A Birthday Gathering

I apologize that this post is coming to you so late. I should have been posting this Tuesday night, on his actual birthday, but needless to say....that was a long day....and I needed time to process.

So, thank you for your patience. Here you go.....

A little over a year ago, on April 27, 2009, at 3:36pm, Ayden Brooks Jones was born to two young parents who were beyond thrilled to know that their first child had finally made his arrival into their world. They were smitten from their very first glimpse of him. He was absolutely beautiful and oh, so sweet. He weighed 7lbs 14 ounces and was 19 inches of preciousness.

I couldn't stop looking at him.....

I couldn't believe he was finally here. After 9 months of blissful pregnancy, here he was, breathing, living, all ours to love, hold, and care for.

My purpose was made clear the very instant he was born. I was his mother. It was my/our purpose to nurture, protect, love, and raise this child. Wow. It's amazing how that switch flips on so instantly.

Sometimes, I wish I had known, in that instant, that he wasn't going to be with us forever. However, I'm glad I didn't. It wouldn't have mattered anyway. We lived every day with him as if it were our last. I've written several times about the prayer I prayed every, single (yes...every, single...I'm not exagerrating) night - a prayer of hope but also acceptance....one in which I told God that I knew Ayden didn't belong to us; I knew how much of a gift he was; and I knew that he could be taken from us at any moment. And while I told God I knew all of these things, I desperately pleaded for Him to allow us to keep him and that He protect Ayden. As I've learned, God doesn't always respond to our prayers as we would have Him to. He saw fit to take Ayden long before we were ready, and since I prayed those words, and I meant them, I'm now living that prayer I never imagine I'd have to live.

I'm living without my baby boy. He would be a year old. I see one year olds, or kids close to that age, and wonder what Ayden would be like. I feel certain that he would be a very inquistive child. He always seemed to be trying to figure everything out....always observing. You could see his mind hard at work. I also feel certain that he would be a joyful, exhuberant, happy child. He would probably laugh and smile all of the time.....until he became sleepy....then he'd want snuggles from Mommy and Daddy. I long for those cuddles and kisses from him. I long to have him back in my arms. I just want to hold him and touch him....feel that sweet, soft skin he had. And I so miss brushing his hair and trying my best to get that cowlick in the front to lay down.....but it never, ever would.

On his birthday, we were determined to remember how happy we were a year ago. Ayden was, and always will be, one of the happiest and most fulfilling moments of our entire life. He brought us so much joy and completion. He made us a family. And he made us so happy. I wish those of you who don't know us could have seen the three of us together.

Throughout the day of his first birthday, we kept ourselves busy. I woke up and went into the living room and looked at pictures from the day he was born. I haven't looked at those in almost a year. I gazed in awe at how much he changed over the course of 4 months. He went from the typical, "cute" newborn stage to the developing, chubbier-by-the-day infant stage. He transformed before our eyes into this handsome, beautiful boy with a smile that could light up the darkest of rooms. I spent my time that morning recalling all of it, and of course, shedding plenty of tears. I was resolved, though, that his birthday was not going to be a mournful day. Every other day is one of those days. So, I got some cleaning done around the house, got myself ready, and then we went to pick up the balloons.

While we were out, we gathered materials for the note tags that would be attached to the balloons. I thought it would be nice to find some pretty stamps to put on the note tags, so we found some.....and as we ate lunch, we stamped. They turned out very nicely. You can see pictures of them in the slideshow at the end of this post.

I also paid a special visit to my dear friend, Jill. I've written about Jill several times. She and I have shared our personal grief journeys together, and it has been so enlightening to me. I don't know how I would have endured those first few months without her. She taught me how to grieve with hope....to truly understand why we believe what we believe....and to live each day with hope for our new life, with a new body, in a perfect world. A world where she will walk, run, and be pain-free again....and a world where I will forever be with Ayden. Because she has become such a special part of my life, I wanted her to be a part of our gathering that day. So, I made sure she and her husband got a balloon so they could remember Ayden with us. You can see a picture of Jill in the slideshow! I finally got a picture of the two of us together!

