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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

It's been so long
and winter has given way to spring

When we were in week 2 of Portland, my girlfriend Corrie came from Bellingham, WA to be with Ruby, Noa and I while Justin and Emmaus took my sister back for her flight in Spokane. It was God's gracious timing. Now I look back at all the friends/family that were able to meet Noa and its very sweet to share that with them. 
When Corrie returned home, she wrote a song in memory of that time that she calls, "O For Grace". She posted it on UTube for me to see and here's the link if you'd like to listen: Click Here .

I don't know why I've broken this long silence with Corrie's song. Because I love it. It can stir my heart when I feel far removed from those days.

In Portland for 'Remembrance'
I've been thinking and keeping notes on what to say if I ever decided to update the blog. I have been impressed with so many moms out there that have continued to open their hearts and lives in their blogs during the grieving process. And its actually been helpful to me to read them at different times (especially this one: click here to see her blog).

So- on to the update! 
4 years old...her birthday spanned a week!
Since January...Emmaus and Ruby have both celebrated birthdays! In February Emmaus turned '2' and in April, Ruby turned '4'. They are so so cute and definetely living up to all the claims that those ages hold. Ruby is vivacious and animated and curious. She has lots of energy and is matched perfectly by Emmaus who loves to run and wrestle and... pester Ruby! 
Emmaus is so funny and independent, yet super timid at other times. He still isn't much of a talker (calls Ruby, "Raa!") but very strong and stable on his feet. He just started climbing the monkey bars at the park, and he regularly has skinned knees (and at the moment, a skinned up face)! Emmaus is mischevious in a way Ruby never was. Twice yesterday he unlocked the door and the deadbolt and went out front without my knowledge. Thank God for mother's intuition he wasn't out there too long! I have to keep an eye on him. He'll color on the wall and all over himself in seconds. 
Ruby is finishing up preschool at Southside Christian. It has been a perfect experience for her... and I love that some foundational truths have been reinforced there ("...hear the Word of God and obey it..." are words to a song she's learned there). 

Birthday bike
Spring and Summer finally came. It felt like the grey and cold would never end...and you hear that from even the long time locals. It's just part of living in Spokane! But when the weather does break, it's like healing to your soul that the winter wounded. Within weeks the trees are green and flowers are blooming and all the windows in the house are open. Its been nice to fill up the kiddy pool in the back and sit in the sun. 

My fingerprint with Noa's name
A couple of months ago, I started going to GriefShare classes (which are ran out of local churches all over the US. I highly recommend it!). I decided to go because I felt like life was going on as normal but I knew everything wasn't normal. It may have been because I spend a majority of my time at home with the kids and there wasn't the 'emotional room' to grieve everyday and also care for the kids. I wasn't able to be available (or present) to I decided I needed to set aside time for Noa, and thus, the classes. It has been so good. It's help put parameters on what I'm experiencing and how it might be different in the light of our situation. It also has given some makers of growth and typical areas people might get 'stuck'. And they just do a good job of covering many areas a grieving person will encounter. The first class I went to dealt with how family members grieve differently...and it brought deeper assurance that Justin not attending the class with me was ok...even good. And honestly....more than anything, that has been the theme of these classes. I leave each session absolutely convinced again that God has been holding our hands in this whole journey. I think at different times, Justin and I have been almost guilty for how well we're doing.  We are grieving...but we're also ok.
It wasn't too long after Noa's death I was reading the Bible and I felt so strong that God was encouraging me that Psalm 139 was for her, especially verses 14-16 where it says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, that God sees us being formed in our mothers womb...he sees our 'unformed substance', and in His book are written all the days that were formed for us, even before we are born. And I knew that God was not surprised by her CDH or any day that she lived from conception to death. He had a just takes time for our hearts and minds to trust ourselves to that...even if we don't understand why.
Awesome nurses we got to see while in Portland

Last month we returned to Portland to attend a 'Remembrance Service' for all the babies/children that had been cared for at Emanuel Children's Hospital and passed away. Justin and I both didn't know what to expect at the service, or even what we wanted from our time...but we didn't want to go just to say, "goodbye" or to try and receive closure to move on. 

It took me a little while to process it, but I finally realized that, as Christians, we have hope still! And that's what we were feeling. Our grieving doesn't look like the 'worlds' and this life isn't the end. We will see Noa again. God is good and loving and wonderful and has good reasons for what happens to all of us for whatever length of time we are here (apply Psalm 139!). And Noa's life wasn't a tragedy (though it feels like it) or a mistake... it truly was God's gift to us, a privilege to be her mom and dad...our little bird. I still miss her and want her. Anyone who's lost someone they love knows how that feels. 

