Tuesday, March 9, 2021

A Letter to Myself in the Thick of Young Motherhood



On my run this morning I saw a young, pregnant mother pushing a stroller to the pond so that her toddler could see the ducks. Instantly I thought back on when I was that mom. It was a time of diaper bags, strollers, car seats, no sleep, stress about potty training, worries about milestones and eating habits, no sleep, diaper rashes, park adventures, library visits and did I mention no sleep? Like, zero sleep.

I remember seeing women (like me today), on a run with no kids and thinking how amazing that would be (well minus, the run part... I wasn't all that into running at the time). What I wouldn't have given to have a few hours a few times a week all to myself. Or to have a child old enough to babysit so that I could run errands without having to buckle and unbuckle kids a hundred times.

Today as I noticed this young mom, I remembered how hard that stage of life was and wished I could talk to my former self. If I could this is what I would say:

Hi there.

You don't know me yet, but I do know you.

I know that you are functioning on very little sleep. I know that your evenings are spent trying to get your little ones to sleep and your nights are spent trying to get them to go back to sleep. You wake up every morning at 5:00 AM, not because you choose to, but because that's what time your toddler chooses to wake up. Your mornings consist of Eggo waffles, or oatmeal, and Disney Jr. tv shows. You lay on the couch hoping to catch a few more minutes of shut eye only to hear the baby cry from the other room a few minutes later.

Your day is full of play dough, walks to the mailbox, sidewalk chalk, toddler tantrums, buckling and unbuckling, goldfish crackers, uncoordinated nap times with toddler and baby, park trips, bum wipes (so many bum wipes) and visits to singing time at the library. You power through with the help of some frozen cookie dough (that you keep on hand at all times), a can of Diet Vanilla Pepsi and a constant prayer that you will get better sleep soon.

You worry about milestones not being met and you wonder if you are doing enough to teach and engage with your child. You have major mom guilt each night after your kids are finally asleep, feeling like you didn't do enough. Like you allowed too much screen time and not enough STEM time. Like YOU aren't enough.

You long for your pre-baby body and wish you could just get rid of that stubborn mom pooch. *spoiler alert... you don’t... it’s here to stay.*

You cringe whenever someone tells you to cherish these days. "You're going to miss this someday, " they say, and you wonder how on earth you could miss the exhaustion and the worry (and the bum wipes).

I know all of this because I was you. I remember all of this so vividly. But do you know what I see when I look back on these days? I see days full of little kisses and big snuggles. I see moments of laughter and moments of growth. I see nights where I had one on one time with my babies and was able to be there for each one of them. I see a special time of life where the beginnings of some beautiful and unbreakable bonds between mother and child were taking place.

I don't know that I agree with those who tell young mothers to "cherish these days". Maybe that's because I remember how hard they are. However, I think their intentions are simply to say that this is a special time of life. It is exhausting, yes. But the beautiful parts are what will illuminate your memory when you look back. 

Kids DO grow so fast when you're looking back. I know that’s hard to see now because when you are in the midst of the growing... it doesn’t seem fast enough. If there is one thing I have learned it is that as your kids get bigger, so do the issues you have to deal with. 

No phase of life is better or worse, easier or harder. It is all one big life-long lesson that continues on as we do. I may get more sleep now than you do, but my heart is heavy with other things that I didn't have to worry about when our kids were younger. I may get some time to myself a lot more often, but I'm starting to see how older kids tend to spend less time with their parents. And while I have kids that are older and more independent which means a bit less work for me in some areas, I find myself crying each time I see a picture of them when they were younger.

I can't help but think of the quote by Elder M. Russell Ballard that says, "The joy in motherhood comes in moments. There will be hard times and frustrating times. But amid the challenges, there are shining moments of joy and satisfaction." There are moments (or even entire days) where we might feel like we are failing as a mother (no matter the stage we are in), but there are always those "shining moments" when we realize we really are doing an okay job and this motherhood thing is our greatest blessing. It's easy to overlook the bad when the good is oh so wonderful.

