Friday, December 5, 2014

13 Days of Rainbows Opportunity

to be a NICU nurse at a children's hospital takes a very special person. you must be incredibly intelligent. quick on your feet. clear-headed. gentle. patient. kind. optimistic. tough, yet tender.

basically, an angel.

noah spent almost all of his days on earth in the Seattle Children's Hospital NICU. this was his home:

and while he was there, he was cared for by the most capable team of genuinely kind and gracious people.

our nurse, pasha, was one of those people.

this is pasha on noah's last day, getting him dressed up in his bow tie onesie

pasha cared for noah many of the days he was there. she may have known him better than we did. day after day, we literally had to leave our fragile, precious, heart-of-our-heart baby boy in the hands of others, trusting they were caring for him the best ways they knew how. it was the most terrified i have ever been in my entire life times a billion. but the good people at Seattle Children's somehow made it just a little more bearable.

pasha "just happened" to be on shift the day we found out noah had ACD. i remember dr. jackson ushering john and i into a little room that june 18th morning with another doctor (alicia) and nurse pasha where he gently, and straight-forwardly, told us the news:

noah will not survive. it's time to say good-bye.

throughout the rest of that holy day, pasha was completely present with us, answering questions, and comforting our bewildered and tender hearts. (i'm pretty sure NICU nurses spend just as much time, if not more, taking care of the parents, as the babies!)

also on that day, and i don't have a clue how she did it, she made us this beautiful scrapbook to take home. she took pictures. she made hand and foot prints. she gracefully documented a lifetime of our boy in ten, small pages.

this is one of the very few tangible items we have to remember noah. she gave us one of the most precious gifts we could of ever received - not just the kindness she showed us each minute we were with her, but the gift of our boy, to treasure always. i will forever be grateful to her.

i'm telling you all this because tomorrow begins 13 Days of Rainbows, and this year i want to return kindness to pasha, and all the other NICU nurses at Seattle Children's Hospital. there's no way in the world i'll be able to express to her, and all the other angels there, how much we love them and appreciate the ways they make our world better, but i can try.

obviously for 13 Days of Rainbows anyone is welcome to join in the kindness-spreading in any way that feels right for them, but if you're looking for an opportunity, i've got one.

i've decided that part of my 13 Days of Rainbows will be collecting and delivering scrapbook and other spoiling-type items to the NICU nurses at Seattle Children's. 

i have yet to walk back through those NICU doors, to the place our most sacred dreams died, but i think i'm ready.

SO! if you have any of the following that you'd like to donate for the nurses, that would awesome!

*scrapbook paper
*scrapbook stickers
*craft, design scissors
*photo paper
*letter beads
*gift cards (michael's, target, starbucks)
*sweet treats (gum, chocolates)

there's a 13 Days of Rainbows box at the Bellevue Presbyterian Church main office to leave stuff, or you can give/send to me. (message me for my address, if you need it.) i'll be making the delivery on DEC 18.

these small items may not seem like a lot.  but as the recipients of what can be created out of them, i know they represent the world. 

if our house was burning down, that scrapbook is one of the few most prized, material possessions we have.

i hope with our gift, others may know that love too.

thank you!!! and have a very, merry 13 days!

Monday, December 1, 2014

13 Days of Rainbows

a year ago, for 13 days over the month of december, we honored noah's life by participating in 13 Days of Rainbows. december 5 - december 18.

here's the blog post from last year explaining how it got started.

it was such a sweet time and filled our hearts with so much love and joy. and i can't wait to start another year. on friday it begins!

these upcoming 13 days will commemorate the life of our would-have-been 18 month old. at a time of the year when there's so much hustle and bustle of the holidays, i feel the void of my beloved boy all the more. this is the second christmas we'll have without him, and it's just as hard as it was last year, maybe harder. i kind of feel like last year we got a "pass" but this year we have to start making the hard decisions like, should we hang his stocking? what will we (or i mean, Santa) put in it? and on and on it goes ...

there's a lot of sadness and grief. still.

but there's also joy. especially when i think of 13 Days of Rainbows. hundreds of people who will be shown kindness and goodness because a little baby boy lived. he brings hope... kind of like another little Baby Boy we remember this season.

so we'd love for you to join us! do one kind deed anytime during those 13 days, or something everyday. totally up to you! follow your heart.

if you need a little inspiration, here are just some of the stories from last year. but also feel free to be as creative as you like!

click here to print or download a cute little card to pass out with your kindness, if you wish. (made by my talented sister in law! she's the best.)

then let's flood Instagram and Facebook with pictures and stories of good being done across the world by using #13DaysOfRainbows to encourage and inspire us all.

later this week i'll share a special opportunity for us to love on children and their parents at Seattle Children's Hospital. so stay tuned for that!

oh, my gosh. i really can't wait.

thank you. thank you. thank you.
...for loving our boy and honoring his life with us.

looking forward to seeing all your kindness-spreading!
and please share this opportunity with others!

merry christmas. with much love.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Costco Hope

life is funny sometimes.

last night this happened:

my husband was in line to purchase some delicious costco treats and miles and i were hanging out saving a table. 

baby was uncharacteristically gitty. like giggling, throwing his head back and laughing type gitty. it made my heart swell with love and pride. then i got a little self-conscious for a second. if there are people around us who just experienced a loss of a baby or who are having trouble getting pregnant, this blatant scene of baby sweetness could be really hard to see. so i kind of tried to tone it down, but miles wouldn't have it. 

too. much. joy.

then it hit me.

you may recall, last summer i wrote a blog post about going to costco and how hard it was to see a happy couple there with a smiling baby. i had forgotten about it until that very moment with miles.

i ended the post by saying, God willing, in a year or so, my husband and i will be that happy couple at costco. giggling with our rainbow baby whilst chowing down on a $1.50 hot dog. and when others see us i pray they find hope.

it gives me goosebumps just reading that again.

my deepest desire is that miles' life is a living demonstration of hope. hope in the flesh.

even at costco. may it be so.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Reclaiming Christmas, Not So Fast

john and i didn't do a christmas card last year. we didn't do a lot of things we usually do last year. didn't get a tree. didn't hang up stockings. in the wake of losing noah, we just had zero motivation or energy. and my heart would sting every time i even tried because all i could feel was his void. i wrote a bit about this tough season on the blog last year.

i didn't know what to expect this year. we have miles, so there was a glimmer of hope to potentially reclaim pieces of the holidays back. but i don't think i expected it to still be so hard... and it's not even thanksgiving.

our last support group was heavier than usual. as john and i were driving home we both commented how everyone just seemed, i don't know, more depressed. there are a number of reasons why this could have been.. it was the birthday of one of the baby girls who had died, that added an extra layer of sorrow. it was also the first really, really rainy, yucky day of the season. weather can definitely play a part. it could have also just been a fluke. my hunch, however, is that it was because the holidays are approaching. we all know it. we feel it. we can't escape it.

i need to brace myself. to be ready. because as i go along my merry little way this holiday season, the grief can hit me like a truck.

it happened for the first time last week.

i'm a sucker for shutterfly. the online card, book and calendar making business which seems to always have a new sale or deal going on that i can't refuse. it usually ends up looking like, "you bought a calendar, these 16 prints and birthday card, now all you have to do is spend 10 more dollars and you get free shipping!" so i rack my brain trying to come up with something, anything, to spend more money on. because GOD FORBID i lose out on FREE SHIPPING.