By the time the note tags were finished and dried, it was time to head to Ayden's garden at our church's playground. I can't even begin to tell you the whirlwind of emotion I was feeling. I don't think I even knew what to feel. I knew what I wanted to feel. I wanted to feel the elation and pride of seeing my 1 year old open his first bithday present, eat his first birthday cake, probably taking his first steps, and soaking in all that is in a birthday. I desperately wanted to experience that with Ayden. But since I couldn't, I just went with it. I remember almost feeling as if I had stepped out of myself because I found myself wondering, "How can I be smiling or laughing today? How can I voluntarily put myself in crowds of people today? How can I pick up these balloons knowing what they're for....and still function right now?" But I did. And I know the only thing that kept me moving was that I was doing this for Ayden. I wanted to be able to share his first birthday with the people who were so anxious to meet him a year ago. The people who were waiting outside of the room for the word that he had been born! The same people who were there in the waiting room the day we had to say goodbye. I needed them because I knew that they loved him as much as we did (well, almost...). It meant so much to see everyone there....the people who we have relied on through everything....giving up their time to do something out of the ordinary and, let's face it, very difficult. Their encouragement, smiles, and willingness to share memories and say his name.....to sing Happy Birthday to a child who wasn't there to receive it.....I'm just in awe.

So, (sorry, I'm all over the place) we all gathered in the garden. Jeremy and I handed out balloons as everyone wrote their message on their tags. Once the tags were finished, we attached them to the balloons. At this moment, I wasn't sure how the actual balloon release would go. I figured, we'd all pray....or count to three....I don't know. I looked at Jeremy and said, "How do you want to do this." In his brave voice....the one he uses when he's trying to convince himself of something he still isn't quite sure of yet....he says, "Well, I figured, you have to sing Happy Birthday on your birthday." To which my response was, "I don't think I can do that, and I definitely can't start it." So, our friend Lauren volunteered to start everyone off. I couldn't get the words out. I just stood and cried.....hearing our friends and family singing.....and then as they got to "Happy Birthday dear Ayden...." the voices trailed off and you could hear the tearful voices in almost a whisper finish, "Happy Birthday to you." At that moment, we released the balloons and watched them float away. We all stood in silence for a few minutes....not knowing what to say. I very quietly thanked everyone for coming as I was still wiping tears away. Finally, we began picking things up....giving hugs....and conversations began again.

I was so apprehensive about that day. I didn't know the right way to go about "celebrating" when my child isn't here. How do I do that? I knew I couldn't handle a big "party" complete with a cake and such. I know some people are able to do that, and that's great! I'm so glad that that is comforting for them. For us, though, we needed it to be simple....small....yet sweet.

Thank you to all of you who prayed for and thought of us that day. I can't even tell you how many messages, emails, texts, cards, etc. we received from friends, family, and perfect strangers telling us that they were thinking of us and of Ayden. I know I couldn't have gotten through the day as I did without all of you. I needed people to remember Ayden....especially on Tuesday. I know that as the years go on, April 27th will become another day....and most people will faintly recall that that day has some sort of significance. But for us, April 27th will forever be a day where we remember our happiest and proudest moment and also dwell in silent grief on the rememberence of what should mark another year with our sweet, sweet boy.

Thank you for loving Ayden. We sure do....more and more every day.

Please enjoy some pictures from our Birthday Gathering:

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A few pictures from Ayden's birthday

***Updated 4/29: Another blog friend posted about her balloon send off on Tuesday. Please read....it's quite the tale. Jennifer's Blog

Lauren beat me to it....she updated her blog with pictures from yesterday. Check them out here:

Lauren's Home

The whole post is so fitting....as she mentions "Ayden's Song." I consider it his song as well. Someday I'll be able to listen to it again....

I'll post pictures soon, I promise.


Real quick..

So many of you have sent pictures, comments, texts, messages, emails, cards, etc. wishing us a peaceful day and also wishing Ayden a Happy Birthday. Thank you so much. Really, we understand that you all have lives, busy lives, and the fact that you took the time to join us in remembering Ayden's birth today and how special he is, means so much to us.

Today, overall, was a good day. Of course, we had our tears, but birthdays shouldn't be sad. I told Jeremy that I didn't want today's mood to be one of sadness. I didn't want a repeat of the day we said goodbye on the one year anniversay of the day we said hello. When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was wish Ayden a very Happy Birthday. Then, I looked through our pictures of his birth. I hadn't looked at those pictures since May of last year. It was tough but so sweet at the same time to recall that sweet moment in our lives. He made us all so happy.

The balloon release went well....aside from a few balloons that got stuck in the trees....they'll slowly make their way, we hope. It was nice to have family and friends there who have meant so much to us throughout all of this....and so nice to know that they love Ayden just as much as we do. I'll post pictures soon.

Today has been a long day, but a good day. I wish we could have celebrated with Ayden, and I hope he was allowed a small glimpse of us today to see everyone celebrating with him. I bet birthday parties in heaven are awesome. I can't wait to experience it someday. Someday soon......yes, please.....soon.


