Thursday, October 20, 2016

His name!

Many of you have known that I knew our third child was going to be a boy long before we were even pregnant, and I'm so excited to finally share with you how he got his name. The story is a little, long, but I promise it's worth it.

After we lost Josiah, we were in a whirl wind of emotions. We had so many questions. It's amazing actually to look back and see God's hand at work in our story. I was adamant on having a VBAC with Josiah. I mean seriously, adamant. There was a day shortly after we came home from the hospital we were sitting on the deck talking with our parents about "why". Why did this happen? Why didn't we have a cause? I finally let it out, "Why did I want to have a VBAC so badly? If I'd only had a c section would Josiah be here with us?" Then my mom said something that I can still hear so clearly today, "Amanda, don't you think that no matter how you had Josiah, this was God's plan?" I could immediately feel the guilt slip away as the peace that settled in my heart made me realize there is no way I could have prevented this. I was not responsible and yes, God is in control. His plans are far greater than ours, and we don't always get to understand why.

Fast forward a few more days, maybe a week even I really couldn't tell you because everything really was just blurred together I received a phone call from my doctor saying he had some important results to share with me. My heart sank, and I didn't even think it was capable of sinking further into my stomach than it already was. He explained that the test results were in from the placenta, and it showed Erythroblastosis. What?!? My head was spinning, did we have a cause? My doctor explained that basically Josiah didn't have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout his body. But he was at a complete loss at how that happened, he said normally you see this in mothers whose blood type is Rh negative, but mine was Rh positive. He said it was something he couldn't explain, and thought it would be best if we went to see a genetic counselor and a perinatologist. To say we were scared was an understatement. We spent the next month wondering, was Jonah our only miracle? Would we have something genetically wrong that would prevent us from having more healthy children? We were scared, and grieving. We leaned on God like no other time in our lives, and he gave us hope and light. Light in the most darkest hours of our lives, so we decided to follow the path he had illuminated for us.

July 22, 2015 - The day we had scheduled to have our appointment with the specialists. Our hearts were racing and our mouths were dry as Dan and I drove for what seemed like forever to the cities. We were scared, but we kept reminding each other, nothing could be worse than what we'd already faced, and together with God, we could face this day too. We first meet with the genetic counselor who pulled up a big chart on his computer and began asking a series of questions, mostly about our family history. Then he reviewed the ultrasound we had done of Josiah on May 4th, to see his position and estimated weight. He said, there were no "Hydrops" which was good. He explained it basically meant there was no extra fluid around Josiah or in his body. That's usually an indicator of erythroblastosis. He concluded his portion of our meeting with, "I can't find any reason why you would have a stillborn baby." We felt a bit relieved, but had to meet with the Perinatologist next. They escorted us to a little waiting area and soon a very friendly nurse came to get us. She brought us to an exam room and checked my vitals and was very sweet. She gave us suggestions on where we could go for lunch when we left. It was helpful to have a "normal" conversation on such a nerve racking day. Shortly after the nurse left, Dr. Thorson came in. She was one of the most compassionate and well spoken people I'd encountered. She sat down next to me, and gently asked how I was doing, and not just in a polite way. It was a genuine concern. She quietly listened to me and then picked up a large stack of papers. There were little post-its and flags on many of the pages, it reminded me of my college text books. She said, "I know nothing I'm going to tell you today will bring back your son, and I'm so very sorry for you. But I've been doing research on what may have caused the erythroblastosis" as she pointed to her large stack of papers " unfortunately, you are falling in to the less than 1% category of unexplained cause." She said every lead she thought she had was ruled out by my medical history. She so gently explained she was certain that Josiah never suffered and that his heart just simply stopped. I realized in that moment, she was telling me what I already knew. There didn't have to be a cause. This was God's plan from the beginning, but hearing form the specialist that we did everything we should have, and that we didn't miss anything really put our hearts at peace. That day was so very healing, in more ways than one. We got to our car, the sun was shining and as we drove across the I 35 bridge Something Beautiful by Steven Curtis Chapman came on the radio. If you haven't heard it, I encourage you to click and listen.