as i was cruising around the site last week looking for something to spend money on, i came across the christmas cards. well, duh! we could use christmas cards! so i got to work on picking out the loveliest one.

i should have seen it coming. as i looked at all the sample, perfect families with their two or three gorgeous children and their professional family pictures, bragging about how bella is taking piano lessons and tim went on a business trip to new zealand, i could feel the knot in the pit of my stomach twist and tighten.

that will never be us. the professional pictures, maybe. but never light and easy. 

i ignored it, for the moment, and went about the creation of our christmas card.

but the tough questions came. they always do.

should we include a picture of baby isaac? he's a part of our family, and a huge part of our 2014 story. we must. but the only pictures we have are of him covered in breathing tubes and IVs, or dead. nobody wants to see that, not on a "we had such an amazing year of adventure and fun" christmas card.

and how do we include noah? a simple picture of a rainbow, just so people are reminded of him? no, that doesn't seem like enough. a picture of his memorial all decorated for his first birthday? okay. that's fine, i guess. but a little weird, perhaps.

now it asks for me to fill in the names of everyone in the family.

the butlers. who are "the butlers?"

i had to take a break. or maybe miles just woke up from his nap. either way...

when john got home from work i showed him the card. as we looked at it together, i felt sick. i started to vocalize and oddly defend my decisions on what i included and why. and i found myself saying,

we should have been celebrating a little boy turning one. 

and rejoicing about bringing a baby home from louisiana.

i don't even know who to put under "the butler family!" 

it shouldn't be this hard.

how in the hell do you sum up our year on a 5x7 piece of paper?!

and then i doubled over and bawled.

you can't. and certainly not in a way christmas cards are designed - to brag and show off.

so our christmas card is tabled for another year. and maybe forever. it just doesn't feel right. everyone we'd be sending one to knows our joy of miles. knows our heartbreak of losing baby isaac. and understands the void without noah. we don't have to give them something to pin on their refrigerator, especially if it causes us more pain and stress.

the only part of the card that brought me any sort of peace, was the back. and i'd like to share it with you now, because no one will probably ever see it.

2014 has been both tragic & wondrous for our family. Yet in its closing we are reminded, again, the reason God sent Jesus. Our Savior came, not to make our lives easy, but to be our light in the darkness. Love, pure & powerful, has come. "Merry Christmas" not from the pretty packages or sparkling lights, but because our Lord is here - He is with us. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Million to One

a good family friend once asked my husband and i for some advice on how to support a co-worker of hers who experienced a loss. she explained that it seemed like the woman didn't want to talk about it, but wasn't really sure.

i thought about it for a moment and then answered, she may not want to talk about it because it reminds her that it actually happened.

this conversation happened only a couple weeks after the loss of our baby isaac. and i knew i was speaking about myself.

those first few days of january are like a haze. an incredibly bad nightmare that sometimes i have to remind myself is true.

everything happened so quickly. we were "home study ready" to adopt in september, heard about the adoption situation at the end of december, spoke with the birth mother the next day, and a few hours later were picked to raise her baby. only days after that we got the call that he was born and we were on a plane to louisiana that day.

*to read more about his story go here and here.

i remember discussing names on the plane ride and feeling such anticipation. i was nervous about so much. would the adoption go through? would we be able to take him home in a timely manner? what would the birth mother be like? but, oddly enough, i don't remember being nervous about his health. because he had to be healthy.

it's hard to explain in a way that honors both isaac's life and our role in it, while also being honest. but in the weeks and months after losing this precious baby we had so much hope for, i found myself almost not letting my mind even "go there" and remember. it was just so, so painful and traumatic. the thought that this actually happened to us again. lightening struck again. i actually have held two dead babies that were supposed to be mine. i don't know. there was something in my brain that had to shut it off in order to survive.

because i was pregnant with miles. and if it could happen twice. it could happen three times. you don't play odds anymore when you've been on the one side of "million to one." twice.

i've heard people say, i have two healthy babies. should i push my luck and try for a third?

i'm not sure what that means. like, do we all have these "tragedy jars" and they can only get so full before life doesn't suck anymore? on the other hand, if nothing "bad" has ever happened to you,'re due.

i fell into this way of thinking while we were trying to get pregnant with noah. i figured losing my dad to cancer at 8 years old sort of gave me a pass from future hardship. so getting pregnant would be easy, right? it's a weird thing to think, because we all know life doesn't work like that. at all.

why does it seem that some people breeze through life with not a hint of tough stuff, while others just seem to get more pain than their fair share?

i don't know. but what i do know is that it's not our fault when tragedy like this strikes, it's just bad luck. nor did we do anything to deserve any of the goodness-es we receive. that's plain grace.

there's so much more i want to say about all of this, but i'll leave it there for now.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Congrats, Your Baby Died

i meant to blog about this while i was pregnant with miles,
but i never got around to it.

i noticed, while i was pregnant with miles, that apparently in our culture being pregnant is a light and easy conversation topic.

oh, you're pregnant! congratulations!

how far along are you?

is this your first?

i noticed this starkly as i wandered target one day and upon seeing my pregnant belly a complete stranger exclaimed, congrats!!

now i don't mean to sound ungrateful or just plain grumpy, because it was very sweet of her to say, but i couldn't help but wonder why this was hard for me to hear. while i was pregnant the first time with noah, i ate up these congrats and questions about the baby. why was it now rubbing me the wrong way?

but my experience with noah and baby isaac radically changed my view of pregnancy.

most pregnant women are carrying a healthy baby. most. but what about the woman who just went to the doctor to discover her 28 week old baby no longer has a heartbeat? this pregnant woman will continue to carry her child for possibly days or weeks before they induce labor. how would a congrats from a stranger feel to her? congrats on what? congrats, your baby died?

most pregnant women are carrying a baby who they will raise themselves. most. but what about the woman who has decided to make an adoption plan for her child? how difficult that must be to field questions about a baby who you may never get to know, but only have dreams for.

most pregnant women are carrying a baby who lands in a specific, straight forward sibling order. most. but for some of us, there is a gaping hole in our family. i had the hardest time answering the, is this your first baby question. because if i said, no, there would be difficult follow up questions and comments that i usually didn't have the emotional bandwidth to manage. oh, fun! how many? how old are they? you'll have your hands full with 3 boys!

but if i answered, yes, that would be a lie.

side note:  i'm so jealous of moms who can, with ease and seemingly no thought at all, answer the question, how many kids do you have?

oh, madeline is 8 and then i have emily who is 6 and little nicholas is 3. 

if only the general population knew how much time we spend in my support group stressing and discussing how to answer that simple little question, and how much guilt is associated with it. it's remarkable and something i never, ever even had to think about 16 months ago.

in closing, i'm not saying we should never engage in conversation with a pregnant woman, or to just mind our own business. but let's just not assume anything. and let's always lead with sensitivity and grace.

that's all.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Butler Brothers

my birth experience with noah was pretty near perfect, and i wanted our experience with miles to be perfect too. but perfection, in its essence, cannot be made better or duplicated, right? it's perfect. done. so i wondered how it could possibly "measure up."

however, i also wanted the story of miles coming into the world to be unique and different, just as miles is unique and different. a story just his own, yet still perfect.

amazingly, that happened.

a few weeks before miles was born i told his auntie amy that i thought he was going to arrive "fast and furious." and that, he did. even four days late. i sort of half-expected miles to come early because noah did. (noah was due on june 10th and arrived june 5th.) so when miles' due date (june 11th) came and went, the anticipation nearly broke me. i know people go past their due dates all the time, and it's hard. but i can't help but think that my anticipation held much more weight.