April 27, 2009

After midnight, I was still resting pretty easily. The contractions were strong but bearable. The nurse came in and asked if I want my epidural. Being new at the birthing thing, I decided that since I had reached the "epidural point" (4cm), I would go ahead and get it. So, they came in and gave me the epidural. I don't recall any of it - labor, contractions, getting the epidural - being extremely painful. I may be blocking stuff out, but my labor, from my point of view, was very easy. So, we went through the night, progressing slowly but steadily. By noon, I was still hanging in there, probably at about 7cm by then. Time went on, and at 2:45ish I had reached 9cm. In a matter of minutes, though, I felt like I needed to push. My sister ran to find my nurse and my midwife, they checked me, and sure enough, I had reach 10 and we were ready. My mom and sister left, Jeremy returned from visiting with the welcoming crown in the waiting room, and we got ourselves ready to meet our son.

I remember DeEtte telling that it wasn't unusual for women to push for an hour or more. I looked at Jeremy and said, "I'm not pushing for an hour!" My goal was 30 minutes or less. So, I pushed...and since my epidural had weakened, I was able to feel the contractions and know when I needed to push and needed to rest. Our nurse was fantastic and so encouraging. DeEtte, my midwife, was such a cheerleader and a constant calming presence. Since I had never given birth before, I was scared, nervous, and had no idea if what I was doing was correct. She continued to assure me that I was doing a great job. I stayed true to what I said, and 30 minutes later, Ayden was out and screaming. It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard.

He was perfect. 7 pounds 14 ounces, 19 inches long. Nearly a perfect APGAR score, and born with a healthy set of lungs. He calmed down as soon as they put him in my arms and he heard my voice.

Once we had a chance to settle things down a bit, we invited everyone back to meet Ayden. He was passed from person to person; so many pictures were taken. Proud granparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends crowded in to meet our first child - our Ayden Brooks Jones.

We already loved him, but the unconditional, breathtaking adoration hit us the moment we laid eyes on him. This is our child. We made him! He is one person made up of the two of us! He is our love personified! It was the most amazing feeling I have ever experienced and will always be my most favorite moment of my entire life.

Happy Birthday Ayden! We love you so much, and we are so proud to call you our son. You have blessed our lives in so many ways, and you will continue to do so for a lifetime. Our memory of that day is forever imprinted in our minds. It was the day we held a sweet baby boy, a baby boy we loved more anything in this world, a baby boy who was prayed for, hoped for, planned for, and created just for us.


One year ago

I remember it so clearly because as it was happening, I remember thinking, "I have to commit this to memory...every little detail...so I never, ever forget how happy I feel today and how happy I'm going to be for a lifetime."

It was a day fit to celebrate birth because we were already celebrating mine. My birthday is April 26th, so a year ago today, on my 26th birthday, Ayden decided it was time to begin his arrival into this world. I woke up for the usual potty break in the middle of the night. It was 3:30 am. I noticed that I was feeling a lot of pressure but didn't think much of it. I got up, went to the restroom, went back to bed and told Jeremy that I thought we might be getting close. We were only a week away from my due date, so we were prepared for it to happen at any moment, but we were just so thrilled that Ayden had chosen my birthday to be the day he got things going.

We didn't sleep much from about 3:30 throughout the rest of that day. I spent the day with a stopwatch around my neck, timing every single contraction as they continued to come steadily and gradually increasing in frequency. We went into see one of my midwives to see how much progress I had made. As of 11:30am, I had reached 2.5...almost 3...centimeters. We were told that when I was huffing and puffing....that was when I would know to come in. All day....waiting for huffing and puffing. We went on a walk, had a birthday party, spent time with family, and finally....around 9pm....the contractions started coming stronger and quicker. As we graciously rushed our last guest out of our house, I retreated to the bedroom to lie down and try to rest. That didnt' last long. Something said, "take a shower." If you know me, you know I absolutely detest taking a shower unless I have to. It's never voluntary. I take one every day just because I have to.....definitely not because I want to. Being a woman is just too much trouble. Anyway, I took a shower....and the warm water must have triggered the labor because I could barely stand up. I had reached the huffing and puffing stage. I knew I couldn't let my water break away from the hospital. I had tested positive for the Group B Strep mess and would need antibiotics during my labor. It is discouraged to be without these antibiotics when the water breaks. So, I call the hospital again, and my midwife tells me to come in. WOO! We were still holding out hope that he would join us before midnight and I would have the absolute BEST birthday gift ever!

Alas, it was 11:30 once we got into triage, and I was only 4cm. No birthday baby for me, but I was happy for him that he would have his own birthday. So, we played the waiting game. They got my antibiotics started and a little pain medication so I could try to sleep and rest, since I had been awake for 21 hours. Everyone seemed to think we were in for a long, uneventful night, so I took them up on the offer and rested as much as possible. He had decided to take his time, and I was definitely okay with that.