And God’s says
I’m gonna turn it into something different
I’m gonna turn it into something good
I’m gonna take all the broken pieces
And make something beautiful like only I could
So put it all in the hands of the Father
Give it up, give it all over to
The only one who can turn it into
Something beautiful
Something really beautiful 


I could feel God speaking to me through this song. It was a really really healing day, something we desperately needed after 2 months of wondering.  

About a week later I was cleaning up after supper and God showed me something that would stir up my soul. I pushed Jonah's highchair back into the corner of the dining room where it always went and for some reason, his baptism picture caught my eye. As I looked, really looked at the plaque our church had given to us as a gift, my eye was drawn to his life verse. "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart." - Jeremiah 1:15. Then I looked up, "Jonah Daniel, baptized in the Lord May 19, 2013" Talk about a moment where your legs turn to jello and you heart drops to your stomach. What did this mean? I knew God was trying to tell me something. I could barely get out the words as I called for Dan to come see what I was seeing. In all our grief, we'd never even realized that Josiah's birthday was Jonah's baptism day just 2 years earlier. All night I was mulling it over and over in my mind. What was God trying to tell me?

That night I laid down with Jonah. We said our nightly prayers and sang Jesus Loves Me and he slowly drifted off to sleep. I was in the dark, gently stroking his hair praying "God, show me. What is it that's so significant about May 19th?" Then I remembered Jonah's life verse "I set you apart". I got up, when into our room and opened the Bible. I know the answer is here God. I eagerly flipped to the book of Jonah. My heart was racing. This has to be it. God's going to show me... I began thumbing through to find Jonah 5:19. I got to Jonah chapter 4 and flipped the page.



The Book of Micah.






Then, almost as clear as day I heard God whisper "Micah comes after Jonah on Earth." You see, there are only 4 chapters in the book of Jonah. Don't laugh. I honestly didn't know. But, God knew. He knew what to do to get me curious, to get me to listen. He was there to give me hope. He was there to be my light. You see, during this time, I wasn't thinking about more children, I was thinking about the son I lost, not about more to come. But God knew what I needed for comfort and He provided. I knew I had to keep this to myself. I had to wait for the right time to share it with Dan, so I held on to it for a long time. Then, this year when we found out we were expecting, we already knew. We knew we were having another son and we knew his name. When I was pregnant with Josiah, I used to practice signing our name as a family for Christmas cards. I remember thinking how we'd like to have 3 children, but couldn't imagine a third name. I remember thinking that God will give me the name when the time it right. God's timing is always right, even when we don't feel like it is. He has a greater purpose for all of us. While we are missing our angel, and know that no other child will ever replace him we rejoice that God has blessed us with another child.




Welcome to this world Micah Titus. God has great plans ahead for you! 




Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Baseball Gender Reveal

There have been so many emotions since we found out we were expecting our third child. It's so hard to even explain to someone who hasn't experienced pregnancy after losing a child at full term with an uncomplicated pregnancy . There have been feelings of sheer panic, fear, doubt and worry. Every doctor's appointment brings back memories, and each time we have to wait to hear baby's heartbeat stops ours for those moments.  Mostly, though we've been filled with joy and the peace that surpasses all understanding.  Our peace is in knowing that God is in control. We also have felt the prayers that many of you have told us you're praying!  We feel blessed to know that God has given us another child and we will lovingly accept for however long He chooses. Though we are fervently praying for a healthy child, born screaming and that we'll be able to bring this baby home!

 Our 20 week ultrasound was no exception to the nerves, only this time we brought Jonah along which actually helped tons! When we saw sweet baby's face for the first time, one of the baby's hands was curled around baby's face and the focus was on baby's lips! Jonah was so excited, especially after we told him the baby was blowing him kisses. He eagerly sent kisses back to the screen for baby with a full faced smile.  For us, the most important part of the ultrasound was seeing our baby, and learning that baby was growing healthy. Finding out the gender was a bonus!  Surprisingly the most frequently asked question we get, aside from "How are you feeling" is "Are you finding out what you're having?"  To us, "what we're having" isn't really important, we just want to bring a healthy baby home.