i had been pregnant for nearly two years and we had been trying to get pregnant about a year before that. the nursery had been set, then redone, then tweaked, then fussed with, about a million times.

my anticipation was also loaded with fear. would miles be okay? not only were we not 100% sure that miles didn't have the same condition that took noah's life, but i was also heavy with worry about anything else that could go wrong. stillbirth. heart defect. acd. i worried about it all.

so those days leading up to his birth were very, very long. i also wasn't working full time and hadn't been for about a month. my to-do list had long been completed. and then completed about five more times again. i was ready. way more than ready.

beginning about two weeks before miles was born, i kept thinking "it" was happening. my water broke before labor began with noah, so i didn't really know what early labor felt like. however, i knew i was having contractions with miles for these two weeks, they just weren't getting stronger. i would get so excited... then disappointed when they'd trail off. it was maddening.

we even went into the hospital thinking "it" was time. on the evening of saturday, june 14th at about 7pm. and after a couple hours of monitoring, we were devastatingly sent home after still being only 3cm. (absolutely no progress since my doctor's appointment the previous tuesday.)

i went to bed around 10pm that night and got a few hours sleep when i woke up to go to the bathroom. i noticed some blood and just about had a heart attack. shaking, i woke up john and we called the doctor. she said it's perfectly normal and could be that his arrival was approaching. to be safe, she suggested drinking a large glass of ice water and lying down to make sure i could feel him moving. well, it took a very long half an hour as we waited to feel those crazy, miles kicks. with a sense of relief that all was well, john went back to sleep and i tried too, but my contractions were coming stronger. i stayed awake on the couch until about 5am.

my mind was playing tricks on me. was it really time this time? if we went to the hospital, would i be embarrassingly sent home again?

finally i woke john up with an "it's happening."

we sort of non-urgently got ready, showered and were about to get in the car when john suggested we "labor at home" for awhile. i said, "okay."

about two contractions later, and all of four minutes, john said, "i think we better go."

we arrived to the hospital around 7am and i was taken into the "pre-admittance room." my progress was immediately checked.

8 cm.

john and i looked at each other in disbelief. 8 cm!! we were hoping for at least 5 cm. or just something that indicated we had made some progress. but 8 cm. i was 80% done with labor!

things happened very quickly after that. they rushed me into a room. my amazing mid-wife arrived. john called our parents. contractions kept getting stronger and stronger.

at almost 9am i was checked again. 10 cm. we were ready. but my water hadn't broken yet. our mid-wife said she could break it, to speed up the process, or we could wait and it would eventually break on its own. we opted for her to break it.

what i didn't know, was that "speeding up the process" basically meant, after the water was broken, you're going to have the most intense, painful contraction you've ever had, and it's not going to stop until the baby is born.

i was screaming like a monster. clutching the side of the bed. i was officially panicked.

it was at this point my mom raced in.

i don't think the mid-wife and nurses were entirely ready for me to push yet. (she was just getting her gown garb on.) but i remember yelling, "i'm pushing!!!!"

about three-ish pushes later, at 9:04am, he was born.

it was unbelievably intense.

i wasn't really aware when they broke my water, but apparently they noticed meconium in the amniotic fluid. (miles had a poop.) this meant that they had to have nicu nurses there to help with his breathing right out the gate, so i couldn't immediately hold him or see him. so my first look at him he was very, very gray and very silent. but i couldn't really see him behind the group of nurses.

more panicking.

i remembering crying, "i don't hear him crying!!" but the mid-wife assured me they didn't want him to cry just yet, until they knew he didn't breathe in meconium into his lungs. but as john was going back and forth between me and him, he reported back - "he has a heartbeat!"

i don't know how long miles was over on the table, couldn't have been more than ten minutes, maybe? but it felt like an absolute eternity.

then finally, i got to meet the little man that i had been waiting a lifetime for.

though he gave us some scares, he came into the world perfectly, just like his brother noah.

as i anticipated the arrival of miles, the perfection of noah loomed over my head. how could another boy steal my heart the way noah had? everything about noah, and his entrance into the world, was perfect. his dark hairline, his curled lips, his peaceful presence.

but of course, my sweet blondie-boy miles paved a new way to perfection. and though i adore that there are similarities between these two brothers, i'm so thankful they have their very own uniqueness. noah is noah. miles is very much miles.

each of my boys are wildly different, yet divinely perfect.

as is my love for them.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Morbid Thoughts

last night, as i was holding miles and getting him ready for bed, he looked up at me with his charming, toothless grin, and i found myself thinking, what if this is the last memory i have of him? 

it's a little morbid, but every so often, i have these types of thoughts and it scares the sh*t out of me. 

you would think after losing two children that i would "cherish every moment" like nobody's business. but instead, i prepare myself for the worst, which looks less like "cherishing" and more like "obsessing," causing panic and fear. two emotions that are the perfect fuel for a raging "i love my life" fire. (sarcasm.)

i guess it's completely understandable why i'd feel this way. my daily reality, and the only thing i have known up until now, has been living with merely a handful of precious noah and baby isaac memories.

a handful. that was all i got. 

not anywhere near enough. and i grip onto them like, at any second, they could slip through my fingers.

so i put unbearable amounts of pressure on myself to enjoy miles 24/7 and remember every single sweet, and not-so-sweet moment, i'm given with him. 

then i feel crazy-making guilt because i don't do it. (because it's physically impossible to do.)

yet, there's always grace. and i choose to receive it, again, today. 

because i know, i can love without the presence of enjoyment. and i can be grateful even while wishing circumstances were different.

that's life.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Seduction of Darkness

last night at support group i was asked how i was dealing with the news of robin williams' death. i was just about to answer, "it's so sad, but i haven't really thought about it too much or been that affected." when, instead, i just started to talk. and i began to realize how much heaviness i've been carrying, but have been unable to really process it while caring for a two month old 24/7.

this is one of the reasons why support group is so healing. it creates a space, that otherwise is too mucked up with daily life, to bring the underlying hurt, fear and anger to the surface.

this is how i basically answered the robin williams question. no pre-thought. no analyzing. the words just came.


when i was in high school a classmate of mine killed himself and it scared the crap out of me. i couldn't imagine what was possibly going through his mind the days and moments leading up to that one, huge decision to take his life. such a permanent choice. that kind of depression, the kind that feels the only way out is to end it forever, really, really frightened me, because i didn't understand it.

i understand it now.

in those intense few weeks and months after noah died i experienced that kind of darkness. my pain was so deep, i couldn't fathom a way out. it was too much. so heavy i couldn't breathe.

my entire life, and all i ever knew, was radically shifted. all my beliefs. everything i trusted. wiped clean. i had a new life now. i lost a child and could never go back to my other self, my other life.

and this new life was a life i didn't want. it repulsed me. it exhausted me.

how could i go on living when, quite literally, a part of my very being was gone? noah was a part of me. my own dna, who i nurtured and carried for nine months. and he was ripped violently away. it's like if the entire right side of my body just up and disappeared. how do i go on?

