a memorial or a celebration? Do you have cake? A special dinner? How do I plan something for my baby whom we never even held...or saw in person?
He was real. He was here and he was loved. He still is loved. That's all I know and that's what guided my plans for his due date.
I knew that this day had to be a celebration of sorts. I wanted it to be a day where I would think of my son, where I would think about what could have been and where I could acknowledge that joy that was bursting in my heart when thinking about him and what was to be his due date. Unfortunately, my husband was out of town on military business so I had to just plan what do on my own. Luckily though, again I am amazed at God's timing, we are spending this week prior to Easter at my mom's. So it was mom and I who planned what to do for Jacob's special day.
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed that. All I can tell you is that it felt right. It truly felt right to plan things that we could do to acknowledge that my little bundle of love was here...even though it was for only 13 weeks, he was inside of me. He kicked, he punched, he twisted, his little mouth opened and closed. How MUCH I loved watching him on the ultrasound! I still smile as I remember his antics that day. My little sweetheart showed mommy that he was here. He WAS here.
We ran around town on Tuesday picking up fresh flowers, a flower to plant, balloons and a couple other sweet baby things to decorate with--baby ribbon, etc. I finally framed one of Jacob's ultrasound pictures. It's a close-up of Jacob's face and shows his hands, belly and feet. It's one of the best pictures that I have of him. It felt sooooo good to finally put my baby in a frame. I picked a light blue border and added, "Sweet Baby of Mine" with matching green baby footprints below the picture. My baby...my sweet little baby. How much I love him.
So the day finally arrived. Yesterday I awoke feeling anxious. I know my head hung a bit lower and my face didn't wear many smiles at first. I think that it was the overwhelming feelings. How should I be feeling? Should I be counting down the hours? Sitting and reflecting and crying all day? Isn't it strange how so often we wonder what is "normal" and what we should or should not be doing, how we should be feeling. Through this journey, I've totally come to learn and believe that this is no 'norm'. I simply do what feels right. And you know what? I think it is right. It works. And for a planner like me, that's saying a lot! I'd like to think yet another thing that I've learned throughout this journey is something valuable that God's trying to get through my thick head--it's not about me. It's all about His timing, His plan. Simply letting my heart lead me throughout this process is enabling me to follow more of what I think God wants me to do.
Back to my day...you may find this silly but I decided to shower. And do my hair. And do my makeup. I wondered if my family would think it was strange seeing me putting on lipstick and curling my hair. We weren't going anywhere. The wind was tearing through the yard like it was late for something important. It was cold, gray, wet and miserable. Did I mention how awful it was outside? It was totally gloomy and reminded me of the day of my D&C when it was stormy and when a tornado warning delayed my surgery. How appropriate.
And yet, I wanted to look nice. I wanted to feel good about myself. I wanted to make the day more than just Mommy running around with day-old hair. I wanted to feel special too.
We finally went outside early yesterday evening. I held our four balloons tightly. My sweet Mom even stopped on her way home to buy another balloon to replace one that had lost helium over night. Mom, Sammy, Benny & I tromped out into the fierce wind and the balloons whipped in my hands. I kept hoping that they wouldn't blow away before we could launch them!
While we trudged through the muddy, wet grass out to the pasture, I heard Chico, my mom's donkey braying at us from the barn. His bellowing "Hee Haw" brought a smile to my face. So did the screaming of Benny! He wasn't crying but he was kind of freaking out at the weather. My little Benny does NOT like high winds...or rain...or storms. It was one of those days where you are just trying not to get blown away, seriously.
We found our spot in the pasture, right next to what I call, "The Grandpa Tree." A lone tree sits on a hill in the pasture next to the barn. That's the tree where some of my grandpa's ashes were scattered several years ago. How fitting that we picked that spot to let our balloons go. My D&C was on my Grandpa's birthday. I've always felt that he and my son have a special connection up in Heaven.
We lined up--Mom, Benny huddled close to her leg, Sammy and me. Here was the moment. I felt my eyes start to flood. I just didn't want to let my balloon go. I passed out the balloons and wondered what I should do next. Why did my sweet little baby leave us? Why couldn't these balloons be gracing my hospital room instead of fighting the chilly wind and gray depressing skies? I felt like letting my balloon go was almost like letting Jacob go. I didn't want to let go of my balloon.