That being said, we know all too well just how very delicate pregnancy is and I'm trying my best to savor it, and not spend it worrying.  We decided it would be fun to answer the burning question of baby's gender in our family's most favorite way.... a baseball game! We hit the field with some "exploding baseballs" filled with either blue or pink chalk. We made one for each child. Daddy was the pitcher, Jonah was the batter, and mommy was the catcher. It was so much fun... despite the look on my face in the photos! "Chalk" that up to me being anxious about catching a potentially dropped/broken ball.  ;-) 




Enjoy the BIG Reveal!


Here's Jonah up to hit, Baby #3's special ball!!









We couldn't be more excited to be adding another little BOY to our "team"! 
Some of you know, that I've known we were having another boy, even before we were pregnant, I couldn't be more excited to share the story of how this little boy got his name... but that surprise is waiting until he's born! 




Thank you all for your continued love, prayers and support!


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas with an Angel


I love Christmas. I always have. There is something so magical about the season when people are a little bit happier, a little bit nicer,  and you can feel Christ's love all around. I still really love Christmas, but this year it's just not the same. This year, we were going to have 2 little boys here with us, and it's hard to not think about that while preparing for Christmas. Some of you may remember this summer, I wrote a post on our GoFundMe site about being thankful that I didn't order a stocking for Josiah, so I wouldn't have to hang an empty stocking at Christmas. But, the more I thought about it, I didn't want to just breeze over Christmas without even acknowledging our sweet angel, so I did it. I ordered a stocking for Josiah and hung it right up on the mantel with the others. And you know what? There's something fulfilling about seeing his stocking up with ours. While I'm heartbroken that we don't get to experience this Christmas with Josiah, I'm happy that we are able to remember him and Jonah will always grow up knowing about his younger brother.



After hanging the stocking, I had the idea to start a new tradition with Jonah. Every year at Christmas we've decided to start a gift series called "Gifts from Heaven" something we can give Jonah from Josiah. This year, we found a sweet little book called "God Gave Us Angels" It seemed very fitting for our year and my hope is that we can read this book and Jonah will always remember he has a special angel watching over him.

The other thing weighing on my mind... Christmas Cards. I realized that I needed to decide if I was going to send one out this year. I do it every year. It's something I really look forward to. I was so excited at this time last year to send a card with our new little addition on it! We didn't know if we would have a boy or girl yet, but I knew I wanted baby included on our card. I'm so glad now we included Josiah on last year's card.  It may have easily taken over 50 shots to get the one we put on... and we almost said forget it because we couldn't get Jonah to sit still, but I'm so glad God put it in my heart to push on. It will be a card and photo I'll always cherish.



But this year, I was so torn. We didn't take family pictures this year, as it just didn't seem right. Our family isn't whole. I also felt so cheated... I didn't get to send out a card that had both of my boys on it. Most importantly, I didn't get to sign it like I had practiced once we found out we were having a boy.
With Love, Dan, Amanda, Jonah and Josiah. I never got to include his name in our family signature. I knew I wanted to honor Josiah, but I wasn't sure how. Then, my sister sent me this ornament in the mail... and I knew in an instant this is how we could include Josiah on this year's card.


I searched for the perfect card, and when I found this... it just felt right.



We may not be whole, but we still have so many reasons to be joyful. God sent His only son into this world for us. He knows our hearts, and He feels our pain. He's with us as we remember Josiah and because of Him we know we'll see Josiah again.  We are mourning the fact that we don't get to be a part of Josiah's first Christmas, but he is celebrating in the most wonderful way with our Savior in Heaven. Christmas this year has a new meaning... a more true understanding of how much God loves us that He sent His is son to die for us, something I find so hard to fathom after losing our son. I've focused more on that this Christmas than in any past Christmas and it's really helped me through this season. Merry Christmas dear friends. May you all find God's richest blessings in the new year.


