Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Beauty Of a Birthday

His birthday was going to be a beautiful day.

Finally I'd hold a child in my arms and never let him go.

But I didn't.
He died.
Six years ago today he was born and six years, nine hours and thirty minutes ago he died.

I'd say tragically, but honestly? Isn't the death of any child, for any reason, at any time--isn't it just tragic?
(Almost) no one nearly dies in childbirth.
Healthy babies don't die because of labor complications.

Or so we like to believe, because facing the reality that all of those things do, in fact, happen is just too horrendous.
Too gut-wrenching.
Too life-changing.

Six years ago, my life changed. I became a mother.
To a child I buried a week later.

Yesterday, on Still Standing, I published an article by a father who lost his first son and only child to stillbirth.  I often read many articles where I am shaking my head with a resounding, "YES!" in agreement, but this one...this one only a few days before Matthew's birthday...this one just spoke to me.

It talked about 'getting over' one does and how long it takes.

Reading his words, I began to sob --"“You know, you don’t really get over it, or speed it up. It’s going to take as long as it’ll take. It’s more about how you live with it.”

You don't ever really get 'over it.'
But you do learn to live with it. Even if you never believe you could. Or even would want to.

It's unbearable, but you bear it. And, you get to the point where even though it's still a burden you bear,  the weight doesn't change, but it redistributes itself. Sort of molds itself around this new person you've become and this new normal you live.

The magnitude of my loss...the weight of his those early days?
It crushed me.
Choked me.
Cursed me.
Literally left me breathless so many minutes of every day.

And while there are times where that same breathless feeling will come out of seemingly nowhere, nearly knock me to my knees and force me to acknowledge and submerge myself into the black heaviness, my ability to reemerge and return to light is so much stronger.


It's weird to say that...on the eve of his sixth birthday...that I am more confident in my ability to live without him.

There's nearly nothing I wouldn't give to have him with me every day. For the first time ever the other day, Luke told me he wished he had a brother or sister to play with. That tore my heart up.

Having Matthew here is not an option, though.  And so, as I have for the last six years, I go about the business of not getting over his death, but living with it. Moving forward in life with it.

Some days, living with his death is ugly.
Some days, living with his death means I go to bed at night thinking I just about had the perfect day.
Just about.

But as the years accumulate, it seems I spend less and less time in the fiery, raw misery that those first days and weeks and years trapped me in and more time amplifying and extracting from the joy that simple things bring to me.

It's so hard, sometimes, for those of us who have walked this path.

To say we are able to be happy seems nearly sacrilegious.
How can one be happy when she mothers a grave?

To say that we will grieve forever looks like to many a picture of unhealthy emotional integration, and though erroneous, the inability to be thankful for and enjoy the gift of the life one still lives.

There's no great way or word to describe the in-between.
Or, the both.

That's where I am.

Happy.  I live a life full of joy and smiles and love I look forward to every opportunity and have a heart full of gratitude, anticipation and hope. Oh, yes. I am happy.

Grieved. Death stole a lifetime of hugs and tickles and, "I love you, Mama!"s. Death made my middle of three sons an only child who wishes he had siblings with which to play. Oh, yes. I am grieved.

So, if there was one thing I'd proclaim as my most important realization over the last six years, it would be this:

Death does not win.
It claims its little small victories, and mocks one as it does, but in the end?

It does not win.

November 28, 2009 was a beautiful day. One of the best of my life.
Death on November 29, 2009 may try to steal that from me, but it cannot.

No matter the outcome, there is unmatchable simply being his mother forever...

Today, and always, I celebrate the beauty of his birthday.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Are You Really Thinking Of Me All the Time?

Are you really thinking of me all the time?
Or praying for me all the time?
Or thinking of my dead sons all the time?
Or sending me love all the time?

Will you really miss my sons forever?
Think of them forever?
Keep them alive in your heart forever?

I mean, really? Are you?
DO you?
Because you tell me you are a lot.

When I post something on social media about one of them, I get lots of comments that say you are. Say you will. Say you do.

