Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Smile, Open Your Eyes, Love and Go On"

It's funny how the little things, the ordinary things in life, creep up on you and knock the wind out of you sometimes. Addison and I were playing at the park today. I was pushing her on the swing when she said "Mommy, want me to push you?" And I said sure. So she proceeds to push me and twist my swing up so that I spin around. When I squeal she says "Mommy, it's ok. Don't be scared." And I think to myself what a great big sister she would be. Then my turn on the swing is done. I get off and notice the two baby swings next to the "big kid swings" we were playing on. They've always been there. Nothing new. Addison used to swing in them herself up until recently. But today I looked at those swings and realized that on this beautiful, abnormally warm March day, I should be here pushing three kids in swings, two of whom should be in those empty baby swings. I wanted to cry but didn't. I didn't dwell on it; I can't lose it at the park. I jumped right back into reality and chased her around and played Stinky Sock Monster (yeah, we're weird like that).

But now that she's in bed, I go back to that thought. It makes me so sad, especially this week knowing that one year ago was when it all fell apart. I want to scream and yell and throw my hands up sometimes because it's so unfair. It's unfair to us, and especially to my boys who will never get to experience all the things that their sister does. They are the ones I feel the saddest for. I know they're in a better place, but it's hard to accept that there is a better place than with their family. Someday I'll understand, but it won't be while I'm on this earth. I know I need to accept that.

So I go back to my mantra...try to celebrate their lives more than you mourn their loss. And I think about what they've taught us, once again. Today I thought about what Tyler & Ethan have taught Addison about life & death. She still struggles a little with the concept. She's been talking about death and dying a lot more lately, probably because we're talking about Tyler & Ethan in general a little more with their birthday and the pizza fundraiser coming up. She was still under the impression that all babies die. She even said to me one day that she had died when she was a baby. Talk about almost losing it. I had to very calmly explain to her again that no, not all babies die and that she had never died because she was still here. But she's her mother's daugher and likes to argue her point. So Saturday she hears me mention my uncle Gary who passed away years ago, before I was born. She asks me who Gary is and I tell her. She has a revelation at this point and says "So it's not just babies that die?!" And I say Yes! It seems to make sense to her now, but who knows...we'll take it one question at a time and try to help her understand this whole death thing. Just when you think you've explained it all, she'll always throw you a curve ball. Overall though, she has a very healthy outlook on death and realizes that even though it's a sad part of life, our lost loved ones are always with us. I think having this outlook will help her as she grows up.

So I'll leave you today with a great poem that my friend Melissa from Mikayla's Grace shared. I love this poem to pieces:

“You can shed tears that they are gone,
or you can smile because they lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that they'll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all they've left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see them,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember only that they are gone,
or you can cherish their memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what they'd want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”

As we get ready to celebrate Tyler & Ethan's first birthday (and golden birthday), I will keep these words close to my heart in the hopes that there can be as many smiles as there are tears on April 1.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ignorance is Bliss

A year ago this week, I was enjoying the last week of my blissfully ignorant life. I had just found out a week or two before that the twins were two boys. We had their names picked out. I even bought two little outfits for them. I was worried about what seems like trivial things now; mixing them up and discovering in 18 years that Ethan was Tyler and  Tyler was actually Ethan, and how on earth I was going to feed two babies at once. I lived in a world where nothing monumentally bad would ever happen to you if you were a good person. Sure, you'd have your struggles. I had had two miscarriages previously, so I knew life wasn't a bowl of cherries. But I got through them and I felt like these two boys were my "bonus" for the struggles I had with childrearing.

And then the world came crashing down. March 18, 2011 was the worst day of my life. I went in for a routine cervical check and was told that my babies were probably going to be born soon and that they would probably die. Immediately I knew that instead of planning a summer baptism, I would be planning a spring funeral. But I'm a good person! God wouldn't let me lose them! Sure, I miss church sometimes and I've committed my share of sins, but I don't deserve to lose my children, right? I tried to be hopeful and to get whatever medical help I could to save them. But when God's will was carried out, I didn't get the answer I had hoped for. I felt like I had been totally ripped off, but that I must have deserved it. Maybe God saw that I was too selfish to care for these beautiful boys and that's why he took them from me; maybe he did this so that I could learn a lesson. If only I had been a better person, He wouldn't have had to take them from me! At least that's what I felt at the time...

Fast forward to today. Sometimes I hear the quote "losing a child is a life sentence." I hate that quote. Even though it's not intended to, that phrase makes me feel like the loss of your child is a punishment for something you did wrong. That is the furthest thing from the truth. I am not to blame. I am still a good person. And all of the amazing women and men I've met in this journey through bereavement are good people too. They have taught me that bad things happen to good people, even the best of people. And that has been a key to helping me get through this.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I've learned in the last year from Tyler & Ethan is just that; bad things are going to happen. Monumentally bad things sometimes. And you have to learn from them, pick yourself up when you're ready, and spread the gift of your lessons learned. The alternative is to lay down and let the sadness permanently kill your spirit. My kids would not want me to live like that. They would want me to get up, dust myself off and go on, even if it means I go on with a broken heart. Life isn't going to be fair. It's not going to be perfect or the way you imagine it. But it is going to be worth it. (borrowed from a quote I saw online recently!)

I think the best way to honor Tyler & Ethan's memory is to live in a way that would make them proud. That's why I blog; to tell their story and raise awareness of what it's like to be a bereaved family. That's also why I participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies. Last year we raised over $3,000 in Tyler & Ethan's names and this year, our goal is $5,000. I want to make sure more families get to bring their babies home, and I do it in memory of my boys, who never got to come home. And here comes the plug...we are having a Pizza & Salad Buffet Fundraiser at Lucky's in Barneveld on Saturday, March 31 from 4pm-8pm. This is the night before Tyler & Ethan's birthday and it is also Brad's birthday. Think of it as a little birthday party for my three guys! 15% of all proceeds go to our March for Babies team. For more info, check out our Facebook page:

Do I miss the life I had a year ago? Definitely. Would I go back and change anything? Oddly enough, no; there was nothing I could have done. So even though ignorance was bliss, the lessons I've learned this past year will make me a better mom, wife, daughter, sister, and friend (no, Brad - being a better wife does not involve me doing the dishes more often). And I will thank my boys every day for that.

Thanks for reading!