"It's funny how it takes a holiday
To show us how the world could truly change.

If we all took the time to really care
There'd be a little more of heaven everywhere"



Thursday, November 19, 2015

Six Months in Heaven



I know... it's been over a month since I've posted anything. Trust me, it's not because I'm not thinking about it... I have about 5 more titles drafted in my dashboard. I just need to be in the right mindset to write and if I am, I need to find enough time to get my thoughts out.  But today, November 19th marks 6 months since we got to hold Josiah, kiss him and tell him we loved him. Half a year. How is that possible? When you experience the the deep loss of a child, time seems to stand still where you are... but somehow the world around you continues to press on at high speeds. If Josiah were here, I'm sure I'd be saying something similar, like... time slow down. He'd likely be sitting up and smiling at his big brother, talking that adorable baby speak that only they would understand. I'd be busy making baby food in preparation of him eating his first "real" meal.  Instead, we finally folded up the high chair that Jonah has sat in and put it in the garage because we don't need it anymore. I continue each day with hope, trusting in God's promises and knowing that He had a purpose for Josiah's life and for ours.

You know how there are moments in time when somebody says something to you and it's like your brain takes a video clip of that moment without you realizing it? I had one of those moments while we were planning Josiah's prayer service. We were sitting at the funeral home and the florist came in to help us pick some flowers to honor our beautiful boy. She was so kind, loving and helpful. She told us she had lost a baby too. The moment that plays in my mind is when she got up to leave she said "Hang in there. You'll get through this. For me, the toughest part was 6 months after. I think that's when it finally sank in"  And now, here I am 6 months later. Trust me, while the reality has more than sunken in... I some how now, understand what she meant. You have so much support at the beginning.. everyone is reaching out, helping in any way they can and you don't really feel like you're alone. But then, life moves forward and those cards we were receiving daily in the mail slowed to a halt, the phone calls and texts slowed down, and people continue with life, and just as they should. We have continued with our lives too, but just not in the same way.  Josiah's life and death have taught me about what's the most important thing in life... living the life that God has designed me to live even if it means pushing me out of my comfort zone. Josiah taught me what it truly means to lean on God and fully give my life to Him. I thought I had done that years ago... and I did, but what I'm finding now is I'm talking to God more like He's right here with me and not just praying when I need something. I'm remembering to thank him for all that I have, instead of asking Him for more. Proverbs 16:9 "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." I've learned that some of the things I thought were the most important really are so trivial in the big picture. 

Last week, I took Jonah on a special Mommy and Me day. I wanted to spend the entire day doing something fun with him as I'd be working 12 hour shifts all weekend and wouldn't see him much. Dan was at work and it was cold outside.  We had a wonderful day! We played at the Children's museum all morning and then had a very fun lunch date at Noodles and Co. He looked so very grown up sitting across the table from me and it was a good reminder to me to savor these moments.  After lunch, we went to Caribou and walked out hand in hand with my coffee and his "foo-vee" (smoothie) and got in the car for the drive home. It was such a wonderful day, he kept telling me "Mommy, you're my best friend, I love you!"  No sooner did we get on the road, and Jonah's eyes were rolling. It was nearing nap time and I knew he wouldn't make it home awake.  In about 5 minutes he was sleeping.  I was thinking to myself how different the day would've been if Josiah was here and was thinking about what he'd look like now at almost 6 months old. I was thanking God for Jonah... then it happened. I looked in the mirror to see Jonah's sweetly sleeping face and instead....  I saw his brother.  Whatever breath I had in me was pushed out of my body and I had to pull over just to stare at his sweet face. Then tears... tears started flowing as I thanked God for allowing me to look at Jonah in this way. In a way that at 3 years old, while sleeping he still had a sweet innocent round face that looked like his newborn brother, and in the same way that I'll always remember Josiah.  I can take comfort in knowing that Josiah probably would've grown up to look like his big brother.  It's a moment in time that I'll forever remember and be thankful for. A moment that taught me, God hears my prayers, He knows my struggles and in the right moments... He'll give me what I need.

