The Million Dollar Question

So this morning, still in my jammies, I drove over to the gas station to join the MegaMillions craze.  After all, we had just been part of an unhappy turn of events that was put at < 1% of a chance of occurrence…so why not see if that < 1 % “luck” could be turned into megamoolah?  As I bought the ticket, I daydreamed about all the things I would do with the money…pay off debt, give to charity, start a nonprofit, help families/friends, ok, and yes, I imagined myself rolling around in a giant heap of money and then making it rain dollar bills- ha, ok just kidding, but wouldn’t that be fun?

And then came the million dollar question…

“Are you pregnant?”

THE NERVE OF THAT SALES CLERK.  Here we go again.

I gathered all my strength, looked her in the eyes, and said, “No.”  And, get this…she looks me up and down one more time and with a questioning look says, “Oh?”.  Like she just could not fathom that I really wasn’t pregnant.  So, this time I told her, “No, my baby died.”  Well, that shut her up.

And then I ran to my car and cried…again.  I wish I had said, “No.  Are you?” just to make her realize how much it hurts…but I’m too chicken.

And so began the darkest day of this journey yet.  I called John and vented.  I called my friend, Lindsey, and vented some more.  But I just couldn’t get out of the funk.  After showering and getting ready for the day, I tried doing some chores around the house to take my mind off of things but everything…and I mean EVERYTHING…reminded me of Callie.  I had been shoving stuff into this niche in our living room for a while now so I decided to clean it up a bit.  There, I found the yellow ribbons from Callie’s service.  The programs.  A really nice card that we hadn’t read yet. It went on and on.  I tried taking the things I found there upstairs to put away in Callie’s memory box, but opening up that box just sent a new wave of grief over me.  Her hospital bracelet.  Her hat.  A teeny snippet of her hair.  Oh, her little lock of dark brown hair.  I wish I had snipped more…but I told John and nurse at the time that I didn’t want her going to heaven with a messed up hairdo.

I pulled out her handprints and feet prints, the baby shower invitations, and Callie’s baptism certificate so that I could add them to her scrapbook later that day because my friend, Kim, was coming over to help me put it together.  I poured over Callie’s ultrasound pictures looking for a sign that would have told us what was to come.  And then I came across the 4D pictures of her…when she had smiled for the camera.  A sweet, content little smile.  A grin that we never got to see in “real” life.

As I cried over these images, the phone rang.  A computerized voice began talking.  It was the hospital’s automated financial assistance service calling for “B.G. Cornely” to see if we would like to qualify for help with our medical bills (don’t worry, insurance covered it, but for some reason the calls still keep coming).  I hung up the phone, puzzled by what the heck “B.G.” meant…and then it hit me.  Baby Girl.  You see, with the whirlwind that was Callie’s birth, they entered her into the system as Baby Girl.  They did the same thing at Children’s in DC.  This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten phone calls about medical bills or an insurance card referring to Baby Girl.  That is what is printed on Callie’s hospital bracelets too.  It makes me so mad…she has a name, people!!!  When its an actual live person calling, they never seem to know that our baby died.  So I get the pleasure, over and over and over again of telling these people what happened and to leave me the *BLEEP* alone.  But something about that robot bitch on the phone today calling Callie “B.G.” sent me right over the edge.  Something inside of me broke.

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I did the scary cry for a long, long time.  And when I couldn’t ignore the growling in my stomach anymore, I broke down and got out of bed to go to my fav Chik-fil-a for some good eats, but I couldn’t even make it there.  I had to pull over, cancel my scrapbooking plans, and scary cry some more right there in that parking lot.  Thank goodness for stupid teenagers.  After awhile of me weeping and banging the steering wheel, two high school kids pulled into the parking lot…I’m pretty sure they were skipping school to do some shady business…but it was enough to snap me out of it (after all no one needs to see the scary cry) and get me to Chik-fil-a where they messed up my order and I cried some more.  Ha, actually that makes me laugh now as I type it.  I actually cried into my waffle fries.  I mean, they are already salty so why not?

When I got home, I lay frozen in bed for a really long time.  Numb, so numb.  I wondered to myself if I had actually lost my mind and gone bonkers.  And I’m pretty sure that I went for five minute stretches without blinking.  After a while, I finally decided to succumb to the sleepy stupor that was hanging over me.  Before I went to sleep, I asked God to help me and comfort me.  And also to please help us hit the MegaMillions.