I see the same comments on the threads of other friends who have lost children..."Always thinking of you.  Always praying for you. Always remembering them. Always missing them with you."

I'm not trying to be argumentative, but the reality is, I don't always do all those things.
And I don't imagine (or expect) you to either.

Hard as it is to sometimes admit, my dead sons, and their not being with me on this earth, are not always on my mind.

It's impossible for them to be so.  Psychologically speaking, our brains simply could not do so and process the rest of day-to-day life as they have to.

And let's be honest--much as I adore my sweet little Luke, he is not always on my mind.  I am not always thinking of him, always praying for him.  I will not always remember everything he does, and that's okay.  That's normal.
I don't expect you to always think of Matthew or Trey. I don't expect you to have us in your daily prayers or to light a candle or whatever each day because you are thinking about me and my grieving heart.  I, their own mother, do not do that.

I know those are well-intended and supportive, kind thoughts and words that are posted in response to something I may post about them, or speak to you about, and I appreciate your kindness and effort in letting me know that their presence in my life didn't die just because they did.

But what I do expect is the understanding that when I am remembering...thinking of them...missing them and posting or speaking of them because of something triggering me and reminding me of their absence--I expect you to understand that too is normal.

It's not me stuck in grief.
It's not me not getting over their deaths.
It's not me living in the past and not appreciating the present.

It's me, being normal.  If you expect me to believe you are always thinking of my sons and missing them also, than it should stand to reason that I, their mother, may do so as well, right?
Unless you don't mean you are always thinking of me.

I'm not trying to call anyone out.
I'm not trying to diminish the precious value in those comments you leave.
I'm not trying to be unappreciative of the support from people who often just don't know what to say.
I get that. And, am very thankful, as I am sure that other mothers who receive those comments and platitudes are.

But do me a favor, will you? If you are one of those who may see something I post or write or hear something I say and you (innocently, and probably concerned for me, I am sure) think, "Oh, poor Lori.  I sure hope that one day, she won't hurt as much/moves on/gets past/gets over it," please just know that my remembrances and feelings are normal and understandable; expected and healthy.

I repeat that. Healthy. It is with a healthy mind and heart that I remember and miss my sons.

Because if anyone is really and truly always thinking about, missing, praying for and remembering a child/children who are no longer living?

I'm putting "One Who Picked Out the Coffin and Walked Away From the Grave" at the top of the list.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

To The Kindergarten Teacher Who Is Missing One....

Dear Kindergarten Teacher,

I remember!

I remember being sad that summer was nearly over, but, if honest, excited when all the school supplies started showing up in the Target aisles (although, let's be sort of made you want to scream seeing it in early June, right???).

I remember thinking about all the new little ones I'd be in charge of that upcoming school year!  Thinking about how much fun we'd have and all the growth I'd see.  I was excited to put new name tapes on each desk and create bulletin boards with my new kids' names outside my door!

I had a lot of hopes and dreams about how perfect the upcoming year was going to be, and each year, I was optimistic I'd have the best class ever. (And, you know what? I did!)

So, I remember being where you are now.

And, I know you are busy.  I do.  Gracious, do I know you are out spending tons of your own money and putting in a million of your 'summers off' hours into your classroom making it perfect for each new child who will walk in your door in just a few weeks.

I know you have a lot on your plate, even though school hasn't even started.

But, I'd like to ask you a favor, if I could?

(Former) teacher to teacher?

I'd like for you to know there is one who won't be in your class this year.

He should have been.

I prayed for years for him and when we chose the house to live in, we picked out your school just for him.

He had brown eyes and brown hair and was probably going to be a very tall little boy, based on how tall he was when he was born and how tall his daddy is.

He loved music!  Much like his little brother, if it had a beat, he'd bounce around to it.  He wasn't much of a night owl, and he was always so good to Mama when I wanted to sleep!

He was going to start piano this year.  His Daddy and I sat in church watching little ones play the piano and we'd say to each other that when he was old enough, he'd take piano.  This would have been the year I started him, and we'd have a piano in our front room, right by the window, so I could hear him practice while I cooked him dinner.

