Scentimental

ScentsyI have had the same Scentsy wax in the candle warmer on my piano for four-and-a-half years now.

Why?

Because it takes me back. Back to when I had my little baby Luca.

It was a whirlwind time. I gave birth to him stillborn on a Thursday evening then found myself in a funeral planning his services the following afternoon. People came and went. They brought gifts. They brought food. They brought sympathy cards.

Some didn’t know what to say. Some said it perfectly with tears streaming down both our cheeks. Some were too afraid to come at all.

I don’t remember a lot of details from that time. I know I took pain medicine to help me through trips to the funeral florist and baby tuxedo shop – not to mention the ache from my milk coming in. I know family members came to our house to be near us. Even though there was nothing any of us could do.

I can’t remember everything, but I do remember that smell. Through all the visits, the chaos, the heartache and tears, the Calypso scent rose from my candle warmer.

And to this day when that smell hits my nose I am taken to a different time. I turned the warmer on Tuesday night and thought of my third little boy.

I love to remember him. His cute chubby cheeks. His soft little body.

But remembering him also brings pain. I wish I could have known more of him.

As I watch my new little baby squeak, squirm and snuggle into me I can’t help but wish I could have had that with him. There’s nothing in the world like a baby. And even though I have a better acceptance of losing Luca, I’ll always wish I could have brought him home.

Maybe that’s why I keep the Scentsy wax hardened in the warmer on my piano. So that when I light it and the scent envelopes me, I can feel like he’s here. It connects me to him and makes the heaviness in my heart a little lighter.

Celebrating Our Angel

How do you celebrate an angel baby’s birthday? That’s a very good question. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a codebook on what to do. Some might not do anything. But for our family it wouldn’t feel right if we didn’t do something to remember Luca- even if it is something small.

I realized that I have never officially written about what we do to remember him on his angel day. It’s not huge. It’s not a big fan fare. But it’s a quiet day for us to talk about him and remember the day we got to see him.

It’s a day where we gather close as a family. I take the boys out of school and my husband takes the day off work. I don’t know why but it feels better going through the day together.

This year I cuddled on the couch with my two oldest boys and read them a junior novel. They kept begging me to read on so we sat there for nearly an hour enjoying the story.

We watched the DVD of songs and pictures we have of Luca and we all cried. It’s a bittersweet thing to sit back and truly remember that all of that actually happened.

After our youngest woke up from his nap we headed to the dollar store where I let each of the boys pick something out to “give” to Luca for his birthday. My 7-year-old gave him a recorder, my 5-year-old gave him a goop-filled dinosaur egg and my 21-month-old gave him a pack of miniature farm animals. I picked out a set of miniature monster trucks.

We took them to the cemetery and carefully placed them on the headstone. My thoughtful 7-year-old son also brought him a bunch of jewels and a sprig of flowers from the backyard of our new home.

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My sweet 5-year-old wrote him a special note that read: “Happy birthday Luca. You’re the best. Mom is having a baby. I just bought you an egg filled with jell and a dinosaur is inside. I have one of your onesies.”

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My youngest played with each farm animal before resting it near Luca’s picture on the headstone.

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We sat at the cemetery for nearly an hour while the wind blew around us, spinning all the nearby pinwheels. I think I’ve written before about how pinwheels remind me of Luca. When they spin I imagine him flying near, turning the spokes.

The boys each took turns racing to the life-size Jesus statue that sits a few hundred yards south of Luca’s grave. My oldest did it in 43 seconds. The second oldest took 53.

I don’t like going to the cemetery. But on Luca’s birthday it feels different. I like to sit there and soak it all in. I like when by boys play around there. It’s like they are playing with him.

In the evening we went out to dinner. Because who wants to cook on a day like that?

This year I was kind of nervous because my 5-year-old watched in wonder as the team of waiters sang to someone nearby who was having a birthday. Then he asked me what I thought the waitress would do if we told her it was Luca’s birthday. He had already mentioned to the dollar store checkout lady that we were buying things for, “our dead brother.”

I didn’t know how it would all play out. So I took the safe way out and told him it might make the waitress sad so we better not mention it. Maybe I should have let him tell her it was his birthday but sometimes it’s just too hard to see people’s reaction.

We planned on meeting friends and family at a park in our new town after dinner to have cupcakes and work on a service project. But the weather was crazy.

We haven’t moved into our new house yet so we didn’t know what we were going to do. Luckily my sister volunteered to let us all come to her house to celebrate.

We flipped through photo albums of Luca’s birthday while we ate cupcakes and drank strawberry lemonade.

DSCF7682Some of us worked on making new-sew hats to donate to Utah Share in Luca’s memory. We were able to
make 87. It was so easy and I love that my boys were able to help make them. My oldest keeps talking about wanting to make more.

Several people brought items to donate to Utah Share in Luca’s memory. I figure that since Luca doesn’t need birthday presents it’s a good time to give to others instead. We got some stamps, thank you cards, hand-sewn outfits, thinking-of-you cards, plastic bags, press n seal, stickers and more.