(To be continued......)

A year later (today):

Typing all of that was so easy. I remember it so vividly and it continues to be the happiest day of my life (well, that day and the next...which you'll read about tomorrow). I wish the rest of the story, the one I'm about to type, were so easy to write about.

Today has been hard. I think that had I not gone to work today, it would have been even harder. I woke up today wishing I didn't have a birthday anymore. Because, if I didn't have a birthday, I wouldn't have to be reminded of how painful it will be to remember today and tomorrow for the rest of my life. However, I faced the day and all of the birthday wishes, and I did my best to remain realistic. I knew that everyone wanted to celebrate with me, to make me smile, to say something that would make today a little easier. I appreciated that, although I knew their attempts would only numb the pain. So many times today I found myself wishing we could have that day back, just for a second. To feel him moving around inside of me....to feel him alive again...just one more time.....to feel that innocent, hopeful excitement, knowing that at any moment we were going to meet our Ayden, our sweet, sweet boy. I'll never, ever forget how I felt that day.

Today, I turned 27 and had to face my birthday without my son. I should be sharing it with him, anticipating the even bigger celebration that would be coming tomorrow for his 1st birthday. I should have a party planned (it would have either been a Curious George party or a Penguins of Madagascar party - he was mesmerized by both when they came on tv. He would snuggle up to his Curious George toy and give him "kisses"), a cake decorated, tons of presents waiting for him.....but I'm now faced with the mindset of just "getting through the day."

My goal for tomorrow is to try to focus on the happy memories - on everything we love about the time we had with Ayden. I want our friends and family to recall their happiest, favorite memories of Ayden. We'll all be sad and we'll miss him terribly, but tomorrow shouldn't be a repeat of the day we said goodbye. It should be focused on the day we said hello to a beautiful, sweet baby boy who captured our hearts from his first breath. We should be focused on the blessing he is, was, has been, and will continue to be in our lives.

Tomorrow, at 5:30, we will be releasing balloons in celebration of Ayden's birthday. We aren't doing anything elaborate - just gathering with family and close friends, saying a few words, sharing some memories, and sending our love to Ayden. Please join us if you can.

And check in tomorrow for a recap of a year ago, April 27th. The happiest day of our lives.


You wonderful readers....

I just wanted to offer a way overdue thank you to all of you who frequent my blog and leave such wonderful, sweet, encouraging comments. I know that my blog isn't always the easiest to read and that it would be simpler for you to just click that little red "x" in the top right of your screen and never return. But you do return...... I wish I could thank you all in person with a big hug, but since I can't do that, just imagine getting a big bear hug from me (ask my friend, Connie, I can give some dynomite hugs....complete with becoming airborne at times....).

Many of you have commented on Ayden's coming birthday. It's a day I'm looking forward to yet dreading at the same time. No parent should endure the fear of her child's birthday, but I am afraid. I don't know what to expect of myself and my emotions that day. I don't know how I will react. I just want to celebrate my baby boy the way I should be able to - with him here, eating his first birthday cake, getting his first birthday gifts, enjoying being a kid who is so very loved by everyone around him. I don't know how to get through that day without becoming a complete mess at the thought that I'll never sing Happy Birthday to him.

The past few days have been tough. I haven't shown it outwardly (except for today when Jeremy experienced a mini-breakdown in the car), but I have been to the point of nearly overflowing several times.....once being in class as my students were working. My mind drifted off, and there I was....near tears...almost unable to hold myself together....and there are 25 students in front of me. ughh.....

Thank you to Sara, who is currently in Hawaii (I'm so very jealous...), for sending me this beautiful picture. Ayden seemed to enjoy the beach when we took him (Thank God we did those things with him before he left us....), so I'm sure he would have enjoyed seeing this beautiful sight.

And thank you also to the rest of you who have sent emails, gifts, and have made comments of encouragement and comfort. The next few days....well, really, the next 4 months are going to be tougher than usual (if that's possible). Thank you for your continued support, prayers, and messages of hope. You guys have truly helped me along this weaving road of grief, and with every bump and turn, you're there to keep pushing us forward. You have been my support and help....and I am forever grateful for it.


21.5 weeks

I had my 21 week appointment yesterday. Everything is looking good. BPM is in the 140s, and Collen had DeEtte chasing him around to find it. I'm measuring right on target, which eases a lot of fear (for the moment). I wish ultrasounds were complimentary.....
When I got home, Collen decided he wanted to be "heard," so he flipped and jumped and kicked all around - the strongest I've felt him yet. Such a comforting feeling. I absolutely cannot wait until he joins us. I hope the summer flies by because I need to be "Mom" again. I know I already am, but the situation, as you can understand, is different. I just need to be needed in that way again. I've never been happier than in those moments with Ayden my sole fulfillment was just knowing he saw me as his Mommy and he needed me. It truly is unbelievable and just amazing. I miss that so much and although it will be bittersweet, I will adore those moments with Collen just as much.