I hope you will enjoy the good moments when they come. Look for the tender mercies in every day, I promise they are there. Keep praying for that sleep, it will come eventually. Most importantly, please know that you are doing better than you think you are. Your body, while it may not be as tight as it once was, has done and will continue to do amazing things. Your kids are pretty awesome right now, but just you wait until you see them in 10 years. They will blow you away with their capacity to love, their incredible resiliency, their testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ and their witty humor.

There are so many great and hard things ahead, so let me just leave you with what is still my favorite quote from Sister Hinckley (I know it is yours too):

“The trick is to enjoy life. Don’t wish away your days, waiting for better ones ahead.”

Love,

Me.

p.s. Maybe focus on stocking up on toilet paper and Clorox wipes in 2019. And while you’re at it, buy some stock in GameStop. I know it sounds ludicrous, but just trust me. 

Monday, August 19, 2019

Bask in the Light

Last weekend, my husband and I spent just under 24 hours in Salt Lake city as a fun little getaway for our 14 year anniversary. As part of that getaway, we wanted to do some sealings in the Salt Lake Temple. Saturday morning we got up, went to breakfast and walked across the street to the temple. Inside the temple there were a lot of people! We had expected it to be busy seeing how it was a Saturday in August (the prime wedding month) and the fact that this particular temple will be closing soon for a long and extensive renovation.

As we made our way to the sealing rooms we were transferred from one room to the next as we waited for enough witnesses to join our group. Soon, the temple coordinator came into our room and announced "It looks like we will be putting you down in room 6, below the temple." With it being just my second visit to this particular temple I wasn't immediately aware of the significance of this move. Others in our group, however, showed their excitement as eyes widened and smiles crossed their faces. One particular woman told us that she was a temple worker at this particular temple and the fact that we were given the go ahead to do sealings in this particular room was really something special.

We were given instructions to follow the sealer and as we did so he led us through the beautiful celestial room and into a back hallway that connected two rooms. It was at this moment that my husband pointed out that we were on the other side of the Holy of Holies. I looked up and saw a beautiful stained glass window with a depiction of the first vision. We continued to walk until we reached a stair case. Someone behind us whispered, "You can just imagine the prophets using these stairs, we are walking in the same places they have walked." I couldn't help but just be filled with so much peace and wonder. As we reached our room we were told that as we are asked to be quiet always in the temple, we would need to be particularly quiet in this room as it's walls were shared with those that were in live sessions on the other side.

We all filtered into the room that we were told had recently been refinished. It was a beautiful dusty blue color with the gorgeous white and gold crown molding that is in much of the Salt Lake City Temple. On the east side of the room there was a large window that let in plenty of natural light. We all took a seat and waited to hear our next instruction from the sealer. As I sat there, I looked around and just tried to process the journey we had taken to get to this beautiful room. It was so peaceful and comfortable. A man that was in our group spoke first and asked the sealer if he would like him to turn on the lights. The sealers initial response was "Oh no, we are just fine and have lots of natural light from the window". It wasn't but a second later that he said, "Actually, yes why don't you turn on the lights?" The man stood up and walked over to the light switch. The second he turned the switch on the room was flooded with bright, illuminating light that was coming from both canned lighting in the ceiling and a gorgeous chandelier right in the center. It was breathtaking! We all gasped and the sealer said, "Thank you so much for that suggestion, now we can bask in this heavenly light!".

