Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dust and Tears

Last weekend, Brien and I packed up and moved out of our house of five years. Doesn’t seem like too long of a time, however these past five years have been full of life changing events for the both of us. During these years, we got married, started a business, had our amazing little Grace, lost our Grace, and also both survived cancer (skin cancer for Brien and thyroid for me). These past five years have felt like a lifetime to us both. So many memories we have were entrenched in that house…especially with Grace.

Over the past several months we really have tried to look past our emotional attachment to the house, and to Grace’s room. Keeping the house just didn’t make much sense any more and we knew in our hearts that Grace would always be with us no matter where we were. I have hope that things are working out for the best, however as I was sweeping the floors of the empty house last weekend I found myself breaking down in tears. I felt like I was sweeping up some of the past and the emptiness of the house was just eerie. It was no longer a home, but a blank canvas for someone else to come along do what they may, to make their own memories.

As I was sweeping, Brien came in and went into Grace’s empty room. I heard him talking with her and asking her to come with us. I sure hope she was listening. We then packed up the rest of our odds and ends and loaded Bodie into the truck with us. As we were pulling out I started to tightly hug Bodie in my lap and then saw my neighbor walk up and tap on the window. She wanted to give us a good bye hug. This was especially difficult for both Brien and I because we had the best neighbors who have become our close friends, especially over the past year. Home is truly where the heart is and it’s the people you surround yourself with that make your home the best.

So now, a week later, I’ve tried to sweep up the dust and the tears while we settle into a new temporary house. We’re doing the best we can to make it into our home, as long as Bodie is here and Grace is here in our memories, things will be okay. We still have hope that our house on Halo Ave. will come to fruition, but if it doesn’t, that’s okay too. As long as we are together, we are home. Grace hopes the same is true for you.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New Angel BFF

As you know last week would have been Grace's 1st Birthday. I know this may sound abnormal, but Holly and I started talking about what we wanted to do on this date months ago. We had already decided we were going to take the day off work. Initially we wanted to spend the day doing volunteer work. We really wanted to work with families that are dealing with a sick or deceased child. I contacted several organizations and even spoke with Kaiser about doing something. Unfortunately, our options were very limited on her actual birthday. So about a month before her birthday Holly had an idea. 

She suggested we ask our therapists to nominate any families that they thought would benefit from a toy (a.k.a. materials for my speechie friends) to help facilitate the child's communication. The program was to be called Gracie's Gift. After reviewing the nominations we selected five families as recipients for Gracie's Gift. What makes this unique is we're able to have our therapists work with the families on how to use the toy with their child and not just hand it to them as a gift. For us it's all about fostering communication. We were able to communicate with Gracie via music. And we feel any child should be given the tools needed to be a better communicator too.

One of the things we decided to do on Grace's birthday was start going through her room and packing things up for our move and putting memorable items into her Hope chest. It needed to be done and her birthday seemed like an appropriate day to do it. I think we were a little hesitant at first knowing our emotions would be running high. But I think it was rather therapeutic and gave me a certain sense of closure... or at least order. The feeling of accomplishment by being able to narrow all of her items down to those that fit in her Hope chest was nice. We boxed up the rest of her belongings and plan on keeping them as well. However, some of the items didn't really qualify as storage worthy. There were tons of diapers, baby wipes and misc. baby items we didn't need to keep. We weren't exactly sure what we were going to do with them, we just knew we didn't need to keep them.

Then yesterday while reading the paper I saw an ad for a diaper drive at the Rivercats game today. The diapers were going to the Sacramento Crisis Nursery, which offers emergency drop-off care for infants if the parents are too stressed to take care for them. So today on our way to see Grace we stopped off at the Crisis Nursery to drop off all our diapers and baby wipes. As you can image they were very grateful for our donation.

On our drive up to see Grace we knew things were going to be different. You see on Wednesday when we went to see her there was a gravesite dug out next to Grace's. At first I was shocked and incensed. I know it's irrational, but why did they have to squeeze in between Grace and the sidewalk when there are plenty of other spaces available. But later I thought maybe they choose that gravesite because of Grace. She is the greeter you know.