As promised, here is a picture of me at 21.5 weeks. Please excuse my PJs and the fact that it's just a torso shot. I was by myself, and it was the end of the day....I wasn't photo-ready.


A little bit about Collen

One day, I plan to get my blog put into book form, and I want Collen to be able to read it and especially read about my pregnancy with him.

So here is a little info. about Mr. Collen up to this point:

How far along?: 21 weeks, 3 days

Weight gain thus far: 7 pounds

Strange Cravings: Cole Slaw (I've NEVER eaten it in my life, but the other day, I WANTED it so bad! I didn't eat it, though, because I knew the craving would not sit well with my taste buds.), Chicken (hated it when I was pregnant with Ayden), cold cut subs with lettuce, mustard, and banana peppers (but I don't eat them because I'm not supposed to eat deli meat.

Contractions?: Yes...Braxton Hicks Contractions, usually when I'm driving

Movement: I've just begun to feel movement. Collen appears to be a daytime baby. He is very, very active in the mornings, slows down in the afternoons, is very quiet at night, and I do believe he has spurts of energy through the night. He woke me up last night. His movements are still come and go, though, especially when he gets behind the placenta. I think he's going to be very energetic (like his mom).

Mom's Energy Level: Moderate - not as tired as 1st trimester, but much more easily exhausted. I reach points when I know I've over-done it, so I have to sit down and relax. One the tiredness sets in, there's no going back. I have to give in and rest. This pregnancy has been more draining, but not as tiring as I expected.

What I'm Looking Forward to: Stronger movements so Jeremy can feel the kicks and so we can see them from the outside.

To say we are thankful for Collen would be a huge understatement. I can't tell you how many times I look at my growing belly and just stand in awe at God's grace. Of course, I then have a moment of sadness when I ask, "But why can't I have both of them?" I want Ayden here so badly to experience this with us and to meet his little brother.....and to just be here. All of our children will be "little" siblings. They won't know their big brother and how wonderful he is. We will definitely share him with them, though. They will know all about his sweet personality, his adorable laugh, beautiful smile, big blue eyes, and genuine spirit. We will tell them what each of them shares with him whether it be personality, looks, or traits.

I promise to share a picture of my growing belly soon. I'm finally getting big enough to look pregnant, but true maternity tops are too big, and most of my regular clothes are too small. I'm using what I have until I can fit into some of the bigger belly tops. Looking forward to that!


For his birthday (April 27)...

One thing we talked a lot about at the retreat we went to was communication and expectations. Some families there who have already been through the first birthday without their child shared some of their experiences. We learned that many of you who have never stood in our place may not really be sure what to do with Ayden's birthday coming up. I want to list just a few ideas to maybe help relieve any questions you may be having.

#1 If you bring it up, it won't make the day any harder. It is not as though every hour of that day we won't already be thinking of and remembering the sweet little boy who won't be there for the big 1st birthday party. Letting us know you're thinking of HIM (not just us) will make the day a little more bearable.

Ideas can be as simple as sending a text, sending an email, maybe even an ecard if you find one you like, sharing a thought or memory of Ayden, releasing balloons with us for his birthday, send a birthday card if you have our address, or simply leave a comment on the blog.

Whatever you feel like doing, do it. We promise you cannot possibly do anything to harm us if you have good intentions in what you are doing. We will appreciate every kind word, thought, prayer, balloon, card, or whatever else you may feel is appropriate. The worst that could happen is for fear to cause those who are closest to us to do nothing at all. He was born, he was with us, and is still a HUGE part of our lives, and he will never be erased or forgotten in our family. It will be hard but we welcome you to CELEBRATE with us...after all...what a gift we received just one year ago!


I'll catch up....soon....

I promise I'm going to post about the retreat soon. There's so much I think I want to say, I just have to decide how much of it I want to write about. I'm still processing it all.

Today I made my annual trip to Grifton, NC for the Shad Festival parade. Sadly, that's the only time I ever visit the town known as "The Family Town." However, I have at least made it to Grifton's festival. I have yet to make it to the Collard Festival in Ayden. One day...I'll make it.

If you're wondering....shad is a type of fish.

