Finding the beauty beneath.

(May 2014)

One year ago today we moved to Colorado Springs! And oh what a year it has been for our family! We spent time reflecting on the past year in “the Springs”, our new city and home – it has been uniquely beautiful, even though it wasn’t anything like we’d imagined.

Jesus has been seeking after my heart, pursuing me over and over again, meeting me where I’m at, in ways that might seem so small but are significant to me. Lately, it has been in nature, while being down on my knees, wrist deep in dirt, yanking up weeds, planting seeds and flowers…The last year has been a season of what reminds me a lot of weeding, actually. It has actually been THE hardest and the best year simultaneously. I touched on this a bit in one of my recent posts (click here to read) – We’ve moved, yet again, and found ourselves in the same place as before: broken, struggling, lonely, avoiding painful things and busying our lives in such a way we don’t have to face them.

Until, like weeds, these things have begun to suffocate us over the past almost 5 years since Eisley’s death. Taking over our lives so much so that it was hard to even see the beautiful things now hidden beneath the mess. It was beginning to be hard to remember they were even there anymore.

We’re currently walking through the thick of what springtime brings – figuratively and literally speaking;  sunshine and rainy days begin to be more and more frequent, flowers, buds and trees begin to blossom, and also these icky things called weeds begin to grow as well. IMG_7752

(The ‘before’ of part of our front yard)

It might sound odd, but weeding is one of my favourite things to do in springtime. It can be tedious, it is guaranteed to be messy, and is even painful at times but working hard removing the weed – digging deep, finding the root and digging it out completely, it’s truly rewarding. Even when you’ve finished just a small area, and step back to take a look at your work, it’s encouraging! You begin to notice the plants or flowers that have been hidden yet have still tried to make their way through the thick of the weeds.  IMG_7735

(Hard work pays off!)

It isn’t perfect and weeds are bound to pop up now and again, but what if we pulled them as they appeared, rather than avoid them? Imagine how much more beautiful and freeing that would be!

Have you ever noticed how the weeds you decided to avoid the spring/summer before seem to come back twice as big and hardy, and maybe even multiplied? This is the perfect picture of what the past (almost) 5 years have been like for us.  Gnarly weeds growing and taking over areas that were once full of life and beauty.

When we moved to The Springs, I had high expectations for what moving meant for us. Expectations of the busy life slowing to a more simpler, family centered life where we could find healing. I had these ideas of what it “should” look like and thought maybe, just maybe THIS will be the place we find healing, and truly begin to move forward and not backwards. Not long after the move I began to notice familiar patterns and again we were in a constant struggle, and yet another season of “too busy” to face things that need faced head on.

And to be honest, this fall, I crumbled.  And then we added more loss and more heartache in January with the loss of another baby (I should be 24 weeks now). And I just felt done with it all,  to the point of no return. The journey of seeking after healing after loss felt so hopeless when loss continues to pile up on us. And time slips away so fast we aren’t able to process, or perhaps choose not to because we just don’t know where to begin.

We hit rock bottom soon after Everly’s 1st birthday.  We were truly suffocating from the “weeds” and it was time to either face what needs to to be faces, or to allow them to suffocate us.

But this time we’ve chosen to face things head on. To dig deep and yank up those damn roots that have been growing deeper and larger each year! For once we’ve actually taken steps to move forward and OH HOW HEALING that alone has been.

I think we all some type of  “weed” in our lives that’s suffocating us, am I right? Maybe one’s we’ve avoided for so long, we can no longer see the beauty hiding beneath. Or perhaps they are small ones, just beginning to appear.

 Let’s dig them up, friends!IMG_7753

(Shailo showing me how tall the Iris has grown – it’s rare when he wants his picture taken or he’s actually looking at the camera haha)

Spring time is here, and I can’t wait to see the beauty that unfolds from our hard work!

anchored in {hope}

This weekend I’ve had a bit of time to process and I was reflecting on this past year. I’m kind of in awe right now, actually. At the beginning of this year, I never would have imagined I’d be doing a counseling school in Amsterdam – to be honest, at that time, I couldn’t even imagine making it through another month the way I was. January was one of my darkest months – regarding my struggle with depression.. I had lost almost all hope. My sense of adventure, my dreams, etc gone. I broke down and burnt out, my family suffered immensely during this time.