I have thought about that experience a lot this past week. Before the lights were turned on, we were comfortable and enjoying the beauty of the room. However, the second the lights were turned on we realized just how much MORE beautiful and heavenly the room became. How often in my life have I been comfortable with a certain level of light? More specifically, the light of Christ? Am I really tapping into the full potential of the light Christ has to offer in my life or am I just kind of enjoying a minimal but comfortable level of light? The natural lit room was perfectly usable. It would have allowed us to do exactly what we needed to. However, the brightly lit room was breathtakingly beautiful and so much more like how I envision the light being in heaven. A light that floods into every nook and cranny and brightens everything in its reach. Which, according to Elder Holland, is everything. He once said, "It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ's Atonement shines." Elder Vern P. Standhill said, "There is no darkness so dense, so menacing, or so difficult that it cannot be overcome by light."

How would it be then, to live our lives in a way where that light flooded our every thought, action and deed? Am I too casual in my study of the gospel? Is there another aspect of Christ's atonement that I could be utilizing in my life? My experience in the Salt Lake Temple on that busy morning in August has led me to realize just how much more light I have within reach. I want to live in a way that the light of Christ floods into me and through me to others so that I can bask in that heavenly light that is so readily available to me.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Sacred and Transforming Weight of Motherhood


I recently read an article on ChurchofJesusChrist.org titled "A Sacred Weight". In it, the author described two different kinds of weight that we feel as mothers. I haven't been able to stop thinking about these weights and how they mold and shape us in our lives. Allow me to try and articulate the thoughts that have been running around in my mind since reading this enlightening article.

The first weight I have been thinking about is the actual physical feeling and presence of our children. For me, this weight started when my children were in the womb. I had average to large sized babies and by the end of each pregnancy I was REALLY feeling the weight. Soon after they were born, the weight shifted from my belly to my arms and chest. It was the greatest feeling in the world even during those long, sleepless nights. The physical weight can also be a toddler on our laps, a child's head resting on our shoulder or a the subtle weight of a hand clasped in our own. Physical weight is one you never forget, it is one that you sense is missing when apart from your children for too long. When I am away from this physical weight, I have found that I miss it. It is a weight that I still to this day long for after the stillbirth of my second son over 9 years ago. Leaving the hospital with both an empty womb and empty arms was a stark absence of that sacred physical weight mothers are privileged to know, and an overabundance of the emotional weight that also comes with motherhood.

Which brings me to the second weight I have been pondering and that is the emotional weight of motherhood. This can come from anxiety, grief, exhaustion, feelings of failure or inadequacy, worry, the constant whines and cries of "mom!", endless decisions that need to be made, meals to plan, lessons to teach, mouths to feed, tears to dry and the list goes on and on. Or maybe it's the all consuming emotional weight of dealing with infertility. The emotional weight is at times an incredibly burdensome and heavy one. It is not a weight that would be missed if you were ever lucky enough to get a break from it, yet it too can be sacred. Without this emotional and actually, very spiritual weight of motherhood, we would never be forced to turn to our loving Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ for help. It is with this weight that we realize that we can't do this motherhood thing alone. We need the divine power that comes into our lives only when we desire it and ask for it. It is also with this weight that we can become who we were created and intended to be. We are transformed by this weight as we learn to rely on our Savior.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has always been a favorite speaker of mine. His love, compassion and personal relationship with the Savior is evident in each talk he gives. His talk titled, "Because She is a Mother" is no exception. In this talk he touches on exactly what I am trying to convey:

"When you have come to the Lord in meekness and lowliness of heart and, as one mother said, 'pounded on the doors of heaven to ask for, to plead for, to demand guidance and wisdom and help for this wondrous task,' that door is thrown open to provide you the influence and the help of all eternity. Claim the promises of the Savior of the world. Ask for the healing balm of the Atonement for whatever may be troubling you or your children. Know that in faith things will be made right in spite of you, or more correctly, because of you.

You can’t possibly do this alone, and you do have help. The Master of Heaven and Earth is there to bless you—He who resolutely goes after the lost sheep, sweeps thoroughly to find the lost coin, waits everlastingly for the return of the prodigal son. Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be."