About an hour later, I awoke to the warmth of the sun shining through our bedroom windows as it began making its magical descent to the horizon.  It had been cloudy and cold all day, reflecting once again my feelings and mood.  To wake up to sunbeams was extremely comforting and I was filled with peace.  I decided to interpret that light as God answering my prayers.  It was like a fog lifted and everything was clear again.  I didn’t feel happy or cheerful, but at least I felt peace and deep grief had been put to the side once more.

I thought long and hard about writing publicly tonight…but ultimately, I felt that I needed to put these feelings down to recognize and acknowledge them.  I would be lying if I made this journey seem like every day was filled with hope and some greater purpose.  Thankfully, we have been blessed with these insights on numerous occasions and I strive each and every day to have a good day and to be hopeful.  But I’m allowed to be sad, depressed, and downtrodden too.  And I think that it is good to share these feelings.  Just writing this post has helped me climb out of my black hole of a day and those warming rays of sunshine were like a giant hug from God, answering my prayers in a dark moment.  Now if only He would take care of that MegaMillions…

😉

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“The Music of Possibility”

Today was hard.  Really hard.

Today, I find myself feeling all the things I thought I would feel yesterday and the day before.  Guilt.  Anger.  Jealousy.  Sorrow, beyond belief.  Remember “the shoulds“?  I’ve got a particularly bad case of them today.  I’m doing things I know will make me cry…on purpose.  Looking at pictures of babies.  Checking out the photos of pregnant celebs.  Reading stories of miracle babies that survived despite the odds.  Why am I doing this?  It’s sick really.

And there is nothing that anyone can do or say to make it better.  Today is just one of those days.  I think self-torture in the form of photos, stories, and Facebook status hell is part of the process, I guess.  Or at least it’s part of my process.

In an effort to find something good in this day, I thought I’d share a video about the triumphs of a blind and wheel-chair bound young man that my Grandmom emailed to me today.  It made me cry, in a good way, and I’m so glad she shared it with me.  I felt an instant connection with Patrick’s dad when he described his feelings at his son’s birth when they discovered that he was born with no eyes.  He was shocked and he and his wife mourned for the dream of the baby that they had hoped for.  I know that feeling.  But they got over it.  And I’m so glad that they did, because their son is a true gift from God.  They encouraged him to pursue his amazing musical talents and helped him look for the good in his situation.  As Patrick says, it’s more about his “abilities” than his “disabilities”-  he talks about his talents and gifts like he is the most blessed person in the world!  He is truly inspirational…and his father, well I think he may just be my hero.

After watching this video I realized that I spend a lot of time thinking about all the things I don’t have right now.  And I think that is natural and completely understandable in my situation.  Patrick, however, helped me open my eyes to all that I do have.  My angel baby may not be here with me right now.  And I don’t have her in my arms and I can’t do all the mommy things I want to do at the moment…but I do have an amazing husband and fantastic friends and family.  My heart is beating, my legs can move, and my eyes can see…all those simple things we take for granted.  Today, I spent a lot of time thinking about my empty places, but thanks to Patrick, I am going to do my best to turn my thoughts to the places inside of me that are full…full of love, full of hope, and full of life.

“…the music of possibility and the sound of promise…”

A Zitty Day…

Today had all the makings to be a terrible day.  Today is the two-month mark since Callie’s passing.  I didn’t sleep well last night.  I am getting sick.  I have procrastinated on a project and have a long to-do list that I am finding clever ways to avoid.  And, oh yeah, I woke up with a monster zit on my nose that gives this chick a run for her money:

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AWESOME.  Really God??

As I grumbled my way out of bed to take the dogs out this morning, I stumbled across a “little bag of sunshine” that my neighbor planted on my doorstep.  Inside, she had included everything yellow that she could find in the store.  Highlighters, candy, a sunny bottle of wine, and so much more.  And you know what?  It made my day go from “zitty” to “zit”tastic!  Ha, zit jokes are great.

I am overwhelmed today by the amount of support and love that surrounds us during this difficult time.  John and I appreciate it more than words can express.  Every message, email, and phone call keeps us going and remind us that there are a whole lot of people out there who care.  I feel badly that I haven’t been able to get back to everyone right away, but I will… it’s important to me that I do.  Thank you to everyone who told me that they are wearing yellow today, that you are thinking of us, or that you said a special prayer for us.  It means so much to us.  You helped me get out of bed this morning when all I wanted to do was wallow in my grief…it also helps that our dog, Lily, will literally puke if I don’t take her out in a timely manner.