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I made some tiny gowns and wraps before we started packing up our house so I could donate them in Luca’s memory. Several people gave me cute fabric to use for the gowns. Now I can pair them with some of the cute hats we made.

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Normally we end Luca’s day by sending lanterns to him in heaven. This year was different. The wind and rain kept us from keeping with that tradition. I told the boys we would try one and we definitely tried. It nearly lit my husband’s shirt on fire as it drifted back and forth while he held it. We decided it was too wild and unsafe so we threw it on the wet sidewalk and let the rain (and my two oldest sons) douse it out.

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Like I said, we don’t do much for Luca’s birthday. It’s a quiet day for all of us to reflect on our guardian angel. It’s a sad day. But it’s a good day. People may think I’m crazy and wonder why I hold on to my little baby. I can’t explain why I do, but I know I’ll hold on to him forever.

Dozens of friends and family members joined in and gave service in Luca’s memory this past week. I love that each of them took the time to do something to honor him. It’s a small way to help keep him alive.

Here’s what a few of them did:

– One of my friends made cards that said “Random Act of Kindness in Memory of Luca Clemens” and tied them to pens and dragonfly bookmarks. Then she handed them out to random people at the store. One lady was in tears when she told her who Luca was.

– My sister-in-law and her family (who live out of state) took flowers to a lady who was recently widowed. Then they sent lanterns to Luca in heaven. I was happy to find out someone was able to get lanterns up in the sky.

– I had a friend who worked on sewing 23 aprons for teacher appreciation week at her local elementary school. Then she drove carpool when it wasn’t her turn even though it was an inconvenience.

– Another friend brought up her neighbor’s garbage cans and babysat her sister’s babies.

– My sister took her two kids to my mom’s house and weeded her flowerbeds.

– One of my friends made salsa, guacamole and homemade cookies to take to her work – the NICU, labor and delivery and postpartum unit at a local hospital.

– Another friend bought a coworker breakfast Tuesday morning.

– I had one friend who spent the week focusing on complimenting others. “I think a lot of nice things but I never say them out loud,” she wrote. “Sometimes all it takes is a simple and pure compliment to uplift someone’s life. Even if it comes from a stranger.”

My Angel’s Story – Four Years Later

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Author’s note: Four years have passed by. FOUR YEARS!!! Part of me wants to run outside and scream, “NO!” The other part has quietly come to grips with the fact that four years ago my beautiful, beautiful baby boy died.

I hate that he died.

I hate that I can’t get over it. No matter how many months, days or years pass I will still miss him. I will still wish I could have brought him home from the hospital. I will still close my eyes and picture his still body, feel the brush of his soft chubby cheeks against mine and stroke his sweet tiny hands and fingers.

I remember wishing more than anything that his chest would start to rise and fall. And whispering softly to him that I was so sorry he didn’t make it. So sorry that somehow I couldn’t help get him here safely.

Losing a child has changed me forever. And so once again I dedicate this week’s blog post to my angel baby Luca. Because having him has made me who I am today.

He would have been four on Tuesday. Maybe he’d be learning his ABCs and coloring with crayons. I bet he’d love chasing bubbles and digging in the dirt. He’d probably run when I tried to give him kisses and giggle when I tickled his tummy.

I love him. I miss him. And I can’t wait to hold him again.

My Angel’s Story

I was tired, I was huge and I was ready to have my baby boy. But not ready for the way it would all turn out. I would have happily carried him weeks beyond my due date if it meant he had a chance of being born alive.

Honestly? I wasn’t quite ready for a third child. I always wanted my kids close in age, but my two boys, ages 3 and 1, were a lot to handle. I was okay with waiting a while. But both my husband and I had strong impressions that we needed to try for another baby.

Despite those impressions, I was still extremely nervous about how I could be a good mom to three boys under the age of 3. Each day I grew, not only in circumference, but also in my confidence in being able to raise three tiny spirits.

On April 21, 2010 I had my 37-week check-up. Luca’s movement had been slowing down significantly for a while now and I was worried. I discussed my concerns with my doctor and we listened to his heartbeat, which appeared to be strong. So, my doctor and I decided that maybe little Luca was running out of room in my overcrowded womb.

The beginning of my pregnancy was a piece of cake. I felt better than I had with my other pregnancies and had virtually no morning sickness. But the end was pretty bad. I kept having sharp pains in my side and my muscles were aching.

Fearing the worst

My mother-in-law kept my other two boys while I went to my appointment so I decided to lie down and take a nap until she brought them home. That’s when I started panicking because I couldn’t remember the last time I felt Luca move.

I know what some of you are thinking? Why didn’t you rush to the hospital??? Knowing what I know now, my advice to any pregnant woman who is the least bit concerned about her baby, would be, GET TO THE HOSPITAL, NOW. Speed if you have to. What are they going to do? Tell you your baby’s fine and send you home? Hopefully. Laugh in your face about your unnecessary worries? Never. In all reality, even if I had been in labor and delivery when Luca’s heart stopped beating, they still wouldn’t have been able to save him. There wasn’t anything I could have done. I realize that now. But there are other reasons why babies stop moving. In my opinion it’s just better to get it checked out as soon as possible.