Especially Ted, who was in school and working full time. He’d come home to wife who’d given up and given in to fear, depression and anxiety instead of choosing life, joy and hope amidst grief. Because of this debilitating depression, my lack of energy and motivation for life – even our marriage was suffering. My insecurity of how much I had changed since we lost Eisley, also came into play here as well. I was now his broken wife, my children’s broken momma. “I should be fine by now. Something is wrong with me, I must be broken beyond repair.”…

Our Godsend was Mark, a counselor who Ted and I began seeing in February. This was a huge and incredible step for us both. We even did EMDR ( eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy as well, to help deal with trauma we hadn’t been able to process from our pasts and from the loss of Eisley (for me in particular). This is when I first began to feel my veil of grief, lift. The beginning of healing.

I began dreaming again, for our family and remembering our hopes for the future. (Including the dream of continuing to grow our family – hence our current pregnancy :))

Now, being here and a part of this counseling school, I know He’s truly placed us here for this season. He wants to bring healing and transformation from the inside out, and He’s shown me how to live in this brokenness without feeling weighed down and lifeless. He’s shown me that even in the midst of sorrows in our lives His hope is present.

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I love this verse and the picture it brings. We have this HOPE as an ANCHOR for the soul.

No matter how mighty and powerful the storms are, we can be anchored in h o p e.

A hope that is firm and secure. His hope in us, never wavering amidst even the greatest of storms in our lives. This is what I feel He’s shown me over and over since we’ve been in Amsterdam. He’s shown me that even in the midst of the suffering in my own personal life from childhood to where I am now; this hope He is speaking of, it’s here; it’s a beautiful gift to us, His children. His heart aches with our aching hearts, He doesn’t want to see his children suffering and He offers us this hope that holds us secure (in Him). Whether it be from our mountain top experiences to the deepest, darkest valley. Offered to us in our greatest storms and in our calm and peaceful times.

We will still have our moments, in our human nature, where’ we forget we have this hope. Friday, was one of those, where I gave way to fear in my pregnancy. I allowed it to swallow me up for a few hours, before I yielded to this hope I’m talking about.

One thing i had really come to understand with this year is this: undeniably we have been changed by the loss of Eisley, but I – and Ted and I – are not broken beyond repair. We are forever changed in our own ways, some good and some not so good. We are working through the ugly parts, and learning to live with our brokenness as well. There will always be an ache when we think of precious Eisley-girl. I am accepting this as a part of who we are now…

…but I also feel like He’s showing me how to live with this. It’s really beautiful and precious to me that He’d choose to walk alongside us in our grieving and processing, and offer us His hope while feeling our suffering as well.

I guess what I’m getting at is this; His hope accepted is an anchor for our souls. I am incredibly thankful to know that no matter how great our storms, we are in Him, even when it feels like we might be drowning.

Friends, we have this hope, firm and secure.

3 years.

“I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all – oh, how well I remember – the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember and remembering, {I keep a grip on hope.}

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning, how great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over) He’s all I’ve got left.”

Lamentations 3:19-24

eisleysbirthdayballoonrelease-53 years ago this morning we found ourselves in a place we’d never imagined. The morning our sweet and strong Eisley-girl passed away.

In some ways I can’t believe it’s been 3 years already. But honestly, it many ways, it feels like a lifetime since I held her in my arms, since we said our hellos and goodbyes.

We miss her so very much.

The ache, the ‘Eisley shaped hole’ still ever-present.

Even 3 years later, in remembering, it feels hard to breath. I sometimes still want to stomp my feet like a child, it just doesn’t seem fair. Or cry until I can’t anymore as if it would help ease the grief. Or veg out – like I did first thing this morning – to be completely honest. My boys woke super early. I walked to the living room, made them breakfast and then turned on a season of Project Runway. I didn’t want to think. I knew where my mind would go, and I was afraid of that.