Originally I had wanted to read a poem, read a letter to my son...but none of these things were with me. My letter was half-written and the beautiful poem I had found online was scribbled on the back of an envelope. My boys wouldn't have listened much and the papers probably would have blown away so I guess it's okay that I didn't do either of those things. Instead, I turned to Sammy and asked him to say something to Baby Jacob before we let out balloons go. My precious Sammy touched me with these words, "Baby Jacob, Mommy loves you very much. This balloon is for you in Heaven. We love you. Amen." Benny chimed in, "I love you, Baby Jacob." And then my mom's, "Grandma loves you, Baby Jacob!" rang out. The boys were getting ancy as each wind gust tried to steal our balloons. I kissed my blue star balloon and saw my face in the reflection. How I wish I could have seen Jacob's face...mommy's little star. I looked at the message I had attached to the ribbon. I looked back at my balloon and thought of how special the star shape was. The Christmas Story that I had written this past December that won in 4 different contests across the US and Canada was called, "Jacob's Star." In the story, the star was hope. I looked at the star balloon in my hands and I said simply, "Mommy loves you so very much, Jacob." And then I counted down and we finally let our balloons be taken by the wind.
We stood in our little arc and watched the balloons go. Mom's unfortunately seemed to veer towards the woods a bit...she graciously took one of the balloons that we bought for the boys to keep and enjoy since it was starting to lose air. But our three...mine, Sammy's and Benny's...stuck together and soared high into the sky. We watched until we counted only two...and then just one lone blue star heading higher and higher into the sky.
Sammy had asked why we were letting the balloons go. I kept it simple and said that we were sending them to Baby Jacob in Heaven. He asked if they might make it. We said, "Anything is possible, Sammy. Baby Jacob will know we sent these balloons to him and he'll love them!"
As we shivered in the cold, Mom told the boys that the balloons were heading towards the pretty clouds. The bottoms of the clouds were dark and gloomy but up above all of that yuck was something pretty, white, fluffy and blue. I thought about that. It was gloomy, yes. It's been sad, yes. I felt like I had to say goodbye to my son. But as these thoughts circled in my head I realized that now I'm free to go where my baby's balloon went--up above the grey, the depressing and the gloomy. It's time to move into the blue skies. Reaching this day and acknowledging what might have been was necessary. Letting that balloon go, I just can't say it enough...it felt right to send it to my baby with my love. It just felt so right.
We made our heart picture, which I hope to post here in the next day or so. We then sent our hearts to Jacob and tromped to a spot where my mom is starting a memorial garden for him. She and the boys dug a hole and planted the flower we picked the day prior--it's a "Tiny Ghost" Asiatic Lilly and is crimson red. I picked it because red is the color of hearts--what I've often said is our family's theme. :) Mom put an angel statue down and we wrapped up our frigid outdoor celebration with our fingers starting to get sore from the cold. The boys raced up the ramp to the house and I paused again as my eyes caught the "Hope" plaque in the planter that I wrote about earlier. Hope. Yes, hope is definitely up in the blue skies.
When we came back in the house, I felt lighter somehow. I still felt sad, but lighter. Like acknowledging Jacob in that way was what I needed. What we all needed. My arms may have been empty yesterday--there was no sweet little newborn snuggling into Mommy's arms--but my heart was full. Oh, it was so full of love, of joy, of sorrow...yet a peaceful sorrow. It was just so full of love.
Happy Birthday to my loving Jacob!!! I hope you liked what we did for you this year. While I wish I could have held you yesterday, I knew you had the best birthday party in Heaven. You are healed. You are perfect, my little one. No more Trisomy 13--nothing to hurt you in any way. You are loved in Heaven and here are Earth. Jacob, Momma loves you so very much. You are my son, my joy and always will be. I love you Jacob!!!!! We all love you so very much!
So...if you happen to see a blue star-shaped balloon floating around somewhere, let me know. :) I'm sure our star balloons have gone off on their own journey now--and such a special journey it is. My journey isn't over...yesterday was just another milestone along the way.
Here's to all of our journeys, my friends...may yours be full of stars and hearts. :)