Meanwhile Holly knelt down next to the empty grave and started to cry. It's so sad to see another baby die and know what that family is going through. The service was to take place on Friday so this was our first time back since Wednesday. We were stunned by how many flowers and gifts were left at the gravesite. We couldn't make out the name, but it appears to be a baby girl. 

We said a prayer and asked all the other babies, including Grace, to welcome her and take care of her. She will be next to Grace for the rest of our lives. We will come to know her birthday and when she passed just like Grace's. It's so sad to see such little lives taken from us so soon. We hope her family will survive this difficult time and find solace in knowing their daughter is in the hands of angels. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Baby Signs

Baby Signs is a sign language program developed to help infants communicate long before they are able to communicate verbally. This system is often very helpful for parents of children who are speech delayed. It gives a child who is not yet successful verbally another means to express himself and often helps the child become less frustrated, and, more importantly help strengthen the bond between parent and child that is developed through successful early interactions. Although Grace never had the opportunity to learn Baby Signs, I think that she has communicated with us this past week in her own ways, sending us her own “Baby Signs,” during this week, the anniversary of her birth.

As many of you know, Brien and I have been searching for another home for quite some time now. We have had many disappointments along the way, more than one house that we tried to purchase fell through for reasons that we had no control over. It has been a very long and frustrating process and each day that passes we have been growing more and more doubtful that we will find a house that will work for us. Last weekend, we looked at a couple more houses, and one of them was on a street named Halo Ave. The house was still occupied and one of the rooms was decorated in pink with a Tinkerbell boarder on the wall. I opened the closet to see how big it was and was immediately awestruck by a closet full of the prettiest pink infant dresses. Now you’d think that would have maybe upset me or made me sad, but, for some reason it didn’t. Instead, I had a very peaceful feeling in that room, and in every other room of that house. Today, on Grace’s birthday, we received a call from our agent who told us it looked hopeful that our offer was going to be accepted for the house on Halo Ave. Of course, we aren’t getting our hopes us because it is a short sale, so the bank has to approve the sale and hardship of the owner, etc. and we have been burned before by banks selling houses at auction that we were supposed to buy. But…I can’t help thinking maybe our angel Grace brought us to the house on Halo Ave. I wouldn’t mind having that address at all. Baby Sign number one.

Baby Signs numbers two and three came earlier this week at work. One of my clients brought her sister with her to therapy this week. Her sister and mom sat knitting in the waiting room while my client and I had our session. At the end of the session both sister and mom came back to the room. Her sister had a cute little blue baby bonnet that she was proud to show me she had completed. She asked if I knew anyone who could use the bonnet. Immediately, I remembered Gracie’s cute pink baby bonnet we received when she was born. I told her that Kaiser has some great volunteers who knit bonnets for babies and maybe she could donate her bonnet to a local hospital. She thought his was a good idea and replied “I have four more at home!” Then she asked if we wanted the bonnet for Bodie, our therapy dog. She brought much humor to a situation that she had no idea was probably tough for me to talk about. Gracie’s pink bonnet will surely go into her hope chest later today as we begin packing up her things.

Baby Sign number three I’ll leave right now as “to be continued,” as this will probably be a whole other post in itself. For now, I am comforted to know that she is still with us in many ways. We just have to continue to look for the signs and discover our own truth in the meanings.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Day of Grace

Tomorrow would have been Grace's 1st Birthday. As you can imagine, this has been weighing heavily on Holly and I lately. We've been reflecting a lot about what she would look like now or what milestones she would have achieved. I know deep down inside that's not healthy, but you can't help but wonder.

I remember this day one year ago like it was yesterday. It started with an 11:00 am pre-natal appointment at Kaiser. We met with a new nurse practitioner that morning. She proceeded to examine Holly to see if she was dilated. Being two weeks before her due date I didn't think she would be so I was surprised when she said she was 1-2 cm dilated. I remember afterwards teasing Holly about the nurse's man-hands. She had the hands of mechanic not a nurse.