So, I told my mom she HAD TO go to the parade and take in the atmosphere that is the Shad Festival. So, she came.....as well as my sister and my aunt. This is my third year going to the Shad Festival, so I have my routine down. I know where to park....where to stand for the parade...where to find the good food....all of it. I love it! We always watch the parade with the same people - the Tucker Family. Candi Tucker is one of my very best friends and also a co-worker. She has been my rock without even knowing it. I love that we met by chance (well, I don't consider it chance....God knew I'd need her even at the moment we met), and we immediately became good friends. And good friends turned into a lifelong friendship.

The parade was good, but long. The longest parade I've ever sat through. That isn't such a terrible thing, though, because it was great to see the participation. However, I get bored easily, so after the third group of Sudan drivers came through and then the 15th souped up, pimped out car drove by.....I was done with the parade. However, I don't organize it, so it's not up to me. My favorite part is seeing the students from our school involved. It's so great to teach in a small town because our students have an appreciation for their community that many these days don't. I love being about to see them enjoying a Saturday at a festival......it's a much better alternative to what they could be doing.

Throughout our whole time there, I kept trying to push sad thoughts from my mind. This time last year, we were a week away from Ayden's arrival. We had gone to the festival to buy Ayden his first Shad Festival shirt - the shirt he was going to wear at this year's festival. It broke my heart to see all the kids and babies around us....and mine wasn't there. All I could think about that was that t-shirt, hanging in the closet, never worn......and him not being there to see the parade and enjoy the atmosphere.

My mom, my sister, and myself were sitting together at dinner tonight just talking about him. That's the first time, I think, I've been able to do that. I couldn't get too detailed in my conversation because then it would have turned into a meltdown, but I was able to talk about him and hold it together. But, memories came back that I hadn't remembered in a while. I recalled singing him to sleep on nights when nothing else would sooth him. In those moments, only two songs came to my mind - "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Usually, he would calm right down and fall right to sleep. I sang to him often while I was pregnant, so I like to think that my voice was very soothing to him. I also recalled all his little features....like the swirl in the front of his hairline (I guess it would have been a cow-lick), his dimples...and the one little dimple he had that was just like mine.....the dimple in his chin, which he also got from me.....how one of his eyes was bigger than the other - just like mine....and that sweet smile that everyone says is my smile. Then I thought about those longs fingers and toes....his long torso and high chest....and those long legs....all just like his Daddy. He had/has the best temperament....so laid back, easy going, but also knows what he wants and how he wants it. Luckily, he got all of that from us, so we could read him so well. Whenever he became fussy or out of sorts, people would say, "What does he want?" We knew exactly what he wanted. You know what warms my heart the most? The one thing he usually wanted/needed - me. I miss that so much. I miss being able to calm him down, knowing that all he needed was his mommy. I often think about the day he left us, and I don't share this much (because it tears me up), but I often wonder if he was scared, and if all he needed/wanted was for me to be there holding him. Now, logically, I know he had no idea what was about to happen. I know it happened so quickly that he coudn't have known what was happening, but still....I wasn't there. I wasn't there to tell him I loved him or to kiss him and hug him and squish my cheek against his (oh, I miss that).

I hate that I have to think of my beautiful baby and say, "I miss that."

So, today, although is was a good day considering how it could have gone, was also just one of those days when I remember him and everything I miss so much....and everything we are missing out on with him.

Most people, at this point, would say, "But you have so much to look forward to with Collen. Think of it that way." You'd be right - yes we do. But until you've been in our shoes and you've lost a child, especially in the way that we did, you couldn't possibly understand why I can't even let myself visualize or even expect to see Collen at 5 months, 8 months, 1 year, 3 years, etc. My mind won't even process that right now. So, yes, we have a lot to look forward to with Collen, but after that thought, in my mind I always hear "....I hope." All we can do is hope that God grants us that, but we've learned that we aren't promised anything. And as much as I'd love to believe that God wouldn't allow it to happen again, He could. And that thought terrifies me so much....and has given me plenty of nightmares. I don't know that I've had a pleasant dream about Collen yet. I've had three dreams, and in each one, we lose him. No woman should have those dreams during her pregnancy....no woman should have to live with the very real fear of losing her child. It just shouldn't happen. But it does.....and I can't begin to understand why.

However, God understood why. He chose this for us, and I ask myself why every day. But for some reason, we were chosen. We were chosen to be Ayden's parents, which has been the highlight of my life and will be my proudest moment, and we were chosen to have him for a short time. I don't know why God thought we were capable of handling it, but He did. And if He trusts us with something like this, I have to believe He knew what He was doing (even when I have no clue). I hope that makes sense.

Anyway, as I've said many times lately, this month is going to be a whirlwind month. So, just keep us in thought and prayer. It means so much to us.....