(at this point, i'm weeping. and made apologizes for my sleep deprived emotions.)

but somehow i forged together 0.5% of hope. and i held onto what shred i had to save my life. my husband. my future children. my seemingly microscopic-sized faith. they gave me hope.

without that hope, my life was over. hope was that dot of light in the vast, eternity of darkness.

the fate of robin williams. that could have easily been me.


the group went on to talk about the fine line of darkness beyond hope. it's seductive. it is terrifying. one tiny step and it's over, no going back.

i grieve that robin felt that way. i grieve that anyone would feel that way.

i grieve noah. i grieve isaac.

but i made the choice to live. i make the choice, every single day and moment, to live.

this world is f'ing messed up. i know that all too well. it's absolutely not easy to exist here sometimes, when things don't make sense and fairness is extinct.

yet, we move forward. embracing the darkness and welcoming the light. sharing our stories with others and perhaps giving someone else hope in their despair. that's the beautiful thing about humans, we can bear each others burdens. we can lighten the load for another, while bringing redemption to our own soul.

don't pretend you have it all together, that your life is perfect. it's too exhausting and you'll eventually crack under that kind of pressure. be honest. be authentic. open up your heart and let others in.

we're in it together.
and that gives me hope.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Guilt, It's What's for Dinner

apparently it's world breastfeeding week. i find it a little amusing that there exists such a thing. i also find it a little ironic that, on world breastfeeding week, i found myself feeding my child outside, half dressed, sitting on the cement, in the back of a building, next to a dumpster, in the rain.

maybe our world does need a "breastfeeding week."

because as i sat there, uncomfortable and embarrassed, i wondered, "why do i feel the need to sequester myself with my hungry baby, while my husband gets to remain in the restaurant enjoying his beer... alone?"

something that really surprised me about motherhood was the guilt. heavy, nagging, irrational guilt. i felt it immediately with noah. we're not doing enough to help him. we didn't do enough to save him. what did i do while i was pregnant that made his lungs form incorrectly? i should visit noah's place more often. why am i not raising thousands of dollars for ACD research in noah's name? i shouldn't take any photos of noah down.

and on and on it goes. and it didn't stop with noah.

how is miles sleeping? is he sleeping through the night yet? (the underlying judgment in these questions, i feel is - because if he's not, you must be doing something wrong. do you have a nightly routine? that'll help. are you feeding your baby enough during the day? that'll solve it.)

weather forecast says 100 degrees. we leave the house. it pours down rain. i don't have anything to warm my child.

losing my patience with a screaming baby, because i have no idea what he wants.

not doing what i should. or doing what i shouldn't. guilt is anything that makes me feel like i'm not a good mom. i hate that it does, but it's true. we live in a world where there is so much pressure to do everything perfect... or maybe i just want to be perfect. being a good mom is so, so important to me, because that napping, tiny human is my world. why wouldn't i want to do motherhood well?

but i wouldn't be completely honest if i didn't mention the guilt i feel about not loving every second of motherhood. this emotion has been incredibly difficult for me because i have wanted to be a mom literally my entire life! and not just wanted to be a mom, like "wouldn't that be fun", but dreamed and ached to be a mother because it is the core of who i am.

and being a mama to miles is amazing and i really do love it (because i'm madly in love with him), but there are times i am so exhausted and frustrated that i want to throw him out the window. (i really just wrote that. and it's so awful - guilt - but it's true.)

i had a veteran mom say to me once, "you probably don't feel like this, because of what you went through with noah, but, for me, getting up multiple times through the night was HARD."

um?? and for me it's easy? i must just hum and giggle as i leap out of bed for the millionth time each night, tending to the mystery need of my newborn human.

yes, i lost a baby and for so long would have given anything to hear my son cry or to lose hours upon hours of sleep because of him. i still would. but that doesn't make me automatically and permanently grateful-for-every-little-moment-of-spit-up-and-scream-crying that will ever happen in my life. being a mom is hella hard, for anyone, no matter what. i'm not immune. i'm not a robot.

(would a robot cry when her husband goes to mow the lawn because she's jealous he gets some "alone time"? i don't think so.)

one of the biggest lessons i learned in the grief journey (and am still learning, obviously) is that in order to stay sane, i have to do whatever it is i need to do to survive. (besides bomb our neighbor's house or anything else destructive.) because whatever i feel is okay.

i may not love being a mom every second of every day, but it doesn't mean i don't love being a mom.
i may not feel grateful to spend each day with my little monster, but i'm unbelievably grateful he's here.

there is always grace.

so next time miles is hangry and i hear that voice in the back of my mind that says, "go hide in the shadows while you feed him so you don't make people uncomfortable" or any other time i feel ashamed of myself, i will say to that voice...

shut the hell up. i'm a mama. i'm surviving. i'm loving this little person and his daddy fiercely, with my whole self. and that takes courage and strength that is out of this world.

i'm a brilliant human making sacrifices for love left and right.

though at times i feel empty, with no energy or milk to give, i get up out of that bed again. because whatever i am, i'm enough.

Friday, July 11, 2014

One for the Books

this past month was really "one for the books."

june 5. noah's first birthday.

june 11. my husband's birthday.

the unbelievable anticipation waiting for miles to arrive.

june 15. the birth of a son.

june 18. the first anniversary of our firstborn's death.

not to mention, just plain 'ol, crazy life with a newborn

it's been filled with the wildest of terrors, the purest of joys, the deepest of sorrows and the highs of love.

and sleep deprivation.

there's no way i can share all the complexities of these emotions, and our experiences with them, in one simple blog post. but what i do want to say is: we are still grieving. even with all the beauty and wonder that miles has brought into the world, i miss noah.

you may have had a fleeting thought that maybe i was done with the blogging, and therefore have 'finished the grief journey.' and although i believe the harshest, most intense part of our grief is over, it's still not over. 

so i will continue to write. to share my heart. to try and make sense of a world where one butler baby is alive and the other two aren't. 

you'll hear the story of miles' late, yet fast and furious, arrival. 

i'll write about why it's so difficult to talk about baby isaac. 

i'll try to put into words the paralyzing, insanity-making fear that accompanys welcoming a living baby, after knowing only how it feels to hold two dead ones. 

we're beginning a new chapter, but it's the same story.

and the theme of this new chapter can be summed up by one unbelievable experience...

before we could go home from the hospital with miles, he had to pass some weird car seat test where they monitored his oxygen levels while he sat for 90 minutes in his car seat. so bizarre. i had never in my life heard of it. after they kind of sprung it on us, the next thing we knew we were blindly following two nurses to where it would take place. 

as we walked, i began to recognize the all-too-familiar route. we were heading to the NICU. oh my god. the last time we were there was with our noah ... when our world began to rock and crumble.

i almost couldn't breathe. the horror-filled memories flooded back. 

but not only were we back in the NICU, we were led right into noah's old room. 

i know. it's insane.

and miles proceeded to get hooked up to the very same monitoring machines his big brother was hooked up to.

way too familiar.

john and i were stunned. pissed. anxious. and about crawling out of our skin to get out of there.

as we waited the grueling 90 minutes alone in the room with miles, my husband and i had a "not from us, so must be God" type thought -

with our healthy son sleeping peacefully in his car seat, God, right here and right now, was making something new. 

yes, baby miles is, in and of himself, "something new" obviously. but it was more than that. God was taking an evil, awful situation and working good into it before our very eyes.

what happened with noah can never be erased from existance. that NICU room where we experienced hell is still there, but with miles added in, there was hope and joy that wasn't there before. and that hope and joy was sitting right alongside the fear and pain.

the very same room. two polar opposite experiences inhabiting the same space.

that's my life. 

our wildly creative God can make miraculously beautiful things out of absolute garbage. 