SOOOO, That is most of it, but not all... just 13 days we hit our 2 year mark of when we left California for Washington. 
What a roller-coaster it has been!!! Wow, I have learned so much. It has honestly been one of the toughest seasons of my life...and I am sitting here crying because I am positive God has so many beautiful lessons woven in the numerous struggles I've walked through. Some I am still unaware of. From high pressure comes beautiful things like diamonds and pearls...worship. And I wouldn't trade it in for anything less. And in a way, I feel a sense of relief coming and an end to season because... just 15 days, we will be moving back to California.
I am so looking forward to smelling the ocean, hiking my favorite mountains with Justin and my babes (and smelling like sage) and being near my mom and sisters and brother in laws...neicies and nephews. It feels like a gift...I think it really is. Thank you Jesus. Justin and I didn't push hard to make it happen. It really unfolded before us and we are pleased to return. It isn't a bitter departure from Spokane...just a sweet return to home. 

Montana de' Oro...a favorite hike
Hills of gold

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hello Friends and Family-

To those of you who weren't on our texting list or we haven't been able to catch up with...I wanted to share some of what's been happening the last couple of weeks.
Our wooden box 

It took us awhile to figure out the timing, but we finally made the trip back to Portland to pick up Noa. We also made an effort to connect with some of the hospital staff that we never had a chance to say goodbye to. 

I was surprised when I called to make reservations (at the same hotel where both of our mothers had stayed) and the man on the phone knew Noa by name. My heart went right to my throat. He was sorry to hear she had not made it. I was nervous about seeing the people that knew us through that time...where do we go from here? What do I say? In the end, I realized I just wanted to thank them and say goodbye.

Nurse who was with Noa that night
Wonderful staff 

We had breakfast our first morning with 3 dear ladies that had cared for Noa...very bright & kind women. They dispeled any apprehension I had, as did everyone else we saw that day.  We were able to remember, ask questions and share our sadness with them. And, we got to thank them for all their care. We visited the RMH (which the kids totally cookies and a choo-choo that does loops around the dining room ceiling) and then walked to the hospital and visited the  Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).
We laughed and cried with the nurses and it felt so good to see that some of them still carried our family in their hearts. It was such an awesome trip. So hard to go to the mortuary and gather the little wooden box that holds Noa, but a sweet type of closure that its done. I felt so much of God's grace during the trip. It was good to say goodbye to some and solidify bonds with others.
Justin shoveling!!

Rest of our daily life...

little unhappy guy
The snow has been fun and magical, though cold. Ruby is a trooper and can play outside happily but Emmaus gets cold and unhappy pretty quick. I try to get them out anyways. I'm one of those people that feel like we need 'fresh air' everyday! But the cold is unfriendly.

I was able to complete the process for milk donation. It felt significant to me because it was one of the few 'parenting' things I was doing for Noa. The finalization of that was good and sad. It will benefit another baby in need, but its another hope lost.

Captain of the Storm
I joined a bible study that meets every week. It's a new group of ladies...and while I don't feel like emotionally investing with them yet, I am excited to have some structure to keep me in 'the word' on a regular basis. Already I feel encouraged by some hope in my heart. God is kind and it is good for me to hear that and see it in others lives. 

Today is 6 weeks since she passed away. Our little one. I can't believe it. Still feels like a bad dream. We continue to get cards and letters and it helps so much to know that people are still thinking of us. It's like they are carrying some of the helps us to reconnect and grieve...while 'everyday life' doesn't.

Love you all

Precious ones

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Providence! Not Coincidence

'Overcoming CDH' (the title of the blog)... originally we thought that it pertained to Noa surviving. Seems now that it's about Heidi and I, and how we will "overcome" our loss (present and future). I can say that it's by the grace of God that we're able to stay positive. One thing that we didn't want to be told was that, "God won't give you more than you can handle". This really is too much. But maybe it's our faith or the trust we put in Him that gives us hope through this.

Here are some examples of how He's definitely letting us know that He's in it with us:
-I painted this in 07 for Heidi while we were dating. Cool thing about it is that there are three birds in the tree... (Ruby, Emmaus and Noa). Two are flying and one has landed.

9Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
                                         Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

It's hard to explain how true this verse is and at the same time how hard it is to see it out. Realistically, when Heidi is overcome with sadness, all that I can do is hold her and be in it with her. Sometimes the only words that come out are, "I know" (if any words come out at all).

-I got in the habit of playing Josh Garrels on my iphone for Noa during my nightly visits. I wanted her to hear the music that moves and inspires me. It just so happens that he lives in Portland. The night after Noa passed away, Heidi and I took the kids out to eat (HUB) and in the booth next to us was his wife and kids. I was able to tell her (through my tears) that our baby had gone to be with Jesus and that I played his music for her. It's not like me to be so bold, but it meant a lot to me to tell her.