Callie’s impact is quite obviously felt in our lives, but sometimes I forget that she changed the lives of so many other people.  Today, I received an email from our pastor with the subject line “Just Another Miracle…”.  He proceeded to tell us how he had recently shared the eulogy he had written for Callie’s Memorial service, in which he mentioned the story of our Maggiano Angel and the yellow balloon, with a married couple going through a rough time.  The young man told our pastor that through his conversations with him, he and his wife have decided to get baptized and that Callie’s story was a “turning point in his faith”.  Whoa!  To know that our journey has opened a new chapter in these people’s lives is truly amazing, powerful, and life-changing.  This must be how it feels to be Oprah.  Jokes aside, it feels so good to know that out of a tragedy, hope, joy, and happiness can still survive.

Sometimes I feel self-conscious about sharing my feelings in this blog.  I worry how others will view my opinions and ideas.  Will they question my motives for blogging?  Will they like my writing?  Will people get bored of it and move on?  I am learning (this is super hard for me) that these things do NOT matter, or at least they shouldn’t.  I write for ME!  for John!  and most of all… for Callie!  It would be a crime not to share her story.  Look at all the good it has done.  She changed me, my husband, my family, and my friends.  And now through this platform, she has reached others in a way I could have never imagined.

So on a day where I started on the wrong side of the bed, I am feeling good… better than good, GREAT!  I had lunch with an old friend and coffee with a new friend.  A joy-ride with the sunroof open, old-school style, with the radio blasting like I was 16 again (and back when gas was 99 cents/gallon).  An interesting photo session with a fire hydrant (did I mention I was a creative procrastinator?).  Catching up on a few things on my to-do list.  And making plans for a fun-filled weekend.  There were moments of sadness today, and like God was feeling that way too, the weather mirrored my feelings.  Sunny when I was happy, stormy when I was upset.  Like most days, it was a blessed mixture of emotions…sad, joyful, bittersweet, but, above all, beautiful.

2 months

Today we should have a two month old baby girl.  We should be taking her cute 2 month picture.  Marveling over how much she has grown.  But we’re not.

I thought I would feel sad today, but miraculously I’m feeling ok.  Tomorrow will be 2 months since Callie’s death and I am wondering how I will feel then.  Will I feel the sadness I am expecting, or will I just feel ok like today?

Many of you have shared with me how the color yellow reminds you of Callie now.  Me too.  It’s happy, rejuvenating, and optimistic.  It is the color of hope.  Now anytime I pass something pretty and yellow, I think of Callie and I stop and take a picture of it.  If you see something yellow today, tomorrow, or next year…stop and remember our angel.  Take a deep breath of fresh air.  Put your hand on your heart and feel it beating with the consistency that we all take for granted, where Callie’s could not.  Take a picture to remember that moment!  Go ahead!  Use your cell phone if you have to…2/3 of my pictures below are from my iPhone!  Save them in a yellow folder and put them together into a collage of happiness to look at when you need a pick-me-up.  If you feel like sharing, send me your collages and I will post them here on a sunny day to remember our Callie.  xoxo

Let It Shine…

This is a repost from my photography blog…an assignment we had on light:

Sunshine has been a special symbol for me ever since Callie’s death.  After all, she is my sunshine angel.  It is the ultimate symbol of happiness, optimism, and hope.  So, why then, choose it as a symbol for something so sad?  I wish I could say that I chose sunlight as a sign of my Callie, but really… it chose me.  When all I felt was drabness and empty gray like the rain, the bright, burst of sunlight that was Callie’s presence resulted in a rainbow in my life, one of the most beautiful (and fleeting) creations of this earth, a covenant from God.  What that promise is for me, I’m not exactly sure but it is comforting nonetheless.

These sunny days have me thinking of light in all new ways.  In the absence of light, what remains is darkness and shadow.  Light and dark, opposites, have come to symbolize many things in poetry, art, books, etc. …  good and evil, happiness and sadness, heaven and hell.  I wonder why they have to be so oppositional?  Is one good while the other is bad?  I think I have come to see them more as complements of each other.  Like yin and yang, a balance.  One exists because of the other and they are both good, important, and necessary.  My feelings have times of lightness, times of darkness, and many times where they are shades of gray.