miles is a testimony of that. we all are.

i can't wait to tell miles that, for 90 minutes, he shared the same room as his big brother. 

the only place on earth they overlapped.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Noah's Birthday Story: Part Three

it's going to be quite difficult to put into words everything that happened on june 6th, 2013 and how truly precious and sacred it was. so i'm not even going to really try.

of course we didn't know it at the time, but this day would be the only day we'd have with noah while he was healthy. we look back at this day and wonder, did it even happen? it was like a fantasy.

june 6th, 2013 was my favorite day of all the days in my entire lifetime. and if i only had one word to describe that day, it would be pride.

every second of june 6th was seeped in pride.

i was so proud of my son. he was perfect. i had no idea what he would be like or look like, but he was everything, and more, than i could have imagined. it was mind blowing. 

i was so proud of my husband. we had just gone through the most exhilarating, emotional experience together and i had never loved him more.

i was so proud of myself. i had actually delivered a human being.

it was an amazing day.

so, 4 hours after noah was born (the early, early morning of june 6th) we were finally all alone, just the three of us. john and i were able to rest a bit, but i couldn't really sleep. too excited. my long, long awaited baby boy was here and he was sleeping just two feet away from me. he was so peaceful. never really cried. he would actually sing in his sleep. oh, i love him.

then at about 8am i get a text from my dear friend, annie. she stopped by to meet noah. his first visitor. at this point, john was actually fully asleep and woke up to the sound of us chatting. it was pretty cute.

a couple hours later my mama returned. (she had left after noah was born to get a good night's sleep at our house.) she pretty much hung out all day with us. i'm so thankful she was there and got to know noah so well. and she watched him while i took the most beautiful shower. that was lovely.

that day noah also got to meet our dear friend becky. and then julie and her boyfriend, matthew, came.

i adored introducing him and showing him off. so much pride.

he also was paid a visit by two of our high school students from church. they were so generous and brought noah lots of treats. we were really spoiled. they were so kind to come.

speaking of spoiled, noah also met his uncle mike and aunt laura that afternoon. i can't tell you how special it was that they came and met him. and they brought me a jimmy john's sandwich. so yummy.

i look back on that day and am so grateful those sweet handful of people were able to meet him when he was healthy. i feel like they have a secret knowledge and insight on our boy that only few do, and i share his memory with them in a very sacred way. it's like they are a part of the most exclusive, precious club.

i wish i remembered more from that day. i wish i took more pictures. i wish i took some video. i wish i held him more. i wish my brain were able to comprehend the weight of that wonderful day while it was happening.

but mostly i wish that day lasted forever.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Noah's Birthday Story: Part Two

so early, early on the morning of june 5th, 2013 (a wednesday) our midwife paid us a visit. since i hadn't started contractions on my own, she suggested i go on pitocin to kick start them. i was a little hesitant at first (not really sure why, i guess i always felt a little weird about inducing labor) but since my waters had broken and there is kind of a time window they want you to deliver after that, we decided to go ahead.

it was a few hours before the drugs arrived but pretty immediately after the first dose was given we were rockin' and rollin'! contractions came pretty strong and fast.

maybe an hour or so into labor the nurse started to up the pitocin dosage on the little IV machine. i must have missed the memo that the amount would be increasing, because this threw me off a bit. as she pressed buttons and the dosage number on the machine kept going up and up i felt a bit of dread knowing that this meant the pain would be going up and up as well. it was kind of a comical moment.

some memories i have from that day of labor:

john was an unbelievable coach and partner - so encouraging and patient. i couldn't have done it without him even though he jokes that he felt pretty helpless. "oh, you feel like you're getting run over by a semi truck? let me rub this tennis ball over your back. does that make it better? how about i just repeat the same three phrases over and over all day..."  the nurses and midwives kept commenting about what a great team we were. i was, and still am, so proud of my husband.

obviously we brought seinfeld dvds and i "watched" them a bit during labor. i remember during a contraction hearing something that made me laugh. so weird smiling and being in pain at the same time.

when contractions started getting super strong, i decided to take a bath. not as relaxing as i thought.

i vomited about three times throughout the afternoon. one of those times might have been on a nurse.

at the end of the day, right before i was fully dilated and about to start pushing, this was the view outside our window. a preview of the beauty to come.

at some point, when the contractions were at the absolute most intense i had a fleeting thought. did i not get any painkillers? 

finally i got the green light to start pushing. because of "everything" i know about childbirth from tv and the movies once you start pushing, it's like 3 or 4 pushes tops and he's out, right? so, in my mind, i was basically done and the hardest part was over!, turns out that was not my experience. after every push, and he hadn't arrived yet, i was more and more discouraged. and determined.

throughout the eternally long hour of pushing i heard, "he's so close" about a thousand times. liars!!

i vaguely remember looking at a nurse i didn't recognize on my right and, with my eyes, tried to communicate with her to ... "help. me."

pushing was the most difficult thing i've ever done. i was exhausted. i was in a completely different dimension. all my memories are fuzzy, like a dream. everything in me wanted to quit. everything in me wanted to meet noah. i kept going.

i caught my mom about to take a picture (of my face, not anything graphic) and i immediately snapped, "you put that away right now!"

then at 11:56pm i finally heard the cry i had been waiting for.

and then i saw his face and he was placed in my arms.

i went into a state of bliss i've never, ever known. i kept saying to him, over and over, "you are so perfect. i love you so much. you are so perfect. i love you so much...."

his eyes were wide open. he knew me. i knew him.

for the next hour we cuddled, he had breakfast, we introduced him to my mama (she didn't know his name was noah until that moment)...

john got to give him a bath.

i cuddled with him some more.

it was around this time, while i was holding him, that i took about 5,000 pictures of this beautiful boy. i couldn't get enough! if you'd like to see any of them, they are on my phone permanently.

but here's one.

john had some special time too.

then at about 4am we were finally settled in our new, after-delivery-room. 
with our son. 
just us three.

what a day. 
i was still too excited to sleep.

part three of noah's birthday story tomorrow! his first 24 amazing hours.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Noah's Birthday Story: Part One

lately i've been thinking a lot about noah's birth story and all the events surrounding his entrance into the world. maybe it's because his birthday is coming up. maybe it's because we're quickly approaching miles' birthday. most likely it's both.

so you wouldn't mind me sharing the story with you, would you? i love talking about noah.

warning: there may be some TMI moments ahead. it's a birth story after all. so if you're cool with that, let's begin. 

noah was due on june 10th, but like almost every expectant parent, we were hoping he'd decide to come a little early. and well, being the good boy he is, he did just that.

on the evening of june 4th, 2013 (it was a tuesday if anyone cares) my husband and i had his parents over for dinner. they were leaving the next day for a vacation to mexico, so we were spending some time with them before they left. we made crock pot chicken parmesan. (another meaningless detail that doesn't really matter.) anyway it was near the end of the night and i went to the bathroom. while i was sitting on the toilet, my water broke. (which seems to me the most ideal place for this to happen, right? thanks, noah.) this will be just the first of many 'thank you, noah, for making everything about the birthing experience so perfect' moments.

john called the midwife and she suggested we come into the hospital to confirm it was indeed my water that broke. (i have never gone to medical school, but in my opinion, there was no denying it was my water that broke. i had a towel down my pants.) but i didn't complain. i couldn't wait to get to the hospital and meet this boy! so we said our good-byes to john's parents, (after john showed off some of our dog's 'really impressive' tricks to them), grabbed our bags (just in case we were going to be admitted) and left our dog, samson, in the dust.