OH - if you've made it this far, bless you.....but I have one more thing. On Ayden's birthday, we will be releasing balloons in memory of him. We would love for you to join us in celebrating with us by releasing a balloon in honor of Ayden on that day - Tuesday April 27, 2010. If you'd like to do it at the time he was born - that would be 3:36, but any time will work. I feel like our blog readers have become a part of our life with Ayden and have come to know us and him so well. If you'd like to share in this day with us, please do....and if you could take a picture and send it to us, we would love that! Thank you for loving Ayden and for remembering him the impact he made in such a short time. I never knew a little baby could change so many lives and express his love so freely, but he did it....and it amazes me more and more each day.

Also, my friend Allison has just started a blog, and she wrote about Ayden today. You can check it out here.



The Ruling

Since losing Ayden, I've known this day was coming. The day we got the results....the verdict....our answer to "why?" However, if you're the parent of a SIDS baby, you know there is no answer to that question.

The ruling was as we suspected: SIDS

He was perfect, healthy, happy, but just too precious for this world.

I don't know that I'll ever look at the reports we were given. I didn't need a medical examiner to tell me my child was perfect. I already knew that. That makes the sting worse....there was nothing wrong, yet he's still gone. He was everything a parent hopes for in a child....the picture of health....the happiest, most easy-going baby....but he's still gone.

As we've continued to say, we won't understand all of this here. But one day, once we're in Heaven with him....holding him again....somehow it'll all be made clear. By then it won't even matter. We're blessed to know we still have a future with him. Our hope is that those who don't know if they're assured of that promise will seek new life in Christ in order to attain eternal life with our God and our loved ones who are waiting for us there.


Respite Retreat

Jeremy and I went to TN for the Respite Retreat. I'm going to write more about it soon. A lot to process. I will say, though, that we got a lot out of it as far as learning where we are in our grief individually and as a couple. I walked away feeling comforted that we are grieving just as we should be....and we've found that even if it doesn't seem like it sometimes....we do grieve with HOPE. As painful as it is to relive and recall our loss....day after day.....year after year....we can live through the pain with the hope of having Ayden back someday. We will hold him again, see him again, kiss and hug him again. We just have to get through our temporary home first. Over the weekend, I found renewed comfort in the fact that we didn't have to be concerned about where Ayden was going once he left this world. We KNOW without a doubt that he is in Heaven. We KNOW we will meet him again. We KNOW that all he knew in this life was absolute love, comfort, and joy. And for that, I am so thankful.

I'll write more about the retreat later. We met some awesome people with so many different, tough, painful stories. Yet although we all shared the pain of the loss of a child, we experienced immediate bonds through our loss. I highly recommend this retreat for anyone who has lost a child and just needs to better understand grief...especially the way we as Christians can find hope through our grief.


Little Baby Kicks

Collen has proven that he will follow directions well (well...in the womb anyway). Since finding out that my placenta is anterior, I've been waiting....and waiting....and waiting some more to feel those first little kicks. I'm not a patient waiter...most of the time. I kept having pep talks with Collen, pleading with him to just kick with all his might....as hard as he can...so I can feel it.

The other night, I was especially impatient because I had gone ALL day with no flutter....no little bitty nudge...nothing. So, I said, "Okay kid, it's time." As soon as I laid down and got still, he went to town! I was impressed at his listening skills. He made me a very happy lady. :) Since then, I've been feeling his little kicks and rolls - usually when I'm lying down or sitting still. And his favorite place to have his kicking sessions - right behind my full bladder. That's okay, though, I'll take it any day!

I'll be 20 weeks on Saturday - the big half way mark. Can't believe it has gone by so quickly. I hope the remaining 20 weeks go by just as fast.


I haven't disappeared...

I'm still here....I promise. Even though I haven't been writing much lately, I've been reading up on all of the blogs I follow....and thinking of, praying for, laughing with all of you. I just haven't felt like writing lately. One, because there really isn't much going on. Two, this month is a daunting one for me.....and I don't know how to express myself in writing without being completely depressing, which I don't want to do, so I just stay silent as a favor to you and to myself. I could choose to wallow....I could choose to begin a countdown where I look back at this time last year and let you all know that "today was this many days before Ayden was born." I don't want to be that person, though. I wouldn't want Ayden to be so full of self-pity or hopelessness, nor would he want me to be. So, I'm just taking it all in and facing each day as it comes.