I bet he would have been a lot like I was in school. A smart boy who would ask a lot of questions, but I also think he'd have been a lot more quiet than I was because he'd have his daddy's scientific brain constantly formulating new questions in his head.

When it got cold, you'd probably have a hard time convincing him to keep his hat on, because I think he'd have had his daddy's hair and it would stick out from all the static the cold, dry air would create.  I don't think he would have liked that, and would just prefer to be hatless.

Sweet teacher, he probably would have been an only child, so he may not have been the best sharer.  I'm sorry.  I'd work my best with him, but if I am really honest, he was so loved and wanted, he'd probably have been spoiled rotten.  I'd have worked with you in any way I could to help him be a good citizen in the classroom.

I would have LOVED to be your room mom!  I would have worked with small groups and rearranged your bookshelves and graded papers and planned the best classroom parties you've ever seen!  I'd waited so long to have him, I was unbelievably excited to be an involved PTA mom!

But, you'd also probably need to give me lots of tissues that first day (and maybe several more thereafter) because even though I knew he was ready for Kindergarten, and he wanted to go, I wouldn't be ready.

I would miss him.
Terribly.  He was my whole heart.

So, I ask this of you.

This year, as you are preparing your classroom, remember that each one of those sweethearts you are about to call your own is someone's most precious, precious person.  Remember that each Mama and Daddy who trusts you with his or her son or daughter gives a big piece of his or heart away to you every morning.

And, on those days where you would rather be anywhere BUT that classroom (and I get it!), know that there's a Mama who wishes more than anything her son was in your class.

With you.

His name was Matthew.

And he's the one who won't be there this year.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Xlear Care Xylitol Products ROCK!

Most of the time, when I do a blog review, I've usually applied to be selected to do the review, and that typically means it is a product I am interested in or would like to know more about.

So, when the Kiwi Moms Meet club put the invitation to apply for Xlear Care (Spry) products out, I JUMPED at the chance!  I already was very familiar with the gum, as it is now the only gum I will chew, and had NO idea there were so many more amazing products in their product line!

I think the most important thing to point out about Xlear Care products is that the main ingredient in the line is xylitol.  Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener (a sugar alcohol that is found in fruits and vegetables).  It metabolizes fewer calories than sugar and has lower on the gylcemic index, so it makes it a FABULOUS natural sweetener and alternative to junk sugar replacements. It's sweet, so even littles like it and that makes it a nice way to naturally sweeten toothpaste and other oral care products, but what I love is how it inhibits bacteria growth.  A study showed that it basically prevents the most common cavity-causing bacteria from growing, which obviously helps prevent cavities, and can even promote remineralization of tooth enamel!  The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry supports the use of xylitol to help with cavity prevention, and some pediatricians are even finding the use of oral suspension xylitol to be helpful in the prevention of ear infections in kiddos and sinus infections in adults.  (Can I get a "Hallelujah!!!"?)

I also want to be clear about xylitol-based products, as there are a lot out there...the main reason I began chewing Spry gum was because I am a habitual gum-chewer and realized that I was POISONING myself with the crap in regular/sugar-free chewing gum.  Spry became my go-to because of the ingredient, and more, the 100% GMO-FREE.  Yep---while there are many xylitol-based gums and products, Spry is GMO-Free and that's important when you are looking to replace gums/toothpastes/mints/rinses/etc., with xylitol-based products.  You may be doing yourself a favor with the xylitol over other junk sweetener, but who wants to do so with a nice little dose of GMO-based xylitol?

Not me.

I already knew I loved the gum.  LOVE the gum. Cinnamon and Spearmint are my favorites, though the peppermint that I received in the sample pack totally rocks.  In teaching Luke how to politely tell Mama that she has coffee breath (instead of, "Mama, I don't like your breath!" I suggested he say, "Mama, would you care for a mint?"), I will now get offers that go like this:  "Hey Mama, would you like a piece of Spry gum?"  Ha ha.  Yes, son, I think I would!