That horrible morning still takes away my breath if I allow myself to think about it. The past few years I’ve found that I push Ted away, when this week comes around. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why until today. Even with all of my months of grief and trauma counseling, I still can’t fully “go there”, to that morning, to having my fears confirmed, to what it felt like to feel alone; to be away from Ted when I heard the news… How do we wrap our minds around this? I mean, can we? Do we even really want to? And add to that, our circumstances of that day which didn’t allow Ted to be with me when we lost her. I couldn’t even muster up the courage to call and tell him myself. Which I’ve forever regretted.

I realized today that when this anniversary of her death comes around, I want to push Ted away, shut him out. I was alone when I lost her and feel confused and alone even still, but that isn’t HIS fault. He is incredible; he practically became a single dad over night, while going to College and working full time. I mean, come on. Our circumstances just totally sucked, for lack of a better, non-profane word.

I realized today, I need to let him in. I need to let those who want in, in. Just because I was alone the morning of her death, doesn’t mean I have to be alone in grieving her. Ted was alone that day too. Most of our family and friends were alone too when they heard.

Eisley’s birthday is Tuesday September 17th and we will celebrate her life. I think on the 14th it will always be especially difficult and painful, because it was and in many ways, it still is. I think I need today and each September 14th to really just let it out, grieve and not hold back. This year I am not. The past two years I’ve forced this or that to happen and this year, I’m rolling with it. This morning I needed to veg. Now, I want to feel. Ted sent me off to a cafe to have time to myself. To journal and blog and do whatever I need to do. I am so thankful.

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(Chaseyboy on the 1st anniversary of her birthday. September 17, 2011)

I’ve been somewhat of an open book here on my blog, about the loss of Eisley and our journey through grief. I’ve come to accept that this is me. This is who I am and what I have felt has helped me process. And I just run with it. Thank you to those of you who’ve allowed me to just be me. Who haven’t judged me, or at least not to my face ;) Over the past 3 years, and in all my sharing, I’ve only ever heard two comments of negativity towards my sharing. Thank you for never shutting me down. Thank you for listening and caring.

Thank you mostly for remembering our sweet girl with us. We are forever grateful and honoured that she too touched and inspired your lives.

Much love.

Jami Joann

 

 

a {different} beautiful dream.

It’s a moment I will never forget, probably because it was one that would either scar a person for life, or move them to tears. It was the very first time I witnessed a birth, at the young age of 13. I was watching the kiddos of my mom’s friend while she labored away in their home. My mom was there and as the time of their daughter’s birth neared, they asked me if I would like to be in the room. I decided I did and I have never regretted that decision since. It was beautiful and I knew at the moment, that was what I hoped for some day. I always knew I wanted a family (being the eldest, I always did), but now I knew how I wanted to birth my children. In the peace of our home.

Years later, I was 24 weeks pregnant, I had a wonderful midwife and a beautiful birth story all planned out.  But they were telling me that I was Group B Strep positive and I was told that I wouldn’t be able to have the home birth I had always dreamt of (I later learned, you actually can be GBS + and still have a home birth, but thankfully He knew what we needed at the time). I was crushed. I mean, devesated. I balled and balled. Ted, who was never fully at peace with the idea of a home birth, finally felt peace and knew this was the best decision for us. Then, at almost 42 weeks they told me the likelihood of me having to have a c-section was great. Many factors that weren’t adding up. I felt like the biggest failure, frustrated with my body for being unable to have my baby naturally.

I won’t go into detail Chase’s birth story, if you’re really curious – just click here as I have written his birth story online once before. To sum it up, 42 hours of labor, 3.5 hours of pushing, making it all the way to 10cm only to have him get stuck and unable to fit and come out. I had him by c-section, totally exhausted and drugged up and unable to remember anything or hold him until a day later.

My perspective has greatly changed since we’ve lost Eisley. I have since realized, through our own life experience, that any birth story that is able to bring the baby to your arms, alive, is the really best birth story there is.