i remember, with adrenaline going crazy in my body, feeling the type of excitement a 5 year old might feel on christmas eve. times a million.

on the way to the hospital i called my mama to give her the update. even though we were far from anything really 'happening' she immediately jumped in the car and made the hour drive to our house. a grandma in waiting.

we arrived at the hospital and were ushered into the "holding room." since it was like 9pm at night, the whole place was super quiet and empty. another ideal situation.

because i wasn't having any contractions, our moods were positive and we were feeling great, chatting with the nurse. i remember thinking, what a wonderful experience this is turning out to be!

funny random memory: when the nurse went to check and confirm it was my water that broke (and i didn't just have a gallon of random liquid continually gushing out of my body) the second she even took a peek i heard a loud, "OH GIRL!! DEFINITELY your water broke. we can stop right there." 

so then the midwife came in and explained that because i had been having some high blood pressure the last couple of weeks, they'd like to admit me so they could monitor us. they weren't worried, but just wanted to be on the safe side. (otherwise they probably would have sent me home to see if contractions would start on their own.)

i didn't object. 
it was happening. within 24 hours, we were going to have a baby.

when we got settled in our new room, the nurse gave me a sleeping pill so I could try and get some rest. but even with that, i didn't sleep a wink that night. too excited to sleep.

my mind wouldn't shut off... what was the next day going to be like?

to be continued!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Blessing in the Battle

it's not very often you hear people say,

my marriage fell apart, i'm so blessed.
it's such a blessing to have my heart completely broken.
i lost my baby, what a blessing.

more often, however, we hear things like,

God has blessed me with an amazing marriage.
had a great weekend. feeling so blessed.
america is blessed with so much.

words like that probably came out of my mouth at some point, no doubt. 

this past year, while in the depths of pain from losing noah and isaac, i have become increasingly sensitive to the language so many people use around the idea of "blessed." especially christians.


[i love christine caine and have tremendous respect for her.
there are just parts of this that don't sit well with me.]

when i hear someone say, "God has blessed me with two healthy children" or "God protected me from harm and suffering" i feel incredibly isolated and hurt - like, why did God decide to bless and protect them and not me? am i not blessed?

or more to the heart of the matter - does God not favor me as much or love me as much because of my loss and far-from-ideal life circumstances?

when did we, as a culture/society/religion, decide that what it means to be 'blessed' is to have a cushy, comfortable life where everything comes easy? does blessing really equal prosperity, wealth and 'good things'?

to simplify. if i'm blessed when good things happen, then when bad things happen, i must not be blessed.

this type of, i believe, destructive 'blessed' language builds the illusion and reinforces the belief (lie) that if things are going well in our life, we must deserve it because we are one of God's favorites and maybe just a little bit better of a human being than someone who is struggling financially, spiritually or emotionally. 

can we just say we are grateful for our good circumstances, and leave at that?

it's my understanding that true blessing occurs in the midst of mourning, or when we make peace with others, or show mercy, or act humbly [matthew 5]. nowhere does it say, "you really must be doing something right if life handed you a good one."

could it be that i, mccayla butler, a bereaved mother who literally lost her heart and got ransacked by life, am, indeed, blessed? 

life has definitely not gone the way i had hoped. i have cried more than i've laughed. at times my suffering was so bleak and dark, it seemed plausible to end it all.

but somehow, i believe i am blessed. it's topsy-turvy, and doesn't make logical sense, but it's the truth.

because i believe blessing comes not in the form of good things happening to us and living out a life of plenty and happiness, but in the form of God's unrelenting presence. and no matter what we face or endure in this life, it's God's love that is stronger.

this type of blessing has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with a good God who oozes grace.

while at church this last sunday for the second time this year (but who's counting and who cares), i heard this song...

                                                                 Rejoice // Dustin Kensrue

i love this verse especially. it sums up what i'm clumsily trying to communicate...

all our sickness, all our sorrows
jesus carried up the hill
he has walked this path before us 
he is walking with us still

turning tragedy to triumph
turning agony to praise
there is blessing in the battle
so take heart and stand amazed

next week is the first birthday of my treasured son who is no longer here with us. in two weeks-ish we will welcome, with awe, another son into our world.  i feel the heavy weight of fear, anxiety, despair, anticipation, and wonder every moment of the day.

i have no idea what the future holds. it could be laced with beauty or ravaged by sorrow. most likely, both. all i know is that God is with me still and will ever be, for eternity. i am marked by him and because of his love, i know i am blessed.

you are too.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Facing Tomorrow in an Ocean of Fear

i passed a car accident today and in the midst of flashing lights, sirens and a herd of firefighters, i saw a woman in a neck brace being strapped onto a stretcher about to be sped to the hospital.

that was me 6 weeks ago.

i had just left home on my morning commute when i started feeling really lightheaded. the next thing i remember is the sound of crushing metal.

i had fainted. my car crossed the center line and hit another car head on.

thankfully i couldn't have been going more than 25 miles an hour and the driver of the other car wasn't injured at all. if i weren't pregnant i would have walked away unharmed too, just shaken up and saying goodbye to a totaled car.

but i was still feeling dizzy and i couldn't feel miles moving...
pure terror.

the first few months of my pregnancy with miles i was worried about everything. was he even in there? he's so fragile, what if we lose him before he gets a chance? 

then pretty quickly after all that happened with baby isaac happened i miraculously was filled with hope and peace. after everything we have been through, miles had to be okay. there was no other option. i remained in this denial/blissful/shock-induced sort of state for a few months.

then i got into a car accident. and i was immediately thrust into an ocean of fear for which i have yet to recover, all in the final weeks leading up to miles' arrival.

nothing could be more rude of a reminder that your life is utterly out of your control, then passing out behind the wheel and causing an accident. i had never lost consciousness before in my life. what happened in those brief few seconds dramatically changed my course and i had no say or no way of stopping it. i'm not comfortable with that. in fact, i am incredibly uncomfortable with that.

as much as i plan, do good, take care of myself, prepare and protect - tragedy strikes. anything can happen at any time.

oh, and fun fact. they say after you lose a child your chances of dying go up 300%.

and this is the ocean of fear i find myself drowning in.

but who cares about me.

there's nothing i can do to guarantee that miles will be okay. there's nothing i can do to guarantee that my husband will live to 100. there's nothing i can do to ensure a perfect, pain free life or that the most precious beings to me will be protected from this cruel world.

fear is a vulnerable, shaky and borderline breakable place to be in. and it's reasonable i'm here in fear.

i know what it feels like to have the "unthinkable" happen. i can go there in my mind in a split second. when noah died and isaac never came home, my world was completely rocked and turned upside down. "every parent's worst fear" is the reality i live in everyday. i think i have a right to fear, because the "million to one odds" actually happened to me. my fears are not far off.

and if you've never lost a child don't you dare tell me... do not fear. fear is bad. fears are lies. in christ, there is no fear. everything will be okay. just seek after God, and you'll be fine. not because those words aren't true, but because you have no idea what fear is until you lose a child. so glossing over my complicated reality with simple, trite sayings is not only not helpful, but spirit crushing.

the only thing that helps, when my mind hijacks my thoughts to the darkest of places, is remembering what i do know for sure. it's not much, but it's everything i need right now in this moment to know.