As you may or may not know, we've been battling some ickies lately! Luke had croup, possibly Fifth's, an icky cold and mycoplasma (walking pneumonia!).  His poor little nose was a mess for a bit and when the pediatrician asked me what I was doing for it, I pulled out the conveniently received bottle of Xlear Nasal Spray to show her.
Her exact words were, "I love xylitol!  I just read a study about using that to help with ear infection issues and I think it's a great sinus rinse! What do you think of it?"

I loved being able to tell her that it was a perfectly timed Godsend--I had no idea that there was such a thing as a xylitol nasal rinse and now? We use it daily and Luke loves it.  The boy ASKS for it over other saline solutions and I am happy, happy, happy to oblige.  There is no doubt it will be a staple in our house!

The toothpaste we got was a bit 'spicy' for Luke, but I LOVE how fresh my mouth felt and the mouthwash?  Ummmmm...awesome.  AWESOME.  It didn't have an icky aftertaste and honestly, the fresh taste lasted longer than I've had other mouthwashes allow.  I regularly use my Thieves mouthwash but have added the Spry into my regimen because I like the way my mouth feels so much!


Like I said, I am somewhat picky and choosy about what products I review because let's be honest. Who wants to have to do a review that says, "Ummm....yeah.  Thanks, but no thanks?"
Not many of us.  I of course would be honest, but it's a lot easier (and more fun!) to do reviews when I love the product, and friends--I do.

As we move more and more into a non-toxic household, and further and further away from junk in food and products we use, I am always looking for products to help us do so.  I want Luke to grow up making choices that are good for his body and his life, and the fact that my four-year-old will say, "Mama, I need a piece of gum to help clean my teeth!" after he eats a 'treat' at a birthday party makes me happy.  Of course, it's a total win that he likes the gum so much that he'll just tell me, "My teeth don't feel clean.  Maybe I should have some spearmint gum?" because I'm helping fight cavities and preventing bacteria that could cause ear or sinus infection from growing.  Glad to oblige, son!

The kit I got to review was AWESOME.  It was TONS of products and the fabulous folks at Xlear have given an amazing coupon code through the end of this month to get the package at 50% off!  Try shopping your local Wholefoods or Health store and see--that's a ROCKING deal--and one I'm going to utilize again as pretty much all these products are now staples of our house (and my purse, ha ha!).  To get all of the amazing stuff below, click on this link and utilize the coupon code SAVE50 but hurry because it expires June 30.  I'll see you over sure to save some spearmint and cinnamon for me!  In the meantime, you can check them out on their Facebook page here--they have fun giveaways and great tips for natural care!

I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Fear That Paralyzes...

I often think I just need to ditch this blog. I hardly read blogs anymore because I keep up with most 'friends' through FB or other social media and I rarely write anymore.

It's not for lack of words in my head, so I keep thinking to myself, "I need to get those thoughts out. I'll blog. Tomorrow."

Tomorrow fills up pretty much as soon as today ends and becomes yesterday before I even know it.

And the words stay.  They swirl around.  Lose power and gain permanency at the same time.

I've yet to write about or do anything with Luke's birthday pictures.  From January.

Or any of the other things that have happened since then.

Too busy.

I woke up in a panic the other night. Thinking, "I only have 2.5 months until Pre-K starts and then I have to give him away every morning for a few hours."

I know the time to myself will be nice.
I know I could keep him with me but he REALLY wants to go to school and he's got a great school he's enrolled in.
I know this is all part of growing up and what I pray for every day.

But I will miss him.  I thought, "What will I do without him?"

And then I stopped myself from that selfish, selfish thought.  I HAVE HIM.

I KNOW what it is like to live without my child. Children.  For real.

Luke going to school is not being without him.
It's him growing up and I am on my knees daily thanking God that he does.

About a month ago, Luke fell out of his bed.
I heard him cry out on the monitor and booked into his room.  He was on the floor, crying, rubbing his head and I knew immediately he'd fallen. Probably hit his body on his book basket too, though all he was doing was rubbing his head and crying.

He never cries because he is hurt.  Rarely.  It's gotta be pretty serious.  John even came in because he knew it was a big deal.

I checked his pupils and gave him some water.  Held him and rocked him.  Took him into our bedroom and debated whether I should keep him up because I was worried he might have a concussion.