Words can’t express how incredibly thankful I am that I was able to have Eisley naturally (vaginally) 73 hours of labor later I met our sweet girl face to face. It wasn’t what I had dreamt when I thought of having a baby but I am so very thankful that I was able to hold my daughter, to see her precious face before we said goodbye, and because of that, I wouldn’t trade any of those 73 hours in for anything. (we just recently had the 2nd anniversaries or her death -september 14th and her birthday – september 17th. Blog post about those precious anniversaries, soon.)

I decided to schedule a c-section with Shailo. There was really no question in my mind. I knew I couldn’t go through another long labor that would potentially result in a c-section, again. And also, I felt a natural birth was too traumatic from going through what we had with Eisley just shy of 14 months before. So, in regards to a c-section, even though it was a dream lost – I was able to have two beautiful boys due to them. So very thankful we live in a day and age that it is possible.

I kind of digress, but I wanted to share a bit of my heart behind what I’m about what I am really blogging about. When I was pregnant with Chase, Eisley and Shailo I enjoyed looking through photographs of birth stories – home births, c-section births, hospital births… I was constantly moved to tears by them. In my pregnancy with Shailo I really felt that God gave me an incredible dream. I wanted to be a birth photographer. I wanted to capture “that moment” for another. You know, that one moment when the mother first meets their baby face to face. The moment when they birth their baby and he/she is placed on their chest. The incredible emotion, the overwhelming love… that moment. That specific moment was one that I was unable to have but I wanted to capture that for someone else.

And, the story beforehand and those precious moments afterwards. But especially the moment the momma (and daddy) first sees their little one.

The question, “How could you photograph…”that moment”… something you’ve never experienced yourself?” started to plague my mind. And while that makes total sense in a way, I had to battle that. I honestly think there will always be this yearning in my heart. Wondering what “that” moment would be like. And even without the experience of a home birth or a completely natural, un-medicated birth, I feel that yearning so strong that I am able to truly capture the moments I would believe to be beautiful – as if it were my birth story. What would I want captured?

Another thing that began to draw out insecurity from within me was knowing that I wasn’t a professional photographer, so how could I just jump right in. My wonderful hubby jumped on board with my dream and wanted to help me in any way possible. So he has been teaching me. :) I have a lot to learn but I can already see a change in the work that I do. And also, I don’t want to be a professional photographer, maybe not ever, right now I just know I want to understand the camera and how to best captures those moments for someone else.

So how do I begin?

I knew that I wanted to start with friends, but even with close friends… how do you ask something like that? “Hi, I’d like to photograph your birth story, what do ya think?” The first thought of many is most likely – “I don’t want …down there… photographed!” haha. Thankfully, I was spared that awkward conversation and just 3 weeks after I shared this dream with Ted (October 2011), a friend of mine called me. She asked if I would consider photographing the birth of their son, Seth. I literally got goosebumps and tears filled my eyes. I was honoured to shoot my first birth in April.

During the birth of my friend Brittany’s son, I was asked to shoot my second birth by another dear friend, Bethany. She was Brittany’s doula and a long time friend and inspiration of mine. The amazing thing is that when I had shared with Ted about my dream, I had told Ted that I wanted to ask Bethany when they got pregnant with their next baby. And not too long later, they shared they were pregnant with baby #7! On September 15th, just a few weeks ago, I shot my second birth – the beautiful birth of their 4th daughter; Lilyana Elaine.

I hope to share both birth stories here soon. Today I will be posting the birth story of Seth Tyrus Maxwell (with permission.)

I am hoping for more wonderful opportunities like the two I’ve had this year. So very thankful for this dream I believe He’s given me and can’t wait to see how He will use this and bless others with it! Possible overseas someday? We shall see!

I just wanted to share a little bit about the story behind this dream that I believe God’s birthed in me (pun intended ;)) Thanks for stopping by!

3 weeks.

I’m not really sure where to begin today. My heart is so full of emotion and aches as we begin to reach weeks that last year, were of the most painful weeks and days in our lives. I guess I’ll begin with a bit of what happened on this very date last year.