Here is our sweet Jonah at 6 months old. Remembering
how fun this age was brings both joy and pain. But I
can look at this picture knowing that Josiah would
probably look so very similar, and that today Jesus is
probably kissing a face almost identical to this. 


The song "Trust in You" by Lauren Daigle has really become my anthem. I can't tell you how many times, if I feel my self becoming anxious about a situation and I pray... I hear this song in my head.  I need to remember God is in control, and I need to just TRUST.   In the changing times, I'm trying hard to remember God is my constant. When I can't make sense of how fast life is moving around me, I can close my eyes breathe in the sweet name of Jesus and remember I'm not going any place He hasn't been.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

"So, How are you?"



My Dear Friends,

I’m writing because, first of all I find writing to be therapeutic, and secondly because I know that everyone is wondering how I’m doing, but are just not sure how or when to ask. I can see the questions burning in some of your eyes, but the fear on your face tells me you don't want to cause more pain. I don't know how often I'll update, but I have a few topics I want to have documented, even if no one reads them but me.
People are always asking, “So, how are you?” The truth is, there are good days and there are bad days. But mostly, there are mixtures of good days filled with painful moments and those moments can come unexpectedly. When you go through a tragedy you don’t know how you’re going to react, and then adapt to it. People always say “you’re so strong, I could never do what you’re doing.” You know what? I didn’t know this is how I’d handle it either. You never know how you’re going to handle a situation until you’re faced with it. But God promises He is close to the broken hearted. Psalms 34:18. You want to know the truth? He is. I can feel it. 
So, I’m doing the best I can, and leaning on God, my husband, my family, friends, and church family.  Imagine a computer browser open with 10 active tabs. My mind jumps from browser to browser all the time. One of those open browsers is the two days we were in the hospital to have Josiah. It’s like it is permanently seared in my mind, and when my mind is on that tab, even if it just skims over it, parts of our experience plays over and over in my mind like a movie and I can’t shut it off. Anything can be a trigger, and those triggers can be completely unexpected.  In June I wrote a message to one of my bestest friends to explain why I couldn’t come to her baby shower. I’ll share part of it here as the words explain how I feel.
~
--I can’t even begin to describe to you the amount of LOVE you feel when you become a parent. You think you know how much you’re going to love your child, but then the day comes you actually meet them… you can NEVER prepare for the feeling of how much LOVE comes exploding out of your heart and in an instant you change. You would do anything for your child to give them what they need, to keep them safe and healthy. If you think you love your baby now, just wait until they’re in your arms… you won’t be able to believe how much you love them then. And then, they grow, they develop personalities, they smile at you, they hug you and then one day they look up at you and say “I love you Momma” and all that love you had  the day you met grows more than you could've imagined. The love you have for your child grows more with each day and you can’t ever prepare for it.
When we lost Josiah, we lost all of those moments. We are never going to see him smile, hear his cry, or watch him become best friends with his big brother.  We have found peace and comfort in knowing that Josiah is in the arms of Jesus… that he never felt pain. All he knew growing inside of me was pure love and for that we are so comforted. It’s so hard to hear people tell me, “you’re handling this so well” when I feel like I’m falling apart on the inside.  When Josiah died, a part of me went with him and right now the hole is painfully raw.  I know everyone says “time heals”, but in my heart I know I’ll never fully “heal” -- the scar of this hole will always remain.  
There are days where I’m doing just fine, but then moments come in waves and I have to breakdown. Sometimes those moments come unexpectedly, even when I think I’ll be okay doing something, it turns out I’m not. A few days ago I went to a going away party for a good friend. It was going to be the first time I’d see many of my coworkers/friends since we lost Josiah so I was anxious. But, I wasn’t prepared for how I’d feel when I saw the ones who brought their babies, were pregnant or even the one that nursed her child. Don’t get me wrong… it’s not that I’m not happy for them, I am. But seeing those things brought up all the raw pain. Seeing those babies smile made me remember.. I’m never going to see Josiah smile. Seeing the pregnant bellies made me long to feel Josiah kick or flip just one more time. Hearing the mothers complain about being uncomfortable and “ready to be done” almost made me upset… don’t they realize they are the vessel God chose to grow this beautiful child? God never promised everything would be easy, but He did promise it would be worth it. Watching the mother nurse her child made me remember how much I LOVED and ENJOYED nursing Jonah and made me long for that connection I’d never get to share with Josiah. I was falling apart inside, my heart was aching and my soul was weeping… but on the outside I had to hold it together. No one knew that was how I was feeling, nor did I want them to in that moment… I was there for my friend, not for me. ---
~
My daily struggle is really just missing my son. I look at Jonah and some days my heart just aches because one of my children isn't here. We had so many plans. I find myself thinking some days, "I should be holding Josiah while Jonah's playing over there". The first few car trips we took this summer I felt like I shouldn't be able to sit in the backseat next to Jonah, because that was supposed to be Josiah's seat. In just these 3 short months, I’ve had around 10 friends have babies. I’m so happy for all of them to have healthy children, but you know what else? Seeing their pictures on Facebook and Instagram breaks my tender healing heart. Not because I’m not happy for them, but because every time I look at those babies, I’m reminded of my sweet Josiah, and the pain is just too raw. So, friends, forgive me if I haven’t “liked” your photos, as it’s very likely I haven’t seen them. In trying to heal and protect my heart, I’ve unfollowed many who have just had babies. Think about when you get a terrible sunburn, it really hurts! How do you make the pain ease up? You avoid the sun or put on a protective layer until it's healed.  That's what I've had to do with Social Media... avoid and put up protective barriers. On Josiah's 3 month-iversary I found myself thinking about how much fun Jonah was at that age. I'll never forget - it was Christmas time and he was smiling, giggling and starting to babble at us! We have a very treasured video of him "talking" to me with big smiles. My heart just aches, because I don't get to see Josiah grow and meet those milestones. So, at this point in time, I just can't emotionally handle seeing babies who are so close to Josiah's age. Forgive me.