He fell asleep about 3 minutes after I first heard him.  He was fine. (Though, the next day, we saw some pretty intense bruising and I felt terrible for him.)

That night, I didn't sleep.  Our fan was on, and his cheeks were cool.
Cold, actually.

That triggered me.  I imagined Matthew in the morgue.  Remembered how I couldn't bear to go to the hospital he'd died in because all I could picture was them pulling his perfect but cold, hard body out of a body bag.

I spent about 40 minutes in a near panic attack being terrified to fall asleep because I could not imagine waking up to Luke's cold, dead body--dead through the night because of the fall.

I cried quietly in my bed, with him in my arms and blew my warm breath on his cheeks to warm them up.  Realized the irrationality of my thoughts and got up to put some essential oils on and pray.

When I got back into bed, he was warm and snuggly and I was thankful but still not sleeping.

Fear paralyzed me.

I know fear is not of God. I know it.

But I also know that babies dying after they've just been born is not of God either.  Starvation, child abuse, famine...none of that is of God because God is GOOD.  God is LOVE.

So while I know it is not of Him, that does NOT mean it does not exist and frankly, I get tired of acting like I shouldn't be afraid because I'm not being faithful or a good Christian if I am.

I am very afraid of something happening to Luke.  If it did, would I survive?
I guess I would--since I said I never could if something happened to Matthew and clearly I have.

But I wouldn't want to.
And I still am afraid of something happening, whether it is 'meant to be' or not because my heart does not want to contemplate another child's coffin.

Tomorrow Luke is having some surgery done. I hate it.  It was somewhat inevitable, from food hoarding, and our OTs, pediatricians and dentists have been telling us it might happen for a couple of years.

We are putting him under twilight sedation and I am terrified.  He is little.
People don't always wake up from that.

The dentist said (before I'd told him I had a son die), "I know it's scary, but we do this all the time.  The odds of anything happening are so slim."

Yeah.  Sort of like my nurse told me.  "We deliver babies all the time.  Everything will be fine."

OF COURSE it usually is.

I know that.

But when you've been the one for whom it isn't?  More than once?

You aren't very reassured by those words.

In fact, there are not many reassuring words at all.  Even ones that I believe are Truth--if they accompany the fact that my child dies? Again?

Not reassuring at all.

The ones that have all been swirling in my head for months are just blank now.

Waiting with bated breath for that heartbeat of mine to wake up tomorrow and ask for his surprise.

If you pray, will you please lift me up? He doesn't even know what is going on, and seems just fine about going to the dentist for them to 'fix the sugarbugs.' but I'm a mess worrying.

Might be another sleepless night.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

SweetLeaf Organic Stevia Review

Over the course of the last few years, I've been working hard to get rid of 'junk' in our lives and replace (if necessary!) with better, healthier alternatives.

It is no secret that I am a sugar-holic!  I have a little boy with a pretty decent sweet tooth as well, BUT...he has far more self-control than I do.  He's the kid who will turn down two pieces of candy in favor of one because, "There is just too much sugar," or he'll ask for popcorn for desert because that's healthier than ice cream. (Who is this kid???!!)

So, when the opportunity to try a new, natural and organic sweetener came about, I decided I'd like to.  I'm part of Kiwi Magazine's (MY FAVE!) Mom's Ambassadors Program and was able to receive samples from SweetLeaf to try through their MomsMeet program.

I have too many friends and family members who rely FAR too much on 'the little pink packets' and honestly, I can't stand the sight of them.  I thought I'd found and was offering loved ones a better alternative when I offered Splenda, and yet....a quick Google search will show that the jury is still out when it comes to the complete safety of sucralose, and as such, I'm hesitant to offer that to anyone either.

Enter Stevia...a sugar substitute with no calories AND plant-derived.  Something I can feel much better about offering!!!  I feel like when one knows better, she should try to do better, and so I said goodbye to pink and yellow packets and hello to an organic, non-GMO alternative to sugar.