I knew April would be tough....for a lot of reasons. I didn't know my first "crying in public" experience would happen so early, but it did. The poor lady had no idea what she had started when she began talking to me. I was minding my business, talking to Jeremy on the phone, and she overheard me mention that I needed to go to the memorial park where Ayden's spot is (I don't want to name it here). When I got off the phone, as she rang me up, she asked if I was taking something out there for someone. Immediately, the knot formed in my throat and my chest tightened. I could only squeak out a small, "Yes." She proceeded to say, "Well that's so nice of you. That'll be good for you. It's tough to go out there alone though." At this point, there was no stopping the tears. I tried to compose myself the best I could, but she could see that I was upset. So, she changed the subject by talking to her coworker behind her about - what else? - a lady who had just "picked up a wreath for her baby...not just any baby....her first baby....and boy, any baby is special, but that first baby....." and I'm standing here ready to run because she has no idea that her change of subject is making it worse! Finally, I had paid, she gave me my receipt, and I was out the door. I got in the car and just lost it. Then,, I went to Ayden's spot and lost it some more. All I wanted to do was put a little Easter balloon at my son's resting place for him. It's the only thing I can do for him.....that's the only place I can go to "see him."

That scene has run through my mind all day, and I've kicked myself for not speaking up and sharing Ayden's story with her. I've thought about different ways I could have handled it. When she asked if I was taking something out there for someone, I could have said, "Yes, my son." Then I could have bravely told her our story and all about the sweet little boy that changed our lives in so many ways...and continues to do so. But, at that moment, I froze....and all I could feel was my heart breaking all over again. I know there's no expected way to act in these situations, but one day I hope to be able to talk about it with people, but now is obviously way too early.

(For not having much to write about, I sure am filling this post up!)

My parents came to town yesterday to work on Ayden's garden. I'm so glad they did because I wouldn't have known what to do. According to them, it wasn't a total loss. We were afraid that since our winter was so much harsher this year that a lot of the plants wouldn't come back for spring. My mom said, though, that when they got started, they were surprised to see so much green! So, my parents, along with my sister, fixed the garden up, added some spring plants, some garden stones (for a pathway...not sure what they're officially called), a bench, and sweet figurine of a mom and her infant son. I'll take a picture soon so you can all see it. It really looks great. I was going to go out there today or Monday, but I would have had to work on it alone, and me and plants just don't do well together. So, a big thank you to my parents and my sister!

Today, I spent a relaxing morning in the spa with my good friend, Lauren. We treated our pregnant selves to pedicures, and it was lovely. We'll have to do that again sometime. It was so heavenly to be pampered. I could do that every day....

After that, I ran a lot of errands, then came home to make a corn pudding for my Grandma's birthday dinner. I have to say, I did a good job on my corn pudding. I followed Jeremy's grandma's recipe....and it tasted just like hers. :) That's a huge accomplishment...let me tell ya.

My grandma turned 77 today, so we had a big birthday bash for her that included immediate family and also a lot of other family we don't get to see that often. It was nice to be back at my grandparents' house where me, my sister, and our cousins grew up. I love that we have such wonderful memories there....and also tough memories of when our grandpa got sick and then left us for Heaven. All the memories are there though....memories of spending summer days barefoot running through the freshly plowed farm land, playing in the woods, swinging on the tire swing, and so much more. We feel very blessed to have such memories. It's hard to see my grandma getting older...weaker...slower, but she still has that zest she always has had. She's a tough one, and I tell her every year that she's going to be with us for a looooong time. I think she enjoyed her birthday. She deserved a special day with her family.

This week is spring break for us. We are both in need of a break from work to just rest our minds and refresh. Then, when we return to work, we have 9 weeks left until summer break. It's crazy that the end of the school year is almost here already! I'm hoping all of my kids are going to pull through and graduate. I have a few who are questionable, so I'm hoping they can buckle down and get serious for the remainder of the semester. Working with seniors is great because they have so much they're looking forward to, and I get to see them grow so much in such a small amount of time, but it's also hard to have to be a part of taking their joy away when they find out they aren't graduating because they didn't pass my class....especially in the spring. Hopefully, though, I won't have to make that decision.

Well, there you have it.....a week's worth of thoughts in one post. Kind of random and not at all focused, but if you could see inside my mind, you'd see that that's me right now. Random and unfocused. Hence the reason for a much needed spring break.

Hope you all have a happy Easter. Please remember the reason we celebrate Easter. Through Christ we have conquered death! Through Christ we have the promise of eternal life with Him if we choose to believe in Him and live a life according to His word. His sacrifice gave us the ultimate life. I have a whole new perspective now, and I now have an even deeper appreciation for the steps He took to assure us of a life eternally spent with Him in Heaven. Because of this promise, I will see Ayden again.....to be with Jesus and Ayden....what a glorious thought.

I read Patrice's blog tonight - couldn't have said it better myself. He lives (beautiful perspective!)