Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Our New Normal

I can finally say that the last few days have been good. Emily and I have been busy…lots of outings and loads of fun!

On Saturday we were supposed to go to the new outdoor waterpark at our YMCA. But the weather was cold and we were not willing to chance chilly water and chilly weather. So that was a bust. But I tried out a new babysitter that evening and that went very well! Sue and I made plans to go to the Melting Pot and have dinner. She and I have talked about doing this for a while and I had a coupon for FREE chocolate. It does not get any better than that…we had a fabulous time! We ate, talked, ate some more, talked and had a great time.

On Sunday, we went to church and then headed to the Strawberry Festival in Virginia Beach. For those who do not live here, imagine a county fair with a HUGE emphasis on Strawberries. These are two of my favorite things!! Emily remembers the pony rides from last year and high-tailed it to the ponies. Our friends, Shannon, Brian and Jackson, met us there for a bit. I forgot my camera at home but luckily Shannon brought hers. She graciously offered for me to keep it through the day and document our fun at the festival. After we parted ways, Emily wanted to see the military exhibit. She played on a coast guard boat, sat in a hum-vee, checked out the tent and decided it was time to move on. But I did get a cute picture of her sitting in the hum-vee. We then headed back down the street, because Emily was adamant about getting her face painted. She got to pet a rooster. The man that was holding the rooster had a friend on his shoulder as well. I looked over and found a ladybug hanging out there. I love my Nat moments and this was one of them. Although she was not with us, I felt like she paid a visit. We met Elmo, rode a few rides, won a bear, and then found the face-painting. She had a hard decision…get a ladybug or a butterfly. Both are her favorites, reminding her of Natalie. She has a lot of focus on Natalie and her grief and it came out Sunday. But, ultimately, she chose the butterfly. She looked beautiful and enjoyed it the rest of the day. We left shortly after this, but not before picking up some strawberry lemonade and a seedless watermelon that is now chilling in my fridge. This was a good day.

Monday we headed to Colonial Williamsburg. Some good friends from Florida (I met Jenna in high school) were coming down from Northern Virginia and invited us to meet them there for the day. I quickly accepted and we went north. First, Emily and I stopped by the outlet mall to check out the deals. Then we went to Pierce’s BBQ to have lunch with our friends. Another family who we are becoming friends with came down with Jenna, James and Cailyn and we were able to visit more and get to know them better. Then we began our tour of Colonial Williamsburg. This past weekend, military were offered free admission. We got there about 3pm so we did not get to see much, but our visit was refreshing. Emily and Cailyn are close in age and getting to know each other better. It was another good day.

Tuesday was less hectic. Sarah had to go back to the vet for a checkup on her sinus infection. Who knew that dogs got sinus infections?!? But she is doing much better. We then came home for a nap, went grocery shopping and then headed to swim lessons. Emily is doing great with her lessons. She is much more confident with her swimming. Will she go in without me? Not yet…I am not that ready. But we are making it through this one lesson, one day, at a time. Then, she wanted to go outside to the water park. The water was cold but she when in anyway. Of course, that meant that mom had to as well. Oh my…It was so cold!! We lasted about 45 minutes and then headed home for dinner. She is now excited about getting to go back.

Today, we went to Busch Gardens. Our friends, Maria, Anna and Julia invited us to go. Emily had a great time!! We rode all the rides she was tall enough to go on. And she really enjoyed them. It was overcast and a bit chilly so there were no lines! The girls were even able to ride a few rides 3 times in a row. It was a bit disappointing that they were not allowed on a few of the bigger rides because their heads touched the line on the stick but did not pass it. They seemed to recover from that with a bit of face-painting. Emily's new favorite…come home with a butterfly on her face. There was not a ladybug option this time so the decision was easy. This time it covered her whole face. And she was a happy girl. We made it home without incident and Em even went to bed at a normal time and I have had a few moments to enjoy some quiet.

As for me….exactly 7 months ago as I am typing this, Natalie’s lung collapsed and her brain herniated. For us, this was when we lost her. I came across some pictures this morning of our girl in the hospital and I was able to look at them without falling apart. Yes, I was sad. Yes, I wished it had been different. But I was able to look at those pictures, see my beautiful baby girl, remember her amazing personality and know that I will be with her one day. I thought of many things, like how different she looked between Sunday day and Monday morning. The difference confirmed for me what I already knew. We made the right choices for Natalie. She was a different baby between the two days. She looked so different. And it confirmed for me the piece that I seem to waiver on. Did we make the right choices? Was it the right time? Should we have waited longer? Would that have been best? Should we have done things differently? Nope…we made the right choices at the right times for our girl. We made sure her care was perfect and she was without pain. We gave her every chance we could. And we gave her back when she needed to go home. I hate that part…it hurts. But the wonder does not anymore. We did it right. I know that I have made a few good decisions as her parent. I will carry that for a long time.