The weight of motherhood may at times feel like too much to bear (or maybe it feels that way all of the time). However, the weight that comes with motherhood is not one that comes without assistance. How blessed are we to have help in this endeavor? How wonderful is it that we have someone who knows exactly how this weight feels and knows just how to help us carry it? I know that there have been many times in my life when feelings of anxiety and worry and inadequacy have consumed my entire being. It is in those times when I have had no other choice but to turn to my Savior and ask Him for help. Not only has He helped share my burden and made it much easier to bear but at the same time has allowed me to be transformed, to grow and become stronger in this journey.

Elder Holland ends his talk saying:

"Rely on Him. Rely on Him heavily. Rely on Him forever. And 'press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope.' You are doing God’s work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even—no, especially—when your days and your nights may be the most challenging. Like the woman who anonymously, meekly, perhaps even with hesitation and some embarrassment, fought her way through the crowd just to touch the hem of the Master’s garment, so Christ will say to the women who worry and wonder and sometimes weep over their responsibility as mothers, 'Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.' And it will make your children whole as well."

The weights we carry as mothers are sacred and are something that shouldn't be taken for granted. Knowing that what I am doing is God's work makes me realize and recognize just how willing He is to help me in my times of need.

And for that I am forever grateful.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

I cried.




Due to recent events in New York and their change to the abortion law that now legalizes late term abortions after 24 weeks, I have felt the need to share my story. The more I think about this post, the more I realize that it isn't so much my story as it is my son, Michael's, story. I just hope that I can do it justice for him. 

I didn’t hear the shocking news until Wednesday this week (a whole 24 hours after the announcement was made). As I watched videos of people cheering and crying tears of happiness and New York lighting up buildings with pink, I couldn’t help but shed tears of heartache. I cried. I cried, and I haven't stopped crying about it each time it comes to my mind or shows up the news. 

As I cried, I was immediately taken back to 9 years ago when I sat in a small room at Primary Children’s Hospital with my husband, a social worker and our unborn son’s Perinatologist. As we sat and listened to the doctor tell us about our son’s extreme heart condition (Ebsetein’s Anomaly) I felt numb. He went on to tell us that our son would probably not make it to full gestation and even if he did, he wouldn’t live any more than a few minutes after he was born. Tears welled up in my eyes and the image of our son’s oversized heart BEATING kept entering my mind. 

“I want you to know that you qualify for an abortion at this point in your pregnancy and with the poor odds of your baby surviving that have been presented to you today, it may be something worth considering,” he said.

I blinked one hard blink and looked at him. Did he really just say the words I thought he said? I immediately felt sick to my stomach and mustered up any energy I had left in my emotionally exhausted pregnant body to tell him that it was not an option in my mind. To me, having our doctor suggest an abortion made me feel like he didn’t consider what was inside me to be a living child. My child. My unborn child that had every right to live, even if it was not for much longer. Even if that life was only going to be lived in the womb. It was still a life, and it was not my choice to decide whether he lived it or not. I knew that the decision was God's and God's only. 

You see, I had been taught and strongly believed that when you get pregnant, your body is no longer your own. You no longer get to make choices for YOU. This whole “My body, my choice” movement has it so tragically wrong. In the words of our dear prophet, President Nelson:

“Terminating the life of a developing baby involves two individuals with separate bodies, brains, and hearts. A woman’s choice for her own body does not include the right to deprive her baby of life — and a lifetime of choices that her child would make.”

My son went on to live for just one more week after our meeting at Primary Children’s. He was born still at just 22 weeks on November 23rd, 2009 and (aside from his large heart) was completely perfect. He had his brother’s nose. His hands had 10 perfect little fingers and his feet had 10 perfect little toes. 

That last week of my pregnancy with him I cherished every single kick, roll and hiccup. I knew he was there and I like to think that he knew I was there too. 