I literally worried all night about my Luca’s movement. I think the strong feelings and confirmations I had received that I was supposed to have another baby kept me waiting for his little legs to kick or his fists to punch. Luca’s pregnancy was my only pregnancy I haven’t run into problems conceiving. I thought that was a sure sign that this truly was meant to be. It was meant to be, just not in the way I hoped or expected.

I waited, and waited for him to move. Finally at about 2:30 a.m. I couldn’t take it any longer. I got up and sat in the bathtub for a long time. Travis came in and convinced me to go to the hospital. My mom came over to sit with my boys so we could run up to the hospital. When I got there, they hooked me up to a monitor and we found the baby’s heartbeat. Well, at least we thought we did — turns out the sound of my own heartbeat was reverberating back. We didn’t know that for sure until they hooked me up to a basic ultra sound machine and zoomed in on the heart. I knew immediately that my son had died. I looked at my husband and he knew it too. We had seen a number of live, beating hearts in ultrasounds. This one was still.

But the nurses said nothing. They tried to remain calm as they called my doctor and asked him to come in. He arrived at about 4 a.m. to confirm my baby’s death. We all cried — nurses included. He told me I could go home and come back later to deliver my baby or he could induce me right away.

The thought of leaving the hospital knowing that I was carrying my dead child made me cringe. I knew that having a stillborn was going to be the worst thing I had ever experienced. Delaying it wouldn’t change anything. They wheeled me into a corner room and posted a grieving sign on the door.

Shortly thereafter we started calling family members to let them know they were going to have to come in sometime that day to simultaneously tell Luca “hello” and “goodbye.”

Sharing the Heart-Breaking News

My poor mother. She was the first to hear of his death. And she had to take the news while watching over my other two little ones in my quiet, lonely home. I can’t imagine how alone she must have felt. She texted me awhile after I called to tell her he had died, asking what she should tell my other boys when they woke up. That literally broke my heart. What did I want her to tell them?

We didn’t want to tell him that their brother was “sleeping” or that he was “gone.” We decided to tell them the truth. That he had died. They were sad, but their grief was expressed differently than an adult. They didn’t cry much but they did throw more tantrums and asked to be held a lot more.

Telling people and hearing their reactions was one of the hardest things for me. I could handle the pain that I was going to have to bear, but having to inflict some of that pain on others made me so sad. It still makes me sad.

Our family members started gathering at the hospital and at our home waiting for the time when they would meet Luca. I knew we would only ever have a few short hours with him and so I prepared to face my nightmare with a smile on my face. This was the only time I was going to hold my baby. The only time I could take pictures of his beautiful face. I wasn’t going to let my grief overcome my ability to make the moments meaningful.

I don’t know if it’s all in my head, but I don’t think I had the full power of my epidural during his delivery. It was by far my most painful delivery. Not only emotionally, but physically. Maybe that’s because I didn’t have the anticipation of meeting my healthy baby to pull me through. With each painful push, I knew I was a step closer to meeting a baby I wouldn’t take home. I’ll never forget the shock in my doctor and nurses voices and faces as Luca was born. They all gasped in unison. He had suffered a cord accident that was visible the moment he was delivered. The cord was wrapped around his neck several times and it contained a true knot. Umbilical cord knots are extremely rare and knots resulting in a baby’s death are even more rare. Although I will never be grateful for what happened to my son, there is something I am extremely grateful for: The fact that we found out why he died.

He was born at 5:13 p.m. and weighed 5 pounds 13 ounces. He was beautiful with curly reddish brown hair and rosy red cheeks. We each took turns holding him and taking pictures. Utah Share came and casted molds of his hands and feet. Pat Wimpee came and took dozens of priceless photos of him and our family. I don’t know what I’d do without those photos. I think I would forget the details of his face. The wrinkles of his toes. The size of his tiny fingers. At times I stared at his little body, waiting for his chest to rise or his eyes to open. He literally was perfect.

We had Luca in our hospital room for five short hours. My legs were still numb from my epidural, so I was forced to watch everyone’s encounters with him from the comfort of my hospital bed. That was really hard for me. I wanted to hug and comfort everyone and yet I was stuck on the sidelines. I am sure that those who came to the hospital to meet him will forever be changed. There was such a special spirit in the room. It was a terribly sad, yet wonderfully peaceful experience.

The next several days were a blur. I left the hospital on a Friday morning. That afternoon I sat in the mortuary office preparing a funeral. We had a very small service on Monday, just four days after I delivered. Thank heavens for pain medications. Without those my traditional delivery pains coupled with the pain of my milk coming in, would have been unbearable. I buried my baby and part of my heart on April 26, 2010.

How am I dealing with his death?

I believe, as my religion teaches, that I will raise little Luca someday. Sometimes that thought brings great comfort, other times it is little solace for a grieving mother who longs to hold her angel infant now. Although he is in a better place, free from sorrow and sin, I wanted the challenge of raising him in this crazy world. Wanted to see him wrestle with his older brothers or hear him giggle as the four of them cooked up mischief. I hate that we don’t get to have him now.