SweetLeaf Organics makes an organic stevia and I have to say, as far as sugar substitutes go, it does a nice job!  It doesn't taste quite the same as sugar; I can definitely tell the difference between iced tea sweetened with sugar versus sweetened with stevia, but that is because I personally very rarely use sugar substitutes at all.  My main purpose for having sugar substitutes in my house is so that I have alternatives for guests who do not choose straight, organic sugar (in moderation!) as I typically do.

I think I found a winner!  I had several friends and family members who were typically pink or yellow packet people try and all agreed that considering the health risks of the packets, the SweetLeaf stevia was something they could DEFINITELY switch to!  It's sweet enough, organic, and doesn't leave me terrified at the thought of cancer in using.

In addition to packets, they have other products in their line, but among them, things that I thought would be particularly amazing for people like me who are anti-soda but LOVE cold, carbonated drinks are the Sweet Drops!  These are organic flavored liquid stevia drops and they are intended to be put in still or sparkling water. You could even put them in seltzer water, and seriously, it was SO nice to have a cold, sweet carbonated drink in my mouth--without all the CRAZY chemicals of soda!  Luke and I are pretty good water drinkers, but if one was not?  These drops would definitely be a pretty amazing way to encourage more hydration.  Think Fruit2O but without sucralose!!!!  Luke especially loved the berry flavor, and again, while we both are pretty great water drinkers, I just think of so many people I know and love who do not hydrate as much as they really ought to and for them?  These drops could be game changers!  There are over 20 different flavors, so surely, there is one that would rock someone's world.  I liked the Vanilla Cream in seltzer water--almost like a Cream Soda!

I DETEST the taste of pumpkin, but I know tons of people love it--every fall, Facebook/Instagram/Twitter buzz alive with "Pumpkin Spice Latte is HERE!" and though personally, just typing those words makes me want to scrape my tongue (dramatic much?), can you imagine how much money you'd save if you used the Pumpkin Spice Sweet Drops and made your own latte?  Not to mention, how much better for your body it'd be???

Lots of options, and lots of safe alternatives for some of those 'cravings' we just seem to have a hard time getting over!

I also really like that SweetLeaf has the commitment to natural health alternatives for its consumer as the fore running mission and the fact that they work diligently for environmental sustainability is something I very much admire!  You can read more about the company and its dedication to consumer health here:, and while you are there, you can also check out other products in the line, as well as their Wisdom of Ancients products.  I'm using a Cream of Coco soap (from the palm family, not coconut) and WOW!  I love it!!! It's cleansing and moisturizing at the same time, and all in all, I am just pretty impressed overall with SweetLeaf's line and integrity as a company!

A few facts about SweetLeaf Stevia:

SweetLeaf Organic Stevia® Sweetener is a Certified Organic, zero-calorie
sweetener made from high-quality stevia leaves.
• With a delicious taste that is sweeter than sugar, SweetLeaf Organic
Stevia Sweetener is perfect for sweetening hot or cold beverages,
cereals, baked goods, desserts, fresh fruit, yogurt, and more.
• SweetLeaf Organic Stevia Sweetener is gluten free, and contains no
artificial ingredients, calories, carbohydrates, or glycemic response,
making it ideal for people managing their blood sugar or calorie intake.
• One packet of SweetLeaf Organic Stevia Sweetener is as sweet as two
teaspoons of sugar.

*I received this product for free from the sponsor of
the Moms MeetSM program, May Media Group LLC,
who received it directly from the manufacturer. As
a Moms MeetSM blogger, I agree to use this product
and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do
not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media
Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Five Years was Yesterday...Timehop Tells Me So

It really was.

I honestly do not know how it was just five years ago that I left that hospital without my child.  That John left Georgetown after he held Matthew until he died, and then gave him to the nurses and just left.


I still know that if that was me, they'd have had to sedate me and carry my body out.
I would never be able to do that, and am sad that John did, but grateful.

The PTSD episodes I've been having these last few weeks have been horrible.

Like wake up at 1:26  several different mornings just sobbing horrible.

How does a body know that?  I mean, really?  How does my body know that he died at 1:26, and wakes me up crying to remember?  In the last 4 weeks, I've done that at least five different times--the last was on his birthday.