After the appointment we walked downstairs to the health center to buy our breast pump. We waited until the last minute since the 1-year warranty starts from the date of purchase. As we drove home Holly kept saying she was cramping up. We figured this was due to the invasive exam and it would stop after a while... but it didn't.

Later that afternoon I suggested Holly get into the pool. I thought the neutral buoyancy might help. As Holly floated in the pool I sat at the patio table reading the 10,001 baby names book. I hadn't cracked it open since we got it and figured now was a good time. We had already been leaning towards the name Grace but we hadn't decided on a middle name yet. As I read through the book I would toss out names to get Holly's opinion. When I got to Elizabeth we both really liked it and no other names after really mattered.

By 5:00 pm we were tracking the contractions that were coming more regularly. We called Kaiser and kept them abreast of the developments. Finally they gave us the go-ahead to come in. We were already prepared so it was easy to load up the car and head out.

When we got to the hospital they whisked us away into the exam room. The nurse checked Holly who was at around 5 cm at that time. The nurse smiled and said we're going to have a baby. So Holly was admitted and we were transferred to her delivery room. It was a very spacious room with all the modern instruments you'd expect to find.

Within a couple of hours Holly had the epidural and was no longer in pain. At that point it was a long waiting game with occasional checks on how dilated she was. By around 5:30 am Holly was dilated to 10 and it was game time.

After maybe a dozen or so good pushes Grace came into this world at 6:00 am. We were so overwhelmed at the time. My immediate concern was Grace's lack of crying. I knew this wasn't normal but I wasn't overly alarmed at the time. The nurses continued to fiddle with her trying to get her to cry. After about 30 minutes they started to bath her and then she started to cry a little. Obviously in hindsight this lack of crying was more serious then any of us knew.

All we did know was we loved this precious little baby so much. She was so pure and innocent. We were honored to be able to hold her and take care of her. It was such a joyous time that we wish would have lasted a lifetime. Unfortunately our journey took an unexpected turn in the weeks to come.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Our Rest Stop

As many of you now know, Holly and I have sold our house. It was a very difficult decision and comes with great sadness. We have so many fond memories of our house from all the remodeling we did to our wedding reception to the 4th of July parties with our neighbors, and of course all the memories with Grace.

The memories of bringing Grace home are so bright and happy. We were so proud of the nursery we created and were exciting to finally be able to use it. Those first few weeks when we thought everything was OK were great. But after her diagnosis our house became a hospital of sorts with regular visitors from hospice nurses and therapists to weekly deliveries of medical supplies. Then that dreadful rainy Saturday morning in October when she passed away while we all knelt around her crib and cried. The pain is still so deep and raw.

In the weeks and months that have passed we have maintained her room as it was on that day, sans the medical equipment and supplies. It has been a sanctuary to enter and connect with Grace. A place we could go pray and cry peacefully. To this day I always say good-morning to her as I open her blinds and good-night as I close them. I can't help but want to believe her spirit is still in her room and she can hear me and feel my presence. And for me that is probably going to be the hardest thing about moving. The thought her spirit could still be here and we're not.

I know Holly and I have come up with some ideas to bring Grace with us and keep her close to us. We have purchased a Hope chest to keep personal mementos in and we are going to put in a Butterfly Garden when we find another house. But we will never have her room again...

So over the next two weeks we're going to start packing up our house and moving things into storage. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to find another house yet to buy, so we're going to stay at a friends house in the meantime. I know going through her belonging and packing them up is going to be very emotional for us. Especially since next week would have been her 1st Birthday. We have already been feeling the effects of that pending date.

As much as it pains us to move I think in the long run it'll help with the healing. By not walking by her room everyday and having that constant reminder of our loss will help us heal. We will never forget Grace, but maybe living somewhere else will help ease the pain.