I have experienced all of the traditional grief stages at least once. I have felt depressed, angry, honored, jealous, comforted, tired, rude, bitter, overwhelmed, out of control, anxious, stressed and unmotivated. There have been times I have sat on my couch, not wanting to do anything. Then other times that I feel an urgency to give back to others in honor of my son’s memory.

What do I do when the grief is too much to bear?

I take long soaks in the bathtub where I blast Pandora and cry until my eyes are strawberry red.

I watch movies like Tangled and sob when I see Rapunzel reunited with her parents. I wish I only had to wait 18 years to meet my “lost” baby.

I take my boys fishing. Fresh air and the beauty of nature clear my head and remind me of my place in the world.

I lay by my other boys while they are sleeping. I put my hand on their chest to feel their heart beating and their lungs filling with air. That reminds me of the beautiful boys I do get to raise on Earth. I can’t let myself take them for granted.

I start finding something I can do for others. I know it sounds cheesy, but sometimes serving others has been my saving grace. I understand the need to be still and internalize my grief and emotions, but sometimes it’s overwhelming. I have to find a productive way to patch over my grief until my emotions settle and I’m able to digest them.

Finally, I write through my heartache. Writing has always been a way for me to work through life’s problems. I imagine I’ll write through this problem my entire life.

I just have to keep reminding myself that life is hard, life is good and life is necessary.

One More Day

IMG_1201p8x10There’s magic in the air this time of year that draws loved ones near. Maybe it’s the cold, maybe it’s the gift giving, or maybe it’s the celebration of a tiny Savior’s birth. But something seems to bring people together.

I love it. And I hate it.

I love visiting with friends and family. I love giving out gifts. And I love thinking of my Savior Jesus Christ who came to Earth to save mankind.

I just hate that no matter how many Christmas parties I attend, no matter how many family members I visit, no matter how many gifts I pass out, there still feels like something is missing. And there always will.

There will always be a tiny baby boy that won’t be part of the festivities. In all of the family togetherness, I find myself missing him in the deepest corners of my heart.

Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating. I love making crafts and cookies. I love playing games and singing carols. But deep down my heart aches to have ALL of my family together during the holidays.

I heard the song, “One More Day” by Diamond Rio on the radio last week and it just about did me in. That song tears at my heartstrings. Maybe it’s because we only had just one day with our third son Luca. Five hours to be exact.

I always think about what I would do if I had one more day with him. To be honest, I don’t know what I would do. But I know a few things I wouldn’t do. I wouldn’t be here on the Internet and I definitely wouldn’t check my email or Facebook accounts.

I wouldn’t throw in any laundry or mop my kitchen floor. I wouldn’t make my bed or take a trip to the grocery store. All that stuff would have to wait.

I don’t know if I’d invite a bunch of people over to be with us or if I’d stay at home all day just me and my baby. I’d probably sit on my couch all day with him in my arms. I don’t even think I’d put him down while I got dressed or ate lunch. I’d want to hold him every minute and say a million, “I love yous.”

I might let Travis hold him while I play him a song on the piano or flip through hundreds of pictures in our photo albums – showing him all of the people who wished they could have met him.

I’d sing him all the lullabies I didn’t get to sing to him and I’d show him some of my favorite picture books.

I’d take a billion photos. That way I’d be able to remember the wave of his reddish brown hair or the wrinkle of his tiny baby toes.

But then again, one more day would NEVER be long enough. After it was through I’d have to say goodbye and I’d be left empty handed – again.

Grief can be so cruel.

Luckily it’s been three and a half years since his death. My heart has had time to heal a little since we had to tell little Luca goodbye.

I am no longer constantly blinded by my grief. Now it only comes to me in glimpses. Like when we put together our family Christmas card that doesn’t have his picture on it, or we visit Santa Claus with only three of our four boys.  Or when I put decorations next to his small, granite headstone or I hear sentimental songs on the radio.

Thank heavens that tiny Savior was born, otherwise my grief would be all encompassing. I know that because of Jesus Christ’s atonement and resurrection, I will be with my angel baby again.

Maybe one day I’ll be with him at Christmastime.

What’s In a Name?

DSCF8921It’s crazy how one four-letter word can stop me in my tracks. If I hear one word, one name to be specific, my heart skips a beat and I have to catch my breath.

Luca.

The Italian name of my angel baby. My third son who I delivered stillborn at 37 weeks.

It’s been three and a half years since I buried my little Luca in a tiny grave beneath a dark granite marker with that name etched in stone.

But no matter how long it has been, when I hear his name a river of emotions rushes through my mind and I pause.

If a friend or family member says it I usually smile – happy that they dare speak his name. So many people skirt around the topic of my dead baby. I think they worry that if they talk about him it will remind me of my loss.

They don’t realize I think of him all the time.

My little Luca.

My husband wanted to give each of our sons an Italian name. He started working on me the moment we found out I was pregnant with our first, trying to get me to warm up to names like Vincenzo and Lorenzo. I don’t write the names of my living children on my blog, but you can easily guess that none of them have a nickname of “Enzo.”

I love Italy and the Italian language but not its male names.