Black Friday.  Oh, don't I know it.

We were overwhelmed, as always, with how much love and support we have.  How many people remember what a beautiful but hard day yesterday was, and more, how hard today was.

How five years ago, the world stopped, even though it didn't, and I had to figure out how to keep breathing.
Literally, I had to tell myself how to breathe.

There is never any milestone that seems easier or better.  Every day is a different thing I've lost.  And, while Luke makes our lives worth living and we are so grateful, there is no denying that the joy in watching him often makes what we lost with Matthew's death even more tangible--we don't have to imagine how amazing parenting our little boy would be--we gratefully get to do it--but not with all we should have.

So five.

Five has been very hard.  Five seems like such a milestone.  So many things that five would entail.
He would be in pre-k this year, being a later birthday.  He'd be writing his name and growing out of his toddlerhood into full-fledged little boy.  Soccer.  T-ball.  Piano.  We always wanted him to learn how to play piano.

So much that we planned.  Just stolen.

I'm sure that plenty out there may think that having Luke makes it less a loss because we still have a little boy we get to do those things with.

But it's not him.
It is not John Matthew Ennis.
He is not, nor ever will be replaceable.

I installed the Timehop app this year.  It's been a really fun way to look back very fondly on Luke as he's grown.

I've also seen my blind, blissful innocence every day.

Every day, I want to tell that me something...

That died to me the day he died.  And then, I was given the gift of pictures of my son.  That was the day that Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep became a precious ministry to me, and our sweet Maureen became a never-forgotten part of our story.  That camera is now at a shutter count of almost 90k and I can't bring myself to replace it because I will never forget buying it and the take pictures of Matthew.  To learn how to become a "Momtographer" and document every second of his long-awaited life.  I have been blessed to pretty much take a picture of Luke every day of his life, but...I'll never, ever forget why I wanted a nice camera and to learn how to use it.

This was last year.  It was so hard then.  Those who say it gets easier?  Liars.

I look at this and really have a lot of regrets.  I've been very blessed these last five years to not have many regrets.  As the years pass, though, I feel like I have more and more of those, "I should have known," moments.  This was just a week before we went to have him.  The room we were in ended up being the exact same room I labored in a week later.  The silly cd of labor music (the craziest heavy metal lullabies) was still in there from a week before.  We didn't know it then, but this was the beginning of pre-e.  Not that I had any major signs other than the blood pressure and swelling, but in hindsight, those were pretty significant for me.  It wouldn't have changed anything.  He didn't die from anything related.  But who knows how it could have been?!  There were a few weeks to go!

People were surprised I made it that long.  I went out of work at 32 weeks because of swelling and concerns for leg clots.  He wouldn't come for another 9 weeks almost!

Why?  Why do we rush it? I know it is because I was so, so excited.  But...gracious.  What I wouldn't give for some more time with him.  If I'd only known.

I cried this day.  Cried.  I was so swollen and in so much pain.  I remember telling my doctor I still preferred a c-section.  If only I'd stuck to my gut.  Not that they pressured me to change my mind, because really, a c-section is no joke.  But, I knew.  Inside, I knew.  Somehow.  He'd have lived, if only we scheduled a c-section.

This is how I've felt for several weeks.  It was only a little over a month ago that my third son would have turned two.  I would have had a full house.  Three boys running around.
But then I am honest.  Luke would not be here if Matthew had lived.  And then I stop thinking about it because it hurts my head and heart.

Yeah.  WRONG.  This was the last day we saw him on sonogram.  November 23.  I remember vividly.  He only weighed 6lbs, 6 oz at birth so that sonogram was a bit off.  I worried he'd be big for my little body.  Oh, what I should have worried about.

Hotel Mommy.  The best job I've ever been given.  He knew.  He had to know he was going to die and it was already in the works.  And there I was...begging him to come out.

His due date.  He outgrew his first outfit before he was even born.  

