Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A bittersweet Christmas

For the past 3 years, I've either been pregnant or had a new baby during Christmastime. I love the feel of the advent season while I'm expecting a baby of my own. It feels close. These last few years, I've felt a new wonder at what it must have been like for Mary to be pregnant with Jesus. It's a season of expectation, and I love expecting the birth of a savior when I'm also expecting the birth of my own baby.

That makes this year so so hard. There are constant reminders that I'm not pregnant anymore. Like every once in awhile when someone comments on me looking like I've lost some of the baby weight. On the outside I smile and say thanks, but all I can think is that I'm not supposed to be smaller than I was seven weeks ago. I'm supposed to be bigger. Or, a handful of times in the last 7 weeks when I've felt a gas bubble, or something in my belly that feels like a little baby moving. For a split second, I feel utter relief. I feel, for a moment, like I was desperately waiting for Harper to move, and she did. But the good feeling goes away in a fraction of a second when I remember that I'm not pregnant anymore, and whatever I felt wasn't Harper moving. Or, whenever I talk to Londyn about baby Jesus and she brings up baby Harper. For some reason she equates the two, and it's always a cold slap of reality when I have to explain to her again that Harper isn't coming home.

There's so much "sweet" this Christmas. This holiday with two kids is magical. It is so fun to experience Christmas through the eyes of an almost-3 year old. Nothing could be sweeter. Our little Burkey just started walking, and this season of his life is oh so sweet. He's such a fun little guy, and I'm so excited to start building his lifetime of Christmas memories.

I absolutely love this time of year with my family. But even with all of the "sweet", my heart feels so heavy with the "bitter". This is not the way that my Christmas was supposed to look this year, and I'm constantly reminded of that.

I could easily be overcome by that "bitter" this year. But, I know that the birth of my savior means the gift of HOPE. I'm filled with THANKFULNESS, and I'm realizing in a new way this Christmas how completely RELIANT upon that little baby Jesus I am to make it through every day.

I'm learning to live a new way. I'm learning to have joy in the midst of sadness. I'm learning that it's ok to one moment be laughing and playing with my kids, and the next moment be overcome with sadness that my Harper isn't coming home. Grief is a funny thing. I'm slowly learning that life won't go back to the way it was, but that I'll learn to live with a new normal. I'll be happy again. I'll have hope again. But, for the rest of my life I'll always wonder what it would have been like to have sweet Harper grow up in our home. I'll always wonder what she would have looked like, and what she would have loved to do. What would have made her mad, and what would have made her happy. There is so much in my life right now that makes me happy. But, there is also so much that makes me sad. And that's ok. Both are ok.

And so, this Christmas, I'm completely embracing both. I'm excited to see my kids' faces when they see presents under the tree Christmas morning, but I also know that I'm going to be devastated every time I look at the empty stocking hanger that we were going to hang Harper's stocking on. And I'm excited to go to our Christmas Eve church service, but I also know I'll feel so empty every time I put my hands on my belly and then remember that there's no baby inside.

I'm embracing the joy in my life, but I'm also embracing the pain. And I know that Jesus is there. In both.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Harper's blanket

I'm knitting a blanket. I've never actually knit more than a couple of rows before, so this is new for me. I'm not sure that an actual knitter (person who knits? I have no idea what the word is) would call what I'm doing knitting, but I'm watching videos online and trying to pick it up. I'm guessing that the blanket won't be done this year... Or maybe even next... But I guess the bottom line is that I'm knitting a blanket for Harper. My hands need to be caring for her. I asked the nurse in her room if I could fold up and throw away her dirty diaper after she died; I need to be her mommy. There is really no way to explain it to someone who has never lost a baby. Physically doing something for Harper that is normal to do for your baby is healing for me.

Blankets for my babies have always been sort of a big deal to me. Finding a perfect, cozy blanket to love on is a way that I bond with them before they're born. When I was pregnant with Londyn I spent way too much time looking for the perfect blanket. I finally fell in love with one that was (no surprise here) pushing 100 dollars. I bought it, then returned it (you're welcome babe :)), and ended up with one that was a mere 60 dollars. It was perfect... Until I washed it and ruined it. I learned my lesson, and with Burke I bought much cheaper (but just as adorable) ten dollar blanket from target.

The day after Harper was born, I started telling Dana that we needed to find a way to get her a blanket. It was just important for me that she had one. I didn't like seeing her laying in her little isolate with nothing to snuggle with. I thought about it all day. I wished that somehow there was a way that we could have been prepared. Then on Wednesday when she died, I was so sad that she never had her own blanket.

During this process, God has met me numerous times right where I am. He's done this in different ways, but one of the ways that has meant the most to me was in a word that was given to us from a stranger who was praying for Harper. She had a vision about her and sent the following to a friend who gave to us:

"I woke up in the middle of the night praying for Harper, and I saw/felt/knew Jesus holding that little baby in His arms. Harper was in an upright position, like if you were burping a baby, and He was whispering into her ear and smiling. Holding her so close. I can't remember the blanket, but it was special, not just an ordinary receiving blanket. I couldn't see her; she was so wrapped up in the blanket. It was just so neat to see Jesus holding her; He was swaying with her."

My baby's blanket mattered to God. It mattered enough that he woke a stranger up in the middle of the night to tell her that He is holding my Harper and that she has a blanket. I have to trust that my God is telling my baby all of the things that I wish so badly that I could tell her. That I wanted to have the perfect blanket for her. That her mommy loves her more than life. That I would have woken up in the middle of the night to rock her back to sleep if she was scared. That I couldn't wait to see what she was going to look like when she got older, and to see what her little personality was going to be like. There's so much more....

As Harper was taking her last breaths, I asked the nurse if I could take her off of the pillow we were holding her on (because of all of the tubes) and hold her upright against my chest. They helped me figure out how to position her, and I got to hold her sweet body so tight as she went to be with Jesus. In that vision, that's how Jesus was holding Harper. She went straight from my chest to His, and straight from hearing our voices to hearing His voice. As hard as it is for me to work out in my heart why God chose not to heal Harper, I know that His provision was so sweet that day.

As I sit and knit a blanket for my Harper, as I let my hands care for her in the only way I know how, I can rest in knowing that she is with the One who knows us both inside and out. My arms feel so empty, but it somehow helps me to know that her's don't. She does have the blanket that I thought she didn't have. It was so important to me, and Jesus knew that. When I think about her being in Heaven without me, I have to trust that she is taken care of. And, that Jesus will tell her all of the things that I wish I could. There are no words for how much I wish that she could be here with us and have the blanket that I am making for her. As impossible as this road is, I love knowing that she has a blanket where she it. And I can only imagine what Heaven's blankets look like.