God is good. 
He will be with me no matter what. 
In the end, all will be put right.

knowing only this, i can face tomorrow.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Many Looks of Motherhood

my husband and i received a very thoughtful "parents-to-be" card last week congratulating us on miles and telling us how we're going to be such great parents. really very thoughtful and loving. however, as with almost everything in life these days, reading that was very bittersweet. the words "parents-to-be" and "going to be" hit me a little sourly and i actually felt quite hurt.

what about noah? what about isaac? aren't we already parents?

it's frustrating that sometimes in this world, if something or someone doesn't look or act like the "normal" version, they are discounted altogether. or at least it feels like that sometimes.

recently i was sipping lemonade ice teas with one of my favorite people, who i look up to very much. we were discussing loss and life and fear and love. and then, near the end of the conversation, kind of out of the blue, she said,

"i hope you know, you are a really good mom."

like water to a sun-scorched land. it overwhelmed me and i cried.

i don't know why affirmation is so powerful.

actually i do know why. it's bearing witness to the existence of noah, isaac and miles, and my role in their lives. and that's like getting a shock of love right into my heart, speaking directly to my heart's deepest desire. and so often i feel like, because i drive around a car without a car seat and don't have sports schedules to juggle, i'm forgotten altogether as a mom.

just because you don't see my children, does not mean they aren't there.

all i've ever wanted my entire life was to be a mom. ever since i knew what a mom was, i wanted to be one. it's why i majored in elementary education. it was as close to majoring in "motherhood" as anything else. everything in my being, the way i'm built, is designed to mother.

at some point in college i overheard a good friend of mine talking about me to someone else and said, "she could fail at everything in her entire life, but, to her, if she succeeded at being a mom, her life would be a success."

that became my life's motto.

and although my vision and idea of what i thought becoming a mom would look like isn't anything like i had imagined, my dream still came true. i am a mom.

and to the single mother who lost her husband and is raising children on her own,
to the mother who has opened her home to foster children,
to the woman who fell in love with another woman and their children get two moms,
to the mom with 2.5 children who drives a minivan,
to the 'young' mom who's been a mom for 80 minutes,
to the 'seasoned' mom who's been a mom for 80 years,
to the working outside of the home full-time mom,
to the mother who continues to be a mom even after her child is no longer on earth,
to the stand-in-mother, mothering the friends of her children,
to the grandma who is a mother to her child's children,
to the woman who, out of love, made an adoption plan for her child,
to the woman mentoring young adults at her church,
to the high school volunteer mothering all her 9th grade girls,
to the elementary school teacher caring for herds of young children,
to the mother of adopted children who look nothing like her,
to the mother of biological children who look just like her,
and i could go on and on...

to all of you. happy mother's day. the world is a better place because of you.
let me rephrase that. because of us.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Fifth of the Month

noah was born on june 5th. every day i think of him, but on the 5th of every month i wake up feeling an extra sense of loss.

he should have been another month older. we should be documenting how big he's getting by taking his picture wearing a "i'm whatever-month old" sticker, sitting next to a stuffed animal. he should be accomplishing new milestones, like sitting, eating solid food, crawling and smiling.

but he's stuck in time as a 13-day-new little baby boy. he'll never experience what life is like on earth past 13 days. some cultures believe that when you die you don't just "freeze" as the age you were when you died, that you actually "grow" and mature in that heaven-dimension for all of eternity. when i cross to the other side, i may not meet a sleeping baby, but a dynamic spirit without an age.

that's weird to think about. much too much for my brain to comprehend on this thursday afternoon, that's for sure.

this last 5th of the month landed on a saturday and i was working that day. right now i'm helping plan events and this particular weekend was a huge 3 day long affair. early mornings. late nights. my mind was filled with catering orders, band schedules and volunteer juggling.

and i forgot that it was the 5th of the month. my firstborn son's 10 month birthday.

it didn't occur to me until i received an email from my mama that morning with a sweet note letting me know she was remembering him on his special day. treasuring the time she had holding him. and missing him. he is soooooo loved, she said. she always remembers those special days and reaches out to let john and i know he hasn't been forgotten. what a beautiful gift.

but i had forgotten.

my heart sank.

i was a little off the rest of day, trying to continue on with all i had to do for the event, but just couldn't shake the heaviness.

it wasn't until i was back home later that night when i could let it all go.

weeping, i allowed myself to feel the guilt of forgetting his 10 month birthday. i felt like a horrible mother, like i had let noah down. how can i just go on with my life and not know it was the 5th of the month? the day of the month that reminds me of the best day of my life. how can that just go unnoticed? it was a glimpse of "life going on like normal without noah" and that's been my greatest fear since the very beginning of this grief journey. it made me sick.

weeping, i also allowed myself to hear the words of my husband:

he's not forgotten. you are a good mother. your love for noah is deep and high and wide, and there's nothing that can change that.

when my brain doesn't have the capacity to hold every 5th of the month, 18th of the month, along with everything else that my weak body has to carry, it's my heart that holds it all.

my heart will hold noah for eternity.

*also, just a fun fact, i went in for an ultrasound this week and miracle miles is measuring a tad big with a new estimated due date of...

june 5th, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014


this week we're on our last little trip before baby boy arrives. we're calling it miles-moon 2014.

friends of our sister-in-law generously offered up their vacation home in san clemente, california. right stinkin' on the beach. like, this is our view.

it's amazing. relaxing. beautiful. 

on the first day we got tacos at pedro's and went to the pier. 

i guess that's pretty.

while we ate, we witnessed a dog get rescued from a hot, vacant car. it was very exciting. 

then, back at the house, john went paddle boarding for the first time. 

what a stud.

after ocean-fun, we decided to make dinner at the house and enjoy the sunset on the deck. while john was BBQing some steaks outside and i was preparing a salad inside, i saw, through the huge back windows, a little boy about 3 or 4 wander by. we exchanged little waves and smiles as he passed. my heart leapt as i thought of my boys. i secretly hoped he'd come back around so i could see him again. 

i sort of assumed he was a neighbor and just exploring around. (all of the houses along the beach shared the same beach backyard.) but the more i thought about it, we hadn't seen ANYONE else on the beach or around the other houses all day. so seeing him was a little random. then i got this weird feeling like, and i can't explain it, but that that was noah coming by to say hello. i know it sounds a bit crazy, but oh, well. it's how i felt.

anyway. after dinner was ready we sat down on the deck, which was open to the beach, and started to eat when out of nowhere the little boy appeared again. this time he was in tears and barely could muster out, "i can't find my mom." 

well, john and i shot out of our chairs and began leading him back up the beach, where i had originally seen him coming from.

as we walked we tried to ask questions that would help piece together where in the world he came from.

what's your name? (through sobs) nick.

do you live on this road? no.

do you have a friend who lives here? no.

do you know the last place where you saw your mom? i don't know.

we were officially (secretly) freaking out. what do we do? we weren't from here. we knew no one.

my mind raced. my heart was pounding out of my chest. only a few minutes had passed, but it felt like an eternity.

as we speed-walked down the empty beach i saw in the very distance a woman running towards us. she was just a speck. 

could that be his mom? 
maybe. i hoped.

as the woman got closer i could hear her scream, clear as day, "NICK!!"

i don't think he heard her at first, but as she got closer...


he ran. and when they met, they held onto each other, weeping. it was beautiful. 

after a few emotional "thank yous" from nick's mom, john and i turned to walk away. 

i couldn't keep the tears in for pretty much an hour.