I came across a quote recently that spoke to me:

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”-  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

At Callie’s memorial service our pastor pointed out the beautiful stained glass windows of the church and, in particular, the one that depicts the story of Jesus and the little children from Matthew 19:14 ‘Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”‘  He said that he will always look at that as Callie’s window…and now so do we.  The sparkle and shine of my old life has faded and darkness has certainly settled in around my life.  In this place, there is PLENTY that I could be mad or bitter about…and trust me, I am sometimes.  But, somehow that little flicker of light from my old sparkly self has kept shining.  It comes from  deep within and I choose to let it shine and fill me up from the inside out.  Where does it come from?  Love.  Love of my angel baby.  Love of my husband.  Love of family.  Of friends.  Of life.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t get cynical, sorrowful, jealous, even enraged!  I certainly do.  And I am learning that is ok.  Those feelings ebb and flow.  There are sunny days and cloudy days.  And that is a part of the balance, the yin/yang, that is our lives.  After all, you must have rain AND sun to make a rainbow.  Rainbows make us so joyful while they are here, and so sad when they go away… they are rare, just like my Callie, but you wouldn’t trade the experience of seeing one for anything in the whole, wide world.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  Let it shine.  Let it shine.  Let it shine.

The Empty Room…


Sitting in Callie’s room, I am surrounded by things.  Baby things.  Empty baby things.  Lately, I have been completely consumed with thinking about her nursery.  I just don’t know what to do with it and not knowing what to do stresses me out.  I like to have a plan.  It is part of my teacher soul to approach a problem with a well-thought out plan… step-by-step.  But who plans for this?  There is no manual and no right answer.  And that bothers me to no end.


When John and I left the hospital, my parents and friends asked if we wanted them to put away all the baby stuff.  I appreciated their concern but I said, “No!”  I had to see it…I needed to see it.  Our first stop after D.C. was Reston Hospital to pick up our car.  There, inside of it, was Callie’s empty car seat, her diaper bag, and a “Treats for Daddy” bag that my friend had stuffed full of snacks for John.  This is not how we had expected to go home.  Those treats were supposed to be eaten.  Her diaper bag rifled through for Callie’s “going home” outfit.  And, of course, that empty car seat was supposed to be filled with our brand new baby girl…our bundle of joy.  The sight of it ripped my heart out, but something deep within me had to face it.  The thought of ignoring all of those things felt all wrong.  Getting into that car was so hard and I cried looking back at the empty car seat covered in a soft pink BundleMe meant keep our little Callie snug and warm in that cold January weather.

As we drove home, I wept thinking of the night we had packed Callie’s diaper bag.  It still remains one of the happiest memories of my life, now so bittersweet.  I had washed all of her sweet little clothes in baby detergent, giving it that indescribable smell of an infant.  We had so many pink outfits we didn’t know where to start!  I smiled as I folded Callie’s going home outfit and put it in the bag.  John and I had picked the cute black pants and ruffled pink top the day we found out we were having a girl.  That outfit was a must.  As for the rest, I let John take the lead.  I absolutely loved watching him take out every single outfit from her closet and hold it up…  grinning, ear to ear.  He would pick an outfit and I’d fold it up and put it in the bag, the perfect picture of a parenting team.  We laughed and smiled and wondered what Callie would look like.  That bag was stuffed full of pink happiness and dreams for the future…clothes, blankets, hats, bows, and baby socks.  Oh god, baby socks.  What is it about baby socks that brings me to my knees in grief?  

When we came home from that long drive from the hospital in our empty car, we knew all of the items that would greet us inside.  First, in the basement, there was the stack of baby books on the coffee table, the stroller and the exersaucer.  Up the stairs in the living room, there was the swing and the bouncer…the bassinet my father had used when he was a baby, my mom had dressed it all up in pink.  And on the top level, Callie’s room and the pack-n-play set up in our bedroom to be used as another bassinet.  John had wanted it on his side of the bed so that he could pick Callie up when she cried and hand her to me to nurse in the middle of the night.

But her room was our first stop.  We wound up the stairs past all of the other baby things, straight for her room.  We opened the door to the green walls and pink curtains and shut it behind us.  Opening her closet, I looked right into the door organizer that held all of Callie’s socks.  Those tiny socks broke my heart into a million pieces.  They symbolized the smallness and fragility that is a newborn infant.  The smell of the baby laundry detergent wafted over me as I wept.  None of those pairs of cute socks would ever be worn by our baby girl.  As we looked around the room at all the preparations we had made, I couldn’t help but feel stupid.  I know I shouldn’t feel stupid, but I did.  Looking at the little diaper caddies I had stuffed with diapers and wipes, I felt foolish.  I felt like an unknowing idiot preparing for something that was never meant to me.  I felt dumb for letting myself be so happy.  Like I said, I like to plan and I had tried to anticipate where would be the best place for every little item.  I had agonized over exactly how to organize her dresser.  I had put the nursing cover on the back of the rocking chair where I planned to nurse during the day.  The diaper creams were in the top drawer underneath her changing pad.  I’d even put her little whale bathtub and baby washing supplies in the guest bathroom, ready for her very first bath.  I’d thought of everything…except for this.