By the time we were on baby boy number three I had really warmed up to Luca – the Italian form of Luke. It was unique, yet normal. Easy to spell and easy for Americans to pronounce.

Because it’s such a different name, I don’t hear it and I’ve never, ever seen it in print- until this month.

I’ve seen it twice in the most random places and both times it made me smile.

I ran across the name of Luca while reading the book “Wonder” by RJ Palacio. One of the main character’s schoolmates is named Luca. I think the book only mentions him twice and probably only dedicates one sentence to him but it made my day.

Then last week my family found Luca’s name on a paper plate. One of the Zoo Pal character plates is named Luca.

And although Luca is a crazy looking brown monkey, we were all so excited to see him.

My five-year-old ate his dinner from a Luca plate and I couldn’t help but wonder what Luca would have done if he saw his name on a plate. Probably what any 3-year-old would have done – fought his older brother for it.

Although it’s sometimes painful to think of my baby boy, it’s also exciting to see his name around.

Luca.

I don’t think it will happen often, but each time it does it will be a subtle, happy reminder of my angel baby.

I just might have to buy each safari pack of Zoo Pals I come across so I can hang on to one more treasure that reminds me of him.

Wrestling Emotions

I’ve been wrestling my emotions lately, battling my grief.

For the past three years, since the stillborn death of my third son, I’ve slip-slided through the stages of grief. At first I’d bounce back and forth between them quickly. I’d be numb one day, overwhelmingly sad the next and then some days I was absolutely fine. I was an unpredictable passenger on an unavoidable grief-induced roller coaster of emotions.

For most of the past year I have comfortably settled into an acceptance/hope stage of grief. Although I remember my baby Luca every minute of every day, I have come to accept his death and the new “me” that has emerged afterward. I have realized that my life will never be the same, but I can still find joy in the things I did before he died.

But every once and a while I bounce back to other grief stages that I battled though on a regular basis immediately after his death.

Recently I have been lingering in some of those stages. Sometimes I a little longer than I would like. I have felt anger and pain. I have felt shock and denial.

I am sure some of my recent grief has been triggered by my father-in-law’s current health struggles. Less than a month ago his aortic valve ruptured and he suffered a couple of major strokes. Despite all odds, he made it through open-heart surgery and is fighting through the effects of the strokes. He is a miracle.

But, sadly, my grief is also triggered by everyday family moments I wish I could share with all of my family, including my little Luca.

Last week my youngest son joined his brothers in a giant wrestling match/pillow fight. His tiny-11-month-old body dwarfed by his 4 and 6-year-old brothers, he fought on. And he laughed the whole time.

It was so cute to see him finally brave enough to take on his siblings.

But I couldn’t help wonder how it would be if his 3-year-old brother Luca was fighting with them. Would they tag team? Would my angel baby crawl across my oldest son and high center then giggle as a giant, soft pillow whacked him in the face?

Probably.

I took my three living boys to the beach a couple of weeks ago. Instead of watching four little monsters tossing sand and chasing waves, I forced a smile as my oldest wrote the name of his angel baby brother in the sand and then eagerly shouted for me to take a picture of it.

Family pictures. Family vacations. Family trips to Lagoon. I never know what will trigger my sense of loss – what will make me ache to see my third son again.

Grief is exhausting.

Those of you who have never lost a child probably think I am crazy. You may even wonder why I can’t get over this. Sometimes I wonder that too.

But those of you who have buried a baby will completely understand.

Part of me will wrestle these emotions my whole life. When my son died in April 2010 (you can read about him here), I automatically enlisted in a never-ending battle with loss.

Hopefully most days I’ll be able to win the battle. Yet I know there will still be days it will kick my butt.

I guess the important part is that I keep battling. Keep wrestling even when I feel like I’m pinned.

My Angel’s Story

IMG_1215p8x10Author’s Note: Has it really been three years? Three years since my little one came to me as an angel? Three years since I held his small, newborn body and kissed his soft, chubby cheeks?

Sometimes it feels like a dream. Was I really pregnant? Did I carry another son? One that had strawberry blonde hair and a cute pudgy face?

Other times I am certain that losing my baby is a nightmare. A nightmare that no matter what I do I won’t ever wake from.

This week as I do every year near his birthday, I’d like to dedicate my post to my angel baby Luca who was born stillborn April 22, 2010.

May he fly close to me this week. His life and death have changed me forever.

My Angel’s Story

I was tired, I was huge and I was ready to have my baby boy. But not ready for the way it would all turn out. I would have happily carried him weeks beyond my due date if it meant he had a chance of being born alive.

Honestly? I wasn’t quite ready for a third child. I always wanted my kids close in age, but my two boys, ages 3 and 1, were a lot to handle. I was okay with waiting a while. But both my husband and I had strong impressions that we needed to try for another baby.

Despite those impressions, I was still extremely nervous about how I could be a good mom to three boys under the age of 3. Each day I grew, not only in circumference, but also in my confidence in being able to raise three tiny spirits.

On April 21, 2010 I had my 37-week check-up. Luca’s movement had been slowing down significantly for a while now and I was worried. I discussed my concerns with my doctor and we listened to his heartbeat, which appeared to be strong. So, my doctor and I decided that maybe little Luca was running out of room in my overcrowded womb.