Alie is doing well. She seems to be growing, kicking and sleeping in normal baby patterns. This is comforting to me. I worry that all is ok with her. And it feels like it is. So I am going with it.

That is all for now…we are adjusting to our new normal without school, ballet (her recital is June 1st), and bible study. We are trying to keep busy. It is hard on the days that we don’t have much going on. We both seem to miss Nat even more. And we talk about it, cuddle to get those hugs that we want, and work through it together. We are taking it one day at a time.

Good night all,
Hillary, Bryan, Emily, especially our angel baby Natalie, and Alie

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ebb and Flow and Hope...lots of it

I was hoping to post a good post, one with joy and excitement. But I can’t…I want to but it is not in me. I can’t get past this one, at least not yet. Something in me is grieving even more than before. I know there is an ebb and flow to this. I want that ebb right now…a little bit of peace. For me, this bump is a bit larger, much more like a mountain that I am trying to climb. And I am praying that I am almost to the summit. I need to find the way down.

Many of you may have already heard, but yesterday Maria Chapman, daughter of Steven and Mary Beth was in a terrible accident at their home in Tennessee. She was struck by a car driven by her brother. It was a complete accident, but one with terrible consequences. Maria was lifeflighted but did not make it. Her family is grieving tonight over their tragic loss. I am grieving tonight over mine. When I heard this it was about 15 hours after her accident. I started thinking…what was I doing 15 hours after Natalie’s accident? Maria’s accident was on a was Natalie’s. That is still hard to digest and not think about where we were now almost 7 months ago. It sucks. Plain and simple. But God is good and he keeps me together until after Emily goes to bed. He reminds me that I really do have an amazing miracle growing in my belly. And she is quite active now (which I love!) But the one thing I keep thinking is that if Natalie’s accident had happened in the evening or with a family member, we would not be dealing with the lovely court system and the Commonwealth Attorney’s office. That is a whole other story that I cannot post about. Our story would be tragic, devestating, life-altering. But the consequences would be similar to this family- simply living with the knowledge. I wish that was our case. I wish so much…

I noticed tonight, as I was sitting in the living room watching Emily play outside on her swing set that the sun shines perfectly on Natalie’s urn at 6pm. I love that…it brings my attention to her. It makes me think of her, how much she loved the sun and how our evenings were normally spent together in the living room at that moment. She was usually nursing or climbing on me, climbing on her pink chair or playing with toys. When we had extra time, she would be in her swing. Nat loved to swing. To this day, Emily will only swing on the regular swing next to the baby swing in the backyard. And she won’t let anyone else on it. It is her swing, next to her sister, the sister that she misses terribly.

But I have to have hope.
I have to have hope that I will survive this.
I have to have hope that I am showing Emily the best way through this.
I have to have hope that my marriage will remain as strong as it is now and grow.
I have to have hope that Alie will enter this world easily and will make our lives better.
I have to have hope that I will see Natalie again, when the moment is right.

Because with hope, this flow will slow and I will get to ebb again. Maybe I can slide down my mountain shortly. I am hoping….

Goodnight all,
Hillary, Bryan, Emily, especially our angel baby Natalie, and our hope, Allison

Saturday, May 17, 2008

He's with me

I am frustrated and irritated. I have been this way for a few days now and I am trying to find my way out. It has not rained here much recently which is usually good for my mood. There are several things going on with our family (that I don’t really want to put out there on the internet) that I am sure are affecting me like this. But we are surviving. I am not big on change…not at all…and I think I have had too much recently. I have had to make the decision to end a friendship that has meant so much to me in the past. I am so saddened by this, as I hoped it would have been able to recover. I am sure all of these things are making me a bit miserable. I was not even really able to enjoy bible study the other morning due to my frustration. And that is usually one of the few places that I can drop life at the door and just focus.

The sixth month has kept me in this ugly moment. I keep thinking it will lift any day now, and yet it has not. I have thought in the past (I think it was month 3) that this was the hardest month. But it does not compare to this month. I have not been able to shake some emotions that I don’t even want to feel in the first place. The day of Natalie’s accident and the days following keep playing in my head. I am second guessing all my decisions, some of our moments, and a few of my thoughts. These are not the things that I want to dwell on. I want to remember all the good things, our moments together. But they are starting to blur. I don’t like that feeling. I want it all to remain crisp and perfect. I miss her smell the most. That may sound weird, but she had this sweet smell to her. It was different from Emily. And it used to be on her blanket. Now I cannot find her smell there. I knew the day would come that it was gone. But I was really wanting it to last longer. I keep hoping I will find something that will remind me of it but have yet to.