-We went looking for a box/case to protect and display a plaster cast of Noa's hand and foot. We didn't see anything in the store even close to what we were looking for. On a clearance table on the back wall of the store, among random other items, Heidi found this treasure box.

I didn't even know what to say. Just one of those moments where the hair on the back of your neck stands up. We knew we had to get it... it was meant for us. The name isn't on the actual box itself, but its still hard for me to think that it's just a coincidence. (If you can't read the small print....the name on the box is 'Noa'!

-Some friends of our here in Spokane had dinner with a family from Colorado and they started sharing our story with them and they said that their church had heard about us and had been praying for us.

-Heidi had a follow up appointment with Dr. Hilton (our OB).We debated if we should even keep it, if it was necessary. We both had a fear of the emotions that would arise from being back in the office that we had so many appointments in. We shared hugs and tears with the Nurses and Dr's that were a part of our journey. On the way out while saying our goodbyes, the stenographer (Rita) who initially found Noa's CDH walked past us in the hall. No words, just a smile. It put bookends to our story there.

Really, there are so many stories of people who don't know us and might not ever get to meet us who supported us through prayer and giving. It's been a learning experience in so many ways for our family, mainly about receiving. There are too many people to thank and those are only the one we know of. All we can do is thank God and pray he blesses you like he did (and still does) for us.

Thank you everyone.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Our New Marathon
Jan 5th 2013

Justin and I keep saying we want to update the blog with what's been happening in our lives since Noa passed away. But time is surreal and gets away from me. Its hard to believe that was just 4 weeks ago. Some days I just float along.

It seems like we were just in Portland engaged in our daily routine. It engulfed us. If I close my eyes and think of it, I remember what it felt like. Spokane and life here feels so removed from what our reality was for so long (even though it was a short 47 days we 'had' her). All of the thoughts and feelings are jumbled most of the time, waiting to be processed. My girlfriend wisely said, "'s a new marathon."

Honestly, I've avoided the computer and looking at my email. I realized I am just prolonging what is inevitable...moving forward and all0wing grief to have its place. I'm sad that I'm not sitting down to write about how Noa is still fighting and the kids are 'hanging in there'. And I'm not pouring over tests and feedback from all of you about how you're praying and hopeful with us (and I know you are still praying). Now we are just sorry and so sad.

Sometimes it feels like I'm in a bad dream. I keep waiting for the relief that comes from waking from that bad dream...but the heaviness remains. And I imagine it will for a long time. Noa took a part of our heart with her. 

I've been looking at a couple of books about this process and they have been helpful. And God has clearly been guiding me and continues to carry our family. Even though God doesn't remove the grief, he is surely embracing us in it. I know He is with us. 

So...Here are a few highlights of our life lately:
Getting a ride

~ We returned to our house that had been uninhabited for 46 days but it didn't feel like it. Our friends had cleaned and freshened our house, went grocery shopping, put up a Christmas tree with lights, and topped it off with holiday  'lawn art'! We felt surrounded even though we were given some space.
mom and sisters 

~ Two days after returning to WA, our family and community in CA got together and bought us plane tickets, a hotel, and took care of all the details to be able to spend a week with them there. It was such a wonderful visit and we were blown away (again) by the support and love we were given. It was so so appreciated. Thank you.

~ Shortly after leaving Portland, the director of the Ronald McDonald House for Oregon, Tom Soma, decided to make Ruby and our family the subject of his weekly blog. We are so impressed and humbled by the Ronald McDonald House Charities. We don't know what we would've done without it. (I remember roaming the halls when we first arrived and looking at photos of people who were contributors and just cried with gratitude). It is well worth anyones donation of time or money. Anyways,  we thought it was really neat that our family left an impression on Tom. Here's the link to his blog: Tom's Musings
aahh, beach!
~ Ruby started back to preschool. It gives me some peace to be able to have that for her. And to have a couple hours alone with Emmaus.

~ We made it through my birthday and holidays...barely. Lots of tears in there. We really had planned on bringing her home. And initially I scolded myself for the confidence I saw when we returned home...diapers, clothes, plants, etc. But then I remember that during the whole pregnancy we thought of Noa's situation as "best case scenario" and "not a candidate for ECMO". It wasn't until I had her that we were shocked with how severe her CDH was and then it was 100 miles an hour till the end. YOU know...those who journeyed with us.

~ Justin returned to work. I miss him.

We Love and appreciate you still...thank you for continuing to pray and for sending encouragements to us. And all of you whom we've never met that have sent us letters or cards. Thank you