The beginning of my pregnancy was a piece of cake. I felt better than I had with my other pregnancies and had virtually no morning sickness. But the end was pretty bad. I kept having sharp pains in my side and my muscles were aching.

Fearing the worst

My mother-in-law kept my other two boys while I went to my appointment so I decided to lie down and take a nap until she brought them home. That’s when I started panicking because I couldn’t remember the last time I felt Luca move.

I know what some of you are thinking? Why didn’t you rush to the hospital??? Knowing what I know now, my advice to any pregnant woman who is the least bit concerned about her baby, would be, GET TO THE HOSPITAL, NOW. Speed if you have to. What are they going to do? Tell you your baby’s fine and send you home? Hopefully. Laugh in your face about your unnecessary worries? Never. In all reality, even if I had been in labor and delivery when Luca’s heart stopped beating, they still wouldn’t have been able to save him. There wasn’t anything I could have done. I realize that now. But there are other reasons why babies stop moving. In my opinion it’s just better to get it checked out as soon as possible.

I literally worried all night about my Luca’s movement. I think the strong feelings and confirmations I had received that I was supposed to have another baby kept me waiting for his little legs to kick or his fists to punch. Luca’s pregnancy was my only pregnancy I haven’t run into problems conceiving. I thought that was a sure sign that this truly was meant to be. It was meant to be, just not in the way I hoped or expected.

I waited, and waited for him to move. Finally at about 2:30 a.m. I couldn’t take it any longer. I got up and sat in the bathtub for a long time. Travis came in and convinced me to go to the hospital. My mom came over to sit with my boys so we could run up to the hospital. When I got there, they hooked me up to a monitor and we found the baby’s heartbeat. Well, at least we thought we did — turns out the sound of my own heartbeat was reverberating back. We didn’t know that for sure until they hooked me up to a basic ultra sound machine and zoomed in on the heart. I knew immediately that my son had died. I looked at my husband and he knew it too. We had seen a number of live, beating hearts in ultrasounds. This one was still.

But the nurses said nothing. They tried to remain calm as they called my doctor and asked him to come in. He arrived at about 4 a.m. to confirm my baby’s death. We all cried — nurses included. He told me I could go home and come back later to deliver my baby or he could induce me right away.

The thought of leaving the hospital knowing that I was carrying my dead child made me cringe. I knew that having a stillborn was going to be the worst thing I had ever experienced. Delaying it wouldn’t change anything. They wheeled me into a corner room and posted a grieving sign on the door.

Shortly thereafter we started calling family members to let them know they were going to have to come in sometime that day to simultaneously tell Luca “hello” and “goodbye.”

Sharing the Heart-Breaking News

My poor mother. She was the first to hear of his death. And she had to take the news while watching over my other two little ones in my quiet, lonely home. I can’t imagine how alone she must have felt. She texted me awhile after I called to tell her he had died, asking what she should tell my other boys when they woke up. That literally broke my heart. What did I want her to tell them?

We didn’t want to tell him that their brother was “sleeping” or that he was “gone.” We decided to tell them the truth. That he had died. They were sad, but their grief was expressed differently than an adult. They didn’t cry much but they did throw more tantrums and asked to be held a lot more.

Telling people and hearing their reactions was one of the hardest things for me. I could handle the pain that I was going to have to bear, but having to inflict some of that pain on others made me so sad. It still makes me sad.

Our family members started gathering at the hospital and at our home waiting for the time when they would meet Luca. I knew we would only ever have a few short hours with him and so I prepared to face my nightmare with a smile on my face. This was the only time I was going to hold my baby. The only time I could take pictures of his beautiful face. I wasn’t going to let my grief overcome my ability to make the moments meaningful.

I don’t know if it’s all in my head, but I don’t think I had the full power of my epidural during his delivery. It was by far my most painful delivery. Not only emotionally, but physically. Maybe that’s because I didn’t have the anticipation of meeting my healthy baby to pull me through. With each painful push, I knew I was a step closer to meeting a baby I wouldn’t take home. I’ll never forget the shock in my doctor and nurses voices and faces as Luca was born. They all gasped in unison. He had suffered a cord accident that was visible the moment he was delivered. The cord was wrapped around his neck several times and it contained a true knot. Umbilical cord knots are extremely rare and knots resulting in a baby’s death are even more rare. Although I will never be grateful for what happened to my son, there is something I am extremely grateful for: The fact that we found out why he died.

He was born at 5:13 p.m. and weighed 5 pounds 13 ounces. He was beautiful with curly reddish brown hair and rosy red cheeks. We each took turns holding him and taking pictures. Utah Share came and casted molds of his hands and feet. Pat Wimpee came and took dozens of priceless photos of him and our family. I don’t know what I’d do without those photos. I think I would forget the details of his face. The wrinkles of his toes. The size of his tiny fingers. At times I stared at his little body, waiting for his chest to rise or his eyes to open. He literally was perfect.