how terrifying it must have been for that mother to not know where her child was, or if he was safe. 

and how amazing it must have been to be reunited, with him finally safe in her arms. what a heavenly relief. 

but i guess i will know soon enough what that feels like.

when my life on earth is over, i will see my boys again. and it will be the most joyous of reunions.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

He's Miles Samuel Butler

with noah, we kept his name a secret until he was born when we made the 'big reveal' and introduction. for one, it was kind of fun to have a special secret that only john and i knew. for two, it was exciting to be able to actually introduce him with his name for the first time. and for three, we had the option of changing our mind, at any time before he was born. (and actually we had another name picked out that wasn't noah, but then changed it at the last minute. we are so thankful we did.)


i sort of assumed that's how we'd do it for each of our children - wait to share the name until he or she was born. but we've approached our pregnancy with miles quite differently.

from the beginning, and even before, we wanted to connect with this new life as soon as possible and we felt strongly that giving him a name, and announcing it, would allow us, and others, to bond with him in a special way even before he was born. mostly we didn't want to waste a single second.

at around 14 weeks we got to see our baby for the first time. well, that's a lie. we actually saw him at like 8 weeks and although he was a brilliant, beautiful, tiny life, to our naked eye he was only a marshmallow-man dot. however, at the ultrasound we got at 14 weeks we saw him move. kick. wave. we saw his personality. i know that sounds kind of silly, but it's true. we felt like we were getting the sneakiest peek of who this life was, what kind of boy he was growing to be.

curious. active. life-lover. joy-spreader.

and within a couple weeks, inspired by our glimpse of his budding life, we gave him a name. miles samuel.

the name miles just seems to sum up those four words, and i don't really know how. it just does.

also we found two meanings of miles that we absolutely love and really resonated with. soldier and peace. initially it seems those two words are complete opposites. but to us they don't clash at all. we know all too well - sometimes peace must be fought for.

and samuel means 'God has heard.' enough said there.

introducing our son to the world by name was very intentional.

i can't tell you how wonderful it's been to hear people say "miles" instead of "the baby."

i can't tell you how remarkable it's been to feel the love and support so many people already have for this child who is yet to even be born.

i can't tell you how often miles reminds me, with his 50 summersaults a day and intense flutters of activity, that he's unique and mighty. and getting ready to take this world by storm. spreading love wherever he goes.

he's real. he's miraculous. he's miles samuel butler.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Grace in Grief

i find myself very curious as to how others who experience a loss go about various, seemingly mundane tasks of "life after death." not in a comparison way. because God knows, each journey and person is unique and we all respond and heal differently. this, in fact, is one of the greatest lessons i've learned in grief. there is no right way. there is no wrong way. there is no time table. there are no end dates or goal markers. feelings, whenever they happen, or how they express themselves, whether radical or tame, are normal.

there is freedom in grief.

for example, i know someone who lost an eight month old little boy who cannot look at the hand and footprints that were made on his last day of life at the hospital. they are stored in a box in the garage. it's just too difficult for her to see. however, john and i display noah and baby isaac's handprints in our home. we look at them every day. is one way more loving than the other? is one the "healthier" response? no. and of course not.

it was very early on in the grief journey that i realized i can't just do what i think i should do or what others think i should do. i'm the only one who knows what i need, because i'm the only one who has gone through what i have gone through. my journey is my own. but as an innate people-pleaser, this is difficult. because i want others to like me. to view me as strong. to see me as doing okay.

the last few posts i've written have had an "edge" to them. not as sweet. a little more harsh. a little jaded. because that's how i'm feeling right now - this is the valley grief is taking me through.

and it has been met with mostly love and grace, but also with some criticism. after my post yesterday, i received some negative comments. (not my first post to receive negative feedback, but for some reason these hit me harder.) they were all responses from complete strangers, who don't know me, don't know my heart, but assumed i was someone who needed fixing and it was them who needed to do it. (at least that's how i felt.) and it made me cry. because i already feel like a bad person. i already feel like my emotions are playing tricks on me. i already feel like i should be more faithful, more "christian," look to my pain less and to God more, believe that God has a perfect plan for me, and just not be so rude to people who love cats. so when i hear others correct me and judge my actions, it's rubbing salt on an already open and gapping wound. putting your already broken heart out there and it only being misunderstood and stomped on is not ideal.

now i very much realize i'm writing in a public space, and with that comes an open door for others to see into my life. i made the conscience choice not to be private about my experience because i hoped to somehow, in some way, maybe validate someone else who may feel similarly. i hoped to give a glimpse into life after the loss of child, to those who have no clue, to maybe better understand what it is we go through, and how difficult it really is. but with that i've put too much pressure on myself, i think. to fully educate people on baby loss is way too big a task, because no one, who hasn't gone through it, will ever, ever know what it's like.

so i let go. i let go of the expectations of others. i let go of my pride. i let go of needing others to understand me. i let go of defending my every feeling. i let go of perfection. i let go and hold on to the promise that i'm loved just as i am.

God, grant me the grace to be me, Your girl. not as the world would have me, but ever Yours.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Compassion Bone

i had a friend say to me recently, "i was hesitant to tell you about this struggle that i was having in my life, because compared to what you've been through, it's not really that big of a deal."

i very much appreciated her sensitivity, but saying this also made me sad. she deserves to be real and authentic. because, to her, whatever it was, was a big deal. and because i care about her, i care about what she cares about.  i hate that somehow my loss has the potential to shut me out and create a barrier between myself and those i care about.

i realize, however, that i can be very hypocritical. on one hand i desire for my friends to be honest with me and continue to allow me in their lives, with all their worries, fears and problems, no matter what they are going through. because isn't that what being a friend means? standing with each other and doing life together all the way?

yet on the other hand my compassion bone is quite brittle and thin....when it comes to BS.

i'll give you an example. a couple in my support group who lost a baby to SIDS told a story about how one of their friends lost her cat and was an emotional, needy wreck. now sure, losing a pet is tough. (i said to john, just last night, "i don't know what i'll do when samson dies." samson is our cocker spaniel. we've had him two years. so losing him would surely not be the biggest catastrophe to ever happen in the world, but still sad. we love him.) it's just, unfortunately, after losing a child, we've gained a perspective that stretches our understanding of what depths of hell this life has to offer.

so i'm sorry. if your cat dies, you will not be receiving a sympathy card from me.

i'm sorry, you saying your "life is broken" because paul walker died, someone you only knew from a movie screen, will not illicit one single tear of sadness from me, for you. for his family and friends, yes. but not you. you're fine.

i'm not going to lie. when i hear someone say that the worst thing that ever happened in their life was when their 93 year old mother passed away, i'm envious. i wish that was the worst thing that ever happened to me - saying goodbye to someone who lived a long, lovely, rich, wonderful life. because isn't that the way death should be? it's natural. we expect it.

you would think that what i've been through would enlarge my capacity for compassion, make me more sympathetic, more loving, more grace-filled, but most of the time i just feel like an ugly, harsh, bitter bitch.

i have quite a bit of conflicting emotions, but here's what i know for sure: because i love, i celebrate when those i care about experience joy. because i love, i weep when those i care about are in pain. that has not changed. if anything, it's only gotten stronger, more robust, and carries a depth beyond understanding.

i simply know what truly matters: you. life. love. faith.

and grace. with myself when i let others down and with others who let me down.

and that's it, folks. it's not always pretty. but then again, life isn't always pretty.