We know without a shadow of a doubt that he received a body and he lived even if it wasn’t outside of the womb. Seeing and hearing his heartbeat is something I hope I never forget. There was such a different feeling once he passed. A void. I knew that he was gone before the ultrasound tech even showed us his heart that was no longer beating. That same heart that we had seen hundreds of times before, beating with every thing it had, fighting to keep our son alive despite it’s anomalies. I knew that his spirit was no longer there and had left his little body to wait for us until we could hold him in Heaven one day.

These little babies have a life and abortions take those precious lives away.

I don’t write this with the intent to change anyone’s mind about abortions. I am not naive enough to think that a little post written by little me on social media will have that kind of power. Nor am I naive enough to think that there may be certain and specific situations where an abortion is the only answer. But I do write this to share what I believe to be true about a majority of abortion cases and to be a voice for my son who didn’t have the chance to have one himself. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

If I could, I would tell her everything was going to be alright.


{song credit: "Smallest Wingless" by Craig Cardiff}

My heart has been full these past few days as my thoughts have been turned toward my son, Michael. It all started when we were watching some random home videos the other day, and a video of Michael's burial popped up in the feed. As we watched the video, I saw a mother whose heart was shattered. I could feel that broken heart as if it was currently beating within my chest, not because my heart is broken now, but because I was that mother and the memory of the pain is very real and very raw. I remember distinctly how I felt on that day nearly 8 years ago. I was hurting and crippled with sorrow. I was only able to stand because my loving Heavenly Father had sent angels to hold me up. I yearned to hold my sweet baby in my arms. That's where he should have been. In my arms. Not in a cold, tiny casket. I wasn't bitter. I wasn't mad. But I was broken.

It was an odd feeling looking at this mother who I knew all too well. I wanted to reach through the screen and hold her tight. I wanted to tell her that everything was going to be alright despite the grief she was feeling. I wanted to tell her that even though it was hard for her to imagine ever feeling joy again in that moment, that joy would eventually come into her life again. I wanted to explain how she would go on to have three more beautiful children, and although they could never replace the one she had just lost, they could teach her so much about God's love and His plan for her and her family. I wish I could tell her of the tender experiences that have come about because of the loss of that sweet baby boy. How her oldest son would always remember his baby brother that was in heaven and share his knowledge of that fact with his younger siblings. How there are gentle reminders of him in their home and even a stocking for him on the mantle at Christmas so that he is never forgotten. I wanted to tell her that grief is a roller coaster ride. There would be lots of bad days, but also good days. The bad days would eventually become more rare and her faith in her Savior would continue to help carry her through those bad days and enjoy more fully the good days.

If I had the opportunity I would tell her that Heavenly Father loves her. He was there with her that cold, fall day and one day she would realize just how truly blessed she was to have so much love surrounding her as she buried her son. It would be a pivotal moment in her testimony of her Savior, Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. She would come to know, if she didn't already, that she would see her son again one day. She would draw nearer to her Savior than she ever thought possible. Her heart would be forever changed and she would have more compassion and empathy to those who experience similar losses in their lives. She would learn and grow from this terrible and trying experience.

As the video wrapped up, my sweet daughter said, "Wow, this is kind of sad isn't it?" We had a tender discussion about Michael and the plan of salvation. A while after we were done talking, I heard her telling her brother, "Jesus saves us! We get to see Michael again someday and I can't wait to hold him." It was just another tender experience that I can add to the long list of blessings that have come from that trial in my life.

I loved this video that popped up in my Facebook feed tonight. My favorite quote from it is this:
"(We have a) Savior who loves us so much He allows us to hurt so he can heal us and put us together better than we were before. That is the definition of the Savior's grace." Those words ring so true to me and I know that with each trial I am asked to go through that He is shaping me into who I am to become. In the words of my sweet grandma who I just spoke with tonight on the phone, "we are just all so very blessed no matter what our circumstances".