No one plans for this, the very worst outcome.  And here we were… in it.  Surrounded by empty things, empty arms, and empty hearts.  After coming out of Callie’s nursery, we told our family to help clear up the baby items scattered around the house.  Every one of these items represented our broken hearts and dreams crushed.  When we emerged later, everything was taken out of sight.  It made me sad, but it helped us move around the house without crying.  Now, all of those things are shoved into our guest room and Callie’s nursery.  Every time I pass by there, I think of all of the things inside.  Often, I go into Callie’s room and sit in the rocking chair to think, cry, or write.  That’s where I am now.  Sometimes we leave the door closed, sometimes open.  But where do we go from here?

At first, John and I had very different ideas of what to do.  I thought about storing Callie’s things and making it into an office again…I wanted to acknowledge that she had left us.  John wanted to shut the door and open it back up again when we have another baby…it just made him too sad to imagine putting away her things.  Completely opposite ends of the spectrum and, therefore, a stalemate.  On thing that haunted me was Callie’s clothing.  I kept thinking about the fact that we are not guaranteed to have another girl.  In fact, we’re not guaranteed to have another baby.  NOTHING is a guarantee anymore.  If we have another girl, maybe she won’t be born at the same time of year as Callie and none of these clothes will fit her.  The list went on and on with little thoughts like this that plagued me about Callie’s belongings.  What do we do???

As time has passed, though, our feelings have changed and we have both migrated somewhere to the middle.  I don’t want to take away everything and John is ready to start thinking about it more.  Talking with a colleague and good friend changed my outlook on things.  She asked me to imagine what I would be doing with Callie’s things if she were still living and we were expecting her little brother or sister.  I hadn’t thought of another baby as her brother or sister before.  Of course, so long as we are fortunate to conceive again, he or she WILL be her brother or sister.  Duh!  Now we look into Callie’s nursery and think about how we would have handled things under different circumstances.  We wouldn’t give away all of her clothes!  We’d save them in case we had another girl one day, even if another girl comes at a different time of year…hand-me-downs!  This way of thinking has helped, but it doesn’t solve everything.  Some of Callie’s clothes are just too emotional to pass down to another baby…what do we do with them?  Do we donate them to Children’s Hospital?  After all, the cute yellow-striped outfit Callie wore had been donated to us.  It might be nice to do the same for someone else.  When we met with the genetic team last week, I had all intentions of doing just that.  But, when I opened that diaper bag, I was overcome by emotion and memories and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  

Ultimately, we’ve decided to go very, VERY slow.  We ordered two bookshelves to put in our bedroom.  These shelves will help us display some books that were taking up space in another closet.  Clearing this closet will in turn help give us room to store some things like the swing and the bouncer and the stroller that are now cluttering up Callie’s room.  After that, we are buying plastic bins to store Callie’s clothes.  That part will be so, so hard.  But I know that is exactly what I would do if Callie had been living and had outgrown her clothes.  I’d put them away for a potential baby sister to wear one day.  After that, we have no idea.  We know that in the end, we want Callie’s room to reflect both the fact that she was here and also acknowledge that she has left us.  

As much as the memories that surround this room cause me grief, I would not trade them for anything in the world.  As foolish as I had felt when we returned home to see all of the well-made plans we had laid for Callie, I now know that it wasn’t stupid at all.  One can’t go through life scared of what might happen.  I have to force myself to believe that sometimes, but I know it is true.  People who fear commitment, really fear getting hurt.  And that’s what happened to us.  We got hurt…BIG TIME.  We allowed ourselves to be happy, blissfully happy and it bit us right in the behind.  John and I have some choices to make now.  Certainly Callie will affect those choices, but it is up to us in what way we let it happen.  Do we hold back, hesitate to commit to being happy for the fear that something will happen?  Or, do we live fully, without holding back for the hope that something wonderful is on the other side?  Right now, we are still working on it…but I believe that in the end, we will choose HOPE.  

Jeremiah 29:11  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.