 I can tell you, though, I’m still me. I still need my friends. I still need normal conversations and I still want to know how you’re doing. I can still be happy and find joy in the good things going on in your lives. I want you all to know, I welcome your phone calls, texts, and messages. Don’t ever be worried about talking to me or saying the wrong things, because sometimes there aren’t even words. It’s okay if you cry when you talk to me, or if something you say makes me cry, because it’s okay to cry about this tragedy. Bringing up Josiah doesn't make me remember that he died, it makes me know that you haven't forgotten him and that means so very much. Most importantly, nothing you can say or do will ever be worse than what I’ve already gone through.
The gaping hole in my heart I have from losing Josiah is still so painfully raw. So, bear with me as I heal. Some days are better than others, and tough moments come crashing over me like unexpected waves - sometimes I can swim through them and other times, they pull me under and I just need to take a moment to catch my breath. Josiah has touched so many lives in his short, but perfect little life and I’m so very proud of him.
Being the mother of an angel is never a title I desired to possess and the journey of grief is one I wish I wasn’t traveling but it is because of the grace of God, and people like you I can face each day.
Believe it or not, I find many reasons to be joyful every day. I make it a point to smile and laugh, because life is WORTH living, and my light needs to shine bright to give God the glory He deserves even if its in the midst of a storm. 

Thank you for your continued support and prayers, it truly means more than you may ever know.  

 
 I find music to be extremely therapeutic. This was my repeat song at the beginning of my grief journey. Also, the verse posted at the beginning has gotten me through many of the darkest hours, knowing that this pain is only temporary, because we'll be united again in Heaven, and what a glorious day it will be!