Monday, May 16, 2016

30

{From the early years, when big thighs and chubby cheeks actually looked cute on me.}
It's been a while since I have done this, and I am feeling a bit rusty. It doesn't help that I am currently running on very low brain power thanks to a new baby and sleep deprivation. We have welcomed our fourth baby to this little family of ours and I am a basket case of emotions with each milestone she reaches, knowing it's the last time I'll get to enjoy them as a mother. (We aren't going to talk about the fact that she fit into 0-3 month clothes this morning!) I will never understand how it is that they can get so big and grow up right under our noses. After being miserable for nine months I think the least these babies could do for us is just slow down and stay teeny tiny for a bit longer.

I have been in a reflective state these past few days and I might as well just mention the reason why since it's the big elephant in the room... I'm turning 30 years old tomorrow. 30! When did that happen? Here I am criticizing my own baby for growing up too fast when I'm feeling the very same way about MYSELF. I keep jokingly, but frantically, asking Jerry what I need to do before my 20's are gone forever. I know in college I wrote a journal entry about the things I wanted to accomplish by the time I was 30. I have no idea where it is though, and I'm actually grateful about that. I'm sure the list had some very unrealistic goals and all I would do is feel like even more of a failure when I looked at the few boxes I would be able to check off.

What is it about turning another decade older that is such a big deal? After all, it really is just one year older than last year. But suddenly I just feel OLD. Think about it. Now during surveys that ask how old you are I will be in the 30-35 category. When people ask how old I am and I tell them, they will believe me rather than be surprised at how young I am. Doing things like riding my son's electric scooter to get the mail, eating cookie dough from the bowl and jumping on the trampoline will be frowned upon because "she's too old to do that" (actually, the jumping on the trampoline would probably be more frowned upon because of how many children I have and the subsequent weak bladder because of said children..but still). Guaranteed all of you age 30 plus readers are thinking, "She's not old, she's still so young! Live it up. 30's are the best." Yet, the 29 year old in me agrees with all the 30 and below readers who are saying, "Whoa, she really is getting old."

All joking aside, I can't help but feel grateful for the years I have had. I have learned and experienced so much and can honestly say that I would rather be 30 and know a thing or two about life than be 20 and not know the things I know now. In 30 years I have learned the simple things like how to talk, how to walk, how to ride a bicycle and how to mow the lawn. I've learned how to make friends. I've learned the importance of making good friends and keeping them. I've learned that being popular isn't as important as I might have thought. I have gained a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and learned how much it means to me to have that truth in my life. I've experienced the joy that comes from accomplishing goals and the disappointment that comes from failure. I have felt what it's like to have my heart broken. I know what true love really is. I know that the best smell on earth is that of a new baby and the sweetest sight is seeing a baby smile in their sleep. I've experience the warmth and completeness that comes from holding a baby in my arms. I've experienced pain, emptiness and the complete and utter despair that comes from losing a baby. I've learned to not be afraid to reach out to others when they are in their own moments of complete and utter despair. I know what it's like to lose sleep over how to help your child overcome their trials in life. I have experienced pride - the good kind (if there is such a thing) - in watching my children learn and grow.  I have learned what it means to work hard. I know that having a clean home makes me happy (even though I'm at a time in my life when it's almost impossible to keep it that way). I know how to plant a garden and keep it alive (mostly). I have learned that the older I get, the less Oreos and cookie dough I can eat without them literally going straight to my behind. And I could go on and on.

In addition to all of the things I have learned in the last 30 years, I have also had the influence of so many incredible people in my life. From teachers to church leaders to friends and family, I have certainly been blessed. I am convinced that I have the most wonderful parents on this planet, which makes sense because they both came from some wonderful parents themselves. They have been there for me, supported me and loved me through every single year of my life and I love them for it. I don't know how I made the best decision of my life at just age 18 when I agreed to marry Jerry, but I did. 18! He robbed the cradle for sure. And it's a good thing because I know that I am my happiest and best self when I am with him. Each and every one of my kids, even though much younger than me, have influenced and taught me a great deal. At an early age I learned the importance of having good friends and because of that I have had some of the most amazing people in my life that I am honored to call friends.