This is where I scream, "DO NOT DO IT! DO NOT GO!  Let him stay with you as LONG AS HE WANTS!"  I was terrified of going past 41 weeks.  But if I had...maybe the pre-e would have come on while I was still pregnant with him instead of after and forced an emergency c-section.  If only...

Obviously, Timehop has been hard on my heart.  Has probably contributed to the sleepless nights and the night terrors and PTSD episodes.

But I still looked every day.  I still want to remember because I was so happy.  So thrilled.  So excited.  So. Ready.

Five years later, and it still feels like I was just leaving.  Gut-wrenching and heavy like cement.

We put up our Christmas tree yesterday, as is our tradition for Matthew's birthday.

I pulled out the stocking I'd bought for him in September.  The "My First Christmas" ornaments I'd bought in July.  I remember thanking God for his life, and promising that I'd raise Him to know and love Him.  I promised that I'd remember he was His first and that I was only given him for a short time.

Friends, as well-intended as that talk was, and it really was well-intended, it was not true.
I would have raised him to know God.  To love and serve Him.  I really was thankful for his life.

But really, Matthew was mine.  The 'short time' I casually offered to God was something like 87 years at minimum.  Certainly not the nine hours he lived, most of which apart from me.  And, if I am REALLY honest?  I know that we all belong to God.

But I don't want to offer Luke.  I don't want to offer Luke for whatever time God deems.  I wish I wanted to.

I just cannot fathom the thought of burying another child.  My only living child.  The reason I wake up in the morning.  The mercy I was given after Matthew died.  I cannot and do not want to do it. So, God and I just don't talk about that.  I recognize that I'll hear all about trust and faith and sovereignty and all the things I've lived my life for and by.

If honest, I know His grace is sufficient.  I know it is.
I don't want any more lessons on it though.

And that's just the raw Mama's heart truth.

"Auntie Shelby" and "Uncle Craig" picked up Matthew's favorite cake and John, Luke and I sang him happy birthday.  I asked Luke if he would blow the candles and eat the cake for his big brother and he said, "Sure.  I'll do a great job for him."

I don't know that Luke will ever know what he means to us.

When I think of how fresh this seems, I remember one of the last arguments I had with my mom before she died.  She knew she was dying, and I vehemently denied it because I am Queen of Denial. She told me she wanted to be cremated, and her ashes to be spread over our sister's grave.  This sister was a little girl born still in 1978.  In our family, she was "That baby mom had that died," and my stomach always turns when I think of the disrespect her life was given.  I know it was a different time and a different era, and I know that was probably where my parents' marriage began to unravel, though they stayed married until she died.  It was never the same marriage, though, and I can understand that.  I know my mom mourned her sweet Angel (what my sister was named), and in hindsight, days I'd find her crying and then quickly covering it up make so much sense now.  

When she told me that she wanted her ashes spread over Angel's grave, I was furious.  For the duration of my mom's bout with cancer, I'd driven to her nearly every week or every other week (because John's dad was also battling cancer and I'd alternate weeks) and tend to her every way I could.  I've always been the stereotypical 'oldest child' and a pretty devoted daughter, if I said so myself.  So for her to want her remains to be left with a baby she didn't even know over her 'real, living' children?  I felt it was completely disrespectful to our lives.  WE were her children.  WE loved her.  WE did things for her.  She never even saw that baby. (Oh, the tears I shed over knowing she suffered so silently for so long.  I am heartbroken.)

She realized she'd upset me, and she dropped it.  Never brought it up again, and she was cremated, but her ashes are in a mausoleum in the same cemetery that Angel is buried. 

Now, I get it.  She loved that baby just as much as she loved us because we were ALL her children. She mourned her for the rest of her life because there is no forgetting that a piece of your heart and soul is missing.

And, mostly, I got that nearly 30 years later, she missed that baby so much that her final wish was to be able to finally be together with her.  Nearly 30 years later, the ache in her heart still ached with the same ache it had the day Angel died.  She'd just had to learn to live with that ache, much as I have learned to live with mine.

Life goes on in spite of the ache.  But every now and then, it aches as freshly and as intensely as it did the very day.
Like it was yesterday.  
Five years was yesterday. 

So says the ache in my heart.