August 23rd, 2010, I went in for another check-up on our Eisley-girl and instead of releasing me to go home, they put me in the hospital to be monitored and to be on strict bed rest. I was already on strict bed rest, but being home with a 1-year-old (at the time) “strict bedrest” wasn’t as strict as it could have been. Being hospitalized, I was only up to use the restroom and shower. I’ll never forget that first night in the hospital. They put me in a labor and delivery room for the night, until they could ready a room for me, as an antepartum patient. They hooked me up to a monitor and immediately began checking on our Eisley-girl. As Ted and Chase arrived, I could see the fear written all over his face. We both felt so helpless.

Ted had just begin his fall semester load of classes that very day. I had called him as he was leaving the college to tell him I wouldn’t be coming home anytime soon. It felt as though everything was slowly digressing and going downhill. We held so tightly to hope amidst this chaotic journey we were on for our daughter’s life. Ted and Chase weren’t able to stay with me and had to head back home, 1 hour and 15 minutes away. I wept when they left and then found that I couldn’t breath. That was the moment I had my first (of many more to come) panic attack. My nurse Lindsey (whom I love and can’t wait to see again) put me on oxygen and calmed me down and comforted me.

I don’t think I slept but maybe an hour that night. I looked around the labor and delivery room and couldn’t help but think that I shouldn’t be there in such a situation like we were. I saw the little area in the corner where they put your newborn infant to clean and measure, etc. I just felt so sick and terrified. The memouries still haunt me from that night. The only window I had in my room was a sky light that was way up high. I felt hopeless and oh so weak. I just cried out to God. Not even aloud, just within my heart. The most desperate cry from the momma heart in me.

The very next day I was moved into a room with a window and a view. I was so grateful for the sunlight. I felt something change within my heart and decided then that I would make the most of my time with my Eisley-girl. I am so thankful that I did that. I wrote her notes and read them aloud to her everyday.

 I sung and sung and sung to her. I prayed for her. I watched Gilmore Girls “with her”. I always held the palm of my hand on my belly and savored her every movement within.

(“143” was Ted and I’s silly way of saying “I love you” when we were dating. When I saw her heart rate at 143 repeatedly one night, I couldn’t help but think she was saying she loved us and snapped this photo for Ted and I)

I cherished my time with her and I often wonder if that change in my heart was actually something that was preparing my heart for September 14th. I missed my Chasey-boy and my Ted but I am so thankful for those last few weeks I had to focus on just her.

Today, August 23rd has arrived. I’ve sent my hubby off to his second fall semester of college and we’re 29 weeks pregnant with our Boy S who is growing and thriving within me. I feel hope, but I also have this constant ache, an Eisley shaped hole in our family remains. I long so much for her to be here, even still and I feel like I’ll be one of those momma’s who always ache. I read that happens with some and I really feel, that’s me. Maybe it’s because it was our girl, our precious Eisley-girl, who I’d dreamt of since I was a teenage girl. She’s captured a place in my heart that will never ever be the same again.

Her first birthday is coming up so quickly. I feel like I’ve barely been able to catch my breath since she passed away and now the date of her death (September 14th) and the date of her birth (September 17th) are arriving ever so swiftly.

I am so thankful for a Father in heaven who reaches our hearts with comfort and peace amidst the aching. And the most incredible thing is that even as He is comforting our hearts, I know our Eisley-girl rests between His strong shoulders.

Around 3 weeks from now, we’ll be both grieving and celebrating our Eisley’s life.

Oh my heart…

Tiny imprints, {huge} impact.

One of the most precious things I have of my Eisley-girl…

Her perfect little footprints.

Ready to have your breath taken away?

Her tiny little imprints have made such a {huge} impact on my heart forevermore.

(I am doing something really beautiful with her little footprints for this very reason. More coming oh so soon.)

The follow-up appointment.

Yesterday I had my follow-up appointment where they check to see how I am recovering from giving birth. (Unfortunately Ted wasn’t able to go because of school.)