I also am a bit jealous of Nat. She is in this perfect place, having the time of her life. I am here, missing her, wishing I was with her, and wanting my life to be so different. I definitely think she has the better deal out of the two of us. I am glad of that. I only want the best for my children. So, it does help knowing that she got the better end of this deal. I just don’t get the why part. There are lots of cliché things people say. I have heard them all…they don’t help. I know I won’t get this answer. I am ok with that. But it still haunts me, begging for me to seek it out.
There are two songs I listen to pretty frequently that remind me of Nat and where I am. I usually turn them on and blast them in the car after I drop Em off at school so I can drown in them. They always bring me to tears…but they are helpful to me. One of them, Praise you in this Storm by Casting Crowns, has been specific to my moment. The first verse is where I am now. Wondering, questioning, and hoping for an answer.

“I was sure by now,God, that You would have reached down and wiped our tears away, stepped in and saved the day. But once again, I say amen and it's still raining as the thunder rolls I barely hear You whisper through the rain, "I'm with you"and as Your mercy falls I raise my hands and praise the God who gives and takes away.”

That is it…that sums it up. I keep hoping the tears will be wiped away and that He will save the day. But I know He already has. We have made it this far because He has saved the day. Then I get to the chorus and it reaffirms what I already know.

“And I'll praise you in this storm and I will lift my hands for You are who You are no matter where I am and every tear I've cried You hold in your hand You never left my side and though my heart is torn I will praise You in this storm.”

I don’t understand why I still want to praise Him. It makes more sense, so to speak, not to. After all, I don’t have the why. I cry a lot! I just don’t get it. But yet it seems so normal and appropriate to still praise Him, let him hold each tear, each doubt, and each question. And I do hear Him say simply, “I’m with you.” No matter where I am.

I wish I was as good as the guys from some of these Christian bands putting out songs that really hit it right on. I wish I was that good of a writer, poetic and able to take my thoughts and put it into a 3 minute song. Instead, you get my ramblings. You get to read through it, figuring it out in 1500 words or less (on most days!) just as I do. But, please know that this is helpful to me. Bryan and I speak about just every post I make prior to it being posted and he usually agrees with everything I say. I know it gives you all a bit of insight as to how we are doing.

I want to ask for your prayers over the next few weeks. We are going through some changes as a family including transition into summertime, which is not something we have ever had to do. I am not good a change, really quite the opposite. Our “new normal” as we have lived it over the last few months is in true upheval and I am trying to prepare to deal with this. Please pray that this is smooth for all four of us, including Alie. It is hard to believe that she will be here in a few short months and as we transition out of summer, we will be transitioning into sleepless nights, crying, diapers, and every bit of heaven that a new baby brings. But we have to get through this next season as well. I am sure it will bring a new season as a family too.

And I am sure I will still hear Him say, “I’m with you.”

Good night all,
Hillary, Bryan, Emily, especially our angel baby Natalie, and sweet growing Alie

Monday, May 12, 2008

Looking Up in the Downpour

Here it is. It is our new home. It is the home to find all the info about Emily, Natalie, Alie and Bryan and I. I am going to try to make it a comfy home, with all the comforts, tears, joys, hopes, fears, and life it can have. But first let me tell you how I came to this name.

A week ago Friday I was sitting in bible study. I was listening to Priscilla Shirer on our video talk about God's Voice revealing His plan. She spoke of Moses thinking he was the Prince of Egypt for 40 years then wandering the desert for 40 years. He first heard God when he was 80!! But he heard Him when he was in his "desert season". When life was hard, God was there. For me, it is not a desert, it is a rainstorm. It rained the day of Natalie's accident and it has rained alot since. Rain is the symbol of sadness, difficulty, sadness, tears. But it also signifies new life, spring, hope. With everything that has happened, the shock of Natalie's accident and death, it has really been a downpour. But even in the midst of this torrential rain (where are the tornados?!?) I have looked up more than ever. I feel closer to Him, feel His love for me more, and I am beginning to see what He has planned for me. I don't know all of the plan yet, but I know it involves Him. I have felt closer to God, understood His promise of hope more, and leaned on my faith more now then ever. I have picked up my bible more, found answers on bad days, and decided that I cannot do this without His help. I have looked up, looking for Him, knowing that He is the only way to see my Nat Nat again. He is my future and I am not giving that up. I know that I cannot find the answers I want by looking at the circumstance. He will give me that when I am ready for it.

Thank you to everyone who suggested names for our blog. We considered every one of them and felt this one fit best. It does describe where we are. It describes where we will go. And it describes our hope. We will Look Up, even in the downpour.

John 16:22 ~ So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (NIV)