We had Luca in our hospital room for five short hours. My legs were still numb from my epidural, so I was forced to watch everyone’s encounters with him from the comfort of my hospital bed. That was really hard for me. I wanted to hug and comfort everyone and yet I was stuck on the sidelines. I am sure that those who came to the hospital to meet him will forever be changed. There was such a special spirit in the room. It was a terribly sad, yet wonderfully peaceful experience.

The next several days were a blur. I left the hospital on a Friday morning. That afternoon I sat in the mortuary office preparing a funeral. We had a very small service on Monday, just four days after I delivered. Thank heavens for pain medications. Without those my traditional delivery pains coupled with the pain of my milk coming in, would have been unbearable. I buried my baby and part of my heart on April 26, 2010.

How am I dealing with his death?

I believe, as my religion teaches, that I will raise little Luca someday. Sometimes that thought brings great comfort, other times it is little solace for a grieving mother who longs to hold her angel infant now. Although he is in a better place, free from sorrow and sin, I wanted the challenge of raising him in this crazy world. Wanted to see him wrestle with his older brothers or hear him giggle as the three of them cooked up mischief. I hate that we don’t get to have him now.

I have experienced all of the traditional grief stages at least once. I have felt depressed, angry, honored, jealous, comforted, tired, rude, bitter, overwhelmed, out of control, anxious, stressed and unmotivated. There have been times I have sat on my couch, not wanting to do anything. Then other times that I feel an urgency to give back to others in honor of my son’s memory. I have yet to find a happy medium. I have heard people say that the first year is the hardest. I pray that’s true.

This past year has literally been the year from hell. Yet despite the darkness I have felt, there are a few things that have relieved my sorrows.

What do I do when the grief is too much to bear?

I take long soaks in the bathtub where I blast Pink on my radio and cry until my eyes are strawberry red.

I watch movies like Tangled and sob when I see Rapunzel reunited with her parents. I wish I only had to wait 18 years to meet my “lost” baby.

I take my boys fishing. Fresh air and the beauty of nature clear my head and remind me of my place in the world.

I lay by my other boys while they are sleeping. I put my hand on their chest to feel their heart beating and their lungs filling with air. That reminds me of the beautiful boys I do get to raise on Earth. I can’t let myself take them for granted.

I start finding something I can do for others. I know it sounds cheesy, but sometimes serving others has been my saving grace. I understand the need to be still and internalize my grief and emotions, but sometimes it’s overwhelming. I have to find a productive way to patch over my grief until my emotions settle and I’m able to digest them.

Finally, I write through my heartache. Writing has always been a way for me to work through life’s problems. I imagine I’ll write through this problem my entire life.

I just have to keep reminding myself that life is hard, life is good and life is necessary.

Faith To Turn Eyes Red

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Why can’t I have faith like my sons?

Last week my 4-year-old was hunched over in one of our living room corners. His back was to me and I was certain he was up to no good.

I kept asking him what he was doing but he wouldn’t tell me. I think I asked him three times before he finally confessed – He was praying that his eyes would turn red.

Not. What. I. Expected. I think I said something like, “Why on Earth would you want red eyes?”

He shrugged me off, looked over at his older brother and said, “Are they red yet?”

He said it with such conviction and confidence that I knew he truly believed his prayer would be answered. Quietly and carefully my 6-year-old studied his brother’s eyes for a minute then happily declared, “I think I can see some orange!”

They both have amazing faith. Sometimes I take their faith for granted.

Like a month ago when my oldest lost an electronic recorder outside somewhere in our yard. We noticed it was missing right when we were supposed to be heading out the door to a family night at the elementary school. Knowing it was going to rain that night and probably ruin the recorder, we swept the yard dozens of times looking for it.

We were late for the school party and I was having a serious I-can’t-find-something anxiety/panic attack. I grabbed my 6-year-old, held onto both of his shoulders and demanded that he use his faith to find the stupid recorder. I suggested that he pray to know where it was.

Keep in mind I know my son has enough faith to do miracles, but I shouldn’t have asked that of him. I felt like Mrs. Incredible asking her daughter, Violet, to put a force field around the airplane when being shot at over the ocean. She knew Violet could do it, but the timing wasn’t right.

Despite my son’s heartfelt pleas to his Maker, he didn’t find the recorder. And because of my stupid charge that he pray to know where it was, he went to bed doubting his faith.

The next day I found the tiny black audio recorder in our garage underneath his bicycle. A place we had searched dozens of times.

Faith is a funny thing.

To this day my 4-year-old still has green eyes and my 6-year-old didn’t find his recorder when he believed he would be swiftly led directly to it.

Sometimes we have faith, but what we really want isn’t meant to be. Sometimes the timing isn’t right.

Try telling that to one of your children. Try telling that to yourself.

Sometimes no matter how much you believe something will happen, it just isn’t going to. It isn’t God’s will.

Like the night I stayed up waiting for my baby boy to move inside my full-term pregnant belly. Call it shock, call it faith, call it wishful thinking, I thought for sure that if I believed hard enough that he would come back to life, he would.

But I am left only raising three of my four sons.

It seems like every year around this time I face doubts about my faith. Those doubts make me grouchy and moody and I get stuck in a funk.