I was okay until I was a few minutes out from the clinic but the closer I got, the more overwhelmed I became. Was this really happening? All of this? I sometimes feel like I have crawled into someone else’s body. When I had read stories before about mothers losing their babies, I honestly just never thought, “this could someday be me”. You just never expect to this to happen to you. You never expect it and even if you expected this, you’d never be able to prepare for the heartache.

I arrived and made my way up 3 floors to the clinic. I signed in and sat down, feeling sick to my stomach. The waiting room was empty. Thank you, God. (I can handle my close friends who are pregnant, but with strangers I find it hard. Maybe it’s because my close friends know what we’ve walked through and are super sensitive to us in this time.)

I sat where I had sat many times last year in my pregnancy with Chase and read pregnancy magazines, with not a worry in the world.  The same spot where this year I had sat many times in my pregnancy with Eisley, where I would try to read a magazine to take my mind of the coming appointment but was usually unable to focus due to the tears. Yesterday, I couldn’t even bring myself to look over at the stack of pregnancy magazines. I just sat, with my head on my hand and took deep breaths so not to cry (I really didn’t want to walk into the appointment a blubbering mess).

Once they called me in and put me in a room to wait for Dr. Hill, the tears began. The nurse handed me a clipboard and had me do a survey-thingy to determine if I might be suffering from postpartum depression and there was a spot which read Baby’s name_________ and I cried as I wrote Eisley Antalya. Dr. Hill came in and hugged me tight. That might sound weird, but it’s really not. I am so grateful for that amazing man. Thank you, God for him.

They did the check up and turns out I am healing great (physically) for having delivered 5 weeks ago today. My muscles are still aching from being on bedrest and unused for so long, but they told me that it is normal and will take much longer to get muscle strength back.

And then something happened that I wasn’t at all prepared for … not that you could prepare, I guess. Dr. Hill also had the results back from the chromosome tests run on Eisley. I am going to share the results here but will blog again soon with how we are doing after hearing the news.

Eisley was absolutely perfect. Nothing was wrong with her. There was no reason other than my placenta alone failed her.

Our Eisley was perfect.

Let Me Tell You About Eisley.

(We asked our friend Nathan to write a short story about our Eisley-girl that could be read at her memorial. He wrote this beautiful piece.)

Let me tell you about Eisley . 

            We all waited for her with baited breaths, waiting for the day when we heard the news that all was well, waiting for the day when we could see Jami’s beauty and Ted’s passion in her eyes.  To have her little finger wrap around ours, to hear her laugh at the stupid faces we all make at babies…

Let me tell you about Eisley.

Everyone has a story, no matter how short or long their life, there is always a story, We know from Jeremiah that God knew her before she was formed he knew her story. . In every story there is beauty and every story is a part of an even greater tale. Often stories are filled with questions, some times the questions seem too great and distract us from the story, but we must remember the story, we must find the beauty in it.  Eisley has a story.

There is so much that we do not know about who she is, what she would have been as she grew, who she would have become, but there are things we do know, we know she was a fighter and she was stubborn we know that she was strong, we know the dreams her parents had for her, dreams that she would filled with life, to face the world head on vivaciously, we know the love that was and is had for her from a vast community.

 We mourn the loss of her life, here in our story, but envy the world of perfect, brilliant, beauty that she is now absorbed in.  We miss her dearly, the expectation of seeing her learn to laugh and dance, sing and run, to manipulate her daddy, like we all know she would have, we miss seeing the adoration that would have been in her eyes for her big brother, and in a few years the contempt of his playful picking. We miss the art that would have been created with Jami as they grew as mother and daughter.  We miss that deep-seated hope that everything will be ok. But friends, let me tell you… God is no less holding Eisley and us in his arms now, weeping with us as we mourn and celebrate, as he was every moment for these past months as we worried for her and Jami. I am filled with joy and longing as I picture Eisley walking side by side with our creator, her tiny hand cradled in his, the hand that formed her and all the universe, telling her stories of those who love her,  how proud he is of her parents, and brother, telling her the stories of those one day coming to join her. Telling her how much we and he love her.

Let Me Tell You About Eisley written by Nathan Rowlan