So, on this eve of turning 30, instead of spending it out at Cold Stone living up what's left of my 29 year old metabolism (which is already crap by the way, thank you postpartum) I am writing a blog post. Partly because I am nursing a baby who has a dairy sensitivity and I can't eat ice cream, but mostly because I want to remember what an incredible 30 years it has been. The good, the bad and the ugly. All of it. I'll take 30 over 20 any day and if you see me out on that scooter, hop on your own and join me!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Special Delivery


This last weekend we packed our bags, loaded up the car and headed north to Idaho. We were there to celebrate my sweet grandma's 90th birthday on Saturday. The party wasn't until later in the afternoon so we had some time to kill that morning. Several weeks before this trip I had been feeling guilty that we hadn't delivered Michael's memory boxes for stillborns yet (something we had hoped to do back in NOVEMBER!). They sat in our bedroom all packaged up and ready to go for months, but with morning sickness, regular sickness and just life in general we hadn't found a window of opportunity to deliver them to our local hospital. However, it all ended up working out perfectly as we still had them and were able to bring them with us on our trip. This meant we were able to take them to the hospital where Michael was born, which made it all that more meaningful to us. 

As we pulled up to the hospital the boys were anxious to go inside. We had explained to them that it was not only the hospital where Michael was born, but where the two of them were also born. When we walked through the doorway the familiar smell of that hospital hit me hard. How strange is it that I would remember the smell? I'm convinced that when something life changing happens in our lives, our senses are heightened and we remember things that we probably wouldn't have otherwise. In this case, it was the scent of that hospital. 

We made our way to the Women's Center (only after a small detour at the gift shop as our littlest was distracted by a stuffed puppy). As we walked through the doors of the Women's Center I could tell the nurses were a bit concerned. After all, we had children with us and they are banned in that area of the hospital during cold and flu season. I quickly explained that we were just there to deliver special packages for families with stillborns. Their expressions immediately changed and you could see the gratitude and love. We shared with them a short version of Michael's story and they were so sweet to us! They told us that unfortunately they were in great need of supplies, burial clothes, blankets etc. for stillbirths. I held back the tears as I understood and as I look back on it now I wish I had given them a big hug. Nurses are simply amazing people! 

My heart was full as we left the Women's Center. Memories of Michael's delivery, the nurses that cared for us with so much love during that time and my sweet doctor who handled it all with such reverence were vivid in my mind. I looked at my little family walking in front of me and felt so much gratitude.

I believe that hard things happen to us to allow us to learn and to grow, but also to gain an understanding of what others are going through. I know that the reason we received such great care and a beautiful memory box of our own was because of families before us who had gone through a similar experience. They chose to reach out to others to help them in their time of need. We, in turn, were inspired to do the same. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to honor Michael each year on his birthday by finding small acts of service for families who have also lost their sweet little ones. I'm grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who knew this would benefit our little family and help us to continue to grow even 6 years down the road!

Words can't express how thankful we are to those of you who donated and helped make this project possible this year. For those interested in knowing, our gift bags included:

- a wooden memory box
- two stuffed elephants with instructions for the family to keep one and to bury the other one with their little one. We chose elephants because "an elephant never forgets".
- a foot and hand mold kit
- an ink pad and special paper for hand and foot prints
- a letter to the family from us
- a letter to the nurses with some chocolates, thanking them for their service

I know that these boxes will bring so much comfort to so many families! Once again, thank you, thank you!

 This guy was just 2 years old when we lost Michael. He is always the first one to remind us to include Michael during the holidays. Whether it's a stocking at Christmas, balloons on his birthday or even a valentine card on Valentine's Day. I love how thoughtful this boy is, and how much a part of our family Michael is even though he isn't here with us.
 
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