It normally happens a few weeks before April 22 – my third son’s birthday and angel day. The day he flew back Home.

I have a strong testimony of my religion. But when I stop and think about my little baby boy, buried in a cemetery 5 miles from my home, the doubts start to fly and the “what ifs?” and “will I reallys?” arise.

What if I never see my son again?
What if this life is the end?
Will I really get to kiss his chubby cheeks again?
Will I really get to raise him?

These doubts start in the corner of my mind and creep down into my heart where they paralyze my faith.

It doesn’t help that Easter – a holiday built on religion, faith, and resurrection – lands just before my baby’s angelversary. Oh how I miss him.

But sometimes the Lord doesn’t answer our prayers. Sometimes he’s trying to teach us something. Sometimes – like in the case of the missing recorder – he’s trying to teach someone else – your mother – something. Like to not stress out when things go missing. They’ll come around eventually.

And luckily so will my faith. It does every year, eventually.

I still don’t know if I will ever have faith that my eyes could change to red, but after wrestling with my mind and searching deep into my soul, I normally snap out of my funk. I remember the peace I have felt.

And although right now I’m still feeling a little off, a little agitated, a little tormented, I know I will find hope again, eventually.

Thawing

It has been the coldest winter that I can ever remember yet somehow I feel warmer than I have in a really long time. ice-cube-md

Don’t get me wrong, I still wear my moon boots with my pajama pants to take the kids to school and I sit under an electric heated lap quilt most of the day. I’m not talking about being warmer physically.

I’m talking about warming up emotionally.

Somehow the giant piece of ice that froze around my heart when Luca died has slowly been melting.

Bit by bit it gets easier for me to deal with his loss. My heart is thawing and so is my anger and bitterness.

I’m not saying that I am forgetting my son who would turn 3 this April. Coping with the grief that has come with his loss is still an uphill battle I will continue to fight. But I’m slowly starting to realize that my life can be warm and happy even though he can’t be in it.

I was horrified when someone told me that time heals all wounds. Now, I am wondering if that’s partially true. Although I will forever carry the scar, I think my wound is slowly healing.

How can I tell that I’m thawing? I finally feel like living again.

For a long time I didn’t want to do anything. My life was all about making it through the day, the hour, the minute.

Now I want to run, chase and tickle my kids. I want to learn how to cook apple pies and warm, fluffy rolls. I want to imparare italiano. And I want to stay up late reading, learning and growing.

Every once in a while an ice piece will chip off and I’ll feel a chill again. Like when I start sewing tiny baby gowns to donate to other families who will experience a loss. Or when I hear on the news that Utah might ban wish lanterns. Or I visit a tiny rectangular headstone with my baby’s picture in the top right corner.

It’s then that I remember how cold my loss has made me. How lonely I am to see my baby again, if only for a moment.

But in a strange, unexplainable way, I am grateful for those ice chips. They remind me that Luca was real. They remind me that I am real.

Sometimes I get so busy wrapped up in my daily life that I stop and question if delivering my baby stillborn was all just a horrific nightmare.

Those sudden chills remind me that I am human and that I lost something I wanted deeply.

But those chips, while they chill me to the core, come and go. And while his loss was once all consuming, it is much less so now.

Much of my sorrow has transformed into curiosity. I think of my baby often and wonder what he would be like.

Would he love sharks like my oldest son? Would he dress as Peter Pan and challenge his 4-year-old Hook-loving brother?

Would we be fighting him to wear underwear and grow out of his pacifier? Would he cuddle to me during naptime?

Sometimes I sit back and day dream that he would do all of those things. And though thoughts of what Luca would have been like remind me of his absence, they also make me smile.

Lanterns May Still Soar

Author’s Note: This is an update to my previous post regarding HB217 that is working its was through the Utah State Legislature.

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For those of you who didn’t see my special edition of Boogers on the Wall on Sunday, I wrote an open letter to the Utah State Fire Marshal regarding the proposed amendment to the Utah State Fire Code that would outlaw sky lanterns.

We have sent sky lanterns to Luca each year on his birthday. It is such a peaceful, beautiful way to remember my little angel baby on the anniversary of the day I delivered him.

But a proposed amendment to the Utah State Fire Code would classify the lanterns as unattended fires, therefore rendering them illegal.

I have anxiously been watching and waiting for news from the House of Representatives about the proposed amendment – HB217. I signed up to receive email notifications when anything changes.

Yesterday news came.

I received an email stating that the bill’s sponsor, Rep. James Dunnigan R- Taylorsville, modified the amendment. Instead of completely banning the lanterns, Dunnigan proposed that the amendment include an exception: “Use of a sky lantern is permitted beginning on January 1 through May 31 and beginning on November 1 through December 31 of each year.”

I didn’t know if I should cry or jump up and down with joy! It’s amazing what little things make a grieving mother’s day.

The House of Representatives standing committee on Business and Labor gave the bill a favorable recommendation yesterday. I’ll keep watching and waiting for updates.

I know the bill isn’t finalized and things can still change, but the possibility of being able to continue a sentimental tradition on the day my baby flew to heaven has me overjoyed!

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